Church, What’s Next?

design-60Many Pastors, while still working hard on their online ministry are beginning to think ahead. What is next? How will this pandemic play out? Once we get back into our church buildings, how will the Church function over the next several weeks and months?

The “unknown” is the worst part. How do we prepare for a future that is uncertain? I think we can prepare by doing the painful work of considering worst case scenarios. Not expecting it or believing for that, but considering it. What will be the role of the Church if this crisis continues for 6 weeks or 6 months? 6 months on this trajectory would mean communities of hungry people, families in crisis, social breakdown and vast emotional trauma. Ask ourselves: If this happens, what would we, the church do?

We don’t like thinking like this. You might even think that I am having a crisis of my faith. But ignoring possibilities is not a lack of faith. Be reminded that many tried to, in the name of faith, ignore the possibility of the Corona virus in the first place. It is a spiritual leader’s responsibility to prepare for the future as much as possible.

Many are saying that our focus only on online ministry is shortsighted. We’ve got to be prepared to resource people beyond online services, and beyond getting back into our buildings.

I am finding that the churches that were more inwardly focused before Corona are having a harder time making the adjustments needed now. It’s difficult but not impossible. But my concern is, some churches have as their only goal, getting back into their building. While we cannot wait for that!, there is so much more we need to consider.

I think that it is reasonable to consider that we will never return to the old normal.

Let’s pray and seek guidance in what an effective ministry will look like in the future. I highly doubt that it will look like what it has in the past.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m so thankful for online ministry. And I’m very excited for the future physical gathering of God’s people. We need it so badly. But we also need to engage a hurting world with the hope we gain by coming together.

Without question, now is the time for the Church to lead the way in prayer, repenting, fasting and focusing on the Lord. I believe this is the primary starting point to discerning the best path forward. We must hear from Him! Come what may, God’s Church will be strategically positioned by Him to redeem this crisis.

Let’s be the Church!

A Digital Diaspora

design-59In the book of Acts, chapter 8, verses 1-4, a great oppression came against the church and the Christians were threatened and tortured. The Bible says that all the Believers except the Apostles went out from Jerusalem, across the known world, and they preached about Jesus everywhere they went. This was the Lord’s strategy to make sure that others heard the Gospel.

“Diaspora” means to be scattered or sown (like seed). Tomorrow, unlike any of day in our history, the Gospel of Jesus will be sown, in a scattered fashion. It will not be contained in buildings. Sanctuaries won’t hold in the Word of God tomorrow! With the use of technology, the Church will employ a “digital diaspora”, a sending out of the Good News of Jesus Christ! More homes in our nation (and perhaps world) than ever before will become houses of worship.

While we mourn the loss of life and pray for a stop to the Corona virus, let’s thank God for how He is redeeming a terrible situation. While we cannot wait to gather again in our church facilities, let’s pray for a worldwide revival as a result of this “diaspora!”

What the enemy intended for our harm, God is turning into good.

Healing from Church Hurt

healing from church hurt picI believe that, in many cases, emotional healing is a matter of choice. Please allow me a moment to carefully explain. I do not want to be misunderstood as hard hearted or uninformed about emotional issues; I am neither.

When we are physically sick, we can’t always choose if we are healed. We pray and ask God for healing. Sometimes, it works out as we hoped but at other times, the sickness remains. These types of issues and experiences belong to God; I encourage you to trust Him to do what is best, every time. But, in specific cases, I believe the Holy Spirit offers emotional healing for everyone who is willing to receive it.

There is an ongoing conversation about “church hurt.” It seems that daily, I come across someone who has at some point in their life been hurt by a church, a pastor, a denomination, a church member… In fact, anyone who has ever attended a church can probably share a story or two about an offense that took place, someone who was rude, or a church leader who was mean. Perhaps we should be able to expect better. Of all the places that we can go and expect to be safe, church tops the list. But the problem is, other people also attend those churches. And where there are people, there will be hurt. And these hurts seem to emotionally paralyze many people.

What is unique about this type of emotional pain is it has a way of hanging on and controlling us. People have a hard time letting go. I know many people who frequently speak about emotional pain that was caused by someone in the church – literally 30 years ago. They recall the details. The date of the offense. The specific words or actions used to cause the damage. The emotional pain experienced determines their relationships, church involvement and the health of their faith. It is unlike any other experience in their life. And I believe it is diabolical.

The point of this article is this: if you want to be healed from the emotional pain inflicted on you by an experience at church, it can happen. And if you want it to happen, it probably will.

That is a bold statement! But it is based upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our emotions, our feelings and thoughts are under the control of other elements. Experiences influence us. Life events shape us. While we can’t choose all our experiences, they most certainly impact us for a long time, and how we feel about those experiences dictates our future.

On a side note, the topic is not emotional or mental illness. I am not reducing mental health to a decision by an individual, although I do believe in the power of God to heal us mentally and emotionally.

If we surrender our emotions to the Holy Spirit, (all of our hurt and pain and bad experiences) He can heal them. And – here is the kicker – if we refuse to release our emotional pain to the Lord – we will carry them to our grave. Unfortunately, some wear their pain like a medal. They are proud of their offense and put it on display for all to see. Still others use their emotional hurt as a weapon or an excuse. Because they have been hurt, others will pay.

I really hope you don’t think that I am saying, “just get over it!” I am not. And I am most certainly not saying that the Church is innocent or that the perpetrators of church hurt should not be held accountable. I am saying, if you really want to be healed from the emotional pain caused by the Church, it is readily available. You’ll have to let go of the pain. You’ll need to stop allowing the hurt to control your decisions. No more, “I can’t because….” If this seems like too much, know that the Lord will help you. And He wants you free from the pain of your negative experience.

Regardless of your pain, or the source of it, God is offering you healing right now. Let him heal your broken emotions.

Who Speaks into Your Life?

design-57Voices, and lots of them. The world is full of free advice. There are many who will gladly tell you how you should live. The funny thing is, many people haven’t a clue on how to live. So rather than working on their life, they work on yours.

We all need others who speak into our lives. People who advise us, influence our decisions, challenge us to grow. It is a dangerous thing to navigate this life in solitude. I am regularly shocked when I hear of people making huge life decisions in a vacuum. In other words, they have no advisors, no counselors, no friends that help them to see different perspectives.

Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14 (KJV)

We all need others who speak into our lives.

However, we don’t need a lot of people doing this. And we certainly don’t need the wrong people doing this. Choose wisely whom you allow to speak into your life.

Some hints on who NOT to allow as an influencer:

  • Watch their life; if they’re messed up, don’t let them in.
  • Do they have something to gain from you? Could they manipulate you for their benefit?
  • Do they talk too much and betray confidences?
  • Are they a dominator?
  • Does what they say line up with what God says?

Avoid taking advice from people who will lead you in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, God can use anyone – a humble friend, a younger person, even someone who has never walked in your shoes to speak important things to you.

We all need others who speak into our lives.

If you lack this important resource in your life, ask God to provide these people. And if you are not speaking into the lives of others, ask God to position you so you can.

Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)

 

 

Leader: Who/What Validates You?

design-56To validate means to “recognize or affirm the validity or worth of a person.” (Dictionary.com). Before we get spiritual and argue that God is the only one who validates us, let’s be real.

Leaders are human and humans have weaknesses. Many of us struggle from low self esteem issues. We are insecure. Many leaders battle feelings of insufficiency and lack of qualifications. Being validated as a leader is not only helpful, it is necessary if we hope to survive the challenges that leaders regularly face.

Receiving recognition from those you lead is nice. Being honored on a special day or with a gift is affirming. When our leaders notice and comment on our work, it can be very motivating. Any time anyone says, “thank you”, we may feel validated.

But I believe we must be careful about who or what makes us feel good about ourselves as leaders.

Increasing productivity can validate us. Being named to a position of leadership, getting invited to speak at a special gathering or receiving an award can build our self esteem. But there is inherent danger herein.

Needing the public recognition or verbal affirmations of others in order to feel like a leader is dangerous. Those who must have a pat on the back may become vulnerable to people pleasing. Additionally, if we can be inflated by praise, we will become deflated by criticism.

I suggest our validity come from deep within ourselves. Leaders must know who they are in Christ. This does not mean that we don’t need the support and encouragement of others, on the contrary. But we can’t place our self concept in the hands of other people.

God called you as a leader, you responded. That response will include days when no one sees or talks about what a great leader you are. We’ve got to be ok with that.

Don’t feel less significant because your numbers are down. Don’t live or die based upon the opinions of others. Don’t count on the affirmations of others in order for you to understand your value.

You have family and close friends. Go ahead and allow them close into your heart and head. But even they shouldn’t be your sole source of validation.

You are valuable, you are needed, you are loved. That’s not validation coming from me, that’s validation coming from God.

Growth Plans for 2020

Below are a few of the things I plan to work on in the new year. With God’s help, I’ll grow, accomplish more and make more of a difference in the world.

1. Redeem time. Make the most of opportunities, waste less time and focus more on priorities.

2. Treasure the treasures. Be in the moment more with loved ones.

3. Maintain poise. When under pressure, when challenged by the unknown or by crisis, remain steady and stable.

4. Filter out the noise. Don’t give credence to the annoyances. Eliminate distractions.

5. Smile. Be kind. Respect others. Care.

6. Be unshakeable. Live more by the Spirit and less by my emotions.

7. Speak less, listen more, pray the most.

If I don’t plan to grow, I am planning to shrink. “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

Another Decade! Here we come!

IMG_9445Until today (Christmas Eve), I haven’t given much thought to the end of another decade and the start of 2020. While running errands with my wife, we talked about the presumed events of the next ten years. Grandkids becoming teenagers. Continuing to progress in our ministry. Potential relocations for work. Lots of productivity. Perhaps even retirement!

If my sketchy math skills are correct, I am approximately 80% done with my vocational ministry work. I started right out of the gate in the early 80’s, which makes me ancient. 4 decades of uninterrupted, full time ministry! If God continues to grant His favor, I have about 8-10 years of public ministry left. Of course, I plan to minister until I die, but our current church culture isn’t friendly to older men who still have a fire burning in their gut. So I’ll work in the main stream until I’m retirement age, then I’ll go rogue!

Another decade. 4/5ths done with my professional ministry career. What does that mean to me?

It means it’s time to lay down all hindrances. Abandon security and comfort. Reject mediocrity and status quo. Take risks, be aggressive, embrace innovation.

In my last decade of professional ministry, I want to work like a fiend. I hope to benefit from everything I’ve learned over the last 40 years. I want to reduce mistakes, focus on the most important issues and be as productive as is humanly possible.

Over the next decade, I’ll passionately invest in those coming behind me. I want to exemplify grace, mercy and compassion, and I desperately want to finish strong.

2020-2030 should be epic!

How about you? What does the start of a new decade mean to you?

2020… here we come!