Green Light, Red Light

One of the realities of living in a large city is the abundance of busy intersections. It’s not unusual to have two congested intersections that are quite close together, both controlled by traffic lights. I was at one of those places recently, in three lanes of traffic, surrounded by cars, and a green light on the horizon. I started to go and then realized that the light immediately in front of me was red. It was the further light, at the next intersection, that was green.

For visionary leaders, the horizon is always full of green light opportunities. They see a wide variety of possibilities for their church or ministry or non-profit. Indeed, this is a vital role for a leader to play. Kouzes and Posner say it this way: “Leaders gaze across the horizon of time, imagining the attractive opportunities that are in store when they and their constituents arrive at a distant destination” (The Leadership Challenge). An organization without this kind of inspiration will fail to take new ground and can quickly slip into complacency or obscurity.

Visionary leaders, however, must also pay attention when red lights are in their immediate path. If you only look at the green lights on the distant horizon, you may quickly find yourself in a rear-end collision. Those red lights may be organizational fatigue or resistance to change or confusion over the vision. Red lights don’t mean that you have to stop forever, but they can’t be ignored. Sometimes the closest light isn’t red – it’s yellow. It may just be a caution warning you to slow down. Perhaps you need to develop your plans more fully or get more input before moving ahead.

Of course, some leaders struggle with this concept. Their skills and temperament make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to see those red lights. That’s the value of a trusted, capable second chair leader or close-knit leadership team. Unlike a car, the best organizations don’t have just one driver. They intentionally seek diverse and complementary gifts among their leaders.

So why not take this driving test today? How well do you see the lights? What would help you see them better?

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Mike Bonem

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Getting Back to the Basics

You hear the words “mission” and “vision” float around a lot. They’re part of business jargon. They’re high-flying words. They are part of the vocabulary of executives, business gurus, and capable corporate savants. They are also part of the structure of an effective church. More and more, churches are developing mission statements, vision statements, and even adding a “Vision Pastor” to their leadership team. It’s a good idea (for reasons which we’ll explain in a future post). However, in an effort to get back to the basics about mission, it is important to find out what the Bible says about our mission. What is it? And how does it play out?

The Bible does indeed have something to say. In fact, it comes from Jesus. Here it is:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

The Sovereign Mandate

When Jesus said this, He was issuing a sovereign mandate. This was no casual comment, made in an offhanded way to a few disciples. This was really important. Why?

•First, it is important because it is the only message which appears in all four gospels and the book of Acts (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23; and Acts 1:4-11). None of the accounts is exactly the same, highlighting the variety and nuances of this important message. Clearly, the recipients of this message is more
•It is also an extremely important because it is the last message that Jesus delivered to His disciples. Usually, anyone’s “last words” are very important. It is no different in the case of Jesus before His ascension. He said these words last, because He wanted them to be remembered first.
•Jesus statement is also important, because it is a command, an imperative (specifically, “make disciples”). An imperative, especially one from Jesus, demands our obedience.
•This is an important mandate also because Jesus ties in the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the command. Whenever Jesus gives a command, He also gives the means to obey that command. In this case, the Holy Spirit is direclty associated to enable us to obey this important command. Any mandate that has the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit is really important.
•Most importantly, this is an important statement because of the integral connection with Jesus’ Sovereignty. Before issuing the command, Jesus knew it was necessary to establish His divine prerogative. “I’m in charge,” He says. “I have all authority. Essentially, nothing is out of My jurisdiction, control, arrangement….My sovereignty. Now, based on that truth–Go. Make Disciples.” Wow. Any command based on this infinite, sovereign, loving, all-powerful sovereignty is a command worthy of our rapt attention, and total commitment.
At this point, we ought to be all ears. We should know by know that this statement–whatever it is–is an extremely important statement. It trumps any other agenda, aspiration, dream, or goal. This is ultimate. This is final. This is big. This is huge. What is Jesus saying?

He is telling us to go and make disciples.

It’s pretty simple, but it’s also incredibly vast. Did He say “all” nations? Did Jesus anticipate the population explosion of the 20th century? Did He know that in 2010 there would be nearly 200 countries? Did He realize the difficulty of reaching nomadic tribes in the harsh Sahara? Did he understand the ravaging disease that would decimate communities and weaken countries? Did He foreknow that the horrific AIDS virus would tear up the entire continent of Africa? Did He know about the gaping divide between millions of starving orphans and the lofty opulence of those who scrape food into the trash at the end of their meal? Did He know about the ghastly horrors of the sex trade, and its tragic captivity of millions of girls? Did He realize that religious extremists from false religions would actually murder His disciples? Did He know that damning philosophies would relegate His truth to the status of “myth,” in an attempt to weaken its power?

Yes. And in spite of this–rather, because of this–He backed the command with His power, promised the accompaniment of His Spirit, and said “Go.” In effect, He said, “Church, this is your mission. You don’t have to get creative. You don’t have to get cute. You just have to have faith and obedience.”

It’s a vast commission, because it is “all-encompassing.” The word “all” appears three times in these three verses. Jesus didn’t want us to miss it. This vast command is backed by His infinite power. Church, you must obey. This is your mission. It’s Jesus’ mission. It’s the most important mission. Pursue it.

The Strategic Method

For a military general to give his troops a big command, then leave them with no instruction would be absolutely foolish. For example, would any commander tell the military to “take over that country,” and leave his command at that? Probably not. Instead, that general would develop a strategy to accomplish his mission.

Jesus gave us a big command. But He also gave us a method for carrying out that command. Like the command itself, the strategic method is simple. First, we are to go. How can we carry out the command unless we mobilize? Second, we must make disciples. third, we are to baptize them. Finally, we are to carefully teach them all that Jesus commanded–the truths found in the Bible. That’s the strategy. Those are our marching orders as we obey the sovereign mandate by means of the strategic method.

The Sustaining Means

Even with a sovereignty-backed command and an inspired method for fulfilling the task, it could still be daunting. In fact, without this final consideration, all that has just been written above would be useless. It would be no more than a legalistic pep talk. But there is grace that blankets this entire command.

Jesus gives a final sentence. It is His promise of the Sustaining Means. When Jesus says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” He is clearly referring to the Holy Spirit. Just a short while later, presumably, Jesus ascended into heaven. But He left His Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the believer’s Sustaining Means. His power and presence in our work and ministry enable us to carry out what Jesus commanded.

This is our mission–a mission backed by Jesus’ divine command, ordered by His strategic method, and empowered by His Holy Spirit. As a church, as an individual, as the Kingdom of God, we cannot go wrong in adopting this mission and going forward–to the ends of the earth.

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Daniel in Christian Ministry Articles 

Coming Full Circle

#1Full circle, is this just a superstition that has been formed by demonically influenced religions or is full circle a God concept that He enacts in our lives over and over again?

I believe in God.  I believe in the God who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Joseph, all of the Old Testament prophets, New Testament prophets and anointed and Holy Spirit inspired writers of the Holy Bible.  I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is my Savior.  I believe.

I also believe that there is nothing new under the sun as Solomon stated in the book of Ecclesiastes and that life happens over and over again with each new generation.  I believe that there are no problems that one confronts in life that have not been confronted by multitudes of people before them.  The New Testament tells us that there is no temptation that is not common to man which means that the same temptations and life dilemmas are a recycling of the same situations happening over and over again throughout the history of the world.  No, no situation is identical to another but many have like characteristics.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “What goes around, comes around”?

transmutation_circle_by_haudankaivajasiHave you ever heard anyone talking about events in life completing a full circle?

Walt Disney acknowledges this concept in one of their movies, “Lion King”, in which there is a song “The Circle of Life”.

The concept of all things in one’s life coming full circle is an ages old idea because I believe that it was created by God.

I remember as a young teen talking about how life comes full circle and thinking it was my own ideas when in reality I believe the knowledge of it was placed in my spirit by the Holy Spirit.

Full Circle Bible Examples

An example in the Bible of full circle is the story of Joseph, one of two of Jacob/Israel’s favorite sons.  His brothers hated him.  His earthly father loved him with all of his heart and idolized him.  God had given him special gifts and anointing.  Joseph’s brothers teamed together and thought that they had gotten rid of Joseph for good, but after many years the story comes full circle, Joseph rescues them from starvation, is reunited with his father and embraces his family again.  The circle was completed when Israel died and the brothers became afraid that Joseph would seek revenge on them.  The circle was complete when Joseph gathered them together once again and began a new era in his family with his own forgiveness of them for a final time with the statement:

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”  And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. “  Genesis 50:19-21

Full circle in my own life

life-full-circleWhat got me to thinking about this was that God has made it very apparent to me that many things in this past year are coming full circle with me.  This has been a year of great emotional pain, but even more so, great blessing.

Some examples are my writing, I was anointed to write at age fourteen and have off handedly and randomly written over the years but I have developed a consistent, regular pattern of writing this year.  Full Circle.

One more is this, I have had problems with my teeth (I mean very painful) since I was twelve years old.  My mother started taking me to the dentist at age twelve with a particularly painful molar.  That molar was repaired at age twelve and crowned with a stainless steel crown.  It has never given me any problems again.  About three months ago I went to get my my teeth whitened and my dentist informed me in the beginning that I would have to have that stainless steel crown removed and the tooth would need to be examined and redone.  The ironic part of this is that this particular molar was the last one that my current dentist worked on.  Get it?  The first as a child and the last as an adult.  I don’t expect to have major dental work done again in my life.  Full circle.

There are big things that I am waiting for in my life, family matters that I am waiting for God to answer my prayers for.  There are also small things.  Finally coming to a place of understanding this God created concept of full circle, it has gotten me to wondering about what full circle will mean and look like in these situations.

Honestly, I am expecting them to look totally different from the way that I would plan them out to be on my own.

Can you relate?

Personal Worship vs. Corporate Worship

worshipdefinitionWhy do I do this? “The Bible is like a telescope. If you look through it you can see worlds beyond, but if you look at it, you see only the telescope.”– Anon. I am learning to look through it.

I ran across two excellent pieces today concerning the “personal worship experience” and “corporate worship.” The first is an article from Christianity Today called “The End of Christianity as We Know It.” You can read the article here. The author, Mark Galli, discusses what has become known as the ‘worship experience’ and the similar effects a ‘worship experience’ produces compared to hallucinogenic drugs. It is a good article that exposes North American Christianity’s obsession with the worship experience. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

“It’s a lot of work to fast and pray and worship and deny oneself—and even then, experiencing God is a hit or miss proposition! What’s the fuss if we can pop a mushroom and have a nearly guaranteed religious experience?”

“If religious experience is something that a drug can induce even more easily than spiritual ritual and disciplines, it may be time, for example, to rethink what many churches are trying to do on Sunday morning: create a memorable “worship experience.””

“We are shortchanging our people when we make worship mostly about experience or a pep rally to motivate people to good deeds. We practice religious neglect when we fail to witness to them the saving story of God in Christ and train them to be fellow witnesses of that story, so that they might share that story with a world that does not know its left hand from its right.”

Worshipping together is one of the salient features Christianity which it shares with its predecessor Judaism and is followed by its successor Islam. Most of the religions have individualized worship experience. Worshippers visit shrines on their own to pray to their deity and does not necessarily need the company of others. However, gathering together for worship in the church, synagogue or the mosque is important for the above religions besides the private time of worship. So the two terms: “Personal worship” which signifies the individual’s act of worship and “corporate worship” which is the worship which individuals offer in the company of other believers.

Some people are very keen on corporate worship but at the expense of the personal worship. They are regular at church services, praise and worship meetings etc but may not pour out their devotion and adoration to God when they are alone. These people find it difficult to meet God alone; they need the company of others. There are people on the other extreme who have a dislike to worship God in public, in the presence of others and they tend to be very private in their devotion and adoration of God. They are in the habit of shunning the gathering together of the saints in worship (Hebrews 10:25). They are very private persons and have a dislike for people.

However, both these extremes are certainly wrong. Personal time of worship and prayer is essential component of Christian spirituality. Jesus spent nights in praying alone. He taught that we should pray in secret (Mathew 6:6). He also went to the synagogues for corporate worship and the bible says it was his usual practice (Mark 10:1). This was the practice of the early church as well (Acts 2:42). They gathered together for fellowship, to receive apostles’ teaching, prayer and breaking bread together besides their personal times of worship of God.

Here are five things that should happen on Sunday morning when we gather for corporate worship:

1. We must teach what biblical worship is and isn’t. There are still many people that believe that “the music is the worship…”

2. Personal worship is indispensable. We must feed daily on God’s Word; we must immerse ourselves in His presence in prayer. There are no substitutes for personal time with the Father.

3. Personal worship is not a substitute for corporate worship. We are baptized into the Body of Christ and are members of His body. There is no biblical idea of a member of the body existing apart from the body.

4. Corporate worship must facilitate worship that centers itself around Jesus Christ as His Body. The focus of corporate worship is not a focus on personal experience.

5. We must begin to learn what it means to live and worship as the Body of Christ. Personal preference is willingly subjugated for the good of the whole body.

There is much more that could be said about these topics but for now I would encourage you to read both of these articles. I would love to see this discussion continue and take a higher priority throughout the church. Please feel free to start that discussion in the comments section!

Personal worship and corporate worship are the two wings on which Christians soar to the presence of God in adoration and praise. They are two aspects of one act called worship: the creatures adoring the majesty of the creator, the sinners pouring out his their profound love for their saviour. Personal worship leads the worshipper to corporate worship because the worshippers have reached a level of adoration which they cannot hold within themselves any longer and need to get it out of their chest! So they look to corporate worship as a place where they can share it with others and to receive from people who have something to share. In a similar manner, the corporate worship should be so rich an experience that the worshipper leaves the place of worship to continue the worship at a personal level until another time for worship arrives. Personal worship propels people from their prayer closet to the chapel and the chapel is so compelling that they return to their closet to continue the worship. They are mutually enriching experiences.

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Paulson Pulikottil, Mark Galli & Dr. Ed Steele

20 Questions For Church Folks [HUMOR]

Laughter is a great thing. It is a gift from God. Sometimes we Christians get way too pious for own good. I had a spiritual adviser remind me that we need to enjoy life not be sour.

Here are 20 humorous questions that should give you a chuckle.

20.  Why do some saints find a corner and face the wall to get their shout on for about ten minutes?

19.  What are the requirements to become a “church nurse”?  Is there “church nurse” school? Other than holding white sheets and forming a circle around people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, what are the duties of the “church nurse?”

18.  Does anyone else secretly want to see that over zealous choir director who bounces around, well…fall just one good time so he or she will cut it out and just direct the choir without all the acrobatics?

17.  What is an auxiliary board?

16.  Does anyone else other than me feel some sort of way when people “save” seats in church for their friends who are already like an hour late?  It is not cool to sit your purse, bible and concordance on the next three seats when there are a bunch of people looking for a place to park their bottoms!

15.  Where are all the people who bum rush out of church before the benediction really going?  Are they trying to make sure they get a seat at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles?

14.  Does anyone else have a church with the one token white person in the choir who over exaggerates to stay on rhythm?

13.  Why doesn’t the vending machine in the hallway ever work?  I’m hungry after church…shucks.

12.  Why does everyone turn and look (with some irritation) at the woman who is trying to quiet the baby up?  It really isn’t nice to mean mug a woman with a baby…I’m just sayin’.

11.  Does anyone else get nervous that the person the pastor lays hands on won’t fall out and the people standing behind them won’t have anything to do because they can’t catch him, since he didn’t like you know…pass out?

10.  Have you ever passed out from having hands laid on you?  I haven’t.  Just wondering what it’s like.

9.  Is there a reason the best reader can’t read the announcements instead of sister so and so who well…can’t pronounce words properly?

8.  Has anyone ever tried to sell you Mary Kay products during video announcements?  It happened to me.

7.  Has anyone else’s church bulletin abbreviated Bible Study as B.S.?  Something’s not quite right about that.

6.  Where do the band members go after praise and worship?  Like how come I never see them sitting in the pews?  Are they on intermission or something?

5.  How come the same kid of certain members get to lead the children’s choir?

4.  Should celebrities who show up late really be escorted to a seat right up front?

3.  Are mega churches kinda played out?

2.  How do you respond to people who tell you “The Lord told me to tell you…?”

1.  Is anyone else disappointed when you invite someone to church with you only to find out the pastor is out of town and the woman who reads the church announcements is going to get her shot in the pulpit?  You know it’s gonna be a long day at church and your friend probably ain’t ever coming to visit again.

 

Resource(s): By Tarvenia Jones

Fences Bring Freedom

fence-jumping                                                                                                                   Nobody likes boundaries. Fences.

My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:20-28)

They’re constraining. They give us a line we can’t cross. They cut against the grain of our culture that says the best life is one in which we can say whatever we want. Have sex with whomever we want. Cheat whomever we want. Essentially, do whatever we want. As long as it makes us happy.

Basically, we feel like boundaries limit our freedom. And freedom is everything.

It seems to make sense. And on the face of it, it is kind of true: boundaries constrict us. But this viewpoint also ignores an ironic, but essential truth:

Fences bring freedom.

This is obvious enough in real life. A few years back we put a fence in our backyard for Elijah and Graham. The purpose wasn’t to keep them in. It was actually to keep what could harm them out. Did the fence set a boundary they couldn’t go past? Yes. But it also gave them the freedom to play in the yard and enjoy what was theirs.

In the same way, boundaries give us the ability to enjoy the blessings of God in our lives. A lot of times we think that God puts fences up in our lives and puts things off limits in order to keep us captive. He just wants to limit our happiness. But in effect, He is giving us the ability to enjoy what He has given us. He is actually trying to put us in a position where we can be happy.

For example, the reason God doesn’t want us to have sex before marriage isn’t because He doesn’t want us to experience pleasure. It’s because He wants us to experience the unique pleasure of completely giving ourselves over to another person in purity. I think the reason we have a problem with boundaries is that our operating mindset is “how far can I go?” rather than “how free can I be?” The first mindset has its eyes on getting as close to the border of God’s blessings as possible. The second mindset has its eyes on actually enjoying them.

We claim we want freedom, but we don’t. Freedom isn’t having the ability to do anything you want. Freedom is being able to enjoy what you have.

God has already given us everything we need to be happy in this life. We’ve got a bigger yard than anyone else in the world. The fences are just there to make sure we have something to enjoy.

Boundaries are a blessing, because what we value, we protect.
So stop focusing on and resenting the fences that God has put around you.
And start doing what they’re there to enable you to do:
Play in the yard.

 

Photo(s)/Resource(s):Steven Futick

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

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Do you recognize when it’s tyme for a change?
How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I read a awesomely annointed (yes thats bad english, but it how I fell!) by Ron Edmondson about Leadership & Administration in the church dealing with “7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church”. I talked to other church leaders and even Pastors that are getting these questions a lot, so I decided to write about. (I always note that this post is written about my experiences for people who may currently need it.)

Several tymes in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. I think it is important, however, to realize that God uses unequalled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same tyme, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new. Here are five steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

1. Wonderful, sweet success. Each tyme the door of a new opportunity opened, it began opening when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

2. Inner struggle. I usually have not been able to understand what God was up to, but there was something in me (and usually in my wife at the same tyme) where I knew God was doing something new. While I did not know what it was, and not even if it would involve a change in my place of ministry, I knew God was doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I knew there was something out there, but at the tyme I couldn’t discern it. (I’m glad I’ve had the Holy Spirit, though, to help me!)

3. Closeness to Christ. Brennan Manning calls it the dangerous love of Christ. During the tymes leading up to a change of ministry assignment, I would be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back, I can see this clearly, but at the tyme I usually was just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many tymes God was giving wisdom to share with others and, looking back, I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

4. Opportunity presents itself. The opportunities often seemed to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now, I can see the pattern that occurred each tyme. It was only after these first three experiences listed above that God brought a new opportunity my way. That is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say, “Yes Lord. Here am I. Send me.”

5. I surrendered to God’s call. After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God was leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayed my response, wrestled through the difficulty and consulted many advisors, but I’ve never refused. That does not mean it has ever been easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we were in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to your spouse: Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in any of our ministry places, but she has always aligned with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective here.

Have you shared these experiences? What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Ron Edmondson