Tag Archives: truth

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

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The Gospel According to Jacob

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Fran

…SDRAWKCAB

Ez 37:3, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I replied, “Lord God, only You know.” 

The entire scope of the Word of God was written so that you can see God’s story as one big act of grace. Yet we often don’t get that and reduce faith to do’s and don’ts, right and wrongs, and even shrink theological concepts to something that might fit on a bumper sticker (see WWJD). Even worse, when the Ten Commandments are seen and studied, there’s a sense that this is what one must do to be a “good” follower. Is this true?

Well, yes and no. The truth is, most have it backwards. Often, people look at the Ten Commandments (or the Beatitudes, Great Commandment, Great Commission, etc.) as the bar to strive for, when God meant it to be the opposite. Rather than simply raising the bar of the Law so that you and I can strive for and achieve it, God raised the bar so you and I can rest in the One who can. God’s grace is magnified in your failures, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

boat-2333648_640Look at Peter walking on water. Could he have done this without Jesus? Not at all. But when He was focused on Jesus, even running to Jesus, Jesus made the impossible, possible. This same work of grace happened much later when 3000 came to Christ in Acts 2, or when the beggar was healed in Acts 3, or when Peter was released in prison in the chapters beyond.

The same for your salvation and daily walk. When you rest in the One who calls you, He gives you daily strength to do greater things in Him than you could ever do without Him. Rather than striving to fit some legalistic imperative in Him, then, how about doing all as an act of worship first, then let the work of the Spirit change you from the inside out?

You might have gotten it backwards. Don’t worry, repent and be restored. He’s got this. Your dry bones can live again.

Fran

Four Reasons Why Leaders Need to Press On Despite the Bullies

I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 12 years and on a church staff for the rest of my 23 plus years of ministry. I’ve pastored in several states both in the North and the South, urban, rural, and suburban. During that time, I’ve seen a flurry of changes as the church has come into the digital age and the culture has drastically shifted nationwide. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is our inherent sinfulness and our reaction to change. Most of us don’t like change (unless we are involved in it), yet change is a certainty in life. Thankfully, some churches and leaders have successfully pushed past the resistant bullies and are seeing the fruits of their work. However, with so many churches plateaued or declining, subtle and not so subtle battles are taking place in churches all over. Bullies, ingrained in their traditions and positions, threaten the survival of churches themselves, and sadly, hundreds of churches close their door each year because the church didn’t respond to their community with the gospel. 

So what is a leader to do? Start over? Take over? Leave? None of the above? Lots of options here, but something needs to be done (NOTE: check out Thom Rainer’s podcast for this great insight).  Also, I’ll write more on the how and what to do in another post, but here’s some reasons why leaders need to press on despite the bullies:

  • Jesus died for you. You are saved, gloriously and wonderfully saved by grace through faith. His death meant your life, and His gift was sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you. Hold on to this truth, and rely on God’s leading through His Spirit. 
  • Jesus prepared you. One of my favorite sayings of late said by a pastor is that “God never wastes a hurt.” Whatever you have gone through before has been used by God to prepare you for this task ahead. Remind yourself of what you have experienced and what you have learned from it. 
  • Jesus called you. Jesus called you to this church, and until He moves you to another place, you need to bloom where you are planted. As in the case of Nehemiah and the task he had, opposition from ungodly, fierce people threatened to stop the work. He and his followers pressed on. 
  • Jesus loves you. This is of course a great reminder, but remember that Jesus also loves others, too. He even loves those bullies. Pray for them, talk to them, and press on despite them. Your work in the gospel is not for the bullies, but for the new believers who need Christ and then need to grow in His grace. 

Hope this encourages you you as we go into the greatest weekend of the year leading up to Resurrection Sunday. May you do His gospel work through His power as we remember that Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rise again! 

In Him, 

Pastor Fran 

Four Ways to Connect with God: 4) Love with All Your Mind

How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?

It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”

There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect book-623163_640will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.

So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.

Until next time,

Pastor Fran

Four Ways to Connect With God: 2) Love With All Your Soul

In a sense, our creation in the image of God is trinitarian in nature. The bible says that people are made of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 4:23, Heb 4:12). Above that, we also know that in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are new in Christ to become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:17, 21).

god-1772560_640This is why Jesus was very clear that when we love, we are to love in a deeper sense. We relate to the Lord and to others within our soul, in an indescribable relationship that transcends the physical, emotive, and cognitive. Of course, you can never love God nor the things of God until you are born again, but when you are reborn, you are restored and ready to love with a new dimension of love.

Look at David as an example. Even though he had blown it with in case of Bathsheba and Uriah, he knew of God’s grace and trusted in it. David, once was so caught up in his sin, remembered God as the One who forgives and restores. He would later write,

“To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust” (Ps 25:1-2)

You who are forgiven, love God back with the soul that He refreshed. Take time to thank Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness! Most of all connect with Him and with others with a humility in the kindness of the Lord like never before.

Next post: Love God With All Your Strength

In Him,

Fran

Some Truth For Our Pastors

I have just finished a little over a nine-year pastorate at a church that I have absolutely Worshiploved. Leaving on the best of terms, I feel good about the future for this church and her work of the gospel. One thing I do want to say about pastoring is that it is hard work, and a pastor who serves is serving a very difficult and challenging calling. As a result, I will always appreciate the local church pastor. That said, whatever your role in the church, here’s a few truths that I want to share with our pastors but that I think that everyone should hear.

Pastor, remember this:

  • You are a minister of the Word. It’s very easy to get tied down with administrative tasks and pastoral care duties, but you are called primarily as a minister of the Word. This means you are called to teach, train, rebuke, counsel, and preach the Word. The ministry of exhortation cannot be second place. Sure, there’ll be critics who want a pastor to be a glorified chaplain, but this can weaken the church in the long run. Pastors who minister faithfully through the Word of God can see a more mature, healthy, missions-focused church.
  • You are to love people. I once had a pastor say over and over again, “if you can do people, you can’t do ministry.” He was the best “people person” I have ever known, and he is now in his 26th year at the same church. Loving people takes on many forms, but this does include spending time with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that primary focus on the Word should suffer, but you do need to see church members regularly. Whether it’s counseling, home visits, office visits, lunch, or any of the above, enjoy time with your church family. You won’t regret it.
  • You are loved. God loves the pastor and called him to minister in a unique setting and time. It’s tough and lonely work at times! However, remember that when Elijah was at his lowest point, he felt alone and helpless, but God reminded him otherwise with ministering spirits. Ministry can be lonely, but you need to be reminded that God uses a variety of ways (including his church) to show you how deeply, sincerely you are loved.
  • You should remember the weak. There are many people to love on and minister to on a daily basis, but those who are already mature don’t always need your full attention. However, the baby Christians need your attention more, and as a lead discipler in your church, you are responsible for them whether this is delegated or not. Sure, their lives might be messy, but be patient with them, love them, and help them to walk a deeper walk in Christ.
  • You need to develop leaders. You may have one, ten or a hundred leaders, but you are all part of the same team. Make sure that your followers are sitting on the right seats on the ministry bus, and then commit to the task of equipping and empowering them. You can’t overcommunicate your vision, and you can’t underestimate their willingness to be challenged. Be there for them when they struggle and when they succeed. After all, you are in this together.

Obviously, this is not a complete list and maybe I can add to it much later. However, I hope that this is encouraging and helpful. Let’s all pray for our pastors, as they lead the church!

Fran

5 Ways to Seek God’s Wisdom

Over the 22+ years of ministry, I have had many opportunities to minister to people while they’ve gone through various issues and difficulties of life. I’ve had people ask me for spiritual, marital, parental, and even financial advice (yikes!), and in every case, I have taken them to seek a bigger picture from God through His Word. You see, it doesn’t matter what I or any other person thinks, but what truly matters is what God thinks.

But how do you know what God thinks? Here are a few ways to seek God’s Wisdom by running to His Word:

  1. Read His Word. Daily. Take part of your day to read through the Bible. I read through it at least once per year, trying for more than once this year. Wisdom doesn’t come in spurts- it comes from a daily, regular commitment to being in His Word.
  2. Study his Word. Frequently. Like gold in a deep mine, so is the wisdom of God for those who take the time to truly seek and study it. Get into a study with other believers who take the truths of God seriously.
  3. Apply His Word. Uncomfortably. Don’t fall into the “check-box” mindset for your time in the Word. Everything you read and study needs to be focused on a life application, even though it may be uncomfortable for you at the present time.
  4. Pray His Word. Fervently. Check out Dr. Don Whitney’s post on praying through the Bible and do it. You won’t regret this.
  5. Share His Word. Generously. Be sure to be a part of making disciples by sharing the love of Christ with others. It can mean giving away pocket New Testaments, sharing the gospel in a personal witnessing opportunity, or even offering an in-home Bible study. The point is that you have a terrific chance to change lives with the power of the Word of God.

These are some thoughts. Do you have anything else to add?

Why You Shouldn’t Fear…

It has been interesting to experience the cycle of emotions over the past few months concerning the election and the transition to the new president of the United States, Donald Trump. We have seen a cycle take place over the past several weeks including denial, disbelief, a time of challenges to the results, and finally, of acceptance of the election yet with intense hatred. The hard truth is that we have a President in Donald J. Trump, and though this truth may send chills to a portion of our country, nevertheless, we have this as a reality. Others willingly have welcomed the new president with an excitement for any new changes that he might bring. This doesn’t mean, however, that President Trump isn’t without his flaws. His character shortcomings are many, including his past indiscretions, accusations of racism, and an ongoing display of brashness and immaturity in his many tweets against those who criticize him. Granted, some of the accusations against Trump are overblown, yet there’s no denying his shortcomings. Personally, I criticized candidate Trump long ago on these flaws, much to the chagrin of friends on social media, yet this same criticism was also applied toward Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson, and others.

However, let’s be clear that if you are a Christian, you have two main truths regarding our new president: 1) you are called to the privilege to pray for your leaders and 2) you should never fear your leader.

First, your privilege of prayer for your leader should not be seen as an obligation, but as a pleasure. Romans 13:1 says that “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Related to this is 1 Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…” Our subjection and our prayers go hand in hand, praying for peace, goodness, and the sovereignty of God over all of our affairs. It is understood too, that this is our privilege and our pleasure so that we don’t pray for our leaders with anger, hatred, or even obligation, but with fervent peace in our hearts.

Second, you should never fear him. Those who call themselves Christians should neither have a boastful confidence in a man nor scathing hatred and fear of a man. Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Hebrews 10:31 states that “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We are to fear (or be in awe) to God, not people. We cannot and should not make the mistake that our object of fear is a simple mortal man when there is a powerful spiritual realm well beyond the physical before us.

So feel free to critique the policies, participate in the process, but most of all, pray for him as your God ordained leader. Eye the media with a healthy skepticism, policies with a biblical worldview, and most of all, work for peace in a country which desperately needs it. Do not fear- focus instead on the gospel- and stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people in our great country.

Praying for our leaders,

Pastor Fran

5 Ways to Grow Your Family Spiritually…

As a husband, father, and grandfather, I have had my shares of ups and downs in trying to disciple those whom I love the most. Check out this short list of actions that you can take to help feed your loved ones spiritually and develop habits within them which can stick with them for life:December_15__2015_at_0441PM_-

  1. Read in front of them. For example, would it be unusual for your spouse or children to see you reading the Word of God rather than sitting in front of the TV with a remote in your hand? If so, maybe some changes need to be made.
  2. Pray with them. Not just pray for them, but pray with them. Not just before meals, but at devotions and whenever other life opportunities arise.
  3. Serve with them. Be involved in a ministry that your family can do. It can be inside the church, out on a family mission trip, or a special moment such as speaking to and praying with a person in need.
  4. Love with them. How you treat (and pray for) servers at a restaurant, interact with workers doing a job for you, or even how you treat the homeless matters. Those who are close to you will see your example and will likely respond in a similar way- love people and your children will learn from this valuable example.
  5. Talk with them. Your spouse and family desperately want you to talk with them, and specifically, to listen to them. As children become teens and teens become adults, communication that’s open, loving, and truth filled will have a incredibly valuable, life long effect that’s contagious for others.

Try these actions. I’m sure that you will be blessed as you care for those you love in a real and practical way.

Pastor Fran