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Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me again today. Someone said I said something that I didn’t. They did it to defend themselves and their lifestyle of sin. I guess they figured if they could make me look small, it would somehow make them bigger, or at least more righteous.
Several years ago, I realized that people will (dog) the Pastor or the church in order to make themselves appear better than the church. This way, when someone comes to invite them to church, they can use this as a way of saying, “your Pastor is no better than I am. Why should I come to your church?!” And boy if you did say what they said you said. Or if you did what they said you did, now they have every reason in the world to never come to church. As if by some miracle, you were as wise as Solomon and did everything perfectly.
I believe Jesus understood this. Mary and Martha would have blamed Him for their brother’s sickness and death, but the fact of the matter was it was their own lack of faith that allowed their brother to die. And for their lack of faith, Jesus wept. Adam himself wanted to blame his wife for his own sin. As much as Eve did play some part in tempting Adam, the real one at fault was no one else but Adam.
I’m sure if you have been in ministry long at all, you have counseled people only to have them use your good counsel to try to destroy your character and reputation. Personally, I refuse to allow other peoples sin to affect me. When they want to make excuses and bring my name into the situation, I have decided to quickly turn the conversation around and allow light to come into the problem. “The real reason there is a situation, is you have had an affaire, not that I counseled you or did not counsel you about this.” I think you get my thinking here. There are several examples I could give.
“My brother would have lived if you would have been here Jesus”. No, he would have lived if you would have prayed for him to live. Why bring my name into your faithlessness. “My family would have stayed together if the Pastor would have spent more time with us.” No, your family would still be together if you would have slept in your own bed. “I’d still be in the church if that Pastor wouldn’t have offended me with his preaching.” The only thing that is offended by good preaching, is sin. Why don’t you confess your faults and be healed instead of blaming the Pastor for your unrighteous lifestyle.
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They may not sit in the back row. In fact many times they sit closest to the front. Most would say they are “Faithful” as they seldom miss a service. They appear to be the backbone of the church. They pay their tithes. They dress right. They look right, but once you really get to know them, you find that they are the Back Row Bullies of the church.
These people all too often run the church. They decide who is going to do what. They decide how loud the music is and what color the walls of the sanctuary are going to be. Little happens in the church that they don’t know about and don’t in some great way influence the out come of. Theirs is a mission. Theirs is a job that nobody else will do. Without them they know that the church would fall apart. They are the Back Row Bullies.
No one is quite sure how they gained such influence. Maybe it has to do with the amount of money they gave at one time or even still. They may have family within the church whom they have great influence over. Their measure of sacrifice is probably great, but nonetheless, they are Back Row Bullies.
We all know what a bully is. It’s someone who pushes their weight/influence/resources around to cause you to do something you would not ordinarily do. Let me break that down a bit. You ordinarily would not put up with someone creating division in the church behind your back, but since they give so much money… You otherwise would not allow them to have the position in the church that they have, but because their influence over so many in the church is strong…[ read more...]
I don't want to be so presumptuous as to speak for everyone in ministry, so allow me to speak from my experience;
I often feel overwhelmed and under qualified at that task that God has set before me. I sometimes wonder if I will be able to communicate what I feel so strongly about in a fashion that would cause those who hear me to feel the same passion I feel. I wonder if I can motivate the Church to move in the direction I believe God wants it to move. I feel especially burdened with these thoughts when I am ministering in an outreach setting where the people have not yet heard the Apostolic Message. (with this group, I may have only one chance) No doubt you have felt the same way.
Early in my ministry, I figured this feeling would dissipate over time as my experience grew. But it hasn't. I still feel overwhelmed and under qualified, even more so than before. Yet, now, I have come to understand this is how God wants me to feel. When I lose this feeling, I am on my way down.
What I am describing is not so much a lack of confidence in one's self. I am not describing someone who is fearful or timid of people and pulpit ministry, but rather someone who is humble. God requires humility in every leader. Without humility you will never reach your people. The moment you feel like you have everything in control is the moment you lose control. The message that you just know is going to fill the altars is going to flop. Pride has no place in ministry. Pride will backfire every time. Yet, when you feel like you are in way over your head or when you feel like you don't have the words to say, God will always make up the difference.[ read more...]
Five ways to know whether or not your plan is working.
First let me establish what growth is; Growth takes place when a sinner is converted into God's Kingdom. Transferring members is recycled growth. Growth takes place when the church goes out into the harvest field (world/community) to gather the harvest (sinners).
The church is not of the world but we are the "'light of the world." We have been placed here to do the work of the Kingdom. Jesus called us a city set on a hill and the salt of the earth. We have been placed in this world to let Jesus Christ shine through us;
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Jesus is interested in Kingdom growth (converted sinners). His plan is that all would come to repentance, this is the will of God. True growth is not budgets and buildings, but it is souls added to the kingdom. Every church must have a plan to add souls to the kingdom. If you do not plan for this to happen then it is not going to happen. Some plans succeed, others fail. The question is, do you have a plan, and is your plan working?[ read more...]
A popular saying states, "A church that fails to plan is a church that plans to fail." I would like to rephrase that, "A church that fails to train its leaders is a church that trains its leaders to fail."
Since the pastor cannot do it all alone, training leaders is a must. It is imperative that every church have a plan to train existing and future leaders. Leaders are not born, they are developed through mentoring, training and hands on experience.
Leaders must have a clear mental and spiritual picture of their goals. The Bible calls this vision.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Without vision, people have no direction or focus and are easily confused and distracted. Without vision, ministries will fail and people will become discouraged and move on. Your leaders must know the vision, see the vision, understand the vision and believe in the vision. They must be trained in how to accomplish the vision. Then they must be consistently encouraged to fulfill the vision.[ read more...]
In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of 'family.' We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about 'me' and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is 'their rights'. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little 'kingdom' or 'empire' in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building 'our kingdom' instead of building 'His Kingdom.' Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about 'me' and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. 'His Kingdom' begins to blend into 'my kingdom.' Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until 'my kingdom' becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
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Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of 'family'.
The origin of the Hebrew word for 'family' means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
Jesus died for the sins of the world. He did not die for most, several or some. He died for all. When He suffered on the cross, He did not have only a few hundred or a few thousand on His mind. What held Him to that tree was every single man, woman, boy and girl who would ever live on this planet. Is our own directive the same?
How many churches would be quite satisfied if they could just reach a few hundred from their community. Think about it, if your church directly affected 300-500 souls on a weekly basis, would you be satisfied? I would. For a while any way.
We've got to stop thinking small. Jesus did not think small. The scripture does not speak small. This gospel was given that every single person ever conceived could have a relationship with Him. For too long the Church’s growth has been limited by our small thinking.
There are well over 6 billion people on this planet today. Some would say that God will add to the church in His time. That growth will happen when He wills it to happen. Jesus proved his commitment and desire to see every person in your city saved when he suffered that horrific beating and the cruel death of the cross.
Revival has nothing to do with God’s will for it to happen. He has proven His will. It has everything to do with our putting ourselves in a position to allow it to happen and to receive and maintain it when it comes.[ read more...]
Early on in my days as an RN, I greatly enjoyed working with patients who had come through multiple trauma situations. Even when I was in nursing school, I would frequently spend my evenings at work as a patient care tech, in the Emergency Department or in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. The reason was because these areas were generally the hubs for patients who had multiple trauma insults to contend with. Then when I graduated from nursing school, I went to work in the SICU and it was there that I found a niche specifically with neuro-trauma and the other injuries associated with the brain and the spinal cord.
There have been numerous times that I have seen patients that hardly had a mark on their body but had been dealt a massive blow to the head to the extent that they never recovered. In fact, far more than I would like to have liked, we would send them to long-term care facilities basically in a very obtunded or comatose state. Never again would they function normally and be able to assume even the most basic of daily functions of living. A perfectly healthy body but with horrific brain injury that disabled them.
John Bunyan wrote another classic besides Pilgrim’s Progress. It was a book called The Holy War. The focus of the story was the capture of a city called Mansoul. In it Diabolus (the devil) has taken it and the battle rages as the Prince Emmanuel works to recapture it. The way it was overcome was because the gates of the city had been compromised. Diabolus and his wicked imps had traversed it by taking advantage of the Eye Gate and Eye Gate which are symbolic of the use of the senses to cause the capture of the city.
It is imperative that a minister guards the gates of his mind. He is constantly under the assault and duress of the devil and because of this, our mind must be worked on very diligently to prevent the capture of it. Don’t be surprised at the tares, which may loom among the wheat because this is the way it has to be. In fact Paul cautioned the ever-vigilant servant when he expressed the fact that there must be heresies to grow like clover in a pasture. The reason is for the church to be approved by God (1 Cor. 11:19).[ read more...]
One Snoopy cartoon depicts the famous beagle of Charley Brown lying on the roof of his dog house and complaining that everyone is constantly demanding something from him. He has so much more to do that he can possibly get accomplished. In the final frame of the cartoon, Snoopy sighs, “I hate being head beagle!”
Being head beagle is not always as glamorous as it appears to be. Amazingly, people struggle to become the top dog. There is some kind of allure to the top position in any given profession and the ministry is no different. An intoxication to be the one at the top of the ladder oftentimes blurs the true calling and divine purpose of too many people.
Few however, know the true cost of being the one with the title before his/her name. At the same time, those who are the One at the Top, overestimate their own true value. Any organization that only thrives because of the charisma of its sole leader is in trouble. In the day that the person whom the whole organization is revolving around falls away or steps aside, that organization is going to struggle to find direction for its immediate and future direction. Few churches/organizations who follow this pattern can survive completely with the loss of their fearless leader.[ read more...]
Solipsism is the belief that nothing exists outside of your self. If you, while reading this article, believe that this article and everything around you are figments of your imagination, you are solipsistic.
Sounds strange? No, it is very real.
Engine Charlie Wilson, former CEO of GM, once said, “What is good for GM is good for America!” Engine Charlie was indulging in solipsistic thinking on behalf of GM.
Grades in school may be another example of solipsism. The purpose of school is learning. We create a surrogate indicator of learning: grades. Then we collude with each other to pretend that grades are an accurate indicator that learning has or has not taken place. We no longer even question the legitimacy of grades.
Another example is sweeps week. Twice a year there are weeklong surveys of TV viewership. The ratings during sweeps week are important because they determine what the networks charge for advertising. The solipsism is this: We pretend that the programs during the sweeps week are representative of the network’s regular fare and that the ratings during sweeps are indicative of something real.
Another example: The Discipline of Market Leaders, a book that made The New York Times list of best-selling books. This occurred because those behind the book were able to identify which stores around the country were used by The New York Times as their sample for calculating which books were best sellers. By buying up their book at these stores, they could artificially inflate the figures. The solipsism: pretending that The New York Times list accurately depicts the sales of books (and that the volume of sales of books is an accurate measure of what is worthwhile to read).[ read more...]