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Practical Ministry Lesson #6

Probably everyone in the Lord’s work has come to the place of being tired and even questioned their reason for ministering where they are ministering.  Although many, if not all, have confronted this hard time in the ministry, sadly some have went to the extreme of even quitting the ministry or leaving their specific location of service. Some have coined this term as “burnout“.  Although this is not a Biblical term, I think it is an accurate term for what happens when someone gets so tired he leaves his area of service.  In this “Practical Ministry Lesson“, I would like to discuss this topic of “burnout“.

According to the dictionary, one of the meanings of burnout is: “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.”

Burnout is common problem in ministerial work and we can even see it in the Bible: John Mark left the missionary journey early for some reason (Acts 13:13) and Elijah wanted to die (I Kings 19:4).  Not only was it a problem in Biblical times, but it is even common today. Dealing with people problems, preparing messages, receiving criticism, being stressed and just being plain tired, are just a few of the reasons church leaders and workers get burned out. My goal in this “Practical Ministry Lesson” is to humbly share a few ideas that I think can help us avoid burning out in the ministry.

1. Time to Plan and Prioritize
Every person has different priorities in his/her life, but it is fundamental to constantly make sure that they stay in the order they are supposed to be in.
A great tool to avoid burnout is to administer well your time so that your time does not begin to control your life.  A pastor or church leader with a wife and children can not neglect his wife and children because of the ministry, but as well he should not neglect the ministry because of his wife and children.  If a calendar or day book is used to plan times for family, time for studying, time for visiting, time for witnessing and so on, many hard times can be avoided.

2. Time to Walk and Talk with the Lord
Some of my personal goals are to encourage and equip others, but I know that if I have not spent time with my Savior, I can not help others.  Although it may be too obvious to mention, much of what is called burnout could simply be spiritually malnutrition.
We must not forget that God has told us to cast all our cares upon Him (I Peter 5:7) and that He will renew our strength when we wait upon Him (Isaiah 40:31).  Taking time to walk and talk with our Lord is actually investing our time and keeping us strong, therefore we avoid burnout.

3. Time to Rest and Relax
For some reason many think it is a sin to take time off and relax. For many years I ran and ran without heeding to the Biblical example of Christ to get away for a while (Mark 6:31-32) – look at what the Lord says to His disciples: “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
I personally believe that every Christian should work for the Lord as hard as possible, but I also believe that every Christian should plan time to rest and relax – to recuperate and charge up in order to continue on strong for the Lord.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush

Practical Ministry Lesson #5

In this “Practical Ministry Lesson“, we will discuss Patriotism on the Mission Field

When a missionary arrives to the mission field, he loves the people and wants to do the work of the Lord … but he still holds high the thoughts and ways of his home country. There is nothing wrong with loving one’s home country, but we must realize that this can bring grave problems in the ministry.

Some have gone to the extreme of hanging a big flag of their home country on their house or teaching their new church to pledge allegiance to their home country’s flag in a church service. Although the majority have not went to these extremes, many of us would plead guilty of comparing customs and culture with our home country.

Instead of hitting negative nerves of what not to do, I believe it would be most profitable to discuss two small areas of what should be done:

1.  Remember that as a Christian, we all become citizens of Heaven (Ephesians 2:19).
No matter what language one speaks and no matter what country he/she is born in, once a individual accepts Christ as his/her Savior, he becomes a new creature (II Cor 5:17) and a citizen of a new country, Heaven.
The reason this is so important to realize is because we can many times want to differentiate between races, thoughts, economical status, languages, customs and much more. If we are all one in the Lord (Ephesians 4:4-6), than we must learn to get along now on earth. It would be good to realize that in Heaven we will all be together and no one will be higher than the other, no status differences, no countries better than the other, … just a bunch of sinners saved by grace.

2. Our responsibility is to give the Gospel, not discuss politics
Many times on the mission field, I have been confronted with why the president of the USA or why my home country makes certain decisions. I must say that I have been tempted to jump on board of the accusations and set things straight, but at the same time I must realize that the devil will drive a great wedge because of this and my opportunities to witness or help grow this person will be terminated.
We must never forget our priorities. When a husband and wife forget their priorities, great problems arise between them. When a church forgets its priorities, destruction is around the corner.  And when a missionary forgets his priority, he will be sidetracked and many souls and future servants of the Lord will be snatched up by the devil. The devil has used many things to sidetrack a missionary, but this subtle area of politics has strangled and killed many works for the Lord. We must stay on track, win souls, prepare servants and let the Lord take care of the political issues.

The mission field, as well as the Christian life, is a continual lesson on dying to self. When we die to self, the Holy Spirit can do a great work, but when we allow our flesh to work, the Spirit is quenched. The simple thought of this lesson is not to hate or forget about your home country, rather let the dedication and patriotism be pointed to the Heavenly Citizenship and continue with the priority of winning and teaching others for the cause of Christ.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush

Practical Ministry Lesson #4

In this “Practical Ministry Lesson“, we will discuss Security on the Mission Field or the place where God places me.

The devil is very astute and will use even logic to knock down God’s people.  I have received e-mails, phone calls and questions from future missionaries or visitors on the mission field about the safety on the mission field. I as well love my wife and children with all my heart, but we can not let the fear of man be more important the work of the Lord.

Although I have friends that live in Communistic or closed countries, I personally do not live in a “closed” country. I would be foolish and very unqualified to talk about the closed countries, but I can talk about thievery, drugs, kid-napping and bad situations. As most missionaries, we have had quite a few things robbed from us, people take advantage of us, felt scared and many other “scary” issues.  My desire is not to share my stories in this short lesson, rather suggest that we do not let “security” be our deciding factor as of where to work, live and serve.

We have all heard that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will, and it is. People get robbed in “safe” areas while many a missionary have been protected in “insecure” areas. I believe the Lord provides and takes care of His children. Psalm 91 speaks of our Lord placing His angels around us and I can testify that many a time the danger has been so close that we have felt it, but the Lord  has always protected us. We must not forget His presence, His providence and His promises.

My goal is not to preach a sermon in this lesson, but give a few thoughts on why we should not make “security” our deciding factor in the service for our King:

1. We are not to fear them that can kill the body rather him that can destroy both body and soul (Mat 10:28).

2. The devil can not do anything without the permission of our Lord
In Job 1:12 and 2:6, we see that Satan was not able to touch Job without God’s permission.
In Matthew 8:30-32, we see that the devils asked permission from Jesus to go into the herd of swine when cast out.
Nothing can happen without our Lord knowing, therefore we can rest assure that our Lord is in control.

3. God cares and protects us
If our God cares for the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field and the grass of the field, how much more does He care for us (Matt 6:25-31 y Matt 10:29-31).

Friends, there is no thief, murderer, seducer or bad person that can break through the protection of our Lord. So the next time you begin to get scared of what may happen to you as you serve the Lord, remember that those who serve the King of kings are protected by the Lord of lords.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush

Practical Ministry Lesson #3

Life is made up of many relationships. Throughout all of our life we have different relationships: friends, family, marriage, work, school, church, … and even enemies.  Much of our success in life depends upon how we learn to handle or get along in these relationships. For example, many people lose great jobs because they can not get along with a colleague, many marriages end in divorce because two people can not get along, many friendships are terminated because one can not forgive or get over what happened in the friendship, etc.

When a person thinks about serving the King of kings and Lord of lords, he/she is excited because they have the privilege to work full time in what they love to do.  But when a pastor gets to a church, missionary arrives to the field or an individual begins to serve in whatever realm of the ministry, he suddenly begins to see problems – people problems. He wanted to serve God, but it is almost impossible with all of these people problems.

In this blog post, I would like to share with you the importance of getting along with others and even a few principles of how we can get along with others.  Before we begin, allow me to tell you what many preachers have reminded me: although the ministry would be easy without having to deal with people, remember that without the people there is no ministry.

When I was in my high school years, I had a friend who sometimes got on my nerves.  When I finished high school I thought those problems were over, but when I arrived to college, I met people just like my friend back home that was hard to get along with. From college I went to Peru and from Peru to Argentina. I have found out that everywhere I have been there has always been difficult people to get along with. And since there are always difficult people to get along with (some being moody, some being angry, some always depressed, some never satisfied, etc), maybe the one who needs to learn …. is me.  Maybe I need to learn how to relate with people for the sake of the Gospel or for the sake of my own sanity.

Many people have left churches, only to find there are people problems in the next church they arrive at. Many have left a marriage only to find out that their next marriage is harder than the first one. Many people have left a neighborhood because of problems with the neighbors, only to find out that in the next neighborhood there will be people problems as well.

My intent in these few short paragraphs is to show you that people problems are everywhere and if they don’t get fixed in one area, they will come to haunt you in another.  Knowing and understanding this will help us greatly to fix problems instead of running from them.  And in order to fix people problems, the Bible gives us many principles to help us to live in peace with all men (Romans 12:18).  Below are listed a few Bible principles that will help all of us to learn to relate correctly with those weaker than us, those stronger than us and those more problematic than ourselves.

1.  Prefer others before yourself (Romans 12:10)
It is not easy, but it is always better to honor and prefer another before your own self.
The Bible speaks of loving one another, serving one another, encouraging one another, etc. You should always put others before yourself. If you remember to put another before your self, it will save much heart ache and many a head ache.

2.  Learn to die to yourself (I Corinthians 15:31; Galatians 2:20)
You do not always have to be right and you do not always to win the argument. A wise person will just close his/her mouth and let the other person be right.
When the Corinthian church wanted to take their brethren to law, look how Paul responded: “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (I Corinthians 6:7). This was hard for me to understand, because being wrong and especially being defrauded, hurts very bad. I have always thought that one who is totally innocent but defrauded should rightfully defend himself, but our Savior tells us this is not the right way. As He, Jesus Christ, went before the wicked and twisted authorities of his day, He spoke not a word. Christ did not defend Himself rather just kept silent. Why would He have done such a thing when we all know He was innocent. Could it be that our Savior has a lesson there for us.
We as His disciples are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him yet so many times we want to follow Him without denying ourselves.
In life, and especially in the ministry, we are going to confront people whom falsely accuse us or get mad over things that are not even big enough to get mad at – but we must learn not to react harshly, rather let the Lord be the avenger.

3.  Do not let pride get in the way
If you were wrong, admit it and go forward.
I have been wrong so many times and have made so many mistakes, but when someone else reminds me of my mistakes, I try to justify them and make myself out to be not-so-bad.
When I am wrong, the best thing I can do for myself and for others is admit it, ask forgiveness if necessary and not let pride get in my way.

4. Do not hold grudges
Just before we are told to live in peace with all men (Romans 12:18), God tells us in the verse before “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (Romans 12:17). The pulpit or authority of no church should be used to recompense those for the harm they have done. I must never shoot down someone even if they have hurt me badly. If I hold a grudge and do not forgive them, I will soon react in hatred and spoil our relationship.  But not do I only spoil a relationship with others when I hold grudges, I also hurt my relationship with Christ.  In Matthew 5:23-24 and 6:14-16, I am told to forgive others and if I do not forgive others, my Heavenly Father will not forgive me.

If we as missionaries, pastors and Christian workers are to go forward for our Lord, it will be with people by our side. No one can do the work alone. But when we do not learn to get along with others, when we do not learn to relate with those by our side, we will sadly but surely soon be alone.  May we all learn to be happy and learn to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). May we all build up and encourage people to do more for our Lord – but this will only happen when we learn to relate with those around us.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush

Practical Ministry Lesson #2

Defending with Meekness

This lesson comes from one too many times sticking my foot in my mouth.

I am very thankful for what God has taught me through His Word, godly men and personal experiences. When I began college, I realized that I could not defend many Biblical doctrines and began to study deeper and find out what the Bible truly says. Although I am continually learning, I praise the Lord that I now have my own convictions based on God’s Word.

It is important that a missionary, or any Christian worker, knows what he believes and why he believes it. It is important to take a firm stand and have convictions. But I am learning a very big lesson in my little experience as a servant in the Lord’s work … I must not only teach and defend what the Bible says, but I must do it with meekness.

I Peter 3:15 says: “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”

I praise the Lord that I have the privilege to teach and preach the Word of God – but I believe the Word of God must be presented correctly. If I speak pridefully, boastfully, harshly or looking down on those I am speaking to, I am doing a great harm to the cause of Christ. In other words, a great Bible truth can be ignored by the hearers if I incorrectly present the great truth.

Meekness, which is quiet, gentle and submissive, is exactly the opposite of what I many times do when I want to present or defend the great truth of God’s Word. It hurts me to admit this, but I have offended people more than once because I did not control the situation with meekness.  Of course I don’t want to “water down” the Gospel or “coward” away from what the Bible says, but standing for the truth is no excuse for boastfully offending people.

May God give us all a love in our heart and attitudes that when we present or defend a great truth, we will do so with meekness.  May we love people like our Father loves people. May we learn to be patient with people as our Father is patient with us. May we learn to respond to doubts or accept criticism as our Father teaches us to.  Our Savior did not coward away from the soldiers when they came to arrest Him, rather He showed meekness. He did not get scared when He was falsely accused, rather He sat in silence saying nothing and showing meekness. He did not lose His temper when His disciples did not learn the lessons He so clearly and consistently taught them, rather He manifested meekness.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush
Argentina

Practical Ministry Lesson #1

In the next few blogs, I will be writing a few “Practical Ministry Lessons” that are very helpful for missionaries, but also of up-most importance for anyone in the Lord’s service.  Although this series of blogs are simple and practical, I can almost promise that anyone in the ministry will face them sooner or later.  The first “Practical Ministry Lesson” I would like to share is about “Handling Criticism”

I don’t write this as someone who has perfected this area, but hoping to help others handle and face the criticism with more grace.

For years, I have taken very personal any criticism (whether from other missionaries, from friends, from church people or coworkers) and I have taken it so personal that it has affected my health. One of my Biblical heroes is Barnabus and how he comforted, encouraged, uplifted and took others to another level.  It is my goal to help, encourage, love and teach others, … therefore when I get criticized, it hurts.  I have in no way gotten over the hurt of being criticized, but my desire in these few paragraphs is to share a few ways that makes it easier to accept criticism.

#1 – Pray for your critics. Before you throw me out saying it is easier said than lived, allow me to tell you that I totally agree that it is easier to write than to live. I find it hard in my personal life to pray for those who I think are against me or have hurt me in some way. But I also have found out that when I pray for these people, soon I can hear their name or see them without feeling hatred or hard feelings in my heart towards them.

#2 – Listen to the Criticism. Although criticism hurts and is many times intended to hurt, there is usually a piece of truth in every criticism.  I must be honest that I sometimes wish bad upon my critics, but when I begin to think about it, some of my critics have taught me great lessons. I have learned to write everything on paper, thanks to my critics. I have learned to present the truth in a humble way, thanks to my critics. I have learned to listen to others advice, thanks to my critics … and many more great life’s lessons have been accumulated all thanks to my critics.  So critics are not always my enemies, I need to listen to the criticism and search out the truth from the criticism.

#3 – Respond to criticism slowly. Because criticism hurts, I have many times responded back quickly and harshly. Usually what is done quickly is not done wisely – of course this is not always the case, but when it comes to criticism or bad situations, a quick answer or reaction is not usually good. When criticism comes, the best answer is usually given after a period of silence. If I don’t respond to that e-mail, phone call, smart comment, etc, I usually save myself from more headaches and heartaches.

#4 – Stay close to the Lord and your spouse. I have learned the hard way that I can not please everyone. I desire to be friendly and help others, but I think it is impossible to avoid criticism 100%.  Staying close to the Lord and walking with Him always helps me with my emotions. Staying close to my wife lets me know that I have another human friend I can go home to and fellowship with not worrying about so many details. Maintaining my priorities of my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my spouse is of up-most importance in moments of criticism.

Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush
Argentina

Life’s Lessons on the Mission Field – Part X

In all of “Life’s Lessons”, God chooses different times to teach me, but this is one that God has taught me since a child. The 10th “Life’s Lesson” is Living With what God has Given Me.

Even though I may be a missionary and a preacher, I still must remember what the words of Christa are: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Lu 12:15). I can not place my eyes upon what my hands can grasp. I must be careful to not covet big things that are not meant for me.

For me this truth goes back to my childhood. I did not grow up in a big house and have money to spare. I thank God for the way He allowed me to be raised and do not regret it at all. But I must be honest about this truth. When I became a missionary, I began to administer money that I had not administered before. I began to see that while we were on deputation that we could have went to better restaurants or bought nicer items for our house, etc. But the Lord reminded me that none of this was “real” riches. Life does not consist of these riches one posses. The money was not to look at or covet after, rather a tool to use for the Lord and the Lord’s work. Read More

Life’s Lessons on the Mission Field – Part IX

Luke 10:8 – “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:”

“Life’s Lesson” #9 is eating what is put before me. Without a doubt, not accepting someone’s food is not accepting someone’s generosity. I have been put to the test more than one time, but praise the Lord I was taught manners and taught to eat what is put before me.

When we first arrived to Argentina, we were invited to eat at someone’s house. Arriving when we were supposed to arrive and being nervous, we began to talk and waited on the food. This was going to be one of our first times to eat a real Argentine “asado” (meat on the grill). We sat at the table, prayed and was served our food. I thought nothing could be negative or wrong with meat on the grill, but I found out that not everything was placed on the grill was not meat. I was served intestines along with other parts of the animal. I began to eat, but did so very slowly to avoid receiving more on my plate. I ate everything that was given to me and to this day thank the Lord that I did …. because now those 2 people that fed us are some of the strongest leaders in our church today. What would have happened if we would have said no and not eaten the food that was given to us? I believe we could have been turned off in their mind and we would not be blessed with these great leaders in our church today. Read More