Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Church Lingo Translated


A friend of mine emailed this to me. I thought it was funny :)

Church Lingo Translated

In a never-ending effort to attract the unchurched, some churches have considered translating their unfamiliar terminology into familiar football phrases. Although these definitions are not the best football and certainly not the best theology, they would help initiate football fans into the complexities of church life.

  • EXTRA POINT: What you receive when you tell the preacher his sermon was too short.
  • FACE MASK: Smiling and saying everything is fine when it isn't.
  • BLOCKING: Talking endlessly to the pastor at the church door and keeping everyone else from exiting.
  • DRAFT CHOICE: The decision to sit close to an air-conditioning vent.
  • DRAW PLAY: What restless children do during a long sermon.
  • END AROUND: Diaper-changing time in the nursery.
  • END ZONE: The pews.
  • FORWARD MOTION: The invitation at an evangelistic service.
  • FULLBACK: What the choir sees while the sermon is delivered.
  • HALFBACK: What the organist sees.
  • HASH MARKS: Stains left on the tablecloth after a potluck.
  • HEAD LINESMAN: The one who changes the overhead projector transparencies. (Now we have power point!)
  • ILLEGAL USE OF HANDS: Clapping at an inappropriate point in the service.
  • ILLEGAL MOTION: Leaving before the benediction.
  • IN THE POCKET: Where some church members keep God's tithe.
  • INCOMPLETE PASS: A dropped offering plate.
  • INTERFERENCE: Talking during the prelude.
  • LINEBACKER: A statistic used by a preacher to support a point just made.
  • PASSING GAME: The maneuver required of latecomers when the person sitting at the end of the pew won't slide to the middle.
  • QUARTERBACK: What tightwads want after putting 50 cents in the offering.
  • RUNNING BACKS: Those who make repeated trips to the rest- room.
  • THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS: Getting things done via the elders or church board.
  • TOUCHBACK: The laying on of hands.
  • TWO-MINUTE WARNING: The chairman of the board looking at his watch in full view of the preacher.

William Ellis, Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.

Is Black Still Black and White Still White? Is Right Still Right and Wrong Still Wrong?


I made a comment on Jamie's post at (e)mergent Voyaguers on his post titled: Homosexuality: A Personal Reflection.

My comment was this:
Jamie,

Vulnerability with this post could almost be an understatement. I commend your willingness to share such difficult things with us all. It has only been in the last year that I have really been willing to open myself up as a person that really wants to understand the homosexual community. Admittedly, I was a hard line critic of such a life. All the while using the Bible as my hammer. God has helped me in this greatly. I have a practicing homosexual woman that comes to my church and I want her to know she is as welcomed as anyone else and she won't be "judged" by us because of the way she chooses to live. I don't think she needs to be told she's wrong, I think she needs to be understood and encouraged in finding God's love for her.

______________________________________________

A reader, whom I don't know and for her confidentiality I'll leave unnamed, emailed me this:

Dear Shannon (and Jamie),

You (neither one of you, as I lurk on Jamie's blog and only found your blog today Shannon) do not know me from anyone. But your post on (e)mergent Voyageurs
has just really prompted me to write. You say...

I have a practicing homosexual woman that comes to my church and I want her to know she is as welcomed as anyone else and she won't be "judged" by us because of the way she chooses to live. I don't think she needs to be told she's wrong, I think she needs to be understood and encouraged in finding God's love for her.

The hurt is in being told that we (I am a gay person, bi-identified, living in a committed lesbian marraige) "choose" to live as a homosexual. Not all homosexuals have this "choice" as not all homosexuals identify bi-sexual or various types of trans-persons.

While you may not agree with her practice, maybe you should get to know that "woman at the well" and see her as Jesus does. And IS she welcomed as anyone else, will she be invited to serve in leadership, and will she, should the call come, be allowed to discern her path to ordination (like Jamie was able to)? Where will her glass ceiling be? I pray there will not be one, and that she will be truly welcomed in your church and is able to discover who God is shaping her to be.

Your last sentence indicates that she has not yet discovered God's love for her. You have a wonderful and beautiful gift in your church, someone who has decided that the church may just be a place where she can find God. I don't need to tell you how many people, especially the marginalized, are NOT looking to the church to provide answers to spiritual questions. They are happy to be "spiritual not religious." I pray that when we welcome these spiritual seekers, we can truly understand them, walk with them and hear what God has been up to in each of their journeys so far.

God Bless and be with you.


_____________________________________________

I responded to her email with grace, I hope.

Some of her points, however got me thinking. She asks if the woman attending my church would be truly welcome and able to serve in leadership or pursue ordination and to what extend will her glass ceiling be?

Let me first say, I believe homosexuality is contrary to God's word and His plan for mankind. I believe it is sin, plain and simple. But, I don't believe homosexuality is anymore of a sin than I believe lying, stealing, adultery, etc... is sin. If I hold such things to be sin according to scripture, am I bound to tolerate it in such a way that would compromise my convictions? I certainly hope not. I mean these are not preferences I'm talking about here, they're convictions based on God's inspired word. I can change a preference, no problem....I'd prefer scrambled eggs over sunny side up but it's not a conviction of mine. I will eat eggs prepared sunny side up, I just prefer scrambled. I can no more have a practicing adulterer in a leadership position in my church than I can a thief, liar, murderer or homosexual. Can I?!? God forbid. This is not prejudice, this is convictions from which I cannot waver. This particular woman that has begun coming to my church is as welcomed as anyone else. God knows that is the truth, but given her "chosen" lifestyle, I could not accept her in "leadership".

Jesus with the woman at the well truly had compassion. I think this is key. He also gave her a wake up call. He called her to the attention of her sin. Sin is at the center of the encounter. Through compassion, Jesus was able to get this woman to not only consider her complete and utter failings, her sin, but his compassion motivated her to change the way she lived. She no longer bounced around from man to man. She was changed.

Complexity is an understatement when dealing with homosexuality. I have a dear elderly couple in my church who's son is in the battle of his life with AIDS. He lived a homosexual lifestyle for quite sometime. He no longer is active in that lifestyle and is very committed to God. I'm not suggesting that God is meting out punishment on him, simply stating facts. I've talked with him and though he is very compassionate toward homosexuals, he wouldn't agree with the emailer's position I'm sure.

Have we become too soft in our convictions that we're afraid to call Right, right and Wrong, wrong or White, white and Black, black? When did this grey demilitarized zone come into play?
Though Jesus was abundantly compassionate, he never wavered in his convictions. Why should we?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Missional Living


Ok, this is NOT a rant, Smulo ;)

What is "missional living"? Sometimes in an attempt to gain a better understanding of what something is, it's best to look at what it's not.

Missional Living is NOT:
  1. About you. Living Missionally means you aren't self focused on your own needs as much as you are on the needs of those around you; namely those who may not be Christ-followers.
  2. About a Denomination. Does it really matter what "church" we attend? I don't think so. Denominations can never nurture a relationship with anyone only people can do that.
  3. A Standardized System. It is alive and as such it seeks to bring a fresh awakening to those brave enough to live missionally. Not just talk missionally.
  4. Rebellion. It is not rebellion toward a movement that worked so well for so long but it is a realization that cultural shifts are taking place and the church and those who comprise her must shift with it or run the risk of losing connectivity within said culture.
  5. The Answer. But lends to it. Missional Living is a catalyst in helping us consider what it means to live out our faith in this world.
  6. For Everyone. Quite frankly, some folks don't have to wear the button pin of "Missional" to feel like their doing something great for God. They're actively engaged in living out their faith and never even heard the world "Missional".
Would you like to add or take away from my short list of what Missional Living is NOT?

Again, this is not a rant, just my thoughts as I surf from blog to blog about missional living. I see a great deal of ideas floating around in here but I only see very few actually demonstrating that they are living missionally in their real lives. We post about the church we would love to see and the work in our communities we would love to do but I don't see many coming back to their blogs saying...HEY!! Here's what I did to demonstrate missional living today!!

I want to issue a Global Missional Challenge otherwise known as the GMC :) If you do something to demonstrate what it means to live missionally, share it with us. Tell us about your reaching out to someone. Tell us how you shared Jesus today. Share with us how you followed Jesus today. Tell us about your "missional living". Not just your apparent dissatisfaction with it all. I know, I know, I know....there is a place for expressing dissatisfaction and all that good stuff. Frustration needs to be vented and released or it will kill us. Literally perhaps ;)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Have we forgotten anything?

How do we connect to Christ? There is but one way, the Cross. The cross is the connection point between us and God. If this connection point is done away with, there is no other alternative.

Has the reality of the cross and our utmost need for it lost it's place in our Traditional, Emergent and Missional minds? Sometimes I fear this is the case. We're trying to figure out a way to get to God without the traditional church system, we're trying to lead people to Christ via their own "personal" journey but have we forgot to lead them by the way of the Cross? This video is interesting in considering that question. David over at "In Rejection of Mediocrity" has produced a video with this in mind.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Maze of Life

Have you ever felt like life is just one big maze that you cannot find your way through? You know there is a way through this crazy thing but it seems there are countless dead ends...and you seem to find all of them. It would seem that just when you feel things are going right, you hit a wall. That job doesn't pan out, the relationship you thought was "the one", isn't, the health issue you're dealing with doesn't seem to be getting any better. You're overall outlook on the future seems to diminish a little more with every passing day. As a result, you find yourself simply meandering in the maze of mediocrity. You're tired of trying anymore. You’re convinced this life is as good as it gets. Ever had one of these days? Ever had one of these weeks, months or years? I certainly have. How do we get back on "track"? I want to give a few ideas that will help when life just doesn't seem to be working out for us.


I think the first thing to do is re-trace our decisions. Where ever we are in life, pleasant or unpleasant, may be as a result of a decision we made. If we're in a rather unsatisfactory place in our life, we may have made a poor decision. Everything we do as individuals is decision based. The down side to this is a bad decision will result in a bad consequence. Ah, yes, those pesky consequences. Don't you wish we didn't have to worry about those things? Well, we do. The really bad thing about bad decisions is that you don't get to choose the consequence that follows. The poor decision dictates the consequence. It would be nice to eat all the "junk" food I wanted and say, "My consequence is going to be health and wellness." But guess what, it isn't. The poor decision to eat poorly already dictates to me what will be the consequences of that poor decision. I'll be over weight and miserable trying to tie my shoes. :) The point is decisions should be carefully thought out in relation to the likely consequences to follow.

I understand that not all of our struggles in life are as a result of our own poor choices. Perhaps you're going through something right now that is the result of someone else’s poor decision. This can be a very difficult situation to work through; especially if that person is close to you. I think the thing we have to remember when someone else’s bad choices negatively affect our lives is to take a long look in the mirror. Yes it hurts and yes it's difficult to deal with but haven't we all been on the other side of this before? I mean at the very core of the matter rests the fact our bad choices sent Jesus to the Cross to die a substitutionary death that wasn't His to die. It was ours. The point is someone always pays for bad decisions. Ask God to help you forgive and to give you power to get through this ordeal...my guess is God will be there for you even if the other person isn't.

Then, preparation precedes blessings many times. I don't think this is always the case but I do believe that in many situations, we have to position ourselves for blessing. I guess this would run parallel to making good choices but I think there is another aspect involved. Keeping God in slot #1 in our lives is a good way to prepare for blessings. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
I believe God wants nothing more for us, His children, than to bless us by leading us to the fulfillment of our dreams. I think the prerequisite is that God does the leading. I have an "older" gentleman in my church that once told me, "95% of the time when people's lives head toward ruin, they've gotten in front of God." We've begun trying to lead God in the way we want Him to go rather than submissively following in the way He wants us to go. Are you following Him or are you trying to lead Him? Success and blessing comes to the follower.

What do you think? Any advice on this crazy thing we call life? Would you add something that has helped you in your personal struggles?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Love Wins



That's what is on my t-shirt today. I got this t-shirt last year when I, along with my youth pastor and some of the teenagers of Living Springs went on a weekend missions trip to Mexico last year. We'll be going again in just about a month. Love Wins was the theme of the outreach invasion. Every time I put this t-shirt on and I read those words, Love Wins, it puts me in a great frame of mind. When I'm wearing it and others see it, I notice they'll read the words, look up at me, read the words again and simply pass by. Others will say, I like your shirt. Whatever the case may be, Love Wins, gets your mind to thinking. If you're being treated badly, Love Wins. If your the recipient of hate speech, Love Wins. If you're sharing Jesus with someone who seems they couldn't be any less interested, Love Wins. If you are hating on someone today, Love Wins. If someone is getting on your last nerve, Love Wins. If your children are being *brats*, Love Wins. :) To live out our lives with this as our motto would go a long way in promoting peace of mind, relationships, positive attitudes and the list goes on.

So, if you're having a bad day thanks to someone or something else or even yourself remember, Love Wins.


p.s. Did I mention...Love Wins? :=)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just thinking....

Monday I went to the hospital to pray with Kenneth, a man that recently began attending my church as he was having surgery to have his left leg amputated from the knee down. He's suffering from Diabetes.

After I came home from the hospital I began reading through my daily blog reads and found out that Colin, a blogging friend, was dealing with some very serious health issues as well.

Kenneth and Colin both gave me a great deal to think about. Here is a man that is loosing part of his leg and another that is seriously ill and they both are praising God, giving thanks, encouraging others, and concerned about others. This is the mark of a real relationship with Jesus because even in the worst of situations His joy still fills their hearts and His praise is still on their lips.

It makes me wonder why I complain sometimes when things aren't going just right for me. How selfish! Right? I mean there is so much going on out there in other peoples lives that it makes me ever wonder why I would even raise the "why" question to God. Kenneth, Colin and others like them are testaments to God's goodness and they are a true encouragement to us all!

Monday, January 22, 2007

What does a healthy Church look like?


Some interesting conversations are happening all across the blogosphere which lead me to this post. Discussions of Leadership, Consumerism, Slavery Preference and more have sparked a great deal of interest in me. Depending on who you talk to you'll get a variety of answers to this question: What does a healthy Church look like? I'm not going to pretend that I can be exhaustive on this issue but what I'm going to share will lend a great deal to the question.

Every pastor wants to lead a healthy, successful church that is engaged in doing the real work of God's Kingdom. I'm no different. We want to work with a church, not work for a church. There is a HUGE difference between the two. When a pastor feels like he is working for the church, he's just a hired hand that comes to church to share 3 points and a poem, makes people feel real good about themselves and disconnects until the next time. If the pastor feels he is working with the church, then he's enthusiastic about the participation level of others getting involved in what the work of the Kingdom really is.

Let's not forget what the real work of the Kingdom is: Reaching The Lost...that may not be too postmodern but it's what it is. :) Those that don't know Jesus. That's the real work of the Kingdom! Connecting people with Jesus Christ! If we're not doing that, what are we doing? Well, we're probably conducting nothing more that a social club with a sense of entitlement as it's over arching theme. Everyone feels they're entitled to this and that so they give their money and time to ensure that someone is there to give them what they are so rightfully entitled to. This is not indicative of a healthy church!

What does it take to become a healthy church?

In part, it takes a church of Thirds. Yes, Thirds. Not Turds. :=)

A healthy church should be made up of thirds.

If you have a pie and slice it into thirds, you obviously have 3 equal slices. No slice is greater than the other but they are all equal.

The Church in Thirds.

1/3 = Mature Jesus-Followers

1/3 = New Jesus-Followers

1/3 = Non-Followers. (This group is investigating what it's all about)

Every group has a place in the church (community) that is as important as the next. The mature followers are no more important that the non-followers. No one group stands alone in it's own identity but rather each group fits together with the whole to make 1 identity, the identity of the "church". Yes, the church must have "non-followers" in order to be whole. The church must be an all inclusive body. No one is left out and no one is over looked because everyone is needed to bring wholeness.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the first 1/3?
DEAD!! That's what. They're not duplicating themselves. They're not impacting their community or world. They are a candlestick that needs to be removed.

Revelation 2:5
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the second 1/3?
Disorder!! No one is at a level of maturity to know what to do. Everyone is at the milk stage. None are ready to take on the meat. This group needs the first group to lead them into maturity. It's not the Pastor's solo act! It takes everyone to edify and built up new Jesus-Followers.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the final 1/3?
Hooters!! This group is not following Jesus. They're asking questions and their exploring the possibilities of following but they need time to digest some things. This group doesn't pretend to be perfect, they know they have hurts, habits and hangups, but at least they're honest about it. I mean, who among us doesn't have the 3 H's? Hurts, Habits and Hangups? This group may sit in our churches for a year or more before every taking the next step and you know what? It's OK.

I think in many modern churches today it's all about getting people down to an altar just 1 time. Somehow we've come to think that if we can get someone to the altar that their lives will magically improve with no more effort on our part to lead them and disciple them. I'm a fan of the altar and we have 2, one on each side of our sanctuary and at the end of every sermon, I give an opportunity to respond to the message. What I don't do is put all my chips on the altar. I know God is at work whether or not any come. I don't draaaag the service out waiting on someone to "make" a move. But the opportunity to make a public decision is always presented and never forced.

If a church has a good mix of these three groups, it is well on the way to becoming a healthy church. A church that is not so inward focused that they forget their is an outward importance. This kind of church is open and accepting of everyone that comes. There are no big I's and little U's in this Church. Everyone is equal and everyone is part of the family and we all help one another get a little further down the road on our journey of following Jesus!

This is the kind of church I want to be part of!



Thursday, January 18, 2007

Which is better?


I heard someone say this the other day.

"I'd rather aim low and make it than aim high and miss it."

That's been on my mind today. Is it OK to aim low? I've heard it said, "It's better to aim for the moon and miss than to never draw back the bow." I couldn't agree more. I believe in aiming high, setting high goals, dreaming big and believing big. Conversely I believe in hitting the mark as well. If I have to aim low to ensure I hit the mark, it's still an accomplishment of great success, right?

I believe one's present reality must work conjunctively with the goal. For example, if my goal is to become a Dentist then going to an auto body school doesn't get me there. My present reality isn't matching my goal. I believe we must position ourselves for success and we do that with the choices we make and the actions we take.

So what do you think about this? Would you rather aim low and make it or throw caution to the wind and aim high with a high probability of missing. Or, for you, would it depend on what the goal (target) is?

Last year's resolution is still good, right?


Well, I've gone and done it. I've joined the local gym here in Bandera. Tonight was my first workout. I can barely feel my arms :) This is going to take some getting use to. I promised myself last year that I would begin working out again as it's been about 5 years since I steadily worked out. A year and a half ago a doctors visit revealed I had high blood pressure and at 224lbs, I was 37lbs above my "ideal" weight. When I stopped working out I was 191lbs, just 4lbs over my ideal weight of 187lbs. My goal? Get back in shape, reach my ideal weight and get off this blood pressure medicine! I know I can do it, it's going to take determination and dedication. Two things I have :) I realized how much over weight and out of shape I was on our recent trip to Colorado. I could no longer fit into my ski bibs and had to buy new ones. (don't tell anyone that!) :-) I know the oxygen is less in the higher altitude but my heavy breathing was more than lack of oxygen, it was excessive weight! I'm ready to do this and I'm going to get it done! Wish me luck :) I go back to the doctor for a routine check up on the 5th of February, I need to weigh less than my visit last year!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Doomsday Looming?


I read an article earlier today and thought I'd post on it. I'm intrigued by what I read coming from Iran and Iranian President Ahmadinejad. The president of a country about to go nuclear is confirmed as a very vocal believer in the coming apocalypse. Like Judaism and Christianity, Shiite Islam has its own version of the messianic return -- the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. Shiite Islam believes that the coming of the Twelfth Imam will happen before America's next Presidential Election or some have been quoted as saying. After his U.N. speech in September of last year, Ahmadinejad was caught on videotape telling a cleric that during the speech an aura, a halo, appeared around his head right on the podium of the General Assembly. "I felt the atmosphere suddenly change. And for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. . . . It seemed as if a hand was holding them there, and it opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic Republic."

This man is a certifiable lunatic bent on Israel's complete annihilation and America's total ruin. I happen to believe the Lord's return is imminent and I wonder if these events taking place around our world are largely overlooked by Jesus-followers and the Church as just another news story of little significance. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We're being ICED in!!


South Texas is being covered with ice! This is a rare and unwanted winter storm around here. The last time a major winter storm of any kind was 20 years ago. I've been here 9 years and have never seen it like this. I live in a small town and we're just not set up for this type of thing. They're projecting up to 5 inches of snow on top of this ice which will certainly make things worse. Initially this would all be over by mid day tomorrow but now they're saying it may even be mid day Thursday.



















Saturday, January 13, 2007

Making up for lost time

Having been away so much before the end of 06' and after the start of 07', I feel like I've lost valuable time and I'm now having to play catch up. I almost feel that my New Year hasn't started quite yet. It feels like it won't start until Monday as I'll get back to everyday life and normalcy. My daughter will go back to school and I'll get back to my work at the church and my wife and 4 year old son will get back to their normal routine. I feel disconnected from everything. I hope that will change when I step onto the platform tomorrow morning to preach the gospel. I have missed that so much. I bet it will feel as comfortable as talking to an old friend or slipping into your favorite shirt. I envision taking a deep breath of relief as I take the platform tomorrow. I haven't preached in my church on a Sunday morning since December 17th of last year. :) That sounds so strange to me. I miss seeing all the faces of the people that God has given me to pastor and that I love so dearly. I miss shaking hands and giving/receiving hugs to/from them. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think that is so true.

I'm ready to get back to work creating a dynamic year of ministry at Living Springs. I believe God is going to do incredible things with us this year. I'll be going right to work on a new series titled: WANTED as well as developing a new CONNEXIONS ministry. There is a lot of work to do but I'm rested and ready to tackle it.

....can't wait until 10:30 tomorrow morning!

Home sweet home

It's nice to get away but it's far better to come back home! We have been away for most of the last month and I feel I'm having withdraws of normalcy. Who ever said vacations were for rest and relaxation? While I do get rest (one day out of 7), it's always fast paced and tiresome. Going here, there and everywhere. Doing this, that and the other.

We had a really good time though. My daughter, Grace, skied for the first time and she did an awesome job! My son, Chase, loves trains so we took him to Durango, Colorado to ride the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train ride is a 5 hour round trip that takes you high into the mountains of the San Juan National Forest. The views are breath taking.

Here are some pictures of our trip :)















































































































































Friday, January 05, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Is the glass half full or is it half empty?


For me, this year is definitely going to be a "glass half full" year. I'm determined to focus on the positive side of even negative situations. I firmly believe there is a positive to almost any situation we face if we're strong enough to search for it. No doubt it's not always easy to see the positive side of things. Then there are also those times when I'm so mad or disgusted with something that the last thing I'm interested in is the positive. Are you that way sometimes too? Well, let's determine that this year it's going to be different. If you're a leader in your church or place of employment, highlight the positive things about those you work with or that work for you. You'll be sure to get more out of them that way. You'll even get more out of yourself that way too. There's something that happens internally to us when we speak positively to others. We feel better about ourselves when we help someone else feel better.

Health studies have even shown that recovery after surgery is notably better for optimists than pessimists; with greater risk for post surgery depression higher for pessimists. I was listening to Klove today and they had a news spot that reported optimists generally live several years longer than pessimists do. Optimism is simply the better choice for approaching life.

So this year, I'm going to accentuate the positive. It's easy to point out the negative, but it takes a special talent to extract the positive in many things.

So, does every cloud have a silver lining? I think so.

Avoid Dumb Mistakes Christians Make



Whitney Hopler has contributed the following "dumb mistakes" to Crosswalk.com. What are your thoughts on some of these? (Please overlook the format...I can't seem to get it to work properly.)

* Dropping out of church.
Don’t be one of those Christians who is missing
in action. Make sure you’re participating in worship services and other
church activities regularly, so you can keep growing and others can see
that you’re serious about your faith.


* Chronically complaining. Rather than focusing on the negative, ask God
to help you to see the positive. Make it a habit to notice your
blessings, thank God for them, and think and act in positive ways. Ask
God to help you be content, peaceful, and joyful –– no matter what your
current circumstances. Whenever you have a problem with particular person
or group of people (such as church leaders), go directly to them to work
it out rather than just blabbing about it to others. Try to encourage
other people on a regular basis, through kind words and actions.

* Taking without giving. Instead of taking everything the church has to
offer without giving anything back, commit to volunteering your time and
energy to help out in at least one of your church’s ministries. Know that
contributing however you can –– even in small ways –– will make a big
difference in your congregation.

* Misbehaving. Be sure to practice what you preach. When you say you
believe something, yet act in ways that are inconsistent with that
belief, you become a hypocrite who turns people away from the faith. Ask
God to help you life every part of your life with integrity. Don’t
participate in any activities that you’d be embarrassed about if other
people in your church knew you were engaging in them.

* Winning people to the church rather than to Christ. Remember that the
reason why you’re trying to reach people with your faith isn'’t simply so
they can join your church –– it’s so they can have a relationship with
Christ. Focus on Him, whether or not the people you’re reaching end up
worshiping in your particular church or not. When you discuss your
church, make sure you’re not giving people unrealistic expectations about
what to expect there. Recognize that just joining a church won’t
magically make people’s problems disappear. Be honest about the fact that
church, like any other place, has some difficult and unpleasant people
and that the church someone joins isn'’t always going to be like it is
currently, because change is inevitable. Emphasize that Christ (not the
church) is the way, the truth, and the life.

* Living below the level of your beliefs. Be alert to sins that can slip
past your spiritual radar and become part of your daily routine. Reject
materialism by refusing to waste time and energy on pursuing things God
isn'’t clearly calling you to pursue. Reject worry by trusting that God is
in control, even when you’’re under pressure. Reject superiority by
praying for a humble heart. Help your church become a place that presents
God’s whole message instead of watered-down, seeker-friendly principles.
Get to know the Bible well, and be ready to speak from Scripture rather
than pop psychology when talking with others. Stay connected to God
through daily prayer, and give Him your heart anew each day to stay close
to Him.

* Speaking above the level of your knowledge. Be careful about saying
more than you truly know. Resist the temptations to analyze people,
explain suffering, spread rumors, or believe everything you hear. Take
the time to think before you speak. Ask God to keep you from doing harm
through your conversations and help you do good through them instead.

* Hopping from church to church. Realize that there’s no such thing as a
perfect church. Rather than constantly searching for a church that can
serve you better, decide to serve your current church. Ask God to give
you the motivation to become committed and involved. Remember the
blessings that come from a long-term commitment to one church: a sense of
belonging, a sense of accomplishment, discoveries about yourself, lots of
meaningful relationships, and a powerful witness for Christ. Start giving
your time, energy, and money on a regular basis to contribute to your
church’s work. Join a Sunday school class or small group to build
friendships with others in your congregation. Understand that there are
many biblical commands that you can’t fulfill if you’re church-hopping,
such as: being devoted to one another, serving one another, building
yourselves together, teaching and counseling each other, building each
other up, leaving peaceably with each other, encouraging and warning each
other, confessing your sins to each other and praying for each other, and
living in harmony with one another.

* Fighting among yourselves. Do all you can to work conflicts with other
Christians out peacefully. Understand that church feuds lead to disaster,
because: church leaders are distracted, church members not involved in
the feud are discouraged, God’s work is disrupted, the community’s
seekers are disenchanted, important beliefs such as forgiveness are
disregarded, the congregation’s testimony is discredited, and God Himself
is dishonored. Remember Christ’s statement that believers’ love for one
another will prove to the world that they are His disciples. Help create
a calm and loving culture in your church by obeying church leaders,
confronting troublemakers, refuting heresy, meeting hurting people’s
needs, suppressing legalism and modeling grace and kindness, discouraging
arguments, and forgiving sinners.

* Missing golden opportunities. Don’t overlook the mundane moments in
life when opportunities to share the Gospel suddenly materialize. Seize
opportunities that arise at the grocery store, PTA meeting, bank window,
gas pump, ball field, or anywhere else God nudges you to witness to
someone. Know that some opportunities, if they are missed, will be lost
forever. Understand that God will give special opportunities to those who
are committed and prepared, so make sure you know Scripture well.
Recognize that some opportunities are much larger than they first appear,
and that on opportunity is too small or insignificant. Understand that
some opportunities bear immediate fruit for the kingdom. Remember that
the goal of every opportunity should be to lead people to Christ, rather
than to a church program. Ask God to give you the passion you need to
seize the opportunities He brings your way.

* Settling for mediocrity. Don’t believe that the quality of your work
doesn'’t matter when you volunteer in ministry, because you’re not a
professional. Realize that excellence matters, because: God loves
excellence, the Bible commands it, and people respond to it. Ask God to
give you the courage to make decisions for excellence. Decide to serve in
your areas of giftedness. Invest the money necessary to provide excellent
services, programs, equipment, etc. at your church. Thoroughly plan and
prepare for events. Persevere and work hard, trusting that your best
efforts are worthwhile.

* Allowing wolves to live among the sheep. Watch out for spiritual wolves
(troublemakers) among the sheep (faithful people) in your congregation.
Confront gossips, liars, caustic critics, legalists, and power-hungry
manipulators. Realize that they can be deceptive, but will eventually
reveal themselves by how they act. Don’t be afraid to call evil what it
is –– evil. Don’t allow people to destroy others in your congregation
through their bad behavior. Confront them, all the while remembering that
your goal isn'’t to shame them, but to bring them back into a right
relationship with God. Don’t be afraid to follow biblical principles for
church discipline whenever you need to do so.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Our loss is Heaven's gain


I received a phone call last night saying a gentlemen in my church had suffered a heart attack and was being transported to a hospital in San Antonio at 11:00p.m. last night. The news didn't sound good and I rushed to the hospital to find that my good friend Virgil Williams had gone home to be with the Lord. I was extremely saddened but remained as strong as I could for the family. The last thing the family needed was for their Pastor to go to pieces. After several hours at the hospital with Virgil's family and friends, I returned home at 4:00a.m. this morning. I hadn't had a good cry until I got to my office about 12:00p.m. today and I just sat down and cried for the loss that many of us are feeling through Virgil's death. It was so fast and unexpected. I still have to remind myself that he really is gone. Of all the men in the church I pastor, 2 men, without fail would give me a hug every Sunday morning; Virgil was one of them. I'll miss his hugs on Sunday morning. I'll miss his humor, authenticity and all around good nature. He was truly a one of a kind.

You will be missed my friend...

2Cr 5:8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tag!

I've been tagged by Jamie Swann who was tagged by John Smulo who was tagged by, well I don't know. I really think John invented this game :). The rules of this game are, once "tagged", you then share 5 things about yourself that others may not already know. I've never been tagged before so I'm enjoying this little game. For those readers who know me well, I bet I may surprise you with some things you don't know about me. :-)

5 things about me:

  • I am the 6th child of 7 and coming from such a large family, I really feel blessed. Life hasn't always been easy for us but I have no regrets.
  • I think I could have been a professional fighter. Having trained with 2 of my brothers in TaeKwonDo for several years, who still teach it professionally, I love to fight and consider myself a good fighter. I love the feeling of a well connected hit, nothing like it!
  • I live in the "Cowboy Capital" of the world but am not a Cowboy. When I say, I'm not a Cowboy, I mean I don't Rodeo. I have the boots, hats and Wranglers, but real Cowboys Rodeo, right?
  • My wife and I became the Lead Pastors of our first Church in 1998 when we were only 25 and have experienced many successes that few "first time" pastors enjoy. This January 25th will mark our 9th year. This is not a testament to us but rather it is a testament to God and his goodness!
  • Up until this past fall, I hosted my own game server for Call of Duty 2. I built -=SNIPERFIRE=- from the ground up and it remains one of the best servers in all of CoD2. The server is now managed by the various members who all joined my server since it's inception in December of 2005.
There it is, there are bound to be some things listed that even those who know me well didn't know :). In keeping of the tradition of "tag", I now tag 5 people.

If you're tagged here, I didn't just pick names out of a hat; you are someone I would be interested in hearing more about. :) So, TAG, you're IT!

Welcome 2007!







Well, my family and I just got back in town late last night and we're already gearing up to leave again. Several months ago I booked a winter vacation for us to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We love Pagosa and try to go on a trip there every winter. However, having just been away for 10 days, I wish I would have planned this next trip with more time in between. We had a great time visiting with my family in Alabama over the Christmas Holidays. Unfortunately there was a Stomach Virus floating around and everyone in my family was sick for some of the time with the exception of my wife. I think my wife not getting sick was God's blessing because if she would have caught it, I don't know what we would have done. She was the nurse that we all needed :) This unforeseen sickness delayed our return trip by two days so it puts even more pressure on us as we try and get ready to leave again on Thursday.

2007, I look so forward to this year with an anticipation that I can't recall in recent years. I truly believe this will be a great year of harvest for Living Springs Church. This year we will embark in new and creative ministry like we've never done before. We'll try new things without the fear of failure because we realize experimentation leads to discovery! We'll experiment and discover effective means of presenting Jesus to our community with relevance and purpose. The first sermon series that we'll be branding this year will be "WANTED!" It's a sort of spin-off from my sermon late this past year titled: Becoming a Messy Church. We're going on a search for all those that feel helpless, unwanted, unloved and hopeless. We're going to get "invitational" with messy people. Jesus invited people to himself, regardless of their problems or their past. We will do the same!

2007 represents a full year of uncharted territory and I'm eager to begin blazing a path all the way through it!

Are you? What are you most looking forward to this New Year?