But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
Exiting the highway, we pulled up to the stop sign to make our turn. Standing beside the road was a man holding a sign, which read, “The Struggle is Real.” With those four words, he conveyed the reality that many people face who struggles day in and day out with poverty. While I don’t know his exact situation or the circumstances that brought him to that point in his life, I do know that for many, the struggle is real.
As a pastor and leader, casting vision and moving the church forward can often be a challenge, to say the least. We all know that vision is life-giving to a church, yet we also know that the struggle is real in moving a church toward its God-given purpose and mission. While there are a plethora of suggestions concerning how to move churches forward, the word of God is clear, we must be missional in purpose in order to be a healthy church.
This is not an idea that I came across because of my great creative mind, but because I was forced to think about the church and its purpose in a different way. I knew that the church was a sending organization and that its members must be involved in the ministry of the church, but moving people in that direction was challenging to say the least. However, I had a former pastor make a request that I couldn’t help but commit to.
When I became pastor of Tecumseh, the former pastor asked me to commit to keeping up the missionary support that had been established. While I knew that missions were an important part of the church, this critical ministry became the lifeblood of all that we were to do in the church, community, state and around the world. The problem came when I looked at the budget versus the pledges and realized that missions giving was not adding up to the monthly missions budget.
For a guy who likes for budgets to be balanced and that we build some cushion for future expenses, this became a challenge to me. Additionally, if we are going to encourage people to give, how do we motivate them to commit to the mission? So for the next 15 years, we made missions a priority. The residual result was not something that I had expected.
During that period of time, we never balanced the missions budget and I must say that I am glad we never did, because it not only became an important part of our church focus, but it also moved our church in a new direction. It brought new life to the church and ultimately helped us become healthier as a whole.
Here are some of the benefits of being a missional church:
1. It allows the church to see the world through God’s eyes. Seeing people through the eyes of God challenges the church to join together with what he is doing to reach the lost. Love, grace, and compassion become a defining characteristic of a missional church.
2. It allows the church to see the big picture of Kingdom work. We begin to see that the Kingdom of God is bigger than the local congregation and that we can easily affect the work by simply joining together in partnership with missionaries and ministries around the world. Missional churches have an outward focus and will do what it takes to see the Kingdom of God move forward.
3. It gives the church the responsibility for the mission. Missional churches will take the responsibility to fulfill the needs of others and when they do, they take ownership of ministry. Being missional brings people to a new level of generosity.
4. It gives life and vitality to the church. As we become a part of what God is doing in his Church, that he blesses our efforts. At the same time, we must recognize that becoming a missional church will put our focus on the Kingdom which will also affect how we minister locally.
While this list is not exhaustive and there is not enough room for further exposition of this idea, know that being missional has a lasting and life-giving effect upon your church and ministries. Some of the healthiest churches, both large and small, are missional in nature.
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I had the privilege of being a rural churches for most of my ministry and learned many valuable lessons along the way. I am thankful that God allowed us the opportunity to serve these churches and believe that there is incredible potential to what God can do through them.
When I ran across this article from Lifeway I had to share for all the rural church pastors out there! I enjoyed the article 5 Benefits of Pastoring a Rural Church and I hope that you will too. Would love to hear your feedback and any additional benefits that you are experiencing! Rural Churches Are Making It Happen!
Walking the District grounds one cool December morning, I was joined by 3 groups of geese. All total there were nearly 50 who were wandering along with me. Of course, they were not all that happy that I had joined them and told me so as I passed by. Despite their protest, I was content to enjoy their company while we walked.
It was interesting that as I entered into the vicinity of where they were, one of them sounded the alarm that I was in the area and soon others were joining in. In fact, it spread from group to group, making sure that they all knew that I was around. While some might call it noisy, I considered it a privilege to see God’s handiwork on full display.
When I came inside to write my article, I thought about the analogy that was presented in those geese (because as preachers we can make an analogy or illustration out of anything in life). These geese reminded me that God not only created us individually but also to be dependent upon one another!
Geese have incredible navigational skills as they migrate and I have always been amazed at God’s creative power to put within their nature, the ability to travel great distances, depending on the weather. At the same time, they are dependent upon one another to not only journey together, but to warn of any dangers they may encounter along the way.
As believers, we are dependent upon one another and on each other’s callings and gifts.
Paul jumps into the deep end when he instructs the Corinthian Church on their placement within the Kingdom and the Church. No doubt, the church was experiencing what many in our local congregations across the nation face…rugged American individualism.
Ok. They were not American, but the spirit of being independent is a part of our nature and can translate into our view of the Christian life. After all, we often elevate those who can go to the wilds of Alaska, live off the grid, hunt and eat wild animals, grow their own food, all while being filmed by a Discovery film crew.
Christ is sufficient for all of our needs and for the development of our Christian walk, yet Paul reminds us that we need one another. Not only to grow individually but also corporately.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 (ESV)
This reminder can also translate beyond the individual congregation that you serve in, to the district, to our fellowship, and to the worldwide church. We Need One Another! It isn’t too far-fetched to say that our effectiveness as “The Body of Christ” is dependent upon our love for one another and our desire to see each church, pastor, leader, board member, volunteer, and congregant fulfilling their purpose in the Kingdom! When we love one another as Christ loves the church, there is no room for disdain, rivalry or competition, envy, inferiority or superiority, only love.
That love that God has placed in our hearts is graphically displayed through action and not just our words. Paul wanted the church to recognize that the gifting’s in the church were not for consumption, but for giving so that others would be blessed. In other words, it’s not about what others do for us, but rather what we do for them. We fulfill what God desires for His church when it is our consuming desire to see others succeed!
This coming year, I am believing for a unified effort to see that each church succeeds in fulfilling its purpose to be healthy and effective in their respective mission field. The Oklahoma District is fully equipped to serve the Lord, just as every church and believer is equipped. But like the local church, we depend on each one recognizing and honoring the gift that God has given and using it to lift one another!
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“In small towns, it is imperative that we do not import an unadjusted ministry methodology from an urban context into a small town context. I call this failure to contextualize “copy + paste.” It is a seductive trap that too many church planters and pastors fall into. It goes like this: something works somewhere and so it must work here.”
~Donnie Griggs (Small Town Jesus http://amzn.to/2BF0DKx)
When I began pastoring my first church, I remember visiting with people around town, inquiring about the church that they were a part of. While there were many who gave various responses to my questions, Baptist, Methodist, PCG, etc. one answer always confused me. “I go to Brother Rider’s church.” Funny, I pastored the church that Brother Rider led so faithfully for 51 years!
While that answer eventually transitioned to Pastor Chad’s church, in reality, I had accepted no ownership of the church in any way. Understanding that it is a response that people often give, attaching a pastor to the vision, ministry, and direction of the church, I never took it personally. I always thought it funny when my girls were asked by their friends “Does your dad own the church?”
Paul reminds Timothy and the church:
…I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14–15 (ESV)
God, in His infinite wisdom established the church to accomplish His mission on earth. This Christ-led institution is the foundation of and primary communicator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We must never confuse the most important purpose we have of sharing the message of forgiveness, renewed relationship with God, and eternal life in Christ Jesus!
We as a church must preserve and practice the truth of God’s Word which was revealed through Jesus to those who have been commissioned to deliver the most important message in human history. How?
May the church of Jesus Christ fulfill it’s most important role in this day and age. Live and proclaim that Jesus is Lord of His Church!
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God offers his compassion to those who realize their deepest need of Him. He cares for us with a heart of concern and mercy.
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6 (ESV)
During this holiday season, I am constantly reminded of God’s loving graciousness toward me. The fact that He sent His son for us in spite of the fact that we were not worthy, is a display of love of which is simply mind boggling. I am so thankful that God loves us enough to be gracious toward us and provides abundantly for our present and future needs. He has our best in mind and sometimes it is good for us to be reminded of it.
We are in the final stages of planning and preparing for our upcoming Main Event Men’s Conference, September 29-30, 2017. I am so excited about this years retreat and what I believe, God is going to do in the lives of men across the state of Oklahoma! I am praying that God will supernaturally touch the hearts of men and empower them to not only see transformation in their own lives, but also in the lives of their families, churches, and communities.
At last years conference, God began to speak to me about this year’s theme, Men of Honor and over the past year I have been asking questions and searching the Word of God for the answers. I know that God is calling men to raise the bar when it comes to their walk with the Lord, guarding the purity of their hearts and minds.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore the idea of honor and how it plays out in our lives. May God give His favor and direction as we journey together!
As a pastor, I have not only attended my fair share of funerals, but have presided over many of them. Typically each service places great emphasis on honoring those who passed, by telling of the positive characteristics of their lives. While there were many services in which it was easy to honor the character of the deceased, there were those services where it was not only hard to come up with something, but I have watched a family stretch things a bit.
I understand that we want to honor someone who is passed and we sure wouldn’t tell all the bad things the person was involved with, (especially in front of the preacher!) but I wonder, how would the service look if they had lived with honor. You see the opposite of living a life of honor, is living for yourself. Not caring about others, or worse, not caring about what God has desired or designed for our lives.
When searching through scripture, a foundational verse stood out as a key element to living a life of honor.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:13–16 (ESV)
The writer of Proverbs tells us that we are blessed when we find wisdom and get understanding. These key elements in a man’s life comes with a promised result…honor. It isn’t an honor that is demanded, but one that is earned through a life well lived. It is proven in the battlefield of everyday life, making choices, building relationships, and living out our purpose. Wisdom and understanding provides us with the ability to live above reproach and gives us with the ability to discern what is right in light of the Word of God and His kingdom.
So how do we gain wisdom? Consider God’s Word as an instructional guide for acquiring wisdom and understanding!
Wisdom and understanding doesn’t come as the result of simply living life, it is a conscience effort to live each day, seeking the Father’s guidance and applying the principles of scriptures to our lives. As a result, we not only receive God’s blessing on our lives, but those around us are blessed as well.
My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Proverbs 3:21–22 (ESV)
Thank you God that you have provided everything necessary for living an abundant life and have given to us, the key to living a life of honor before you and man. May you grant us the wisdom necessary to search after your will and direction for our lives. May you pour out your blessing on our lives and on the lives of those we come in contact with. We will be careful to give you the glory, honor, and credit for what you are doing and going to do in our lives. Amen
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Pursuit of happiness seems to be a primary concern of our culture today. Everywhere you look, advertisers are trying to sell us something that they claim will enhance our emotional well-being and promote a sense of accomplishment which in turn will make us happy…right? After all, everything we purchase or acquire in our lives are suppose to be the very things that will improve the odds that we will have a happy life!
Yet too many times, after I have made one of those purchases or I pursued something that I thought I had to have, I found myself wondering why I even pursued it in the first place? What did I think would happen with the pursuit? Was it something that I needed for the moment, or was it a want to fill a selfish desire in my heart?
May we make every effort to pursue righteousness and kindness in this life. As we do, the promise is that we will truly find life, righteousness and honor. Then, our pursuit of happiness will come as a natural result of our daily actions, rather than temporary acquisitions we think will make us happy.
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) — 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
I have often contemplated what Isaiah must have experienced and felt as he had this supernatural experience with God. The holiness of God had to have been palatable as he stood in His presence, because Isaiah recognized that his unworthiness was a glaring blemish in his ability to stand before Him.
Throughout my life, I have had experiences with God which greatly impacted the direction of my life. It was in those moments that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was doing a special work in my life and that I needed to make every effort to pay attention to His leading and follow His will for my life.
Isaiah was quick to volunteer for service when God asked in a general sense, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It was in that moment that Isaiah realized that he had an opportunity to serve God in a way that would take the supernatural experience he was having and put it to use in practical service to the people. He knew God was placing the commission on his life to be a spokesperson to the nation.
I love his willingness to serve. He humbly knew that his life was not his own and in light of the mercy of God, he had an opportunity to serve God with his soul, body, mind, and will. His response evidenced a humble readiness and a complete trust in God’s plans for his life. In spite of his shortcomings, he made himself available to God for His use.
Each one of us have experienced and received the mercies of God which have been abundant in our lives. Salvation is the chief of those mercies in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we asked God for forgiveness of our sins and committed our lives to His Lordship, we were offering everything that we are and will ever be, to His service and His leadership in our lives.
Isaiah becomes for us the example of who we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God. His desire to be used by God brought no questions as to the impact it would have to his schedule, relationships, and life plan. He readily volunteer without reservation, without setting terms, and without a deeper discussion to the expectations.
May we follow Paul’s command to us: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)
Throughout my life and ministry, I have often read and quoted James 1:5 which says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” With it comes the reminder that God desires to be intricately involved in the growth of our wisdom as we face difficult situations in life and ministry. There is no doubt in my mind that each one of us has asked for wisdom as we faced a decision in which we did not know how to handle or we have encouraged others to ask God for wisdom for their own unique situation.
While asking God for wisdom for our lives is an important step in the process, as I look back on the book of Proverbs, the writer reminds us that gaining wisdom is a process which usually involves the day to day decisions that we make as well as, the tough decisions, situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. I would be great if we could simply ask God for wisdom and He instantly zaps us with all the wisdom we will ever need. But Proverbs 2 reminds us that it is through a series of “if/then” statements, that wisdom is acquired.
How do we gain wisdom in our lives and apply it daily?
Wisdom is a valuable and necessary quality to nurture in your life. It is important that each one of us make the commitment to seek wisdom and keep seeking the rest of our lives. Wisdom doesn’t come for just a momentary circumstance but is developed throughout our entire lives. Cherish the process, remember what you have learned in the past, and God will continue to grant wisdom in the days ahead.
If there is one inevitable characteristic of life, it is that transitions and changes continually happen. Whether they are gradual or sudden, planned or unplanned, our response to change is the only thing that we can control through transition. Our response is in direct correlation to our perspective. John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
While Nyree and I are humbled and honored to serve in the role of Church Ministries Director, we have had to face the challenge of transition in our life and ministry affecting our family, church family, and community relationships. While we are working through each transition, we have had to keep our perspective of the future in view. I have had to remind myself of several important elements of transitions that I need to keep in mind.
Recognize that transitions are difficult because they can shake your sense of identity. When I made the announcement that we were accepting a new position, my identity as Pastor of a local church transitioned to something completely different than any other position I have held. When I recognize that my identity as a minister is not founded in my title, but rather, my God-given calling, I can rest assured that no matter what position I find myself in, God has already established my identity.
Realize that transitions are opportunities for personal growth and development. Transitions in life can be God’s gift to us in order for us to have a new start personally. While there are priorities that I will carry with me into this new role, I also recognize that there are areas that I will need to grow in order to fulfill the new responsibilities and expectations placed on me. Transitions are opportunities to practice new habits and new ways of interacting with others.
Remember why the transition is necessary. Transitions are often necessary because God in His sovereignty has orchestrated the change to fulfill His plans for our lives. While we may not always understand the why, we have to trust that He knows what he is doing and place our hope in Him. Only then can we have peace in the midst of transitions.
Rely on your support system, which will provide security during the transition. Throughout this transition many have supported us, by providing encouragement, expressing their love, and offering their assistance. It has been reassuring to know that we have great friends who are our support system in this time of transition.
While transitions are hard in the present, keeping our eyes on the future provides the hope and strength necessary to press on in this journey called life. God has a great plan!!