As the Scriptures reverberate in the warp and woof of the life of the church and the lives of individual believers, they will be able to see what is in harmony with God’s Word, and what is not. That mature discernment is markedly absent in many believers (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). Seek His Face. Set the pace. Make the case.
On Facebook, someone posted this screenshot from a fellow named Ethan, whose livelihood is “a server.”
Lest you believe he overstates this, this is a common feeling among those who
Let’s change this, church! Let’s make it to when those who have just heard about God’s love and how we are to love our neighbor–actually, you know, do that! Here are some pro-tips:
- When the server introduces his name, you do the same. There! You have a relationship.
- Look them in the eye when ordering.
- When they bring the food, say, “We are getting ready to thank God for our meal. How can we pray for you?”
- If they do something really well, encourage them.
- If the meal is great, let them know and complement the chef.
- Tip well–Sundays are hard, and, like this fellow says, there is now a stigma thanks to “church people.” (Sadly, someone once said that they tipped low because, and I quote, “they should have been in church!” Come on! You went to the restaurant! And they are doing their job!) Tip nothing lower that 25%.
- Leave a note thanking them!
Let’s make Ethan’s experience a thing of the past. We want to have a break after church regarding fixing a meal, right? Well, let’s give the wait staff a break by living what we were just taught in church: love your neighbor as yourself!
Leaders in churches need a realistic optimism moving forward. Here’s another short video archiving what was taught to leaders in Trinidad and Tobago on November 2, 2019.
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper once said, “The most damaging phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.” Churches have appropriated this language by saying that the seven last words of a dying church are, “We’ve never done it this way before” or “We’ve always done it this way before.” While this certainly may be hyperbole (I’m sure other things were said as well), the comfort that we tend to find in what we’ve always done needs some assessing.
First, what we do was new at one point. I mean, someone had to have the idea, right? Even it that idea was implemented generations ago, it was new at one point. All of our songs that we treasure over the years were not written at the dawn of time. Someone composed them, to greater or lesser reception from congregations. Sunday School was developed by Robert Raikes in 1831 due to the lack of public education in Great Britain. It’s always been that way for us. But consider how indebted we are to those who came up with those original ideas—and we benefit from them greatly, even taking them for granted.
Second, we must consider new ideas for the sake of following generations. So, if past generations came up with ideas of how to get the gospel out that we benefit from in our generation, would it not stand to reason that we should continue to think of new ways and means to get the gospel out so future generations would benefit? Sometimes those ideas are new methods, and sometimes the new ideas are going back to the old paths laid out in Scripture. You see, not all ideas are good, especially those that take us away from what God said in His Word. Sadly, if going back to the Word is new to some, then we begin to recognize where the work lies and how we must prayerfully churn out new ways to get folks back into the old Book and fulfill the Great Commission.
Thirdly, God gives us eyes to access and ears to hear how to address matters that arise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” the apostle Paul says in Romans 10:17. We hear the Word of God, and ARBC provides ample opportunities to hear the Word: Sunday morning Bible study, worship gatherings, midweek Bible studies, women’s studies, and even videos that I put out (showing clearly that I have a face more suited for radio and podcasts than videos, but I digress). Yet, our eyes are able to look around and see the reality of situations and access—and then our ears are hearing God’s Word in moving forward in building Christ’s church that He promised to build (read Matthew 16:13-20).
Fourth, pray for wisdom and discernment about all things moving forward. Many times, we make decisions based on our default thinking: if we are in the business world, or look back to the past, or look to paradigms from other churches, or just from our own knee-jerk reactions from our “gut.” James 1:5-8 says:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.The apostle James, James 1:5-8, English Standard Version
We do not have all the answers, nor do we know the future! But God does, and since He is passionate about His church that His Son is building, He will give us discernment. Yet, if we toggle back and forth between our defaults and His Default (the Word and the Spirit)—well, it’s no wonder many Christians and many churches are unstable.
Our Leaders Retreat on Saturday, February 8 is about Embracing the Mission: being, making, multiplying and sending hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus so that all from Denver to the nations believe Jesus is enough. None of this happens by accident, but only by intentionality. Methods may change, people may change, the culture will change—but the Gospel and His Commission do not.
With hope and joy,
How does a pastor navigate an established church through change? Here are some thoughts I shared at a leadership retreat in Trinidad and Tobago on November 2, 2019.
Sometimes in ministry, the only way to find landmines is to step on them. Here are some landmines that may come up and how to avoid their affects once the ministry honeymoon is over.
[This was part of what was covered in our Leaders Conference in Trinidad and Tobago back on November 2, 2019.]
In the book Gospel DNA: 21 Values for Growing Churches, Richard Coekin spends the entire book expositing Acts 20:17-38, where Paul spends time training and reminding the Ephesian elders of their calling. His UK roots come out as he gives an analogy of a comparing our church to a soccer stadium (thank you, Bro. Coekin, for saying soccer).
If we compare church to a soccer stadium, many people think of church like a crowd of spectators (the congregation) gathering to be entertained by incredibly expensive professional footballers (the clergy) playing the game (doing their clerical ministry). But Paul says that Bible-teachers are given by Christ “to equip his people,” that is, it is the ministry of all Christ’s people that builds up churches in number, unity, and maturity.
To continue the soccer analogy, the teams of players (those who serve) are not just the clergy but all the believers. They are led by their captains (“Elders” leading by their teaching and example) and trained by their player-coaches (the preachers and small-group leaders) with the coaching manual (Scripture). They play the game (loving God, loving each other and loving their community) and nurture the youth academy (teaching Scripture to children) against the opposition (sin, the world and the devil). The watching crowds are unbelieving friends, family, work colleagues and local community. Our “ministry teams” should therefore include all the believers in our congregations. (Unbelievers in church can be included in practical service, but not in teaching or singing what they don’t believe; and it’s unwise to give unbelievers a ministry that may give them the impression that they are saved, which will cause them to drift away when their imitation faith doesn’t work.”pp. 22-23
This serves as an excellent illustration for the purpose of leadership in the church and the need to train other leaders. I’m really enjoying this resource!
To buy this book, click here.
This eight-minute video covers a portion of the Leaders Conference I did in Trinidad and Tobago on starting strong, ministering faithfully, and finishing well.