Sep 27, 2007

Christian, What Do You Do for a Living?

What do you do for a living?

The way most of us would answer this question is by saying what we do for our occupation. "I'm an engineer, a computer programmer, an accountant, a small business owner, a home-maker, etc."

Let's think about this. Is this what Christ-followers do for a living? Is this really our life's preoccupation? Is this who we are? Is this what our lives are about? Working with numbers, computers, or selling auto parts? And too often our identity is wrapped up in what we do to earn a living. But there has to be more to our lives and our self-understanding than what we do to earn a living.

If Jesus is the Lord over our lives, we are all in the business of establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. What we do for a living is to partner with God to build up His Kingdom. And we happen to do that while we are an engineer, a computer programmer, an accountant, a small business owner, a home-maker, etc.

Our single preoccupation and our identity is in who God has called us to be. Who we are as Christ-followers ought to be the overriding concern to which everything else should be bent. You and I are Kingdom engineers.

So Christian, what do you do for a living?

Sep 26, 2007

What Does It Mean to Be the Body of Christ?

How is it that our life together as the body of Christ is so fragile?

How can it be that our relationship with one another as brothers and sisters bound by the blood of Jesus Christ can be hanging by a thread?

I find it amazing that a person can have a half a million transactions with people in the church, but if one out of the hundreds and one thousands of transactions go awry, the relationship is essentially broken. Not only with the particular individual, but also with the church.

How can our bond be so shallow? How can our commitment to reconciliation, to peace, to humility be so quickly forgotten because someone has offended us?

Is church really all about an ego-satisfying, self-affirming, self-gratifying trip?

Christian! Our commitment to Christ calls for our commitment to one another. Like it or not, we are the body of Christ. And the world is watching to see if there is any difference in us. No wonder, the world looks at the church with disdain.

We can do better. We must do better.

Sep 25, 2007

I know that it's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog. I've been sick. I preached on Sunday and I'm not even sure if I made any sense.

I will be posting regular blogs starting tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Sep 18, 2007

Irrelevant No More

Go ahead. Think back to your last Presbytery meeting. Think back to your last session meeting. Think back to your last congregational meeting.

Now ask, "If an unchurched person were to walk into that meeting and heard us discussing what we normally discuss, would that person even get a hint that the main reason why the church exists is so that God can reach lost people, minister to hurting people, and heal the broken people and help them become fully devoted Christ-followers?"

We are so inwardly focused, and we don't even know it.

The only ones we seem to be concerned about are the current shareholders. We've got to keep our people happy. And we said it loud and clear through our agendas and our actions, "We don't give a rip about lost, hurting, and broken people unless they are one of ours."

We have made ourselves totally irrelevant to the real world because outside the church walls, and even within our own, we are a lost, hurting, and broken people.

When will we start advocating for the hurting and the suffering?

When will we start strategizing about the best ways to communicate the love of God to a people who love Jesus but can't stand the church?

When will we start thinking about how we can most effectively introduce lost and hurting people to the kingdom?

When will these things take top priority in our agendas? When will these things get the lion share of the docket?

How did we get to be where we are?

Is this what it means to be Presbyterian?

Don't you see? Our issues, our agendas, our meetings don't mean a darn thing to the actual people living in our communities who are far from Christ.

And no one is even asking, "Would Jesus be okay with this?"

Is this what God would have us to be about? Is this what our supposed best leaders are supposed to be about?

There has to be a better way. We have to get better at connecting with the real world. There are just way too many people who are unnecessarily suffering through life apart from Christ.

Hey you! You and me.

Let's start doing church differently. Let's start asking some different questions. Let's set some different agendas. Questions and agendas that might actually make a difference to someone living far from Christ in our communities. Let's start getting creative. Let's give our best thoughts and our best dreams to how God can use the church to establish His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Discovering God's Will

I had a conversation with a man today and it reminded me again, how complicated and difficult we make God's will out to be. When in fact, it's pretty straight forward.

The guy was telling me that he would do God's will if God would just show him what His will was.

Here's what I told him.

First, start with where you are.
  • He is a married man. I can guarantee God wants him to be faithful, loving, forgiving, protecting, honoring, and cherishing his wife. God's plan and will for his life, whatever else it may include, has to include the fact that he's supposed to be the best darn possible husband for his wife. God's will could not, not include this.
  • He has children. Since he's a daddy, whatever else God's will and plan for this man may be, it has to include him being the best darn daddy he can be for his children. He is to love them, take care of them, encourage them, teach them to love God, and help them to grow up to be Godly men and women.
  • He has a job. Since he works, it means that God wants him to be a man who is doing everything he can to be the best worker for his company. God would be glorified by him doing his best to be a Godly worker.
  • Start with where you are.
Secondly, as you start living the Christian life, God flips the question. Most people ask, "What's in it for me?" Most people want to know what can the company do for me? Why should I shop at this store over that store? What can this store offer me? Why should I join this church over that one? What can this church do for me?

But God flips that question on its head when we start living for God. Instead of asking what's in it for me? Instead of asking what can these people do for me? Christ-followers begin asking, "How can I add value to this person? to this church? to this company?"

Christ-followers look at his/her day and thinks through all the different people that they will encounter, and is constantly thinking, "How can I add value to this person today?"

Because this person recognizes that if they woke up that morning, God woke them up. And Christ-followers recognize that we have been placed in our particular situations with those exact people for a reason. And so they go around asking, "Why would God put me in touch with these people today? And since God put us together, the Christ-followers ask, "How can I add value to this person?"

And when Christ-followers begin living life like that, we become indispensable to our family, our church, our community, and our work place. And most importantly, God gets the glory.

Finally, when people want to know God's will and plan for their lives, we want God to give us an atlas and a map of what our lives will be like. We want God to show us where the turns will be, where the storms will be, what the challenges will be. We want to know exactly how the journey of life will be.

But God's will doesn't work like that. God's will is revealed to us only one day, and one step at a time. God's will looks a whole lot more like, "Connect the Dots."

At first, it's just a jumble of dots. There's no pattern to it. It's just a bunch of dots all over the page. But once we start connecting the dots, a picture begins to emerge. But there's a catch. There always comes a point in the connecting the dots as you are smoothly moving along - 1, 2, 3, 4, - when all of a sudden you can't find the 5. There are a bunch of other numbers next to 4, but 5 is all the way down at the bottom of the page. You are going to be tempted to connect the dots that are closest, but if you do that, you won't ever see a picture. It will be a jumbled mess.

But if we connect the dots, one at a time, and we do them faithfully, in time a picture emerges. And the more dots we have connected, the clearer the picture becomes.

That's why when you look at the life of someone who's been walking with Christ a long time, God's will and purpose for their life looks pretty clear. But for someone who's just starting out on the faith journey, you won't know if it's duck, a boat, a car, or what their picture is until they start connecting the dots.

And one thing you can know for sure is this: God will show you the next step. God probably won't reveal to you your entire journey, but God will most definitely show you the steps you are to take.

So, go ahead. Connect the dots. One day, one step, and one faithful act of obedience at a time. And soon enough, you'll start to get the picture.

Not Your Daddy's Church

Ron Heifitz, a senior lecturer in leadership at Harvard University talks about the difference between technical challenges and adaptive challenges.

Technical Challenges:
  • You already know the solution
  • You already possess the necessary know how
  • It is a matter of applying what you already know
  • This is a question of implementation
Adaptive Challenges:
  • You do not know the solution
  • Standard operating procedure will no longer work
  • Requires imaginative and creative experimentation to discover solutions
  • New discoveries will be made
  • This is a question of transformation
  • Success will be built on lessons learned from failures
  • Adaptive challenges present danger and huge opportunities
I recently converted from a PC laptop to a Mac. I wanted to do this for a long time but didn't because of the challenges of switching everything over. This - switching computer systems - represents a technical challenge.

I am a dad to a middle schooler. And in the last year or two mother nature has visited her with some new presents - hormones. And because of that, my little girl has been transforming right before my eyes. And due to her new transformation, I am finding that we must both discover new ways of relating to one another. She is no longer my little girl, and she is not quite yet a woman. And in this transition time, we are both learning how to be a family together.

This is an adaptive challenge. Karis and I are both learning to adapt to this new reality. We cannot remain the same. Neither of us know for sure what and how we are to be. We are learning from our mistakes on how to be a family. We both love one another and respect each other and are looking forward to this new way of relating.

The reason why I mention all this is because when it comes to what the church is going through today, are we dealing with a technical challenge or is it an adaptive challenge?

Does the reality of the post-modern, post-denominational, post-Christiandom reality present us with challenges that can be fixed by tinkering with existing modes of operation? Or are we coming to an age where standard operating procedures will no longer work for the new realities we are facing?

Could it be that the realities of the world we are facing requires us to be creative and imaginative about who the church can be in this new reality? Could it be that we are called to experiment with new forms and modes of what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ so that we can become relevant to a world who loves Jesus and can't stand the church?

I don't know what the future church will look like. But I am convinced that tinkering with standard procedures is not the answer. What is needed for the adaptive challenges of the new reality posed by a post-modern, post-denominational, post-Christiandom is leaders who will take this challenge by the horn and create opportunities out of the danger of irrelevance. It will require new and creative ways of dreaming about what the church of Jesus Christ can do to make a difference in this new world. And, yes there will be many failures along the way. But we will learn our lessons from these failures, and in time, we will find our way out of irrelevance to where the church of Jesus Christ can shine brightly the light of Jesus Christ.

That much I know.

There is something in the air. This is not your daddy's presbyterian church. Something new is afoot. It's a God revolution.

Sep 15, 2007

The Growth of the Church in the Book of Acts

Since God calls the church to be about making new Christ-followers, and helping those Christ-followers become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ by teaching them to obey everything God commands us in Scripture, it only makes sense that such churches are growing churches.

The growth of the church, adding new Christ-followers and helping those Christ-followers become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, is what the church should be about. And that is exactly what we discover took place as the first Christ-followers took this charge seriously.

Here is just a small sampling we find in the book of Acts.
  • Acts 2:41 - “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
  • Acts 2:47 - “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
  • Acts 4:4 - “But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”
  • Acts 6:7 - “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”
  • Acts 9:31 - “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
  • Acts 11:21 - “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
  • Acts 11:24 - “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
  • Acts 12:24 - “But the word of God continued to increase and spread.”
  • Acts 13:49 - “The word of the Lord spread throughout the whole region.”
  • Acts 14:1 - “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.”
  • Acts 14:21 - “They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.”
  • Acts 16:5 - “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
  • Acts 17:4 - “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.”
  • Acts 17:12 - “Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”
  • Acts 17:34 - “A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.”
  • Acts 18:8 - “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”
  • Acts 19:18-20 - “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. Then they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas (drachma – a day’s wage). In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

God is not shy about numbers. Numbers matter. Effectiveness in ministry matters. And effective in ministry is quantifiable in the growth of the church.

Come on! Let's get on with the work of the Kingdom! God has placed each of us in a context where we're surrounded by folks who don't know Jesus Christ. What more could we ask for?

Let's get it done! I want to see this Kingdom reality. Don't you?

Sep 13, 2007

What does it mean to be a Missional church?

The word "missional" has become the new catch phrase in the life of the church. But what does it mean to be a missional church? Aren't all churches missional?

Yes and no.

Yes, all churches are supposed to be missional.

And no, not all churches are. They may have a missional understanding as one of its core beliefs, but its practices, attitudes, and outlook make it loud and clear that their main concern is the maintenance of its existing members.

Before we go any further, lets get a working definition of what missional means.

The word missional has at its root the word mission. Simply put, to be a missional church means that the church understands its being and its purpose to be about the mission of Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Him. This means that a missional church understands its primary purpose and its purpose for being to be: to grow new Christ-followers, and growing those Christ-followers into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ by teaching them to obey everything God has commanded in the Scriptures.

Rick Rusaw, in his book, The Externally Focused Church, asks the following question. If your church were to shut its doors and cease to exist, would anyone in the community notice? Would anyone care?

If your church were no longer in the community, would anyone weep that the place for which the Son of God died on the cross, descended into hell to rise again so that that place could be the beacon of life and hope for the community no longer exists?

If no one would notice, if no one would care such churches might as well close its doors and cease to exist. Because they are making no difference in their communities.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before others, so that when they see your good works, they will glorify the Father in heaven."

Where are the good works? The church talks a good talk when it comes to good works, but where is it?

We live in a world where people like Jesus, but they can't stand the church. And it's primarily because the churches are inwardly focused and acts as if it doesn't give a rip about the world that is suffering and hurting. Where is the light? Where is the hope? Where is the transformation? Where is God?

If any other human organization spent as much money and resources as the church of Jesus Christ has for the last thirty years for as little in return for that investment, those organizations all deserve to be bankrupt! They should just shut its doors and stop wasting people's time and money.

But the churches continue because of the faithful giving and support of its members, and because of the lack of vision and purpose by her leaders to teach and shape the people for why the churches exist to begin with, our thousands of churches make no difference in the communities we're in.

And when the church forgets why she exists, the church fights about all kinds of stupid and silly stuff - organ music or guitars and drums, the color of the carpet, who moved the piano?

Who cares?!

All those things are the tools to help the church to be about the business of growing new Christ-followers and helping those Christ-followers to become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. And if that's not happening, it doesn't matter whether you play guitars or the organ, or what color the carpet is, or where you move the piano.

It's all about people - hurting people, searching people, lost people, young people, old people - people who desperately need what only Christ-followers can give them. Jesus Christ!

In a missional church, this becomes the single driving force and passion. And a missional church will do everything in its power and do whatever it takes to be as effective as possible to reach others for Christ. That's what it means to be a missional church.

So, get out there. Go! Be about the business of the Kingdom of God - to reconcile sinners to become the children of God.

Do whatever it takes.

Give everything you've got.

The stakes are so incredibly high. What is at stake is the eternal destinies of people.

The church of Jesus Christ has been given everything we need to accomplish this mission.

What is the Main Business of the Church?

What is the main business of the church? Why do we exist?

We can answer this question by asking: What is the mission of the church to which we have been called to? What is the single overriding objective to which all other considerations must be bent?

If we were to ask this question in the context of the business world, it’s obvious that the owners get to determine the answer to this question.
  • In a publicly traded company, it would be the board of directors who represent the stock holder who get to answer this question.
  • In a mom and pop operation, it would be the patriarch or the matriarch who gets to answer this question.
Many churches operate in such fashion. If you were to look at a particular church’s bent, its bent is either determined by its stockholders (members) or by a matriarch or patriarch (the pastor, or an influential member of the church, or a small group of the core of the church). And when the insiders and shareholder's needs are not being met, it's hired caretaker - the pastor - is sent packing.

But if this is how a particular church is about, it is not the church of Jesus Christ.

The question must be asked, "Who is the rightful owner of the church? Who has the right to answer the questions – what is the mission of the church? What is the single overriding objective to which all other considerations must be bent?"

The bible makes this crystal clear. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under His (Christ’s) feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fill everything in every way.”

Our polity and theological convictions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) makes this crystal clear. The very first words of the Book of Order are:

"All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and had made Christ Head of the Church, which is his body."

Since Jesus is the head of the church, only He has the right to determine the answer to the questions – what is the mission of the church? What is the single overriding objective to which all other considerations must be bent?

So what does Jesus have to say about why the church exists? What does Jesus tell us is the main business of the church?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

What is commonly known as the Great Commission starts with a “Therefore.” And whenever we see a “therefore” we must ask what is the “therefore” there for?

Jesus starts with the statement, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Therefore only Jesus has the right to tell us why the church exists.

Jesus answers the question – what is the mission of the church? What is the single overriding objective to which all considerations must be bent? - by saying that we are to be about two things:
  1. To grow new Christ-followers by making them disciples
  2. To grow Christ-followers into disciples by teaching the them to obey everything God has commanded.
No matter what other good things the church may be doing - a great choir, a wonderful youth group, a loving and caring fellowship, etc. - if the church's primary objective is not growing new Christ-followers and growing those Christ-followers to become faithful disciples by obeying everything God has commanded, that is not the church.

God is up to something in our world. There are churches being led by pastors and leaders who are actually leading the people to be a church that places the mission of Jesus Christ as its primary mission. That's exactly what it means to lead. Leaders are supposed to help shape the church and Christ-followers to be about the business of Jesus Christ.

I can feel it in the air. It is all around us. God is up to something great!

If you are reading this and you are the Dallas area, you'd be crazy not to be a part of what God is doing at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Come and see for yourself.

Sep 12, 2007

True Church

Jesus says, "Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20).

Some have understood this to mean that whenever two or more Christ followers gather that they are the church. After all, we know that the church is not a building, but people. People are the church - the ekklesia - the assembly of God's people.

This is a grave misunderstanding of the church of Jesus Christ. Just because Christ-followers are assembled in one place, even if they have a common vision for the Kingdom of God, they do not constitute the church.

There is more to being the church of Jesus Christ than merely occupying the same location. There must also be mutual commitment, mutual accountability, and a shared calling.

The true church gathered has the following three characteristics: Communion, Community, and Commission.

Communion - our common relationship with Christ.
  • John Calvin said, "Wherever we see the word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments of the Lord administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists" (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, p. 1023).
  • The true church is gathered when the gathered Christ-followers proclaim God's word and by worshiping the risen Lord Jesus Christ through rightly administering the sacraments according to Christ's guidance.
Community - our common accountability with one another.
  • Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
  • The church is present when the Christ-followers gathered share mutual accountability with one another and to God by: growing and learning in the Word, taking care of one another through fellowship, regularly breaking bread in the name of Jesus Christ, and praying for one another and for the Kingdom.
Commission - our charge to share Christ with the world.
  • Matthew 28:19-20 says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
  • God calls the church into being for the purposes of expanding the Kingdom of God. The purpose of the church is two-fold: 1) to grow new Christians by making new disciples, and 2) to grow Christians into faithful disciples by teaching them to obey everything Christ commanded us.
While getting together with other Christ-followers at the local Italian restaurant might be a wonderful social gathering, they are not the gathered church. The church is the gathering of Christ-followers to accomplish the mission of Jesus Christ. And this mission is demonstrated in mutual commitment, mutual accountability, and a shared calling.

Sep 11, 2007

Foolish Dreamers

After feeding the multitudes, the people gathered around Jesus and asked, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?" And Jesus responded to them by saying, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of commitment gets you in on God's works."
(John 6:28-29, The Message).

This passage is prefaced by the feeding of the multitude. There, the gospel writer wants to make sure that the readers know "all the people ate as much as they wanted" (John 6:11), and the "people had eaten their fill" (John 6:12).

Whenever we give of ourselves fully to God, no matter how insignificant our gifts and talents are, God is able to use them so that all are full. That’s the way God works. What God is able to do doesn’t depend on the size of our gifts or our abilities, but our willingness to be used fully by God.

And that's just it. Mostly giving to God won't cut it. When we mostly give ourselves to God, we're still going to miss out, and the people will still be left wanting. Everyone misses out. God is not interested in us being mostly committed to His kingdom.

This is so evidently clear when we consider it in the context of a marriage. Just try and see if you can get away with being mostly committed to your spouse. See what kind of marriage you end up with.

The Bible is not shy about what God calls this kind of worthless religion - prostitution and whoring ourselves to false lovers.

And yet, when it comes to God's Kingdom vision for the world, why do we think that being mostly committed will accomplish the goal? How can we think that God could be happy with us mostly loving God?

The key to getting in on God's work, Jesus says, is to "throw our whole lot in to God's Kingdom work. It's that kind of commitment that gets you in on God's work."

That kind of commitment - it's that kind of commitment that gets you in on God's work.

Is this a crazy foolish dream? That there would be people living in today's world who would be foolish and crazy enough to give themselves fully to the cause of Christ?

Is it crazy and foolish to think that there are people who would willingly and joyfully give their entire lives, their careers, and their dreams so God can change the world through them?

Then, call me a crazy fool.

I don't need religion. I don't need status quo.

I want to see the fullness of God's glory. I want to see the darkness get pushed back. I want to see lives get changed. I want to see communities get turned upside down and right side up for the Kingdom of God. I want to see the fullness of the Kingdom glory here on earth as it is in heaven. I want to see God!

And I know I am not alone. I pastor a church where people have thrown their whole lot with the Son of God. It's only a matter of time.

"Since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" (Matthew 11:12 NIV).

Thank God for foolish dreamers!

Sep 7, 2007

Idolatry of Schedule

Be it resolved that I will no longer bow to the false god of schedule.

Be it resolved that I will only invest time in activities that are helping me and my family become the people we are striving to be.

This year's schedule has been absolutely nuts. Just as the kids started school, Kaitlin and Karis also started softball. That would be fine, but this was on top of their church activities, piano lessons, girl scouts for Karis, Kaitlin, and Kailey which all meet on different days, and flute for Karis. Kaitlin's softball practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Karis' softball practices were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Kaitlin's softball games were on Friday, and Karis' softball games were on Saturday.

This means we were doing softball six nights out of the week. And this didn't even include any of the other activities that the girls were already doing.

This is nuts!

Why do we invest time on activities that are not helping to shape the girls into becoming the people we want them to be?

Why do we waste time on things that are not helping us become the people we want to be.

This is crazy!

And to make matters worse, the entire family was miserable by this schedule. We were arguing more. We were mean to each other more. All because the crazy schedule did not allow for genuine relationship. And we actually paid good money for us to be this unhappy! Go figure.

Church is non-negotiable. There is no other activity that the girls do that will help shape their character than being involved with a great church.

Girl scouts is something that is helping them build character.

As our calendars get full and crazy, I think this is a must question for everyone to ask: why do you invest time and energy on things that are not helping you become the person you want to be?

Because when we fail to ask this question, schedule becomes a false idol and it drives us from spending time on the most necessary things. And I can tell you by experience that this false god will drive you and your family crazy.

Cut it out. Cut out the things that are wasting your time. And invest wisely. Everyone is given the same 24 hours. Nothing more and nothing less. We can say no to the idol of a foolish schedule.

Sep 6, 2007

Sacrifices that are no Sacrifice

Toward the end of King David's life, he ordered a census that angered God. I am not sure what the deal with the census and why it angered God so much - maybe it had something to do with the census represented David relying on his own strength rather than God or something like that. But either way, it displeased God, and as a result more than 70,000 people died!

Here's the first thing. Leadership matters. Godly leadership can lead to an amazing amount of good and many lives can be impacted through Godly leadership. And the opposite is true. Poor leadership has devastating impact on the life of a community. There is much at stake in terms of Godly leadership. We know all too well when leaders have abused their power, when leaders have fallen morally, when leaders have failed to lead and the devastating impact this can have on the church. Leadership absolutely matters.

Finally, God can't bear to watch the suffering anymore and he calls off the angel from extending his hand over Jerusalem. God then tells David to build an altar to make a sacrifice. And when Araunah (the property owner of the land where David was told to make a sacrifice) saw that his king was in need of his land, he offered his land and oxen for the burnt offering to the king. After all, this was the right of the king. But listen to David's reply, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice" (2 Samuel 24:24).

I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.

When it comes to serving God and giving to Gods Kingdom, when was the last time that I was willing to sacrifice something that was a sacrifice to me? When was the last time that I was willing to pay the price for becoming the leader that I am capable of being? When was the last time that I was willing to pay a price for being the man of God that God wants me to be?

We will reap what we sow. Is it any wonder that so few of us are experiencing the dynamic power of God present in Jesus Christ through His church? Where are the revivals? Where are the transformed lives? Where are the Godly leaders?

Could it be that too few are willing to pay the cost of Godly leadership?

It is my prayer that you and I will join in God's kingdom revolution - that we would lay down our life and pay the cost to be effective leaders for God and His church. There is too much at stake.

When it's all said and done, it's perfectly fine for people to say that James was not the greatest leader of his generation. However, it will be unacceptable if people didn't say of me, "That dude was one fully devoted guy to Jesus Christ." The outcome of my service to God's kingdom is up to God. But my effort and zeal for the kingdom of God is up to me. I don't have to be the best, but I better have given my best!

Sep 5, 2007

Thermometer or Thermostat?

In any organization, and in any setting, any ol' fool can walk into a place and find things to complain about.
  • It's too hot
  • It's too cold
  • They're not friendly here
  • People are rude here
  • There's not enough love here
It doesn't take a genius to notice such things. Any ol' fool can do it.

This is what I call thermometer faith. If you're in a church that's full of thermometers, it's miserable for everyone around. Thermometer faith knows what's wrong with the church and they make sure that everyone around them knows it too. They are complaining about this and that, how the pastor needs to do this and stop doing that, and how the elder board really needs to pay more attention to this and make sure that they put a stop to that.

Just writing about this makes me tired. That's a church full of thermometers. It's exhausting. It's irritating. It makes you want to leave and never come back.

But there is a world of difference when you're around people with thermostat faiths. You see, not only do they know that it's too cold in here, but then they put their heart and mind to making sure that the temperature gets warmed up. They are ones who are able to impact the environment so that the environment reaches its desired temperature. That's a leader. And what a difference a thermostat can make.

All healthy churches and organizations have thermostat people. These are people who can correctly identify problems, and are creative and imaginative enough to come up with solutions to fix the problems. And when it comes to fixing problems, it's not like identifying problems - any ol' fool can't do that. It takes leaders. It takes people with thermostat faiths who can creatively and imaginatively come up with solutions to address the problems.

So which are you? A thermometer or a thermostat?

Sep 4, 2007

A Church to Die For

The Bible tells us that we are one body, and each members of it.

The Bible also tells us that Jesus is the head of this body called the church of Jesus Christ.

The church has had several ways of understanding what this means.

First, since each of us are unique in our own ways, we ought to be the best ear, nose, eye, finger, toe, or whatever God created us to be. So if your church is an ear, you ought not pretend to be something that you're not and you should just concentrate on being the best ear there is.

You can see this kind of thinking in homogeneous plans for church and ministry. These groups seek to gather as many "like" people as possible because this is one of the most effective ways to add new members to the church. Because the church today is surrounded by people who do not know Jesus Christ, the homogeneous method of evangelism and growing the church seems like a plausible way to go.

There is a danger to this kind of thinking though. For instance, a church full of upper-middle class white folks can say, this is who we are. We're not going to pretend that we're something that we're not. We're just going to work hard on being the best upper-middle class white church around. Why? Because we are surrounded by other upper-middle class white folks who do not know Jesus Christ. We don't have to pretend to be something that we're not, and since we're an upper-middle class white congregation and we're just going to reach as many of those people as possible for the Kingdom.

And even writing this and I'm sure reading this, you know something is not right about this. It's not right on several levels.

First, because the body is so interconnected and interdependent. A ear, no matter how great that ear is, simply could not exist apart from the body. Apart from the body, it's just a freaky cut off ear. And besides, apart from the rest of the body, it would be a dead ear.

But secondly, this is just flat out wrong. Jesus of the Bible would freak out about such a church. Jesus didn't die on the cross and descend into hell just for white folks, black folks, asian folks, etc. Jesus died on the cross for all the world, that whosoever should believe in Him shall have everlasting life.

Another way of understanding what it means to be one body is that each church is supposed to be a micro version of the universal church. Therefore, each church should have people representing all walks of life as much as possible.

There are certain limitations to this. Churches in Alaska are not likely to see a bunch of Carribean and Pacific Islanders in their congregation. Not because they are openly hostile to such folk, but Pacific Islanders are not likely to move to Alaska.

So where is Trinity in all this?

When I first arrived at Trinity, we were an all anglo congregation. Well, except my family. And then over the course of four years, we are now about 80% Anglo, and 20% everything else.

We are a multi-ethnic church (where there are many ethnicities present - Anglo, Korean, Chinese, Nigerian, Brazilian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Kenyan, etc). But we are a mono-cultural church (suburban America). We are by no means a multi-cultural church. In a real multi-cultural church, there would not be a dominant culture.

God has located Trinity in an area that is 91% unchurched in a 10 mile radius from the church.

Our goal is to reach as many of the 91% as possible. In order to do that we will need to be strategic and intentional about building bridges to that community. And one of the best ways to do that is to get folks in similar life stages together. At the same time, we will be intentional about being open to folks who are different.

And as we have been growing as a church, it becomes even more necessary to continue reminding ourselves of the goal of the body of Christ. God calls the church to grow new Christians and to grow faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. While having people who look alike, and act alike, and whose life styles are similar for the purpose of evangelism may be valid, as soon as one starts the journey of faith in becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, we have to to be intentionally outwardly focused and other focused toward those who are not "like" us. Because that's what discipleship means.

Jesus constantly broke social, economic, and racial barriers to reach out to those who were not "like" the religious people of Jesus' day. And the reason why we need to be intentionally outwardly focused is because the default mode of all human organizations is to be inwardly focused.

This means that we have to be intentional about being outwardly focused. Although we may not have an eskimo "type" person in our church, if one were to come, they ought to feel like they've just come home. And if an eskimo can feel at home at a church in Texas, by golly, certainly our Hispanic, Asian, African-American, African, European neighbors of all socio-economic and educational background should feel at home when they come to TPC.

I would die to be a part of a church like that - a church where lost people, regardless of age, race, socio-economic standing, income, education, etc. can find a place of hope and love and finally belong. Now, that's a church worth dying for!

Sep 3, 2007

Living into our Potential

Every single person alive has been created for a purpose. God knew that the world that you inhabit today would need someone with your particular gifts, your particular talents, your particular temperment, with your particular resources, so that God of eternity could reach into our time and our community to make a difference. Each and every one of us is perfectly suited to make a difference in people's lives.

But, the world we live in doesn't make us feel that way. All too often, what we feel is insignificant. After all, how much difference could one person make?

And even while we say this, we know that something is not right about that. We know in our guts that lives do matter, that we were created for significance, that life is supposed to be better because we walked this earth.

That longing for significance has been placed in each and everyone of us by God. You are the absolute best person for the particular situations your community and your family finds themselves in. You are here for a reason. There is so much potential in each and every one of us to make a difference in the lives of others.

And if this is the case, how come so few of us are living lives that are making a difference?

First, I think too many of us remain inwardly focused. There is no way we're ever going to make a difference as long as we only think about "me". We make a difference by opening our eyes to the people around us and seeing how our talents and gifts can make a difference.

But more than that, I think the reason why people who are not self-centered egomaniacs still never experience the incredible joy of making a difference is because of fear. It's not like we didn't want to make a difference. We've tried and gotten burned. We've tried and fallen flat our face. And it's failure that keeps us from risking to make a difference.

Listen to what Henry Cloud says: "One of the worst things you can die with is potential. Die with failures before you die with potential."

What's wrong with failing? What's even worse than failing is having never tried, burying our talents, burying our potential. The lives that were supposed to be touched, the eternities that were supposed to be impacted, and our life that was supposed to be lived with incredible joy.

Friends, life is just too dang short to not live into our potential. Look at the world around you, it's perfectly suited for someone with your exact gifts and talents to make a difference. That's the reason why God placed you there.

Go out there with the good news of Jesus Christ and make a difference for the Kingdom of God!