#2 False Humility

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(This is Number 9 in a series.  I encourage you to read in order, Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church!#10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship#9 Ignoring That We Are In A War#8: Wrong priorities7: Cookie Cutter Attitude#6. Self Reliance#5 Fear Of Change;  #4 Form Rather Than Substance; and #3 The Loss Of Passion.  The tenth and final one in this series should come tomorrow!)

Remember that these are my reflections on what I have observed about the western church, and in particular the church in the good old U.S.A.  Without the empirical work such as that done by groups like Barna I am left with simple observations, deep reflections and even deeper prayers.  So this work is subjective so I do not ask nor even expect anyone to agree with my conclusions.  This blog has simply given me a means to express the deep burden I have for the local church in the U.S.A., and for my own Tribe.

This next one may not have made the lists of others who have tried to label the various maladies that has infected (and might I add “affected”) the western church.  It is the most subtle, and thus most deceptive, of all the reasons why our churches are in an overall state of decline (with pockets of exceptional congregations that are in fact growing).  It is because of its deceptive nature that it comes in strong at #2:  False Humility!

Because someone will take me out of context, I must preface my next remarks with this. true-humility-871x650 Humility is a much-needed and often missing virtue.  I have found that many think it is M.I.A. among those in my profession, that of being a pastor.  And I will admit that some of my fellow shepherds seem to have a propensity of not modeling this virtue of humility.  So, in some sense, I would have to agree that some of my companions really appear to lack this essential virtue.  But humility is not limited to the “Backward’s Collar Society” (known by most as “preachers”).  It is to be modeled at every level in the life of local congregations.  Humility is what gives our witness and message credibility.  But not all that is called and treated as humility, is true humility.  There is a false, counterfeit humility that is greatly impending the impact of the local church.

While some my think my reflections and comments reveal my lack of hope about the future of the western church, I am very optimistic about the future of the, let’s call it “organized western church”.    One of the reasons I am so optimistic is the rise of the group known as the “Dones”.  I believe the Dones reveal something more than just giving up, as some critics have said about them.  No, they are done with the institution of church, to which I gladly shout, “Bravo!  Amen and Amen!”  These Dones have understood which so many Tenured Pew Sitters have either not understood, or have simply been living in denial.  The local church will never prosper as she is designed as an institution.

She truly is a living organism.  But when programs and missions are clearly designed to maintain the institution and to protect their version of orthodoxy, it slowly bleeds the church until she is on life support without much hope.  The Dones are teaching us that it is futile and a waste of God’s many great gifts to focus on survival in order to protect a history that once reflected the Kingdom but is far removed from that Kingdom today.  If we listen to the Dones, we can hear not just them, but God calling us back to our deepest roots and richest orthodoxies which is that of caring about and caring for others in the ways that Jesus did as He walked this earth and now moves on this earth through the Holy Spirit.  The Dones are teaching us again about the importance of relationships–both human and Divine.

Another reason I see that there is hope for the future of the western church is The Nones.  Like the Dones, they have no interest in the organized institution that is being guided and maintained by the Tenured Pew Sitters.  The Nones are longing for a better world and they clearly see that the push by liberalism that WE can make the world a better place is nothing more than political promises–empty and without hope.  This longing for a better world by The Nones is closer to the Kingdom of God than many realize.  You see, Jesus came for this very reason–to give us live and show us how to live life that has deep purpose and abiding peace.

The difference I see between The Nones and The Dones is that The Dones know that the source of this deep purpose and abiding joy comes from God, not by sitting in the pew.  The Nones know there is a better way to make a difference in their community and they are looking for ways to make it a reality.  This is GREAT news for local congregations.  Here is a group of people who know little or nothing about the Bible, and what they know about religion is enough to know that religion doesn’t work.  I say this is great news for the church because we are surrounded by a growing number of Harvest Hands, hands that are longing to do the work of God.  We just need to show them by our example.

But the main reason I am hopeful for the future of the western church is because I am seeing signs of God’s Kingdom strong and vibrant almost every day.  God is on the move here in the good old U.S.A.  The Dones and The Nones are not the only ones dissatisfied with the status quo.  I am seeing and hearing stories of real Disciples of Jesus connecting with their communities, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make a difference in hearts and lives one at a time.  I am sensing and seeing the beginnings of a great upheaval and revival.  Some are hearing and faithfully responding to God’s call, even in small pockets of communities.  But more are needed.

I believe with every fiber of my being, that God is calling out to new leaders in our local congregations.  God has put within them the gifts, tools, abilities, and most of all, a passion for the true mission of the Kingdom of God.  I hear of pastors reaching out to those who have not been in leadership before but…but those being called out are saying No!  No to the Mission.  No to the Kingdom of God.  And it is not because they do not believe in the mission of the Kingdom.  It is Reason #2:  False Humility.

I hear people and hear the stories from other pastors of those being called out into new ventures and new adventures repeatedly say, “Well, I’m just not the leadership type.  I’m just a poor Christian that doesn’t have what it takes to be that kind of leader.”  They pass it off as humility.  By the way, if you are one of those who thinks that you don’t have it, remember Gideon, hiding in a wine pit threshing wheat because he was afraid of his enemies when God called him a “mighty man of valor”!

This False Humility that comes from the mentality that you do not have what it takes, is robbing the church of valuable leadership and keeping her from the task at hand.  False Humility keeps one out of the mainstream of the movement of the Holy Spirit because He is calling us out of our comfort zones into places where we will fall flat on our faces, UNLESS we have on to Him.  It is not easy getting out of these comfort zones, and though getting outside these comfort zones is the place to grow and be who God created you to be, still they resist.  Why?  Either they do not see what God has placed in them to achieve His purposes, or they doubt that God will do it for them.  If you are one of the doubters, then listen to Paul’s words here:

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.  All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.  It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.  We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.  As it is, there’s not much chance of that.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (The Message)

Our message is not about ourselves, it is always about Jesus, who is living in the hearts of every person who trusts in His Redeeming work on the Cross and who is willing to be His Disciple.  The more you see yourself as ordinary, the more you see yourself as an unadorned clay pot, or in my case–a cracked pot–the more your local congregation needs you and it is the reason He is calling you into the work of the Kingdom.

God is calling up a new group, a new class of leaders.  Here is the best definition of leadership:  One person influencing another person with the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel!  You have a sphere of influence and God needs you to be found–found to be available.  Don’t worry about being ready, God takes care of that part when you trust Him, listen to Him and Follow Him into the domain of the Enemy; and let His power flow through you.  Trust Him to provide the power, and do not let False Humility keep you away from where God is calling you.

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#4 Form Rather Than Substance

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(This is the seventh in a 10 part series.  Item Number 3 will be released tomorrow.  If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first, then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship;  #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War#8: Wrong priorities7: Cookie Cutter Attitude;   #6. Self Reliance; and finally read #5 Fear Of Change before reading this one)

In this exploration of those things that are among the most vile things that are destroying the western church, particularly in the U.S.A., I hope you have seen a common thread.  In each item there is a corresponding Scripture.  The passage is either an indictment against that attitude or it is a passage that shows the exact opposite and how the church needs to embody that positive trait in order to be faithful in and to the Kingdom of God. Any single one will diminish the impact a local congregation has on a community.

Coming in at a very strong #4 is one that has plagued the church since her inception.  It has rightly earned its place on this list.  It is Choosing Form Over Substance.  Look carefully at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 from the New Living Translation:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Hone in on verse 5:  “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”  The King James Version puts it like this:  “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power .”  Unlike the other symptoms of a dying congregation, this particular one manifests itself in 2 diametrically opposed systems, and we need to look at both of them.

First, there is the form of traditionalism.  Now, do you go spouting off your mouth and revealing your ignorance by saying that I do not like traditions.  I know we live in a free country where you are free to act and speak as stupid as you so please, but don’t abuse this freedom.  I love rich traditions both in family and in the family of faith.  But I did not use the word “traditions”; I used the word traditionalism.

Traditionalism does not value the rich traditions because they elevate them to the status of idols by making them simply a means to create a faux self that they think looks good on the outside.  And they believe they can produce this themselves.  It is all about human effort.  You can look through that litany of things Paul writes about to Timothy and one thing becomes evidently clear.  They are promoters of Self.  Everything is about the external and nothing is about the internal.  They are more concern with their outward appearance than they are about their true inward being.  Seems like I recall Jesus having some tough and harsh things to say to, who were those really religious folks?  Oh, Pharisees!  I seem to recall something about them being low down snakes and something about looking like a cemetery on Decoration Sunday; really pretty on top but below they were nothing but dead bones.

Traditionalism is all about keeping up the appearance and it becomes a cheap substitute, much like when King Rehoboam replaced the gold shields that had been stolen with brass shields.  It keeps a person from dealing with the truth because many Tenured Pew Sitters simply cannot handle the truth.  Rather than looking for where God is at work and pursuing those things with Him, they are more concerned with going through the motions rather than being swept up by this fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.  This is one extreme.

The other extreme of this is where brokenness that comes from sinfulness is celebrated and worn as a badge of honor.  It’s like, the more brokenness you reveal and share, suddenly the more holy and Christ-like you become.  This idea of celebrating brokenness has gotten a bit out of control.  Yes God loves us where we are and as we are.  But God wants to do more.  He wants to bring about a complete transformation.  But instead, some seem to take pride in their brokenness by calling it, “the way God created me”.

There is a movement afoot that promotes that God is such pure love that just about anything is permissible, within their definition of reason of course.  In this group no one wants to embark on the journey to become who God created them to be.  But it seems that some want to celebrate how they feel rather than how God’s grace makes us whole and brings us back to our true self–the self HE created us to be.  They insist that it is God’s love and His love alone, without anything else happening, that makes them whole.

But notice that last line of Paul  They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”  The Gospel Jesus came to share and the Kingdom that His Gospel points to is the one that yes, loves us just as we are, but goes much further and even deeper.  It is about trusting His power to change the brokenness that truly exists in all of us into that intended design God has for us.  He wants to make us holy and this image of holy is to become exactly like Him.  It is not about self polishing or throwing away old ideas of what sin is and does to us.  It is about radical transformation that comes from His power working on the inside of us.

One of the founders of my Tribe was a fellow by the name of John Wesley.  He once wrote:

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I am seeing Wesley’s troubling concern coming true in my Tribe.  But not only in my Tribe, but in other Tribes as well.  We can be just as beautiful as a cemetery on Decoration Sunday but without the power of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and without His presence and power to help us overcome our sin, we will remain sinners–sinners that are lost without the Savior.  We become a form that has no substance.  Oh Lord, save us from ourselves!

Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

 

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From where I live out my faith (not meaning my literal community, but the culture around me) it appears that a lot more people seem to love Jesus just a little bit more this time of year.  I mean, I see social media posts of people who are outraged that businesses no longer use “Merry Christmas” signs but “Happy Holidays”.  I’ve seen scores of posts saying “Keep Christ In Christmas, comment Amen and copy and paste.”  Or, “If you are not ashamed of Jesus, say Merry Christmas.”  Oh, and people who will not purchase Christmas cards unless they have a manger scene, shepherds, wise men and a star.  Christmas is so important for some that they make their second semi-annual pilgrimage to a church (the first pilgrimage being Easter).

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Now do not get me wrong; I am always glad when anyone decides to attend a worship service because it will give them the best opportunity to experience God, more than clicking “like” or “share” buttons.  It is probably just me, but I cannot help but wonder:  “Why do more people ‘like’ and ‘share’ Jesus more now than they did in October?”  I did a little bit of research about Advent and Christmas and was amazed at all the different information that is out there.  But it seems that the consensus is that the “official” Advent and Christmas season for the church did not solidify itself until the latter part of the fourth and early part of the fifth centuries.

However, Lent is the oldest season recognized by most churches.  It actually started as a result of the Council of Nicea in 325.  Lent was designed to be a season of reflection leading up to the death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Obviously, at least to me, the early church considered the Cross far more important than the manger.  Thus, the title of this blog emerged:  Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time.  After reading all this about what others have said, I wondered what did Paul have to say?  Did Paul ever write about the importance of placing glory around the manger?  Did Paul find it important and necessary to boast about the manger?  Well, here is what I discovered, a long time ago.  It’s from Galatians 6:14-15 and I love the way The Voice puts it:

14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.15 Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything.

So why do people suddenly love Jesus more this time of year?  I have an opinion on this question and I am going to share it with you.  It’s easier to love a baby in a manger than it is to love The Savior who died on the Cross.  Why is it easier to love the manger more than the Cross?  Allow me to share with you 3 reasons:

 1.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the ugliness of our own sins.

The Enemy tries to hide from our eyes the hideous nature that lives inside all of us, even among the best of us.  He hides it by convincing us that we are not as bad as others, therefore we are OK.  He hides it by convincing us that it’s not our fault but someone or something else is to blame.  And most recently, he has convinced some that the Progressives are right, that we are simply born this way, therefore God created us this way and it’s OK.  The truth is that sin reveals the truth that we look more like Quasimodo than Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty.  By never looking into the face of Jesus as He hung on that Cross, we never can never fully see the hideous nature inside, nor the brokenness that exists in our life.

2.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the price God paid for our sins.

We are so torn apart by sin, that our God paid the price for our sins.  It is a price that we are unable, and truth be known, unwilling to pay.  But God was willing to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable.  God sent His Son, the extension of His true nature, into creation as one of those He created.  Then Jesus allowed God to place on His shoulders every sin of every person; all of my sins and all of your sins.  Then, when every sin was placed on Jesus, God did the unimaginable.  God turned away from His Son.  Jesus cried out on the Cross (Mark 15:34 NLT), “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  No, it just didn’t “feel” like God abandoned Him.  The price of every sin is that God the Perfect Judge, turn away from the sinner.  Jesus became the sinner and for the first and only time in all eternity, The Son became disconnected from The Father.  This may seem radical, even blasphemous to some of you but it is the price that sin demands be paid in order for us to be forgiven.  The price for our sin wasn’t paid in the wooden manger, but on the wooden Cross.

3.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the demands of Jesus.

The demand of Jesus isn’t that we kneel at the manger but that we carry our Cross and live our lives from that Cross.  Jesus said in Mark 8:34 (NLT), Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said,“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”  In a consumer-driven economy and culture, the Enemy wants us to take that same consumer mentality into the church.  When we make the church about meeting our needs we make the church impotent and worthless.  We have to give up our own way and live the way Jesus died:  So that the world may know God’s love in such a way that they will allow the Holy Spirit into their life to redeem and transform them into their original design.  When I want to do things my way, in other words, be selfish and superficial, I remember King David at the threshing floor of Araunah.  In 1 Chronicles 21:14  (The Voice) King David said, No, I must buy it for the full price. I will not give your possessions to the Eternal as if they were my own, nor will I give a burnt offering which costs me nothing. I must sacrifice something for this offering.  

So it is easy, so much easier, way too easy to kneel before the Wrong Wood (the manger) at the Wrong Time (His birth) and at the Wrong Place (Bethlehem).  If this Season is to have any lasting impact on us, and thus be true to its meaning, then we must move beyond the typical scenes and remember why Jesus was born.  He was born to die for us so that we can be restored to the Fellowship of our Heaven Father, and become transformed to live the way He designed us to live.

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Bil Keane’s character Dolly is right; we like seeing Baby Jesus much more than the Suffering Jesus.  But baby Jesus doesn’t help us; but the Suffering Jesus is our Savior.  Remember to love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you (and in case you haven’t gotten it yet, He loves you perfectly from The Cross); and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

I have only one Christmas wish that only you can give.  Show me if I am living from the Cross or my own way.  And if I am living my own way, save me from myself so that I might live the way you died for me.  Amen and Amen!

How To Handle Church Conflict

I think this blog is definitely worth sharing.  Kingdom Truth doesn’t come from one single source, and I do not have to reinvent the wheel every week.  Can you imagine what would happen in our communities if we faithfully followed Keith’s points?  Be blessed this week and remember:  Love God with all your heart, love others the way God loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

Our goal in any conflict is to see things from Christ’s point of view.

Source: How To Handle Church Conflict

#NoBlackFridaySalesOnThanksgivingDay

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Disclaimer:  Some may not consider this a Kingdom issue, and I could agree with you.  But then we would both be wrong.

If any of my family and friends go “Black Friday” shopping on Thanksgiving Day know that I am disappointed in you. It means you are selfish and care more about a “sale” than people. It is disgusting to me that anyone would deprive another person of having Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. I feel more disgust towards those who go shopping than the corporations that open up on Thanksgiving Day. Make Thanksgiving Day the MOST UNPROFITABLE DAY of the year for retail businesses that are open on Thanksgiving Day by staying at home. If I’ve offended anyone with these remarks, I want to say to you, “Oh, well…..”

#NoBlackFridaySalesOnThanksgivingDay

 

 

Participation Trophies Are To Blame

Why We Need To Ban Them!

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(Disclaimer:  This is a satirical article.  The appearance of reality is simply an inexplicable expression of my gift of sarcasm.  Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is strictly incidental.)

For this past week since the Presidential election I have been observing with great insensitivity to the details.  I have intentionally looked long and deep at the people who are rioting in places like the Wacko Coast (known to some as the West Coast, including but not limited to the region known as the Northwest Coast), New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other areas known as The Great Void of Common Sense (such as Boston, Providence R.I., Portland Maine, et.al.).  I not only looked long at their faces but also into their eyes.  I have listened to their quotes with great ad nauseam as well.  And here is my personal conclusion to all the chaos:  PARTICIPATION TROPHIES ARE TO BLAME!

Soccer moms, millennial youth leaders, you heard me correctly.  The cause of all this rioting  and pestiferous savoir-faire lies clearly at the base of that gelastic and farcical mutation of human dignity and valuation called the Participation Trophy.  No other creation or contrivance of the acumen from Homo sapiens has accomplished such reprehensible and opprobrious corollary as the invidious Participation Trophy. Take a moment to ruminate on this aggregate denouement .

In our not so distant history trophies were reserved for actual proficiency in the pursuance of measurable skills and goals.  Typically these were reserved for measurable results that were classified as best, almost best, and above all the rest; otherwise known as first, second or third place.  Teams in the arenas of competition clearly understood this conceptualization.  The result of this conceptualization was that each member of the team would study, learn and practice their moxie in the effort to do more than participate, but to accomplish a measurable goal, that being success!

And in the realm of individual prowess, people would apply themselves to become the best at whatever they were involved.  This meant strenuous  and operose application of the most personal of resources–their time and effort.  But we engaged in this activity knowing ahead of time that we may not win that trophy.  And here is the epitome of our resolve and determination:  we went ahead and applied ourselves to put forth our best efforts in the pursuit of that trophy.  Today we are seen as maniacal, but it was simply the application and exertion of common sense.

And if that wasn’t maniacal enough, if we did not win a trophy we experienced this emotion called disappointment.  Now, to show you what wild and crazy people we were, after experiencing disappointment, we actually got over it.  Can you imagine that?  Got over it!  What was wrong with us.  And to further show our insanity, we picked ourselves back up and we really did try again.  We were convinced that crying and whining did not accomplish diddly-squat.  And to show how disrespectful and mean we were, we called those who did not get back up and try “cry babies”.

58193856.jpgBy not receiving this abominable thing called the PARTICIPATION TROPHY, we grew up believing and proving that courage, resolve, and hard work made our communities and culture better, not bitter.  We actually believed that success was borne out of both our best efforts and adversity.  Each success and each failure were moments to learn from and lessons that could be applied to real life.  We were daredevils who laughed in the face of potential failure because we knew we were stronger than any single moment in time.  Oh, and about our teams, we actually worked diligently at helping others to become better at their tasks.  But there was one trophy that was highly prized that was not designated for the best.  It was the “Most Improved Trophy”.  The improvement was not measured by participating.  Rather it came through showing both the desire to learn and the willingness to sacrifice for that measurable achievement.

If our nation is going to survive and become flourishing and not languishing, it will be when enough people stand up and declare with every fiber of their being, “NO MORE PARTICIPATION TROPHIES!”  Let’s start a dynamism that creates a paradigm shift in the United States.  Let us collect all the existing PARTICIPATION TROPHIES and deliver them to recycling centers.  And the parts that cannot be recycled, send them to innovative places that can re-purpose them into something that is actually useful, like a paperweight.  As much as I loathe governmental over-regulation, let us add another amendment to that document that was birthed from hard work and determination, otherwise known as the United States Constitution; an amendment that bans any and all PARTICIPATION TROPHIES until the end of time.

I leave you with this great work of art from one of this culture’s greatest and innovative minds, and challenge you, my readers, to start the hashtag #BanParticipationTrophies.  Oh wait, here’s a better idea.  Show and share this thing called determination and personal responsibility.  Teach others that failure is not fatal, but the opportunity to rise up and become stronger, and kinder.

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Look to the LORD

Great thoughts that need to be shared.

I love the Psalms

Reading:                                         Psalm 105                                                                 

 (Verses 1-7)

Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the L
ORD rejoice.
Look to the L
ORD and his strength;
seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the L
ORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth
(NIV).

Reflection

This past Sunday during the children’s church time the pastor led the children in a rousing chorus of “Jesus Loves Me.” In case you need a quick…

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He has heard your grumbling against HIM

Some very good words–most of us never realize that our grumbling is first against God–long before it is about others or our circumstances!

Beholding Him Ministries

exodus-16-8Exodus 16
6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt,7and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”8Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when He gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

SSSssssooooo how many times have I had to preach this to myself? SSSsssssoooo if my faith recognizes God to be Sovereign, God to be in control, God to be “He who is blessed and the only…

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Programs, Missions, or Vision? Where Do We Start? What Do We Do? How Do We Do It? Part 5

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7 Reasons Why Vision Always Works

I could keep on going with this series of posts but I said it would have 5 parts, and I will be faithful to that promise.  And another reason is that the Spirit said it’s time to move on to other fields of thought.  Hopefully by now we have seen the folly of trying to bring vitality and sustainable growth to the local body of Christ through church programs.  Right now I’m thinking about Elisha, in particular, when a king thought he had Elisha surrounded and just as good as captured.

In 2 Kings 6 we read that the king of Aram was at war with Israel, but they weren’t doing so good.  Whatever plan or strategy they tried, Israel was always ready.  He thought he had a traitor on staff but it turns out it was God giving Vision to Elisha.  The logical thing was for this king to find where Elisha was at, surround that place and capture this pesky prophet.  He did and that morning one of Elisha’s young students went outside, saw the army of Aram and naturally panicked.  But look now only at Elisha’s words, but notice his calmness in verses 16-17 (from The Message):

He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”  Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”  The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!

Allow me now to share with you why I am totally convinced why Vision trumps everything else when it comes to the vitality and sustainable growth of the local Body of Christ.

1.  It’s Out Of Our Hands And In The Hands Of God

Every problem in every local church can trace its roots to this single issue.  We have put the weight of the world on our shoulders and the solution in our hands.  And often times it is about control–whether it’s the pastor or the indigenous leaders.  For some reason we feel safer if we are in control.  But there will always be challenges to our control that will defeat us.  But there is NO challenge to the rule and authority of God.  Satan tries to bluff us with empty threats.  Doubt me?  Then remember that Cross and remember that empty grave.

2.  It Will Place Us Right In The Middle Of The Enemy’s Territory

When Jesus became one of us, He left His Home Base to storm the territory of the Enemy to take back what was stolen from Him.  What the Enemy took from Him was US!  Jesus stormed in to take back the ones who bear His Image by healing and restoring us back to that image.  God’s Vision is always about His Mission, to restore us from the mess that comes from living in the Enemy’s stolen Kingdom.  It will no longer be enough to supply money and hire staff to do the work that God has called all of us to do.  That work isn’t about calling people sinners and abominations, but helping them be restored by the hands on work of seeking out and helping the least, the last and the lost find the Life they are created to experience.  There are no spectators in God’s Vision, only warriors who storm the gates of hell to take back what was stolen from our Heavenly Father!

3.  It Will Teach Us To Trust God

One of the ways Vision teaches us to trust God is that it gets us out of our comfort zones.  The greatest work of the Enemy isn’t about getting us to hate God.  The Enemy’s greatest work is to get us comfortable.  Maybe you heard about a science experiment about a frog and hot water.  Place a frog in hot water and it will immediately jump out.  Place that same frog in room temperature water and then slowly raise the temperature until it boils, it will stay there until it dies.  Some people think God wants them to be comfortable in life, and that, my friends, is a lie straight from the depths of hell itself.  Only in the battle can we learn how to trust God.  Our trust in God isn’t measured in how we sit in the pew every Sunday, but how we serve our communities Monday through Saturday.

4.  It Will First Change Us Before It Changes Our Culture And Community

The first step to changing our world starts with changing us.  If we are not transformed by the Truth of God’s Grace we cannot expect our communities nor our culture to change.  God does not send us out into this battle unprepared and unequipped.  Soldiers in our military go through extensive training and constant training before they are sent to the battlefield.  Vision is about transforming lives and the very first life that is transformed is our own.  Enough said!

5.  It Will Align Our Priorities

We all said that the local church exists to “save” the lost.  But often our resources are aligned to save the institution.  When Vision is discovered and cast, the question will NOT be “Can we afford to do this?”  The question will always be, “How can we not do it?”  It creates the right hierarchy where people and resources are moving in unison with what God is doing.  In other words, our words and actions match and the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in Heaven.

 6.  It Will Bring Vitality To Our “Programs”

Vision redefines “programs” from what we do, to what God IS Doing!  I prefer changing the term from “programs” to “Missions”!  Suddenly all the things we do will not be about preserving us but transforming our communities, and that’s a great thing!  When the focus is on programs (stuff we do) admit it, it’s often a struggle to keep it going and keep it funded.  And that puts a burden on staff, volunteers and resources.  But when Vision is the focus, all the things we do comes alive because we aren’t doing them for us, but for the least, the last and the lost.

7.  It Will Prune The Dead Branches

When the Vision is finally discovered and cast, do not expect 100% buy in and celebration.  I shared last Sunday with the Vision Team that once the Vision is clearly cast and embraced, there will be some who will leave our church because they simply do not like the Vision.  And I also told them that is OK and that we should allow them to leave with grace and dignity and pray that they will find God’s Vision for their life.  I am not saying I want to see people leave.  I would rather that they stay and allow the Vision to work in and through their lives.  But in most churches, there will be those who are more concerned about the institution than they are about The Mission.  When The Mission of God becomes the drive and force, some will leave.  But remember, pruning always leads to greater growth.

So, what other reasons do you see on why The Vision works to bring vitality and sustainable growth?  Please share in the comments section.

And remember…

Love God with all your heart, love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Randy Burbank, a Kingdom Pastor

Programs, Missions, or Vision? Where Do We Start? What Do We Do? How Do We Do It? Part 4

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5 Ways To Find The Vision

Part 4 of this series is not meant to be a “one size fits all” pattern.  Why?  Have you ever noticed that those “one size fits all” rarely if ever fits all?  These are not “step by step” instructions that will automatically produce your congregation’s Vision Statement  What I want you to do is to use these thoughts as a “diving platform” for you and your congregation to jump into the most challenging and frightful thing any congregation can do.  Yet it will be the most fruitful thing you will ever do as a congregation if you faithfully follow the Vision that God will give you.

1.  Enter Into A Season Of Travailing Prayer

This is for the entire congregation and NOT for a select few.  I recently “relearned” that word “travailing” at a Conference I attended.  It means “to work very hard”.  This isn’t a simple time of “now I lay me down to sleep” praying.  And it isn’t a time of “The Lord’s Prayer” praying where we recite words from memory and then we are finished.  Think about the model of prayer that Jesus gave, and no, I’m not referring to the Lord’s Prayer.  It was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I would call travailing prayer “Gethsemane” praying.  In case you forgot what that looked like, look at Luke 22:44 (NLT)

 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

When was the last time you prayed so hard that you worked up a sweat?  You are about to challenge the arena of the Enemy to take back from him what rightfully belongs to God and he is ready to go to war with you.  He knows if you go at him in your strength, he wins.  And I am certain that when we “work up a sweat” in prayer, he shudders with fear because once again he sees that image of Jesus in that Garden and remembers the outcome.  So, what should you be praying about?  Praying for?  Now on this point, you need to follow it step by step:

  1. Pray for God to reveal, if you do not already know, and remove what is getting in the way of your relationship with Him.  Is it some fear?  Anger towards another person you haven’t forgave?  Anger towards God?  Guilt?  Some sin that has not only remained in your heart but has plagued your heart?
  2. Pray for the one or ones who will be selecting the Vision Team that they will select the right people for this process.  God has already selected this Team and whoever selects this Team needs to hear from God.  And do not bring your ballot with you in this time of prayer.  Do not ask God to make sure that Betsy gets on it and Henry does not.  Give God room to BE God.
  3. Pray for protection around this Team once it is formed.  As I have already said, this is warfare and the Enemy is not going to surrender.  His attacks will come from both within and from the outside.
  4. Pray that YOUR heart will be open to all that God is about to reveal.  It’s easy to look out on your congregation and immediately assume, “Well, I know that Jack is going to throw a fit.”  Start with your heart, after all, it’s the only one that matters for God’s Vision to come alive.  YOUR heart is the only one that you can control.  Make sure that you’ve given that control to the Spirit.

2.  Begin Making A List Of Potential Team Members

This does not mean that every name you write down automatically becomes part of The Team.  I wrote down and scratched out several names, not because there was something wrong with them.  But for whatever reason, God had not chosen them.  And it certainly wasn’t because God saw something wrong with them.  God is sovereign and He certainly doesn’t need us in adviser roles.  Remember that time when the early church was having trouble with their food distribution program?  Acts 6:3

And so, brothers, select seven men who are well-respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.

As you make this List, write down beside each name either something you see in them that will benefit the process or why you think God wants them there.  When you hone down to that final list, send them an invitation to participate and why they are receiving that invitation.

3.  Make Sure The Team Is Diverse

What I have discovered in our process is that God wants us to look deeper than what is on the surface.  Almost immediately my mind is going back to the time when God sent Samuel on the mission to replace Saul as King.  And we read in 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Our world is a very diverse.  And I would bet that your community is also.  The local congregation should be a reflection of that community, but most often it isn’t a reflection of the social and racial diversity that exists within the community.  This means you may need to invite some “non-members” to be a part of the process.  I have invited several millennials to join us in this Process.  Some are music students from a local university that sings in our choir, one is a college student who grew up in this church and another is the product of the youth ministry.

Do not limit yourself to just traditional church people.  I am not talking about style of worship, rather those who think that Christians think and act in a limited arena.  Yes, make sure you have some who are well rooted, have wisdom and are respected in your congregation.  In fact, it is advisable to make sure one or two of them leads the Team.  Your “seasoned” sages are the ones who will keep this Process on track.  But look within your congregation for other types:  those that obviously think differently because you are doing something new; those that are passionate about life as a whole, for without passion the Vision is never seen; and those who love Jesus with all their heart, often quietly but love Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.  These will not be in your known circle of “leaders” but have something important to contribute.  And who knows, maybe they will emerge from this process as your new leaders.

4.  Know Your Community

This is my shortest point.  Make sure you know your community and if you do not, have the Vision Team plan some “field trips” out in your community, not to witness to others, but simply getting to know them.  Why?  I’m so glad you asked me that.  Because the Vision will include reaching out to them in ways that will open the door for them to become disciples of Jesus.  Right now I’m thinking about Matthew 9:10-11

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.  But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

This wasn’t an isolated incident.  Jesus was always in the middle of where people lived every day.  He was down at the pier where some fishermen were working.  He was in the homes of everyday ordinary people.  If you do not know your real community you cannot find the True Vision.  God is always moving towards people and not away from them.

5.  Start With A Blank Sheet Of Paper

Now that you have done the legwork and homework you are ready to start.  But make sure that you set aside everything that you are doing now.  This isn’t a peer evaluation nor a time to measure how effective our current programs are doing.  Remember, Vision is not about programs, but about the activity of God through the Holy Spirit.  You are to dream God-Sized Dreams; something you can never do unless God is with you and working through you.  Most congregations have never done this because most often decisions are made based on budgets, staff and volunteers (oh, and traditions).  We are not talking about “what is”, but “what will be” when the rule of God happens, when Jesus becomes the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit is our Guide and only source of power.

Take meticulous notes on everything you talk about and dream about.  I have set up a Shared Folder on Google Drive for our Vision Team to keep notes.  ONLY members of the Vision Team have access to and rights to add or edit any file kept there.  I recommend Google because not everyone has Microsoft WORD™ on their computer and Google Drive has “Google Docs™” that anyone can use on the internet and is compatible with WORD™.

Here is something to remember:  Expect Failures Before The Final Success.  Not every idea or dream we have fits God’s Dream.  What I am trying to say is do not wait until everyone is 100% agreed on what the Vision should be and say.  The key is to allow the free flow of thoughts, hopes and aspirations for somewhere in the middle of all of them is God’s Dream!  Oh, and that part about keeping great notes?  One never knows when something brought up now will become important in the future.  God has a funny way of doing that.

Now, a final word to my fellow Pastors:

Stay Out Of The Way!

Do not, under any circumstances, be the official or unofficial leader of the Vision Team.  I’m not saying you would do this, BUT if you are leading the Team it will give to some the appearance of being “your vision” and not God’s Vision.  Your role as Pastor is to be both Coach and Cheerleader.  I am attending the first Team meeting and then I am stepping out of the way, and they will know it and why.  As Pastor, I will attend meetings only when requested to answer questions that will come up.  This congregation knows up front this is part of the process and why.  And I will show up occasionally to encourage and to ask them how the process is going.  It’s called “accountability” and that is part of my calling and role as a lead pastor.  My deepest desire, my ONLY desire is that God’s Vision becomes clear and that together we faithfully follow it as we live out our faith in the Kingdom of God.

 And remember…

Love God with all your heart, love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Randy Burbank, a Kingdom Pastor

Programs, Missions, or Vision? Where Do We Start? What Do We Do? How Do We Do It? Part 3

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7 Signs You Are Pursuing God’s Vision

Now that we’ve look at what Vision Is Not, let’s take a look at how God’s Vision for the local church takes shape and form.  Remember that God’s Vision is not about how things used to be nor is it necessarily about how things are now (though these two components play a part in discovering God’s Vision).  God’s Vision is about the future–how things CAN BE when HE becomes the most important part of our life individually and corporately.  Jesus cast HIS Vision for those first disciples and set the pattern for us as we pursue God’s Vision for us.  It’s found in Matthew 9:35-38 (The Message)  

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

If an entrepreneur wants to start a business, she or he looks first at the demographics of where this business will start.  In other words, are conditions favorable, meaning “Can I be successful and profitable”, in this new venture?  If they are offering goods or services that either the community doesn’t want or could afford, it’s highly unlikely they will proceed in that community with that endeavor.  Look at what Jesus saw:  “Confused and aimless, like people with no shepherd.”  So, what does Jesus do?  Does He say, “Well, guys, these aren’t very religious folks, we need to go somewhere else.”?  NO!  He says, “What a huge harvest!  We don’t have enough workers!  Hit your knees and pray for more workers!”

See, vision isn’t about what was or what is–it’s always about “What Will Be”!  The history of the Church has been that we tend to gravitate towards the familiar and comfortable.  We tend to stick to what we know and the things we know how to do.  Vision, on the other hand, is about what God knows and what He knows how to do through hearts and lives that are open to Him.  Let’s try to get a picture of what this looks like.

1.  It Begins With Prayer

Since Vision is not from us nor natural, we have to prepare both heart and mind in order to see what God wants for our local congregation.  Since it is human nature to bring our “baggage” with us, the first prayer needs to be for God to prepare our mind by ridding us of anything that resembles “our” vision.  We go into this process with a clean heart and an open mind.  A clean heart is one that God has cleansed from all selfishness.  An open mind is one that does not limit God and what He can do with us and our present reality.  The only way we can make sure this happens is to make this our daily prayer.

2.  It Will Require A Lot Of Time

Unless your local congregation has revisited the Vision every 5 years or so, the odds are this is going to be a long process.  When things are not going well at church we tend to look for a quick fix.  God’s Vision does not come by text, Twitter or Instagram.  The time spent searching is time well spent because we are spending time with the originator of The Vision.  The more time we spend conscious of God’s presence not only helps us to see and clarify The Vision but it is also preparing us to cast and implement The Vision.  I’m not saying it is going to take years–in fact, if it does, you are either not listening or seeking God’s Vision but rather wanting God to agree with you.  Do not be surprised if it takes weeks maybe months to bring The Vision into focus.  And it will take time to cast The Vision to the rest of the congregation.

3.  It Will Be Bigger Than Anything You Have Done Before

If you have been a program focused church it will be way bigger than anything you have ever done.  God doesn’t dream about what you have accomplished.  He dreams about what is yet to be accomplished.  God is still active, present and at work.  Our God is about great things, enormous things.  As human beings we have a tendency to rest on our accomplishments and think we’ve done enough.  Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the farmer who had a bumper crop?  Yes, God celebrates your victories but calls us out to even more.  The Gospel is the Gospel of “The More”–more of Him in us and more of Him through us.  If The Vision is not a little scary or doesn’t make you feel a little “uncomfortable”, meaning it’s like nothing you have ever seen or tried, then maybe it is just another one of your ideas and not His Vision.

4.   It Will Be About The Future

In a world that loves the fastest computer graphics, fastest internet speeds and immediate gratification, the process of Vision will feel foreign to us.  Many established congregations are locked into the past.  They “pine” for the good old days of filled sanctuaries and active programs and they “whine” about why it’s not like that today.  While the backwards glance is helpful in forging our way forward, it is not the model of what the Vision will look like for the future.  Our vision of the future is very limited.  Heck, we can’t even see and predict the outcomes of college football games.  If we could, Las Vegas would turn into a ghost town.  God’s ability to see the Future is unlimited.  Think of Vision as God’s “MapQuest®” for the journey into HIS future for the church.  It is always about the next step towards God’s desired outcome.  It is not instantaneous nor short term.

5.  It Will Look Like The Kingdom Of God

While we get locked into a “church” perspective, meaning OUR church, The Vision will be a snapshot of The Kingdom of God.  Jesus only spoke about the church a couple of times, but He spoke volumes about The Kingdom of God.  Remember that The Kingdom of God (at other moments Jesus used the term Kingdom of Heaven) is about the Rule of God in our hearts, minds and daily actions.  So it is essential that we learn more about what Jesus says about this Kingdom.  Jesus gave us so many word pictures and parables about what God’s Kingdom looks like.  The Vision will always, always, always be in alignment with what Jesus said The Kingdom of God is all about.  If you do not have a clue about what the Kingdom of God looks like you will never be able to catch a glimpse of the Kingdom.

6.  It Will Be About The Least, The Last And The Lost

If we learn anything about Jesus when He walked this earth as one of those He created, it’s His heart for those that have been pushed aside by society.  Jesus was always drawn to those who were made to feel worthless and were hopeless.  He refused to push aside or ignore those who were hurting and broken.  Therefore, The Vision is about the reconciliation and restoration  of the fallen.  Ever since that moment when Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s rule in their hearts, mind and daily actions God has been active in first reconciling humanity and second, restoring humanity to that Intended Design.  It will be more than handing out tracks about the Romans Road Map To Heaven, in fact tracts may not be involved at all.  It will be about helping meet the physical, emotional and relational needs of people BEFORE introducing them to the one who meets their Spiritual needs.  The Vision will be about first, making us whole, and then helping others find the wholeness that God alone will provide.

7.  It Will Be Bright And Hopeful!

Our “pining for the past” only fills us with despair.  Our honest evaluation of today will fill us with doubt.  But The Vision gives us a picture of the future that is both vibrant and hopeful.  It’s a beautiful picture that fills us with what is often missing in our local congregations:  Great Expectations!  Put oil paints, brush and canvas in front of me and trust me, the picture will not be beautiful.  But put those same elements in the hands of Monet and it is beautiful.  If we will see God’s Vision, it will draw us into it with both fear and excitement and the excitement overrides  any fear or doubt.  It gives us “butterflies” in our heart and mind because we will know that because God has given The Vision, we can count on Him to move The Vision from Dream to Reality!  If you approach the journey with the attitude that says “We can never do this”, guess what?  You won’t!  But the first truth about The Vision is that it will be about what God is doing in, for and through us and never about what WE are doing for God.

I hope this will be for you a very big “box” to begin the process of discerning God’s Vision.  Maybe you have other insights into what God’s Vision is.  Feel free to share them in the comments.  And remember…

Love God with all your heart, love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Randy Burbank, a Kingdom Pastor

Programs, Missions, or Vision? Where Do We Start? What Do We Do? How Do We Do It? Part 2

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6 Things Vision Is NOT

The beginning place for real transformation in the local church begins with VISION.  To begin by changing programs or mission is just another attempt at reformation at best and a another resolution at worst.  Reformation and resolution do not create that deep and abiding transformation we always need.  Reformation and resolution are our best efforts; transformation is God’s best effort.  I can’t answer for you, but I would much rather have God’s best effort on one of His bad days (this is just a figure of speech, so fundamentalists, don’t get your blood pressure up) than my best effort on one of my very best days.

After listening to many coaches, church growth gurus, consultants and mainly from pastors of thriving congregation here is what I understand to be the meaning of VISION.

Vision is the image of what the church should look like in 5-7 years

A great place to begin our discussion about what discovering The Vision, is to identify what  The Vision is NOT.  In order to be able to clearly see The Vision, we need to clear the fog that often surrounds the process of searching and discerning The Vision in order to be able to both clearly see and articulate what God is doing and wants a local church to do.  Without clearing away this fog there is a very high degree of probability that we may not clearly see The Vision.  And this is not good because it opens the door for us to insert OUR Vision wherever it is we cannot clearly discern God’s Vision. Carefully read one of Jesus’ strong rebukes to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:7-9

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

This is a quote from Isaiah 29:13 and shows God’s disgust with meaningless words as was the case when the Pharisees sought to lose another battle with Jesus.  (I mean, they should have known by now there was no way to win against Jesus.)  The words of Vision come from the heart and not the mind.  It is to the heart that God’s Spirit speaks and reveals what God wants us to look like 5-7 years down the road.  Therefore, our words need to be carefully chosen.  So this process of discerning God’s vision is neither quick nor easy.  It is often time-laden and even messy.  So it is important that on the front end, Vision Teams understand that time consumption and messiness is normal and certainly not a cause to give up and quit.  To the contrary, the process serves to make us stronger and bolder, less self-reliant and more compassionate.

There are many things that Vision “is not”, so I want to focus on what I perceive to be the 6 most common errors in both discerning the Vision and casting the Vision.  Here they are in order:

1.  Vision Does Not Begin With The Identification Of Our Current Resources And Assets

It is easy to begin the process of Visioning by labeling and assessing value on our current resources and assets.  That is called accountability and it is needed in the life of a local congregation on a daily basis.  To begin looking at our resources and assets typically means looking at our strengths because it takes a lot of strength for Vision to become reality.  If a congregation has not retooled its Vision faithfully every 5-7 years then it will naturally gravitate to looking FOR the Vision by looking AT their strengths.  Unless a local congregation has been faithfully reviewing and updating their Vision every 5-7 years it is not very likely that God’s Vision will be centered on their current strengths.  It will probably be centered on their weaknesses.

2.  Vision Is Not About Improving Our Programs

Some congregations take the approach that Vision is about making our Programs even better.  But as we learned last week Programs are different from Vision and Mission.  Because the church has been living under the paradigm that programs are the primary means of growing the local church, it is only logical to think that this Vision from God is going to be about improving our Programs.  God’s Vision may or may not be about improving existing programs.  In fact, HIS Vision may be about getting rid of some old and wornout programs.  Many congregations are program driven churches rather than Vision Following churches, so the natural tendency will be to “dream” of ways to make programs better.  If this is what you think Vision is all about, then I have 3 words for you:  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

3.  Vision Is Not About Getting Rid Of Existing Leadership And Replacing Them With New Leadership

When I say “leadership”, what I mean is both pastor (or pastors), hired staff, and indigenous leaders within that local congregation.  I have known of some congregations who have engaged in a new “Vision Statement” as a means of getting rid of old leadership to make way for new leadership.  Vision is assembled around 1 Leader, the True Head of any local congregation.  And if you haven’t a clue as to who I am describing, it’s none other than Jesus, Himself.  The process of Visioning includes casting The Vision in such a way that it brings existing leadership onboard.  Now, if any existing leaders are unable or unwilling to get on board, then it’s time for them to get on board the next train leaving town.  But Vision is never about “cleaning house”.

4.  Vision Is Not An Update, Upgrade Or Fix-It For The Local Congregation

Every local congregation has “issues” in need of repair.  As you read this, if you are thinking there’s nothing that needs “fixing” at your local church, I have 3 words for you:  Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!  We like to think of our local churches as being really neat and rarely messy places.  Which is exactly why many pastors and members move on to other places.  Until we become the church in Heaven, we will be really messy and rarely neat.  I do not say this to be critical of any local congregation; rather to help us accept this fact in ways that helps us accept each other when things are NOT so neat.  Without a doubt a  Vision does correct the compass and direction of a local church.  But we do not enter the time of seeking, clarifying, understanding and casting the Vision simply as a way to fix our problems.  Oftentimes the old problems follow into the new Vision.  But then we will be better enabled to handle them in positive ways.  Microsoft Windows™ has updates and perhaps it would be easier if we could just download an update and everything operate like it should.  But oh, what great things we would miss if it happened that way.

5.  Vision Is Not Chiseled In Stone

What I mean by this is that it is extremely rare for one Vision Statement that comes out of the wrestling and struggling to stay the same for a local church unless Jesus comes really soon.  As the church changes, as the community changes, as the culture changes and as the world changes, so will The Vision change.  Any Vision Statement that is static and not fluid probably did not come from God OR we have stopped looking for God’s Vision.  As much as we wish the world would not change so fast, the reality is it does.  Whatever changes happen in the world NEVER catches God off-guard.  Instead He is always ready for the next new Vision.  Another reason I believe that The Vision is more fluid than static is because of our own natural tendency to resist change, especially change that is initiated by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

6.  The Vision Will Not Be All That Complicated

This entire process begins and ends with God, and every point between lives within the context of God who truly is With Us.  It isn’t complicated so that we can “buy-in” and take ownership in The Vision.  It belongs completely to God and it just so happens that God has selected us to impart, cast and live out His Vision.  The Vision will always be much more than we can do alone, or as we are right now.  The Vision will never talk about “what is”, rather it speaks of “what can be” when we give up the right to control anything and totally surrender to the very thing God is doing.  We do not remember the complicated, but we do remember the simple.  I Googled “church vision statements” and found many.  Their content ranged from 4 words to 279 words.  As I looked through this list of some 80 churches and their Vision Statement, the best one I like contain 4 words.  These 4 words did not even form a grammatically correct statement, but spoke volumes to me.  It said:  Making New, Making Great.  It is so simple that anyone in that congregation could say it, and live it out.

I’m sure you can probably think of other things that Vision “is not”.  So feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  And remember this:

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way God loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Kingdom Pastor,

Randy Burbank

Expanded Prayers for the UMC Judicial Council

Here are some words for you to think about during such a time as this in the United Methodist Church.

A Potter's View

The United Methodist Church’s version of the Supreme Court, otherwise known as the Judicial Council, will be ruling in October about Karen Oliveto’s consecration as a UM bishop, and they’ll be adjudicating whether an annual conference’s Clergy Session and Board of Ordained Ministry can properly have before them persons who have self-avowed behaviors that are in violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. It is basically a question of whether an annual conference’s prerogatives outweigh General Conference’s actions.

The first major Judicial Decision which established that General Conference is preeminent in legislation and supersedes annual conferences’ administrative function, was made back in 1972. In reference to the establishment of the General Council on Ministries, the Judicial Council  stated in Decision 364, “The General Conference may not delegate legislative functions and responsibilities which are assigned to it by the Constitution.” This specifically helps us pray for the Judicial Council because…

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You’ve Lost Your Keys Before, But Have You Lost Yourself-In Worship?

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     There are many experiences we have that are unique to us, but there are many more that can be classified as common to all of us.  One of those experiences that we have all had at one time or another is losing our keys.  Come on, be honest; I know I’m not the only one who has done that.  What do lost keys and worship have in common?  I’m so glad you asked.

     When keys are lost it means they are not where they usually are, or where we think they are.  And for some of us, it’s a cause for panic.  Losing keys is a bad thing, but losing one’s self in worship–that is NOT a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very good thing.  To be lost in worship means that we are no longer aware of ourselves as to place or being.  To be lost in the praise and wonder of God means we step out of the places of fear, frustrations, agendas, and whatever and into a place that is absolutely safe.  It is to engage in an act with abandon, putting everything out of sight and out of mind in order to offer to God the only kind of worship He is worthy of and deserves.

     I think about that time when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).  Verse 14 paints this picture for us:  “And David danced before the Lord with all his might.”  How great is that?  But his wife Michal, was disgusted with him and she let her displeasure be known.  But listen to David’s response to Michal in verses 21 and 22:  I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family!  He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.  Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”  That day, in a crowded Jerusalem, David was lost in worship-his only focus was on God.  In David’s heart and mind, there were no people in Jerusalem that day, only himself and God.  He was lost in worship-nothing else existed.  When was the last time you worshiped like this?

     When I first arrived as Lead Pastor at Sheffield First, I made a commitment to first observe, even in worship.  I believe that one can learn much from simply watching and I did this even in worship.  We are blessed here to have 2 unique worship services, a very traditional worship service and an alternative service called The Edge.  At The Edge, my contribution is the proclamation of The Word.  Wanting to observe, I chose to sit at the back.  But I read something that God used to convict me about this.  I read that others need to see me, the pastor, worship.  So I moved up to the front, second pew in the left section.  I found this place liberating for me because I needed to worship before I began to proclaim the Word.

     Yesterday I had a moment close to what David experienced.  The worship band opened with a song that God used to literally blow me away–I became lost in worship.  The song was built around one of Charles Wesley’s hymns “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing” but with a David Crowder touch (click here to hear this song).  In addition to the rich thoughts from the heart and mind of Charles Wesley, it was Crowder’s touch that caused me to become lost in worship.  It goes like this:

So come on and sing out
Let our anthem grow loud
There is one great love
Jesus

     I wasn’t the only one lost in worship yesterday.  One in my faith family had brought some of their friends who was visiting them on the way to Colorado.  This husband and wife were from Austria and unbeknownst to be, they, too were lost in worship.  I realized this when I was given the gift of opportunity to share from the Sacred Script.  As I preached, I saw it in their eyes.  There was a brightness in their eyes that reminded me so much more was happening and it wasn’t me making it happen.  This couple, far from home, on a journey to Colorado became lost in worship.

     When the service was over, I could still see the lingering effects of what they experienced by being lost in worship.  They are going to carry this experience with them in their journey, and it will be a part of their identity for the rest of their lives, and throughout eternity.  I was both thankful and humbled by their response to the message I had faithfully worked on, trying to make sure it was the Word that would make a difference in someone’s life.  Thanks to God’s wisdom and the Holy Spirit, I was able to do what my heart desired about everything else-to honor Him by becoming an ordinary clay vessel that His Glory could shine through.  (Even as I write this, I am so blown away that God still uses me, and still wonder what He saw in me that I could be His pastor of this flock.)

     This “one great love” continues to cover me and propel me in this life in Grace.  Worship, true Worship, Worship that honors our Father, Worship that our Creator is worthy of, Worship that expresses deep gratitude for the Sacrifice Jesus made for us, Worship that is truly empowered by the Holy Spirit, happens when we, like David, dance with abandon, in our hearts before The Lord.  So, the next time you lose something, let it be a reminder to you, that YOU need to be lost in worship–to be consumed in that sacred moment–the moment that needs to happen in both our corporate worship and in our private worship.  Help me, Lord, to dance without restraint in worship to you.  Amen and Amen!

3 Things The Bible Isn’t and 7 Things The Bible Is

The Church and The Bible2

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New Living Translation)

     The tribe of the Body of Christ of which I have been a part of since my birth 60 years ago is the United Methodist Church.  Of that 60 years, I have spent 42 of those years as a pastor in this tribe.  But an ongoing trend and recent events are creating an uneasiness and what I believe to be yet another “calling” from God.  And though I am currently on a Sabbath Rest (some call a vacation), the Holy Spirit prompts me to write this morning before I head out to the beach.

     The ongoing trend that concerns me deeply is the decline of attendance in longstanding traditional tribes (called “denominations” by most).  God has been stirring my heart and mind by reading other blogs and articles that focus on the local church.  Two of my resources that the Spirit has led me to is Church Leaders and The Barna Group.  Both of these sites offer insights into the two fastest rising subcultures in the United States known as the “Nones” and the “Dones”.  As a footnote here, these two groups are found primarily in the United States but not elsewhere around the world.  I cannot help but wonder what WE, the Christians of the United States, have done to the Good News that Jesus so passionately proclaimed and died for.

     If you are unfamiliar with these terms, allow me to describe them to you.  First, the “Nones” are those who when asked about their religious affiliation mark the box “none of the above.”  It’s not that they deny the existence of God, but that they fail to experience Him through the traditional means of “organized religion”.  The reality is that they are very hungry for God, but for a variety of reasons they cannot find Him through traditional churches.  The other group known as the “Dones”.  Unlike the Nones, these are the people who at one time were very active in local churches.  They were teachers, children’s workers, youth leaders, volunteers and in key leadership roles in the local church.  But because of the local church politics and the refusal of the power brokers desire to maintain the status quo, they have said, “I’m done!”  This is the growing trend that concerns me.

      The event that has troubled me to the core of my heart centers around the issue of homosexuality and the Kingdom.  Recently at the Western Jurisdiction Conference an openly gay clergy was elected to the office of Bishop, the highest leadership office in our tribe.  This election goes directly against our tribe’s standards and against the Bible by accepting the theory that God created Gay people and as such, should be embraced and accepted by the church.  And this event of open disobedience to both church order and the Bible has been repeated in other Jurisdiction Conferences and Annual Conferences.  Again, these events are happening in the United States only.

     At the core of this movement called “Progressives” is the idea that there is no longer orthodox Biblical Authority.  As it has been explained to me by a progressive, God created the, call it “gay DNA” in Adam and Eve.  This “gay DNA” was then allowed to evolve and develop.  As I reflected on this, I had an epiphany–this is a form of classical Deism, but progressives have added the Jesus of Love and acceptance.  If you are unaware of the core of Deism allow me to explain.  Deism believes in a “creating god” that made everything.  But this creating god then stepped back and has not been involved in that creation.  He is simple the “clock maker god” who set everything into motion and watches it unfold.  There is no Trinity, no miracles and no Biblical Authority.

     I had an epiphany moment about these 3 groups–the Nones, Dones and Progressives.  What I am about to share I say with no malice toward any person or any group.  These are simply my observations and I do not expect anyone to embrace these conclusions.  I rather hope that it will invoke deep thought and further honest conversations.  And here is my epiphany:  These 3 groups have deep issues with the church and the Bible because of those who misuse the Bible.

     As Paul writes his final thoughts to Timothy in this second letter, in his heart and mind was for Timothy to take that Journey to become all that God had created him to be.  This passage was how Timothy was to use the Sacred Scriptures for his own spiritual growth.  But today people have turned this passage around and use it to justify their own perspectives and views.  I find here 3 things that the Sacred Scriptures are not and 7 things that the Sacred Scriptures are.  First, what the Bible is not.

 1. The Bible is not ours.  

This book does not belong to us though many try to take ownership of it.  It belongs to the One who inspired it and watched over it to make sure that we have an accurate record of His design and intention for our lives.  Since it is His Book, we read and listen to it as a whole story.  We are not to take bits and sound bites from it to give substance to our own beliefs.    We need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we see the WHOLE Book and not just the parts that fits our cultural (I will write at another time about the damage done to the Bible by the “Americanizing” of the Gospel and the unhealthy obsession about the U.S. being a “Christian Nation”) or our abilities to reason.

Casual glances are insufficient.  It requires time and even struggle to see the big picture of the Sacred Scriptures.  This is not a super center of thoughts where we can pick and choose what we want and do not want.  God has a message for us that is like a jig saw puzzle.  It takes time to put it all together.  Quoting verses to prove our points is a futile attempt to make the Bible ours, and it will never be “ours”.

2.  The Bible is not a bully pulpit.

     It is not designed nor given to us to be a platform for us to tell others how wrong and how sinful they are.  Some use the Sacred Scriptures like a “spotter’s scope” to scan the horizon to find others who are not faithfully following God’s intended design and purpose.  Once found, they often quote certain passages (that they believe backs up their point) and then proceeds to bully them into submission.  Contrary to how some live, there is no spiritual gift called “pointing out the sins of others”.

     When I went through my divorce I encountered some of these who quickly pointed out my failures and proceeded to quickly tell me how wrong and “sinful” I was.  Jesus came to bring hope and restoration but the bully pulpit does neither.  For some it simply turns them off to the hope and restoration that God offers.  For the rest of us, it only deepens the wound and makes us feel unworthy of God’s grace.

3.  It is not a billy club.

     I consider this to be the largest group of those who misuse the Sacred Scriptures.  They love to quote Ephesians 3:17, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  They see this as a divine unction to go out wildly swinging this sword with much passion and zeal.  I have a son and son-in-law who are both in the military and have been in combat.  They will quickly tell you it’s not about putting rounds down range, but about using their weapons effectively.

     Pounding people over the head with the Sacred Scriptures is not using the weapon effectively.  Allow me to give you an example from my perspective.  I love college football, especially the Crimson Tide.  But if someone took an Alabama helmet and kept pounding me over the head with it, it is highly likely that I would develop an aversion to Crimson Tide football.  I can understand a bit better the progressives in our tribe who insist that God created gay persons.  They have rejected the authority of the Bible and turned to trust in reason because they see the Bible as a weapon designed to harm and hurt.  For those of you who insist on beating sinners down into submission by using the Ephesians passage to justify your actions, I have 2 words for you.  Stop it!  Using the Bible as a billy club will not transform a person into who God intends for them to be.  It only makes them bruised and bloodied.

     Now, enough of what the Sacred Scriptures are not.  Let’s look at what Paul told Timothy about the Sacred Scriptures and see if we can find the best way to use the Bible–to allow the Bible to be what God intended for it all along.

1.  It Comes From The Heart Of God

And what does the heart of God look like?  One of the sons of thunder put it like this in 1 John 4:16–“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”  Paul describes the Sacred Scriptures as “inspired by God”.  It literally means “God-breathed”.  This God-breathed Word comes from God’s heart of love.  God’s breath is gentle.  When the prophet Elijah needed a word from God, he was sent to Mt. Sinai for that word.  In 1 Kings 19:11 we read, “a mighty windstorm hit the mountain.  It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind.”  When Elijah heard God’s voice, it was “a gentle whisper”.  When we speak for the Sacred Scriptures, let’s make sure our voice for broken, bruised and bloodied people (which describes Elijah’s condition at that point) is a gentle voice.  When Jesus walked on this earth in human form His harshest words were directed at the religious people who thought it was their holy duty to point out the sins of others and His kindest words were directed toward us sinners.

2.  It has ultimate authority over us.

Look carefully at this part:  “is useful to teach us what is true”.  Human truth changes.  The earth is flat.  The sun revolves around the earth.  Some diseases can be cured by the process of “bleeding” out that bad blood.  We know how those human truths have changed.  And we cannot rely on human feelings.  Feelings change more than the weather.  Yesterday’s best friend becomes someone we don’t like.  The true love of our heart becomes an ex-lover.  Feeling good in the morning changes to feeling tired.

     We need a standard that becomes the foundation for tomorrow and the anchor for today’s storms.  If we do not like a show on the television, we change channels to something we do like.  If we do not like the news from once source, we have the option of choosing from multiple sources.  Whether we like the truths of the Sacred Scriptures or not, they remain eternal truths.  Even if we disagree with those eternal truths, they remain eternal truths.  Eternal truth always has ultimate authority over us.

3.  It is a mirror for us.

     Paul tells Timothy that the Sacred Scriptures “make us realize what is wrong in our lives.”  (Remember my thoughts about the bully pulpit and billy club?)  These words from Paul to Timothy were about self-reflection.  The Bible is the only way we can see ourselves as we really are.  That mirror in your bathroom?  It never lies.  It does not have Photoshop® to clean us up and make us look better.  It gives back to us what is actually there.  It never lies to us.  Do you remember the evil queen in the story of sleeping beauty?  So it is with the Sacred Scriptures.  It is here that we engage in that activity most of us would rather avoid–honest self-evaluation.  Here we are to measure our lives by God’s measure and design.  Paul wanted Timothy to become all that God designed him to be and the only way that could happen was to begin seeing himself in light of God’s eternal truth.

4.  It challenges us!

     Paul tells Timothy that the Sacred Scriptures “corrects us when we are wrong.”  To be honest, none of us enjoys being corrected.  I remember something I heard many years ago from Charles Swindoll:  “Believing we are right, we can be wrong.”  No human being is infallible.  This means we need to listen and listen closely.  When one of our granddaughters was around 3 years old, she and her Mom paid us a visit.  We adults were carrying on a conversation.  But 3-year-old Caroline was showing us how she could jump.  We stopped talking for a moment to watch her and congratulate her and then continued with our conversations.  But Caroline wasn’t through with us.  Getting our attention she said, “You cannot be talking and pay attention to me!”  I am confident she had heard her preschool teacher say that to her many times.  When the Sacred Scriptures tell us we are wrong, we need to stop talking and pay attention.  These words in the Bible are not for us to point the finger at others, but to correct the things wrong inside us.  I believe Jesus said something about the need for us to get that beam of wood out of our eye before we worried about that speck of sawdust in our neighbor’s eye.

5.  It is our road map to becoming who God wants us to be.

     Listen carefully to these words:  “teaches us to do what is right.”  In the Sacred Scriptures we discover our God-Given purpose for life.  Here is where we figure out how to get from Point A to Point B.  Some people have an unhealthy appetite for knowledge about the Bible.  Unhealthy, because it is all about the acquisition of knowledge without ever translating that knowledge into action.  One of the great needs in the Body of Christ is for us to start doing what we know that God says is right.  There are parts of the Bible I do not understand and I am sure there are parts of the Bible you do not understand.  Instead of trying to figure out the parts we do not understand, we should simply apply what we already know.  I heard this once in a small country church:  “Right is right even if no one does it.  And wrong is wrong even if everybody does it.”  Instead of memorizing verses it would be so much better if we started living by the verses we already know.

6.  It is to be our classroom.

       A person simply does not simply decide they want to be a brain surgeon.  They do not walk into an operating room and announce, “I’m the surgeon today.”  No, they have to go through an extensive program that starts in the classroom.  Paul reminded Timothy that “God uses it to prepare … his people”.  I know I left part of that part out but it is what comes next.  Sometimes we think we are ready to do great things for the Kingdom of God but we are unfruitful and it seems like God is holding us back.  It seems like He is holding us back because He IS holding us back.  It takes preparation time to be skilled at any job.  Before a wonderful meal is eaten and enjoyed there is a preparation time.  It is not instant but carefully prepared–our mission in the Kingdom, that is.  We all need alone time with the Sacred Scriptures and we also need those small groups that God is using to prepare us BEFORE we go out into the harvest field.

7.  It gives us the tools we need for the work of the Kingdom of God.

     A surgeon doesn’t use the tools of a plumber.  A mechanic doesn’t use the tools of a carpenter.  A plumber doesn’t use the tools of a computer programmer.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Then why do we try to do this Spiritual Work of the Spiritual Kingdom of God with human tools?  Paul tells Timothy, “God uses it to … equip his people”  Within the Sacred Scriptures we find the tool box of God, the resources He knows will work for the Kingdom He is building.  Not all of these tools are for every person.  But here in the Bible, we can discover and uncover those gifts that God has given us for the work He is calling us into.  And this work that He is doing through us has a clearly defined purpose.  Jesus gave us a clear picture of it in John 9:10–“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  If the tools in your tool box are not giving people that rich and satisfying life, then you’re using the wrong tool box.

     The Bible is God’s gift to us.  Let’s use it the way the Gift is intended.  You do not use a ceramic knife to chisel bricks.

 

Can There Be Unity When…?

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.  Proverbs 14:12

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There is an unsettling feeling I have working through.  It is unsettling to me because it is about something that has been a part of my life since the day I was born.  The impact of it precedes my birth some 60 years ago.  Something this long-lasting has had a deep and profound impact on my life.  Hopefully now you can see why I am dealing with this “unsettling” feeling.

What is it?  My unsettled feeling is about the United Methodist Church and its future.  The issue that keeps coming up centers around the issue of human sexuality, and in particular same gender sexual expressions.  This past General Conference it was voted to set up a ‘commission’ of sorts to study the issue and report back to the next General Conference in 2020.  Attempts are being made to prevent a split or “divorce” within the United Methodist Church, thus the call for “unity”.

Yet, how can there be unity when there are such clearly opposing views that have no common intersection?  Unity on this issue is impossible and that is why I am concerned.  Those who know me know that I judge no one (have too many sins of my own to worry about someone else’s sin).  Here is though another fact:  Same gender sexual expressions and even marriage is now acceptable among many in our nation.  The SCOTUS has given gay couples the right to marriage.  This is well within the Constitutional authority for the SCOTUS.  If they declare it to be the “law of the land”, then so be it.

But for the church, the issue is much deeper.  The real issue, as I see it for the church, is same-gender sexual expressions blessed by God?  After prayer, study and a lot of reflection, my conclusion is simple.  When I look at what God intended before the Fall of Adam and Eve was that sex/intimacy was God’s gift for husband (man) and wife (woman).  Not just in sex/intimacy did God have an intention for humanity, but in every aspect of human existence there was to be a way of life that reflected the holy character of God and served His purpose.  The Fall interrupted and set aside God’s holy purposes.

But God immediately began to see to restore what the Fall had broken–namely our relationship with self, others, creation and Him.  Since the Fall there have been many more sexual expressions which entered into this fallen state of Creation.  But only one, then and now, received and receives the blessing of God–the faithful intimacy between husband (man) and wife (woman).  I know my view will offend some of my friends but my friendship with them goes deeper than and single subject and hopefully they will feel the same.

Homosexuality is NOT the worst sin–you see that’s the problem.  People think, wrongly think, that there are degrees of sins, you know, Class A, B, C, or D Misdemeanor or Felony.  Such distinctions are false and simply offer a way for some people to feel less guilty about their particular manifestation of sin.  All of us have been affected by the Fall and have the “seed” of sin, the spiritual DNA of Adam living in us.  That DNA expresses itself in different ways in different people.

Those who see this issue different from me usually argue that one is “born” gay, and that it’s not a choice.  However, even in the behavioral science community there is no consensus on why a person is gay–is it choice or birth?  Those who insist that God “created” them gay, (a position without solid theological or scientific support) must be included in every aspect of the church, including ordination.  And this is why there can never be unity.

I foresee the time coming of a “split” or “divorce” within the United Methodist Church, and coming much sooner than many anticipate.  I am saddened that I have been called a hate-monger and homophobe because of my understanding through biblical study and study within the realm of behavior and biological sciences that refutes the “God created Gay people” position.  If the government wants to make gay marriage legal, OK, so what?  I make a choice to not participate in such marriages as a pastor.  I will not fight to deny gay couples to legal right to be married, but I will not officiate because of my conscience.

The divorce is coming within the United Methodist church UNLESS we stop this nonsense of building unity, and go back to the “pre-fall” standard of living life as God designed it and intended it to be.  Not just in the realm of sexual expression, but in every realm of life.

The Need For Sabbath–a.k.a. Vacation Time

(This particular Blog is for leaders, managers, and anyone who supervises 1 or more persons.  The principles apply to the corporate world, governmental world, community/civic groups and the church.  Whether you are paid or volunteer, this is for leaders.  This is also for those who are led by these leaders and I pray with all that is in me that it will inspire you to insist that those who lead you, take Sabbath Rests, also known as “vacations”.  Please share this with leaders in your life, or leaders you know of who fail, as I did, to insist on extended Sabbath Rests.)

vacation may 2016As I sit here putting my “random thoughts” together, I cannot get rid of this image.  This view was “our view” this past week.  Each morning that I stepped out onto the balcony of our temporary condo, this is what captivated and captured me.  I knew my entire agenda for the day.  Eat some breakfast; load up the cooler; pack some snacks; load the beach bag with sunscreen, towels, beach passes and room key; grab the beach chairs and the pop-up gazebo and sit in the sand.  My daily activities would be to catch some “rays”, cool off in the Gulf, and then catch some more rays.  Last Saturday before we left, on a scale of 1-10, my stress level was somewhere in the neighborhood of around 798.  But after 30 minutes of my toes in the sand, that stress level went down to Zero.  It continued to decline even more as the week progressed.

Rather than feel guilty that I felt no guilt for being so relaxed, I simply lived in all those restful moments.  And I thanked my wife Debbie (multiple times) for insisting that we take this time together.  This has been great for me, great for her and even greater for us.  I left very clear instructions with my staff that no one contact me unless it was a real emergency.  I think my words were, “If you call me, somebody better be dying or dead, or you will be!”  They knew I was over exaggerating but they also knew I trusted them to take care of The Mission until we came back.

And I confess before God and to you, that I am not that good at “taking time off”.  And God reminded me this week how wrong I am for not honoring Extended Sabbaths.  I hurt the Mission, I hurt myself and I hurt those closest to me when I became too focused on the work and ignored the rest.  If you are one of those I hurt, I apologize and ask for your forgiveness.  To prevent this from happening again I have given Debbie permission and a commission, that if I fail to honor Extended Sabbaths she is to march into my office, grab me by my ponytail, and drag me away somewhere kicking and screaming; but where I will then thank her for loving me enough to remind me of the power of Sabbath.

Everyone needs Sabbaths but this article is for leaders-those in the corporate world, government, community and in the church.  I once described in a sermon series that a leader is anyone who has a sphere of influence and I still believe this to be true.  But for the sake of deep thought, lets call those I am referring to as more than “Official Leaders” but Leaders of The Mission.  Everything has a mission.  Businesses have a mission to sell whatever it is they sell.  Schools have a mission to educate and prepare young minds.  Government has a mission to lead its citizens to an orderly and productive life.  Churches have a mission, actually the most important mission of all–the Kingdom Mission of bringing real and better life to people wherever they are at now.

Mission is not a single person’s work, but the work of the whole organization however it is defined.  But any organization needs a leader who has both clarity and passion about The Mission.  The clarity allows others to see in simple yet profound ways what The Mission looks like and the Leader’s passion will ignite in them an overwhelming desire to have a share in reaching that goal of the Mission.  This means that The Leader is always pouring out of themselves for the sake of The Mission and the Team.  And this is why Extended Sabbaths are absolutely essential for those of us in this kind of leadership.

We can possess at any given time only a certain amount of personal energy I call this “passion for The Mission”.  Without consistent times of Extended Sabbaths this reserve of passion dwindles away.  Think of it as a quart jar; the quart jar is capable of containing only a quart and no more.  If one keeps pouring from that jar eventually the jar is empty.  The jar needs to be refilled.  Unfortunately, we Leaders of The Mission think that another seminar, more reading, more tasks, more brainstorming is the answer–but it’s not.

We need Sabbath and more than just a day or two–we need regular Extended Sabbaths.  Jesus had something to say about Sabbath but we often limit the meaning of His words to another one of his scathing rebukes of the Religious Police in Mark 2:27 in the King James Version:  “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  But listen to His words again from the New Living Translation:   Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”  

Leaders need Sabbath and they need extended Sabbaths.  But some leaders feel they cannot 1st blog picafford time off and time away, so they don’t.  They don’t to the severe detriment of themselves, The Mission, and the people they lead.  Some leaders wrongly believe that The
Mission fails unless they are there leading the charge in every little detail.  Leaders who have the need to be in total charge, who feel they need to know every little thing are not leaders.  They are either dictators, narcissists, or self-appointed martyrs, and the world has too many of them already and it doesn’t need any more.

The best Leaders are those who know how to delegate and understand that The Mission is much bigger than they are.  If The Mission isn’t bigger than the leader, then it’s not a mission, it’s a task.  Tasks will never change the organization, community or the world like The Mission will.  So, if you are a Leader, when is your next Extended Sabbath?  If you have just been on one like me, then when is your next?  It takes more than one every four years.  I think it takes at least 3 every year.

Now, I want to say something to those who have leaders in their lives.  You do not honor their leadership when you call them about every little thing.  If you do, then YOU are a burden and are keeping your leader from maximum effectiveness.  If you feel like you have to converse with your leader when they are on Extended Sabbaths about how to do a display, fill out a form, or whatever, then you do not need a leader.  You need a babysitter.  I know this sounds harsh (probably because it is), but here’s a few suggestions for you:

1.  Begin to grow up to become who you are created to be.  In you are skills and capabilities just waiting to be released.  Cultivate and nurture those within you now.

2.  Trust those your leader has put in place to keep everyone on The Mission.  This is an opportunity for them to grow in their leadership skills and an opportunity for you to grow to know them.

3.  Practice discernment.  How important is that issue really?  Is it important enough to take them away from God’s gift of Sabbath?

4.  Finally, respect and honor your leaders by trying every thing possible so that you do not have to interrupt them on their Extended Sabbath.  Who knows, maybe you will come up with some creative solutions all by yourself.

Well, in the morning, it’s back to work for me.  I know there is a pile of it waiting.  I know there are many of the same tasks to do as before I went on our Extended Sabbath.  And while the tasks and demands may be the same, I am not the same.  God has graciously allowed me to be renewed by the simple task of doing nothing, but living in His Gift of Extended Sabbath.  I will use it more, after all, God made it just for me–and He made it just for YOU!

Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my blog.  Watch for more “musings” and “thoughts” from this “not so typical” pastor, but longing to be the best “Kingdom Pastor”.