Pastor’s DON’T have E.S.P.

What super-power have you always wanted?  Many of us probably remember the League of Justice.  These were the comic book heroes that, no offense, were like the white trash of comic books.  Every knew that Marvel had better superheroes because the Man of Steel which laser eyes, freezing breath, ability to fly, was just a bit too much. 

Do you remember the wonder twins? You probably remember their stupid monkey “gleek” which, upon entering high school, I found out was a method of spitting that I could never do.  For their power, the wonder twins would touch hands and each could take the form of something.  The girl could take the form of any animal and the boy could take the form of anything made of ice.  Other than being purpose, the girl’s power made some sense-“form of a bear…eagle…dog.”  The boy, however, never made any sense to me.  How do you become an “Ice-Tank” or an “Ice-flame thrower.”  Even at a young age I was not easily entertained.

This post is actually about pastors, to remind people that they don’t have super powers.   There is one super-hero, his name is Jesus.  All of us are pretty much Lois Lane.  Now you know that pastors don’t have ESP…you know, the power to learn things or obtain information supernaturally.  So, when James writes in 5.14, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,” the burden is on “him” to call.  In other words, the elders don’t know you’re sick unless you call. They don’t know you’re struggling with addiction, that your marriage is hurting, that you need financial assistance, that you’re struggling, suffering, or otherwise unhealthy UNLESS YOU CALL!

So, instead of assuming the pastor is going to fly into your life and help you, because he knows what is going on by way of some super power, talk to your pastor.  Your pastor loves you, please help him.  You’ve got make so noise Sheep!

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Church Planting Lesson #16: Inflatables are stupid

LESSON #16:  INFLATABLES ARE STUPID

On Saturday, I happened upon yet another “Mega-Church” in the area that has inflatable castles, slides, and Wiis set up for their kid’s ministry.  The last church like took it just a step further and dressed their volunteers in black/white striped referee outfits.  Granted, I haven’t attended either churches on a Sunday morning, but I’m fairly confident they don’t shove all the electronic and air-filled goodies into the closet and whip out the hymnbooks and felt boards.

But, in addition to skin-burns from sliding down the inflatable slide at Mach 3, what will they leave with?  I’m not some kind of killjoy who doesn’t think kids should have “fun” at church.  And I’m sure there are all kinds of stories about parents whose kids enjoy this , in contrast to their own terrible upbringing.  I don’t doubt that the kids enjoy going to church  because it probably feels like going to Chucky Cheeze.

No, I don’t have a verse to prove these monstrosities are sinful, but I often wonder abut the thought process  pastors go through in making  a decision to do it like “Chuck’!.  I have heard it said, “You win people to what you win them with.”  Maybe inflatables are just the new version of Simon Says or Duck Duck Goose and, those who don’t have them, would if they could afford them.  But I have to wonder if a Chucky Cheeze look might turn into a Chucky Cheeze taste.

You know what I’m talking about.  Chucky Cheeze isn’t renowned for its pizza.  It’s not as if we’re using our date nights to wine and dine the bride with cardboard flavored pepperoni.  You go there for one reason–entertainment and you leave with a bunch of plastic crap that cost you $25 in tickets and an upset stomach.  I guess the question is simply, what are we doing at church? Why are people gathering at all?  If, as Martin Luther so famously said “everything preaches”, what are we preaching through inflatables, wii’s, wacky billboards…wow, I sound old.

I’m sure not all churches that have inflatables are just about getting people in the door.  When we become too focused on how many visitors are coming in the door, we begin to ignore what kind of missionaries we’re sending out.  Of course, inflatables don’t guarantee it will become a slipper slope…but maybe….Church gives away house to , OR Church gives away car, OR Church gives away 1 million dollars in prizes

All we have to offer at our church is FREE CONVICTION and FREE SALVATION.  That sounds like an ad.

Calvinism is new again a.k.a. people are Biblical again

“And I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” Charles Spurgeon

There is a teacher at a local High School, both of which will remain nameless, that recently told some of kids our church that “No one really believes in Calvinism anymore.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Below are a few articles that speak to the renewal of what is called “New Calvinism”.  It is not in fact “new”, it’s as old as Habakkuk’s conversation with God, older actually.  And, it’s not just a few wackos that believe it.

100 Ideas Changing the World Right Now, TIME magazine

Christian faith: Calvinism is back, Christian Science Monitor

Calvinism’s Comeback?, The Christian Century

The “House Broken God”

The title of this post comes from a quote I heard today from a sermon preached at Damascus Road.   The text was John 12.12ff, and it focused on the expectations that the Pharisees and even Jesus’ disciples had as he rode, like a King, into Jerusalem on the first day of passover (Palm Sunday).  Within four days, the “King” hadn’t wiped out Rome in some grand political coupe, rather, he spent most of his time during the week challenging the Pharisees as he flipped tables in the temple.  He wasn’t the King they expected. The sermon challenged our notions of who God is (house broken) in contrast to who he has revealed himself to be (wild). We want a “House Broken God” that fits into our boxes, one that makes me comfortable, one that is predictable, one that I can control, one that I can cuddle with when he does what I want, and one that I can punish when he disobeys. Fortunately, as Pastor Jim said, God isn’t like that.  He doesn’t meet our expectations because if he did, “there would be no salvation.”  He blows our expectations in the most foolish, terrifying, amazing way.  Wild.

By the way, this is an excellent title for some book that I’ll never write.  So I claim “dibs”.

100 BEST blogs

Do you read blogs?  I often wonder how people find so much time to sit and surf the web for
random thoughts.  But, I figure if they have time to update their facebook status every time the make a sandwich, go to the bathroom, or have a pleasant thought about someone, then there is plenty of time to read some good musing.  So, if you haven’t read blogs before, don’t START searching–someone has already done it for you. Check out some of the 100 top blogs to read.  Of course, everyone has their personal preferences, but these 100+ represent some of the best.

http://churchrelevance.com/resources/top-church-blogs/

Church Planting #15: What’s Next?

LESSON #15:  YOU’LL ALWAYS BE ASKING WHAT’S NEXT?

The “seven year itch” was the title of a 1955 play, made into a movie.  You know the one that made Marylin Monroe famous for walking over a vent that blew up her skirt.  It has been used by Psycho-babbling fools to describe what happens after seven years of marriage–namely, the relationship becomes stagnate and unexciting. As a church planter, I think it is fair to call my relationship with Jesus’ bride as unique.  Though it seems that church planting has become somewhat “sexy” in recent years, it is still probably not on many people’s bucket lists. We are only in year three, but I have felt the “itch” since year 1.  What will happen at year seven? 
The itch I am referring to is not one to go and sleep with some other “bride.”  Spiritually speaking, there is only one that I love (practically speaking as well…praise Jesus for almost 15 years).  The itch I refer to is also known as the “What’s next” syndrome.  I never stop asking the question.  This could be a condition of discontentment I guess, but I wonder if it is the result of church planter hard wiring.  It’s hard to discern between the two sometimes.  I am always looking ahead, always considering the next great adventure, always wanting to take the next risk, always asking “What’s next?”  Do we start a new service?  Do we change the bulletin? What book should we preach? How can we get more people on mission?  When can we plant a church?  Should we change our logo? Who can we develop as a leader?  How can we start a purity ministry?  Are the children growing in our Kid’s Ministry?  What can we add, remove, or adjust?  Is this building large enough?  How can we….where should we….now can we….why are we….

Without question, this can tire you out.  As someone who likes to gather, build, create, and charge the hill, you may not have a choice.  My fear, however, is that the “What’s Next” itch will overwhelm.  Without question, we need vision and leadership to get there.  But, I’m learning, that we musn’t ignore the people and mission God has given us RIGHT NOW as we focus on what God has NOT given us and may never.

Church Planting Lesson #14: No one is ever bitter.

LESSSON #14:  No one is ever bitter.

When you become a pastor, it will only be a matter of time before you make a decision or statement that will be unpopular with someone.  As pastor, you have the wonderfully horrible privilege of speaking the hard truth, making the hard call, and doing the hard things that won’t please everyone (not even sinless Jesus could do that). AND, when you “get” to make those hard choices, there is a guarantee that someone will not like it. As Dan Allendar writes in Leading with a Limp, when you DE-CIDE something, you KILL the alternative.  When you say something is right, the antithesis is wrong, when you go left, you don’t go right.  You get the picture.  And because “killing” is so personal (even if it is the death of an idea), people take a difference of opinion or direction personally.

Invariably, this leads to statements like: 1) You don’t love me. 2) You don’t appreciate me. 3) You don’t understand me or some other variation of “you hurt me.” And anytime that someone says, you hurt me, regardless of how valid their feelings might be, there is the potential for bitterness.

Bitterness is one of the most pervasive and destructive ways we sin. It is also the sin that no one ever admits they commit. Many people deny their bitterness because it doesn’t manifest itselt out publicly in the worst possible way–intense antagonism or hostility. Their surface level “niceness” somehow minimizes the deeper feelings “meanness”. Privately, there are many who experience feelings of bitterness. That is what bitterness is–a feeling of tremendous grief, disdain, or severe pain (mental). Typically this feeling is localized around a person, people, event, or experience. And while a feeling in itself can’t be “wrong”, the source of the feeling is usually UNFORGIVENESS–which is sin.

We are warned in passages like Hebrews 12.15 about the trouble that comes from a “root of bitterness”. The author of Hebrews probably had in mind Deuteronomy 29.18 which identified bitterness as resulting from “turning away from the Lord” which produces fruit of bitterness. We can’t see “roots”, but we can see “fruit” Psalm 32 records David’s own unconfessed sin was evident: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away…groaned all day long…day and night your hand was heavy on me….my strength was dried up…” I wonder if we are blind to our bitterness. David was blind to his unconfessed sin until the prophet Nathan called him out…twice, once with a word picture and once shooting it straight.

If unforgiveness is not recognized, it will not be confessed. If it is not confessed, it will not be repented. If it is not repented of, it will ruin the individual, their family, and their community. Unforgiveness, which manifests itself in bitterness, is a result of not believing or understanding the gospel. The individual refuses to take responsiblity for anything as they are consumed with being a victim. They believe the person who “hurt” them (used loosely), should change, show empathy, or suffer in some way. And because they don’t “love ” in the way expected, they justify their wrath toward them in the form of unforgiveness. If Jeus sacrifice on the cross is not enough for them, newflash, it’s not enough for you. Bitterness is the very antithesis of the gospel.

But, instead of confessing unforgivness, people deny. Some will say they confess, but they will live as if governed by that past decision, word, or experience. They go on pretending they aren’t holding a grudge as they cryptically whisper about their negative experience with ___________[enter person who hurt you here]_______. In other words, as hard as it is to believe, no one has the right to harbor bitterness. Whether or not the person who “hurt” us sinned or not is irrelevant. Jesus never put prerequisites on the forgiveness he freely offers to you, and he doesn’t put any on the forgiveness he expects from us.