Username:

Password:

Fargot Password? / Help

Archive for January 2016

3

Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #9 - Be Sure God Called You To Pastor Or You'll Quit!

Photo credit: fuzzcat via Foter.com / CC BY

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the ninth point; "9) If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway.

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!"

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Big houses, big checks, big stages, private jets, fancy cars, VIP treatment, bodyguards, cameras, etc. Just another day in the lives of "The Real Pastors of Somewhere". Well, that's the dream of some after watching too much television. Some young ministers dream of being the next Pastor Joel Osteen, Pastor Andy Stanley, Bishop TD Jakes or Pastor Creflo Dollar so they "step out in faith" and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the dream only lasts for a very short while before reality throws cold water on their faces and wakes them up. These powerful, internationally known men of God with successful ministries represent the top 1%. There's a 99% chance that none of us will be one of them.

For the 99%, starting a church is so not glamorous. It's quite the opposite. It's about sacrifice and it will cost you more at the beginning than you'll get out of it. There will be tough days, weeks, months or even years when you will feel like quitting. During those times, if you're not sure that The Lord has called you to do it, that's exactly what you will do. That's probably a good thing because God can use those situations to remove people who enter the ministry for the wrong reasons. It's similar to the test God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22 when He asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. There's nothing more harrowing than putting your dream on the altar and killing it.

John 12:24-25(NLT) - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

I have had to answer the following question in my heart several times; "If nothing big comes of The Body Church would you still be happy being the pastor?" To be honest, my answer is yes. In fact, I find so much joy in knowing that God is pleased with our faithfulness that I forget to count how many people are actually in the room. I've put the future of the church on the altar before God and settled the issue. We can't make this thing work by ourselves. We can only obey God. He makes it work. If that means pushing through this early season of the church with a few faithful people wearing multiple hats, taking on multiple responsibilities and filling multiple roles, then let's do it to the best of our ability.

The fantasy has died. We let it die the day we realized that God's definition of success is predicated upon obedience to His Will. I'm so proud of the group we have. Every week they put a smile on their faces and take care of their responsibilities with the joy of The Lord. At one point in each service, we point to the North, South, East and West calling the people God has already called to be with us. We encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the reason why we are together in this journey. We have given it all over to The Lord. When He makes things happen they will happen. Until then, we will keep showing up and doing our part. Building The Church of Jesus Christ is not our dream, it is His. We're just privileged to be a part of it.

Luke 9:62(NLT) - But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

There's no turning back. I once heard a preacher say that there's no such thing as a former pastor. When you sign up for this job, you do it for life. It's like becoming a supreme court judge. You don't leave this vocation and reinvent yourself as something else. You leave everything else you're doing and reinvent yourself as a pastor. Outside of health issues or transitioning the ministry to the next generation we don't get the luxury of answering the call of God to lead His church then changing our minds when things get rough. It's like a marriage. You made the decision to say yes, now you have to do your best to stay faithful to your commitment and make it work.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge how difficult it gets sometimes for those who have chosen this path. It's difficult to watch the vision move forward much slower than we could have imagined. It's discouraging when people don't show the same level of faithfulness to you that you've shown to them. It's discouraging when it seems like The Word of God is not bringing the level of results you would expect. It's discouraging when people question your integrity out of complete ignorance regardless of what you've done to prove otherwise. On top of all that, I acknowledge that eventually some pastors just get tired. When it costs more to keep the ministry going than the return on investment it starts to become an unsustainable effort. Yet, we cannot quit. That's the easy way out.

Galatians 6:9(NKJV) - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

My goodness, this scripture is a life-saver. Believe me, I've had my moments when I wondered if this "church thing" would ever work out right. After all the effort, all the money spent, all the ideas, all the studying of The Bible, all the worship team practice, all the attention to detail, all the relationship building, all the outreach, it seemed like something would still go wrong. One time, there was a leak in the roof and a portion of the ceiling collapsed during worship service. We had to just keep going.

Another time, the AC would not work on an extremely hot day. We opened the doors and shook our heads in disbelief. Still, another time the heat would not work on an extremely cold day. I had to leave in the middle of the service to go find a space heater. Problem solved, right? Wrong! We finally got the heater into the sanctuary, turned it on and it tripped an electrical breaker so we lost power on one side of the room. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we just smiled.

That's just another day in our journey. Regardless, facility issues are much easier to deal with than the disappointment we face when people we think will be with us all the way turn their backs and walk away. Nothing prepared us for that. That's why we say that if you believe God has called you to do this, just be sure. 🙂 Hopefully, you have a good sense of humor because if you don't know how to laugh under pressure you will cry.

Never assume that anyone will support you faithfully for a long time. That will save you a lot of heartache. Then, if people do remain faithful it will be a pleasant surprise that will only add value to your ministry. The only person who knows the true level of someone's commitment is God. The most valuable resource we have in the church is each other so during challenging times, if we have the right people around us we know we will make it.

So why do we keep showing up every week? The group of us who show up every week believe that this is what God called us to do. Many people don't believe the same but we know God does and that's what matters. If we don't grow weary in doing well, one of these days we will reap a bountiful harvest. God will exalt us publicly when we complete this process. In the near future, we will see our breakthrough and nobody will be able to deny it. We can't lose heart even when things go wrong. We just have to keep rolling. God will have it no other way. We won't quit because there's no quit in us.

4

Special Bulletin: Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Proverbs 23:4-5(NLT) - Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.

1.5 Billion dollars! That's the latest lottery jackpot for The Powerball. If someone has the winning ticket that person's life would change forever. All of that person's money problems would be over. The person might pick up some new problems but that's a different issue. We found out that three people from Chino Hills, California; Munford, Tennessee; and Melbourne Beach, Florida had the winning numbers. It would not surprise me if there were a few Christians in the long lines outside of convenience stores and gas stations waiting to buy tickets. Some were believing God to guide them to the right numbers. Come on Jesus! All we do is win! Won't He do it? He did it once, He'll do it again! Maybe that was God's plan to reward some lucky tithe payers somewhere. Maybe not.

30 dollars! That's how low the oil price has fallen. That's a 70% drop in 18 months! As the oil price sunk lower and lower so did the hearts of people in countries with oil dependent economies. Some economists think it will only go lower. Perhaps as low as $10? It's tough times all around. One silver lining would be the low gas prices which we love. SUVs and big cars are selling again because with record low oil prices come record low gas prices.

Sell everything! 2016 will be a cataclysmic year so cash out while you can. That was the advice given to investors by Andrew Roberts, head of European economics, rates and Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and African research at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). China's economic growth is slowing. The stock market is down. The oil price is down. All the signs point to a catastrophic collapse. One of my investment holdings reported horrendous earnings a few nights ago and the value plunged overnight. I guess it's time to jump off a building right? Of course not!

All of this craziness is happening with the world's economy all at once. What exactly are we supposed to do?

Luke 16:8(NLT) - “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

Well, I can tell you what's not the answer. Doing nothing. When the world's falling apart around you pretending not to notice it and thinking it won't affect you at some point is not an option. Everywhere we look, people are responding to the global financial upheaval. The Trinidad Government is cutting back. Nigeria, Venezuela and seven other OPEC members are pushing with all of their might against their OPEC counterparts Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE to lower oil production. OPEC has the power to lower production and raise the oil price but won't do it. Unfortunately, the latter four (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE) hold all the cards and will not back down on production until they push the US shale oil producers as well as other non-OPEC producers like Russia out of business.

The world is doing something. There's no guarantee that their plans will work but at least they have a plan. As Jesus stated in Luke 16:8, the children of this world are crafty and cunning when it comes to handling worldly affairs. Sadly, the same can't always be said of the children of God. That's understandable because we are not of this world so we find no pleasure in being experts at the things of this world. Nonetheless, what's happening around us is affecting us so we might want to pay attention where we can and do something to hedge against the disaster that's already here.

Important Biblical Principles To Keep You Sane In The Middle of Financial Insanity

1) Fast Money Is Not God's Answer To Lasting Financial Stability

Proverbs 13:11(NET) - Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little will become rich.

Sorry you didn't win the $1.5 billion jackpot. Maybe next time God will tell you the correct numbers in a dream. Constantly, we hear horror stories of people who get money quickly and lose it just as quickly. Why is that so common? It's a Biblical principle. That's why God will not give you the numbers for the lotto jackpot. He will give you a business idea, an assignment, a gift, favor and an opportunity. Steward them well and you can turn into a money making machine. However, if you think talking in tongues while lining up at the gas station for a lotto ticket is God's answer to your financial problems, think again. Am I saying it's impossible for a Christian to ever win the lotto? Nope. I'm saying that it's not a Biblical financial principle for wealth building and never will be. It can't work for everyone so it can't be a principle.

2) Your Money Will Match Your Mindset

Proverbs 14:24(NLT) - Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.

It's easier to make money than to manage money but the latter determines your long term financial status. Your long-term financial state has more to do with your mindset and money management skills than your talents or luck. Talent and luck may open the door for you to get money but your mindset and money management skills are how you will keep it. This explains why many professional athletes and entertainers who don't understand how money works turn into poor former professional athletes and entertainers. Once the checks stop flowing they have to do something they never mastered and that's manage money. In the same way, many lottery winners blow through their fortunes because they have no idea of what to do with money of that magnitude. Your money will either rise or fall to meet your mindset. If you know what you are doing you can start small and steadily increase your net worth. If you don't know what you are doing you can start big and steadily decrease your net worth. In the end, the wise will rise above the foolish.

3) God Puts Money In The Hands Of People Who Know What To Do With It

Matthew 25:14-29(NLT) - “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.

In this Parable of The Kingdom, Jesus explained that God gives people money in proportion to their abilities. That's His way of holding people accountable. If you want God to put more money in your hands then you have to do two things; increase your financial management ability and demonstrate it by successfully managing what you already have. That's how God works. He doesn't spread wealth evenly. Those who do well with what they've been given are rewarded and those who don't do well lose what they have. God's plan for your long term financial success is not giving you wealth you have not demonstrated the ability to handle. Stop waiting for your lucky break or a million dollars to fall out of the sky. That's not established Biblical wisdom so you can't plan your financial future around it.

4) Don't Spend All You Earn

Proverbs 21:20(NLT) - The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

This might be the simplest financial principle ever but unfortunately, it still needs to be said. The world's economy is not in good shape so don't spend your entire paycheck. The Bible describes that as foolish. Live below your means and save as much as you can because you have no idea what could happen next. Even if you don't have a reliable income stream for any period of time your savings buy you time to figure things out. Essentially, your financial state is a measurement of what you have left after your financial commitments. You can improve your state by either increasing your income or decreasing your expenditure. When the latter is below the former you can build your savings.

If you want to spend more and still save then you have to figure out ways to generate more income. One way to do that is give yourself a raise by finding a higher paying job. Another is to pick up a second job. Even if it doesn't pay that much it provides additional income. You can also figure out innovative ways to get money. I have a couple that I won't share in this forum but believe me, they exist. Another is to develop your gifts and talents. What do you do extremely well that people would be willing to pay you for? I've been working hard on mine all my life. I hope you have been too. In times like these you may need to pull on them. Regardless, it doesn't matter how much you earn, don't spend all of it. That's not wise.

5) Be Excellent In Your Work Because It Will Affect Your Money

Proverbs 22:29(NKJV) - Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.

Luke 12:42-44(NLT) - And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.

Everyone loves excellence. We may not all be willing to pay the price to operate in excellence in our own lives but we usually prefer those who deal with us to do so with excellence. God's established wisdom is that people who excel and demonstrate faithfulness are rewarded. If we accept that wisdom we position ourselves for promotion in the midst of mass layoffs or faithful clients when everyone else has to scale back. The time of reckoning comes for everyone so it's wise to prepare for it now. Be excellent in all that you do. If you own your business, God will reward you with clients of a higher echelon. If you work for someone, God will reward you with promotion. Excellence never goes unnoticed. Even when you think nobody else sees, God does and He rewards what He sees.

6) Don't Stop Sowing Financially Into God's Kingdom

Matthew 6:33(NLT) - Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Proverbs 11:24-25(NLT) - Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

In tough economic times the one advantage we do have as Christians is access to God's economic system. So it would behoove us to continue to participate in it. Keep tithing. Keep sowing. Keep investing in the work of The Lord. You can't get out of God's system what you do not put into it. This is not the time to skip out on your tithes. If you generate income, be sure to give The Lord His 10%. That's established Biblical wisdom. Don't give into the temptation to remove yourself from God's covering on your finances in an effort to save a very small portion of your total income. It's better to have money coming in and pay your tithes than to get your flow of money cut off as a result of circumventing Biblical wisdom.

7) Don't Panic, Pray and Experience God's Peace

Philippians 4:6-7(NLT) - Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I prayed in tongues this morning. When's the last time you've done that? Hopefully, you just did because when things start looking crazy, prayer is your only answer. The world's economy is shaking all around us but we can have peace. It's a peace that exceeds understanding. That's what we need. Worrying will get us nowhere. Common sense says that we're supposed to panic. As we watch the stock market plunge and our investments suddenly lose value what are we supposed to do? Cry? Nope! We pray and enjoy the peace of God. Let the world panic and go crazy. Yes, the global economy is going crazy right now but that doesn't mean we have to.

In sum, let's get real about a few things. The rich are still getting richer and the poor are still getting poorer while the middle class are being stretching thin. That's not changing soon. The oil price is going to have to go back up eventually. It's a rigged system and it's rigged to make money for the people who are rigging it. If dropping the price helps them to make money they will drop it. When it causes them to start losing money they will raise it. They are losing money by the billions so before they run out of savings they will have no choice but to manipulate production and raise the price again.

Nothing is for certain in this world so put all of your trust in The Lord. Many people are in a state of complete fear concerning their financial future and that's understandable. We can't participate in that. The Lord is on our side and He won't abandon us at a time like this. He is speaking and it's our job to listen to what He has to say. There's so much more to be said but I've said enough for now. Think about what you already know and do something with that. Nonetheless, if you want to dig even deeper, watch this video. It will help.

5

Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!

Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, But For Someone Else!

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the eighth point; "8) Some people will think your ministry is awesome, but for someone else.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor"

Proverbs 28:23(NLT) - In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

It's really hard to just tell someone the truth when we know it might hurt the person's feelings. As a result, we've found innovative ways to work our way around it. Out of the goodness of our hearts we try to let people down as easy as possible. Instead of a boss telling a poor performing employee the real reason why he's being fired, the boss might say, "We value all of our employees but our company has had to make some difficult decisions due to the slowdown in the economy. You have been a great asset but we now have no choice but to let you go." Instead of a girlfriend who is totally bored of her boyfriend telling him the real reason why he's being dumped she might say, "Sweetheart, it's not you, it's me. You're a great man and I just don't deserve you. You need someone better than me. I'm just not ready for this level of commitment."

Keeping it real is an especially difficult thing to do for the average Christian and that's understandable. We want to be nice and always have something good to say to others. So to help us communicate our true feelings without actually saying them, we've developed unique codes that get the message across with some success. For instance, when people tell us how great our church is for someone else without ever mentioning their own attendance that's really code for saying it's not good enough for them. After hearing them enough times and seeing the results, we're gradually learning how to proficiently decode those messages.

"My cousin could really do with a church like this... My aunt would love this place... My friend from college needs to be here... This church is exactly what my brother-in-law is looking for..." Each of those statements sound like compliments but the truth is that neither their cousin, aunt, college friend or brother-in-law is even aware of our existence and they have no intention of letting them know. They just don't want to hurt our feelings by telling us that they are not interested and we won't be seeing them again. It's very easy to project positive feedback on someone who is not there because at no point do they need to verify what they're saying and they also know that we won't hold them accountable either.

Proverbs 24:26(MSG) - An honest answer is like a warm hug.

Warm hugs are priceless; so are honest answers. On the other hand, answers that are less than honest only delay offense. They never eliminate it. Someone might be able to spare your feelings today by flattering you with nice words but one of these days you will discover the truth. At that point your feelings won't be spared. After considering that reality, don't you see the value of honesty? It might be a hard pill to swallow upfront sometimes but it eliminates the time-release offensive nature of flattery.

Ultimately, pastors value commitments more than compliments so if someone's intention is not to commit to the ministry, the compliments carry much less weight. Of course, that's unless the person is physically incapable of joining the church due to distance or is already fully committed and plugged into another ministry. In that case, we appreciate the compliments for what they are since they are more likely to be genuine. Otherwise, telling us of potential interest in the ministry from other people while showing no personal interest does little for us. We know what that means. We've heard it enough times to decode it. For what it's worth, thanks for being nice. 🙂

1 Corinthians 12:12,18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ... But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

All in all, we understand that God puts people where He wants them. So if The Lord speaks to a person about joining our church the door is wide open. However, if He does not, we have no problem with that. We are just amused by the myriad statements we hear from people who don't know how to say that The Lord didn't call them to be with us. Telling us how much they love the ministry for someone else is just one of them. We know that God didn't call them to be with us so it's our prayer that they find the place where God did call them.

We just rather people be honest instead of telling us things they don't mean. If the church really is that good for the person they know, then they should just invite the person instead of telling us about it. If that's not the case then we appreciate the visit and may God richly bless them. The simple takeaway from this point is the following: We always prefer the truth. Yet, we have nothing against well-meaning people who say what they don't mean because they just want to encourage us to keep going. Thanks for the encouragement and if truly believe that your co-worker's uncle's friend's neighor's son should really check us out at The Body Church feel free to forward an invitation.

🙂

Slider by webdesign