Month: May 2019

Should You Avoid Toxic People?

toxic people

I told the people of Renovation Church last Sunday that I sometimes have the spiritual gift of being offensive so… here we go.

Let’s tackle a controversial question: should you avoid toxic people? According to the many posts shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – toxic people are to be avoided at all costs. You should not befriend them, speak to them, or give them any amount of space in your life. If you do so, you will end up miserable, angry, and exhausted.

I guess it’s a good thing Jesus didn’t do that – you would be in Hell.

The word toxic literally means, “a poisonous substance.” Therefore, a “toxic person” can be defined as a poisonous, or death-giving, human being. A toxic person is one who commits great sins without concern or care for those hurt by their terrible actions. It is the person who freely betrays your confidence; the one who joyfully gossips and tears you down behind your back.

According to a recent blog post I read, you should avoid these eight kinds of toxic people:

1. Those who spread negativity.
2. Those who criticize you all the time.
3. Those who waste your time.
4. Those who are jealous.
5. Those who play the victim.
6. Those who don’t care.
7. Those who are self-centered.
8. Those who keep disappointing you.

Friend, here’s the problem with this philosophy. If you take it seriously, you should avoid yourself.

You are toxic.
You spread negativity.
You criticize.
You waste people’s time.
You become overly jealous.
You play the victim.
You don’t care.
You are self-centered.
You keep disappointing others.

So do I.

Our human nature tempts us to label people with a term such as toxic so that we do not feel guilty for treating people made in the image of God as being less than human. Instead, we view them as sub-human; a strange “toxic” kind of person to be avoided at all costs.

Hurt people hurt people.

According to Scripture, you are unrighteous, ignorant, evil, worthless, deceptive, cursing, poisonous, violent, wretched, and rebellious apart from Christ (see Romans 3:10-18)

Thank God, Jesus came for unrighteous, ignorant, worthless, evil, cursing, violent, and toxic people like us. There was a time in Jesus’ ministry when he was slandered for spending time with so-called toxic & sinful people. Jesus’ response is one we must keep in mind when we are hurt by the so-called toxic people in our own lives – “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… (Mark 2:17)”

So, should we avoid “toxic people”?

Only if you figured out a way to avoid yourself. The message of the Gospel calls us to befriend broken and toxic people that we might be a means God uses to bring healing through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But won’t befriending toxic people leave us bitter and pessimistic?

Yes, if you seek to do so through your own power and look to broken relationships to do what only God can do – provide the deep healing, energy, and strength needed for the ministry of the Gospel. If your joy is dependent on the human relationships in your life, no amount of “positive” people will bring healing to your soul. The only One who can provide lasting strength, peace, and wholeness is the Living God through Jesus Christ.

We pursue toxic people because we are toxic people who have found forgiveness, grace, and healing at the cross of Jesus Christ – the only non-toxic person to ever live.

Got Milk?

gotmilk

This past Sunday at Renovation Church, I had the honor of teaching through an ancient letter written by a church leader named Peter. Specifically, we studied 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 and discovered together the power of God’s Word.

At the end of this passage, in 1 Peter 2:2-3, Peter instructs us to crave God’s Word in the same way a newborn baby desires milk:

1 Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good. 

As many of you begin a new work week on this Monday (or have today off due to it being Memorial Day), I want to remind you of how this passage applies to our lives today. The first thing we need to consider is exactly HOW newborn infants desire milk. If you have ever had a newborn in your home, you know that when a baby is hungry, that baby will let you know. When Ava was a baby, I was in awe at how such little lungs could produce such ear-shattering cries!

The other thing we know about newborns is that, on average, newborns eat 7 – 12 times a day. Keeping this picture in mind (and relating it to the Scriptures), I find it fascinating that the Psalmist proclaims, “I praise you seven times a day for your righteous judgments (Psalm 119:164).” 

The truth is, very few of us spend time with God by meditating on the Bible even once a day – let alone 7 times a day. The vast majority of Christians in our churches are malnourished; seeking to survive off of one meal a week from their pastor. Peter makes it plain – If you want to grow in your Christian faith, it begins by learning to meditate on, love, and prayerfully read the Scriptures on a daily basis.

The second observation I want to point out for you is his emphasis on the purity of this word (desire the PURE milk of the word). Purity means it is undiluted by the things of this world. In far too many churches, the Scriptures have become diluted by the pastor’s attempt at creativity or church growth. Most sermons in outward-focused and contemporary churches (similar to Renovation Church) hold to a high view of Scripture in their statement of faith but the weekly sermons paint a drastically different picture.

Many pastors do not teach the Bible.

Instead, they come up with 3 – 5 different points they want to convey to the audience THEN go to the Bible to try to find proof texts to defend these points. In other words, the Biblical text is not the main point of the message; the pastor’s creative ideas are and the biblical text simply serves as a springboard for the pastor’s agenda/vision. This type of preaching may grow a large church but it will not produce disciples – it only creates spiritual consumers. It leaves the members of the church malnourished and untrained in the deep things of God.

As you begin this week, here are a few questions to wrestle with:

1. What are some ways you can make studying the Bible a daily discipline so that you will continue to grow in your faith? What are some activities you need to cut out of your schedule so you have time to simply BE with God?

2. As you gather with your church on Sundays, ask yourself the question, “Is the pastor using the Bible as a springboard for his/her ideas or is the pastor faithfully teaching the Scripture in it’s original context?” If you find that the majority of the messages are not faithful expositions of Scripture, approach your pastor from a attitude of genuine humility and love, seeking to hear what he/she has to say.


I hope all of you have a great week. As usual, if you are facing a particular challenge or simply want someone to talk to, I would love to connect with you. You can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com 

 

From Affluence to Monasticism – The Story of St. Benedict

stbenedict

In my previous post, I briefly outlined the project I will be working on for my Doctor of Ministry at Sioux Falls Seminary. This project is rooted in a deep and practical study of an ancient rule known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” In this post, I will provide a little more information on the author behind this ancient monastic rule. 


Monasticism become a popular movement around the time that Constantine declared Christianity to be the favored (and then legal) religion of Rome in the 4th century. The Church went from being a persecuted minority, depending on one another and the Holy Spirit for community life, to a powerful majority as a state religion. As a result of this change, the faith slowly become corrupt. Church leaders began making extravagant amounts of money and yielding extraordinary power over those in their charge. It became the opposite of how Jesus taught his followers to exercise leadership:

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Many Christians were deeply pessimistic about the corrupt nature of the church. In order to live out the radical elements of the Christian faith, many retreated to the desert to be alone with God, study God’s Word, and commit to intercessory prayer on behalf of the Church.

It was in this climate (during the 6th century) that Benedict was born into an affluent family in Rome. From the little we know, Benedict lived a charmed life and had all the comforts of luxury. As he got older and was studying in the great city of Rome, he became disillusioned with his wealth and the state of the church. It was during this time of seeking that he felt drawn to monasticism.

Benedict retreated into the desert and pursued the life of a hermit. A hermit was a monk who lived on his own in an effort to seek God through prayer, Scripture study, and manual labor. Benedict’s fame began to grow and a large multitude of people were regularly visiting him to receive his counsel and insight into the spiritual life. Eventually, other men decided to apprentice themselves to Benedict and become his fellow monks. Benedict’s first foray into forming a monastery ended up as a failure; his disciplines were too strict and demanding for those who sought to follow him.

Eventually, Benedict formed another monastery at Monte Cassino around 529 (about 80 miles southeast of Rome). It was from within this monastery that Benedict developed what has come to be known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” It was written with the purpose of applying the Gospel to the everyday lives of those in his monastic community. Nevertheless, since it was a faithful exposition of the Scriptures for community life, it became the standard monastic rule of the Western church. The fact that there are Benedictine communities all over the world, 1,500 years after the writing of the Rule, demonstrates the power of this ancient rule for our lives today.


In my next post, I will briefly outline the Rule of St. Benedict and explain how you can study it for yourself to experience the benefits of this ancient document.

The Death of Pastoral Ministry

andy-falconer-1531630-unsplash

The majority of those who embark on the journey of pastoral ministry will end up being a statistic of burnout, depression, exhaustion, and bitterness. On average, seminary-trained pastors will last less than five years in pastoral ministry.

This is a problem. Our current philosophy of ministry is killing the pastoral office.

As many of you know, I have begun the journey of attaining my Doctor of Ministry through Sioux Falls Seminary and I am hoping to address this problem. A few years ago I was on the verge of becoming another statistic; I was becoming pessimistic about ministry and drinking the poison of bitterness. It was during this painful season that a mentor of mine invited me on a 3-day retreat to a Benedictine Monastery known as St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

As a good, nondenominational pastor, I was not a fan of liturgy or the Roman Catholic Church. I assumed that liturgy (i.e. written prayers) were inauthentic and aligned with the babbling Jesus warned against in the Lord’s Prayer. Regarding the Roman Catholic Church, I followed the lead of Martin Luther and assumed the Pope was the Anti-Christ and the Roman Catholic Church was the Babylon spoken about in the Book of Revelation.

Nevertheless, I was desperate.

Desperate for a spirituality that was deeper than a surface reading of a text with vague applications.

Desperate for way of measuring success that went deeper than attendance and budget numbers.

Desperate to truly experience the ancient God of the Bible rather than the false american god many of us worship in our churches.

Desperate to align my ministry with the trusted traditions of the church rather than sleek business models that propagate the false gospel of marketing and excellence.

With the Psalmist, I realized my soul was panting for God like a deer pants for streams of water (Psalm 42:1). The wells of evangelicalism and popular church culture had run dry. I was discouraged by attendance numbers, giving statistics, and my lack of “success” as defined by modern evangelicalism.

That 3-day retreat was a turning point in my faith and leadership. I participated in the Daily Office with the monks – gathering throughout the day to chant the Psalms and listen intently to the reading of Scripture. I began to read a small book placed in the guest room called “The Rule of St. Benedict.” This is an ancient monastic rule written by Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Holy Spirit used this ancient monastic rule to save my ministry and renew my resolve to remain faithful as a husband, dad, and pastor. I will be spending the next 3 to 4 years studying and applying this Rule to the lives of other pastors with the hope that the Holy Spirit will breathe renewal into their lives and ministries.


This is the first post in a series – stay tuned for more discussion on the Rule of St. Benedict, my story, and how I believe this ancient rule offers a philosophy of ministry that is able to bring greater healing and depth into the ministry of pastors in small churches.