More Than Belief

Following Jesus means you accept the facts about him. You are convinced that he lived, taught, died, and rose from the grave. He then showed people that he was alive with many convincing proofs. Finally, he ascended to the Father’s right hand, where he remains until he comes back to earth for a final judgment.

There is also a long list of truths that you believe as a follower of Jesus. The Godhead exists in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God gave us the Bible, and it has everything we need for life and Godliness. We believe there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Doctrine is essential to know and accept. 

Christianity is not just the acceptance of certain knowledge. It is the transformation of a person to live like Jesus. We are a new creation in Jesus, and now we will live in the way God desires. 

It is essential to believe in Jesus. It is crucial to have the correct doctrine. But unless it changes your life, having faith is worthless. Christianity is rooted in faith and demonstrated in action. 

Unfounded Convictions

I was working on the sermon for this Sunday and found an interesting note that I cannot use in the final draft. I wanted to share it here.

The sermon is about the Church being full of hypocrites. The two most significant issues people have with Christians and Christian groups are their intolerance of different views and the hypocritical nature of believers. Almost 50 percent of people in one survey said they hated that most people who claim to follow Jesus act nothing like him. This concept seems to be agreed upon by everyone outside of the faith.

One writer and speaker has developed a way of handling that objection. He asks people, “when was the last time you were in Church to see this?” The truth is that most people who throw around this accusation have never darkened the doors of a Church building. Instead, they have these convictions about Christians that are totally unfounded.

To anyone who questions the commitment of Christians in their area, my encouragement is to go and find out for yourself. You might discover that the followers of Jesus are a bit more kind, loving, and gracious than you imagine. You will never really know until you try.

The Death of a Ministry

It is difficult to let a once-thriving ministry at the Church end. 

Yet, it often needs to happen for the Church to move forward positively.

Let me explain what occurs in every community of believers. First, someone new starts connecting to the group of people who worship together every week. They are new to town, changing Churches, or are a new believer. They get excited about something that God has laid on their heart. For example, they are driven to do prison ministry. They share their excitement with others, recruit volunteers, and they make things happen. Because of their enthusiasm, the ministry has success, and the people who serve are blessed along with the people being served. The Church soon has this dynamic prison ministry of which everyone is proud.

Then the unexpected happens. This new person has one of life’s three significant events: they move, quit, or die. Suddenly the excitement is gone, and there is no vision for what happens next. People keep doing the ministry because we are the Church with the dynamic prison ministry, after all. The work becomes tedious, and volunteers are difficult to find. The leaders struggle to manufacture enthusiasm, and soon no one is blessed by the work, even though it continues to happen. 

One of the lessons I have learned as a pastor is that a ministry must have a committed leader with a God-inspired calling for it to succeed. If not, it struggles to survive and can be a burden for those who try to carry on the work. 

Here is the tough bit of wisdom; it is okay to let a ministry die when the leader moves on. It is a healthy practice to eliminate once-great ministries that are no longer a blessing. I know it is a complicated decision because of the history and how we were known for doing this job well, but it still needs to be made. 

“I am sorry to inform you that this ministry will no longer happen” will be emotional for some people to hear. But a necessary part of Church leadership is deciding that some events and practices need to die. It is not a part of the job that I enjoy, but it is vital for the overall health of the Church and the people involved in it. 

The Kingdom of God

Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God on earth. 

This statement is loaded with meaning that can be applied in numerous ways. What caught my attention lately has been two-fold. First, the kingdom is not about a place but a people. Christians speak a lot about the Church not being a building but people, but we don’t say much about the kingdom. Well, the kingdom of God is not about geography; it is about people also. 

The second thing I noticed recently is that it is not about individuals. The Church nor the kingdom are neither focused on God’s work in my life alone. Both are about a community of people working together for the good of the king or the bridegroom. 

Biblical images of the followers of Jesus are always plural. We live together, work together, love one another, and seek the good of everyone. We are a body with many parts, a family with numerous relatives, and a community with lots of residents. As a result, our lives and ministries impact other people. There are no lone Christians. 

The kingdom of God is composed of people. Every believer is a part of something far more extensive than themselves. Maybe the next time you feel alone, you should remind yourself that in God’s kingdom, you are never alone.

The Power of Suggestion

A children’s ministry leader taught me that teachers should say to the kids every week, “We are having a good time,” repeatedly. Then they stated that if you tell the children at least five times in an hour that they are having a good time, they will believe they had one. 

I don’t know their data to support that statement, but it makes sense because we are constantly being shaped by the ideas shared with us. This is what is often called “the power of suggestion.”  This concept means that something is communicated to a person until that idea becomes a reality. 

The potential in this idea can be negatively used with someone, especially with a young person. Tell them over and over that their life has no value, and they believe it to be true. Speak to them about a dark future and no potential for love, and you can crush their soul. 

It can also have an overwhelmingly positive impact too. Say to someone repeatedly that they are loved, possess value, and have unlimited possibilities for their life, and they will accept it as a fact. Stating good things to others will help them see the good in themselves. 

If one key to a well-balanced Godly life is hearing the right voices speaking truth into your life, there are two final questions. Whose voice are you listening to each day? And what are you saying to others consistently?

Words shape worlds. 

Change Before It Hurts

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

The quote at its heart states that the primary reason we change is because of pain. Therefore, when things hurt us or are finally painful enough, we will be motivated to do something different.

I know this to be true from observation and experience. Numerous times I have watched other people suffer because of their own foolishness until they acted differently. Unfortunately, I also had to feel the hurt of my choices too many times before I adjusted my behavior. 

The question I must ask is, “Why not change when we have the chance, instead of waiting till it hurts?”

Perhaps it is human nature to wait, or quite possibly it is our stupidity, but the truth is elemental. You do not have to wait until it hurts before you make positive changes in your life. You can start down a new path with a decision at any point on your journey.

Change can happen at any moment we want – it could even happen today.    

I Don’t Believe in You

You will never be good enough to get it right all the time. You will never be strong enough to conquer the enemy. You do not have the power to make wrong things right.

Scripture never encourages us to believe in ourselves.

The words of the Bible point us toward faith in God. Trust in him and his power alone. Our victories only come through God’s Spirit at work in us. His strength is what accomplishes the good things in our lives. It is only through him that we will conquer evil.

I believe in God, and I don’t believe in you.

I also hope you do not believe in me as your pastor.

Place your faith in God alone, and that way, you will never be let down.

Spewing Negativity

Did you have a negative encounter with that person, or did someone you know tell you about an unpleasant interaction, and then you adopted their mentality?

This is a vital question when dealing with difficult people. Did you have an experience with someone you considered negative or did another person have one, and you took on their attitude as your own?

Whenever we walk around spewing our negative stories about others, it helps us feel justified or avenged. But it does damage that we cannot see. Suddenly, we shift the mood of every person toward this individual. Other people will quickly accept your opinions as authoritative, even if you were just trying to vent your anger. 

Some people hate me, who have never had a bad interaction with me. Some have never talked to me or at least not spoken about the issue they claim justifies their anger. Instead, they have been told about how I behaved in a situation and accepted it without asking questions. 

The Bible writers frequently mention removing gossip, slander, anger, malice, arrogance, and discord along with idolatry and sexual immorality. A believer must understand that their words can be as deadly as their actions. With a word, each of us can destroy lives, ruin friendships and tear down other people. Spewing negative stories may make you feel good for a few minutes, but the damage done will hurt others for a lifetime.     

Compared to Other People

Most of us believe that the people around us are well-adjusted, calm, and secure in themselves. They act confident and tackle issues without fear of failure or embarrassment. Everyone we know appears so focused and firm in their hopes, goals, and dreams. 

Honestly, I bet if you took the time to get to know these people. Most likely, we would find out that they don’t have it altogether. They are scared, insecure, and unsure of themselves. They paint on a mask, only hoping that others will not see the fear in their eyes.

People are the same. We all are trying to do our best in whatever capacity we find ourselves. We strive to be the best child, spouse, parent, worker, friend, Christian, and person we can be while being unsure if we are doing it correctly. 

I think this truth should allow you to do two things. First, I hope it makes you compassionate toward the people you encounter. They are trying their best. Second, I also hope you will go easy on yourself. No one is putting more pressure on you than yourself. Relax and don’t compare your internal issues with the way another person appears to be living. 

Adapt or Die in Ministry

An older pastor told me that the key to surviving in ministry is “adapt or die.”  That statement was made to me over twenty years ago.   If it was true then, it has never been more true than going into 2022. Covid issues, technological advances, podcasting, social media, infrequent attendance, and a host of problems have impacted how the community of believers does Church.  

Don’t mishear me. The core of our faith never changes. Believers stand firm on the unchanging witness of the scriptures. However, once we stand on the Bible, everything else is subject to change to meet the needs of the people during the age in which they live. 

That means the future of the Church will look different than the past.

This transformation is not because the old ways were evil. The world is changing, and we need to use every available tool to reach people today. Just like the culture around us is different than it was twenty years ago, the Church must be ever-changing. 

Not all new approaches will be welcomed. Some transitions will not be smooth. But all adjustments are necessary. The old pastor was correct; the Church must continue to adapt or die in every generation.