Shining Your Light in the World

As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege and responsibility to shine the light of Christ into the world through our lives. We tend to think of this project in significant terms. We need to help the flood victims. We need to march against injustice. We need to make a public stand for all we believe.

While those things are good, I am also convinced that we can shine our light just as bright on smaller terms. Here are a few of the things I am noticing lately.

1. Be Kind to People. The people who touch my life in the biggest way are people who speak kindly, smile, open doors, shake my hand and say nice things to me. They compliment without complaining. They do good without repayment. They show kindness without strings. This world can be cold and hard some days, and a little kindness goes a long way.

2. Ask Someone about Themselves. We live in an age of endless self-promotion. Social media is about people sharing their lives with little regard for yours. Sometimes it is nice to have people simply ask, “How are you doing?” and then wait for a response. I often think of the powerful witness of a listening ear.

3. Visit with Someone. My wife has a knack for just stopping to visit with people, and they love her for it. When I ask her about why she stopped, she responds with something like, “Many people just need a visit.” You may not need it with your busy schedule, but there is someone who does.

4. Give Little Thoughtful Gestures. A small gift can be more powerful than a large one. These gifts mean you were thinking of me, especially when it was not a holiday or birthday. Something as simple as a coupon to my favorite restaurant can have meaning if given properly.

5. Stating Your Appreciation. Before you rush off to your next appointment say, “Thank You, I appreciate your hard work.” Thanks for volunteering. Thanks for going above and beyond the call of duty. Tell people you appreciate the impact they are making in the world. Many individuals serve and think that no one notices, let them know that you see their effort.

In a world ravaged by wildfires and flooded by hurricanes, there is no shortage of great things we can do to shine the light of faith. Don’t forget that you also have an impact on the people who bump into you every day. Be sure to shine your light where God has placed you.

Weekend Reading

I read a few great articles and posts this week. Here are the very best. I cannot recommend the first three listed here any higher. Truly great reading for anyone interested in the Church.

Are Smart, Educated Women Still Called to the Church Nursery? – This is a great article for both men and women. Great points about children’s ministry. A great read!

Why Do Churches Wound Their Pastors? – This is pure gold. I wish every Church member would read this to understand their pastor better.

Ten Unfair Expectation of Pastor’s Wives – Pure, unfiltered truth.

5 Very Real Tensions Every Small To Mid-Sized Church Leader Feels – This fits our Church.

Airbrushing – Seth is always so insightful.

My Boundaries in Ministry

There is such a thing as “Ministry Creep.” This is the idea that being in ministry quickly moves into every area and every day of your life. If a Pastor does not set up boundaries, then his chosen profession will creep into everything. True, being a pastor is more than a job, it is also a lifestyle, but there is also a need for boundaries or else I am working every day all the time. This leads to exhaustion, and that leads to poor decision-making, and that leads to sin and moral failure. Without boundaries, moral failure in some form is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce.

Because of this, I have a few boundaries in my life, and lately, I am needed to reinforce the walls that protect me. Here are a few things I am reapplying in my life.

1. I work hard five days a week. The more I work each day I am scheduled to work, the less I feel the need to work on my days off. This means I work on Sunday morning that just Sunday morning. Honestly, I usually set up on my couch and work another six plus hours at home while watching TV of some sort. I am willing to meet anytime from Sunday through Thursday if you need anything.

2. I take two days off. I do not work on Friday or Saturday. Simple as that. Occasionally I take a funeral out of necessity, and infrequently I perform a wedding. Other than that, I am off the clock. [I even wrote this yesterday]

3. I try to protect my days off. That means I do not answer my phone those two days. No exceptions. No phone calls. I receive texts and emails, but that does not mean I will respond. I am not mean, and it is not to say that I do not care about you. I need to place this boundary in my life to protect my heart.

It is worth noting – an emergency to you does not equate to an emergency for me. I once had a couple call and beg me to come to their house and offer counseling. I refused. They were mad, and I felt awful. When I saw them on Sunday morning, they said, “Oh, we worked it out. All is fine now.” I quickly learned that not everything is a legitimate emergency.

4. I am willing to say no to some opportunities. I have been invited to speak, lead or be a part of numerous opportunities on Friday and Saturdays. Yes, I could do more for the kingdom on those days, but I choose not to do them. I could keep adding more and more to my plate, but it only leads to burnout. I often ask myself, “Would I rather have five years of unstopped ministry or 25 years with regular breaks?” I am hoping to live out my calling as long as I am physically able, but I must be emotionally and spiritually healthy to make that happen.

5. I request people talk to me about something other than ministry. When I am at the ball game on Friday night, please don’t make it time for a Church meeting. If you do, I will seem aloof. It would be like your boss coming to you into a game wanting to have a business meeting. Please treat me as a person and not just a Church leader.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Church, and I enjoy my job. For me to continue doing what I enjoy for a group of people I love, then I need boundaries. Without them, I will develop resentment and bitterness. I am sorry if these ideas upset you, but I need them for my own soul. I hope you understand.

Unexpected Lessons the Church Taught Me

Most people go to Church expecting some kind of Bible lesson or from a spiritual principle. We attend knowing the preacher will open his Bible and talk about something from inside there. He will offer moral direction or spiritual comfort given from God’s word in the form of a sermon.

I also think that many people go to looking to make personal connections. They expect to meet individuals and couples from their community who are trying to live a moral life. There will be conversations that bring new relationships into our lives in a positive way.

The average person goes to Church to learn a little and build relationships.

Through the years I have received some additional unexpected lessons along the way.

1. The need to set aside time for God. Having a worship program every Sunday morning forces me to have a set time and place for God. Those times I haven’t attend a worship program it is easy to slip from day-to-day without giving God much thought. I have a spouse, children, job and a thousand other projects vying for my time. Church has taught me the power of a simple routine. Setting aside time for God on Sunday morning forces me to stop everything and put God on my agenda before I run to the next thing.

2. Praying when I do not feel like it. Somewhere around one to four times during a worship program we stop and pray. No one asks me if I feel like it. They just say, “Will you pray with me?” or “Will you bow your heads?” It reminds me that prayer is not about my feelings, prayer is about the power of God. My prayers are not more effective if they are close to my heart, prayer works because of the God we speak to in those moments. Sunday morning has taught me to focus on God and not my own feelings in relation to prayer.

3. Singing my praise to God – even when life hurts. Have you ever noticed the Church does not take a survey of people before singing each week? We just jump right into music and songs from the beginning. Honestly, there are moments I don’t want to sing praises to God. When I lost my dad, I wanted to cry and shout, and yet on Sunday morning, we started with a praise chorus. Worship is not about my feelings; it is about God. My time in worship is a reminder to elevate God above my problems.

4. The ministry of a community. The Church frequently forces me to focus on something bigger than my agenda. I believe God gives each one of us gifts and abilities to use for his kingdom. He might even give you a dream of a particular ministry to serve the people of God. And yet, I submit myself to the leadership of other believers. They point me toward other ministries that are equally important. The Church uses my gifts to support projects that could not be accomplished by an individual. Sometimes the Church says no to my agenda so that a bigger kingdom ministry can be achieved. God might use me through the Church in ways I never expected.

I still hope the people who attend a Church program learn a little Bible and spiritual principles. I still hope they build relationships. But I also hope that being a part of worship each week in a Church stretches and grows us in other ways. I pray that your life is molded in profound and meaningful ways simply by exposing yourself to worship every Sunday.

Who You Are When No One Is Filming

When I was in Bible college, I was introduced to a definition of integrity. One of my professors told us that “integrity is who you are when no one is looking.” The concept is that your true nature and character are revealed in those quiet moments alone.

The possibility exists that when you are in the presence of other people, you can pretend to be something you are not. We call someone with that type of behavior a hypocrite. The title is actually derived from the ancient theater. Someone who plays the role of another person on stage was called a hypocrite or an actor.

Jesus usually assigned this name to the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day. They cared more about how other people viewed them than about God. He saw this as the worst form of religious action.

The pressure to perform for the crowd has existed since Jesus day, but I believe the appeal is far greater today. Now everyone has a tiny video recorder and camera in their pocket. They can take a picture or video and put it on social media in an instant. Without much effort, my good works can be displayed before the world, and I can develop the reputation for my faith. We can easily slide from serving God into playing for the crowd and the applause of people.

My new definition of integrity is, “Who you are when no one is filming.” Godly character is best displayed without social media.

Let me give you three clarifying questions for you to consider:

1. Do you behave differently when there is a camera present?

2. Do you secretly hope someone films you serving so that others can see it?

3. Are you embarrassed or excited when you see yourself on social media?

Maybe this is not a concern for you at all, but it always good to have a quick heart check up.

I believe Jesus wants you to serve him with your whole life and in 2017 you may occasionally be caught on camera. It happens without your knowledge or approval all the time. But we must always guard against our lives from becoming an actor for the camera before we are servants of God.

What would happen if the next time you served God with a group of people, no one took a picture or filmed anything?

Your response to that question may reveal your integrity.

Non-Verbal Communication at Church

Everything you do communicates something about you and what you truly believe. Every action reveals a little piece of your soul. This happens at your job, your home and at Church. The things you do on Sunday morning tell everyone around you something about your views of Church.

1. Being at worship on Sunday morning shows people something about your faith.

2. The way you talk to the people at Church reveals something about how you view people.

3. What you do with your printed program says something about how you see the events of the Church.

4. Singing during the worship songs demonstrates something about your praise of God.

5. Going in and out of the auditorium and walking around the building during the program shows something about how you view worship.

6. What you do during prayer time reveals something about you.

7. Your service on Sunday morning communicates something about your values.

8. What you do during the sermons tells everyone something about your view of the sermon.

9. How you handle the offering tray shows something about your heart.

10. Your actions immediately after worship is over reveal something about what you just experienced.

Everything you do at Church communicates something. The message is usually heard the loudest and most clearly by people checking out the Church the first time or by new believers. It is possible that you are communicating a level of deep commitment to the Lord and his people. It is also possible that you are harming the body of Christ by your behaviors.

Each week you have the opportunity to say to the world something about faith. Are your words and actions helpful for building other people up?

In Case I Forgot to Say It

Every Sunday is a busy experience with me running a thousand different directions. I wish I could be more relaxed and stroll through the crowd talking with each person. The reality is that I move quickly from person to person trying to accomplish a dozen things. Because of my distracted nature on Sunday morning, I often forget to say some stuff I wanted to tell you.

1. “I am glad you are a part of this Church.” I am so happy that you gave us here at the Church a little bit of your time. Out of all the things you could have been doing, you chose to be with us. Out of all the Churches in the area, you opted to be at ours. I am so glad you came here and spent your time with us.

2. “Thank you for your service.” I know that I never say, “thank you” enough. Thank you for greeting, leading worship, teaching children, working in the nursery, or doing one of dozens of jobs every Sunday morning. I know you are serving the Lord and not me, but I am thankful for your willingness to do every little task. Thanks for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed.

3. “I appreciate you.” You have a unique story, knowledge, and experience that you bring to our group of believers. You have your own viewpoint and opinion on topics that challenge and encourage me. I feel so grateful to know you.

4. “Thanks for caring about me as a person.” The majority of individuals see the pastor like another public servant. We are here to marry, bury and counsel when things get really bad. You treat me differently. You treat me like a real person with emotions. Asking about my wife and kids and listening to my answer is one of the nicest things anyone could do for me. Talking to me about things that are not Church related makes me feel joy in a different and meaningful way. Thanks for being more than a name and a face to me.

5. “I thank God for you.” I mean this with all honesty. You have been an enormous blessing to my life. You have made my walk with Jesus more fulfilling. You have helped, served, given and loved as only another believer can do. When I hit my knees in prayer, I always thank God for bringing you into my life.

I know there is so much more to say. I would like to tell you in person, but I will probably get busy and forget. So for now, I hope these words are a blessing to your life as much as you have been a blessing to me.

Strategic Invitation Time

It sounds counter intuitive when you first hear it, but I promise it works.

Invite people to Church less often for greater impact.

Our natural thought is to invite people to Church every Sunday. If they are willing to come, I would be glad to have them anytime. While that is true in some ways, it also can be counterproductive. Sometimes my sermons are specifically for Church members and believers. There are sermons that I challenge people in the faith they already possess. Other times I plan to speak to individuals who are non-Christians.

Not only are there guest friendly sermon series to invite people to attend, most people like to come at the beginning of a series to hear all the content.

My encouragement is to invite people to Church when we have sermons that will make sense to people outside of faith and do it on the first Sunday of that new series. The goal is to invite people to Church at strategic times. This week is one of those Sundays.

This Sunday we are starting a new sermon series called “Insomnia: What keeps you up at night?”

September 10 “Regrets”
September 17 “Anger”
September 24 “Relationships”
October 1 “Worry” (Starting two worship programs)

Currently, our program starts at 9:30 and will remain that way until October when we will be moving to 9:00 and 10:30 am.

We would love to have you come and bring a friend.

I’m Just Winging It

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what the future holds. I have am not sure I am doing everything correctly. Actually, I am pretty sure I am making a mess of some things without even knowing it. If you really want the truth, I am just winging it.

I don’t mean I am completely clueless. I read my Bible. I study what it says and what it means. I pray. I seek the Lord’s guidance. I talk to wise Christian people for their counsel. I read. I gather all of the information possible.

Then I step out in faith.

Being a believer sometimes means three simple things.

1. Faith believes there is a God. While I cannot see him or touch him, I am convinced that something beyond itself created this world. I believe in an all-knowing and all-powerful being beyond our physical world.

2. Faith believes that God is in control. I trust that the God who created this world is still working with his creation. He did not create it and leave us to our own devices. He remains. He listens, he cares, and he controls everything outside of human free will.

3. Faith is trusting that God will work things out for my best. I believe that God will open doors and close doors. He will use people and situations to move me in the right direction. God will take my misguided attempts to follow him and make my paths straight. That does not mean that life will be easy. It means I will end up as a better person through all of my misadventures.

I don’t have all the answers, and I am okay with it. My actions are not as clearly defined as I would like them to be and I am not afraid. My path may not be entirely straight, but I am moving forward in faith.

I think we need to be continually reminded that we walk a dimly lit path. It is narrow and winds through a steep land. We may not be sure of our next steps, but we trust that the maker of the stars is guiding our way.