God Is There


In 1946, Czeslaw Godlewski was a member of a young gang that roamed and sacked the German countryside. On an isolated farm, they gunned down ten members of the Wilhelm Hamelmann family. Nine of the victims died, but Hamelmann himself survived his four bullet wounds.


Godlewski recently completed a twenty-year prison term for his crimes, but the state would not release him because he had nowhere to go. When Hamelmann learned of the situation, he asked the authorities to release Godlewski to his custody. He wrote in his request, “Christ died for my sins and forgave me. Should I not then forgive this man?” —Gospel Herald.

Hamelmann shows the kind of forgives that comes only from a heart transformed by a loving, heavenly Father.  It is also a painful reminder that even when we abandon God and struggle to see God because of our sin, God is still there. God never moves. He is always there.  Today we see that never more evident than in Isaiah 40:1-5.  Before we dig into that text allow me to lay out the context.

The Chastening

The nation of Israel had committed multiple sins against the Lord.  Their offenses included idolatry, injustice, immorality, and insensitivity to the messengers God sent to show them the error of their ways. No matter how grave the sin, no matter how much they rejected the love of the Father, His love never waned.  These were still His people, and He loved them, that would never change.  Discipline is not often received well.  I can’t think of one punishment growing up when I said, “Thank you, Mom, may I have some more.”  So even though God would chasten them, He did so like my mom because He loved them.  He wanted to restore them, redeem them.  He would not, could not forsake them.  In the original Hebrew the term “Speak tenderly” literally means “speak to the heart,” and “warfare” means “severe trials.”  God’s chastening’s are not unfair, for God is merciful even in His punishments. God chastened them in an equivalent measure of what they had done. We should not sin; but if we do, God is waiting to pardon.

The Comfort

In the midst of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God still keeps His promises.  Isaiah hear His voice.  God has a message for His unfaithful people from Isaiah 40:3-5,


3 A voice is crying out:

“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!

Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!

4 Every valley will be raised up,

and every mountain and hill will be flattened.

Uneven ground will become level,

and rough terrain a valley plain.

5 The Lord’s glory will appear,

and all humanity will see it together;

the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”


There are two key promises in this section:

One the King Is Coming! I love how Kent Hughes describes it: “He comes to us as we are, where we are, in the wilderness and the desert of our real lives.  He wants us to get ready to receive him, because right now we aren’t ready.”  John the Baptist used this verse to remind us that we prepare for this King’s coming by turning from the ways of sin and walking a new path by faith.  The ways of sin are made low, every valley of our own self-reliance is flattened, the unevenness of our commitment to holiness is made straight.  Every bit of pride is replaced with the glory of the Lord and all humanity will see the King is here.

Secondly this King, unlike previous earthly kings who fail, will accomplish God’s purpose. This King will usher in a new social landscape, no longer are people looking to the old temple system for salvation, now a more complete, a more perfect sacrifice is put in place. This King will be one that the Father says of him, “This is my Son. In Him, I am well pleased.”  When this king’s earthly work is done, He proclaims boldly, “It is finished!”  Nothing else, no one else need do what I have done.  Your sins are atoned for, your relationship with God restored.  Rest now in the peace and comfort of His presence for all eternity, for Jesus the King has come and has accomplished what God that the Father sent him to do.




Dealing With Race In America




I am going to delve into another sensitive area in this blog post.  I grew up hearing from black people that we don’t have the ability to discriminate.  This may come as a shock to every other race on the planet.  In order to explain this unique perspective on the issue, allow me to define the word discriminate.

First, the dictionary defines discrimination as: “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” That definition pretty much says it all.  It would appear to be all inclusive.  However, living life as an African American I ran across an interesting time and space anomaly.  I was told that African Americans cannot discriminate, we really can’t be racists.  Yes, you read that right.  If you want to understand the heart of so many misunderstandings, you need to understand this concept.

It is a belief held by far more African Americans that you may realize.  I know in writing this blog, I risk having my Black card pulled. Nevertheless, I am willing to take that risk. I am revealing insider information, but in my heart, I am convinced the truth needs to be told.  So many conversations go right to race because of this underlining belief system. I think the racial divide in this country is ripping apart the fabric of the nation and putting us at risk of destroying ourselves and the freedoms that many of our ancestors have bled and died to defend.

The Great Divide:

White America looks at America and thinks, “Hey this isn’t the sixties.  There are no more whites-only restrooms.  Blacks can live anywhere they want.  We have affirmative action to make things fair where they appear unfair.  And the topper is we elected the first black president in Barak Obama.  It seems like we are making progress, right?”  That is what they think.

In the minds of the black community, very little has changed.  You see, the black community is using these factors as a measuring stick.  From a Huffington Post article by Jeff Nesbit here are the indicators:

  • Black preschoolers are far more likely to be suspended than white children, according to an NPR report. Black children makeup 18 percent of the pre-school population, but represent almost half of all out-of-school suspensions.
  • Once they get to K-12, black children are three times more likely to be suspended than white children. Black students make up almost 40 percent of all school expulsions, and more than two-thirds of students referred to police from schools are either black or Hispanic, says the Department of Education.
  • The disparities exist in our neighborhoods and communities. Take income. In 2014, the median household income for whites was $71,300 compared to $43,300 for blacks. But for college-educated whites, the median household income was $106,600, significantly higher than the $82,300 for households headed by college-educated blacks, the report found.
  • A black man is three times more likely to be searched at a traffic stop, and six times more likely to go jail than a white person. Blacks make up nearly 40 percent of arrests for violent crimes.
  • Blacks aren’t pulled over (and subsequently jailed) more frequently because they’re more prone to criminal behavior, they’re pulled over much more frequently because there is an “implicit racial association of black Americans with dangerous or aggressive behavior,” the Sentencing Project found.


I give you this information because in the black community, these kinds of numbers, these disparities prove there is an institutional problem. While one side of the equations sees progress the other side is only frustrated by the lack of progress.  So when those two opposing ideologies realities collide you get Ferguson, MO.  You get rioting in Baltimore because the people who feel oppressed also feel no one is paying attention.  I am not saying by any means, this is the best way to handle it, but realize the perception is that the institution is against them.  So if the institution is against you, any emotions and feelings you have that may be racist are justified because you are the oppressed racial group.  Again, do I agree with that?  No.  Do I understand the frustration? Yes.  Have I figured out all the answers? No.  What advice can I give both groups? Communicate.

How Do We Begin The Conversation?

  • We need to acknowledge the current realities. 

While as one song puts it, “You have come a long way, baby,” we still have a long way to go.  The hurt was created over the course of hundreds of years. The history books have tried to soften the effects, even hide the truth.  However, the pain is real, the cuts are deep.  It will take time and intentional effort to move forward.

  • We need to approach the situation with a loving and forgiving spirit:

Forgiveness is not a human thing, it is a God-size accomplishment.  This is no human solution to fix this problem it will require heavenly intervention.  Remember this, nothing is too big for our God. Here is a biblical truth.

What does it mean, “to forgive” in the Greek?  Literally, aphiemi means “to send away” or “to make apart”. A graphic image I’ve used is, if sin is “missing the mark” not hitting the perfect bulls-eye forgiveness is “removing” or “taking away” all the errant arrows that have missed perfection. Nothing imperfect remains. They have been “sent away” — “removed”.  This is the direction in which, this racial issue needs to arrive at.  Where we not only forgive each other but send away all the issues that divide us.  We need to form a new relationship that is not so grounded in the past that it taints the present.  Then and only then can we avoid the hurts we keep doing to each other.  This is only one in an ongoing series of blogs on race.  Other new additions come out every Tuesday.  Stay tuned.


Other blogs in this series:

Links to the statistics:



Three Steps to Reach Millennials


A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. The letter reads:

“I’ve gone to church for 30 years now. In that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time, and the pastors are wasting their time.”

This started a real controversy in the Letters to the Editor column – much to the delight of the editor.

This letter could have been written today by anyone of the young people who have checked out of Sunday Morning worship. If you have followed this blog long enough, you know I am not here to bash anyone but to offer you encouragement and practical solutions.

With that disclaimer in mind here is interesting research from The Barna Group about Millennials. Then I will give you some practical ways to connect with Millennials.

The Barna Group found:

  • The unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade, from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population.
  • Nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life.
  • Third, when asked what has helped their faith grow, “church” does not make even the top 10 factors. Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus.

They are echoing the feelings in the letter written over 30 years ago that somehow the messages of the church are not connecting with them. I believe a huge part of the disconnect is that we are still operating with a churched culture mindset. We are still trying to reach the Christians who have drifted away, preaching and teaching the same way we did decades ago. However, this generation is facing challenges to its faith that previous generations never did. While this is the case, hope still remains. There is a way to connect with this younger generation that is searching for answers.

The New Front Door

You need to know your audience. Back in the good ole days, you could send out a mass mailing and you could expect to reach possibly one to three percent of the population. Things have changed.

We live in a digital world and us as a people have a need to remain connected. That change in culture affects the way we shop. Before I go to a restaurant, for example, I go to their website, I check out their menu, and I read the reviews. Likewise, this is the door Millennials enter first when it comes to church shopping. Your website is the front door to connect with Millennials. Millennials will use your website to see if your congregation is worth a face-to-face interaction because you need to understand time is precious to them.

Key Website features

You need to think of your website as a welcome center.

What information would you have on your website to make the first time visitor feel at home? Design your front page in that manner.

Your website needs to be easy to navigate not only is that a good idea for Millennials, it is a good idea period. Who wants to spend all day trying to figure out your website?  Besides Millennials are accessing information often on the go. As Amber van Natten for News Cred wrote, “Despite the value of long-form content, 41% of Millennials said the main reason they abandon content is that it’s too long. Keep the context of your content in mind – are they on a mobile device looking for a quick distraction or researching for real, in-depth information?”

So keep the content short, informative and to the point. Consequently, it is critical to gear the front page so that outsiders can understand it and navigate it easily.

Make Your Web Presence A Social Gathering Place

Equally important is the fact that Millennials meet outsiders in on-line social gathering places. If we learn to engage and connect with them in this realm they can become our greatest advocates for the spreading of the Gospel among their peers. Check this quote out, “When millennials fall in love with a product or an organization, they tell the world — through social media and face-to-face conversations. The Millennials who love your product are your best marketing tool. These evangelists will sell your product for you if you give them a forum and the means to do so.” – Joel Kaplan for Mashable

Moreover, Millennials want to connect online and be part of a community. Image having them sharing podcast of your sermons, Bible studies and blog posts virally to their unchurched friends. It could have a similar impact that Dr. Martin Luther experienced when he put the word of God in the language and the hands of the German common folks. Think of the global impact. To meet this amazing opportunity many churches now have a volunteer or a paid staff person for digital and social communications, because this is where your members and outsiders are living.

In conclusion, in the opening letter about the effectiveness of preaching, the discussion went on for weeks until someone wrote the following clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time, my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Preaching is not the issue, the Word of God is still effective and powerful today. Our challenge is how to connect that Word of God with a population that is searching for community, but not necessarily ready to darken the doors of our building. We meet them where they are in the digital world they travel.



Keys Steps In Conducting a Pastoral Search


This cartoon sums up where so many congregations begin the call process. How can we call pastor with tons of personality, who inspires us with great sermons and Bible studies, attracts lots of young families, and increase our numbers of people in the pews and dollars in the offering plate? Now find us a pastor who can do all of this without fundamentally changing anything about us. When churches enter this transitional phase in the life of the church, they do so with much fear, apprehension, and uncertainty. With all those emotions flowing through the congregation, it is no wonder they want to play it safe. They know things will be different from before, so the tendency is to find a Shepherd, who will lead them into this new reality but in a way that does not upset the apple cart too much. So how do we call a pastor that is right for what God will do in the congregation moving forward?

Take the time to do a detailed Self-study.

Jesus teaches us that preparation is essential in Luke 14:28 he says,“Just imagine that you want to build a tower. Wouldn’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to be sure you have enough to finish what you start?” When we are about to embark on a decision that affects how God’s mission is carried out among His people in that community, wouldn’t it make sense to consider prayerfully what God’s will for your community of believers is? A congregational self-study gives the congregation a chance to examine its ministry direction, programs, and access any problems needing to be addressed. It affords the leadership an opportunity to really ask the tough questions. Questions about may be why the former pastor accepted a call to serve somewhere else. There are many reasons why he did, financial, conflict with leadership, family needs, or a movement of the Holy Spirit to help a new group of believers. Whatever the reason now would a perfect time for the church wrestle with an intense time of prayer and reflection. Below are some questions to get the juices flowing:

  • What makes this congregation different from all the other congregations in the community?
  • What particular focus most energizes and animates our leadership?(Focuses on what the saints and leadership are passionate about)
  • What are the unique needs and opportunities where God has placed us? (Focus on the Community)
  • What are the unique resources and capabilities that God brings together in us? (Focus on the gifts God has placed in the congregation)
  • What is our mission to God’s saints in this place and the community in which He has placed us?
  • What challenges might be hindering our congregation’s ability to accomplish this mission?

Taking the time to discover clearly who you are and where God is leading, helps you determine the type of shepherd is needed to lead your congregation. In my experience working with over 40 congregations in the call process, when a church skips this step or shortchanges it, there is a tendency to lengthen the time of the vacancy. Because the call committee and the congregation wonder aimlessly into the pool of very talented pastoral candidates with no clear way to align the candidates with the congregational needs. Once the interview process or call goes out and the pastor asked the question: “So why did you feel I was the right pastor for this church?” The leaders and congregation have no clear answer to this issue, giving the candidates a sense that you are not sure what you are looking for, so how can you be sure God is calling him to serve? So take the time to hear clearly from God.  May God bless you and may God bless His church.

Other posts in this series:

Praying with Holy Boldness



Hugh Lattimer once preached before King Henry VIII. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday and apologize for the offense he had given. The next Sunday, after reading his text, he thus began his sermon: “Hugh Lattimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life, if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well Hugh, dost thou does not know from whence thou comest–upon Whose message thou are sent? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholdeth all thy ways and Who can cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” He then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday–and with considerably more energy.  – M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 126.

The final article on praying through persecution will focus on learning to pray with holy boldness. In the above illustration, we are often confronted when our faith comes face to face with a society that wants nothing to do with God or anything godly. God gets in the way of living a life without accountability. It is very appealing to live our life focused only on what is pleasing and pleasurable, however, to accomplish such a monumental feat with a clear conscience we must push all things holy out of our way.

Praying with Spiritual Boldness Requires Giving up Control.

We like to live under the distorted view that we can live our lives just the way we want believing that we control our future. If we work hard, carefully plan, and adjust for the minor interruptions that occur naturally we can navigate through this journey placed before us. But life has a way of shattering that illusion. Let me share this story to illustrate that point.

One of the most tragic events during the Reagan presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble.

A few days after the tragedy, I remember coming across an extraordinary story. Marine Corps Commandant Paul X. Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors then in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man, yet he survived.

As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words — “Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.” With those two simple words, Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country — those who have remained faithful.  -J. Dobson & Gary Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990, pp. 187-188.

In the story above no one could have prepared for what would happen that day. And it doesn’t take us long to discover that life and circumstances are bigger than we are. No matter how strong our resolve is to resist and desire to control the things that happen around us, we soon discover it isn’t possible. The young Marine gives us the proper approach we must take to live, “forever faithful.” The call from God is for us to remain faithful. We need to learn to trust in God. Finding strength in the eternal truth that GOD IS GOD, and He will control the outcome of our lives. Everything in all creation is subject to his will.

In Luke’s account of the works of the apostles in the book of Acts he shares this thought with the church. “Sovereign Lord…Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.” Acts 4:24

God has a plan you can trust in Him!

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

We can attempt to layout elaborate and detailed plans that clearly chart the direction our life will take, but none of that will matter unless God makes us able to accomplish those plans.

Planning aside, we cannot control the outcome of our lives. Our plans fail us. Circumstances beyond our control thwart those plans. Only God makes our dreams possible. Because the reality is that those are God’s ideas, we are a part of a bigger scheme that God is orchestrating in the world. God is Almighty! God is in control. And He will bring good into our lives even when everything is out of control!

Jeremiah 29:11, “11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

When the uncertainty of life begins to overwhelm, you find strength in the fact that God is almighty and is still sitting on the throne. The lesson for the believers today is that our ability to pray with holy boldness is grounded in the Church’s dependence on God’s strength. As we are praying, in the midst of our persecution we are asking God for those prayers to lift high the name of Jesus.

Other related articles on Praying through Persecution:


Where Has Beauty Gone?

If you are feeling the weight of this time in our country and feeling a sense of hopelessness, find comfort in this, God is still seated on the throne.

Source: Where Has Beauty Gone?

What to Pray In the Midst of Persecution​?

Man Looking Up At Stars

In this post, we continue our discussion on prayer. This post is a four-part series on praying with boldness through problems.  The emphasis today is praying to the Creator of the Universe.

In Acts, chapter 4, the church and Christ’s disciples are being persecuted and harassed.  After one final and futile attempt to intimidate and silence the apostles by the Sanhedrin, they were released. Peter and John returned in the Greek to “…their own (people).” We do not know the number of individuals counted, but it was not the entire church which now consisted of 5,000 men. The two reported all that had happened to them and all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

The first response of this group of believers was a bit unusual. They immediately turned their attention to Old Testament Scriptures, which referred to God as the Creator of all.  It is interesting the way the believers dealt with this persecution.  How they handled their problems I pray will give us insights on how to address our problems.

They Praised God as Creator.

That is an acknowledgment that God is in control of all things.

When I am feeling weak and overwhelmed by the troubles ahead of me, I don’t need a bigger version of myself to rely on. I need a smaller version of me and larger version of my God.  I need to come to grips with the truth that I may not be able to control things happening all around me.  So I need to raise my voice to the heavens and know and believe that there is a living, Almighty and powerful God who will come to my aid and work on my behalf!  I need a Creator-of-the-Universe size, God.

Hear the praise dripping from the lips of those who experienced this Creator-of-the-Universe size, God.

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the people’s plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed.’

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.[1]” Acts 4:23-24

Oh, give thanks that God is God! When we pray, we should pray that the Holy Spirit would give us a bigger view of who God is. He alone is God.  God has no equal.  He takes a backseat to no one, and nothing is impossible or too difficult for Him! After all, he made the heavens and the earth.  Is there anything our God cannot do? That was the point the believers were making.  That is why they went back to the Old Testament.  Back to where it all began to remember just how powerful and impressive, our God is.  The creator God reminds us that He is in control of all things because He created all things.

September 11, 2001, is a day that is still too fresh in most of our minds. I remember that day feeling small and insignificant. There was this feeling of being “out of control.” One man who had no control over his world that day was Stanley Praimnath. Little did Stanley know when he prayed for his family that morning just how much he would need the blood of Jesus to cover and protect him. Stanley worked on the 81st floor of Tower #2 as a vice president for Fuji Bank Limited. He was at his desk on the phone when he saw the second plane coming straight for him. What can you do in the face of certain death? He jumped under his desk as the aircraft crashed into the building. The plane was burning just twenty feet away from him, but God miraculously helped Stanley and another man make it down all 81 flights of stairs before the building collapsed. Stanley knew that he was powerless to do anything, but God was in control and spared his life. He said, “…it was the handiwork of the Lord that turned that plane. My Lord Jesus is bigger than the Trade Center, and His finger can push a plane aside!”

The psalmist David knew what it was like for his life to be out of control. David’s enemies were trying to murder him. Was David overcome with fear? Was he paralyzed by his attackers? It all goes back to the idea that God is the maker, the creator, as these verses remind us:

  He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever.  Ps. 146:6

 O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Is. 37:1

David had learned that in the same way he had once cared for his sheep keeping the lion or bear from attacking and destroying the flock that God would watch over his children. David rested in the confidence that God was in control.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 4:23–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Millennials in The Workplace


People today are constantly trying to figure out this elusive group.  Here is a great video on Millennials in the workplace.

Other posts on Millennials:


Meet and Greet Event


Meet and greet are opportunities for you to give people a chance to know more about you. It also gives you the opportunity to promote your blog. To make this more fun. Tell us what your favorite Christmas tradition was growing up and one surprising thing about you people would not suspect. The other rules of engagement are listed below. Remember to copy this link on either your blog or social media outlet. I hope you get new people to see your heart and passion for blogging.

Here are the rules of engagement-

Leave a link to a post from a blog other than your own

Leave a link to a post to your blog

SHARE this post (social media or reblog)

The best way to increase readership is to engage with other bloggers! Comment on their posts. Invest time in what others are doing. It will help you grow as a blogger, writer and it is a heck of a lot of fun. This blogging community can be one the most rewarding social opportunities around. You will find that most people are encouraging. So get some conversations going, you never know what connection can be made!

How To Handle Church Conflict


Two men who lived in a small village got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they decided to talk to the town sage. The first man went to the sage’s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, “You’re absolutely right.” The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, “You’re absolutely right.” Afterward, the sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible — they can’t both be absolutely right.” The sage turned to his wife and said, “You’re absolutely right.”- Dave Moore

In many church conflicts, the loudest voice wins.  Unfortunately, there are bullies in congregations.  Let me define what a church bully is.  It is someone who lets their agenda and their need for control and power become more important than God’s mission.  Those people at times use schoolyard bully tactics to get their way.  They prey on the fact that church members truly have no desires to come to church and argue and fight.  People come to church to be fed with God’s Word and seek avenues that they can use their gifts and talents to help advance God’s kingdom.  So, in church conflicts often the bully has free reign. These power struggles play out in the life of too many congregations and the end results are good people are either hurt in the fight or become disillusioned with Christianity. The bully can take on many faces, but no matter the face, it is Satan’s way of disrupting God’s work among God’s people.

Satan uses many people to accomplish this; sometimes it is a pastor who feels the need to exercise unhealthy control over every aspect of the congregational life.  You see this being played out when the lay leadership has less and less administrative oversight and the circle of power shrinks down to a faithful few committed followers.  These members believe they are doing what is best for the church, but in reality, they are destroying the unity and harmony of the congregation.

Sometimes two factions of a church are fighting over something and the preacher is in the middle.  Silence and inactivity give more power and credence to the bullying behavior and divisive power struggles.  I hope to give you some practical ways to deal with imperfect people and broken relationship. Let me say this first: if the behavior is abusive that needs to be addressed.

The Apostle Paul addressed how to approach a divided and fighting church in the city of Corinth. They were as mixed up as any church today.  Paul’s message to them in 1 Corinthians was there are three things that people who are fighting and divided need to do.

  1. Focus on Jesus because we are United in HIM.

Knowing they are fighting and quarreling, Paul says to them…

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” I Cor. 1:10

In that one sentence, he reminds them that people in the church share a special relationship with one another. We’re are united under one common faith, we share one baptism, and the church has one common mission.  And for that reason, we should be united around that shared relationship.  If that is truly the case, there is no room in the body of Christ for fighting with each other. Instead, we should come together in Christian fellowship to strengthen each other, not to tear each other down.

  1. Focus on Jesus instead of other people.

Paul says, here’s what I hear is happening there: some of you are saying ‘Paul is your man.’ Some are saying that you follow Apollos. Some of you say you follow Peter, and some of you are even misusing the name of Jesus by splitting off from everyone else and saying, ‘We follow Christ alone.’ The Church isn’t supposed to be like this. Jesus died for us, and we were baptized into Him, not into any mere man.

Paul’s point was that Christians are supposed to follow Jesus and not other people. When you follow someone, eventually they’re going to let you down because they’re inadequate when compared to Jesus. You may be attracted by someone’s personality or something else they have or do well, but they’re still human and will eventually fail you. Others may not be as enamored with another church leader as you and they see his or her flaws and sins, and then you get the situation that Paul condemned in Corinth: people rallying around leaders instead of gathering around Jesus.

The temptation for leaders in the church is to build a sort of “personality cult” around ourselves. We all want to be liked.  The more people heap praise on us the more we begin to crave it and tend to lose sight to whom belongs the glory.  So It becomes very tempting to craft our message in often subtle ways so that we come off more holy than we are.   It may come across as if the leaders don’t struggle with sin as they condemn the sins of those not like us. It becomes tempting to set ourselves up as the example for people to follow. It is here we need to be reminded we preach Christ and him crucified.  Or to say it as a true Southerner, “It Ain’t about me, It’s about Him!”

  1. Focus on Jesus and on what he wants us to do.

Paul told the Corinthian Christians, in effect, “I don’t care about who baptized who. I was just doing what God asked me to do—preaching the Gospel. I don’t care who gets credit; I was just following my orders.”

What God wants from us can be summed up in two words — faithfulness and fruitfulness. God wants us to be faithful to him: to worship and honor him with all our heart, mind, soul.

And God wants us to be fruitful for him too. One can be faithful and still miss the boat as far as being fruitful. God’s desire is to transform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and make us as fruitful as He was. We want to always be ready to “give an account for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15). We desire to be the “good soil” Jesus spoke of in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3–9. The result of spiritual fruitfulness is that as God is glorified, we grow, and others are introduced to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate fruitfulness for a child of God.

We’re imperfect people, and so our tendency is to be selfish and self-centered. Our goal is to see things from Christ’s point of view, that is only possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and prayer.

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