What about your friends?
Growing up in Baltimore City I fell in love with Hip-Hop music. I listened to everyone from Grand Puba to Digital Underground, Pac, Biggie and many others that did not contribute positively to my spiritual growth. One group that was hot at that time was "TLC". As I titled this post I thought of their song "What about your friends? Will they stand their ground? Will they let you down? Are they gonna be around?" <---beside the point
A genuine friendship as I've come to define it... is a bi-lateral and co-equal relationship between two people who share details of their life (past/present/future) without the fear of rejection.
Based on this definition I have a few "friends".
In the sense that I openly share myself with them and they with me. I know their thoughts, feelings, experiences etc. Those relationships are few. I have MANY MANY MANY relationships with people I enjoy but our exchanges remain limited around a topic or subject. They aren't "life" relationships.
Many pastors are "friendly" with people but I've discovered that most have no true friends (apart from their spouse if they're fortunate to even consider their spouse a 'friend').
Jesus loved the world but in His sovereignty only personally saw a percentage face to face... He spent a lot of time with 12, hung out tightly with 3 and the bible records 1 was the one 'whom He loved'. He modeled this healthy relationship pattern for us to follow.
1. Pastor you seriously need a friend.
2. Quit pretending that you have a lot of friends when they are really acquaintances.
3. To make friends of acquaintances, become vulnerable, share experiences, share fears, dreams, thoughts, etc.
4. This/These friend(s) should be of your same sex or else you're asking for a destroyed ministry and marriage.
5. To have a friend you have to be a friend.
6. Everyone doesn't have to be your true friend.
7. Learn to be comfortable in your skin if you realize people don't like you.
8. Youth Pastors ARE NEVER FRIENDS with students. If you're 25 and need a 15 year old friend, get out of the ministry.
9. You can be FRIENDLY without being 'friends'.
10. Genuine friendship takes time.
Nurture the lives of others and you'll see which ones are worth pursuing toward true friendship and which ones should stick as acquaintance phase. Many of my acquaintances are 'friends in waiting' or 'potential friends'.
One more thing... Friends shine when you're faced with adversity. When you go through hell, look around... your true friends are standing there with you.
Pastor Appreciation Minute
While October is supposed to be Pastor Appreciation month, it's usually something like a birthday party or a wedding. People calm down for a few days and celebrate while not fully dealing with their own baggage and poor attitudes that lurk below the surface.
I value team and loyalty in a BIG way. I don't have a problem letting someone go if they aren't loyal or they carry another agenda. A long time ago either Ed Young or Andy Stanley talked about the Pastor's vision driving the car of the church. They drew up on a white-board a car with 4 tires. 3 tires were aligned but one was just slightly turned to an angle. The question "What is going to happen to this car?" Obviously it's not going to be productive and eventually will experience major breakdown. The point was "get alignment or get rid of that faulty tire."
"Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor."
God wants us to value those who teach us the word. Not because the people themselves (in and of themselves) are special but rather because the Word being taught is so valuable to our lives. We should honor and deeply value the teaching of God's word. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."
In many churches these principles are no longer taught. In most cases they aren't taught because the Pastors feel that it would be self-serving to teach these principles. I wonder aloud however if this is a problem in itself. Is it possible that God grows people by having them obey him and showing honor, respect, loyalty and humility to those to teach and preach the word? In fact I know it's so.
Fortunately for me I learned this value very early on. In the church I was raised there were many 'Senior Saints' who honored and respected their Pastor. He was treated as a man sent from God to share the good news. He lived a life above reproach and taught the word in such a way as to say 'Thus saith the Lord." I always called him "Pastor" out of respect. (If you attend Focal Point you do not have to call me by a title, I'm just sharing my experience.)
Later in life I sat under Dr. Jerry Falwell. People who haven't spent a day around him or his ministry don't have a true picture of who he is. The people of his church love and respect him. He's a man of God who teaches the Word of God. Later on in life I worked for a man whom I could no longer call "my Pastor". I had gotten to a place where I felt he was only a man who was my boss. I still removed myself from that ministry in such a way as to honor him and his authority as Shepard of that congregation. I believe strongly in Romans 13 and the idea that God can bring down those whom he pleases.
I say all of that to say that I agree with a post I read over on Pastor Steven Furtick's blog. You should check it out ESPECIALLY if you are not a Lead Pastor.
I get annoyed with crybaby Pastors. The reason is that most crybaby Pastors have 1,000 things going in their favor and they can't appreciate them.
Then there are the other Pastors. The ones who don't cry about their situation but they suck it up and keep going. Church planting is difficult. Church planting that targets a part of our society who is most definitely not "pop" can be brutal. Seeing how difficult church planting can be without much support has made me come to appreciate certain people so much more. This post isn't about me or our church... read on...
I'm around all types of church planters and pseudo-church planters on a pretty regular basis and I have seen people break at all levels. I've seen people quit a year in or even a few months in... I've also seen people hang on through the most challenging of circumstances to come out extremely successful.
If you don't start with a bang it takes a LOT longer to see the fruit of your labor. I've seen far too many planters who quit b/c their launch wasn't what they thought it would be. I've also seen the opposite. Most of the planters I've seen have churches that grow, then decline, grow, decline on and on in a vicious cycle. Usually the church that breaks that cycle is the church that pushes through the adversity long enough to see their true identity and their uniqueness. These successful churches can then capitalize on that uniqueness and more clearly articulate why God would have them exist at all. This laser focus then draws others with a similar mind-set. Planting a church in every area is tough for various reasons. One thing about our area is that each locality here has a very unique attitude or climate. As a church is able to tap into a subculture within that overall attitude they are more successful. Unfortunately I've seen too many churches unable to tap into that from the get go. Most of the time it's because they aren't sure how far they can go before the leash gets yanked back on their vision. Over time the planter has a decision to make... do I do exactly what God is leading me to do or do I fold up shop and do something else? Unfortunately many choose to retire from ministry or at least planting.
But then there are the difference makers:
Last night I spent some time at my friend Robb's new warehouse space. They are renovating an old warehouse in downtown Norfolk. Seeing the adversity they have faced makes me appreciate their ministry all the more. Last night I walked into this space and was pumped at what they are doing. With a shoestring budget and completely unpaid labor force they are making huge strides toward having a facility that will make an impact on their part of town.
They have faced every obstacle a church could face and yet they remain strong. Their warehouse has flooded, their heating is in disrepair, financial obstacles, many friends misunderstand what they are about and on and on... but they have remained strong and I believe they will make a huge impact on this city. The consequence of great vision doesn't come neatly wrapped in a bow and certain parts of our society are harder to reach than others. So Robb and his team are believing God for his provision as they continue working diligently to be found faithful in the vision they have been given. I am certain they will be honored for it.
If you're a Pastor in a position to make a real difference in the life of another ministry, I highly recommend Robb and Epic City Church. They need materials, some manpower and of course some cash. Their church target are people who don't own houses with white picket fences so they are limited in their means to get certain things done... and I assure you if you saw what they've done with little you'd be confident in what they could do with much. When I walked in last night they had nearly everyone there working and they've done so as a church for nearly 2 months. Their people provide the labor, the finances, their vehicles for hauling debris and so on... they've gotten the ball into the red-zone. I believe their are a few readers out there who would be interested in helping them score. Maybe you have resources, a team, materials, a contractor in your church, a rich uncle... whatever... and you say "God, where is there a group of people getting it done who just need that extra nudge?" I'm telling you... I know the church... it's my friend Robb's church. Make it happen, lend them a hand. They are worth the investment.
A Prayer for Josh
In our city we have the largest Naval Base in the world. Norfolk, VA is home to many many military families. Before moving to the area I didn't honestly know much about the hardship that the military life can put on a family. Now having Pastored here I'll never be able to forget.
Last week I went on a trip that took me away from my family for 4 days. Although I loved my trip and was glad to accomplish many things that needed to be accomplished, I did not enjoy being away from my wife and son. Our men and women who serve in the military go away for months and sometimes a year or more. I cannot personally imagine the hardship they face.
We have in our church a guy by the name of Josh who is deploying for the second time in a year. He's only been back "home" for a few months but much of that time has been spent in training. Literally he will have spent maybe 2-3 weeks with his family between deployment, training, etc. What Josh does is dangerous and he will be placed in a very dangerous part of Iraq.
Two Sundays ago I stopped our service before the sermon to pray for Josh, to pray for a friend. In attendance that day was Josh's family from Florida who drove up here to be with him and catch a glipse of him before he went back to war. After the service his sister Nicole asked me for a copy of the prayer. Today she sent me an email with a website she created in honor of her brother and as a reminder for her family and friends to pray for him.
It's a cool reminder to me. If you wouldn't mind, take a moment to pray for any troops you know. If you don't personally know any or maybe you're like me a few years ago and don't know the hardships personally... visit this site: aPrayerForJosh.com
Episcopal Church Readers?
A while back I went on a quest to have my blog read on the continent of Africa. After a few weeks my tracking log started to catch a few hits. Who knows, maybe the mere mention of the place caused some people to stumble on it.
Today I'm asking a similar question:
Are any of you, my intelligent and uber-cool readers from the Episcopal Church? I have some questions and would love to talk with you. Shoot me an email or drop a comment and we'll chat.
I find it hard to believe the true Christian man of God can ignore an undercutting of Christ's church. A while back I wrote about Pastors in our area fishing in each other's aquarium. This weekend I dealt with yet another one of those situations. This one unfortunately had been going on for nearly 6 years (I wasn't personally involved for the bulk of that time). I decided on Tuesday that I had heard enough. At 8a.m. I went to this churches office and waited for the Pastor to arrive.
I won't go into the details here but lets suffice it to say that I didn't walk out regretting anything . During the conversation I was asked "How is it fishing in the Aquarium if they were ours to begin with." You see, this man Pastors a church from which a new church was birthed over 6 years ago. For 6 years now there have been ignorant and selfish people who couldn't get the idea of church planting. They refused to understand that God could do a new work through 40-50 people who stepped out from this church of 500. Instead of being excited for a church plant they have spent 6 years attacking, backbiting and openly praying for its demise.
I challenged this man to repent and to get his people to repent and seek after Jesus. The more they focus on other churches, the less they are focused on Christ and the redemption of the city.
I believe confrontation is mandatory for those who love God and who are called to shepard God's people. Humans are not possessions. Pastors, we don't trade herds of cattle. We are out to be a vibrant, exciting, opportunity-rich church that exists to see that no one in our cities goes to hell. Quite literally people should have to go to hell over our dead bodies. When the church IS what God called it to be it is one of the most powerful places on the planet. However when the church isn't acting like the church, it can be the most backwards and destructive place. It becomes a Weapon of Mass Distraction. People need the church to be about Jesus' business and when it's not men of God with the Word of God need to course-correct and make it the place of God.
Now the time of the Passover was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found men in the temple area who were selling cattle and sheep and doves, and also the moneychangers who were doing business. So He fashioned a whip out of cords, and went into the temple and drove out the cattle and the sheep, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and He scattered their coins. And He went up to those who were selling doves and said to them, "Get these things out of here! How dare you turn My Father's house into a marketplace!" Then His disciples remembered what was written in the Scriptures, "Zeal for Your house will consume me." John 2:13-17
If you've read my blog with any regularity since I started in 2003 you know that from time to time I go below the radar. When I'm in this stealth mode I am usually up to something. I'm either working on a project I don't care to talk about, I'm in the middle of some spiritual wrestling match or I started to feel the blog as a burden so I refuse to write so that I continue to love doing it. As a Pastor I have plenty of things tugging at me and I enjoy the blog as a hobby so I can't afford to let it become a burden.
This past week I went below the radar for a combination of a few of those reasons. I've been working hard and traveling so I didn't have time to blog and yes late last week I felt a little funk (I bet I'm alone in that one) and I also didn't want to "force" myself to post something.
Now I'm back. I just wanted to give you a heads up because my friend Ben Arment and I spoke today for a while catching up and he said "Tally, I look to your blog to see how you've been doing but you don't post much lately." I said "Thanks Ben... for the kick in the teeth." :)
So... I'm back and pumped... I'll share more of it in the posts to follow. Tally Out.
Traveling Tip from Tally
If you're going to be flying anytime soon I want to encourage you to check out SeatGuru.com. I'm traveling this weekend and this morning I got on this site to look over my seats. I'm not a huge fan of flying in the first place but there aren't many things worse than getting stuck in a terrible seat on a plane. Anything that will help me make a good seat selection is huge in my eyes.
Seat Guru allows you to see the best seats on any flight based on consumer reporting. They factor in things such as leg room, noise, seat inclines, etc. You just tell Seat Guru what type of plane you'll be on and it will give you information on all seats on your flight.
This morning I made an adjustement on one of my flights based on Seat Guru's recommendation. Check it out.
I came across this site called "Birds Eye Tourist" which is basically a blog collecting interesting images from satellite images via Google Earth and Microsoft's Live Search.
After seeing a few sites from my hometown of Baltimore, MD I decided to take a look for some key places of my childhood. I'll post two.
The first is the church building where I was lead to the Lord. 2nd and 4th Baptist Church. It's located on the corner of Orleans and N. Luzerne in Baltimore, MD. In the heart of the city. I came to Christ because a guy I called "Mr. Don" got in touch with a bunch of us kids running the streets and started a Sunday School class of hoodlums. I was the first in my family to receive Christ because of Mr. Don's efforts and now I'm a Pastor... pretty cool.
The church owned a row house across the street that they used for classrooms and Mr. Don's new class of street kids got the basement. In a basement classroom for nearly 5 years is where I received the bulk of my 'intro to Christianity'. We had a table, some donuts and the bible. Pretty complicated discipleship.
The last bit of show and tell is of the place of residence I remember most in Baltimore. Most of my developing memories came from this place. My mom showed me a receipt a while back of rent she paid here... $60/month. We lived in government housing (projects) for a number of years into my middle school life. During this time my mom got her G.E.D. and a 2 year business degree. I credit her for being the springboard to everything I've been blessed to enjoy.
(front of house. Middle section, 3rd entry from left)
As you may see from this picture, the windows and doors are all boarded up. I drove through the neighborhood a few weeks ago and it looks like the city is trying to get the residents out so they can level the place. See below.
Our place was right across from the school (left of this pic) so it looks like they started leveling with that section. We had the tree in the yard so the circle above is accurate. If you look closely you can still see the road under the grass.
It's cool to look back at where we've come from so that we can see God's hand in our lives. Too often we live with a horizontal vision that doesn't take into consideration the past or future. All we tend to do is react to what's in front of us today. As I see what God has done in my own life I am forever grateful for his continued blessing on my life. I know that he's already been able to use my past experiences up until today but I'm certain he'll use this past to further his Kingdom in new ways in years to come.
A little help from my Friends
I'm doing a little research on solo-planting vs. team planting. If any of you fabulous readers out there have insight into organizations, studies or even churches who have some comparison/contrast info... I'd love to see it. Please send me a link via the comments or in an email to Tally[at]FocalPointChurch[dot]com.
My working premise is that solo planting is a great way to bang your head against the wall for no reason and team planting is not only more biblical but also serves as a much greater Return on Ministry Investment than churches planted by one solo planter.
I'd also love a few examples of team plants that are blowing and going. If you're a success story of a team plant I would be pumped to be able to chat with you.
The other day a friend of mine told me about a printing job they were getting done at a local printing company. When he told me the cost I was in shock. I asked him if he had checked out an online printer like 48 Hour Print. He said he hadn't. While we were on the phone his voice went from excited to depressed as he walked through and saw how much less the cost of printing would have been by using this particular vendor.
I'm about to have a job sent in tomorrow to 48 hour print. Have any of you come across good deals for printing? Drop a note in the comments so others can hit up your favorites.