Why I go to church (or why I wear pants on Sunday)

Yes… I am a pastor so I kinda “have” to go. But even if I weren’t… I would.

A few years ago I wasn’t actively preaching, so I decided to skip church for a few weeks.

IT WAS AWESOME!

I slept in… puttered around the house in my underwear for a while… cleaned the garage… played with the kids… took a nap… put some pants on… took another nap… ate… went to bed.

After living six days of busy it sure felt nice to have one day of NOTHING TO DO!

I started going to church again and realized I had missed a few things…

  • Happy people. Sure there are some knuckleheads at church… but there are knuckleheads at the bar, work, and neighborhood events too! What I’ve found is that at most churches there are a lot of happy people working on making their lives better, and somehow just being around them made me feel better.
  • Helpful information. I’m a preacher so I know this… not every lesson is a homerun. I’ve struck out a few times and went home thinking, “Geez, if I were my pastor… I’d find something else to do on Sunday!” Having said that, most pastors work real hard to present God’s ideas in a way on Sunday that will be helpful for living on Monday! Sometimes it is new information, sometimes just some inspiration. Sometimes it is a kick in the pants, and other times it is an arm around the shoulder. What I find though is that I need all of these things from time to time and church on Sunday is a pretty safe place to get it!
  • Holy moments. I know you can have these on your own, BUT there is something unique that happens when a group of people are singing to, talking about, and trying to hear from God! It’s the difference between watching the Super Bowl on TV in your living room and actually being there! I’ve had some amazing moments with God alone… but I can’t deny that I’ve had some equally awesome moments with God surrounded by friends and other people who are listening to Him as well!

I understand why people skip church, but my experience showed me that getting up, putting my pants on and going to church usually has a payoff that makes the sacrifice worth it.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

If I were you (what Seth Godin can teach the church/Christians)

A few days ago Seth Godin blogged another gem.

I want to post his blog and add some comments that will be relevant to a church environment. My comments will be the bullet points. (Oh, and I’ve also bolded some of the  “stick out” lines in his blog post)

“If I were you…”

But of course, you’re not.

And this is the most important component of strategic marketing: we’re not our customer.

  • “We’re not our customer.” The customer of the church is the person who is not there yet! Our mission is to connect people to Jesus, and we must start where they are! Our church must not ask, “What do we like/want?” Instead, we must ask, “What do they like/want?” And then, as much as possible create that kind of environment!

Empathy isn’t dictated to us by a focus group or a statistical analysis. Empathy is the powerful (and rare) ability to imagine what motivates someone else to act.

  • Thinking things like, “Why don’t they want to come to church on Sunday?” or “Why don’t they believe in Jesus?” or “Why don’t they want to be a Christian?” or “Why don’t they believe the Bible?” And then trying to imagine how they would answer those questions. Better yet… ask them those questions and LISTEN to how they answer… then ask some more questions!

When a politician or a pundit vilifies someone for her actions, he’s missed the point, because all he can do is imagine what he would do in that situation, completely avoiding an opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to try on a new worldview, to attempt to imagine the circumstances that would lead to any action other than the one he would take.

When a teacher can’t see why a student is stuck, or when an interface designer dismisses the 12% of the users who can’t find the ‘off’ switch… we’re seeing a failure of empathy, not a flaw in the user base.

When we call a prospect stupid for not choosing us, when we resort to blunt promotional tactics to get attention we could have earned with a more graceful approach–these are the symptoms that we’ve forgotten how to be empathetic.

  • “we’ve forgotten how to be empathetic.” A problem that Christians face is that the longer we are Christians the less we remember about our pre-Christ life AND the fewer non-Christian friends we have! We move into a Christian bubble and before long all we know, do, listen to and watch is Christian! We’ve forgotten how to be empathetic!
  • The best cure for this is to become friends with people who are not like you! People who don’t look, think, or believe like you do!
  • BTW, marketers aren’t the only ones who call people “stupid” for not agreeing with or choosing them.

You don’t have to wear panty hose to be a great brand manager at L’eggs, nor do you need to be unemployed to work on a task force on getting people back to work. What is required, though, is a persistent effort to understand how other people see the world, and to care about it.

  • Oh that last line grabs me! “To care about it!” I think followers of Jesus will influence and connect with a lot more people if we will stop talking, start listening, and really begin to care about what is being said rather than anxiously waiting til the other person is done speaking so we can give our spiel!
  • And the crazy thing is that once we start listening and caring we open the door for people to ask questions. Remember that axiom, “People don’t care how much (or what) you know until they know how much you care?” A great way to show you care is to LISTEN and LEARN about the person/people you are trying to connect with!

A couple of challenges for you:

  • Make it a point this week (or next week) to talk with someone who is different than you.
  • Ask them lots of questions… and listen.
  • Make some notes about what you learned during that conversation; see if any of your opinions are edited or confirmed and note why.

 

It’s fight time

People are in the fight of their lives. They are fighting for their marriages… they are trading blows with a fragile economy that threatens their jobs, homes, savings and stands over them with debt… they are working to beat down addictions… they are struggling to overcome their past… they are wrestling with obstacles on their way to achieving their dream… they are grappling with unexpected loss…

In short, people are fighting for their lives.

Honestly there comes a point where it almost seems easier to lay down and quit fighting… to give up… to walk away.

And yet people instinctively know that’s not right and won’t help.

God has been urging me to fight for these people. To stand up for them in prayer. To call them. To love them.

To be honest, this is overwhelming because I’m fighting too. I have a wife, six daughters, a church to lead, dreams to pursue, debts to pay, personal issues to overcome, etc. In short, I’m just like you.

But then I realize… this is what the CHURCH is called to do. To fight for one another. To stand up for one another. To come alongside one another. To pray for, encourage, support, and love one another.

If I fight for you and you fight for the guy next to you and so on and so on, we’ll make it! We will win!

So here’s the question, who are you fighting for? Who do you need to reach out to and let them know you’re standing with them and available to them? It’s time to step up and fight for one another so that when the bell rings we can all hold our hands in the air and experience the joy of victory!

By the way, if you don’t have anyone fighting for you, the best way to experience that is to fight for someone. Put yourself out there. Do what you can do for someone else and see what happens!

A reminder: it’s not about you and me

Yesterday Bob Roberts had a string of tweets that are worth sharing:

  • Every truly great move of God in my church start with a loss of people – but wound up gaining a lot more
  • Kingdom growth & church growth are not always aligned – when they are – get out of the way – sumpin’s gonna happen – more than attendance
  • Sometimes real church growth starts with church loss, so you can start with the kingdom
  • I’ve learned that sometimes when you truly follow God and reach lost people – your church may shrink – saved people get jittery
As much as I wish this wasn’t true… it is.
Here’s what I want to always remind myself and the people of Church180…
The church does not exist for our comfort or pleasure. The church exists to reach out to the broken and those disconnected from God.
We are on a mission to help people find Jesus and to teach them how to live the life of a follower of Jesus (aka a “disciple”).
The longer you are in the church the fewer rights you have and the more responsibility you and I must assume.
The work of the church is to build a strong team to reach out to the community and the world to show the love of God and help people discover Jesus and the new life He calls us to live!

I pray that you and I will always remain aware of the mission of the church and not get jittery or selfish as the church the church expands the influence of Jesus in our community and the world!

 

Starting at square one

Becoming a Christian. Now there’s something we need to rethink.

Often we tend to think, or it is expected of us that, “When I become a Christian my life will improve.”

This is not the case.

We don’t build on what we have and improve it. We start over.

The Bible says that the old self is “crucified” (i.e. destroyed) and we are “born again” (i.e. a new beginning).

Salvation is not improving what we have become… it is starting over!

When someone becomes a believer a total makeover begins. How we think about people, money, sex, priorities, health, marriage, work, leisure, etc. is on the table, submitted to Christ and ready to be made-over.

St. Paul says it like this, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2 NLT)

You are “born again” when you place your faith in Jesus Christ. In order to grow up healthy you must be a part of a healthy family. That’s where the church comes in to play.

We need each other to grow up strong and healthy! We need one another to pray for, confront, teach, encourage, rebuke, and build up if we are to become fully functioning Christian “adults.”

You aren’t “improving.” You are starting over. And if you’re going to be the man or woman God created you to be you are going to need help! Don’t walk alone! Don’t worship alone! Don’t learn alone! Find others who will grow with you, teach you, hold you accountable, mentor you, “get up in your grill” if they need to, love you, encourage you, and on and on…

So, how are you doing with this? Are you connecting with others or trying to do it alone?

Pastors, burnouts, affairs, and a ministry that lasts

Today I learned that a pastor who has mentored me, served on an advisory team for our church plant, and been very influential in my thinking on church systems has admitted to a 2+ year affair.

I also learned on Sunday that a friend of mine who pastors a church locally resigned last Sunday. Reportedly, his was not a moral breakdown but a matter of burnout.

I’m breathless. I’ve cried. I’ve been numb since Sunday night.

These are not the first of my friends to step down from ministry, and they won’t be the last.

I continue to love these men deeply and believe that God will forgive them and perhaps even use them again as influencers in His Kingdom.

Today though my thoughts have turned inward. Today I am thinking about things like:

  • How does one measure success? Both of these men had fast growing churches, both were sought after as conference speakers, both led coaching networks, etc. and yet now both of them are done (at least for a time). So what is success? Is it size? Breadth of influence? Or is it something else? Something we may not see right away? Something that is sustainable?
  • Speaking of sustainability, I want to finish the race. I want to love my wife well until “death do us part.” I want my children to grow up and love God and the church. I want to pastor Church180 well and be here for a long time without either burning out or compromising my integrity.
  • Are the things that are consuming me right now the right things? Are the things I’m losing sleep over right now really that important? As a matter of fact, maybe I should ask this question, if God could lose sleep would He lose sleep over the things I’m losing sleep over?

Truth be told, your pastor needs your help. We are a team. We are in this together. We must work with and for one another to finish the race we have begun.

So, here are some things we can do to help one another and secure the influence of Jesus through the church:

  • Make Jesus the benchmark of “goodness”, not your pastor. He/she is subject to temptation and “all manner of sin” just like you are. If Jesus is your benchmark of goodness and your pastor fails then you will be disappointed but not derailed.
  • Pray for and encourage your pastor.
  • Volunteer at your church, because if you don’t your pastor will end up doing it (or not doing it and then your church will be less influential than it could be and your pastor will feel guilty about that).
  • Don’t expect your pastor to do everything, and don’t let him/her! This has much to do with the previous point, but not every pastor is good at asking for help.
  • Protect your pastor. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few:
    • If you’re a volunteer and you can’t be there on Sunday… find your own replacement! Don’t call your pastor on Saturday and say, “Oh, I’m not going to be there tomorrow!”
    • If you hear gossip in the church… confront it and stop it! Don’t receive it or pass it on!
    • If you see something that needs to be done in the church… do it! Don’t complain about it!
    • Pray for your pastor and his family every day! Satan is fighting your pastor… HARD! He knows if he can wreck him that he will give the entire church a “punch in the gut.” Pray for your spiritual leaders… and let them know that you are doing that!

What say you to all of this?

Westboro Baptist Church and Christians

Sometime ago our family had lunch with a genuine biker dude. He was covered in tattoos, fully clad in leather, hairy and kind of dirty… but he was a GREAT guy! We really enjoyed his company, and our girls just loved him!

During our conversation I asked him about motorcycle gangs. He said, “Bikers talk about the ‘One Percenters.’” Most bikers aren’t gangsters waiting to run you off the road and slice your throat.”

According to my friend, only a handful (e.g. 1%) are really that bad. The fact that you ride a loud motorcycle, sport some tats and don’t shave does not  mean you are a thug. In other words, most bikers are not thugs.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a group of people at a “church” called Westboro Baptist Church. These people are thugs. They stand outside of the funerals of fallen American heroes and shout shameful slogans. They make harmful and unhelpful comments about homosexuals and any other number of people with whom they disagree.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that they have the right to do these things (a ruling with which I agree… but that has to do with free speech, the constitution, etc. and is a conversation for another time). The ruling guarantees that these thugs and bullies will continue to carry out these mindless protests.

As a follower of Jesus and a pastor, I want to go on record and say that this church and these people are “One Percenters.” They are fringe and do not represent the Church nor her leader, Jesus. They do not represent me and neither do they represent any Christian that I know.

They are thugs and misrepresent Jesus, the church, and Christians around the world and throughout the ages.

Westboro Baptist Church is to Christians and the church in general what Hells Angels and other violent biker gangs are to good men and women who ride bikes… loud, minority and false representatives of the majority.