In response to the tragic events in Charleston, SC, my friend from college responds with what many of us believers already know to be true...and wish so many more would come to understand. Used in its entirety with permission of the author, Randy Streu.
Folks, we have a Problem.
No, there's no point in denying it, because the evidence is all around us. When peaceful people can't study the Bible in Church without being shot down for no other reason than the color of their skin, it's clear we have a Problem. When white cops kill black men, and we start digging for justification instead of lamenting another life lost, we have to admit there's a Problem. When we're so afraid of a people because some folks that looked a little like them murdered a bunch of other people that we can't help looking at them suspiciously -- or even declaring their very religion an enemy -- then we must look and see we have a Problem.
And the problem with the Problem is, we don't even know what the Problem is.
Racism is not the Problem.
When we have to lock our doors at night, and feel trepidation every time we send our kids out to play, we have to acknowledge we have a Problem. When we check the internet to make sure the sex offender living down the block wasn't convicted of crimes against children, we find evidence of the Problem. When we feel the necessity to carry weapons, and to learn to defend ourselves from petty criminals and government tyrants alike, we're trying to deal with the Problem.
But we fail, because crime is also not the problem.
When thousands of people across the globe are murdered daily, not by bullets, but by hunger and disease; when children cry because they can't get away from the water dripping onto their heads from the makeshift homes they're living in; when women and children alike are forced to sell their youth, bodies, and self worth just to eat, we must see we have a Problem.
But poverty isn't the Problem.
Moms on welfare aren't the Problem, and neither are the rich (regardless of how honest they are or are not). Black people aren't the Problem. White people aren't either (not even white cops). Immigrants, legal and otherwise, aren't the problem. Neither homosexuals nor bigots, Republicans nor Democrats, feminists nor misogynists are, in truth, the Problem. The Problem isn't hatred, it isn't murder, it isn't disunity, it isn't theft, and it isn't disrespect.
The Problem lives everywhere, from shanty towns to high rises, from mosques to churches, from small business to Wall Street, from house to house and street corner to street corner.
The problem is, we can't deal with the Problem, because identifying the Problem is problematic in a society that wants to believe its problems are its own. But this problem is global.
The Problem is what it is, and remains the Problem whether you or I acknowledge to truth of its existence or not -- and the evidence of its pervasive nature lives on in every cry of hunger, scream of fear, or shout of rage.
The Problem is sin.
And the Problem lives in me, and it lives in you, and there's not a damned thing any one of us can do about it.
But thank God, we don't have to.
Jesus Christ took care of the Problem for us over two thousand years ago, when He took the burden of the Problem on his back and pounded it, through His own wrists and ankles, into a wooden stake.
So why is it still here? Why do we -- you and I and this whole world -- still have to deal every single day with this Problem? Because He can't lift a burden we won't admit exists.
It's true, we can't change the world. You and I, we can't take care of the Problem. We can't even alleviate its symptoms! But we can acknowledge the Problem in our own lives. We can hand deliver our Problem to the God who loved each one of us enough to wrap Himself in our flesh and sacrifice Himself on the altar of our stubborn selfishness. And we can, by His example, love those of us who haven't yet admitted their Problem to themselves, and guide them to the hands of the One who can take it away.
So, yes. We do have a Problem. We have a big Problem, and it's killing us, one by one, a soul at a time. But we also have a God who is far greater than any Problem we could ever have.
Yes...forgive me. Another year full of transitions and adjustments and in the past few days, I've felt a new approach was needed in helping us on focus on prayerfully supporting our church leaders.
Previous prayers have focused on an area of life, and while there's nothing wrong with that, but I felt it became too rote and routine...almost too quickly.
So, as I work through my own perseverance of posting daily prayers, each daily prayer will focus on a particular church position(s) to lift up in prayer, rather than a particular life aspect for the entire leadership. I'm hoping this will allow a more fluid "prompting of the Spirit", in terms of what position might need a certain avenue of prayer.
With that said, here's what I will endeavor to present.
Mondays: Senior/Lead Pastors
Tuesdays: Associate Pastors
Wednesdays: College/Youth/Children Pastors
Thursdays: Church Support Staff/Administrators
Saturdays: Congregations & The Community
Sundays: Church Efficiency and Effectiveness
The new schedule represents to a degree where support is needed. Sunday is a work day and most Pastors have/take Monday as their "Sabbath", so that will be the day we pray they are refreshed and renewed for the coming week. Youth Pastors have their hands full on Wednesdays w/ teens, typically along w/ other mid-week family services. Saturdays, pray that congregations would be prepared for the word they will hear as they come together and invite those around them...'are you doing anything Sunday morning?" And for such conversations, that Sunday will be a day that the prayers and efforts of the church will come together, that believers and non-believers alike will come to know Christ in a greater dimension.
Thanks again for all your prayers and support. I was reminded yet again this evening, how blessed our church is for the incredible stable position we are in, and how balanced our leadership team moves forward and how more churches and communities desperately need such a community where these traits are becoming harder to find.
May God Bless Pastors, Their Families and Churches & God Bless America
It truly amazes me how God works out the schedules of man. This afternoon was no different, and little did I know, I would end up in a service that I desperately needed, and afterward, talking to an incredible man of God, who also happens to be the lead pastor of the church.
As my current job has afforded me the opportunity to visit a number of churches on Sundays and Wednesdays alike, I often fly under the radar, in particular with regards to Bring Me 70, almost as if I am just taking the service in, rather than promoting something that is still in start-up mode. However, tonight, the calling of ministry arose, so did my perceived need for Bring Me 70.
As we made our way to the lobby, he explained that he had built a pretty good team of people, and in particular some in pastoral positions, that have allowed him to expand his ministry to other pastors and churches and places of influence, whether in their home community or surrounding areas.
Now, obviously, every church and community loves a pastor that is totally committed to their particular people, but eventually, if the life and ministry-related experience of the pastor is not utilized to impact and influence other relationships and opportunities outside the church, then doing church has the danger of becoming routine.
And as this particular explained, routine has the potential to diminish how you feel God's role in your life, as though you are not capable of God doing great and wonderful things in and through your life. (I wrote down how he said, but of course, now, it's not in front of me, b/c is truly profound.)
If the church is not growing, in maturity, in discipline, in ministry and ultimately, in numbers, then eventually the pastor will feel as though nothing is going on our no ground is being gained. There is a time for each...if your growing in numbers, you'll eventually need to focus on maturity; and if you are focusing on maturing what you have, then growth might not be playing as significant a role in your outreaches.
In the end though, growth and development by definition, require the expansion of borders.
New conversations. New relationships. New opportunities. New strategies. New ventures.
The cool part is, as that pastor engages outside of the church, he or she will naturally return with new vigor and new insight as to what and how new elements and strategies can be implemented into their church that will take them to the next level, to accomplish greater things for the Kingdom and glory of God.
"On the one hand, a pastor's family should aspire to be a great example of what a healthy, functioning and grace-filled family looks like. It's natural to look to our leaders as examples of how we should live. And in the face of cultural disillusionment with fallen leaders, it's hard not to expect something more from faith leaders. Still, it's a problem when heightened expectations are piled on families that are typical in every way. After all, even faith leaders and their families are in need of spiritual renewal and transformation." - David Kinneman, author, You Lost Me
This article from Barna Group appeared on my twitter feed today and it ties in perfectly with the purpose of Bring Me 70 and we need to be diligent in praying for and supporting our pastors and church leaders. It's an interesting read and the stats are incredible to say the least. I encourage you to check it out and consider how you should pray and encourage your church leaders and their families.
Prodigal Pastors Kids.
"We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things." - Jim Rohn
I am the worst of offenders when it comes to procrastination. And this morning, while reading Luke 13, I looked up Matthew Henry's commentary on verses 6-9. I recommend looking it up.
He shares that the story of the master wanting to cut down the non-producing fig tree, because for three consecutive years, there was nothing. Yet, the gardener steps in and explains that he needs another year, to work with the tree and the soil to change the outcome.
This is the story of grace. While the tree was representative of Jerusalem, it very much hit home upon my reading it today.
The tree was in the vineyard, where it had the best soil, best environment, best resources...and yet it had nothing to show for itself.
Thus, is the case, for many Christians and churches and religious organizations and individuals alike.
You have value. You are of value. You are valued by those around and by God. We would do well, not to waste any of it (time, resources, opportunities, or financs) on things that have little to no impact on the world, let alone eternity.
Some will know immediately how to correct the issue and begin the turn-around process now. Others like me...may have a little bit of a journey in front of us. But that must not deter us, but motivate us all the more. Don't undervalue what has been wasted. Don't continue to waste what you have undervalued.
I heard an incredible sermon this morning, that was part 3 of a series titled "Free." The pastor spoke from Romans about Paul's battle with the flesh and living according to the law versus living by the Spirit.
Some take-away points include:
"Christianity was never intended to be normal religion." Religion tells you "what you ought to do, what not to do, and then you are toast."
"The law is really good at showing us how screwed up we are."
"If you walk by the Spirit, you can't focus on 'just not sinning'." Trying to keep a list of do's and don'ts is the attempt of "If only I don't sin."
Whereby, walking by the Spirit begins to produce fruit that does not worry about breaking the law.
I think this is particularly difficult for pastors...at least it has the danger of being difficult.
The pressure. The finances. The staff. The congregation or lack thereof. The maturity of the congregation or lack thereof. Comparison to other pastors and churches. Comparison to the success of those in the seats. The struggle for those who don't show up to church consistently, but want God to do the miraculous in the life consistently. (another message today, that God has gone miles for us, but we don't give an inch for Him.....post on that later!)
If it is hard for the congregation to stay focused on walking by the Spirit, then how much harder for a frustrated Pastor and leadership team!
That is the plan of the enemy. It is a dual-strategy approach. Get the people frustrated so nobody shows up to church, thereby frustrating the leadership. Get the leadership frustrated so that they'll abandon the people and they'll disperse.
So, to the pastor and the pew....guard against the control of the law and the failure that ensues, as none of us are perfect. Walk by the Spirit, where the worry of breaking the law doesn't not control you; and watch the fruit of the Spirit take over your life and be the story that points back to Christ, as our lives were and are intended to accomplish.
"Sometimes you are in a cave, and no human action is able to get you out. There is something you can't fix, can't heal, or can't escape, and all you can do is trust God. Finding ultimate refuge in God means you become so immersed in His presence, so convinced of His goodness, so devoted to His Lordship that you find even the cave is a perfectly safe place to be because He is there with you." -John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk On Water, You've Got To Get Out Of The Boat
I know what's been said and I understand what you heard...but in the end, it's important to live by His Word. Mine are nothing; not even worth noting; the past is not worth toting nor even quoting....we live for today for it is what we make it...we live for tomorrow, so we're still standing and do not quit.
I had "one of those moments" earlier this evening. You know the kind... you know what to do, but struggle, all to often I'm sad to confess, to implement it into your daily life and furthermore make it a priority.
SEEK FIRST....The Kingdom Of God.
No matter what you do, who you are, how well you do what you do, how often you do it, how well you actually live who you are... it is all rubbish if it comes second to God. Harsh words; but words I was reminded of a little too recently.
Whatever it is, carries no weight if God has not done it, gone before you, sent you, provided for you and led you through "it" all. Even if "all these things" that are added to it, were not included, SEEKING the kingdom of God would still be worth it.
First is a placement on priority. If you remove that, then "seek the kingdom of God" becomes a statement of necessity. A sunroof and cool wheels and an awesome stereo are meaningless if you don't have a car!!
If I focus on seeking the kingdom of God period, then perhaps I won't have to struggle as much in remembering that I need to do that first. In the meantime, though, I do need to do that first. SEEK.
And it's not just an individual battle. It exists within the corporate church body. As Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle shared in a session at the 2013 General Council for the Assemblies Of God, worship and the lights and the music and environment and the sermon are nothing if people do not enter in and give glory and praise to God and are compelled to draw closer to God. He pretty much made his point along these lines: "that the earlier church had the preaching of the Gospel and multitudes believed and were saved. In 2013 we have "all this stuff" and churches are declining." Somewhere we have not only stopped seeking first, we simply stopped seeking. I am guilty of both.
A few moments ago, I came across a tweet from Chris LoCurto, who among other things is a VP for financial guru Dave Ramsey. He quotes an incredibly profound Italian proverb, which prompted me to comment: "There's a sermon in there somewhere." Not being in a position to write sermons, I thought to myself; The 70 blog would suffice. So are you ready for the profound insight?
""Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box." — Italian Proverb
What captured my mind about this quote goes back to the unexpected conversation I had earlier today, with a man I never met who turns out is a Pastor; and as we started to talk about pastors leaving the ministry, I mentioned how so often we literally hold pastors "up to the pulpit"; a play on words for the concept of raising the standards for one who stands on the pedestal as a symbol of something people should strive to or work towards; and God forbid, they fall off.
So in light of the purpose of Bring Me 70, leaders and followers or those in authority and those under authority, at the end of the day, serve the same God, worship the same God, pray to the same God and will one day, stand before the same God and give an account to the same God.
In the game of chess, not much thought is given to the pawns. They are "easy to sacrifice". Unfortunately, in the church world, people have gotten severely burned my ministry in this manner. When you think about it, they move in the same direction as the King...at least to the extent of "one space at a time". The difference is, the strategy required to utilize the pawn to the point of success...winning the game; or at least playing a significant and often over-looked and under-estimated role.
From the King's perspective, at the end of the game, he goes in the same box as the pawn. The perspective here, again, from a church standpoint, is that pastors deal with the same issues you and I face every day. They are not immune to the same health struggles and sicknesses. They are not free of financial obligations and the worry that sometimes accompanies them. They are not unhindered with personal battles and habits that they are working to overcome. They are not void of ill-timed arguments and interruptions and arguments about the interruptions.
The point? The Message has a pretty cool take on 1 Corinthians 12: 4-31
4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
healing the sick
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:
those who pray in tongues.
But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, uni-dimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts.
If you aren't utilizing the gifts you have in the position you are in, how will you be able to acquire the gifts you need for the position you wish you were in? Grow where you are planted and your growth will naturally spread into other arenas!!!