Posts Tagged ‘pastor’

I know in this time almost every church is closed on Easter Sunday. I know most of us are doing something online, but if you have need of a Worship service, or you’d just like to experience one more. Here is the one I made for my church.
Jesus is risen! He is Risen Indeed!

PRAY FOR THE CHURCHsmIt was the question that stopped me in my tracks. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I sort of thought the person asking would think I was making it up as I go. It happened at my interview. I had started as the interim pastor. My intention was to come in, stay a few months and help the church keep going while they found their permanent pastor. Then I would put them in that pastor’s capable hands and back out on the road I would go. My job wasn’t to change things or impose my vision, it was to prepare them to receive the next person’s vision and run with it. But something happened. We both (the congregation and I) began to realize that I was the next person. Frankly I was very happy.

From there the question was how to proceed. The congregation already knew me, so how would the interview process go? How could we get everyone on board? While some would say I was just continuing on, the role had actually changed pretty substantially. All of the sudden my vision mattered. All of the sudden the question became “How would I lead this 150 year old church into the next phase of its life?” We decided to have a night where the congregation could ask me their questions. And that’s when I got the question:

What’s Your Vision for This Church?

My answer was the same as it is on this blog, well, okay not exactly. This space is more arts and creativity focused, but the principle remains the same. My vision is to help other people find and use their talents to live out their vision. I know to some “my vision is to help you live your vision” sounds a lot like a cop out. Here’s why it’s not:

If it’s just my vision, then it’s all my idea, and you will only get as excited about it as I can make you. The idea, the continuing ideas needed to implement it and motivating you to bring the idea to fruition, all of that depends on me. You might be saying, “That’s leadership.” and to a degree you would be right, but I see something better.

If it’s your vision, then it’s your idea. You’re already passionate about it and there is an excitement, maybe even a desperation to bring it to reality. Now I can come along side you and help you and find the people that can help you. I can look at all the gifts of the church and work with you, encourage you and build you up. Imagine a church where people were living their dreams, seeing the great things in their hearts and minds happening. If that’s not a contagious church, I don’t know what is. That’s why it’s a big part of my vision.

About now, some of you are seeing the problem. There is a name, two names actually, missing from this post. I did that intentionally to bring us to this point. Those names, of course, are God and Jesus. If it’s my vision, it all depends on me. That load is too heavy for me to bear alone. If it’s your vision then I can help you bear the load and work with you to make it happen. But what if it’s God’s vision? What if you were seeking God and He laid something on your heart? What if God’s vision becomes your vision? Now all of the sudden the Spirit of God is giving the passion. Now the Spirit of God is your encourager. Now the Spirit of God is your provider and now when you come to the end of yourself and your abilities, you can watch in awe as the Creator of the Universe comes in and does something amazing to bring His vision, the one He laid on your heart, to fruition. Now it doesn’t all depend on me, and it doesn’t all depend on you and me. Now it all depends on the One on whom it ACTUALLY all depends, God.

Now imagine that that was happening in the lives of believer after believer after believer. As people are coming together to live out God sized dreams in the church, the neighborhood, the nation, maybe even the world. Can you imagine what a church like that could do? Neither can I but I love to try.

That’s my vision for the church. What’s your vision?

springfieldIn a few hours, I will step into a new position. I will be serving Springfield Church of the Brethren in Coopersburg, PA as their interim pastor. While I’ve been a pastor before, this will be a new adventure. Springfield is a long established church with established traditions. I have ministered there before, and found the people to be warm and open. I look forward to serving there, but it will be different. As an interim, I am not preparing to be a permanent pastor. Instead I am there to help the church to prepare to receive the pastor the Lord will call. I will serve, pastor, and minister as needed. I’ll be guiding and leading, visiting, teaching and most importantly listening. I’m looking forward to really getting to know the folks and seeing how the Lord would have me lead. My goal is to be an encouraging, Godly pastor for as long as they need me.

In case any of my readers are wondering how this will effect my speaking ministry. Everything that is already booked will go on as scheduled. I will also have one Sunday a month off from the church, in which to continue speaking and painting, I will also have Saturdays and other weekday evenings if anyone is interested. The next few months will require some flexibility, but I really feel strongly that this is a call from God. My prayer is that God will use me to bless the people of Springfield and the pastor God will call for them and that what I learn and gain there will make me better suited for whatever comes next in this ministry journey.

I’m excited for this phase in my ministry journey and covet your prayers.

Well it’s time for me to make an announcement about a major change in my life, one I am quite looking forward to. In the months of September and October, I will begin a new journey. I recently accepted a call to become the interim pastor at Springfield Church of the Brethren, in Coopersburg, PA. An interim pastor is a pastor who guides a church through a time of transition between their former pastor and their next permanent pastor. He does all the work of a regular pastor, but there is a time limit on the position. I am looking forward to this for a number of reasons.

Let’s start off with the logistical reasons.

First: I have never done pastoral ministry as my main “job.” I always had a day job in addition to my pastoral duties. It will be nice to be able to focus all my efforts on ministering the Gospel.

Secondly: It gives me the opportunity to try out being a “full-time” pastor while having a shorter term commitment.

Third: I will be doing this on a part time basis with one Sunday a month off. In this way I can continue to do my speaking ministry on the off Sundays as well as evenings and weekends. This ministry is very important to me and want it to continue.

Now for the best reason of all.
I get to sow into the lives of a congregation of people. I get to make new friends, and lead a congregation, discipling people and helping them to spread the Gospel to their friends, family and community. I am really quite excited to get started.

I also wanted to let you know that this ministry will continue through the process and, as state earlier, I am still available for speaking (with a modified schedule) during this time.

I read an important article last night. It’s an article every ministry person needs to read, as well as any person that finds himself/herself working with our youth. It seems like an epidemic lately. There seems to be a story every few days right now of a teacher or other professional who finds himself/herself on the wrong side of the law for becoming involved in an affair with a student. I know this is a little off topic for this blog but it is crucial that people in ministry get a handle on this. This simply cannot be… ever.

There are things we all can do.

Step One: You can’t touch the kids!
This is a rule. There are billions of available adults in the world. Anyone under 18 is off limits. This ain’t rocket science people. The Bible has this thing called the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you wouldn’t want an adult to enter into a physical relationship with your child, afford some other parent the same courtesy.

Step Two: Never be alone with a student.
The easiest way to make sure something like this doesn’t happen is to make sure it can’t happen. Never alone, never a problem.

Now that I’ve touched on the two that are obvious, let’s look a little deeper at what needs to happen.

Most of the cases I have read about involved, people who are already married, which leads to our next point.

Step Three: Work on your marriage!
The guy in the article says he fell into this affair because his marriage was shaky. This is where the title of this post comes from. There’s difficulty in the home and all of the sudden some pretty/handsome young thing is telling you you’re wonderful. Of course he/she thinks you’re wonderful. He/she may look like an adult, but he/she knows nothing! Next time someone outside your marriage starts to tell you you’re wonderful, remember this… They don’t know you, not the way your spouse does. Some of us need to ask ourselves the question “Is the reason my spouse is not telling me I’m wonderful, that I’m not being wonderful?” Marriage is work. It’s also God ordained. If your ministry is adversely affecting your marriage, you let the ministry go and work on the marriage. Get help. Save the marriage and don’t allow yourself to fall to temptation.

Step Four: Accountability
Sin loves a vacuum. The best way to avoid sneaking around in the dark is to have a same gender accountability partner who will call you on your garbage and keep bringing your life into the light. This is huge and crucial.

Step Five: Flee temptation!
It’s called temptation because it’s tempting. Get away from it. If you work with students and you find yourself becoming attracted to them, it’s time to switch careers. You’ll be able to find a million reasons why this is impractical, but how do they compare to prison?
Get help and get yourself out of the situation. Remember that 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Find the way out and take it. There are other ways to serve the Lord. Get help before you ruin some kids life, because that is ultimately what this type of behavior does. That’s why it’s a felony.

I know this was a bit off topic, and we’ll be back to creative arts ministry tomorrow, but this stuff ruins lives and families and brings dishonor to God. It’s happening too often and I just felt I needed to address it.

There was this guy and he and some friends, probably quite a few friends, went to his hometown Appleby’s and ran up a pretty large bill. When it came time to pay the check, there was a gratuity, a tip already added. Most restaurants do that with large groups.

Instead of just paying the bill, this guy wrote on the check, “I only give God 10% why should I give you 18?”, crossed out the gratuity and wrote in 0 and signed it Pastor so and so. Now I’ll be the first one to confess, I think that was a terrible thing to do, maybe even stupid. I have a huge problem with this guy’s tactics and an even worse problem with the fact that he put his greed and his lack of generosity on Jesus. Did you forget we are supposed to make Jesus look good, especially when we sign our names with Pastor or Reverend? Thanks for helping to advance the cause buddy.

Now in the old days, this would have made Christians look bad to one person and that’s bad enough but now we have Instagram. Now the people we slight can tell the world and that’s what this server did and the story went viral. You know viral as in spread like a disease. Now to be clear I don’t have a problem with this guy being called on his bad behavior and I have a huge problem with the fact that the guy turned around and got the server fired later in the week. But in the story I read, it went on to talk about how Christians are the cheapest group of people out there. One jerk doesn’t tip and all the billions in charity we do every year are forgotten.

The story revealed the bias. There is a huge bias against Christians out there. In a world where every form of bigotry is frowned upon, as it should be, bigotry against Christians is still quite acceptable. I mean lets say this guy didn’t bother to write the whole thing about the tithe and sign his name pastor. Does this story make the news? No and even if it does, we might start to ask questions like “Well did he get lousy service?” “Was the waiter rude or incompetent?” Maybe even “Why do I have to help the restaurant owner meet his responsibility to pay his employees and living wage?” But add a message about the tithe and sign your name pastor and it’s okay to lump us all together and call us cheap? I don’t think so and they wouldn’t get away with doing this to any other group. There’s a bias against Christians out there and it’s huge.

Okay we all know that to be true, the question is, what are we going to do about it? I think a couple things tell a better story. First, tip well. It’s all going to burn so use it to show your appreciation to someone who is working hard for his/her money. Second, be overly kind and polite. Don’t over react at a mistake and be gracious. Compliment good service and be supportive of people who are getting grief from others. Third if you’re going to give a tract make it a positive, uplifting one, accompany it with an even larger tip. I know the Gospel is valuable, your server may not, but if it is accompanied by an immensely generous blessing, it’ll go a lot further, because it shows you care. Lastly, if you’ve been a jerk, keep your tract! Jesus should not be associated with jerkiness.

Lastly keep this in mind, you don’t know what your server is going through. They don’t control the policy of the restaurant or the prices or the quality of the food. They get dumped on for a lot of things that are beyond their control. A little love, grace and kindness can go a long way.

To the pastor in this story, this is not how we represent Jesus. That you got this person fired is wrong and you should find a way to make this right. Just sayin’

Do Something... Lead, Follow or Get Out of the WayI once heard the story of a person passed over for a ministry because “the more traditional Christians might not respond well to his creative approach.” Needless to say, I resonated with this story.

A couple thoughts came to mind. In a world where everything humanity knows doubles ever 1.5 years, a creative approach is not an option for the church, it’s a necessity. How else will we take the unchanging message of the Gospel to a rapidly changing world? Our declining numbers in the church prove this to be true.

But here’s the other thing. If a person has been a follower of Jesus Christ long enough to become a “traditional Christian” I think one of the following must be true. They should be qualified to lead. If they don’t feel the call to be leaders (and not everyone does), they should have been under the authority of Christ and the local pastor/body of Christ long enough to be amazing followers able to follow their leaders into new and fertile mission fields or at the very least they should be able to get out of the way.

Now when I write get out of the way, I’m not meaning they should leave the church or that they are irrelevant or unnecessary. I’m simply stating that they should have the spiritual maturity to realize that just because something does not appeal to them, does not mean it will not appeal to someone and that they should stand back, allow the effort to proceed, pray that it bears fruit and not get in the way of what God is trying to do. Of course I’m not talking about righteously opposing something unscriptural, that is a mandate for us all. I’m talking about opposing things because they’re not the way we’ve always done it. If we only do what we’ve always done, we’re doomed or at the very least way off task.

Truth be known, a lot of this has been caused, in my opinion, by the way we view our leaders in the American Church. We’ve started to see them as employees to be hired and fired at will, based on whether or not they take us where we want to go. My next words will sound cold, but it’s not about you and where you want to go and your pastor is not your employee. Your pastor is called by God to take you where God wants you to go. Of course there are checks and balances in place to ensure pastors don’t abuse power, but if you are opposing your leaders because they are taking you where God wants you to go, who are you really opposing? Check yourself.

I used to say the church exists for those outside it, to reach people beyond it’s walls and while I still consider that (as well as worshipping God) to be our primary purpose, I have mellowed just a little. Ephesians 4 calls out five gifts that were given for the purpose of leading the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Now one might think these are the people who are supposed to do the work of the church, but that is in fact not the case.

The job of church leaders according to Ephesians 4:12,13 is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Translation, your church leaders’ jobs are to help YOU to do the work of ministry, build up the body (reaching out and discipling), uniting the body behind Jesus, and teaching us to follow Him until we become like Him. Their job is to help you find and do your job to the glory of God.

Once you consider how many different people and different jobs there are that could be being done, you will gain a greater realization for the need for creativity in the church and especially in church leadership. And once you start to do your God-given assignment, you’ll see that you want people to do one of three things…

Lead, Follow or get out of the way.

Which one are your doing and are you getting in anyone’s way?

Don’t worry it’s not that one. It’s one that every artist especially every Christ following artist should know… Flexibility. Flexibility is a trait every artist should have and yet most of us seem to lack it. It manifests mainly in two ways.

The first is in the If only mentality. It only I had this, if only I had that. If only I had more money or better supplies or a better studio or a hotter computer with better software or whatever. You know what they are. Fill in your “if only” here. Literally write it on a piece of paper. Are you done? Good now throw the paper away and look around you. What do you have right now? Stop seeing your scarcity and start looking at what you have and use that. The biggest part of art is creativity, find what you have and use it. Our ancestors used burned sticks for charcoal, berries plants and on and on and on. Appreciate what you have and use it. Make the art you can make with what you have. It’s okay to ask God for more and better but make sure you’re faithfully using what God has given you. Think of times of lack as God building your creativity. He might even be using it to draw you out of yourself and teaching you to collaborate. Regardless of the circumstance, be creative, grateful and be flexible.

The other area we lack flexibility is much more insidious. It’s pride. We’re artists after all and there are certain things we deserve. Get that out of your head right now. The only thing we deserve in this life is Hell and thank God He gave us Jesus so we don’t get what we deserve. Before there was Madonna, there was “pre-madonna” (yes I know it’s really prima donna I was making a joke) and nobody liked her. Nobody really likes a diva either. We put up with their outlandish behavior because of their talents but we don’t like them. As Christ following artists our job is to represent Christ. No one was more entitled to be a Diva than the perfect Son of God and yet the Bible tells us over and over again how he humbled Himself to serve the ones He came to save. We can’t represent Him well by being demanding and inflexible divas. If you have ten minutes to do something, give the best ten minutes you have. If you have a budget of five dollars, use your creativity to make it look like it’s worth a lot more.

Learn the F Word and live it. Be flexible.

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Judges 19; Psalm 89,91
You can also download your own chart here.

Texts: Matthew 5:13-48
Last week we looked at the beatitudes, these statements that showed us Jesus’ values that look like they are upside down except that they’re not. Jesus’ values are right side up and it’s the world’s values that are upside down. We looked at things that Jesus calls blessed and we looked at the woes that he pronounced upon people determined to live opposite the things He calls blessed. Today we’re going to really dig in to why that’s important and get some more clarification about what Jesus expects from us.

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Matthew 4,5 Psalm 31
You can also download your own chart here.