Monday, February 9, 2015

Do we really need another "10 Things About Your Church" article?

I am growing a bit tired and honestly put out with the number of "10 things your church is doing wrong"or "10 things that are driving young people away from your church" articles.  The one I read today named things like which doors you unlock, using last names from the pulpit, and dreaming.  Really?

To be honest with you, our church probably fails many of the strategies of the church gurus.  It irritates me to even consider that methods are really at the heart of why a church succeeds or fails.  Isn't that a bit man-centered?  Now, don't get me wrong - we are very concerned about doing things excellently, in order, beautifully, etc.; but this is not really why our church has consistently grown and thrived in our 14 years of existence.

I read the reasons young people are leaving the church and am thankful for the young people staying and actually coming to our church.  I read about making "this effective" and "that effective" and how to "dream" and let young people have a voice, yada, yada, yada.

This really isn't the heart of the matter.  You can follow all of these articles to the "t" and people walk right out the back door.  The element that I believe makes the difference between people staying, going, coming, etc. is Passion for the Lord especially in the leaders.

Passion for the Lord is contagious.  Like a magnet, believers are drawn to those who are drawn to the Lord.  "Follow me as I follow Christ".  Passion for the Lord isn't just emotion.  The "for the Lord" part comes out in very real ways - especially an emphasis on preaching/teaching the exact context of what God is saying and an emphasis on walking with Him closely.  This is the target of passion - wanting what He is saying and wanting to be with Him.

But, this is turning into another "10 things article"!  You can't fake passion for the Lord.  It rises out of dependency, insufficiency, lack of brilliance, lack of ideas, etc. --- it is when you need the Lord so very much that He shows Himself strong.  I am convinced that believers are drawn to this sort of "abiding" philosophy in a church.  Lighthouse has grown over the years because people are drawn with passion to the Lord.  It is real and the greatest reason in my opinion why people are coming and staying.  It has little to do with programs and nothing to do with "10 things".

Another issue that I have with these articles is the assumption that it is the Lord's will that you have a growing (#) church.  Yes, I said that.  The Lord calls us to be faithful in our churches - not numerically successful.  Some of the most healthy and faithful ministries that I know are churches under 100 people.      Faithful churches are different sizes, and that's ok - that is God's will.  Our church is in a geographical area with thousands and thousands of people.  We have great East Coast traffic and visitors every Sunday.  We have hundreds of visitors per year.  We have much more opportunity to add people than a church that is "in the sticks".  It is not helpful for a church who has lesser opportunities for traffic and growth to focus on their perceived failures.  These articles seem to just make pastors feel more insufficient and failing.

We have been privileged for the Lord to grow our church - but I see no miracle "10 things".  Yes - work hard; yes - do things excellently; yes - plan; yes - keep up to date; yes - consider age groups etc. Mostly though, be passionate for the Lord and faithful in your church.  To me, this is much better (and more simple) than the latest "10 things" someone has dreamed up.  Can God use this in a thriving way?  He has in our church.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Philly Auto Show and Tent City

Last night it was my joy to go with my son Dan to the Philly Auto Show.  Andrew had to work, so my 14 year old and I went to enjoy one of our favorite things - cool cars.

I love cars.  I know that is not something unique, but with me it goes much deeper.  I understand Fahvergnugen (the feeling you get when you and your car are one).  From a young man I grew up appreciating and being able to identify vehicles.  I can feel every stutter, bump, and sound a car that I drive makes.  I love older muscle cars, I hate cars of the 1970's-80's.  My present favorite car is the Nissan GT-R.

As we walked through the rows and rows of cars, we saw everything from Lambos to Bentley's to Subaru Tuners to hybrid McLarens.  I can't even imagine the net value of the hundred's of cars in that room.  I imagine it is in the upper millions.

As we drove away from drooling over the new Z06 and HellCat, I couldn't help thinking of the people of Tent City Maryland, just a few miles from our church.  God has allowed us to minister to several of these homeless folks through our God's Helping Hands ministry.

What a dichotomy of reality that only a few miles apart there are people that dream about $500,000 cars and people who dream about having food, being warm, being clean, being safe, having a roof over their heads.  A man told me this week "we can't help all the poor people".  This is true - but wouldn't the love of Christ within us would have us help some?

Conservative Christians in my view are way behind the curve in this.  In Elkton, Md. where "Tent City" is located, it is the liberal churches, for the most part, that are engaging with the poor.  They are feeding them, housing them, clothing them, helping them.  Are we so afraid of the social gospel that we cannot do something systematic and substantive to get our hands dirty helping them while we give them the true Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus?

We cry for "Revival" and yet our sins of neglect and elitism distance us from following Christ.  God help us to know how to engage with the poor around us - not to empower their irresponsibility, but to show them the love of Christ and perhaps lift them to salvation and self dependency.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Revival Meetings at Dundalk, MD

I want to thank those of you who were praying for me and Freedom Baptist Church this past week.

Freedom is an awesome church with such a fresh attitude.  Since April, Pastor Barry Secrest has led the church from about 15 to 70 mostly through relational evangelism.  He is in the community constantly and has a bulldog attitude of love that really gets involved with the people's lives.

The Lord used His Word and worked on the hearts of many people including a teenage young man who professed Christ as Savior.

I have decided that an Evangelist's life is not for me :).  I texted with Evangelist Rich Harper during the meetings and asked him how he did it.  You have the long nights of preaching and ministering and then the days of preparation and anticipation for the nights!  Add traveling back and forth to Baltimore and it makes for an intense ministry week.

I feel like I needed this week as a pastor myself as well.  It is good to periodically step away from your own ministry to be renewed in mind and thought even if you are ministering to another church body.  We had such a good Annual Meeting the week before this revival and I am asking the Lord to guide me and Lighthouse to where He can best use us for expanding and exalting His Kingdom.

There are other things going on in my heart also.  God is helping me to die more to self especially in the area of fearing men in the ministry.  What I mean is, a pastor needs to be extremely pliable to the will and direction of the Lord first and foremost.  If he begins tailoring his ministry to the wants/desires/loud voices of his own church or "camp", he is compromising his calling.  Sometimes, pastors allow "loud voices" to influence and lead them in a way that makes them captive because they fear the consequences of standing up to others or teaching what they know to be true because it will upset the applecart of tradition, etc.

In Dangerous Calling, Tripp wrote, "There is a way in which, as a pastor, you should care less about what people think about you.  Now, here's what I mean:  you do not look to them to give you courage, hope, peace, rest, and a reason to continue.  As a result, you are freed from being all too attentive to how they respond to you and all too fearful of your detractors.  You are in trouble as a pastor when you need regular doses of appreciation and respect in order to continue.  Yes, you know you need the ministry of the body of Christ, and you want to be open to that ministry, but you are freed from riding the anxiety-driven roller coaster of people's opinion."