Monday, August 30, 2010
It peaks my interest a bit as to why people abandon the church when things go well. Let me explain. When a young Christian business man/woman starts off on their entrapenerual endeavor to launch a business it seems they make it a point to be at church often. They are fully trusting God to give them wisdom and connections to make this thing happen. I don't blame them one bit...when you start your own business it usually requires quite a bit of money. No one wants to see that not fly. Sadly though the trend tends to be once the business gets going the need for God begins dwindling. If it is a business that relies heavily on new contacts then this person will leave one church and move on to the next one in the pursuit wanting to get involved more all while building up their clientelle under the table. Eventually once the business is running well enough and is consuming this persons life....church is not even a blip on their radar anymore.
I recall having a conversation with a business owner a few years ago. He told me, "Once I started coming to church, giving and praying my business has just taken off leaps and bounds!" Well, sadly to this day they are no longer in a church and are now just using Sundays as his day off because business is going so well. What does that say about this person's spiritual walk? Why do I get the feeling that when things begin to tank again they will be back at church? Nothing like using God.
It is important to remember our roots and to stick with them. If God has blessed us with a place of power and ownership of a business and recognize it is God that brought us here....why do we then give up on the things that got us to that point?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Time to tee one up as a youth pastor "has been". The youth pastor days were a blast for me as we saw the youth group grow exponentially in a smaller church. Typically large youth groups at large churches are celebrated...however, seeing a youth group of 70+ in a church of 110 or so would constitute killer growth. God was doing some great things. When I moved to Waupaca the youth group started with 6 teens and within 6 months we were up to 20+ because of what God was doing. Within those 6 months we also had 80+ teens attending our bi-weekly outreaches. There was one common factor though in my years of youth group that helped our growth....THE SUMMER TIME.
It seems that typically a church sees pretty good growth in the spring of each year. I was blown away by the growth we experienced this summer at our church. It was kind of odd but hey...GO GOD! Getting back to youth group growth...it was always logical to me that the summer was not the time to shut down a youth ministry. I will be honest with you though, I was always a little jealous of those churches that let their youth pastor shut down the youth ministry for the summer. Not doing any youth ministry and still getting paid? SWEET! However, it just never made a stitch of sense to me why a youth group would shut down during a time when teens are utterly bored and do not have a whole lot to do.
The summer was a time that brought out my "A Game" as we ramped up the youth services, events, etc. On any given summer you could always expect a trip to Six Flags Great America, whitewater rafting, etc. We did alot of free things as well. It was a pick and choose for the events we offered. I remember the last 4 years we would do a BIG back to school trip. The first year was Panama City Beach Florida. The second year was Daytona Beach, Florida. For our third year we tried our hand at camping in Yellowstone National Park. It was fun but don't assume because it is summer you don't need to pack warm clothes up there....it got down to 30+ degrees each night. The last year we went to New York City and attended church at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Other youth pastors would ask me, "what kind of mission work did you do on these trips?" My answer? "NOTHING!" These were just great times that built up friendships in the youth group which from my observation really stuck. The memories and times we had helped make friendships that last a lifetime. We did have devotionals but I was a firm believer that you could go on a trip or do events that really had nothing to do with "okay kids, let's have our Jesus time." THE WHOLE TIME WAS JESUS TIME! As far as I know as I look back at the youth group I had the privilege of leading that many are still plugged into the church and many more have gone into vocational ministry.
It is my opinion that summer is the best time for growth in a youth ministry. I will end with a very opinionated statement. If a youth group is being shut down on the summers because there is typically no growth and youth aren't showing up...it may not be the teens fault the program is boring. Just sayin.
ps...I got this piece of clip-art off google. If I got it from your churches website...just say "NO" to clip-art.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
A "Mistress Church"....interesting thought isn't it? This is something I can speak of regarding the church I pastor but I am sure many others pastor a "mistress church." When someone ends up not being satisfied in their relationship it can sometimes end up with the person finding their needs being met in other ways...perhaps a mistress. This is in no way the correct way to handle things...but none the less in this sick world we live in...these things happen.
The same can happen in the church world. I will speak from my own experience but am quite sure I share the same view with other lead (senior) pastors. In the church realm it is totally cool if one church is having a guest speaker and someone from another church to visits. Maybe the woman's ministry of another church is doing a special event and has invited other churches to join...AWESOME! The trouble comes when now this person who visited once or twice is attending a Sunday here and there. What usually ends up happening is this person will only show up now and again, maybe throw a few bucks at it for the good time and leave. Over time the person visiting will begin to tell me how much they dislike their church. I recall a time some practice was going on at our church which involved people from another church. There were some items that I needed to pick-up so I went to church to grab them. It was almost 45 minutes later I got to leave because this person was just bashing their home church and telling me what freedom and joy we have at Radiant Fellowship. Another time was when a senior citizen stopped me and began to cry because they felt their church was going down hill quick. He proceeded to tell me he saw such joy and passion at Radiant Fellowship. In his words though "I could never leave because of what others would think about me." This person no doubt is a pillar of that church. Honestly, this saddens me when people like this do that sort of thing. Radiant Fellowship (and I am sure other churches in this scenario) seems to be the place where so many want to use what we have to offer but that is as far as it goes.
The reason this makes me sad is for some reason we get in this mindset that I am locked in at this place. Even if a person is not being spiritually fed and complains about it the whole time during lunch after church....they are like a dog that returns to its vomit. The only reason I can think of as to why people stay in something they don't like is that they may have hopes that it will change. Worst yet, the troubles and drama at their church has so become a part of who they are that if they move to a church free of that garbage that they will feel lost. In other words they kind of enjoy it. It saddens me when people get into these slumps...they feel the church needs them there to make it through. Trust me...if there is that much complaining and unhappiness coming from you...it would probably be best to leave. If you don't think they can make it without you...ask yourself this question. The church has been going on how long before you got there? I am quite sure they will be fine without you...especially because rotten attitudes are contagious.
There is so much joy attending a church where you are free to be who you are and the good things to talk about FAR outweigh the negative things. I remember at one point in my ministry in a different city when I would lead someone new on their faith journey...I ended up referring them to a neighboring church because of the complaining I was doing about the church I was a part of. Now that I am in a church that breathes freedom and joy....it is the best place in the world to be. No matter what church that may be.
I am so jazzed about this coming Tuesday! I will be seeing someone in concert that I first saw on the Muppet Show back in the day. Of course I am talking about, Alice Cooper. A pastor going to see Alice Cooper? Yep.
I wish I could say I followed him since his days of singing "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "School's Out". However, I did not really start listening to him until "The Last Temptation" album came out. At the time I was a music supplier for a Christian bookstore in West Allis, WI. It sure was a surprise to me to see his album come in which prompted me to do some research on him.
After some time of research I found out that in fact Alice Cooper was a follower of Christ. What I think is so cool though is that he still does his stage show and all but knows who he is and what he believes. You never know who he is going to be able to reach through doing what he does. I can tell you that he serves as an inspiration to many who think Christianity has to be this way when in fact it can be that way as well.
With a little luck and hoping it would be great to meet Alice Cooper sometime that night!!!
To watch his testimony...click here.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I believe a church can always learn things from other churches. For the longest time I attended a conference in Granger, IN. To be honest I learned alot and implemented a few things. When I was youth pastoring, I would attend Jeanne Mayo conferences all of the time. I would be the first to admit that I tried to copy for awhile to no avail in my own youth ministry. It was at that point, I realized it is a dangerous thing to try and copy another ministry.
I remember attending a field trip Sunday night service with the church I was on staff at. This was a large church in the Chicagoland area. After we got back from this outing...you began to see changes happening in the building. From the colors of the new building to how the worship team had to wear all black. I suppose it would look sharp in some settings however, each church has it's own unique DNA. Anytime you force something upon a church it more than likely is going to flop. This happened alot when the Brownsville revival began...many would attend this "revival" and than try to mimic it in their own church. I remember seeing worship leaders that look and sang like Lindell Cooley. You know the funny thing? The copying never stuck and what happens in my opinion is that a sacred cow in born in that church.
See, after a little while the pastor had to leave the church that I was serving at. This was the guy that made many things resemble this church in Illinois. After he left, the worship team was still required to wear ALL black (which would be great for a goth concert) each Sunday. The new name of the church even copied it...they just switched the words. Well...being appointed "Interim" pastor in my book meant I can make a few changes...not get to radical though. I told the worship team, "Hey, let's come to church looking nice but let's ditch the black." Let's just say that went over like a led balloon. The above letter is what I got instantly after that. This was only a few weeks before my departure.
Bottom line...each church has it's own unique identity. Not all churches can be contemporary and not all churches can be catering to seniors. It is a natural organic process to find out who you are. When you find out who you are...RUN WITH IT!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Tonight I am sitting in dark room re-watching a movie again that I saw awhile ago. The movie is entitled “It Might Get Loud.” It is a movie about Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge. They sit around and talk about the history of guitar playing and where they are at now. This kind of kicked my sentimental side in as I am coming up on my 5 year anniversary this Sunday as the pastor of Radiant Fellowship. I realize I am not the only pastor that went through the times of joy and pain. However, maybe you reading this might be motivated to stick with what you are doing after you see what I have gone through. The following is the reason I celebrate this milestone…it has been the toughest thing I have ever went through.
My life change began in October 2003 when my picture perfect world of ministry as a youth and associate pastor came crashing down. The pastor admitted he had an affair. Leading up to this there was this TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) mentality that came with the purchase of our new church that we could not afford. That is neither here nor there; the powers that be made my life as a pastor there a living hell so I decided it was time to leave. There was a fear that with the rapid growth the youth group and college ministry had…that we were potentially starting our own church. What? So….when the pastor resigned, it was the district secretary/treasurer of the Assemblies of God that came to “uninstall” him. That night we had a church board meeting, keep in mind I was the associate pastor…I was asked to leave that meeting. I was glad to leave. During that time this person that uninstalled the pastor I once worked under asked, “So what are you going to do next?” Why does it seem the ones who maintain a level of integrity end up being the ones punished? I wanted to stay in the worst way but saw there was no way I was going to be able to do that. I will never understand that mentality. I told this guy “I am open to anything.” After interviewing and being offered the job of youth pastor at an A/G church in Germantown, WI we decided to join this new church plant in Waupaca, WI. The district secretary/treasurer started it and we would be a part of this new work with ALL THE FREEDOM we wanted.
Fast forward a year and this new church called Radiant Fellowship was birthed. It was up to 30 people on a consistent basis and things were going well. That was until the pastor wanted to take me for a ride to talk. This was the same thing the pastor in Milwaukee did to tell me about his moral failure. I had chills because I thought, “….expletive….this is happening again.” Sure enough….it happened. The board at that time decided to appoint me the interim pastor. THIS IS WHEN ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. See the pastor could not remain in the pastor position while legal things were going on, and I was asked to do this on an interim basis. This decision was made by the Assemblies of God district office. Last I looked a pastor has to make decisions and when I did, the two staff members lashed out at me like none other. They literally had people believing that I voted the senior pastor out of the church. Oh, how easily simple minds are swayed. If I did vote this guy out of his position…I often say “let it go on record that I was the world’s most powerful youth pastor.” But the same people that this staff would talk about behind their backs in hurtful ways now were on their side. I am still baffled to this day about that. It was the last week in August of 2005 where I was asked, “Should we keep Radiant Fellowship going with 8 people and a mortgage or shut it down?” To be honest, I was ready to lose my cool and tell the whole thing where it can go. However, though politics in a church can utterly make God throw up…the ministry side of this little church was awesome. Those who were mature enough in their walk saw right through this garbage for what it is. I remember the last staff meeting we had with the founding group. You see I am not savvy with words and so when I was being attacked at this last meeting…I was about to blow my stack verbally. My wife was crying and I had enough until my friends who are still a part of the church came to our side. It was then we decided we were going to stay. So, the last week of August 2005 was my first Sunday of this severely damaged church plant that had to be restarted after one year of existence.
As the weeks went on with this fresh start we had a worship leader and that was it. She played piano well and was really great for what we needed then. The tough part came when the church dropped a couple more people. To this day there are only 3 original people from the beginning days. One of the biggest things weighing on my mind of course was finances. Here is a new church with a severe black-eye on its reputation in our city…where do we go from here? Through all that I have mentioned, God has given me awesome strength to make it through. Trying to pastor a church where the old staff still lived proved to be a daunting task. I would literally bump into some and get ripped into whether it was a Pick n’ Save parking lot or in the middle of Walgreens. I have no doubt I should have seen a therapist for all I went through...it would have been good. The first year afterwards I did not attend the district council meeting because there were other pastors (some still are) very mean to me. Luckily I have good friends and very supportive wife. I am not sure what it was but I kept seeing the potential in this city for this small church. This city is only 5500 people so news spreads quick.
I praise the Lord for where we are at today with a part time worship leader, youth pastor and me being full time. This church has grown to 80+ and has an even larger internet ministry. Our little church generates more than 5000 hits per month! One former district superintendent for the Assemblies of God told me a few weeks ago that Radiant Fellowship is an awesome niche church whose best days are still ahead. I AGREE!
This Sunday marks 5 years at this great church and we are just getting started! Balding, gray hairs, etc. all signs of stress but I can truly say that now I have never had more fun in a church! We are seeing growth and God is doing some awesome things here. Here is to another awesome 5 years and MORE!!!!
Yesterday our church had our annual church baptism event. We do not have the luxury of having a baptismal tank in our church but you know what? After having our baptism at beautfiul Spencer Lake...I would not want to waste the churches money on getting one in the building. This just seemed so biblical.
Doing a baptism is one of the many highlights of being a pastor. I got to baptize 2 children and 2 adults. We hired a new youth pastor that just graduated so I let her baptize the 3 teens. Everything about this event was awesome as we ended the day with a large cookout.
Baptism is a very special time for everyone, be sharp in how you plan this event! It brings alot of joy to people and families.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
What happens is these people will leave and never make any GOOD friends. They will use the excuse that they are moving on for this reason or that. What I have observed in church life is that those who say "no one wanted to be my friend," it is usually because they would not let their wall down so someone could befriend them.
It is important that people stick around churches and make good friends. It is these friends that you can call on in your time of need to be there for you.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Tonight was a great reminder of how if you are on staff at a church….you must take some time for yourself and your family. I had a very busy week with appointments and office details…fact is I had a lot I could have done tonight but instead it was time for a family fun night. We try to do something at least once a week whether if it is boating or going out for an ice cream it is important to have these times.
Tonight was a great night of hanging out with my family. We went out to Jimmy John’s for dinner and then went to Old Navy to hit up the hoodie sale. My wife LOVES a new hoodie and could make her wardrobe all hoodies lol. It is the simple nights out that make all the difference in the life of a family.
It's been said..."you make time for what really matters to you."
Thursday, August 19, 2010
When I moved to Waupaca 6 years ago I remember getting the Waupaca Post for the first time. The transition from the "Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel" to the "Waupaca Post" was quite a surprise regarding it's size. This is a great local paper though. I am not sure a week goes by without a "look at me" picture in the paper. The way you get your organization in the paper is by making a donation of at least $250.00 to a charity. A picture is taken of you handing the check to the other person and that's it. I think this is a great thing to have when it comes to non-faith based organizations. In my humble opinion this is a great way to show what your organization is doing to help or be helped. But...there is a line.
What I personally don't understand is why churches do this. This usually shows up in a picture of some church making a charitable contribution to a mission, charity, etc. I have seen in different newspapers in different states including our own...a picture of "look at us praying!" This even happens a ton with "See You at the Pole". If your school has a ton of people praying, you are heralded as a huge testimony with pictures and all. If you are the only kid praying...you are heralded as a hero and might even get a speaking gig with your photo being shown. But, if you only have 5 or 6...you are kind of treated as a failure with no picture. But that is another topic.
You know what comes to mind when I hear people bragging about how much they are praying? The whole look at me mentality? What comes to mind is when Jesus spoke in Matthew. Whether a church wants to admit it or not...we play on a different field than say a Humane Society or some other non-faith based organization.
Regarding charitable works...
Matthew 6:1-4(NIV) Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Regarding the "look at me" people that pray to be seen...
Matthew 6:5-8(NIV) And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Ministry leaders can assume because we are advertising our works in the paper, that it will be good promotion, but we are not dealing in the natural. I know for Radiant Fellowship...there are endless things we could put in the paper. I recall one Christmas a few years back we bought a city government office an important piece of office equipment. We were asked if we want a picture in the paper....I declined. The blessing we got from that and the many other things we have done (unseen by the public) has been such a blessing for those involved.
To be clear, I think it is great to promote upcoming events, outreaches, etc. in the paper though most of the time the only one benefiting from that is the company the check is being made out to. If it is an out of the box event though, it may draw a crowd.
I do believe that ministries that flaunt their praying, or works ought to be careful of becoming a very egotistical place. Last I read...pride comes before a ?
So it is official, I am done with "how to grow your church" books and conferences. I have attended conferences and read many books on these things and heard many different speakers on this subject. It is a funny thing because I have tried most things up until a couple years ago. At that point I was done with these books.
What I have come to discover is that each church has its own DNA. A church needs to grow organically and though it may take a little while...it will happen if you (the pastor, leader) are willing to let go. One must be willing though to lose a little control and see what happens. It takes time and can be a bit chaotic.
I can honestly say that after some time we are seeing the fruit of letting go and see what God is going to do. This is so much easier than trying to replicate the infomercial conferences on "do this and get this result" or revival chasing. I do believe conferences are great and beneficial...but anytime there is specific steps to build YOUR church...be very cautious. This in my opinion is nothing more than a money making scheme.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
It is one thing to have a church you really enjoy going to on Sundays and midweek. It is another thing when you are a part of a church that has fellowship events outside of the church. This late summer and going into the fall is amazing at Radiant Fellowship...where I pastor. We had one get together this past weekend where only 15 were signed up yet 50+ people showed up. This Sunday we have a baptism service and expect many to show up once again. As I look on the horizon there are many more to come. This is the glue that holds a church together in my opinion.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
One thing I have come to discover that gets me upset about some Christians, is the escapist mentality. This is the old classic line that is not even biblical where people say, "I am just passing through this life and just want to get to heaven." Instead of doing the work of the Lord and realizing that we are here to make a difference....these people just point out all the wrong in people. These are the people that make Christianity known for what we hate rather than what we love.
Jesus warns that some of the people we assume are in may be “out”, and some of the people we assume are out may be “in.” It is my opinion that as a church we must invite people to trust Jesus wherever they are on their journey. Christians are not charged by God with the task of destroying other religions. Jesus has great warning for religious people who make grand announcements about how they’re in and others are out.
Franciscan priest Richard Rohr had this to say on what is salvation: "My simple definition of salvation would be, when one begins to live in conscious union with God. This, of course, grows and develops and Jesus makes it plain that this has to begin in our bodies, in our human experience in this world, now, and for that Jesus is surely necessary for salvation. …it is not a formula or a mere affirmation but a change of identity."
To be a Christian is to believe that history is going somewhere. It’s not how can I escape this life to be with God, it’s how can I live so God can take up residence here? I would suggest that you be wary of any form of spirituality that claims the goal is escape.The bible...this grand story does not begin with sin, it begins with Shalom. God's desire is not to destroy everything and start over but rather make all things new again, Shalom...to bring about a resurrection to our world. Jesus resurrected from the grave, we are to live a life of resurrection and make a difference in our world.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The Columbus Dispatch...Warsaw, OH. "Pastor Bill Dunfee of the New Beginnings Ministries in Warsaw reports some, too.
The inquiries center around a feud between the church and a strip club.
Dunfee and members of his congregation have been protesting in front of the Foxhole North on U.S. 36 in Walhonding almost every weekend for four years. In the past, they have taken photographs and videos showing the license plates of the club patrons and posted them on a now-defunct website and once used an amplifier to shout at the patrons. Their intent has been to deter patrons from entering the club and to introduce the exotic dancers to Christianity.
This feud made national news recently when Thomas George, the owner of the club, and his dancers decided to turned the tables by sitting outside the church during Sunday morning services."
"Dunfee was one of the last people out of the church. He went straight to stripper Laura Meske, who identified herself only as Lola in a Dispatch story last Monday.
"You think I'm a whore," Meske told Dunfee before finally accepting his embrace. "I'm not. I'm trying to take care of my kids."
Although both sides agreed to sit down together Wednesday, neither leader seemed willing to declare the end of the moral war.
Dunfee said he now has a better understanding of the Foxhole employees but will continue his "ministries" every weekend outside the club and push for the club to close.
George said he wishes Dunfee would walk away and call a truce. But as long as church members try to curb business at the club, George said, he'll keep going to the church on Sundays with carloads of friends and strippers."
In other stories being reported, this church has had people with megaphones, etc. out there week after week to try and shut this place down. This church has to realize that all of the obnoxious things they are doing to shut the place down in only bringing more publicity to the strip club. This may actually result in more revenue being made for them. NOW....
I think it is sheer genius of this strip club to picket the church. It is about time these places show the same level of disrespect to the churches acting in this manner. It is my opinion that churches/Christians who do things disrespectfully ought to get a taste of their own medicine. Can you imagine coming to church while the local strip club is protesting it?
This topic is near to my heart because a few years ago I sent out a letter to all of the bar owners and strip club owner in our town inviting them to church...this is what I wrote to the strip club.
Dear Club Owner;
Hello, I hope you are having a great day. I realize that it is not probably everyday that you receive a letter from a local church here in Waupaca. Or, if you do, it may not be a very pleasant one which is unfortunate.
Please allow me to introduce myself to you, my name is Bob Adams and I am 34 years old and lead pastor of Radiant Fellowship church here in Waupaca. It would be my observation that when you are in the field you and your entertainers have chosen that you may not be welcomed at most churches. But, the fact remains the same that there are those in your field that still have spiritual needs to be met and God loves you and them very much. It is for that reason I would like to invite you or any of your entertainers/staff to join us on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. We are located at 420 N. Harrison St. (W. Fulton St. to hwy. 49 which is also Harrison St. go north, we are 4 blocks down on the right.)
If you or anyone else from the club would choose to visit us, we never ask where you work unless it comes up in conversation. We do like to send e-newsletters to the people so if they would like to fill out a visitor form, it is always welcomed. We are a church that is geared towards all walks of life no matter who they are. Please feel free to redeem these coffee vouchers on any given Sunday as we have a café in our building as well. Feel free to give them to your staff.
Again, I hope you are not offended by this letter. I just want you to know that we at Radiant Fellowship are here to meet yours and everyone’s spiritual needs and that God loves you and your employees.
For more information you may contact us at 715-258-3005 or visit us online at www.radiantfellowship.net.
Do you know something? We got a loving response from a couple bars. Want to know something bigger? About 6 months later the manager of the strip club called me to talk. Her child was going through a life changing predicament and they needed some loving pastoral counseling. YAY GOD!!!!
In all things we have to show the love of Christ. Let this be a good lesson to those churches picketing something rather than talking on a professional level. We must reflect the love of Christ in all things.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Anne Rice is in a season that many, if not all, Christians experience: the great joy of coming to personally embrace the love, forgiveness, and new life that Jesus offers is then followed by the troubles and trials of learning the teachings of the Bible and living with fellow Christians. Truthfully, both are difficult.
Every Christian struggles, to varying degrees, with different parts of the Bible because they call us to repent of beliefs we formerly held and ways in which we formerly behaved. Anne Rice struggles with the Bible's opposition to homosexuality and its teachings on gender roles. She also struggles with the teachings of the Catholic Church on birth control and politics, and many Protestants would likely agree with her in principle.
Additionally, every Christian has seasons in which he or she struggles to lovingly live in community with fellow Christians as the church. This is because some Christians are so self-righteous, mean spirited, and just plain annoying that even their pastors are occasionally tempted to preach in one of those "Jesus, Please Save Me from Your Followers" T-shirts.
The problem for Anne Rice is that, unlike other Christians who get to work out their faith struggles in private, she is a public figure who decided to write, "In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian" on her Facebook page, which only invites the kind of vicious online responses that pushed her to make the statement in the first place. To her credit, though, she was clear that she still loves Jesus Christ as her God and wants an ongoing relationship with him.
Her Facebook post led to the very important questions I was asked to answer for this blog, "Can you leave Christianity and keep Christ? Can you be spiritual without being religious?"
The answer is yes and no. Yes, you can leave Christianity for a while and still be a true Christian. However, you cannot stay away from church and community with fellow Christians forever.
The Bible speaks to this very issue. The apostle John wrote the book of 1 John specifically so that people might know whether they are truly Christians and have eternal life with God (5:13). To serve that purpose, John describes numerous evidences of change in someone's life that indicate he or she has become a Christian. For example, 1 John 3:14 says, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers."
Rice would admittedly like to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus, but not with his people. Yet this sort of relationship is one that is simply unacceptable, for "whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:21). To use an illustration, imagine a single woman falling in love with an amazingly wonderful single man who happened to have a lot of children, some of whom were rotten kids that he adopted in an effort to transform them. Now, imagine that woman wanting to be married to the man but have nothing to do with any of his children. That kind of relationship is devastating, but it is the kind of relationship Rice wants with Jesus and without his spiritual children in the church.
My guess is that she will eventually return to church. In time, she will realize that she is being judgmental, self-righteous, and intolerant, just like the people she is stereotyping. If she is a true Christian, God will lovingly, graciously, and patiently help her to see not only how others have treated her, but also how she has responded to them.
In the meantime, Christians should not be offended by her rejection of Christianity. We should instead use it as an opportunity to search our own lives to see how we have been vicious, cruel, mean, unloving, and difficult to others, and repent of our own sin without fixating on what we think are her sins.
We should also pray for her. My guess is that she's simply struggling with what it means to be a Christian while hurting. She lost her daughter Michele to leukemia in 1972, buried her gay best friend John Preston, who died of AIDS in 1994, and in 2002 she buried her husband of forty-one years, Stan Rice. Her son, bestselling author Christopher Rice, is a gay rights activist whom she loves even while she reads the Bible's denial of his lifestyle as a God-honoring one. So, let her fellow Christians pray, love, and wait for Jesus to keep working on her as he is on us, thanking him that at least our struggles are not as publicly scrutinized as hers.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Anyone thinking of starting a blog I would say "go for it!" It is an easy thing to do and you can truly be you (unless you are a company man and will only talk about things to appease people). You can truly be yourself and get your thoughts out. The great thing is hearing from people. I enjoy the emails I get from my friends in Norway to Spain to the United States.
Tomorrow I will continue on, stay tuned....I got some interesting thoughts coming up.......
Anytime a person is on staff at a church and comes up with a fresh innovative idea...it is a good thing. The problem is when that person than passes the idea onto someone else or expects someone else to do it. Now, this is all well and good if there are volunteers to do it. The other side of it though is when there is no one else to do it and therefore gets neglected. Basically what I am saying is don't promise to come up with a bunch of grand ideas unless you are willing to make it happen. If others come alongside you and help...GREAT. But don't be afraid to start it yourself as well. This will make for a happier staff and church.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
In my case my wife and I have a 1 year old daughter and a 2 year old son that we adopted last year. The perk of me being a pastor with a home office is that we don't have to pay for daycare because my wife is a nurse and works full time during the day. Without this sounding bad, the downside of this is that you are around the kids ALL the time. Sure you have a home office and perhaps one that has a door that you can simply close. This allows you to escape being around the kids but it does not prevent the screaming, crying, etc. that you will still hear. To say you will have a quiet time with kids running around on the other side of the wall is impossible. For us this model works. Tracy works in the day and after dinner when she is home I then go to the office and take appointments.
You have to make it a point to sometime find your own space. If this means going for a ride, go to your church, or simply take a walk...it is important you do so. Work from home pastors have a difficult task. With any job or pastor with an office at a church or rental they can simply be gone for the day and come home. With us when you finally do get to go to church for a Wednesday or Sunday service guess what? You bring your family with (and that is a great thing) but it is nice to be away for a little bit now and then. Any other job, career, vocation, etc. you leave your family at home and go to work.
At the cost of maybe sounding a little cold hearted....you have to get away. Take advantage of finding some quiet time so that you can find sanity. You hear in marriage counseling that it is good to be away from each other now and then for a few hours or a day. The same holds true here. You will find yourself with a greater love for your family which is really the most important and where ministry begins.
This was a good book but in a kind of "Captain Obvious" kind of way. It wasn't that people got busy all of a sudden and a book like this had to be written. This was a problem that needed to be addressed a long time ago. I am sure some people have said this before in their own church but now that an official book came out, now it is okay to make church simple once again.
We have to listen to those in our church beyond the church board and leadership. They have wisdom as well.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
There is allot of legwork that goes into planning these series. Typically we try to stay a month ahead on our message planning. Yes we do leave room for the Holy Spirit if that is what some are wondering. Fact of the matter is we want God to take full control of our planning. One year we did "A Keith Green Easter" where each week the message title was one of Keith's songs. On the final week we flew in contemporary Christian music artist, Randy Stonehill to close it out with a message and concert. You see, Randy was instrumental in leading Keith to the Lord. This was a powerful series. The series we do may look bizarre but trust me when I say "it is nothing new, just a new packaging on an old story that still changes lives."
This is what I would encourage....go with what your heart is telling you to do for a series. Go with a series or message that you feel God is leading you to do. Remember, "to get people you never had you must do things you have never done."
So we are planning our Christmas series. Do we go with clip art Christmas wreathes and pre-made Christmas programs and dress to impress so that our Christmas service looks like every other one in the city? No. Welcome to Radiant Fellowship where we take the phrase "out of the box" and throw it away because to say "you are out of the box" would mean there is a reference point. This is one place far away from any box a person might put a church in at Christmas time.
With God in full control....this is going to be fun and I cannot wait to see the people that come to know who God is through it.
What I don't understand though are the people out there that are ripping this man's ministry to pieces. Both in Waupaca and other areas I have bumped into people who place this guy at the same level as Satan it seems. To be honest with you, I don't understand this. Yes I have received all of the emails from weirdo's that say he is new age and unbiblical etc, etc. I guess you can make anything sway in the direction you want it to when used out of context. After attending a couple of his conferences and hearing his heart and listening to what he said as a guest speaker at the Assemblies of God general council last summer....I just don't get it. Let me go on record saying so what if he quotes new age philosophers! The man still sticks to the bible and lives out the virtues of Christ. Let me ask, you that complain about, Rick Warren quoting new age philosophers...."HAVE YOU READ AND STUDIED YOUR BIBLE!?" Let me repost something from an old blog of mine....
"First of all, have you ever examined who let's say the apostle Paul quotes in Acts 17:28 when he says, 'For in him we live and move and have our being... .' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' He is quoting Aratus of Cilicia. How about Titus 1:12 Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." Who was he quoting here? How about Epimenides of Crete! Just for kicks, what about I Corinthians 15:33 Paul writes, Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." hmmmm....nice saying, sounds biblical...but he quoted Menander, author of the Greek comedy Thais. So what is the deal with these people he is quoting? All Pagans. And how would he happen to know that information? Perhaps he read their poetry and pulled these quotes to use for his teaching purposes. This is just one SMALL example of how bible teachers used "secular" things to drive the point across."
Now this is what I do not understand. You will get these people that rip apart Rick Warren, Rob Bell, etc. and think nothing of it...what I would call a "fungus" in the church. I think these people fail to realize that these are local pastors with local ministries somewhere. These people that tear apart other ministries are then completely devastated when someone picks apart their ministries. It is really quite astounding. Maybe it is to simple a way of thinking but if a person is going to find the fault in one persons ministry be it on a national or local level....isn't it true you should not be surprised when it happens to you or your ministry? Perhaps going after a public figure is easy but they are a person none-the-less. This is true when we had Ted Haggard at our church last November. I got flack from people outside of the church and some of my own relatives for this. The only problem is that their complaining is based off stories they have read. Perhaps they never once thought about coming to hear his heart at our church service that Sunday.
This is what I do know, those that rip apart Rick Warren because he had Obama at his church or quoted an unbiblical source (if it is truth...isn't all truth God's truth?) and accuses him of being ungodly really ought to examine their own heart. Rick Warren preaches truth and lives out the Christian virtues in his daily life. You, complainer...what are you doing on an international level to change the world? Staying at home and praying? That's an easy way out isn't it? What are you doing to reach people where you are? Opening your church doors and HOPING they would come in while neglecting outreach and connecting with people where they are? The Apostle Paul has some words for these types of churches and ministries. To the ones that slam Rick Warren, Rob Bell, and Ted Haggard without knowing their heart or ministry...you should go and visit their church. I know first-hand that if you attend Rob Bell's church, he will take the time to say "hi" to you after service and I am quite sure Ted Haggard would do the same. I cannot speak to Rick Warren's church but am sure you could connect for a bit.
There is a great verse in scripture that speaks to this. It is addressed to those who think it is their way or no way. It is addressed to those who set the bar so high it is unattainable. It is found in Matthew 23:13-15(NIV) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Let me end with this question, "Have you prayed for them?" If you really believe they are wrong..."Have you prayed for them?"
Sunday, August 8, 2010
It is so refreshing to sit down on a Sunday afternoon after a great morning at church. I am very excited for the direction God is taking Radiant Fellowship. We have been seeing some great growth with a very nice group of people. Today we introduced our new youth pastor and the excitement continued to grow in this place.
The exciting thing about the growth going on at Radiant Fellowship is that nothing is forced. We do not begin a program just to have it. Instead, we wait and see what is going on and as soon as someone mentions it…we move on it. As a pastor I stay away from micro-managing those on staff and volunteer. Rather, we set up boundaries and let them run with it. This keeps things fresh and relevant.
I am very excited about the future of this church!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
So I will come out and say it. This is a place where I can be blatantly honest and hopefully help other pastors and pastors to be. This is a place where people can read the transparent side of a pastor and what they experience. A question I often find myself asking is “why is it when someone asks me, ‘I want to do worship dance, flag/banner ministry, etc.’ in a church….why do they always seem different?” I find it interesting that these people are all about the church until you say “NO”. I know for me I find it disturbing for people to do this in church unless they are used in a certain program or at a set time. I have found that nine times out of ten when a pastor tells these people no, they immediately think you are an awful person/pastor and will never show up again. I consider these people that act in this manner to be very immature in their life and personal walk with God. Okay…so this was a rant but none the less an important thing to just put out there.
Friday, August 6, 2010
BTW: After this picture was taken I watered the flowers...they were wilting a bit.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Fast forward a few years and Radiant Fellowship is doing it! Does this mean everything is working that we have tried? No. It was Rick Warren (yes, I do enjoy his ministry) that said, "for every 1,000 things we have tried...one has worked." The key is that we are not afraid to try new things. From making our church look toxic to other edgy things...we are not afraid to do it in order to show people the love of Christ. If things work out for the future, we will have one big outreach event unlike anything Waupaca has ever seen. The only hint I can give at this time is this, we are targeting a crowd consider "the outcasts" in high-school, college, and adult life. YAY GOD!!!!
Over my time as a youth pastor I found this statement to be true but at times when you put it into practice..."the powers that be" didn't care for it. It is so easy for people to say "AMEN!" to something and never put it into action. Often times I would like to ask people who say "AMEN" in church, "do you agree with a point? If so, prove it."
This happened twice in my youth pastoring days. One time we had this new upstart band visit our youth group...you may have heard of them "DISCIPLE". Yes, the now very popular Christian rock band that brings in massive audiences. This group showed up and we had maybe 20 people for the concert. What a great night of ministry! Let's just say...I was asked not to do that again because it was too loud. The next event was after we moved into our new church and I wanted to set it off in our new youth room. We invited teens and college age from all around for the areas first "Christian Hip Hop Fest." For those that are fans of Christian hip hop...the lineup was, Mars iLL, Sackcloth Fashion, Man-o-War, B. Reith, Luke Geraty, and some local acts. Along with the concert we had a B-Boy battle. We had a great concert with an awesome turn out but then something happened.....to be continued.
To listen, simply click here and than click on "10 Minutes with Pastor Bob."
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
After we had this meeting, we felt we had purpose once again and things were on track. We all agreed we were on the right track and ready to see what God is up to. We believed that Radiant Fellowship was on the brink of doing something great….and so it begins! This summer has been amazing with our growth. Not only have we seen new people coming in but they are staying. What a joy! We decided we can handle this one of two ways. Either we can carry on with business as usual and not do much to facilitate the growth or, we can continue to hone in on our “A Game”. This is where we as the staff go above and beyond to make this place the best we can. This means for a pastor to make sure everything is clicking the way it should without micro-managing. It also means that other ministries have to do everything they can to make it a great place as well. This means change if necessary.
Yes it is all about God in churches and we need to realize that. We must also be sure to show people the love of Christ in all areas. We must strive for excellence in all we do so that people are proud to be a part of this beautiful bride we call the church.
Sadly this mom was serious and sadly this is the stance some churches can have as well. Anytime a church or Christian says “we don’t need to do outreach” is the day that church needs to seriously re-evaluate their ministry and perhaps read the bible. For the individual I would just ask to please back that statement up with scripture. Outreach is a necessary thing for the church to be doing. The church or individual that makes a statement like this is the person or church that is so scared of the world surrounding them that they have become socially retarded because they never leave their Christian bubble.
I think of how Jesus was in scripture, he would have no problem hanging out with other Christians….as we should. But, Jesus also flowed very smoothly among the unsaved with such grace and love that it was a beautiful thing.
Monday, August 2, 2010
See, yesterday at church was just amazing. We continue to see new people attending church, ministry is happening and we all get along! This is makes for a beautiful church. Our tag line is "accepting, real, relational" and I see that more and more.
Last night though was one of those times I did not have to counsel, preach, do visitation or anything and still ministry was happening. All I had to do was take the youth group out in my boat for a cruise on the chain o' lakes. It was first the guys turn to go then the girls with our youth directors. It was great seeing one kid that experienced his first time in a ski boat. I went full open to fly across the lake and he was sitting in the back yelling "THIS IS AWESOME!!" Even the little pranks that happen where a guy pours water on all the seats before the girls got it made me laugh.
It is great to be pastor in these times. The youth directors at Radiant Fellowship are doing a great job and I know we are both excited about the not so distant future for this youth ministry!