You are currently browsing the archives for the Church category.
(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots)
I’ve been a pastor since 1989. Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people. They sincerely care. There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.
If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people. That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.
Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts. Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.
Good pastors are anointed men. When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life. There is an anointing from God upon them. When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly). The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”. The pastor is only a clay pot, at best. The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message. Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot. If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.
A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships. A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.
(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)
A good pastor has wisdom from on high. He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face. It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.
A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.
A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.
A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago. Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”. A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.
(Dot connection now follows…)
If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor. I’ll list a few things numerically.
- Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status. It just doesn’t. Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different. Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
- Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself. He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions. Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts. Pay the price.
- Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere. I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back. If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere. Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
- Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
- Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense. Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.
Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”. Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.
Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor. If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
Christianity is a subculture among every greater culture in which it finds itself. Jesus taught that “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few find it”. The implication is that there are more people that haven’t found Jesus than those who have. In any given city, there will be more unbelievers than there will be Christians. Therefore, the Church is a subculture of the greater community in which it is found.
Then within the Church Universal in any given city, there are different churches, with different philosophies of ministry, different doctrinal emphases, and a different flavor in music, dress, etc. Each individual church is a subculture of a larger subculture.
I am not suggesting that any Church should conform itself to worldly standards to be more relevant or relateable. Jesus taught us otherwise…that following Him would actually separate family members. Every Christian knows that or ought to know that. Following Jesus puts you in a subculture of the great community you live in.
For me, that’s all OK so far.
Here is my concern…
The Church in its purest form is already a smaller piece of the pie in any given culture, but I find that we often “Gospelize” non-Gospel issues, making ourselves even more unrelatable and marginal than we naturally are or are intended to be.
We have strong opinions on lesser issues, and we go soft on major doctrinal issues and commands. In my opinion, church leaders or congregants sometimes over-emphasize such issues as home schooling, vaccinations, politics, or support for Israel. We fight over issues like drinking alcohol or church membership. We hang Israeli flags in our foyers, and then wonder why people of Arab ethnicity are uncomfortable in our churches. We are blind to the fact that our churches aren’t multi-generational, and if we do see that, we hate making changes to welcome people of others age groups. We forget about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The phrase is true: “like attracts like” and we usually choose to gather together with people that share more preferences than one might imagine.
The negative result with this can sometimes be a silent or spoken disapproval of others that are not like us, even from Christian to Christian. It’s not wrong to have strong opinions; it is wrong to over-emphasize secondary preferences.
If we insist on living with the idea of “like attracts like”, we inadvertently reduce our approachability and relatability to others that might simply want to worship God and hear a good Bible study. We chase them away with our silent or spoken disapproval.
We become a subculture of a subculture of a subculture, and then we wonder why “no one wants to come to our church”.
I believe that the solution to the “overculturizing” of our churches is to have increasingly less absolutes both corporately and individually. I like to use the phrase “vanilla church”. When you eat vanilla ice cream, it is suited for any kind of topping you might want add. I want our church to be as vanilla as possible regarding all secondary issues, but I want us to be deep and strong in the main truths of the Bible.
Being more vanilla on secondary issues means that we need to be more flexible with negotiable things. It means we forsake personal preferences that matter only to us and our friends. It means allowing people to all scoop from the same bucket of ice cream, but having a wide variety of toppings for individual taste. (Forgive the food analogies. It’s how I think)
Instead of overculturizing our churches with secondary and tertiary issues, let’s major on the majors, and let people be free to “work out THEIR OWN salvation with fear and trembling”, without the fear of the disapproval of others in the next pew.
I used to never want to post articles that covered the material that follows. I was fearful that people would think that I was complaining or wanted sympathy.
The Apostle Paul spoke candidly about his challenges, sufferings, and difficulties. He did so to further the Gospel. It is in that spirit that I post this link.
I complain to God, my wife, and a few friends. I don’t want sympathy…I love being a pastor. But for the sake of whoever this might help…please read. Blessings.
If you don’t know the story of Chicken Little, here is a brief synopsis.
The main line of the story has to do with a chicken who has an acorn fall on her head, and then proclaims “the sky is falling”. The point that I get from the story is that the chicken over-reacts to an event, and makes more of it than what it actually is.
Among the Body of Christ, there may be some that have the Chicken Little mentality regarding the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama. They might be believing that all is lost, that the nation is crumbling, and that the end is near.
In some ways I agree, but I am not wringing my hands this morning after America has re-elected Obama. I did not vote for him, and I don’t like his philosophy of how to run a country. I do believe that our nation is deteriorating on a moral level. I would not be surprised to see a total financial collapse in my lifetime. I would not be surprised if eventually the Church has to go under ground.
I worry about my children and grandchildren’s future. In many ways, life may be harder for them than it has been for me.
But…none of this should surprise or undermine the faith of the Bible believing Christian. We have been told ahead of time how things will come to a close.
1 Timothy 3:1-5a 1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power.
If you are a Bible believing Christian, you have been taught that such things will increasingly come to pass as time goes on. Election 2012 should not shake you, if you view the results as lining up with this passage.
Dear brethren: The church of Jesus Christ shall not fail. Jesus said so. Matthew 16:18 tells us, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it“.
Finally, I direct your hearts to this incredible passage in Ephesians. Take time today to think on this passage. Take it in deeply. It is an amazing truth.
Ephesians 1:15-23 15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.22And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
May I invite you to read my sermon notes on this passage? They can be found here. God’s great power is working in us, His people, His church.
If, like Chicken Little, we focus on the fact that “the sky is falling”, remember that we are saved by the God who owns the heavens.
Psalm 89:11 11 The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.
My hope for every Follower of Jesus is that we would not be like Chicken Little, who had nothing but a sense of doom and gloom, but that we be Believers who understand the increasing severity of the world’s situation would have more hope than anyone on the planet.
Maranatha…come Lord Jesus.
This is an article I wrote for Cross Connection, a blog committed to church ministry.
Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.
Years ago, I read those words on an invitation to a church event.
The sponsoring church did everything they could to convince me that I ought to attend their event.
They promised that I would laugh. There is nothing wrong with laughing. In fact, the Bible commends a good laugh. Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…”.
They promised that I would cry. I can be an emotional guy, and have been known to cry in public. Sometimes a good cry is very cleansing to the soul. Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Crying can release a lot of tension and emotion. There is nothing wrong with a good cry.
And yet, I objected to their flier, and to their promises. I still do. This was a Christian outreach, and yet they were promising to deliver these emotions to me. They presumed to know what I needed. There appeared to be no room for the Holy Spirit to do something else. What if what I needed was a fresh dose of somberness in the presence of a perfectly holy God? It wasn’t on the agenda for the night.
My assumed responses were pre-planned and predicted. They tutored me about what I would experience. They planned my responses in advance. Their goal was to get me to laugh and to cry. They were sure that they could make it happen.
Increasingly, I see Christians confusing emotional experiences at a church, with a God experience in the Holy Spirit.
There are many ways to evoke emotions in “Christian” settings. The right music or no music. The right lighting or having only candles. There are many ways to affect emotions towards a desired goal.
Both true and false messages can evoke an emotional experience. Some pastors teach the Word of God, and are humorous. Other pastors read a passage, and then tell funny stories, neglecting to teach or apply God’s word to the listener. Often, both men can be equally funny, but many Believers can’t tell that there is any difference. This is extremely alarming to me.
It seems that many in Christendom are lacking the spiritual maturity to discern whether God or man has spoken to them.
I have been walking with Jesus for 30 years. I have seen true signs and wonders, and false signs and wonders. I have seen emotionally impacting Spirit led preaching, and I have seen emotionally human inspired preaching. I have been moved to tears by “boring” preachers who were excellent teachers, and who revealed Jesus to me. I have been bored to tears by emotional speakers that taught me nothing.
I have seen crowds of people moved by the Holy Spirit. I have seen other crowds moved by pep rally worship leaders and charismatic, talented speakers.
In many cases, an emotional experience is the goal for a Christian event, rather than a revelation of who Jesus is.
My concern is not about how people express themselves in the presence of God. There is great latitude concerning that. My concern is about what causes a certain response. Is it the incredible Spirit of Perfect Holiness, or is it a church culture where certain behaviors are predicted, arranged and manipulated? Is it God, or is it man?
Dear Christian brother/sister…is your desire for Christ the great motivation of your life, or do you simply have a desire to laugh and cry at church? If you prefer somber worship, is it because you are overwhelmed with God’s awesomeness, and words don’t suffice, or is it because you just need some “quiet space to chill out”? If you prefer emotionally charged worship is it because you need a place to “get crazy” and pump your fist in the air, or is it a demonstrative, Spirit led joy in the presence of our great God?
Christian, beware of pre-programmed emotional experiences that any group or church might insist you need. Jesus is what you need. Sometimes, He will take us to the highest heights of ecstatic worship. The very next day, His Spirit may move you to sit and stay silent. He knows what you need. Not you. Not the preacher. Not the worship leader. Not me.
Let Jesus decide if you will laugh, or if you will cry.
It takes intention and effort to really hear what people are saying. As water always runs downhill, it is natural for all people to get into social ruts. We have our favorite people, groups, movements, and social tendencies, but (social) ruts limit lateral movement (awareness), and as Tozer has suggested, ruts turn into graves.
I have noticed that people often don’t see the need to cross the generational bridge to see what is on the other side. Perhaps they feel too busy to put in the extra effort needed to enter someone else’s “foreign” world. It could be rightly claimed that most of us can’t even keep up with our chosen friends, much less take the time to meet others who live in a parallel but distant world.
I have a hunch that in most cases, people don’t care that much about other people, and see no redeeming value in crossing the generational bridge. Why bother? Is it really worth the effort to learn about the “other culture” that sits in the same church as me, but seems so different? Some might argue that we ought to just “give each other some space”, and be happy with a peaceful but non-integrating co-existence.
The Bible teaches that Christians are “One Body”, and that we are organically and inextricably joined together in Christ, bur lack of social interaction seems to indicate that we don’t believe that, or at least are unwilling to pursue and enjoy it.
When is the last time a high school or college group sponsored an appreciation dinner for veterans of WW2? When is the last time a 20 year old invited a 60 year old out to coffee, and ask to hear his/her Christian testimony? The reverse is true as well. When has a group of retired folks (who have a lot of free time), gotten together and plan an event for a college group? How many high schoolers does the older generation know by name?
Why is this missing in our churches? I am sure that trans-generational fellowship happens here and there, but it certainly seems to be the exception rather than the norm.
My encouragement would be that both sides reach out. Meet someone from a different generation than your own. “Adopt” a young person, and pray for them, mentor them, learn about them, and pour yourself into them. “Adopt” an old person, realize the wisdom and experience that is available, and listen to them. Retired people have much to give, including time and experience. Older people might get rejected by some younger people, but keep trying. Pray for that one young person who you can be a friend and mentor to.
Young people have time too, even though they “think” they are busy. 😉 I often read the facebook status of young people about how bored they are, and that they want to know “who wants to go to the beach or the movies”. I suggest that young people find an older person to connect to, to visit with, to assist, and to learn from. There are retirement homes full of older people who are extremely lonely. There are older people in churches that would greatly benefit from the energy and presence of a young person.
The Apostle Paul stated it beautifully when he said of the Thessalonians, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us”. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Paul imparted his life to others. Other Christians had become dear to him. May we impart our lives to others as well, and may we cross the generational bridge to do so.
Most marriages will go through times that leave a husband feeling bored with his wife, or vice versa. Even the best marriages can experience this.
Proverbs 27:20 Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied.
The eyes, the flesh, and the desires of man are never satisfied, or, in other words, the nature of man always wants continual gratification. If a man is focused only on self gratification, he will grow bored with his wife, and begin to see only her problems, flaws, and weaknesses. He will compare her to other women, thinking that he would be better off with someone else. His heart will wander, his thoughts will wander, and his actions may follow.
The Christian man has a clear and high calling regarding his relationship with and responsibility to his wife.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…
The Christian husband is called to understand the supreme example of husband-hood in the relationship between Jesus and His church. Jesus is the example of how husbands are to pursue loving their wives.
If Jesus is the example of the perfect Husband, then that means that every Christian is Jesus’ bride, regardless of gender. A Christian man needs to see himself first as the Bride of Christ before he can rightly see himself as the husband to his wife.
If Jesus is the perfect example of what the Husband does for his wife, then we need to consider all that Jesus does for His Bride, the Church. Consider John 10:10 as it applies to Jesus and His Bride.
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Jesus came to give abundant life to His Church, His Bride. That means super exceeding, beyond the norm, abounding, rich, full life. Abundant life is living life to the full. Not in the realm that the world suggests, with more possessions, more relationships, etc. Jesus came to give us a spiritual life that brings abundance and richness to living. Abundant Life is the exact opposite of boring life. Jesus lived the Abundant Life, and He seeks to bring us into that Life.
So what are the applications for husbands who are feeling that they are stuck in a boring marriage?
If you are a Christian husband, are you living the Abundant Life, or even seeking it? Jesus said He came that you might have it. Abundant Living starts with you, and will never leave you bored. Seek after it. Do it with great determination and purpose.
If you are a Christian husband, and feel that you are in a boring marriage, don’t believe the lies of the world and Satan that suggest you ought to spice up your marriage with some drink or smoke, with some X rated films, or some flirting with another woman. That is what the Thief says. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy. How many marriages have actually gotten better and more godly through smoke, drink, pornography, flirting, gambling, etc? None. Zero.
If you are a Christian husband who feels your marriage is boring, how much are you seeking Jesus? Jesus seeks to bring YOU Abundant Life, and you often don’t or haven’t gone along with His idea, but he has never given up on you.
Christian husband: it is your responsibility to seek the Abundant Life first for yourself, and then bring it to your wife. Maybe your wife is boring or bored because of years of you neglecting her. The joy of living has been drained out of her by your selfishness. Seek Abundant Life in Jesus, and then bring your wife along. Neither of you will be bored.
Be a godly man. Draw close to God through His word, through prayer, through serving others. Seek to bless your wife instead of complaining about how boring she is and finding fault with her. If she is boring to you, it is because you have not spiritually led her to Abundant Life in Christ.
If your wife is boring to you, is very well may be a result of you not investing your life into her. Husbands often make their wives into something other than what Jesus wants, and then they complain about it.
Christian husband: Man up. Seek Jesus. Walk in the Abundant Life, and take your wife with you. There is Abundant Marriage to be discovered and enjoyed.
The church at Ephesus faced more cultural, social, and spiritual changes than we do. Slavery existed, gladiators were killed for entertainment, idolatry was rampant, and the opposition against Christianity was strong.
In the face of all that, Paul the Apostle told the Ephesian Christians to “walk worthy of the calling with which they were called”. (Ephesians 4:1)
Simply put: Be the Christian that you are.
The Ephesians were to impact their world first and foremost by living for Christ.
Whatever else they would do would be the fruit of walking with Christ.
The Church needs to remember that we are not called to react emotionally and try to fix our culture.
God is more concerned about our culture than we are, and His plans are better than ours.
May whatever changes take place through our lives be a result of our steady faith in Jesus.
Paul was a…
1. Conduit Of Comfort
2. Conduit of Confidence
3. Conduit Of Christ.
Click here to read the notes and hear the sermon.
Click on “The Conduit Church”.