Month: May 2016

YOUR View of Jesus is (probably) Wrong.

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This reflection was inspired by the short story Why Do the Heathen Rage by Flannery O’Connor. If you want to read more of my reflections on this incredible story, click below:
The Truth Will Make You… Odd? 


Why Do the Heathen Rage is set in the deep south with characters who are deeply religious and entrenched in the racism of the age. One of the characters who simply goes by “Tilman’s wife” is fascinated with an allusion to Jesus’ Second Coming. This was a depiction of Jesus coming forth in a robe splashed in blood in order to destroy all of those who have rejected him. This begins to shatter her view of racism.

In other words, it’s not your typical meek and mild Jesus holding a lamb… He is wielding a sword and he’s ready for war!

This catches many people off guard.

Our view of Jesus has been radically distorted by our culture. Rather than viewing him as the fierce Lion of Judah ready to devour those who oppose him, we see him as a hippie with beautiful hair. We have transformed his ferocious roar into a peaceful purr… this is utter foolishness.

God created us in HIS image and we return the favor by re-creating God in our image. This is the epitome of idolatry.

You may not support racism but there are numerous ways we commit gross idolatry by forming God in our image…

1. Jesus is not a republican… democrat… or even an American!
I am absolutely sick of Christians trying to put the King of kings in a box by identifying him with a political party. Many conservative Christians view Jesus as if he hates universal healthcare, promotes small business, and loves to shoot guns.

On the other hand, many liberal Christians see Jesus as a distributor of wealth who is part of the LGBT movement and has no problem with abortion.

Jesus is not a republican, a democrat, an independent or even an american! Jesus transcends politics and nationality!

2. Jesus is not a Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Non-denominational, etc!
Denominations are not a bad thing. Matter of fact, I believe they can be extremely helpful in unifying churches around common doctrinal positions. A denomination becomes toxic when it is seen as the only true vision of Christianity (this is also the sign of a cult!)

Christians are notorious for dividing themselves over small doctrinal issues and lobbying rocks at their brothers and sisters. Rather than debating transubstantiation and paedobaptism, let’s unite under the incredible message of the Gospel!

3. Jesus IS the King of kings and Lord of lords!
I constantly hear people throw around the statement, “Only God can judge me!” This usually comes from someone who has never read the Bible and has no idea what judgment from God looks like.

Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God…

Jesus is not parading for tolerance in the name of “love”. You cannot mold Jesus into the 21st century.

Jesus had to be brutally tortured and murdered at the hands of lawless men because you and I are sinners. If there is no such thing as sin, Jesus was an absolute fool for allowing himself to be crucified! He transcends all of your views and beliefs; HE will have the final word and many people will be terrified when He returns…

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16

I’m guessing that is not the Jesus you have heard about?

 

The Truth Will Make You… Odd?

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I have recently finished reading a few excellent and thought-provoking short stories by Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor lived from 1925 – 1964. Her writing attacked the popular ideas of racism held in honor by many in the United States (especially in the south).

The following reflections come from her story “Why Do The Heathen Rage.” Rather than summarizing the story, below is one big idea that stuck out to me:

Truth will make you odd!

One of the characters in the book, Walter, is not supportive of racism. Instead, he immerses himself in classic Christian literature and finds comfort in the wrath of God which will be revealed against the wickedness and evil of this world. This causes him to be disrespected and even hated by members of his own family. Rather than exercising “polite” racism – as many in the south did at this time – he bucks against the system and comes across as awkward and strange.

This is true for our lives as well.

“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12

If you desire to lead a life which honors God and loves people, you will appear strange in at least three ways!

1. You won’t fit in with family.
Jesus has a tendency to divide people (Luke 12:51). As soon as you begin to take Jesus seriously, other people will be offended. You can be as gentle as possible about your faith and people will still get mad.

Your family will not understand your new priorities.

  • Rather than participating in the rat race of the American dream, you begin to practice generosity which doesn’t make sense.
  • Instead of joining in the family gossip, you intentionally speak life about others – even people your family doesn’t like.
  • Instead of sleeping in on Sundays and splurging your free time on self-gratification, you will spend hours in fellowship with other believers and service to your community.

In essence, you will be weird… even to your family!

2. You won’t fit in with culture.
Every culture has gods which demand worship. It is easy for us to observe this in the pagan world. We see pictures of shrines splashed in blood and are appalled that a people can sacrifice animals to appease the spirits.

As you take Jesus seriously, you will begin to understand that your own culture has a plethora of gods which demand worship.

In the United States, you will be called to worship:
Sport teams
Financial security
Personal comfort
Autonomy
Celebrities (including “celebrity pastors”)
Careers
Technology
…and a variety of other gods we sacrifice our time, family, and talents to.

As you begin to buck against this cultural standard, the culture will find you odd!

3. You won’t fit in with religious people. 
Many churches are content with people who claim to know Jesus because their family grew up in the church basement doing potlucks. As long as you check religion off your list every Sunday morning and attend the monthly business meeting, you are basically a saint.

Unfortunately, if you begin to take Jesus seriously the church is sometimes the last place you will find him. Many churches are obsessed with keeping the status quo and preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. These churches do not foster outreach-focused, self-sacrificing, sin-killing, radical followers of Jesus.

As soon as you rip off the facade of cold religion for the Living God, you will be rejected by churches condemned to dead orthodoxy… and grandma might be mad you don’t attend the “family church” anymore (sorry… but it’s true).


What are some ways the truth has made YOU odd? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Three Ways to Shut the Backdoor of YOUR Church

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This post is the fourth of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church. I encourage you to read the first three:
1. It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…
2. Three Reasons Your Church is Struggling Financially
3. Hiring Church Staff with No Money


Every church seems to have a revolving backdoor. In other words, a small church may see 50+ guests every year with many of these people becoming permanent members while continuing at the same attendance. This happens because people who have been attending the church regularly leave.

Watching people leave your church, especially when the reason is unknown, is one of the most painful parts of being a pastor.

This backdoor was a major problem at The Rescue Church. After reading the book Sticky Church, we have begun to search for solutions to the problem. This was also a topic which was brought up at the roundtable; below are three ideas that resonated with me:

1. You need excellent small groups!
If you are like many pastors, you may have audibly groaned when you read those two words: small groups. As pastors we hate to talk about small group ministries because we aren’t very good at them (that’s saying it nicely!). This has also been brutally true of the church I help lead.

We are currently experimenting with sermon-based discussion groups. These meetings have been effective in connecting people to each other and to God. An average group for us looks like this:
(30 minutes) – We have a meal together.
(15 minutes) – We share what is REALLY going on in our lives and pray for each other.
(30 minutes) – We spend time going through the discussion questions from the bulletin.
(15 minutes) – We close with prayer.

It is a simple but effective format. If you are interested in this, you NEED to read Sticky Church!

2. You need to personally follow-up with visitors!
It’s terrifying to attend a new church for the first time. After the service, the person will have an internal (or external) debate on whether or not to attend the following week.

If you want visitors to return to your church, you NEED to follow up with them personally. This means you need to have a way of gathering their information. We have “Connection Cards” which people can fill out and have a welcome gift mailed to them.

If you have their phone number, I highly recommend giving them a call. Thank them for attending the service and answer any questions they might have. Explain that you would be honored to have them join you again the following week!

3. You need to have a relational church!
The primary concept which continued to come up in our discussion was relationships. People stay at a church because of the relationships they have forged there. If the people in your church have the mindset of a country club and refuse to welcome guests to the service, your church will not grow!

You need to cultivate a deep love for guests in your congregation. This is more than going to grandma’s house after church with the same people every week. The people in your church should intentionally look for ways to welcome guests!

We have a “First Impressions” team at The Rescue Church. These are our greeters, ushers, coffee bar severs, etc. Although we have an official team, we are clear that EVERYONE is on the First Impressions team. This is something that we embed into the DNA of every person who attends our church. One of the greatest compliments I hear from first time guests is how genuinely friendly everyone at the church is!


Have you noticed that your church has a backdoor? What are some things you have learned to help close it? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Three Qualities of a Go-Getter

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This post was inspired by the classic book Go-Getter by Peter Kyne.


Let’s be real. Many people in your organization, whether its a church or a business, are not go-getters. Everybody claims that they are… they just aren’t.

A go-getter is someone who will accomplish an objective in the face of impossible and discouraging obstacles.

Are YOU a go-getter? Below are some characteristics which should be evident in your life!

1. You make decisions!
So often we do not accomplish anything noteworthy in our lives because we are afraid to make decisions. Every time you say yes to something great you are saying no to a lot of good things. This tends to terrify rather than energize people.

It is better to make a wrong decision than do nothing at all. At times it is greater to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. If you are repeatedly consulting your supervisor on how to accomplish an objective, you are not a go-getter.

Go-getters understand what needs to be done and create their own strategy to reach the destination. If you are a go-getter, you will be offended if someone lays out a step-by-step plan on how to accomplish your job; this would be an insult on your intelligence!

2. Obstacles become opportunities!
When you are pursuing the objective, you can become paralyzed by obstacles. These obstacles loom like giants, ready to crush your aspirations. Unfortunately, this is the fate of many well-intended leaders who give up too quickly!

The larger the obstacle, the greater the victory!

In order to be a go-getter, you need to be scrappy. When an objective becomes “impossible”, you should immediately begin figuring out ways under it, around it, or over it. There is ALWAYS a way and you need to FIGHT to discover it!

3. You have an “It shall be done” attitude!
Anytime you are presented with a task or assignment, you should immediately say, “It shall be done.” Regardless of how difficult it seems, you need to rise to the challenge. Rather than listening to how other people have failed before you, you need to forge a new path through the rough terrain.

Ultimately, this comes from a place of faith. A true go-getter is someone whose faith is in the living God rather than themselves. A go-getter disconnected from the purposes of God becomes an arrogant, egotistical workaholic.

The ultimate goal of the go-getter is to hear these words…
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” – Matthew 25:21


What are some characteristics you would add to my list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Hiring Church Staff with No Money

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This post is the third of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church. I encourage you to read the first two:
It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…
Three Reasons Your Church is Struggling Financially


The pastorate can be incredibly lonely. This feeling is multiplied by the pastor having no team around him to help lead the church. Many pastors are the “savior” of their congregation. The pastor is required to be at every hospital bed, preach every sermon, and fix every technology issue.

This is a toxic system of ministry which will bring death into your church.

Pastors in small churches tend to envy pastors who have multiple staff members. Many small church pastors dream of having a team of people around them helping propel the ministry forward. This is why many pastors see small, rural churches as a stepping stone to a larger ministry.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Everything you need in order to take your church to the next level is already in your church!

One of the concepts that has revolutionized The Rescue Church is volunteer staff. Volunteer staff are church members empowered to help lead the mission of the church. There are many people in your church who would be honored to put their hands to the plow (for free!) but you need to call it out of them!

So how can you do this? I’m glad you asked!

1. Have a clear vision!
Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, many churches are content with preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. No one is going to want to serve for free under an organization that has no vision for the future and is stagnant in its growth.

If you want men and women to step into leadership at your church, you need to have a vision that is clear, compelling, and simple!

2. Call people to HIGH commitment!
Often we try to fill volunteer roles by convincing people of how easy it will be. This is bad leadership! If you do not hold a high standard for the people you place in leadership, they will only do enough to get by.

You need to find dynamic leaders who are willing to pry open doors and wrestle with the impossible.

At The Rescue Church, we call all of our volunteer staff leaders to commit to 5 hours a week outside of their weekend duties. This is a BIG commitment for people! If you recognize leadership in people, call them to a HIGH commitment so that they can grow in their faith and impact the community!

3. Show them the exit ramp!
No one wants to get signed on to a volunteer position which requires them to give up every Tuesday night until Jesus comes back. You need to understand that the people who are going to be leading in your church are probably leading outside of the church as well. They are BUSY people and you do not want to risk burning them out.

We require our volunteer staff members to sign a commitment which says they will serve for one year. At the end of the year, we always give our staff members the option of stepping down. We value our volunteer staff members greatly and want to be sure they are spiritually, emotionally, and physical healthy; this means rest is vital!


Have you ever hired volunteer staff members? What are some things you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

 

The Art of Conversation… for Introverts!

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I’m an introvert.

I’m also a pastor.

In my role as a pastor, I am forced out of my comfortable and solitary box to form genuine connections with people on a regular basis. Those of you that are introverts understand how seemingly impossible this is for us!

Being an introvert does NOT mean I’m shy.

Shyness is one of the characteristics introverts are given because we prefer to not be around a lot of people. Introverts are drained by people while extroverts get a boost of energy after having small talk with the 50th person in the room (that would be a nightmare for us!). On the other hand, introverts gain energy by being alone or with a very small group of trusted friends.

Most of the people who meet me automatically assume I’m an extrovert. Contrary to this belief, I am much more comfortable reading books written by dead guys about subjects most people aren’t interested in. I have been working on a paper all morning and feel incredibly energized and refreshed! On the other hand, every Sunday after church I am physically and mentally exhausted.

If you’re an introvert, I want to help you. Here are three things that will enable you to thrive in the midst of an extroverted world!

1. Play to your Strengths.
I can spend hours reading, writing, and doing research. Many introverts are known as “bookworms”. This is a GOOD thing! When it comes to thriving in conversation, use your research skills! I have spent hours reading about the art of conversation. Although it may not be natural to you, I would challenge you to attack it with the same tenacity as you would a research or writing project.

2. Write-Down Questions.
This may sound cheesy but I literally write down questions when I’m going out to eat with someone. I don’t bring my questions with and interview them (usually) but it enables me to lead the conversation and express a genuine interest in the other person. If you prepare before a planned conversation (which most introverts dread), you will earn the other person’s favor and they will think you are one of the most engaging people they have met!

This leads me to my third point…

3. Be Curious about People.
I’m a closet psychologist. I love to observe how people react in social situations, especially in large groups. I am also fascinated by the lives of people in general. I love to hear stories about what shaped each person to become who they are. In order to master the art of conversation, you need to have genuine interest in other people. This helps spark questions and earn favor from the people you speak with.

Excellent conversation skills boil down to one thing: asking questions.

As long as you can keep the person talking and express real interest in what they are saying, people will think you are incredibly outgoing. Just remember to read a book and sleep for a long time when you’re done so you don’t burn yourself out!


What are some things you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Three Reasons YOUR Church Is Struggling Financially

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This post is the second of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church. I encourage you to read the first one:
It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…


“If you have a God-sized vision your back will always be up against the wall.”

One of the pastors at the roundtable shared this quote and it hit home for many of the leaders there. It seems as if the kingdom of darkness has no problem funding its programs and organizations while the church is continually in need. Whether it is the need for another staff member or a permanent facility, finances play a vital role in the life of a church – especially a small church.

Jon Sanders, the lead pastor of The Rescue Church, shared multiple reasons your church may be struggling financially. Below are three that resonated with me:

1. You don’t preach about giving.
No one wants to be the pastor who seems obsessed with money. Due to the prevalence of television preachers who urge you to sow a seed into their ministry for a miracle, many pastors simply do not talk about money.

This is cowardly.

Money is the god that many people in your congregation worship. The people you pastor are in the process of sacrificing their families to this false god. The “American Dream” has become a cancer bringing a slow and painful death to those who have placed their trust in wealth.

You need to expose this false god by preaching about money. If Jesus is Lord, it should be reflected in the bank accounts of Christians. Don’t be ashamed to call this god out and expose its hideous effects in order to shepherd the souls of your people.

2. You don’t have a compelling vision.
No one wants to give their money to a church whose primary goal is to keep the lights on and fill a building. Far too many small churches have absolutely no vision for the ministry God has called them to do in the community. If you are looking at your church as a stepping stone to a larger ministry and are only there to pay your dues, you will not invest in the long-term health of the people God has entrusted to you.

Our vision at The Rescue Church is to impact our communities by helping people know Jesus, grow in faith, and go serve others. We summarize this as KNOW, GROW, GO. This is more than a cute catchphrase we can hang on our wall, we structure EVERYTHING around this vision. This encourages people to become part of something bigger than themselves – the church of Jesus Christ!

3. You don’t spend money wisely.
Why are casinos able to manage their finances better than a church? The church should have the most discernment and wisdom when it comes to structuring healthy budgets that ensure long-term success.

You don’t have the gift of faith simply because you are too ignorant to create a workable budget and expect God to come through last minute on your behalf every single time you do an event.

The money that God has entrusted to you must be stewarded with care. If you are faithful in the little that God has given your church, He will provide an abundance to be faithful with (Luke 16:10). On the other hand, if you cannot even manage the limited budget you are working with, why would God provide you with more of HIS finances to squander?


Jon Sanders did a whole podcast on this issue. If this is something that resonates with you, I would highly encourage you to check it out – 12 Reasons Your Church might be Struggling Financially.