This is going to be a blog about how to deal with PMS. Now that I have your attention, let me assure you that this has nothing to do with “that time of the month,” I might only have 7 years of marriage under my belt but I know better than to go there–something about hell hath no fury… This is actually about dealing with “that time of the week.” And though it is not guaranteed to always occur, it is something that every pastor is going to deal with to some extent or another. I’m talking about POST MESSAGE SYNDROME.
Now there is also a lot to be said about PRE MESSAGE SYNDROME, because both the spiritual warfare and the nervous energy ramp up as you prepare to speak. I have found this is especially true as you prepare to preach the gospel in an evangelistic outreach. But in my opinion the period directly after a time of intense ministry can be even harder to deal with than the period leading up to it so that is where I want to throw down some one’s and zero’s in this post.
It’s not that I think there is more warfare afterwards, that’s not necessarily the case, but as you go into it you know you are at war so you are taking appropriate countermeasures. You are on your knees, putting the armor of God on in your mind. You know you need to be sober and vigilant, and you are. Heck, you are ready to pull a Martin Luther and throw an ink bottle at the devil in the night if he even thinks about showing up. Furthermore, during this time you (hopefully) have a team of armor bearer types around you who are holding up your arms and praying for you, keeping you free from distraction so that you can get your game face on.
I’m not trying to make light of this, or to suggest that even when you know it is coming, the spiritual warfare isn’t incredibly difficult to deal with. It is. Yet, when things go wrong before a message you’re reaction is going to be to filter it through the grid of what you are doing for the Lord. You’ll be like, aha! I’m getting attacked, this must mean we are on the right track! Surely God is going to save the entire city now because I got a flat tire. Praise God! I’m being persecuted for righteousness sake. The devil targeted my tire to keep me from preaching the gospel–but it will never work, I will drive on my rims over a road covered in flaming scorpions if I have to!
Now, maybe Lucifer blew out your tire or maybe it was a pot-hole. But I’ll tell you what, you get that same flat tire driving home from church on Sunday after you give the message and you’re gut-level reaction will be different. It will probably be more like, seriously? after I poured myself out all day trying to help these dang people come to know you? what the heck?! Are there no breaks in this world for a man of God? stinking, lousy tire and stupid awful roads. Lord, can I call down fire from heaven and blow up this wretched highway? Why did you call me to a town with so many pot-holes anyway?
All right, I was probably being a little melodramatic there but you get the idea. And if someone is reading this who holds ministers to unrealistic standards and you are appalled at this–please remember, pastors are people too! And this is nothing new either, didn’t the pouting prophet Jonah want to die when the worm ate his shade plant just hours after he gave his sermon to the Ninevites? Didn’t Elijah curl up in the fetal position and get emo after the showdown at Mt. Carmel?
This funk can strike differently at different times. Maybe you will be discouraged because it didn’t go very well, not as many people came as you hoped, or your delivery was off. Or maybe you will be discouraged even though it went really well. Last time I checked Jonah had a pretty good response to his preaching in Nineveh. And Elijah’s ministry on Mt. Carmel couldn’t have gone better. They still got bummed out. I have had times of ministry that exceeded my wildest expectations and yet I found myself full of melancholy for no apparent reason.
I don’t know why this happens. Maybe it’s to keep you humble, perhaps it’s because you’re tendency is to let your guard down when the bell has rung for this round. You are sitting there on the stool with your eyes closed trying to catch your breath, and that’s when the sucker punch comes. Neither your flesh nor the enemy play by the rules. Part of it is biologically understandable, there is no way for there not to be some kind of an emotional crash when the adrenaline, preparation and excitement that has gone into an outreach or a big service like Easter Sunday gives way to reality and the endless stream of Sundays that are coming. And love it or hate it, ministry in the past is like toothpaste–once it’s out of the tube there is no going back.
Some weeks it’s clean and simple and you move right on. Other times you agonize over it for a day and a half. If it was a really bad message you think, I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have quit my day job. If it was killer, you think I peaked, I can never do better than that, and next Sunday they are gonna be back with friends. You inevitably drive home playing the game tape over and over in your mind, sometimes wishing you could get in a time machine because you just thought of something you should have said…it’s quite maddening.
Of course the solution to all of this is to get your eyes off yourself, and give it all to the Lord because it was never about you, it was always about Him. And you have to keep telling yourself that lest you sink into self-adullation or self-flaggelation. Both are mistakes. It’s all about Jesus, not you.
The best advice I have ever got on dealing with this came from reading Greg Laurie’s autobiography Lost Boy. He describes the process of coming down from a crusade and how he learned from Billy Graham to not strut around like an exultant quarterback who has just thrown a game winning touchdown. He said the best thing to do was to normalize as quickly as possible, get some food, respond to some emails, get on with it. He described a time where he hung out with Billy after preaching and Billy was wearing pajama pants with loafers while eating dinner in a hotel room. It’d be difficult to get a big head wearing an outfit like that! With that in mind I try to move on quickly: erasing the glass whiteboard in my office where my message had been brewing in different colored markers, clearing off my desk, playing with my kids, watching a movie, taking a nap, reading a novel, going for a bike ride. That stuff is the preacher equivalent of midol.
Sure there are things that are going to come into your head that didn’t go well at the event. That’s bound to happen. I used to call everyone up whose dept misfired and have it out right then and there. I have learned to take notes in a moleskine and save them for the debrief, unless there are immediate ramifications. And I have also been challenged by the reality that regardless of how you feel you have to celebrate what the Lord did, not just for your sake but for your team’s sake. (read 2 Samuel 19:1-8 to see this in action)
Above all things when you come out of a battle, don’t let your guard down. Expect the attack as you come down from the mountain. And keep praying! I hope this has been helpful for other pastors who will read this, even if it’s just to let you know that you aren’t crazy if you have been experiencing stuff like this. You are not alone! Take heart.
I intended on writing this blog post yesterday. But I woke up feeling like I had just gone over Niagara falls in a barrel (do people still do that?) and decided it could wait a day. I’ll write a whole different post about it later but I have found that in some ways the day after a significant event can be even more challenging than the days leading up to it. My serious business yesterday included coffee, Scripture, an omelet, and some quality time with my little women, the Lusko ladies. We sought to normalize and regain equilibrium after an adrenaline drenched week.
This past weekend is one I will not ever be able to forget. But before I get into why let me first tell you that one of the BIG things that God has tattooed on my heart is the principle of the empty vessel. It goes like this: Our God is a God who will fill a vessel as long as it is empty and offered up to Him in faith. You can have as much or as little of God working in your life as you want. It’s up to you. I tell my church all the time that God is not reluctant to revive, He is not stingy with His Spirit. He is literally looking to and fro on the earth for those whose hearts are His so He can work in their lives in power. As I cast vision I tell them that is the reason why we must continue to step out in faith to offer Him more of ourselves, more services, and more campuses so that there are empty seats for more people to sit in and hear about Jesus.
The temptation is to limit God based on your ability. To say to Him, “Here are five loaves and two fishes, but what are they among so many?” Instead we must force ourselves to process things through the lens of His infinite ability and simply give Him what is in our hands in faith. He sees the loaves and fish as a feast for a multitude.
God is not limited, He is limitless. Even when we stretch our faith and dream big–He still has bigger plans than we do. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ask or even have the guts to think. (Ephesians 3:20)
This weekend we saw that principle in action in a marvelous way. In all 5,143 people crowded into the Majestic Valley Arena for our Easter worship experience! The venue’s parking lots filled to capacity and traffic backed up for 3.5 miles. Eventually people began pulling off the hwy, parking their cars on the shoulder and in fields, and walking as far as 1/2 a mile to get there!. We also had over a thousand people watching the event live on the webcast in addition to those who listened on fresh life radio. Best of all, we saw 136 people make professions of faith in Christ!
I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team. I am inspired by their performance. Unbelievable. Professional. Excellent. They killed it. And I’m not just talking about those on staff. Every one of the 173 volunteers that it took to pull off this event put their hearts into it. It showed. I pinch myself everyday that I get to be apart of this movement of God’s Holy Spirit and that I have the honor of serving alongside such extraordinary people. The Skull Church Band was in rare form and it was awesome to have House of Heroes take part in the event.
I’d love to tell you that I fearlessly breezed through the whole weekend without ever doubting. I’d be lying though. I don’t think I have ever put on an event without at some point wondering–what if no one comes? And this weekend was no exception. I had moments of fear. But I like that. I want to keep doing things that scare me. I don’t ever want to come to a place where there is no faith required. Life is too short to use the cruise control. I am going to keep launching out into deeper waters, offering God empty vessels and trusting Him to fill them for His glory.
Onward and upward!
“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” -William Carey
Our family hopes you feel the warmth and the power of Christ’s love and majesty on what is unquestionably the greatest day of the year–Resurrection Sunday. He is risen and we will rise!
John 5:28–29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
There have been several special moments in our journey towards Easter this year. The whole process has been an act of faith and a huge rush. At the top of the list is the hour that I spent with the freshlife staff on the dirt of the Majestic Arena yesterday praying for God to move in power. We believe that on that very spot many will come to know Christ when the gospel goes out this weekend, and we sense that in some large way this event will be significant to our larger history. A defining moment.
My team has been working like the snakebirds that they are–trusting God, but planning like crazy–and there have been a lot of meetings that have gone way past the bounds of a normal work day. We have cast the vision and given the tools for everyone at freshlife to invite and bring people with us to this event. (I can pour my heart into the message, but if they don’t pour their heart into who they bring to hear that message we won’t see lost people reached.) And we are believing God for great things as we lift high the name of Jesus.
“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees.” William Cowper.
James 5:17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!
Today Jennie and I have been married for 7 years! I love that. It’s a whole week of years. Every year has gotten better and better as we have grown in Christ and learned how to better love each other. I can’t thank the Lord enough for the wife He has blessed me with. She is wonderful. I can’t wait until we have been married for 70 years. I am excited to become grandparents together and go to bed at 8pm and I hope I can still make her laugh as easily as I can today. I married a beautiful young girl that I wanted to grow old with. And that is exactly what I am going to do. With every heartbeat God gives me on this earth I am going to love Jesus, love Jennie, love my girls and preach the gospel. That’s my plan.
Happy anniversary Jennie, I love you!
Proverbs 31:10–11 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.
Jesus is the linchpin of salvation. He will hold everything together if you make Him your nucleus.
This clip is from the message, The Forerunner’s Finest Hour. To hear the whole sermon click here.
If you can’t make it to Skull Church you can make the commitment to not TXT & Drive and request a Skull Church Thumb Band BY CLICKING HERE. The Thumb Band is our gift to you, free of charge. If you would like to make a donation to cover the Shipping & Handling that would be rad.
Read an article about this initiative that was in the newspaper today HERE.
Below is a picture of me committing to not text while driving. I was the first to put my thumb in ink and make my mark on the giant phone screen. I want to lead by example. Even though I sometimes forget and grab for my phone when it buzzes I am dead serious about giving it up.
I brought my oldest daughter, Alivia, with me as I took the pledge. She is a powerful reminder of what is at stake if I foolishly choose to text and drive. No text (or tweet or email or status update) is worth missing out on her life!
I might have woken up with my head spinning, my ears ringing and in general feel sort of like I have been hit by a truck; but I am grinning like the cheshire cat and I won’t be able to wipe this smile off my face for a couple days. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who is excited about what I saw at skull church last night. In Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
After a phenomenal time in worship, a few songs by Queens Club and a gospel message from Daniel 5 we saw dozens and dozens of people streaming down the aisles of our theaters, making public professions of their repentance and faith in Christ. That never fails to floor me! I pinch myself everyday that God allows me to be a part of His work that He is doing on the earth.
We also unveiled an initiative that I am very passionate about. It is a campaign aimed at getting people to stop texting and driving. I’ll be posting more on that later but last night many people made the pledge to quit this super dangerous behavior by putting their thumb print on a giant phone. As a reminder of the commitment they were given a skull church thumb band.
Here are some amazing shots that will give you a glimpse of what went on last night in case you weren’t able to attend or join in online.
Want to know what Skull Church is exactly? It is an evangelistic event centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Produced by Fresh Life Church and based in Kalispell, Montana, Skull Church was launched in June of 2009 and occurs on the first Wednesday of every month at the historic Liberty theater. Further information can be found at www.skullchurch.com
Tomorrow night at 7pm we are going to be having our second skull church event in this new once a month format. I am nervous. I am excited. I am praying.
I swung by our house band’s final practice last night and they were sounding great. I have never seen the guest artist in person, but I love their music. My message for the night is burning in my veins and I am growing weary of holding it back.
As a church we have sought the Lord and asked for Him to move in power. I feel that the tide has turned and more and more people are waking up to see that this isn’t about us. It’s not a concert. It’s about those who don’t know Him. And it’s a spiritual battle. We are marching into enemy territory and fighting for the souls of those whose minds are held captive by the enemy.
We are at that point where we have done everything we can do and we are trusting God to do what only He can do. I call this being a snakebird. Trusting God, like a harmless dove, to do the super; but being cunning, like a serpent, and doing the natural. Understanding that in our flesh we can do nothing, but through the Spirit of Christ we can do all things. We believe that the result will be SUPERNATURAL. And we will give Him all the glory for the outcome.
I hope you will view the webcast as an opportunity for you to partner with us in the proclamation of the gospel. Beginning at 7pm MDT tomorrow night at skullchurch.com the HD stream is available for you to link to on fb, tweet about and email to your friends–no matter where you live. You could even hook your laptop up to your tv and invite someone over to watch it with you. We have gone to great lengths to make sure the experience online is as close to being in the Liberty theatre as possible. And please keep the outreach in prayer!