Sunday, July 31, 2011

Choices (Part 1)

Choose Wisdom - Who in your life do you consider to be full of wisdom?  Your parents?  Someone whom you consider to be a mentor?  A professor at school?  A little grey haired mother in the church?  A coach who impacted your life?

We are drawn to people who seemingly make wise decisions in their life.  We are more apt to ask them for advice than people whose track record has more wrinkles than last weeks aluminum foil.

Wisdom is a matter of choosing well in life.

Apostle Paul defines wisdom in Ephesians 5 like this:
  • Ephesians 5:15 So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise,
  • Ephesians 5:16 making the best use of time because the days are evil.
  • Ephesians 5:17 Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is
  • Ephesians 5:18 Stop getting drunk with wine, which leads to wild living, but keep on being filled with the Spirit.
  • Ephesians 5:19 Then you will recite to one another psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. You will sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts.
  • Ephesians 5:20 You will always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 5:21 And you will submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Be careful How you live - Don’t be unwise but wise.

Consider how you use your time.
  • Do you make the most of it?
  • Time = "Kairos" or the critical moment. Redeeming time means to make the most of each moment.
  • From today’s dawn until tomorrow’s dawn, you have a precisely determined amount of time. As someone has put it, "Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can spend it only once."

Every thinking person has goals and dreams he longs for, plans for, and even begins to reach for.
  • Sir Walter Scott’s last words written in his diary were, "Tomorrow we shall...." But there was no tomorrow for him. He died with good intentions to accomplish a certain goal -a goal that he never attained. Most people never make it.

Yet there are many people who fall short of their goals simply because of limited time or opportunity. And that is why it is always important to get busy and do the right thing immediately.

Let me give you Two rules for wise living.
  1. Never delay that which needs to be done today.
  2. Do the heavy lifting first.
Paul does not end his advice about wisdom here. He says "Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is, Stop getting drunk with wine, which leads to wild living, but keep on being filled with the Spirit."

Stop getting drunk with wine.
  • Without a doubt alcohol is a depressant.
  • The Spirit of God is a stimulant!
  • Alcohol brings out the worst, the Spirit brings out the best.
  • Alcohol leads to debauchery, making us animal-like,while the Spirit makes us more human, which is to say, more like God!
  • That’s Why we are told to "Be filled with the Spirit."

Let me share with you four simple facts about being filled with the spirit of God.
  1. It is a command, not a proposal.
  2. It’s addressed to everyone.
    • You don’t have to be a preacher or super spiritual.
  3. It is in the passive voice.
    • This isn’t something you control.
    • It is something you allow to happen.
    • You give control to God.
    • Maybe that’s why it’s so tough.
    • You "Let the Spirit fill you."
    • There is no technique or formula.
    • When you let Christ’s word dwell in you richly that’s how you let the spirit fill you.
    • Stay in the word of God.
    • Stay connected to him.
    • We need church.
  4. It Describes a continuous action, rather than a single one.
    • Filling is ongoing and it needs to be.
    • Why? Because we are leaky. We’re cracked containers.
    • The spirit leaks out.
    • We leave church full but given a couple of days and we’re empty again.
    • We need to be filled on a regular schedule.Now understand this. We are sealed with Spirit of God for eternity by the blood of Jesus.
      • You can’t add to it or subtract from it.
      • It’s over.
      • It’s complete.
      • It has to do with the cross of Jesus Christ.
      • That’s being sealed.
      • Filling is different - its every day!
      When we are filled with the spirit instead of being drunk with wine there are very definite results. That is what the rest of the chapter is about.

      Result #1
      • There is a different kind of singing!
      • And it’s not songs about having friends in low places!
      • We sing to one another - that’s hymns.
      • We sing to God. That’s Psalms, spiritual songs.
      Result #2
      • There is a different kind of attitude.
      • There is an attitude of giving thanks and of joy.
      • We give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
        • I heard a story about a little boy in grocery store with his mother. He asked her repeatedly and loudly through the store for cookies. Everyone in the store was aware of this little boy and his poor weary mother  Finally they arrived at the checkout counter to the relief of all present, when the little boy said in his loud outside voice “In the name of Jesus Christ, please buy me some cookies”. The others in the store bought him cookies – in all he got 28 boxes!
      • We give thanks for what we’ve already received - not to get! We already have the blessings of abundant life!
      Result #3 
      • There is a different kind of relationship with others.
      • It is a relationship of submission.
      • It’s not about who’s first.
      • It’s not about your rights.
      • It’s captured in a simple phrase that you need to say to your self very often. "I’m third". God is first. Others are second. I’m Third.
Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ and see the difference that it makes in your life.

It all comes from choosing wisdom.
  • And you do that by - are you ready for it? - Choose Jesus.
  • Choose him today and every day and you have chosen well.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Earning Trust (Part 1)

Who can stand under the purification process of God?

Who can remain unchanged through the fire of God?

Isaiah asked these questions and then answered them with a list of TRAITS for the kind of people who can STAND in a crisis.

Isaiah 33:14-16 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling seizes the godless ones. [They cry] Who among us can dwell with that devouring fire? Who among us can dwell with those everlasting burnings? 15He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises gain from fraud and from oppression, who shakes his hand free from the taking of bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes to avoid looking upon evil. 16[Such a man] will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; water for him will be sure. (amplified)

INTEGRITY - the Leader's LIFE and WORDS must match.
  • "He that walketh righteously and speakth uprightly."

What is integrity?
  • Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
  • Moral soundness.
  • Honestly.
  • Freedom from corrupting influence or motive.
  • Uprightness.
  • Rectitude.
  • The quality or condition of being whole or undivided.
  • Completeness.

A sitcom included an interesting statement "I learned about integrity from my father.  He had five wives but never missed an alimony payment."

When integrity is present in a leader - it's great. 
If it's missing it's terrible.

Five Steps to Strengthening your Leadership Integrity

1. Determine to never do anything privately that wouldn't pass public scrutiny.
  • Movies, TV programs, computer, etc.
  • It's amazing what people will do when they are 100 miles from home.  Always remember, even if people can't see...God can see.
  • Watch your "P's" & "Q's" - keep your testimony in tact.
2. Determine to never do anything the Scriptures frown upon.
  • Copy the lifestyle of many Bible heroes.
  • Even though the Scriptures may be silent on a certain subject, the Holy Spirit will direct you in your "knower" (innermost being) on what is acceptable. 
  • You cannot teach the "10 Commandments" to others if you yourself are not keeping them.
3. Determine to never do anything that will bring shame to the Kingdom.
  • We are children of God and citizens of the Kingdom.
  • We have reputations to uphold.
  • Even the world knows what a believer is supposed to look and act like.
  • At the end of the day, if your behavior causes others to stumble, both believer and non-believer, you'll not only shoot yourself in the foot with an impossibility to lead but you'll end up causing the work of God to lose credibility in the eyes of present day skeptics.
4. Determine to never do anything that will rob you of your self-worth.
  • God made you.
  • You are His creation.
  • If we make choices that cloud our Godly reflection we will lose our self-worth.
  • We are the watchman.
5. Determine to never do anything that will make you vulnerable to Satan.
  • Don't be a casualty in ministry.
  • Watch for landmines.
  • Steer clear of areas you may have struggled with before coming to Christ. (i.e., alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, partying, immoral relations, etc.)
  • Even if you feel "confident" that you're "past the ability to be tempted" - the Bible teaches us to not put any confidence in the flesh.
  • We aren't helping our situation if we put our flesh in a "familiar" area of previous struggle.

Integrity is a MAKE or BREAK characteristic.  Once it's's extremely difficult to earn trust again.  It is possible to earn it again in the process of TIME...because time is the GREAT LEVELER.  However,  to do so, one must remain humble, teachable and willing to accept full responsibility of their actions.   The process of restoration (Galatians 6:1) can be a beautiful example of GRACE and a pattern from which to follow in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Things I've Learned About Pastoring

I truly enjoy my assignment.  Beverly and I have been pastoring for 12 years and I believe we have some of the finest people in the world!  We both grew up in a pastor's home - which has afforded us experience and understanding to the ministry.  Regardless of how much formal training you receive in the ministry, there is nothing that can take the place of experience.

If you're a new pastor or have just stepped up to serve in ministry in any capacity - allow me to humbly share a few things I've learned along the way.
  1. Learn how to relax in your own skin.  God called you to be who you are and not someone else.  Resist the urge to compare yourself to other pastors or leaders.
  2. It takes time to feel like you're actually "pastoring" the church.  People may call you pastor, out of respect for your office, but there will come a definite moment when you'll feel like you're actually pastoring the church.  Don't rush will happen naturally.  Some people will only trust you after a really long time of proving yourself, and another group will never trust you no matter what you do.
  3. You'll only have as much spiritual authority as you're willing to submit yourself to. 
    Submission brings freedom and promotion.  Independence is a train wreck waiting to happen.  You cannot ask your people to submit to your leadership if you are unwilling to submit to those over you.  A good soldier can take orders from any commander.
  4. Wolves aren't the only ones who bite.  Sheep bite too.  Although their bite don't kill...the gnawing can make life miserable sometimes.  Don't let your emotions get the best of you.  Walk out in front of your flock...pushing from behind will frustrate you and exhaust your energy.  Expect to be bitten. Stay focused on your vision and do not exhaust your efforts trying to put out fires and giving ear to murmuring.
  5. The life of a minister can be lonely at times.  If you are called to lead people, you cannot be their best friend too.  God will give you strength during the lonely times and send you relational encouragement.  Cherish the friends God gives you and nourish those relationships.
  6. Don't make hasty decisions on Monday mornings.  Sometimes your brain will feel like oatmeal after a weekend of ministry.  You'll be tempted to double guess your message, leadership and capability.  The good news is...Monday will pass!
  7. Keep on preaching the truth regardless of how many people get upset at you.  You're called to proclaim the Word - not necessarily to defend or debate it.  Preach with passion and leave the results to God.
  8. Take a vacation.  You're not superman.  You'll be no good to your family or church if you're beat down.  Schedule a day during the week when you can unwind, get out of the office and avoid dealing with church issues if at all possible.  Sitting on the couch and watching a movie with your family can do you a world of good!
  9. Make wise hiring choices.When looking for potential staff members, loyalty & integrity are the most important characteristics.  You will also want to consider people who have a great work ethic and who ask "why not?" instead of "why?"
  10. Celebrate the victories.After you've completed a big assignment CELEBRATE.  Giving everyone an ice cream cone is a fun way to say "thank you!"  Send thank you cards or appreciation to your key leaders and try to take a breather before the next big event.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do We Need Technology Teams In The Church?

Technology and gadgets are lots of fun!  I appreciate the positive effect that technology can have in ministry.  However, technology isn't everything.  If we focus on what we don't have we'll forget what we do have.

As a pastor, I feel the technology that the church uses should help me convey my message both in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.  (i.e., power point; videos; communication; etc.)

We're blessed with a great media team who take good care in supporting my personal vision and our corporate vision.

If you could read my thoughts (melancholics assume you can) you would see the thought processes that are constantly whirling through my mind...thoughts of principles and priorities that supercede technology with all of it's bells and whistles.

What Matters Most

To me, the main thing is connecting people to Christ - even if we don't have video screens, mac computers, video cameras, digital recording studios, lights, haze or green screens.  Every member of our team should be focused on the MAIN THING without getting detoured on side projects and for that matter getting discouraged if they don't have the resources that the church down the street has. 

Our weekly services have to remain focused on ONE THING - connecting people to Christ.  I admit, quality technology can assist us in reaching that goal with added value but it shouldn't be the ONLY THING we focus on.

One of my favorite moments of corporate worship is when the band stops playing and you can hear every one's voice ringing through the rafters.  It's "unplugged" and "vintage."  It's extra special to me.

I'm always aware that people have a choice of where they worship.  I mention that from the pulpit as often as I think to.  I thank the people for choosing to worship with us because I realize that they indeed made a choice to join us for that particular service.  For some, this is their first experience with our church or "the church" in general.  It is my hope that they'll have a GOOD EXPERIENCE - because their experience will probably determine whether or not they'll return.  So we must make it our priority to make that first experience excellent each and every weekend!

My thoughts on technology, at this point, is to make sure were using it to support our churches forcing us along with it.

Can Someone Help the Pastor?

We can sometimes become "over-the-top" in our efforts to create the WOW FACTOR.  Whether its light settings, stage designs, video displays or moving backgrounds. 

Honestly, our teams should really be thinking - "I need to make sure I'm ministering to my shepherd and his/her calling."  Whether you are a staff member or volunteer, you must do everything within your ability to help your pastor retain complete confidence in your ability to support his/her vision. 

Your pastor needs to know that you're supportve of his/her vision 100% and will partner with him/her to achieve it.  If you're not, the opportunity to "show boat" or become "prideful" will constantly be a temptation. 

Say No to Distractions!

Do everything in your power to alleviate all distractions that would inhibit your pastor's message from being communicated.  What a comfort it is to know when I walk on to microphone has been tested for EQ and a fresh battery...and our audio, video, lighting and internet teams are behind me!  Knowing this, gives me confidence to deliver the message God has given me without having to worry my mind over needless distractions.

Your Pastor Is Not Superman!

One thing every leader needs to remember is that it's not your pastor's job to know how to do what you do.  If you are given an assignment that has the potential to present a technical challenge - then be clear about how it could affect the service.  It is your responsibility to communicate to your pastor in a way that he or she can understand.  (Not every pastor is technologically savvy)  Please take the time to communicate the necessary information so that your pastor is prepared.  He or she will appreciate the time you take and the special care you give them to support their vision.

On a final note....

Be a Worshipper!

Don't get so caught up in "exercising your gifting" that you forget to worship.  You can worship while playing an instrument; running a camera; tweaking sound; ushering; greeting; typing at a keyboard; etc.

If you'll be a worshipper you'll see an improvement in the worship service.

At the end of the day, remember that this is NOT a "show" or a "gig!"  You are called to do more than just SHOW UP and SHOW OUT.  You are a WORSHIPPER first...and a technician second!  Never lose sight of this or the Lord's work will only be "another task to complete."

It is a PRIVILEGE to be able to do what I get to do for the Lord!  Whether it's mixing sound, singing, playing an instrument, running a computer, etc!  It's a CALLING and it demands my full attention and drives me to reach for EXCELLENCE!

Your gifts and calling are so important to God that He has placed you in a premier place to help fulfill your pastors vision.  Never lose sight of what you've been called to do and why you've been called to do it.

No matter how significant or insignificant the task may seem to you, if it is required by your pastor, then it is important to the vision of the church. 

Stay connected to the vision of your pastor and your personal dream/vision will come to pass!  YOU ARE NEEDED!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Take Another Look at the Church (Part 4)

"Just preach the Word!"  I believe in that statement.  I believe it because I know from personal revelation, that the Word of God is enough to bring a supernatural change in the lives of people.

God uses the foolish of preaching.... (1 Corinthians 1:21)
Faith cometh by hearing...the Word...(Romans 10:17)

However, just because I preach the Word doesn't mean I excuse myself from using or exploring proven systems, strategies and innovation to promote church health and growth. 

I believe we must also put "works" with our faith. 

For example, if I'm looking for a job - I must be proactive in developing a quality resume, networking, attending job fairs, cold calling and getting off the couch! 

I once talked with a man who was unemployed about his job search.  He stated, "I'm just waiting on the Lord."  I realized that he wasn't waiting on the Lord...he was LAZY!  His idea of "waiting on the Lord" meant sitting on the couch all day, finishing off a bag of chips and a 2-liter of soda while watching TV 24/7, while his wife was working a job outside the home and he was waiting for companies to call him. (He'd been "waiting on the Lord" for five years.)  Friends, we can't just sit at home and wait on companies to call us.  We must be proactive in our efforts. 

I like the old saying, although not Scripture - it is loaded with principle, "God helps those who help themselves."

The same is true for churches.  We must utilize the basic principles we've been given while continually searching for effective methods to reach today's culture. 

I've had the privilege to speak with pastors of all ages.  I'm always wearing my "learning cap" when I get in their presence, regardless of their age or experience.  I believe everyone has something to offer and we can glean in any field if we purpose to.  However, I spoke with a pastor who has been in the ministry, probably longer than I've been living, who told me that "he didn't believe in all that new fandangled stuff."  He said, "we don't need lights, sound, seminars and programs brother...we just need to preach Jesus!" 

Well, having been raised in the church all my life, I can attest to the fact that YES we need to PREACH JESUS!  However, even Jesus used methods that were considered unorthodox, illustrations that were "out of the box" and various vehicles to deliver HIs message in His day.

I was saddened by this man's comments because it revealed to me how out-of-touch he was with reaching his grandchildren's generation.  Here is a man, with great experience, who should be like the "Men of Issachar who had understanding of the times" (1 Chronicles 12:32) but his thinking was so antiquated we might as well call him "Brother Rip Van Winkle."

If you're an older pastor reading this, let me assure you that you are highly respected and there are a younger group of ministers looking to you for wisdom, leadership and innovation!  Please don't make the mistake of alienating yourself with closed mindedness or statements that reveal how out-of-touch you may be.  I'm looking to you for inspiration!  I need to know that there are seasoned men/women who are "forward thinkers" and possess a progressive mind for ministry!

Tommy Barnett exemplifies this to me.  He is in his 70's now and is considered to be a FORWARD THINKER!  He has moved past his fear of "making people feel uncomfortable" while he pursues new ministry methods.  His life is an example of commitment to reaching out to others and training leaders in church growth and outreach, and for this he has become known as a "pastor's pastor."  His tenacity and refusal to step down from a challenge have inspired him to take unprecedenented leaps of faith in ministry, and by example to encourage pastors and leaders around the world to spread the love of God and change the lives of many through a relentless spirit of servanthood.

I heard him make a statement, while attending one of his conferences.  He said, "today's musical styles aren't necessarily my cup of tea.  But I let the young people play their music and sing their songs because I've learned how to adapt my methods to preach my message."  This was just one illustration he gave on how to lead through changing culture. 

His heart inspired me!  His passion to remain a FORWARD THINKER in an ever changing culture made me SMILE!  A man in his 70's who is still going STRONG in the ministry because he is more concerned about reaching the next generation than satisfying his own personal preferences, likes or dislikes.  If the Lord tarries...I want to be in that same category too! 

I want to reach the next generation!  I realize that today's tools may not be able to accomplish it...but if I keep my passion for God ablaze and I seek to be innovative, creative and fearless...God will give me the tools for tomorrow to reach those generations while maintaining His principles!

My friends and co-laborers, we must be PROACTIVE in our efforts to reaching our world.  We cannot just "mosey" into church this weekend and think it will "carry itself."  Let's be CREATIVE in our approach to how we "do" ministry. 

Preach the Word! 
Read, study, pray, fast!
Put works with your faith!
Sharpen one another!
Expect more!
Be creative!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Take Another Look at the Church (Part 3)

I feel like the church is sometimes stuck between gears.  It's as if there is a moment of hesitation when the shift is taking place. 

Growing up, I owned several motorcycles.  I learned early on how to shift gears while riding.  In fact, knowing how to shift gears on those motorcycles prepared me when I purchased my first standard car ... a three cylinder Subaru Justy.  Yes...I said three cylinder! (LOL) 

My "senses" learned how to feel and listen for the shift. 

It's funny watching someone learn how to drive a standard vehicle:  they pop the clutch, stall the engine and grind the gears.  Eventually, they catch the feel of the car and how and when to make the shift.

That's where I feel the church is right now. 
There is a definite shift happening.

As a 40 year old...I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle of the generational shift.  I feel like I can identify with the old time saints as well as the expectations of the emerging generation.

Like it or not...a shift is happening! 
It's going to happen whether we're ready for it or not.

I feel that, eventually, the older generation and the younger generation will be speaking the same language...but will use different words to describe their viewpoint.

However, both are after the same objective... a TANGIBLE relationship with God.  They're just choosing different roads to get there.  The good news is they'll eventually end up at the same place.

My parents live in Northeast Ohio.  I live in Indiana.  We travel to Kentucky periodically for family reunions.  We take two different routes to get there but we arrive at the same place.  We use different vehicles too.  Those vehicles have various features that make them unique too. (i.e., sunroof, four wheel drive, varying media systems, tinted windows, custom wheels, etc.)

We arrive at the same place...we just take different routes and use different vehicles to get there.

So...if we know we're headed to the same place...what does it profit us to argue about cosmetic choices pertaining to systems, strategies or methods?

Today's culture isn't interested in arguing over bylaws, procedures or rules.  They're interested in RELATIONSHIP.  If you can establish a relationship with them...they'll open up to you and allow you to lead them forward...even if you're navigating through an antiquated system.
  • I digress...Pastors...can you imagine taking your new converts to a religious business meeting and exposing them to attitudes, arrogance, arguing and people who just want to hear themselves speak over the mic?
  • I wonder how much red tape Jesus had in His ministry? 
  • Did He yield to the "good ole boy...he's a jolly good fellow" mentality or did He make theocratic appointments?
  • I wonder if Jesus used Roberts Rules of Order when He turned over the tables of the money changers? 

Relationship affords authentic trust.
Authentic trust is priceless!  

I'm discovering that this "RELATIONAL GENERATION" are not fans of dead religion, rituals or rules that make no sense.  Neither are they fans of politics, fads or "good ole' boy" mindsets.

The relational generation is comprised of a people who are seeking a tangible relationship with God.  A relationship that is forged in the heart of genuineness, passion and authenticity.

In my own words I like to refer to this up and coming generation as the "TANGIBLE CHURCH."  A church that prefers the presence of the Lord over policy and procedures.  Where facade is replaced with transparency. 

The tangible church desires the essence of God more than perfume of politics.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Can Ministry be an Emotional Mess? (Part 1)

How do you feel about ministry?'re not in the ministry?

I thought we were all in the ministry.  Every member is a minister.  Everyone of us have something we can do for Christ.  The word "ministry" means "service."  We're all His SERVANTS. 

Jesus came to SERVE and He teaches us to serve.  Since we're all ministers...we will all experience emotions about ministry.

Maybe your ministry is to your family.
Maybe your ministry is to the people you work with.
Maybe your ministry is in the church.
Maybe your ministry is specifically to unbelievers.
Again...we're all in the ministry!

We all have three things in common
  1. We all need to be loved.
  2. We all need to learn how to love.
  3. We all have people in our lives who need our love.
When we give our love in Jesus' name we are MINISTERING to them.

Let's talk about the emotions of ministry.

The Emotion of Intense Desire
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire."
Paul had an intense longing for God's will to happen in the world.  He wanted to see people's lives changed and spiritual growth take place.  Paul had an INTENSE DESIRE to see this happen.

Ever have an intense desire?  How about after a long stretch of not eating sweets?  You walk into Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and order 1/2 a dozen of "hot" doughnuts.  They hand you the box and you walk to the car and it's just you and that box of doughnuts all alone.  Is that what I'm talking about when I talk about intense desire?  NO!  It's something much bigger!

We all know what it means to really want something to happen for our success.  We have a desire to succeed and achieve success.  It's not any different in ministry.

But Apostle Paul is talking about something even deeper than that.  It's more than just a desire to succeed.  It's more than just a desire to be fruitful.  It's a desire to MAKE a DIFFERENCE in the world!  It's a desire to see people's lives changed.'s not just about us anymore!  It's about lives being changed!  In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul talks about his experiences with these people.  His desires grows out of:
  1. Times when you're torn away from people.  (1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.")
    I sense what Paul is saying here.  There's an intense longing when you try to minister to someone but you're torn away from that circumstance.  You love what you're doing and God moves you.  You love a particular ministry and God sends you somewhere else.  You love your small group and God leads you to leave that small group and go make a difference somewhere else.  And you have an intense longing that comes out of that.

    Remember elementary school and the first day of Kindergarten?  The parents watch their little kindergartners go into the class.  The look on their faces is this feeling of being torn away. 

    Sometimes you'll have that in ministry.  Some of you will have it when you go on a missions trip.  You'll fall in love with the people and they'll fall in love with you.  You'll only be there for one week but when you have to leave, there will be that feeling of being torn away.  That's part of ministry.

  2. Times when you try again and again - Paul tells those people in Thessalonica I tried to see you, "But we, brethren...endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.  Therefore we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again..." (1 Thessalonians 2:17b, 18)

    Friends, sometimes things don't work out...even in ministry.  Even if God has called you to do doesn't mean it's always going to be easy.  Things aren't always going to work out like you had hoped or prayed.  There are many times when you're ministering to someone in your family or on a mission trip or at work or in a small group where you'll try again and again and again!  It may work out in time...but you'll find that it's sometimes the 10th or 20th try before it does.

  3. Times when you feel like Satan stops you - "But we, brethren...endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.  Therefore we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again - but Satan hindered us..." (v.5a)

    Sometimes you'll seemingly come to a standstill because of opposition, persecution or temptation.  Who do you think is behind that?  Satan is behind that.

    There will be times when the enemy will throw up a barrier in our way of ministry.  He doesn't want us to succeed in ministry.  He will attempt to stop you.  But Satan CANNOT stop GOD!  He may try to stop you or me, but he cannot stop God's will from happening in this world.  That's good news.  Although he can stop you for a moment, he cannot stop God from being at work.  That's what you take comfort in - - that intense desire!

  4. Times when you can stand it no longer.  He says in 3:1, 2a "Therefore, when we could not longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy..."  Then a few verses later "when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith..." (v.5a)

    That's part of this intense desire.  There are times when a concern for others and a conviction about what needs to be done in their life, and they start to grow in your life and the volume of God saying, "You need to be doing this.  You need to be living here.  You need to help with this area of the church ministry."

    Maybe it's with preschoolers or junior highers or senior highers.  "You need to make a difference with your life in this are of ministering to women or men or..."  There's a time when you have the sense of "that's the right thing to do," and the volume keeps getting louder and louder and louder.

    That's an intense desire!  There comes a point when the volume gets so in your car if the volume kept getting louder and louder, that finally you say, "I've got to do something about that!  I've got to do something about that NOW!" 
What do you do when you have an intense desire?  You do something about it. 

How did Paul deal with this longing?  He sent Timothy to STRENGTHEN and ENCOURAGE them!

When you have an intense desire about something about it!  Strengthen God's people, encourage God's people! 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Take Another Look at the Church (Part 2)

How do you measure the success of a church? 
  • The size of it's campus? 
  • It's annual revenue? 
  • The size of it's membership? 
  • Is it how many services they have on the weekend? 
  • Is it the number of cell/home groups they have? 
  • Is it the number of ministries they offer?
  • Is it in the amount it gives to missions?
  • How many paid staff they have?
  • Whether or not they have produced their own worship CD?
Success is more than this.  Depending on who you ask, success can be defined in many ways.  I am of the opinion that the success of a church is not based upon numbers alone, whether it's in membership or the square footage of a building.  However, numbers can be forth telling of fruitfulness.  To me, it boils down to quality versus quantity. 

What kind of Christians are we producing?  We can have a full house every Sunday and Wednesday but that doesn't mean everyone in the house is healthy and embracing the MISSION of CHRIST to become SALT and LIGHT in their communities.

If I want to know what kind of Christian you are, I merely have to ask your next door neighbor.  If your next door neighbor can attest to your conversion and testify of the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Galatians 5:22-23) then we could more than likely say, you are the real deal.

Allow me to make a personal observation.  Pastors and church leaders often view their churches and ministries differently than the people who serve along side them.  The old mindset of measuring success by buildings, budgets and bodies tends to overshadow the truth of what's really happening.  All you have to do is become a fly on the wall at the latest ministers gathering and you'll hear some "whoppers" of inflated success.

I don't want to sound brash or cruel towards ministers...I am one...but I do think we need to transparently come to grips with misconceptions, we've adapted to, on how to measure success.  Perhaps we need to redefine how we measure success.  Rather than focusing on numbers, strategies or how "trendy" we are...we should be looking at how many Kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus we are producing that are being led by the Spirit.

The true test of our Christianity comes in play when our neighbors can identify with our mission and message.  When our faith is known and respected amongst our friends and family...then the ground work is laid for the mission of Christ to be embraced and taken seriously.

How can we expect the world to take the mission of Christ seriously, if in the church, we have dysfunctional ministers and members?
  • I'm not interested in hearing about the latest conference and concert you attended if you can't even be faithful to your local church on a weekly basis.
  • I could care less how many personal prophecies you've had spoken over you...because until you line up with the Word of God...none of them are coming to pass.
  • I'm not impressed by your spiritual gifts if you lack the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
  • Don't try to impress me with your revelation on some deep spiritual subject when you act like looney tunes and embarrass your friends and family with your unbridled behavior.
I've often said, "before you walk on water, you'll have to first walk on land."  If you can't be faithful in the smallest disciplines like attendance, attitude, tithing, etc., WHO ON EARTH IS GOING TO RECEIVE FROM YOU...MUCH LESS FOLLOW YOU?

God is more concerned with our

Jesus desires His church to take on His nature and characteristics.  My heart yearns for this.  I desperately want to see our church ablaze with God's purposes in every aspect of our living.  His mission must be paramount to our agenda.

I want our church to be known for - it's love, the way it prays and how it shares Jesus!  I'm not interested in being known for our preaching style, musical preference, buildings or strategies.  I want the Holy Ghost to have full reign in our LIVES!  If He can have full reign, I believe we'll become MISSIONAL KINGDOM-MINDED DISCIPLES of Jesus in this last day!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Take Another Look at the Church (Part 1)

I heard Stan Toler make a statement a few years ago, at a conference I went to in Oklahoma, he said,  "If you haven't pastored in the last five've never pastored."
I thought to myself, here's a man who has pastored for 40 years.  If anyone has the right to make that statement...he does.

He was speaking in context to the issues we face in ministry today regarding culture, mindsets, end times, ministry methods, etc.

Today, I believe every current pastor/leader is looking for a clear cut path to lead their congregation past merely surviving to thriving.

The truth is...there isn't just one clear cut path to follow.  What works for one congregation may not work for another.  If you're a pastor reading this blog, then you already know that trying to mimic a "style" will not sustain real foundational growth and church health.

Styles come and go just as fast as they emerge. 

When I came to Indianapolis, twelve years ago, I came ready to love people, win souls, cast vision, chart new territory, fulfill my destiny and advance the Kingdom of God.  Little did I know the full complexities of trying to navigate a group of people through uncharted territory with a changing culture breathing down our necks.

If you think you can pastor your church today like your father's generation are sadly mistaken.  The truth is, many are still attempting to do so and although they are extremely frustrated with the results they're seeing...they're sometimes STILL unwilling to make any changes for fear of the unknown, fear of what people might think, fear of being ostracized, fear of not being able to make the cut and a fear of overcoming their own personal internal struggles.

 If you stop and think about all the challenges you face today, you might not even want to pastor:
  • Attitudes, dysfunctional mindsets of what a church should look like, personality conflicts, cultural conflicts, pressure to be all things to all people, relating with relevancy, Christian consumerism, disloyalty, sin, laziness, victimized theology, stubbornness, spirit of entitlement, etc.
However, Jesus knows what it takes to pastor "today's" church.  He knew what it would take when He told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!" (Matthew 16:18)

Friends, there isn't just one model or method to look at when attempting to build a church.  It's not a style of music, a new worship service geared to a select age group, a particular dress code (jeans or suits), small groups, home groups or even terms like "conservative/traditional" versus "casual/contemporary."

There is no "one-size-fits-all" way of doing things!  The focus shouldn't be on METHODS!  Our first focus should be on understanding the FOUNDATIONAL issues of the church today.  This will require some SERIOUS THINKING (Yes...more things to boggle our already bombarded minds).

A change is coming (already upon us) whether we want to face it or not.  God is raising up leaders who have a desire to reach their culture and generation. 

How we think about church will have to change
rather than just trying to change our methods
to accommodate the change.

In my opinion, we are going to have to get a new set of glasses so we can view the church through a different set of lenses. 

I still believe that God is wanting to do a

Bottom line: We shouldn't focus so much on trying to be "modern, trendy or up and coming" with the outer wrappings of ministry.  But rather, we should focus more on the INNER CORE of who and what we are as a church.  We are going to have to look from the INSIDE OUT in order to have the mindset needed to make healthy, life giving changes!

More on this subject to come...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

That's Not My Wife!

Let's get real!  Every man needs to be held accountable.  As a pastor, I have a great privilege to connect with guys in and out of our church.  That relationship affords me the opportunity to share relationship nuggets concerning marriage and discuss other issues that men face.

I want to make a bold statement:  Men shouldn't purposely go anywhere where the opportunity to be tempted is heightened. For example...I don't go anywhere that would be dishonoring to my wife...including questionable restaurants like HOOTERS! Now that I have your attention....

Get real...guys don't go to Hooters for the food.  "I may have been born at night but it wasn't last night."  GUYS - we should STEER CLEAR and STAY AWAY from places like that!  If you're a regular customer at a place like Hooters...then I know why you go...and it's not for the food but rather to feed your lustful desires. 

I don't want to do go anywhere that would be dishonoring to my wife!  Guys...our wives want to know that they are beautiful to us.  That's why they take special effort in taking care of themselves.  They want us to tell them that they're beautiful!  It's offensive and hurtful to our wives if we look at another woman or feel the need to go somewhere that puts women on parade to fuel our weak male ego.

We are living in a world that is saturated with sexual temptation!  Commercials are full of women, scantly clad, trying to sell everything from toothpaste to insurance.

Job said "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1)  If Job made a covenant with his eyes...we need to do the same!

Guys, we need an accountability partner.  Someone who will ask you the hard questions.  Someone who will call you out when they observe you doing something that is questionable.

Here's what you should do.  Teach yourself the phrase "that's not my wife!" and say it to yourself whenever you are faced with temptation or some scantly clothed woman walks in front of you.  I guarantee'll conquer that temptation and gain strength to remain an overcomer!

Job knew the value of keeping his eyes pure.  Keeping our eyes pure matters to our wives.  If you're a single matters to your future wife too! matters to your sons and daughters!  Guys, you're modeling for your sons how to treat women...and for your daughters how they should allow men to treat them.  If you whistle at women and make lewd comments about them then you're teaching your children that women are to be treated as lustful objects.  If they see you do it...they may end up doing it too. (You discipled them.)

Ok're not off the hook.  The way you dress can greatly affect how a man thinks about you or what he thinks about you.  You may be a woman who loves Jesus...but also feel the need to reveal your cleavage to the world.  Ladies, if that offends you - then CHECK YOURSELF!  Don't put so much of yourself on display!  Don't dress like you're for sale.  My advice - ask a man who is in love with Jesus...give him permission to be honest...and he'll let you know.  What might be "cute" to a group of women can be "seductive" to a group of men. have a responsibility to CONTROL yourselves! have a responsibility to help men do just that!

God is honored when we work together to keep one another free from the opportunity to be tempted.  Again...guys, don't go anywhere or do anything that would dishonor your wife.

Keeping it real...Pastor Hylton

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is Our Church Too Big? (Part 2)

Remember when Jesus said "He would build His Church?" (Matthew 16:18)  "His" means it's His and not ours.  Since it's His...He is the one BUILDING it.

11 disciples turned into 120 in the upper room!  Why?  because the disciples couldn't STOP TALKING about Jesus!  Thus, we find MULTIPLICITY taking place...and the start of a new MOVEMENT.

Let's talk about that 120 number.  Isn't that enough?  In fact, 120 is a reasonable number.  At that size, you can know everyone and "their business" too.  It's like a close knit group of friends where everyone is comfortable.

Churches were intended to GROW.  It's sad when you meet people who express that they don't want their church to grow because they're afraid it will get too big.  I have a problem with that!  God intended for the church to REACH as many people as possible!  Just because you've received Jesus as your Savior doesn't mean everyone else has. 

How do we KEEP ON reaching as many people as possible?  Perhaps we need to look at the upper room experience to get a glimpse.  Notice how many "strange" things God did on the Day of Pentecost:  a mighty wind; speaking in tongues; and the gathering of a large crowd who wanted to see what was happening.

Isn't that different?  You don't see that everyday.  This is what God likes to do...He uses the "unnormal" to catch our attention.  Perhaps what the church is missing today is the "unnormal" at work in our midst.  Like it or not...the "unnormal" has it's place in every church.  This is nothing less than THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX and letting the WIND of the Holy Spirit to breathe so LOUDLY that the noise alone causes a crowd to come running!

Churches that refuse to be creative are in trouble.  If you're reading this and you are satisfied with "normalcy" then SHAKING THINGS UP will make you feel uncomfortable. 

But isn't that we're supposed to do?  We are not called to keep things safe and sanitary as it pertains to our vision!  We should be known as the church that SHAKES THINGS UP!
  • Our preaching should shake things up.
  • Our music should shake things up.
  • Our outreach should shake things up.
  • Our methods should shake things up.
I don't want BFWC to be known as the "normal" church where everything is "safe" and "comfortable."  I want us to think outside of the box and go past the "that's the way we've always done it" mentality!

We want to ATTRACT people to Jesus by doing UNCOMMON and UNNORMAL things to do it!  But GET READY to face the SKEPTICS when we do!!!  Just like the upper room experience...the skeptics accused them of being "drunk!"  Like it or not - when God moves in an awesome way...there are always skeptics!  (I've found that the people who are usually the skeptics are the "religious" people.)

First of all, Peter stands up and says "they're not drunk as ye suppose!"  He didn't didn't say they weren't drunk...he just said..."it's not as ye suppose!"


We need to become INTOXICATED with the Scriptures!
We need to become INTOXICATED with pointing people to Jesus!

If we will lift up the NAME of JESUS and tell as many people about Him as possible - we will GROW.  That's what Peter did on the day of Pentecost.  He took his simple fisherman's background (no seminary degree on his wall), his experience with Jesus and the Scripture (Jesus) he knew...and talked about the most amazing person that has ever lived!