greg before after

People have been asking how I lost 54 pounds (and slowly but surely still losing weight), so I’ll offer an outline of what I do. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO; this is just what I do, for what it’s worth:

  1. I decided that I wouldn’t make weight loss complicated.
    1. I don’t “count” anything.
    2. I don’t adhere to a particular “diet.”
    3. I made a plan based on what worked with Lois and tweaked it for me.
    4. This is what I do.
      1. Eliminate sugar.
      2. Eliminate bread.
      3. Eliminate pasta.
      4. Eliminate cereals.
      5. Eliminate dairy.
      6. Utilize Atkins products.
        1. Have a “meal bar” for breakfast
        2. Have a “snack bar” in the afternoon.
      7. Limit evening snacking to nuts, “Skinny” popcorn, and “Carb Smart” ice cream.
  2. I decided to not beat myself up.
    1. Knowing what my initial weight was, I didn’t weigh myself until I knew I had lost weight.
    2. I let my clothes do the talking.
    3. I don’t weigh myself every day.
    4. It’s better to pace myself than race myself.
      1. Initial weight loss is the greatest.
      2. I lost on average about ten pounds per month the first four months.
      3. I lost on average three pounds a month the next three months.
      4. Currently, as I approach my desired weight I lose only ounces per month.
  3. I decided to get rid of my old clothes.
    1. Keeping old clothes “in case I gain the weight back” is a recipe for failure.
    2. I decided that I would not revert back to my old lifestyle.
    3. Good weight, Goodwill, good riddance.
      1. Say goodbye to the old clothes and give them to good will (or a good friend).
  4. I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be healthy.
    1. I have more energy.
    2. I have more confidence.
    3. I have better vitals (blood pressure, etc.).
    4. In other words, when there’s less of me, there’s more of “me.”

What surprised me the most is that this has not been as hard as I thought it was going to be. I learned that if I can change the way I think (which we all can do), then I can change the way I live. You can do it, too.

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Grass-stained jeans
Scraped up knees
Getting stung by bumblebees
Teary eyes
When getting teased
My childhood was made up of these
But your love was bigger than the world
Though you didn’t always have the words to say
Your hands were full with your four boys and a girl
But you wouldn’t have it any other way
Marching band
Youth Group at church
Teenage crushes that sometimes hurt
Riding bikes
Summers at the beach
My teenage years were made of these
But your love was bigger than the world
Though you didn’t always have the words to say
Your hands were full with your four boys and a girl
But you wouldn’t have it any other way
One fateful day
Your life did change
Your whole world was rearranged
And Daddy’s there
Giving you all that you need
Your life is now made up of these
And our love is bigger than the world
And you’ll never, ever have to be alone
For we don’t see you sitting in that chair
We see you sitting on a throne
Yes, mama, you are the queen of our world
We see you sitting on your throne
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PASTOR, DON’T BE A JERK: 15 Things Pastors Shouldn’t Do (Part 3 or 3)


In my previous two posts I suggested that we not do ten things: 1) speaking about a previous church too much; 2) always having to be in charge; 3) insisting that everything has to be done our way; 4) making visitors (guests) feel like prospects; 5) embarrassing people publicly; 6) insisting on always having a title; 7) being ashamed of our church; 8) putting down other ministries; 9) requiring that music and worship styles suit our preferences; and 10) flaunting our education or intelligence. If you haven’t already, be sure to read the first two parts of this three-part series. Now, let’s look at the final five things to a pastor shouldn’t do.


To throw someone under the bus is to let them totally take the fall for something that went wrong. As Dr. Lee Robertson of Tennessee Temple used to say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That means that as pastor you must resist the urge to blame someone else when things go south. If your worship leader made some bad music choices that evoked criticism or controversy, it’s not exactly fair to let her take all the heat when it was your job to review the program in advance. When a deacon gave poor advice or misinformation that resulted in conflict, ask yourself, “Did I communicate to him effectively?” Your people will forgive you for making a mistake and will admire you for admitting you were wrong, but they’ll not forget that you let someone else take the blame when perhaps it was your responsibility. Throwing someone under the bus is a real jerk thing to do.


Let’s be honest; most of us, especially when we were young, dreamed of pastoring a larger church. Perhaps in the beginning we assumed that the small church we pastored would become that large church. But when growth was nominal or non-existent, we started looking over the fence at the greener grass.

When you long to pastor a church other than the one you’re at, you begin to see your current charge as a stepping stone to the big time! While there is nothing wrong with wanting your church to grow, there is everything wrong with using your church until something better comes along.

When you see your church as a stepping stone, you’ll make disruptive changes, leaving someone else to clean up your mess. You’ll inadvertently use your church as a laboratory to experiment with your ideas and church-growth strategies. As a stepping stone pastor, you’ll never fully commit yourself to your congregation, seeing them as a quaint, naive, and passé group that’s holding you back. While trusting God for bigger things might be a noble thing, biding your time at the “starter church” is just a symptom of ego-driven ambition. It’s unfair to your church and a jerk thing to do.


I was standing near the casket of a pastor who had passed away after a long and well-reputed ministry. A couple of tearful elderly ladies lamented his home going as one said, “He hardly got to see his family but he sacrificed them so he could always be there for the church.” I decided then and there that I would not end up like that pastor.

Pastor, your family is your first congregation. They are your primary ministry. To fail as a spouse or parent is to fail as a pastor. Neglecting your spouse or kids for “the good of the church” is not a noble thing but a foolish one. As someone once paraphrased the scripture, “What does it profit a pastor to win the whole world and lose his family?”


In one of my churches I led the elders to support me in asking a family to leave the church. This family needed to leave the church, as they planted discord and did not respond to godly admonition, but one of the elders was not comfortable in what amounted to excommunication. At the time I felt that this elder was an enemy, because he did not, as I saw it, support his pastor, and therefore was not in harmony with what I believed God was doing in our church.

In hindsight, I realize that, though I am still convinced that it was right to remove that family from the church, I was being a jerk to the one dissenting elder. While I never overtly showed animosity to that elder, I covertly resented him which was probably reflected in my dealings with him. In short, I was a jerk. I’m glad to say that I eventually saw my error and sought forgiveness, which he gladly rendered to me. Since then I have grown to realize that it is rare that another church member is my enemy, and even when that is the case, I am to be gentle, compassionate, and godly in my dealings with them.

In my dealings as the Director of the Association of Small Church Pastors, which has grown to around 300 official members, as well as almost 870 members of our Facebook closed group, and more than 4,600 followers on our public page, I have discovered that pastors can be the most contentious of all of God’s creatures. It never ceases to amaze me what comes from a pastor’s mouth, or in most cases, his fingers, as he carelessly types his negative verbiage and hits the “send” button.

Since the advent of social media, many people are more “brave” to say “what they really think” from behind a computer or smart phone screen. Hurling insults, rebuttals, and criticisms is easier than ever. Pastor, when you allow your emotions to get the best of you in such a vast arena as Facebook, you do more damage to the cause of Christ than any help you may naively think you are giving. Resist the temptation to launch public debates or respond negatively to something you disagree with. Remember, when you disagree with someone, that means that they disagree with you, too, which means that you both have an opinion.

If you feel that you must make a case for this or argue a point about that, do it on your own page or within your own forum, not the church’s or someone else’s page or forum. When I allow someone to be on my Facebook page, they have been invited to enter my house. I don’t take too kindly to being insulted in my own living room; that’s something a jerk would do.


“Where is everyone?” “Why aren’t there more people here?” “How come the Easter Egg Hunt didn’t draw more people?” These seemingly innocuous and often necessary questions can come across to your people as your frustration for the lack of numbers. The faithful who are there wonder why their presence isn’t enough for you. After all, they showed up, yet all you’re thinking about is who didn’t.

Take a look at your church’s official goals. Do they focus on numerical growth more than spiritual growth? Are they arbitrary? For example, “First Church seeks to grow by 25% by 2019.” Why 25%? What’s that based on? Your people will read that as: Pastor wants new people more than he wants to grow the ones he has. I’m a believer in tracking numbers. I think it’s foolish not consider numerical growth at all. However, I’ve also learned that when I have been virtually obsessed with numerical growth, I tended to see my church as too small, not effective, or not doing the right things. When the people who are physically there and supportive and active see me look into their eyes with a look of joy and contentment, they know that they matter to me. And when they know they matter, they will joyfully invite others to this amazing place called their church.


Most pastors I know are the best people in the world. They are godly, compassionate, intelligent, fun, focused, family-oriented, and true leaders. The “jerks” among us are few and far between. However, each of us has a little bit of jerk inside us waiting to rear its ugly head; don’t let the jerk in you see the light of day. Make up your mind to not be a jerk.

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PASTOR, DON’T BE A JERK: 15 Things Pastors Shouldn’t Do (Part 2 of 3)


In my last post I suggested that we avoid fives things: 1) speaking about a previous church too much; 2) always having to be in charge; 3) insisting that everything has to be done our way; 4) making visitors (guests) feel like prospects; and 5) embarrassing people publicly. If you haven’t already, be sure to read part one of this three-part series. Now, let’s look at the next five things a pastor shouldn’t do.


I received a letter from a nearby clergyman that was signed, “The Right Holy Reverend.” When I called his office and referred to him as “Pastor,” he quickly corrected me and told me he preferred his full “title.


I happen to think that it’s okay to be called “Reverend.” After all, it’s a professional designation that you’ve been duly ordained. If you’ve worked for three or more years to earn a D.Min. or Ph.D., then by all means, put the letters at the end of your name. In an obituary or wedding program, I’m almost always listed as Rev. Dr. Greg Tyree; there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

The problem lies in one’s insistence that they be referred to in such formal ways all the time. Most of my members refer to me as “Pastor” or “Pastor Greg,” and I never ask someone to call me Reverend or Doctor, nor do I ever introduce myself in that manner.Many of your older members will insist on calling you Rev. or Dr., and that’s okay; it’s better that they insist and that you don’t. People know who you are and what you’re called to do; don’t let insecurity or pride mess it all up.


We small church pastors are often guilty of looking over the fence for greener grass. The culture in American Christianity pretty much reveres the mega-church and ignores the small church. Resist the temptation to say things like “our church ‘only’ runs 56 in attendance” or “we’re ‘just’ a little church.” I can promise you that your members know when you are ashamed to be their pastor. As my friend, Manning Strickland says, “love the church you have, not the one you wish you had.”


I’m actually in favor of exposing false teachers and cult-like ministries. That is actually part of the Biblical pastor’s job. When I say that a pastor shouldn’t put down another ministry, I’m not talking about pointing out blatant heresy or overt worldliness. However, when a pastor puts down another church for not “doing church” the way he thinks it should be done, he only diminishes his credibility, shines light on his insecurities, and sows seeds of self-righteousness among his congregants. It’s a real jerk thing to do. You are not in competition with other churches or pastors, and putting down other churches only builds walls of division.


I grew up in a church where only two types of music were allowed: hymns for congregational singing and Southern Gospel for special music. There were hardly ever any exceptions to this. The main reason for this close-mindedness was because these music forms were the pastor’s preference, and therefore his mandate.

There are too many forms of music to limit your church to just what you like. It’s even kind of narcissistic. As long as the music is pleasing to God, it’s irrelevant whether or not it’s your style. Likewise, diversity in worship style is also pleasing to God. The order of service, song selections, who does special music, and if any other types of artistic expression is allowed shouldn’t be something you control in a vacuum. Listen to the suggestions and ideas of others. To allow only what you like is one sure way to stifle creativity and insure indifference.


Earlier I mentioned the insistence of being called by a title. Often that title is a ministry designation and not necessarily an educational one. However, you can come across as a jerk when you flaunt your education or intelligence.

Many years ago I had a vanity license plate which read: REV GKT. I never once was criticized for it, and most people liked it. It simply communicated that I am an ordained pastor. Somewhere along the line I relinquished that plate, and when I decided years later to reclaim it, someone else had beaten me to it. Still wanting a personalized plate, I finally settled on DR G PHD. It was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. My heart was right, and I can say with a clear conscience that there was no sinful pride in my heart, but it was definitely perceived that way! When my tags came up for renewal, I ditched that plate!

Early in my ministry I was guilty of flaunting my “extensive vocabulary.” What a jerk thing to do. It comes across as arrogant, and usually just leaves people confused and feeling stupid. When you preach, use words that people know and actually use themselves. Sure, there are times when we must introduce a theological term or abstract concept, but when we do we should explain why we’re using the word and what it means. Your people know you’re smart, and they trust you to study and learn and grow, but they feel smaller when your words are always bigger. Work diligently to speak in the language of your people.

Next time, in the final part of this series, I’ll offer you five more things to not do as a pastor. In the meantime, practice staying away from the first ten!

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PASTOR, DON’T BE A JERK: 15 Things Pastors Shouldn’t Do (Part 1 of 3)


In a perfect world, pastors would be the last people who should be jerks. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. I’ve come across a few, and have on occasion been one. While there are many things a pastor can do or say, or various attitudes and dispositions that make them seem like a jerk, here are fifteen things to not do.


I am pastoring my fourth, and most likely my last, church. I’ve found myself on occasion referring to my previous ministries, especially my first church. After all, many of my life-experiences happened there, and I learned and grew through them. I’m careful, however, to mention previous ministries sparingly and only with a direct purpose in mind.

The occasional sermon illustration and reference to a previous charge is usually appropriate, but when it becomes frequent or incessant, or worse, inappropriate, you are at risk of being a jerk.

Don’t talk about a previous church too much. When you are forever talking about your last church, your members will assume that you either wish you were still there or that you left with unresolved issues. All this does is make your current church insecure and question your commitment and loyalty to them.

Don’t say negative things about a previous church. When you talk negatively about a previous church, your congregation will wonder what you say about them. But what’s worse is they will just see you as a negative person. That’s such a turnoff.

Don’t brag about a previous church. When you talk about how great your previous church was, your people will only think that you must see them as less. They will be jealous of your admiration of the other church and wonder if you wish you were still there. It’s probably a good thing to talk positively about your previous church, but when you brag about it, especially about things you never commend your current congregation for, your church will take that as a putdown, and that makes you kind of a jerk.

Be careful about using members of a previous church in sermon illustrations. I struggle with this one myself. Some of my best stories and illustrations happened in my churches, so it’s only natural that I would use them in my sermons. But I’ve learned (often the hard way) that sometimes when I tell a funny story or make an antithetical point about a previous church member, I am instilling doubt in the minds of my current members about whether I tell stories or anecdotes about them, too. If I find it truly beneficial to tell a story about a previous church member, I often use a fake name if it’s a negative illustration. I say something like, “A man in my last church, Jimmy- not his real name- used to…” If the story is positive there’s rarely a need to use a false name.


This took me a long time to figure out; I don’t always have to be in charge. Some of your members are better at some things than you are. Also, just because someone does something differently than you do doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And some things should just be delegated for a myriad of reasons.

When you’re always the one who has to open in prayer, lead the meeting, make the speech, or be the decision-maker, you may come across as a tad bit dictatorial, which can translate into being a jerk.

Let other competent and godly people take the lead sometimes. As a bi-vocational or small church pastor, this may save your sanity and even your ministry.


Why must the church’s music style be what you like? Does the Fall Bazaar really have to be done according to how you envision it? Maybe the foyer could have been decorated differently, but is that a hill you want to die on?

Of course we should never settle for mediocrity or lower our standards, but remember, there is more than one way to skin a cat. “It’s my way or the high way” is kind of the jerk way.


When I first started pastoring in late ’80s, visitors liked being recognized and followed up on. Today, they generally want anonymity, and resent you showing up at their home unannounced.

A guest at your church should never get the impression that you are desperate for members or that they are a “prospect,” a future tither and volunteer. Give guests space, and always ask for permission to call or visit them.


I would love to think that no truly called pastor would intentionally publicly embarrass a member, or privately, for that matter, but I’ve seen it done. When that same member gets up and goes to the back of the church around the same time every Sunday, resist the urge to call them down. When a teenager appears to not be paying attention, bite your tongue; I can promise that pointing them out publicly is nothing but bad news.Sure, you may need to admonish people in private; that’s part of your job. But embarrassing someone in front of the group can have far-reaching ramifications, and can discredit you in the eyes of your people.

Next time I’ll offer you five more things to not do as a pastor. In the meantime, practice staying away from these first five!

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A juggler was keeping three objects in the air at the same time. He’d noticed that juggling two things wasn’t so hard, but three? Well, that was a different story. You see, what he was juggling could be a matter of eternal significance.


Not too surprisingly, one object the juggler handled was a rubber ball. To the juggler, the rubber ball represented the things in his life that could be replaced; that “bounced back,” so to speak.

If he dropped the ball that represents his job, that was okay; the ball would bounce back and he’d get another job. If the rubber ball was his savings, that could bounce back, too, for though money is important, it can be replaced. His hobby, car, house? All rubber balls.


Another object the juggler kept in the air was a glass ball. Unlike the rubber ball that would bounce back if he dropped it, the glass ball would shatter if he let it slip from his control. The juggler saw the glass ball as the irreplaceable things in his life.

The glass ball was his family. Unlike his job, his savings, or his stuff, his family could not be replaced. If he dropped the glass ball, the results would be devastating. His health, his relationships, his integrity? All glass balls. So if, in the frenetic pace of life, he must drop one ball to keep the other ones going, it must not be the glass ball.


The final item in the juggler’s precarious orbit was a large diamond. It’s value was inestimable. Of all the things he managed in his life, this was the most important. To the juggler, the diamond represents his faith.

While his family, health, and integrity were irreplaceable, what were they if he lacked faith in God? By loving God with his whole heart, he can love his wife and kids even more than he could imagine. By taking care of his health, he glorifies the One who created him. And by maintaining his integrity, he honors the Sacred Warrior that fought for and won his soul on the battlefield called Golgotha. Whatever he did, he must never drop the diamond.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But a diamond can’t break by simply dropping it. And faith is a gift from God that cannot be destroyed.” Ah, you’re correct; you can’t destroy a diamond by dropping it, but why would anyone risk the one thing that makes all the others possible? You can drop a diamond, but who’d want to?


So if you’re juggling the rubber ball, the glass ball, and the diamond and fear you can’t handle it all, let the rubber ball go; the other two mean too much. You can find another job, another church, another hobby, another home; but your faith and your family is all that matters in the end.

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Many of you know that my Mom had a stroke six years ago this month. It rendered her virtually paralyzed on one side of her body and unable to speak. Slowly she has regained very little of her ability to talk, but even that comes in sporadic words and sometimes incomprehensible syllables. However, she has, through this whole time, maintained a bright mind and quick wit.

Before my Mom’s stroke she was quite stoic like her mother before her. She wasn’t very affectionate, and I don’t recall that she ever asked to pray. Don’t get me wrong; she has been a woman of faith since I was a child, but she wasn’t good at expressing it. She thrived in doing tasks more than saying words.

Over the past few years she’s developed a system of speaking in word fragments that are becoming easier to grasp. For example, she has an impeccable memory, and might remind me of an appointment I told her about by simply saying “Wednesday.” “That’s right, Mom,” I say. “I do have an appointment on Wednesday. Thank you for reminding me or I may have forgotten it.” You’d be amazed at her keen insight, almost photographic memory, and ability to keep Dad and the rest of us organized.

As I visited my parents this afternoon, Dad told me he had lost his credit card. After “tearing the house upside down” looking for it, he had decided to cancel it when Mom said, “Pray.” “Pray about the credit card, Mama?” Dad asked. “Pray,” she said again. And together, hands joined, they prayed that Dad would find his credit card.

And he did.

That inspired my Dad to pray for his sister who is in the hospital. With hands joined, a tender-hearted father, a bright-eyed mother, and a middle-aged son formed a circle of prayer, because, as Mom says, “Pray.”


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