joe loughlin

What If You Just Ask?!

In my early days of pastoral ministry, I met two of the “big” pastors in my city at a local event for pastor types. By big, I mean they led the two largest churches in the city and county, each one preaching to over 1,500 on any given Sunday. Considering I was usually preaching to about 50, that was huge.

I came home feeling intimidated. I wondered what it would be like to be them. You know, studs. Ha!

No really, what I wanted to do was get close to them and see what I could learn from them. They were each 10-15 years ahead of me in ministry experience, and I truly believed they had some lessons and advice from which I could... [continue]

How Much Battery Do You Have?

How much battery charge does your phone have? Go ahead. Take a quick peek. I just started the day, so mine’s at 96%. Yours?

Now, what about your spiritual battery? Running a little low? Sometimes, I think it would be so much easier if we had some sort of gauge we could peek at, discreetly of course, to see what kind of spiritual charge or reserve we are working with.

With the recent news that yet another high-profile pastor has exited the work due to fatigue, exhaustion and burnout, we are reminded how vulnerable those in ministry leadership are to wearing out early.

But, I think I should be honest here--vulnerable? susceptible?... [continue]

The mistake of granting veto power

Early in my very first ministry assignment, I learned a key leadership principle by observing a ministry peer make a simple mistake repeatedly--a mistake that crippled the organization he was leading, making forward progress impossible on any significant level. Simply, my friend was granting what could be called veto power to an old sore head in his congregation. By veto power, I mean my ministry peer allowed this one person, regardless of the majority’s direction, to control or dictate if a new initiative was pursued.

The peer allowed this both formally and informally. He routinely allowed the man to sit back and wait for... [continue]

Knowing Your Limits

I can't do impersonations. I've tried. It's beyond me. I speak for a living and work in a lot of humor in my talks, but the element of that hilarious impersonation of some celebrity is never in my act. And, ironically, I finally determined to quit trying after a failed attempt to impersonate Clint Eastwood's famous line, "A man's got to know his limitations." Ha!

One of my best friends approached me that day and simply said, "Pastor, you know I love you, but don't ever try that again." I laughed, and he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm serious. It was embarrassing." So, now I quote celebrities but never try to... [continue]

The art of one thing

Being the ultimate single-tasker, I often find myself overwhelmed with the aspects of ministry that resemble some version of juggling--believe me, those who've mastered tossing and catching chainsaws and things afire have nothing on today's ministry leader. But, more often than not, I have found the ability to hone in on one thing at a time to be a distinct advantage in three-plus decades of ministering in and through transition. It's the art of the one thing.

For example, when I arrived at a new ministry assignment which clearly called for major transition (the only other option was for the ministry to die), I found myself... [continue]

Five Mistakes I Wish I Had Made Sooner

I'm sharing five mistakes I wish I had made a lot sooner. Sooner, I say, because some lessons I seem to insist on learning by the experience of my own failure rather than by the observation of others' mistakes. These are ones I wish I had gotten out of my system sooner.

And, I'm sharing these five (there are more, believe me), because there is no reason for you to go out and repeat them just for fun. Of course, if you're the type who insists on sticking your tongue to the frozen flag pole of life just to see what happens, then by all means go out and make these same mistakes as quickly as you possibly can.

  1. Mistake: Failing
... [continue]

Handling the Cheapest of Commodities: Criticism

Criticism is everywhere. It's a constant. If you're in any form of ministry leadership (or any kind of public service), you don't have to go looking for it. People offer it for free, especially church people. It is the cheapest of today's commodities in our hyper-opinionated culture.

So, how do we handle it when it comes our way?

In an earlier post, Preaching as Performance, I highlighted the value of coming to grips with our insecurities and tendencies toward an unhealthy performance orientation. That's a good foundation for dealing with criticism, but here I want to focus on some structure of practicality to build on this... [continue]

Why we don't like change and how to handle it better

Question: "How many baptists does it take to change a light bulb?"Answer: "Change?!!!!"

If you've recently been frustrated by something in your life changing, you're not alone. Most of us don't like change (unless we're in charge of it). But, change happens constantly. As the saying goes, change is. Period.

A restaurant takes a favorite dish off the menu. Or, the restaurant moves to a less convenient location. Or, the restaurant closes.

A favorite neighbor moves to a new neighborhood. A friend gets married and someone else, appropriately, becomes their best friend.

Job assignments ebb and flow. Sometimes, even, whole companies move... [continue]

Preaching as Performance: We Live & Die by the Same Sword

Sometimes, I'm overly sensitive to what people say to me about my sermons. I have no idea how common this is among fellow ministers, but I have a particular bent which the Lord continues to hammer out of me. Technically, it is a form of performance orientation, and I come by it honestly in at least two ways. It's not only an extremely common trait in those with my personality type, but I also began performing on stage at the age of 5. In high school, under the tutelage of our debate and drama coach (my dad), I even had the distinction of being awarded first-team all-state in acting, something you probably didn't even know existed!

I... [continue]

Helpful tips for your Mom's Day sermons

Imhbao*, Mothers' Day is THE riskiest Sunday of the year for a pastor. Here are some lessons I've learned so far:

  1. Keep it in the fairway - no trick shots; #youwillblowit.
  2. Do NOT use sports analogies (as I did in #1 above).
  3. Speak to their hearts as opposed to their heads (Moms are smarter than the rest of us anyway and don't need How-to's).
  4. Stories not points. Better yet, story.
  5. Be positive, uplifting, encouraging - don't EVEN bring up the lady in Proverbs 31; most ladies dread the comparison.
  6. Preach no more than half as long as usual - it's all about brunch/lunch.

*In my humble but accurate... [continue]

Treasuring the sacred space

A friend of mine left for Heaven Sunday night. Sheron was a wife, mom, grandmother, sister, my friend and one of the gentlest spirits I've known. After a week's worth of days we thought would surely be her last, she finally, quietly, breathed one last time on Earth and took her first breath in Heaven. It was an incredible privilege to be there with her family this last week, invited into that sacred space, which families reserve for "family only" plus, usually, one more - their pastor.

I don't actually pastor my "own" church anymore, to put it the way I'm most commonly asked. I serve alongside Texas Baptist pastors and their... [continue]

Big Bend

A life-long Texan, I did something last week I had never done. I visited Big Bend National Park. If you've been there, you know it's a crying shame I've been in Texas all my life and am only just now experiencing one of its greatest treasures. If you haven't visited the park, you literally do NOT know what you're missing. It is incredible. Every Texan should put Big Bend on their bucket list.

Of course, a mere four days of camping and hiking were not sufficient to cover 800,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert, the Chisos Mountain Basin, and 118 miles of the Rio Grande River cutting its way through towering canyons, but my 20 year-old son... [continue]

Air Time

It's fair to say I spend an inordinate amount of time on airplanes - in 2014, I "enjoyed" a mere 89 flights. So, I plan my time in the air as strategically as I do my time on the ground. Some of my best use of "air" time is spent reading, journaling, writing (I'm actually on a flight while I write this) and (my favorite) writing personal handwritten notes. Thank yous. Scripture and prayer notes. Notes of encouragement.

I realize there are more "efficient" ways to communicate thoughts of blessings to those whom I write, but for me a handwritten note is an old habit too hard to break, not to mention, hopefully, a refreshing... [continue]

Book Review: Is God Calling Me?

Is God calling you? If you're a follower of Christ, the answer is, "Yes" of course. All of Christ's followers are called to serve. But is God calling you to ministry as a job? That is an altogether different question. A question almost every believer asks at some point in their journey of following the Lord.

Jeff Iorg helps you answer that question in his little book Is God Calling Me? Answering the Question Every Believer Asks. And don't be fooled by the size of this book. It's a simple and practical guide to help every follower of Christ, especially students and young adults, answer these important questions about God's call on... [continue]