Everything’s a fight

Most of what we argue about is more important to us than it is to God. Not that there aren’t issues that might be important to the Lord. I just don’t think we’ve figured most of those out.

Let’s be honest, how much of what we argue about is more important to us than God?

Sometimes we don’t even know when the original argument ended. Hatfield vs. McCoy. We’re just used to being against each other. Everything is an argument we must win, or, at least, prove how wrong they are. I wish we would all just admit how biased and hypocritical we are. Our politicians are just as liable as theirs, for example.

The energy we spend railing against each other could be used to transform the entire world. But we’d rather be right than help make the world right.

Stay blessed…john

The gift

This weekend we had our youth group over at our house. We did all the things we would normally do at youth group. Silly game. Snacks. Coffee, too. Prayer and Bible study.

Right before our Bible study and prayer, I put a gift bag on the table where we were all gathered. It was a red, shiny Christmas bag Santa brought Nathan last year. I told the group that everyone was responsible for giving everyone else a gift when we got together.

“I didn’t know about that,” someone said, nervously. Someone wondered if there was a price limit.

I assured them that this gift was, actually, priceless.

All they had to do was put their phones in the bag. By so doing, we promised each other that every time we meet we would give each other the gift of our undivided attention.

I’m writing this today because I want to remember how shocked I was at how easy it played out. No one complained or refused or came up with their best excuse why they couldn’t. All the phones were in the bag in a matter of seconds.

And we had a great study.

Give it a shot, in youth ministry or anywhere else you might be around people.

Stay blessed…john

I am a child of God

This song was offered at the conclusion of my sermon this weekend. We had spoken about the prodigal son and his brother. More or less, the message was that some people don’t want to accept you because they remember what you used to be.

God still calls you beloved, even though others don’t!

Oh, and the short one on the left is Ashlei!

Stay blessed…john

Tales From the Church Refrigerator | I’ll Take the Heat

Once upon a time…

A preacher greeted the congregation as they exited the sanctuary. It had been a blessing of a time, a gathering that included the faithful praying for God’s will, hearing God’s love proclaimed enthusiastically and the receiving of Holy Communion.

People smiled, hugged and even offered a holy kiss or two as the time for their gathered worship concluded.

One saint offered a blessing as he was leaving, just like most people that day. He included an additional offer. “I’ll take the heat for that,” he said to the preacher. Confused, he inquired, “Heat for what?”

“The ushers. I chose them,” apologized the saint.

The horror of what happened that day went right under the preacher’s clerical nose.

At that moment, it was too soon to judge the situation with complete accuracy. Had the ushers been chosen beforehand? Were the usual ushers unavailable? Was this a statement Sunday for the usher chooser? For whatever reason those ushers were chosen, that day they performed their role correctly, on cue. There’s no other possible explanation for the congregation’s collection to have been received in the manner it was.

And Communion?

People filed in line, following the hand motions and head nods of those ushers. The congregation received the body and blood of Christ.

So, what would be a saint to take heat for anything other than sharing the Gospel of Jesus?

As the saint left the line, it dawned on the unsuspecting preacher what he had missed. He met the ushers at the front of the sanctuary to present the offerings. He watched as they ushered the congregation for Communion. Actually, it wasn’t the preacher who was missing anything. It was the ushers.

For in their service that Sunday, they employed no tie, blazer or dress slacks.

And they lived happily ever after.

Yes, I cried

Y’all, I teared up.

I can’t recall the last time I felt this affirmed about the ministry God has given me! Out of the blue, unnecessarily, I received 2 words of encouragement and affirmation yesterday. They were unrelated comments and given by two totally different people. I usually struggle with compliments. Many of you know that. But I received those words as true affirmation. I didn’t think too much about it afterwards.

Then!

I’ve cried in Bible study before. I had tears when I read Same Kind of Different as Me–which I heard the movie is on Netflix now. Other than that, I don’t know that I’ve ever been emotional after reading something. Then last night I began reading From the Steeple to the Street.

Where do I begin?

I hope I do this justice.

The author wrote about “Petrine apostleship” and “Pauline apostleship.” The easy way for me to boil those terms down is by suggesting there are, for the sake of this conversation, 2 types of pastors: Those who pastor established churches (Petrine, considering the apostle Peter’s ministry) and those who plant churches (Pauline, considering the Apostle Paul).

I’ve wrestled with this for a long time. Because, I think, of my big mouth and personality, people have often tried to lead me to Pauline apostleship, church planting. Let me confess to you. I’ve considered becoming a church planter many times because I’ve often thought it couldn’t be anywhere near as difficult as trying to reform an already-established church. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there are challenges in church planting. I’m smarter than that. I don’t know how I would handle some of those challenges.

But starting new has its great advantages.

Trying to renew, it seems, merely has advantages.

To be frank, the Pauline pastors are the ones everyone wants to hear from. They, supposedly, have all the good ideas and are in tune with the new things of the Spirit more than anyone else. I don’t want you to think I’m ranting about anything. So, I’m going to keep that thought short. Just know that’s the way it is sometimes.

To be even more frank, there have been times where I have questioned what the Heaven I’m doing in these churches. People complain too much. Bicker too much. Criticize too much. Pray too little. And then tell me it’s all for the glory of God. Thankfully, I’ve learned to let all that slide off. I don’t take any of it personally–just ask my wife. But it is frustrating because we’re supposed to be dedicated to the kingdom of God, not to the kingdom of Me.

Have I bored you yet?

Okay, here’s the part that brought out some emotions in me. The author had something strong to say about pastors like me (See? I’m not the only one!). I’ve already considered that you might not find this as meaningful as me, but that’s okay. Speaking about Petrine pastors, he says:

Complex organizational realities and competing political realities don’t rob Petrine apostles of their joy. (Not completely, at least.) The needs of the world outside the church, and the potential meaning and joy that come from being a missional church, keep the Petrine apostles in the proverbial game. Petrine apostles will be misunderstood by both the old-schoolers within the traditional church as well as the spiritual swashbucklers outside it. From the one side will come unwarranted complaints that the Petrines only care about the new and creative ministries. From the other side will come unfair accusations that, if they had missional hearts, the Petrines would be out on the front lines instead of in an established church. They miss out on the hero status bestowed upon the pioneers, and suffer from charges of neglect from people who crave more attention. They are disparaged by tradition-bound pastors who view the Petrines’ creativity as frivolity, and, on the other hand, are dismissed by pioneers who assume the Petrines are motivated by fear or money or another one of the unseemly reasons why someone would want to draw a salary from a church.

The one called to love God’s sons and daughters as they are, and to draw out from them a God-given passion for those yet outside the family, are Petrine apostles.

I want to say something about every one of those sentences. For now, I’m thankful that God saw it fit to give some encouragement and a strong, renewed sense of affirmation. If you thought I was annoying up until now………

Stay blessed…john