Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best posts I have read over the last couple of weeks. Enjoy.

8 WAYS TO “REDEEM” YOUR CELL PHONE FOR MINISTRY USE – Written for pastors but some great thoughts for everyone.

9 Winsome Ways You Can Help Your Church Grow – Something for everyone to do to help their Church reach the lost.

The 10 Mistakes Dads Make With Their Children: Part 1 – Great stuff. Still waiting for part 2.

Want to Tend to Your Pastor’s Heart? Show up. – yep.

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Three Things the Church Is to Be Doing

If you wanted me to break down the entire mission of the Church into a few simple statements, this is what I would say.

  1. Find lost people. The Bible describes people who have not made Jesus their Lord and Savior as lost. These people are separated from God and his family. Like a good shepherd, we must search everywhere to find them and bring them back home safely.
  2. Keep found people from getting lost again. In the classic hymn Come Thou Fount, there is a line that says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to the leave the God I love.” That line describes all of us as believers. We love God, and yet we are prone to wander off on our own. The Church is to try and connect people with one another and help change them, never to desire to wander away again.
  3. Bring back the people who were found and now are lost again. Unfortunately, those who once came to know Jesus will sometimes walk away. Many times, this is the result of them getting too busy, entangled in sin, or just drifting aimlessly. I once heard a minister say that this is the hardest group to reach, but they still need great grace.

When I say these are things, “the Church” should be doing. I do not mean just the Church as an organization. I mean, these are the jobs of the people who follow Jesus. These are not only the responsibility of the staff, elders, deacons, teachers, and leaders. These represent the work of which every believer should be engaged. Perhaps you are more inclined to do one of these, and that is why we need each other. As your preacher, I cannot do it alone. All of us need to take seriously what God has called us all to do, today and every day.

Feeling Thankful for You

Today I am feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the people who volunteer to serve Jesus through the local Church. Too many times, the preacher gets the recognition for the work done in a Church, and that needs to change. If you are not familiar, October is Pastor Appreciation month (a thing I hate by the way), and I think we should make it Church Volunteer Appreciation month.

Take today as an example to you. This morning I drove into the Church parking lot that a volunteer worked on improving over the weekend. I walked into a building cleaned by people who donate their time, and they even clean the bathrooms. This week someone stopped by and fixed the ceiling in the entryway, again they did it in the free service of Jesus. Today a lady will lead another group of ladies in Bible study, solely for the joy of the Lord. Tonight for the youth group, a couple of ladies will prepare food; several adults will lead small groups, and the guy who organizes it will all give their time for the kingdom of God without receiving a penny in return. Days like this amaze me as people serve only to further the work of the Lord in and through our community.

Sure, I do a lot every week, including many things of which no one knows. The Church leadership has blessed me with enough money to provide for my family for doing it. But when you measure my few hours against the work of a couple of hundred volunteers, there is no comparison.

What makes the Church I lead great? What makes any Christian community of Jesus great? It is the power of God working through people who willingly give their time to him.

I hope you are one of those people who know the joy of serving the Lord. If you are, for you, I am genuinely thankful. If you are not, it is never too late to start. Thanks to everyone in the name of Jesus, and may he bless you during my Church Volunteer Appreciation month.

How Many Likes Did That Get?

We live in the age of the “LIKE.” If you are not familiar with what I am talking about, then you have not spent any time on social media. If you post something onto most of the current media platforms, there is a button below where people can show their recognition of that post. Facebook has moved beyond the simple like button by adding a couple of emojis you can also use. If we agree with something, we hit the button at the bottom that shows our approval, and then we move on with our lives.

I have come to believe that the like button means absolutely nothing. Watching the responses to my posts has always been amusing to me. I will share a post about commitment to Jesus above all else, and the lady who rarely attends worship because she is so busy will like it. There are posts I see others share about various aspects of the Christian life, and I will look to see who hit their like button. Almost always, people with little visible sign of faith show their approval.

This led me to write in my notebook, “Liking Jesus is not the same as following him.” Obedience is greater than approval.

We must always be cautious of thinking that smiling and saying, “I agree with that” or “I like that” are signs of a mature faith. God does not need your approval or your agreement; what he desires is your obedience.

Maybe before you hit the like button the next time, you should ask yourself, “Do I agree with this in principle or in practice?”

A Lot to Learn

Your theology is flawed … and so is mine. That is the first thought that went through my head as I listened to a preacher recently. The topic and passage he was speaking about were one of those of which I was overly familiar. I have studied it in English and Greek. I have read numerous commentaries, listened to countless sermons, and gathered dozens of articles on this one piece of scripture. As the preacher was speaking, I could hear flaws in his interpretation and arguments.

I am not saying this proudly; I actually say this humbly. My second thought was, “How many times have I spoken about topics that I had not researched enough?” I wonder how many times I have misspoken about God, not from an erroneous position, but a slightly flawed one.

As I processed these thoughts, I came to a few realizations for those of us who follow Jesus.

  1. Humility is a crucial issue. A believer must maintain a mindset that says, “I don’t know everything.” I fear anyone who thinks they have the Bible mastered. Everyone must be willing to admit their lack of knowledge in some areas.
  2. Real followers are lifelong learners. There is so much to learn and know about God, his word, and his will. When I think I have learned everything, someone comes along and shows me something new in a book or teaching. Our humble attitude must lead us to continual study.
  3. Ask, “Am I teachable?” Is your mind open enough to learn new things if they are presented to you? Are you willing to listen to the viewpoints of others? If someone showed you an area where you need to change, would you look?
  4. Draw lines in pencil. You may view some issues wrongly. Maybe you are not entirely wrong, but perhaps you need to move the line an inch or two as you learn more. Do you have enough space in your beliefs to move if you see that you and God disagree on something? Pharisees draw lines with markers; disciples use a pencil.
  5. Be content with incomplete information. There are areas of my life that I have decided I will never be an expert. Faith is a unique discipline in that it touches every other area of study. It raises questions of science, philosophy, psychology, literature, and a host of other topics. I want to learn them all with in-depth knowledge, but there is never enough time. Keep learning, but know there will always be some areas just beyond your grasp.

I do not write this to discourage you but rather to encourage you. There is so much to learn. So, keep learning. Read, listen, study, and open yourself up to a world of ideas. You will need to process these ideas through sound interpretation principles, clear thinking, Christian tradition, and other logical tools.

I frequently tell people; the Bible is like the ocean. It is shallow enough a child can play in it, and deep enough no diver can reach its depths. The sad result is that we always have flaws we are working through in our beliefs. The good news is that we have a lifetime to learn them.

Why Do I Have a Blog?

Recently I was debating whether it was time to stop writing or keep working. The numbers have been down this year as far as the total visitors and readers. This is the first time the numbers have declined in six years. As part of my soul searching and prayer, I came to this one big question, “Why do I have a blog anyway?”

While there may be several small answers to that question, there are four big things I hope that my writing and ministry do.

  1. Teach. I want to teach people everything I know. I hope to primarily teach people about the Bible, its characters, and what it means to live by faith.
  2. Lead. There are some topics that are not covered in the Bible, and yet are essential to know if you are part of the body of Christ. I want to share my insights from study and experience to benefit others.
  3. Challenge. One way to grow is to challenge yourself. If you want to get better at a sport, you are better to get a tough coach who pushes you to do your best. As a pastor, I want people to move beyond shallow faith and into the deep water of spiritual maturity.
  4. Encourage. I pray that my words in some way touch the soul of people and give them a bit of strength for their journey. I don’t just want to be out in front of people showing the way, and I also want to stand beside them when they need hope or possibly a friend.

These are the big goals for my writing. I make no pretense that I am an excellent writer or that I am putting together any ground-breaking original context. My hope and prayer are to help people on their spiritual walk with Jesus. As long as my words are helping one person, I will keep on writing.

The Family of God or Guests in the Church?

The people who love the Church the most are those who have the most invested in it.

I originally wrote down that line after someone shared an article on social media about all the problems with the Church. Shortly after it was posted, people started commenting on their agreement with the post. Many of the people who posted their words about this article were people I knew. Some of them had attended the Church I lead. Suddenly, like the voice of God, I saw one thing all the names had in common. None of them were personally invested in our Church.

By being personally invested, I mean they did not attend regularly, they were not connected to any small group, they rarely gave financially, and they do not serve in any ministry. They have a casual connection to the Church at best, and they would not have called it their extended family.

The Church in the Bible is referred to as the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul even encourages older members to be viewed as parents in the faith. It is a powerful image, but it also comes with some strings attached. If you are a part of my family, other than in name only, then there are expectations on you. My parents were expected to raise me and instruct me on how to live. My siblings and I had daily responsibilities to do around the house. My children expect me to care for them, guide them, protect them, and take care of them. Being in a family is more than sharing a last name; it is about being personally connected.

Every Sunday afternoon, my wife hears me complain about all the people who skipped worship this week. Honestly, it has nothing to do with my ego as a leader. I could care less if I lead a large Church. My frustration is that people are missing out on what our family is doing. I see people who have not invested themselves in the work of the Lord through our Church, and the result is that they have become like a guest. Guests are not the same as family. Guests come in, and they judge their surroundings and the owners of the establishment. Guests think, “I would not do it that way” and “I would make that better” and a host of other thoughts about how the family functions. A family embraces our flaws and loves people because they are “my people.”

One of the toughest parts of ministry is getting people to be personally invested in the Church as a family. The flip side is that it is also the most rewarding thing I watch. When people love, help, serve, give, and bless one another, it is difficult to describe.

Maybe if you are critical of the Church, you should ask yourself, “Do I see those people as a part of the family of God, or am I just judging them like a guest in their house?” Your view of the Church reveals more about you than it does about those who attend each week.