A Few Unnoticed Ministries the Church Needs to Succeed

Some of the ministries people do in the Church are front page news. They are easy to see and understand. My job as a preacher qualifies as one of those highly visible ways to serve God. Worship leaders are in front of everyone each week. Teachers are easy to spot. All of these ministries are vital to the Church to have an impact on their community.

There are other ministries you might not have thought about that bless our Church as it meets together each week.

1. Cleaning Ministry. I cannot say enough about this group of people. We have a group of volunteers who clean the building so that it is ready for the next week. They take care of the trash, clean toilets, vacuum, mop, and do a hundred other things that make our Church presentable each week. It is easy to take this group for granted until the week it doesn’t get done, then everyone notices their importance.

2. Lawn Care Ministry. We have another group of people who come and spend a few hours each week riding the mower and making everything look nice. It is another ministry that most people do not think about until it isn’t finished.

3. Landscaping Ministry. We have a wonderful group of people who are working to beautify the exterior spaces of the Church facility. Flowers are far more attractive than weeds.

4. Maintenance Ministry. We have a group of people, a couple of people in particular, who make sure anything that gets broken is fixed. This could be anything from a doorknob to the sound system. Broken items do not stay that way for long.

5. Decorating Ministry. With each new season, the decorations inside change to make our building more attractive. Christmas and Easter require special preparation and extra time spent. These decorations are not only set up, but they are taken down and stored for the next year.

6. Welcome Ministry. Our Church has “welcome bags” that are prepared in the lobby for any guest to take home as a gift. These need items purchased, prepped and then put together. Also, when someone fills out a connection card after a first or second visit, they receive a personal card from a person writing them a welcome note.

7. Sound & Screen Ministry. Each week the songs are put into a program called ProPresenter and made ready for our worship time. I prepare the sermon outline then the scriptures are placed in the program to make Sunday go smoothly in every area of worship.

This is just a partial list. There are people who volunteer their time to work with children and prep their area. We have people who make snacks for fellowship. Communion needs to be prepared. There are literally dozens of people who give their time to make everything go well on Sunday.

I am always glad when people like the sermons I preach, but those are just a small part of what makes our Sundays a success for God. It is unnamed volunteers that help move the kingdom forward. I am thankful for every person who gives their time to the Lord through our Church.

What I Wanted to Say to You as a Man

There is a fine line between being honest and being a jerk. I walk that line almost every day. People come to me and ask questions about their life situation and the difficulties they are facing. They tell me stories of the activities they are participating in each week that impacts their life. Some of them open up about issues, ideas, and dreams, and then they wait for my response. I want to be polite and pastoral, while still telling them the truth. This is a tough line to walk, and I usually find myself living in regret for either what I said or what I should have said. So often I wanted to say something plainly but feared being rejected for my bluntness, especially when dealing with men. What I wanted to say was something different from what came out at the moment.

1. When you said, “My wife handles raising the children, especially that Church stuff” what I wanted to say was, “You are a poor example of a man.” Being a man is not just about having a job and providing for your family financially. It is about being a leader in your home. It means leading the way spiritually, emotionally and physically. Your presence is the most significant influence in the life of a child. Young girls who grow up with an absentee father spend their whole lives trying to fill that void with sex, older men, and a desperate search for love and approval. Young boys who do not have a solid male role model end up involved in drugs and alcohol or some destructive behavior. They spend their lives trying to understand manhood without a model, so they resort to pleasure or power. A real man points the way toward adulthood in every area of life. They lead their home, not follow their wives.

2. When you said, “I let my child make their own spiritual decisions,” what I wanted to say was, “That is a terrible decision.” You do not let your child make decisions about anything else. You tell them when to get up, that they must go to school, what they are to eat, where they can and cannot go and what time to go to bed. You are the adult, and your job is to use your wisdom to direct their life. Our natural inclination is to move away from God and not toward him. Given the opportunity, every one of us will choose evil over good and poor decisions over Godly ones. Letting your child make all their own spiritual decisions is like throwing them the car keys at 15 and saying, “Figure it out and have fun.” A big wreck is coming.

3. When you said, “We have sports stuff a lot of Sundays,” what I wanted to say was, “Be prepared for your children to be marginally Christian and your grandchildren not to know God at all.” When other activities take precedent over Church, your children hear the message loud and clear. Slowly one thing taking priority becomes two things, and then three and soon spiritual matters are near the bottom of the list. When a man shows that faith is not essential, their children will imitate that behavior. Your children will still say they believe in God, but a shift has happened. Their belief comes only at convenient times like religious holidays, weddings and funerals. The final significant change is that this lack of priority on the things of God will impact the next generation. Marginal faith leads to no faith in a generation. Your grandchildren will make fun of the things you once held dear, and the hard part is that shift started with you. You have only yourself to blame.

I know: Most of this is way to harsh to come up in casual conversation. I want to say it, but I know it will repel more men that it attracts. Today I am using this forum to tell you the truth. I hope it does not upset you, but you need to know these things before it is too late.

Cracks Beneath the Surface

It was an innocent and attractive photo. It was a picture of a married couple sitting together outside on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend that was posted on social media. Other people responded with positive comments about this “wonderful couple.”

I didn’t comment. For one, I rarely comment on social media. Two, I know the truth about this couple. Very few people know about the struggles hidden in their marriage. Behind the scenes, their lives together are a mess of mistakes, regrets and trying to forge a new future. I am so glad they have stayed married and are working through their issues, but under their beautiful smiles are cracks beneath the surface.

Pictures like this remind of a few core truths.

1. Everyone is fighting some hidden battle. I have yet to meet anyone who has a perfect life. Some are struggling physically, and others have an emotional fight. Some people fight with addictions and depression while others have deep spiritual wounds. I remind myself of this truth every time I start to get judgmental. Maybe this was a tough day for them. I tell myself this when people hurt me or express anger that seems unjustified. Everyone is fighting with something that is tearing them apart no matter how great everything appears.

2. Be careful with the comparison game. It is easy to look at social media and begin to think that other people have life figured out. They post happy pictures and tell wonderful stories about their “amazing spouse” and their incredibly gifted children. Believe me; they are merely compensating for their own insecurity. If you believe everything you hear and see about others you can become depressed by your own failure.

3. Find someone to be honest with about your struggles. You need a place to drop the façade and be real with people. You need to tell someone your hurts. Ignoring them will not make them go away. You need to handle your issues head-on with the help of someone you trust. Find a friend, a church leader or even a professional counselor to talk to about your problems.

4. You are normal. I know there are days you feel all alone in your battle. You think you are the only person ever to feel this way. Your life seems so much more difficult than everyone else. The reality is that everyone is struggling. Some people hide it better than others.

5. God wants to help you out. The life of faith is about getting your life right with God. The cross is God’s way of handling sin so that I can worship him. Salvation is about God and our relationship with him. There is also a personal side to apply to my life as well. God also wants me to get right with myself and others. He wants to help me through my struggles and build stronger relationships in my life. He offers to bring you peace with God, but also to make you whole. In your battles, draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Most of the pictures I see on social media are fantastic. I am glad to see people enjoying this life God gave them. I also want to look below the surface. People have struggles, including you. I hope you find a way to drop the mask and deal with your issues. A happy face is not the same as being happy.

The Road to Ruin

The way to ruin your life is simple. It requires nothing of you.

Follow your gut and do whatever comes naturally. Make no difficult decisions. Have no emotional conversations. Always choose the easy way. Avoid discipline. Seek happiness and fun at the expense of everything else.

The road to success is arduous.

This is true in every arena of life. Your marriage, your parenting, your career and even your spiritual life.

If you want a better tomorrow, unfortunately, you are going to have to work for it today.

I Know You Are Busy

Your schedule is full. Your calendar is jam-packed with activities and events. Running from here to there in a hurried rush has become your way of life.

You need to know that busy is not the same as productive. It is not the same as loving, friendly, full of joy or a host of other things. Being busy does not build relationships. It does not make you healthy or happy. Spiritually speaking, your full schedule is keeping you from developing a relationship with God or any of his followers. It leaves your spirit dry and your friends shallow. In fact, busyness might not be constructive in any way. It might be a sign that you lack priorities. You might be trying to please everyone and make them happy. Busyness is a sign that you have flaws in your schedule and possibly in your soul.

Yes, I know your busy. Maybe you are too busy to understand what you are doing wrong.

Love Me or Hate Me

Just don’t ignore me.

I have a purpose in my life. God has called me to represent him in my life and work. I am committed. I am headstrong. There are the convictions that anchor my soul. I believe in truth and justice along with love and grace.

This type of life attracts some people and repels others.

Jesus was loved and hated. His followers can expect the same treatment.

Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best articles I have read in the last few weeks. Enjoy.

Leadership Lessons I Learned from Mom

Eight Ways Older Believers Can Invest In Younger Believers

Why I Don’t Sit With My Husband at Church

10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip—And Why I Hate It So Much</a

Three Types of People Who Hinder the Church

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

The problem with forced rankings

Save Your Credibility- Avoid the “I’m So Busy” Trap

Stop Making Excuses

We hear them all the time. An excuse is an attempt to lessen the blame on ourselves and shift it toward something else. The problem was caused by someone else. If things had been just right, I have succeeded. Honestly, I am the victim here. I had the best of intentions, and something stood in my way.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher Mr. Grimes walked to the chalkboard on the first day and wrote the word “RESPONSIBILITY” in all capital letters. He said something like this, “Next year you are heading off to the Jr. & Sr. High School (held in a different building miles away from the elementary school) and the difference between there and here is this one word.” He continued to say that his goal for the year was to teach us to be responsible. As a result, he drew a hard-line about due dates and late work. Some students received failing grades, despite their protests to him and the principle. There were repeated discipline issues that were handled by Mr. Grimes. He was a hard nose teacher who forced us to learn and move forward into adulthood.

In life, I discovered he was right about the difference between being an adult and remaining a child is responsibility. The willingness to accept total responsibility for my actions is a sign of maturity.

What is true in life is also true in your spiritual life. You are in this place spiritually because of your own actions. Sure, God was involved in leading and prompting you to move. But you chose your course of action along with your reactions to what God presented.

One of the most significant steps to becoming a mature and fully devoted follower of Jesus is to stop making excuses. Your parents, your health, your job, your finances, your children and anything else are not holding you back. The only thing keeping you from growing is your lack of willingness to accept responsibility.

The Summary of Your Life

I am heading out this morning to perform a funeral service for a family. This always proves to be an interesting and awkward time. Usually, these feelings revolve around one question asked to the family, “What would you like me to say about this person’s life?”

How would you want your life to be summarized?

Let’s face it, if the Lord delays his return, that question is going to be asked of all of us.

Do you want to be known as the busy person? Do you want to have the adoration of your children? Do you have some project that reflects what is most important to you? What do you want to be said about you?

The good news, if you are not happy with what you think people will say about you, then you still have time to change it. You can be more loving, kind, forgiving, gracious, helpful, and faithful. You can be an exceptional parent or husband or child that you have longed to become.

The second awkward question is actually the biggest one. I will ask, “Did they have any belief or faith in their life?” Sometimes I am just greeted with blank stares. The number one response is something like, “They may not have gone to Church, but I know they had a belief in God.” Which usually means, despite all evidence to the contrary, I want them to be in heaven.

I frequently encourage people with these words. “Live your life in such a way that no one has to guess where you are spending eternity.” My friend says it more bluntly. He says, “Live in such a way that no one has to lie at your funeral.”

A day is coming in which you will leave this life and enter eternity. I hope it takes a long time for that day to come, but it will happen, there is no avoiding it. On that day, what will people say about you? You have the chance to shape their words starting today.

Moving into a New Phase of Life

Forty-six is not very old. At least that is what I keep telling myself. Occasionally I get a metaphorical slap in the face to remind me that it is older than I realize.

Last week I joined a group of other pastors online to chat about ministry in a small Church. Once we were all online, the discussion started with us telling a bit about ourselves. Each minister said a personal fact or two and then shared a few details about their Church. I went last, as I always like to do, and I mentioned that I started preaching in 1993. One of the other members of the group stated, “That was the year I was born.” Next, a couple more chimed in with things like, “I wasn’t born yet” and “That was the year my parents were married.” I quickly realized how old forty-six felt.

Later that week I saw a list of top pastors under the age of forty. It only served to underline my increasing age. I will never make any list of “young” leaders. As the song says, “I am too old to die young.”

At first, these thoughts were demoralizing, but upon some reflections, I realized that my life is moving into a new phase. I am transitioning from a young gun who is ready to take on the world for Jesus into a mentor of young leaders. Through the years I have learned a few lessons that I would love to share with people to help them on their journey.

1. I have learned from some big mistakes. Yes, I have failed – usually over and over. I have made mistakes in my leadership, my marriage, my parenting, as a Christian, and as a pastor. The list is too long to share. Through those mistakes, God has shaped and molded me. I have learned things that have made me a better person, Christian, and pastor.

2. I have learned from success. While I can share many things that have gone wrong, I have done a few things right. Most of these came as an absolute surprise. God has blessed me, and I have learned from the positive experiences as well as the bad.

3. I have learned from others. I have watch people succeed while others crashed and burned. There are so many life lessons that come from the simple observation of other people.

As I wrote down my list of things, I have learned I realized that I am ready to enter a new phase. My life has been building to this point. Maybe this is true of you too. You are no longer that young person with big dreams. You are the person who has seen a healthy dose of reality, and you are now poised to shape the lives of our young people.

Is it possible that God has been molding you through all your life experiences so that you could be a mentor to those who need guidance?

One of the challenges of life is to accept new roles as they come to us. We desperately want to cling to the old and familiar ways. New roles provide new opportunities for God to use us.