I Still Have So Much To Learn

i-still-have-so-much-to-learnA disproportionally large amount of people (relative to the size of the community) filed into a little Baptist church in rural Missouri. The average age of this congregation can be described in one word; gray. There were a few children present, but the small town was primarily older folks so I would not have expected to see more young ones in attendance.

We were in town because my wife’s grandmother lived there and we were visiting her for the weekend. Grandma would not have let us leave town without going to church, even if we had great excuses to skip. Plus, she promised us that she was going to make her world-famous chili for lunch so that was incentive enough to humor her.

The church was small and the last time the décor was updated was sometime around the late seventies or early eighties. These were the good ‘ol days when aliens invaded the earth and felt like their main contribution to the world be wood paneling in all homes and public venues.

Every square inch of the building needed an update, and the handheld microphones had those awful bright colored covers on the microphone heads that stood out like a sore thumb. All in all, it was a place that didn’t look inviting according to a young pastor standards, but everyone had a smile on their face so I was going to keep my heart open.

You see, by this time, I already had a bachelor’s degree in ministry and was about to start seminary. I was obviously an expert in all things pertaining to leadership and was already developing a critical eye and ear when visiting churches.

The music began and, as was expected, the song lineup consisted of both songs I had never heard and ones that I remembered from my childhood. The older lady leading the music was not exactly gifted for the part but her passion was obvious. No new contemporary Christian top 40 hits were played, and, at the time, I saw this as a serious flaw.

How would they minister to people without the newest methods, songs, or a fresh look? How can they minister to people who were advanced in age when every book I have read on “church growth” tells me that the younger generation should be their laser focus?  It obviously wasn’t the case here. They seemed to have a routine that many were comfortable with, and everything had a distinct rhythm.

The pastor began to preach, and the content was great but the delivery of the sermon left a little to be desired. He wasn’t even in the middle of a catchy series! This pastor had been with this congregation for many years, and most people had gone to that church for a long time. There was a comfort there that could be felt with the shepherd of this flock.

As I looked around during worship, one thing was apparent. These people were genuinely interested in what was happening in the worship service. They were responding to the sermon, singing the songs loudly, and taking notes to better absorb the message for the day. Every family had a Bible that was nearly destroyed from use, and the children that were there seemed to pay attention to every word. The bulletin recorded evidence that these people participated in missional activities in the community.  Could it be that the books I was reading about ministry distracted me from a deeper truth? Is it possible that I was wrong about what church “should” look like?

Attending that church made me feel a little different about serving in ministry. In an age where so many pastors spend much of their time looking for the next “new thing”, it seemed foreign to encounter a ministry that didn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken simply to put more butts in the seats. The back of the platform was not painted black, the lights were not dim, there were no laser lights, and there were no fog machines; yet there was something intensely spiritual about this experience. People were lifting the name of Christ, and learning how to love others more. They were simply worshiping.

I have often been intoxicated by worship experiences that were designed to put people into a spiritual trance. Experiences that were defined by scheduled perfection and rehearsed timing. I think God sees through these type of things, and I have realized that a little Baptist church in a place that is not even on the map can be as intensely faithful as the megachurch down the road with much more to offer.

I pray that all Christians will fall in love with God like this small Baptist church. If we do, we will see a genuine revival happen throughout the world.

I still have so much to learn.

Let’s get back to basics.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

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6 Unhealthy Trends in Church Leadership | In Other Words

pewbibleEach week men and women all over the world give their time, talents, and treasures to the work of God’s kingdom. They sweat, bleed, cry, and give all so that God’s mission is fulfilled on the earth. “On earth, as it is in Heaven…” would be a more exact representation of the mission’s call. We, who have committed ourselves to this commission, often face significant road blocks, and conflict regularly arises. We tell ourself two lies, depending on the situation…either God wants us to bust down proverbial doors that are locked shut, or He wants us to walk away from opportunities that seem insurmountable. We try our best to follow God’s will, but sometimes the tempation of our own comfort steers us in a different direction. Whatever the case may be, if we were honest with ourselves, those of us involved in church leadership can admit that often unhealthy trends emerge from our efforts. Currently, there are many unhealthy trends that I have observed, but let’s just talk about a few of them today.

I think there are 6 Unhealthy Trends in Church Leadership that must be discussed.

1. Inconsistent Priorities

As pastors and church leaders, we have to be in the habit of constantly evaluating our priorities. Do we really want God’s will to be done, or are we more interested in what is marketable? Sometimes these things go hand in hand, but sometimes they don’t. If we say we are about God’s business then we have to be willing to take the risks that prove God is in control. We all want to see God’s glory powerfully invade our churches, but how many are willing to make decisions that would require Him to create possibility out of the impossible? Seeking God’s priorities will get us farther than we could ever imagine. Sometimes the actions taken with be frightening, but if God is in control then we will see blessing.

2. Addiction to More

In today’s Christian culture, what happens when our churches grow in number? Well, we build bigger buildings of course! This is because the unhealthy addiction to more equates to that of human or financial hoarding. We want bigger so we can have more, so we can influence the masses, and persuade even more people, so we can continue to get bigger. The cycle seems pointless overall. Sure, we justify it by saying we are trying to convey the life-giving message to more people, or that God is simply blessing because of the right leadership, but we have to ask ourselves the hard questions. Questions like…If God called us to do something bold like plant a new church, or restart a dying one would we be open to that idea? Do we care more about what our work looks like than what God can do through us? I am not against bigger churches…but let’s not default to a mentality that God is not calling us to.

3. Competitive Mentalities

Sometimes it is hard to lead a church as a spirit driven leader instead of a team coach, or CEO. Sure there are coaching and business aspects to this vocation, but if God were the center of our ministry then we would realize that our mission includes helping the worship community across town as a brother or sister would look after their sibling. Even though I love my church, I don’t profess to have the secret that gets people to Heaven any faster than the megachurch down the road. We will be more effective united as opposed to seeking to be offended when another church is being blessed. Rejoice with our brothers and sisters…They are God’s children too. You will have to stand before God one day and account for why you didn’t…if that is the case. Give your all to bless other churches. You will see the increase.

4. Destructive Arrogance

No pastor, leader, or person sitting in the pew is above one another. There are some that have studied scripture more and understand the languages it was originally written in, but we have to eradicate arrogance if we are going to grow. Even though I came from a Christian home, my sin is the exact same as yours…my past was riddled with instances in which I decided to seek my own path and do things my own way. This is all sin is…so the next time we are tempted, as church leaders, to be arrogant remember that it is destructive. People need grace, and guidance…not a know-it-all who thinks of themself as higher than another.

5. Constant Worry

God’s got this under control. You don’t have to be in constant worry over whether or not this is true. As a pastor, it is easy to worry (to the point of paranoia) about things like finances, church attendance, efffectiveness, or if so-in-so is mad about if the piano was moved 2 feet to the left. We worry about our building. We worry about the future. We worry about whether or not people want to stay at our church. We worry about other churches taking our people (side note: they are God’s people not ours…). The concerns are endless. Meanwhile, people, outside of our walls are dying and we have a chance to provide them with an antidote. They don’t care about any of that…they just want the hurt to go away. Take that worrying energy and convert it into serving energy.

6. Aversion to Learning

I once asked an older pastor if he was going to a certain seminar. He looked at me and said, “probably not…I have been in ministry a long time, and they probably can’t teach me anything I don’t already know.” WHAAAAATTTTT???!!!!!?? Pastors and other church leaders should have a hunger to learn more not an aversion to growth. We owe it to God to have the desire to grow in Him. Don’t miss the opportunities that present themselves.

When we embrace unhealthy trends in our leadership we are defying the mission of Christ himself. I pray that we are no longer held hostage by our own limitations but embrace the fact that God can do all. Allow Him to lead you today.

-Landon DeCrastos

6 Things I Wish Pastors Understood (Including Me)

clergyunderstoodI can only imagine that many of you veteran pastors out there are opening this blog post to read it, and you are thinking, “Hey…wait a minute…you are a young pastor. How are you qualified to say any of this?” You are probably right, but these are things that I have observed as I have seen pastors at work, and as God has guided me through His word. I think many pastors can relate to the following thoughts as well as those who consider themselves Christ-followers. More than anything else, I hope young pastors who have not yet stepped into professional/ vocational ministry will read this and prevent their hearts from being overtaken by these ideas.

When I entered formal ministry, I made sure to read the full content of dozens of books, and I even read the back synopsis of many more (oh c’mon pastor…you have done the same thing) and assumed I knew the gist of them. Pastors, by nature are lifelong learners and students of God’s word as we all should be, but I wish I would have known a few more things before entering ministry. I know others should know these things too. I say these things because I observe so many pastors that fall into the same habits and thought processes as their collegues. These thought processes seem like a great idea, or are very convincing, but I think we began to lose the point of who we are supposed to be…

So, here are 6 Things I Wish Pastors Understood (Including Me).

1. It’s okay not to have all the answers– It is true that pastors are designed and called to be resident theologians. They study for many years, and read many books to understand scripture better so they can be a resource for their congregations. Sometimes, it is okay to be stumped. You are human, and it is okay to admit you do not have the answers…but you know where to get them. God’s word is a living organism, and the people who seek you for advice or thoughts will respect you if you give time to research specifically regarding their inquiry.

2. You are not as hip as you think– So you just got a new tattoo, you are not afraid to say a curse word from time to time, and you are lenient on social drinking? Bravo pastor, you are as cool and hip as they come! Ok…so I do not know many pastors that are setting the standards for “coolness” in our society, but there are so many that try. You do not have to be hip…you just have to be there. No, not one just preaches on Sunday morning, but a person who desires to sit with, and comfort those who are away from God or even those who know Him…those that are broken. We are in the mending business. God can use you even if you do not have a v-neck tshirt and frequent coffee shops.

3. You are not as lame as you think– Many pastors can relate to this one. If you are like me, you find yourself accepting the negative self talk that you are not relevant and that people are looking for someone more exciting. You are called to be obedient, and attentive to the Holy Spirit. It’s great to feel young and vital, but if God has called you to ministry, you can guarantee that He will resource you with the skills needed to get the job done. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking no one will listen, because God can open ears, hearts, and minds.

4. God has better ideas than you– You have so many good ideas and your church marketing pieces are beautiful. I get so excited and pumped up when I am listening to your church’s music, and when I watch all of the clever videos you make. Is this what ministry has come to though? All of our time (and I am now speaking to me) is now caught up in things that give glory to us, and our creativity, than the pure word of God? I will let you wrestle with that one…because I am still struggling with it.

5. Put down the leadership book for a minute– You have read every book that has the word “leader” in it and you perhaps have given leadership workshops. Excellent! Now…slowly put the book down and look around you. Imagine people that are lined up in front of you and all they need is an infusion of hope that will get them through until tomorrow. Granted, we all know that they need to know Christ more and grow in Him…but take a little time to listen. Oh…and grab a bucket. One of the kids just threw up in the nursery. Books are vital, but being a servant should be your first posture.

6. Your role matters– Whether you believe it or not, the art of pastoring is not going anywhere. What is looks like in a practical sense may change drastically over the next several years, but there will always be people that are called to lead, guide, and shepherd. Not a CEO of an organization. A pastor. One who hurts with people, prays for them, and has the resources to be ready for the collapse of society. A person who is not a politically driving mastermind, but a prophetic voice to the culture.

Pastor, you matter, and we are called together to storm Hell. Thank you for being my coworker…now let’s get back to work.

-Landon DeCrastos

Moses Speaks

Looking back on my life I realize how ill equipped I was under my own power. I knew God was powerful but in my mind I still put limitations on Him. I got into the habit of thinking that my sin bound God from using me for anything significant. Then, my life changing moment occurred. Soon after I killed a man, and subsequently dealt with overwhelming guilt, I had a very unusual encounter with God. He revealed himself to me in the form of a burning bush. I have, obviously, witnessed a bush burn before …it happens all the time in the dry areas. This bush, though, was not being consumed for some reason. It’s like it was being protected from damage and decay somehow. The voice of God was audible in this setting. I felt love. I felt peace. I felt like I was forgiven.

The word God spoke to me was rather odd and, at the time, I thought it was probably meant for someone else. God wanted me to lead an entire race of people (the Israelites) out of the captivity of Egypt. Egypt, by the way, was the most powerful empire in the world. Let’s face it; there was no way this was going to happen. Imagine how angry that would make Pharaoh. Millions of people who were used as the labor force of the empire….just walking out of the country? I think someone would notice that before the plan was implemented. Also, why did God choose me? I can’t even speak clearly. Great leaders have booming, and persuasive voices. Their natural charisma compels people to follow. This was not the way people would describe me.

 

As I looked into the burning bush, I realized that God had the power to protect me from damage. I also realized that He was calling me in the midst of my sin and inadequacies.  My obedience and dependence on Him would be my salvation. I did what God told me to do, and the rest is history.

As I reflect on my history there are things I observe about the current generation. The first observation parallels with my earthly call. The people of God still often act as if they are in bondage. They allow negativity, material possessions, selfishness, entitlement, and anger to hold them captive. They have a hard time embracing the freedom that is available to them. The last observation is that they think God can’t use them if they have sin in their past. I will be the first one to say that I as guilty of that same thought process, but I found out that God uses us….despite us.

Brothers and sisters…embrace your freedom today, and accept the fact that God has an enormous plan for your life. Don’t worry…He will protect you.

-Moses