Ministry 101

This week was a wonderful, incredible, week.  We had 110-120 children each day enjoying crafts, music, food, games, and most of all, the life changing message of the gospel.  We rubbed elbows with parents and grandparents from the community, hugged crying kids who had mini “crises,” and loved on each and every child who walked through the door.

We all experienced what God desires for His church: that every tribe and tongue will praise Him (Rev 7:9-10), that people may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Mt 5:16), and that we were one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph 4:4-5).  We saw children come to Christ, workers overwhelmed with joy, and very difficult goodbyes at the end of the week.

It was, in so many ways, a course in Ministry 101.  We got back to the basics and thrived in it.  We discarded the VBS in a box, pushing aside the polished slogans or graphics to play off of- we ran straight for the gospel of Christ.  We kept it simple and flexible.  For example, when a child had difficulties adjusting to one class, we moved him or her somewhere else.  Or when a youth worker (junior helper) needed a place to serve, we gave them a mentor to shadow.  It was always focused, even laser focused on making disciples, and we stayed on task as we began to serve and share Christ!

I will never forget this week and our unity in doing God’s good work.  I pray that this week will change FBC Mt Healthy forever as we learned so much about ourselves, our community and our future.  I can see that we are fast becoming a church of many faces, to become a shining example as a mosaic of many ethnicities, different that the world around us.  For this, I am very grateful and humbled that I am able to witness firsthand God’s work in us.  It is very exciting!

Pray for the work to continue.  Pray that we continue to glorify God by bringing more to our Sunday ministries, making many new disciples for Christ!



A Firm Foundation

This week, I lost my dad, but the Lord gained a faithful servant in Heaven.  My dad was a man who would light up a room whenever he entered it.  He was a successful businessman throughout his life and worked hard in every way.  However, none of that mattered for him once he met Jesus almost 27 years ago.  Once he came to know Christ, he was never the same again.

As I work on my sermon for this Sunday, some things I wrote earlier in the week (and prior to dad’s passing) have become more clear today.  We are studying some important principles that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth almost 2000 years ago. The words of Paul ring very clear for me as I fondly remember my father’s life: all we do, all we accomplish must be built on a foundation of Christ. We must hold to certain values, and we must not veer to the right or to the left, because when we stand firm on that strong foundation, the gates of Hell cannot even stand against it.  

Today I write knowing that Hell has been conquered for one more soul. Death is overcome by Jesus, and my dad is experiencing a joy of God’s grace we can’t even describe. May we listen, follow, and hold on to God’s love and truth, and may we fight the good fight for Jesus!  Soli deo Gloria

The mind of Christ

1 Cor 2:16, “For, ‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?  When one studies, he must focus on being transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.  When one meditates, he should look to be filled by the truths applied rather than just emptying himself.  When one prays, he needs to pray with the realization that he is at the feet of God, ready for the power of the Almighty to change whatever events seem impossible.  This is the mind of Christ. The mind that is aligned with God makes it about Him in all things. The mind that focuses on the King focuses on His Kingdom.  The mind that eagerly awaits His work awaits His will to be done in His timing, His way, all for His glory. 

When we as sinful, impatient humans feel that God didn’t do things the way we expected, we miss the point.  A person with the mind of Christ shouldn’t concern himself with such petty things- these are the concerns of God.  Ultimately, God will receive the glory, and we will be in awe when He works.

What are you concerned about today?  Are you upset about your current place in life?  Put on the mind of Christ, because God always knows better.  Trust Him, walk with Him, and allow God to change your perspective!

Staying positive in the midst of discord…

Titus 3:10-11, “If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”

At first glance, it may seem that having to deal with sowers of discord would be a negative thing, but the truth is that it should produce positive results. Those who wreck the peace in a body are people who have “turned away from the truth,” and thus have been condemned by their sins. 

It is very tempting to ignore, run from, or roll over, but while this may seem loving, it is actually very cruel and very unhealthy. When the truth is ignored and “peace at all costs” becomes the practice, unholy long term conduct continues. This cancer will spread and affect the godly. 

We will be coming to this topic when I preach 1 Cor 5 in a few weeks while going through the sermon series on 1 Corinthians.  For now, however, you may ask, “how do you deal with a factious person?” Very simple rule: keep the spiritual battle in the Spirit. Speak the truth in love. Don’t insult the person directly, but focus on the spirit and the conduct that resulted. Call them to repent, and call them to change (as Paul instructed in this passage and others). Give them suggestions to get help, whether it is through the church, through counseling, or through a mentor. Most of all, be ready to receive the repentant, hoping for a change in heart and in action. 

The idea is to restore the sinner, the goal is truth and love expressed, and the hope is the glory of God. It IS a positive thing, though it IS very difficult. May we live holy and call one another to be holy!

What’s Really Important

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain- Phil 1:21

Sometimes, life is really tough.  In fact, life is almost always very tough.  Lately, it’s been a bit more difficult than most days, yet these are the best times to grow closer to God.  On a personal basis, I have been dealing with a multitude of issues on many levels for me, for my loved ones, and within the local church.  Yet, as I think a bit about these struggles, I can’t help but turn to see what is really important in life.

Don’t get me wrong- we really are blessed.  I mean, we don’t know persecution in this country.  In my home, we don’t have to struggle to find food, drink, or shelter.  We don’t have any major life or death issues, and if we did, we know whose we are, right?  So why is it that at times I have to fight for joy, to push through discouragement, to shut out the cutting comments of a miserable curmudgeon so that I can stay encouraged?  Why do I feel physically and emotionally exhausted after a full day of ministry, feeling like I have been swimming upstream against a current of the sewage of sin?  I do it because my Jesus doesn’t deserve anything but the best.

You see, it’s not really about what is important in life, but who.  Christ followers running the race for Jesus will receive bumps and bruises on the journey- some may even have serious injuries.  In a world of 7 billion people with many headed for the depths of Hell, I must count myself forever grateful for the grace God has given to me…and my response must be “to live is Christ.”

So as I continue to do, you must do too.  Fight for joy when the chips seem down.  Agree to remove the feelings of self preservation and ego, and humbly accept God’s calling on your life.  Press forward in trust to the God who cares for you.  Cast burdens at the foot of the cross as He strengthens you. Live for Christ, live for His glory, and lift up His Kingdom.  As you do this, and as I do this, God gets all the glory, a glory that will endure forever.


An Adventure at Opening Day

Let me begin by saying that before I moved here, I never thought that Opening Day was that big of a deal, but of course, this is Cincy.  So after living here for over three years, and adopting and falling in love with the Reds and everything Cincinnati, I decided to attend this year’s festivities.  Taking a vacation day off (yes, I had to say that), my son Jamie and I drove to downtown and took on our first ever Opening Day Parade here in Cincinnati.

I will sum it up like this: it will go down as something we will talk about for years to come!  We got to downtown early, parked in one of the garages close to the ballpark, and hiked it up to Findlay Market.  After checking out all the floats, cars, and even horses, we began to head downtown to look for a spot in which to see the parade.  It was at that point that we came up with an even better idea: we decided to be in the parade.  After all, we reasoned, what better way to see the parade than to be in the parade!

Looking around for some unknowing legitimate parade participants that we hoped to leech on to, my nervous son and I found a group that was dressed similar to us and began to blend in with their group.  We smiled and talked to each other and just kind of waited around in our place in line (toward the front of the parade).  After about twenty minutes of waiting, the parade began and we were on our way.

I wish I could tell you that we didn’t stick out from the group, but nothing was further from the truth.  You see, I decided that if I was going to be in the parade, I would really be in the parade!  I hooped and hollered, I clapped my hands, I danced, I led cheers from the parade watchers, and I slapped high fives with adults and kids alike.  We walked the entire parade route and we started to head for the game, but was stopped by one of the participants from the group that we had walked with.  She asked who we were and when we hesitated, responded with a wry smile, “you totally crashed our parade, didn’t you?”  As we all laughed, she invited us back for the next year, so we look forward to our next Opening Day! GO REDS!

40 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Our church family is in the midst of taking time over a period of 40 days to fast and pray for the Kingdom to be advanced. Many of our family of faith have fasted a meal a day, a full day of meals per week, or some other item to remind themselves to pray and seek God’s face during this time.  I believe that God is pleased when His people are faithful and fervent in their prayers.  I also believe that God renews us as we seek to glorify Him.

As a result of this time of spiritual renewal, I am excited about this Easter as well as some wonderful plans for this summer and beyond!  This Easter weekend will have three straight nights of our Passion Play.  We have a Saturday Community Easter Egg Hunt.  We are actively seeking both a part time pastor of youth and a pastor of children.  We are beginning a summer feeding program for all children under age 18 to provide free food and fun filled and Christ centered activities.  We are planning seven small scale neighborhood block parties to plant gospel seeds each Sunday night this summer.  There is a youth camp, a mission trip, and a back to school celebration in the works.  This is not all that we have planned, but as you can see, we have many great things happening to advance the gospel and help people to Come, Grow, Serve, and Share!

I invite you to join us.  Be in prayer for the Kingdom work.  Be in prayer that we all stay encouraged in Christ as we get physically tired from the many hours of planning and serving.  May we all seek to serve Christ and His Kingdom!

What we learned from the Tucson Tragedy

It’s been a short period of time, and many blogs, posts, and news articles have been already written about the implications of the Tucson event.  Some have blamed the political right, others the left, and yet others have blamed the system in overlooking a mentally ill human being when all the signs pointed to the obvious.  Analysis of the reasons for the shooting are still to come and will continue to be discussed for months, even years to come, but this is not my concern at this time.

Yet to me, the shooting was a wake up call, an appeal to the senses, that political rhetoric by reasonable people can be taken to the extremes by the unreasonable.  Can we, for example, disagree on an issue without demonizing the opposition?  Can we discuss an issue without insults spewing or anger bubbling, subtle or not?  Reasonable people can disagree without sarcasm, mockery, or condescension.  Reasonable people can see two sides of the same coin without downgrading a discussion to name calling, intelligence attacking, or (dare I write it?) racial tension.

The unreasonable, even the mentally ill take this sort of rhetoric and take it that much further.  A doubting of the opposition’s heart and intent has existed, and those that like to cling to these sort of things keep the endless cycle of hatred going.  I think that we are all tired of Democrats or Republicans being called “evil” or even “unpatriotic.”  We are also tired of pandering for the camera and “sound bite moments.”  Name names all you want, but this sort of rhetoric is found on both sides of the aisle.

That said, what can we learn from the tragedy?  We can disagree by discussing the issues at stake.  We can oppose proposals not by demonizing, but by respectfully offering a reasonable and principled alternative.  No one benefits when the opposition is made out to be less than human or sarcasm takes over.  Well meaning people can and must let the arguments speak for themselves.

For example, I will continue to support the rights for the unborn.  There is no argument in my mind and heart that could ever justify murder.  Yet it is not constructive to use name calling or sarcasm to advance my cause. I would rather appeal to the courts and laws to change this practice.  I will turn to Scripture, reason, and basic principles, and continue to pray for the end of abortion and the promotion of adoption.  I will preach from the pulpit without apology that this is the correct position to take.  I know- maybe it’s not exciting, even a bit boring to some, but this course of dialogue is the only course to take.

We have a country that is losing the war on drugs, experiencing the disintegration of families, and falling deeper and deeper into debt.  We have major policy issues at stake in the areas of the economy, deficit spending, and the military.  Our cities are facing bankruptcy, factories sitting empty, and the plight of the elderly and the poor being ignored.  These are not easy problems, yet I believe that we can come closer to overcoming these obstacles by coming together as a nation of one.  May we learn from unreason and promote reason in public discourse.

Nehemiah 6:1–19 (ESV) –

Nehemiah 6:1–19 (ESV) –

When God’s working, Satan’s attacking…

How many times have we seen God doing something absolutely, incredibly amazing, only to see distractions from people who are working in the flesh? This is what happened in Nehemiah’s case. God impressed on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, thus protecting His Temple, and through faithfulness, diligence, and the work of God and His people, the walls were completed in a mere fifty-two days.

As the work was occurring, the powers that were there already were angry and began to attack. They spread lies, innuendos, and suspicions about Nehemiah and his character. They mocked him and his work, laughed and tried to get people on their side. They played legalistic tricks to try to stop the progress being made. They threatened him and the safety of his workers. Finally, they got religious- trying to use a religiosity to stop God’s work from occurring.

What was Nehemiah’s response? Anger? Drama? None of these. It was a resolute heart, a confidence in God’s leading, and a reliance on the strength of God to overcome fleshly foes. Nehemiah didn’t rely on his ability to persuade other, no, not at all! He relied on God as he prayed, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (Neh 6:9). And as he resisted the threats of the fleshly ones around him, he did not run and hide- he stood his ground and proclaimed God’s goodness!

Whenever God is at work to advance His Kingdom, all of Hell is in anguish. Jesus said that the gates of Hades will not prevail against us, the church, God’s people. When God’s people are advancing the Kingdom with the life changing truth of the gospel, you are entrenched in spiritual warfare, whether you know it or not. Remember: when you see God working, run to Him in the Word and in prayer even more. Rest in God, draw near to God, and let God be your strength and shield, and as you do this, God will get the glory.


How to be ineffective in ministry

I am learning quite a bit about how to be ineffective in ministry.  

Okay, now that I have your attention, let me explain. Effectiveness in ministry is not necessarily what most people would think.  Effectiveness is not measured in how many buildings one can build, or the latest growth in worship attendance numbers, or even how well known your ministry is to people in your denomination.  None of that really matters in the big picture.

What does matter?  Changed lives.  New commitments to Christ.  Fruit.  All of these things matter to the Kingdom, though it is not always seen in the bottom line of a church spreadsheet.

Here’s some principles in how not to be effective in ministry:

  • Stay out of the Word.  Don’t read it unless you are preparing for a sermon or teaching time, and by all means, act like a professional rather than a everyday person.
  • Make your worship a farce by allowing the practice of praising God on one hand and acting ungodly toward a fellow believer on the other (this can be done by either the preacher or the member).
  • Evaluate and design your ministry in a way that makes you look good for the next search team to come around.  Go ahead and estimate high- after all, the people you shepherd are just stepping stones to a megachurch that is just waiting for you.
  • Be political.  Be very political.  Get your name out there so that others may know who you are.  The time spent getting to rub elbows with the “in crowd” evangelicals may pay off dividends.
  • Stop visiting. Just cut it out completely.  Pastors don’t do that anyway, and the ones that do are just “small church,” which is beneath you.
  • Center all ministry on you.  You are more important than training others to replace you.  If you stay vital to the organization, you can never get fired, right?
Okay, most of this is just plain awful.  However, I have either seen this happen or have done it myself.  

So how can you be effective in ministry?  Here are some biblical principles:
  • Be in the Word.  Read it.  Be immersed in it.  Be close to the Lord in your quiet time and pray for His strength and guidance in all things.  Pray for your church daily.
  • Be honest about your faults and sinfulness.  Allow God to cleanse you.  
  • When faced with sin in the church, seek to restore them if possible.  Stand firm on the Word while allowing for some time for them to change from the inside out.  If they don’t change, follow Mt 18:15-17, but do it as a final step, not a first step.
  • Focus your ministry on transformation.  Seek to reach people as they come to Christ, and then help them to grow, serve, and share Christ.  Numbers take care of themselves, and God just wants you to be faithful in what He gives you to do.
  • Stop the politics, ego stroking, and ambition.  This belongs to the world, not to the Kingdom of God.
  • Be heavily involved in visiting your people, loving them at every opportunity.  However, be sure that it does not override your study time.
  • Give away your ministry.  Start a ministry, train your leaders, and hand it off.  In fact, try to train yourself out of a job!
That’s all for now.  Hope that this was practical advice from one pastor to another.  I have learned how to make a mess of things, but I also know how God can use faithfulness for His glory.
Any other ways how a pastor can be effective?

Helping God's church make disciples

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