Let Your No Be Your Yes

Keep Going.

Photo Credit: Visionello, Flickr

Just because you may hear “no” a million times doesn’t mean that the biggest YES–the calling for you to change the world in whatever you way you are meant to change it–diminishes.

The “no” is water thrown next to the fire on the dirt.

It doesn’t touch the flame.

Keep going.

Trusting God’s Design

I didn’t know much about personality profiles growing up. What I did know is after about 2 hours at church, 2 hours at a party, 2 hours on a school trip, 2 hours at a sleepover…I was done.

I wasn’t angry. I didn’t dislike people. I wasn’t bored. I didn’t want to check out.

But something inside me hit a threshold of sorts and I knew I needed to spend at least a few minutes by myself and recharge. Otherwise, my mind would get spacey, I’d become easily distracted, my speech would begin to falter, I’d even become more clumsy.

Over time, I learned although this could cause me anxiety, it wasn’t the anxiety I wrestled with.

It was simply my design as an introvert (and a far-reaching one at that).

introverts-unite-individually-american-apparel-unisex-fitted-tee-lemon-w760h760

I’m not too shy (usually). I love people. I love loving people. I adore hearing what journey they’re walking and what God’s doing in their lives. I’m good with people.

As someone who has been, for the most part, self-employed for the last seven or eight years, I find a lot of quiet time in my own routine with writing and speaking. Now, as Tim and I entered a new season of life, with him as a youth pastor at a growing church, I find my time alone growing shorter and shorter. I know God knows how I’m wired and I know He gives me strength for every situation, but I often battle the process.

It goes a little like this:

  1. YES! I am SUPER PUMPED about this youth retreat we’re having this weekend. Over thirty people are going! I love the girls we get to minister to and with. I LOVE seeing them learn and grow! Yay!
  2. Wait, how far do we have to drive?
  3. Hold up…lights out is how late?
  4. How much time will I have a chance to be by myself and recharge?
  5. My routine! My routine! Ack!
  6. Geez, Miller. That’s entirely selfish! You’re here to serve these students and your husband and these volunteers. SUCK IT UP. You’re not going to die from talking and listening to people for four days.
  7. Well, you’ll die a little bit. But it’s for Jesus.
  8. Really, Miller. SUCK IT UP. Good grief. You introverts are always overanalyzing and planning 78 of the conversations you think you’ll have and you actually won’t have…no wonder you’re exhausted already. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.
  9. (Hey, but God. You know you gave me a really empathetic and sensitive heart. You know this stuff is hard for me.)
  10. (Anne, I know. Just trust me.)

It seems like such a small thing to trust–God’s design. Knowing He fully created me, my fears, my flaws, and my strengths. In ministry, it’s been difficult to see being an introvert as a gift…I can see it as a curse. I want to wear shirts that say, “No, really. I LOVE YOU! Even if I don’t seem like I talk much.” Church events are usually social events. Loud. Talking. Games. Counseling. It’s a challenge for an introvert.

I’ve been looking forward to (and yet I’m still slightly anxious about) this weekend for a long time. It’s the first big event Tim and I get to lead (with the help of our wonderful volunteers!). I’m going to try and be EXTRA intentional about letting God fill in those places where I need Him to. I don’t want Him to change the way He created me, but I need to learn to trust the way He designed me in whatever season in which He calls me to minister.

(And, yeah. Feel free to pray for this retreat! We’d be VERY grateful!)

Why the American Church is Not Going to Hell in a Hand Basket

I know what the statistics say about the future of the evangelical American church.

Our buildings are bigger, our lights are brighter, our programs are sleeker, our preachers are teaching, our pastors are shepherding and yet people are leaving out of the church in droves–especially my age (almost 35) and younger.

  • Some are leaving for good. God, the Church, religion…it’s just not part of our core anymore.
  • Some leave and plant other churches. We’re more entrepreneurial than ever so when we see something, in our opinion, that needs to be improved on, we know how to run a church. We’ve spent enough time within our well-oiled machines that we’ve been groomed to do it ourselves–just better, we think. More or less intimate. More or less community. More or less programs. More or less topical. More or less exegetical. More or less flash. More or less candles.
  • Some leave and go to the church down the road. And then to the other church farther down the road. We commit just long enough to wonder why we haven’t found community only to start all over again.

And herein lies a problem: the categories of people I just defined are people who are already inside the church–whether it be a church building or a gathering in a living room or a coffee shop.

We study, we plan, we program, we find scenic, peaceful pictures and slap encouraging Bible verses on them in hip fonts to post across social media. We create devotionals, printouts, and have a board or two on our Pinterest pages for quotes and for Jesus.

Let me say there is nothing inherently wrong with studying, planning, programming or encouraging. I’m guilty of all those things, Pinterest boards included.

However, if we fly out to 30,000 feet and take a look at the landscape, what do we see?

I think we’ve become a little bit gluttonous in regard to our faith.

At first, that statement sounds pretty innocuous. We’re to learn scripture, memorize it, encourage each other, and be faithful with the time and resources we’ve been given, right?

I agree.

At what point are we spilling out to others–to those who haven’t heard the truth and the power and the saving grace of the Gospel of the cross?

Having grown up in the church, worked in the church, served in the church, and now, being married to a pastor, I hear all the time how, with each generation, society is becoming more and more post-Christian. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Just look at what happened in Europe!”…

I’m a logical person. I love research and I love statistics. I geek out over spreadsheets and trends. Quantifying and qualifying things are one of my favorite hobbies.

Yet, in spite of all the science and stats, I really don’t believe that the American church is going to hell in a hand basket, so to speak.

Why not?

I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe God desires a true reviving of His church all over the world, including America.

I believe truth always wins, even in an age where truth has been redefined and recategorized as relative and subjective and personal.

I believe that the children and students of today are hungry for truth. I see it every week as they ask good and thoughtful questions about the Scripture they read. I see their struggle, and it’s a good struggle. 

I believe the power of Christ that is in one person who’s faithful to worshipping, obeying, and joyfully sharing the saving grace of Christ is more powerful than 10,000 people who attend a church out of routine or tradition.

And lastly, I believe there are enough people who believe like me–quietly hoping, seeking, praying, pleading, trusting and living out the Gospel that the numbers and statistics don’t matter.

We will not lose to the self-fulfilling prophecy that the church in America is dying.

Yes, the future of the church looks grim at times.

But we understand it’s not that we need to (or can) fix what’s broken.

We need to pray our faces off and be obedient so that what has been broken in the church can be made whole, made new, and made alive again.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.

It’s time for us to take that power and let Him raise the dead through us.

Fight for Unity, or Don’t Fight at All: My Plea for Christians to Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

When I was sixteen, my dad left the ministry. He did nothing wrong, but it was an ugly church-wide meeting full of Southern obstinacy. I saw men in our small church yelling at each other, accusing each other, accusing my father, accusing my mother, accusing the youth pastor. Some claims were insidious, others plan incredulous.

I will never forget that Sunday in April. A fire rose inside me that rarely burns for much anymore. As shy as I am, as non-confrontational as I am, and – for that church – as female as I am, none of that mattered. I stood up, my whole body shaking and read verses upon verses out of the bible about unity. All those Bible drills came in handy. I flipped to Ephesians, to John, to Galatians.

What I was taught in church about loving each other and what I was shown by the church were diametrically opposed.

When I was through, I was met with cold stares telling me my input was not welcome. I rushed outside, up a fire escape, and wrote a letter to God I still have to this day.

Give me a way to bring unity to the church. Or else, I’m gone.

I didn’t hear an answer for a while, so I left. For five years, I went off on some dark roads which God has so graciously redeemed. I came back to His bride and found myself back in many situations where I would pray that same prayer (just without the “or else…”)

In recent years and more specifically, the recent month, everyone who has an Internet connection has been exposed to many an exposé on pastors and other church leaders. The scandals, the sins, the full-open-letters pasted for all the world to see. We are an age of opinionated school-yard bullies with platforms and reach and nobody is winning.

That fire is lit once more. I’m that sixteen year old girl again, shy and nervous of unwelcome stares, trembling with my Bible in hand…but I’m ready to fight.

Here’s the thing.

  • If you don’t know the person you’re dragging through the mud, you have no scriptural basis to bring what he or she is doing to a public forum where anyone can read.
  • If you do not have an accountable relationship with them, they are not accountable to you (or to your blog, or your Facebook rants).
  • That person isn’t going to read your blog, or your comments on a blog anyway.
  • If you find it humorous or rejoice when a man or woman of God has been removed from ministry or celebrate when they are publicly humiliated somehow, you should mourn. The Father is grieving. Even if what they did was both terrible and true, there is never a reason to celebrate. Never.

My bottom line request is this: If you’re not going to fight for unity, don’t fight at all. And don’t cause others to fight. Don’t bring people along with you in rejoicing (or making fun of, or condemning) for a fallen brother or sister. If you have a platform, use it to bring prayer for the church. Humble, pleading, grieving prayers. Don’t share the latest YouTube video of that person because “you just can’t believe it” and “it’s so wrong it’s ridiculous.” Move on. Sharing those things does not edify the body of Christ.

The same grace that covers you covers the worst of us.

Oh, and in that church service where my dad resigned? There was a girl there from my school who wasn’t a Christian. It was her second time visiting. As far as I know, she never returned. Heck, it took me five years for my faith in God and the church to recover from that situation.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32

PS – I am turning comments off on this post. In the past, I have written similar posts on unity and have received comments that do not reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I don’t want this to be another one. If you truly need to comment on this, you can contact me privately using the contact form on my website.

Surrender and Self-Sufficiency in the Church

When I was nineteen years old, my grandfather was in his final hours of life after a long fight with cancer. He called each of his grandchildren into his room one at a time. I leaned over his fragile frame in order to hear the last words he would ever speak to me. He didn’t have the strength to open his eyes and could barely whisper the six words he spoke.

“Never give up on church.”

I told him I wouldn’t. But in order to keep my promise, I’d need to start making some significant changes in my life…like, actually going to church again. I had been out for a good three years, since my father left the ministry in a bloody battle of a business meeting.

Over time and with conviction, I slowly let my walls down and tried to make good on my pledge to my grandfather. My actions stemmed more from wanting to keep my promise than actually being obedient to what God wanted, but eventually my change of behavior caused a change in my heart and I fell in love with the church in all of her magnificence and her flaws.

I surrendered, slowly and timidly, to the call of unity God has placed on all His children. Surrender doesn’t come easily, especially when we’ve been hurt in the past. When we think about giving into something we used to push away from us, we’re met with an internal resistance. It’s easy to justify our actions that keep us walking the line between self-sufficiency and surrender.

photo credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via photopin cc

As I’ve spent time talking to other Christians, and some who have even—in their own words—“left the faith,” or “left the church,” I’ve noticed a pattern so common it’s become perfectly acceptable without question. Someone enters into a relationship with a community of faith, and the programs or the legalism or the perceived lack of authenticity turns them away. It’s either too structured to have “organic” community (which is not a Biblical concept, by the way) or it’s so “organic” that relationships never grow because we don’t know how to grow them.  So we bail.

I have a friend who’s an atheist but who stays in tune to what’s happening in different faiths. As he looked at the western Christian culture, it was easy for him to see the things that divide us. He bluntly asked me, “How can everyone in your faith be so divided yet claim to follow the same God?”

Good question.

I truly believe this break in our unity is a strategic plan of the enemy.

Many Christians today have fallen into a culture that tells us we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe and are entitled to be right in our beliefs. And because of the surplus of platforms from which we can speak, never before our generation has a group of people been able to voice their beliefs so loud and clear.

Some see this as progress. I see it as subtle (and at times, not so subtle) expressions of selfishness. Where in our proclamations and defenses of our personal beliefs do we find humility? Where do we find surrender?

We don’t.

In order to have healthy relationships with God and others, we must surrender. To God, we surrender our desire to live our lives for ourselves. Only by dying to ourselves—our human nature—can we truly live in the identity of who God created us to be. In order to embrace the person we are meant to be, we must let go of the person, the ego, we created.

With others, we surrender our need to be right. We surrender our need to be heard. We trust in the paradox of finding peace in serving instead of demanding to be served and complaining about it when we aren’t.

Surrender goes against our very nature to be independent. Surrender indicates we willingly choose to rely on others. We must rewire our thinking to recognize that needing another person (and being the person someone else needs) is not a weakness; it only strengthens us.

***

(Most of this post was excerpted from my new book “Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community.” It comes out this fall, but you can get a few free sample chapters here or preorder the book here.)

 

 

Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church Burnout is Updated, Expanded and Available with the Devotional Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health

Me with the very first copy of the original MCD in what used to be the Borders on West End in Nashville.

Me with the very first copy of the original MCD in what used to be the Borders Books on West End in Nashville.

In 2009, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic was published. Tens of thousands of people found hope and healing and the book was awarded Outreach Magazine’s “Vital Church Resource” Award. If you click on that link it takes you to the original book with the original reviews, so you can get an idea of what people thought of it.

Then, unexpectedly in 2012, I providentially got all the rights back to the book. Considering there were only a few remaining in print, I knew it had to be updated & reprinted.

In the mean time, Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health was released as and became a featured devotional on YouVersion for a month or two, which was pretty neat.

And now, Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church Burnout is back and ready to help you find healing in a revised and expanded fifth anniversary edition.

Mad Church Disease BundleThe new, expanded edition of Mad Church Disease includes:

  • Over 40 pages of updated and new content
  • Five entirely new chapters
  • A focus on the first principle of healing from burnout: reconnecting with God
  • A new section on creating healthy environments
  • Extra study guide questions

There are a few ways you can get your hands on these resources if you haven’t yet, or if you or your staff need a refresher. You can go the Amazon way:

Mad Church Disease on Amazon.com (Kindle & Paperback)

Beating Burnout on Amazon.com (Kindle & Paperback)
Or, you can order them through me. With the Exclusive Team Bundle Special, you’ll get:
  • Get 2 Copies of Mad Church Disease
  • 2 Copies of Beating Burnout
  • PLUS the eBook of each book 
  • and the audio of Beating Burnout
  • Which is $75 value for only $45 + S/H
Self-publishing is hard. Really hard. But when it’s all done, there’s no pressure to meet any sales quotas or get on any best-seller lists. I didn’t need to re-write Mad Church, but I wanted to because deep in my heart I know that there are people struggling with their calling, their workload, and burning out. So I hope this little project can help you (or someone you know) rest and heal.
***

Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #5: Preventing Burnout

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little video series with Dr. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway. This is our fifth and final interview (and keep in mind, there was only supposed to be one video that emerged from our conference room chat…his insight is just so good and his heart is full of compassion, I’m so pleased we got five!)

In this one, we discuss the root of burnout and how to prevent it spiritually, emotionally and physically.

If you’ve missed any of the previous videos (which range from 3-6 minutes long), you can watch them:

1) Beginnings of Burnout

2) The Roles of Millennials and Mentoring in Stopping Burnout

3) When Do You Quit?

4) Symptoms of Burnout

5) Preventing Burnout

This is also the last week you can get Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health on Amazon for 2.99 WITH a free audio book (after you email your receipt to me). You can also preorder the paperback over here! (If Amazon takes care of business, they’ll go out  next week!)

***

Praying you guys have a healthy weekend,

Anne

Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #4: Burnout Symptoms

In 2005, I found myself in a hospital totally burned out. At the time, I didn’t know it was burnout but after a week of (invasive, ahem) tests, they ruled out any disease. I was overweight, emotionally unstable, and isolated.

Dr. Rainer and I talk about some burnout symptoms and how he almost got to a point of burning out himself.

One of the most important questions I’ve ever been asked: “Does working in this church interfere with your communion with Christ” still influences me today.

Check out today’s interview with Dr. Thom Rainer of LifeWay for Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health (which is on sale at Amazon for just 2.99 through Friday or you can preorder the paperback here!)

***