To Baptize or Not to Baptize…


Susie just gave her life to Christ, but she’s living with her boyfriend.

John just prayed the prayer, but he’s addicted to drugs.

Cris made a profession of faith, but is also transgender.

They all want to be baptized, but Deacon Dan feels strongly they should not be allowed to because they are “still living in sin.”

What to do?

As a church that reaches a lot of people in many of these circumstances, this was a question we had to wrestle with years ago.

We wanted to be sure that the person who was asking to be baptized was “really repentant.” The only question is, how do you measure that?

In the early days we would push back on people that we felt “weren’t ready” to be baptized. We wanted to make sure their salvation was the real deal; that it would stick.

Obviously, if they’re living in sin, they shouldn’t get baptized, right???

Welllllll…

As we grappled with this issue we came to the following conclusions:

1. EVERYONE WE’VE EVER BAPTIZED IS STILL STRUGGLING WITH SIN.

The truth of the matter is that only sinners can get baptized.

The problem was that we were focusing on see-able sins. What about all the liars, gluttons, thieves, pornographers, and adulterers (remember, Jesus said lust qualifies)?

The truth is no one goes into the water worthy. We all go in filthy.

If we only baptized the qualified, then the baptistery would be petrified.

2. THERE WERE NO PROBATIONARY PERIODS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

In the New Testament, every time someone believed they were immediately baptized. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:41, 8:12, 16:15, 18:8)

When Philip led the Ethiopian to Christ, the Bible says, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NIV)

Answer: Only legalism.

When we insert wait and see, we’re saying the verdict’s up to me.

3. IT’S NOT MY JOB TO VALIDATE SOMEONE’S SALVATION.

One of the core fears that is driving a reluctance to baptize someone quickly is the idea, “What if they’re not really saved?”

However, if we are truthful, we can’t even tell which of our members are saved! Heck, I don’t even really know if my spouse is saved. Hopefully she won’t read this. ;^)

Salvation is a divine work of God’s grace enabled through our faith. I haven’t found the earthly test instruments that can measure heavenly providence.

Here’s the good news. It’s not even my job to decide who’s saved and who’s not.

My job as a pastor is to assist people to take steps of obedience towards Jesus.

I’m not the keeper of the Lamb’s Book of Life and I can’t see into the soul.

I baptize people based on their profession not my discretion.

I’m responsible for sharing and showing. God’s responsible for saving and growing.

4 BAPTISM IS THE FIRST STEP OF OBEDIENCE FOR ANYONE WHO BELIEVES.

Sometimes we confuse first steps with the full package.

Of course, there are many scriptures admonishing us to correct, confront, counsel, and condemn sin in the life of a believer, but we don’t expect people to act like a Christian until they become one.

Baptism is step ONE in a billion step journey of growth. No one starts the journey fully grown, we all start at the same point: screwed up but lookin’ up!

Denying someone baptism as their first step is basically saying, “Earn it.” Hopefully we all know enough of our Bible to reject that kind of theology. You can’t earn it, you can only receive it. It’s an act of grace.

Why on earth would I want to communicate a message to a newborn believer that Christianity is about works, not grace?

This is exactly what Paul was trying to communicate to the Christians in Ephesus:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV)

Grace plus works = religion.

Grace plus obedience = Christianity.

We baptize people who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and want to follow Him in believer’s baptism.

Question: What if you baptize someone who isn’t really a believer?

Answer: What makes you think everyone you have baptized was really a believer?

The choice is to be a policeman or a pastor.

I choose pastor.


What are your thoughts?

7 Envelopes Could Change Your Life!

I usually write on topics of church leadership, but this time I want to get very personal.

Like most couples, we struggled with our finances from early on. Even though we made a decent living, it seemed we were perpetually in the hole with almost no savings and no retirement. Every time Murphy showed up out popped the credit cards or line of credit. It felt so defeating.

So we did what many others have done. We got serious about getting on a budget and learning to control our spending.

As the quintessential nerd in our family, I spent hours pouring over our finances and entered everything into a software program. I analyzed every nickel and dime over the last seven years and was able to setup a comprehensive monthly budget. I felt confident that our newly crafted budget was going to finally put us on the right track and it worked! For about a week.

It wasn’t long until I saw the little budget-busters crawling in under the fence and chewing away at my master-crafted spending plan.

It seemed no matter how many times I tried to “adjust” the budget, moving items around, changing monthly estimates, etc., there were certain items in the budget that just didn’t seem to conform to a nice, neat, linear pattern. These items seemed as controllable as teenage girl’s mood swings. Enter grandma’s cure for expense gremlins: THE ENVELOPE SYSTEM

No, not some digital form of categorization or cutesy software solution. I’m talking old school, lick-the-glue, paper envelopes.

I’d heard about people (usually very old people) using an envelope system, but I always figured that’s what they had to use back in the great depression. 🙂

It wasn’t until I got sick and tired of the constant budget busters that I finally decided to try it. That was over 10 years ago and today I am an ENVELOPE EVANGELIST. I truly believe that using envelopes is the best way to tame the budget busters in your finances. Envelopes are not a replacement for a budget, they are a supplement to it. You still have to work out a budget and then renew it annually. Envelopes make the budget work!

“Money earned little by little will grow and grow.” (Proverbs 13:11b, CEV)

Over the years, as I’ve mentioned using envelopes in some of my sermons, people have asked me about my system. So I decided to write this blog.

My disclaimer is that this is what works for me. You have to make the adjustments in the amounts and categories to figure out what works for you. The goal is to isolate the items in your budget that are causing you the most grief and need to have money set aside. In essence these are basically sinking funds.  WHAT’S A SINKING FUND?

So, without further ado, what’s my system?

Because I get paid weekly via direct deposit, I make a weekly trip to the ATM. I take 25% of my weekly net pay out in cash and then I divide it up 8 ways. The rest of my paycheck is left in my checking account and is used to pay for all other budget items (tithe, savings, mortgage, groceries, utilities, gas, etc.).

To help you visualize this process, I’ll use made up amounts for purposes of illustration. Let’s pretend that my weekly deposit is $800. I would take $200 out of the ATM and then divide it up 8 ways:

1. Spending cash 50% = $100

Fact: you’re going to need some cash to help you avoid using plastic. Having a limited amount of cash in your wallet helps you to visually see what you’re spending and hopefully helps you to cut down on frivolous purchases.

For me, this amount gets divided up 70/30. 70% goes in my wallet so I can pay for our date day. 30% for her to have cash for miscellaneous throughout the week.

2. Next Car 10% = $20

Notice I said NEXT not NEW. I’m assuming you already know why you should NEVER buy new. If you’re not convinced, check out this article.

I design this percentage based on building up for the next car purchase in 6-7 years. The longer I wait, the better my next car is. In 7 years you’ll have over $7,000 which should be able to buy you something reliable. Remember, it’s transportation, not a fashion statement. 🙂

3. Christmas 10% = $20

Yes, this seems to keep happening year after year. We use to “try” not to go into debt each Christmas, but it never seemed to work until we designated an envelope. Last year, for the first time ever, we were actually able to do all of our Christmas purchases without even using the full amount in the envelope! Trust me, that felt GOOD!

4. Vacation 10% = $20

If you take a vacation annually, then you’ll have about $1,000 to spend. Another idea is to build up this fund for a few years and do something bigger, say, Disney!

When we went on our 25th anniversary trip to Alaska, I had saved up for 5 years and we were able to enjoy a wonderful trip that made a lasting memory. Best of all, we came back home with NO DEBT!

5. Car Repairs 8% = $16

I used to only have the NEXT CAR envelope and then I found that I was “stealing” from it for car repairs. It finally dawned on me that I needed Murphy repellent for this Murphy repellent.

6. Furniture / Appliances 5% = $10

Whether it’s the dishwasher, hot water heater, television or just a new (to us) couch, this envelope builds over years.

7. Clothing 5% = $10

As anyone who has ever seen me can attest, this envelope doesn’t get used all the time. LOL New clothes is just not a high value for us. When we do buy something, it’s usually from a thrift store. My wife is the queen of deals. I probably spend more on shoes than any other article of clothing. 🙂

8. Personal Care 2% = $4

Finally, personal care is basically for haircuts. Fortunately, Lisa and I have been blessed with the perfect natural hair colors (cough, cough) so we don’t have to spend much in this category.

 


Again, the categories you use will probably be different and most certainly the amounts will be different, but the principles are transferable to anyone.

One thing to note: There are times when the cash flow is so tight that I am unable to pull money that week to put into the envelopes. This usually happens about 3-4 times a year. I use it as a wake-up call to see what’s happening to the budget that might need attention.

What categories would you add/subtract?

 

5 Distinctives of Difference-Making Churches

Although it doesn’t take an advanced degree to determine that the church is in trouble, recent research findings confirm the continued decline of church attendance among Americans. The most recent data is showing that while the population continues to grow, church attendance continues to slow; that is, for the vast majority of churches.

There are however, a few churches that are thriving in this increasingly secular society.

As the pastor of a local church, I’ve made it one of my life pursuits to study and learn from churches that are making progress.

My passion is the gospel, so I’m not really that interested in churches that are simply gathering larger crowds of consumer Christians.

What peaks my interest are churches, regardless of size, that are having a real impact in their community and are seeing measurable advances in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Time and again, I’ve noticed some common features of these difference makers.

Here’s five that I’ve seen:

1. Truth that transforms.

I’m assuming we’re on the same page regarding the authority of scripture. That’s not really the problem with most churches. The problem is the disconnect between the average hearer and the typical sermon. I was trained in seminary, along with thousands of other pastors, to preach in a way that accurately communicates information, but often fails to equip people for transformation. We learned how to properly translate a text, but failed to learn how to properly translate the principles into practices.

As our culture grows increasingly biblically illiterate, it becomes increasingly imperative that preachers become skilled at application.

This may sound heretical, but I’m just going to put it out there. Pastors simply do not need skills for translation. We need skills for application. I spent hundreds of hours in seminary learning Greek and Hebrew. To think that I could possibly add anything whatsoever to the efforts of hundreds of brilliant scholars who have dedicated their whole life to provide the very best translation is ludicrous, if not pompous. In today’s world, we have access to software that can provide any preacher anywhere with way more technical knowledge that he can ever process. I’m sorry, but we don’t need more HE-BREW, we need more HOW-TO!

People who come into our churches are not looking for morphology, they’re looking for answers. They want to know how the Bible can be applied to the real problems they are facing in their everyday life.

Churches that are making a difference are focused on teaching the Bible for life change.

2. Healing for hurts.

All churches hold services, but there are usually only two services provided: music and message. The problems people are facing in our culture today are vastly more complex than a song and a sermon can address.

Churches that are making a difference are the ones that have identified the primary issues in their culture and then crafted programs that provide practical help.

Programs such as:

~ Financial coaching

~ Marriage counseling

~ Addictions recovery

~ Poverty alleviation

~ Support groups

The primary reason people have stopped attending church is because they simply do not see it as beneficial to their lives. People vote their value with their feet.

Churches that are making a difference provide practical programs that help people with their persistent problems.

3. A guide for growth.

Most churches operate on the unspoken belief that spiritual growth is a byproduct of attendance. If you go year after year then you’ll become mature. In other words, transformation by accumulation. And yet some of the meanest Christians I’ve ever known were the ones who’d been in church the longest.

Spiritual growth does not occur because of attendance, but attainment. Spiritual maturity is the fruit of integrating God’s principles into my practices. Spiritually mature people are those who are living out the teachings of the Bible. They could be described as people who consistently love God and love others.

That doesn’t happen overnight nor by accident. Growth is intensely intentional and embarrassingly practical.

Churches that are actually developing disciples, not just swelling crowds, are the ones that have carefully crafted a step-by-step growth plan and zealously move their people through the plan year after year.

4. A place for passion.

Many churches are designed for only two types of people – workers and watchers. One or two or maybe a few, doing what they always do while the watchers sit in their respective pew.

The truth is, if consumption is the actual goal for the average attender, then no one needs to go to a church for that anymore. They have instant access to the greatest preaching at their fingertips. Why go to a church building at a designated time for a who-knows-if-it’s-any-good message when I can watch any length of any message at any time on my schedule?

We have only ourselves to blame when we decry consumer Christianity. We created the beast that told them that church is a passive, not participatory activity.

Churches that are making a difference are the ones who are actively teaching, equipping, developing and deploying every member into a ministry both inside and outside of the walls of the church.

5. A chance to change the world.

Now more than ever, the western culture is passionate about changing the world. You can’t even go through a manned register without being solicited to give money for some cause.

What’s spurring that?

Businesses have paid millions of dollars to marketing firms in order to tap into the psyche of consumers today and they have learned what the church forgot – that people are dying to make a difference.

No other organization on earth has been given a greater change directive than the church. Our marching orders are not just to provide shoes, dig wells, teach literacy or stamp out disease. Though our commission includes all these, it goes way beyond.

Our mission changes eternity. The gospel makes the difference between heaven and hell and ultimately plays into the grand plan of history itself!

Churches that are making a difference equip their people to join the greatest world-changing adventure on the planet – the local church! These churches are recapturing the missionary mandate from external organizations and finding ways to mobilize their own people. They are not just sending money, they are sending members.

In a time when it’s easy to become discouraged by the challenges and setbacks in our culture, we must decide what kind of church we will be. Difference making or business as usual?

Ready to make a difference?

Our annual DREAM church conference is designed to equip church leaders to become difference makers in their community. We’re not experts, just fellow sojourners trying to do all we can to make a difference through the local church. Come learn with us!

 

 

4 Secrets of Effective Evangelistic Churches

The numbers are alarming.

Southern Baptists, once a leading denomination in evangelistic effectiveness, continue to decline year after year. The average Southern Baptist church now baptizes less than 2 people per year. To make matters worse, they actually increased the number of churches while simultaneously decreasing the number of baptisms.

Something is terribly wrong.

While we continue to make our churches cooler we seem to also be cooling our evangelistic fervor.

We have more lights on the stage, but less lives being changed.

So what are the “secrets” of evangelistic success?

Of course, they’re not secrets at all. While the norm continues to be evangelistic ineffectiveness, there are hundreds of highly effective evangelistic churches out there. I have been studying effective evangelistic churches for years trying to learn their trade secrets and apply them in my own church. When looking at these churches I’ve noticed some things they all seem to have in common.

Here are four:

1. You must believe that people need it.

Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ; you were enemies of God’s children, and he had promised you no help. You were lost, without God, without hope.” (Ephesians 2:12, The Living Bible)

Theology matters.

If you do not believe that people without Jesus have absolutely no hope, then you simply will not commit yourself to the gospel.

If you think that there are probably many ways to heaven, then you will not promote Jesus as THE way.

If you think that people are generally okay without Jesus, then you will politely cower into a lame presentation of Jesus as a feel good add-on.

Most people across the world now have smart phones. They know that this device is very powerful and helpful. However, most do not know that there are two distinct types of software being used on their phone: their Apps and the OS (Operating System)

The OS is the software that brings the phone to life and causes all of the components to work as designed. Without it, all of that incredible technology is useless.

Apps (short for applications) are the software packages that can be added and deleted from the smart phone as the user deems appropriate and useful.

In tech terms – we’ve made Jesus into an App instead of an OS. We sometimes present Him as an add-on that may benefit our life instead of an OS, without which we would not even have life.

People without Jesus are without hope.

The gospel is only good news when you thoroughly believe the bad news.

2. The pastor must lead it.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16, NLT)

I heard a speaker say to a group of pastors, “If you want to know the evangelistic temperature of your church, stick the thermometer in your own mouth!” Ouch! Painful, but true.

Evangelism is not a program (visitation), a method (Evangelism Explosion) or a special meeting (revivals, crusades).

Embedded in the Greek word for evangelism is the idea of a vital message being transmitted by a messenger, which after hearing and acting upon, the recipient will be blessed.

Evangelism is an intentional proclamation pressing for transformation.

Intentional means the conversation is thoughtfully and prayerfully leading towards an intended destination – the gospel.

Proclamation means it must be shared. It can be a sermon preached by a pastor or two friends meeting for coffee.

Pressing means there needs to be an uncomfortable moment where the lost person is pressed for a decision.

If we want to see people saved in our churches we must preach the gospel constantly and call for commitment expectantly.

3. The members must bleed it.

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).” (John 1:41, NIV)

Effective evangelistic churches must be led by evangelistic pastors, but they cannot do it on their own.

Jesus’ ministry was built by word of mouth and I’ve discovered that the largest and most effective evangelistic churches are built the same way. I used to think they were built on large and costly marketing strategies. They’re not.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

That means that our greatest evangelistic focus of the church is to mobilize our members for invitation.

At our church, 70% of our first time guests come because someone personally invited them. I believe that when the people stop inviting the church starts dying. It’s as simple as that.

Effective evangelistic churches constantly encourage and equip their people to invite their lost friends and family.

I’ve made a sacred pact with my members. I tell them, “If you’ll invite them to church, I’ll invite them to change!”

4. Every program must feed it.

Evangelism is the most-neglected purpose of the church. The problem in most churches is that the bulk of the programs exist for caring, but not for sharing.

We love our praise and worship.

We salivate over our deeper life Bible studies.

We fawn over our fellowship. Someone said, “Most churches are infected with koinonitis.” Christians love community, but the danger is to fall in love with our love for community instead of loving our communities.

There’s seemingly no end to the proliferation of our “required” groups:

~ Men’s ministry

~ Women’s ministry

~ Singles ministry

~ College ministry

~ Senior Adult ministry

~ Young Marrieds ministry

~ Freckled green-eyed engineers ministry (ok, I’m just being silly now)

My point is simply that churches which were once born in the fires of evangelism often later acquiesce to consumerism.

Every program in the church should have an evangelistic thread tying it to the fabric of the Great Commission. We need to ask HOW is the men’s ministry helping us reach people? HOW is the women’s ministry helping us reach new people? Etc.

Programs and ministries are not bad, but they can cause us to focus on the few instead of reaching the new.

My prayer in 2018 is to stoke the fires of evangelism in our church. One way we do this is through our annual DREAM conference where we renew our commitment to God’s dream for His church.

What are your thoughts?

 

Four Things Your Guests are Going to Notice

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
With the guests all arriving
the greeters are thriving; we’re so glad they’re here
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

 

Ahhh, Christmas is in full swing and this season is sure to bring first time guests who are seeking a spiritual connection in the midst of all the commercialism and chaos. Churches can expect to see a marked increase in first time guests even without a lot of marketing and effort. That means company’s coming and we need to get ready. Their visit will not only determine whether they may come back, but could very well determine their eternal destiny. In other words, we have to get this right!

When a first time guests hits your campus they come with a super-sensitivity to certain elements that mark their experience as either positive or negative.

 

WHAT STANDS OUT TO GUESTS?

 

1. Smells

Smell is one of the strongest impressions we have and it implants some of our most powerful memories. Some of us when we think of Grandma’s house, we remember a particular smell.

Paying attention to smell is an oft-neglected guest experience element.

When we enter a new or unknown place with an unpleasant odor, our subconscious records the data as a negative emotion. Then whenever we think about that place we literally have a negative feeling even if we don’t remember that it was caused by a bad smell. A bad smell causes one to form the opinion that this place stinks (pun intended) and these people don’t care.

The goal for a first time guest is for them to record positive memories of their initial experience. A huge part of that experience are the smells they notice.

This is why it becomes critical to eliminate and aerate.

First, eliminate bad smells. The top sources of unpleasant smells are your bathrooms and nurseries both of which formulate powerful first impressions. Do all you can to stifle the stinks!

Second, infuse good smells throughout the building with moderation. What are the best smells? Believe it or not, coffee, cookies, and fresh air are among the top 10 smells worldwide. You just might want to consider some aromatic refreshments at your Christmas services that not only feed the belly, but covers the smelly! (See what I did with that?)

One other note on the topic of smell. Less is more. When introducing fragrance into an environment it should be subtle enough that it’s almost imperceptible.  Don’t overwhelm your allergy sufferers!

2. Smears

Prior to your Christmas services, audit your facilities with fresh eyes.

BATHROOMS – again, this is the biggest first impression room and most frequently neglected.

Touch up the paint.

De-clutter messes (coat racks, lost and found, closets, kitchen, etc.)

Replace burned out light bulbs.

Fix stuff that’s broken. (like that faucet handle in the bathroom that’s been broken for 2 years)

Clean up all the seating – like envelopes, old bulletins shoved into the chair pocket or chair rack.

Freshen up the rows – full tissue boxes everywhere just in case your message really hits home 😉

Bulletin boards that have flyers about an event 7 months ago.

Dust and cobwebs.

Clean the carpets (no, don’t wait until after the services. Do it BEFORE all your services)

One method to do this is to ask a friend who doesn’t attend your church to come audit your facilities. Find someone who’s a clean freak and doesn’t mind sharing their opinion (see, there really is a place for those people!)

3. Smoothies

Yes, I wanted to use an ‘sm’ word.  What I mean by this one is that we have taken the time to remove any rough edges or speed bumps for the fist time guest.  What are some of these?

  • Signage – guests shouldn’t have to ask where park, where to enter, or where’s the bathroom. I’ve been to so many churches where I literally could NOT tell where the front entrance was. VERY frustrating for a newbie.
  • Announcements – do NOT have any insider announcements at your Christmas service. Announce only what is absolutely necessary and keep that to an extreme minimum. Never announce anything that would not be completely clear to a first time guest.
  • Participatory aids – Make sure that it is easy for a first timer to fully participate in every element of the service. Pens in the rows if you ask them to fill out a card, etc. Putting things on the screen if you want the audience to recite. Saying, “Take out your Bible…” but not providing one or just putting the words on the screen or printed in a bulletin.
  • Offering – asking guests to give. I was invited to a special Christmas service where the audience was asked to give…3 times! As a guest it was not a good first impression.

Ultimately you want to create an experience that would make a first time guest feel completely at home so that someday they might make it their home.

4. Smiles

I hate to tell you this pastor, but the guests are not evaluating the friendliness of the church based on the people in the “show.”
They’re evaluating the friendliness of the church based on the people in their row.

That means you need to inform your folks that company’s coming and we want to make a great first impression. Help your people understand that they need to be nice to the people walking through the doors.

Showing people the difference that Jesus makes is something every single member can do through the power of a simple smile.

The bad news is that customer service is at an all time low in the commercial industry.

The good news is that even a little friendliness stands out.

Love on your guests in such a way that they sense the presence of God in your church and they’ll be back!

Processing the Pain of Senseless Evil

 

“Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people…”
(Ecclesiastes 8:14, NCV)

 

How To Respond to Tragedy

 

1. RELEASE MY GRIEF.

 “They are blessed who grieve, for God will comfort them.” (Matthew 5:4, NCV)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18, NLT)

“unload all your burden on to him, since he is concerned about you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NJB)

2. RECEIVE SUPPORT FROM OTHERS.

“We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.” (Hebrews 10:25, GW)

You need to CONGREGATE not ISOLATE.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

3. REFUSE TO BECOME BITTER.

“[Some people] have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts.” (Job 21:25, GNB)

“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” (Hebrews 12:15b, The Living Bible)

4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT.

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NIV)

Faith in God’s provision:

“I think you ought to know…we were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us…And he did help us and saved us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10, The Living Bible)

Focus on God’s promise:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

3 Menaces of a Mob Mentality

What’s Everyone So Mad About?

It seems the newest craze is to be crazy!

Everywhere you look it seems someone is mad about something and they’re taking their anger to the streets.

With signs waving and shouts screaming it feels like someone shook up the mob like a coke can and the violence is spewing out in all directions.

This is not the America of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, there were just as many socio-political problems when I was growing up. Racism, hatred and injustice have been around since the dawn of time. The difference is when the mob takes to the street there’s less light and more heat.

So, are free speech and marches a bad thing. Of course not! They are the bedrock of freedom. There is a time and place for coordinated rallies and marches. HOWEVER, there are several inherent dangers when crowds form for protests. We would be wise to take these into consideration.

3 Menaces of a Mob Mentality

1. IT AMPLIFIES EMOTION.

When I was in middle school, we were forced to be part of a ritual known as a pep rally. The whole school would fill the gym. We would then be led to shout out cheers in unison screaming the praises of our football team–letting them know how special they were and how excited we were to cheer them on to victory. I found myself caught up in the aura of the mass hysteria, jumping up and down and literally intoxicated with the energy of the room.

The only problem was I didn’t even like our football team! Heck, half of the players were the very ones who regularly bullied many of my friends. So how in the world did I find myself suddenly sitting in a bleacher shouting out cheers of encouragement? MOB MENTALITY.

You’d be surprised what you might find yourself doing when you’re caught in the crowd. It’s easy to get pulled into the energy of a mob, but a wise person recognizes the dangers of unbridled emotion.

The Bible says,

“…riled emotions turn into fist fights.” (Proverbs 30:33, The Message)

AND

A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them.” (Proverbs 29:11, GW)

2. IT STUPEFIES RATION.

When I was a teenager there were times I would become so angry that I punched a wall…a brick wall. Ouch! Man, I look back at that and one word really comes to mind – IDIOT!

It is incredibly irrational to punch a wall or anything else for that matter; unless of course you are being paid to…in a ring…with gloves.

The second problem with a mob mentality is that fevered emotions block rational discussions. As the emotions rise the logic lowers. In fact, it is not uncommon to find protesters at a march who aren’t even clear on the issue being protested.

Amid an angry mob brandishing signs nearly anything sounds right…at first.  The Bible says, “The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.” (Proverbs 18:17, NLT) Many of the “issues” people become so worked up over actually turn out to be red herrings. It seems we like being offended more than informed.

Many protesters aren’t even a part of the problem or the solution. They just love a good protest! The truth is a lot of them find meaning in being a part of a movement. It gives them identity and community that they aren’t finding elsewhere.

Before you jump into a mob, do some fact checking and make sure you’re clear on the truth. The Bible says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT)

3. IT CRUCIFIES DEVOTION.

Perhaps the saddest illustration of how wrong an angry mob can be is found in Pilate’s court. He asked the protesters:

“Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!”(Matthew 27:22, NLT)

How could a person look into the eyes of love and scream, “Death!”

I think some of them might have told us, “Man, I just got caught up in the moment.”

Thankfully, we know how the story ended.

We know that although hate won on Friday, love won on Sunday!

The crowd shows us the power of the mob.

The cross shows us the power of the Messiah – one life standing in firm love bringing real peace.

The Bible says:

Christ brought us together through his death on the cross.
The Cross got us to embrace,
and that was the end of the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:16, The Message)

God help us to respond reasonably and love irrationally, not the other way around.

 


What are your thoughts?

4 Ways to Embrace Every Race

 

racism

Recent events have reminded us that racial tension is alive and well in America.

Tempers flared and sides are quickly drawn.

The advances we’ve made in racial reconciliation over the last 50 years are fragile and easily shattered.

Even in a generation raised in the era of civil rights, integration, equal opportunity, and a black president, there continues to exist a deep rift between the races. Laws and policies are important, but they lack the power to transform us.

Why is racism is so pervasive?

What causes us to play the “race card”?

What is it about racism that so quickly blurs objectivity and stirs reactivity?

For the believer this is no mystery.

The Root of Racism

Racism is not a black versus white issue. Racism is global. Every country in the world deals with it.

  • Chinese hate Japanese
  • Turks hate Kurds
  • The Hutus hated the Tutsi
  • Germans hated the Jews
  • Jews hated Samaritans
  • And a thousands other us vs. them scenarios

Racism traces it roots all the way back to the beginning in the book of Genesis. Racism is a sin and sIn is an “I” problem.

Racism is about sin not skin. Sin is about bad beliefs that result in bad behaviors. Not the other way around.

For example, sin came into the world when Adam & Eve believed they knew better than God. That bad belief resulted in an incredibly bad decision, which in turn resulted in spiritual death and relational distance.

We became separated from God and we pushed away from each other.

Sin’s been doing that ever since.

When I believe a lie,
love begins to die.

Racism is a lie that pushes us away from each other.

What is the lie of racism?

Racism is believing there’s something better about me and bad about you based on nothing other than your ethnicity. It is the idiotic assumption that our differences ought to divide us.

Racism often lies dormant waiting for the deadly combination of the fuel of a catalytic event fanned by the media machine to spark the fires of anger, hatred, and violence. We’ve seen this scenario played out dozens of times over the years and the collateral damage is always devastating.

So how can we, as believers, work to overcome the stench of racism?

How to Overcome Racism

1. Acknowledge that everyone has a little racism in them.

It’s part of your cultural reality. You and I were raised in a cultural context. That context created your sense of cultural norm and comfort. Whenever we encounter people outside of our ethno-cultural bubble, we get uncomfortable and can easily slip into the false assumption that “they’re weird and I’m not.” We then begin to operate with false assumptions that equivocate their behavior with their “differentness.”

2. Watch your mouth!

Do not ever use racial slurs. The moment you use a racial term, you categorize a person into a typecast. People are far more than their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. There are good white people and bad white people. There are good black people and bad black people. Color has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s character. A great man said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Boxing a person into a racial package is sinful and destructive.

3. Get out of your bubble.

Purposefully place yourself into cross-cultural situations. You will soon be amazed to discover that you have more in common than you may have imagined! It’s easy to be suspicious of a stranger, but it’s hard to hate a friend. Make friends across cultural lines and the lies of racism will be crushed under the truth of love.

4. Celebrate diversity and appreciate differences.

Can you imagine if there were only one kind of food in the world? Even the best dish of your favorite food would become sickening if it were the only meal day in and day out, year after year. Thank God for Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Cajun, and the endless list of other delicacies!  THANK GOD for diversity! Food is only one small cultural distinctive. Every culture has dozens of cultural treasures to be learned and valued. View cultural differences as the seasoning that God has added to the banquet of life.

Please take a moment to pray for our nation as we continue to fight the battle of racism and senseless violence.

Pastor Brian

Ooohhh, you’re one of THOSE people!

My daughter recently shared this with me and it was too good not to pass on.

So today, I’m sharing her story as a guest post.

Hope you’re as blessed as I was when I read it.


 

A couple days ago I ran into someone on a Friday night, they asked me what I had done earlier that evening and I shared that I attended Celebrate Recovery. In shock and almost confusion this person asked me “Why are YOU in recovery?”

I held back for a moment, but I shared “Well, one reason is I struggle with depression …”

People, you don’t just need recovery for drugs or alcohol addiction. There are all sorts of recovery programs for all sorts of people. If you ask me EVERYONE has at least one reason they should be in recovery. We all have our “issues.” We all have our struggles that we deal with. Most of us, if we are honest, have our “secret struggles” that we don’t like people to know about because it may ruin our perfect image we’ve created for ourselves on social media.

If we were more vulnerable about our struggles, more people would realize that they are NOT alone and that help is real and HOPE IS REAL.

Here is my recovery story:

I first attended Celebrate Recovery in August of 2015. I was quietly struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and codependency. I told myself I was just going to Celebrate Recovery “help out with the band.”

Over time I began realizing that I was powerless to change my own issues without fully surrendering them to God. I made a decision to give these things up to God. Since then, I have had some very dark days, some days where I have wanted to give up, but because of the commitment I’ve made and the support system of loving, God-fearing people surrounding me, I have pulled through to see the brightest of days. God has shown up. When you get vulnerable with God, he will ALWAYS show up. Not for a moment has he forsaken me. Never once have I walked alone.

These past 2 years have been filled with making a LOT of amends, forgiving those who have harmed me and letting go of past mistakes.

My faith is stronger, my fears are weaker. I am closer to God than I have ever been and I am truly walking in freedom.

My story isn’t over; and neither is yours.

If someone you know is struggling, reach out and encourage them to take a step of faith and start their journey to FREEDOM.

Here are just a list of a few things that Celebrate Recovery (and other recovery programs) can bring you healing from…

Addiction

  • Drug and Alcohol
  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Cutting / Self Harm
  • Gambling
  • Sexual
  • Internet
  • Video Game

Abuse

  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional

Life Issues

  • Codependency
  • Perfectionism
  • Control
  • Overworking
  • Anger
  • Depression / Anxiety
  • Grief / Loss
  • Unforgiveness
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Broken relationships
  • Guilt
  • Lying
  • Bitterness
  • Worry

So, when someone says, “Ooohhh, you’re one of those people.”

I give resounding, “Why yes. Yes I am!”

How about you?

Out of Africa (West Africa, that is)

OAK RIDGE INTERNATIONAL PEACE UPDATE

The West Africa PEACE team just returned from our second PEACE trip to Benin and Togo and I wanted to share with you a little about our trip.

 

Togo and Benin are two small French-speaking, neighboring countries of similar culture.

  • Togo has 7.6 million people.
  • Benin has nearly 11 million people.

This trip was a part of our church’s 2-year partnership for building healthy churches in Africa. This initiative was sparked by the miraculous changes in the country of Rwanda due to their partnership with Saddleback church. The movement is now spreading to other African nations. These powerful changes and initiatives are known as the PEACE plan.

PEACE is a grassroots movement of local churches committed to becoming a healthy change agent for their communities. As a part of the initiative, PEACE churches partner together with other churches desiring to become healthy change agents in their community. These partnerships span from local to international.

Oak Ridge currently coaches 9 regional churches and partners with 6 international countries.


This was our second of the four trips we will be taking through July, 2018.

During the first trip in January, we taught the DREAM conference to 460 church leaders in Benin and Togo.

After the conference in each country the denominational leaders chose a select group of senior pastors that fully committed to become DREAM / Purpose Driven churches. We call them the Pioneer Team:

Since January, these pastors have made AMAZING progress in their churches:

  • Training their leaders
  • Enhancing their guest services
  • Expanding their outreach
  • And implementing the Base CLASSes

The pastors requested more training on how to turn their members into ministers – helping every person discover their unique SHAPE and using it to make a difference by serving as a volunteer. So, for this trip we focused on 3 primary objectives – Training , Coaching and building relationships:

TRAINING

The first objective of this trip was to teach the 1-day S.H.A.P.E. seminar to the church leaders in Benin and Togo. What’s most amazing is that the Pioneers are fully responsible for all of the logistics for these conferences. Our church provides the teachers, but they fund everything else!

We trained about 100 leaders in Benin:

And 120 leaders in Togo:

COACHING

In addition to the conference, we met with the Pioneer Teams in both countries for continued coaching and encouragement.

The 1-day coaching sessions provided a powerful time of investment in these pastors who will be leading the future movement in their countries. The goals for the Pioneer Pastors are:

  • Fully implement the DREAM/PD paradigm in their church becoming a model church for the movement
  • Train more pastors in their respective denominations
  • Raise up the next generation of Pioneer Pastors
  • Multiply the movement!

Please pray for these men as they seek to implement what they’ve learned and become the seed for a healthy church movement in their country!

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

The third focus of our trips is to build relationships. We preached, shared testimonies and loved on people in multiple churches on 2 Sundays:

At one service, I even got to dedicate a baby!

So, WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?

We are doing this because the Great Commission says,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NLT)

We are doing this because Jesus said,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT)

Jesus commanded every church to be on mission not just in their local community, but also in their region, nation and across the world.

 

At the end of each conference, I challenged the senior pastors who were willing to do whatever it takes to fully equip their people to transform their communities to stand up.  Dozens of them stood and then I prayed a prayer of consecration over these pastors. It was a powerful moment.

WE ARE DOING THIS BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD!

God has blessed Oak Ridge in so many incredible ways and He expects us to PAY IT FORWARD by being a blessing to the nations.

THANK YOU for being a church that truly cares outside the four walls.

THANK YOU for your incredible generosity that makes this all possible.

THANK YOU for letting me pastor the greatest church I have ever been a part of!

Thank you ORBC for being a WORLD CHANGING CHURCH!

 

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