Tag Archives: Religion & Spirituality

The 8 Biggest Problems People Voice


[I have revised and updated this post from a couple of years ago.]

Are your problems like other peoples’ problems?

Have you ever thought to yourself that you were the ONLY one concerned about . . . (name it).

Let’s take a few minutes and look at the 8 biggest problems people face (whether they know it or not). See where you fall out in comparison.

This is not a scientific study**. These are my personal reflections over three decades of serving people. As a busy, involved Life Coach I get lots of questions from clients, friends, and family. They all center around the following eight concerns:

1. Relational Issues. Human beings are relational. Those who aren’t are considered abnormal, and for good reason . . . they are. Men relate to women, women to men, children relate to parents, people to employers, teachers, and government. Everything in life revolves around relationship. Why are so many so bad at them? Relational equilibrium is what Life Coaches help to establish. People sometimes need a new or different perspective on their old habits of relating that aren’t working for them. Perhaps they need a new mental window to look through when they’re communicating with others.

If you want to see shallow, superficial relationships and attempts at “love,” just watch some of the contemporary reality TV programs. The problem with watching them of course is that they have nothing to teach you. Unless you learn from them that relationships need to be other-oriented rather than selfish and self-serving. Who would want a “friend” like some of the people you see on the “Bachelorette” or “Jersey Shore?” I’m hoping these aren’t the new “reality.” If they are, we should add a ninth problem to our list: Shallow Reality TV.

2. Fear of Running Out of Money. Will the money last? Will I have a job tomorrow? Most people are concerned about their income, especially the lack of income. They are concerned about expenses. He says, “She shops like there’s no tomorrow. She can’t possibly wear all the shoes she owns!” She says,  “He thinks a boat is more important than renovating our bedroom or kitchen. If it were up to him, I wouldn’t have anything.”

Some have more than enough but worry that they’ll lose it. Others have just enough to squeak by today but are not sure about tomorrow. Some say they don’t care . . . and among those are the truly content and the obviously deluded.  Life and death, sickness and health are tied up in these issues. FREE ADVICE: The best place to be in regard to finances is completely out of debt.

3. Health Issues. What happens if I get sick? How will we get by? OR I’m so tired of hospitals and doctors. I’m sick of sickness! How can I keep myself healthy? Many are deeply in debt through no fault of their own and see no way out. Many folks I talk with are ignorant of healthy nutrition. Others have begun to take seriously the way our food in America is raised and processed (for a real education watch the documentary Food, Inc.–you can stream it on Netflix). They are opting in on organic produce and fruits, grass-fed cattle, and free-range foul. Some worry about their health future. There are solutions that do not involve medical insurance. More and more believers I know are taking advantage of group sharing programs like Samaritan Ministries (for those who are disciples of Jesus).

4. Anxiety over Finding or Losing Loved ones. Am I lovable? Will someone care for me? Am I worth caring about? Am I perfect enough? Can I find mister/ms right? Will I ever find someone like . . . ? Love is at the center of most relationships. All but the most dysfunctional people care deeply about finding, keeping, and losing love. Yet no two people can agree upon what “true love” is. Some say there’s no such thing . . . and they have enough broken relationships to prove it. Relational issues in families, between families have escalated since the late sixties, early seventies. I’m not a sociologist, so I can’t give you the reasons for this. What I can say is that the majority of people I speak with or coach desire whole, functional relationships. Others don’t want to pay the price to change. They want the OTHER person to change. Our difficulties are always easier to blame on someone else when we’re too immature to take responsibility for the way we relate.

Abandonment, rejection, and loneliness have attacked every one of us through some relationship. Good reason exists for us all to be love-shy. Yet, people who can’t or won’t love will remain incomplete and dysfunctional. Love is after all what our Creator says we were created for. All the negative experiences are the result, not of love, but of SELF-love.

5. Religious Questions. Is there a God? Or is this life all there is? Are we alone in the Universe? What if there is a God and I’m wrong? Do I end up in Hell or Heaven? What are the requirements? Who’s right? Muslims? Jews? Buddhists? Hindus? What’s the big deal about Jesus? Why are Christians so insistent on Him for everybody? Do we really need religion? These are not problems for some, but for those who deeply examine their lives, they have to come to terms with whether they want to live a Tea Bag Philosophy of life or encounter and relate to the One who claims to be Creator, and lover of their soul. The reason Jesus is such a big deal, the reason that every known religion has had to come to terms with Him is because He claimed a relationship with God as Father. Then he rose from the dead and was seen by over 500 credible witnesses. His followers number in the 10’s of millions. Like Him, they claim that God has “revealed” Himself to them. They experience fellowship with their Father-God. Other religions make claims as well, but of a very different sort. None claims that their God is the God who is Love. No other God has demonstrated that love by reaching out to human beings to bring them into his Household. For this reason, and many others, I’m a Christian spiritual formation Life Coach.

6. Concerns about Death. What happens when I die? Of course, the obvious answer is “You’re dead. It won’t matter to you.” Don’t we just die, go into the ground, and float around as a spirit looking to hang out in a place that was special to us? Most of the cultural views regarding death are based upon a misinformed Epistemology–Most people are clueless about immortality, death, the grave, and what happens after (including, and sometimes most especially, religious people). You can change that. You can know what happens when you die. That’s why beyond the grave books are such hot sellers. That’s why Life Coaches, who also deal with spiritual formation, can bring clarity to many of these issues.

7. Global War. Aren’t we headed toward destruction of the world? Why can’t we just all live together? Why can’t we live at peace? For the same reason that people struggle with so many of these life questions. Most people look only on the surface and refuse to see the invisible, underlying realities that shape our existence. I guess they feel that they can’t impact those unseen things. So now combine misplaced Epistomology with a misplaced Anthropology. War is the result of men who are unsatisfied with what they have (greed) OR of men who think that they have to institute their religious laws on everyone else (religious legalistic totalitarianism). By the way, Christians to not believe they must institute religious laws on everyone. Quite the opposite. They fulfill and satisfied the law in their relationship to Jesus Christ. What do Imean? Take a week and read, then reread The New Testament in the Bible. Then you’ll understand.

Think long and hard over these two causes (greed and religious law) before you’re tempted to move on. The lust of man, the pride of life, and the desires that he can’t control all drive him to take what is not his or want what is someone else’s. He wants to control, to enforce his will upon others. No god offered by other religions encourages freedom or liberty. They can’t. They want to control. The One True God–Yahweh–is the God of freedom and love. A person adopted as His child, is truly free and beloved.

8. Concerns about the Future. What should I do with my life? Where are things headed? Scores of questions abound regarding the future–what it holds, how people are to face it, perhaps leverage it. The future is big business too. So naturally people wonder if it’s OK to seek out fortune tellers, palm readers, psychics, and other practitioners of divination. As a Christian spiritual formation Life Coach, I share God’s view regarding those practices. They open people to demonization by seeking future information from supernatural sources–which God has expressly forbidden (not because He’s a Blue Meanie–but for our safety). I explain that two sources are available for believers to KNOW their intended future, including preparing for unforeseen events. But that’s another post.

The eight biggest problems people voice to me seem to cover most things human. The specifics change, but the concerns seem to group together under one of the eight–relational issues, fear of running out of money, health issues, anxiety over finding or losing loved ones, religious questions, concerns about death, global war, and concerns about the future.

QUESTION: Can you think of any BIG problems I’ve overlooked?

©2011, David C Alves

**MY RESEARCH: Just to give you some context to why I know something about this topic: I’m speaking from tens of thousands of conversations for over twenty-six years as a Life Coach. The questions and concerns people bring to me tend to be repetitive. I also speak as someone who has weathered bankruptcy and am now completely out of dept. I have been divorced and have been happily married now for 32 years in my second marriage. I was lost and have been found. I was rejected and am accepted. I have defeated panic attack disorder and quit smoking and drinking decades ago. All this just to say, I’m not someone who can’t empathize with the people I coach. Character and wisdom come from weathering life’s storms, caring for others, being teachable, and taking sound counsel.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 4


Part 4 of 4Read Part 1 first

How effective are sabbaticals for pastors?

That depends upon three factors:

  1. Are the pastor & church committed to God’s perspective of Sabbath rest? Some pastors will have to be convinced that they need a sabbatical, especially those who are extreme people-pleasers and Type A’s who push themselves and everyone around them. They need to be loved enough to be held accountable by those who love them.
  2. Are the pastor & church properly prepared? Unless BOTH pastor and church prepare and plan, the sabbatical will not be effective. It could even be a waste of time, money, and resources. The pastor must prepare. The fellowship must prepare.
    1. Pre-sabbatical planning
    2. Post-sabbatical celebration

Because preparation differs for church and pastor, I have split them in two documents which will be available shortly. The titles are “A Sabbatical Primer for the Church” and “A Sabbatical Primer for the Pastor.” Church or pastor can download them from the Maranatha Conference website: MCACC.net [http://mcacc.net/]

3. Are the pastor & church in agreement about the terms?

A. Is the length of time adequate for replenishment and refreshment?

B. Will everyone involved help the pastor to not be in the loop while on sabbatical? Calling in to see how the recent board meeting went is NOT being faithful to the trust of the church. Nor is informing the pastor that Mr. Jones decided to quit because the pastor went on sabbatical. Other leadership (local, conference, or regional) can be called upon and can handle church issues in the pastor’s absence.

CONCLUSION

The problem facing churches and pastors in the 21st Century is complex and widespread, but the solution is simple. If you read and act upon the content of this article, it will positively impact you for increased Kingdom effectiveness and spiritual longevity. By caring for the shepherds, you care for yourselves. Healthy pastors lead healthy churches. By embracing the value of “Sabbath,” both pastors and churches will fulfill their callings, honor Christ, and leave a legacy worthy of God.

Related Reading:

This is the end of a 4 part series. Please share the series with others.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 3


Part 3 of 4Read Part 1 first

What can we do to stem the tide?

–understand the nature of ministry

Ministry is like no other job on the face of the planet. Why? Because it’s not a job! It’s a vocation–a calling. God gives to the church gifts of men (Eph. 4.11ff). These people-gifts who hold offices in the body of Christ carry weights like no other vocation. Period.

What kinds of consideration and compensation should a person receive who:

  • Is on call 24/7.
  • Is the front line for personal tragedy
  • Sees the worst and best of life. Has to bury a child in the morning and be joyful with the newlyweds in the afternoon.
  • Has to study and prepare teaching and messages to equip God’s people
  • Has to protect his family and flock from the spiritual attacks of a supernatural being set upon destroying and ravishing men, women, and children.
  • Walk point against that enemy himself

–demonstrate Appreciation

One solution proposed by Focus on the Family is a congregation’s annual participation in Clergy Appreciation Month, and a habit of affirmation throughout the year.

Pasted from <http://www.parsonage.org/faq/A000000541.cfm>

We just came through annual Pastor Appreciation Month—October. What did you or your church do to demonstrate how much you value the life and love of your pastor(s)? Showing your love in a tangible way honors Christ and your pastoral leaders.

–a Sabbatical

A sabbatical can be the missing link for your church and your pastor. God meant for us to rest from our labor. The sabbatical is not just for church leaders anymore, but it certainly should be practiced by our churches and leaders.

Many resources abound in our age of books, internet, and information. These suggestions may prove helpful:

  • Simply Google “sabbatical” and see what you come up with.
  • Assign someone from the church to thoroughly research what’s available. Beginning with this issue of The Witness, begin to read about how a sabbatical might just meet the needs of your church and leaders.
  • Read some of the suggested materials found at the end of this article
  • Go to the Maranatha Website/Blog and see what you can find there. We’re always adding sabbatical resources.

–a policy of refueling.

“Come Away: Jesus Calls His Sent Ones to Time Alone With Him.”

Even Jesus recognized this and retired often to places in the wilderness or to fishing with friends. He valued and modeled rest and solitude.

Churches can realize that pastors need time to refuel and replenish. Then develop a policy. Answer questions like:

  • How often should we send our pastor on sabbatical? [some say every 5 years, others every 7]
  • How long should a sabbatical be? [in most cases, 3-6 months is sufficient. Any may be time away, but is NOT a sabbatical]
  • What resources will we contribute? What other resources are available?
  • What are our plans for our pastoral staff as they near retirement age? What is that age to be in our church and culture? Is retirement mandatory at our church or is it indefinite? Are we willing to lighten the load of aging pastors rather than relegate them to an old age home (assuming they can afford one)
  • What would honor Jesus in the way we honor our leadership?

–release pastors to fulfill Christ’s expectations, not ours.

The pastor is God’s called, anointed gift to equip the church. Forget this, and you can forget Kingdom effectiveness. You may have a thriving, huge church, but it has no authority or lasting Kingdom fruit unless Jesus has assigned the leaders. The pastor/elder is not an employee of an organization–easily replaceable by calling the seminary or bible college. Where would the church have gone to get a Paul or a Barnabus? What would the job description and pay have been? Who would have evaluated their ministries? Who would have presumed to give them their marching orders and told them what was expected of them? Ridiculous! Yet the church (as an organization) has lost its moorings and has the wrong-headed notion that the Pastor is the manager of the company.

Perhaps requiring pastors to fulfill our varied and often misinformed expectations instead of Christ’s is another reason so many churches are failing and closing across all denominations and among other associations.

Part 4 of 4 in a couple of days.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 2


Part 2 of 4Read Part 1 first

How many pastors are leaving the ministry annually?

Info from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups [reported at http://djchuang.com] found:

  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America. [emphasis mine]
  • 7,000 churches close each year in America.

Reported from <http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/>

90% of the minister’s report they feel inadequately trained to meet the demands of the ministry, 70% report having a lower self-image now than when they first started and 50% of the ministers will not even last 5 years!

Pasted from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

These figures are staggering. Perhaps one or two or twenty pastors may have neglected their spiritual life in order to be there for everyone else. Or perhaps they have misplaced priorities, but 1,500 a month!?  Fifty percent of ministers will not make it past 5 years? WOW!

What are the blockbuster-issues affecting pastors today?

I believe that the following factors contribute directly or indirectly to the statistics which we’ve just read.

–a decline in respect and appreciation.

According to one survey, the occupation of pastor ranks near the bottom of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

Reported from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

Some congregations view their pastors as hired employees or hired hands. Such a view is simply unbiblical and dishonoring to Christ, who gives pastors to the church.

As one source said, “the congregation wrongly believes that it is the pastor’s job to evangelize the community and pull the strays back in.”

Reported from <http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/>

In reality, according to Ephesians, pastors hold one of the five-fold offices in the church. Theirs is a calling, a vocation, and they are not expendable. They are gifts to the Bride from Jesus himself. They are to be honored and valued.

–long hours and “battle fatigue” leading to exhaustion

Some in the church believe that a leader walking in the Holy Spirit, and in dependence upon Jesus, will never tire or be worn out. Of course this view is short-sighted and ill-informed. But these super-spiritual church members apply simplistic answers to complex conditions.  Then they err again by plucking biblical verses out of context without taking into account the whole counsel of Scripture.

They really have no idea the intensity of spiritual warfare and burden many pastoral couples labor under. Some pastoral leaders don’t even recognize the source of their distress.

Focus on the Family’s resident Pastor’s pastor, H.B. London, said recently:

“Many well-meaning Christians in their congregations ignored the signs of “battle fatigue.” Instead, congregations overwhelmed my pastor friends with unrealistic expectations, negative criticism and misplaced anger. Some congregations even assumed the perfect pastor was “out there,” so their fallible pastor was terminated.”

http://www.parsonage.org/faq/A000000541.cfm

Is termination a valid choice for our war-weary troops on the battle front in Afghanistan or Iraq? Those who have withstood the frontal assaults in battle are moved for a time to the rear to recover and retool before redeploying again to the front. Why would we expose those who watch over our souls to years of intense ministry without much more than a few weeks of vacation a year? School teachers get the entire summer off annually. Pastors, elders, and other spiritual leaders operating in modern culture are under so much more than their predecessors of earlier times. But even in those earlier times, spiritual fatigue and exhaustion took its toll.

Jesus knew what it was to be weary. The Apostle Paul understood the weight of ministry and spiritual concern–compassion fatigue is real. Exhaustion is the body responding to the load of spiritual warfare and pastoral care. God constructed our bodies for a slower pace than modern life dishes out.

–low pay

Have you ever considered whether you could go through years of preparation for ministry, years of schooling and graduate studies (if a M.Div. is required for ordination as it is in most denominations) and survive on what the average local church pays its pastor?

It is estimated that about 75% of all ministers live close to the poverty level. . . Many expect the pastor and his/her family to have a higher set of standards than they [themselves] do and unfortunately, having [sic]to “live by faith” more in providing for their provision.

Reported from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

Pastors are intentionally and unintentionally kept poor. Very few at the same level of education, experience, and responsibility would work for what the pastor receives. And once the pastor’s effectiveness has been drained, the church simply replaces the pastoral family without much more thought, never mind a substantial severance package. Some church goers feel that the pastor who buys into the modern ideas of 401K’s, severance packages, and housing allowances is unspiritual. These folks argue that the early apostles and Jesus didn’t have any of these things so why should their pastor? But how many of them hold that same standard for themselves?

Perhaps we reap in our lives spiritually what we sow into our leaders’ lives financially (cf. 1 Cor. 9:14; Gal. 6.6; 1 Tim. 5.17-18; esp. Lk. 6:38). Greediness is never applauded by God. Nor is it one of his attributes. Generosity and a giving spirit is what He demonstrates and expects from us, especially toward those men and women whom God has given to the churches. We are never rewarded for keeping our leaders poor.

Part 3 of 4 in a couple of days.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastors


Part 1 of 4

Has anyone noticed the toll that modern ministry is taking on our pastors? Pastoral fatigue and burn out is costing the church more than money; it’s costing lives. More pastors and leaders are leaving ministry today than in the history of the Christian Church. I know because I almost became one of the statistics.

About two years ago, I began to experience depression for no particular reason. I felt discouraged, defeated, depressed, and doubtful things could get much better. I began to withdraw from people. Small tasks seemed huge. Everything took so much mental and physical energy that I didn’t know how I could continue in the ministry.

Follow that with a TIA (mini-stroke). Add to that my wife’s cancer. Then imagine the church beginning to decline. If anything negative could happen, it did.

Fortunately, at the recommendation of my doctor and in response to my health needs church elders granted me a 6-month Sabbatical.

My story has a happy ending. Our sabbatical did great things for Marcy and me. We returned to ministry refreshed, re-inspired, ready to serve as though we had just begun ministry. I recovered the strength and stamina to re-enter with new priorities in place and a replenished store of serotonin.

Read carefully the following text:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29–31, ESV)

The Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah said that even the youths and young men will be weary and fall. How much more the older men and women? Notice the answer? They who WAIT upon the Lord. Linger with the Lord. Take time to be with Him. They shall renew, mount up, run, and walk unhindered. That’s the kind of pastor or leader I would want to lead me, to model life for me.

Most churches don’t have any idea what’s happening to their pastors as years of people-ministry and spiritual warfare take their toll. So when their shepherds “burn out,” many churches simply replace the pastor with another pastor and before long find that he too needs replacing. Is that God’s plan for those gifted people He gives to the body of Christ to build it up? Is that the future He has ordained for churches—a constant stream of committees on the search to replace tired and hurt servants?

Let’s take a closer look in Part 2.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

The Real Book Spy

Full coverage of all your favorite thriller authors, and their characters, unlike anywhere else on the web! 

WordPress.com Apps

Apps for any screen

CA Feeney

Random reflections, wanderings, and ponderings..

Christian House Sitters

Posts about House Sitting, Our charity work and general articles of interest. Lots of variety.

jeannie's Cross Road

Stuck in the Muck of life? Be “Free to Walk” God’s Purpose and Plan for Your Life! www.crossroadschristianlifecoaching.com

%d bloggers like this: