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Tips

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Not restaurant tips but helpful tips. Further explanation: I just finished a book by David Furman entitled Being There. David lives with a chronic nerve disease so he was passing along what it was like and also how we as friends and followers of Christ can just “be there” for people. One chapter was titled Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things.  He gave a list of 10 infamous things to remember when trying to help/minister to those who are hurting.

He introduces the tips with a story. I’ll abbreviate it. Two pilots were landing in a small city and accidentally touched down at a much smaller private airport seven miles away from their intended destination. They barely survived a crash landing. During their approach they were in touch with the control tower and were told they were 15 miles away from their target.  They responded they had their target in sight and were going to land.

Upon landing they had to stomp on their brakes extra hard to avoid going over a ledge, and nearly crashed the plane. They admitted to being shocked at their mistake and told investigators that they saw the lights of the airport in front of them and so they landed there. They honestly thought it was the right airport!

How crazy is that story? But it lends itself to what David is about to tell us.  It doesn’t matter how sincere you are if you are landing in the wrong place. We can be really sincere in trying to help people but saying and doing the wrong thing can be (or should I say “is?”) bad. It can be devastating to the hurting person. Okay…so what are his 10 “laws?” I’m going to split the 10 into 2 posts so as not to overwhelm or go too long.

#1. Don’t be the Fix-it Person.  Don’t be the person who offers unsolicited advice or unsolicited medical “miracles” to the person who is hurting. Don’t you think they have tried about everything already? I’m sure if they are seeking to be free from the chronic pain they have gone to a ton of doctors and have probably tried every homegrown recipe there is. Instead of advice, ask questions to understand them and their situation better.

#2. Don’t Play the Comparison Game.  When you talk to people don’t try to compare their sickness, pain, illness to yours or someone else. Your occasional gout flare-up is nothing like the pain from chemo. Your granny’s (from your third cousin removed) illness is not the same. Don’t compare the person with yours or anyone else.  Above all…don’t start with “At least”…they are better off or something cockeyed like that.

#3.  Don’t Make it Their Identity.  In other words, every time you see or talk to that person don’t ask them about their illness or their bank account or whatever it is that has them in pain. Don’t make that their identity. In fact, sometimes it is best just not to bring it up. Maybe a slight mention when it arises but stay away from identifying them with the illness or pain.

Okay…I’m going to stop there. This is getting way too long. I’ll continue with the next post. Hope these help.

Presence

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

I’m going to be honest…I have no idea where I am going to go with this post. I think you will see why. I do have a point but getting there might be like “going ’round Robin Hood’s barn” as we used to say (back in them old days). 🙂

I’ve been reading Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable about the soul of Church, Inc. I’ve written two other posts which have flowed out of it. You can read them here and here. But something I read just today really stuck with me and I don’t know what the solution is. Let me explain.

When I was a young pastor I was told visit, visit, visit. I often found myself out every afternoon and many evenings visiting with people from the church. So much so I often neglected my office time and even my family (at night especially).  It wasn’t unusual to be driving by someone’s house and saying, “Oh, I haven’t seen them in a while. I’ll swing in for a few moments.” So I would…whether the spouse was there or not. But as Bob Dylan sang so eloquently: “the times they are a changin’.”  It was no longer kosher (translated: acceptable or safe) to just drop by to see someone, especially if they were a member of the opposite sex. So I found myself tied more and more to my office. Studying. Napping. Reading. Napping. “Counseling” (Can an untrained pastor really do this? But that’s another topic for another time). But even the latter had to be done a certain way. Ryan and I have set a policy that we will not be in the church building; at a meal; in a car; or any setting with a female who is not our wife without someone else in the building or with us.

Then I read this in Skye’s book: “The antidote to popularity-based authority is the quiet power of pastoral presence.” (p.138)  His point in the chapter is many people will listen to someone who is popular (i.e. TV/radio hucksters and some legitimate speakers) before they will listen to their own pastor. It is called platform. And their platform is bigger than most local pastors. Definitely mine. But that raises a huge question: how do I/any pastor do the pastoral presence thing and still be cognizant of the moral perception of others?

What do you think?

Flashback2

Monday, August 13th, 2018

In a previous post I wrote about having a flashback. I’m not going to recap it. You can go here and read it for yourself. To continue my thoughts:

Skye’s definition/description of “Church, Inc.” is this:

It is shorthand for ministry devoid of mystery, for pastors who assume that the exercise of their calling is a matter of skill more than the gravity of their soul. It represents the exchange of the transcendent calling of Christian ministry with mere management of religious institutions and services. If ministry is encountering the heat and light of an uncontrollable sun, Church, Inc is the tanning salon in the local strip mall.

Skye goes on to ask a very complex question: the attraction to religious consumers is easy enough to grasp, but what is the appeal for pastors? The answer is not an easy one and I suspect he will spend the book dissecting it.  I’m only in chapter 6 and I think I’ve gone through a pen while highlighting!! To top it off he includes this quote by Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate:

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and woman centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.

BINGO!

Jesus didn’t set up an enterprise. He established his church. He didn’t tell the disciples to “Go, learn the business principles of the world, then take the message to others, and I will be with you to the end of the age.” I think it high time pastors get back to being pastors (shepherds), and churches get back to being churches not small businesses.

There is so much more to say but…

So…

OFF SOAPBOX (for now).

More to come.

Flashback

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Flashbacks are bad…usually. I guess it depends on what you flash back to.

Several years ago I was the pastor of a church when there was a major shift in a pastor’s responsibility. I was always used to seeing myself as a shepherd, as one responsible for the care and feeding of the sheep. Then along came a shift. The shift involved the pastor taking on more of a CEO position and the church being run like more of a business model. I attended John Maxwell’s seminars. Bought his and others’ books. Tried to implement the whole paradigm shift to the church.

I. FAILED…BIG. TIME.

Yep. I failed. Miserably. I knew when that happened that my time was limited in that current pastorate. I couldn’t make the shift to the CEO/business model.

MY. TIME. WAS. INDEED. LIMITED.

I moved on to another church…one that didn’t have or want that model. Good thing. I would have failed there too. My tenure there was not as long as the previous one, and definitely not as long as this one. But that was for other reasons completely.  In the meantime, I read several books which helped me tremendously. Two books by E. Glenn Wagner: The Church You’ve Always Wanted and Escape from Church, Inc cemented my decision.  Another was Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barb Hughes. Two books on preaching which helped were Famine in the Land by Steve Lawson and The Passion-Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix. They helped convince me of my purpose: preach the Word and quit worrying about modeling the business world.

FLASHBACK TIME

Why? I started reading a new book today: Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. It is subtitled Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. Sounds like it would be right up my alley. Two quotes hit me hard  The prelude to the Introduction:

There are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah…If we cannot measure we can marvel. Charles Spurgeon

The wrong approach put a premium on numbers and results.  You measure success by numbers. They were the qualifiers. When I was entertaining the whole idea of Church, Inc I was losing my focus on people as people and seeing them as numbers to be counted. Chairs to be filled (we didn’t have pews).  🙂

This post is getting long-much longer than I like to go- so I will continue it with another.

AdditionUpdate

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Okay…so we have been working on a building addition for over a year now.  Let me rephrase that: we have been physically working on the building addition for over a year. We have been working (translated: saving) on this addition for probably close to 3 or 4 years. We made a commitment we would not borrow money for it. We saved until we had enough to put it all under roof. We then continued as we had the money. Funny: work never stopped. God was so-o-o-o-o faithful and so were His people.  Three Sunday’s ago the Preschool class meet in their room because of the need to renovate the check in room and what will become Ryan’s office. This past week the Elementary kids made the transition. I thought I’d have a little fun with this post and show you what was and what is now.  My computer crashed several months ago and I lost everything, including pictures. So I painstakingly went back in time (where is Doc Brown’s DeLorean when I need it?) to find the post where I showed some early inside photos. You can see that here:

http://billgrandi.ovcf.org/wordpress/?p=14180

Below are some photos I took today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From top left to right: (1) What the room looks like as you walk down the short entry hall past the bathrooms.  (2) Inside Jo’s classroom from the door. it is the door on the right in the first picture.  (3) Middle left: Another look inside Jo’s classroom.  She chose to have vinyl flooring laid for ease of movement and cleaning. Each classroom has a TV (Wifi accessible) and a white board. (4)  The stage area (which is not quite done yet. (5) Looking across the from Jo’s classroom. Classroom on right. Mechanical/storage on left. (6) Girl’s bathroom.

Pictures don’t tell the whole story but if you take a look at what was and what now is, we have come a long way. God has been so faithful and so good! I honestly believe He honored our “no borrowing money” policy. We were the recipients of some anonymous gifts which greatly blessed us. A lady left some money so we took 10% for missions; paid off the remaining mortgage; and put the rest toward the addition. It allowed us to start construction. The folks at OVCF were so faithful in their giving and even in offering some physical labor but, to be honest, we went with professionals to do most of the work. In the long run, it saved time and money.

I’m going to share some more pictures of renovation we are doing in my next post.  Hope you enjoy rejoicing with us.

Words

Friday, July 13th, 2018

As in Last Words…

Last words are important. The last words I remember my father saying were that “I was a friend of the family.” His dementia had robbed him of knowing who I was because the last time I saw him he did not know who I was at all.

I remember the last words of Dan. After resisting the call to give his life to Christ, he eventually found himself in a tent of oxygen and dying. He finally allowed me to share Christ with him and even though he was unable to talk (or barely open his eyes), he squeezed my hand to let me know he had prayed to accept Christ. Then there was Jim.  He had constantly turned down any invitation to follow Jesus (but did go to church with his wife upon occasion).  He took a “shine” to me, even though they attended another church. While in the hospital he was unable to talk anymore and every time I would go to see him tons of family were around. So I finally wrote it all down, had his wife read it to him, and then he had her sign his name because he was unable to. A day or two later he entered eternity.

Last words can be done is so many ways. Vocally. Squeezing a hand. Signing a name. Blinking eyes. All are last words. I finish my series from Joshua this Sunday with Joshua’s last words to the people of Israel. To sum up his words I would put it this way:

REMEMBER THE PAST. DON’T STAY THERE. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE.

 

 

Think

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Paul says in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Over the past week or so I have been reading God of Tomorrow, Caleb Kaltenbach’s new book.  A normal review will give the pros and cons , good points and bad points, and whether it is worth your while to read it.  I’m going to take a different approach in this post. I want to highlight several of his included quotes and thoughts. Then let you decide at the end if it is a book you want to invest your time in.

God of Tomorrow: How to Overcome the Fears of Today and Renew Your Hope for the Future

First, an explanation. Caleb’s book’s premise is focused around hope for tomorrow being the solution to the fears of today. He analyzes the culture pretty well and what should be the Christ-follower’s approach to the people who are the culture. Change is inevitable. It is how we react to that change which gives us our approach to people.  (My comments appear after)

“Combativeness without compassion is always going to be counterproductive.”  We need to have our beliefs but we don’t have to cram them down someone’s throat nor do we need to be militant.

“Our differences with people should drive us to them, not from them.” This is sure opposite of our “hunker down” attitude.

“Our fear is no match for the unlimited power and uncontested reign of God.  When will we learn this? Instead of fearing change, let’s hold to our beliefs but not shy away in fear.

“Hope reminds us that our best days are ahead, not behind us.”  And I might add not right now either. No apologies to Joel for that.

“Out-of-place people always have a place with God.”  I seem to remember someone telling a story about going to the highways and bi-ways to bring people into a meal. Hmmmm.  Maybe this would change our approach toward “unlovely” and “unacceptable, despicable” people we often have.

There are plenty more and I plan to use them during the next week as I post some thoughts. But the coup de grace for me was this one:

When people look at your (my) life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you (I) treat them, love them, and share truth with them. (p.201)

What do you think of those quotes? Think you might get this book?

 

Rumors

Friday, July 6th, 2018

 

Don’t you just love rumors? Of course that was said tongue in cheek.  That leads me to a question:

Can there by anything more devastating to a church than a rush to judgement and the ensuing rumor mill?

Possibly the only other thing would be doctrinal error, but even those are different animals. Doctrinal error can be counteracted with truth. But rumors? Once they start flying all you-know-what breaks loose. How do you stop it? How do you take back the words? It happens in so many ways.

A misplaced word or action.

An overheard word which is considered to be true and passed along.

An angry person decides to take it out on the other person so lies are spread.

An “assumed” situation is perceived as real.

So we jump to conclusions, make a rash judgement and then decide others need to hear and know. Doesn’t matter if it is true or not. It makes for juicy gossip.

The fledgling nation of Israel was faced with just such a thing when it was “assumed” and perceived that an altar had been erected by the eastern tribes. They were going out rogue. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and checked out the perceived defection.

Because of misconceptions, there was also a need for cities of refuge. This Sunday I’ll be talking about the cities of refuge and about the false altar rumor.

Life can be cruel enough without misconceptions and misrepresentations and false rumors and lies being spread. Please make sure you do a gut check (as I have had to do) that you are not the one responsible for passing along damaging  information about people-true or false.

 

Giants

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

You cannot read the story of Joshua and Caleb and not be impressed.

They were different.  They saw life differently. They were leaders par excellence.

During my recent study of the book of Joshua, and in particular this past Sunday’s sermon which directly involved Caleb, I saw something I had seen before but could not delineate it. As you probably know, along with 10 other spies, Joshua and Caleb were sent into the land of Canaan to spy out the land.  They all came back with glowing reports of the land.

With one difference. Joshua and Caleb’s ideas of submission were different. The 10 convinced the people they could benefit from the land but it was too dangerous. The people were too big. Joshua and Caleb agreed on all counts EXCEPT it being too dangerous. Here’s why:

The 10 spies measured the giants against their own strength; Joshua and Caleb measured the giants against God’s strength. The 10 trembled; the 2 triumphed. The majority had big giants and a little God; the two had a great God and little giants.

What about you? What are you facing today that seems insurmountable? Are the giants you are facing today huge in your eyes? Remember to follow Caleb’s lead: “follow the Lord wholeheartedly.” I would add “Don’t lose heart.”

Here is a song for you to sing in your head this week. Have a great giant-slaying week.

Unfinished

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Have you ever noticed there hardly seems to be a time when we are totally satisfied?

How many times have you finished a project, maybe one that has taken longer than you thought- and after a “small break” you tell yourself- you are back at it. You see something else which needs done.

When we (OVCF) bought this building in 2010 we knew it was small for us. However,  we made due in various ways. Sometime in 2011 we knew we had to do something. After much prayer and planning, we renovated our current facility in 2012. No need to tell you how we did that. Least not now.  By 2013 we knew we needed more room so we went to two services and started plans for an expansion. But after a late night “dream,” I woke up and asked myself a question: “What about the kids? Where will we put them if we expand?” So we put our expansion for a worship area on hold while we raised funds for our youth addition. After 4 years of raising money and paying cash for everything, that addition is ready to be used.  (Hands are clapping big time)

Just a couple of weeks ago I was asked when we are going to start on the adult worship area.  My answer? “When we raise the money.”

Sometimes there is just some unfinished business. I’ve talked to tons of older folks (which I am fast becoming) and have often heard the phrase “If I had to do things over again.” The second most common would probably be “There is still so much I want to do.”

Sunday’s sermon is about unfinished business in two ways. One, is unfinished business Joshua needed to take care of with the surrounding nations and hie people; and two, a man called Caleb had some unfinished business to take care of. Two old men, Joshua and Caleb, will serve as our inspiration Sunday. Thanks for praying. 🙂