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Posts from August 2014

What We Need from IMB President David Platt & What He Needs From Us

Earlier today word spread that David Platt was to be the next President of the International Mission Board. Apparently, word was out via social media prior to the trustees vote. Seems like we're good at "Secret Church" but not so good at secret votes.

Nonetheless, the trustees did vote today and the IMB has since publicly announced that Dr. David Platt will be the next President. This announcement has pushed Platt to the top of the trending list on Twitter as people throughout SBC life and evangelicalism are talking about it.

However, it should be noted that Homer Simpson remains on the top of the trending list of Facebook. I'm not sure what this represents or means, but thought I'd share it.

Platt's appointment has been praised by many and yet, some show concern.

This would be the case regardless who was chosen.

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I have met Platt once (though I doubt he would remember the meeting) at the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago. When he first was called to serve as pastor at The Church at Brook Hills, it caught my attention due to the fact a former staff member at my church was serving there at the time. Brook Hills was a church in transition when Platt was called. His personality, style and not to mention, his age, were dramatically different than the previous leadership's. 

Encouragement From David Platt

He has family in my community and a few years ago his niece attended one of our local schools where a friend teaches. This teacher was reading one of David's books at the time and had it on her desk when the young girl said "That's my uncle." It wasn't long before I received a gift. David and his wife had sent my wife and I a copy of his book, autographed and a personal note to Tracy, my wife, encouraging her as a pastor's wife.

I'm not sure David and his wife, Heather, will ever truly know what that small gift meant. I thanked them with a note, but it truly was needed at the time and very encouraging.

Radical

Over the years, Platt has become more known through his speaking ministry and his books, Radical, Follow Me and others, as well as Secret Church - an annual gathering that began in his church. He became a voice for a younger generation of pastors. His youthful appearance belies a deep wisdom and walk with the Lord. Though his reformed theological bent causes unease among some, he remains strong in his convictions. Therefore, Baptists and believers, reformed and not, show great respect and honor for Platt and his love of God and His Gospel. There is no doubt that he is a man of God with a deep heart for the lost.

It was over a year ago I heard someone say "David Platt should be the next President of the IMB." When I heard it, I laughed it off, thinking that was so far outside the realm of possibility, it would never happen.

Then today's announcement came.

What We Need from David Platt

Stepping into a denominational role such as this is a daunting task. David is only 36 years old and the organization is much older, with many overt and covert rules and expectations, I'm sure. 

As a pastor of an SBC church, this is what we need from President Platt:

  • Clarity. A strong voice for the work of global missions.
  • Effectiveness. Keep us focused on reaching the unreached, unengaged. Help ensure we work to lead nationals to lead local churches.
  • Funding. This is perhaps the biggest challenge. The best "crowd-sourcing" for missions in our history is the Cooperative Program. Whether CP remains under that name or not, the effectiveness of serving together for the sake of the Gospel is evident. Churches aren't giving to CP as they used to do. Lead out to ensure that the funding needed remains. . . and grows. Personally, I believe in the Cooperative Program, so I'd suggest starting there.
  • Connectedness. Speak to pastors, as a pastor. I do not know any pastors in the SBC who wish to see missionaries come home from the field or be defunded. However, I do know many who are living daily under financial pressure and who may be working with old models that no longer suffice. As you have done for me, encourage pastors. . .as a pastor, as one who understands and help create handles for the pastors to grab hold of as they lead their churches to engage the lost globally.
  • Efficiency. I don't pretend to know what this entails, but we all know that over time, organizations drift toward bureaucy. People matter. That is a given. However, the funds given to international missions by local churches (and little old ladies gathering in WMU circles) are expected to be used to further the Kingdom of God and engage the world. We understand that funds are needed to keep things in Richmond working, but do your best to ensure that we are good stewards of all that is given. (Please note - I am not saying that previous leadership did anything other than that. It's just a statement of what is needed today, and every day from leadership.)
  • Focus. There are many areas globally where our missionaries are serving. Some are able to serve openly. Others have to be more covert. There are men and women committed to the Gospel and God's mission of reaching the world. Some are in areas where the fields are ripe. Others are serving in post-Christian areas where the work is tedious and for those seeking immediate gratification and high numbers of salvations regularly, often are overlooked. Stay focused on the big picture, but seek to keep missionaries where they are called, to the people where relationships are formed and being formed. Do not forsake the "post-Christian" areas (i.e. Europe) for the sake of others. We need work in all areas. Though we've never seen a resurgence of revival in post-Christian cultures, we are seeing sparks of a fire. Let's not forsake any.
  • Integrity. The President, the IMB staff, and missionaries throughout the world are to be men and women of integrity. Holy. Set apart. Again, I do not post this as a response to something done wrongly in the past. This is just a reminder that "so goes the shepherd, so go the sheep." Be above reproach in all areas. I believe the Enemy seeks to take out pastors, especially those with great influence. David has experienced this, I'm sure, and now in this new position, the attacks will undoubtedly increase. That leads to the next section.

What David Needs From Us

Whether or not a Southern Baptist approves of Platt's selection as President of the IMB is now irrelevant. He is our President. I, for one, am glad that he is.

Beyond tweets and postings and news updates, there are a number of things David Platt needs from us as Southern Baptists, and me as a brother in Christ:

  • Prayer. This is not a passive option, but active. David, Heather and their children, need our prayers. We are commanded to pray for our leaders in the nation, but I believe we must also pray for those who serve in denominational leadership. This man of God and his family have been in the Enemy's cross-hairs for years, and that has just intensified today. The members of a local church can be demanding and unforgiving. It takes a toll on a family. How much more will the pressures inherant to this new role be upon the Platts. Pray for David and Heather's marriage to remain strong. Pray for their children to be strong and eventually dangerous Christ-followers.
  • Encouragment. When I received a note and a book from David years ago, it was like a balm of encouragement during a challenging time. I'm sure he receives many notes, messages and gifts, but rest assured, they are powerful and meaningful. For those with the opportunity to meet and speak with David, encourage him. For those who will not get that opportunity, send a note of encouragement to him via the IMB. Be a "Barnabas." Don't presume someone else will.
  • Openness. There's no doubt Platt will make some decisions and lead the IMB into areas that others may question. There may be some new opportunities revealed that will help engage the world even better. Be open to new ideas and opportunities. Not everything new will work. Not everything new is good, but the opportunity to try new things as God reveals them should be given to Platt and his team of leaders.
  • Celebration. Have you noticed how many people under 40 are tweeting and retweeting this announcement? It's an amazing thing that best not be ignored. While the attendance at the annual SBC is getting older and greyer, the vast crowd that has been attending NAMB's Send North America events is young. David Platt comes from this demographic. He has been used by God and will be used by God to reach and connect with a generation that has often been ignored, simply out of not knowing how to connect. Celebrate that God is revitalizing the church in North America and the world. For those like me who are realizing that being the "young pastor" in town is now a designation for someone else, this is encouraging. 
  • Accountability. Platt needs accountability, just like every pastor, every Christ-follower, needs accountability. Some will be used by God to lovingly keep David accountable. The key word there is "lovingly." That means, not thorugh a blog, such as this, or with negative undertones, but in love, being effective as a friend and brother. Encouragement and accountability are related closely.
  • Financial Support. Churches must not cut CP or Lottie Moon giving simply because they do not (or their pastors do not) approve of the vote for David Platt. Some may actually start giving more due to his selection. I understand that. Regardless, the IMB (and NAMB, too) need financial support from Southern Baptists to continue to do the Kingdom work they have been tasked. Give generously, not because or in spite of who is president, but for the global work we are cooperatively doing for the Kingdom.

One More Thing

We should pray for our sister church, The Church at Brook Hills. While they are no doubt excited that David Platt is going to be leading the International Misison Board, they will be going through the tedious and long process of seeking God's will for the next man to lead them as pastor. 


"But It Seemed Like a Good Idea" - Holocaust Clothes for Kids?

In leadership and in planning, there are often strategies and plans developed that seem like a good idea at the time. This is true in business and in church leadership.

News hit this morning about Spanish clothing chain Zara. They had put a children's jumper up for sale that probably seemed like a good idea at the time of planning and developing new styles, but once the clothing item hit the market, the outcry was too loud to ignore.

Here's the jumper (image from Newsweek)

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What was marketed as a stylish jumper for children with a Sheriff's badge embroidered on the front, reminded people of this. . .

283 The clothes worn by concentration camp prisoners,this one with the Jewish star.

Yep, that's a concentration camp uniform (or replica) from World War II with the Star of David sewn on to indicate the prisoner was Jewish.

So, who was in this planning meeting for the new children's jumper that had never heard of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" or been to a history class?

It seems ridiculous, but it happens, and Zara has removed the items and apologized.

While this is perhaps one of the most offensive examples, organizations have made choices that "seemed like a good idea at the time" only to realize later that it was not.

Do you remember this short-lived products?

  • Cosmopolitan Yogurt
  • Earring Magic Ken (Barbie's sometime boyfriend)
  • Life Saves Soda
  • Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes
  • Colgate Kitchen Entrees
  • Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water
  • FritoLay Lemonade
  • Bic Underwear
  • Cocaine Energy Drink
  • Maxwell House Ready-to-Drink Coffee (in a milk carton)
  • McDonald's Arch Deluxe
  • Tacos from Burger King
  • XFL
  • Apple Newton (not the cookies, but from the mind of Steve Jobs)
  • New Coke

There are many others (and all of these listed are real.

What seems like a good idea, without any thought of what it looks like or how it may be received from those outside the leadership team or the board room, will often lead to failure. 

Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum.

In the church, changing strategies while standing upon the unchanging Word of God is the challenge. New ideas, events, groups, services, etc. are always on the table for growing churches. The danger comes when decisions are made prior to prayer (this is a big time no no, but often happens.)

Christians Can't Think Like Non-Believers

Another fallacy is when Christ-followers try to think "What would lost people like?" or "What would attract unsaved people to our church?" Here's a reality check - we don't know! Why? Because we're not lost.

Lame "Christian" Events

That's why so many churches create lame "Christian" versions of things that they believe people in their mission field and community will like. 

Seriously - when't the last time a unsaved person said "I wish there was a good Christian band playing in concert somewhere tonight?"

So often the church has designed events and activities that are good at reaching. . .church people. And, that's not a bad thing, if that's the desire. However, before you host another "bait and switch" event for the community and claim it's missional, do some research. Talk to people in your community who do not go to church, do not want to go to church, and aren't thinking about church. You'll discover more about their heart and in the process, yours will be broken for them.

It is Christ who draws people to Himself. That's why he sends people (his church) out to engage the world. Be in, but not of, the world. 

What sounds like a good idea for reaching your community, may need to be re-evaluated. . .and prayed over once more, or many more times.

Don't stop engaging. Don't stop dreaming. Throw all ideas out on the table, but remember, it is God who draws people, not events, products or activities. Those are just tools that He may use. 


Local Elections & Why Christians Should Vote

Where I live, election day is tomorrow. Since the majority of our county is of one party affiliation, and those running for local office often run unopposed in the general election, the primaries are vital. 

Every two years, this election cycle runs its course. 

Placards appear in yard and beside the roads.

Bumper stickers show up by the hundreds.

Cheap T-shirts arrive and are distributed. 

Here are just some of the things that come to mind as I see the proliferation of signs at every four way stop in my county (Clay County, Florida.) BTW - these are not endorsements. These are just random thoughts. . .

  • There is a woman named "Glo" running for office. (I love this name. I don't know the person, but the name is great.)
  • There is a woman named "Thuy" (pronounced Twee) running for office. (Love this name, too. Again, don't know the woman, but I'll remember her name.)
  • One guy running is seeking an office previously held by his mother. He's using her signs with his name printed over hers. Smart move - her signs have been in the county for years.
  • Some people put photos of their faces on their signs.
  • Others do not, and that may be wise. I don't think I'd put my face on a sign. I'd hate to scare drivers.
  • Some people should consider putting generic faces on their signs, like the photos that come in the frames you buy at the store.
  • There's a man running for office named Anthony Penoso. I'm not endorsing him. I don't know him, but every time I see the sign with his name on it, I think of NCIS and the character Anthony DiNozzo. Makes me want to slap someone on the back of the head a'la Mark Harmon when I see the sign.
  • What happens to all the old T-shirts for candidates who do not win? Are they sent to some third world country like the Denver Bronco Super Bowl Champion shirts?
  • Does a candidate waving on a street corner really increase votes for that candidate? If so, the guy that spins the signs in Fleming Island should win EVERYTHING!
  • Some people run for an office every election cycle . . . and never win. They should at least get a sympathy vote every now and then.

Should a Christian Vote?

It seems obvious, but just to be clear, the answer is "yes." In fact, I'd say that even non-believers should vote. The emphasis is upon American rights and civics. In a republic such as ours where citizens have been given the privilege to participate in the election process and vote, I deem it wrong to forsake that right.

Voting-boothAmazingly, according to statistics that come out following every election year, the percentage of those who choose not to participate is high. When there is no national election (i.e. Presidential election) happening, the between-term voter turnout is terrible.

So, yes, a Christian should vote. A non-Christian should vote. Simply put - Americans should vote.

Why?

Because it is a privilege and right that has been given to us, and paid for dearly by those who have gone before. There are many in our world today who have never had the opportunity to freely participate in the process of selecting leaders. It's a wonderful product of this "American experiment."

We should not forsake that right.

Does God Expect a Christian to Vote?

Besides the reasons given above, here are some insights from the website "GotQuestions.org" that are sound:

It is our contention that it is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote and to vote for leaders who promote Christian principles. God is most certainly in control, but that does not mean we should do nothing to further His will. We are commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4). In terms of politics and leadership, there is evidence in Scripture that God has been displeased with our choices of leadership at times (Hosea 8:4). The evidence of sin’s grip on this world is everywhere. Much of the suffering on earth is because of godless leadership (Proverbs 28:12). Scripture gives Christians instructions to obey legitimate authority unless it contradicts the Lord’s commands (Acts 5:27-29;Romans 13:1-7). As born-again believers, we ought to strive to choose leaders who will be themselves led by our Creator (1 Samuel 12:13-25). Candidates or proposals that violate the Bible’s commands for life, family, marriage, or faith should never be supported (Proverbs 14:34). Christians should vote as led through prayer and study of both God’s Word and the realities of the choices on the ballot.

Christians in many countries in this world are oppressed and persecuted. They suffer under governments they are powerless to change and governments that hate their faith and silence their voices. These believers preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at risk of their own lives. In the U.S.A., Christians have been blessed with the right to speak about and choose their leaders without fearing for themselves or their families. In the U.S.A., in recent elections, about 2 of every 5 of self-professed Christians took that right for granted and did not vote. About 1 in 5 self-professed, eligible Christians are not even registered to vote.

In our day and age, there are many who want to drive the name and message of Christ completely out of the public arena. Voting is an opportunity to promote, protect, and preserve godly government. Passing up that opportunity means letting those who would denigrate the name of Christ have their way in our lives. The leaders we elect—or do nothing to remove—have great influence on our freedoms. They can choose to protect our right to worship and spread the gospel, or they can restrict those rights. They can lead our nation toward righteousness or toward moral disaster. As Christians, we should stand up and follow our command to fulfill our civic duties (Matthew 22:21).

In 2012, Dr. Barrett Duke of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who has spoken at our church this past year, penned an article reminding believers of the importance of voting. Here is a portion of that article:

Will Rogers once said, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” How right he was. We all complain about government. Often for good reason. Government tends to restrict us, tax us, penalize us, and generally often makes a nuisance of itself. At times, governments have become so burdensome, overbearing, and intrusive that men have risen up against them, overthrown them, and established new ones.

That, in fact, is our nation’s story. Our founders and many of our nation’s church leaders argued that the King of England had lost his right to govern them because he was abusing his power. This was a crucial issue to our forefathers. They accepted the teaching of the Apostle Paul that government is a “minister of God…for good.” Its purpose is to punish evil and to reward good. So they created a new government to fulfill this God-given purpose, but they dispensed with the idea of divine right to rule and invested in the governed the right to choose their government.

Their idea was radical for its day. They even wondered if it would actually work. But they trusted God to guide in the affairs of men, and they trusted the people to choose well. Today our nation is a testament to their trust in God and the people. The United States of America has become the envy of most of the world, and the democratic form of government is now the most popular form of government in the world.

But democracies are only as good as the people who are chosen to govern. If the wrong people gain the power of the civil authority, great damage can be done. What happens when the governing authority begins to reward evil and to punish good? It subjects itself to the judgment of God. History is filled with the evidence of God’s judgment on nations for their failure to honor Him with their laws. When nations begin to reward evil and punish good, watch out.

But who ultimately is responsible when the governing authorities no longer honor God through their administration? In a democracy, the people are responsible.

Click here to read the remainder of Dr. Duke's article as well as listen to audio commentary.

Now, for those in my county and throughout the nation - pray for God's guidance and direction. Use the resources available as you seek God's desire regarding your vote. Sometimes, I hear friends say "I'm not a fan of any of the candidates." It's a challenging task. Nevertheless, do not let that reasoning keep you from the polls. Participate. Prayerfully consider whom God would have you select.

Vote.

As a Christian, when you participate in the process of voting for leaders, do not forsake your faith, do not mess up your personal testimony and, above all, do not embarrass God.


Why Ferguson Matters Here

Selma, Alabama

Sanford, Florida

Ferguson, Missouri

These are city names that bring to mind images of violence, disruption and racial divides. The myth of a post-racially divided America is once again thrust upon us through reports daily from Ferguson. The sad reality is that any town or city in America could be the next Ferguson. 

What we know. . .

71HWhen the news reports from Ferguson first hit earlier this month, there were few facts known, other than the obvious. . .and those are tragic. Even now, days later, little more is known than was first reported, and Ferguson remains a hotbed of racial tension with calls for "Justice."

What we do know is an African-American young man was shot six times by a police officer and died. We know he was unarmed.  We know the immediate backlash was intense and remains so. We know that lines have seemingly been drawn and many in Ferguson now fear leaving their homes. We know the police department in Ferguson is now under a microscope and the officer who fired the shots will never be the same, nor will his family. 

What we don't know. . .

The list of what is not known is much longer than the list of the known. Details about the evening in question continue to come out. . .and they seem to be contradictory. Talking heads have appeared and sound-bytes of "truth" flood the airwaves.

Facebook pages are being created in support of all involved.

Online petitions are being signed.

Protesters have and continue to gather.

The city of Ferguson and families there will never be the same. 

A police officer hides from the public.

And a young man is dead.

Why does this matter?

Some in our nation see items like this on the news and wonder "Why does this impact me?" This is emblematic of those who seem to think that if an issue doesn't take place in their own backyard, they are immune to its ramifications. 

As Christians, stories such as this should matter greatly. We should weep the loss of life. We should lament what is happening in the streets of Ferguson and care about those impacted. We should care that many respond with their rights of protesting with illogical and wrongly-motivated violence. It should bother us that business owners, disconnected from the elements of the story, have lost their buildings and property due to looting and arson. 

It should matter to us that men and women, boys and girls, who were born with a different variation of pigmentation in their skin fall back behind lines of division.

Christians should care, because Christ cares.

A White Guy Talking About Race

It is challenging for a white man to bring up the subject of racial reconciliation. It shouldn't be, but it is. Many who have a darker pigmentnation and higher levels of melanin may say that I cannot fully understand the situation faced by those living as racial minorities in this nation.

To that accusation, I say "You're right." 

I do not pretend to be able to speak as one who has been there. However, I do speak as one who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ (and who, by the way, most likely had higher levels of melanin than most pasty-white artistic renditions show.) 

The Racially Divided Church

Moments like those in Ferguson remind me that we have much to do as God's church in the area of racial reconciliation. While the situation in Ferguson may, in actuality, be more about justice and right v. wrong, the reality is that now it is a race story, and the church must respond.

I agree with Dr. Russell Moore. . .

If we start to see more churches so alive to the gospel that they are not segregated out as “white” or “black” or “Hispanic” or “Asian” or “white collar” or “blue collar,” we will start to reflect something of a kingdom of God made up of those from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Rev. 5:9). And as we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to speak up for one another, including in the public square.

For the church to remain silent is wrong. 

For the church to jump into the world of sound bytes, spin, and popular opinion is also wrong.

As Christians, we must speak boldly and clearly into the conversation. There, but for the grace of God, the Ferguson situation will occur in our own hometowns. Just one event will place our town (or your town) on the evening news. . .and then the news trucks arrive and life will change. In the blink of an eye, evil can gain a foothold and your sleepy little town will forever be known as "that town where _______ happened." 

What to do?

For Ferguson - pray. That is not a passive response, but an active one. Pray together for the people in the town. Pray for those who have lost a loved one. Pray for the police and governmental officials involved. Pray that the right things will be said and done. Pray for healing and true justice.

Pray that God will be honored as His church steps forward.

Pray for our (or your) town and city as well. Recognize today that there is much work to be done regarding racial equality. Pray that stereotypes will melt away. Seek to destroy the walls of division that even the church has justified as necessary.

And, as Dr. Albert Mohler has stated, "lead with empathy" . . .

We need to lead with empathy. But that empathy needs to be expressed in ways that do not prejudge the facts on the ground and lead to an immediate and premature understanding of exactly what happened. Sometimes (as every parent knows) you need to put an arm around someone and let them cry before you ask them what happened. Even when we see people expressing outrage—in clearly inappropriate, violent, and illegal ways—we need to understand that behind them are many people who are not violent who are equally offended, who are not protesting, who are equally hurt. And we need to realize that empathy—and indeed leading with empathy—is a very important first act.


Depression is Real. . .Even for Christians

Since Robin Williams' death, depression has become a headline story in our nation. 

118HRecognizing the difference in depression and "burnout" is important. Dr. Gary Lovejoy has recently co-authored a book and study for churches titled Light in the Darkness: Finding Hope in the Shadow of Depression. The material will be available in November of this year.

While at the Southern Baptist Convention this summer, I picked up a small book by Lovejoy based on the larger study, titled A Pastor's Guide for the Shadow of Depression. In it, he states the following:

The following is a list of common symptoms typical of depression that can help you identify which and how many you are experiencing:

    • Feelings of sadness and emptiness
    • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
    • Loss of intereest or pleasure in life activities
    • Loss of energy or constant fatigue
    • Insomnia (difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep)
    • Feelings of intense anxiety
    • Changes in appetite and weight
    • Excessive or misplaced guilt
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • Physical symptoms such as bodily aches and pains
    • Sometimes increased agitation, including outbursts of anger and irritability
    • Difficulties thinking and concentrating
    • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

It's important to know that you don't need to have all of the described symptoms at once to be diagnosed as depressed. All you need is four or more of them to confirm the diagnosis. While some symptoms are more common than others, you should carefully reveiew each one before determining whether you are suffering from depression. For evidence of the level of this depression, you can take the Hamilton Survey for Physical and Emotional Wellness available at www.depressionoutreach.com.

You should be cautious regarding self-diagnosis. If you fear you may be sliding, get help.

Also, for pastors, I encourage you to watch Tommy Nelson share of his journey through depression here.

 


The Escalator Church

We've all heard it. 

Change is inevitable.

In church, we always have to say "but the Gospel is never-changing" which is absolutely true, but even that statement doesn't help many people within the church deal well with change.

Pastors in western culture consistently struggle with leading their congregations forward for the sake of the Gospel without remaining in a stagnant model only effective in reaching people who no longer exist.

I know churches where the pastor had a clear, focused plan for leading through change, but did not convey the plan well. In those cases, the pastors gets frustrated and normally says things like "the people won't follow" or "they don't want to reach people." In most cases, the pastor leaves (and not always by choice.)

Other churches have walked through dramatic transformative processes and while they, too, faced internal resistance, ended up stronger, healthier and united in the end.

What is the difference?

There are various factors in each unique situation, not to mention the very real possibility of a negative, hateful element within a congregation that truly doesn't want to grow, but many times, the successful transformation is due to the fact the church is more like an escaltor than an elevator.

ThEscalator or Elevator

Here's what Seth Godin says about this concept:

Escalators make people happy. They're ready when you are, there is almost never a line, and you can see progress happening the entire time.

Elevators are faster, particularly for long distances, but we get frustrated when we just miss one, and we often wonder when the next one is coming, even after a few seconds. (That's why lobbies have mirrors, to give you something to do when you're waiting).

Escalators are always in motion. There's visible, clear progress. 

The pastor who leads openly and clearly with a destination in mind is essential. However, those within the church need handles for what is coming next. Each program, event, schedule change, worship style adjustment, etc. must be well articuluated and ideally, presented incrementally with clear communication so change is not viewed as something offensive.

If your change process is always done behind closed doors with "reveal" moments designed to thrust everything forward at once, you run the risk of failure. That would be an "elevator" moment. The church members and attenders are just standing there, looking in mirrors wondering if anything is being done, or ever will be. Then, when the change options are presented, it's too much at once. A surprise. Like an unexpected elevator door opening with a group of people all standing there staring ahead, not talking with each other. You may get on, but you won't like it. Often, you'll just wait for the next one to arrive.

There will always be resistance, but when visible progress is seen, the naysayers soon melt away. . .and God is glorified.

BTW - not all who seem to be pushing against change are negative. Some are just scared. Others are cautious. There's nothing wrong with cautious optimism.  


When a Church Planter Becomes Part of Your Team

It's an interesting concept.

A man is called to serve God as a church planter/pastor and either relocates to a new area, or adjusts his work schedule in the community he lives to plant a church. This impacts not only himself, but his wife and family.  In most cases, these men have sending churches or host churches who are their primary sponsors. However, this is not always the case.

When our church began to seek partnerships in Toronto, we did what many others have done. We talked with our NAMB missionaries, took a vision trip, and met and interacted with planters on the field. After prayerful consideration, the church I pastor followed God's lead to partner with Mike Hauser of Starting Point Church. He is one of a number of church planters and missionaries we partner with throughout the world. 

While we are not the host or sending church for most of these planters (only Neil Jimenez, a church planting apprentice in Toronto comes from our fellowship) we now consider all of these men as members of our Leadership Team. This includes Mike and Neil as well as the others throughout the world. They do not attend our staff meetings. In many cases, planted their churches independently and prior to even meeting us, but by considering them part of our team, a kinship has developed. 

So, when Legacy Church in Tucson has a packed house and a record day for baptisms, we celebrate. When a young college student from Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro chooses to leave the US and serve as a missionary in Italy, we celebrate. When a woman comes to Starting Point Church in Burlington, Ontario and surrenders her life to Jesus and is baptized, we celebrate. When a young teenager in Wales, a country that is only one percent evangelical, comes to Christ through the work of our friends and churches there, we celebrate. And so on with our partners in Portland, at Grassroots Church in Colorado Springs, in Iceland, in Haiti, China and other locations where our partners are serving.

We celebrate not as we would when a friend wins a prize. We celebrate as family with a loved one.

These men, their families and the churches they serve are more than just "some guys" out there doing Christian work. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. These are our people. We pray for them by name. We know them, talk with them, grieve with them and will not, if at all possible, allow them to feel that they are ever alone and on their own.

Maybe your church is just considering this as a possibility. It is a shift. It's a shift from a name on a prayer guide, to a name that represents a friend and part of the family. 

We sponsor each of these families with prayer and some financial help as we are able. We are available to travel to their location as needed to serve in ways they determine.  

Some Won't Get It

There's always push back. Some, even in the church I serve, grumble that "We have enough to do here in Orange Park and Jacksonville. We don't need to worry about Toronto." Yes, there are always those who just don't get it, won't get it, and do not want to get it. Some would claim that Acts 1:8 is incremental and once "Jerusalem" is reached, we can then go to "Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world." 

Nevertheless, press on and be courageous. Recognizing that Acts 1:8 is not an incremental mission strategy, but God's simultaneous mission command for His church must begin with leadership. Believe me, you will never out give, out serve or out work God. To bring these men and their families into "our family" has been a blessing to us. I encourage you to consider doing the same.

Screenshot 2014-08-15 18.14.44


Just "Christian" Enough

In this season of political positioning, voters' guides, town hall meetings and baby kissing conferences and a concerted effort to "out-patriotize" the oppostion, a very strange version of "Christianity" appears. It does so every two years, at a minimum, during the election cycle.

It's interesting.

And disturbing.

As I research and meet candidates and see the promo pieces that fill my mailbox regularly, I cannot help but look for "buzzwords" or "keywords" that will help me determine which candidate to support. 

The truth is that candidates know these keywords as well and often ensure they are visible and clearly stated based on the target audience and voter demographics.

Sometimes Candidates Just Say What You Want to Hear

No?

Really?

Yes, I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes political candidates just say things that sound good and will help them get elected, while not actually believing it all. Who knew?

A Good "Christian" Organization

This reminds me of a meeting I was in recently, not regarding politics or candidates, but an organization that serves the local community. The organization is  a "Christian" one (and yes, as I blogged previously, organizations really aren't Christian, only people are, but you understand what I mean, I'm sure.) The organization does a good work for the community. In fact, it's a truly good organization.

However, as I participated in the meeting it became clear that the Christianity promoted by this group was, at best, subtle. I heard one person lament that the group was "just Christian enough." 

Let me translate that term for you. This non-profit receives funding from various sources such as businesses, charities, non-faith-based organizations, individuals and some churches. To be "Christian enough" works for fund-raising when churches are the target. To not be "too Christian" works well in the business world and what has often been termed the "secular" market.

It's a sad reality, but one that is often replicated in our culture. 

Just because a business has a "Jesus fish" in its logo doesn't mean that all employees, or any for that matter, are followers of Christ or that the business practices are centered upon the truth of God's Word.

Gods PoliticsJust because a person running for office declares their membership at a local church does not mean that person. . .

  • Is a member in good standing
  • Has been a member for long
  • Believes the Gospel
  • Lines up with the theology of the church
  • Is truly a follower of Christ

It seems that often our candidates are just "Christian" enough to get votes. 

Now, some will get upset at that revelation (which, in my estimation, should be obvious for anyone with just a little discernment) but it is true. I am not throwing everyone under the bus here. There truly are public servants who are honest, all-in, sold-out Christ followers seeking to honor God as they serve their communities. There are also organizations that truly seek to honor God in their business practices and leadership models. 

What does this mean for you and me?

May our lives never be just "Christian" enough. In fact, I fear that if we live just on the edge of Christianity, we will find that we are not truly following Christ at all.  Sounds a little too much like the type of people Timothy was warned to avoid.

"Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." 2 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)

Oh, and don't believe everything you see in voter's guides, mailouts, business logos and television commercials.

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1 (ESV)


Leaders Eat Last

I recently listened to a podcast from Catalyst featuring an interview with Simon Sinek. Sinek is the US_Marine_Corps_Veteranauthor of Leaders Eat Last. The title comes from a US Marine Corp general who, when asked by Sinek what the secret to leadership in the Marine Corps was, answered "Officers eat last."

The principle is simple. It is the reality that leaders do what is necessary for those who follow to succeed and survive. In the Marine Corps, the enlisted people eat first and the officers wait. It is an image of leadership and servanthood.

Jesus was the ultimate leader, and the ultimate servant. It's paradoxical, but right. 

In the business world, in family, in the church, real leaders serve.

It is not easy, but right.

As Sinek says, "There are no good or bad leaders, just real leaders and those who are not. Real leaders 'eat last.'"

  


Rites of Passage & The Church's Role

Our leadership team at church is strategically preparing an overarching strategy for family discipleship. This is an exciting, yet troublesome journey as God is revealing areas in ministry where we have unintentionally built "silos" of ministry, believing the model to be best only to wonder where the disciples are. 

Families are the primary disciple-makers and the church fellowship is to come alongside parents and children to encourage and sustain the walk.

Blackdadandteenageson1One such area of familial discipleship that I feel strongly about, though admittedly have failed to fulfill due to circumstances beyond my control, is that of walking one's son into adulthood. The rite of passage is a missing piece in our culture and therefore, we often end up with children wearing adult bodies with empty looks of wonder and confusion in their eyes. 

We Have Failed

Not everyone, but by and large, as a culture and even as the church, we have failed in this process. 

The strategy God is leading us to develop is multi-faceted and powerful and will be revealed church-wide later this fall. However, one element of the strategy is the "rite of passage."

As my son was growing through adolescence, I dreamed of having a celebration such as the one described below and had even put into motion the plans for such. However, through certain circumstances and situations in our journey, God led me to shelve the event. 

Nevertheless, I am adament on leading fathers and young men out of the fog and into a story that is large, powerful, life-changing and Kingdom-impacting. A life-long journey of discipling leads to a moment such as this:

A pastor at a sister church had a son who was entering his last year of high school. When the boy was age 17 or so, this father had met with some men who knew his son and had played significant roles in his life. His youth pastor. A coach. A mentor. An older friend. A grandfather. Uncle.  

The meeting with this pastor and these men was designed to prepare them to share in a moment of significance with the boy. He gave them instructions on where to meet. They were told to stand, hidden behind trees until they heard him call to them. They received their instruction and were prepared as the day arrived.

On the day in question, this father and his son traveled to a piece of property outside the city where the father had already set up a fire pit and a couple of chairs. This was a familiar place to the boy as they had spent many days here in the past as a family. 

The fire pit and seats were in an area accesible via a pathway through a wooded area. 

The father and son walked the pathway, talking and sharing thoughts along the way.

Once they made it to the fire pit, they sat down and the dad began to share with his son how proud he was of him and what it meant to be a man, an authentic, biblical man of God. These were not new revelations, for the father had been pouring into his son for years truths regarding God and identity.

There is something very powerful to hear your father speak words of truth and love to you, especially as a boy.

At the appropriate moment, when the father had shared that God had brought many men along the way to journey alongside them and to help the son understand the reality of God's love and His plan for him, the father said, "Okay, gentlemen, you can come out."

At that moment, the men stepped out of the woods, into the clearing and moved toward the boy.

With tears flowing down his eyes, the young man was beginning to understand the power of the blessing.

These men who had loved him as a young man, mentored him, poured into his life and stood alongside his father to help lead him into manhood, spoke into his life at that moment. They shared encouraging, challenging and truthful words to him.

They prayed over him.

Then, they left the father and son to continue their discussion.

There's more to the story and it grows in power.

The father blessed his son that day and welcomed him into adulthood.

A Rite of Passage

That, my friends, is a rite of passage.

It sure makes getting a driver's license or a voting card pale in comparison.

This is just one example. There are many other elements to be put in place for families, parents, grandparents, children and young people.

Can you imagine when events such as have been described above are more than just things some do, but are actually part of the fabric of the local church?  

Ministries that are so segmented they can stand alone, with no input and connection with other ministries within the church lead to broken models, tired volunteers and busy members, but not disciples.

That's why it is true that "greater things have yet to come" as we follow God's lead into this strategy.