Thursday, October 31, 2013
If feels counter-intuitive, but I think healthy churches are messy and unhealthy churches often aren't messy at all.
A healthy church will be reaching people who are far from God with the Gospel and those people come to Christ with messed up lives. Being a fisherman is messy business, and being a fisher of men is too. You’ve got to catch a fish before you can clean it.
Unhealthy churches can actually be very clean, neat and easy. When you aren't seeing people coming to faith in Christ - there isn't a lot of messiness... just pettiness.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
In the last week or so I have received a gracious outpouring of support from members in the PCC family. I’m not sure if it was coincidence, or that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, or that is was a response to my blog post about being hurt (and this church-hopper issue that I constantly deal with).
At any rate, a good number of people have been very encouraging to me and seem to be happy with the position I have taken (to challenge users, posers, consumers, and their immaturity) and to lead this church towards better health.
I received an encouraging letter from Richard and Liz Henderson.
A group of members (who were out of town over the weekend) called me, put me on speaker phone, and simply communicated their support.
Last Sunday morning, I had no fewer than a dozen conversations with people who wanted to know more about what I wrote, and communicated their unwavering support.
And this morning I arrived at the office and there was nice gift waiting for me at the door.
I could go on and on, but you get the jest of what I’m saying. There are a lot of good people at PCC who love their church. They are committed to this body of believers.
For this, I am thankful. I am very encouraged.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Renae and I have two sons: Jonathan (28) & Nathan (25). The oldest is a police officer (married with a son, and a daughter) and the younger is finishing college. I am fortunate to be their father. Both are on a spiritual journey, mature, and finding their own way. Here are a few things I want them to know:
1. I love you no matter what. No-matter-what.
2. It doesn’t take strength to fit in, but it does to “stand up.” Anyone can swim with the current, but a person of strength swims against the tide when it’s the right thing to do.
3. Character and integrity mean everything. It means everything. Always be a person of honor and honesty. When your integrity and character are intact, you will be fearless, confident, and not intimidated by anyone. “The righteous are bold as lion…(see Proverbs 28:1). You have been given a good name by your parents and, more importantly, by Christ. Do not take these names in vain.
4. Think about your actions and consider the impact it will have upon others.
5. God gives second chances (see Proverbs 28:13).
6. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. Undisciplined people (the crowd) chooses the easy way. I want you to do hard things.
7. Following Jesus is worth it (see Psalm 1). Really, it is. I’ve never regretted being fully devoted to Jesus Christ – the opinions of others notwithstanding.
8. Self-discipline, responsibility, and freedom go together. Your greatest freedom and self-confidence will arrive when you are self-disciplined and responsible. In other words, when you are free from sin you are free to be the “real you.”
9. Get advice from wise people – not just popular people (see Proverbs 13:20). I want you to have wise people in your lives… people that you can trust for sound advice. Of course, your parents should be the first choice, but at your age it’s time for you to (also) find others. God has people who can be very helpful to you. I know there will come a time when you will listen to someone else besides me; I just want it to be someone who is “wise.”
10. Love other people. In the very least, have respect and honor for people who look and act different; especially the challenged – those who can’t do anything for you in return. God has a special place in His heart for such people… and the ones who help them.
Friday, October 25, 2013
I experienced a harsh dose of reality yesterday.
Much to my astonishment I discovered some people in this church (who I believed we were actually helping to pursue a genuine spiritual journey, and, who I consider to be personal friends) are not interested in becoming disciples at all; they are only interested in this church being a “service provider” for them. That is, they expect this church to provide them with all sorts of personalized services to fit their latest whim, and also expect the staff to do it all for them. Kind of like we are a YMCA or something.
Even worse, they’ve tried to leverage their friendship to get their way.
The real clincher? These very same people (who are demanding so much from us) have a long-term track record of contributing nothing, absolutely nothing, to this church.
Now, they are threatening to leave.
I felt betrayed. I was shocked, saddened, and my feelings were hurt. And my indignation was aroused. The disappointment was so great that I actually said out loud, “I’ve had enough of this. I am through with the ministry.” I genuinely wanted to quit.
For now, rather than quitting, I’m going to stand my ground and make an attempt at correcting this shallow immaturity. With God’s help, I will clean up
and rid it of this kind of self-absorbed narcissism. So let me state it for the record: Pace Community Church
The absence of a particular ministry or program may be God’s way of getting you to grow up – to outgrow your preferences. Maybe it’s time for you to get on board with what your church is DOING instead of expecting your church to do what you WANT. This is called sacrificial service.
Have you even stopped to consider that this church has a bigger mission (and, btw, a more important mission) than to provide you with baby-sitting services or job counseling services?
We are not a YMCA.
(Read the post below for more elaboration in this subject, and my postion on it).
Let’s talk about church hopping, shall we?
1. A working definition of church hopping is going from one church to another without committing to any one church (or body of believers) for any significant time (which is much different than the more legitimate practice “searching” for a new church “home”, say, after moving into a new area).
2. Church hoppers are self-absorbed consumers. There is a tendency among them to compare churches and the people in them as consumer products. “Oh, that pastor down the street is a little more high-energy than mine”, or, “Gee, the music here isn’t really meeting my needs right now”, or, “I’m really not that crazy about the children’s program”, or, “There’s not enough for me to choose from” or, “This church doesn’t offer what my last church offered”, or, “I can’t feel a move of the Spirit here.”
So they hop.
3. Then there are the hard-core church-hoppers; they never even make an initial commitment. They perpetually float between churches, pursuing a Beth Moore study at the Baptist church, the youth group at the Methodist church, weekend services at the Community church, marriage enrichment events at the new church plant in town.…. concerts at, well, you get the picture.
4. My response. I can spot these people a mile off and I don’t mind saying that I am hesitant to trust them, because, most of the time, they will use me (and this church) and then leave. It’s for this reason, and many more, that I will not cater to them. And neither do I want a church full of them. Nor will I try to keep them in our ranks when they show up. I am fully prepared to let these folks move on (friend or not) and allow
to “right size” itself by leveling out until what remains are those who are actually committed to this body. If we end up with a much smaller church, that’s fine with me, and I’m sure it will be okay with God. It’s better to have fewer who are “disciples” than large crowds of fly-by-night-fickle-consumers of religion that I (and my staff) have to continually provide buffet options for, and are driving us to an early grave. Pace Community Church
There. I said it.
Church hopping is the ultimate “all about me” experience. They take from various churches whatever it is they perceive to be of value without reciprocating in return by committing to any one church either to serve or financially support.
They move from one church to another looking for the next hot singles group, the next new church plant, the next profound speaker, the next exciting youth group, the newest moms group, the next best whatever. Many of these same people will often end up full circle, back at the very place where they started because their original church suddenly became “next” on the list again after having used up all others.
For some of these church hoppers it’s a matter of spiritual gluttony. They want nothing more than to be “fed”, (which I think is spoon fed), and when they feel they’ve eaten all a church has to offer, they move on where there is potential for more food – as if that is what constitutes a mature believer or even being connected to Christ.
For some, it’s a matter of refusing accountability. A failure to commit, a pattern of sin is pursued, or a choice made, so they leave for a place where no one knows, and no one asks.
For some, it’s avoiding stewardship. If they are not committed to any one church, there is no obligation to financially give or volunteer to serve at any one church. They can float above sacrifice without guilt.
For some, it’s emotional immaturity. A decision is made they don’t agree with, a building campaign is initiated they didn’t vote for, a staff change is made they didn’t like, so they take their marbles and go play somewhere else.
I know, I know. There are legitimate reasons for leaving a church. A door of ministry may have opened to you elsewhere and you genuinely feel God’s leading. Or, if there is a scandal that is not addressed, doctrinal heresy, or patterns of abuse, you should leave. And you can do so in good conscience. But let’s be honest here. Most people don’t leave for these reasons. They leave all sorts of churches for all sorts of reasons, and most of them are silly and shallow.
So, let me offer some pastoral insights……………….
First, church isn’t just about you. Sorry, but it’s not. A church is not like a store in a mall that exists to serve your spiritual shopping list. Church is a gathered community of believers who are pooling together their time, talent and resources to further the Great Commission. Find one and start investing your life and money into it.
Second, the very nature of authentic community is found in the “one another” commands found in the NT: Love one another, serve one another, encourage one another; etc. There are over 50 “one another” commands that you cannot obey unless you actually belong to a local body of believers. Besides, you need community yourself.
And always remember Hebrews 13:17 - "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you."
Fifth, stop worrying so much about “being fed” as much as learning to feed yourself. If you have developed a caviar appetitive, no one, not even the apostle Paul himself, can satisfy your cravings. Even better, concern yourself with feeding others (especially those new to the faith) and putting your knowledge into practice. In other words, stop deceiving yourself being a “hearer” of the Word only, and instead be a “doer” of the Word.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Then there is the mission of the church – to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples – which also requires funding.
The truth is it takes super-sized cash to underwrite a church and its ministry. Yet, a lot of people enjoy every bit of it for free.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
That was one of the best sermons I have heard in a long time!
Pastor Gary Weighborg (wee-burg) did an exceptional job teaching from Matthew 18.
The message was: Restoring Broken Relationships Jesus’ Way.
covered the entire chapter emphasizing that theme, and keeping things in context. Gary
He talked about pride, humility, faith, restoration, forgiving others and the forgiveness of God.
Furthermore, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was present. People were deeply moved. Me included.
I expect some people in our church family will experience healing in their relationships.
I especially liked this thought he offered after reading the story of the unmerciful servant: If Jesus can forgive me of everything, then I can forgive others of anything.
It should be apparent that our teaching team is really beginning to shape up. These gifted teachers who assit me are a gift to the Body of Christ and the PCC family.
Our church is about to go to a another level.
Phillip and Carla Polk did a good job on the offertory too. They are a husband and wife team and a real asset to PCC.
That man can play the piano.
I love poking at him by saying, “I can do that” when everyone knows I can’t.
Plan to go fishing this week. You can't catch fish if you don't go... so I'm staying with it and plan to be there when the mullet run begins. Hopefully the cooler weather this week will improve things.
Soon I with catch the mother load.
When I do, a bunch of them will have James Wheelus' name written on them. That's because James has a smoker - and knows how to cook/smoke/ like nobody's business - and word is, he knows how to smoke mullet. (:-)
Dear Robert & Donnie, I'll try save you some... even though you're going to be in the mountains next weekend (;>)
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Thanks for being a Bible preacher. I’ve tried many different churches in my life and none of them do the preaching and teaching you have done.
But there are certain people in the body of Christ who make it all bearable. They are “encouragers.” In fact, they might even have the gift of encouragement. Aside from ministering their gift to the body, they often direct it towards their pastor. These people can do more for my emotional well-being than a professionally trained therapist. They are gifts from God.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Blogging: My Blogging activity has been slow for the last twelve days. I don’t have internet capability at home and my time at the office is crammed with other duties that keep me busy.
I will be resuming at a steady pace pretty soon.
House Plans: Renae and I are still working on house plans. Just when we thought we had decided on a final floor plan, we noticed some things we didn’t like. So now, we’re back to the drawing board. Dang!
I hope to get this phase done soon. We’ve got the money to build and can get started immediately… but trying to figure out the floor is a bigger job than I thought it would be.
We have only one chance to get this right, so we want to be careful.
Garden: The deer are doing a number on my fall garden. I have planted collards 3 times! It is frustrating to plant a garden (expense, labor) only to see everything eaten overnight!
I’ve tried a variety of deer scares and nothing works (more than a day or two). So I finally got around to putting up a fence. Maybe this will be a deterrent.
My fall garden consists of collards, mustard, turnips, kale, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, radish, and lettuce.
Lot’s of green leafy stuff – cool weather plants.
I’m still collecting fruit trees and will be planting them this fall too.
Fishing: My efforts at fishing haven’t been as productive this month as I was expecting. I’m catching fish, but not near as many as I caught this time last year.
I’m catching a red fish here-and-there, and a few mullet. It’s been slow.
Although the temperatures are mild, it’s still warmer than normal for October which (I think) has affected the fall mullet run.
But I’m going to stay at it.
I love being on the water.
Church Stuff: I just finished an eleven week sermon series covering a variety of topics. We gave away more sermon CDs during this sermons than ever before. That was very surprising to me.
PCC has some gifted teachers who fill-in for me from time-to-time, and I’m looking forward to hearing them soon.
We’re having a FALL PICNIC and CHILI COOKOFF at the end of the month (Wednesday, October 30th) the night before Halloween. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Bring a lawn chair, something to drink, and your best chili. This will a great opportunity to meet new people and deepen friendships.
Personal: I’m in the healthiest place I’ve been in a very long time. I mean physically, spiritually, and mentally. It’s a good thing.
I talked about some of those things in the two-part message entitled: Simplify.
I had almost forgotten what it was like to have normal friendships and God has put some amazing people in my life. Safe people.
Life is good.
2. Church is not about you, whether it’s flourishing or dying all around you. Preach Jesus, know the Word, obey Scripture, love the people. Get yourself out of the way! He must increase; you must decrease. John the Baptist said that – and a few days later he was beheaded. It’s not your church, it’s His church and He is the builder of it – not you.
3. The reason some people hate your guts rarely has anything to actually do with you. Some people are sitting in the congregation angry at God, angry with their jobs, angry with themselves. When their frustration boils over, they are looking for the easiest target – and God’s spokesperson usually ends up in their sights. So try not to take everything personally, (which easier said than done and it will be one of the most difficult skills for you to learn).
4. People will keep making more and more demands of you until you muster up the fortitude to take ownership of your own agenda. If you don’t plan your schedule, others will plan it for you.
5. As a pastor, you will always have someone angry with you. You are asking people to swim upstream in a downstream world, against the current. You are calling people to obey God – a God they have never seen. You are insisting that church members be generous givers, urging them to love one another (and the unlovable), and warning them of God’s judgment.
8. Granted, you don’t pray very well. No one does. Pray anyway. “We don’t know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). But don’t let that stop you. The Holy Spirit makes up the gap. Besides, this is how you stay in touch with the Lord.
9. Pastors are mood-setters for the congregation. This is why I believe pastors should serve as hosts of the worship service on Sunday (and not just bring a sermon at the appointed time). By his joy, the victory he enjoys in Christ, and his love for people, he can make a world of difference in how people worship.
10. There are times to leave the office (pastors study) and have coffee with the staff – and anyone else in the membership – in a relaxed atmosphere. This is every bit as important as anything else in your (and their) day. Laugh with them. Listen to their stories of children and grandchildren, how they dealt with a crank neighbor, what happened at work the other day. When you get back to the study, you will have several sermon illustrations and be forever bonded with those terrific people.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
2. Turn over more responsibility to key people, empower them, and then support them before the congregation. And when some of the members begin whining because “We want the pastor, not an assistant” I would tell them to get over it, and have the strength to stick to the plan.
I’m sorry I let myself be manipulated by people who insisted I be the one to show up at their events or was the one they preferred to visit their hospital room, etc, even though plenty of others were just as qualified as me. It ran me ragged and the church suffered for it.
3. Reserve the morning hours for secluded study of God’s Word and sermon preparation. Even if it means staying home during these hours, I would do it. There are too many distractions, interruptions, phone calls, or walk-ins that will throw you off. Pastors are under a seven-day deadline every single week to deliver another message. The pressure of doing this week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year, is something most people do not experience in their line of work, so they won’t understand. Doesn’t matter. Do it anyway. Your pulpit ministry will be much better.
Early in my ministry I spent too much time visiting hospitals, attending denominational meetings, or keeping morning appointments so I could check those tasks off the list and then have the rest of the day for other things. Consequently, I was always behind on sermon preparation and found myself burning the midnight oil on Friday or Saturday night too often. And my pulpit ministry suffered for it.
5. I would be more straightforward and a little less “the nice guy” to church bullies or squeaky wheels who always expect to get their way in the church. Every church has a few bullies. Early in my ministry I was intimidated by them. By the time I planted PCC I was seasoned enough to know how deal with them. It’s why I am still here and they are not.
And have a life outside of church-life.