The Journey to Faith

Questioning-GodMany in evangelical circles have thin skin. That is, they react unloving to others who do not hold to their view of God, faith, or truth. This must change if we are going to have a voice with the next generation. I have good friends who are atheist, homosexual or agnostic. And yet, we have very respectful and insightful discussions. Sure, we kick things around from different world views and philosophies of life, but we do not view our conversations as competitions or wrestling matches. Instead, we see the conversations as investigations of life and a pursuit of honest reflections.

Until those of us who claim to belong to Christ actually demonstrate a heart felt love for those who see things differently, we will continue to lose our voice in the marketplace of ideas and remain irrelevant to those who may be on a journey to faith. We must hear the questions of the heart from those who are our unbelieving friends before we will understand the questions they are seeking answers to. Continue reading “The Journey to Faith”

From the Tomb to the Pulpit

empty-tombEvery pastor is simply a messenger boy. As John Piper says, “Brethren, we are not professionals.” And yet, as simple messengers, we are entrusted with the most important message to mankind–the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Heaven’s glory rests upon our calling and upon our communication. In one true sense, we are all wordsmiths, forging the expression of words to present the gospel with the majesty it deserves. 

Learning some of the nuances of homiletics, speaking methodologies and audience perceptions are beneficial, as material has been written about these issues since the age of the early church fathers. However, we must never get trapped into a style that is foreign to our gifts and uniqueness. Because of the diverse placement of gifts in each pastor, each of us are a ‘little different’ and that difference is where we find our authenticity and freedom.  Continue reading “From the Tomb to the Pulpit”

It’s Saturday–Pray Hard For Your Pastor!

Pray for your PastorSaturdays are special to most people. It is the day of relaxation and hobbies. A day to sleep late or do yard work. A day to play with the kids or watch a movie. However, do not forget about your pastor. For those seeking to have a ‘live coal’ from God’s altar to communicate with the congregation, it is a day of spiritual battle and wrestling to get completely settled with the mind of the Lord for the messages the Holy Spirit has laid upon his heart.

Enjoy your family, friends and day off. But through it all, remember that your pastor is in the battle of the week. He has a target on his back as the enemy comes to discourage him, get him off track, or confuse his mind about what he is planning on sharing. He has worked on it all week, on his knees in prayer, and with pencil in hand. Take moments throughout your day and send up a prayer for him. What to pray? Good question. Continue reading “It’s Saturday–Pray Hard For Your Pastor!”

Why Me, Lord?

Why Me Lord?Being in full time ministry since 1985, I have been with a lot of people who received bad medical news. Of course many times, even as pastors, we find ourselves offering the ‘pat answers’ embedded within shallow clichés. On June 17, 2008, the tables turned. I received a call from my Doctor telling me I had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a type of cancer within the body’s lymphatic system. I knew what this could mean as I have lost two close friends from the same type of cancer throughout my life.

I have always loved everything about apologetics–the search for balance, the answers to life’s questions, the response to objections to faith. However, the most difficult question in apologetics came down on my life with force and fear–“Why me, Lord?”

I surrendered to the Lord at an early age. I have sacrificed, as all Pastors do, much time, energy and finances to share God’s Word. NOW, this is what I get? I know many think Pastors are beyond such questions…but we aren’t, not if we are honest. How could God really love me as His child and send me down this path? I wouldn’t do this to my child. The questions flooded my aching soul like a breached dam. I found myself pouring over the various prayers of David in the Psalms and found great comfort in knowing that the questions were common. Continue reading “Why Me, Lord?”

Broken Boldness

broken-jar-2Arrogance in the pulpit–the great tragedy in the American Church. As pastors, we are called to be leaders, not in pride and aloofness, but in humility and brokenness. And we will be, as soon as we have a deep and fresh vision of our own sinfulness and constant need of the mercy and grace of God.

As pastors and elders, we are entrusted to communicate the glorious truths of the gospel. We are called to be God’s mouthpiece to the sheep under our care. And we will be, as soon as we confess that our own homiletical skills and linguistic craftsmanship is unable to pierce the heart of man for eternal value, and we cry out for God’s Spirit from on high to anoint our words and direct our messages.

As leaders, we are called to be examples of modesty and hospitality. And we will be, as soon as we see the waste of our silk suits, expensive automobiles and ostentatious houses, and we use our resources to reach those in our community who are needy and lowly.

Every morning, we must ask our souls, “Are you broken today?” The flesh loves to run the show, it loves to get the attention and applause of man. However, if we are to fulfill Continue reading “Broken Boldness”

Pastor, Have You Been With Jesus?

Pastor prayingPastors have a great influence in the lives of their flock–they are supposed to. As under-shepherds to Christ, we are to help direct and encourage the sheep to follow Jesus in the daily life. However, there is a dangerous trend we see in America among men in leadership. It seems very few spend quality time with Christ in prayer.

Many have detailed messages with elaborate outlines and cute points. However, a trained heart realizes that most information comes from books and sermon outlines they have quickly glanced over from ministry helps, and not from time on their face seeking the heart and mind of God. We have dead preachers preaching dead sermons to dead congregations.  Continue reading “Pastor, Have You Been With Jesus?”

My Son is a Hero!

JoshLeadingWorshipSometimes we learn things from the actions of our children that it makes our heart swell with joy, thanksgiving and humility. That happened to me this past week.

My oldest son, Josh, is a youth and young adults pastor in Kannapolis, North Carolina. I was visiting with him and preparing to travel with him and some of his youth group to a week long church camp. We had not seen each other since Christmas, and as we were catching up on things, he related a story to me which tore my heart out as well as made me burst with pride–the good kind.

He had been praying for months about how to reach kids from a lower income project housing close to his church. It started when he, along with a couple of his other youths, went and bought some popsicles and sat down in the middle of the projects and asked, “Does anyone want a popsicle?” Kids flocked to them and the friendships began.

After several months of building relationships with these young street-wise kids, they began wanting to hang around Josh. They loved being around him because they felt he Continue reading “My Son is a Hero!”

Pastors Should Be Worshippers

Josh WorshipWe’ve all noticed it. The worship team is leading the congregation in praise and worship, and the person most distant from worship is the Pastor. Either he is using the time to talk with someone, or praying over his message, or putting the final touches on it. This practice by leaders reeks of disrespect and aloofness. It also hinders the freedom and liberty of the Holy Spirit the worship team is hoping to lead the flock into. How is the failure of Pastors to be worshippers a hinderance? Here are several ways.

  • It is disheartening to the worship team that has been praying all week and practicing to lead the congregation in worship. It makes them feel their effort is not important.
  • It is a poor example to the flock, especially other men, about the importance of worship. Men will look strongly to the actions of their Pastor. If worship isn’t a priority to him, why should it be to other men?
  • It leads to the false assumption that worship is beneath those spiritually mature. Pastors are held up as examples of maturity. What type of example are we showing.
  • It projects that worship time is only a ‘filler’ until the real event–preaching. It dumbs down the real benefits of worship. A person who worships in spirit and truth are the best ones prepared to receive the teaching of God’s Word.

All of these reasons will cause damage to the flock. It is never intended, but the damage is real nonetheless when Pastors appear distant from worship and praise. What should Continue reading “Pastors Should Be Worshippers”

Monday Morning – The Pastor’s War

Pastor tiredRegardless how full of the Spirit leaders are on Sunday, there is always the Monday morning war. The Lord could fill the weekend services with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and yet, when Monday rolls around a battle rages. Take heart fellow Elders, Church Planters and Pastors….it is common. The victory of Mount Carmel is always followed by some degree of the loneliness of Elijah’s cave. (1 Kings 19:9) We are engaged in a continual battle…we don’t get a day off.

The enemy loves to do one of three things:

  • Over exalt what took place to get us into pride…attempting to make us feel ‘we’ did it.

Or

Not the Couch…The Cross!

Counselor CouchThis post is for Church Leaders: Today’s pastors are expected to be a jack of many trades. One particular job that has been laid at their feet is not only dangerous, but destructive. It is the expectation to be a free version of a professional counselor. People want to meet with the pastor and muse over all the emotional baggage of their life under the pretense of looking for answers. Many times, these encounters have to be repeated every few months in order to provide a ‘release’ for those craving an audience for venting their frustrations, and to keep them afloat.

It must stop! For the spiritual health of the leaders and their need to spend time with God in prayer and the study of Scripture, it must stop! Pastors must be bold enough to make a couple of things clear to their congregations and those ‘needy visitors’ who, under the pretense of possible membership, will suck the life and time out of your week. Here are a couple of potential helps.

Pre-Counseling Requirements for Members:

1. Attend regular services. (When the doors open, be there!)

2. Respond to what is taught.

3. Repent for any thing preached which fits your life. (Not discussion about it, but repentance.)

4. Take the necessary paths to restore relationships with those you’ve offended–NOW! Continue reading “Not the Couch…The Cross!”

The Seduction of the Pulpit

Probably more so than any other generation, there is a strong seduction to the pulpit. The attention, the technology, the lights and the production are all part of the paraphernalia of this addiction. Do it correctly, with some worldly advice and techniques, and leaders can easily have a cult-like following of gawkers who substitute popularity for purity, foolishness for faith, or entertainment for excellence. It is the ‘drug of choice’ by many ‘young guns’ in the church world.

**(I’m not referring to the piece of furniture we call ‘pulpit,’ but to the position of leading. It exists whether someone uses a stool, chair, table or music stand.)

What does this seduction look like? What are some of the earmarks of this addiction? Glad you asked. Here are a couple of them which my older and mature fellow Elders will recognize.

  1. Must have the Sunday Morning Service – The addict lives off of the fact that the crowd came to hear him preach. It gives him value. Yes, the TV and radio broadcasts always feature the same man. (Few escape this one.)
  2. When not present, pipe in messages via internet or live streaming – This is how the megachurch can become the biggest drug dealer. It allows the addict to continually get a fix by over-inflating their importance.
  3. Talk about you and your family’s adventures instead of Scripture – It’s the church’s version of ‘Ozzy and Harriet’ or ‘My Three Sons.’ After all, people need to know about your ‘smoking hot wife’ or your ‘funny little kids’ every week–NOT. Continue reading “The Seduction of the Pulpit”

ReThinking Church, Part 10 – Biblical Leadership

America was born out of the seed of representation and democracy. It has given us the greatest freedoms of any civilized nation. Of course, baggage and error always comes with liberty and freedom, but that is the price for genuine freedom. Along with the secular government given to us by the trials of the forefathers, there is another pattern given to us. Unfortunately, it was given to the Church. That pattern is that the American church, for the most part, adopted the same forms of secular society and imposed it upon the ecclesiology of the church. Many fellowships take a vote from the local members to decide just about everything, or at the very least, have a board of Deacons who run the church on all matters. (physical and spiritual)

Is this the New Testament pattern? Is this the way Paul and the early apostles established leadership in the expansion of the church? Is this the polity we should use in our local churches?

Upon a casual reading of the NT we find the biblical pattern for church government to be quiet different from the American version. Here are the constants we find throughout the survey of the New Testament.