Friday, August 29, 2014

BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME


Karl Vaters wrote a great little book that I should probably read. It’s called ‘The Grasshopper Myth’.  He makes an interesting premise about how we view ourselves.

90% of the churches in the world have less than 200 people.



What if that's not a bad thing? What if smallness is an advantage God wants us to use, not a problem to fix?

In The Grasshopper Myth, Karl Vaters takes on some of the unbiblical beliefs we've held about church growth, church size and God's will for the last several decades. Then he offers a game plan for a New Small Church.

The title comes from the story in Numbers 13. When the Hebrews were at the edge of the Promised Land, ten of the twelve spies come back with this report: "All the people we saw there are of great size. ...We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." - Numbers 13:32-33

The grasshopper myth is the false impression that our Small Church ministry is less than what God says it is because we compare ourselves with others.

The solution is for Small Churches to see themselves the way God sees them. A church of innovation, not stagnation. A church that leads instead of following. A church that thinks small, but never engages in small thinking.[i]

Maybe you feel that your church is in the wrong building, the wrong neighbourhood, has the wrong pastor, the wrong congregation, not enough money, etc., etc., etc. You may think that you are in the wrong place as a church. That can be good to start a healthy struggle. Divine discontent can lead us to change toward godliness and contentment.

Could it be that our perception of being in the wrong place is skewed? Is it the wrong people and the wrong places that actually become God’s workshop in our lives?

I would propose that a person responsive to the Spirit’s call is generally in the wrong place at the right time. If we understand our times, we will know that God wants to do new and wonderful things in all the wrong places.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

PRESSURIZED CHURCH LEADERS

I would ask pastors and church leaders these questions:

·      Do you love your church?
·      Do you love your city?


For God so loved your city that He gave his only son to save it. I don’t think you can really belong to a church if you don’t learn to love it. I don’t think you can be effective in a city that you don’t like. Well… maybe Jonah was successful in a place he despised, but he was a sourpuss and never made peace with the plans of God.

What are God’s plans for the Shalom of your church and your city?

One pastor was asked how things were going in the church he had been at for the past year. “Wonderful, this church is dying much slower than the last one I was in.”

Another pastor made it to big time. She had a multi-million dollar budget and a brand new building. As she showed her friend the building, she opened the door and said, “It’s a beautiful sanctuary that sleeps 1200.”
  
I hope that none of you get caught in the web of trying to be a successful pastor or to have a successful church. When you think you have reached the big time, something unexpected will always challenge your security. Maybe God has a different understanding of what success is.


James 1: (MSG)
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.


According to James, we need pressure to force our faith out into the open. There’s no short cut to what God wants to do in your life and in the life of your church. Some of our best strategies are temporary fixes but do not lead to maturity and healthy growth.

Would you take a moment and say, “Thank you God for the pressures I am facing. You must be up to something good.”




Saturday, August 23, 2014

LISTENING VS. RETROFITTING

How well do we understand the times that we live in?

The whole notion of understanding the times might infer that once we know what’s going on we will figure out how to be meaningful and relevant. If we could just understand more about social trends and the values of our culture, we could effectively set up shop to meet their needs and fill our churches.

The question is what does the future hold? It might seem that even our best thinkers in Christendom are still just guessing at what’s going to happen next. Like gamblers at the casino, everyone’s looking for a perfect system with which to place their bets.

Your eschatology certainly has an affect on how you read the times. And sometimes, people will forecast what’s supposed to be happening next. There is this variable though, that we cannot control. Things always happen that were unforeseen by most. The returning ice age predicted in the 70’s is replaced with global warming. 88 Reasons Why Christ will return in 1988… umm….

We need to understand our times for sure. But, don’t think that this will give us a clue about what God is going to do in human history or what humans are going to do next.


Matthew 16:
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.


Jesus is telling the experts of his day (and maybe us), that we have a limited capacity with our powers of observation. We can accurately predict weather… maybe not… we know that it looks like rain, but we are illiterate when it comes to knowing the times and seasons in God’s schedule.

But wait you say… there has to be something that we can discern and act upon in our present time. To that, I would say yes. Like the churches of Asia Minor, we still need a prophet to proclaim what the Spirit is saying to the church… the church at large and the church you attend.

It’s not always the same message from God. The personality of your church is different than all the others in town. When the Spirit is speaking to your church, it will be personal and relevant to the times that your church is in. You cannot retrofit the old time religion as a model for every setting.

Perhaps your church is in a time of new birth. Perhaps you are in a time of palliative care. Perhaps your congregation is having a midlife crisis or going through puberty. You need to hear different things at varying ages.

Maybe you have read the books, listened to the podcasts and went to the conferences and are still scratching your head to figure out how to be more effective as a pastor, a ministry or a church. Chances are you might wear yourself out trying to understand it all.

But what if, the greatest need we have is to hear what the Spirit has in mind for our little flock and our city? What might God say to you in your setting and times? Some of you have many woes and troubles and might wonder if it’s worth it all. Shouldn’t things get better?



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

RED HERRING CONFESSIONS


I have to confess—after nearly 30 years of pastoring, I can still be misled by the smell of red herring. I am easily convinced to value and prioritize lesser truths and follow them to disappointing conclusions.


I have to confess-- If it were not for the Holy Spirit’s redirection, I would blindly lead the blind into a ditch. I would make mountains out of molehills. I am the guy who would throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I have to confess-- It is not enough to pay sharp attention to the study of God’s Word. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me to the right destination.

I have to confess—it’s not enough to be a do-gooder in the church and community. You can do that in darkness and not live in light.

I have to confess-- It is easy to believe my press reports and congratulate myself on a job well done, but not so easy to remain intimate with God.

In confessing these things, my soul is healed.

It is a joyful thing to be Abba’s child. In the Father’s Presence, I return to a childlike state where the riddles get answered. God help me to stay willing to be led.





Sunday, August 17, 2014

WHAT GENIUSES CANNOT FIGURE OUT


My dad loves riddles and tests that to solve will require you to think another way. 






For example, a storekeeper gives you change of 30 cents on your purchase. He gives you 2 coins and one of them is not a quarter. What are the 2 coins that make up the 30 cents change? Do you know?

The 2 coins are a quarter and a nickel. I only said that one of them is not a quarter.

And the grandkids groan at how smart Grandpa is…

What we discover in the Kingdom of God is that the mysteries of God cannot be understood by refining your logic, studying the right books and teachers or by having a higher IQ than everyone else. You do not arrive at God’s truth by simply reframing the questions.

When the 72 disciples returned to Jesus after their mission, they were amazed that demons submitted in the Name of the Lord. Jesus made a passing reference to seeing Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

What did Jesus mean by that? He was very familiar with Satan. This same evil genius had plotted against his birth, tempted him 40 days in the wilderness and brought confusion and bondage to many people.

The arrival of God’s Kingdom marks the defeat of the Kingdom of darkness and chaos. These untrained, somewhat simpleminded disciples are witnessing a shift in the Universe and entering into a new kind of relationship with God. They are coming to God’s Table to enjoy the same fellowship that the Father, Son and Spirit have in the Godhead.


Luke 10:
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”


This is the stuff that geniuses miss. God only shows some things to the children. The others do not get the answer to the riddles. Experts fall short and the worldly-wise are stumped.

Many great saints of the old era did not get to experience the blessing, but Jesus' disciples are blessed to be a part of this new era… Sometimes we think how great it would have been to see Moses perform miracles before Pharaoh or watch Elijah defeat the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Jesus says that the situation is in fact the exact reverse—they long to see what we experience, because to know God and life through Jesus is what they had wished to experience all along. In effect, Jesus says, "Count your blessings, for they are many and have been desired for centuries."[i]








[i] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series

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