Tag Archives: ministry

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

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

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).

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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

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

The God of the Possible

The fruit and potential of the land was amazing:

When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut there.” Numbers 13:23‭-‬24 CSB

Now think about it: The vine of grapes was so big, two men had to carry it! The land was beautiful, rich, and flowing. The Lord had promised it, and He came through big! All they had to do was follow God and do His will. No enemy, no inhabitant would stop God’s will for His people. They simply had to take a step. A step of faith.

https://unsplash.com/@rohittandon

But they didn’t. They forgot the God of the possible, and instead created a god of the impossible. They ignored His miraculous work of the past and looked at the obstacles before them. But seeking to save themselves, they lost it all. They made a horrible, deadly choice and in a business meeting, individual by individual voted a resounding, faithless “no.”

Their “no” would change some of them forever. All if that generation would never see the promises of God fulfilled. Death would follow them when they could have had life and loss abounded when they could have seen gain. Most of all, the chance for God to be glorified by all Israel would be delayed for 40 years.

Have you been voting “no” to God’s work in your life? Has God challenged you to step out in faith? A year ago, I did something that made no sense to people (still doesn’t) and God has amazed me as I have seen Him working in many places I visit. He gets the glory!

And so, let me encourage you to do the same, to walk by faith, to fear nothing, to step out…and let God get the glory!

Fran

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