Tag Archives: Bible

What if My Church isn’t Spiritual Enough?

designIf you’ve been attending a church for any significant length of time, you’ve experienced it: the service where nothing seems to flow. It feels tight. The music isn’t engaging, the sermon is dry, the crowd is down, and it feels like you’re just going through the motions rather than entering into the presence of God. I think this type of experience is inevitable although we should never accept it as OK. But what if this type of service has become the norm? What should one do if the spiritual climate of the local church is tepid at best. Long stretches of dead services are a sign of real trouble for a church. What if my church isn’t spiritual enough for me?

How long has it been since someone came to Christ in your church? How long since there has been a significant move of the Holy Spirit? I am not talking about a “feel good” service where everybody was happy. I mean a time when God was so evidently present that everyone knew it, and responded, and lives were changed. I think a key question that church leaders should ask, without fail, while evaluating the effectiveness of a worship experience is: did the people encounter God? If they did not, it’s time for something to change!

The truth is, too many churches are stuck is a rut of mundaneness. Week after week nothing remarkable occurs. The people have stopped expecting anything to happen. There is no sense of urgency, passion has faded and everything is predictable. We might describe the church as “not anointed”, boring, cold, or, as a former pastor used to say, “dry as cracker juice!”

What if my church isn’t spiritual enough for me? What should we do when this happens?

I would like to approach this topic from the perspective of a church member. Perhaps later I will address church leaders and pastors on the subject.

In my opinion, a key mistake many of us make is to perceive the church as an organization. It can easily appear as another institution. While it may be reasonable to do so, we must see the church as something so much more.

God strategically established the church as an organism; the living breathing Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul goes to great lengths to explain the deep spiritual nature of the church and he utilizes the body metaphor to do so. When we gather on Sundays for corporate worship, it is so much more than another institutional meeting. God has summoned the Body of Christ to gather for the purpose of worshiping Him!

There are many reasons why this body metaphor is important, especially when considering the dry times that we inevitably experience. Among the greatest reason is – we each play a key role in the health of the Body of Christ.

Regarding church services, there is a huge difference between spectators and participants. Worship was never intended to be a “spectator sport.” Of course, ministers play a key role in leading worship services but the Bible identifies little if any distinction between clergy and laity. Everyone in the church should play a key role in church services.

Think of it this way: your spiritual development is not primarily your pastor’s responsibility. While they are to shepherd you, you must assume the responsibility for your own discipleship. This is also true when it comes to worship services. Sure, the pastor leads but if folks don’t follow, it will be a disconnected experience. Everyone has the responsibility to make the church gathering better.

I think some church members require a higher level of spirituality from their church services than they require for themselves. Keep in mind, the “church” is made up of individuals and the church is only as spiritually developed as the individual people are. We are simply a sum of the parts. Of course, Christ is the Head of the Church but we are the various parts of the Body. If each of us will pursue spiritual maturity, our churches will also move closer to God. If we come to church with an attitude of expectation and surrender to the Lord, great things are bound to happen. On the other hand, if we come to services disinterested and apathetic, nothing will happen.

So, rather than feeling as though the church is lagging (and sometimes complaining about it), perhaps we should focus on ourselves. No more, “I’m not being fed” or “I wish we had a more exciting church”. Rather, accept the responsibility to be a positive influencer; make the church better. Do whatever it takes to bring life to the Body of Christ.

We are the Church! Let’s enjoy it.

Advertisements

Cafeteria Preachers

cafeteria-preachersWho can forget the school cafeteria? Bland food, hairnet ladies – and those plastic trays! If your high school cafeteria experience was like mine, it wasn’t a matter of gourmet recipes and discriminating palates – it was a matter of being hungry enough to eat whatever they plopped on the tray. As I recall, there wasn’t a lot of choice of menu items. Eat the goulash or don’t.

I am sorry to make the comparison, but there may be a few churches and pastors who have modeled their ministry after the school cafeteria. Whatever do I mean?

We are aware of some preachers whose mantra could be, “I don’t care what you want or need, this is what I’m preaching!” Of course, effective preachers take their cues from the Holy Spirit. They preach the Word of God in an uncompromising way, regardless of the opinions of others. But there is something to be said about being in touch with the people to whom we preach and with whom we worship. A renewed sense of compassion, connection and care would do us preachers some good. While we must preach what God directs us to preach, there is nothing wrong with being aware of the needs of the people and presenting God’s Word as the solution.

I am not a fan of a watered down Gospel. We have witnessed great damage in our churches and culture as a result of “feel good preaching.” But pastors who are more determined to preach their sermons than they are to minister to their people are missing the point of preaching.

Spiritual hash is not very appetizing. Non-imaginative and stuffy spiritual pontification has never changed a life. Modern-day preachers must learn the art and discipline of exegeting a passage and expositing that truth into the practical lives of everyday people. Our job is to present the Bible in clear and meaningful ways so that the hearers of the Word can become doers of the Word. I believe that it is the responsibility of the preacher to offer the Bible in a relevant and purposeful way. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the minds of the hearers, but we are the spokespersons for God. This is a heavy responsibility.

We shudder to think that a person in need could attend a worship service and find no solution to their problem. While the Gospel is always the answer, some searchers may find some spiritual direction helpful. God help us to never turn away a hungry seeker.

My simple advice to preachers would be: Know to whom you preach. Understand their struggles. Be in touch with their personal lives. Study the Bible. Pray for the preacher and the listeners. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to passages that address the needs of the people. And preach passionately and compassionately what God lays on your hearts. I believe you will see lives changed.

I don’t want to be a cafeteria preacher that plops unappetizing spiritual food on the trays of people’s lives; I want to serve Gospel gourmet meals that satisfy the longings in people’s hearts.


It’s Getting More Difficult (Ministry in the Modern World)

design[12]Experience should make your job easier. I am not finding that to be the case. The older I get and the more time I spend in Christian ministry, the more challenging it seems to become.

Monumental shifts in our cultural contexts leave the church in unfamiliar territory. While we once enjoyed the favor and respect of the community, we now find ourselves on the receiving end of rejection and even disdain. Worse than being rejected is being ignored. Because the Western culture has, for all practical purposes, abandoned a Christian worldview, churches that adhere to traditional Biblical tenets are dismissed as ignorant or hate-filled. Times are rapidly changing for those in ministry.

Because of these dynamics, ministry is not getting easier in America; on the contrary, we are facing greater challenges and resistance than we have in the past. Some Christian leaders are not responding well. Some of us are behaving more like Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden. We pull out our swords and lop off ears (in Jesus’ name, of course)! There are too many Malchus’ in the world. These are people who are suffering from the mis-reaction of Christians to social pressures. There is a time for us to leave our swords in their scabbards. (see John 18:10-11)

I have a few suggestions that may enable us to more effectively navigate these tumultuous waters.

1. Recall that we are not the first to be rejected for the cause of Christ. Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

2. Maintain proper perspective. While we are experiencing new opposition to our faith, there are countless brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

3. Pray for those who persecute you. Some of the most difficult passages in the Bible have to do with loving our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36)

4. Embrace the opportunity to minister to the world. When in the middle of pushback regarding your faith, pray for the chance to share the Gospel. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15b)

5. Remember, it’s not our fight. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) God is well able to take care of His business, don’t make cultural resistance your personal battle.

6. Be tough to the very end. Those who do so will be saved. “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

I wish I could tell you that the pressure that ministries face will ease in the near future. I don’t believe that it will; in fact, I believe that it will only get more difficult. I can tell you that our current situation doesn’t catch God by surprise. He remains in control. He has promised to be with us. And He will be victorious in the end.

Hang in there, Child of God. Great will be your reward.


Good Communication Goes Beyond the Stage

Good communication goes beyond the stage

 

Preaching and communicating are not necessarily the same thing.

This is not a post about preaching. This is a post about how some people are great preachers but not great communicators. There may be a difference.

I know and have heard some dynamic preachers. They can hold an audience in the palm of their hand. They evoke passions and emotions with their sermons. But too many of them are terrible communicators. What in the world do I mean?

Simply because a preacher can engage an audience does not mean that he or she is good at communication. The difference may be understood by categorizing communication into two groups: Group communication and individual communication.

Good preachers know the Bible.

They know how to utilize inflection and tone in their voice.

They use effective body language.

They are authoritative.

They are convincing.

But a guy or gal can be great at these things yet suffer from poor communication skills.

Good communicators look you in the eye and you know they are listening.

Good communicators return phone calls.

They answer emails.

They respond to others.

They remember what they told you and what you told them.

It is very difficult to be a good communicator unless you actually care.

I am not saying that good communication is more important than preaching. It is not. I am saying that preachers need to be reminded that good communication goes beyond the pulpit.

In my opinion, in order for a preacher to be effective, he or she must also be good at communicating with individuals. If he or she is not, they will need to make sure that someone close to them is good at this kind of communication and keeps them connected to the people around them. Otherwise, they lose credibility when their individual communication falls through the cracks. Their preaching will suffer because their smaller-scale communication is weak.

If you are a preacher, work on improving your preaching – it is a vitally important calling. But also work on your one-on-one communication. Pay attention to people. Respond accordingly. I think you will find that your preaching also improves.


11 Reasons NOT to Give Tithes

483756_483895071677698_388109276_n

The word “tithe” mean “tenth”. It is a biblical principle that indicates that people are supposed to offer 10% of their income to the church. 10%! That’s a huge percentage. Like you, I can think of many reasons why I should not give away that much of my money!

Here are just a few:

1. I need that money. I need to pay bills; my family has needs. I’m in debt over my head. I am responsible to take care of my financial obligations. If I give tithes, I may not be able to do so.

2. I need to save for the future. Who knows what tomorrow holds? Anything could happen…and I need to be prepared for an unknown future.

3. What if something bad happens? My car could break down or our refrigerator might stop working. If I pay tithes, I might get stuck in a bad spot.

4. I don’t like everything that happens in our church. The pastor doesn’t always do things that way I want him to. I’m not sure where all the money goes. The staff probably makes too much money. I think they waste a lot of resources. I could go on and on…

5. Tithing is an Old Testament concept. Jesus never said, “Thou shalt tithe”.  In the New Testament, we are free to do whatever we think is best. Tithing is legalism. We are no longer bound by the Old Testament rules.

6. I don’t have enough money. It’s simple: I already run short of money. Common sense says that if I give money away, I’ll have less. One day, when I get rich, I will tithe.

7. I don’t feel called to give tithe. Generosity is not my spiritual gift. The Bible clearly says that some people have the spiritual gift of generosity. I don’t have that gift!

8. Let the rich people take care of the church. They could write one check and pay all the church bills. That way, those of us who have less wouldn’t have to deal with that responsibility.

9. I know of too many crooked preachers and churches. I’ve heard too many stories about Mercedes Benz and vacation homes in Vegas. There is no way I’m helping that preacher get rich!

10. I pay my tithes in different ways, like volunteering to serve at church and singing in the choir. If I give ten percent of my time, that’s the same thing.

11. God doesn’t need my money – He owns everything.

I trust by now, you understand that this is a parody. Pardon my sarcasm. The above are all reasons that I have heard as to why some people don’t give tithes. And any excuse will do. The truth is, among a hundred other good reasons, other people will be blessed if you do tithe. That should be enough – helping other people. Helping them to find Christ, to serve God, to find healing for their marriage and family, to have something to eat, to know that God loves them.

It’s simple. Just give God your 10%. You will like the results.


the health care debacle: who is to blame?

I have a couple of friends that love our President and everything he does. He made their year with his influence over the Supreme Court and their decision to mandate a health insurance tax. However, most of my friends are quite upset with the decision.

For what it’s worth, I have a view I haven’t heard anyone else mention up to this point:

The Bible tells us that it is the responsibility of Christians and the Church to take care of the widow, the orphan, the needy and the poor (see references below). It appears that several years ago, we decided to abdicate that responsibility. So someone has to do it.  Enter – the government of the United States. Back as far as President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the government began handing our support to needy people. This practice has grown ever since.  The current health care reform emphasis is simply an extension of this.

So what would keep the church from being able to fulfill these responsibilities?

  • Most people are not a part of a local church, therefore we are not even in relationship with them.  This responsibility involves way more than just giving money.
  • Most people who do go to church do not give money to the church so there is nothing to share with the poor. We spend everything we get trying to keep the doors opened.
  • Most Christians simply won’t accept the responsibility. They are more concerned about democracy that they are about obedience to Scripture. So we hand the job over to the government. Yet many complain when it’s not done their way.

This essence of this problem is not political. It is spiritual. We won’t change it by voting. We will only change it by doing what God told us to do.

I think God had a better plan.

Proverbs 19:17 When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord–and he pays wonderful interest on your loan!

1 John 3:17 But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him?

Proverbs 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

James 1:27 The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father’s point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord–not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world.

Psalms 82:4 Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men.

1 Timothy 6:18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.

Luke 3:11 “If you have two coats,” he replied, “give one to the poor. If you have extra food, give it away to those who are hungry.”

2 Corinthians 9:9 It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”

Isaiah 58:7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help.

Isaiah 58:10 “Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.

Matthew 25: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”


why I won’t preach politics

President Obama really ticked off a bunch of my friends yesterday. When he issued his “evolution” statement on the topic of gay marriage, most conservatives in the US went ballistic.

For the record, I am prolife. Very prolife! I believe in the sanctity of marriage, that God provides this gift for men and women to live together under His blessing. I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that those who live together outside of marriage are fornicators. Let’s see, whom have I not yet offended?

And for the record, I preach these things from the Word of God, often. In fact, just last Sunday, prior to the President’s announcement, I preached from I Corinthians 6:9-11 which tell us that those who indulge in sexual sins and are homosexual will not inherit God’s Kingdom. You just can’t change the meaning of those verses. But I am not preaching politics. I am preaching the Gospel.  But I sincerely try to preach the truth with humility, in love, seasoned with grace.

On many occasions, I receive emails from friends in our church who want me to preach about politics. Through the years, I have heard it all. “How will they know who to vote for if you don’t tell them?”. “People don’t have the right values, you need to preach about how this particular politician is against the Bible”. And so on.

Here is my position: I am not called by God to preach politics. I am called by God to preach the Gospel – His Word. I do not believe that the problem in our country is politics. I believe the problem is, people are ignoring God’s Word. The answer is not for preachers to preach about politics. The answer is for preachers to preach the Bible. Politics never saved a soul. The cross of Jesus saves everyone who is saved. Preach the Good News of Jesus!

Here is the greatest reason why preaching the Bible is better than preaching politics:

The Bible never changes – it is true for all people at all times. Politics change. There is no hope in politics. Jesus is hope!

I believe our country is in deep trouble and headed the wrong way. I am in deep disagreement with many of our leaders. I think the president is wrong. But I am not planning to give these misguided politicians my valuable preaching time.

The Gospel is the Truth!

The Truth will set you free!

Jesus is the Truth!

Let’s just preach Jesus.