Stop worrying about your clothes

nothing-to-wearRight now I’m really busy.

This weekend I will officiate at a wedding, preach a sermon, and then carry out my pastoral duties at a funeral… the funeral of a friend.

This busy weekend comes right in the middle of a teaching series I am doing at church called, “Making Space.”

As I am preparing to teach this weekend, I am reflecting on some words spoken by Jesus. These words are incredibly appropriate for every busy person… especially people who are driven and slightly distracted!

I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:25-34 NLT)

This is certainly not a call to forgo planning, hard work, or physical well-being. What it is is a call to STOP making secondary things the primary pursuit of your life.

I’ve realized this: when you pursue the primary things, you get the secondary things thrown in. BUT when you pursue the secondary things first you may never get the primary things.

Looking back over my life, I see that I have often allowed busyness to distract me from the primary things (God, relationships, physical well-being, emotional vitality, etc.)… and the result is rarely good.

The times in my life of which I am most proud are the times when I have kept the primary things in focus and enjoyed, subsequently, the secondary things.

So as I work through this busy season in my life, I encourage you to join me in processing what takes up space in your mind:

  • Is it clothes or close friends?
  • Is it paper or people?
  • Is it your job or your God?
  • Is it primary or secondary?

Give it some thought… and then take some time to make necessary adjustments. You’ll not regret it!

Why pastors don’t always preach

 

preacher in a seat

This past weekend I didn’t preach at the church I love!

I LOVE to preach, but I don’t always preach.

Sometimes people wonder why preachers don’t preach every Sunday. They may even wonder what they do when they’re not preaching. Those are fair questions.

Here are the reasons I don’t preach every Sunday:

Family Vacation.

Every preacher/pastor should do this… I mean completely disconnect and pay attention only to your family. (BTW, many business owners would do well to do this too.)

Pastors spend their lives concerned with the lives of other people… that is their calling, and they should do that. However, it is not for no reason that we see pastor’s kids turning rebellious and hating the church. In many cases, it is because their parent (usually the father) paid more attention to the people in the church than he did the people in his family.

At our church, we tell our pastors, “If you’re not leading your home well, you are not qualified to lead our church… so make sure your home is in order.” This comes straight from St. Paul.

Pastor/leader, your family regularly needs to be the focus of your attention without having to compete with phone calls and emails asking for your time and energy elsewhere. Make sure you do it while there is time.

The church needs to hear from other teachers.

If you’re a parent you know this… you can tell your kids something over and over and over… then someone else comes along and says the same thing and your kids go “OH!!! I get it!”

Pastors are responsible to teach and model for the church what God calls us to in the Scripture. They/we do our best, but sometimes a fresh voice with new insight is just what is needed for the church to have that “OH! I get it” moment.

Some pastors hesitate to bring in guest speakers because they are afraid that the speaker might be better than they are! Listen, if you’re that bad people aren’t going to come week after week to listen to you. Besides that, you and I are not the best preachers out there. There’s always someone who is funnier, smarter, more passionate, and more experienced… and the people of your church are probably already listening to them on iTunes!

If you don’t take a break because you’re scared that your replacement might be a better teacher than you then you need to take some time off and do a heart check!

Not preaching gives me time to prepare to preach better sermons.

Carey Nieuwhof is a pastor, thinker, and writer who writes often about current trends in the church. In a recent article he addressed this matter of preachers preaching less. He wrote:

a growing number of preachers are realizing that preparing 52 excellent Sunday messages is increasingly difficult. Personally I’ve cut back from writing 70 messages a year a decade ago to about 35 a year today.

The result? I’m a much better communicator.

What’s creating all this change?

Simple. It’s the wide availability of digital options.

A decade ago, people who attended your church only really ever listened to you. Now they can hear anyone for free.  And they do.

As a result, the local pastor is often being listened to alongside today’s best communicators, and local pastors are opting for quality over quantity.

At some point, quantity and quality compete. And in today’s digital landscape, innovative leaders are opting for quality.

I’ve found that when I teach less, I teach better. Cranking out new material every week is something I love, and I find that when I take a break I am more passionate, clear, and thoughtful when I teach.

Finally…

Pastors do more than preach.

Just because you don’t see your pastor on Sunday doesn’t mean he’s not working! Meetings, weddings, funerals, study, planning, praying, thinking… all of that happens during the week.

Just because he’s not there on Sunday does not mean he/she didn’t put in a full week!

BTW, people who joke that “preachers only work one day a week”… I know they’re trying to be funny, but they don’t understand what St. Paul wrote:

“I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)

Pastors go to sleep with the people of their church on their mind… and they often wake up with those same people and situations on their mind… praying for them, thinking about them, wondering how they can help….

So what do preachers do when they’re not in church?

I can’t answer for every preacher but I do one of four things:

I visit another church.

Every preacher should do this! We forget what it’s like to visit a church for the first time. We forget what it’s like to be in a place where no one knows your name.

If we want new people to come and feel welcome in our church, then we need to know what it feels like to be a stranger in a church!

I take time to learn something new.

Sometimes a conference runs into a weekend and it requires that the pastor be gone on Sunday.

I speak at another church or conference.

Most pastors have an allotted number of weekends for speaking opportunities outside of their local church.

I do what you do sometimes… sleep in and chill out for the whole day.

Yep. That happens sometimes too!

So that’s why pastors aren’t teaching every Sunday and some insight into what they might be doing.

If you’re a pastor, what would you add to this list?

Ten things I love about Church180

I am a deeply fulfilled man. I am a pastor and a personal trainer (in addition to my other roles of man, husband, father). I absolutely love what I get to do every day.

I often tell people that “I love our church!” Today I thought it would be cool to list out some reasons why I love Church180. Here are the top ten things, in no particular order, that I love about our church:i-love-my-church---header

We don’t fake it.

I can’t stand the “Sunday morning best” that we’ve all heard about and pulled off. We put on our “Sunday morning clothes” and “Sunday morning face” and go be fake for an hour… then we get home and back to our “Monday morning self”… which looks totally different.

I love that at Church180 you can be real. No faking allowed. Of course some people still fake it… but that’s only because they haven’t realized yet that only when we quit faking will we discover the truth that God has for us and the love of the church!

There is little to no gossip.

We say this frequently from the stage, “If you are gossiping… please stop. If you cannot stop… please leave.” We mean that too. We want people to be honest about themselves. If I am honest and you start gossiping… I’ll probably not be honest with you again… and that destroys everything we are trying to create.

I rarely hear of gossip as a problem at our church… and I love that!

We aren’t scared to make changes.

From service times to leadership transitions… from stage design to building layouts… things are always changing around here. There is minimal complaint which is another reason I love this church!

People laugh a lot around here.

I can’t recall a Sunday when there wasn’t the sound of laughter ringing through the halls. Time can slip by quickly and if you’re not careful you’ll realize that “it’s been a while since I’ve laughed.” I think it’s hard to show up several weeks in a row at our church without having a laugh sneak out! I love our church for that!

People respond well to tough teaching from Scripture.

We’ve had some tough conversations over the years I’ve been here. You can look back over the series here. We’ve talked about race, sexuality, money, relationships, faith and science, etc.

People respond well to these teachings. Tough questions are asked and solid answers are sought after, and that’s another reason I love our church.

We are realizing our goal of increasing diversity (racial and generational being the two biggies).

From day one we’ve said, “We want to be a place where Sunday looks like Monday.” We’re working hard to make that a reality…and it is coming true. It is becoming common to see different ages and races worshipping together… and that is another reason I love our church!

We honor those who have gone before us while we learn from those who are coming behind us.

We know that our faith has been passed to us by “those who have gone before.” They have taught us and modeled it for us. We honor and love them. We know, however, that if the faith is to be passed to the next generation we must present it (without changing it) in a culturally relevant way… so we are continually listening to the next generation and working to present the Scriptures and our faith in a way that engages them. That’s another reason I love our church.

People are maturing in their relationship with Jesus.

This really is the most important work of the church. It is happening. Men are assuming spiritual leadership in their homes. Women are stepping up and pursuing God-given dreams. I love this! People are embracing spiritual disciplines and maturing in their faith… and I love this about our church.

We are willing to work through problems.

When two or more people get together at some point there will be misunderstandings… arguments… frustrations… etc. We expect that. BUT we also expect that Christians will work through not run from problems! I see that happen at our church… and I’m in love with that part of our church.

I can wear my Converse sneakers!

This sounds shallow… but it’s not. At our church you can come in a suit or t-shirt and shorts. It really comes back around to this… we love it when you are you. Max Lucado wrote something that I have never forgot, “God loves you just like you are, but refuses to leave you that way.” At our church we want people to be real and experience love. We also want them to grow in that love… but that only happens when they choose to be honest first. So… wear your Converse to church! #bereal

There are other things that I love about our church too, but these are some of my favorite.

How about you? What do you love about your church?

Be someone (#plantwhatyouwanttopick)

someoneHere is a sampling of the conversations I had last week with people who are experiencing tough times…

  • A man who survived multiple affairs and is working to put his marriage back together.
  • A lady who is going to die any day now.
  • A dad whose young son has cancer.
  • A man whose wife wants to leave him because he has functioned as a child when she needed a man.
  • A man who is trying to figure out the concept of boundaries.

 

My heart hurts for these men and women. As I listen to them and reflect on their stories I realize a few things:

  • Everyone needs someone who will listen to them.
  • Everyone needs hope.
  • Everyone needs instruction.
  • Everyone needs love.
  • Everyone needs someone

Whether you are trying to die well or live well, at some point you will need someone.

I hope you have someone. I hope you have multiple someones.

If you don’t, can I suggest something that can make all the difference in the world?

Be someone for someone.

Do you ever listen to anyone, or are you the one always talking?

Do you ever help anyone, or are you always the one asking for help?

Do you ever offer to pray for someone, or are you always the one asking for prayer?

If you want these things you must do/be these things! What you plant is what you will pick! If you plant isolation, you will pick loneliness. If you plant anger, you will pick anger. If you plant love… you will pick love.

The good news is that you can plant things that will be good picking later!

Jesus taught us how to do this:

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NLT)

If you want someone to be there for you… then be there for someone! In other words, plant what you want to pick!

When I listened to these stories last week I realized, some of these people have been someone for someone and now, when they need someone there is someone. Others are lonely… struggling… trying to do it alone.

I urge you to start being someone for someone today… because you never know when YOU might need someone.

#plantwhatyouwanttopick

 

Death and marriage

Sunday night Sherri and I sat with a couple and planned out their wedding. They were excited… and a little nervous. There was laughter and hope as we discussed the beginning of “happily ever after.”

Monday morning Sherri and I sat with a mom and her daughter and planned out the mom’s funeral. There were some tears; very little excitement; very little nervousness… just a hopeless acceptance of the inevitable.

The range of emotions within this 24 hour period was extreme. We love the couple who is getting married. We love the lady who will die soon. We celebrated and we grieved with those who were doing likewise. It reminded me of St. Paul’s instruction to us: “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Celebration… grief…

It is inevitable that in life you will do both.

I hope you celebrate with passion and loud laughter. Do it as often and as long as you can. That’s what the soon-to-be-married couple is doing. That’s what we did with them.

And when you must… I hope you grieve. Grieve thoroughly. Grieve completely. That’s what the soon-to-die lady and her children are doing. That’s what we did with them.

And while you are laughing and grieving with others, take a minute to contemplate this advice…

dream live.jpg

#livethelifeyouhave

We might not be communicating

group-of-people-talkingFor the last several years I have made an effort to make friends who don’t look/believe/act like I do.

From racial to sexual to theological differences… I have made a lot of great friends.

I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating sushi, and lifting weights with my friends. I’ve listened… and from time to time I’ve talked.

Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things, but perhaps the most important is something that’s been crystallized in the last few weeks.

Let me explain…

I am a heterosexual, conservative, white, middle class man. I have a set of presuppositions that I typically bring to any conversation. I have realized a problem though…

Many of my friends don’t have the same presuppositions.

If this is not taken into consideration, communication problems will ensue.

For instance, I base my decisions on what I believe God wants or doesn’t want. My friends who do not believe there is a God obviously don’t include Him in their decision making process.

Now here’s where the miscommunication happens…

In addition to being a friend, I am also a pastor. Every week I stand up and teach at Church180. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love talking about God and showing how His ideas work in our lives!

HOWEVER…

I make a HUGE MISTAKE if I assume that everyone in our church starts with the idea that there is a God… or that He is actively engaged in our lives. Not everyone believes this!

I’m realizing that if the church is not careful, we are going to be talking to a group of friends that have no clue about what we’re saying… because we’re not starting with the same set of presuppositions.

I presuppose that there is a God. I presuppose that humanity is made in the image of God but is broken by sin. I presuppose that Jesus was a real man who died for my sins, was buried, and resurrected to life three days later and now lives inside of those who believe in Him… empowering them to live lives of l0ve, courage, wisdom, self-control, etc.

I presuppose all of that. My friends don’t.

The result? Much of what I may say may not make sense to them… because we start with different presuppositions.

So how do we fix this?

Well, the last couple of years I have done a lot of listening. A LOT of listening.

I ask questions and then listen. I have listened to black men talk, gay men and women talk, atheists and agnostics talk… and I have learned… A LOT!

The more I learn, the more I realize I need to change my starting point in conversation and teaching from what I believe to what we believe.

No longer can I assume that everyone in the room has the same starting point as me. I must assume that many in the room will start with different presuppositions than myself. I must respect that/them, seek to find common ground, and start there.

How do I find common ground?

LISTEN! Listen to your friends who don’t believe, look, think, or act like you do… let them show/tell you what’s important to them… what they value… and start communication there!

We may be miscommunicating because we have not taken the time to listen!

To use the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”

Thoughts on another pastor’s fall

Yesterday I learned that David Yonggi Cho is going to prison. Here’s the scoop:

David Yonggi Cho, the 78-year-old leader of the world’s largest Pentecostal mega church, was recently convicted of embezzling $12 million and sentenced to serve three years in prison. (You can read the entire story here).

The following are my unfiltered soul rumblings…

I’m devastated. This man has been a giant in the other world in which I live… the world of the church. He has written books, created paradigms, and showed lots of pastors “how to do it.” He has effectively built a church that has brought honor to God and resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being transformed… and now this. I feel betrayed. Angry. and even a little skeptical… for if David Yonggi Cho succumbed to temptation then who isn’t vulnerable? Are there any trustworthy spiritual leaders?

I’m not as surprised as I used to be. Over the last decade of my life I’ve watched many leaders fall; leaders ranging from political (e.g. Mark Sanborn) to religious (e.g. Ted Haggard). I’ve staggered and been nauseated as I learned, multiple times, of personal acquaintances and mentors who have made irresponsible choices that have led to their public disgrace and put a dent in the reputation of the organizations they represent. I used to be surprised… I’m not so much anymore.

I’m scared. I’m a leader. I’m also a man. The things that led to every other leaders failure (e.g. sex, power, money) could also lead to mine. I promise myself, my wife, my children, my accountability partners, and my God that I’ll not fail. I’m sure these leaders said similar things before succumbing.

I am grateful for the men and women I know who consistently model integrity. There are men and women who live lives of integrity. They are gentle and courageous souls who quietly live lives of righteousness. They remain consistent when the times are good and equally so when suffering is required of them. I am grateful to know people like this… I’d name names but I know some of them read this blog and I don’t want to embarrass them. I am grateful for you.

This is to be expected. Not to be a Debbie Downer here but if you believe that all of humanity is smeared by sin then you can expect that ugly monster to rear its head and crash a life. I believe that God rescues us from the damaging control of sin, but it is absolutely necessary to continually nurture our relationship with Him and “run from” those things that would make us vulnerable to bad choices. Check out what St. Paul said to his protege in ministry, Timothy, on this subject.

OK, enough “soul rumblings”. Here are a few things I am doing in an effort to live a life of integrity:

  • Every day I put my face in the Bible. God gives warnings about this stuff and instruction on how to live a strong, long life of integrity. I really need to have this conversation with God every day… because I’m vulnerable to stupidity if I don’t… and often vulnerable even when I do!
  • I pray with my wife every night and give her a kiss before we go to sleep. This daily ritual reminds me of my spiritual and relational responsibility to my family. It keeps me humble before my wife as I talk to God, out loud, in front of her.
  • I have accountability partners who ask me anything and everything about my life. I tell them the truth.
  • I share my mistakes/sins in appropriate environments. Be wary of a man who never admits to being wrong. (You wouldn’t believe how many times I just edited that sentence! I had a pretty sophomoric way of saying that… but cleaned it up because of the nature of this post). On the other hand, I also like to hear, and share, successes so that others can see how it’s done! Sharing just failures leads to a sense of pessimism. We all fail. And we can all rise!
  • I have hope! I have hope because of this piece of wisdom from the Bible – “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again….” (Proverbs 24:16).

OK, the ladies are all getting out of bed… it’s time to get ready for school so I’ve gotta wrap this up.

Today I encourage you to pray for those in leadership, and then do a self-check… how’s your integrity level?