Category Archives: ministry

I was once stuck on a rollerCoaster.

I was once stuck on a rollercoaster. Backwards. In an almost vertical position. And what I thought was fun was not. Nope, not at all.

The people around me on the coaster car started to groan, first in a reaction to the delay, but then quickly groaned impatient ones as the minutes ticked by. We waited, hopeful that the unexpected expected drop would begin, but instead there we were, stuck, with blood beginning to rush to each of our heads. More impatient groaning. Now some cursing ensued (no, not me, from others). We can hear the clicking of the coaster resetting itself, but still nothing. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Backwards, at a steep angle, hoping that a change in our circumstances won’t take too long.

Suddenly, after what seemed like hours (it was only a few minutes), the coaster let off a loud click and it finally started up again. The potential energy of our hanging backwards in the almost vertical position was finally released (as designed). We dropped quickly down the track, still backwards, going down each slope and around each curve, not knowing what each next turn will bring. The groans became screams of joy, a happy terror, and after a thrilling rest of the ride, the journey on the coaster was soon over.

It was fun and at times, not fun, but either way, it was an experience!

Life sometimes has delays, slopes, curves, and unexpected surprises. There’s groans, screams, laughter, tears, thrills, and plenty of memories. We might be able to predict to a certain extent of what’s next but we definitely can’t predict the far-off future with a level of certainty. Only God knows the future, controls the future, and plans the future.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven.” We have a finite amount of time and a whole life of experiences, and we don’t ever know what the future will bring. I mean, who would have been believed if they were to say a year ago that a worldwide pandemic would shut down nations, drive people indoors, and cause so much destruction? No one. And no, not even Bill Gates.

Our future is in God’s hands. David wrote that all of our days were written in God’s book, “planned before a single one of them began” (Ps 139:16). We don’t know the roller coaster that we are on, but we know the God who knows every twist and turn. And ultimately, when we devote our lives, our time, our gifts, and our passions to Him, we can be guaranteed that we will not be lost, but will be right where He wants us.

Fran

The Day Our Church Van went on a Beer Run…

It was the summer of 2006, and a group of members from my church and I were outside of New Orleans to help with the rebuild of the area, recently devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Our assignment was simple: replace a badly damaged roof of a home that week. The owner of the home was in the military, called out constantly to serve our country while his family’s needs remained. We were proud and honored to serve our Jesus as we served this family.

Over the course of the week, a neighbor kept checking in on us. Usually drunk in the middle of the day, he would shout out comments to us, asking us about how much longer we would be there, and even attempting to climb up to be with us (we stopped him from his climb up the ladder).

On the third day, however, he asked us for a favor. It was mid morning, and he needed a ride to go to the store and asked for one of us to take him there in our church van. I gladly offered to take him and we began to talk about him, his life, and the reason for us being in the community in the first place. We arrived at the store and he went in to make his purchases while I stayed in the church van.

When he came out, I was shocked to see him holding in his hand a 24-pack of beer. Essentially, I had just taken him in our church van on a beer run!

He got in and I reluctantly began to drive, but only after I protested a bit. However, picking up where we left off from our earlier conversation, I shared the story of Jesus with him, about the seriousness of sin, what Jesus did to conquer sin and death, and how he can be changed through his step of faith. We returned back to and parked in front of the house, and he began to share the pain in his life and how he had struggled with this pain during the time after Katrina. I listened, offered to pray for him, and, again sharing the gospel, I encouraged him to place his trust in Jesus.

That moment, in the church van, he prayed to receive Christ, finishing with a sentence that I will never forget: “I don’t need this beer; take it, I don’t need it anymore!” My heart skipped a beat as I realize what had just happened: this man’s life was changed forever that day!

What can we learn from this? That in the midst of crisis, there is a world hungry for the sweet, soothing words of Jesus Christ. People are scared and confused. They want to make sense of the world in order to find purpose and meaning beyond what they see. Sure, some turn to alcohol, drugs, or even pornography, but none of those things bring satisfaction and only make things worse. Instead, they need what we have: the truth of God’s Word and the love of a God who brings life through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In this time of a world-wide pandemic, people are looking for answers. Be open to talk, be available, and be ready to help them see the heart of the issue. Most of all, speak the truth in love. People are in pain, and they are looking to fill a void in their lives, so show them that the only true satisfaction is found in Jesus Christ.

You never know how God will be using you next. Things are not always as they seem. May your interactions go beyond the surface and to the heart. May your conversations be Jesus-centered conversations!

Fran

3 questions to ask for your next Ministry

No matter what you do, any profession is something that God can use for His Kingdom. We are all ministers. All of us are called to something for some greater purpose in Christ (see Ephesians 2:10).

For me, to borrow a term that one of my former colleagues just used, right now, I am a free agent. Because of the revenue impact of the COVID-19 closings, my organization had to eliminate a significant number of positions, including my entire ministry team. No one did anything wrong, nor did I leave on bad terms. But the truth remains that like some of you, I am prayerfully seeking God’s next assignment.

During a time like this, it’s perfectly normal to do some soul-searching, trying to get guidance on what to do next. For me, I have chosen to look at my own life, aspects of my personality, and remembering the times that I had the most joy while I served Jesus. My process has been to ask myself three basic questions. And while none of these questions are earth-shattering or overly creative, they are still helpful:

1. What is my passion?
2. What are my gifts?
3. What is my calling?

First, what is my passion? I believe that a person’s passion is God-given. These are the things that cut the heart, that stir up excitement, that keep you up at night (in a good way). When I served in my last ministry, I would wake up at 5 am or sooner WITH NO ALARM CLOCK just to get into the office and get started. That’s an example of the type of passion for doing what you are supposed to do!

What are my gifts? When a person comes to Christ, God the Holy Spirit provides gifts to a believer to build up and multiple the church. I have gifts, you have gifts, but none of us have the same gift. It’s different for each person. The key is finding out which gifts you have and use them in the work of ministry.

What is my calling? We all have a calling from God. Christ has given us the general call, to make disciples of people (Mt 28:19), but how we exercise this can be different. And God will take that calling, use your gifts and passion, and guide you to the ministry that He has placed before you. This ministry can be across the street or across the world, but it is a ministry nonetheless.

Here’s a general example of what this looks like (I just used some terms at random as possible examples):

My encouragement: ask and answer these three questions prayerfully, carefully, and spend time with a trusted, godly counsel talking about them. When you do, I am confident that you will have a better direction for your sweet spot, allowing you a new freedom to serve with joy for Jesus.

For me, this process has helped me to better hone in on my next steps. It’s good for me, but also good for the next ministry that God leads me to be a part of. And this is the key: to follow God’s leading to a place in order to serve Him joyfully, effectively, and faithfully, all so He can be magnified through me.

Fran

Taking joy to a new level…

Over the past week, I started to read through and meditate on the Book of Philippians. My time in the book was so encouraging, and I am thankful that God led me in this direction for my devotion time as I was reminded of the joy that I have within me. There’s so much that Paul wrote that applies to us today!

Now for some news: just a few days ago, I found out that the team that I have led had been eliminated due to the negative impact of COVID19 at the ministry where I serve. Sadly, many of my coworkers also felt the effect as the cuts were widespread, painful, but needed. In a few weeks, I and many of my friends and coworkers will be looking for God’s next assignment to serve Jesus.

So I have, on the one hand, this incredible, fantastic dive into God’s Word and the reminder to be joyful no matter what the circumstances, and on the other hand, a radically changed circumstance which demands that I apply what I read. Wow, thanks, God!

So with that said, here’s what I see that God is saying to me as I apply this magnificent letter from Paul. First, despite my circumstances, despite a changing world, I have a God who does not change. This is a God who has made me His own, who has begun a good work in me and who has promised to complete it until Jesus’ return. Who has called me to His gospel, something to be preached through me, no matter what situation and no matter what the outcome might be. And even more, this God gave me an example for me of His humble obedience, an obedience that for Him, took Him to the point of death.

This a God who is present in my thoughts as I meditate on what is pure and holy. A God who knows my heart and speaks to it, even when I deceive myself. Who takes care of me so that I can be content because, most of all, I have Him, and even so, He will still supply all my needs.

And through it all, above it all, my heart fills with a joy that comes from my Savior. This joy, which serves as a reminder that Jesus is preeminent in the universe, and that the least that I can do is to point to Him as I demonstrate my life that has been changed by Him.

This is what I learned and continue to learn. I know that I am right where God wants me to be, dependent on Him. I am excited about the now and the future, and I am happy to do His will, whenever and wherever He will take Teresa and me.

Until next time,

Fran

7 Reasons Why You Need a Pathway for Discipleship

Although some churches do a wonderful job of discipling, I continue to be amazed at the number of churches that have no pathway for growth for their members to follow. Yet, we all know that spiritual growth is essential! And while we know that growth is a work of the Spirit, it is also healthy to have a plan to follow as you let Him do His work in you. I’ll share another time on how you can set this up, but for now, here are 7 reasons why you need a pathway for discipleship, both individually and collectively as a church:

  1. You are tempted to sin. Sin has been here for a long time, and temptation is not going to stop.
  2. You need a far off view. A big picture view is an important part of objectively tracking areas where you are growing and where you need to grow in.
  3. You are tempted to be passive. There are more tools for spiritual development than ever before, but there is a great irony that biblical illiteracy is so high. It is very easy for you to sit back and not get intentional with your spiritual growth.
  4. Accountability is needed. The rugged individualism of the American culture tends to shy away from accountability, but there are many passages in Scripture that call us to submitting to each other in Christ.
  5. You can avoid an unbalanced diet. Having a strategy for study will help you develop a healthy, balanced diet for discipleship and avoid doctrinal “hobby horses.”
  6. You’ll study topics and books that you might not normally study. It’s natural that we tend to avoid the areas we are unfamiliar with, but a properly implemented pathway will stretch you a bit.
  7. You can be humbled and challenged. You might see growth in some areas and a lack of growth in other areas of your life. This is a great opportunity for you to be further challenged!

Hope this helps. Next time, I will write on the “how” of creating a discipleship pathway.

Fran

Relief is coming

This morning, I continued my reading through Nehemiah and one thing that stuck out to me was his complete dependence on prayer. When he dared to approach the king of Persia, he prayed. When people tried to discourage him, he sent up a short prayer. When he saw injustices by the nobles towards the people of Jerusalem, he prayed a simple prayer that he is righteous with God and not self righteous. And when he called the people out on their sinfulness, he prayed a long prayer of confession and repentance. Nehemiah was one of the most successful leaders of his time and his prayers to the Lord are consistently recorded. The prayers were often nothing fancy, but they were usually simple, direct, and meaningful to his situation on a daily basis.

Even more, we can see how much he depended on God’s leading through his time in prayer. Praying for him was like breathing. As he prayed, God led, and as God led, he followed in prayerful obedience. As others attacked verbally and politically, he stayed focused and firm on the calling God had burdened on his heart. His principled leadership was only going to move in a different direction IF God moved him. Nothing more, nothing less. Either way, he knew that as he followed God, relief was coming to him in some way, shape, or form.

photo-1448550603489-a7e43b0da4d2Today, we have church leaders all over who are facing attacks. Some attacks have come from persecution and through threats. Others have come from some of the supposed sheep of the flocks they shepherd. I too have experienced this sort of man-centered garbage, yet I know that any response less than biblical is amounting to repaying evil with evil. Pastor, leader, deacon, friend, don’t respond with evil, respond to evil with good. Relief is coming, and it’s coming through the workings of the Lord.

You have a calling that God has burdened on your heart. Stay focused, stay firm, and stay prayerful constantly. The greatest tool you have is not your own words of wisdom or cunning man-centered politics, but your dependence on the One who fights your battles for you. Relief is coming, relief to continue your calling as you fight the battle for the souls of men. Stay encouraged, my friend!

Fran

The Breakfast of Champions

I had a friend who loved to say years ago that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” He was and is right- but to get good feedback is to become very, very vulnerable. In fact, it takes a good deal of humility to receive honest critiques of the state of things all around you, even about you. It’s common and natural, in fact, to be defensive when hearing some things that might even be less than desirable. This is because pride, ego, and even fear keeps us from hearing the sometimes painful truth. We shut it down because we don’t want to be brought down. 

However, Dr. Eric Geiger put it well when he wrote,

“Feedback fuels your leadership development. It helps you adjust what needs to be adjusted, builds confidence, and confirms areas of strength. Without feedback, your growth as a leader is stunted” (https://ericgeiger.com/2017/04/take-responsibility-for-your-own-feedback/).

baseball

Basically put, you need feedback, and in fact, this only makes you better. Take one example from a sport that I love, baseball. A pitcher cannot possibly develop by only relying on his raw talent. He must be coached, analyzed, pushed, guided, and pushed even more. Those who respond to critiques from pitching coaches and more experienced players have a better chance of success. The best pitchers are the best listeners. Good feedback is how champions are built. 

Paul wrote in 1 Cor 9:24“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (CSB). Strive to be better, run the race with all you got, and keep your eyes on Jesus. If it’s all about Him, then feedback from someone you trust only makes you better for an eternal purpose.

Until He comes,

Fran

The Harvest

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2, NIV).

harvestJesus saw what we are now seeing- that the fields are ripe for harvest. Millions of people are coming to faith in Christ annually and the mission fields of places like central Africa are now fully reached with the gospel. In fact, estimates show that almost half of all Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2060. Needless to say, the gospel is exploding around the world!

What does this mean for you? First, you can see your life differently. What you are doing can be a part of the Kingdom work! Whether you are a shoemaker or a carpenter or a doctor or a manager of a sales team, it doesn’t matter. What matters is your willingness to claim it for the gospel.

Second, get involved through your local church. Your Kingdom work should be done through the Bride of Christ. Pray for your pastor and for more workers. Be active in your church, serve others, and look to do things not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of His gospel.

My friend, you can be a part of the harvest. You are a part of the work of Christ. Now, take ownership of that and use whatever you do, for the glory of God.

Fran

Five Simple Tools For Planning Disciple Making in Your Church

I spend a lot of time talking and interacting with pastors. One of the most common issues that I run into is that pastors often are so busy with so many things, they often overlook one of the most important and fundamental aspects of what they do: making disciples of all people. I get it. There’s a ton of things to do on the front burner, and planning a comprehensive discipleship process takes time, work, and energy. However, there’s no more important thing a Church leader could do than to establish a strategy disciple making. I’m always available to visit Church in the Midwest, but here’s some great tools from LifeWay that can be useful for you as you plan your discipleship strategy for the fall and beyond:

  1. maxresdefaultThe Balanced Discipleship Wheel: this is a free tool that can help make sure that you are covering a wide variety of discipleship studies during the course of a year. Just click on one part of the wheel and it will take you to some of the studies that might be of interest. Best of all, it’s free!  www.lifeway.com/balanceddiscipleship
  2. Gospel Foundations: this brand new study is a foundational one year chronological exploration of the Bible for all ages. It comes with short, five to eight minute videos and is perfect for small groups or any other setting. It has 42 sessions during the course of the year to allow for off days and fellowship days. Released June 2018.  www.lifeway.com/GospelFoundations
  3. Disciples Path The Journey: ever want to take a new believer through the basics of the Christian faith, help train them in the essential doctrines, and then help them to become a fruit bearing disciple of Christ? Of course you have! This resource is designed to take a believer or a small group of believers on a journey through what it means to follow Jesus in a significant way. They’ll learn about the essentials, go through some doctrines found in Scripture, and then study about what it means to be on Mission. It’s a very inexpensive resource that could be used in a variety of settings. Here’s the link: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product-family/disciples-path/the-journey
  4. MinistryGrid.com: newly redesigned, this video training tool is for anyone who serves in a church. There are excellent courses designed for teachers, deacons, team leaders, greeters and more! There are plenty of free videos, including the training video on each week Sunday school lesson. Best of all, it’s mobile-friendly! If you are not using Ministry Grid, you’re missing out on a really good tool for your church. www.ministrygrid.com
  5. Smallgroup.com: ever wanted to study a particular text of Scripture or a topic for your small group? Then smallgroup.com is perfect for you! You can type in a text or a topic and one or more customizable Bible studies will show. The studies will include some exposition as well as a full teaching plan. Some of the studies even have video. This is not a “push play” shallow type bible study, but is a full study by a trusted resource that can take small groups to a new level of customization. It’s also perfect for churches that want to do a church-wide campaign on a particular  topic or text. There’s a free trial with it and the cost is very inexpensive on a monthly basis. www.smallgroup.com

Hope this is helpful. Again, if you live in the Midwest and want me to help consult with you on developing A discipleship strategy for your church, just let me know. I’m here to serve the church in her mission of making disciples!

Fran

3 Principles Learned from Nehemiah Today

I love the book of Nehemiah, not just for the leadership applications, but also for the chance to see how transforming God is in almost impossible situations.

During one of my devotions, I came across Nehemiah chapters 9 and 10 and saw some really spectacular things. In it, the people of God had been convicted about the fact that they had not walked according to the Word of God. They repented, and in so doing they emphatically proclaimed a change of heart:

“Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God” (Neh 9:2-3).

kyle-johnson-417625-unsplash

Basically put, their repentance was passionate, persistent, and on point. So what did Nehemiah have them do next? He made them write it down. They solidified their heart with their head and hands here. Here are some of the things that they agreed to:

  • Not to marry outside of Israel.
  • Not to do business on the Sabbath, even with outsiders.
  • Support the Levites.
  • Support the Temple sacrifices.
  • Give to the work of the Lord.

This is some amazing steps! Of course, we know that the people miss the mark on keeping their obligations, and some eventually get to the point of avid legalism. However, this is without a doubt a turning point for Israel.

So what can we learn from this? I see three things that we don’t want to miss:

  1. In God, your past has passed. While there is often the temptation to dwell in the past and stay focused on the sins which entangled you, the truth is that God is a forgiving, compassionate God. When you truly come to repentance, He has promised to forgive and cleanse, and never to leave nor forsake you.
  2. In God, your present can be a time of worship. Every moment with God is a moment that you can spend in worship to Him. Your new life in Him needs to start and end with an intimacy because of who He is as the amazing, wonderful Savior. Don’t forget that He is with you, even now.
  3. In God, your future is written. He has always known your tendencies, your motives, and your heart. God is the God of second chances, and He is the God who has planned your future. Be in prayer to see how He has impressed your heart, follow His leading, and enjoy a life in Him.

Israel spent generation after generation in disobedience to God’s commands and call to holiness. Yet, when they came to Him, He forgave and healed. It doesn’t matter how long you have rebelled and how bad it was, He can forgive you too! Take some time to seek Him as you commit to live a new life in Christ!

Fran