Friday, October 31, 2008

Is The Bible True?

Yep, and that is all I have to say about that! Well, that is probably how Forrest Gump would answer that question, but I feel that I owe you a better explanation. I know many of my peers will laugh if they read this post, but that is something that matters little to me. I am unapologetically a Bible believer. I know that there are questions that I can’t explain; there are passages that I may not fully understand, but this one thing I do know—The Bible is the Word of God, and I will never apologize for preaching and teaching the Truth.

We live in a world that has no absolutes. This is unfortunately even true in many churches. I will tell you right now, there are absolutes. The Word of God is true, absolutely.

This leads me to two questions. First, if you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, why would you ever spend three years of your life in Seminary and then follow that up with years of ministry preaching from a book you don’t even trust to be the Word of God? The second question is for the rest of us—if you do believe the Bible is the Word of God, then why aren't you preaching and living it passionately? If the preacher isn’t passionate about the Word of God, then why in the world should anyone else be?

Well, I know that this post will leave some of my peers shaking their head, and wondering how a Princeton educated pastor could say such things, but you know, it is OK, because God and I know the truth!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vision Follows Money

It is the time of year when churches that have stewardship campaigns are working to find pledges to meet next year’s budget. As I was rereading Ministry Loves Company (by John Galloway, Jr.), I found his chapter “vision follows money” to be a good reflection of how I feel about this time of the year. Too many times, we allow the money that is pledged to determine our vision, rather than our vision to lead us. It is the author’s contention that money follows vision.

As leaders, we must cast the vision and allow for God to provide the money to meet that vision. Another point the author mentions (and I will implement this year) is to drop the word “pledge” and replace it with “estimate of giving.” Budgeting is not an exact science and the word “estimate” means no one is locked in. If the person’s situation changes for the worse, they are not forced to feel guilty if they can’t make their estimate. However, should their situation improve, they are able to give more, sometimes much more.

If we are to be the church God wants, we need to focus on mission and make that the key part of our stewardship campaign. Don’t get me wrong, we need to pay the electricity, the insurance, and of course the preacher! The thing is, we need to major on what is the most important for the kingdom—missions. It is up to the leaders in the church to make this a priority in their own lives if we ever expect the people in the pew to feel the same way.

So, what does your church do when the pledges don’t meet the budget? Is mission’s giving the first casualty? Please, let’s all take a stand this year to make missions the priority it should be. Trust me, it will make all the difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Repeat After Me

My name is (say your name), and I am an evangelist. If you are a Christian, you ARE an evangelist. Now whether you are a good evangelist or a poor evangelist is up to you, but you are an evangelist. As a pastor that is trying to fuse new people into the church, this is a major concern. How can I help fuse people that aren’t there? And just whose job is it to reach them? According to the interviews of the formerly unchurched in the book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, 42% came to church because they were asked by a family member and 16% came because they were asked by a co-worker or neighbor. Now, to be honest, once they get into the building, the emphasis shifts. 90% said the pastor/preaching and 88% said the doctrine of the church led them to chose the church. But, 58% came to church in the first place because they were asked by a friend, co-worker, or family member (of the rest 25% came because of a life-crisis).

When asked what about the preaching led them to join the church, the two top answers were: preaching that teaches the Bible, and preaching that applies to my life. So, what I garner from this is that the preacher must take the time to prepare sermons that are both Biblically sound and have life application. This is a heavy burden; in order to prepare sermons like that week in and week out takes time. The average time to prepare a sermon in churches that are reaching the unchurched takes 22 hours a week. On the other hand, churches that are not reaching the lost have preachers that are averaging only four hours a week in sermon preparation. This means that preachers that are effectively reaching the lost are spending more time in the Word and more time honing the sermon to reach out with practical life application.

The bottom line is this, if we want to reach the unchurched, the preacher MUST spend adequate time preparing the sermon and the congregation has to do their part in inviting the lost to church. So, back to where I began, we are all evangelists. Are you doing you part in reaching out to your family members, friends, and co-workers? If not, why not?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preacher’s Wives and Families

I think there are a lot of us male preachers who can benefit from the following video:



What do you think? Is it about time to give our wives a break? There are too many good illustrations to use that we don’t have to constantly use our wives. I know that I have occasionally used my family (I remember using my Mom’s cooking in a sermon once while she was in the audience and how embarrassed she was), but I am making a vow (that I honestly hope I always remember) to only use my family in sermons in a positive light. Funny stories about our family have a place in our lives, but not in our sermons. Tell them at family reunions or at the Thanksgiving dinner. The added benefit of this approach is that our congregations will see our family in a more positive light, and they will see that you love your family enough to refrain from embarrassing them!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Boring Preaching

I came across this “top ten” list on the internet (Top Ten Ways to Put Your Congregation to sleep) and I thought I would share it.

1. Make sure that your material is dry and boring. Make sure that your material is either highly technical or complex. If at all possible fill your sermon with specialized academic content that is not easily understood without prior study and research.
2. Do not include any explanations or illustrations to make the content understandable to the average person in your audience.
3. Schedule your sermon to be at the end of a long day or after a big meal. This will give added incentive for drowsiness and lethargy.
4. Speak softly and avoid any expression or vocal variety that might distract or interest your audience.
5. Stand still behind the pulpit for the entire sermon. Any movement or sudden gestures could wake up your audience.
6. Avoid any variation in style in your presentation. Do not change from talking to using a flip chart, PowerPoint or any other kind of visual aid or prop that will attract attention.
7. Do NOT include any humor or stories in your sermon that might illustrate the important points you wish to communicate.
8. Do not keep to the topic of the sermon. Spend a large amount of time rambling about subjects or personal experiences that are boring and totally off topic.
9. Speak about a topic that is very familiar to your audience. Keep your content to things that they already know.
10. Provide highly detailed handouts, so that your congregation will not miss out on any important information during their snooze. Make sure that you do not say anything that is not included in the hand out. For best results, just read the handout word for word.
Hopefully, by following carefully the ten tips outlined here, you will have the satisfaction of seeing an entire congregation snoring quietly and happily throughout your entire sermon. If you do not follow these tips you may be alarmed to discover that your audience is alert and interested in what you have to say!
So, how about it, don’t you think it is about time we preachers made sure that our sermons are not just Scriptural, theologically sound, and uplifting, but also interesting and useful? I do!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It’s Not Trespassing

A comment from a video I watched at a recent Pastor’s Conference I attended was, “It’s not trespassing to go beyond your own boundaries.” Cool statement, but what does it mean? To me, it means that I have to continue to work beyond my own comfort zone. The Lord is forcing me to do that this week. Those who know me know that I love to preach sermons in “series.” As a matter of fact, I am in the middle of a series right now. I am happy with where this series is headed, but evidently the Lord has something else for me to preach this week! The bulletin is done, but it is no longer accurate!

I woke up yesterday morning (about 2:50 AM) with three scriptures running circles in my mind. They had nothing to do with my sermon that I was nearly finished preparing. To make sure I didn’t lose the thought, I grabbed my cell phone and made a voice memo to myself and went back to sleep. When I awoke, I found that I had no need for my voice memo; the scriptures were still pounding at me. What should I do? Abandon my nearly complete sermon to start from scratch or figure that I could preach this sermon at a later time?

The answer was simple, but not easy. I must change my sermon to deal with the Scriptures that the Lord had given me during my time of rest. Today and tomorrow, I will take the time to write a completely new sermon. It is what I must do. How can I expect others to follow the leading of the Spirit, if I won’t do it myself? Will it be a wonderful sermon? I don’t know. Will it be the right sermon? Absolutely!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Think I May Need Help

OK, that may be a little misleading (or true, you will have to decide). I had a member take me to his former church's rummage sale today. I was looking to see what items we could possibly use at the church and for people in need in our area. This sale is HUGE. The church gives away stuff the first day (today) to people in need. For those a little better off, they get half price merchandise tomorrow and the rest of the public gets their chance on Friday and Saturday (until noon when the load up the leftovers and take them to Goodwill). The Church makes about $12000.00 twice a year with this event (the money going to missions).

So, what do I think I need help? Well, I left there today with 7 boxes of cookbooks, 2 brand new pairs of Cowboy Boots (don’t sigh so loud Amy), and a set of Titanium golf clubs (including the bag and a rolling cart to tote them) all for $20.00, YEP, $20.00! The clubs were to have on hand just in case I ever get invited to play golf and the boots were comfortable. The problem is the 7 boxes of cookbooks. I took the time to count my cookbooks after working 45 minutes to find room for most of them on my shelves and I now have over 220 cookbooks. I know I will never read all of them even if I want to, but I hope to at least skim them for interesting recipes. I am thinking about starting a 12 step group for recipe-a-holics, but I am not sure that anyone would come (they will too busy reading recipes!)

Oh, well. I know this isn’t a normal post; it is just that I am feeling guilty for owning so many cookbooks that I will never fully be able to use. There are recipes that I will never fully understand how make properly. Now because I won’t be able to understand them all, do I simply throw out all of them or do I use the ones I can understand? I will use the ones that I understand!

As Mark Twain once said, "It ain't what I don't understand in the Bible that bothers me, it's what I do understand in the Bible that bothers me." We may never fully understand all of the bible, but my question to you today is, “What are you doing with what you do understand?”

Monday, October 20, 2008

Screen Door

In the Fall of 1988 I had a unique opportunity as a Youth Minister in Creve Coeur, IL. to host a Rich Mullins concert. Our church was half way between St. Louis and Chicago and the band was looking for a place to hold a concert on the way between the two. The story is too long to tell here, but the bottom line is that we had Rich and the Ragamuffin band in concert for the grand total of $50 of Italian food and housing (in homes of various members of the congregation).

The concert was great and I was able to video most of it (and the warm up time as well) on a very heavy video camera. Because it was heavy (and I didn't yet own a tripod!) the video is a bit shaky, and because I had to change batteries, I missed the first part of the Screen Door song! BUT, I did get most of it (which is available at the bottom of this post).

"Faith without works, it just ain't happening...it's about as useless as a screen door on a submarine." So says Rich, and the more I read the book of James, the more I have to agree with Rich. We are saved by grace, but that doesn't mean we don't have responsibilities in the kingdom. Teachers teach, preachers preach and nursery workers give the best care possible to those left with them.

We all have a job (or jobs) to do for the Lord, and if we fail to do our part, we are the screen door on the submarine that is the Lord's Church!

video

Decently And In Order

Thanks to Amy, I am rereading a book that I read a few years ago and really liked. It is a book that ought to be required reading at every one of our Seminaries. The book is Ministry Loves Company: A Survival Guide for Pastors by John Galloway, Jr. I actually think I will make a note to myself to read this book at least every year or two—it is that insightful.

There is a passage in the introduction that is worth repeating here.
“One of the reasons our denominations have declined is that we are dying of sanity. We are terribly rational. We are programmed. We just don’t get funky and say shocking things or take chances or run risks or see a new opportunity and run headlong for it. We do things decently and in order. And, oh my goodness, are we sane! Did you ever stop to think that the place that most exudes doing it decently and in order is the local cemetery? The people who manage it have their procedures down pat. New members are received in solemn ceremonies. An organizational chart on the office wall explains in detail where all the members stand (OK, lie) in relation to all the other members. There are no conflicts. Nobody ever encroaches on (or under) anyone else’s turf. People don’t quit and join another cemetery. They are all in their proper place every Sunday. Everyone knows his or her place and stays in it. It is the most decently and in order place in town. There just isn’t a whole lot of life there.”

Obviously there is more to what we ought to be than just decent and in order! We need to also be a people of vision and action. We need to do more than just read the Word (if indeed we are doing that) we need to DO WHAT IT SAYS! James tells us that. I believe one of the reasons James gets overlooked by many people is that it gives us simple, practical advice on how to be what God wants us to be, and we really don’t want to be that radical.

Truly following God is radical. Taking care of orphans, widows, the poor and sick is not flashy, but it is required. We spend way too much time working on textual criticism, form criticism, rhetorical criticism, source criticism, and the rest of the criticisms. We take apart words and put them back together to have them say what we want them to say. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in proper exegesis of the text, but what I don’t believe in is exegeting to the point that we totally forget what the passage is truly trying to tell us! Rather than working hard to find a way to make the passage say what we want it to say, maybe it is time to let the Word be the Word and do what it says!

We need men and women of vision, who are willing to let the Spirit and the Word direct them, to lead our churches and our denomination. The time is long past for petty squabbles and nit picking. The time is NOW to get busy about doing our Father’s work! In the words of James, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Well, how about you? Are you going to stick to doing things decently and in order or are you willing to be led by the Spirit and the Word? I am.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mess Up, ‘Fess Up, Get Up!

This morning I will be preaching from Psalm 51. It is generally agreed that this Psalm was written following the sordid affair with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, and David’s role in having Uriah murdered. It was definitely not one of David’s finer moments. Yet, this is the same David that is described as a “man after mine own heart” by the Lord. How can this be?

David followed the same steps they we need to take if we are to be a man (or woman) after God’s own heart. After David sinned (adultery and murder undeniably fall into this category) or “messed up,” he didn’t wallow in self pity or blame someone else, he “’fessed up” (Confession). Confession is not only good for the soul, it is imperative if we want to regain our lost relationship with God.

The last step that David took was to “get up.” He had to move forward with his life in a changed way. He couldn’t let his past control his future. It is time that we learn these steps from David—when you mess up, then ‘fess up, and get busy doing the work the Lord has out there for you. Don’t let past mistakes keep you from the work of the Lord!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Out of Gas

I hurried home from Princeton today (where I got to spend some quality time with my family) in order to mow the lawn at the Manse. As I tried to start the lawn tractor, I got a big surprise. I was out of gas! Now, for some people that might not seem like a big deal, but for me, that means a 20-30 minute round trip to purchase the gas and to be honest, I don’t feel like driving anymore right now!

My lawn tractor reminded me of the importance of having our “tank full.” Just because the machine is there, the blades are sharp and the battery charged does me absolutely no good is there is no gas in the tank! How many people think that dressing up, going to church, and listening to a sermon is enough for them to be all that God wants them to be?

Guess what? If you don’t have your spiritual tank filled by spending time in the Word and time in prayer, it will dry up and when you most need to do something, you’ll be out of luck! I thought that I had mowed for the last time, so I didn’t go out and buy more gas….now I am paying for that oversight. It is inconvenient and frustrating, but I will get out to buy some soon and problem solved. But (and this is a big one), if we aren’t keeping our Spiritual tanks filled, it may not be so easy to get a fill-up when we really need it.

So, get out the Book, get into the Word, and spend some quality time alone with God. Now! Don’t put it off until it is too late!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Flu Shots

Amy was able to get a flu shot today at the Seminary. Hopefully this will keep her from getting the “real thing” later this winter. That is after all the reason to get any vaccination. You get a little of the virus in a small enough dose that your body’s immune system will be able to fight it off and then be strong enough to battle the virus when it attacks your body later on.

Well, I think vaccinations are a good picture of what is wrong in our churches today. We vaccinate people with Christianity and then they build up a tolerance so they don’t catch the real thing! We have a whole generation of vaccinated Christians (some attend our services and others don’t even do that anymore.) They know “enough,” they do “enough,” and they are good “enough.” Folks, that just isn’t true. None of us is good enough—if so, Jesus would never have had to come down to earth to provide salvation to us.

It is high time that Pastors, Sunday School teachers and elders quit being happy with people just being in the pew on Sunday and never really truly giving their lives over to Christ. We live in a society where we are afraid to offend someone (even if their very soul is at stake!) As I look toward my preaching for the New Year, I have a confession to make, I will be offending some people. It is time (at least for this preacher) to quit preaching only sermons that make people feel good and give them “little” things to do for Christ. I feel that it is important that I challenge everyone to truly give their all for God. You heard it here first—I will preach Christ and Him crucified. I will preach love, service and sacrifice. And I will do it unapologetically!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Unbelievable!

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, Professor of World Mission and Evangelism, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has written a 2-part article for the Presbyterian Outlook that actually says the same things I have been trying to say to those who would listen for few years. To read the articles you can follow the following links: The Dangers of the Unconverted Seminary, part1 and The Dangers of the Unconverted Seminary1,part ii.

While there is a lot more to the articles (and really, you should read them!) the best part for me was the fact a seminary professor is willing to say the same things that I have been saying about our seminaries – they aren’t really preparing men and women to be pastors! As the author states, “We spend far too much time on questions that, for the most part cannot be answered.” We need to have men and women who love the Word, and will they learn to love the Word if they don’t even KNOW the Word?

When I did my exit interview from NCPC, the Committee on Ministry wanted to know my “secret.” How had I been able to take a congregation that was about to be closed and have nearly triple in size and become the second largest giving congregation (per capita) in the Presbytery? Well, guess what? There is no secret. I simply preached the Word of God and got out of the way! We live in a time where pastors are looking for the quick fix or a new program that will do the work for them. As Paul told Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The simple fact is that if we preach the Word, it will do the work, but if we preach anything else, we are fooling ourselves and cheating our congregations.

Gotta go for now….I need to get into the Word for this week’s sermon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Economy

As I write this, we don’t yet know what the week will bring to the stock market. Will it continue to plummet? I certainly don’t know, but one thing I do know is that God is still in control! Churches all across the country are in the time of year where budget setting and stewardship campaigns begin to take place. In an uncertain economy will people still pledge? I don’t know. One thing I do know is that God is control! Should we make our budgets based upon our pledges or based upon what we want to accomplish for God in the next year? If we limit our vision to the money that has been promised, does that leave room for faith? I grew up in a congregation that never had a pledge campaign, instead, they presented a “faith” budget detailing what they wanted to accomplish and then had the faith that God would provide for their needs.

I think it is time for us to plan and budget, not based on what monies have been promised, but to trust God to provide for our plans and to dream big. Will everyone be comfortable with this approach? I doubt it! And doubt is the key word. We have become comfortable in our faith and are no longer willing (at least for the most part) to truly have FAITH. Faith that allows us to at least step out of the boat, even if we don’t have the faith to keep on walking on the waves; faith to let God be God and to trust Him for our needs.

Will a faith budget work? I don’t know for sure, but one thing I do know—God is in control!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beginnings and Endings

It seems that the two events that bring the most people to a church (or back to the church) are births and deaths, beginnings and endings. It is good that so many people come with their children to have them baptized and it is also good that many want to be back in the church for their funeral. But what about the in-between-times? Don’t people realize that the Lord wants to see them during the rest of their lives?

We have unfortunately become an increasingly busy society; too busy to do the things that matter most. We run here and there for meetings, ballgames, and family obligations while we ignore the greatest obligation of all—the Lord. I am in a situation right now where I only get to physically see Amy for just a few days a month. It is hard. I love her very much and not being able to be with her is a hole that nothing else can fill. I talk to her daily and even get to see her a few times a week (the magic of webcams!) but it isn’t really the same. I miss holding hands, talking about everything and nothing, and her help in so many ways that I can’t even begin to list them all!

How do we think the Lord feels when we neglect to spend time with Him? I can only believe that He misses our time together and looks forward to the time when we will return and spend our time with Him.

We are busy people, but that is absolutely no reason to ignore the ones we love and the ones who love us, especially the One who loved us so much He gave EVERYTHING for us. Don’t you think it is time for all of us to spend the in-between-times with Him? I do!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Motion Activated Light

I spent the last few days in retreat with fellow pastors “down the shore.” Each evening, we sat and talked and snacked under a pavilion overlooking the Atlantic. The only downside was that every few minutes, someone would have to jump up and wave their hands in front of the motion detector in order for us to have some light. I seems that just sitting and chatting wasn’t enough movement to keep us in the “light.”

I wonder if that is also true in the church. Do we sit around and talk and end up outside of the light, when we should be up and about and keeping the light shining? I am afraid that this is too often the case. We talk about missions, we talk about helping our neighbor, and we talk about a lot of things until the light goes out, but nothing ever happens.

I think it is time for us to stop talking about what we ought to be doing and (borrowing the Nike phrase) Just do it! James tells us to stop merely listening to the Word and so deceiving ourselves. Instead we are to do what it says. The Great Compassion chapter of Matthew 25 tells us the same thing. We are to help the least of those in our society. Don’t you think it is about time to get off our duffs and do the work we are called to do? I believe that if we all did that, the light of Christ would shine brightly and never seem to go out!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Learning to Rest, Resting to Learn

Well Indian Summer (the Pastor’s retreat) is over and I am back in the Pastor's Study. One of the hardest things for me to do in the ministry is take time to rest. I have never been good at getting away. I check my email and I check my phone messages just to make sure that everything is OK. I wasn’t able to check my email this time and it really was a blessing. Instead of worrying about things I could not do anything about (until I got back to Stillwater), I decided to read and rest. I brought both academic and recreational reading with me. As it turned out, my 4 hours of afternoon free-time was spent equally reading recreationally and taking naps! It is definitely not something I can do all the time, but is was incredibly restful.

This break had me fresh for the discussions during the “work” part of our retreat. I was able to focus and not let my mind wander because I was “fresh.” At night, I had the window open to hear the waves from the Atlantic crashing below me. While the bed was certainly not good for my back, the time spent at the retreat center was most certainly time well spent. The only problem is, I have to wait 12 months to do it again!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sunrise Over the Atlantic


For the third and final time for a while, I watched the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean this morning. The sky had already begun to lighten up for thirty minutes before the Sun decided to make its appearance. What struck me was how fast it seemed to rise from the water. I was expecting a slow ascent, instead, the sun shot up like toast from a toaster! I was struck by the beauty of the surrounding sky before the sun appeared and how quickly those beautiful colors disappeared when the sun shown forth in all its splendor.

I helped me to reflect on my role as a pastor. The positive things that people see in me (and I hope that they see them!) should disappear when they see the Son. Just as the sky is simply filter the light of the sun to produce the wonderful colors only to see them disappear in the glory of the sun, I trust that the things I do will have people looking for the Son and when they see Him in all His glory, they will forget all about who it was that pointed the way!

Lord, please let me be the reflection that turns eyes to your Son, today, and every day. AMEN

Friday, October 3, 2008

Do You Want Your Change?

My wife will tell you, that I really, really HATE when a server asks me that question. If I wanted them to keep the change, I would have told them to keep the change! Unfortunately, as a pastor, one of the hardest parts of ministry is seeking to change a congregation that doesn’t really want the change. If we wanted you to change us, we would have told you! Well they did tell us that, but in reality, many of them were lying to themselves. We are by nature creatures of habit, even in church. Look around the next time you enter the sanctuary. Chances are, the people will arrive around the same time and be sitting in the same pew that they were the week before (and the week before that…)

Churches want to have a good name in the community, a surplus in the budget, new people coming in, and to do it without any change on their part! Guess what? If you keep doing the same things in the same way, you will get the same results!

So, how do churches change? They change when they begin to let the Spirit take His proper place in their lives. The Spirit of God is the most ignored aspect of the Trinity in many, if not most, mainline denominations. I grew up in a fellowship that had its beginnings in the camp meetings of the early 1800’s. In these camp meetings, people would faint, run around, sing, and even bark like dogs! They were so enraptured by the moving of the Spirit that they couldn’t help themselves. Yet, if any of those would have happened in my home congregation when I was growing up, they would have dialed 911 (well, there wasn’t 911 back then, but you know what I mean!)

Now I am not saying that we need to start barking like dogs in order to see the Spirit at work in our congregation, but I am saying that it is time to quit pouring water on the fire of the Spirit and let the Spirit take control. What will that mean for a congregation? I can’t tell you for sure, because I have never seen a congregation that was totally willing to surrender to the Spirit. What I can tell you is this; if we truly want to change and become what God has called us to be, we better start listening to the Spirit and DO what the Spirit leads us to do!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

United or Untied?

In a time when churches all across America are struggling to remain vital and effective the most important aspect for them to remember is where they put their “I.” Is it all about me or is it all about God? Do you come to church seeking what the church can do for you or do you come to church seeking what you can do for God? You see the importance of where we put the “I?” If we are to be what God wants us to be, we must work together to bring about the fusing of our individuals into the fellowship that God calls us to be.

I am not talking about uniformity, but unity. We shouldn’t all be the same. After all, we all have different gifts in order to serve God and the church. We should, however, use our various gifts in a unified attempt to do the things that God has called us to do. If we want to be a truly “fused’ church, we will use those varying gifts to bring glory to God, not to squabble and fight. God has given us all we need in order to be effective in our communities for Him.

When various people and committees have their own agenda, divisiveness can become the standard. When we feel that our work is the most important work to be done, we allow ourselves and/or our committee to become untied from the rest of the congregation. Look at it this way, a team of superstars that won’t work together will seldom beat a team of less talented people working together. While the superstars may have more “highlight film” footage, isn’t the whole point to win the game?

It is my prayer that every Christian in every congregation would be humble enough to put Jesus first in all that they do; that they would be willing to let others “get the glory” in order to help the work of God shine through. If we would all become united, those that are still untied will be both welcomed and encouraged to join us! What do you say? Isn’t it time we worked together for a change?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Where Good Intentions Meet Reality

When I started this blog, my intention was to write at least four times a week. As you can see by my recent activity, good intentions do not always become reality. Over the last few days, I have seen an increase in “drop in” visitors, a Manse repair that needed my help, and many other “distractions” that have kept me away from the pursuit of this blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the opportunities for ministry. I have found that in the less formal visits of the drop in visitor, I learn much more about the person than in my dedicated calls. Ministry is best when it isn’t forced. Pastoral care happens much freer in the day to day flow of the ministry (well, at least for me) than in the structured calls that many seem to feel are “my job.”

Being open to the leading of the Spirit makes ministry come alive. Learning to allow distraction to become ministry opportunities is vital for a successful pastor. Now, don’t get me wrong, some distractions are just that, distractions. Learning to decipher the difference between a true distraction and an opportunity for ministry is hard (and I don’t always get it right.) It is my prayer each day that the Lord increases my wisdom in this aspect of my ministry.

Life happens. Interruptions happen. Ministry happens, but only when we allow ourselves room for the Spirit to work. Praise God that He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us the wisdom to reach out to those who need us (when we would really like to get the morning paper read or the sermon finished).

Well, I’d like to say more, but I just heard someone come in the front door!