Category Archives: Church

The Pew Needs To Read Too

There’s always been a great struggle in the church to get the congregation to read more often. There’s a need for them to open their Bibles more often than just Sunday morning when the Pastor gives his text. The desire is that the pew not only quotes Bible verses, but also studies their Bibles. Yes, we all need to study The Word. But what about supplemental reading that could be beneficial to the congregation? Not just a book full of motivational quotes and inspirational sayings, but books of Christian substance that can draw the believer into a closer relationship with God, and closer to the true call of Christians: Make Disciples!

Something that we as preachers often fall into is building our own libraries, but neglecting to help the pew build theirs. It is vastly important that preachers be well read because there is a lot of great scholarly writing available to us that wasn’t available to preachers in years past. However, what we must remember in our search for higher learning is that we can’t forget about the people we serve and the fact that they need something to read that isn’t necessarily as thorough as what we’re called to read, but just as important to their discipleship and their development.

What we as preachers are often doing when we’re reading is trying to sharpen our skills so that we may rightly divide The Word in a way that the congregation can receive from us. We’re trying to polish our sermons so that there may be some understanding on Sunday mornings. But there is a time where the pew will need more than sermon notes. They’ll need more than our three points and a close. The pew needs to read too.

When I began using my gift of writing exclusively for ministry, I thought my books would be popular amongst my preached brethren, but I soon found that such wasn’t the case. God revealed to me why that is. It wasn’t about any jealousy or animosity or anything like that, because there are some in the ministry that have purchased much of my work. It was about the fact that God didn’t call me to write to other preachers. He called me to help the pew. What I write is redundant to a knowledgeable preacher. It doesn’t appeal to them. However, the pew responds in a much different way. The pew receives it in a way that preachers wouldn’t necessarily. And that was God’s plan.

The fact remains that no matter how much the preachers learn from all of their reading and studying, at some point, the pew is going to have to do some reading and studying of their own if the dots are ever going to be connected. Not just their Bibles, but also some other well-written material to help them to make sense of what their pastors are teaching and preaching. Pastors can’t be insecure about this because the truth of the matter is, if they’ve had any type of advanced schooling, there was some supplemental material that aided in their understanding as well.

What was good for pastors and preachers (additional material) is no doubt good for the pew they’re charged with serving. The connection between the preacher and the pew is often missed because all aren’t committed to study. Additional training is always desired, but there must also be an effort on the part of the congregation to assist in their own growth. Pastors should always have some suggested reading for the pew. Something that may be remedial to them could be monumental in the growth of their congregation. The material is out there. The church as a whole must stop being resistant to it. Otherwise, false and sugarcoated doctrines creep in. The fact remains that if the church is really gonna grow as God intended, all of the study can’t be on the pastor’s shoulders alone. The pew needs to read too.

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Battling a Cain spirit: Our DNA is still a threat to unity in ministry

In my book An Understanding with God, I referenced the fact that we come from a damaged DNA in Adam. David outlines this in Psalm 51:5 when He says we were born in sin and shapen in iniquity. This stresses the fact that sin is a part of our makeup, and if not for the Spirit guiding us, we’re all susceptible. After all, the man that wrote the Psalm wrote it after taking another man’s wife, getting her pregnant, and having that man killed to cover up his sin. And he was a man after God’s own heart.

What this reminds me of is the fact that even God’s chosen can be a mess at times. I myself have behaved outside of my calling, and as long as I’m alive, there’s a good chance I’ll do it again. Thank God for grace, but how do we manage our ministry when it seems that those of a similar vocation in God seem to be at odds with us?

The first thing we need to remember is that DNA. It caused one man in Cain to kill his own brother. He did it simply because his gift wasn’t honored in the same way as Abel’s. This still happens today. We don’t know how to honor one another’s gifts at times, so we try and kill one another. We do this, and when God questions us, we act as if we have no idea what happened.

Understand that ministry can be a wonderful thing. It can be filled with camaraderie, love, fellowship, support, and encouragement. However, it can also be filled with jealousy, backbiting, sabotage, and quite honestly, hate. Depending on who you are, that can either discourage you or motivate you.

What must be remembered is that we’re all on the same team (unless, like Cain, we’re not). We do this for The Kingdom and not for ourselves. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There is no competition, except against the devil because we are trying to defeat him and win the souls of mankind.

If we want to manage our ministries, we have to manage our emotions. We weren’t called to do everything, be everything, boss everybody, or even reach everybody. God has a lane for all of us. We need to find that lane and stay in it until God gives the order to shift. And, as I stated on broadcast last week, when He calls for a shift, you may be shifting alone and away from some people that you thought you’d be working with forever.

The best thing that we can do is to manage our own ministry without trying to manage the ministry of others. We all have a call that we’re responsible for. And truth be told, we wouldn’t be that impressed with God if we were all carbon copies. We have similar vocations, but different administrations. Applaud when you can and should. Pray when you feel you can’t. Because sin lieth at the door. I know we all feel like we’re Abel. But just remember, there’s a little bit of Cain in your DNA as well.

Your Faith Must Match Your Vision 

God is showing some people some amazing visions these days, myself included. There are businesses that He wants to birth, ministries that He wants to bring to fruition, and dreams that He wants to fulfill. The only thing that can stop us is a lack of faith, not a lack of resources. 

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible to please God without faith. That tells me that impossible is where our dreams die. Impossible is what will cause us to lose when we’re born to win. Impossible is a disappointment to God. Impossible shouldn’t be in our Spiritual nature because it’s not in God’s. 

Scripture also tells us that faith the size of a grain of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Therefore, if your vision is larger than a mountain, you must increase your faith even more. At the bare minimum, we should all have mustard seed faith. Just imagine what a little boost can do for you. 

Scripture also reminds us that with God, nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). Therefore, we must remove that word from our vocabulary. The struggle that we have with the gap between our vision and our faith is we’re often in moments of discomfort when the vision comes.  

God shows you the business plan when you’re broke with a mountain of bills. God shows you the plan for the ministry when people are still questioning your call and your ability. God shows you the better career when you’re barely holding on to a job that you hate, but you need for your survival! Yes, God will show you the best of life when it seems that you’re at your worst points. That’s not a time to shrink in your faith. That’s when you must grow! 

I encourage those that may be reading this to see God more clearly than you see your circumstances. You could have all the money in the world, but if you lack faith, you’ll be scared to invest it in your dreams. So see the vision more clearly than you see your lack of income and/or opportunity. God will never lead you to it without a plan to feed you through it. Trust Him more than you fear failure. He’s committed to you. Increase your faith. See the vision clearly. Watch God work!

Rejecting God: We ignore much more than we miss

Did you really miss your blessing or did you just ignore it when it came? I’m a writer by nature and by profession, so I’m a stickler for words. It’s popular for us to say things to people like “You missed your blessing” when they seem to have bypassed God’s provisions. But I want to challenge that thinking, because upon further inspection, I find that we don’t miss God with anywhere near the regularity that we actually reject Him.

It’s really very simple to me. As an example, if you miss a bus, you either weren’t there when the bus showed up or you arrived as it was pulling away and you couldn’t catch it. However, to reject a bus means that you were standing there when it arrived, you knew that it would take you where you wanted to go, but for whatever reason, you refused to get on. 

Maybe it was too crowded. Maybe you didn’t like the style of the bus because it was an older model and not a brand new bus. Maybe you didn’t like the driver. Whatever your reason for not getting on, there’s no doubt about it, the bus came. You just rejected it and now it will take you longer to get to your destination.

The truth is God is always placing blessings right in front of us. The lie is that we somehow know better than God. Often, the blessing doesn’t look like we want it to look or it doesn’t come when we expected it or from where we expected it. We fail to see that God designs the blessing to fit its purpose, not necessarily to be pleasing to our eyes or our other human sensibilities. Can He design such a gift that’s pleasing to us? Of course He can. But we’ll often only see it that way when we use our vision as opposed to our sight.

The point here is this: To suggest that you missed something from God is to suggest that God’s timing is somehow off. Now, you may be saying, “Wait Rev, if I say I missed it, how am I blaming God?” Well, let me hit you with another Christian catchphrase: “He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always on time.” That says to me that if you’re early, God will be there. If you’re running late, God will be there. You can’t miss what God has for you, but you sure can reject it trying to do things according to your own understanding. 

Even if your aim is off, God’s aim is true. And even though we may miss out on some things, we won’t miss it in its entirety. But you wanna know what else is awesome about God? Even when you reject Him, He’s so full of grace, that He’ll bring that blessing back around and give you another chance at it. However, I must warn you. You don’t wanna keep ignoring God. You may find yourself stuck with your plan instead of His, and that’s a mess you don’t want. My suggestion to you? When the bus comes, don’t outsmart yourself. Your best bet is to just get on.

Monday Morning Disciple: “Following His Righteous Lead”

(Be sure to watch the video above)

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Psalms 23:3

There’s something about God going before us that makes all the difference in the world. Just look at it as if there’s someone that’s always making sure that whenever you go, things will work out in your favor. Just imagine having a feeling that no matter what the day brings, things will always be alright.

However, we can’t be naive about life. There are difficult days, difficult situations, and difficult people to encounter. Being saved doesn’t mean being trouble free. Having gone to service on Sunday, shouted your heart out, and threatened the devil doesn’t mean he won’t try and get the best of the rest of your week. Your Monday morning discipleship needs to be even stronger than your Sunday morning praise.

As this text says, after a Sunday filled with soul restoration, by Monday morning, God is ready to lead us into the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. He leads into right places because He is a righteous God. So even when we find ourselves in rough places and in the wrong company, we can still be right as long as we’re following God’s lead.

If there’s anything that you can get from our theme verse or even Psalms 23 in its entirety, it’s the fact that we don’t have to become a product or a victim of our surroundings. Don’t leave your Christianity at the benediction. Stay on the path of righteousness all week.

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God knows your heart, and that should concern you 

Whether we really believe it or not, God really does know who we are. That may seem like a strange opening line, but sometimes, I think we forget. When spend so much time trying to put our best foot and face forward to our fellow man, that we forget that God knows the truth about us. And when I say the truth, I mean the WHOLE TRUTH!

It should encourage all of us to know that God loves us in ways that the vast majority of the people we come into contact with in our lives don’t. Some people can’t deal with our habits, issues, and shortcomings, but God is different. Even with all that is wrong with us (and there’s something wrong with all of us), God has the ability to look past it and love us anyway. But, let’s be clear: Just because God loves beyond our flaws doesn’t mean He excuses our flaws. 

Herein is our human problem while dealing with a spiritual God. We want our fleshy ways to be acceptable to God, and that’s just not how it goes. We’re approaching God as we do our fellow man. “I’m not perfect, just accept it!” That’s fine when we’re asking for a little bit of grace from one another, but not when we’re dealing with God. There isn’t a “have to” anywhere in a sovereign God, which means He doesn’t have to put up with any of us. He does what He wants, when He wants, and only has to accept what He wants. 

One of our favorite phrases is this: “God knows my heart”. However, this statement isn’t the defense mechanism that we think it is. It’s a warning. It shouldn’t be a statement to get others off your back, instead, it should be a revelation to whoever decides to speak those words. It’s a reminder that if no one else knows the deepest recesses of your thoughts, your feelings, and yes, your motives, it is The One Being that controls it all. 

Understanding that God knows the heart means understanding that no matter what you try and cover up, it remains exposed to God. No matter what you speak, God knows what you feel. No matter what you do, God knows whether or not you’re sincere. God knowing our hearts means God knows the lie in our lives whether anyone else ever sees the truth or not. Saying that God knows our hearts is saying that His opinion is the only one that matters. Believe it or not, that should actually make us uncomfortable! 

I don’t say this to scare anyone because God is a forgiving God, whereas man will never let you forget. However, I do say this so that we can be clear. God’s forgiveness doesn’t mean He’s going to pacify our wrong. God still punishes, whether new age religion wants to believe it or not. 

He’s not going to look the other way when we mistreat one another. He’s still jealous, so He knows when you’re doing things for Him and when you’re doing them for show. He knows when we reverence people more than we reverence Him, and that’s evident by who’s able to get us to move. Again, He doesn’t know the truth we want others to see, He knows the WHOLE TRUTH! 

Once we realize how serious that statement “God knows my heart” is, not only will we stop saying it to other people, we’ll actually adjust our behavior. Because God really does know our hearts!

Read an excerpt from “Are We Still Making Disciples”: “Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible”

 

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Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible

So many of the rules of the church have been loosened because we want to seem welcoming to an ever growing segment of society that doesn’t see the need in physically coming to church. While I understand that we need different methods in a different world, there are some things about the church that should be non-negotiable.

I once preached a sermon entitled “When Jesus Is Your Draw”, taken from Luke 5:1-10. In the text, Jesus goes out into the boat with Peter to catch fish. Peter had gone out the night before, as he explained to Jesus, and had caught no fish.

However, even after explaining to Jesus that the fish weren’t biting, Peter says to Jesus, “Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net”. Once Peter followed Jesus’ instructions, he caught so many fish that his boat couldn’t hold them. There were so many fish that the text says his net broke and he had to call another ship over to take in the overflow of fish.

The text also states that there were so many fish that both boats begin to sink. However, what I always noticed in the text was what didn’t happen. While the net was broken and the boats began to sink, nowhere in the text does it say that any fish got away. Peter had gone back to the same place that he had gone the night before to catch fish, but to no avail. The difference was that Jesus was now in the boat. After this, Jesus told Peter, “From henceforth, thou shalt catch men”.

This text is a great lesson in what we as disciples need to draw people. All we need is Jesus. We’re in a day and time where we’re “marketing” the church in an effort to reach a new generation. I have no qualms about this as this generation responds differently than generations past. You have to reach them through their phones, either by text or social media, and you must do so in ways that grabs their attention.

I’m very active on social media platforms and I use them to promote books, ministry events, and I even post a live video feed from the studio during my radio broadcast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with different methods to draw people to church.

Where I have a problem is when Jesus comes up missing in the marketing plans. Where I have a problem is when we’re promoting services, but we aren’t promoting the Savior. Jesus is the center of the church, so how do we expect to make disciples of Christ, without promoting Christ?

When what you used to do doesn’t work anymore, you have to come up with a new strategy. Yes, believe it or not, there is a strategy to discipleship. When Jesus sent His disciples out in the 10th Chapter of Matthew, He didn’t do so without giving them instructions. He told them what to do, how to do it, and He even told them what their demeanor should be as they did it. Yes, God is intentional!

However, in the midst of new strategies and new approaches, we can’t water down the Word of God or Jesus in the process. No matter what our approach is, it must be centered on The Word. No matter what we’re doing to grab people’s attention, we must always make Jesus the center of attention. We can think outside the box, but we should never think outside The Bible. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what we’re doing is in vain.

The world has convinced us that crowds matter when we’re putting on a program. Where we used to believe in “where two or three are gathered”, we now don’t believe it’s worth it unless there are two or three hundred. We’ve been convinced that the flyer can’t be too churchy, or the wording can’t be too Christian. We have buzz words like “fire”, “anointing”, and “breakthrough” that causes people to run to our churches.

We make sure that we have the praise team or the preacher of the moment. In the name of creativity, we do all that we can to draw people to our flame. However, when you’re doing something for The Lord, the who and the why are always more important than the number of people that show up.

No matter what program we put on in church, there ought to be three objectives:

  1. Glorifying God
  2. Getting someone saved
  3. Keeping someone connected to God

I know we like to fill the room, but our main objective should be filling the people up with Jesus. Again, this isn’t to disparage anyone that’s looking for creative ways to fill up the church. In fact, I encourage every church to have some sort of marketing plan that targets the people that are current members (we can’t be so concerned with the fish we don’t have that we neglect the ones that we do), as well as the people that you’d like to see at the church. The point here is that Jesus must still be the main reason we do any of it.

As we see in that Luke 5:1-10 text, when we take Jesus into the world, even in places where we were once unsuccessful, He draws where we once failed. And He’s so powerful, that even when we fill up our churches and people begin to overflow, because He’s the draw and He’s what people came for, no one will get away.

When we make Jesus the center of any program that we’re putting on, we are fulfilling our purpose as the church. When we draw people to Jesus with Jesus, they will stay because of Jesus.

Whatever we do in the church must begin with The Bible. When we come up with ideas, we should ask:

  1. Is this Biblical? – Are there any Scriptures that supports what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it?
  1. Who’s getting the glory? – Is what we’re doing lifting up the name of Jesus or our particular ministry, our cause (if the cause isn’t Christ), or even our invited guests?
  1. Is there an opportunity for someone to be saved? – This is beyond simply opening the doors of the church. Is what we’re doing actually being done to draw people out of the world and to Christ?
  1. Does it point to discipleship? – For those that are in attendance that are already saved, will it cause them to go out and witness to someone else about Christ or just witness about the event?

I know this may seem a little stuffy to some people, and maybe we’ve gotten to a point where we believe we don’t have to mention the name of Jesus every time we invite someone to our church. But if you don’t want to mention the foundation of the church in what you’re doing in the church, supposedly for the church, then one has to wonder if any of it is really about the church. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what are we really doing?

If we really want to fill the church, there are some tried and true methods that we can use that will ensure that the people that are coming are there for the right reason. Evangelism still works. Witnessing still works. The testimony of your personal life when you’re in the world still works. But no matter what the method, we should all be doing as Peter did. We need to get Jesus in the boat, or in the case of our discussion, in the marketing plan.

Then, we need to develop a nevertheless spirit. Maybe we tried some things the old way and didn’t get the response that we wanted, so then we have to ask ourselves, did we drop the net on our word or on the word of Jesus?

By simply obeying what Jesus said and when He said it, Peter did what he always did when fishing. But when he did it at the command of Jesus, the outcome was completely different. If we’d only follow His Word, we’d catch more fish than we could hold.

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