Archives For holiday

Rest and peace

Lisa Misner —  November 19, 2018

Effective ministry

By Nate Adams

The weeks leading up to and including our IBSA Annual Meeting are probably the busiest and most demanding of the year for me. I’m always relieved when it’s all over, and very ready to head home for some rest and peace. This year, however, I drove directly from that fun and challenging meeting to the funeral visitation for a relatively young pastor.

Driving home afterward, both the stress of the day and sorrow of the evening collided in my thoughts and emotions. I had just challenged hundreds of pastors and church leaders to a “pioneering spirit” that would go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders. This wonderful pastor had been engaged in all those—church planting, evangelism, missions giving, and preparing tomorrow’s missionaries and pastors.

Yet I had just looked into the eyes of his grieving family and friends. And I knew him and his situation well enough to know that health and stress factors played a role in the timing of his life’s end. I found myself wondering if I shouldn’t personally invest as much time encouraging pastors and leaders to guard their health and prioritize their family as I invest challenging them to do more in ministry.

Effective ministry over the long haul requires that we take care of ourselves.

So, as the holidays approach again this year, a time when pastors and leaders are especially vulnerable to stress, exhaustion, and even depression, let me remind us that effective ministry over the long haul requires that we take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are four ways pastors and leaders can do that.

First, we can believe God’s Word and ask him, directly in prayer, to guard our hearts and minds with his peace. The Bible says quite plainly in Philippians 4, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Second, we can take care of ourselves physically. No matter how much we feel has to be done, no matter how many demanding people are in our lives, there is always time for rest, for exercise, and for recreation.

Third, we can watch out for one another. Sensitive leaders in congregations can watch for signs of stress or poor health or depression in their pastor and come alongside to help. Pastors can check in on other pastors. Regular accountability meetings with another trusted leader are a great way to keep your health from spiraling downward.

And finally, many pastors could benefit from meeting with a trained counselor. Our friends at Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services now offer six free counseling sessions for both pastors and pastors’ wives, through their Pathway Counseling ministry.

These licensed, Christian professionals will listen and help you work through personal concerns and a plan for the future, all from a place of grace and confidentiality. Counseling is available at a dozen different locations across Illinois, and can begin with a simple phone call to (618) 382-3907.

Some of the most comforting words Jesus ever uttered are recorded at the end of Matthew 11 when he said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Ministry is challenging, and being a pastor or church leader can be stressful, even depressing, if you make the mistake of trying to carry its burdens alone. As you enter this busy holiday season, may you also find the rest and the peace you need to pioneer for the long haul.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at

Nate_Adams_Dec15HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Have you ever found yourself heading into the Christmas season feeling blue? I have. In fact, this was one of those years.

I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I felt down, other than the fact that several things haven’t turned out the way I would have hoped this year. It appears some of the key measurements we set for our work at IBSA are not going to be met. In arenas outside IBSA that I care about, several decisions were made this year that were very different than what I thought best. Several people disappointed me. Even as I looked around for things I could call personal successes, well, I just couldn’t think of many.

The second factor that contributed to my blueness was just the sheer volume of work and challenges that seemed to still lay before me. After working so hard and seeing so little of the success I was looking for, it was hard to find the energy to dig in again.

In my blueness, I turned to music for some encouragement and reassurance. I found on my iPhone a playlist of 13 songs titled “Colorado Renewal 2013” that I had made two summers ago, during some personal retreat time. The first song, “Disappear,” by Bebo Norman, quickly gave expression to what I was feeling:

On a day like this I want to crawl beneath a rock
A million miles from the world
, the noise, the commotion – that never seems to stop.
And on a day like this
I want to run away from the routine
Run away from the daily grind
that can suck the life, right out of me.
I only know one place I can run to…

A place to run to is what I was looking for. And the song didn’t disappoint.

I want to hide in You, the way, the life, the truth so I can disappear
And love is all there is to see coming out of me
, and You become clear as I disappear.

For the next few minutes, I ran to Jesus, and disappeared there. I found sweet relief in the reality that Jesus’ completed work on the cross is all I need. I don’t have to earn or deserve anything more. Hidden in Him, everything returns to its proper perspective.

Then, just as the words of the first verse helped me express my discouragement, the words of the second verse helped me set a new direction, and a new motivation for the future.

I don’t want to care about earthly things
Be caught up in all the lies that trick my eyes
, they say it’s all about me
I’m so tired of it being about me.

As I looked back on the things that were making me blue at Christmas time, I realized they really were all about me, and what I could accomplish or control, what I could perhaps call success. And I realized that somehow I had indeed been deceived into thinking that my work, my successes, or even my ministry were the sources of my joy.

I recently watched a documentary about Bing Crosby that credited his classic “White Christmas” with being the song that first secularized Christmas. Until then, most Christmastime songs were sacred, Christ-centered. But after White Christmas, lots of writers and composers began creating sentimental Christmas songs with someone or something other than Christ as their focus. Of course one of those was Elvis Presley’s now famous lament, that it will be a “Blue Christmas without you.”

A Christmas season that depends on successes, or other people, or anything other than Jesus is bound to be blue. Maybe that’s one reason the shepherds fled their work and their despair and their longing and “came with haste” to the manger. That’s exactly where I want to run to and disappear this Christmas.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

COMMENTARY | Chase Abner

Note: This article originally appeared on Collegiate Collective, a new resource that features articles, podcasts, and videos designed to equip leaders to advance the gospel on college campuses.

Okay. Here’s my qualification to talk about Halloween on campus: I served as a campus minister for seven years in Carbondale. Beginning in the 1980s, Carbondale became known for its raucous Halloween celebrations. In fact, most folks these days refer to them as “the riots.” Cars got turned over. Store windows were busted. Bottles were thrown at police. After a particularly violent weekend in 2000, city officials closed the bars on “the Strip” each Halloween in hopes that it would discourage the behavior. Instead, students just celebrated a week earlier in what is now infamously “Unofficial Halloween” (or simply “Unofficial” if you’re a cool kid).

Even this year, Unofficial got bonkers and police showed up in riot gear to mace and pepper spray the crowd after a car got turned over just blocks from campus.

Chase_Abner_callout_Oct30I never found an effective way to engage students during Unofficial outside of throwing my own tamer Halloween party. I can’t talk about that or I’ll draw the ire of my more fundamentalist friends. However, I can talk about what I think students’ fascination with Halloween reveals about culture on campus.

The Supernatural
Part of what makes haunted houses and scary movies enticing to people is the notion that there are malicious spirits that walk among us. In some ways, it’s a subtle rejection of the naturalistic worldview that can be common on campus, especially among those immersed in the physical sciences. Even as Dawkins-flavored atheists/agnostics become more vocal, research shows that the majority of Millennials believe in God with “absolute certainty.”

While it may be disconcerting to see students toy with the concept of evil spirits for the sake of entertainment, I encourage you to see it as a bridge to talk about Christ. Christians, of all people, should be ready to affirm the existence of a paranormal reality and to point others to the one who is ultimately victorious over evil.

Research by the National Retail Federation predicts that 67.4% of 18-24-year-olds will spend money on Halloween costumes this year. These young adults predict that they’ll each spend about $40 on their costumes. I guarantee that these students aren’t going to shell out that much cash to get all dressed up and have nowhere to go.

The point of wearing a costume is to join the throngs of costumed students in the campus community – to see and be seen. Halloween reveals, almost as well as athletic events, that students want to be a part of a community rallying around a common purpose. Like all people, they have an innate desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to belong and they want to celebrate.

Our ministries have so much more to offer that desire than Halloween can provide. We can provide ongoing community that is centered around an eternal purpose realized in the mission of God.

When I try to figure out what might motivate a college student to don a costume and go make mischief (like tipping a car over or assaulting police officers, cf. “Unofficial” above), one answer that comes to mind is boredom. I think a lot of the trouble students get into at Halloween stems from the extended adolescence that finds fertile ground during college. Without a clear path to make a difference in the world, many students will use their freedom from immediate parental guidance to indulge some of our basest desires simply for lack of something better to do.

One way that our ministries can serve students (even before they know Jesus) is to provide them with opportunities to make a positive impact in the surrounding community. These students may not ever be ready to teach Bible studies, but they can read to underprivileged children, clean up litter, or clean out gutters for the elderly. Imagine the Gospel-centered conversations that could occur between students as they do community projects together. Imagine the good that could be done for your city if you find a way to channel bored students’ talents and energy into a Kingdom-focused alternative.

The Gospel
I know some will accuse me of over-thinking things. “Can’t Halloween just be about fun, Chase?” Of course it can, but even the desire for fun reveals something about the human condition, no? We all chase various things in hopes of being satisfied. So whether students are seeking supernatural affirmation that there’s more to life than what they see…or a sense of belonging with others…or an escape from a routine, meaningless existence…the Gospel of the Kingdom offers more than they could dream.

So, this weekend, I’m not asking you to ruin anyone’s Halloween fun. But as you observe the celebration (and probably mischief) in your campus community, let it freshly awaken you to why you’re there and why collegiate ministry matters.

Chase Abner is collegiate evangelism strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association.