Category Archives: culture

What Do You Do When You Are Working in a Toxic Working Environment?

Many of us have been there. A boss, co-worker, or even the work conditions are draining, depressing, or even toxic. The employee might be in an environment that does not align with his or her own values. The boss is an equal opportunity “yeller.” Gossip is rampant, nastiness is all around, or a systematic dishonesty exists.

The first temptation for a Christian is to start looking for a new job, and for some, this might be a viable option. There are, after all, poison-1481596_1280employers that align with Christian values or at least has a healthy work environment. Others might be tempted to fall into a sort of a depression, to disengage mentally and give up on the workplace, or to even write it all off and justify your lack of passion about your work. But hear this: before you leave physically or mentally from your work, there are other options to consider.

Here’s the problem: I believe that in a sense, people relate with one another in the way that we should relate to God. In the gospels, Jesus affirmed the Shema (Deut 6:4-6, Mark 12:30) in saying that we should love God with all of our “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and in so doing we are fulfilling the greatest commandment. In the same way, He affirms our need to love our neighbors as ourself. And the truth is that none of us are good at either, which is the crux of the problem. It’s even worse for the person who does not have a relationship with Christ because they are not going to possess a consistently God-centered ethic.

A Christian has a difficult enough time following these commands in a healthy environment, but a boss or coworkers who willingly tramples on these commands for various reasons makes it even harder. This is why when a Christian works for an organization in which the environment is decidedly anti-Christian, tension almost certainly going to develop. Employees and employers that do the opposite of either of the two greatest commands will affect everyone inwardly and outwardly. Moral and ethical dilemmas are bound to appear and godly principles violated. More tension, more conflict for the Christian.

So what does a Christian do? First of all, remember that many Christians have worked in far worse evil conditions over the years than the United States of the 21st century, at least from the perspective of persecution. Christians have endured through the martyrdoms of Ancient Rome, the beatings of the slaveholding South, the insanity of Nazi Germany (see Bonhoeffer), and the persecutions of Christians in various countries today. Yet through these times, Christians continued to hold to those Great Commands- they continued to love God, to work for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23), and remained salt and light to many (Mt 5:13-16). They overcame evil with good, and darkness with light. What’s encouraging is that these are not super Christians but ordinary people, dedicated to Christ and living in the Spirit!

That said, I get it- being salt and light is going to be hard in such an environment. It’s hard enough to do in a healthy environment, but even worse when you are fighting the battle day after day. And yes, if another opportunity exists to be in a better environment, this might be a time to go- if God leads. But Christians are not always called to the “easy,” and the truth is, we are all in a spiritual war, under attack by an enemy who hates us. Besides, this world is not our own, and we as the citizens of heaven are looking to a different Kingdom than the kingdom of man. And since you are in enemy territory, expect to do battle in the Spirit, no matter who your employer is or what your work environment might be like.

So what do you do? Change your mindset and remember your calling as a follower of Christ, carrying out the mission given to you by Jesus. You can change your environment, affecting the lives of others around you who are also caught up in the toxicity in your workplace. But to do that, you need to be ready- to purposely live in the Spirit, to be in the Word, to discipline yourself for godliness, and to humbly love those around you as yourself. Most of all and whatever you do, remember your calling- a calling beyond the immediate, a calling for life and for eternity, a calling to love God and for the glory of God.

Pastor Fran

Spiritual but not Religious…5 Reasons Not to Write off the Church

We’ve all heard it: “Yeah, uh, I’m spiritual, but you know, um, I’m just not religious, know what I mean?”
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Uh, no. Not really.

When we hear this sort of talk, it might seem somewhat profound. But first of all, let me be clear that being spiritual means to be at one with the Spirit of God, not some far off, nebulous mystical concept of self-defined happiness. Yet even assuming that the Holy Spirit is the context, with all this talk now and in the past about bad church experiences, the idea of giving up on the church might even seem an attractive thought. I mean, can’t you be Spiritual without being religious?

Well, yes and no. If you mean be in tune with the Spirit of Christ and reject hypocrisy in the church while staying in the church, well sure. I’m right there with you. As a pastor who has been in ministry for over two decades now, I’ve seen my share of ugly. And ugly is, well, sinful and shameful. Hey, there’s plenty of comfort loving, sin dwelling, pride filling, molehill making people who call themselves Christians to make grown men cry in a business meeting…and sometimes they do!

But if being Spiritual without being religious means to stay away from the church, then you are missing the mark on this one. Here’s a few reasons why we need not write off the church:

  1. We are all sinners. Hypocrisy in the church has and always will be, simply because sin will be until the Day of Christ. In fact, anyone who claims to be free of the struggle with sin is being dishonest. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There. We’re all hypocrites in some way.
  2. We are the Bride of Christ. Yep, sometimes an ugly bride, but the bride nonetheless. Jesus died for this bride! And as the bride, we are called to grow to be more like Christ, both individually and corporately. One day, all this will come to pass and we as believers will be invited to the Bridegroom’s wedding feast (Rev 19:7).
  3. We are One in Christ. I pastor a multiethnic, multigenerational church, a people who put away the labels of Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Rich, Poor, Young, Old, etc. We might have come from different cultures, but in Christ we are one new humanity (Eph 2:15).
  4. We are all partakers of grace. Christ in His death on the cross was an act of grace. Salvation is a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9). Our sanctification is through God’s grace (Rom 8:29). And our love for one another must abound in grace and love (1 Pt 4:10). In fact, the church is at its finest when it is a beacon of grace to the world.
  5. We are better together. Ministry is given to, partaken in, and poured out through the church. God’s plans are realized through the church. He commended and corrected the church (see Rev 1-3). Though the church (the people) are far from perfect, the bible is clear: we are all pilgrims in this journey, and as we serve one another (Phil 2:2), we are better together!

Obviously, these are some reasons to still love the church and I’d love to hear more from you. The point is, I’m not writing off the church, and I pray that you won’t either.

My point: love the Bride of Christ as Jesus does!

Why Fast?

This weekend, our church on the hill here in Cincinnati is going to pray and fast for 48 hours. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our church to do this, as we are at a major crossroads in the 60 year history of our church.

You see, our community has been changing for quite some time. Families have moved north and east of our area. Poverty has been on the rise. Single parents have become the largest demographic in our area. Add in the state of our postmodern nation and it’s easy to see the challenges that our church has faced.

logochurchBut, wow, how God has blessed us! He’s led our church to adapt and become a multiethnic, multi-generational church. He’s connected our church family with the community through many of our outreach efforts and events. He’s opened doors for the gospel through a revitalized Passion Play, through our new Food Pantry, and through the faithful sharing of the Good News at every opportunity. And the worship services have been nothing short of inspiring and life changing as new believers have come to Christ and several have recommitted their lives to serve Christ more fully in our response time to the Word!

So why fast and pray? We do this to seek the Lord to do something beyond what we can do naturally. You see, if we only operate within the confines of what we can do naturally, there’s no faith in that! After all, how does God get the glory when we make plans that we can do and do work that we can do, when we have all the power and strength of what God can do?!? For this reason, I am eager and excited to have us enter in this time of fasting and prayer.

That said, here are some things to pray for:

  • Our vision and our vision team- we are awaiting a report from a consultant and going through a process of evaluating and innovating our church ministries. Nothing is off the table, and most importantly, everything needs to be before the Lord!
  • Our staff and our search team- in our need to fully staff our church, we have a search team looking to fill a position related to the children and family ministry. We need to have Spirit led wisdom and direction for the team.
  • Our love for the gospel and community- our community is desperate for the love and truth of Jesus Christ! Please pray and seek how God might shape our hearts to share the life changing gospel with all we see.

I hope and pray that you will be a participant in this emphasis. We will be starting the fast at 9:15 am Friday and finishing at our Sunday 9:15 am Bible Study, where EVERYONE (men, women, and children) will be eating, fellowshipping, and participating in a Bible study together. I am expecting that God will continue to do spectacular things at our church, so let’s see what else He has in store that will magnify His name!

Pastor Fran

But I just want to be happy, right?!?

On a recent episode of a cooking competition show, one of the contestants spoke about how he has recently made a major life choice for his own happiness. He explained that in this quest to be happy, he left his wife, then brought his three children together with his partner’s three children, thus creating what he called the “gay Brady Bunch.” On the same show, another contestant had just lost his wife to cancer, but was urged on by his children to enter the cooking competition in her honor. There were plenty of moments during this episode where tears streamed down his face as he grieved and remembered his wife. Both men were excellent cooks, and both men seemed like genuinely nice guys. Yet I was amazed at the contrast: while one man willingly left his wife, maintaining that he just wanted to “be happy,” the other man, still obviously in grief, probably would have given anything to touch, hold, even speak to his wife one more time.

Our culture is full of people who are happy addicts. People say all the time that they simply they just want to be happy, that they deserve to be happy, and that they should be able to live any way that they want so that they can be happy.  It’s in our Declaration of Independence, it’s been in popular songs by Pharell, Bobby McFerrin, and others, and it’s used in popular commercial slogans- heck, even McDonald’s has a Happy Meal for kids, right? Well, sure. It’s pretty loud and clear that we should and can be happy. After all, just do the right thing or buy the right thing or act a certain way and you too, can be happy.

And so, we have a culture of people who are obsessed with “being happy.” With the attention span of the length of a Tweet, happy addicts are constantly trying to hook onto something new to find a way to get and stay happy. After all, happiness comes and goes, and these things don’t last, so when the feelings of happiness leave (and they always do), these addicts desperately seek another way to be happy. They do things like purchase something new, or find a new boyfriend or girlfriend, or coyly seek attention on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler. In other words, they are miserably happy, but never satisfied.

Beyond this, these happy addicts fail to see how harmful their happiness addiction can be. For example, in the case of the contestant who left his wife, I wonder if his wife was happy about his turning her world upside down in the name of “being happy.” Or what about the endless job seeker, working in one place for a short period of time until the honeymoon period disappears, then looks for another job so he or she can be happy- doesn’t this harm the family that they support? Of course, these examples aren’t something that matters to the happy addict, and for this reason, I would argue that the happy addict is often nothing more than a selfish, rebellious, and idolatrous narcissist.

This should not be so. The selfish quest for “being happy” is no different from the lies told in the Garden of Eden: the temptation to be like God is in itself a grab for power, eternity, and self-seeking happiness. While of course, God wants us to be happy, we are first to be happy in Him, since He alone is the source of all joy, happiness, and peace. Being happy will not harm others with the consequences of selfishness. Being happy can and won’t ever conflict with being moral, or being godly, or being a follower of Jesus. It is also infinitely more satisfying than anything we have here on earth, because when we follow Him, we have a joy that is supernatural.  1 Peter 3:10–12 (NLT) says:

“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

In other words, “being happy” is going to go beyond the temporary. Being happy is not going to be good, moral, and show an unselfish love. It is an eternal happiness that is directed at God.

Are you a happy addict? You can change that! Turn from that and taste the real joy found in Jesus Christ- look to God and live happily for Him, as He is our joy and our strength!

Pastor Fran

The lesson learned (so far) from Boston and beyond




The tragedy in Boston and the panic that struck that city was comparable in many ways to the events of 9/11. For a few minutes, which for many of us seemed like hours, people were terrified and tuned in to breaking news reports to hear of the next attack or the details of what has already taken place. Videos and pictures streamed in from everywhere, and the cable news networks went into full reporting mode.

What was virtually unnoticed at first, however, was the way that people on the scene responded to the horrific carnage at hand. First responders didn’t hesitate to run to the scene, tearing apart barricades and accessing the dead and the wounded within seconds of the blasts. They thought of themselves second and others first. Now we hear of one officer getting killed and another wounded in the line of duty. They were and are in every sense of the word, heroes. Thank you, men and women who have served us so unselfishly!

As we praise God for our police, firefighters, and other first responders, I’m also reminded of Jesus. “Don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others too,” Paul wrote in Phil 2:4, and he called us to look at Jesus as the example of unselfish servanthood. It was Jesus who went to the cross unselfishly, who died painfully, who was raised righteously, and who triumphed victoriously- and how did it all begin? By Jesus willingly becoming flesh, willingly regarding equality with God a thing not to be grasped, willingly taking on the form of a bondservant as a stinky, smelly human, and willingly obeying to the point of death on a cross. 

His example is ours to follow. May God be honored with an unselfish commitment to Him! 


Pastor Fran

Trouble

Matthew 5:11-12 says in the Message translation, “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

Have you been in trouble, real trouble? There are those who love to stir up things, live drama, loving the soap opera of life, and they go from one crisis to another. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is the type of trouble that comes from those who mean evil for the godly. People who don’t want to face their own issues and cast blame on others, those who, as this text says, avoid the truth about themselves because it is too close for comfort. These are the ones who scream loudest while trying to stir up trouble.

My friend, speak the truth in love. Don’t veer from your mission in life and the message of Christ. Focus on doing things as Christ would, turn the other cheek, and press on. Most of all, count yourself blessed.

Not Political: Real Change

You are not of this world. You are a citizen of no place but heaven, pledged to no one but Christ, placing no idol before your love for the Lord. Your destination is altogether different than what you see around you today. Your goals as a believer is not financial prosperity but riches in Christ. Your focus is not on a earthly kingdom but an eternal Kingdom. It’s all different when you are a follower of Jesus.

In case you hadn’t heard, we are in an election season (yes, that was tongue in cheek). Being in a swing state, I literally get a half dozen election ads in my home mail every day. To and from the church office, I drive by hundreds of political yard signs. All this along with the constant bombardment of television, radio, and webpage advertisements, and I think I’ve seen enough campaigning for at least, say, four years.

It’s easy to get caught up in election campaigning, having an emotional attachment to one candidate or another. As a pastor, I have purposely not stated my political preferences publicly. I don’t allow yard signs in my yard, and don’t participate in the election rhetoric on Twitter or Facebook. I must admit that at times it is tempting, but I have to remember that my loyalty to Christ overrides my loyalty to the politician I might love or loathe.

So what is my response? Okay, yes, I will be votiing, yet I am also doing something far more as a service for our country. I am sincerely praying for our country. I am praying that godliness and righteousness will reign, that love and truth will be advanced, and that holiness will stand as a witness to those who need Christ’s salvation. It’s not a prayer to advance pet political causes but instead it’s a prayer for a godly light to shine from God’s people.

This is a biblical concept. Paul tells Timothy clearly in 1 Tim 2 that God’s people should be praying for leaders, for people, and for an atmosphere for God’s people to live holy and peaceful lives. We are all called to do pray in thsi way, no matter who is in a position of leadership over us. We are called to pray for our leaders to rule in wisdom as God’s established government while we are here on earth (Rom 13:1-2).

So, join me in prayer. Pray for our land. Pray for our election. Pray for godly values to be proclaimed through His people. And as we pray, let’s see God glorified and His name magnified!