Ministering Out of the Overflow

Originally Posted on April 28, 2021
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Webinar Transcript

– All right, again, good morning. Grateful to have you with us today, as the Office of LeaderCare and Church Health has a great opportunity to share with you, Richard Blackaby and a message that he will share with us. I am on remote location at Southwestern Seminary. I’m in the conference hall, conference center. So if you see someone walk by, don’t think of it as being unusual. Again, Richard Blackaby, much like his father, has a great way of presenting the word in a fresh way. I heard something about three years ago in his book, “Living Out of the Overflow”, such a refreshing word for me then. And goodness, we are in a time where we need desperately a fresh word from the Lord. Burnout is real. Everything that’s been a part of the past year has been difficult. And so we’re grateful that we can share this message from Richard. Again, the message part of it is recorded. And Doug Rogers will share that with us in just a moment. But then at the end of about a 30-minute message, Richard will be on doing Q&A. So, whether it’s a question related to health, personal health, pastoral health and wellness, or whether it’s something having to do with your work as a pastor or staff or director of missions, whatever that might be, then certainly, that we would welcome those questions as well. “Flickering Lamps” is a great book for church revitalization as well. That is basically Henry’s voice, and Richard penning that through Henry’s time in Canada with Faith Baptist. So again, I’m grateful to have you here with us today and to introduce to you Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries. You can go on there for resources, blackaby.org. And again, he’s gonna be sharing Ministering Out of the Overflow, how to be on fire for God without burning out. Amen, we’re so grateful for this word. God, use this time with Richard, and we pray that it would be a refreshing time of hearing from You through Your word and through Your servant. God, use this time in a mighty way, multiply it out even from here. And we thank You, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. All right, let’s hear Richard now.

– Hello, I’m Richard Blackaby. And I wanna express my greetings to all my Alabama Baptist friends and pastors. I hope that you’re doing well. And that as Easter lies before you, that the Lord has given you a wonderful, positive, uplifting message for His people in these very challenging days. I remember the first time that I was gonna be a pastor at Easter. I’d come to a church that was very struggling. It had been in decline for about seven years, and I got to that church in the summer and began just to do everything I could to turn this church around, just to stop the hemorrhaging of members and to try to bring some hope and health back to the church. And so I was working hard, doing everything I knew to do. I brought in a good friend of mine, and we had had some great meetings. We’d actually filled up the auditorium for the first time in maybe a decade. And some people had been saved, and there was some excitement in the air. And so we had a church council meeting right after that on a Monday. And I was kinda looking forward to the council meeting, because after having this early success in my ministry there, I assumed that all the leaders of the church would gather around the boardroom table with me, and they probably would go on and on about what a wonderful pastor I was, and how grateful they were that they had gotten such a gifted minister, who already seemed to be turning things around. I was happy to consider how to remain humble, as people were talking about how great it was now that I was there as their pastor, but in the end, I didn’t have to practice being humble, because as soon as the floor was open, one woman spoke up and she couldn’t argue the fact that things had gotten better, but she began to find everything wrong with what had happened. And she said, “If we had known “that crowds were gonna come out to hear your friend, “we should have gotten a bigger venue. “And if we’d known so many people were gonna make decisions, “we should have had more trained counselors. “And what kind of follow-up are we doing? “Are we losing people falling through the cracks?” And she did not have one good thing to say after all the good things that had happened. And not one person rose to my defense. Everybody just kinda had their heads down, because they didn’t want her to start critiquing them as well. By the time I went home, I was in shock. I thought, this is the best day, the best days this church has had in decades, and all that I heard was criticism. Well, that was on a Monday, and the following Friday was Good Friday. And we normally would meet at six o’clock every Friday and pray over the church and the services. But where I was, Good Friday was a holiday. None of my working people had to go to work that day. So I made a rookie mistake. And on Thursday I decided these men shouldn’t come early and meet with me to pray at 6:00, they should sleep in. It’s a holiday. I wanna be sensitive to the working people in my church. So my assistant and I called everyone who’d ever attended that prayer meeting. And we said, “Don’t bother to come in. “We’ll give you the week off. “Just pray at home and we’ll see you next Friday.” Well, I was feeling a little guilty about that. So on Friday morning, I was up at six o’clock praying, but I was praying at home, since no one was gonna be at the church. About 6:05, my phone rings. And if you’re a pastor, you know that when the phone rings at six o’clock in the morning, it’s never for a good reason. And so I picked up the phone with fear and trepidation and sure enough, it’s that woman. And she lights into me. Now, why has she decided on that Friday to come to her first prayer meeting, I’ll never know. She’d just chewed me out the Monday before. Why she decides to come to my pastor’s prayer time is baffling to me, but she did. And of course, no one was there. So now she wants to call and complain about the horrible communication going on in the church, how she came and there was no one there, and she hadn’t had any announcements. And how is this church being run with such rotten communication? And she just got into my skin. I mean, under my skin, I started having nightmares about this woman, and I’d wake up in a cold sweat. I just didn’t know what to do with her. It seemed like no matter what I did, it was the wrong thing. And I was afraid I would just keep making mistakes. Now, I remember talking to my wife and saying, “Lisa, I don’t know what to do with this woman.” And I said, “Everything I do is wrong.” And my wife said, “Well”, she said, “Your dad “and mom are coming on Saturday, right before Easter.” And I was gonna preach Sunday morning for Easter. And then my dad was gonna start a series of meetings beginning that Sunday night. And so my parents were gonna be there at Easter, and it was gonna be the first time that my parents had ever seen one of their children pastoring a church and on Easter Sunday. And so my wife said, “I’m gonna make “a nice meal for your parents.” And so she said, “Maybe you should invite this woman “and her family to join us for Easter dinner.” I said, “Lisa, you’re not listening to me.” I said, “This woman hates me. “All she’ll do is criticize your food. “She’ll probably complain the ham was too rough, “and your potatoes not spicy enough. “You can’t please her.” And she said, “Well, that’s all I can think of.” I said, “Well, we gotta do something else.” And I said, “But I can’t have her for dinner, “that would just ruin our Easter.” And so Lisa said, “Well, what are you preaching on on Easter?” I said, “Well, I thought I’d preach on forgiveness.” And my wife looked at me and said, “Well, maybe God wants you to practice it “before you preach it.” And I hate that when my wife does that to me. And so I said, “Well, do you wanna call her?” My wife said, “Hey, I’ll cook the ham, “but you have to make those kind of phone calls.” And so I called this woman. As soon as she heard my voice, you could tell she’s bracing herself. She assumes I’m gonna go after her and defend myself. Instead, I said, “Hey, listen, “this Sunday is Easter Sunday.” I said, “My parents are gonna be here. “And so my wife’s making this wonderful meal.” And I said, “We just really wanted “to share this special occasion with some good friends.” I wanted to say, “But none of them could come. “So I thought I’d call and invite you.” But I said, “We were trying to decide who to have, “and we thought it would be wonderful “for you and your family to join us.” Well, that almost worked. I think I killed her, almost killed her from shock, but she agreed to come, and word got out. The whole church had been concerned about this woman, and what she had done to me, and how unjustly she treated me. And then word got out. But the pastor is inviting her and her family for lunch on Easter Sunday. And I’ll tell you what, I’ve preached lots of sermons in the past. But that day when I stood in the pulpit, I just felt as if God just empowered me to talk about things. And I knew in my head, but perhaps I had not yet experienced in my life the way that I should. And you know, the interesting thing is I left that church several years later, and just 26 years later, I came back for the first time to visit in that area. And I put out word to the old church members of 26 years before and said, “Hey, I’m gonna be in the area, “this place in the evening, got a couple of hours. “If any of you’d like to show up and just say hi, “I’d love to see you.” You know, the first couple to come down that hallway to see me 26 years later was that woman and her husband. And I remember even as I saw them walking down that hall with a smile on their face, Lord, thank you. It was about me. I had somehow let her put dark thoughts in my mind and discourage me, and all that while You were trying to set her free. Well, I wanna talk to you in these moments about how easily people in ministry can turn from the victories God is giving them, the progress God is making, and very quickly put us into a dark place and isolate us and discourage us. And I think perhaps the most classic example of that that I could find in the Bible, is found in 1 Kings, Chapter 18. And you’re familiar with the story. 1 Kings 18, Elijah the prophet has had his best day he’s ever had. He has stood on Mount Carmel, faced down 850 of the worst, deceitful, false prophets and religious quacks in the entire country, and he’s boldly called fire down from heaven before the king and all of the nation’s leaders. And by the end, all the leaders of the nation are crying out, “The Lord, God of Israel. “He is the true God.” And then he goes up and he prays, and he ends at 3.5 year drought, not a bad Sunday, not a bad day’s work for a minister. And I just suspect that Elijah is sensing after all that God has done. I imagine Elijah is thinking, “I’ve prayed for years for revival to come to my nation, “and God after bringing fire from heaven, “after destroying all of the false prophets, “after ending a 3.5 year drought, “now that which I have been praying for will finally occur.” Now after God’s people have seen the power of God, they will turn from their wicked ways and they’ll return to God. And so he’s waiting to see the signs of revival. He’s waiting to see people rising up to do things God’s way. And then he gets a message. And it’s not the message that he’s waiting for, that he’s expecting. Instead it says, “Ahab told Jezebel everything “that Elijah had done, “and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. “So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, “saying, ‘May the gods punish me and do so severely “‘if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them “‘by this time tomorrow.'” It’s not what he was expecting. And you may have been in this place, where you have worked as hard as you can. You have prayed, you’ve been faithful. You served, you preached God’s word. You’ve done everything that God told you to do. And then when you’re finally looking for that breakthrough, instead, you get more criticism. You have someone attack you, or just nothing happens. There’s a deafening silence. And you think, “Was anyone listening? “Was anyone paying attention? “God in heaven, are You answering my prayers “and doing what I’m asking?” And so Elijah does something very uncharacteristic. He becomes afraid. And it says, “Then Elijah became afraid “and immediately ran for his life. “When he came to Beer-Sheba, that belonged to Judah, “he left his servant there, “but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. “He sat down under a broom tree “and prayed that he might die. “He said, ‘I have had enough, Lord, “take my life for I’m no better than my fathers.” There’s lots of ways to get into a wilderness, but fear will put you there as fast as anything. And Elijah, at this point in his life, has yielded to fear. And all of a sudden he’s running. Beer-Sheba’s over 100 miles away from Jezreel, and he runs 100 miles. He just doesn’t quit. And it’s interesting to me, because when he gets to the end of himself, an angel is going to show up and begin ministering to him. I’ve often wondered, well, why didn’t the angel stop Elijah, when he first started running? Why did he let him run 100 miles into the wilderness, before he stopped him and talked to him? But I’ve tried to talk to people when they were running from God. And it’s not an easy thing to do. The angel waits until Elijah’s finally quit running, when he stops, when he’s exhausted, when he finally comes to the end of himself. And, in fact, it says he dismissed his servant, and then he walked five more miles into the wilderness. You know, it’s interesting, because when God finally talks to Elijah, do you know what Elijah is gonna complain about? He’s gonna say, “I’m all alone. “I don’t have anybody.” And if the angel had had more of an attitude, and that’s why I couldn’t be an angel, I’d have an attitude. If I’d been that angel, I would have said, “Well, I know why you’re alone. “It’s because you dismissed people “that were willing to walk with you. “That poor servant of yours walked 100 miles with you “before you dismissed him.” I’ve often thought, the poor guy, if he’s gonna get fired, why make him walk 100 miles into the wilderness first? Why didn’t he dismiss him back in Jezreel? But this man had walked 100 miles by his side. But you know what I’ve noticed about people that are entering into a spiral? One of the signs that a person’s in trouble is they begin isolating themselves. They stop going to pastors meetings. They stop attending associational meetings. They withdraw from the very people that could walk with them and encourage them. And can I just encourage you, your natural tendency when you start to become discouraged is to isolate yourself. And certainly, with COVID and quarantining and so on, all this past year, it’s been easy to do whether you wanted to or not, you often, perhaps, felt isolated. But I’ll tell you what, healthy ministers find ways still to stay connected, still to connect on Zoom or some other way, phone call, but they find a way to have others who will walk with them. And you know that Elijah is in trouble, when he isolates himself. And so when he’s come to the end of himself, it says, “Suddenly, an angel touched him.” And, folks, I love the suddenness of God. God, we’re all just one touch of God away from the greatest walk with God we’ve ever had. One encounter with God away from the closest walk, the most powerful ministry, the suddenness of God. You never know when God in His sovereignty and grace is going to choose to touch you and to intervene in your life, to change your perspective. And do you know this story? The angel feeds him, the angel gives him something to drink. He makes him fresh bread. He tells him to rest. But you know what he doesn’t do? The angel does not discuss the issues with him. The angel doesn’t counsel him. Do you know what I think that’s why? The reason I think that he does that is because sometimes we can get so discouraged that not even a conversation or word from an angel is adequate for us. Sometimes we get so low, only a word from God will do what needs to be done in our life. And of course, when an angel speaks, he’s typically delivering a word from God. But what Elijah needs is an encounter with God himself, not a messenger. And so the angel prepares him, and I’ve often thought to myself, why does he make him fresh bread? He doesn’t have to do that. He could give him some seeds. He could pull some roots out of the ground and say, “Here, high in protein, just eat some of this. “Here’s a few roots, “and you might wanna scrape the dirt off, “but it’ll be good for you.” But he doesn’t do that, does he? Of course, when he finds Elijah, he’s over 100 miles AWOL at the time. The angel could have rebuked him, said, “What are you doing here, soldier? “You were assigned to be back in Jezreel, Mount Carmel. “Why are you off course?” But the angel realizes that Elijah is not being sinful. He’s not being rebellious. He’s being discouraged, and discouraged ministers sometimes just need to be treated gently. And so he makes homemade bread. Is there anything better than homemade bread? Maybe homemade pie, but homemade bread is a close second. And I think what God does is sometimes, out of His grace, He just makes us bread. And it’s not always real bread. Sometimes it’s just someone out of the blue letting you know that they care about you. It’s some church member who just sort of randomly sends you a gift certificate, and says, “Pastor, I really appreciate you.” It could just be the simplest little things. But God has a thousand different ways of baking bread for His ministers. I hope you don’t miss those moments. Sometimes we can be so discouraged, we don’t even notice that God just made us some bread. He just did something kind to us that we don’t deserve, but it was just His way of saying, “I love you, and you can run from Me, “but I’ll find you every time, and I’ll track you down, “and I’ll subtly intervene in your life, “and I’ll let you know that you don’t need to stay here. “I’ve got a better place for you than this.” And so God gives him the strength, nourishes him. And then Elijah walks 200 miles to Mount Sinai. And for 40 days he doesn’t eat anything again. By the way, he’s gonna have the greatest encounter with God in his life. And it’s gonna be proceeded by 40 days of fasting. And sometimes we’ve got to prepare for life-changing encounters with God. And when Elijah gets to Mount Sinai, it says, “He entered a cave” in verse nine, “And there he spent the night.” And you know, I’ve thought a lot about this. Why does Elijah go 200 and 300 miles away, 300, almost 50 miles away to Mount Sinai to get reoriented to God? God met him, or the angel met him in the wilderness. Why didn’t God just straighten him out there? Why go another 200 miles out of his way to Mount Sinai? But I suspect that Elijah remembered the encounter that Moses had had with God on Mount Sinai, when Moses was discouraged and wanted to quit. And at that time, Moses finally said, “God, I’ve got to see Your glory, or I can’t keep going.” And so God of course said, “Well, you can’t see My glory, “it’ll kill you, but I’ll let My glory pass by.” And it says, “As His glory passed by, “God hid him in a cleft in the rock.” And another word for a cleft in the rock could be a cave. And it just may be that what Elijah did was he thought to himself, “I need an encounter with God like Moses had.” And I wonder if he traveled all the way to Mount Sinai and began looking for that cleft in the rock. And maybe when he came to this cave, he thought that maybe that is where Moses had that encounter with God. “And that’s what I need. “The only thing that will keep me going “is a fresh encounter with almighty God.” So he goes into the cave and he spends the night. And then it says that the word of the Lord came to him suddenly. And God said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And I love the questions of God. We often think that we have a lot of powerful questions for God, but really the most important, life-changing questions are not the ones we have for God, but the ones God has for us, like when He asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Or He asked Cain, “Where’s your brother?” Or when Job, remember Job, he said, “I’ve got questions for God. “I wanna put God on the witness stand. “And I wanna cross-examine Him.” But then when God answers him in a whirlwind, Job knows he’s in trouble. And do you remember what God asked him? He says, “Job, where were you? “Where were you when I was putting the stars in place, “when I was putting life on the planet, “when I was separating the oceans from the mountains? “I don’t recall you being there, Job.” And, of course, once you’ve answered God’s questions, you’ve answered your questions as well. Job didn’t have any more questions. And now God asked him a question. “What are you doing here?” Now, He might’ve been asking about his geography. He might’ve been saying, “You’re 350 miles off course. “What are you doing down here? “Last thing I remember, I told you to be on Mount Carmel. “You’re down here on Mount Sinai. “What’s going on?” But it might be that God was asking him more of a spiritual question and saying, “Elijah, I remember when I called you. “I remember how excited you were to be called into ministry. “I remember the thrill you had the first time you preached “in My name and you delivered a message for Me. “And I remember the confidence you had, “the joy you had in being a servant of Mine. “And now you wanna quit, you wanna die. “Elijah, how did you get here? “How did you let yourself get so discouraged?” And so Elijah immediately begins to give his little litany of complaints. And you can tell he’s been practicing and rehearsing them for a while. And he begins to say to God all the problems. He says, “I’ve been zealous for the Lord. “But the Israelites, of course, it’s not me, God, it’s them. “They’ve abandoned your covenant. “They’ve torn down your altars, “And they killed your prophets with the sword. “I alone am left, and they’re looking for me “to take my life.” He’s been spiraling. By the way, if you noticed, that when God spoke to Elijah earlier, Elijah ended up on a mountaintop. When he began listening to Jezebel, he ended up in a wilderness wanting to die. Be careful who you listen to. I’ve known pastors that took little churches and grew them to 1,000 people in attendance. And six critics ran them away, ran them off. They could have listened to 994 people who loved them, but they were run out of town by six people that just nagged them until they just didn’t wanna take it anymore. Be careful who you listen to. And now Elijah has listened to Jezebel, and he wants to quit. He wants to die and God intervenes. And He says, “What are you doing here? “Let’s talk about this. “You need to talk with Me about this, “not talk with yourself.” And so then in verse 11, He says, then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” When you’re in a cave, all you see is darkness. All you see are shadows, and it’s interesting. God could have spoken to Elijah in the cave, but you notice what He does first. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to counsel someone in a dark place, but when they’re in a dark place, all they see is darkness. The first thing that God says is, “Get out of that dark place. “You, get on your feet and walk out of this cave.” For all we know, Elijah was only six steps away from daylight, and all of a sudden, when he leaves the cave, now there’s sunshine. Now there’s blue skies. Now there’s birds sailing in the sky. There’s wild flyers on the sides of the mountain. Six steps this way, everything looked gloomy and dark. Six steps this way, everything changes. Folks, can I tell you, when it comes to your perspective, you may only be a few steps away from an entirely different perspective. If you’re in a cave, if you’re in a dark place, sometimes God’s not gonna move us Himself. We’ve got to decide, “I’m tired of being in this dark place. “I’ve been here long enough. “I’m ready to get out of here and get back in the light. “I’ve wallowed in the darkness. “It’s time to step out into the light.” And when Elijah steps out in the light, then again, God says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes back with the exact same spiel that he’s memorized, and he spews out. And you know what’s interesting about this? Although Elijah twice lays out his case for why his life is so hard, why his ministry is so unfair, God never answers him. God never takes up his points. You see, you can pour out your heart’s complaints to God in prayer, but you don’t set the agenda for your prayers to God. God sets the agenda of your prayers. And you can share all you want that’s on your heart. But that doesn’t mean God’s gonna answer you point by point. Instead, you know what God says? He says, “Your best days don’t lie behind you. “They still lie ahead of you.” For some of us, who’ve been in ministry a while, we need to be reminded of that, that our best days aren’t from 20 years ago, our best days may well be the next thing God does in our life. If we will heed His word, and we’ll have courage to do what He says. And of course, God says, “You’re gonna anoint two kings. “You’re gonna anoint Elisha.” And so He says, “So get going. “As long as you stand here in this cave, “as long as you keep rehearsing “all of your hurts and misfortunes, “you can’t be changing your world, so get going.” And so Elijah goes. And the first place he goes, he finds the farm boy, Elisha. Elisha is a big, strapping farm boy. He assumes he’ll be farming all of his life with his parents. And Elijah comes and calls him. And Elisha is so excited that he throws a farewell party for himself. And he tells his parents goodbye. “I don’t know if I ever see you again, “but thanks for all you’ve done.” And to all of his friends and neighbors, “I’m going with Elijah.” And you can just imagine this enthusiastic young prophet now, who thought he’ll spend all of his days plowing fields, and now the greatest man of God has said, “No, you’re gonna be a servant of almighty God.” And Elisha, I could just imagine him saying to Elijah, “Well, where are we going next, Elijah? “Are we gonna speak to a king? “Are we gonna call down fire? “Are we gonna speak words of prophecy about the future?” And when we see these kind of stories, we always think, well, Elijah was gonna mentor this young guy. Elijah was gonna pour into Elisha’s life. But I can’t help but wonder if as Elijah was ministering to this young protege, if Elijah didn’t think to himself, “I remember when I used to be that man, “when I used to be so excited about serving God, “when I could hardly wait to get up the next morning “and to speak a word on behalf of almighty God.” I have a feeling it probably went both ways. And could I just tell you in the days that we serve one of the things God has said to me, is that perhaps the greatest thing I’ll ever do in ministry is not what I will do, but who I will invest in, who in the younger generation I will bring along with me and I will speak into their life. And I’ll take them with me as I minister, and how I’ll discuss ministry, and what I’m sensing God is doing. And even though I’ll be hopefully blessing them, I suspect that it’s designed where it will also be a blessing to me. And I wanna encourage you that these are not easy days in which to minister, but I’ll tell you something. I don’t think we’ve yet reached the kind of days that Elijah was in where Jezebels were leading the country and physically persecuting and hunting down men of God and killing them, putting them to the sword, where people were worshiping Baal and condemning and arresting and killing anyone who was not. We live in difficult times for sure. “And Elijah had the same kind of spirit that we have”, James says, and he got discouraged. If you could be a man of God, you could call fire down with a prayer and yet get discouraged. You and I are susceptible as well. He was quarantined for 3.5 years. Well, Ahab tried to hunt him down. And I suspect that that got to him, that discouraged him. He was used to preaching to large numbers of people, but he was assigned to a wilderness. And then he spent time with just one widow and her son, tiny little church gatherings. And they weren’t even members for most of his tenure in that church, used to preaching in king’s courts. Now he’s just hiding in a wilderness, being fed by ravens. It was not easy for Elijah. He suffered some things that we’ve been through in the last while, but God found him. God restored him and said, “Elijah don’t quit yet. “Your best days lie still ahead.” And aren’t you glad that Elijah got back in the saddle, got back in the battle and had some of his greatest successes that he ever had in his life? My prayer for you as well, you may have been listening to some of the wrong voices. You may have found yourself in a dark place. You might be seriously toying with the idea of quitting right now, and saying, “If this is what ministry is all about, “maybe I need to find something else to do.” Can I tell you something? You can quit a job. You can’t quit a calling. And if God has called you into his service, all you can do is listen to that still small voice, when He calls you. Elijah had heard the fire, he’d heard the earthquakes. He experienced the great mighty winds, but what kept him going was that still small voice that spoke right to his soul. Listen carefully to the Lord, and you might hear that same whisper. Somehow those whispers of God go places that the earthquakes and the fire doesn’t go. Those whispers go deep into your soul and give you hope, give you life, give you courage for the days that come ahead. Listen to that whisper in your soul. And when you’ve heard that fresh word from God, get out of that cave and get back in the battle with God. God still has more for you to do. You don’t wanna miss what God has for you next. I pray God will use you mightily in these days like Elijah. And you’ll look back over your life, and you’ll say, “I’m so glad that I didn’t let 2020 “discourage me and make me quit, “or I would’ve missed the best days that God had for me.”

– I see that Dr. Richard Blackaby is with us online now. Grateful for the message. Again, the need for a fresh encounter with the Lord and to go along with that, a fresh vision as well. Again, thank you, Richard, for being here with us today. Thank you for the message that we’ve heard. I am out of Alabama right now at a national revitalization meeting, Mark Clifton was sharing this morning-

– Oh, yeah.

– via Zoom. And he mentioned both “Flickering Lamps” and “Living Out of the Overflow”. Of course, both books are an integral part of my library. I’ve used “Flickering Lamps” in the interim where I am right now. And thank you again for your work and encouragement. Thank you for that message right now as well. Again, if any of you have questions, we’ll be glad to field them during this time. We may wanna have the opportunity too, until we have any questions at this point, some of what you’re sensing, feeling, seeing with guys as they’re both going through COVID and coming out of it now, any personal things that you’re hearing or sensing as we’re getting to this particular point in the process. Certainly, your message is a refresher for so many guys who are hurting right now.

– Yeah, well, it’s, you know, I’ve been talking to a lot of pastors, a lot of leaders, and certainly things have been shaken. You know, there are just times in history where God shakes things up, and we’ve been there. And when things are shaken, some things from the past get shaken loose, but then also new opportunities, new doors and windows open up, and I keep telling church leaders behind every problem, there is a possibility. And you can focus on the problem, or you can focus on the possibility. Don’t get stuck on the problems. It doesn’t take, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to notice the problems right now. But what people are desperate for is someone who sees the possibilities. And that’s what spiritual leadership is all about. And there’ve been people that have lost loved ones. There are people who have faced death in the eyes with COVID and other things. There’ve been people who faced financial hardship, and there’s people asking a lot of questions right now. Their world has been shaken. And this is a wonderful time for the church to be at its best and engaged and looking for where God’s at work. And so this isn’t a time for us to be licking our wounds and kind of like Elijah just wanting to get in a cave and get out of this mess. This is a time for the church to be out, out in the midst of the fray and looking to see what God’s doing, and why people are open like they’ve never been open before.

– Yeah, yes, thank you. Mark was saying that as well, this morning, that goodness, what an opportunity that we have at this time. There’s so many people who are looking and longing and hurting and never been a greater day to come along and say, “Here’s the answer-

– Yeah.

– “To enter into people’s life and build bridges.”

– This is the time to be the real church. You know, the real church that doesn’t get tangled up in politics and economics and other issues, that represents Jesus, that just shows the love of Jesus to our neighbors, to the people in our community. We just stay focused on what matters. Eternity matters, people’s lostness matters. The gospel matters. This is a time for leaders. I tell people it’s hard, because there’s a lot of things swirling about us, but a mark of real spiritual leadership is that spiritual leaders recognize what matters, what’s most important and what’s not. And I see some leaders getting too caught up on secondary matters, and they’re missing the primary. This is the time to say what are the primary matters? With the limited time I have, where should my church, where should my ministry be focused for the greatest harvest? I think the enemy is, the big battle for so many leaders, is to not be distracted. And I’ve been in ministry a long time now. And I find that it’s a bigger battle than it’s ever been to stay focused. But I think the key to ministry right now is focus. There’s just way too many voices out there clamoring for our attention, clamoring to engage us in their agenda, their issues. And I just have to keep saying, God, but what is it You have for me? What do You have for my church, my ministry? You know, I have people all the time say, “Richard, you need to be involved in this, “and you need to support that, “and you need to sign this, and you need to watch this.” And I’ll say, “I don’t wanna minimize “what you find important, but what really matters for me “is to make sure that I’ve checked all the boxes “that God gave me, all the things God wants me to do.” And sometimes your ministry can be hijacked by other people’s agendas. And I would say, don’t do that to your people. You know, God knows how you can minister to your people. And they are the priority, not other people and their agendas. So don’t let other people hijack your ministry. You go before God and say, “God what is it that I must do, “that I must focus on?” And I don’t know if there’s ever been a time that it’s more difficult to do that than now, because of all the social media and electronic devices we care about with us. There’s so many voices trying to get you on their agenda, on their side. And that’s just not what ministry is about. It’s not about picking sides. It’s about going with Jesus wherever He takes you, and being where He wants you to be serving today.

– Yeah, the word has to be the word, and not so many other words that are out there. Amen, keep centered on the word.

– Yeah.

– The gospel, the Great Commission, and the things that truly will make a difference. I know when I begin to get distracted and want to begin to make a comment, I begin to think about what is ultimately gonna really be the answer to what is wrong.

– Yeah.

– And we all know that is the gospel, is the Lord Jesus that’s really gonna make the difference.

– We’ve been talking here at this conference to state convention leaders and Revitalization. Going back, this is somewhat too involved in the message as well, as well as social media and everything else, but healthy leaders are gonna lead healthy churches. That’s so crucial in the area of leading is that the pastor himself is healthy. And certainly, in the message you leaned into that. Is there anything else, practically speaking, that you would encourage pastors to do, to particularly be healthy in these days of overload?

– Yeah, you know, participating in things like this, when your state convention offers you some resources, positive word, don’t ever think you’re too busy to take in a positive word that will encourage you. There’s a lot of campaigns and issues and rantings out there right now. You know, people sending you links saying, “Look at this, this will make you angry. “This’ll make you upset.” And I’ll just say, “You know, that’s not “what I need to be doing right now. “I don’t need to fill my soul with divisive, “angry, distracting kinds of things.” I tell you when COVID was really, just really taking off, and I really found it, and certainly back last year with a lot of political things as well, there was a point where I really consciously withdrew from a lot of the news-watching I was doing. Of course, I wanna be informed. I wanna know what’s going on like anyone else, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you watch just hour after hour of news media, I’ll just tell you this. That will not equip you to feed your flock, to care for the people in your care. God just said, “Look, when you minister to people, “they don’t need to know that you spent six hours “becoming informed on the news and everybody’s opinion. “They need to know that you spent adequate, extended time in My word, and you know what God has to say, “not what your favorite news media has to say.” And so if there was ever a time that you need to be guarding your own heart, I just hear a lot of angry ministers, a lot of disillusioned ministers. And I can tell you right away, when I hear a minister that’s upset about the society, politics and other things, I can tell you that they’ve been watching more news than they’ve been reading their Bible. Because the Bible will not make you that way. The Bible will not make you all upset. The news, social media, it will. And so when you find yourself just really spiraling, getting angry, feeling negative, back off on some of those sources that are just intended to work you up and to make you upset, and get before God’s word and just soak in God’s word, just soak in there and spend more time in prayer than perhaps has been your custom. When COVID hit, I’ve had about 65, 66 trips canceled, because of COVID , and that’s what I do. That’s my work is to traveling and speaking, and I’ve had 65 trips canceled. And so all of a sudden I was home a lot, and I just decided right then I could either be like Elijah and curl up in a cave somewhere and just feel sorry for myself, or I could lean into God and just say, “God, fill me up like I’ve never been filled before.” Coming out of this, I’ve gotta be a greater man of God than I’ve ever been before. And I began studying and reading, praying, journaling, just focusing my heart and mind in ways that I had not done with as much intensity. And I’ll tell you, in many ways, I feel like I’ve come out of COVID a better minister, better teacher, a better prayer than I had been before. And that’s my hope for all of those listening to us today is that you’ve just said, looking at how bad things are out in the world, “It means I’ve gotta be better “than I’ve ever been as a servant of God.”

– Well, I know that I have a couple of guys that have presented a couple of questions, and I know you have an event at 11:00. So Michael Brooks is asking, that are giving up or-

– [Doug] Hey, this is Doug in the background. Let me jump in with his Wi-Fi. Question is, “I’ve heard we’ve had a lot of pastors “giving up or retiring. “Is this what you’ve seen? “Does this mean we’ll have a lot “of pastorless churches in the future?”

– Yeah, you know, I have heard of some that have quit, especially I think some ministers that perhaps just didn’t, they weren’t prepared for all the changes that were taking place. They weren’t prepared for having to go livestream and all the different social distancing, and things that were required. And I’ve seen that, by the way, I’ve seen that even with school teachers. I’ve got two grandsons that started kindergarten this past year, and a kindergarten teacher of 26 years just could not adjust to having to do things online and in person in masks. And I’m seeing people that administered or taught for years, quitting, just saying, “I didn’t sign up for this.” And so there are some, for sure, that are doing that. And quite frankly, there’s some that have died of COVID. There’s some vacancies just from dying of COVID and other things. And it’s kinda hard sometimes to replace ministers during this past year, with so much being shut down and so on. And so I think there are gonna be a greater number of churches. I think there are also some churches that would have normally been seeking a minister, and they kinda shut down their search during COVID or they slowed it down, because it was just hard to meet and travel and so on. And so I think as things are opening up, there’s gonna be a surge, I think, of churches and transitions. I think some people also were prepared to retire and quit, and they held on until they got their church through COVID. So I think we’re gonna, now that they feel like we’re coming out of some of that, I think there’ll be others who will quit or retire or transition. They didn’t wanna leave their church in the lurch like that, and they stayed. So I think for several reasons, we need to be prepared to see a lot of movement and a lot of churches looking for someone to come and lead them. And I suspect that’s gonna mean that some lay people are gonna have to really step up as well and provide some ministry as well in their church, at least in the interim. So, a lot has been shaken. And I think that’s gonna mean a lot of people are gonna have to step up in ways that perhaps they didn’t have to before.

– Yeah, one of my responsibilities is to train search committees. And so it’s made me really think about the possibilities in the beginning of that interim is to speak into churches that this is a good time to really reconsider what you’re doing, how you’re doing, revitalization, etc. through that time. Another question here, do you think God could use discouragement to get your attention to hear His voice in a fresh way so that He can prompt you to move to another ministry position? If so, how do you think through this issue?

– Well, that’s an interesting thought. You know, discouragement certainly can get your attention. You know, sometimes I’m disappointed in myself when I find myself being discouraged, and I look at myself saying, “Hey, I preached all kinds of sermons “about how powerful God is, how great He is, “how am I letting myself, “why am I not believing my own message here?” And it is a wake-up call to me. And you know, also I think sometimes, to be honest with you, I’ve studied a lot about leaders and leadership and sometimes we just kinda comfortably get into a role, and we’re putting in time and we figure, “10 more years til I retire, I like it here. “I live near my parents.” And we kinda settle into jobs. And if we’d been paying attention, God might have reassigned us a year or two ago. Not that what we were doing was bad, it just that in the seasons of ministry, God at times will move us on and give us fresh challenges, put us in places we need to grow some more. Maybe we’ve outgrown the ministry we’re in and staying there, we’re gonna just keep doing the same things we’ve done for years. It’s time to move to a new assignment, fresh challenges. But you know, when life is kinda normal, we can just kinda settle in and just put in time. And I find sometimes in these sorts of transition times, when God shakes things up, it makes people have to really take a hard look at their ministry and their leadership and their walk with God to say, “I wonder if this isn’t a good time to transition “at least to something else, maybe a fresh challenge.” And I think there’s some folks that, I don’t wanna be harsh, but I think some people have just discovered that they didn’t handle COVID as well as they should have. They were leading their flock, and they got discouraged and hunkered down and just wanted to wait out the storm and they didn’t wanna make changes. They didn’t wanna adjust. They just wanted to wait until things got back to the way they used to be. And maybe that’s alerted some people to say, “You know what, as a leader, “I should have handled that better. “Looking back, we could’ve done some things, “we could’ve adjusted. “You know, maybe at this stage and in this environment, “maybe my church needs maybe “a more creative, flexible leader. “I don’t know that I can make these changes for this church. “Maybe someone else needs to be there.” So, you know, when you do go through a crisis like this, I think it never hurts to evaluate your leadership, don’t beat yourself up on the head, ’cause we could all do better. We could all look back and say, “Well, if I had a do-over on that one, “there’s several things. “If I had known COVID was gonna last this long “or whatever, I’d probably done some things differently.” But at the same time, you’ve gotta be pretty honest at looking at yourself to say, “Maybe that just reflects that it’s just time “for someone else to take this ministry to the next level. “And maybe I needed to start looking to see “if God doesn’t have a fresh assignment for me as well.” So, don’t beat yourself up. That doesn’t really do any good. But at the same time, take an honest look to say, “Maybe this is just kind of made me aware “that it’s just time for me to be open to a change.” And God just wants to keep you fresh. He wants you to keep growing. And so maybe this is a time for that, and this has gotten your attention. So just listen to what God has to say in the midst of this and just do what He tells you next. And you’ll find that God will have a perfect assignment for you that matches where you are, and helps you to grow and stay fresh.

– It’s easy to get stuck in life and ministry. And as you said, with leadership, it really is something that we need to continue to evaluate, to have guys that can come alongside of us and share with us, and continue to grow as leaders. I know when something’s wrong in my house, I have a tendency, really, the first person I look at is myself. I’m like, where am I falling short to maybe have created this? It doesn’t mean, again, as you said, that you should always beat up yourself. ‘Cause it’s not always the fault of the pastor or the leader, but it is good to continue to grow and to seek avenues for growth as well. And to kinda break free again.

– And, you know, as you know this, and you’ve been listening to Mark Clifton and Revitalization, perhaps 70% of churches before COVID, were not growing, were plateaued or declining. And so when I hear of church leaders saying, “Well, I just wanna get back to the way it used to be.” I’d say, well, why would you wanna go back there? The majority of churches in America were not growing before COVID. And so if 70% or more of churches were not growing, would God be willing to shake things up and say, “Look, you wouldn’t change things before COVID. “Now you’ve had a crisis where you had to change things. “You didn’t wanna go out in your community before, “you just wanted people to come in “and file in and take a pew. “And so things got changed where you had to. “If you’re gonna minister at all, “you had to go outside your building “and do it livestream or some other way.” And so, in a crisis like this, I would say, we don’t wanna go back to being just like we were before. We wanna be better than we were before. And so, as you put the pieces back together in your church, don’t be in too big of a hurry to get it just exactly the way it was pre-COVID. You want it better than it was before COVID. We need to be a better church than what we were before COVID. So don’t be too quick to put all the same pieces back, assemble the furniture all back in the very same place it was before. We could use an upgrade. And as a leader, always be looking for how to upgrade the ministry God’s given you.

– Well, thank you for being with us. And again, you could go to blackaby.org. Again, I really wanna share again, “Flickering Lamps”. That book is a great book on Revitalization, and “Living Out of the Overflow” is just another wonderful book, refreshing book that would be great for you to have in your library to read. It really would be. So, again, thank you for being here with us. Would you mind leading us in-

– Sure.

– Word of prayer, please?

– Yeah. Lord, I wanna thank You for each person that is listening in and thank You for their service to You and to their people, their ministry. Lord, I pray You’d put Your hand upon every one of them. May they sense Your hand upon their life in ministry, Your power upon them, Your presence, Your holiness. May they feel the love that You have for them, or some listening in just may need some fresh baked bread from heaven today, just to be reminded that the God that called them has His eye upon them, that He loves them, that He’s not forgotten them, that He has great things in store for them. And so, God, for those who just need a special touch of Your love today, maybe just a sudden encounter, a sudden intervention by almighty God into their day. Lord, may You make it just very obvious to people today, how much You love them, and how much You still have for them in the days ahead. May these truly be the best days of our ministry lives. May we see things happen through our preaching, or teaching, our evangelism, our ministry like we’ve never seen before. Would You just take our ministry to an entirely new level and for us to see the kind of harvest that we’ve dreamed of and prayed for, but never seen before. May these truly be the best days in our churches, and in our own personal ministries. May we believe it, may we trust you for it. May we be watching to see the next thing that You have for us. May we not be afraid if You lead us to do something different or new, to change something. God, give us the courage to go with You into the future regardless of what it calls for us to do. And so, Lord, thank You for these. Use them powerfully and mightily in the days to come. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

– Amen, again, thank you. God bless you, Dr. Blackaby. Have a great day, and for those of you who’ve joined us, thank you again for being here with us, and we look forward to sharing in a webinar again next month. Thank you.

– Thank you. Great to be with you.

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