Sunday, February 11, 2007

Still Lost?

Ron Aguilera explains, using cantaloupe in place of the things and stuff we hold dear, how God wants us to not be lost in life, aimless or consumed by materialism or overwhelmed by debt.

In God We Trust?

A moral person wouldn't walk out of a store without paying for a shirt he took then get angry at the store manager for asking for payment, so why do many chafe at God's request to return a portion of the blessings He gives us? Pastor Ron explains the dilemma.

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How Does God View Money?
God views money as a tool for His kingdom on earth. Why do we treat it as an end in itself? Pastor Ron explains from a seemingly strange story Jesus told about the proper use of shrewdness and cunning.

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This and That

Through the story of Abraham in the Bible book of Genesis, Pastor Ron shows how God wants to take us from a place that we think is already great to a place that is even better. However, partial obedience to God's directions can be heart-breaking.

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About Ron Aguilera

Ron Aguilera (B.A., Southern College, M.A. Austin Peay State University, M.A. Andrews University) is the senior pastor of Santa Rosa Adventist Church in Santa Rosa, Calif., 60 miles north of San Francisco) and has been in ministry since 1985.

Making Life Work @ home

Life works better with God than without Him.

"Honesty Is the Best Policy"

Man has come to believe that lying is better than truth-telling, but the Bible teaches the opposite. Friendships grow out of honesty, and friendships are hard to form in a world full of dishonesty. Ron Aguilera shares God's two-step method for learning how to tell the truth.
(download 3.22MB MP3 audio)

"The Formation of Strong Families"

"Choose Your Friends Wisely"
(download 3.5MB MP3 audio)

Unlocking Your Future

Exploring Life's Toughest Questions. Assurance for Today & Hope for Tomorrow.

At times like these, we all need help understanding troubling events unfolding all around us. Whether you are a person of faith or just searching, this seminar, led by Ron Aguilera, director of Making Life Work Ministries, can help you find answers to life’s most compelling questions:

  • Is the world getting better, or will it end soon? (5.76MB MP3)
  • Is there really an Intelligent Designer? (4.72MB MP3)
  • Why do we exist? What is our purpose? (5.43MB MP3)
  • How can I find joy and satisfaction? (4.03MB MP3)
  • How can I get on the road to better health?
  • What is the forgotten answer to stress? (5.66MB MP3)

Pastoral Ministry: Lessons I Have Learned the Hard Way

by Ron Aguilera

One, I learned the value of influence. When I first entered the ministry, I assumed people would follow me because I was the pastor, because of my position. I quickly learned that was not the case. Sure, they follow some of my leadings. But, I did not have the influence I thought my Biblical training deserved.

Over the years, I have learned that position, like the position of pastor, is the lowest level of influence, the lowest level of leadership.

To maximize his or her ministry, a pastor must grow their influence. How? How does a pastor grow their influence with people?

One thing I learned early on was that I needed to discover who the influencers, those with influence in the church, were. Then, I began to work on developing influence with the influencers. I spent time getting to know them, sharing my heart and passion for ministry with them, listening to them and their concerns, and serving them by meeting their needs. Once I did this, I discovered that they were much more willing to follow my leadings.

Leadership is about influence. A leader develops influence by being trustworthy, living with integrity, and being competent (prepared).

Two, I learned a leader must communicate, communicate, communicate. I learned that I needed to clearly articulate what was happening and what we should be doing often. Vision casting is not a one time event. A leader must take advantage of every teachable moment to teach (Tichy quote).

I thought that if I just said it once, people would get it, and that they would be as passionate as I was about ministry or people far away form God. I have learned that a leader must cast the vision constantly, both individually or person to person and corporately, to the church at large. I also have found it necessary to train other people to help with this process.

Clarity is a key component of communication. What seems clear to you might not always be clear to others. That’s why you must communicate over and over the mission, values, and objectives of the church.

Three, I learned that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Building relationships is imperative to the leader’s ability to influence. (Maxwell, Four things I did not learn in seminary)


Four, I learned I can’t minister to everyone. Dealing with failure (Maxwell). Failure is not failure unless you don’t learn anything from it. Failure is the best teacher.

Know your spiritual gifts (leadership, communication, discernment). Focus on strengths. Surround yourself with others who can cover your weaknesses. “Pastor” is a bad term. It highlights only one of the spiritual gifts, nurture…

Conflict management

Five, I learned that just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. Remember the movie “Field of Dreams”? Evangelism is a verbal value of most, but an actual value of few. Many people in the pew don’t really want to see anybody new (change is hard)


Four things I did not learn in seminary

Six, preparation is the key to success. I leaned to make the time to think about the possibilities I might encounter, and prepare for them. I learned to take time to have the conversations before the meetings. For example, in golf you have a pre-shot routine — step back, align….

Seven, each church has its own culture. All churches can’t be led the same way. Take time to learn the culture, to understand the dynamics, and to build trust.

Eight, I expected a person to conform to where I am in my spiritual journey and that closed the door to future conversation. My job is to keep the door of communication and influence long enough to let the Holy Spirit do its work. That means as long as I can. The longer I am able to maintain influence, the greater the chance there will be an opportunity for impact (to plant a seed).

Back and white thinking versus thinking gray. What do I man by this? It means being patient and loving, it means withholding certain statements truths, until the person is ready to hear them.

How do you know when that is? Discernment, which comes through the Spirit, payer. If you are not sure, it is always better to err on the side of caution, mercy. Jesus said it is better to have a millstone around your neck and be thrown in the depths of the sea, than to damage a child. I believe you can apply this to both chronological children and spiritual ones…

Nine, you can’t please everyone, not everyone thinks as “logically” as me.

Playing Outside the Lines?

by Ron Aguilera

We all have limits and boundaries. Some are physical, others are emotional. Physical boundaries are easier to identify than those that are emotional, which are often quite vague and unconscious.

Ministers have a need to define them both, or burnout may be the result. In fact, one of the major causes for emotional struggle in ministry is unclear boundaries. "In a culture where whirl is king, we must understand our emotional limits," says Richard Foster. Further, along with physical and emotional limits we also have mental boundaries. These may be even more difficult to identify than where our emotional limits lie.

This talk about limits may cause some well-intentioned people to respond by nobly quoting passages such as Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (NKIV).

If such a use of Paul's words was justifiable in the literal sense implied by such claims, it may also be possible to breathe under water, fly like an eagle, or go four months without food! Clearly we cannot read more into Paul's statement than he meant. Even in the application of such a promise there are limits. The truth is, of course, that we simply cannot live our lives without natural boundaries. Indeed the physical, emotional, and mental limits that are ours have been set by Christ Himself.

Drawing the lines

Who, in fact, applies the boundaries in the daily life of the pastor? The work itself? The pastor's family? God? Those we serve? A pastor seems especially vulnerable to bending to the demands of the people. This vulnerability is not as strong in other lines of work. For example, when a patient goes to a doctor, the doctor has far more control over when he or she sees the patient, and the amount of time spent with the patient than the pastor has in the case of the parishioner.

This article invites the pastor to take much more initiative in the boundary setting that goes on in his or her daily life. In initiating this, here are some leading questions, along with some loaded ones: Do you make yourself available at appropriate times, or do you allow others to interfere with family, personal, or devotional time? (Would you run to solve a problem if someone passed you a note in the middle of your sermon?) Are you someone who is so subject to the desire to be liked or to prove yourself as a person and a minister that you are constantly violating crucial boundaries until they are virtually nonexistent in your ministry? If so, you are in dire need of the boundaries we are speaking about.

Imagine attempting to play volleyball without the guidance of the designated dimensions for volleyball court lines. To play the game with any ultimate enjoyment or effectiveness, we must know where the lines are or what the rules of the game are. This reality applies to almost any sport. You must know where the lines are in order to play effectively.

The challenges

Ministry has never been easy. But today ministry is more difficult than it ever has been, for a number of reasons:

We live in a post-Christian and postmodern world. The concern to know the truth or adhere to specific values has been eroded. People believe truth is relative and have abandoned the idea of absolute or definitive truth.

Consumerism rules! Feeling has largely replaced thought or reason. People just want to feel good. We may feel that we are missionaries in a foreign culture. This makes ministry difficult.

Seen through the eyes of much of contemporary culture, Christian ministry appears foolish. Paul spoke of the foolishness of preaching, but more and more we may speak of the foolishness of ministry. We do not have the respect that used to be a part of Christian ministry. The things that matter most to us mean little to many others. People believe that ministers are out of touch with real life and are unable to deal effectively with the issues of today.

There is a serious lack of trust. The calling and credibility of the minister has been tarnished by some high-profile clergy who have been less than honest, moral, or caring.

Then there is the bottomless pit of need that the pastor encounters daily. The numbers of people in need, personality issues to be dealt with, problem solving, preaching and teaching to be done. It all seems beyond us sometimes.

Today church members express a wide array of varying opinions. Often these opinions end in serious conflicts into which the pastor is drawn and beneath which he or she may be buried. Managing conflict in which the pastor is all-too-often personally involved has become a way of life in many churches.

People have many more options than they used to have. The vast array of entertainment and career and family alternatives vie for people's time and attention, and often the church seems to be left to last.

All these factors and many more have filled the task of ministry with challenges that stretch pastors beyond the boundaries of ordinary ability, sometimes leaving them gasping for their professional, emotional, and spiritual breath.

What can the pastor do in the face of these challenges? How can we bring pastoring back within healthy parameters? Here are ten strategies that have worked for me and have been helpful in bringing me back to playing within the lines.

Plan of action
  1. Focus on spiritual formation. Spend time in worship, prayer, meditation, and with spiritual friends. Ask questions such as, “What shapes me?” Let God give you what you need each day. It is not what happens around us that matters nearly so much as what happens in us.
  2. Have roots of detachment. Be able to step back from the chaos. Develop a hobby. Play a sport or exercise. Spend time with your family. Do not allow your calendar to be consumed by ministry. Schedule family, social, and recreational appointments as well.
  3. Watch what you eat. We need to move away from the philosophy that says,"If I like it, I'll eat it; if it feels good, I'll do it; if it tastes good, I'll drink it." Eating well brings us to the point of feeling better.
  4. Speak positive words. Keep a positive attitude. Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right!" Attitude is a choice. Choose to live positively no matter the challenges. And concentration camp survivor Victor Frankel said, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way."
  5. Get addicted to being good to yourself. On the surface, this may seem contradictory to our calling. It is not. We must give ourselves permission to enjoy the life God has given us. We may reward ourselves after completing a difficult task. We must also be good to our families and reward them for their patience and support.
  6. Make time for an occasional retreat alone. It can last a few hours, a whole day, or even a week. Make time for meditation, reflection, study, or planning. We must allow God to refresh and transform us. We may also ask God to help us to become what He intended us to be as individuals. The pressures of ministry have a way of consuming healthy individuality. "Now, with God's help, I shall become myself. ''2
  7. Take God, the gospel, and others seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Remember God's grace and live in it. Failure is not permanent. Limitations are guidelines, not stop signs. We need not live constantly in a survival mode. We can live with the mind-set of Paul in Acts 20:22-24, "I don't have to survive'.
  8. Have someone hold you accountable. A spouse's iob is to set limits and care for the health of their spouse. Find a friend or colleague, someone to confide in and to learn from. Allow them to ask the difficult questions that will keep you inside the lines spiritually, vocationally, morally, and ethically.
  9. Have a dream and set goals to accomplish the dream. Develop a personal mission statement. This gives one direction, a dear purpose, something worthwhile to strive for every day. "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16, New International Version).
  10. Develop a plan for growth. Be a continual learner. A person's mind, once stretched by new ideas, never regains its original dimension. We must continue to grow so our ministry will grow. We cannot give what we don't have.

These 10 things have helped me to find my boundaries, to play within the lines, to attain a more balanced lifestyle, and to have a more effective ministry. "Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership."3

We all live our lives and make our decisions based on priorities. For those committed to vocational excellence, one goal stands alone: the work we were called to, the work of the church. But that work may only be done properly when the time we devote to it is in balance with the rest of life. Balance is necessary and attainable, but only with effort.

When we play the game of life and ministry within the lines, we find it much easier and more enjoyable.

  1. Richard J. Foster, “Freedom of Simplicity” (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), p. 91.
  2. John Ortberg, “The Life You've Always Wanted” (Zondervan, 1997), p. 13.
  3. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, “Boundaries” (Zondervan, 1992), p. 29

Summer Blockbusters: Your Ticket to Freedom

Ron Aguilera and Tracy Baerg offer a series of messages called Summer Blockbuster Classics: Your Ticket to Freedom. The series uses movie themes to communicate a message of freedom.

"The Patriot"

Many of us enjoy our freedoms in the good old U.S. of A. We get together and celebrate freedom over the BBQ and fireworks on the Fourth of July. We remember those who have gone before us and many today who, like the character of Benjamin Martin, stand up for what they believe in and fight the "good fight" no matter the sacrifice. "Your Ticket To Freedom" series will focus on the theme of freedom. In this first message we'll find what it is like to live free. We are free in Christ, because of His sacrifice, free of the things that bind us from being Patriots of the Promised Land. —Tracy

"Supersize Me"

We live in a world today where people often live to eat rather than eating to live. Others are profiting big from our fast food lifestyle, but many of us are hungering for fitness and fulfillment in our overall health. One guy, Morgan, decided to expose the harmful effects of eating nothing but food from the golden arches for 30 days. He challenged the industry and it could have cost him his life. God gave His life so we could afford to live free from death, disease, and decay, today we'll examine how to have a new start with your mind, body, and heart. —Tracy

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"The Truman Show"

We continue our freedom theme by looking at the how easy it is get ensnared by the life we live. There is a button a character in the movie wears that asks, "How's It Going to End?" This is a question we often ask ourselves: How's it going to end? We will explore the clues that lead us to the truth about his world, the truth which can set us free. When we think the world revolves around us, when we are focused entirely on our own fulfillment, we ultimately find ourselves like Truman, unfulfilled. —Ron

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"The Mission"

We conclude our freedom theme by looking at freedom from guilt. Most of us have a hard time letting go of the burden of regret, guilt, or fault. Today, we look at the mystery and miracle of repentance and forgiveness and how God cuts away that burden that is strapped to our backs, and explore the themes of redemption and reconciliation. —Ron

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