What’s Your Church’s Posture Right Now?

This illustration fascinates me. I do not know where this originated, but I’m glad this illustration exists because it puts the groceries on the bottom shelf.

The top half obviously is an inward perspective of church. Notice the words used: protecting, collecting, building, competing. Assets, community, organization, and culture are inward and building-centric. Resources the primary way to find security in facing the future. The risk is that people are valued only as far as they help sustain the organization. Infrastructure is king. The wheels of a church runs administratively. There is a very business-y, bureaucratic systematization about church.

The bottom half is outward is an outward perspective of church. Notice the words used: releasing, mobilizing, building, collaborating. Assets, community, organization, and culture are outward and ministry/mission-centric. Resources are the primary way to invest in the Kingdom and the future. The recognition is that the organization is valued as a tool to help people know and grow in Christ. The wheels of a church run toward ministry and discipleship. There is a very missionary movement about church.

I’ll take the bottom half, thanks!


Finding Solitude and Silence as a Disciple of Jesus

When it comes to the discipline of solitude and silence, this seems almost a pipe dream rather than a reality. Parents have young families. Employers and employees have deadlines to meet and projects to finish. Those who are ambitious have goals to meet. The great amounts of responsibilities we have make getting away for solitude and silence comes off as the acme of unproductivity.

Yet, repeatedly, Jesus would find times to retreat in order to be alone with His Father, and would tell the disciples on occasion to do the same thing. In Mark 6:30-32, we read:

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

In many places, either prior to or immediately after a great miracle, Jesus would withdraw. On one occasion (Matthew 14:13), Jesus grieved over the death of John the Baptist, withdrew to a quiet place.

Many have written wonderful articles on the subject of solitude and silence. For me, I have distilled this in three basic steps.

  1. Pick a place. Any place will do, as long as that place has an atmosphere of quiet and solitude. No phone, no computer, no multi-tasking the Word.
  2. Make a plan. Whether it’s reading one chapter a day or reading the Bible in 90 days (approximately 15-16 chapters a day), have an intentional plan in place where you approach the Scriptures each and every day. It can be in the morning, in the evening, at lunch, or some of all three.
  3. Have a takeaway. When you walk away from your time with the Lord and in His Word, have one takeaway that you can focus on during the day. It can be a promise or a commitment you’ll make based on your daily time.

What has been helpful for you?

Why Churches Resist Change

Established churches do resist certain types of change, and not because they are unsaved or do not care about the Kingdom of God. Established churches are filled with members who have history, emotions, and lifelong investments in their church. Likely, these churches have had times when they flourished. Certain ministries and programs worked well.

Sam S. Rainer III wrote a very helpful book entitled Obstacles in the Established Church: How Leaders Overcome Them. Early in the book, he speaks of the reasons why many in established churches resist the concept of change.

  1. As a new pastor, if you change nothing else, remember: you are the change, a huge experience for your people.
  2. Recognize the difference between technical and cultural changes.
  3. What is the level of trust you have as a leader? It depends. Depending on the past, and how pastors may have treated the people, will indicate the level of trust you have.

    “Even when people respect the office of pastor, not knowing the person who fills that spot often leads to cautious acceptance from the congregation. Respect and trust are two different mindsets. People may respect you while not fully trusting you” (22).

  4. A belief that change is not necessary. At a church where I ministered in seminary, one person told me, “If it was good enough 100 years ago, it’s good enough now!” Now matter how much one may communicate the need for change, some may not see the need. Showing them the hidden problem is key.
  5. A belief that the change is not feasible. Seeing the hidden problem is one thing. Believing that change is feasible is an entirely different matter.
  6. A resistance to change if it reshuffles the power alignment. Look to the key influencers in your church before you rush ahead. Something may make sense to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone will see the benefit–especially if it intrudes on the unwritten and assumed-to-be-correct structure of the church.

How should leaders navigate through this? Check back next Wednesday!

Take Heart, Pastors! Christ Will Build His Church!

Christ is moving and working in His church even now.  He has promised this.  He is the one to build His church.  Men may believe it’s ultimately up to them, but Christ builds His church.  Book after book is written that can, at best, serve as supplements–only the Bible carries the substance of how Christ personally and intimately builds His church.

How though, does Christ build it?  For now, let’s just see two ways that parallel the original creation.  By the Word of God, creation came into being in general; and by the Word of God the church (meaning, His organization and His people).  In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Hearts and minds are changes and galvanized by His glory that shines in us and by His Word that transforms. When Jesus told His disciples, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me” (John 6:37) and all through the first part of Acts that, through the preaching of the gospel to all who would listen, that “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:39).  When we realize that the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia,’ which means ‘called out ones,’ it is Christ who is calling out those whom God has chosen unto Himself.  It will happen.  He’s building His church.

MacArthur rightly said,

By human reason, persuasiveness, and diligence it is possible to win converts to an organization, a cause, a personality, and to many other things.  But it is totally impossible to win a convert to the spiritual church of Jesus Christ apart from the sovereign God’s own Word and Spirit.  Human effort can produce only human results. God alone can produce divine results.

It’s His church.  We are not simply projects, but are people, souls that Christ is intimately personal with. Recently, I watched an interview with Brett Favre, former Green Bay quarterback.  He holds most every QB record in the book when he retired.  His father was a football coach–and His Father never told him how proud he was of him.  He told others, but never Brett.  Brett understood his father loved him in his own way, but never saw it demonstrated.

Daily, Christ is showing us how much He loves His church, which we will see in a bit.  But He loves you.  Not your religious activities, but your relationship with him, from which those activities arise.

Christ will build His church. And we know that when Christ makes a promise, He never fails to follow through. In Titus, Paul by the Spirit says that God cannot lie (your versions may say does not lie, as if he had a choice to lie or not, but the Word is an absolute–He cannot lie).

Do we truly believe He will build His church? Do we really take God at His Word as to what He wants His church to be?  What would happen if God moved in our hearts and spirits by His Spirit and we said, “Lord, I trust you to build your church your way, not mine.” The way we would know where we stood is if He told us to move something that’s a favorite away. It could well expose some idols that need toppling.

How to Pray for Our Missions Team to Trinidad

map-trinidad_and_tobagoAt the end of September, I and eight others from my church will fly through Houston to Port of Spain, Trinidad, then drive two hours to Point Fortin to our headquarters at the Mount Beulah Evangelical Baptist Church.

Here’s what we will do and how you can pray.

God opened a door for me to speak to pastors the Saturday after our arrival from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 pm at the new seminary they’ve built in Gran Couva. I’ll spend the morning dealing with how Christ is enough in our preaching, with the evening dealing more with the practical matters in executing their sermons, and how to rely on the Holy Spirit all through it. Pray that God would help us all learn from each other in becoming more faithful pastors and preachers of the Word!

The following day, we get to be a part of an ordination service at Mt. Beulah, where I’ll preach on 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 on “Is Jesus Enough in Your Calling?”  Pray for the two men who will be ordained: one youth pastor and one deacon. Pray they would hang on to their calling in the midst of ministry.

Monday and Tuesday, another door opened in allowing us to get into a local school for teaching, testimonies, and others fun (likely, they will teach us how to play cricket, along with other fun times). In those evenings, we’ll drive about an hour east to Moruga to provide some helpful things for the residents there, along with services in the evening to try to help them plant a church. Wednesday and Thursday, we will spend all day at Moruga, being in the schools as well as continuing on with the services at night.  Pray God would help us make gospel connections in the schools and that many would come to the services at night. And that many would see that Jesus is enough and surrender their lives to Him!

Friday will be our ‘off’ day before leaving on Saturday, where we will head to Maracas Beach in the NW part of Trinidad. It’ll give us a chance to decompress but also assess all we’ve accomplished and all we’ve learned. Pray we would take time to enjoy God’s creation and take the principles we learned there and transfer them to our mission field here in Denver. 

How Seeing Weakness in Your Church May Show Your Strengths

In their book How People Change, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp give us a wonderful insight into those in our churches who, as well meaning as they are, tend to point out weaknesses in the church.  Granted, some may just enjoy finding weaknesses for weaknesses’ sake. But others may see weaknesses out of love for their church. This will help the pastors and leaders see their strengths.

The corporate nature of our growth in grace is highlighted in many places in Scripture. In Romans 12:1—8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7—16, and 1 Peter 4:10—11, Paul and Peter speak of the diversity of gifts. First Corinthians 12 is especially important, because Paul talks about the many different gifts while using the metaphor of the physical body. Each believer receives gifts from the Holy Spirit to be used “for the common good” (7). We are to live as unique and vital parts of Christ’s body, connected to serve, and be served by, the rest of the body (12, 14). No one part should think of itself as useless, especially when compared to more prominent or “glamorous” parts (15—27). Think about the gifts God has given you. How are they meant to serve other members of the body as they seek to honor Christ? What gifts do you need from others to help you do the same thing? When we don’t think about our gifts in this corporate way, the very gifts that are given to bless the community are used to divide it.

I remember a situation where a church was located near a trailer park. Over the years, the church had struggled to reach out to this community. In a congregational meeting, the pastor encouraged the congregation to make a new commitment to serve the people there. One person stood up and said that past efforts had failed because the church lacked organization. Another person said that the church had failed due to a lack of knowledge regarding the people’s practical needs. Still another said that the church lacked evangelistic zeal.

In each case, the person offering the criticism had the gifts to make the effort succeed! The person who saw a lack of organization had the gift of administration. The person who saw the lack of concern for practical needs had the gift of mercy. And the person who thought the church lacked evangelistic zeal had the gift of evangelism.

What should have been a very successful outreach was short-circuited because they had not been using their gifts, the very gifts that were needed most. Instead, they had lapsed into an unhealthy criticism of what others were not doing. About a month later, these three individuals got together and pooled their gifts of evangelism, mercy, and administration to spearhead a successful ministry to the residents of the trailer park.

The lesson is obvious: we are better when we are together. Without a combination of gifts expressing the grace of Christ, that very grace is shrouded in ineptitude and pride. Our gifts are for the common good, not self-aggrandizement. When we fail to see this, we find that our gifts actually create division within the body of Christ, instead of uniting us.

Are there places where your gifts are needed in the body of Christ? A better question is, Where are your gifts needed? One good way to determine your gifts is to ask yourself where you see weaknesses in the body. It is highly likely that you see these weaknesses because you are looking at the church through the lens of your gifts. Where you see weakness is probably the very place where God wants you to serve your brothers and sisters.

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What Happens When Pastors Love Their Vision More Than Their People

I love what’s happening with the replanting arm of our North American Missions Board. One of the great tenets of their ministry is that a replanter must be a visionary shepherd, finding a balance between having a God-entrenched vision for His church and a love for His people.

Sadly, those two aspects can be off-balance. You can love (or fear) your people so much that you do not lead; or you can love your vision so much that people get in the way.

Here’s what can happen:

  1. A growing misdirection of their love–it goes more toward self than those whom they are called to shepherd. If pastors love their vision more than the people they are called to serve, they may betray an attitude and their heart that shows they really love themselves more than they do they’re people.
  2. A growing disgruntlement against their people for not understanding the ‘rightness’ of their leader.Many pastors enter into the ministry with false expectations and ideals. They see themselves as the resident experts and rescuers of a problem church, rather than ones who are rolling up their sleeves to serve alongside people that they truly care about.
  3. A growing disillusionment to the ministry in general, and to their church in particular.  As a result, many question they’re calling in the ministry, or leave ministry all together.
  4. A growing division to the influencers and leaders in the church. Those influencers have been at those churches for longer than those pastors and could well be there when the pastor leaves. Pastors  need long, productive talks with their leadership to understand the culture of the church, then to provide a mutual sharpening. The vision then becomes a result of the collective rather than just the pastors. Plus, this shows they love those with whom they serve.
  5. A growing despair on the homefront–after all, no pastor ever lived who didn’t take all they carried (good and bad) into their homes. Sadly, pastors often talk about their issues in front of their children. As a result, PKs associate church with pain and trouble. 
  6. A growing disenchantment with Christ for putting the pastor with this condition in such a situation. Many pastors may ask, Lord, why did you send me to this church? They don’t get my vision, they don’t appreciate my gifts, etc. But again, the problem is a love of self over and against a love of the people to whom Christ sent them, which means they love self more than Jesus. 

Dear Church, pray for your pastors. Selfishness is a cardinal joy stealer. Pastors like anyone else are prone to the love of self. Pray that God would provide people in their lives to keep them humble and to invest in them as needed.

Dear pastors, shepherd the flock of God. Love your people as fellow pilgrims in this world. Treasure the value of the local church with all its warts and wrinkles. Believe me, your church may well treasure you with all your warts and wrinkles.