Tag Archives: ministry

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

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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.

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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

So this happened…

My practice lately is that when I am out of town for LifeWay, I take extra time to visit churches on Wednesday nights to study the Word and enjoy the fellowship with believers. This week gave me another opportunity, and after looking up a church nearby on their website (yes, this is why you need a website for your church), I went to that church last night.

I was a bit confused when I got out of the car and headed into the building. The front door was, well, in front, yet I saw everyone else going through the back door. I soon followed the crowd and went into the back door and was greeted by an older man with a big smile on his face.

“Welcome!” he said with a big grin. “Come on in to our recovery ministry!”

I quickly realized that I was heading into a celebrate recovery meeting. I stammered, “b-but I’m not doing that. I’m looking for the Bible study.”

“Well, this is what we got!” He enthusiastically said. “Come in and maybe you’d enjoy it! There’s worship and a testimony too!”

“Okay, I will!” I replied, and went into the sanctuary.

The sanctuary was old and worn out, showing its history as a once thriving church but now reflective of its declined neighborhood. The people inside, however, seemed to be excited to start as the countdown wound down on the screen prior to worship. Looking around, I saw a diversity among us of many socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities. The countdown went to zero, and at that point, I didn’t know what to expect.

What I soon experienced was nothing less than heartfelt praise to The God who healed them of their addictions. Men and women alike were singing about Jesus their healer, as they proclaimed to God and to the world their deliverance from the sin that so enslaved them. I heard the words sung with old, raspy voices, with thick Latin accents, and best of all, with whispers from the heart. All in all, it was a powerful testimony of the Messiah, an amazing display of joy!

The pastor told me later that there were “only” about 100 people that would come to worship on a Sunday in that church. However, what I saw went beyond Sunday and into the rest of the week. I saw a church that expanded the kingdom, to seek and save those which was lost, and to love their neighbors as themselves. This church, long in heart but short of resources, were the hands and feet of Christ. This is a healthy Body, healthier than many churches much larger and with more resources.

This is because they have the Spirit of Christ and rely on Him as they fulfill their calling. May we see their example and may we all do the same!

Grateful for the gospel,

Pastor Fran

If you are critical of your pastor…

Before I begin, let me warn you that this is going to be a very blunt post. Let me also say that I have had a HUGE amount of support over the years and I am not reacting to how I may or may not have been treated.

That said, I now have something to confess: I am burdened over the habitual practice of beating up on a pastor by some church members with a critical spirit. While I don’t want to get into whether or not such people are actual believers, I have seen too many pastors hurt way too much by too many dragons who call themselves Christians. Brothers and sisters, this must not be so.

Let me be even more blunt: when a pastor is simply trying to fulfill his call to share Christ, it is shameful that such “comfort seekers” will dare pounce on him or gossip about his character. Sadly, I’ve seen pastors fired, forced out, or stressed out, all because a small minority of church bullies thought they knew better. They saw new changes as a threat to “their church” and they wanted control back. Such horrific conduct is a tool of Satan and it hinders our mission of the gospel. There. I said it.

Please know my burden is out of concern for some good, faithful men of God. There is nothing more discouraging for a pastor to fight a battle both inside and outside the church. Scripture is very clear that grumbling and “mob rule” leads to nothing but wickedness within the Body. In fact, it often resulted in death, destruction, and discipline from the Lord. Hebrews 13:17 is very clear on this: do the opposite and submit to your leaders.

Are you burdened about this too? Good! Here’s what you can do about it:

  1. Repent. If you have been critical in any way or worshiped with a critical spirit, stop it. God is not honored by your thoughts or conduct. Repent of your conduct and remove this ugliness from your life and heart.
  2. Return. Return to the gospel and become a person of grace. Be gracious to your pastor, believe the best about him, and be a positive example of the grace God has given you. Paul gives us plenty of these sort of imperatives in Eph 4:25-32.
  3. Resolve. Resolve to support your pastor. Love him and be an encouragement to him in public and in private. I have been blessed to have had encouragers throughout my pastoral ministries, and this meant a whole lot during the tough times. Even more, serve next to him and resolve to place the gospel first in all things.
  4. Pray. There’s no greater love you can ever show your pastor than to ask how you can pray for him, then do it. I had a young sister in Christ who would constantly ask how she can pray for me, and I can tell you that this always left me speechless when she asked. Love him by praying for him, and let him know that you are doing so.
  5. Respond. Respond to his leadership by following him wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord fully and unselfishly. After all, if your pastor is a faithful man of the Word, then let him lead and get into the trenches with him. Biblically, there’s no other course of action.

Since I am now in a ministry position that is an extension of the local church, these principles are especially true for me as a church member. In fact, I can’t wait for when the Spirit leads Teresa and me to find and join a local church. That’s because I want to be the type of member in my church that I always wanted to have. Praying for you as you love on your pastor!

In Him,

Fran

Heroes…

Luke 10:29, “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘and who is my neighbor?’”

Witness the power of Hurricane Harvey and its after effects. CNN stated that as much as 11 trillion gallons of water has fallen so far with more to come. These events seemed so far fetched for our 4th largest city, it seems as if this is more suited for a Hollywood movie screen than the TV screen, but there it is.

What is amazing, or maybe not so amazing is the response of a few local heroes. Risking their own safety, many have gone out to their neighbors to lend a hand and get people out of the danger of the rising floods in their homes. These are great stories!

But what about us? Are we to sit and watch? Absolutely not! Jesus told us as much when He was asked who His neighbor was and responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Anyone we encounter in need is our neighbor and we show our love for God and people by taking action!

Not convinced? Place yourself in the shoes of a Houstonian right now. You’d want help from anyone, anytime, anyway, right? Of course you would! Good neighbors are needed, right now!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to step up. We may not be able to bring boats down there, but there are plenty of other ways to help. Here’s one site offering good, sound choices for you: https://www.namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief

Most of all, let’s pray for our neighbors!

Fran

Must Reads for Monday!

Here’s some great articles to browse through as you start your week. The theme I picked for this week is harmony and reconciliation:

Why I’m staying in the Southern Baptist Convention

The Myth of Equality

Black church conference: nurture, fellowship & praise

How White Christians Can Stand in Solidarity with Minority Brothers and Sisters