Category Archives: Church Health

Where does the money go?

On the FaceBook newsfeed I’ve seen several articles and videos about where the money goes in mega-churches.  It must be part of a capital campaign, or trying to answer questions since Mars Hill in Seattle is having cutbacks take place, and etc.  It is a great question because even though I’m a pastor, I can imagine having the same question if I was a member in the church too.

First I want to applaud some of the mega-churches for giving the statistics about where the money goes.  Openness is paramount in my opinion when dealing with money.  Many of these churches have been secretive in the past, but some are being transparent and that helps when ministry is being performed in a suspicious climate.

I would like to offer another idea about where the money goes from a small church pastor’s perspective.  I have been in ministry for a while now and I’ve seen various moves, or fads, within The Church.  I’ve learned that people are a bit fickle when it comes to commitment to a particular Body of Christ.  In fact, people are very migratory.  In other words, people seem to only commit to 2 to 3 years in one church.  Then, something better comes along and they are gone.

This really isn’t an article about church attendance as much as it is about commitment.  After all, there are consequences when commitments are broken.  While poor church attendance is frustrating, it simply just keeps things from moving quicker.  Therefore, I would like to share some of these consequences to leaving the small local community church.

For starters, when Christians become migratory by leaving their community church because of age on the facility, preferred style of music, because of problems with the people in the church, or because the pastor is not someone they want to follow, there is impact to the church that has been left.  In addition, there is impact on the community that the church is in.  Plus, it is helpful to remember that relationships and problems are easily worked out by those who love Jesus; but that is another article.

Consider that for whatever reason, someone simply leaves a local congregation and attends a church out of town.  When this happens they take their financial resources with them; not to mention their manpower.  Furthermore, they take their influence with them too.  In fact, they join the vision of the pastor who may be in another community that has nothing to do with the community they live in.  This causes the local church, when enough people un-commit, to go into a type of survival mode.  I am aware that many “super leaders” in The Church would say that this is poor leadership.  Yet, it will take time to re-calibrate the vision he had for the community; if he or she had one.  Besides, the people the pastor believed were behind him or her are now no longer available.  It takes time to for a small church to replace them.

This matters because we could assume that God has that church planted in its particular community so that church could be a blessing to the people in that community.  For instance, their ministries cannot be accomplished within the community that God has placed these local churches.  This leaves people to wonder, “Where does the money go?”  After all, the money shortfall stalls the ministry to the community from moving forward.  The answer may be that the money that God gave His people who live in their community to bless and finance ministries that meet needs of people has gone into the large productions of mega-churches that are in other communities.

I should note that often I talk to believers from the community who tell me how they desire to see God do something in the community that they used to attend church.  These people will encourage me and still have the expectation that I have an assignment, but these continue to be non-participants in God’s redemptive purpose for their community.  Yet, they will travel out of town on Sundays.

Recently, a non-denominational ministry that is designed to reach kids before they are 14, ran out of money because the churches within Liberty, my local community, were not able to give enough financially for the ministry to operate.  As of now, it is operating; thank The Lord.  Yet, why is it so hard to finance that ministry?  It seems it could be argued that God’s people refuse to remain committed to the Body of Christ, that likely, The Holy Spirit placed them in.  What is worse, the local Body of Christ that they left is now stumbling and cannot move forward in a way that benefits the community.  The resources were there to meet those needs until many Christians became migratory and went to a comfortable environment that was more pleasing.

Obviously, there are “experts,” or expert debaters out there who  may be able to dispute my observations.  Yet, the fact remains, as a small church pastor, I ask, “Where does the money go?”  Once I begin the process of speculating, as I am now, I can’t help but come to this type of conclusion.  Once I reach this conclusion my next question is, “Why do people blow off the local church for the mega-church setting so readily?”  Guess who is usually contacted to go see the sick and dying.  You guessed it.  The pastors who are left in survival mode.  Many do not realize that one day this service won’t be readily available if the migrations continue; but that is another article too.

I think what is amazing is that Christians have not stopped to ask, once they are part of their new churches, a couple of questions: “Where does the money I give go?”  And, “How does my giving at this new church help my community 15-30 miles away?”  It’s amazing how much vision a local community pastor can have.  It’s also amazing how little is accomplished in the community because the manpower and finances have left the community.

In my community it is not just my small church that experiences the consequences of migration from one church to another.  It actually is close to the same from church to church.  If my opinion is close to right.  then, what type of answer will many of these Christians have to the question Jesus will likely as about faithfulness with what He gave to so that they could bless their community?  Or, does it really matter?

This was not a scientific approach and very well may be mere opinion.  Yet, in the local church that desires to serve the community, one has to ask, “What is the motive for the exodus from small churches to mega-churches outside of the community?”  Somehow it seems Christians have an agenda and God has one too.  They don’t seem the same.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Giving, Leadership, Megachurch, Pastor, Small Church, tithing, Vision

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

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Right church, wrong church and division

Small churches become aggravated at megachurches because many leave the small church for the megachurch.  On the other hand, megachurches have a way of defending themselves that seems to lash out at small churches who criticize them.  Both groups have stereotyped the other side.  One side will say that the other only entertains, while the other side will say that the other is old and is not a church that people want to attend. This is counterproductive to the Kingdom building that is supposed to be taking place.  After all, people leaving one for the other is not an increase in God’s Kingdom.  In fact, this back and forth between these two sisters has brought much confusion to many believers.  What is more, it has brought confusion to those who find themselves in a place where they are not committed to a church, but may actually be in the process of  looking for a church.  What I mean is that they have heard the echo from those in both camps of this issue.  So this means that they are hearing this discussion between the two sisters, and I would argue it is a negative discussion, which is aiding people who are not committed to Christ choose the church in which they worship and serve at that may not be the Spirit’s leading.  With one side pointing out the imperfections of the other, it seems appropriate to outline those characteristics of what aright church looks like.  There are four universally, historically, marks that someone should look for in a church so that he or she may decide whether or not they have found a right church or a wrong church.

Those who are looking for a church should be looking for distinctive marks that seem to help define church on whether or not it is a right church, or wrong church.  Of course this type of discussion is nothing new.  In fact the Early Church set forth The Marks of The Church, which can be observed from the book of Acts.  You may recall that the book of Acts is a book that describes the birth of The Church as a result of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell those who receive and follow Christ.  According to H. Ray Dunning, in 381 B.C., The Marks of The Church were stated formally for the first time in the Creed of Constantinople” (529).  Four Marks were named in the Creed, Unity, Holiness, Catholicity (which means universal), and Apostolicity.  Dunning further pointed out that these marks are produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  “They are not the result of organization or administration but are the creation of the Spirit” (529).  This last statement is another discussion for later, but it certainly should cause one to pause at the role of leadership, and administration, in many Protestant churches today.  Since these marks are understood to be the creation of the Spirit, this means that people, both inside and outside, of the Church, should be able to see these traits as reality.  If these traits are not seen as reality in regard to a group, then it is possible that group may not be a right church.  Here is a little more clarification to aid understanding these marks.

The first mark in our list of four is Unity.  This mark is one that both small churches and megachurches need to consider again.  Remember the discussion in my intro of this article.  Each side tends to point out what the other side believes to be wrong with the other.  Jesus’ teaching to His followers should be applied in this situation, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).  If both sides rightly understood this, then each could be beneficial to the other which would glorify Christ.  Consider a statement that makes a great point, and should be a rule that is kept in mind,  James B. Chapman said, “The Christ in me will never be at variance with the Christ in you” (Dunning 531).  This obviously should demonstrate the unity of Christ’s Church.  These two statements are important for each side to consider because these were made in reference to what leads to disunity, and what should help to create unity.  Christ is not divided against Himself.  The Holy Spirit should be aiding to keep this from happening.  Our goal as those who are part of The Universal Church is that we be united as part of, and by taking part in, God’s Kingdom.  When we work against each other it creates disunity and this means there is no benefit to the Kingdom.

The second mark is Catholicity.  This term is not about being a geographical location, or part of any particular tradition of doing church.  It means that it is universal by embracing Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you (Christians who have been saved by the Blood of Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them) are all one in Christ Jesus.”  This again seems to be another way of saying unity too (532).  Clearly, this is what Paul had in mind here, and in his other epistles.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit ties us to all who are in Christ.  This means that those who have the Spirit are part of The Universal Church.  This is important because this means that there isn’t a worship style, or a particular way of being the church.  Instead, it is an outer reality, that exists on the basis of the inward reality of the Spirit that makes the church be the church.   After all, there is only one Savior; and He is not divided in Himself.  We are “doing” church right, when we are being the Church through the aid of the Spirit.

The third mark is Holiness.  Holiness, unfortunately, sometimes is understood in a variety of ways.  For example, does one become Holy simply because Jesus automatically gives it to those who He calls His?  Or does Jesus offer Holiness to those who surrender themselves totally to Him so that He they can receive another helping of Grace?  This is a debate without end.  Yet, as a Wesleyan, I believe that Holiness is imparted by Christ.  From John Wesley’s point of view, “Holiness of the Church is attributable because of a real, rather than imputed, holiness” (532).  It should be pointed out that the Church does have within her those who are babes in Christ.  In fact, we are becoming Holy by allowing the Spirit within to mold and shape us.  We also are learning from the Great Teacher, Christ.   This means that each person is walking in the light they are given at that particular point of their new life in Christ.  If this be so, there will be issues each church will have to deal with because of the universal impact of sin in our world.  Further, corporate Holiness also involves accountability within the church.  I recognize that writing this some might say that this leads to judgment and condemnation and more legalism in the church.  By the way, both sides of this discussion have this element to contend with.  On the contrary, I believe it is about motivation.  Holiness that comes from the Spirit is centered on love for God and others.  It is not involved in lording over other people.  Instead it is driven by the heartfelt need to keep a brother or sister from sinning.  This in turn helps to keep the purity of the Church’s witness.  In fact, this is why Covenant Memberships exist in many churches.  This, too, will be a topic for another discussion.  Holiness, as Dunning puts it, is “the conscience of the church” (533).  Moreover, it is time that we Christians understand that we are Saints; and that we should no longer be sinners.  This is the common cry of many Christians today.  It is important that we remember that God still has expectations of us.  Therefore, right churches will remain aware of this.

The final mark in this list is Apostolicity.  This is not to be understood as an office what one can seek.  Instead it is what should be present within the Church through her members.  Members who are empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within.  This is the same Holy Spirit who dwelt within the Apostles.  In other words, in regard to Apostolicity, “It is the truth of the gospel proclaimed in the power of the Spirit” (534).  In fact, this is why each person receives spiritual gifts.  These gifts are meant to build up the Church.  If we localize this by saying build up the church, which is part of The Church, then we realize that it is not about one person, or a few, who have the ability to attract.  It is about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the corporate Body, and in individuals who make up the Body.  Therefore, it is not really about the greatness of the speaker, singer, or leader.  It is more likely that it is about the greatness of God who is present in His believers and among them as well.  With this type of understanding it easy to see that each person has a gift, or gifts, which they bring to the local church so that they too can help build up that particular church.  In turn, if the church being built up has these marks, then the Kingdom is being built up.  In fact, The Bible said that the Holy Spirit places in you in a church to do just that.

The purpose of writing this is to help those who may wonder whether or not their church is a right church.  At some point, All churches who claim Christ as their Savior must stop acting as if they are the only church who is really right.  Beware of that type of rhetoric, whether it comes from large or small.  It seems more likely that God uses both megachurches and small churches.  As a small church pastor, I want people to know that I understand these marks.  In fact, I wanted to write this because my church is small and can easily be labeled as a church that doesn’t get it.  Therefore, if Christ is in me and in those who attend my church, then it is dangerous when other pastors make blanket statements about churches who are not right or productive, in their opinion, because of a certain tradition that may seem to be out of touch with this new age.  Likewise, it is dangerous when smaller church pastors preach against what God is doing in larger churches.  The damage that is being caused is only to the mission of Christ to make disciples by using His Church.

There are more developed Marks of The Church, for example Mark Dever wrote a book called The Nine Marks of  a Healthy Church.  I have looked though this book, and it looks to be a good read and teaching tool.  However, I elected to stick with what I see as the earliest work on this subject.  I say this because I am aware that there are other variations of The Marks, but each should be developed from The Creed of Constantinople in my opinion.  I believe Dever’s is.  But his is a book, and this is only article that is meant to be basic.

Once one establishes whether or not a church is a right church, and there doesn’t seem to be division of Christ taking place, he or she needs to seek and hear from God whether or not that is the place to serve.  This should be helpful for those who are wondering what a good church looks like.

Works Cited

 

Dunning, H. Ray.  Grace Faith and Holiness.  Kansas City,

MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1988.

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Thoughts on Leadership in The Church

I don’t believe that this is a popular post especially among my peers.  As I write this, I realize that I have not been able to do anything significant; at least as far as other pastors and church leaders might be concerned.  Yet, for some time I have been troubled by this continuous movement among pastors to focus directly upon leadership.

It seems to me that pastors focus more on reading articles and books on the topic of leadership than they do books that might help them to be better teachers.  Remember, people will follow leaders, but leaders can be different from teachers.  Teaching is important in God’s Kingdom.  Hence, focus on making disciples.  I follow many pastors on Twitter and it is obvious, according to the tweets I see, that many are spending more time reading leadership books than they are theological books.

Let me reign in this argument a little.  Understanding our roles as leaders in The Church is significant.  Yet, this being a subject that dominates our ministries is questionable; at least to me.  Someone like John Wesley, who was a great leader, believed that one of the most important books that he read, a part from the Bible, was Imitation of Christ.  This is a powerful book that seems to deal with transformation instead of demonstrating leadership over others.

In today’s Church, is it possible that pastors are focusing more on delegating the responsibility to care for those in the flock to others in the name of leadership?  This might be a good place to turn around, if you are a pastor, and look at the most read books in your office.  Are the books on leadership worn out more than the Bible?  How about those books that teach about pastoral care?  Theology?

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus and His disciples “taught” the crowd before the miracle of feeding them.  Significant.  Also, the Disciples were told by Jesus, “You give them something to eat.”  Jesus delegated, with the purpose of “teaching,” to the Disciples to feed the crowd themselves.  The miracle and teaching were meant to teach; not demonstrate leadership.  Nevertheless, there is Scripture that teaches about leadership too.  Yet, it is in balance with other areas of ministry too.

Leadership sometimes gives ministers the hope that great leadership will attract more people to church and motivate them to do the work of The Church.  It can.  Yet, one the aspects that keeps people grounded is speaking the words of life.  When people deserted Jesus, He asked His Disciples if they wanted to leave too, but Peter asked, “To whom will we go, You have the words of life. (paraphrase John 6:68).  They stuck because leaders come and go, but the Truth never changes.  Obviously, Jesus taught the Truth and that was enough.

Some leadership risks are building a church after your image instead of God’s, people looking to you instead of seeking Christ.  I don’t want a church that thinks like Scott Uselman, I want a church that has the mind of Christ.  I don’t want people following Scott Uselman, yes I think I mean that, I want them to follow Jesus Christ.

Leaders tend to fix things, but some things are not meant to be fixed by anyone other than Christ.  Some things are designed teach Christians by the power and influece of the Holy Spirit; not by me becoming a person of influence.

Okay, I am not dumping leadership.  What I hope you have heard is that leadership should not be your only focus in ministry.  Yet, status updates and tweets seem to demonstrate that leadership is somewhat of a subject to show off as a pastor.  If I am out of line, be assured that it is not my intention.  In fact, examining ourselves and our motives might be good spiritual discipline even for a pastor who already knows everything. 😉

I long to see a renewed effort on teaching right doctrine, biblical theology, and focus on transformation instead of trying to develop leaders.  Holy Spirit, would you develop your people for your glory?  Amen.

 

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A reminder to pastors (attendees)

The end of the conference year is coming in The Wesleyan Church.  This is when we audit our books and post the results of our church’s ministry for the year.  For a few, this will be a time of joy because they have experienced much fruit as a result of their church ministries. 

For others, this will be a time of doubt, dread, frustration, and mourning, because they will not have the fruit to show as a result of their ministries.  For many of these ministers they will be challenged to continue on in ministry.  Some will feel a sense of jealousy and their pride will be wounded deeply.  After all, no matter what denomination that you are in, when you see other churches doing well it is easy to feel discouraged.   

Some examples of discouragement are things that are felt indirectly.  There seems to be an undercurrent that is heard, felt, or imagined that they have not performed their duties well enough.  Yet, maybe they have performed their duties as they should. 

The good news that should encourage ministers, from all denominations and church sizes, is that Dr. Joe Dongell reminded us once that we (ministers) are not the Lord of Harvest.  Our duty is to plant and water the seeds.  When God and the people are ready, He will be the One who harvests them.   

Here is more good news from the book of John.  I’ve been spending some time in this book lately and found something that seemed to be a good reminder to all pastors who are not seeing the results they desire.  So I want to share some Scriptures that might remind us that we are taking too much upon ourselves as ministers of the gospel.  Let’s be for real.  Sometimes ministers fight the battle of taking things personal because the church’s ministry success has been tied to them, either by their choice or others’, instead of to Jesus Christ. 

In John 3:22-30, Jesus has become greater than John the Baptist.  This means that if you John the Baptist that you realize that you really are becoming less in your community.  John knew what his mission was; point people to the One who came after him though He is before him.  Also, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more people than John.  For ministers, this means that the people of your congregation are leaving to go to another church because it is new or there is more action. 

First striking reaction from Pastor John the Baptist when he is alerted to the growth of Jesus’ ministry was that he has joy over it.  Yes, I said that the John felt joy over it.  Now, this is in contrast to the long introduction that I just gave.  Why?  Verse 29a, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.”  Kind of what Dongell said.  The Church (the people of Christ) belongs to Christ.  This means that if ministers feel discouraged it is time to check our motives for success.  Is about us or Him?  The people in the congregation are not yours.  They have been Ransomed by Someone else.

Second, verse 29b, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.”  Ministers are attendees of the Church.  We are friends that Christ has placed trust in to care for His Church (the Bride).  The mark of a true friend is the demonstration of the joy felt when the Jesus does with His people as He sees fit. 

Finally, in verse 29c John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”  Then He ends with verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  To be a true friend, we must become faithful.  Yet, not just faithful out of duty, but because we want to be faithful; a faithful friend to Christ.  This means that we are supposed to be attached to success of Jesus connecting with people instead of attached to the success of us connecting to people and receiving accolades for it. 

Discouragement, frustration, and etc, are felt when we ministers do not understand who is responsible for church growth/fruit.  When we feel this way, we need to consider that John the Baptist was just before prison and in the midst of his decline in ministry, but still felt joy and complete at the success of another. 

You might be a small church pastor who needs to verbally say out loud that your joy is complete because another minister is doing well.  After all, we are just attendees who point the bride to the groom.

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4 Gravitational Pulls All Churches Experience

I took these notes from Andy Stanley at the Newspring Leadership Conference in September. 

Text: Acts 15:1-21

One of his comments about the Scripture was that a controversy arose about the need for surgery to be saved. 

He also said that every church has a “they.”

1) Churches always gravitate toward insiders and away from outsiders.  Jesus liked people who were nothing like Him.  The people liked Jesus who were nothing like Him.  Resist this pull in the way you preach, build, and etc.  We must keep our churches externally focused. Red flag prayer requests. Sin, sorrow, and death are what makes our message more important!  Lost people are what matters!

My take: Prayer requests must be centered on people finding Christ.

2) Churches gravitate toward law instead of grace.  People think categorically instead of relational.  Love must always overcome rules.  Acceptance paves the way to influence.  Use grace to sort things out.  We will have to accept people who sin; not the sin.  Homosexuality, abortion, fornication. 

My take: Those who live this way must not be influenced away from the church. The Holy Spirit can still work with them and that is His job. 

3) Churches gravitate toward complexity instead of simplicity.  Clarity.  Partner don’t pioneer; fund and volunteer for other organizations that are already doing it.  Don’t lose your uniqueness in your community.

My take: We are all unique and have a purpose in God’s plan.  Sometimes we need to simply cut the fluff away and focus on the one thing we do.  Discipleship should be a clear process too. 

4) Churches gravitate toward preserving and not advancing.  The Jews were trying to preserve the Law of Moses.  The same Law that God gave him.  Do not move into a protection mode instead of moving into the community.  We cannot protect assets before fulfilling the mission.  Think like a church plant. How did we think when we did not have money? 

My take: Protect mode really brings everything to a stop.  The assets that we protect are Gods; we must watch burying our one talent.  

4 Commitments

1-Be more concerned about who we are reaching instead of who we are keeping.

2-Let’s error on the side of grace.

3-Remain focused on our unique calling.

4-Remain open-handed.  We started with nothing we may end with nothing; and that is okay.   

This is great advice.  I think this advice is great for a small church pastor.  There is a lot to chew on and ponder on here.  Everything in these notes I took are applicable even my small church situation.  I recently shared this with my board.  My goal was to help us focus on what is important.

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God bless America

This year the Fourth of July landed on Sunday.  This is fitting since we say God bless America. 

I asked a few people how God blesses America.  I had some interesting feedback.  As I suspected, the view was that God blesses us because He has chosen us and because we support Israel. 

I think as Christians there are some things we should consider.  One thing that should be thought about is that God blesses the world and not just America.  I know that I am sounding less than patriotic.  I love America!  John 3:16-17 tells me that God blesses more than America. 

Yes, America is chosen, but God has chosen the world to be His too.  So what makes America special?  It is the way that God blesses America.  He uses His Church.  That’s right.  As unpopular the Christian Church is right now, in the West, God uses His people to bless others wherever they may be geographically. 

Another issue that should be understood in a better light, and I realize that there are other theological views, is that God doesn’t bless America because we protect Israel.  We should be allies with Israel, but God doesn’t need us for this.  We need Him to protect us.  We haven’t brokered a deal with God as we tend to think sometimes. 

Here is what we Christians need to ponder.  Do we continue to serve God through our patriotism?  Or, do we serve Him through humility?  In the OT, I am as always taken back when I consider that Israel combined patriotism to their country with Temple worship as a way that made them distinct from other nations.  Yet, in Nehemiah and Ezra, they were challenged to observe the Law to become distinct from other nations.  After all, they did not have borders during this time.   

Amazingly, churches likely preached sermons about how bad our nation has gotten all over this last Sunday.  I can hear it now, “God will no longer bless our country because of homosexuality and the fact that prayer has been taken out of school.  God is also mad that other gods are being worshipped and tolerated.  He is mad because we have publishers printing of the a different Bible version than the KJV.  Therefore, He is going to punish America.”

Now, I am being a little harsh and I know it.  Nevertheless, is God not concerned with the state that the American Church has gotten to? How many church attendees all over are focusing material things that they can get their hands on instead of making disciples?  How many even attend their churches on a regular basis?  How many give to God others who have need?  How many are practicing sexual immorality?  How many are judging others on a regular basis? How many church attendees are striving to overcome sin?

So the threats that God is going to judge America if our political leaders don’t enact laws and mottos that say we support God may not need to be focused on.  It would appear that God might have a beef with Christians because they are no longer willing to live for Him so that our country can be blessed. 

These are some of the thoughts that I had this last week of the Fourth.  Church signs everywhere talking about our God-given freedom and the threat that God may judge America because those who have not known Jesus are sinning.  Maybe it is time the Church stood up and accepted her responsibility that God has given her.  This is what makes us (Christians) distinct from those who lost in the world.

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