Congregational Life and Ministry

The Marks of the True Church: Prayer and Worship


The second mark of the true church is an active prayer life.

  1. Empowering Prayer Life.

The church seeks to know and to follow God’s will. An authentic missional church is a praying church. It never loses sight of the fact that they are God’s people, who are sustained by God’s power and acutely aware that they are guided by God’s purpose and plan. Christians are committed not only to doing God’s will but also to doing ministry God’s way. How is that accomplished through praying with bold persistence?

“And I tell you: Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.” Lk 11:9-10

The Apostle Luke shares with the world what Jesus taught them about praying, with a bold persistence.  Jesus uses an illustration of a man coming to a friend for help.  At first, the friend says it is late, and the children are in bed.  In other words, this is an awful time.  Come back at a more acceptable time.  Because to go and unbolt the door would awaken the children.  However, the friend was bold in his tenacity.  He would keep asking, keep knocking and keep seeking.  The lesson for the Church about prayer to our Lord revolves around these three different aspects.

  • Keep Asking

The concept of “Ask” is commonly used for prayer.  To best understand this, it must explain that in the Greek it is not an imperative of command (“You must ask to receive”) but as an imperative of condition (“If you ask, you will indeed receive).  The force of this Scripture is not a command of Jesus to pray, but instead an invitation to prayer.

Therefore, our Heavenly Father proves to us that he is our Father, and we are, indeed, his precious children by giving to us those things that are beneficial to us.

  • Keep Searching

“Searching” is frequently used to describe seeking after/for God

You will seek the Lord your God from there, and you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being.” Deut. 4:29

“Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near.” Isaiah 55:6

I like to describe it this way.  God places a God-size hole in the human soul.  That can only be satisfied and filled with the presence of the Almighty.  For us to seek God is to desire that spiritual connection with God’s face through prayer.

  • Keep Knocking

I have heard this described as we “knocked at the gates of mercy and finding that they were open to us.”

This verse is an example of the divine passive (“it will be given to you” means God will give it to you.  In saying “it will be opened to you” means God will open it to you) and of Jesus’ use of exaggeration, makes it very clear that not all prayers are answered. Prayers that are answered are those in line with God’s will and would include an implied reference to Jesus’ prayers in the garden before His date with Calvary “…yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

With consistency and bold persistence, the Church learns to develop a healthy, vibrant prayer life.

The third mark is one that is often controversial in our Church because we have very definitive ideas of what worship should contain.  I will not get into forms or structure. That is for another time.


  1. Vibrant and Christ-centered Worship

The authentic missional church is a place of dynamic, engaging Christ-centered worship. The styles may vary, but the worship strokes the heart and soul of the worshipper. The Word of God engages and involves people in the mystical union of God and His people. This vibrant worship happens as the Word of God is preached and Christ’s body and blood are shared in the breaking of bread. In worship, the people engage God in corporate and individual prayer which invites God’s will to be done in their midst and in the lives of those in the community they have been called to serve. For those who have taken advantage of God’s invitation to honor the Sabbath, when they leave the House of God there is little doubt that they have been in the presence of Almighty God.  The members have been impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word, music, prayer and the Means of Grace.  That is what vibrant worship looks like, and it is not based on a form it is based on the substance of the worship service.


Other posts in this series:


Culture Change, Mission

The Marks of the True Church, Part 1


I would like to believe that a distinctly, authentic Church is a Christ-centered, mission-driven, people-focused, community-transforming church. But what does that mean?

This opening illustration frames this discussion. A missionary in Africa was once asked if he liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable, refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” –Our Daily Bread.

I want to begin this by discussing the churches in the Book of Acts. The struggle I run into when talking about the Church based on what was happening in Acts is that we tend to see those churches through rose-colored glasses. These marks are not all characteristics of the Churches in Acts.  We see the explosive growth, we see the unity, but we fail to look at the flaws. And to be honest, all churches have flaws. Here is what we know about those early century churches.

  • On that first Pentecost 3,000 souls were added to the church in Jerusalem.
  • The church was founded on strong biblical teaching and sound doctrine.
  • The believers had a habit of gathering together daily for prayer and the breaking of bread.
  • The result of this growth in the faith led the people to a life of generosity.
  • There was unity as the worshippers gathered daily in the temple.
  • Yet, it was not all happiness and joy; there were still deep and at time heart-wrenching conflicts.

As we set out to lay the marks of an authentic church we use as our foundation the missional churches of Acts.  However, this time we will pull back the veil and reveal more than just the positives we tend to highlight. We need to be prepared for all the issues the churches in Acts faced. As a matter of insight, “Whenever you attempt something great for God and His kingdom, Satan will do everything possible to derail those attempts.”  There are seven marks that this article will examine in some detail.   We begin with the most critical.  Any church needs to have strong Biblical teaching.

  1. Strong Biblical Teaching.

“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” Acts 2:42

At the heart of any authentically missional church is the gospel message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. If we are preaching anything but Christ and Him crucified, then we are doing harm to those outside of God’s grace.  The world needs strong biblical teaching from the church because the natural tendency of the human heart is to drift back into the mode of trying to please God by doing good and in doing so feeling the full weight of God’s wrath.  You can hear that in Luther’s words just how deeply he felt the weight of God. How deeply he was tormented by his sins and how that sin weighs on the heart of the sinner.

“Though I lived as a religious leader without reproach, I felt, with the most disturbed conscience imaginable, that I was a sinner before God. I did not love. Indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.” Dr. Martin Luther

The quote points to just how deeply Luther felt convicted by God; how Luther was profoundly aware of his sinfulness and the impact of God’s judgment on him for his sins. At the heart of the Reformation, this was the tension with the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of solid biblical doctrine. The Catholic church taught Christians they had to earn the merits of Jesus’ forgiveness. Nothing was free. Christ’s death for them was only a starting point; there was much more the sinner needed to do to achieve salvation. That need to earn forgiveness lead to a deeper faith crisis.  Now Christ’s death and resurrection are not enough.  If that were the case, this uncertainty left many good faithful Christians feeling the weight of being inadequate. Very little has changed today.  This issues of trying to appease an angry God runs through the lives and hearts of many religions. An authentic mission church points people back to the grace, but good works cannot and will not save us. When we approach the throne of God with only our good works as a sacrifice, we quickly realize just how inadequate that appears before a perfect God. To extend our pitiful gifts to the God who created the universe seems quite small.

Deep down the human heart knows that we are born in sin and have no legitimate way to earn the forgiveness of those sins. The frustration that humanity has when attempting to earn favor with God through works is the feeling of being mistreated. Unfair treatment angers a lot of people, especially people like Luther who desperately want to play by the rules.

The first mark of the Church is foundational, to point the saint and sinner back to the cross of Christ and the grace of God. Luther like many souls are feeling the full weight of God in their life, but the true Church leads the troubled soul to the knowledge that Jesus took that pressure to Calvary’s cross on their behalf.  Now nothing in our past is too big even for Jesus to forgive, nor anything is too big that the blood of Jesus cannot cover. The Church proclaims to the world God’s relentless grace.

The second mark of the authentic missional church is the church founded on an empowering prayer life.  Check in on Thursday’s as the four-part series continues.


Other posts in this series:


Discipleship, Leadership

God Ain’t Done with Me Yet!


“God ain’t done with me yet” was my grandmother’s favorite saying as she got older.  She lived her life like the old man in this illustration.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings — all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, “Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?”

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it’s time to call me Home.” Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.  – Our Daily Bread.

For my older, wiser readers, don’t give up being a blessing to the kingdom.  The church needs you.  The mission of God needs you.  Young believers need you.  Finish the race marked out for you.

How Will You Finish Your Race?

In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this, officials had to go out and place flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”

That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.

In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey.  The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out.  Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God who knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”

Each race is unique.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the life of faith.  The Christian life at times seems unfair.  There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?”  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere.  What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race?   For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.

When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal.  Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok, just quit.” Have you ever felt that way?  I know I have.  When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.

But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.”  I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

Congregational Life and Ministry, Leadership

It Not Retirement it is Repositioning


Stop me if you have heard this: “We are a dying church.  The average age of our congregation is in the sixty plus range. We need young families.  We have put in our time; it is time for us to pass the baton to younger folks.”

There are two ways to view this.  The glass half empty view is: we are a dying church.  Our members are old and tired, and the end is near for them and us.

The glass half full view is: “Yes we have older saints in our congregation and boy are we blessed.  These seasoned saints have time and knowledge that the church can enjoy.  And what Millennials are seeking most in the church is relationship and someone to act as a spiritual guide through the dark maze of this amoral society.”

An Attitude Shift is Required

In order for the church to make use of the gifts of God sitting in the pews, we need to rethink our view of older adults.  Maybe this illustration will help.

Old age is dreaded by almost everyone because it usually means loneliness, physical decline, and a retreat to inactivity. Some people tend to lose their enthusiasm for life and spend too much time in fruitless reminiscing and self-pity. They feel like “Old Jimmy”, an elderly gentleman George Mueller often told about. When this man was asked what he did all day since he had retired, he replied, “I just sit and think, and sit and think, and sometimes I just sit!” That’s getting old in the worst way — ceasing to live before we die.

History records that many people made some of their greatest contributions to society after the age of 65. The Earl of Halsburg, for example, was 90 when he began preparing a 20- volume revision of English law. Goethe wrote Faust at 82. Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was 73. At 69, Hudson Taylor was still vigorously working on the mission field, opening up new territories in Indochina. And when Caleb was 85, he took the stronghold of the giants (Josh. 14:10-15).

God never intends for us to retire from spiritual activity. The Bible says we can “still bring forth fruit in old age.” Even as Jesus kept the “best wine” for the last at the wedding in Cana (John 2:10), so He seeks to gather the most luscious clusters of the fruit of the Spirit from the fully ripened harvest of our lives. You may be sure God wouldn’t keep you on this earth if He didn’t have a worthwhile ministry for you to accomplish. So, keep on serving the Lord!  Our Daily Bread.

Older, wiser saints; the Lord and the Church still has a need for the gifts you bring.  Don’t check out on ministry when you have so much to offer, so deep an impact to make.  Next week I will explore ways for the church to unleash the wealth of talents sitting idle in our pews.

Culture Change, Mission, Vision

When Vision Takes a Back Seat on the Church Bus



In the first post, we painted the picture of what it looks like when vision and relationships are driving the direction of the church.  Now let’s reverse the drivers.  Appearing now in the front seat are structures and ministry.  More about these two elements.  I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  These two components of the church are vital, but they need to be seated in the right place on the bus.  When I talk about ministries, I am referring to ministries that focus on outreach and structures that anchor accountability.  These are talented players but when structures are driving the church bus and ministry is in the front seat here is what a typical meeting agenda looks like.


Call to Order

Opening Prayer

Review of Agenda  

  •  Reading of the Minutes from the last meeting

Treasurers Report –

Pastor’s Report –

Committee Reports –

Old (Unfinished) Business

(Items that have been postponed from or not finished from previous meetings are handled here.)

New Business


 This meeting may take two to three hours to complete this agenda and somewhere along the way the meeting gets derailed by older members of the church who go into a church version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”  This is how the song goes.

It was the time in their congregation’s history that every single program and event seemed to work. Whether it was the Ladies’ Aid sewing circle or the men’s workday. They were never at a loss for volunteers, and the building was abuzz with activity. The Sunday School classrooms were standing room only.  The former pastor was a ministry rock star.  And you, being the new pastor will never live up to that legend.  The church had money to burn, and there were multiple services because they could not fit all the people into the building in just one.  Everyone was happy, and the church was growing.  But now your meetings are dull, dry, and long.  Nowhere in the agenda above can you find vision or a plan to build relationships with unchurched people.  You entire meeting revolves around taking care of the people who are already connected to Christ and maintaining the building that houses the already converted.  A vision that could add energy and direction and relationship with those outside the walls have taken a backseat to ministry to the already heaven bound.

It is time to Flip the Drivers.

 To be clear about this point, vision is from God. Vision may seem far beyond our reach and, if so, that may be an indicator that we are heading in the right direction. If the vision is comfortably within our capabilities, God does not receive the glory. But if the vision is “God-sized” in scope, meaning impossible without God’s intervention, then God receives the Glory and Him alone!

So, what do you need to do? You need to start with asking the right questions. At your next leadership meeting flip your agenda.  Put new business first.  Start exploring these type of questions: Do you have a good vision statement that points you clearly to your reason for existence? Who are the people God has called you to connect within your community? Once you figure out if your vision statement is pointing toward those outside your walls you will know it is from God. These are the fundamental questions a compelling and inspiring vision statement will answer:
 What are the end results you will see when this vision is accomplished? (End results being who are the people, stories, events or works of the Holy Spirit that are on full display in your ministry?)
• Who in the community is being impacted by this vision?
• How are you developing a discipleship culture? That is a culture of equipping the saints, multiplying and sending the saints of God into the mission field. 
• How are the members living out the vision and what impact does it have on them and the community we are called to serve?

The first post in this series:



Community Outreach, Faith Conversations

Is Outreach Necessary?


Yes, and here is why

This may sound like an absurd question. Many church people I meet with are disenchanted with the church, with America, and with the shifting society around us.  Those same individuals are encountering denominations that are dwindling in numbers and revenue.  There is a sense of desperation all around.  My response to this is you are right these are trying times for the church, but I have never been more energized.  It means the church is more important, more relevant, demands a bolder witness than ever before.

Outreach is not just needed; it is indispensable to the survival of our communities.  But not in the manner you may imagine.  I am not saying this will grow your church, but it will expand your capacity, your compassion, your heart, and you as a follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe outreach is more about using our God-given spiritual gifts than it is about church growth.  Churches may grow due to our outreach efforts, but that is a Holy Spirit thing, not a program thing, or an energy thing, or even a planned thing.

Our calling is to invite people to meet this Jesus Christ who has transformed our lives through His death and resurrection.  It is our opportunity to create an environment for people to take part in a foretaste of the feast to come.  Come and see the man who knows everything about you, yet still, loves you.  That’s why outreach is crucial, even more so, urgent.

Outreach is Necessary Because the Message is Powerful

Maybe this example will connect with you.

She was lying on the ground. In her arms, she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little — but it was all I had.

Taking a bite, she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft, warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.

Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes, the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived. Love is a costly thing. – Love is a Costly Thing, by Dick Hillis

God in His love for us and for a broken world “spared not His own Son.” God gave the mission to the church to tell the world of the everlasting, all-encompassing love of God. But God’s love came at a significant cost.  Believers, we must tell the world regardless of any personal cost to us. Outreach is an expression of that love’s cost. Our faith costs parents and sons and daughters, relationships. Faith costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ, the missionary must give up all to make the Savior known. You are a missionary. The world needs to hear your message of the salvation.  Look around you, there is brokenness, there is hatred, there is racial division, and there is anger.  The only thing that breaks the hold Satan has on the world is the power of forgiveness offered to the world through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ love breaks through hatred, division, and brokenness.  So, saints of God let your love for Christ, cost you something, and we will together live out the mission of inviting people to experience a foretaste of the feast to come.   Outreach is telling a lost and dying world of God’s costly love for us in Christ Jesus. Go, and be an outreach fanatic!


The Kingdom Needs You!


Top Ten Reasons to Get Involved in Kingdom Work

  • When you stay home, you get too many telemarketing calls.
  • Your family could use a break from you.
  • You might need to help yourself some day.
  • It’s hard to win a game of solitaire.
  • Soap operas all sound alike.
  • If you don’t go out each day, you get old.
  • Why let your boss have all the fun in life?
  • The car needs a workout.
  • Your mom would be proud of you.
  • Who cares about money?
    Unknown Submitted by Joy Pople, Baldwinsville Volunteer Center, Baldwinsville NY

I once heard a Baptist preacher say, “There are two things I would never want to be. The front pew of a Baptist church or the third verse of a Baptist hymn because neither is ever used.” As a Lutheran, our front row doesn’t suffer too much wear and tear either.

We have an innate desire—even a need, you could say—to be useful and to be used. Most disgruntled employees are disgruntled because they feel that their employer isn’t maximizing their skills. People want to be helpful, and they want to be used. Ask any player in the NFL if he would rather be the highest paid back-up or the lowest-paid starter, and the overwhelming majority would say, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”

Everyone Has Something To Offer

God is calling you to be useful. The harvest wants you to be useful, and in Ephesians 4 Paul teaches us about how God seeks to use each one of us. Listen to his words.

(v. 7) He [God] has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. Eph 4:7

The word translated gift can also be translated grace or even ministry. One commentary I read said this verse can be translated, “to each of us ministry has been given…[The NIV Application Commentary, Ephesians, Klyne Snodgrass]

Paul is talking about our usefulness. He’s saying, “As a member of the body of Christ, you have been given a special gift, a special grace, a special ministry, that Jesus designed especially for you. You have been equipped and empowered by the King of the Universe to accomplish this mission.”


Whether your gift is or isn’t obvious it exists. To help you maximize your gift or ministry, Paul teaches that God has given the church a team of leaders whose job it is to prepare you, train you and release you for ministry.  Once you have been sent, you go with a clear message, shout to the world in word and action that the reign of Jesus Christ has begun.  Christ and His church are ministering to a hurting and a lost world. This is how Paul said it:

(v. 11) He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ… Eph 4:11

God’s plan for the kingdom.  Our ministry should reflect Christ’s example and compassion for the lost.  God has a plan for you, a ministry for you. He has given you a special gift to accomplish it.  The Holy Spirit gives you the power to achieve it. Maybe your ministry exists within the parameters of this local church, but your kingdom impact expands far beyond your local flock or your established ministries organization. Look around you. Kingdom work occurs beyond our limited boundaries.  Impact happens in the workplace, or in your neighborhood, or even halfway around the world.  Don’t put God into tiny boxes and then sit on the lid.  God is bigger than that, the kingdom is greater than that. You are more important than that.

You are useful. You are valuable to God. You can be used by God and His Church to help accomplish God’s mission. He has a place for you to serve him, and he has given you the grace you need to do it. The strength you need to accomplish. He has also given you a community of believer around you to encourage in it.  And all the gifts necessary to achieve it. So never lose hope in living out the mission you were called to fulfill.



Warning: We Are Taking On Friendly Fire


Friendly fire is an attack by a military force on a non-enemy, but their own, allied or neutral forces while attempting to attack the enemy, either by misidentifying the target as hostile or due to errors or inaccuracy.- Wikipedia

I made a promise to my readers to be real and authentic.  The problem with that is you also leave yourself open and vulnerable to criticism and attack.  And while serving as a parish pastor in many smaller declining congregations fighting change yet struggling to find the air to survive toughens one up, attacks and criticism still feel very personal.  As I look deeper at the landscape of my beloved Missouri Synod, my soul is grieved. In my church body, we are going through a trying time, at that heart of one of our deep-rooted issues is trust. Our church leaders, our pastors, struggle to trust each other.  There is a real fear about the ability to be open about the ministry challenges we face because there is a perception that brother clergy will pick up a blog post or see something on your church website that will cause you to draw friendly fire for your ministry choices.  It took me a long time to decided to start a blog just for that reason.  But my dear mother had a “Go big or Go home” approach to life, so I blame her.

Our numbers, like many mainline denominations, have been declining for the last twenty years or so. This decrease and feeling of hopelessness combined with frustration have led to internal conflicts.  We have heated debates on the direction of the church, the mission of the church, and who has been entrusted to accomplish the task. Instead, of seeking answers together, we have allowed the chasm to grow wider.

The natural tendency when you are sick is to ignore all the signs. You pray that the pain in the body will just naturally go away.  You may search the world-wide-web for others with similar symptoms until you find a favorable diagnosis.  You hope the illness goes away, or you try radical new treatments to save the dying organization. Both sides of this pendulum are colliding with tremendous force in my church body. As I stand and look into the future, we need to find a way to reconnect.  To get back the meaning of “church,” we are people “belonging to the Kyrios-Lord.”

We Need a Beer Summit

At fifty plus years old I have reached a point in my life where I have no taste for fighting anymore. God’s mission is too important. Those out of God’s grace are too important. The harvest we have been called to as the body of Christ is too vital.  The doctrine our forefathers fought and in some cases died to defend is too critical.

The foundational text for this post comes from Jesus’ High Priestly prayer.  Jesus, as He prepares His followers for His departure gives them this final rallying speech.  Jesus understood the challenges the evil one would place on the church and its leaders.  Neither side in our church body is evil, but Satan is using our differences to divide and distract us from our true calling. Jesus knew the tools and schemes Satan would employ on the church. So, Jesus points us to the best way to overcome Satan’s attack, fight back with the unity of being joined together to one faith (doctrine), one Lord (Jesus Christ) and one baptism (means of grace). Jesus prayed that the believers be united.  Would it be grand if we stop shooting at our allies and fight against our common opponent, Satan, and his army?  Maybe we should have a beer summit. Where you invite someone who is the polar opposite of you to sit and talk.  I think we will find we have far more agreement than differences.

Jesus Prayers for Unity.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

William Wallace, the leading character in the movie “Braveheart” chastised his fellow Scots for allowing minor issues, internal strife, and power struggles to stand in the way of their fight for independence from the English. “We have beaten the English, but they’re back because you won’t stand together.” I feel that is what is happening far too often in the church. The enemy, Satan, has been defeated. When Jesus Christ rose on Easter Sunday, the message was clear. “Satan, you are finished! Christ is victorious.” But with our internal fights and disagreements, we have turned the sweet taste of victory into the bitterness of defeat. Understand, I realize disagreement is a part of relationships, but what is not normal is the inability to move beyond the conflict and be unified. When there are issues that need correcting, the church needs to have those discussions. If we fail to teach the truth of God’s word we are doing the work of Christ a disservice. There also needs to be a desire at the end of the day to work together to do our shared mission.

In this High Priestly prayer notice how often the word “one” is used. “One” appears in verse 21, twice in 11 and 22. The unity of God’s church should reflect the unity of the Father and the Son. Verse 23 reveals to us the nature of this agreement: the Son is obedient to the Father, and the Father loves the Son (v 23). Paul describes us as many members, but one body (Rom 12:4-5, Col 3:15).

To be crystal clear, to be one is not the absence of opinions. Opinions are healthy. Disagreements are healthy.  What is not healthy is creating an environment where we do not trust each other.  Where we assume our brother is out to get us or destroy us and our ministry career.  Unity is the lack of divisions. The church causes the greatest damage when it allows disagreement and disunity to grow in the body like an open sore. That open sore unchecked only festers and swells and spreads until it kills the body. Disunity weakens the effectiveness of the gospel. It scatters the flock. Disunity muffles the church’s witness in the world. The outside world looks at a church without unity and asks, “Who can believe their message?”

Let us not be divided, but united, to grow the church into what God would have it be. A pastor reminded me when I started in ministry, “there is nothing on earth like the local church when it is working right. It has the power to transform and changes lives.” Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ know that He is praying for you.

Jesus wants us to live as children of God. He promises to give us the strength to face whatever comes. Remember to pray for those around you and those far away. Bear in mind that we are to be salt and light to a bland and dark world. Bear in mind that Jesus is praying for us. Be like the tree of Psalm 1, “…their delight is in the law of the Lord…They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in due season.”

Leadership, Servant Leadership

Do You Need A Champion?

The Father's House, New Property Prayer
The Father’s House, New Property Prayer

Life is all about choices. Do I take this road or that one? Would you like tea or coffee? And if you pick coffee and you are at say a Starbucks for the first time you could be there all day trying to decide what kind of coffee, dark or medium roast, bold or light, regular or Latte, hot or cold, hot brewed or cold-brewed? No matter what decisions you make or what direction your life is taking what we all need in life is someone to empower us. Once we have finally come to the decision to pursue our life’s mission, we need a champion to give us the wind and the clearance from the runway to take off and fly.

I shared before that God has wired me in a certain way. 1) To be an equipper. That is a person who pours into the lives of others to help them develop and grow in their life’s journey. 2) To be an encourager. Because life is full of ups and downs, you just need a champion. And the last one I will add to this series is 3) To be a person who empowers others to achieve that mission.

Pushing People out of the Nest

Once people have identified what God has called them to do. As a leader, you need to equip them to carry out that mission and then most importantly allow them the pursue that mission. Give people the courage to spread their missional wings and exercise their God-given talents.

Overcoming that Feeling of Inadequacy

The natural inclination of people is that once it is clear what they should be doing, to get stuck. We get stuck because we don’t feel we have what it takes, the power to accomplish this life’s mission. This illustration may connect with you.

In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.

Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When

Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started; the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson’s astonishment, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians l:19-20, “How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God.” When we make firm our connection with God, his life, and power flow through us. -Ernest B. Beevers.

I see my mission in life is to point people back to the power they already have in God. If God gave you the talents, the wiring, and the passion, He would also provide the necessary heavenly voltage to carry out the unique mission He has entrusted to you.

Question to ponder:

What is the mission God has placed on your heart?

Devotional Message

The Cure To Overcoming the Thomas Syndrome of Doubt


What to do when you have doubts?

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  John 20:21

Three things:

  1. Live in the Shalom of God.

Peace. It’s the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Shalom.” Words are meaning peace, wholeness. Fullness. Harmony. As resurrection people, we are called and equipped to live life together in the manner we were created.  We were created to live in community with one another,  sharing the highs and lows of life together.  To model to the world the power of forgiving one another when others offend and cause us pain.  The peace that comes only through authentic fellowship with God openly inviting those who have strayed back to the love of God. Like the disciples discovered over 2,000 years ago, fear short-circuits faith. Jesus short-circuits fear and rekindles faith.

How does Jesus bring peace where there is fear? He shows up.  He encourages.  He breathes on the disciples, a foreshadowing of what is to come on Pentecost.

Jesus is understanding.  He is compassionate.  He dispels doubt.  Jesus meets the disciples and us where we are, in our fears, dealing with faith crippling doubt and He speaks into out lives and says, “I understand you’re afraid, but have Shalom. Know that you are not helpless. You are not without hope. You will never be alone again. I have overcome death and the grave and I am here to help you overcome your fears and doubts. Stop unbelieving and believe. Live in the confident power of the Holy Spirit. Live in faith, trust and hope, and not in fear. I will be with you always even until the end of time.”

  1. Realize you have received the Holy Spirit.

22After he had said this, he breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22

 Gordon Brownville’s Symbols of the Holy Spirit tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird’s cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, “He’s alive! My husband is still alive!”

So, it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit’s message.  -Thomas Lindberg.

The same Jesus who sends the disciples and us into the mission field also enables those whom he sends.  Jesus empowers us with the enabling gift of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Remember why Jesus came and that now He Sends us to be on mission for Him

As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” John 20:22b

David, a 2-year old with leukemia, was taken by his mother, Deborah, to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to see Dr. John Truman who specializes in treating children with cancer and various blood diseases. Dr. Truman’s prognosis was devastating: “He has a 50-50 chance.” The countless clinic visits, the blood tests, the intravenous drugs, the fear, and pain–the mother’s ordeal can be almost as bad as the child’s because she must stand by, unable to bear the pain herself. David never cried in the waiting room, and although his friends in the clinic had to hurt him and stick needles in him, he hustled in ahead of his mother with a smile, sure of the welcome he always got. When he was three, David had to have a spinal tap–a painful procedure at any age. It was explained to him that, because he was sick, Dr. Truman had to do something to make him better. “If it hurts, remember it’s because he loves you,” Deborah said. The procedure was horrendous. It took three nurses to hold David still, while he yelled and sobbed and struggled. When it was almost over, the tiny boy, soaked in sweat and tears, looked up at the doctor and gasped, “Thank you, Dr. Tooman, for my hurting.” -Monica Dickens, Miracles of Courage, 1985.

That is at the heart of the Easter message.  Jesus came to take the hurt and the pain that was ours to endure.  He went willing to the cross, with a willing spirit and never blamed us for putting Him there.  And now he sends us His followers out like He did that first band of frightened brothers out to continue the work He began.  But does not send them or us out unprepared nor ill-equipped but He sends us out with all the authority and power of His position as King.

Jesus boldly says to us, “I the Lord, Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority in heaven and on Earth, command you, my devoted disciples in every age to go to the ends of the earth, to teach all people of every tribe and nation my gospel. Make all people my disciples who in turn will produce other disciples to expand my kingdom to the ends of the earth.”

What a bold, majestic command of our Lord and Savior. No one else would dare make such a decree.  Not only does Jesus command we “go out” this same Jesus backs up that order with all the authority of heaven and seals it with the promise of salvation in His precious blood shed on Calvary’s cross and verified with the empty tomb.

Jesus came back to move the disciples from fear to mission.  And He calls, equips and empowers us to do the same.  He reminds us that we have His Spirit living and dwelling inside us and that Holy Spirit points us back to the resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. That same Spirit comforts our soul when it is dealing with uncertainty and doubt so that we can have the peace that comes only from our relationship with God.

The other post on faith: