Category Archives: Jesus

What God Loves…

I’ve been in ministry for over 23 years now, and I can say that I have never been more encouraged to see God’s work than ever before. I have seen first hand several churches explode in worship attendance, in their disciple-making, and in ministry to the world around them. And there is a clear pattern: regardless of style, flavor, or culture, the churches which have a high view of the Word, challenge one another to holiness, and focus on discipling others in the Word are the ones that are healthy, stable, and growing. It’s amazing that I see very few exceptions to this rule. Yet these thriving churches exist all around as the light of Christ to the Midwest. This is so encouraging because it is clearly what God loves!

Of course, I also see the opposite, and yes, when I see this, I do grieve. Obviously, God doesn’t want unhealthy and declining churches. And unfortunately, just like I see a pattern in healthy, growing churches, I also see a pattern for unhealthy ones. In these churches, there are misguided people who focus not on the Word but on procedures, legalism, and even politicking. They place unceasing attention to the crisis of the day. They draw attention to the negatives and create divisions. They stir up trouble in the shadows of the hallways. And disciple making is reduced to an afterthought. The Gospel is secondary. The Word becomes a manipulative tool to attack others versus a revelation from God to live by.

And as we see in this text from Proverbs, God despises this practice:

“The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16‭-‬19 CSB

These are tough words,yet this is a truth we need to be sober about: God doesn’t want discord or strife from within. He doesn’t want His Bride disgraced, destroyed, and disgusted. He doesn’t want the Family of God to be distracted, from the Great Commission and the work of making disciples. He doesn’t want hateful strife and stressful hate. He wants none of that. For those in the church that practice this, it’s kind of hard to differentiate them from those outside the church. And this certainly grieves God the Holy Spirit as it should grieve His godly saints. And if it isn’t grieving you right now, then, well then that’s just messed up. Sorry, but that’s true.

The good news is that there’s always a better way, a much better way. That way is a way of grace, truth, and love. Since the Bride of Christ is not to be a place that is focused on power, a focus should be on Christ, because, after all, power should be completely in the hands of the Lord who we worship.

And we as members of one another should do what is opposite of our fleshly inclination: a practice of full and complete submission in love. This means to follow the biblical pattern to lift up one another, to love one another, to believe the best in one another, and to build up one another. That is a way of grace. That is the way of Christ.

Want to see others come to Christ, grow in Christ, serve Christ, and share Christ in a way like never before? Then repent, get out of His way, submit to His leading, live for Him and help others to do the same as an act of worship. Love, and love some more. And then love again. Yes, even those who are hard to love. No ands, ifs, or buts.

Because that, my friend, is what God loves.

Fran

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Pastor, Are You Chasing the Wind?

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…” Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV

I get to travel quite a bit to talk with church leaders across the Upper Midwest. I’ve spent time in all sizes of churches, from the smallest of urban or rural churches to the upscale megachurch with multiple sites and services. Although there’s been some great research done on growing churches, I can tell you for my own observation that there’s a difference between leaders who are growing on a foundation of Christ and those who are just “chasing the wind” through their own efforts. In fact, I have seen a few commonalities in healthy, growing churches regardless of the context or size. Let me give you a quick list with no order of importance:
  1. A commitment to expository preaching. I’ve seen some really good expository preaching in which the pastor will take a passage and allow the structure of the passage to be the basis of the message. He takes time to explain the passage and the context, both at the time that it was written and the application for today. This is sorely needed in our culture today.
  2. A clear path for discipleship. I am amazed at how many church leaders have no real idea on how to disciple believers on an ongoing, systematic basis. The healthy churches that I have seen know exactly how to take a new believer in Christ through a process of growth to become more like Jesus. Find a process and work it.
  3. An authentic love. One of my favorite pastors does not buy into the CEO mentality as he ministers to his congregation. He spends time with his people, he fervently prays for them, and he also takes time to study so that he can pour into them in his pulpit ministry. He has boundaries, but his people know that he loves them. By the way, he ministers to about 1,500 people in his congregation each week.
  4. A priority on missions and evangelism. Church members focused on going and telling usually don’t major on the minors in the inner workings of the church. They know that their leaders are Godly, praying, loving men of the word and they trust them. They are much less likely to micromanage day-to-day affairs in the church. They also see their leaders right next to them as they do some of the grunt work, as they go out on mission trips and as they share the gospel.

That’s what I’ve noticed. Note that I never talked about hype, worship style, or any “cool factors” related to ministry. That’s because these are secondary issues that usually don’t matter over the long run. In other words, I’ve seen healthy, growing traditional churches in the middle of a cornfield as well as healthy, growing, super contemporary, polished churches in a suburb. The point is that the church will change the method but not at a price.

And this brings me to the possibly convicting news. I’ve noticed plenty of unhealthy disasters where the leadership has tried to “chase the hype,” even going as far as compromising the message (intentionally or not) in order to somehow try to stay relevant with the culture. This includes turning to shallow material that a member can pop into their living room like a Netflix movie and call it discipleship. Or making major cultural changes in the church arbitrarily and without communication. Or discarding the basic foundations of teaching for children and replacing it with moralistic, hypercool content with a verse of scripture slapped on it) that focuses on fun instead of the Gospel. Fun is, well, fun, but let’s not abandon the treasure of the Gospel just to entertain people.

My message to you: stop chasing the hype. You’re not going to grow disciples by trying to be cool. Look at what you’re doing and allowing to be taught by word and by deed. Spiritual growth is a slow, steady, ongoing and patient process, so take your time with others just as God worked in you to make you more like Jesus. Yes, you can have content to help you in the process of growing disciples while still being relevant to the culture of your community. Yes, you can do some awesome and creative things outside of the box to reach people where they are. But don’t forget the fundamentals, okay? Remember, when the leadership is focused on the word, discipleship, love, and missions, God will use His Spirit to produce a great deal of fruit.

Otherwise, you’re chasing after the wind.

Fran

Your Struggle Is Worth It

Are you having a tough time as of late? Join the club! Scripture is pretty clear that we have to struggle in life. And it doesn’t help when someone says something like, “Oh, God is trying to teach you something!” It’s almost like, “God, please teach me less then!” I get it, life can hurt and hurt a whole lot on this side of glory.

But let’s look at the benefits of the struggle. Like a butterfly flapping rapidly to pump blood into its new but shriveled wings once it exits the cocoon, growth can be tough, tiring, and even terrifying. Yet good things can come of it! Even more, when we are in God’s Word and applying God’s Word to our lives, allaof a sudden, our struggles make a bit more sense. It’s a process that God the Holy Spirit uses: We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Here’s another example, the growth of Moses through the time line of the Scripture: Moses was a bumbling, stumbling fool, given to impulsiveness and stupidity which affected him for years. He killed a man and was forced to leave Egypt. He saw a burning bush and went up to see it (and was this a good idea?). When God first gave him the command to save His people, Moses balked and made excuses. But as he matured in the Lord, he went from being a man of “slow lips” (and needing Aaron to speak) to becoming a man who would speak out to Israel with his own God-empowered lips. It was a slow, steady growth in his discipleship, so much that when Aaron performed his own acts of stupidity, Moses was able to rebuke him, too.

And he was humble, so much that he was called the most humble man that ever was. This Moses, this proud, impulsive, even possibly arrogant Moses, became a man that God could use, a man who loved God’s people and rescued them from their enslavement. He struggled, yet God took him through it and did incredible things that glorified God and prepared the way for the Promised Land.

How about you? Are you struggling? I know it’s hard to hear, but God really might be teaching you something. He wants you to be wise in Him, to glorify His Son, and to serve Him to make His name known to all the earth. Get in His Word, worship Him in a community of believers, and let God work His will in you. ☺️

We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Fran

The Gospel According to Jacob

This morning as I continued to read through scripture, I found a little gem in the midst of all of the goings-on between Joseph and his brothers. It is the blessings and curses that Jacob gave to his sons. This is more than a dying man’s words, these words are the words of life. Here’s what he said:

“The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him. He ties his donkey to a vine, and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:10‭-‬11 CSB).

These words are clearly a prediction of the Christ! Look at it again: the scepter will not depart from Jesus, there’s a prophecy of the donkey and the colt. Even more, we have the sacrifice of Christ as seen by the washing of his clothes in wine, language that suggests the coming atonement. What a blessing to see that this prediction would be fulfilled almost 2000 years later and still applies to us today!

What’s the point? We can remember that God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. His promises of yesterday are true today, and they are true for your future.

This is the gospel according to Jacob, a gospel more fully revealed as we get closer to the cross. Most of all, however, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ that can change your life.

Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom in Your one big story of the Bible. ☺️

Pastor Fran

Family Reunions Are the Best

I got to see some of my family last night. Oh, we might not look the same. And, yes, we grew up in different households at different times, but we’re still related. It was great to see them.

My family has a deep and special bond. It’s a bond that only comes through the blood soaked nails of Christ. It’s a common unity in the suffering of the Savior. It’s a common participation in the sweet sacrifice of a God-Man, made 2,000 years ago. We love Him because He first loved us, and we love each other because of that relationship. We are family and His love compels us.

Family bonds should not be easily broken. We might move on, but that blood bond remains. We might forget or lose touch with some, but one day we’ll remember and be remembered again. We might be apart, but we are still united, some way, some how. We are family, after all, and He will give us a great reunion one day.

The love of Christ brings all ages, all ethnicities, all sinners together as one. Love, the love of Christ, lasts forever as we become a family in Him. And by the way, if you don’t know your family, you need to. It’s not that hard, you just have to be a little uncomfortable and put yourself out there. But I can tell you that it’s worth the risk. 🙂

Thank you, Lord, for a little family reunion, for the reminder, for the taste of heaven, for the glimpse of the Banquet of the Lamb. Thank you, Lord.

Pastor Fran

Not of the past, of the future

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.” –Eph 1:7-10, CSB

There is a very clear trend today for people to somehow, someway, try to make themselves feel special. They get overly and outrageously dramatic, they get excessively emotional, abandoning logic, reason, and most importantly, the counsel of the Word of God. They attempt to be “snowflakes” of their own making, the centers of their own universe, where self and egotism reign and manipulation ensues. It’s the “me” generation on steroids, instantly publicized by social media.

Tough words, right? Well, then hear this: You are special. You are unique. However, you are NOT to be individuals of your own making but you are called His workmanship made for His glory (Eph 2:10). You might blow it, mess it up, and willingly sin, yet God knew this, loved the mess that you are, and set your feet on the rock. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, not to be a player on the stage of life in some drama, but to be a part of the great story that God brings to humanity. And when you get selfish and self centered for a moment, remember that Christ forgives the past, redeems the present, and promises a future in Him.

It’s time to take action, stop following the culture of the day and turn to Christ instead. Let His Word in, let His wisdom ring true, and let Christ change you to live not for yourself and your own life, but for the Almighty Creator and His will. He has always been at work, will you join Him?

Fran

Five Ways to Follow Up on VBS

Over the years, I have seen incredible, vibrant Vacation Bible Schools, complete with colored-balls-1878378_640biblical teaching, gospel responses, and life altering experiences. I mean, it’s just awesome to see families, workers, and leaders with nothing but smiles as the week is finished and Sunday worship approaches. Now, if we can only find ways to connect the people from the past week with Sunday morning, right? Well, sure, we all want that!

There are many, many creative and enjoyable ways to reach those who have experienced one of the greatest efforts that you and your church family have made all year. Here are a few ideas, in no particular order:

  • Host a post-VBS Family Day. Several churches that I have visited have done this. In some cases, they have a Sunday morning worship featuring the children, followed by a church-wide picnic. Personally, I have seen whole families come to Christ through this sort of personal touch.
  • Visit with a thank you gift. To connect your Vacation Bible School with your Sunday School/Small Group, how about a thank you gift, delivered to their home? I know, it sounds old fashioned, but you wouldn’t believe the great reception people give when you show up and have a conversation at a doorstep! Some ideas: bring a small gift, a plate of cookies, a flyer advertising the classes for the child, and even a Sunday School Personal Study Guide for the parents.
  • Send a thank you card or letter. Children love getting mail, and a card to a child would make their day as well as show parents that you care. Consider sending a card or letter once in a while advertising the next big event and the regular activities.
  • Start an email newsletter. This doesn’t have to be hard. Remember this: MailChimp is your friend, MailChimp is your friend. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Build a good address list and email them great info in a newsletter monthly. It’s a great way to build familiarity with the parents. And don’t forget to include stories of changed lives in your newsletter!
  • Call to set up a follow up on decisions made. This is the single most important task that you need to do. It’s a command and a pleasure to have a discussion on the gospel. Be sure to make an appointment and clarify the key points of the gospel story with child and adult alike.

All of these ideas are for one purpose alone: to be a catalyst to conversations so people can know Christ personally. After all, isn’t this what we want to do with this giant outreach? Please share if you have used other ideas that have worked.

Fran

5 Reasons why Jesus is Better Than the World 

Just a few words on why Jesus is always going to be better than what the world offers:

  1. He created the world and all in it (Gen 1:1, John 1:1-4, Col 1:16-17) 
  2. He loves the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9)
  3. He died for the sins of the world (Rom 5:8, 1 John 2:2)
  4. He will return again (Isaiah 62:11, Matt 24:30, Rev 22:12 & 20) 
  5. His glory will be forever (1 Cor 15:57, 1 John 5:12-13, Rev 21:7)

    There’s no comparison to the empty, 
    temporary things of the world. Remember that as you go about your day. 

    Be blessed, 

    Fran Trascritti 

    5 Principles to Follow Before You Overhaul Your Children’s Ministry 

    Throughout my years of ministry on a church staff and as a senior pastor, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing young children come to faith in Christ and grow up as amazing, godly, adults. 

    Years ago, I took on a task of developing a children’s ministry in a suburban church. There was great potential, but the children’s ministry at the time was not meeting the needs of the families. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can now see its fruit. What were once children in our church are now moms and missionaries, husbands and ministers, teachers who are passionate for their world and the people in it. The gospel, alive in this ministry then, in still alive in their hearts now. It’s just so encouraging to recall!

    Above all, what I learned from this experience and more has been very, very valuable. Some of the principles below might not be needed, but in case your children’s ministry needs an overhaul, here are some of a few principles for you:

    1. The Gospel comes first. There is no compromise on the need for the gospel in any ministry, but in both children’s and youth ministries, there is often a temptation to focus on the fun. Fun is, well, fun, but don’t miss why you’re there in the first place: to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
    2. The parents are the teachers. Deut 6 and Eph 6:4 are both very clear passages as to the role of the parents. Church leaders need to remember that their role is to help the parents fulfill that role, not take over for them. In other words, when planning on teaching children, don’t forget that parents need instruction as well. 
    3. Train your leaders. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a task to do and feeling completely inadequate for it. Leaders need training, and a leader who refuses to be trained is probably not a leader you should have on your team. Blunt words, but true. Plan on supplying plenty of training and encouragement for your leaders in all areas of the ministry. 
    4. Bring joy wherever you go. Ministry is challenging but it needs to be fun. Do a heart check and make sure that you are truly enjoying the ministry. A joyful heart will be contagious to others, so be willing to have fun with the families and celebrate life and the Lord with them!  
    5. Find good partners in ministry. There are tons of resources, curricula, and experts that would love to help you with your ministry. I am excited to be a church partner for LifeWay because I get to go into churches and help them reach more people than ever before. No leader should ever feel alone, because God has plenty of workers for His harvest. Get help, and be happy that God gave you these resources! 

    There you have it. Many of the principles can be applied across to other ministries, but all of them should be considered before getting into the structure of a ministry. Hope these principles helped you as they have helped me. 

    In Christ, 

    Pastor Fran 

    6 Thoughts on the Power of the Resurrection

    1. Christianity without the resurrection is dead. Literally. Paul wrote plainly, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Death without a raising of the dead would have made Christ a liar and a fraud, however, life after the cross makes Him Lord.
    2. The resurrection resolves the death of the Messiah. This is why we place so much effort on Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday must have Resurrection Sunday, for Christ’s victory over death is shown to the world. Just as the second to the last note on a song needs to be resolved by the final note, so did the cross.
    3. The resurrection fulfills prophecy. Our Jesus was predicted to bear our stripes and atone for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22-24, and others point us to the cross and the resurrection. No one could intricately plan these events apart from God.
    4. The resurrection is our power. We have a great High Priest in heaven preparing for us (see John 14:1-6). He was raised by the power of God, will be returning in power, and will raise His people as He promised by this same power. Imagine this: if you are in Christ, God’s power is graciously going to raise you to be with Him!
    5. The resurrection is our hope. Our hope is entirely dependent on the resurrection. A few days ago, I got to speak with a dear saint in her 90’s just before she passed. Her words: “I’m at peace and waiting for my golden chariot to come get me.” She is now with Christ. Without the resurrection, none of us can have this hope as we have no example of the raising of the dead.
    6. The resurrection is our life. While pagans serve dead gods made of stone, wood, or their imagination, our God is a living God. Over 500 witnesses saw Christ after He arose, and these eyewitnesses were willing to tell of what they saw, even if this meant death. Because for them and hopefully for you, death means life.

    Think over these things as you enter worship this morning. His resurrection is powerful as He is risen, indeed!

    Pastor Fran