Leadership

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#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#WrongRoad#Weakness

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

#MarkedMan#FalseAccusation

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Someone has said:

To be falsely accused and retaliate is natural; to be accused and remain in control is supernatural.

No one likes to be falsely accused, especially when it has far-reaching consequences. IMHO Joseph might very well be the OT poster boy for being falsely accused.  He is sold into slavery, bought by Potiphar, and eventually distinguishes himself so that he is elevated to top dog in the household. But it only serves to make him a marked man. Talk about pressure! Not work pressure either. Boss’s wife pressure.

He is a new kid in a new culture, one completely different than the only one he had known. Not only does he have that to deal with, he now has his boss’s wife wanting to play footsie with him.  If you know the story you know he resists. Because “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her and he ends up in prison.

Joseph’s public witness took place at work, and raises the question of our own attitude as followers of Christ. Do we, like Joseph, distinguish ourselves at work? Are we trustworthy? Faithful?  Hard working? Resistant to temptation (of every kind)? Pointed questions which need to be addressed. Genesis 39 is where I will be this Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

#Blessing#Challenge

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

As a grandfather, I have a desire to see my grandson more often than I have the opportunity to. He lives 4 hours away and is actively involved in baseball and football (oh, and school) so his schedule is pretty full. Him coming to visit his grandparents is not high on his list of things to do. And it is not high on his mother’s list either. She is a busy, working mom and wife. Neither Jo nor I begrudge that.  We just know our situation is unique and unless God says, “Time to move” we will be here ministering in Spencer hopefully for years to come.

My girls are adults now, each with their own life. Tami, our oldest, teaches Kindergarten in Bloomington, IN. Janna, our youngest, works in Delaware, OH for a car dealership (not selling but as a jack-of-all-trades doing rentals, office work, receptionist, etc). When they were babies I would often go into their room at night and pray for them and pray over them. I prayed a prayer of surrender, i.e. “Father, these girls are yours. Help me never to hold on to them so tightly I won’t give them to you.” Sort of like Abraham and Isaac. I also prayed for their salvation.

The first time I held Braden when he came home from the hospital and I surprised Janna by being there, I went off by myself with the little guy in my arms and prayed for him. I prayed a blessing over him. I prayed for his salvation and that he will grow up knowing Jesus.

All this flooded back to me as I read I Chronicles 22 Saturday night. David is making preparations for building the temple and then calls his son, Solomon, to him. He tells Solomon about why he is not building the temple (he was a man of war), but he also speaks a blessing over Solomon and challenges him as well.  The blessing is found in verses 11-12: “The Lord be with you.” But he also issues a challenge to Solomon to stand strong and be faithful to God. [Verses 12-13].

What a great opportunity we have as parents and grandparents to speak into our son’s and daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives with a blessing to cover them. I’m not into so-called “positive confession” that the name-it-claim-it people talk about. But I am into praying over and for our children and grandchildren.  In our case, being 4 hours away, that seems to be the next best thing to being there.  Who knows how and when God will answer our prayers for them.

#Celebrities#Pastors

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

I’m thinking it is not a coincidence that I would be reading Costi Hinn’s new book God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel the same time I would read a chapter in Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable that goes by the title of Celebrity.  He begins his chapter with these words:

Celebrity pastors are not a new phenomenon, nor is our human tendency to exalt our leaders to unsustainable heights. What is new is the number of celebrity pastors and the speed with which they are being created and corrupted.

Skye places some of the blame on what he called the EIC (Evangelical Industrial Complex). He compares it too what outgoing President Eisenhower said about the military industrial complex (MIC).  His belief was those industries that were created to end the war would now push the country to start many more. His words were strangely prophetic.  The connection between the EIC and MIC is one of comparison. No, the EIC is not a military complex, BUT it is a force to be reckoned with.

So…what is the EIC?  It is (for lack of a better term) a conglomeration of companies that forego the ministry aspect, very often the “truth” aspect, for what I will call the “money aspect.” Much like an athlete at the top of his game receives offers galore for endorsements, etc, so the EIC does the same to authors, pastors, and churches.  Conferences do the same thing. Rather than ask someone who is conscientious about his lifestyle and his presentation of the gospel, the new young guy who is hip, vocal, a social media genius, and most of all charismatic, is invited. Who cares if his doctrine is skewed? Who cares if he is in the Prosperity (Un)gospel/name-it-claim-it garbage world? He’s popular. He’s funny. His church is growing (for dubious reasons).  He’s a draw.  It doesn’t matter. “Get him!” (or in these days even a “her”).  So we have a pastor who wants to shock his church by playing a very anti-God song for Easter. We have a woman “pastrix” (or whatever you would call her) who is vulgar and supportive of the LBGTQ+ agenda being given a book contract and notoriety. We have pastors who ask their people to sacrifice living in million dollar mansions. Say what? The danger of elevating immature leaders and not having any accountability is real.  There is a reason Paul tells Timothy a leader should not be a new convert.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are faithful pastors laboring daily to love their people; to shepherd their flock; to prepare good, solid, gospel sermons week in and week out (not hiring a team of writers or plagiarizing); and to labor without gaining press.  They are unconcerned with being known or running their church like a CEO.  He loves. He laughs.  He cries. He visits. He counsels. He marries and buries those whom loves and labors among. IMHO they are the ones who deserve the applause. But then again, they are not really interested in that sort of recognition. The church they serve and the Father they love and serve is gratitude enough. I should know. I used to once crave the recognition. Now? My church family and my Father’s “Well done” is all I need.

I wrote this last Thursday and scheduled it for today because I will be in Sandusky, Ohio about all week with Jo making all the final preparations for vacating her sister’s apartment and bringing some things home in a U-Haul on the 29th.  I’d like to know what you think about today’s post, so even though I won’t have internet, my phone does have access my blogs.

#Don’tQuit#StayingtheCourse

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

I’ve been reading J.D.Greear’s new book Above All over the past couple of weeks. Yeah…it is taking me awhile due to being out of town and also just trying to digest the meat in the book. I read something today that I liked so well I thought I would pass it along.  {My comment: Ministry is hard work-paid, full-time or otherwise. If you are like me, sometimes you wonder if you are making a difference or even making a dent}.  After using the example of Noah who preached for 100 years and saw no one accept his preaching and “convert” to God’s way of thinking (the world is going to be destroyed), J.D. gave some examples of others who hung in there, didn’t quit, stayed the course. I was fascinated by the examples. Hope you are as well, but I also hope you are helped and encouraged to not quit or give up.

William Carey, the father of modern missions. He was largely opposed even by the Christians in England, who told him that his missionary zeal was misplaced. Despite opposition he left for India in 1793. For seven years he worked before he ever saw his first convert. Do you think he wondered about what the folks back home said and questioned his call?

Robert Moffat was a 19th century Scottish missionary to South Africa. He spent three years (1818-1821) just traveling to his assigned mission post. He and his wife labored faithfully for 10 years with no tangible results. Then God moved and in a period of three years, the number of converts in Moffat’s city went from zero to 120. Imagine if he had quit at year #9.

Adoniram Judson was one of the first American missionaries to Burma. He spent 6 years there before he saw his first convert and he fretted over his confession of faith…largely because of the years of unfruitfulness.

William Wilberforce, a British politician who spent 48 years fighting against slavery. The Slavery Abolition Act was passed 3 days before he died, and he heard about it on his deathbed.

Hudson Taylor in China. Jonathan Edwards with the Mohican Indians.

I had to stop and chastise myself for my lack of faith to stay the course at times. The desire to quit and give up in the ministry because of a lack of fruit. The tears I shed because of no “ministry success.” (Perhaps we ought to ban those two words put together?).  J.D. helped me put things in perspective as we go through a slow time here at OVCF.

#Faithfulness#Don’tQuit#StaytheCourse#NeverGiveUp. Those are to be my monikers. Why not join me make them yours as well?

#LittlePeople#YouMatter

Friday, July 5th, 2019

It is not unusual to hear people say they feel insignificant. They feel unseen. Or they feel small. I’m not insinuating at all by the hashtag above that “little people” are insignificant. A little person plays a very significant part in one of my favorite shows on TV: MacGyver.  And one of the funniest lines said to me recently by a young boy maybe 4-5 years old is when I said Hi to him, he looked at me and said, “What you looking at flopdoodle?” His mother about died on the spot. She was mortified since she had only been coming to the church for a couple weeks. I howled. It is from the “Little Napoleon” in The Greatest Showman.  It’s a running joke with us now.

People serving God often feel insignificant. They keep thinking they ought to do something bigger. But I am not interested in people looking for the next great thing to do. I love seeing people take care of the littlest thing and taking great pride and joy in it.

My sermon this Sunday is the first of two from Judges. I could have spent weeks in that book but I wanted to stick with my theme of Heroes and keep it short because of the series coming next. So this week my sermon will be from Judges 3:7-31. Three household names: Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar.  🙂

I will have spent the week in Ohio helping to clean Jo’s sister’s apartment so the normal interaction with people and personal connection I like will not be there. But I’m trusting God to bless the meager effort I make to present His Word. I’d appreciate your prayers.  Thanks.

#MarksofIntegrity#Follow#Absent

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

I find myself in a precarious situation these days. I’m trying to balance being the pastor of OVCF and being a supportive husband to Jo.  In this post about our trip to PA I also mentioned that we would be taking a side trip to Ohio to see Jo’s sister who was put in the hospital.  She has since been placed in a long-term facility and just this past Thursday was placed back in the hospital as the doctor was concerned about her kidney function.  Meanwhile, we found out on that side excursion that she did not have an apartment to go back to. So it falls on me and Jo to clean it and “divest it” of clutter and other items.  So we leaving today (Sunday after worship) and planning to stay the week to get as much done as we can.  On Friday we are heading to Columbus to watch our grandson play baseball then coming home Saturday morning. On Sunday we plan to repeat everything (except watching him play). We have no clue how long it will take to empty her place.  She has no TV, no phone, no internet so I am going to be out of commission unless I can find a Wifi somewhere close by.  So I will be absent from this blog (and possibly my other one) for the week.  So I leave you with this:

Daniel lived a life of integrity. In Daniel 6 there are 4 marks of integrity we find:

  1. His attitude. [Verse 3].  Psalm 75:7 is a good verse to go along with that.
  2. He was faithful at work. [Verse 4]. They could find no grounds for complaint against him.  Pr.20:6-7  is important for us.
  3. His personal purity. [Verse 4b].  Isn’t that interesting? “They could find no complaint against him.”
  4. A consistent walk with God. [Verse 10].  Daniel knew it meant trouble to do what he always did but guess what? He did what he always did!! 🙂

Living a life of integrity is no guarantee things will go well. But we are not here to gain man’s approval. We are to please an audience of One.

Have a great week if I don’t see you here sooner!

#Shepherd#Platform#Integrity

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

In Psalm 78:72 it says of David “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with skillful hands.”  Some translations use the word “integrity” for upright.  This verse is talking about David’s approach toward the people of Israel. David served the people as their shepherd with integrity. That verse has always been at the forefront of my brain ever since I read it years ago.  It serves as a challenge to me to shepherd the people i serve with integrity.

Maybe that is why I have not cared whether I became “known” or not.  Oh…wait a minute. That’s not true. There was a time I cared a lot…an awful lot. I would hear of friends of mine who were preaching at large churches or conducting meetings in other churches and the “J” word would kick in. (That would be “J”ealousy for those who are unsure).  But then I began to think about time and schedule. I began to be involved in watching my daughters play ball. I wondered about sermon prep. When did they have the time to do that while jetsetting all over the globe? (Then I found out many of them have assistants who do all the research and sometimes even write the sermons).  I thought about the one thing I really like to do as an aside (cycle) and wondered when could I do that? Certainly not on a plane or in a hotel (stationary bikes are another word for B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G!).  Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this was “finding” the verse from Psalm 78. When would I have the time to be a shepherd?  Now, if I wanted to be a CEO-type  then, by all means, have at it! But I wasn’t called to be a CEO. I was called to be a pastor, a shepherd. The day I realized that was the day I quit worrying about what others thought; how big I could get; how “known” I could be; and became satisfied with being a shepherd of the church God gave me to serve.  Amazing how the perspective changes.  My worst enemy (ME) was put to death that day.

I’d rather be found faithful shepherding my sheep in an obscure, out-of-the-way little town than be serving an image of myself being applauded.  I’d rather be here than anywhere else.