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Tag: Christ

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Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates

Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 22 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 21, "How Do We Evangelize? - Share YOUR Testimony!".

The seventh and final practical key to evangelism is “Stay focused: Avoid theological debates.”

Titus 3:8-11 (NASB) – “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

Be careful that you remain focused on the goal of sharing The Gospel. Along the way, you will encounter individuals who ascribe to a different belief system, doctrine, or spiritual perspective. The reason you are evangelizing is to tell others about the love of Christ. It is the truth that make us free (John 8:32). Therefore, it is vitally important to communicate the word of God accurately so that the truth is presented. You must know the word of God and be able to give an answer for the reason that you believe at any time.

2 Timothy 2:15(NASB) – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 4:2(NKJV) – “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

However, the goal is not to win arguments, boast of your knowledge, or demonstrate your intelligence. The goal is to present the truth in love unto the winning of souls to Christ! At the end of the conversation, if you have simply won an argument but lost the heart of the person, you have lost overall. Does this bring glory to the name of Christ?

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Mark 8:36 (KJV) – “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NASB) – “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) – “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

If you do not know what to say or how to say it, pray and ask the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things, and tell you exactly what you need to say at the right moment (Luke 12:12). When you are evangelizing, remain focused on presenting the truth of the Word of God. Do not engage in fruitless debates or arguments that only result in strife and division. Present the truth in love with a heart solely motivated to win lost souls to Christ.

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Share YOUR Testimony!

Share YOUR Testimony!

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 21 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 20, "How Do We Evangelize? - Be Relevant: Connect With People Where They Are".

The sixth practical key to evangelism is; "Be personal: Share YOUR testimony."

Revelation 12:11(KJV): “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Your personal testimony of what the Lord has done is more powerful than engaging in a theological debate. No one can argue with you about the lifestyle change and heart transformation you experienced when Jesus encountered you. Who can argue about what your eyes saw, your ears heard, or your heart felt when you met Jesus? No one can argue with the word of your testimony concerning His blood and what His blood has done in your life! Sharing YOUR testimony is one of the most powerful tools you have when evangelizing to the lost.

Let’s look at six biblical accounts when individuals shared personal testimonies about Jesus Christ.

1)Paul’s Testimony: Paul shared his personal testimony of life before and after encountering Christ.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 (AMP) – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has granted me [the needed] strength and made me able for this, because He considered me faithful and trustworthy, putting me into service [for this ministry], even though I was formerly a blasphemer [of our Lord] and a persecutor [of His church] and a shameful and outrageous and violent aggressor [toward believers]. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. The grace of our Lord [His amazing, unmerited favor and blessing] flowed out in superabundance [for me, together] with the faith and love which are [realized] in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful and trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance and approval, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example or pattern for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King of the ages [eternal], immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

2)The Samaritan Woman’s Testimony: Jesus’ knowledge of her life story caused her to evangelize. Her encounter with Jesus compelled her to run into town, testify of Christ and lead many to Him.

John 4:28-30(NIV) – “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”

John 4:38 (NIV) – “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

3)The Blind Man’s Testimony: His testimony was undeniably supported by his healing. No one could argue with his testimony of receiving sight after his personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

John 9:6-7 (NLT) – “…Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

John 9:10-11 (NLT) – “They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!” “Where is he now?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he replied .Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

John 9:24 -25 (NLT) – “So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

4)John The Baptist’s Testimony: John was a "forerunner voice" preparing the way for the coming Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and resting on Jesus. His testimony about the Lamb of God caused many to follow Jesus including two of his very own disciples. Concerning John, Jesus declared "I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist..." (Matt. 11:11) What a powerful endorsement from the Lord! 🙂

John 1:23 (NLT) - "John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, Clear the way for the LORD's coming!"
John 1:29-37 (NLT) - “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel .”Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. ”The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.”

5)Andrew’s Testimony: Andrew went and testified to his brother Simon about the Messiah. His testimony resulted in Simon meeting Jesus and being named Apostle Peter.

John 1:40-42 (NLT) – “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”. Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter).”

6)Men Walking To Emmaus Testimony: The men testified about their hearts burning within them as Jesus spoke to them and explained the scriptures to them after His resurrection.

Luke 24:28-34 (NLT) - “By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if He were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So He went home with them. As they sat down to eat, He took the bread and blessed it. Then He broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment He disappeared!” They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Remember, no one can argue with you about what the Lord has personally done in your life. Only you know the whole story of what Jesus has done in your life! So, be personal and share YOUR testimony. The enemy would like to keep you silent because he knows that your testimony could effectively lead others to Christ. Don’t keep silent! Start testifying about how the Blood of Jesus has changed YOUR life!

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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.

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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.

🙂
7

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts

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 sixth point; "6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment."

Matthew 6:19-21(NKJV) - “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Find your treasure, find your heart. One of the best ways to find out who's really for you out of everyone who is with you at your church is to check the giving records. Anybody can say they are with you but you can separate the real from the fake when you find out who is giving and who is not. Not just that, giving records allow you to see the changes in a member's attitude to your ministry. When someone with a reputation of consistent giving starts scaling back without some legitimate financial reason it's an early sign of pending trouble.

This is one lesson we did not learn until after getting it wrong. We totally missed the signs until it all blew up in our faces. At that point, we had the benefit of hindsight which is always 20-20. Even when we don't know what's going on in people's lives, their giving reveals what's in their hearts. If you value your money, you will invest your money where you see value and that's a fact. The best way to evaluate your life's priorities is to find out where you invest your time and your money. Thus, the more you invest in the ministry, the more of a priority it is to you.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NLT) - Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

Let's take this discussion into another dimension as we analyse what Apostle Paul is saying in the aforementioned scripture. The churches in Macedonia were full of poor people who were also going through tough times in other areas of their lives. However, they were full of joy and extremely generous. Their giving was completely voluntary and not in response to any pressure or gimmicks. In fact, they insisted on giving more and more even when it appeared that Apostle Paul wanted them to take it easy.

They outdid themselves and didn't use their financial state as an excuse. Why? Before they gave the little money they had, they gave themselves both to The Lord and to Paul's ministry team. Think about it. That's the proper order. Once they had given themselves to God and the ministry first, their money came along for the ride. It didn't matter that they were poor. It didn't matter that they were in the middle of difficult times. Nothing could stop them from giving their money because they had already given their hearts. There was no struggle to give what was essentially already given.

As a result, we can safely conclude that giving money is not just about the actual money. It's about giving your heart. Your money is a tool used for expressing what's in your heart. We know you've given your heart to The Lord and to us, when we see you giving your money. Why? Whoever or whatever has your heart, has your money. How much you give, how often you give and how you give reveals what's on the inside of your heart. Like the Macedonians, when you've given yourself first to The Lord and to the ministry, you will give lavishly, frequently and with joy.

1 Corinthians 9:7-18(NLT) - What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ. Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.

All preachers want is your money! Right? You should only give if you know how they plan to use it. Right? You should only give if all the money went to the poor? Right? WRONG! Have you ever heard any of that before or have you even thought or said it? Apostle Paul really set the church straight and we're so happy he did. He was willing to preach for free and work on the side just so that nobody would confuse his desire to preach the gospel with greediness for money.

I completely understand where he's coming from and applaud many pastors I know who work hard on the side developing multiple streams of income. These are great men and women of God who don't have to do that but choose to do so due to the sometimes toxic atmosphere that exists around the topic of money in church. People who don't have a heart for the ministry always struggle to give because their heart is elsewhere. It also pains them to know that the pastor might benefit in some way from their money.

I've confronted people over the years concerning their giving in church long before I became a pastor. I did it with a clear conscience because I understand the principle. We don't make the rules, we just remind people of their existence. Everyone has to give including us for the spiritual flow to be smooth in the church. We give our time. We give our money. We give spiritual food. We give everything we have. I know pastors who took furniture from their homes and brought it to the church so that the church would have furniture.

I know of pastors' wives who work at the church for little to nothing while the pastor works another job to support the family. Come on! May God bless them 100 fold in this time and with eternal life in the time to come. The giving in the church can't pay their salary so what are they supposed to do? They gave themselves to The Lord first and then to their church so even if they had to sacrifice to make things work, they would do it with joy.

Your giving to The Lord through the local church or the ministers you support around the world is about you and God. It is not about the preachers and if you make it about the preachers you are completely misled. When you understand the concept of spiritual exchange, you will understand that God put the principle of giving in place. It exists so that you will have a way to respond when you receive spiritual food. It exists so that you will benefit from The Anointing that's on the person you give to. Therefore, once again, it's true that if you value The Anointing on the pastor and the ministry, you will give with joy.

2 Corinthians 9:1-15(NLT) - I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

There's no better way to end this point than with 2 Corinthians 9. Do you know that one of the hallmarks of the early church was their giving? I don't hear many people talk about that. We talk about the miracles. We talk about their sense of community. We talk about their passion for The Lord. We talk about their prayer. However, we also need to talk about their giving because they worked hard to out-give each other. The Macedonians were big givers but the Grecian church would not be left in the dust. Apostle Paul challenged the churches to give to support the ministry as he traveled around and they responded.

It pays to give and it pays to give with joy. As leaders in The Body of Christ our job is to challenge people with The Word of God and then let God's people respond. His Word says that He will reward and multiply everything you give. He will also provide all of your needs. He considers your financial offerings as seed and intends to multiply them and return to you a harvest. Also, when you give it causes those who receive to praise The Lord. It's a win, win, win. Nobody loses.

Join us next time for the next point;

7) If you don't take personal responsibility for the success of your ministry, do not expect anyone else to do so.

5

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

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 fifth point; "5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

Enthusiastic Visitor: Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I absolutely love your church! I've been looking for a place like this for so long. This is what I've been praying for. You guys are so awesome. I can feel the love in the air. Hallelujah! (Sobbing) I.... I... am... finally... home. I... have... found my church. My search is over. I just love this place. Pastor, whatever you need I will do it. I have the heart of a servant and don't believe in just sitting in a church. I am ready to work. You have a soldier on your side. When I say I'm with someone I mean it. Let's do this!

Pastor: Well, Praise The Lord! (Overjoyed) He has answered our prayer. We have the person we've been praying for. Hallelujah! What a mighty God we serve. We can start putting things in place. After we do some planning this week let's talk some more about it when we see you at church next week.

One week later.... Enthusiastic visitor does not show up at church.

Two weeks later.... No sign of enthusiastic visitor.

Three.. four... five.. weeks... months... years. No sign of enthusiastic visitor. 🙁

Matthew 5:37(NKJV) - But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Jesus could not be more direct. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't lie to people even if you think it will make them feel better. Don't swear to God. Don't promise. Don't do anything extra. Don't pretend. Just express your true intentions or say nothing at all. That's the example God set for us. If He says something He means it. Actually, that's the foundation of our faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by The Word of God. (Romans 10:17) If we can't trust that God will follow up on His Word, we're done.

Isaiah 55:10-11(NKJV) - “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

As you can clearly see, God's Word is guaranteed. Sadly, it took us much too long to realize that very few people even try to live up to this standard. People have come to our church, looked us in our eyes and say they are with us but then completely disappear off the face of the earth. We have heard it all and initially we believed every one of them. We were gullible because we trusted the sincerity in their eyes. If everyone who said they would be back actually showed up we would need to have multiple services. We would have absolutely no room to hold them all.

It's unfortunate but true that many people, including those in The Church, don't give high value to their words. They can say something and not follow through without feeling an overwhelming sense of conviction. I don't know how they do it. If I tell you I'll do something I feel horrible if I don't. My words have been given power by God so I don't make declarations that I don't believe or promises I can't fulfill. I rather just tell you the truth even if it offends you, say nothing or delay my decision until I am sure. Those are my three options. Lying is not one of them. I won't say I'm with you if I know I'm not. Fortunately, Jesus shared in our experiences.

Luke 9:57-62(NLT) - As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

"Jesus, we love you so much. We'll follow you anywhere you go. If you can use any thing Lord you can use me." Does that sound familiar? That's what people told Jesus when He walked the earth and that's what many of us tell Him now. However, even though that's what we say, what we mean might be slightly different. That explains why Jesus never got carried away with people's enthusiasm about following Him. He made it clear that the path He walked was not the convenient path and there was a high price for anyone who chose to walk it with Him.

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.

Jesus had the distinct advantage of knowing people's hearts. As a result, nobody flattered Him. He knew why people wanted to follow Him and why the numbers swelled after He performed great miracles. That's why He didn't trust them. He knew human nature. Many of those people wanted to be entertained by the show He was putting on while others just wanted to see what He would do for them. So if Jesus had a problem finding committed people who wanted to be with Him just for who He was and not for what He could do, why would it be any different for us?

We're in a new generation with new ideals, mindsets and standards. However, they're not really new. They existed in the time of Jesus. It's just that we see it so much more now. Many people are free spirits. They consider themselves to be free agents that can be part of The Church as a global body without committing to a local church family. They can show up anywhere on any given Sunday, support any ministry and do anything, anytime in any way. It feels like bondage to be tied down. They don't want to commit. They don't want to settle. Even if they commit, they don't want to give their all to grow their local church community.

Honestly, there's a bigger problem than merely a lack of true commitment to church membership. Many people struggle with commitment as a whole. It's hard to commit to marriage, family, career, working out, eating right or anything else that's good. It doesn't matter what it is. Commitment is a challenge and being enthusiastic for a short time doesn't compensate for a lack of commitment. Think about the upcoming new year. How many of us are going to make promises to ourselves that we won't keep? This year I'm going to.... Yeah, right. Did you keep your promise last year?

With all that being said, what makes someone truly committed to a local church community? We're not talking about what makes someone like a church or enjoy being at a church. That's not commitment because as soon as you don't like it anymore or you don't enjoy it, you're no longer committed. We're also not talking about what The Church needs to do to get someone to be committed. Commitment is a personal decision. I can't make you be committed and you can't make me be committed. If what we do causes you to commit, your commitment is temporary because if we ever stop doing it, you'll be gone. For The Bible's position on why you should be committed to a local church, read the following blog, "Ask Donnell: If we're the church must we still go to church?"

What does it take for a Christian to be committed to The Body of Christ through the local church? Thankfully, we can find a very comprehensive answer to that question in the scriptures.

What Empowers A Christian To Be Truly Committed To A Local Church Community?

1) Personally Commit To The Lord First Then To The Ministry

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NKJV) - Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

The Macedonian Church had such an unusual commitment to the ministry of Apostle Paul that he highlighted it in 2 Corinthians 8. They were poor but in spite of their poverty they gave more than every other church in the area. So what was their secret? They first gave themselves to The Lord, then to the ministry by The Will of God. Pay close attention to that statement because it's loaded. They carried out God's Will by giving their all to God first. It was that initial commitment which enabled them to then be committed to supporting the ministry led by Apostle Paul.

When you give yourself over to The Lord, you will do His Will and it is His Will that you commit to a local church. It doesn't have to be our local church but you have to commit somewhere. As a result, "church hopping" for an extended period of time without any intention or desire to commit is direct evidence that an individual has not given themselves wholly over to The Lord. You can't say I'm committed to Christ but you are not committed to The Body of Christ. You also can't say you're committed to The Body of Christ and you are not positioned where God has placed you in His Body. This leads us to the next point.

2) Understand and Accept How God Builds and Structures The Church

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. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Just like the human body, God puts each part where He wants it. He has a very specific plan for The Body of Christ and very meticulously places people where they need to be to carry out His Will. If you are not where God has placed you, you are not in God's Will. The people who have shown the highest level of commitment are those who were directed by God to be with us. It's alright if God sends you somewhere else because that's where you're supposed to be. However, it's easy to jump from ministry to ministry when you're not sure where God has put you. Just like it's strange for a part of your body to be attached to the wrong place, it's strange for a Christian to be out of place in The Body of Christ.

When you understand this very simple principle of Church structure you will understand why every person must commit to a local church community. In fact, that's one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. It's one you don't want to get wrong because not only does it affect you but it affects the entire body. If your heart was growing out of your foot, your entire body will have a problem. Hopefully, you get the point with that one which leads us to the next point.

3) Count The Cost Before You Commit

Luke 14:25-33(NKJV) - Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus made sure that everyone knew the price they had to pay to follow Him even if that meant He would lose followers as a result. When we commit to Jesus we commit for eternity so it's not a decision we take lightly. He doesn't want temporary followers. He wants those who will be with Him all the way to the end. Therefore, He doesn't expect us to make a snap decision concerning Him. He wants us to think it through, prepare our hearts to pay the price then broadcast our decision.

We have a beautiful family of five at our church who have been with us since the beginning. The father is a deacon, the mother is an elder and the oldest son is an usher. In addition to their leadership roles in the church, each parent is a successful business owner. They are blessed in every way and God continues to increase them mightily. They are an example of commitment and dedication to both The Lord and the ministry.

What's important to note is that they took their time before making the decision to join The Body Church. They were not over the top at the beginning. They were sober, patient and thoughtful. They understood their family's needs and the available resources at what was their current church home at the time. They also understood that as a new ministry, at that point, we could not offer the programs and ancillary ministries other established churches could offer. They took their time and sought The Lord. They counted the cost of their decision then one day, they made the decision to commit to our local church community. The rest is now history in the making.

What's the difference between that family and the scores of others who showed up to church with eagerness and excitement? They counted the cost before they made the commitment. People who show up and in one day act like they could dedicate the rest of their lives to you have not counted the cost of their decision. The same way you don't get married at first sight, you don't commit to a church in an instant. You think about your decision, you weigh the options, you hear from God then you commit. That way, you won't change your mind after a few days, weeks, months or even years.

Luke 22:31-34(NKJV) - And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Don't be so quick to say you're ready to go to the ends of the earth with someone. Peter did it and Jesus didn't trust Him with good reason. As we saw earlier in John 2:23-25 Jesus didn't trust anybody on the earth because He understood human nature. When people are emotionally charged they say more than they need to say. Peter was excited about Jesus but at that point he didn't understand the cost of following Him. His heart was in the right place but he just wasn't ready yet.

Biblical Examples of True Commitment

1) Elisha and Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-15(NKJV) - And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

If you want to see commitment modeled in The Bible look no further than this example. Elisha would not leave Elijah even though Elijah tried to get rid of him. Elisha understood that God had assigned him to Elijah and if he left Elijah, he would leave The Will of God for his life. That's how important it is for people to know not just where they have been called to but also who they have been called to. It's because of Elisha's commitment to Elijah that he was able to receive a double portion of The Anointing.

Consider this. What if The Anointing God has for you is connected to the ministry or person God has called you to? Many people do understand that so they flock to ministries where they see the greatest display of The Anointing. That's great but attending a church does not automatically turn into a transfer of The Anointing. As a result, even if you choose to go somewhere that has the power of God on display that doesn't mean you'll walk in that power. Elisha was committed to Elijah. He served Elijah. He cared for Elijah. He didn't just watch Elijah do the work of The Lord, he helped Elijah do it. Then, when the time was right, he received twice Elijah's anointing.

2) Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1:6-18(NLT) - Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

Do you want to know why there is no Book of Orpah in The Bible? She left Naomi. When Naomi had nothing left to offer and sent Ruth and Orpah away, only Orpah left. Now, Ruth is a part of church history forever as one who is in the lineage of Jesus while Orpah is only mentioned as part of Ruth's story. That is how God operates. It's totally contrary to what we see around us. People make emotional decisions to join and leave churches every week while God expects us to think about our decision, then stick with it.

Even when Naomi had nothing to offer, Ruth stuck with her. It was Ruth's commitment to her broke, depressed, frustrated mother-in-law that led to her meeting Boaz and her name becoming synonymous with God's restorative power. How many of us can commit to a ministry even in the tough times? What if you don't like everything that's going on? What if all of your needs aren't being met the way you want them to be met for a season at your church? Are you willing to ride through the challenging times at your church until God manifests His blessing to you the way He did for Ruth?

Acts 15:36-41(NLT) - After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

When John Mark abandoned Apostle Paul in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) it hurt him deeply because they had built a history of ministry together. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas started their ministry together and they took John Mark along with them as an assistant on their first trip. From that point on, John Mark continued travelling from town to town with them. Hence, when John Mark suddenly left in the middle of their journeys Paul was effectively done with him.

The next time Barnabas brought up John Mark's name as a potential ministry partner Paul was having none of it. In fact, Paul would not back down and was willing to move on without Barnabas because he insisted on including John Mark. Barnabas left Paul that day to team up with John Mark and that was the last we heard of both Barnabas and John Mark. Paul, on the other hand simply changed partners and continued to make history with Silas.

Apostle Paul would not partner with John Mark because of his lack of commitment to the ministry and that's an example for all of us. Initial excitement doesn't matter. Short term enthusiasm doesn't matter. Emotional declarations of love don't matter. Just show up and keep showing up. Let's start there. Once you're consistently showing up make the decision to stay for the long haul. Once you make the decision, commit to it. The Church of Jesus Christ can't be built with people who are here today and gone tomorrow. It is built with committed people.

We hope this blog series is enlightening and informative. Next time we'll discuss Point 6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry.

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You "Know" More Before You Start Than After!

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You "Know" More Before You Start The Church

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 are highlighting the fourth point; "4) You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 3 - You Can't Technically "Start" A Megachurch"

I once heard a pastor joke that he knew the best way to solve everyone's problems in the room. It's simple; everyone switch problems with the person next to you. 🙂 He did have a point that we will address today. We always seem to know what someone else should be doing to solve their own problems instead of solving our own.

When I wasn't a pastor, I could come up with so many solutions for the pastor of my church. I always knew ways he could have done things better. I knew more about pastoring than he did. Of course, that's until I became an actual pastor. At that point I discovered that I knew nothing. In fact, I probably know even less now.

On another note, we constantly meet people just like us who have all the answers to what we need to do for our ministry to be successful. "All you guys need to do is this and your church will be successful. All you need to do is that and the church will grow." It's really easy to volunteer answers off the cuff when it's not your problem because your answer does not have to actually work. Everyone has the secret for someone else's success but can't seem to find the secret for their own.

Single people know what married people need to do to have successful marriages. Poor people know what rich people should do with their money. People who don't have children have the best parenting advice for those who do. Seriously, let's all switch problems so we can eliminate them all. If I wasn't a pastor and I was talking to myself I would probably know exactly what I need to do. However, now that I'm a pastor I don't have the answers anymore. Now, I actually have to trust God which is a strange concept when you think you can figure everything out.

Romans 10:2(NKJV) - For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

From our vantage point in the pews we all know how to run the church. I understood it all as I sat and watched someone else do it. Being a pastor was a breeze I thought. I knew exactly what I was going to do and when I got my chance I would do it better than every pastor I knew. I was ready or at least, I thought I was. Church planting here we come. I had my five point plan for church growth. I knew how to choose leaders. I could raise funds for any project we needed. I had a plan for everything.

I thought that once God called us to do something and He anointed us to do it, things would just work out. Well, not exactly. Everything changed when it was time to start and things didn't work as easily as we thought it would. We had a zeal for God but not much knowledge about the reality of pastoring a church in Atlanta. It's not that we didn't have information but the information didn't work the way we thought it would. Some theories look great on paper but they are only proven when applied in real life.

Ephesians 4:11-15(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. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

The Lord now has us on a journey through Ephesians 4:11-15 as He brings understanding of the basic responsibilities of the fivefold ministry gifts including pastors. This is what He called us to do and this is where our focus lies. We had to let go of our preconceived notions about pastoring and learn the basics once we got started. We must equip God's people to do His work and build up The Church. We must continue until there is true unity in the faith, everyone knows who Jesus is and people become spiritually mature. That in a nutshell is what God has called us to do.

Jeremiah 3:15-16(KJV) - And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

In the process of carrying out God's call to be pastors, we must continue to feed people with knowledge and understanding. We knew so much more before we started but once we started we had to learn the basics. The truth is that things are so much simpler now. We're not called to be experts, we're just called to do God's Will and that's all we need to do. Starting the church was the best decision we could have ever made. We love being pastors and we love the people we have at The Body Church. Regardless of the challenges, we'll never regret the decision to say yes when we heard God's call.

Proverbs 3:5,6(KJV) - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Starting this church has taught us how to trust God all over again. We don't know what will work anymore other than what God shows us. We ran out of smart ideas and just had to sit before God and wait to hear His directions. I do thank God for my parents, Apostles Emanuel and Jemma Duncan because several times The Lord has used them to speak to us.

They went through this process successfully a long time ago. They now guide and encourage us along the way. We knew it wasn't going to be easy but we thought we would be able to figure it out. Well, there's no figuring out what can't be figured out. There's only trusting The Lord for direction. The only other option is failure and that's not an option for us.

See you next time for "Point 5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again."

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 3 - You Can't Technically "Start" A Megachurch

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: You Can't Technically "Start" A Megachurch

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line 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 are highlighting the third point; "3) If you're starting from the ground up and your only example of church is a mega-church you will get your feelings hurt.". For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?"

My church is huuuuge (with Donald Trump's voice). It's huuuuge. We take up an entire block. We don't have a church building we have a church campus. We're so big that there are people I go to church with each week that I have never even seen. We're so big that when we turn the pages of our Bibles together it sounds like waves in the ocean. In fact, our church choir is the size of a small congregation and our children's ministry building is bigger than the entire church up the street. We have 50,000 people on 50 campuses in 50 states. We're huuuuge.

In the USA, there is an obsession with size. Bigger is assumed to be better. We want bigger houses, bigger trucks, bigger corporations, bigger portions of food. We don't want a large #5 at the fast food joint, we want it super-sized. So it logically follows that the same attitude has entered the church. Swelling with pride, we say, "my church is bigger than yours" with the unspoken message being, "hence, my church is better than yours". Whether or not bigger is better doesn't really matter right now because that's not what this discussion is about. Regardless, that mindset is everywhere.

Acts 2:40-47(NLT) - Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Wow! I can see this in my dreams. The Holy Ghost falls on us in a room, we talk in tongues, then I stand and deliver the message of my life. In response, 3000 people get saved on the spot. From that point on, our church continues to grow as a community with frequent signs and wonders while God keeps adding people to the community daily. I would love to say that's the story of The Body Church but it's not. That's the story of the early church led by Apostle Peter. Perhaps, it's the story of Billy Graham, Benny Hinn or Reinhard Bonnke but definitely not our own. Anyway, back to earth now.

Today, we are talking about being young, naive and starting a church with unrealistic expectations. Welcome to reality. I sat in an Atlanta megachurch for about twelve years and completely lost touch with the real world. There were times when I sat transfixed by what looked like complete perfection in motion before my eyes; thousands of people in attendance, a perfect choir, a perfect worship team, perfect band, a perfect sermon, perfect media presentations, perfect drama team, intercessory team, men's ministry, women's ministry, youth ministry, security, parking attendants and the list goes on and on.

There were moments when I lost my mind and thought that when I started a church it would be just like that. That's about as unrealistic as expecting parents thinking that when their son is born he would be a 6 ft tall, 200 lb professional athlete. Impossible. The only way you can start a church with all the pieces together is if those pieces come directly out of someone else's church. Hence, you're not really starting a church, you're taking a piece of another church and transplanting it elsewhere under a different name.

That's a church transplant and only a few people get that opportunity. Believe me, if you get the opportunity to start like that, take it because you don't want the stress of starting from scratch if you don't have to. If we could have inherited a team of mature, faithful, consistent, dedicated Christians from someone else's church we would have gladly taken them. Nonetheless, let's now focus on what we've experienced stepping out on our own and what's a much more likely scenario for the average young pastor in a similar situation.

Zechariah 4:10a(NLT) - Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin...

You're probably going to start small like we did. Perhaps, not as small but definitely small in comparison to the mature churches you've seen or modeled yourself after. However, don't despise your small beginnings because God rejoices to see the work begin. With small beginnings come big responsibility. I've had to sing, play the keyboard, beat drums, clean, set up, break down, run the projector, run the video camera, etc, etc and oh yeah, preach a little here and there. Until someone was willing to take my place, I had to do it.

Unfortunately, the toughest part of the whole thing is not being able to execute church on the level that you desire which comes from not being very good at certain things and having no choice but to do it. Nobody feels worse about something in a church service not being at the highest level of excellence than we do.

After watching such excellence at the megachurch I attended for so many years, my dream was to operate on the same level. Yet, here we are, two years in and we're not there yet and that's sometimes very hard to deal with. We have had to prioritize and ask ourselves the question, "What must a church have?" Once we found the answer we had to focus only on that. The rest will come later.

People want perfect churches and I get that because megachurches have it all. They want flawless worship bands, top of the line children's ministry, high profile guest speakers and gospel artistes, smiling greeters, excellent ushers, dance ministry, pantomime ministry, single mother's ministry, legal ministry, jail ministry, free ministry, street ministry and the list goes on. Well, we want the same thing too. We're just not there yet. In fact, we're not even close. If we knew the formula for growing the church quickly we would have used it. Yet, the truth about growth is contained in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8(NKJV) - Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

After trying everything we knew and failing miserably, we've finally settled in our hearts that we cannot make the church grow. We can sow The Word, love people, advertise, invite people, pray, make confessions, connect on a personal level, prophesy, do personal ministry and participate in outreach. We can water with encouragement, Godly counsel, follow up, support and accountability.

The one thing we cannot do is bring the increase. That's God's job. We have to let Him do what He does the way He chooses to. We pray for The Lord to send us the people we need. We ask the people we know to help. We advertise and put ourselves out there. Yet, all we're really doing is sowing and watering. God and God alone will bring the increase.

Job 8:7(KJV) - Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

We receive that Word like it was directed to us. The end of our story will be bigger and better than the beginning. We don't expect it to be quick nor dramatic. We just expect it to be done right and the right way is God's way. If He makes it quick and dramatic then we'll take it. If He takes us through this process for a long time as He builds our character and establishes the church's structure so we can handle the increase we'll take that too.

Maybe you're in a similar situation where you started something and it's small right now. Don't let the lack of size frustrate you because beginnings are supposed to be small. Since God is no respecter of persons, follow His directions and expect Him to greatly increase it. I thank God for the time we spent at Christ United Church prior to starting The Body Church. They gave us a much more realistic perspective of starting a church and helped us to be better prepared for the small beginning. See you next time for; "Point 4) You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line 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 are highlighting the second point, "Some people need to hear from The Lord to join your church but don't need to hear from The Lord to leave."

Setting: Local grocery store.

Circumstance: Awkward run-in between local pastor and a member who's been M.I.A. (Missing In Action) for some time.

Pastor: "Hey, how have you been? Is everything alright? We haven't seen you at church in a while?"

M.I.A. Member: "Hey pastor. I didn't expect to run into you out here. Umm... well.. I heard The Lord saying that it's time for me to leave your church."

Pastor: "Did He also tell you not to let us know you were leaving?"

.......silence.........

Exodus 20:7(NLT) - “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

This story can have two alternate endings. One is what we will call the "Acts 5" ending which comes out of Acts 5:1-11 and goes something like this.

Alternate Ending #1

Pastor: "Why do you think it's okay to lie to The Holy Spirit? Why would you misuse God's name and say He told you to leave when you know He did not?"

.....Thud!... Member hits the ground... THE END!

Alternate Ending #2

M.I.A. Member: "Pastor, to be honest I just chose to leave. I was offended by some things that took place and didn't want to be there anymore. My family's needs also weren't being met."

Pastor: "Oh really? Well I appreciate your honesty. If you want to talk about it now, I'm all ears. If not, just let me know and we can make an appointment."

M.I.A. Member: "OK! Thanks."

..To be continued....

People in church know that if they say that The Lord said something there's no way to dispute them. Even as a pastor, the last thing any of us ever want to do is contradict God's instructions. However, isn't it a coincidence that God's instructions to leave a church many times coincide with our desire to do so also? How is it that when we really want to leave it's easier for many of us to hear God's Voice saying leave instead of His Voice saying stay. At those times of agreement, it's interesting how His Voice tends to sound allot like our own as He says exactly what we want to hear.

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. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Do you understand the analogy of The Church as The Body of Christ? Today, we're going to focus on 1 Corinthians 12:18 which states that God has put each part just where He wants it. What does that mean? If you're a part of The Body of Christ, God has a place for you and if He puts you there that is where He wants you to be.

If you choose on your own to leave your place in The Body of Christ and go somewhere else, it would be the same as a part of your body leaving where it is and reattaching somewhere else. In other words, not only is it a problem for you when you are out of place. It's a problem for the entire body. Hence, if you know God has put you somewhere it would behoove you to stay right there until He puts you somewhere else.

Ephesians 4:15-16(NKJV) - but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

How do you know God put you in a church?

1) You fit. - The same way each part of your body fits into the space where it is attached, so it is with The Body of Christ. There is a specific space in The Body of Christ for each person. If you don't fit where you are, perhaps God didn't place you there. You will know when you're in the right place because you will feel like you fit.

2) You function. - Another reason why each body part fits in a certain location is because that is where it functions at its best. If your hand grew anywhere else in your body it wouldn't be in the best place for it to function. In the same way, when you find the place you fit in The Body of Christ you will be able to function at your absolute best.

So if you're sitting in a church for years and can't use the gifts and talents God has given you there, stop wasting your life and find the place where you're supposed to use them. There's a church up the street fasting and praying for The Lord to send you there. In the same way, don't say God told you to leave a place where you function in your gifts and go somewhere where you cannot.

3) You feed. - People in a church don't only feed off The Word of God they get from the pastor, they feed off each other. Every joint supplies something to The Body and when every part does its share, we all grow. That's what church is about. When you're in the right place, you will feed off The Word, The Anointing and The Love from those around you.

What's the best sign that you're receiving good spiritual food? Spiritual growth. Regardless of your level of spiritual maturity, if you're in the right church you'll keep growing. You should be a better Christian this year than you were last year. In the right church, you will always be challenged to be better. As a result, don't get offended and leave the right church for you because you've been challenged. Remember, that's a good thing.

It's true that God sometimes tells you to leave a place and go somewhere else. That's not at issue here. What is at issue is when He does not and you claim that He does. That's never good. It was your decision. Don't bring The Lord into that. Now let's see one way this can be done right.

Acts 16:6-10(NKJV) - Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Sometimes God directs you the way He did Paul and Silas. He tells you not to go to certain places and calls you to somewhere else. In Paul's case, God responded to the prayer of someone in Macedonia and took Paul away from where he was and sent him there. Perhaps, there are people in a church praying for you to come help them. Listen to the Voice of God, get up from where you are and go help those people. Don't go where you want to go but go where God sends you because if He sends you somewhere, you have an assignment to carry out there. God knows how to direct people so there's no need to make stuff up and attach His name to it just wait for His direction.

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