Monday, June 14, 2010
This week I was reminded just how hard it can be to stand before 500 critics, live in a glass house, or try to love the unloveable. You paste on your best smile, you greet friends and detractors with the same loving concern, but inside your stomach is turning upside down and you head pounds as you struggle to remain a light in moments of darkness.
All that being said, the roll of leadership requires greater discretion, thicker skin, and more temperance and understanding than almost any other job out there. Longsuffering must be one of the foundation principles of those dealing with the souls of men and women.
We strive to shape ourselves into the image of Christ, but that old earthly nature reaches out and grabs us everyone once in a while. How longsuffering is our Father? How much does he endure of our foolishing, disobedience and sin? In the times we are most discouraged with our brethren, it is also the hardest to recieve criticism ourselves.
I know that when my emotions run high, I am not very receptive to constructive criticism. I feel entitled to my wrath and discontent. I was reminded years ago by a wise old minister, to allowing myself a cooling off period. When I really wanted to let one of those fire and brimstone lessons go, to shelve it for a few weeks until I could look objectively at my own emotions. It was amazing how many times when I allowed my head to cool off, I changed the language and tone of my message.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Last night we had a healthy discussion of worship at our Summer Series. I appreciate our facilitator's interest in keeping a balanced approach to the topic while insuring that God's will was at the heart of our discussion.
After sorting through the discussion in my own mind, I have a few observations that I hope are worth further discussion.
- Trying to address all the intricacies of worship is not unique to the 21st Century church. Read 1 Cor. 12-14 and you will see the early church struggled with many of the challenges we face today: individual needs in worship, disruptive actions, losing sight of the object of our worship, ect.
- We still struggle with extremes. There are those who believe that God's silence on a subject is authorization to run headlong towards any spiritual expression that makes them feel good and there are others who would legislate every action of every member while ignoring the spiritual side of our devotion (i.e. John 4:24 - Spirit and Truth).
- We struggle with proper application of scripture. There are individual devotions we offer to God as well our collective assemblies. We need to understand the context and how we apply certain passages. I can't tell you how often I have heard "decently and in order" or "weaker brother" misapplied in order to stop something right and good.
One thing is for certain. We will continue to discuss, debate and teach on the topic of worship. My encouragement to each and every person is to be more like the Bereans - "recieve the message with great eagerness and examine the scriptures everyday . . . (Acts 16:11).
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20
God revealed himself to you today. He spoke to you through the creation and made his presence known through the immeasurable riches of His majesty and power. I am always amazed at those who see the thorns on a rose, or thunderstorms on the horizon. I am even more shocked by those who can gaze for hours at a mountain stream, or look into the endless expanse of space only to proclaim "there is no God."
I marvel at the symmetry and architechture of a spider's web, the advance planning and work ethic of the ant and the unparalleled beauty of a wildflower. God carved his initials into the landscapes of the Rockies, and signed his masterpiece with oceans of ink.
In creation we see the hand of an artist, the mind of an engineer, and the heart of a romantic. Every inch of creation demands that something, or someone greater than ourselves is responsible. Through creation the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
So, what do I mean when I ask if God speaks to you. We know He reveals his will through the Bible, but we are mistaken if we think that is the only way God interacts with people. Have you ever had someone speak truth into your life in a manner in which it was most needed? Have you ever stepped up and addressed a matter that needed to be dealt with when no one else would? In each case the messenger could very well be serving as a minister, or spokesperson for the will of God.
Let me put it a little different way. What kinds of things take place in your life that serve to keep you focused, walking in God's will and calling you back to repentance? I can't always explain the correlation, but it has happened far to many times for it to be an accident. I start straying away from my foundations, drifting amidst a sea of complacency and self-will and sure enough something happens to call me back to God. Through his creation, through his faithful servants, through tragedy, heartache and pain God lets me know that I am not on the right path.
Sometimes we hear people jokingly say, "It's a God thing." It really is! We are mistaken if we think God sits idly by without interacting in our lives. I have no doubt that God speaks to me, the problem is, I am not always listening like I should.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I recently came under fire for suggesting that a local church focus on their target market. I am not sure if my sin was applying business language to a spiritual concept, or the pre-supposition that I was somehow excluding people from the gospel message. Below you will find three reasons why I make no apology for a focused approach to evangelism.
- The early church used target marketing. The gospel went first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Paul was called as an apostle to a specific, targeted group (the Gentiles). Even early evangelists went to the synagogues to preach (i.e. they took their message to areas where their target audience regularly attended).
- Targeting a sector of a community (any community) is not an effort to exclude, but to practice effective ministry. We have programs in every church that target specific segments of the community. Marriage classes exclude singles, financial management classes typically appeal to those with money management issues, even in our church families we have singles programs, youth programs, classes divided by age and interest. All of this so we can practice effective ministry. Why, when we apply the same approach to the community is it anathama.
- Finally, knowing our target audience allows us to more effectively present the gospel message. Take a few minutes and contrast the two sermons in the book of Acts. In Acts 2, the message is being preached to a Jewish audeince. The old law, prophets and writings are used to lead people to Christ. In Acts 17 Paul is preaching to a very different, pagan audience and addresses their false polytheistic view of God, quotes thier own Greek poets, but his objective is the same, to lead people to Christ.
I am not sure why people get a bee in their bonnet when you talk about marketing in a church context. We all do it at some level. I am confident that the motives of most are pure - spread the saving gospel of Christ. I would even suggest that Christian stewardship demands that we pursue the most effective, practical, biblical approaches to bringing souls to Christ.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
So answer that question for me - WHERE WILL THEY GO?
Monday, May 10, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Those words are inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. They are part of a poem entitled, "The New Colossus," written by Emma Lazarus. For decades those words have reflected the hope, promise and opportunity provided within the borders of the United States. People flocked to this country from every nation on earth for freedom, liberty and opportunity. As a result our society has become a melting pot of cultures, people and in many cases problems, but it is still one of the things that makes America great.
I believe this concept reflects what the church is supposed to be. A land of promise and opportunity. A place of new beginnings, restored hope and a unique bond of fellowship. If we embrace the words of Jesus, "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest . . .," then we are inviting those who are different, those who are socially, morally and spiritually challenged. We welcome the quirky, unique and challenging people in our society.
How tragic it is when we so homogenize our worship and our spiritual community that people don't feel welcome. What a shame it is when rather than work with people, teach people and lead people, we simply wash our hands of them. We need to return to doing the hard work of ministering to those who don't fit into our neat little mold of church life.