My name is Keith Haney. The writer and architect of this blog journey. Candidly I am a pastor, but you will find no judgment, only encouragement at this site. I am not sure how you stumbled upon this blog. Maybe you were seeking ways to help your congregation better reach its neighborhood. Or you were looking to grow as a leader. It’s conceivable the system and culture are crushing you, and you need consolation. If inspiration is what you are pursuing you will find it here, if you want to grow as a leader, I will challenge you to do that. If you want your church to just improve and add people in the pew, this blog may not be suitable for you. The world is changing and our old ways of connecting isn’t working. This blog it will test your traditional views of church and ministry, it may stretch you beyond your comfort zone. So, if you read, follow and share its contents with your leadership I hold no personal responsibility for the metamorphosis you may experience or the stress and transformation you may thrust upon your leadership.
Some categories to avoid if you want to read this blog safely. Avoid the section on Millennials. It is based on actual research and verified by my Millennials friends. It will ultimately alter your misconceptions about this passionate, missional generation. You will discover why they are just passing on the local church in alarmingly large numbers. The post entitled, “A Worship Style That Connects With Millennials” will cause you to abandon many of your Millennial worship initiatives.
You will also want to stay away from the posts on missional communities. It is the wave of the present for connecting with the unconnected. This section will make you angry and uncomfortable if you love the Sunday morning gathering time because this movement is not centered on worship in the traditional sense. You will get a sense of this with the post entitled, “Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Chuch?”
And, you will want to not click on any of the leadership sections. There is one there entitled, “Leadership 101: You Can’t Stop Stupid, and trying to fix Stupid Hurts.” Leadership is a passion of this pastor. I believe it is the one thing holding the church back from entirely being what God created Her to be, a dominant force for change of hearts and culture.
This blog also tackles the difficult often ignored issue of racial division in America. The writing on this topic led to a Bible Study, published in 2015 by Concordia Publishing House, entitled “Healing One Nation Under God: Healing Racial Divides.” It will challenge your conventional ideas about race while providing Biblical solutions to a complex issue.
There are safer places to surf while visiting this site. The devotions and sermon starters while challenging and insightful dangerous in that the Word of God itself points out our sins put also leads us into the arms of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Read, inwardly digest at your own risk. It is all based on the Word of God so blame the spirit for any transformation.
This content was created to share. Every day is a share-a-thon. Share away. We can help shape the future of the church together.
This leadership series has been good therapy for me. It has been awhile since I have had the chance to lead a body of believers, over ten years now. During that hiatus, God has been developing me as a leader. This leadership series is a by-product of what God is teaching me. Today we dive deeper into the heart of leadership. You can have the tools to lead. You may be blessed with the instincts to lead, but I am a big believer in character. Too many leaders have had a great ministry legacy destroyed by finishing poorly. One moral failure will erase an entire lifetime of kingdom accomplishments. Our attention then turns to two essential safeguards for all leaders spiritual and secular.
These come from Myron Rush’s book. “The New Leader.”
You must become master of your emotions.
“Fools show all their anger, but the wise hold it back.” -Proverbs 29:11
Some say of me I wear my emotions on my sleeve. While I try to be transparent, I am cautious not take people around me on an emotional rollercoaster too often. No one wants to take that ride with you. Your people usually care about you, tend to respect you and generally want to support you, but have little desire to journey into your emotional craziness. Leaders can be candid without becoming reactionary messes. I love this quote about Jesus and how he dealt with emotions.
“I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: Not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My feelings are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.” G. Walter Hansenin, Christianity Today.
Our emotions can be an influential force for driving innovation and motivate our communities if we master them. The other side of that coin is our feelings can betray us as unstable and untrustworthy leaders. Insert what whatever example that is running through your mind.
You must strive to remain above reproach.
“So, the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching.” 1 Timothy 3:2
Scientists now say a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.
The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.
Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.
USA Today, April 9, 1997.
It doesn’t take a massive rip in the ship of our character to sink our boat, but small cracks are all the space Satan needs to destroy all that God is doing in our lives and ministry. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” R Zaccharias
All leaders must set up a hedge of support and boundaries to protect the integrity of their lives and ministry teams. Commit to prayer, remain in the word and guard your life and teaching. Have prayer warriors praying for you and with you. The devil would love nothing more than to take you out. Be wise, be on guard be proactive the ministry you save may be your own.
Philip Yancy shares this story in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” “At the height of the Cold War, Billy Graham visited Russia to meet with their political and religious leaders. Many conservatives in the US criticized him for not taking a more prophetic role. One accused him of setting the church back 50 years. Graham responded, “I am deeply ashamed. I have been trying very hard to set the church back 2,000 years.”” (Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? 264).
I long to be a part of that Acts church. It was a young church, with its flaws, but it had something special. In this continuing look at movements and community, we will revisit some of the qualities that made that first church historic.
Once these believers were baptized the 3,000 new converts immediately began devoting themselves to one another. If you want an example of the power of the gospel; the gospel radically transformed them into generous people. People who understood that their possessions, their time, even their identity no longer belonged to them alone. The gospel converted them into a new people (v.41), with a deeper level of devotion (v.42), and a new vibrate community (v.44). All of this transformation was not self-infused but showered on them by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Christ-centered message of the gospel.
What grieves my spirit most is the loss of the church’s one true confession and the ability to gather together in inspiring worship. Our fighting and discord have hindered our ability to truly experience God deeply as an authentic community. I can hear some of you now yelling at me again. “Worship is not about experiencing God!!” Really then, where did the sense of awe come from in the early church’s worship? Granted the Greek word Phobas means more fear in a literal translation, but fear with a sense of reverence. I often told my congregation that we Christians today come into the house of God with very little fear and awe. If we did we might kick off our shoes in the house of God for we are standing on Holy ground. The people in the Acts community got the sense of awe, that we take for granted.
As one pastor put it. “Churches should protect their posture toward God. A church may move through an entire year of sermons, services, and Bible studies and never really experience God. Peter says, ‘Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk’ (1 Pet. 2:2). Many interpret Peter as saying something like ‘Long for the Word of God the way an infant longs for milk.’”
The issue of conversion numbers has caused so many churches and pastors guilty consciences. Let me clear up something here. You cannot control your congregation’s growth, that is the work solely of the Holy Spirit. I had a congregation ask me in an interview, “How I was going to grow their congregation’s Sunday morning attendance?” I told them, “I was not. I can’t control what God does in the human heart.” This community in Acts grew because as the verse above says “the Lord added to their number.” Not the pastor, not some new fancy packaged evangelism program, nor some dynamic new praise band, or the most talented organists on the planet. It is all God. This community was united to each other, around a common confession, sent out with a common mission and God blessed their ministry. God redeems His people to send them out and engage the non-believing world with the gospel.
How do you do this? As a community, eat with non-Christians, have conversations with the unconnected, do life with those outside the body of Christ. This is how Jesus accomplished His mission.
I will leave you with this question to ponder this week: Do you have a burden for non-Christians?
To answer the opening question are we setting the church back 2,000 years, Lord I pray so!
Next Tuesday, “How Christian Community Can Have A Transformational Impact.”
Other posts in this series:
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:44). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:47). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
You must be willing to make decisions others don’t want to make.- Myron Rush in “The New Leader.”
3 Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ Luke 15:3-6
For me, as a Christian leader, everything comes down to the mission of Christ. Leadership is essential because the mission is crucial. We lead so that the main thing remains the main thing. Luke 15 gives us the clearest insight into the heart of God. Luke 15 has three parables that take you deeper into the nature and focus of God when it comes to lost people. For this leadership lesson, we will study the parable of the Lost Sheep.
The Nature of Lost Sheep
Once a sheep is lost it becomes so traumatized that it is unable to walk and must be carried back to the flock or the village. Unaided, the lost sheep cannot find its way home and will most certainly become the victim of a predator.
We Are Called to Be Reckless Leaders
One of the most frustrating aspects of ministry for me was ministering to the ninety-nine. Leading the faithful was a challenge because they believed my entire ministry should be focused on them. I keep pointing them to the lost sheep because just like actual sheep those unconnected to God are in the same position. Those unconnected cry out to be found. The lost sheep may not even realize they are crying out, but the Good Shepherd hears that plea for help. He sees it in the choices the sheep is making. The shepherd hears it in the prayers of desperation that are prayed in their hour of deepest need. And just like actual sheep, the lost soul’s only hope is the Good Shepherd who will come after us and find us, pick us up and carry us back to safety. There are two critical actions the shepherd must take.
The shepherd must come after the lost sheep, which in itself is a costly endeavor for the Good Shepherd to come rescue it. Then, the Good Shepherd has to lay down His life on Calvary’s cross and three days later pick up that life again. He does this because a price must be paid by the shepherd to restore the lost sheep to the flock. That is why when any lost sheep is restored there is rejoicing in heaven, because the cost for each sheep is precious. God desires all lost sheep be restored. That is just how valuable the sheep are to the Good Shepherd. Now you see why Jesus will drop everything to go after the one. The one matters to God. Jesus is a reckless savior and to be faithful to the mission he calls us to be reckless leaders. Are you willing to upset the ninety-nine to faithfully accomplish the mission reaching the lost?
Next week the series continues: “Leaders Must be people of emotional and spiritual integrity.”
Other posts in this series:
The community is the featured topic this week. Every Thursday or Friday I tease the featured item on Facebook. Most times it gets one or two snarky comments. Occasionally, a subject hits a nerve. I rarely comment. I let the friends go back and forth and allow them to help me shape what path the post might take.
With this issue of community, there were extreme reactions to the subject. A few opinions display a level of pain; somehow it felt like the church community has caused hurt. Others were defensive like we should not even talk about the topic at all. Strange, maybe they sense that community in congregations is lukewarm to non-existent and when we speak about it the unchurched world will discover our hidden brokenness. I have news for you the unconnected world already knows many churches struggle to be the church in Acts 2 even if they never read about the church in Acts 2. Starting with the Acts 2 church passage is far too easy. We will get there, but we will not begin there.
Let’s ease into the discussion of community with 1 Timothy 3:15, “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar, and buttress of the truth. ”
How Community Gets Broken?
As we reach the end of the school term, this was my least favorite season of the year. All of my past procrastination would pay off or come back to haunt me. The report card would come out and get sent home. It was a race to the mailbox. If the report were positive, I would take it to my parents with pride, if not, time to break out the pen and be an artist. Ok, I only tried that once.
What Paul is giving out is a report card on the church in Ephesus. Like any evaluation, there are positives and negatives. Some of the church’s struggles were; these dear Christians had allowed themselves to be side-tracked by false teaching, divided by arguments, and distracted by rules and decrees proposed by their new teachers. Paul hoped better, God expects better, the unbelieving community around needs better. By the power of God’s grace, they could do much better! In this section of Paul’s correspondent to young Timothy, he sets out the standards at which the church should be aiming.
The church is no fly-by-night organization; it is not a cut-rate business. This is the church of the living God, the Bride of Christ. Jesus gave His blood for her and then he gave her the authority of spreading the good news and live according to his Word in a pagan environment. Stand up strong church; your mission is too critical, your savior too robust to allow minor disagreements to comprise the effectiveness of your message. The gospel message is the heart of community and discipleship is how we grow and then share this gospel message, but we do it as a unified community.
Now that we have established that, next Tuesday come back as we break down “What Happens in Community?” And then “The Impact Community Has on a Pagan World.” Thanks for reading and thanks more for sharing. We are creating a movement together.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 3:15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
This day of Pentecost is a special day like none other. It’s the third biggest celebration of the Christian year, behind Christmas and Easter.
Christmas and Easter have been hijacked by the secular culture. We have reduced Christ’s work of salvation in His birth, death, and resurrection into pagan festivals. In the secularization of Christmas, we replaced the shouts of angels in Luke’s Gospel.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Christmas’ blatant consumerism and feel good motto of “buy that something special for the ones you love” has watered down its significance. The message has shifted focus from God’s miracle of the incarnation to trinkets treats and tribal rituals of the season. What gets lost in the commercialism is the Christ of Bethlehem.
Unfortunately, Easter has not escaped a similar fate. Society has turned the shouts of “Christ is Risen. He is Risen, indeed!” and the focus Christ redemption of a world lost in sin to a celebration of the passage of the dreariness of winter and the rite of spring. Lost in that transition is the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. The proclamation from the Savior that, “It is Finished!”, the realization of the soldier, “This truly was the Son of God”, the joy of Easter morning, “the Tomb is Empty. And Christ Is Risen” have been lost.
In the case of secular Christmas and Easter, you’ll have no problem finding decorations and greeting cards. Many of them feature the embodiments of the season, Santa, and the Easter bunny. And symbols of the season, scents of pine trees, or, my favorite, chocolate bunnies (or chocolate of any kind, for that matter). We could celebrate that at least these celebrations have high name-recognition and in the past have lead people who never darken our church doors back to us on these two occasions.
But Pentecost is different. Pentecost still belongs to the church. Pentecost has not gone commercial … yet! You will be hard-pressed to find a rack of Pentecost cards in a drugstore. Unfortunately, there are not Holy Spirit dove chocolates. I can’t imagine the Dove ever competing with Santa and the Easter bunny. It is unlikely that we in the church will ever feel the need to remind each other to keep Pentecost in our heart like we usually have to with Christmas. Pentecost is ours alone.
Contained in this Pentecost story are some powerful images:
Pentecost Is a Community Event
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”
It is no accident that Pentecost is also known as the Jewish holiday “the Feast of Weeks.” It is essentially a harvest festival. The Feast of Weeks was the time in ancient Israel when the first grain harvest came in.
As we examine the significance of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the church, it is this great harvest of new believers. The good news of the gospel brought many to faith and caused them go out into the world bearing these newfound fruits of the Spirit.
The most striking thing about this verse is the phrase, “They were all together in one place.”
So much has happened in a short period to the disciples. They had been all together in the upper room when Jesus broke the bread, shared the cup and gave a new and deeper significance to the Passover Seder meal. We then witness how the news of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion scattered the faithful disciples and all His hundreds of followers.
The disciples’ grief over the loss of their teacher, shepherd, and mentor has now brought them together again.
You have witnessed in your church how funerals often do this. The loss of a loved one connects a once widely dispersed family and gathers them together for mutual support and remembrances.
Then came for the disciples the wonder and comfort of the resurrection. When Mary Magdalene, in John’s gospel, runs back to tell the other disciples the good news notice there’s no mention of her going from house to house in seeking them out. She knows just where to find them. The disheartened group is collected together in one place supporting each other.
They now move from the highs of the resurrection to the uncertain future of Christ ascension into heaven. They may have thought that with that event it was “game over.” Last out of the World Series, time to go home and live in the memory of all we have seen and heard. What more could God possibly have in store for them? It was like the silence following the grand finale of a fireworks display. What could they possibly do at that moment except fold the chairs and go home?
Notice the Optics.
That is most certainly not what the disciples do! “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” Why? What were they hoping for?
Maybe the clue is found in the mission Jesus had left with them before He went to assume His rightful place on the throne of heaven. In Matthew 28, also known as the Great Commission, it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ….” The full weight and meaning of this get lost in the English translations. However, in the original Greek the verb “make disciples” is plural. Jesus isn’t commanding them to go out like marbles and individually witness to everyone they meet.
We are so tempted as churches to send out people out with this charge, “You go and make disciples, and good luck with that!” No, Jesus is commanding them to come together and, as one body, the Church is to devise a strategy for sharing the gospel with the lost and broken world. “Go, make me more disciples, but do it together!” We are not just individual church sites, we are the church universal, over 2 billion strong. Strategically placed around the world, yet called to come together and given a charge by our Risen Lord, “Go, make me more disciples, but here is the key: do it together!”
Hands off-world, Pentecost is ours. It is the birth of the church, and you can’t have it. But we will share the saving message of Christ with you. That is our charge after all.
Our lessons in leadership continue. These series of posts are based on the work of Myron Rush in “The New Leader.” We turn our attention today to the issue of risk. Every leader knows that at some point each must weigh how much risk they are willing to take. Early in my ministry, my goal was to avoid epic failures, just play it safe, but safe is boring. I am also not sure safe is godly, but that is a subject for another day. When I think about this question I remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff being dared to jump. Some of the most difficult decisions a leader must make mirrors that sense. Does the leader have the courage to risk it all, to chance failure? Of course, be willing to risk it all if it is God telling you to trust Him and jump. Some opportunities warrant a “take the hill attitude”, others require a more cautious approach. Leaders need to discern when you go for it and when the risks are too great. “One of the reasons why mature people stop growing and learning,” says John Gardner, “is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.”
You must be willing to risk failure.
Our Scriptural grounding this week is based on Joel 2:17, “Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, Lord, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Joel is called upon to lead the people in a time of repentance and renewal. For Joel being in the will of God meant risking failure. What if God’s people ignored his message? It would be much easier to avoid the risk of failure. Joel addresses several different groups of people as he describes the terrible plague and its devastating results. To convince the people first Joel turns to the old men (vv. 1–4) asking them if they can remember such a tragedy from the years gone by. Sadly, they cannot. Joel then turns to the drunkards (vv. 5–7) who are mourning because the vineyards have been destroyed and their supply of the nectar of the vine is gone. He then turns to the worshipers (vv. 8–10) who must go to the temple without any sacrifices to bring. He references the farmers (vv. 11–12) whose livelihoods are all ruined. Finally, Joel turns to the spiritual foundation of the nation, the priests (vv. 13–14) and tells them to lead the renewal through fasting and praying. The nation is on the verge of judgment, God is preparing to punish the nation, due to their unfaithfulness. Joel is willing to risk failure because if the people do not turn from their sinful ways and repent, God will act with power and wrath.
As a leader, you must be willing to stand in the gap, risk failure for the sake of your people, facing the possibility of coming up short of the success meter. Failure at times is a very real option. Are you willing to do what it right when God is leading you there? Which leads us to the next leadership lesson which I will save for next week. You must be willing to make decisions others don’t want to make.
Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing,1988, p. 32.
Other posts in this leadership series:
“God designed the city to be first a place of refuge and shelter for the weak.” Redeemer Magazine article, “City”
The city was not my first choice for ministry. To be blunt it was not even in my top 10 destinations to serve. Yet for whatever reason God placed me there and continues to draw me back to it like a moth to light. There are many other much more appealing locations to plop down and call home. If I close my eyes I imagine a white sandy beach and world championship golf courses. Alas, that has not been my ministry story. Instead, it has been raw, hardcore urban centers where there are real hurts, deep pain, and broken windows and lives. Yes, there was violence, danger, and drug addiction, but mixed in with that you find genuine, authentic people who desire more, hope for a different future, and want to make life better for the next generation. It is that backdrop that is often missed when you think of our major metropolitan communities. The sweet souls spoiled by the sinister sin around them.
Why Should the Church care about the City?
The easiest answer to the question is because God cares. In Israel’s time, God designed some special cities as a place of refuge. In a must-read book by John L. Thompson, “Urban Impact.” He quotes from RedeemerMagazine “Today the city is a place where minorities can cluster for support in an alien land, where new immigrants can work together for a foothold in a new world, where refugees can find shelter, and where the homeless and poor can better eke out an existence.” He then adds this compelling statement, “The weak and the powerless need the city because they cannot survive in the suburbs and small towns.” Imagine if you will the impact the Christian church could have if it embraced the kingdom opportunities the city affords them. Sadly, far too often the church has abandoned the city for those white sandy beaches of suburbia.
The City is the Center of all the Action
God designed the city to be the center of cultural and human development. That same RedeemerMagazinearticle, “City” points out, “The city brings you into contact with so many people with different abilities and skills, producing greater works of art, science, technology, and culture.” The city is the epicenter of life, culture, and it used to be, religion. Revelation 18, points out that there is a very present danger that the voice of God could be drowned out in the city.
“23The light of a lamp
will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world’s important people.
By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people,
of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
What can the Church Do?
I know you are sitting at your computer going, “Duh!” Possibly even sarcastically asking “so what do we do Einstein?” Simple, you do what the church does best, discipleship. Discipleship is not more classes. We are creating spiritually obese Christians. We are stuffing them with the word of God but not sending them out to exercise the faith they have been ingesting. Discipleship involves us learning how to set a Christ-like example for others to follow. The church needs leaders who impact others for Christ and His kingdom. Imagine the power of leaders who come alongside others like Jesus did to encourage, to equip, to hold them accountable, and guide them through this maze of a post-Christian context, while along the way helping the body of Christ to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their urban community. This method of discipleship helps us create a presence in the city for God.
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