We may be too proud

Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc. (dictionary.com)

It seems that humility is a missing virtue in our culture in general and, to our shame, the church in particular.

It seems to me, after evaluating my own heart, reading twitter, facebook, blogs, and hearing conversations from church leaders and church attenders alike, that we are too frequently proud and defiant, not willing or ready to submit to any authority.

We do not want to receive correction or be called out regarding sin in our lives. Often when rebuked we either cry “You can’t judge me” and/or we leave the group we are a part of. We leave and throw rocks rather than humbly receive the rebuke, stay, and mature in our faith.

This is sad in light of what Jesus said:

the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4 NIV)

This is certainly not to say that every rebuke is right neither is it to say that there are not times when false and erroneous judgment is passed. Instances of this have been well documented.

This post is simply to say that there seems to be a tendency towards pridefulness and a lack of humility in the church these days.

I wonder what we are missing out on because of our resistance to correction and our refusal to submit to spiritual authority?

The Church is AMAZING!

I’m thinking about the church and I’m about to pop with pride! The Bride of Christ is AWESOME!

We’ve got our crap and there are plenty of people who are consistently pointing it out (I’ve done my share), but today I want to boast a bit about the Church!

We are the largest organization in the world (between 2-3 billion Christians). Last year we received 35% of all charitable giving in 2008 – $106.89 billion (Giving USA 2009 Annual Report). We are putting people and money into the world for the cause of good!

What kind of good? Think about initiatives that you hear of churches undertaking:

  • Feeding the poor both locally and globally
  • Educating children through partnerships with public schools and the creation of private Christian schools
  • Providing clean drinking water for remote villages in 3rd world countries
  • Literacy programs for immigrants
  • Helping prisoners transition back into society
  • Defending the most innocent among us, the unborn
  • Fighting against human trafficking
  • Providing counseling services for the broken and disenfranchised in hopes of providing hope and healing
  • Providing educational services in the area of finances, marriage, leadership, parenting, spiritual development, and a host of other life-needs
  • Combating loneliness by offering the community of the local church and multiple small group environments
  • Responding to local, national, and global crisis (e.g.  how the church responded to the Katrina crisis)
  • Partnering with single moms (e.g. MOPS programs)
  • WHAT EXAMPLES DO YOU HAVE?

The church is awesome. We are doing much good in the world. We do it because we love Jesus and He modeled the way for us and commanded us to bring love and goodness to the world! Look at these verses from St. Matthew (25:31-40 from The MESSAGE):

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

I for one want to stand up and say, THE CHURCH IS AWESOME! We have a GREAT Leader (Jesus), and we are doing a TON of good in this world. I am proud to be a Christian and a part of the greatest organization in the world!

How about you?

Should Rick Warren have asked for money?

Recently Rick Warren asked his congregation to make up a $900,000 year end deficit. It caught national attention.

I asked (through Twitter and Facebook) what people thought about it. It got some interesting responses. (Read them here).

Then the news broke that Warren got way more than he asked for… 2.4 million dollars.  (Read it here).

I asked again (through Facebook and Twitter) what people thought about this. I have several friends who have struggled with this both publicly and privately. (Read the feedback here).

Several have asked me what I think about the whole thing. So here’s what I think:

Warren and Saddleback have demonstrated that they are using money to expand the influence of Jesus in this world. This is a part of his letter to his church outlining how the money has been used (you can read the entire letter here):

YOUR GIFTS HELP THE POOR & THOSE HURT MOST BY THE RECESSION:

  • Saddleback Food Pantry- Your gifts are feeding 400 hurting families in our community each month. Over 2,000 different families received food assistance in 2009, thanks to your generosity and the help of over 250 volunteers.
  • Breakfast Together & Homeless Ministry- Thousands of Saddleback volunteers are serving in the 6 locations hardest hit by poverty here south OC.
  • Financial Coaching- With 10% of our congregation out of work due to the recession, this ministry exploded with growth in 2009.
  • Cars Ministry- Received over 150 donated vehicles. Some were sold to pay for parts to refurbish the rest of the cars which were given to members struggling without transportation. All our mechanics volunteer their time.

YOU ARE HELPING THOSE WITH PERSONAL & RELATIONAL PAIN

  • Counseling- Your 230 certified Saddleback counselors provided over 20,000 free counseling sessions to our community this year! Training for new counselors start in January. The need is so great.
  • Support Groups- 193 volunteers lead these specialized small groups that focus on acute needs. We support everything from Alzheimer’s and AIDS to Young Adults with Aspergers.
  • Recovery- During the recession, attendance at Celebrate Recovery has grown 35% after 27,000 participated in our 8 week Life’s Healing Choices Campaign Experience. A new program for elementary kids, Celebrate Station, was launched. Over 12,000 other churches nationwide now use our Celebrate Recovery program.
  • Prayer Garden- 6,720 people in crisis received warm, face-to-face attention and prayer through our Prayer Garden and Restoration Service. This does not include our counseling ministry.

YOU ARE HELPING CHANGE LIVES FOR CHRIST!

  • Baptisms – 2803 people demonstrated their new life in Christ through baptism- the most in 30 years!
  • Joining our Family – 4,026 attended Class 101 in 2009 – another 30 year record.
  • Prison Ministry – CR Inside grew by 20 state representatives who are directing our work in jails, prisons & rehab facilities nationally. Every state will be covered by the end of 2010.

YOU ARE HELPING PEOPLE FIND GOD IN WORSHIP
There is so much going on with our worship ministries it would require 3 pages. Here are just a few activities you probably don’t know about:

  • A 5th Saddleback campus opened in Laguna Woods – Adding to our available services in San Clemente, Irvine, Corona, and Lake Forest. Our Lake Forest worship venues (Overdrive, Praise, Traditions, and others) continue to minister to tens of thousands of spiritually hungry people. 20 worship leaders have been mentored.
  • Saddleback’s School of Music & Arts – 472 students took weekly lessons with our ten instructors. Our children’s choirs, involving hundreds of kids, did 20 outreach events in our community.
  • Guitarists in God (GIG) Ministry – Over 50 guitarists volunteer to play at nursing homes, our motel ministry to the homeless, urban outreaches, and Bible studies on our campus and in homes. A new credentialing program will launch in 2010.
  • Purpose Driven Radio – Began in 2009 on the Internet, offering 24 hour a day music, daily devotionals, children’s programming, and more. You can hear it HERE.
  • Our Ohana Band & Hula Team – (Island music) serve the community as Saddleback ambassadors.

YOU ARE HELPING PEOPLE GROW SPIRITUALLY

  • Small Groups – The heart and soul of our church family grew to over 4,000 adult groups, meeting in almost every city in Southern California. We’re testing 26 online groups. Talk It Over, our small group studies based on the weekend messages were downloaded 53,893 times for use by groups. Our groups speak over 20 languages.
  • Our online Spiritual Growth Center – was used 44,716 times. All our Bible studies set records for growth.
  • Married Life Pathway – 2,704 people took advantage of our programs for couples to strengthen their marriages in 2009.
  • Our Children’s, Jr. High, Senior High & College Ministries – We are shaping thousands of young lives and exploding with record growth. High school ministry doubled in the last year after we opened the Refinery.

YOU ARE MAKING A HUGE INTERNATIONAL IMPACT!

  • PEACE Plan & Purpose Driven Leadership Training Worldwide – It would require a book to tell you all your church is doing to Promote reconciliation, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. No other local church on earth has the international reach that Saddleback does. Over 8,000 Saddleback members have served in 139 countries. PEACE Teams are already planned to serve in the remaining 58 nations of the world in 2010.

(Paul talking here) How many other organizations can you name that are doing this kind of good to this extent?

Secondly, as I look at their website and how they encourage people to give I am impressed with their efforts to expand the influence of Jesus in tangible ways. Check out what I mean.

Thirdly, I think that Rick Warren and his wife are models of financial integrity. After becoming a best-selling author, he and his wife made five financial decisions. He talks about them in this video. If you want to hear about his decisions go to 7:55 and listen to the man speak for himself.

Fourthly, why shouldn’t churches ask for money? First it is biblical that believers give to the local church for the purpose of expanding the influence of Jesus (e.g. “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love God and your neighbor like yourself.” etc.) . Secondly, when churches are functioning biblically there is no better organization for bringing goodness to the globe. Thirdly, just because there are multiple instances of financial manipulation and abuse does not mean that the church is a lost cause! It is a good cause. Scratch that. It is the best cause. We can’t chuck it! We must redeem it! I am not ashamed to ask people to give to the church because I know what the church can do when she is functioning under God-led leadership. Additionally, what’s wrong with a pastor or staff getting a raise (an objection I hear frequently)? Right now in the denomination in which I serve, the average salary is a app. $35,000 per year. Do you think there’s a problem with that? I sure do. Again, while there are glaring examples of financial excesses, these are not indicative of most pastors I know. They are exceptions and that’s why they are highlighted. Churches should ask for money because that’s one of the resources they engage to accomplish the work they’ve been called by God to do… bring hope, love, mercy, and all kinds of other goodness to the world.

Finally, there is context to this story. Warren explains it in this blog post. It wasn’t mismanagement or erratic spending that created this need.

So, I don’t believe that Warren was wrong to ask for this money, and apparently Saddleback church doesn’t either.

What do you think?

Questions for church leaders

Perry Noble has posted 7 questions that church leaders should be asking:

#1 – What do we need to stop doing?

#2 – What bothers us about our church?

#3 – What bothers us about our community?

#4 – What bothers us about the world?

#5 – How can we do things better?

#6 – Who do we need to be talking to?

#7 – What’s next?

(Read the entire post here – it’s worth the time)

Does a pastor need a seminary degree?

“If you’re going to be a REAL pastor, you need to go to seminary.” I have several close friends who are doing effective ministry that have been told this by ineffective ministers. This begs the question, “If seminary makes me like you, why the heck would I want to go?” 8)

I’ve outlined my thoughts on seminary in a previous post (read it here). The bottom line is that I graduated from seminary with an M.Div. (Masters of Divinity), and I loved it. The other bottom line is that some of the best hires I’ve EVER made as a lead pastor have been people who did NOT go to seminary.

Recently I read these words from J. Oswald Sanders regarding Jesus’ “staff”:

When Jesus selected leaders, He ignored every popular idea of his day (and ours) about what kind of person could fit the role. Jesus’ band of disciples was untrained and without influence – a motley group for world change.

Any campaign for change today would have a star-studded cast of directors and advisers. In Jesus’ group, where was the prominent statesman, the financier, the athlete, professor, or acclaimed clergy? Instead, Jesus looked for a humbler sort of person, unspoiled by the sophistication of His day.

Jesus chose from the ranks of workers, not professional clergy. […] Jesus chose people with little education, but they soon displayed remarkable flair. He saw in them something no one else did, and under His skillful hand they emerged as leaders who would shock the world. To their latent talents were added fervent devotion and fierce loyalty, honed in the school of failure and fatigue.

The truth is that none of these guys were “ministry studs” when Jesus asked them to be on His team. They were just normal dudes… normal dudes who changed the world as they followed their Leader!

If you have a seminary degree, good for you. I celebrate the hard work you’ve done to earn that degree. Use what you’ve learned and don’t be ashamed of those letters behind your name. You earned them.

If you have a seminary degree, be careful that you don’t buy into the fallacy that it is necessary for every other pastor to have one too. It’s not. Don’t overlook the “mere fishermen” around you because they don’t have letters behind their names.

If you don’t have a seminary degree, do not allow this to stop you from pursuing ministry. If you’re called to ministry then get on with it! Find a mentor, a leader you trust and align yourself with him/her as much as possible. Read, study, do what you know and learn from your mistakes. One of the young, leading theological minds of today is Matt Chandler. Matt did not go to seminary and outlines his reason and respect for the institution in this blog post.

If you don’t have a seminary degree and want one, go for it. It’s a worthwhile investment. Know this though, going to seminary will only give you information. It will not take the place of a clear calling from God into ministry. It will not replace the anointing that God places on His called men and women. It will not replace a vibrant relationship with the Lord of the Church. A seminary degree will only give you tools. What you do with those tools depends on who you are, and that is largely determined before you enroll.

So, to all of you saying, “You’ve gotta have a seminary degree to be a pastor” – stop it.

To all of you saying, “I don’t need any degree… I’ve got a calling” – don’t write it off… you may find it useful.

And to all of you that have no “letters behind your name” that I’ve been privileged to serve with, thank you for ignoring the chatter of “lettered people”, following the heart of God, and changing lives through your passionate, committed, thoughtful leadership. I love you.