Today’s service

Today I spoke about the subject of “money” in the “What The Bible Says…”. I can tell you one thing…I’m not talking about it in a way you would expect.

To. For. Through

With one deliberate breath,
humanity gained access to life
The Creator looked down and decided to use the wind within Him
to bless
every person…every color…every thought process
He gave life TO us

Life was not stolen from His grasp, or accidently bestowed

He had a plan, and affection compelled Him
Just as we say about things that we do “the devil made me do it”

Which usually is an excuse for destruction and decay

He had a factor that also pulled Him to action
Love

We don’t really understand it.
We put people through social interviews before we give it
We have very specific criteria for those rare individuals that may…somehow earn our version of it
But He did not
He just gave it to us…recklessly…without qualification.

Ok then…maybe it was a mistake.
Maybe it was a one-time thing?
No
It wasn’t
Because, right when He was at the point of the highest earthly popularity
He, once again, made the same choice.
He gave His life FOR us.

Ok then…maybe it was a mistake.
Maybe He just gave up, and surrendered to the powers that be.
No
He didn’t
Because, every time He could have ran away, or made an excuse.
He gave up himself willingly

So, He died.
He’s gone, right?
No…not at all.
In fact to complete the loop of His blessing, He breathed His life back into us
He wants to live THROUGH us.

Let’s continue the cycle.

Dodging Rocks: What Purity Feels Like

dodging rocks

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Take a restful nap with nothing on your mind. Imagine a life where you could exist in peace and harmony. Ok, so I am not leading a yoga class right now, and I may seem like I am going to the extreme, but in all seriousness there are some important lessons to be learned from the practice of embracing peace.

Many people struggle to find stillness in their life, because their mind and body are always on the go. Busyness has taken over hearts and schedules fill up. This is reality. Life happens and we all have a task list to complete. Today, however I don’t want to talk about peace as the opposite of busyness, but peace as the antidote for sin. Purity is peace.

Culturally, we have embraced the lie that says that in order to be accepted and affirmed in society, we must participate in acts of sin and those things that erode our soul. Often, when someone sets out to live a life of purity, avoiding things that take one captive, they are ridiculed and accused of acting “superior” (and certainly those people exist). Then, there are those people who don’t just ridicule the person who tries to glorify God through their actions, but they actively attempt to sidetrack an individual…or perhaps that is not their intention, but their actions would lead one to believe that they do not care about the spiritual well-being of another.  So, what happens is…their actions may help bring about more temptation for a person truly trying to keep on the right path in their life.

Which begs the question…should we take responsibility for another person’s actions? Or…maybe putting it another way…Is it our fault if someone chooses to sin? Well, I think yes and no (contextually speaking). The Bible gives many examples of a transformed and well lived life being practiced in the context of community. The implication, we are all responsible for each another. People that are immature in the faith will only be concerned with themselves.

Let’s look at an analogy that may help us in this discussion. Imagine a tight rope walker performing in front of a large audience. Her act includes balancing on a thin rope and walking from the top of one tall building to the other. The act is very dangerous. Then, imagine, while she is in the middle of her show, people start throwing rocks at her, and will all her might she attempt to balance and avoid being struck by the stones. You can picture the rest of the illustration.

The fact is, as Christians, we can do a lot to help a brother or sister in Christ pursue God’s best for their life. Certainly, we have no control over what happens behind closed doors, but we can be a positive influence and encourager for them.

Everywhere we look, we are surrounded with people with both private and public struggles. Perhaps they are battling alcohol, smoking, or even sex addiction. At the same time, their eyes, mind, and heart are being flooded with images and messages that tell them that going back to that dark place is the only way they will find peace. This battle can lead to a mental breakdown in some cases.

In an ideal context…what would purity feel like? It would be peaceful…relaxing…free. It would make your pillow the softest it has ever been. It would be joy.

What if we exerted energy to help guide others on the right path? A path of purity. I’m not talking about the type of purity we see pledged at church camp when we are teenagers. I am talking about living a life that is dedicated to God and His will.

Brother and sisters…I want you to experience freedom.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

A New Ministry Model

ministry modelWhether or not I have consciously realized it, I have been on a quest for over a decade to discover the perfect ministry model. In pastoral circles, we use the phrase “ministry model” to categorize a system of programs and ideas that lead the pastor on a trajectory of success in their respective calling.

In ministry, according to what most instructors, consultants, books and mentors tell us is that success in the role of a pastor has more to do with people accumulated under our scope of ministry than anything else. The bigger the church or program grows (in the shortest time possible), the more successful the ministry. In recent years, I have challenged leaders to redefine success as “a consistent and unwavering focus on God’s mission in the world.” So, in essence, I guess you could say that I am challenging our definition of success.

I know what you are thinking. I am a heretic when it comes to ministry preparation. I hear the justification all the time that the interaction of the Holy Spirit in the life of ministry automatically means exponential growth. “Biblically, anything that the Holy Spirit has [his] hand in grows quickly…” is a phrase or inference that is often conveyed. This, however, is actually not always true. When this justification is brought up, the mental image of the massive growth of the New Testament Pentecost event is visualized. The spiritual domino effect of this was mind boggling. In many people’s minds, when the Holy Spirit is unleashed and active, this is what happens. Things go crazy and, as scripture says “people are added to the group daily”. There is not much wrong with this thought process, but it doesn’t give a full look at a larger story. The fact is, when we truly look at scripture as a unified story, we realize that the Holy Spirit has initiated growth on many different levels and in many different ways. At times, we see the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in one on one interactions. Other times, we see power unleashed through the healing of a man or woman. In even more rare occasions, we see massive groups converted in bulk. Whatever the case may be, there is great evidence to suggest that God’s awesome power is not limited by our metrics, and He is creative. Keep in mind, Jesus’ ministry was not one based on rapid expansion but consistent commitment to His purpose on earth.

My heart has been heavy for a long time concerning ministry preparation. I feel like we, as a Christian culture, have adopted a “Henry Ford” model of education and training (assembly line). It seems as if pastors have stepped into a process in which they are given a “cookie cutter” system of practices and expectations to help them be successful in the task of attracting large crowds. In the same way, whether it is purposeful or not, we are being told that there are only certain personality mixes that are eligible for pastoral ministry. I will write about this concept in my next blog post.

I think we need to rethink the way we do ministry. Passing clergy through an assembly line of preparation is simply not Biblical. I also think we need to consider a new model of ministry. There are 3 things I think we need to emphasize in this new thrust (which is not new at all):

  1. Shepherd shaped development– Too often, we are calling a new minister to seek to be someone God has never called to them be. We think that, in the best case scenario, and if everything goes well, this pastor will become the local community celebrity and gain a massive following (as long as God “blesses” them). Instead, when a leader does not reach that expectation, they become frustrated and even question their ministerial call. What if we put more effort to teach new pastors to become a shepherd? The position of shepherd implies not only a mentality of guiding, but also sending. A shepherd will send the herd forward, and when they need it, come alongside and direct. When a pastor is shepherd, they dedicate themselves to a community, and they spend energy in making sure that each person is cared for, and loved. They develop trust and deeper concern. It is hard and messy. It is not easy. It will frustrate the leader. It is immensely worth the time.

  1. Pastor as Healer – Sometimes, as Christians, we get a wrong impression about the word “healing”. Perhaps we cringe or our mind drifts to televangelists who misunderstood the gifts of the Spirit. In this context, the word healer and soother could be interchangeable. The idea is that a leader can and should seek to be an influence that provides care, infuses peace, and speaks life into everyone they encounter. Also, the minister should develop a desire to see that other leaders are brought through rejuvenation.

  1. Minister as a trainer/ mentor – There is nothing more satisfying than to experience someone, that you have poured time and energy into, grow and take ownership of their own area of ministry. This person may have started out as skeptical about the Gospel, but now they are leading others to Jesus! This is energizing! Pastors across the board should be doing this. I know that many leaders would say that their role is to pour into a smaller group so that this small group can pour into the masses. This is absolutely true. This would be a great example of what this concept looks like in a larger ministry setting.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against the larger worship communities and I think that they can be incredible assets to the Kingdom of God. My problem is that we often expect every leader to look the same and we base success off of statistics and sometimes arbitrary metrics. I understand that many are only trying to harness these principles for efficiency…and many are doing this….but let’s not take these ideas and consider every other ministry arbitrary if they are not “falling in line”. Some leaders are gifted and called to lead smaller communities, and they should be encouraged, and equipped to develop passionate disciples in that context.

In my next blog post, I will speak about the personalities that make up a church and the internal wiring of a pastor. I think we are being told, as implied before, that only a certain type of person is a valid candidate for ministry. Spoiler alert: scripture counteracts this idea.

Love you all,

-Landon DeCrastos

2 Strange Letters

There are 2 strange letters

on your word I see

Their placement on the front

Doesn’t make sense to me

I am pretty good at reading

But these 2 don’t fit

They don’t describe what I see

It’s the meaning I don’t get

The first letter I have seen

In books and other things

The second is also familiar

But confusion is what it brings

The word is badly changed

And it doesn’t reflect the truth

It doesn’t show how I see you

Whether aged or in your youth

These 2 strange letters

Throw everything off track

They mess up your description

And set the meaning back

Without these intruders

The definition wonderfully fits

They initially seem harmless

But shatter hearts to bits

The letters are “I” and “M”

But I remind you they don’t work

The accuser uses them untruthfully

To diminish the Master’s work

The word in question is “perfect”

And in its purest form

Is how I look at you daily

Through sunshine, snow, or storm

Don’t let the enemy convince you

That you are not good enough

And that God can’t possibly love you

With all of your broken stuff

While you may be human

And lacking in many things

You are perfect; you are loved

You are a child of the King