Learn From Me

I love to read. You are probably well aware of that as you see me regularly posting reviews on books I have read. I read all kinds of books. I love learning new things and being challenged to think about how I am living my life. I also love to read for entertainment and to relax.

I often go through times where I am focused on a certain topic. Recently, I have been reading on the issue of the Holy Spirit and spiritual renewal personally and for the local church. As you will see from my reviews when I find an author that writes about this, I like to read all he has written.

Over the years I have attended many seminars and pursued life-long learning. I took my first course towards my Masters of Arts in Leadership and Ministry in 1992. My last course was completed in 2018. It took me 26 years to graduate. This was due to a few reasons. I was not always able to afford the cost or time to take another course. But I also preferred learning a little at a time rather than sitting in class for 2-3 years and getting one big dump of knowledge. I love to learn.

Recently, God chastised me regarding my learning focus. I was praying and journaling when God gave me a picture. I was running a race.

There were a number of runners just in front of me but for some reason I wanted to see who it was in front of them, but I just couldn’t see past them. I asked God what this was all about. It seemed unfocused, unclear.

And then it was as if God said, “Learn from me. Don’t just learn from others on the journey, even if they are ahead of you.  Learn from me.” It was a good reminder that my focus should be on Jesus, and listening to and learning from the Holy Spirit. Not just from other people.

Matthew 11: 29 says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (ESV)

I read my Bible just about every morning, but I have made a commitment to read more of the Bible more often. I want to learn from the Master, not just from others who have learned from the Master.

We fall into this trap quite easily. As believers, we need to regularly read the Bible and hear from God. Too many Christians are content to listen to their pastor and other preachers online or on television while not reading for themselves. Too many people of faith treat hearing from God like a mama bird feeding it’s young, eating only what has been regurgitated for them. God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with others feeding us. He wants us to chew our own food, to read the Bible ourselves and to ruminate over it. We need to personally hear God speak to us and rather than only hear the stories of others who have heard from God.

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

– Jesus

I love that you are reading this blog. Thank you! But I hope you are going to the Master and learning directly from him too. I’m glad that people show up in church to hear the sermon I prepared and preach. But I hope you are taking the time to learn from the Holy Spirit. After all, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.” (John 16: 15, NLT)

Learn from the Master, and keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Motivate Others for Ministry

I never thought I would be a pastor. I was a Christian. I attended a local church. I loved serving at Camp Sagitawa, a summer Bible Camp for kids. I had a desire to serve God so I went to Bible School, thinking that it would be good to prepare myself to serve in ministry of some kind. My thought was that everyone needs to learn how to teach, so I took a Christian Education program. I thought I would become a full time Camp Director. And then God used people to speak into my life and encourage me.

In the summer between my first and second year at Peace River Bible Institute, a lady from my church believed in me enough to financially help with one semester of Bible School if I would spend the summer at camp.

While attending Peace River Bible Institute, Reuben Kvill, the president at the time, took a special interest in me. He encouraged me to do some preaching at churches in the area that needed speakers. So I did. He then encouraged me to do a summer pastoral internship. There was a church looking for an intern and he thought I would fit in quite well. Though I had taken hardly any preaching or pastoral courses, I decided to do it. It would give me opportunity to complete some of my Christian Education requirements as well. It was during my internship that God specifically called me to be a pastor. I realized I loved preaching and knew God wanted me to do this.

Many years later, my wife and I felt God was re-directing us, but we were not sure in what way. It was during this time that a couple, who had been our friends for years, spoke into our lives. They encouraged us to think about how we might help the larger church instead of serving just one church. Well that encouragement, and God’s clear leading, has brought me to the point that I am now serving as a Transition Pastor. I am concluding one assignment in a month, and starting at a second church two weeks later. God is using me to help churches move to health and be ready for their next pastor.

I say all of this to encourage you to also become a motivator of people toward the gospel ministry. Maybe you have seen this happen in your own life. Perhaps someone encouraged you in a certain direction and as you moved in that direction, you realized this was exactly where you were to be.

I believe those of us who are older need to take this role seriously – to be a motivator of others to ministry. You may not realize that there are less and less Bible College graduates looking to be a pastor. Many Bible Colleges are leaning toward preparing believers to do well in teaching or medicine and other various professions instead of preparing them to be pastors or missionaries. We still need pastors, and we need missionaries. We need good people in business and in all aspect of our world, but we continue to need people who will dedicate themselves to full time ministry in some way. There are many reasons why these numbers are declining, but maybe one reason is that no one is encouraging young people to pursue full time ministry positions.

So, who can you motivate towards ministry?

Parents, encourage your children to consider being a pastor or missionary and serving God in a full-time capacity. Make sure your children get to know their pastors. Help them to see that this is a good option for them to pursue. Instead of encouraging them to be lawyers or doctors because you want them to make good money, encourage them to consider Bible College and Seminary. Encourage them from early on to continually ask God what He desires of them.

Grandparents, you have a powerful impact on your grandchildren. Help your grandchildren to see that being a missionary or pastor is a great choice. You could gift them books about pastors and missionaries. You could tell them you want to encourage them in this direction. Maybe tell them you will help them financially if they consider going on a missions trip, or if they are considering Bible College.

Youth pastors, you have an incredible role helping to shape the futures of the teenagers in your program. Pour yourself into them and show them that they too can learn to do what you do. Take them to Bible Colleges. Bring in tour teams from Bible Colleges so they meet some students. Teach them to ask God what He wants them to do with their life. Many schools are moving students into certain tracks of education at earlier points than they used to. They are being trained to choose a direction in life when they are quite young. Youth pastors, speak into their lives at these points and be the encouragers and motivators that you can be.

Pastors and missionaries, we need to step up and take this seriously. We need to show children and young people that ministry as a pastor or international worker, though hard at times, is very rewarding! I know that there are a lot of stories showing where both pastors and missionaries have failed some of the very people they were hoping to help. That doesn’t mean you avoid that role. Just determine to prepare yourself better, depend on God to lead more closely, and do everything you can to understand the people whom you are hoping to serve so you can serve them well and in a way that will benefit them, not you. Get to know leaders in the role you are pursuing who are doing a good job. Learn from them.

We need to challenge young people to seriously consider a career as a pastor or full-time ministry of some kind. Invite interested students to do a summer internship with the church. We do this for Bible College students, but maybe we can do this for some of our older teenagers as well. Show them that they can enjoy doing ministry and pray that God will direct them to where he wants them.

We need to realize that we can have a large influence on our young people. Let’s do it.

Let’s be motivators of others to ministry opportunities!

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Pastors Are Staying Longer

Pastors seem to be staying at one church for a longer time than in the past. I have seen a few pastors who resigned recently after 13 or 15 years at the same church. How did they do it?

Let me share a few of my observations. Some, or all, or none, of the following may be at play in longer pastoral stays.

1. The Strong Leader

Leadership has been one of the main issues pastors have been told they need to work on to have a great ministry. There are many books and seminars and podcasts dedicated to pastoral leadership. Well, some pastors are great leaders. The congregation loves the pastor because they see how the pastor always leads with a strong vision and clear direction. The congregation see the results of new people, maybe their own children, coming to Christ and being baptized under the leadership of these pastors. The leadership board enjoys having a leader who guides them as a board.

This type of pastor appeals to a congregation that loves to do the work of the Kingdom. They flourish because the leader equips them and inspires them to move toward one direction together. This pastor understands the congregation and builds ministries on the gifts and skills and passions of those present.

The strong leader addresses issues as soon as they arise and deals with them swiftly. If there are relationships that are struggling, he will do his best to fix them immediately. If there are ministries that are having issues he steps in to resolve them as efficiently as possible.

This pastor will most likely be a “projects person.” He is great at setting up the right ministries so that the care for people is done in the ministries and programs of the church rather than through his own relationships with everyone.

2. The Strong Shepherd

Pastors do not need to have abundant leadership skills to stay long term in one church. I’ve seen some who remain at a church for years because they love people. They care for those in the congregation. They are at the hospital bed of everyone who ends up in the hospital. They might even remember everyone’s birthday and call them or take the out for coffee to celebrate. I remember a pastor with this gifting who remembered everybody’s name from the first time they attended as new-comers.

This pastor may not start new ministries but is faithful to continue to maintain the ministries that are already going. This pastor may not have strong preaching abilities, but the congregation senses his love for them whenever he preaches.

This pastor will generally be a “people person.” His ministry is all about loving and caring for people.

3. Be a Strong Adapter

I am presently doing transition ministry in one church that just said goodbye to a pastor who was there for about 13 years. As we have gone through the transition process, I have heard comments from people that the previous pastor was not the same at the end as he was at the beginning of his ministry. He changed and adapted, and it was a good thing.

Adapting happens for a few reasons.

a. The pastor grows up: If you are a new pastor just out of Bible College, you are likely young, and probably inexperienced. Some young pastors may have been very involved in their church growing up, or grew up in a pastor’s family and so have some experience of how church works. Others come to this role with little church experience at all.

If you are a young pastor, you may be able to have a long ministry at one church if you keep on growing. Keep on taking courses. Attend seminars. Read books. You might want to focus in on a certain aspect of the pastoral role that excites you, but keep learning. Find an older pastor nearby who will mentor you and whom you can bounce ideas off of. Make use of denominational leaders and coaches to help you. Be willing to listen to your leadership team. They have probably been in that church longer than you.

b. The church grows: If you are part of a church that is growing, the dynamics of church ministry will shift over time. When you have 60 people, you will know everyone. When you have 120 people, you may have to work much harder to get to know the newer people. You may need to add more small groups and add more leaders, so your role in equipping leaders may expand. If you grow to the point of hiring staff, you will again have to adapt as you are now leading a team, even if it is just two of you. You are now handing off some responsibilities to another pastor and trusting them to lead their areas well.

If you are in a growing church, make sure you keep learning. Go to seminars, take courses, and read lots. Look for someone who has experience pastoring a church that is growing and ask them to help you adapt well. Learn to increase your leadership team. Work closely with new staff. You may need to establish another level of leadership to look after different departments in the church.

If it is your goal to be a pastor who stays a long time in one church, then be the best you that you can be. If you are gifted as a leader, lead well. If your primary gifts are in the area of shepherding, then shepherd your congregation well. When you are in a church that is growing, figure out how to adapt where you can and gather a team around you to compliment and balance out your own gifts and skills. Usually both the pastor and the church benefit from a pastor staying for a longer period.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Always Become Better!

Our education system helps us to figure out if we are continuing to learn and develop. If you are faithfully doing your homework and finishing your assignments, you should be learning what the curriculum has laid out for you in each grade in school, or each year of college or university. Every year you should ideally pass a level and move up to the next grade. When you enter college, there are a number of classes you must take as prerequisites to classes offered in the next year or two. You can track how well you are doing by what grade you are in, or what courses you have completed toward the degree you are pursuing. When we leave school, it is not as easy to see if we are still learning.

When you complete your degree, you hope to step into a career that uses your training. As you begin at a new place of employment, you are taught what is expected of you at that job. Sometimes there are opportunities to advance in your career so you feel like you are continuing to grow and develop.

Eventually even in your job, there are not more steps to advance to. You may not even be expected to do any further learning. You know what the job is, and have proven you are capable of doing it. You do not need to keep learning.

This is where some people become stagnant. They have reached a certain level in their job or their career and they are content. The problem is, no one plateaus in their life for long. Either you keep learning and growing and making yourself better in some way, or you start to fall off, and fall behind as the world keeps on changing and developing.

I have been a pastor most of my life. While I have done a few other things for an income, this has been what I have given my life to. And I have chosen to keep on growing. I love to read. If you have noticed my book reviews on this blog you will know that is true. I like to read a variety of things. Sometimes I focus on a certain subject for a while, but I love to learn and to grow and develop. As a pastor, I need to learn how to use technology.  I started out by writing my sermons by hand, no I always use my computer. Along the way I learned how to use PowerPoint to add slides to my sermons. I spent a number of years pursuing a Masters (It took a period of over 20 years from the first course I took towards my Masters degree until I completed the last one and graduated!) I was not as concerned about accomplishing the degree as I was about continuing to regularly keep on learning. I enjoyed taking time to implement what I was learning.

We should want to always become better. Whatever skill or ability or gift you may have, keep learning how to develop it further. If you are a good preacher, continue to learn from others who are better, or who may do it slightly differently. If you are good at leading meetings, keep reading new books or go to seminars on how to lead them even better. If you are a good counselor, continue to learn and find new techniques to try out.

It may be that you realize you are about average in a number of areas in what you are skilled at. You might want to choose one or two to become good at, or even one area where you excel.

I have found one of the ways of continuing to get better is to teach others. If you think you are pretty good at something, then see if there are opportunities for you to teach others. When you teach, you have to figure out what you actually do, how you do it, and why what you do or the way you do it is the best way. This forces you to not just do something you are naturally good at, but evaluate it and figure out what valuable lessons you can pass on to others.

David Sanders, a cellist in the Chicago Symphony was describing how many hours of practice it takes to get to and maintain such a high level of competency. “You cannot rest on your laurels in the Chicago Symphony, or in any world-class orchestra. You never want to let your colleagues down, yourself down, or, maybe more importantly, the music down. Now in my 42nd year, I still don’t want to let my colleagues, myself or the music down. It is a never-ending struggle to continually try to master a musical instrument, to keep improving, be it string, wind, brass, or percussion.” (A CHICAGO CELLIST EXPLAINS: WHY WE WORK ONLY 20 HOURS A WEEK)

If you want to be your best, you need to continue to work at your craft. You have to continue to learn and practice and develop. The person who is continuing to develop and grow will be sought after in their field of expertise. And I would venture to say, will be much more interesting than the person who has not learned anything new for the last couple of years. This is not necessarily about “moving up the ladder”, but about being the best you can be where you are at.

Always become better at what you are good at and what you are equipped to do. You will enjoy life more than those who have become stagnant. You won’t be left behind as those younger and more skilled start to catch up to you.

As a pastor, if you keep on learning and growing and developing, you will be more attractive to churches looking for someone relevant to the world around them who also comes with years of experience. Continue to become better, for yourself, and for long-term ongoing employment.

Always become better.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience.

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. I hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading too.


ATOMIC HABITS – by James Clear

James Clear has written a well-researched and scientifically backed book on how small habits can lead to big changes. By “Atomic” he means small, like atoms. Small changes can have great affect over time. The book breaks down how habits are formed and how new ones can be created or old ones overcome. James gives a number of examples that help to make sense of what he is teaching.

I especially like how he ties our habits to our identity. Deciding it would be good if I would run occasionally is very different than calling yourself a runner. If you are a runner, then you run. If you are trying to make a habit of running because I need to lose weight you will not have the same impetus as if you were identifying as a runner in the first place.

Want to overcome bad habits? Want to start new beneficial ones? Then this book will be a great help!!

Keep reading

Andy

Who Do You Want to Become?

Who are you? I mean, if friends were to describe you, what words and phrases would they mention?

As we transition into a new year, we are often asked about our resolutions. I prefer setting goals rather than making resolutions.

Some of us might want to rethink goals just a bit. I tend to set goals to accomplish something. For example, I want to read the whole Bible this year, using the Chronological reading plan that puts things in the order they probably happened. I also want to finish writing a book. But should I be setting some different goals?

How about goals that affect who we are? Should we be setting some goals in areas that would impact who we are, what our personality is, or how we face life?

If you want to be seen as a generous person, you could make your goal to be more generous this year. However, vague goals like that are less effective than those with more specific or concrete descriptors. Maybe we could write a list of what a “generous person” is like or what they do and how they interact with others. Perhaps you view generosity as being freer with your resources and time, for example, such as lending your tools or giving food to the food bank. Or your focus could be on buying meaningful things for people you care about or inviting more people to your home for a meal. You could do some research and find a worthwhile cause to support, financially or by volunteering, being generous with money and generous with your time. You might choose to lend your books to a friend after you read them. It’s your goal, so make it yours. You could consider reading some books or taking a course on generosity.

If being generous doesn’t resonate with you, consider a few other character goals. Think about your own life and moments of personal frustration or struggle to identify where you might want to focus your personal growth.

1. Do you want to be more forgiving? You realize you are quick to judge, quick to get angry and offended, and slow to forgive. You want to forgive more freely. Then set a character goal of becoming more forgiving.

2. You might desire to be more patient. You struggle with having to wait for anything. You could set a goal to deliberately always take the longest line in the grocery store, or when buying gas. You could find ways of thinking about other things while waiting. You could memorize scripture…so every time you wait in line you bring up the verses you are learning and go over them. Now the slow line becomes productive for you, and you are being more patient.

3. Would you like to be more creative? You could read books and take courses. You could find ways of trying new things that require creativity. Maybe you schedule in some “day-dreaming” into your day so that you can focus on your creativity.

4. Maybe you want to be more at peace and worry less. You could memorize scripture verses on not worrying. You could pray, even ask others to pray with you, that God would help you have peace in your life.

5. Maybe you want to be more considerate of other people. This is one I have to work on. I have set a goal for me to connect with at least two people who are not in my immediate family or part of the church. Personally, I want to text or visit or connect in a meaningful way with others that are outside of my immediate thought process. These are people I care about, but they may not realize it because I rarely connect with them.

I’m sure that if you ask yourself: “What is one area in my life where I would like to improve?” you will quickly come up with an answer.

Now, before we leave this, I want to suggest that some of these self-improvement goals may need some outside help. Maybe you connect with a coach, or book a few sessions with a counselor. Maybe you meet with your pastor, or a good friend. And you ask for others to speak into your life and help you think of how to improve in your area you want to grow in.

I’m thinking that a number of us probably have people in our life who are really good at the area we want to improve. At least for me, my lack shows up when I see others who are doing so well in this area. My wife is one who is great at noticing others and connecting and loving – and that is why I recognize I have some improving to do. Take time to talk with those in your life who exemplify the area you want to work on. Maybe you are doing well in an area they want to work on and you can help each other.

I encourage you to set some risk-taking goals for the year: tasks to complete as well as areas of personal character growth. Put a plan into place, to learn and grow in these areas.

I wish you all the best for 2022. May it be a life-changing year for you!!

Keep looking up!

Andy

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT – by Randy Clark

I enjoyed this book for a couple of reasons:

  1. I am growing and learning in my relationship with the Holy Spirit and this book brought some goo foundations to that learning.
  2. Randy Clark does a good job of explaining the historical understandings of different denominations and theological traditions.
  3. Randy does a great job walking through the many historical revivals where the Spirit showed up in power – with similar displays of God’s power as many are experiencing today when the Spirit shows up.

If you are looking to grow in knowledge and experience of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, this book is a great foundation to that. It helps you to see that some of the unusual experiences of recent revivals are not that unusual when compared to previous outbreaks of the Spirit. And it helps give a balanced understanding of what we might expect if we are filled or baptized with the Spirit.

This book leaves you longing for more of the Spirit – His presence and His power.