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Archive for March 2016

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Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #11: Be Careful Who You Trust

Trust

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 eleventh point; " 11) Be careful who you trust. You will be shocked at who might be smiling in your face and talking behind your back."

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #10 - The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."

Proverbs 4:23(NLT) - Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

One of my mentors in the ministry is Apostle Daren Phillips of Christ United Church in Loganville, GA. He told me that pastors should always put their hearts in God's hands and not in the hearts of people. Otherwise, some people will break our hearts causing us to become callous toward everyone else which is never good for the ministry.

John 2:23-25(NLT) - Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

What would Jesus do? That's the question we often have to ask ourselves as we face life's challenges with the intent of emulating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How about we reshape the question to offer a different perspective? What would Jesus not do? He would not be naive as the leader of The Church. When He walked the earth He was a people person. He was personable, merciful, loving, forgiving and understanding but He was not gullible.

He knew why people followed Him and could tell that the majority were only there because of the signs and wonders He performed. Most of them could care less about Him as a person because what really mattered in their eyes was what He could do for them. Moreover, one of the twelve disciples proved that Jesus could not even wholeheartedly trust the people closest to Him.

John 12:1-8(NLT) - Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Judas was the treasurer but he was stealing money from Jesus all along. Not just that, Judas had the audacity to open his mouth to comment on what Mary chose to do with her money. Perhaps, he had his eyes on her own too. Think about it. Jesus handpicked His twelve disciples but one of them turned out to have questionable character traits. In fact The Bible says in John 6:70-71(NLT); "Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him."

I guess calling Judas a man of questionable character is putting it lightly. Perhaps, Jesus allowed this level of self-deception to take place as a lesson for us. Please note that I used the word self-deception because Judas only deceived himself. Jesus never did trust him and he should have figured that out the first time Jesus called him a devil.

He may not have sold Jesus out to the authorities as yet but he was stealing money all along. One valuable lesson from this story is that if someone on your leadership team could minister alongside you yet steal money from you, put nothing else beyond them. Judas started off just stealing money from the treasury but he ending up setting a trap for Jesus to be arrested and crucified.

Psalms 118:8(NLT) - It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

It's confession time. I was a naive young pastor and it came back to bite me. Let me break it down. I've been hurt in dating relationships as a single man. I've been hurt at work as a young engineer. I've been hurt in business as a young investor. However, nothing hurt like I was hurt as a young pastor. To watch someone we poured ourselves into for years turn around and disrespect me, my wife and the church hit me deep in my heart. It hurt so much that it took me weeks to recover. I think the biggest thing for me was getting over the shock of being so dishonored by someone we thought so highly of. Worst of all, we never received an apology so we had to forgive without even the slightest hint of repentance.

Through it all, God was with us and I learned a valuable lesson. Trust God and not people. You can trust the God in people but don't be gullible enough to trust people that God does not. If Jesus is our perfect example, we cannot be naive. For every twelve people in our church circle, one of them is not to be trusted with anything at all. Additionally, in much less dramatic fashion, other people have sorely disappointed us during that time because we opened our hearts to any and every person who showed up to church.

When you're just starting a church, especially without a core to start with from another church there's an extreme level of excitement you experience when anyone walks through the door. That's reflected in your willingness to believe whatever they say and plug them in quickly to fill needs in the church. That's not good and we know that now. We've grown over the years and now we're much more discerning. We love everyone but we don't trust them. We trust God and only if He trusts them, we trust them too. Be careful who you trust.

1 Timothy 5:22(NLT) - Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

This is one of the most important scriptures in The Bible for a young pastor. The area that requires the most trust in a church assembly is leadership. One of the first tasks of building a church assembly is appointing leaders. Perhaps, it should not be. If you don't give the process enough time you could make some big mistakes that you will regret for a long time. Apostle Daren Phillips told me recently that it's easier to ordain someone than it is to un-ordain them so ordain wisely. Church leadership is 80% character and 20% more character. Competency, skill, etc. go along for the ride. It's better to appoint church leaders with Godly character and let them lead a team of people with skill. In the end, we remain committed to the following guidelines provided in the scripture for the selection of church leadership.

1 Timothy 3:1-13(NLT) - This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

These are the characteristics God looks for in church leaders. We should too. When people in leadership demonstrate this type of character in a church assembly, the pastor can sleep well at night because the ministry is in good hands. The guidelines are quite exhaustive but they all point to one thing; good character. People of good character honor God, their own families, their church leaders and everyone else in the church God has called them to be involved with. If we choose people for leadership based on these Biblical criteria we can avoid much unnecessary disaster and heartache in our local churches.

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Decatur Community Workshops: Young and Married in Atlanta Extended Video Highlights

This video provides just a few highlights from our recent workshop "Young and Married in Atlanta". This event was a production of Decatur Community Workshops and was hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034.

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit www.meetup.com/decaturcommunityworkshops

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Understanding The End Times (Session One) - The Introduction

Every 2nd Friday at 7:00 PM, The Body Church hosts the workshop "Understanding The End Times". In this Introductory session, the following three questions were addressed;

How do we know the future?

Why study the end times?

Are we there yet?

For more information visit our website at www.thebodychurchinc.org

As long as we deem the content of the material appropriate for public release we will make the videos public. If we start dealing with information that's a bit too controversial to make public at this time we will restrict access to those who have signed up for the workshop.

Understanding The End Times - Workshop

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Decatur Community Workshops - Christian Dating

This is an introductory video to our next workshop "Christian Dating". This event is a production of Decatur Community Workshops and will be hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034 on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 PM. 

 

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit Decatur Community Workshops.

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Decatur Community Workshops - Extended Video Highlights from Living Single In Atlanta

This video provides just a few highlights from our recent workshop "Living Single in Atlanta". This event was a production of Decatur Community Workshops and was hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034.

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit www.meetup.com/decaturcommunityworkshops

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Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #10: Preaching is the Easy Part!

Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #10: Preaching is the Easy Part!

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 tenth point; " The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #9 - If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway."

Jeremiah 20:9(NKJV) - Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.

As a student I competed in track, football (not American) and swimming. I still remember the adrenaline rush before getting down in the starting blocks for track, taking the field for football or climbing up on the blocks for swimming. Still, there was something that excited me even more. Academics. Do you know how some people describe themselves as hopeless romantics? I was a hopeless academic. I loved school. What can compare to the fresh smell of brand new text books? Mmmhmmm... Or what's more exciting than a final exam in a class you know you're totally dominating? Oh yeah!

On my last day of high school at Hillview College in Trinidad I just hung out in my school uniform until late in the evening knowing that it was the last day I would ever wear it. On my last weekend of graduate school at Georgia Tech in Atlanta I spent the entire weekend in the computer lab. A friend and I worked on a project while eating cold pizza and drinking hot soda with no sleep. I went home on Monday morning, slept a few hours and rushed back to campus for an 8:00 AM final. Needless to say, I made it out of that program alive. What a rush!

Yet nothing gets my adrenaline pumping like walking up to a pulpit to preach the gospel. Sometimes, it feels like everything is happening in slow motion as the worship team trails off and the hum of the instruments slowly wanes. I imagine myself sitting in the preacher's locker room with some Beats headphones over my ears listening to some Christian rap. My feet are in an ice bucket, a towel is over my head and my Bible is by my side. I've zoned out the world preparing to preach the message of my life. Pastor Duncan, you're up! Oh yeah. What time is it? Word time! What time is it? Word time! OK! That's a bit corny but you get my drift.

My parents say I was a loud baby who cried so much that they just knew I would grow up to be an opera singer, preacher or at the very least, the town crier. 🙂 As a preteen, a lady once handed me a note after church with a prophetic word about my future as a prophetic mouthpiece for The Lord. I still keep that message with me as a reminder of what God called me to do. So, when The Lord told us to start a church it was an easy decision. Here I am Lord, send me! I no longer had to wait for a pastor to give me the opportunity to do what I was born to do. I could do it every week.

1 Peter 4:10-11(NLT) - God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

God put His Word in my heart and I couldn't hold it in. That's one of the reasons why I've written five books and hundreds of blogs. The Word was like a fire shut up in my bones so The Lord let me use my fingertips as the outlet. I had the gift of speaking so it was my responsibility to use it for God's glory. Therefore, if accepting the call to pastor meant more opportunities to preach, God didn't have to ask me twice. I was ready to go. Lord, where do I sign up? I'm ready to preach. Well, to my surprise, preaching was the easiest part.

What makes it easy is the fact that it's between you and God. He gives you a message, you package it for the people you are reaching out to and then you do what you are gifted to do; deliver it. Done! If a pastor preaches what God says and the people understand the message, he's done his job. It's each person's responsibility to do something with The Word that they receive. Isn't that the point behind The Parable of The Sower? All the sower can do is sow The Word. He can't control the soil. So preach The Word and go home. Right? Well, not exactly. There's more to the job. A whole lot more. Regardless, I had good reason to believe that preaching was my top priority once I became a pastor.

Jeremiah 3:15(KJV) - And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding. That sounds like a great job description to me. Count me in. Where do I sign up? Teach The Word of God, answer questions and help people understand what God is saying. That's not too bad. It's kind of like being a TV preacher without being on TV, right? The 20 minute clips they share on their programs look easy enough so what's the big deal? If you want to be a pastor, you need to be ready to preach. That may be true but there's more to being a shepherd than providing spiritual food to God's sheep.

Ephesians 4:11-14(NLT) - Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Pastors also have to provide protection and guidance to the people of God because the enemy is all around trying to deceive them. We have to equip people to do God's work, build them up and help them mature in the things of The Lord. We have to be vigilant in the spirit to protect people from spiritual wolves, lions and bears which come in from outside to snatch them away. On top of that, we sometimes have to protect them from each other because everyone inside the fold isn't there for the right reasons. Last, but not least, we have to protect them from themselves.

Sometimes people make poor decisions and put themselves in situations where they need someone else to intervene and help them out of their mess. That's where the real work of a pastor takes place. Preaching is easy compared to the rest of the full job description. It's an awkward position to be in sometimes because we don't want to be in the middle of "grown folks business" but we don't have much of a choice. If we don't at least inquire about what's going on in people's lives, we're not doing our jobs. We have enough to deal with in our own lives but God put us on this earth to serve others.

Hebrews 13:17(NLT) - Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

Whoa! That's heavy. One of the great advantages of a small church is that we can pray for every single member by name each morning. I don't know what we will do when the numbers are too much for that to be practical anymore. I guess we will have to make general declarations over the congregation unless The Lord puts specific people on our hearts. Nonetheless, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. We have to watch over the souls of those we lead and God will hold us accountable for how well we do so.

We teach, we pray, we check up on people, we show up when they need us, we intervene in drama, we do what we have to do but we ensure that the people God has assigned to us are edified, equipped and developed to maturity. Now, lest we get carried away, there's another side to this story. Some pastors can get so caught up in the daily grind of dealing with people's issues that they lose track of their primary purpose. When that happens, God has to send an Apostle, Prophet or other spiritual father along to have a conversation with the pastor that goes a little something like this.

Exodus 18:13-27(NLT) - The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.” “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves. Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.

Stand before The Lord on behalf of the people. Tech them God's decrees. Give them His instructions. Show they how to live. Those were Jethro's instructions to Moses. Once those are done, take care of only the major disputes among the people. Assign a group of leaders to handle everything else. There's the balance. Like Moses, pastors are not supposed to wear themselves out trying to solve everyone else's problems even though many are more than willing to do so. Our first order of business is prayer and teaching people The Word of God then we can take care of everything else.

Acts 6:1-4(NKJV) - Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Here it is again. The pastor's first role is prayer, then ministering The Word, then taking care of the rest of the church's business. Yet, when you first start a church you feel like you're spending more time on so much else. As the church grows, God sends capable leaders who can do the work of the ministry. We thank God for a team of people who really help us out now.

We started the church in a hotel meeting room so we had to bring the equipment from home each day in two cars like a garage band on a low-budget tour. After dragging everything into the room and setting them up I had to change because I would be drenched in sweat. Then we sang and played instruments during prophetic Prayer and Worship, then we led worship, then I needed a cough drop to soothe my throat before I preached. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.

After a year and a half, The Lord made room for us in Decatur, GA eliminating the need to set up and break down the church each week. That freed up an extra hour of sleep each Sunday that we are very thankful for. Everyone pitches in at the church now so we can focus our energies some more. We still lead all the church outreach efforts because it's our responsibility to get it done. We also still lead worship. Until God sends outreach and worship teams, we still have to do it ourselves which brings us full circle. When I signed up for this job, my desire was to preach. However, as we got deeper into it, we realized how much else we have to do as the pastors of the church since we don't have all the people we need yet.

So as we end this installment I'll repeat Confession of a Young Atlanta Pastor #10 - "The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."

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