Leadership starts at home
In I Timothy 3 we find some of the qualifications for church leadership. One of the qualifications is that overseers and deacons be leaders in their own homes. "He must manage his own family well"
I've often read and re-read that statement. Unfortunately for many in the ministry this statement could disqualify them should other men be aware or courageous enough to challenge one another.
I once sat in a meeting where a disgruntled family wanted to take up their beef with the whole staff. Our Pastor warned them (he didn't call it warning) that they probably should just come and talk to him privately but apparently they refused and wanted other Pastors in the room. They began to attempt to rip him apart and say all sorts of hurtful things. After a few minutes I said "Okay, I've heard enough... do you have ANY BIBLICAL GROUNDS to stand on or is this just a veiled attack on this man?" The husband fired back "Yes. He doesn't manage his family well". I knew this was not the case but I appreciated the effort so I said "Okay, share how you feel this is so." The man said "His son rides his scooter in front of the church doors during set up and take-down. He's told him not to do it but the boy doesn't listen. Therefore the Pastor is not qualified to lead the church because he can't lead his family." I'm sure you know what came next. I said "Are you serious? Are you honestly saying that Paul was talking about husbands who have children who ride scooters? Is that the fruit you feel you have found to say that God requires us to exercise church discipline?" I continued "You know enough of your bible to be a little dangerous. But you're out of line and ignorant. I won't entertain any more accusations from you unless you come back with something concrete and biblical." The man got angry and came over toward me... slamed his bible on the floor and said a four letter word as he walked out of the office. That was the last I saw of him.
You see, there are ignorant people wanting to take this biblical requirement out of context just to attack you as the Shepard. This however does not give us the right to ignore the biblical principle. Too often I've heard and seen Pastors live two lives. The life they live in front of the church and the life they live at home. I've seen too many Pastors wives look with pride at their preacher husbands as the husband describes for the church how a 'Christian' husband looks after his bride and children. The frustration comes with that same family when Mr. Pastor comes home and ignores his wife and kids.
Pastors I encourage you today to call a time out. Review the last 2-3 weeks. Ask yourself "Self. Am I leading my family? Self, am I giving my wife and children the love and attention they deserve? Self, am I the Pastor at home as much as I'm the Pastor on Sunday?"
You guys may already know this but as a loving reminder... Please take care of your family. They are everything to who God's called you to be. That wife of yours is what makes you completely one. No other person on the planet should be able to take away what belongs to her... You. Leadership starts at home.
Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
This week we've been getting the right people on the bus. I'm very excited about Focal Point and where we're headed. We've been working hard this week on detailing more of our structure and those involved in service. This week I'll be talking about service (Luke 10 and Luke 20-21)
and attempting to get others on the bus of service within the church.
We recently moved into our offices and for us I think it will be a good move. We have a few people who want to serve the church but have limited resources at home. Having a place to work will provide many with the opportunity to make some things happen. It's a good feeling as a leader when you pull up to natural "stops" on your route and you see people waiting to get on the bus.
Ever been Ripped Off?
Yeterday's high temperature in our area was 101 degrees with a heat index of 121 degrees.
This morning I went to the store for my first 'daddy run' to the store. Caleb has successfully gone through nearly a dozen diapers a day in his first week. I've been peed-on twice and changed about 1/3 of the diapers.
Anyway, as I'm in the checkout line I see people buying up these 24 packs of water. The store was selling them for "Buy 1 get 1 free for $7.49" So effectively you'd get 48 for $7.49.
This is where the rip off comes in:
I hear people in the aisle behind me asking for a refund. They want to give back a case of the water. What is the complaint you may ask?
Their complaint was that just the other day the same water was being sold for $3.99. They didn't want 48 bottles. They only wanted 24. The problem with this deal is that it's no "deal" at all to those who need it most.
This older lady wants the water in the middle of 100 degree temperatures but cannot afford to buy it for nearly $8. She was prepared to buy one case at $4.
Effectively this store raised the price and then told everyone that they could "get one free".
How often is this done in Christianity?
Christ came and set the stage. He said that we'd be challenged and persecuted. He even said that those who insulted him would insult us. He said that a wise builder counts the cost. He told the wealthy to sell their possessions and follow Him. He said we have to deny ourselves. Jesus didn't change the price. There was no bait and switch. Why then do we do this to our community?
The price we pay is nothing compared to what we receive in Heaven. Many times we wait until someone is "committed" to the church before we talk about terrible things such as commitment to Christ. Effectively we change the price on the water. We put a big sign in the window saying that there is one price but when people get to check out we tell them the price has now changed. It's not a wonder that people would get disillusioned with us.
Am I making sense? Are there any thoughts out there on this? How does your church keep this all together in the discipleship process?
Membership or Partnership?
Via MMI I read that Church Marketing Sucks (I love that name) wrote a piece about church membership within the SBC churches. The article basically hammers on the fact that most church roles are out of date.
Last night in our leadership meeting I talked with our team about the idea of Membership vs. Partnership. I basically just wrote "Partnership" on the white board first. I asked everyone to brainstorm and shout out what comes to mind. I then wrote the word "Membership" on the board and repeated the process.
Here are the results:
· “If you’re in, you’re in” (In for the penny, in for the pound.)
· Common purpose
· Common goal
· Hard drop out
· “I got your back” mentality
· Community dues
· Set leadership/flowers
· Goods & services
· An ID card
· Belonging (Identifier)
· Fine print
· Fizzle out
· Minimal effort
· Fast drop out
It's obvious to our leaders that 'membership' does a poor job of conveying what we want from those who join the team. We don't want people to think of the body of Christ as merely "members".
One of our guys said "Yeah, I'm a member of Sam's Club. When I go and show my card, I go get the free food, get a good deal and good service. But when I leave, I don't care about Sams Club again until the next time I need to buy food in bulk.
Is this not the case? Do we not set our people up to view our churches like any other club with a membership. As long as people drop in their cash on the weekends we aren't going to do anything besides serve them.
Is that the church of Christ?
I dunno... When I think of what Christ called us to as the 'church' I tend to think about "Leave your father and mother" and "If you turn your back, you're not fit for the Kingdom" and "If you want to live, you'll die to self". That seems to me to require movement and action.
Anyway, we're all 'members' of God's household once we're saved by the blood of the Lamb. We aren't trying to get "members", we're trying to get "partners" in ministry.
Laypeople: Become a partner with your church... get in the game.
Pastors: Quit being so desperate to add numbers to the rolls. Be passionate about reaching the lost but quit worring how to generate numbers on some membership list. Be honest about who you are and lovingly reach people. Don't 'pimp out' the church for a cheap thrill.
We can all be honored that God has called us into partnership with Him to fulfill the Great Commission. God is amazing and His plans are wonderful. If we just get in line with Him and tell others about Him, we'll be doing alright regardless of the membership rolls. The only roll to us that should matter is the roll that God has of those who've accepted Him as Lord and Savior.
Lead by Asking
A few weeks ago I told you about a man in our church who leads our worship. His name is Calvin. Calvin recently lost his job at a large tech company in town. Initially I was taken back at the thought of losing this amazing family. Over the last few weeks God has done some cool things and I thought I'd share them with you.
A few weeks back I sat down with Calvin and together we discussed and prayed over his situation. About a week later we came back together for more prayer and discussion. It was during this second meeting that I decided to 'Go for the ask'. I challenged Calvin to pray and see if the Lord would lead him to become a missionary to our church for a period of 1 year. I said "Calvin, all of your life you have chased success... Pray and see if God would allow you to chase significance."
As you might expect he was taken back by the request but agreed to pray and seek God's face for direction. Another week goes by and we meet. Calvin tells me "I want you to know that I prayed begrudgingly but over time my prayers have changed from 'God should I' to 'God I want to...'.
All of this leads up to Sunday morning (remember I wasn't with the congregation this week). Calvin and his family talked these last few weeks and have decided to stay. They allowed another gentleman in the church to announce their decision via an open prayer time during the service. I can't tell you what this has done and will do for our church plant.
God's passion to reach humanity for His glory is bigger than all of us individually. We live in the most wealthy nation to ever exist. We in our country are among the most wealthy people to ever exist on the face of earth and yet we always want more. I wonder how often we miss out on God's significance for our lives because we get distracted by our view of 'success'?
In explaining his seed analogy in Matthew 13, Jesus said:
"22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."
If I can offer any encouragement this week to you it's to 'Go for the ask'. Raise the bar of commitment and passion for Christ within your core. You have people around you who are successful at what they do but they want their pastor to challenge them to significance. There may be people in your congregation who could single-handedly fund a major project or spearhead a new venture. You may even have a few Calvins in the room who (if prompted) are willing to ask the Lord if they can be used as a missionary.
Leader... Lead by Asking.
Microsoft tries to wipe Apple off of the "Map"
Terry's post from yesterday talks about Microsoft copying google.
Committee on Committees
I just returned from visiting my local Baptist Church building.
At Focal Point we don't have an evening service... We have small groups called Connecting Points. Our Connecting Points meet during the week, not usually on Sundays. Because I didn't attend Focal Point this morning I thought I'd go and enjoy worship with another church. I made my way to the end of the street where a Baptist church meets (membership: approx 800).
Unfortunately tonight I stumbled upon a business meeting. I was prepared to worship outside of my preferred comfort zone but I wasn't excited to be a part of a business meeting. I decided to stay and observe how this works (It's been years since a church I attended held business meetings). I've been in non-traditional churches for about 6-7 years and during college I attended and served at Thomas Road Baptist (Mega-churches don't do business meetings).
So it's been at least 11 years since I observed a church business meeting.
Anyway the issue at hand was purchasing adjacent property. This church seats 1750 in their main building... (built about 3 years ago) Our area is exploding in growth so property is a hot commodity around here. Recently the property behind their building was bought and developed before the church was made aware of the deal. The church finance committee made a motion allowing them to offer local home owners "first right of refusal" papers. This basically would allow the church to get first access to any purchases of any property nearby.
Tonight reminded me of why I'll never pastor a church with business meetings.
Basically they were trying to convince 100 people of what had already been done in their committee. About 20 people spoke up for and against. I heard comments like "Are we trying to be a mega church? I heard that mega churches are falling apart... I don't want us to do that." Another comment was "What does adjacent mean? Is it immediately adjacent or does that mean down the road?" Another was "If we need parking we can just make another agreement with the YMCA across the street."
I'm so thankful to be a part of a church where people trust that God leads the Pastors and the Pastors Shepard the church. I'm thankful that we're not wasting time on business meetings. I'm thankful that we have enough faith to know that God brings down haughty leadership.
Tonight I wanted to worship God at a local church. If I were a non-believer I would have seen 'the church' in action and decided that all of my previous assumptions were true.
Does anyone else have stories of bad business meetings?
How about those of you in churches run by staff?
Wanted, not Needed
Tomorrow Focal Point Church will gather to worship Jesus Christ as our Messiah. The body will gather, music will be played, scripture will be read. There will be prayers in silence, prayers as a community and testimonies of God's grace. All of this will happen without Tally Wilgis.
Kristy and I plan to attend the service only at the very end so our people can meet the new addition to our family.
I don't want tomorrow to be focused on us. I will not rob God of that gathering. What I hope our people see is that Focal Point is not about who is up front. There will be no less than 10 people doing various things (testimonies, prayer, song) throughout the service tomorrow. I want our people to see that we individually aren't "needed" but rather "wanted" by God. God desires us and he desires to use our talents for His glory. So often times in ministry I see a different attitude. I've seen paid and lay staff take their talents to an extreme. The attitude becomes "Well, I'm important so everyone better get that through their head." It amazes me.
Tomorrow our people will see that without their Pastor this new church plant can move forward. Hopefully they won't kick me out but hopefully they will embrace the ministry above all.
Have a great Saturday evening!
Who does Caleb look like?
The question most people ask is "Who does Caleb look like?"
It seems that the unanimous answer is 'His Daddy'. We have similar features (cheeks, nose, mouth, eyes, legs).
[Kristy's bone structure comes through along with her ears and a cute little dip in his nose.]
I dug up a baby picture of myself to check it out and I thought I'd share it with you.
I'll post a few more posts about our experience but I assure you that the blog won't turn into our personal blog. (I want to redesign wilgisfamily.blogspot.com first) For now, here is an interesting look at Caleb and myself.
More pictures are here.
Mommy loves Caleb.
I love my boy!
Being born makes me tired!
Caleb Matthew Wilgis
Welcome to the Planet
With overwhelming joy I would like to introduce you to my son, Caleb Matthew Wilgis!
The experience was amazing. I'm certain to post more of my thoughts in the hours and days to come.
Tale of the Tape:
Caleb Matthew Wilgis
8lbs 3 oz
Born at 10:46 p.m.
Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, VA
Unfortunately I am unable to upload a picture at this time due to the firewall at the hospital (it's blocking all uploading and downloading). I'll see if I can sneak away to a Starbucks or something soon so I can upload some pictures.
If you are family or friend our room phone is (757) 466.6020... we'll be here until mid afternoon or so tomorrow (Friday).
Have a great afternoon and check back periodically for pictures.
Here we go!
Do you know the feeling of the beginning of a roller coaster? You know... that feeling of sitting in the chair thinking "I'm locked in now...here we go." Then you hear the click, click, click of the chains pulling the roller coaster to the top of the first hill.
That's about where we are this morning with the birth of our son Caleb. Kristy is having contractions right now and we visited the Dr. yesterday who says we should be seeing her sometime today.
So, I'll likely be having my baby boy tonight. We'll see. I'll let you know when we go over the hill and the ride begins!
Lyle and Annie are a young (early to mid-twenties) couple in our church. They found us off of the Relevant Magazine site. They're an amazing young couple that have an incredible time together. I talked about them a few weeks ago because of how much fun they always seem to have together. Recently they found out they are with child (Annie is now 12 weeks along). Another tidbit is that Annie hails from Alaska! How cool is that?
Annie posted about this Sunday's service. She normally doesn't talk about our church on her blog (The blog is mainly for her friends and family) so I was encouraged to see that she picked up something cool from the weekend.
Check out Annie's post from Sunday.
I wrote earlier this week that I felt like this week was a week when I was able to get out of the way and let Christ write the message. I did get out of the way and He did have his way with the message. Each week I ask my wife how I did. This week she gave me a 10. She usually doesn't do that. I usually get an 8 or so. She's an honest gauge.
I'm talking about Shifting our faith from a me-centered faith to a He-centered faith. The illustration I gave was that of dinner. If I eat at a resturant I sit back to have someone wait on me. At the end of my meal I may tip if I like what was given to me. If I go to a friend's home for dinner I offer to help (prepare or clean up). I asked our people how do they treat their faith. Is our faith one where we simply sit back and treat our experience as a business exchange or one where we are honored to be in the home of someone we love?
I'll leave you with the text from Matthew 13 along with the 4 types of people we talked about:
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed.
4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear."
18"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
Those who are in Spiritual Poverty:
19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.Those who are Spiritually Perishing:
20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.Those who are in Spiritual Panic:
22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
Those who are in Spiritual Production:
23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
I'm experiencing a heafty amount of change this week.
The church is moving into our offices today. (read: out of my home)
My son will be born (the Dr. believes) within the week.
My wife and I purchased some home furnishings we think are nifty.
We have started a process that could lead to something pretty amazing for our church.
This is the stuff I love. I enjoy change and embrace it as a movement forward. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lord changes me through these processes. I'm looking forward to seeing how I will change as a Pastor when my son is born. I'm looking forward to the challenge of getting more people involved in the ministry by providing tools for our laypeople to use at our new office. I'm also looking forward to seeing where God takes the process we've stepped into the other day. Change is cool.
How do you handle change?
How'd you feel when you became a parent?
Have you been able to get lay people involved in your office space?
Why is the sky blue?
Drano for your Sermon [part 2]
What is our primary responsibility in communicating the gospel?
I believe it is to get out of the way! Our role is to drink Spiritual Drano to get out of the way of God's word getting to the hearts of those who listen. Our attention should be on removing more than adding.
You see we can hinder the gospel in two major ways.
1. We can blame God for our garbage.
2. We can steal God's glory in the name of 'preaching the gospel'.
Take out the Trash:
We can blame God for our garbage means that we proclaim that what we teach/preach/talk/share/discuss each week comes from God's word to the listener's heart. We are Christ's representation for many people so it's important that we represent Him well.
God's word is most effective when we as Pastors know two things:
2. Our people
Knowing God- Our messages are best when they come from the overflow in our lives. Rob Bell says that he lets a message live with him for a year or more before teaching the biblical truth. He challenges us to only speak from what is a part of our fabric. I'm not there by any stretch but his challenge is one I hope to be able to take up some day. We must know God and the truth applied to our lives before we teach it. Pastors are infamous for teaching about the family while their wife and children never see them or only see them when the Pastor is in a bad mood.
John 17:3 is my favorite verse in the bible because it simply defines eternity (past, present, future) as 'to know God'.
Knowing Our people:
Andy Stanley has been quoted saying: "We are answering questions the world is not asking." This can become a major problem in ministry if we're not careful. Please don't assume that we 'up and coming' Jesus Christ Superstars are immune from this... we can just as well answer questions not being asked by our community.
Here's what I mean:
Sermon resource providers around the country are doing messages that directly tie into their congregation's needs. After the message is completed, edited, mastered and packaged it becomes available online. The provider shouts a key word that is too often overlooked... CONTEXTUALIZE.
I was in Dallas in January for C3 and had the opportunity to meet up with my friend Mitch. We talked about the people and culture of North Dallas. I remember saying to Mitch "Fellowship HAS to be upscale. It's a must here." To reach this culture Fellowship has to be at the other end of the pole what Mother Teresa was by simplifying to reach the poor of Calcutta.
Each of us however can find ourselves being irrelevant if we copy the target demographic of another church without realizing it. There are places where high-class is a turn off. There are places where simple just won't get it done. We have to be aware of that.
What does that have to do with blaming God? Everything. If God has you in an area and you want to 'Bloom where you're planted', you have to do everything you can to KNOW your area. Gary provided this insight in his post on Terry's blog not too long ago. You have to know who you are going after so that you can adjust any programming to fit that culture. Don't blame God because you tried to be Ed Young in a Mother Theresa town or vise versa.
A few other things not to blame God for:
1. Mismanagement of church funds.
2. Lack of preparation for a message.
3. Your attitude and people skills. (not numchuk skills or drawing skills)
4. Poor use of the English language that hinders your ability to communicate.
5. Any thing else.
Okay, moving on to the one I got email about:
Stealing from the King?
We can steal God's glory in the name of 'preaching the gospel'.
It seems that we have a delicate balance to strike when it comes to leading our people.
People can get in the habit of following your personality first, your vision second and your God third. If we aren't aware of this we will fall into the trap of stealing God's glory.
I've often said that we church planters have to 1. Understand this and 2. Embrace it as a fact.
What I want to remind all Pastors today however is 3. You must move people along in the path toward Christ and away from yourself.
This concept is NOT NEW.
Children of God have constantly had a problem with following an invisible God. His children have a tendency to drift toward wanting something more 'tangible'. We should recall the scene Moses was faced with after coming down out of his meeting with the Lord. The 'golden calf' was supposed to be something tangible taking the place of the Living God. Then again in Samuel we need to remember that the people of God wanted a king. The bible even points out that God was cool with Samuel because God knew it was the people of God who wanted to replace the true King with an earthly king.
I believe we are fooling ourselves if we ignore this human symptom and say that it's not happening in many churches (big AND SMALL). This post has nothing to do with the 10 people you're immediately attaching to the words. It has to do with all of us.
I've recently heard more than one Pastor tell me about his church where the people fold when challenged to follow the Lord. We as Pastors find that (when we press our people) they are really a part of the body of Christ for social functions or because 'they like the Pastor or music'. I believe that is a fine reason to have someone come through the doors in the initial stages but for a discipled Christian it's a weak approach to the throne of God. The veil was torn from the top down at the cross of Christ.
Jesus called people to follow Him with phrases like:
"Let the dead bury their dead"
"He who loves his mother and father more than me is not worthy of the Kingdom."
"He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."
Christ called his people to follow HIM.
The Pastors who fall into moral sin tend to be those who 'believe their own press releases' (in political speak) or believe that they are above every other sinner on the planet who has a tendency to deny the love of God.
Paul mentioned the key for us to keep in mind as we lead our churches:
1 Corinthians 3:7
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
In conclusion... keep aware of your people in the discipling process. It's EASY for people to follow you before following Christ. If you lead someone to the Lord they will view you as their spiritual father. If you are a charismatic personality you will undoubtedly attract a fan club. It's important for you and I to remember what Paul said: We are nothing, God is everything.
Take on the heart of John the Baptist (John 3:30)
"He must become greater, I must become less."
There's your Spiritual Drano... Get out of God's way.
Drano for your Sermon [part 1]
As I began doing some message prep yesterday I thought "Jesus is writing my message this week." It's just one of those times where you immerse yourself in the text in such a way that you feel like you completely 'get it'. When your talk just comes together so well that you have to keep up with writing as fast as the thoughts are coming to you. I compare it to basketball when you're "in the zone". With that feeling it seems as if anything you put in the air is going to go through the basket. It's a great feeling to have early in the week as you prepare a message. Sadly, that feeling isn't always there and at times we work hard to live up to pressure of hitting a clutch shot.
The hoop (goal) is the same distance... it doesn't move. What does change is our presumed pressure to acheive. When our focus gets off of the simple shot we've hit over and over and the focus shifts to 'the pressure' we can feel obligated to do more than necessary. What is necessary is to shoot the ball into the hoop. Often times when we do more than necessary we can ruin our shot.
As communicators of the gospel we are taking text that has survived thousands of years and translations and attempting to communicate it to the hearts, minds and souls of human beings. Our task is to communicate timeless truths coming from the very heart of the creator of the universe. The words we utter and attempt to magnify are the very words of God. I don't think I think about this as often as I should. Truth be known I don't think I'm in this boat alone.
God doesn't need me. He's God, he's not needy. I do know that God wants me and that's a pretty cool thought. The Lord of Creation wants me on his team and wants to use me to communicate with His people.
What then is my role?
Some would shout "Preach the Gospel!" as they pound their fist on the table.
I'd say yes... but what does that mean?
In a world of propositional truth battling with postmodern propositionalism we find ourselves paralized as to our role. Many in the ministry shrink from the big question at hand and simply copy what other Pastors say (and many times they copy poorly). We treat the communication of the gospel as a new movie each week or as a bed time story to some children we're babysitting. It's far more than that!
I may be speaking more for myself today than for you but follow me... What is our primary responsibility in this whole deal?
I believe it is to get out of the way! Our role is to drink Spiritual Drano to get out of the way of God's word getting to the hearts of those who listen. Our attention should be on removing more than adding.
You see we can hinder the gospel in two major ways.
1. We can blame God for our garbage.
2. We can steal God's glory in the name of 'preaching the gospel'.
to be continued...
You don't help me
This morning I got up a little earlier than normal and spent a few hours at my local Starbucks.
As I was reading I overheard a lady with her two children. She had a boy who looked about 6 and a girl who was probably 3 and she was pregnant with what I presume is her 3rd child. After she ordered and came over toward where I was sitting to the condiment rack her son asked "Mom, can I help?" and the daughter said "Yeah, mom can I stir it this time?"
The mother snapped back with "NO!" The boy didn't fuss but he asked "How come?" She said "Because when you help, you really don't help."
I don't know if the kid will remember those remarks or not. I'm surprised at the words I recall in my life that left a scar. I then quickly thought "God, thank you for letting me stir."
God is so good to us. He's truly the perfect father. He allows us the privilege to "help" him.
Have you ever seen a young child attempt to help his father push-mow the grass? The child can hardly reach the handle of the mower but he believes he's doing what daddy does. As he stands on his tip-toes and walks he gets the joy of seeing the job done. All the while the father (who holds the mower handles on the outside of his son's hands) is doing all of the work.
In your Christian walk I encourage you to praise God for what you get to help Him with. Also remember that no matter your success, it's your daddy who's pushing the mower... you just get to "help".
Pray for Perry
Take a moment and pray for Perry Noble. He's a fellow blogger and Pastor. He is now recovering from complications stemming from an elective operation. You can check his blog for updates on his health.
Perry, we wish you well.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Perry is doing much better today and continues to improve. He had a heart catheter this morning, and the results came back very positive. He was able to get up a walk a few steps yesterday, and his appetite (that he's so famous for) is beginning to make its comeback.
Thank you all for your prayers and concerns. Continue to lift him up in prayer as he recovers.
Lately I've been talking to more church planters (the blog, email and locally) about the most important things to keep in mind when planting (or Pastoring for that matter). One of the biggest things for me has been to keep focused in spite of the pulling forces all church planters face.
In a plant everyone in the core (or beginning crowd) is usually of the Christian breed. Everyone claims they want the same thing and for a while everyone plays the role. It never ceases to amaze me however that when a career Christian gets comfortable... WHAM!
Gary has mentioned before that he doesn't have trouble with the unchurched. I "Amen, brother" his testimony. I've had the same experience.
The people who are most in love with our church are those who have had life change here. Christians who have come in with a skeptical eye have never lasted. What's worse than not lasting are those who stick with it when they know they'll never be apart of the vision. Those people who stick around and become your 'spiritual sandpaper'. They just rub you the wrong way.
Recently a gentleman within our church picked up on this concept. He came to me and said "Tally, some people need to know some things and you're not the one to tell them. I think I'm going to begin talking to some people. You need more support around here." He went on to say "People need to realize that our church is not all about them. It's about seeing people come to Christ and they need to lead, follow or get out of the way."
I nodded in silent support but on the inside I had a 3-ring circus going on. He's getting it! So for the last two Sundays I've seen him making his rounds. Some people he's encouraged and others he's challenged to squash their problems or come to me. We don't have a lot of drama going on right now but he's aware that if you let junk fester it can become bad news.
I encourage you to learn the lesson of Lead, Follow or Get out of the way! People are dying and headed to a real hell every day. That carries much more weight with me than Career Christians who want everything to look like their last church.
This is so funny! The sad part is that it's real!
Check out the Altar Boyz!
This morning I received an email from a person I've discipled for a number of years.
The question was posed to me: Have you ever been broken by God?
Click here to download this file: Broken
I've had a few times when God "broke" me. The first and maybe most significant was as a summer missionary in Houston, TX. I was there with about 50 other high school seniors and college students. We lived in a big house and worked in the community at Christian centers that fed the poor and offered education and training etc. The only day "off" was Saturday each week and there would be 2 options apart from staying around the house. Option 1: Go to Wal-mart (get supplies, pictures, etc) Option 2: Go on a Bread-Run. A bread run was taking day-old bread to the inner city. The neighborhoods where we took bread were some of the worst I've ever seen (and I grew up on welfare in Baltimore City so that's saying something). The houses were falling apart and the neighborhoods were in terrible shape. Anyway, I had put off doing a bread run (it was volunteer only all summer) until 2 weeks before I was to return home.
We woke up early and loaded the bed of a pickup truck with bread that the local bakery couldn't sell. It only had like a day or so before the sale date so they donated it each week. Anyway we drove down into this part of town and I got out on one side of the truck and a friend got out on the other. As we turned the corner people came out from everywhere. They knew the familiar sight and they were pleased to see us. It was amazing to see people so excited about so little. To them this was the highlight of their week (free bread). We weren't giving out ice-cream or cake. We were giving out plain old bread (and some gospel information).
Well, as I looked down the road I saw this little boy who looked to be about 7 years old. He was dirty and didn't have shirt or shoes. He had cut-off pants for shorts and the top button was unbuttoned b/c they didn't look like they fit him. He just looked like he was in bad shape. He was standing down the street looking as if he wanted to come up to us but he was afraid so I motioned to him to come and I smiled. He smiled and ran up the street to me. As he got closer he slowed down and stayed about 4-5 feet from me. I reached out a loaf of bread to him and handed it to him. This is the moment that changed my view of self. He took that bread and looked up to me so gently and said "Thank You".
As he turned to run back home I followed him with my eyes. He went back home down the street to one of the worst homes in the area. He ran past the hole in the fence where a gate would be, past his living room furniture which was in the front yard and squeezed between a hole where the front door was laying over the place where the door should go. He ran into a 'home' where the back end of the roof had collapsed. Literally his house had fallen in and his family was still living in the front part of the house with the rest of their furniture in the front yard. The grass was about 2 feet tall with bottles and trash all around. I could not believe my eyes.
At this point in my life I was a 17-year-old kid who was hanging around a crowd that wasn't the most beneficial. I was fighting the same fights most 17 year olds face with popularity and the need for "more". I wanted my mom to buy me more stuff and I was mad if I didn't have the best that other kids had. At this moment... I was broken. I don't really remember the rest of our morning. All I could think about was this kid and the way he looked at me so thankfully. I thought about his home and situation and how ungrateful I was.
When I arrived back to the mission house I went up to my bunk and pulled a blanket to cover my bunk. I put my face in my pillow and cried. I remember as I cried I prayed out loud "Lord, please help me to see you the way that little boy saw me!" "I don't want to be so shallow and greedy. I want to appreciate and love you for who you are."
Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, allow me to introduce to you a man who will leave you breathless with his awe inspiring posts (is that a good intro?).
Seriously... I want you to meet JR Vasser. JR is a church planter I met in Atlanta when I went to visit NAMB a few months ago. JR and his family moved from Lake Pointe Church in TX where he was a teaching Pastor to plant Manhattan Christian Church in (you guessed it) Manhattan, NYC.
He's an extremely funny guy and it was great to meet he and his wife in the ATL. I look forward to watching his ministry take off. He has a clear vision and extreme passion for what he's doing. He's worth adding to your blogroll!
So without further smack from me... Meet JR Vasser!
After reading Ben's blog and learning that he has started adding MP3's to his site, I was inspired to see if I could answer the technology call. So thanks to my main man Matt Morgan (an Associate Pastor at History Church) I was given the info I needed.
I've uploaded a talk I gave a few years ago while I was a Youth Pastor at our old church. It was recorded because I was in "Big Church" that day batting clean up during the Pastor's vacation stretch.
This message inspired a series I'm finishing up this week. I'll likely use the general outline but replace some of the stories and thin it down to a respectable time of 25-30 minutes. This one went 45. I guess I got a little excited being under the lights.
Each of the points emphasize parts of this verse:
Be still, and know that I AM GOD- The point of our lives (to know God) John 17:3
Be STILL- To get to knowing, we must first stop doing. Be STILL.
BE- We read right past this but "Be" assumes we know who we are. Start at the core and work outward.
Listen to the talk: Be Still
Check out this post by Todd Ruth from Granger. This may be the funniest thing you see today!
This lets me see what I'll experience here in just a few weeks (my wife Kristy is due on the 22nd).
Check out Holy Crap!
One of the things I love about blogging is the ability to connect with people around the country and exchange ideas about ministry. So many times in the ministry we can begin to feel that not many people understand us. Often in most churches the Pastor is a generalist who 'does it all' and the only local network available is a network of people with whom he doesn't connect. So instead of trying to bridge false relationships, the average Pastor will usually go at it alone. Big Mistake.
I want to encourage you (especially if you are in the ministry) to find good friends and talk through life with them. Talk about the pressures you face, pray for one another, talk strategy or just chill out with them. These are people who understand what you're faced with... let them be a comfort.
I've been blessed to have a great friendship with a college friend, John Smith. Although we now live 1608 miles from one another, we talk at least 5-6 times a week (sometimes multiple times throughout the day depending on what's going on). Recently we've been using MSN messenger's video conference feature to brainstorm and let our families see one another (He just had a child and I have one coming in about 2-3 weeks). This relationship is important to both of us. Our wives are good friends as well so that's a bonus. We know each other's faults and we know each other's strengths. There's no need for us to put on that 'face'. We're real with one another. We pray with one another and for one another regularly. It's a huge asset to both of us.
Through the blog world I've gained encouragement from others as well. The point is that we all need this. We weren't meant to be a Lone-Ranger (even he had Tonto). It's important that you meet people in the ministry with whom you can connect and communicate .
Recently I've talked to various Pastors via email (and most recently about 10 minutes ago on the phone). Here are some of the topics:
- Moral questions
- "How's your family, marriage, etc."-accountability
- Prayed with one another
- Advice about launching a church
- Media buying
- Membership (or not?)
- Publishing giving?
- Conflict w/in the body
- Hiring/Firing staff
- Meeting location fell through
- Sound Equipment
These are relevant issues for most of us but how often do we face these things alone? Too often! So put yourself out there. Visit some blogs and get to know how people think. Encourage them and they'll encourage you. Form your own E-network so you stay connected to people who "get" you. It will make for a huge spiritual and emotional payoff as you continue in your ministry.
Diversify to Diversify
As a Pastor it's so easy to get caught with your pants down (not that way, that's another sad post about morality in the ministry) when talking about a subject with people in your community. To bridge the relational gap between yourself and those you lead (and attempt to reach), you need to be able to carry on conversations that go a little further than "It's so great to see you this Sunday! I love that tie/dress."
What I've noticed unfortunately is that many Pastors have NO CLUE what to talk about outside of ministry. Conversations rarely get past the superficial and therefore the ability to connect stays in the shallow end of the pool. Many pastors have grown up in Christian bubbles and find it difficult to relate on any level outside of ministry experience.
--Pastors usually aren't up on current events
--They don't read the latest books
--They don't usually stay aware of local political issues.
What's worse to me is that in addition to not being aware these things, Pastors often will take the word of other people who are equally as ignorant and propogate it as if it's true.
It is my hope that the next generation of Pastors would become more diverse. Jesus talked to people using language that was familiar to their culture (vine and branches, hand to the plow, render to Ceaser, etc.) Jesus didn't say "I don't have time to learn and discuss agriculture, that's secular and I'm a man of the gospel!"
Here are some thoughts to help you diversify your life so you can diversify your ministry reach:
This week try and learn about what people do on their jobs. Say "Yeah Bob, you work on Airplanes? It amazes me how that much steel gets into the air... how does that work?" Bob will be glad to show you how much he knows and you'll get to know a little about him.
Listen more than you talk:
The old saying "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason" rings true. Diversify by being a listener. Don't simply wait to talk. Listen. Pick up on key phrases that display emotion or a past concern. These phrases that go by in general conversation are usually doors the person is allowing you to see. If you turn the knob you will find rooms of information about them they would love to share but are rarely asked.
Read Trade Literature:
Read what your people read. If you live in an area where there is a lot of a particular industry, I beg you to read their trade magazines. Find out about the industry. I can't tell you how many conversational in-roads I've had because I knew a little about that person's industry. Again, people open up if they feel like you are willing to go into their world.
Read Governmental, Historical and Business books:
You learn from 100 speaches by reading one good book. Someone spent a year (or years) finding the best information to put in black and white. You can spend an hour a day learning from them. I assure you that you will quickly find many principles that cross over among various industries (and in your case Ministries). Your creativity and problem-solving abilities increase as well due to the fact that you expand your experience zone. The more angles you have at a problem, the greater the opportunity for you to solove the problem.
Watch some news and sports:
The world changes daily around you. If you are attempting to take the timeless truths of the Gospel into a culture, you have to understand what that culture looks like. In truly globalized economy so much of what goes on here affects other parts of the world and vise-versa. Watch a major news cast and spit out the bones of the slant (left or right) to get to the straight truth of the world around you. Pastors so often times ignore everything around them and claim to be relevant at the same time.
I'm a sports fan but I don't know a bunch of statistics. It's not an area where I spend that much time. I have learned however that many people are huge fanatics (especially those sitting at home on Sundays watching pre-game shows). Having a general idea of sports provides conversation that again can turn to deeper topics as you develop that relationship. One person who's surprised me with their sports knowledge and passion is Sara over at Fellowship Church. She seems to kick tail when it comes to this area.
Get out more:
One of the worst things to happen to Pastors is the office. If you are presenting the gospel please present it in a relevant way. God is not dusty and out of date. He's always in fashion however we in the church make him seem out of touch and this to me is presenting the average person a god that is not the God of the bible. Get out more so you can get to know and understand the people whom you are attempting to reach. If you have an office, make it a habit to study or work from a coffee shop, park or in the middle of a shoping area at a bench so that you can be more in touch with your community. Don't go from the 4 walls of your house to the 4 walls of your office every day.
Have your kids involved in sports within the community. Coach a team. Go to an art exibit. It doesn't matter... just get out! Expand your horizons and diversify your knowledge base so you can more easily relate to your community.
Have you experienced the joy of building in-roads to nuture others spiritually through something other than "church stuff"?
Thoughts on Live 8
I've been reading on some Christian blogs a disdain for the event that happened on Saturday known as Live 8. It seems that some Christians are bothered by the concert and the mixing of Christians like Rick Warren and Jars of Clay being side-by-side with men like Chris Tucker.
I 'get' where they are coming from but I completely disagree.
What impressed me:
In fact I was impressed with some of the video shown at Live 8 of performers actually going to the poverty ravaged places in Africa for whom the concert will benefit. I listened to Kanye West mention that he is likely to get sued for dropping a concert in order to play at Live 8. I watched videos that showed artists among the prostitutes of impoverished nations talking with them about the need for something better and encouraging them to avoid that lifestyle. Then I observed this: "The raucous crowd fell silent when Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof replayed Live Aid footage of dying Ethiopians. After freezing on the image of a girl on the verge of death, the same person, a now healthy Birhan Woldu, was introduced on stage." [Read more of Birhan's story here] This young woman is now getting an Agriculture degree! Please don't say it doesn't work. It worked for her.
It's so easy for us to sit back with meat on our bones in front of computers worth $1-3,000 and say "Live 8 can't do anything... The church is where it's at." That's true and false at the same time. Yes the church CAN change the world but NO the church isn't changing the world at least not in much of the African world. (I know that American Christianity probably has a few hundred missionaries over there however I also know that your denomination probably only recognizes the 15 you "sponsor".)
If the church spent time focusing on poverty and helping to cure disease at least two things would happen:
1. You'd see more followers of Christ.
2. You wouldn't need Live 8.
Is the Live 8 plan perfect? No.
- Africa is the only continent which is more poor today than it was 25 years ago.
- Africa is plagued with an incredible amount of political corruption.
- War has continued in parts such as the Sudan for years where millions are slaughtered over religion.
- Money can't immediately solve these problems.
So no, Live 8 is not perfect and neither are the performers (or critics). We're so blind though if we wait for the perfect relief to come along.
George Washington once wrote to Alexander Hamilton towards the end of the Constitutional Convention: " ... In a word I almost despair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do, therefore, repent having any agency in the business." He wrote these words regretting his participation to Alexander Hamilton after 'compromise' swept through the halls. Do you know what that compromise was that Washington thought to be so terrible? It's what we now call "The Great Compromise", a congress divided into the House and Senate where the Senate has 2 representatives from each state and the House is comprised of a representation based on the population of each state. This compromise allowed for the ratification of the Constitution, the very governmental bedrock upon which this country is built.
I'm honestly glad that the men at the Constitutional Convention didn't wait for perfection to come along before putting our governmental system in place.
Pride is a problem in Christ's Church:
As time speeds by, change is ever-increasing, and technology & transportation continue to develop, people around the world become closer neighbors. Christians can wake up and become more aware of how to 'love their neighbor' or they can keep their blinders on to these world issues and keep doing what they're doing. The last time I checked Christianity (as a whole) hasn't tried to tackle something like poverty in Africa on any substantial scale. The reality is yes, we do have the ability to make a huge dent through the Church. The problem (read: disgrace) is that if we seriously tried to organize all Christ-followers we would see the worst that humanity has to offer in the form of "Christian" leaders who would refuse to work with "that guy" or "those people". This week rappers, rockers, republicans and democrats displayed a ridiculous amount of unity around a cause we should embrace... human life.
There has to be more to our faith than this.
Stand Like Lincoln
I enjoy all types of reading. I generally rotate between something to do with business, government, history, Christianity and practical application. This week I've been reading a great book on public speaking and wanted to recommend it to many of you who communicate regularly. The book is called "Speak like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln".
I was turned on to this book by my friend Ben Arment of History Church outside of Washington D.C.
What I love about this book is it's simplicity and pointedness. It's an easy read from a literary perspective and it makes practical sense from a speaking perspective.
If you speak regularly you will want to get this one. There are practical tips on how to write your speech, layout your speech, put together power lines (lines with a punch) and even gets into areas such as how to dress for each audience. The beauty of this book is found in the fact that the Author James C. Humes served as a ghostwriter for several U.S. Presidents and is an authority on the life and public speaking of Winston Churchill. All of us who speak can certainly gain great nuggets of insight from this book.