5 Things Christians Don’t Like to Hear

5-thingsAs a pastor, whether it is from the pulpit or in my writings, it is hard to not limit my communications to things that people want to hear. Most of the time, I try to convey things that are challenging and inspirational. There are times, however, it is tempting to not convey what God is revealing. This is because these messages “don’t preach well” as we say in the pastoral world. Messages that tickle the eardrums put more people in church seats, increase giving, and make more friends. They are safe. Let’s face it, as Christians, there are things that we need to hear but don’t like to hear.

Here are 5 things I think we don’t like to be confronted with:

1. You’re wrong– The fact is, sometimes we as Christians do not have all the answers. The Bible is true. God is all-knowing, but sometimes this power and truth gets filtered through our biased minds and our wanting hearts. Somewhere in the midst, God’s message is lost. Christians know where to find truth, but sometimes our desires or even conditioned thought processes need to be carefully analyzed.

2. You have the power to influence– If we truly believe that the spirit of the living God lives in us then that should have some bearing on the way we interact with others. We don’t like to admit it, but following Christ means something. We have access to the power that created the universe and we are called to be ambassadors for God’s kingdom. This means we are resonsible to see this kingdom is shared.

3. People are watching you– This should not need much explanation. People within your sphere of influence want to know what this Jesus-following life truly looks like. Don’t dismiss your responsibility by saying you are imperfect, because God has us in a process that implies a journey towards perfection. Plus, the spirit that lives in us is perfect. Too intimidating to think about? Sorry…it’s what you signed up for…

4. Faith without action is dead– This is Biblical, and everyone needs to hear it. We can not continue to think that going to church and reading in our private study room is what this life is about. There has to be a point where we get out, and express our faith in a way that is concrete. Service, giving, and fellowship are among these things.

5. 10 percent is a good start– When asked about whether believers should give based on their gross or net income, Dave Ramsey said, “considering the average Christian gives only 2 percent, I would say it doesn’t really matter…” This convicted me when I heard it. Jesus was all about increasing the standard of living when it came to expressing the kingdom. Don’t worry…God can keep up.

Even though we don’t like to hear some things from time to time, it is good for the heart to be challenged. I hope we don’t simply skip over these ideas and think they do not apply. Let’s embrace what is difficult. Let’s love like never before and grow like we never thought we could.

-Landon DeCrastos

Carry On and Trust

giving handsDisclaimer: The following blog post is not meant to shame others or boast, but when God brings about a miracle it is usually for the purpose of encouraging others.

Money, for some reason, is a hard subject to talk about…especially in a church setting as a pastor. When pastors talk about finances many automatically assume they are doing so for the purpose of increasing revenue for the church. In the same vein, it is hard to talk about giving because people may start to make personal comparisons and feel ashamed about their own giving history…perhaps the money is extremely tight and God has not dealt with you in this area. That’s okay…but…brothers and sisters, I urge you to not overlook the purity of what I am saying and thus miss the point. We are not talking about a salvation issue here. So, are we good? Okay, good. Here we go.

At the beginning of this month, my wife and I had “the talk”. You have been there at some point. This talk was one that centered around finances. The outcome was meager for us to say the least. My wife had added up the bills and the projected income and we were going to be behind. We realized that, if we did not buy groceries this month, we would still be “in the red”. It was a nauseating feeling…to know there was nothing we could do short of selling a kidney on the black market to break even. The most frustrating thing about this is the fact that we are really wise with what we spend. We are not extravagant spenders and our lifestyle is very simple. Where was God? This was an honest question that we had, and that anyone would natually have in this situation.

We began to brainstorm about ways we could cut back in order to make it. Next month was going to be better, we knew that, so if we could do something to get ahead that would be very helpful. As we tossed around ideas we thought maybe we could cut back on our weekly giving at church. I mean…God has only asked us to give 10 percent, so maybe he would understand if we adjusted our giving to make that our new goal. In the midst of this conversation, God reminded me of similar situations in the past in which He worked out these kind of details. I remembered being a newly married youth pastor and spending more on gas than I was making at my first church assignment. I remember the time when we gave what we had to help a friend and a random check came in the mail from a reimbursement we were not expecting. So, we had a history with God in these scenerios. A long history.

Cutting down on giving made sense, but it also made me think. I couldn’t imagine that God would be sitting on His throne saying, “Okay, you really need to stop giving as much…I can’t keep up.” So, we decided to carry on, and simply trust. It was so hard to do. Even though I preach about it regularly. I suppose I am a normal hypocrite like everyone else in that regard.

We had such a peace about the coming month. Our minds shifted from asking “where is God?” to “I can’t wait to see what He will do.” The result was amazing. We saw blessing after blessing. Reimbursement checks we were not expecting, savings on things we didn’t account for, and a generous gift from a sister church that we did not know was coming. All of these things, together, added up to a month of abundance…and by abundance, I mean paying all the bills with a little bit left to get ahead for next month. We attributed it to allowing God to work in our thought process.

Odds are you have stories like this…and odds are you frequently forget about them like I do.

I tell this story simply to say this… God wants to show off. Let Him do so.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Fear Shaped Living

Why do we give God the credit when things go well? Do we think, for some reason, he orchestrated the event? Or, is it possible we feel that He heard our prayer and provided us with mercy and resources? When things do not go well, we pray that God will make it all better and say we trust in Him to get us though. In all these scenarios, we act as if God has some sort of power, and even loves us. This can’t be true… Why? Because sometimes my fear feels like fact.

Obviously, there is a level of sarcasm in the previous paragraph. There are not many people I know that would state these things out loud. An informal survey among people who call themselves church going Christians would yield great answers concerning the work of God. One would hear the amazing stories of how God has brought people through addiction, divorce, the loss of a family member, and even financial difficulty. In return and overwhelming majority would agree that God can be trusted and should be followed. They may even regularly talk about their pastor’s sermons and how he/ she has challenged them to give their whole self to God. There would be no disagreement with this…until it comes to actually doing it.

Here is the problem with following God. He has brought us through so much, has provided for us, and has even shown us miracles, but sometimes it is not convenient to trust Him. We love seeing the impossible made possible, but we would rather not provide the space for Him to do more than we could even ask or imagine. This occurs most often when we talk about finances. We acknowledge that God has given us these resources in the first place, but our behavior states that we cannot trust Him with them. Fear overcomes.

In today’s culture, the average Christian gives a little over 2 percent of their income to God’s kingdom. This is usually after all the bills are paid and it is deemed possible by our standards. In the same regard, we will pray fervently for God to bless our finances. How can God bless something we never hand over for Him to bless? It is like asking the mechanic to fix your car but never allowing the mechanic to look at it.

Truly trust in God today. Test Him to see if He actually keeps His promises.

-Landon DeCrastos

A New Standard Pt. 2

Missionally, churches exist to be a beacon of hope and a safe place for the community. One could look at the church as a spiritual hospital. Those who have wounds can come and their wounds can be bound. What happens, however, when the wounds a person carries was created by a church? I have heard stories of people who flee from churches because of the treatment they received because of their divorce, lifestyle, past, or even because the perception of being “money hungry”.

Let’s face it, churches ask for money regularly. For some, it is a concept that is second nature. Whether it is a bonus check at work, an inheritance, regular pay check, or any other source of income many people choose to give a portion of that money to the church. Others are not used to this idea and are even offended to think that this could possibly be an obligation.

In my other job as an office administrator for a church, I receive 10-15 calls a day asking for money for those who are behind on bills. I also receive the same number of calls from telemarketers wanting to sell me a new service or product that will enhance my life. As a Lead Pastor, I am also approached by people needing help…which I am glad to take part in.

In today’s culture the average Christian gives a little over 2 percent of their income to God’s kingdom (church or other charities).

What’s my point? If the Old Testament legalism says 10 percent, then aren’t we glad that the New Testament was written to get us off the hook? Wait a minute though…if what we learned yesterday is true, and Jesus gives his followers a different standard (care for the widow, orphan etc) then this would mean a different level of responsibility, right? Do you think Christ would say “still continue to trust in God, but not nearly as much as you used to…”?

The church may talk about money a lot…but so does every department store, infomercial, telemarketer, car salesman, shopping mall and magazine ad you come in contact with. Mission shouldn’t need a commercial.

Give extravagantly.

My next post will talk about what I eluded to earlier…a new standard for the way a church should welcome people…people with wounds and imperfections.

-Landon DeCrastos

Those Crazy Church People Part 3

Sometimes we can feel a certain amount of shame and guilt when we are not participating in the life of the church in the same way as others. We get in the habit of comparing our efforts or resources to someone who we consider to be a spiritual powerhouse. Or, perhaps the opposite is true….Maybe we get annoyed because we see someone doing, and giving so much that we think that they are “showing off”.

When we talk about the giving money to God’s kingdom, these feelings become fact in our own hearts and minds. Some can give a little and some can give a lot. Other people feel embarrassed with how much they can give so they decide not to give at all. When we allow ourselves to begin thinking this way we are missing the point.

Here is the secret about giving… Giving has nothing to do with building the church’s bank account, paying the pastor, or even supplying enough resources to make rent. It has everything to do with acting in obedience as a spiritual exercise. Also, when we give to the building of God’s kingdom the resources will always be there for those who choose to take this step. It may not make sense…the numbers will never add up, but somehow it just happens. Giving sacrificially is the key. Maybe, for you it is not a money issue… The same is true with your time, talents, and everything else God has provided for you.

-Pastor Landon