Today is Your Day

It’s Monday. You can hang your head and start another week with despair.

You can mope around about starting a new work week. You can miss the freedom of the weekend. You can whine all the way till Wednesday.

There is another option. You can make today great.

Today can be the start of a wonderful and amazing week. You can spend time with people you love. You can touch the lives of other people for good. The kingdom of God can be present in your world through what you do today. You can be the catalyst for change. You can start something that will make your world a better place. You can shine your light in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

I think we need to be continually reminded that “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 – NIV)”

Tomorrow is never promised to us. All we have is today. Make it a great one.

Being Christ to People on Sunday

Those who call themselves Christians accept the responsibility that we represent Christ wherever we go. This is true at our jobs, in our homes and even in our Churches. Each interaction we have sends a message about the Jesus we follow.

We ordinarily just tell people that on Sunday they need to be friendly. While that is true, today I want to be more specific. Here are ten ways you can be Christ to people this Sunday morning at Church.

1. Smile. Simple yet still inviting.

2. Shake Hands. Walk up to a stranger and say, “Welcome. I am glad you are here today,” while looking them in the eye.

3. Talk Nicely to People. Ask questions and listen to answers. Respond calmly and nicely no matter what they say. Use gentle words.

4. Help guests. Ask if you can help them find anything.

5. Don’t Gossip. You may think no one hears you telling those stories about other people in the Church. They do, and it hurts the cause of Christ.

6. Pray with & for People. No explanation needed.

7. Let Go of Agitations. This is not your time to complain about the preacher, the music and whatever wrong you feel is happening to you. A negative attitude hurts everyone.

8. Give up Your Seat (and parking spot). Save the best places for other people. Park far way and sit at the front.

9. Engage. If you talk and are disinterested in the music and the sermon, other people will get the impression that what we are doing is not important.

10. Don’t Be Weird. I know this is subjective, but try to act normal. Save your love of Star Wars or macramé or whatever for another time. You scare people who do not know you yet.

I know this is not a complete list of ideas. What might you add?

Just remember that your every word and action represents Jesus to the world. This might not be greater anywhere than in the Church.

Putting on a Personal Magic Show

One of the cornerstones of magic is misdirection. Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing to distract its attention from another thing that is happening. A good magician draws your attention to his right hand while his left hand is doing the trick. It is an essential magicians tool, but when used correctly it can fool people completely.

Unfortunately, people will use misdirection in their personal lives to trick you too. We will talk about their children all the time so that you do not look at our marriage. We talk about our marriage, so you do not look at our career. We talk about our exercise and diet, so we do not have to deal with our past. We push one thing to the forefront of our conversations, social media, and personal interactions so that you do not look at the other areas of our lives.

We do this because we know that if you were to look carefully, we would be exposed. You would see the mess we have tried to hide for years. If we can keep your attention away from the mess, we feel good about ourselves for another day.

The trouble is that one day we will be exposed. It is not a matter of “if” we will be exposed, but when and to whom. One day someone will reveal our secrets, and the trick will fall apart. One day the divorce papers will come, the children will make a huge mistake, you will get fired, or you will forget everyone is watching and you do not put on the show. All secrets are gone, and the personal magic show is over.

What if instead of spending so much time pretending you have it all together you spent your time really trying to change. What if you had that hard conversation? What if you truly forgive? What if you ignored what the public thought and focused on your issues? What if you were honest for once in your life? Sure, life might be more difficult at the moment, but you would be dealing with reality and not all the smoke and mirrors.

The truth is that magic shows are fun for sideshow carnivals, but personal magic is a complicated web of deceit that ultimately destroys people. Maybe today it’s time to stop the show.

My Thoughts on Church Membership

When I started in ministry, I felt like Church membership was an archaic idea that meant very little today. In fact, most of the Churches I knew had huge membership lists with very few in attendance. It seemed like the concept of being a member meant nothing and had little value other than a nice line in your obituary. Through my years of ministry, I have changed my mind. The problem was not the concept of Church membership; the problem was the way some Churches handle it. At this point in my life and ministry, I have come to believe that membership in a Church is essential if the Church handles it correctly. Here are a few reasons I believe this to be true.

1. Membership is Biblical. While the phrase “Church member” is never used the concept is repeatedly found. I really think the leaders of the early Church had no dream of there ever being a Christian who was not a Church member. Here are a couple of examples: When the Church had problems in Acts 6 they were to select leaders (later called deacons) from “among you.” Who is the” you?” I believe the “you” represents everyone who was connected to that body of believers. We call those people members. Also, in 1 Corinthians there was a man living in public sin who was part of the Church (chapter 5). Paul says they are to put the man out of their fellowship. What does that mean? That means there were people who were a part of their group and people who were not. Lines had been drawn between insiders and outsiders or members and non-members. These are just two of several examples.

2. Membership Shows Connectedness. Every civic group I know has members. They understand that you need to connect with them to adequately represent them officially. The same principle is true in the church. Placing your membership in a Church is a public demonstration that you are connected to this local group.

3. Membership Raises Accountability. This is where many Churches fail. To me, if you are going to be a member then you are saying I want you to treat me like family. The Church then responds by keeping an eye on you like a caring parent. If you are sick, we come to pray. If you are absent, we ask what is going on in your life to cause this. If you are involved in public sin, then we lovingly confront you. The goal of membership is to care for you both physically and spiritually.

4. Membership is a Declaration of Belief. Personally, I teach a membership class that contains the basics of faith I believe are found in scripture. When someone becomes a member, they are declaring that they understand those beliefs that we teach and will never teach against them. This helps the Church to find teachers, leaders, deacons and elders who understand our beliefs and will support them publicly.

5. Membership Means Involvement. A true member is someone who has claimed to be a part of a group and really means it. The group then depends on them to help in their cause. This is true of all memberships but especially true in the Church. One of my goals is to help members find their giftedness and then use those gifts as part of our body. Membership means nothing if you do not get involved.

6. Membership is Practical. This is huge for me. We have hundreds of people who drift in and out of our Church. It is impossible for me (and the elders) to care for everyone who walks through our doors. We can try, but we will fail because people will fall through the cracks. What we can do is care completely for those who have stood up and said, “This is my Church.” Those people are easy to identify, lead and care for when needed. I take a membership list and then divide their names up and put together a plan to care for them. They are my people who want my care and I am clear on where they stand.

I know there are numerous people who will skim this article and ignore my words. Then down the road, they will complain that the Church is not meeting their needs. It is a level of craziness I do not completely understand.

When I was little, I spent a lot of time at a neighbor’s house, but I had no expectation of them to care for me. Not unless I stood up and denounced my family and had the neighbors adopt me. If I claimed them as my family, then the expectations changed. The same general principle is true for believers. If I want more out of my Church experience than a casual Sunday morning encounter, then I must stand up and say, “Count me in.”

Two Lessons from My Latest Membership Class

I recently taught the membership class at our Church to over 40 individuals. It is a two-hour class that is designed to teach what our Church believes and how we function. I have taught it at this Church 4 times and each time I handle the class about the same way.

First, I give everyone a book. Then a teach part of what the book says but add lots of needed information to the words on the page. Finally, I have everyone fill out a sheet with information about themselves so that I can have a follow-up visit. This time as I was looking through everyone’s information sheets I noticed something unique.

1. Roughly 90% of the class became Christians before the age of 19.
I am used to seeing a large number of people accept Christ before they turn 19. Nationally I have read the statistic is about 75% of all believers come to faith before they leave high school. Our number for this class was way higher.

The first lesson that immediately comes to mind is about the importance of what we teach our children. What are you teaching your kids about faith? Our words will stick with them for a lifetime.

The second lesson comes from the joy of seeing people stick with their faith their entire lives. Some of the people who took the class are over 65, and they have followed Jesus since the age of 6 or 8 years old. There are still committed individuals in the world.

The third lesson was learning that several of these people had wondered from the faith during their college years or in their twenties and now they had come back to their faith. I found this especially encouraging because of the number of young people I see who make decisions and then leave the Church. It ‘s nice to know that many of them come back.

2. 10% still accept Christ after the age of 18.
While many people find Jesus early, there are still those who accept later. I remember one-time thinking that I would never baptize and adult. It seemed as if the only ones who would respond to my teaching about faith were children. Through the years that has actually flip-flopped for me. I ended up having more people make faith decisions as adults than as children. This group always encourages me. To know that there are adults still willing to change their lives no matter where they have been. While 10% was low for any class I have taught I am still glad the number was not less.

I am sure the decision to become a Christian is harder for an adult than for a child. It makes me glad to know that the gospel is still being accepted by older people across the country.

Rarely do I lie out people’s information and have something like this jump out to me. One look through the pages revealed that God is at work in both young and old. The Church needs to never shy away from people making faith decisions no matter what their age.