Leadership, Transitions

Our Time Is Now!

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Every person and organization goes through a period of transition. We are facing one in the organization I serve.  As part of that pending transition, I have been nominated as one of three candidates to lead the next chapter in our district’s story.  What is different about our election process is that it is nothing like the last presidential campaign, thank goodness.  There may be a temptation to go out and campaign and gather a following.   We don’t get to design yard signs and cool campaign buttons. Nor do we come up with catchy campaign slogans like, “In your Heart, you Know he’s Right.” – Barry Goldwater.  Or Jimmy Carter’s, “Not just Peanuts.”

But that is not how our process works. It is not about catchy slogans or impossible promises of prosperity, nor is it a popularity contest.

Like a congregation calling its next Shepherd, it is a process bathed in prayer.  Prayer by the nominees asking for God’s will and the insight to discover His direction for His Church.  Prayer by the congregations seeking God’s will in determining His choice to shepherd our district.  The only thing that resembles the presidential campaign is that in March votes will be cast and a nominee will be elected.  It is not about shifting power from one side of our divided church body so that one gains an upper hand because it is not our church anyway, it’s God’s.  It is a time of spiritual discernment.  We have three months to spend time in prayer and seek God’s will for this little corner of His kingdom.  While our future leader is uncertain, it is secure, because God is directing it.

It is a time to celebrate what God has done while we look to the future.

Our leader, President Dan P. Gilbert will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership. However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” With that transition comes uncertainty.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

Our district has had twelve years of steady and consistent leadership.  With this pending change, we could be feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural roads to choose:

1) Cautious and fearful:

hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) Confident and hopeful:

adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find an improved way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking

On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.

This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass” approach to the changes. “If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

 God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone, we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to be bold in its witness, and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission God has entrusted to His people.  We should be energized by the challenge ahead because the world has never needed the church more than now.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

Videos That Will Make you Think

The First Rosa

The name of civil-rights champion Dr. Rosa Parks is well known to history. But there was another Rosa, “a black teacher with liberating dreams,” with an inspiring story of her own. “The First Rosa”, produced by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is a film that will enlighten the Church to Dr. Rosa J. Young’s remarkable history as a pioneer Lutheran educator and missionary who, alongside the Rev. Nils J. Bakke, planted dozens of historically black Lutheran schools and chapels in the American South. See the long odds they faced—struggles with strident critics, the Ku Klux Klan, even an invasion of boll weevils—before emerging with a glorious victory.

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Discipleship

What Are the Characteristics of A Disciple?

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“An African American minister once prayed: “Lord, we can’t hold much, but we can overflow lots!” A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.” -Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 336).

As we continue this series on Discipleship I will attempt to define some of the basic characteristics of a disciple.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you will find in it some important, foundational character traits.

Characteristics of a disciple

  • A disciple of Jesus is a person who is becoming spiritually mature.

Notice we used the term becoming.  I don’t know if we ever reach full maturity as a Christian in this life.  However, that maturity happens as the disciple knows his Bible inside and out. That’s what’s most important in our church: knowing the Bible. Having a hunger to thirst after God’s word. That happens in Bible study, in worship where God gives the gifts of His Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

  • A disciple is a person who cares for the lost.

This is often a point of contention.  We all want to see people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but we argue often over whose responsibility that is.  Is that the work of the trained paid staff, the people in the pew or some combination?   Here is what Jesus says to the disciples in Acts 1,

Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.

From Paul speaking to those in Corinth in chapter 15,

10 Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. 11 In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it was I or the other witnesses who brought you the message. What matters is that we keep preaching and that you have faith in this message.

A disciple regularly invites his friends, neighbors, and others outside the family of God to have a life-saving relationship with the Savior.  We can be used as a vehicle so they can hear about this Jesus through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart of the not yet believer. That is the mission in a nutshell: to get people to hear the good news!

  • A disciple is a person who is doing life together with others.

He has made all he has available to others in his sphere of relationships. He is focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community. He wants to right a wrong in the culture in the name of Jesus.

This is a difficult shift in our culture today.  We have so many things that take us out of the “doing life together” mindset.  Nevertheless, as disciples we need to find time in our hectic busyness to make ourselves available to others so we can develop authentic relationships. Imagine the impact of being focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community and doing this in the name of Jesus.

  • A disciple is a person who loves the poor and marginalized in Jesus’ name.

From the moment I heard the passage from Matthew 25, read in the church it has always been on my heart.

King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. 

37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.

 Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?

 King: 40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.

We as disciples are called to live and love like Jesus lived and loved. That means serve those who are poor, marginalized, those whom society has turned their backs on.  We need to be especially kind, compassionate, and tolerant to people God has placed in our path on a daily basis.  I love how Jesus made time for people others ignored or were annoyed with.  When disciples model that behavior LOVE wins!

Other blogs in this series:
https://revheadpin.org/2018/02/08/five-fundamental-elements-of-discipleship/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/02/15/how-our-understanding-of-discipleship/

Devotional Message

Our Understanding of Heaven Impacts Our Hope

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We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as “an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant,” and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,

The eye of faith is dim,

But it’s enough that Christ knows all,

And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You,  Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

Heaven is the New Jerusalem 

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
3You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God, is an everlasting rock. 
Isaiah 26:1-4

The prophet Isaiah is describing the new City of God, Jerusalem, in this section.  In doing so, he points out some key differences from other earthly cities.  Samaria fell to the Assyrians. Later, Jerusalem would fall at the hands of the Babylonians.  However, in this New Jerusalem, Heaven will be impregnable.

Another major difference is that this earthly city was often infested with all manner of sin and evil.  The New Jerusalem will no longer be the sinful city. Instead, it will be a righteous city set apart for a holy nation whose sins have been washed away.

“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Zechariah 13:1

This will be a select citizenship, only those who have trusted Jesus Christ will enter the city; and because they believe, they have peace.

Heaven is an eternal relationship with the God of creation.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesians 2:10, he describes how God views us,  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The word translated here as workmanship is better translated, “masterpiece.”  We are the crowning Jewel of God’s creation.  What an amazing day it will be to stand before the artist God, who created us and behold this Creator face-to-face.  The masterpiece meets that Master Artisan. I shudder at the thought. What do you think you will do when you meet the Creator? Will you stand in awe and wonder?  Will you dance with joy?  I imagine I would just stand there with mouth wide open, in quiet reflection soaking in all the brilliance and wonder of the moment.  The Bible says you will behold him face to face and you will spend eternity in his presence.

Not even the finest writer will be able to put this scene into words.  No eye has seen, and no ear has heard the spectacles of what God has amassed for us in heaven. It is real. It is for real people. It is forever.

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/01/19/heaven-is-community-restored/

 

Congregational Life and Ministry

How Acts of Evil Distort the Image of God

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On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 17 people were murdered and more than 15 injured in a mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. According to The Guardian, “Just seven weeks into 2018, there have been eight shootings at US schools that have resulted in injury or death.”[1]    Each time one of these hideous events happens, a debate breaks out in our country about gun control.  Well, I am not joining that discussion.  The other debate that happens is, the questions of faith, “Where was God?”  To me, that question is backward, and it serves the purpose evil wanted it to serve. Sinful acts like this and others throw into question the very nature of God.  This article today is to address the image of God.

When asked why God created man when He knew he would sin, Martin Luther replied, “Let us keep clear of these abstract questions and consider the will of God such as it has been revealed to us.”

Pause for a minute and ask yourself what kind of God do you require?  Be honest.  Some want, in fact, not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven: a senile benevolent being who allows us to live our life on our terms with little interference from Him.  We have limited God and created a crisis of faith by painting faith into a corner we cannot extricate. However, when a crisis comes, we want a Johnny on the spot God to come quickly to our rescue.  Wouldn’t it be great if God were to say, “I liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.  Instead…”

What Do We Know about God?

Isaiah 6:3 “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

In the Hebrew language when a word appears more than once it is for comparison.  For the word “Holy” to appear three times in a row says that there is no comparison in all the world to the holiness of God.  He stands alone.  There is no sin or evil in His being.

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved.”

When evil strikes the first thing it does is attack at the heart of the character of God’s mercy.  Paul reminds us that God is rich in mercy.  As one writer puts it, ““Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” [Bengel].[2]  God’s love is the motivating factor in His mercy, and notice this love comes in the midst of our brokenness.  While we were still sinners, He (God) loved us.

1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.”

John’s encouragement is for Christians to love Christians, but that is not to exclude non-Christians. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the basis of our love is God and His love.   In fact, it is because love is from God.  True love has its origin in God and flows from or out of (ek) God and has God as its spring or source.

Jeremiah 10:12 “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”

God is Almighty.  He is not powerless.  The Evil One attempts in the middle of tragedy to paint God as a helpless old man sitting in His rocking chair watching all the events unfold around Him powerless to intervene.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every time evil strikes you hear how it could have been worse and we chalk this protection up to luck instead of God.  When catastrophe comes notice that there are always heroes.

It reminds me of something my wife shared with me about Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame). “In the wake of the horrific attacks in Manchester, England, many people shared a famous quote by everyone’s favorite neighbor.

His mother always said, when there was a catastrophe, ‘always look for the helpers.’ No matter how bad things are, there are always people helping.’”[3]

In nearly every story when bad things happen some brave men and women rise up and restore our hope in humanity.  Those heroes often point us back to their faith in God. In this last tragedy, the stories of faith have been striking.  Young survivors talking about how their faith in God sustains them.   How their faith comforts them because they know their fallen classmates are in a better place.  It is faith that gives the Christian hope in the light of darkness.  Confidence in God in the midst of uncertain times.  We cling to this hope in dark times like this, when there is so much pain and brokenness all around. It doesn’t make sense to an unbeliever, but it gives strength to the Christian.

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Finally, God is consistent and constant.  His character does not change; His love endures forever.  We can find comfort is a changeless, loving, almighty and merciful God.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/14/school-shootings-in-america-2018-how-many-so-far

[2] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 345). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/23/mr-rogers-story-probably-make-you-cry/340111001/

 

Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: It’s​ Our City Let’s Fix It?

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Too often, people feel checked out of politics — even at the level of their own city. But urban activist Alessandra Orofino thinks that can change, using a mix of tech and old-fashioned human connection. Sharing examples from her hometown of Rio, she says: “It is up to us to decide whether we want schools or parking lots, recycling projects or construction sites, cars or buses, loneliness or solidarity.”

Discipleship

How Our Understanding of Discipleship Impacts our Ministry

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As I look at the landscape of the church today. I wonder if due to our declining numbers we have shifted our discipleship practices to respond more out of fear and less out of a sense of mission. Have our discipleship methods created more silos because we are returning to the increasingly less Christian culture around us? Instead, should we be viewing discipleship more as an opportunity to equip followers for the challenges of this unconnected to God culture? The German Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred at the hands of the Nazis once said, “the Church is the church only when it exists for others” what he meant was for outsiders.

Silo Thinking

In one of my former congregations sometime in the fall was time for the pastor to trick and guilt (00ps I mean encourage them to take on this opportunity to serve our Lord on our various dysfunctional boards and committees) members into filling positions of leadership in the church. I remember one time when I had decided gain some history as to how things had been done in the past, thinking that maybe there was a method that proved useful. My research uncovered a troubling bit of information when I inquired of my then 80-year-old Financial Secretary how he got the opportunity to serve. He described a sad, but I would discover a recurring tale of woe. The current Financial Secretary went on vacation and asked him to cover for him while he was gone, but the guy never returned. So this poor fellow had been stuck with this job for over 20-years. Me being who I am said to him so, “I guess you haven’t been able to trick anyone else into taking your place, eh?” This congregation was in the Rust Belt and upper a Midwestern culture.

To be honest, I fell into this trap of trying to get people into God’s Word to show them how they are called to serve in our congregation’s current congregational needs only. I fell into silo thinking. Silo thinking caused me to spend most of my time trying to keep the current institution alive and functioning.  Our ministry had become far too internally focused on our thoughts and practice. It made sense at the time we only had 54 in worship and were on District welfare. We needed to change our focus. We were creating silos and part-time low commitment disciples. We thought that asking for a higher level of engagement would only drive people away. We were not equipping the saints to share their faith, and the congregation suffered.

Silo thinking produces part-time disciples, and part-time disciples are:

  • More concerned with what people think. Gal. 1:10
  • More concerned with their public image. Gal 2:6-9
  • More concerned about bringing people into the church.

lightstock_788_small_byrene_haneyA significant shift took place in how we equipped our members for ministry. Our members spend only a few hours in church, but the majority of their other time trying to navigate the hard realities of the world that was becoming less and less Christ-centered. The challenge for us became how do we prepare them for being sent every single week into an ever increasingly hostile mission field. The answer was shifting to a sending mindset. Allow me to share this story, once my congregation made from silos to disciple-making, God blessed us with an increase in membership from 54 to 74 in worship in 18-months.

Sending Thinking produces disciples who are:

  • Concerned with what God thinks. Gal. 1:10
  • Worried about their private devotion. Rom 12:1-2
  • Concerned with the Glory of God. Rom 10:14-16

How Does Jesus Defined Discipleship in Luke 14:25-35

Jesus stated, at least, four critical elements for becoming His disciple:

  1. Jesus talked about the priority of a relationship with Him.
  • If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26).
    • A question to ask your leadership in response to this is: How do we grow in our love for Christ so that it becomes passionate? I don’t define passionate as solely an emotional response. I define passion as what is that ministry or cause of Christ’s that will tug at your heartstrings and moves you to let that tug of faith cause you to act.

2. Jesus discussed having the right purpose.

  • Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).
    • A way to evaluate this in your local congregation is by asking this question: In what specific ways could you use faith stories and parables to help the church feel the tension of being off-course and too internally focused?

3. Jesus told prospective disciples that their commitment must be long-term.

  • Christian discipleship addresses every dimension of life. It is concerned not only with doing the right thing in every circumstance but also with doing the right thing for the right reason.
    • “Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together, to remain faithful to the gospel.” Phil. 1:27
  • Christian discipleship is a work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms life, not someone who tries to be good. The term, disciplined grace describes this process. While God changes, a believer’s spiritual practice creates the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works
    • “But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! 8 While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has the promise for this life now and the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4: 7-8.

4. Jesus stated that the disciples must be willing to practice generosity.

  • Christian discipleship was intended by Christ to be reproductive. Those who follow Jesus’ life and teaching will be prepared to share their faith experiences eagerly and to invest themselves in the spiritual nurture of others with their time, talents and treasures.
    • “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. “A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43

We can look at the challenges of this age and try and circle the wagons and hide away until Jesus returns, but is that the mission Jesus gave us to do? I am reminded of the message Jesus gave a frightened bunch of disciples hiding in an upper room. He appeared to them and said, Peace be with you and then this interaction. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22. It is about equipping our people to be sent with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of God is a world that at times is hostile to the Truth.

More in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/02/15/how-our-understanding-of-discipleship/

Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

It’s Time Church To Stand and Speak Out!

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Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t  expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.

Sincerely,

Those looking for Answers.

The writer of Ecclesiastes shares these words of wisdom,

“There is a time for everything.

A time to tear apart and

a time to sew together,

a time to keep quiet and

a time to speak out.” Ecclesiastes 3 (ESV)

There are two things the Christian church must do.

  • Identify the real enemy in the racial divide.

Take a step back from the emotional ties you have to this issue of racial divisions and look at the bigger picture.  Make sure you are asking the right question. Who benefits most from this problem getting ramped up and intensifying?  America isn’t winning.  The communities that are under attack are not winning.  The police, who are on being slain on a daily basis and their broken families are not winning. For the cops who have to deal with the new reality that every decision, every traffic stop, or response to a domestic dispute depending on how that call ends could face scrutiny, or now death are not winning.

Black America who feels the American dream has left them behind are not winning. And the white America that wants to help solve the problem is afraid to speak out for fear of being called a racist is not winning.

So, all those groups seeking solutions, searching for a path forward and are lost in the midst of this tension.  We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.  There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift.  Church leaders you have the power to change things.  Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God.  Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture.  All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey of the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.  The dash in between in our legacy.  Racism devalues people.  Our color-blind God reminds us that all lives matter. The apostle Paul tells us of how God sees us in Galatians 3, “26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

 The good news for us is that we have all we need to win this battle.  We need to be aware of who is the enemy, and the tools required to defeat him. Christ has broken down racial doors and overcomes divisive thinking by creating for Himself a new nation through His death and resurrection.

 

  • Commit to Reconciliation

The divide did not happen overnight, and it can’t be solved quickly.  The process will take time. You don’t just get back to business as usual.  You need to repent and see a turning away from wrong. You need to take small steps forward, to look for little windows of progress. Yes, there will be setbacks.  But if the relationship is worth saving you don’t give up.  The real question in all this: “Is the racial divide worth repairing?”  If so the church needs to lead the way.   We preach and teach reconciliation every Sunday, now we need to model it, lead it, and never lose hope in the power of it.

A resource to help the conversation in your church or small group.

http://books.cph.org/healing-racial-divides-in-america/

From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor, Living In the Ministry Fishbowl

How to Create a Support System for the Pastor’s Wife

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Many pastors are lonely, and so are their wives and their children can become isolated.  This account is not every minister’s history, but it is the tale of significantly more than you recognize.  In this article, I will turn to the pastor‘s wife for the later two weeks before we finish this with the youngsters.  While I alluded to the pastorswife, in particular, this is not restricted to just pastors it pertains to any church worker‘s spouse.

I think Christina captures in these short quotes the fishbowl so many pastor’s wives live under. And how lonely this role is for those who have the role of pastor’s wife.

1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”

2) “Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”

3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”

4) “It is okay and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”

5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait–am I allowed to say that?”

6) “It’s hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry.”

7) “Please don’t look down on me or assume I don’t support my husband just because you don’t see me every time the church’s doors are open.”

8) “I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes, they don’t.”

9) “What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer, so much prayer… by so many.” – Christina Stolaas

In the past few weeks, I have tried to open to church members the stresses that pastors and their families go through for the sake of the Gospel.  I am writing this, so church members have a greater awareness of the best ways to care for their shepherd and his family.  In this post, I want to discuss the pastor’s wife.

Often the pastor’s wife is taken for granted.  It is just assumed she has it all together.  People rarely stop and think about the pressure and unrealistic expectations she lives under.  She is expected to be a model wife and mother, with perfectly behaved children who never make a sound in church.  She is supposed to be a master chief, church master organist, and organizer.  Members want her to teach Sunday school while running the sewing circle.  All the while providing for all the needs of the pastor.  It is the loneliest position.  You cannot let people get too close for fear that any struggle you share with people will be used against your husband.  So, any vulnerability is unacceptable.  Any crack in the perfect window’s purity could cost your livelihood.  Stop and imagine what life would be like if you lived under that kind of constant scrutiny.  Imagine the mental gymnastics you and your family would daily have to undergo.  Successful ministry often comes at a high cost, family.

How to Support Your Pastor’s wife.

1)    Don’t expect her to be perfect, every woman is unique.  There is not a job description for this role.

God has created each woman married to a pastor as a one of a kind, unique individual.  They do not all come with the same gifts, nor temperament.   Each pastor’s wife needs to be given the freedom to find their specific ministry place in the church.  One thing that most pastors’ wives have in common is that they have a significant and challenging God-given opportunity to have influenced their family.  The family is their top priority!

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4, NIV)

2)    She is a vital companion and champion to her husband.

When all the world may be against the pastor, the pastor’s wife often stands in the background holding up the prophet’s hands.  She hears all the complaints being bandied about him, yet often quietly and respectfully listens even though criticism is killing her spirit.

Respect her by not complaining to her about her husband.  Instead, speak well of him to her.

“An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12

3)    Be a mentor for her.  Pray and encourage her.

If you have been blessed with a young pastor’s family and wife, what an excellent opportunity for the older women of the congregation to share their wisdom and be a spiritual sister to the pastor’s wife.  You have a unique opportunity to bless the pastor and his family in this way.

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)

Above are just a few suggestions, and I am confident that if you take the time to pray about this, you will come up with much more.  I would invite you to share what you find in the comment section of this post so that we can find new and creative ways to support the pastor and his wife.  I encourage you also to share what you have done in the past to be a blessing to the pastor’s wife.  It will serve as a source of encouragement to others.

In our district, we are looking at starting a pastor’s wives group.  One that will be a safe place for women to talk, to share, to pray for and support each other.  I pray it will not be the only such group.  It is only a small step but it is a step.

Urban Ministry

TED: Redemption Song

John Legend is on a mission to transform America’s criminal justice system. Through his Free America campaign, he’s encouraging rehabilitation and healing in our prisons, jails and detention centers — and giving hope to those who want to create a better life after serving their time. With a spoken-word prelude from James Cavitt, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, Legend treats us to his version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?”

Discipleship

Five Fundamental Elements of Discipleship

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Whenever we talk about discipleship, it is helpful to start with defining what we are talking about.

Ann Swindoll defines it this way: “What is discipleship? Put simply, discipleship means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same. Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him and obey His commands so that they could lead others to do the same after His death, resurrection, and ascension. The Apostle Paul continues the pattern with Timothy and encourages him to keep the cycle going: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).”

I love the reminder that one of my primary duties as a pastor is to equip the saints for service to God and his kingdom.  But this service, to be precise, is not some new way for us to earn favor with God because good deeds do not save us.  Discipleship is not some new code word or term for Salvation through adding new requirements on the backs of believers.  Discipleship is a response to God’s love shown to us through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Foundational facts about discipleship

  • Christian discipleship addresses every dimension of life. It is concerned not only with doing the right thing in every circumstance but also doing the right thing for the right reason.

“Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together, to remain faithful to the gospel.” Phil. 1:27

  • Christian discipleship is a work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms life, not someone who tries to be good. The term, disciplined grace describes this process. While God transforms, a believer’s spiritual practice creates the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works

“But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! 8 While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has the promise for this life now and the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4: 7-8.

  • Christian discipleship requires more than preaching alone can achieve. I love the analogy that preaching to make disciples is like going into a nursery and spraying the milk on the newborn babies.  Preaching is powerful, it has behind it the full power and might of the Holy Spirit.  But notice Jesus did not just preach at the disciples, he lived a mission with them.  You need to be on a journey with the people you are called to equip for service.
  • Christian discipleship should involve a ton of celebrationsThis may sound odd to you, but here is why celebrations are essential. What you celebrate from the pulpit and in your general assemblies expresses to your members what you value.  If you value equipping people for ministry, are those the announcements you get excited about and lift up before your people? Season vigorously in your sermons what God is doing in discipleship in the lives of your people.
  • Christians want to grow in discipleship, but they usually just need direction. You may have heard it said, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.”  Unfortunately, that does not work as a plan to develop disciples.  We must emulate the behavior we are expecting from our people.  Jesus didn’t just write a book of rules and regulations.  He wrote a book, the Bible, that describes in great detail how dearly loved we are by God and his Son Jesus Christ.  Then Jesus goes the extra mile and models the life he would have us lead.  He said to follow this example.

This is the foundation that I will build on over the next four blogs.  I welcome your thoughts and discussion on this.  May God bless you and our country as we see every day the need for us to be prepared to witness in a hurting and broken world.  Our responsibility as pastors is to prepare a people ready to face these days ahead grounded in the Word of God and strengthened for the journey ahead.