Category Archives: discipleship

I Shouted in Excitement…

When I was about 12 years old, I went on a month long family road trip across the eastern part of the United States. It was so much fun seeing the different destinations, enjoying the various regional eats, and encountering people of all walks of life. I eagerly tried new things: I made crafts at a reenactment of a colonial village. I shouted in excitement when I dove into a deep lake off of a high cliff. I swung from a tire swing over a river. I stood at a mountain peak where I could see multiple states at once. It was a summer of amazing, unforgettable experiences!

That summer impacted me even today, because I love to travel—it’s fun making lifelong memories and share experiences together with loved ones. Teresa and I try to travel as often as we.

But one thing that I noticed is that whenever we do travel, it seems more fun to be at the end of the journey than the beginning. For example, as we traveled to the Queen City, we didn’t feel like we were “there” yet until we saw that amazing view of the Cincinnati skyline from the Kentucky side (and if you have never seen it, you are missing something special). I mean, driving around was fine and all that, but at the point of us seeing the skyline, our excitement kicked up and our level of enjoyment for the trip shot up. In our minds, we were there! Woo hoo!

Yet it’s so often the opposite when we are talking about the spiritual. It’s a miraculous work if God for anyone to be born again, and we should absolutely celebrate this great moment. But thinking about the journey of so many, here’s a passage to ponder:

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Solomon gave us some words to think about as we make our pilgrimage through life. There are two things he focuses on and some serious points to keep in mind: to be both upright and to finish strong.

First, there’s value in keeping a good name. In other words, character matters. For Solomon to write this is a bit ironic considering his many public moral failures, but the truth he writes is the truth. Clearly he means that fame, fortune, and power mean nothing if the character of a person falls short. Yes, we are sinners, yes, we blow it, yes, we will do it again, but character building is a lifelong process, a consistent growthin Jesus. It takes humility, patience, and transparency, because when a person owns up to his or her flaws and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, growth begins to take shape.

There’s value in finishing strong. Everyone celebrates a baby’s birth, but unless a life is extraordinary, few celebrate a person’s death. When it does, it’s because the life was well lived, and that most people would recognize that the person cared for others more than themselves. That person sought to become last, in many ways to die to self for the sake of Jesus. Some people in recent memory come to mind: there are plenty of examples, but Billy Graham and Ravi Zecharias are two that I can think of right now. These men lived for Christ, for a greater purpose than themselves, for the gospel. They gave us an example of what it means to both live well and finish strong, and there’s an eternal value in what they have done.

This passage hit me between the eyes as I think about my own life and ministry, but where are you at on this? On your life journey, did you start strong in Christ and are you letting Christ shape your character? Are you focusing on the good things of life, the things dedicated to the glory of Christ? Are you placing Jesus first? Even now?

The journey is great, but the end of the journey should always be an expression of God in you. A celebration. A sweet sacrifice for the glory of God. May the Lord place you on a journey that results in an eternal impact for His gospel!

Fran

5 Things I Hope for the Church, Post-COVID

It’s been far too long since we met in person. Thankfully, due to technology, many of us haven’t ceased meeting, yet many of us can agree that the online environment just isn’t the same. It’s not.

As churches begin getting back to meeting again, pastors and staff are taking appropriate precautions. As time goes by, however, even those precautions will be loosened up as people get more comfortable and the threat of the virus has passed. That said, we have a lot of work ahead of us as we regain our footing as the church in order to do Jesus’ Great Commission work.

Here are five hopes that I have for the church, post COVID:

  1. People will appreciate and attend worship more often. The fact that we have not met together in person should be a reminder of how precious our gatherings really are. My hope is that believers will not forsake the assembling and worship God with their church more consistently.
  2. Pastors will continue to be creative. One thing that came out of the COVID period is that pastors had to be more creative in reaching out to their congregations and the world. The use of Facebook, Zoom, and YouTube was a new thing for many pastors, but my hope is that they can build on this medium and supplement (not replace) their ministries through these tools.
  3. There will be a return to one-on-one conversations about Christ. Many church leaders have encouraged church members to invite people to come to church. However, this kind of passive evangelism can unintentionally threaten to “professionalize” evangelism, overshadowing the believer’s need to have personal conversations about the gospel. I hope that the church will see how healthy and energizing it is when believers tell others about Jesus’ gospel.
  4. Groups will explode in a new discipleship emphasis. Groups somehow got deemphasized over the years in favor of worship. The thinking is that people can be led to groups after coming to a worship service. This is true to a point, but just like in my previous hope, focusing on outreach through groups such as Sunday School or home study groups will energize a group and create excitement as new people attend and come to Christ.
  5. The church will regain her mission of making disciples. It’s so easy to focus on the business of budgets and buildings, because these things aren’t as messy as people related issues. Yet, we are not called to buildings or budgets, we are called to the work of the gospel. While we need to be good stewards of what we are given, we must never let our attention be taken away from the best gift we have ever been given: the gospel. My hope is that we have a disciple making revolution, where everything is focused not on keeping the aquarium but on fishing for people.

There you have it. My hope is for a changed church, different than where we were and more like the church that existed immediately after Christ’s ascension. Is it possible? Yes absolutely, as long as we hold near and dear Christ’s calling and focus all of our attention on that.

Fran