Archive - August, 2011

This Is Discipling! This Is Church!

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A Story of Faith

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

This verse became very real to me recently!  September is the month that has been a mountain looming in front of us.  It will be October before some of our funding from larger organizations begins.  We have been praying that God would provide.

I recently received a check from a college student who had been living off his tips all summer.  He explained in the letter that he sensed God leading him to put aside money for kingdom purposes.  So he lived on a very meager stipend all summer.  (Did I mention this student has been walking with the Lord for less than a year?!)

The check was for $1000.  Yes, you read that correctly…college student…3 zero’s on the end.  His note referenced his gift as only a “drop in the bucket” compared to what is needed to begin a new church.  I wrote him back & tried to explain…

“No, it wasn’t a drop in the bucket.  We haven’t known how we were going to make it through September.  Your faith LIKE A MUSTARD SEED is MOVING our MOUNTAIN.

Oh to have faith like this!  Sometimes the people we minister along side & to, step out in front & teach & remind us what it means to have faith!

Remember, when we walk with Jesus – NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!

Personality, Calling, & Methods

Might sound simple, BUT it’s much harder than you think!  By conventional, I’m referring to the idea of “using well established methods or styles.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m all for evaluation, testing, & bench marking.  Here are a few of the assessments I’ve done recently: spiritual gifts, personality, temperament, Mind-Frames, High-Performance Patterns & Now Discover Your Strengths.

But I’ve noticed over the last few years that we tend to rely upon testing, what seems to work, formulas, and copying far more than we rely upon the Word of God & the Spirit of God.  We teach the Bible every week, but oddly enough, we aren’t very good at thinking BIBLICALLY.  Here are three areas where I’ve seen CONVENTIONAL thinking win over BIBLICAL truth in the local church.

PERSONALITY

How often have you seen pastors blame unfaithfulness & sin on their personality?  Pastors with Type A personalities run right over people leaving bodies strewn in their wake – all the while using the excuse, “Sorry, it’s just the way God made me.  I don’t have time to get to know people or care for them.  My job is to keep us moving!”

While at the same time laid back pastors who are more Type B excuse their lack of initiative, timeliness, & follow-through on their people friendly personalities.  “Yes, I know I said I would do it, but I haven’t been able to get to it yet because I’ve been so busy shepherding people.”  They fail to mention they are 3 weeks late & this is the 3rd time you’ve confronted them.

None of us are exempt from holy living, no matter what our personality type!  We are all called to work faithfully, to be on time, to keep our word, to let your “‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'” (Matt. 5:37).  We are each called to abide in Christ and to bring forth much fruit.  We are each called to live by the Spirit with the results being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.

CALLING

I work as a pastor & church planter.  Some people might call it an entrepreneurial work.  My introverted, detail-oriented, task-driven mind sometimes feels like a square peg in a round hole.  Some extroverted, Type A leaders have even tried to persuade me that I will be a miserable failure if I continue in this journey.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that God doesn’t always call us according to our personality or what we believe to be necessary strengths.  I’ve had to remember to think Biblically, not conventionally.

I appreciate Bob Sorrell’s advice (former Executive Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church) from several years ago.  I asked him if introverted men can function well as “Senior Pastor,” “Lead Pastor,” or “Teaching Pastor.”  He responded, “Of course!  And sometimes they make the best leaders, because they are more thoughtful and  purposeful in the way they lead the church.”

This was something I needed to hear.  I was beginning to plan my future more on my personality than my calling.

METHODS

In America, we live & die by the conventional thinking of SUCCESS.  The biggest, wealthiest, fastest results always win.  But in our hurry we’ve traded making disciples (a slow & relational process) for making converts.  Our churches are full of people who have been wooed by shopping mall mentality church & country club mentality programming to trust Jesus by faith but never come to Him in repentance.

American Christianity has become an inch deep & a mile wide because we have forgotten to think Biblically.  To come to Jesus means that we declare him Savior & LORD.  Thinking Biblically means we must teach & model REPENTANCE.  Otherwise many people will stand before our great & benevolent King Jesus one day to discover they never surrendered to Him as Lord and they will spend eternity apart from him!  Doesn’t sound like success to me!

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF PERSONALITY, CALLING & METHOD

Most of us wouldn’t consider ourselves to be Evangelists.  But the funny thing is God has left us here on earth with that mission (Matthew 28:19-20)!  So we must think BIBLICALLY.

How often have you heard people think CONVENTIONALLY?  “I’m not that good at evangelism, so God wouldn’t expect me to focus on sharing the Gospel.  It’s just not my gifting / calling.”

BUT…Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).  The full scope of the word evangelist is not made explicit here or for that matter in the rest of scripture.  In fact, Paul rarely differentiates between “discipleship” & “evangelism.”  But what can be certain is that Paul was instructing Timothy to proclaim or herald the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, & second coming to all unbelievers.

Notice the word Paul uses is to do the “work” of an evangelist.  One of the things we know about Timothy is that his strongest traits were his sensitivity, affection, and loyalty.  Not exactly how we would describe a bold evangelist.

But Paul commends him to the Philippians as one of proven character, faithful to Paul like a son to a father & without rival in his concern for the Philippians.  For Paul, BIBLICAL thinking had more to do with faithfulness than talent, ability, gifting or even intellect!  Some passages even suggest that Timothy suffered from fearfulness (2 Timothy 1:7; 2:1; 1 Cor. 16:10-11) & youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).

Personality & spiritual gifts tests are good.  They help us find our sweet spot where we can really thrive in ministry.  But they can never be used as an excuse to abandon our calling.  Sometimes God calls men & women who are the least likely to be successful at a particular task, given their gifts & abilities.

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

IF JESUS WOULD HAVE THOUGHT CONVENTIONALLY, HE WOULD HAVE NEVER GONE TO THE CROSS!  How does that make any sense?!?!  The God of the universe dying for a sinful, undeserving people.  That’s completely UNCONVENTIONAL!  Thank goodness for the GOSPEL!

Remember THINK BIBLICAL not conventional.

A Little Crazy…

You have to be a little crazy, quirky, or sometimes maybe even off your rocker to take the church planting leap into the deep end of the pool.  I guess that’s why people ask church planters such weird questions.  I want to address the 3 most popular questions I get these days.

  1. So, do you have a church to meet in yet?
  2. How many people do you have?
  3. Did your congregation come with you from Nashville?
Really brief on each of these:
(1) It’s amazing how much we tie CHURCH to a particular PLACE.  This type of mentality exterminates mission.  We have to train followers of Christ to see themselves on mission as missionaries 7 days a week.  I talked to my boys about this tonight as we prayed about their school day tomorrow.
(2) They aren’t MY people.  It’s God’s church & it’s His people.  I know, I know, people don’t mean anything by it – but it’s dangerous language & stifles mission when we limit our view to one guy as Priest & everyone else as follower.  We all have to be members of the Kingdom, first & foremost serving our good & benevolent King Jesus.  We are His & His alone!
(3) Why would I bring a congregation from another city.  I was seriously asked this while setting up a church bank account last week.  Church planting isn’t about sheep stealing but about the harvest.  We long to see people declare these 3 simple words – “Jesus Is Lord!”