The Church I Want to Lead | In Other Words

church doorI am a young pastor. I have limited experience on many levels, and because of that I know that there are not many who would give much weight to my words. Years ago, as a student, I could have told you what type of church I wanted to work in, and the type of people I wanted to minister to. I wanted to be a part of a church that had some history; that had thriving ministries, and had enough money in the bank to cushion any hardships that may come their way. I wanted plenty of people to pick from when it came to having a need for volunteers and I wanted a church that was progressive and valued new ideas. I had so many ideas (if money was no object and people were abundant of course). Back then, my idea of success revolved around shrinking seating space, and expanding offerings. In fact, if everything worked out well, then I may get into a church that had excellent music, incredible preaching, and a flexible congregation that really wanted to try new things.

Over a period of time, as I grew in confidence and knowledge, I began to have complaints. My first church was somewhat small, and didn’t really have much of a budget for the youth program I was leading so I often sat in my office and felt sorry for myself and blamed everything else for why my ministry wasn’t growing. I began to become jaded about the church for various reasons (they still sing from hymnals, they sat in pews, they needed new carpet, they didn’t have a very nice website). Surely all of these things PROVED they didn’t want to grow. If they valued ministy, then they would pay me more so I could do more things. I would sit around, in a mental autopilot, waiting for things to change so that “real ministry” could begin.

After being a youth pastor for a while and seeking more education, I started to realize the horrible faulty thinking I had come to believe. I realized I was the problem…not the old furniture or traditional music. It was ME. My heart and mind needed to conform to God’s.

Then, God called me to start a new church. At first, my thoughts revolved around ways this new congregation could be cutting edge, different, and set apart from any other church in town. If it was different and exciting, then people would come to my church instead of any other. If you know me now, you may be surprised that this was my thought process, because over the last 5 years God has completely transformed my heart and now I desire to lead a church much different than the one I used to crave. I have a new desire.

Now… I want to lead a church who:

…cares more about the broken than looking all put together.

…welcomes the single parent, widow, and widow and desires to be a source of encouragement for them

…prays for those who do not look, smell, or sound like them and embraces them with compassion

…will give up their comfort and be sacrificial for the advancement of the kingdom

…will put God’s word into action

…will do things that are bad for business but great for relaying the gospel

…will welcome the abused, rejected, oppressed, and hated

…will hate sin so much that they are willing to be grace agents

…will seek what sacrifice truly means

…will welcome the sinner no matter what their sin, and treat them with respect and dignity

…will follow God into the darkness; ready to be the light

…will do everything they can to see other churches grow

…will accept the fact that the Church must be real and transparent

…will not be a different person in the seats than at home

…want passionate worship instead of manufactured praise

…want to serve more than want to be served

…understand that “being fed” means feeding too

…want imperfection in-process instead of processed perfection

…desire God’s will to be done no matter church size, money in the bank, or political climate

…look at the world around them with love instead of bitterness

THAT is the church I want to lead.

I’m sure glad I do 🙂

-Landon DeCrastos

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8 Unhealthy Christian Behaviors

8 UnhealthyChristianBehaviorsIf you are a normal Christ-follower, you have probably failed in the past. In fact, I guarantee that there was some crisis moment that called you to repentance. Whether it be something one would consider catastrophic to a simple recognition of the need to change. Whatever the case may be, there was once a time in which God woke you up from a spiritual slumber. The purpose of following Jesus,though, is not to make mean people nice, or even bad people good. It is to reveal to people that resurrection is possible, and in fact, needed. As a Christian, I mishandle the treasure of salvation daily, and there are times I forget that God’s power is available to me. I am in need of a resurrection.

As I have observed Christians as a whole, I have noticed that I am definitely not the only one that struggles (as implied above). There are unhealthy behaviors that become natural temptations for the believer and I think they need to be addressed in all of our lives. I have named a few here but there are many more. Yes, they are sinful and need to be stopped.

The following are 8 Unhealthy Christian Behaviors

1. Gossip– This virus…This rotten, hate-filled, ugly monster of a behavior easily rips through souls and congregations as if they are a paper bag. Think I am being a little harsh? I feel it is not harsh enough. Countless numbers of families, friendships, and churches have been split apart because of the seed that gossip plants. There is a difference between “hearing a prayer request” and gossip. Pray that God gives you the discernment (not the desire to justify) to make the distinction. AND, before pointing fingers, evaluate your own heart. So what if Sandy Smith (made up name) was seen at a rated R movie…have you been in God’s word consistently lately? Take this as a caution not an accusation. 

2. Duplicity– One of the hardest things to convince a nonbeliever is that this Christian life is relevant outside of the walls of the church. It absolutely is, but how much of a testimony are we displaying if we abandon our beliefs when we leave the worship service and pick them up again next Sunday? It just doesn’t make sense. The spirit of God is available to us 24/7. He desires to make us whole at home as well. Don’t be a different person in private…stay consistent.

3. Unforgiveness– The Christ-centered life revolves around forgiveness. It is the most unique doctrine in the world. The fact that the Creator of the universe, knowing that we messed up everything, has forgiven us… THAT is powerful. Why, then, do we think we are more powerful? I mean, why do we think we can withhold forgiveness to ourselves or others? Think about that… A precious gift that is given to be distributed. Amazing.

4. Arrogance– Christians should look at themselves as the servants to the world, not the rulers of all in it. This is how we operate. So, to think that our belief system somehow makes us superior to anyone is absurd. Sure, we have an excellent eternity to look forward to, but we are called to serve…not to be served. Yes, we are God’s children so there is a royal implication, but this kingdom is much different that what we are used to reading about. It is a kingdom of willing sacrifice, worship, and surrender.

5. Ignoring Conviction– If you get tired of defending your actions (even when no one is condemning them) you may be under conviction about something. This is okay. It is natural. It is simply God telling you to do something else. Aren’t you glad that we serve a God that cares enough to convict you? Give up your need to be right all the time, and defend your habits, or life patterns. Truly listen to what God has to say. Then, make the changes necessary. You will find joy in it.

6. Discontentment– There is a gray area here that I will openly admit. On one hand, it could be that God is calling you to something bigger. On the other hand, it could be that God is calling you to bloom where you are planted. In any case, though, it seems like we often get into the destructive habit of constantly being unhappy with God’s provision or His call. We want more, and bigger, and better, and rarely praise Him when things are rough or seemingly sparse. Why? He created the universe with His voice. Why can’t He create more out of our little? Sure, we can tell Him we will give more if we have more, but should He really give us more if we are not extravagantly generous with what we currently have? Will He not provide? Be content each step of the way, and pray that you recognize when He is calling you forward. 

7. Apathy– I encounter Christians, regularly, who just don’t care anymore. Perhaps they are in a spiritual slump or have unplugged from God for a while for some reason. They would not consider themselves and unbeliever, but there is definitely a hallow feeling…a “blah” feeling in their spirit. In these cases, I think God wants us to pursue Him harder than ever. Get back to the fundamentals. Reading scripture, prayer, and community worship are a great start. You will break through this… Keep reminding yourself that God’s grace does not run out just because you are tired. His power is still fully charged and ready to engage the enemy.

8. Worry– Christians call it “concern”. Stop it. He’s got this. Do I really need to remind you of the thousands of times God has come through? Do I need to remind you of the times God’s people helped you through hard times? Do I need to remind you about the times where God revealed a little personal message to you through His word? Nah…of course I don’t. You remember. If you haven’t heard this lately, let me be the one to say it…everything is going to be fine. Bigger things have happened and greater miracles are right around the corner.

I hope, as you read these, you realize that I am in the same boat. Let’s all get on an exciting new journey where we reject the things that look nothing like Jesus. It’s okay to change direction as long as it is facing toward the Father. Unaddressed unhealthy behaviors can lead to a domino affect that will create a bitterness in your heart for what God considers good.

Reflect. Recalibrate. Return to His design.

-Landon DeCrastos

6 Things God May Be Trying to Tell You

GodtellyouHave you ever tried to talk to a preschool age child (or husband) during their favorite show on TV? The lack of attention can get on your nerves. Okay…I guess you caught it. I am one of those parents who allow my child to watch TV in the morning. Hey, sometimes I am tired and I need my son just to do his own thing for a few minutes while my brain wakes up. I am horrible…I won’t even talk about the fact I don’t buy organic…OH THE AGONY!!! Call the police!

I digress….ANYWAY, have you ever been in a situation in which you have tried to have a serious conversation with someone only to find out more than halfway through that they didn’t hear or understand anything you have said t them. Frustrating huh? Or, like I mentioned above, have you ever been listening to someone talk and their tangents got in the way of the message? This can also be infuriating. Sometimes you just either want to clearly convey your message or you want to be heard.

I think God feels the same way much of the time. There are times when I am certain that He is trying to teach me something, and because of my own pride or reluctance, He can’t get through. Not because He is powerless, but because I am distracted or I have my proverbial “fingers in my ears” and I would rather follow my own way. Well, there are many things the creator of the universe tries to say to us, and we could spend all day discussing them. Today, I want to touch on a few.

Here are 6 Things God May Be Trying to Tell You today…I think all are applicable to anyone who believes. 

1. No hurt goes unheard– It is so easy to begin to believe that all our suffering is falling on deaf ears. Sometimes we can pray with such passion and for such a long time that, when we don’t see the answer or relief coming, it seems like God is ignoring our plea. When we are going through these trials, God is right there with us, suffering as well. He definitely has insight into the His own perfect plan, but I can only imagine that the reason He also suffers is because He wants to bring the solution to you right now…He just knows what is perfect. He wants the best for you, and sometimes this means we have to wait. No one likes to see their child in pain…even if we know that the pain will not last forever.

2. Sometimes the answer is not as difficult as you think– When we pray, it is easy to ask that God brings a miracle that will completely change the whole situation. We often wonder how God will resolve the conflict we are facing, and trust that He will, but also concoct complicated answers that we think will solve the problem. Then, we tell God these are the steps that need to be taken to implement the miracle. The answer is often easier than that…and it involves becoming uncomfortable and barreling through to victory.

3. Doing the right thing is always the best thing– This is hard to hear. It is also hard to understand sometimes. Many times, we truly do know what is right, but often it conflicts with what is easy. What is right may hurt feelings, or change lives…but the right thing will always lead to abundance. The wrong thing may feel better in the moment…it may even relieve some pain temporarily. It will never, however, lead you into the fullness of God’s plan. The right thing also will always be in line with God’s word.

4. You will never stray too far– There are people who do not follow God because of their anger, guilt, and shame. These feelings often come from a time of reflection on the person they have become and memories of a sin-filled past. Many think that they have sinned way too much for God to accept them…this is simply not true. God wants to meet you where you are at, and give you His abundant life now. Not after you clean up your act. He is waiting.

5. You will never get too close– If you have ever had a relationship in life that has truly let you down you know exactly what I am talking about. You know, you have loved someone and trusted them deeply and they turned around and used that power against you. Guess what. Your relationship with God is nothing like that, and it will never be that way. You can cultivate a close intimate relationship with Him and expose all of your flaws. He will accept you and use it to grow, stretch, and mold your life. It is about time you let go of the fear of getting close.

6. Wearing a T-shirt doesn’t count– If you really want to know what it means to be a follower of Christ…it has nothing to do with the cool new Christian T-shirt you just bought online. You may think you are telling satan to “shove it” when you wear it around town, but what you are really doing (sometimes) is trying to find a way to display the message without living it. This will not work. God wants you…not your clothing. Inanimate objects can not be spiritually redeemed. They have no soul. Now, when you wear that inspirational t-shirt…remember this…how can you truly be a walking billboard for the creator? Add things like compassion and forgiveness to the mix as well. These will go far. Your t-shirt will doesn’t count when talking about your Christian witness.

God wants to say so much more to us. Don’t let a blog have to be the one to tell you.Open your ears, eyes, and heart. It is time to listen.

-Landon DeCrastos

Friday Update Email List

Good Morning Friends,

I wanted to personally invite you all to my Friday Update email newsletter. This newletter will keep you up to date with things going on in the life of my family, and the church that I pastor. Usually, I give an update every other Friday, and the content of this email is more personal in nature. I appreciate all of you, and I think you for the support you have given me! There is a new email update coming out today. Sign up now!

Click here to sign up!

5 Confessions of a Tired Pastor

Yawning2At 2:30pm today, I hit the wall…you know what wall I am talking about. The one you may hit everyday too. I try so desperately to fight it, but often it overtakes my every move. A yawn escapes and there is something so satisfying about letting it go. It may be my personality, but I often find myself in these moments snapping myself out of a daydream. I do that often…I can’t seem to help it. Then, somehow, I make it through. I leave work and come home to a house teeming with life, pretend and snotty noses…and then it is bedtime for the kids and sometimes I stare at a blinking cursor…knowing that God wants me to share my heart, but with droopy eyelids. This is my life.

As a bivocational pastor, I have found myself getting into unhealthy routines because my brain and heart are on autopilot. Between my day job, preaching, visiting people in the hospital, counseling people, putting out fires, parenting, and life in general it is easy to make excuses for myself. As I write this blog today, I feel led to admit some things you may not know about me. I am tired…and I have some confessions to make.

The following are 5 confessions I have about my life as a pastor:

1. I don’t get into God’s word like I should– It is funny. The most energizing and life giving activity that I engage in is something that is often put on the back burner. Granted, I do dip into scripture regularly to prepare my messages, but I definitely feel the damage when I get into a habit of “snacking” on scripture and neglect the full meals that I need. I know that God is not going to keep me from Heaven because I got half way through the Psalms and got side tracked…and really that’s not the point. The point of soaking in scripture is to fall more in love with the author. I need this.

2. Sometimes I want to cuss– It’s true. It really affects the glow of my halo too. Don’t worry conservative fan base….I don’t, but I want to. Often something will come up that is stressful, or I have realized I have dropped the ball on a project, and I get as far as a “crud” and dare not go any further. What I have found, for me, is that the less I soak in scripture as mentioned above, the more these thoughts erupt.

3. From time to time I pray selfishly– It is a joy to pray for people in their time of need or simply when they come to mind. I will confess that there are rare times when I simply want to have what I want. A fat bank account, a new house, a smaller pant size, and the list goes on and on. As a result of these things, sometimes God hears about it…and the prayer request that someone gives me comes second. God checks me during these times, and reminds me of the blessings that He has provided…or…at the moment I will see one of my children boumding past my view and I am reminded how rich I am.

4. I find myself not trusting God– There are times where I look at the bank account and the prognosis doesn’t look good or I gear up for a relational battle that I think may be coming, and I forget that God is supposed to be in control. I try to take hold of the outcome so I am not left looking silly or so I can still look good. God has shown me, so many times, that his timing and methods are perfect. I don’t have to worry…but I confess that even though I preach this at church regularly, I often get caught in the negativity trap.

5. I often feel sorry for myself– If something happens to me or there were not many people at church this Sunday, I tend to have a short-lived pity party. It is a trance that I get into. I convince myself no one cares and no one should care, and I begin to get upset based on a false reality that I create in my mind. I think God wants so much more for me. He is always waiting for me, to snap out of it, and return to serving.

Like mentioned above, it is easy to come up with excuse after excuse. I could tell you about all the things I need to do between now and next week and cite these things as a reason for the way I handle situations. I am tired. I am a pastor. I desire to know Him more and serve Him. I get angry, and I falter. Obviously, I know God wants more from me. Sometimes it is really hard. But, when I think about it…I wouldn’t have it any other way. What keeps me going is the celebration I see in a person’s eyes when God reveals Himself to them in a mighty way. Really…I am living the dream, and my faults are opportunities to be transformed. I am not perfect but God is chpping away at my edges. I am so grateful.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Truth About My Church (and others)

churchCurrently, the church I pastor is seeing more and more new people each week in our worship service. On a personal note, I have been incredibly encouraged concerning the growth I am seeing and the excitement on a weekly basis. Some people have approached me after a short time of attending and have sought to become more involved in the church. This is also great!

As I have reflected on this in the last few days, I have felt the need to tell people what they should expect when joining my church. The following are the 7 things that you should expect when taking the step to become a leader or generally involved in this worship community….these things are universal and can be applied to any other church.

1. Someone will eventually hurt your feelings….Someone is going to say something to you, or step on your toes, or even blurt something out randomly that will offend you.

2. You will encounter hypocrites. Churches are full of them and many are leaving the church for this reason…..grocery stores, civic groups, concerts, political groups, bus stops, restaurants, parking lots, hospitals, call centers, parties, and family reunions are also full of hypocrites….good luck avoiding those too.

3. Someone in my church will annoy you. Fact: everyone has an annoying side.

4. My message will not make sense to you on occasion. That’s okay…perhaps God will use it in your life later.

5. The music may not connect with you this Sunday. That’s okay….perhaps God will use it in your life later.

6. There will be discouraging times in our church. You can bet on this…..we are a church full of people with problems and regular discouragements. It just makes sense that a group of people would reflect this….

7.  Church will be boring at times. ….umm……..I got nothing. Sorry.

Overall, the church is not only a family but it is a redemptive and purpose-oriented community. Due to the fact that it is filled with people, not everything is going to be perfect. When we are interacting with people with wounds, hang ups, and brokenness we have to understand that grace is not just something for people on the outside but we are the prototype before distribution.

Redemptive communities require imperfection to participate.

-Landon DeCrastos

A Tribute

papaw

We all have those people who really stand out to us in life. Perhaps it is a sports figure or someone in Hollywood. They may have great integrity and may even market themselves as a role model for younger generations. When we choose to admire these people, we understand that they are human, and they have faults…but there is a part of us that desperately hopes that they are the same in private as they are portrayed in public. It would devastate us to learn of their recent DUI charge or adultery….because in the most recent episode of their show…they showed such great character.

This week, I, along with hundreds of other people, paid tribute to a man who was looked at with such admiration. It was my grandfather, Byron “Barney” Wright. Papaw passed away on Sunday and left a void in all of our lives… The people who wept at his funeral only did so because they were not going to be able to talk to him anymore (for now) or hear him sing or dare to stand in the same room with him as he prayed (I don’t like to watch anyone get beat up, but the devil seemed to come out very bloody in these cases).  His life touched so many that we, as a family, were overwhelmed by the amount of people that came to support us…people of every walk of life, skin color, and age group came to celebrate the life of a man who knew Jesus so well, that joy was always present. These same people lingered for a long time at the celebration to tell stories we had never heard about how they were introduced to Jesus Christ through my papaw.

As I reflected on this tribute, I believe God whispered a convicting and powerful concept into my ear. It is simply this…Our life is only a small part of our life. What do I mean by that? Well, as was the case for my grandpa, it is obvious that a life truly sold out to God is one that naturally pours into others. So, in this case, our life is only the vessel by which other lives can be changed. What an incredible mission to dedicate ourselves to!

There are so many incredible stories that one could tell about his life that, to write them down in blog form, they may break the internet. I can tell you this…he was the same in private as he was in public.

I could write more but I feel that papaw would want me to tell you the most important thing about his life. He would tell you that, 63 years ago, he was the most vulgar sinner…undeserving of any abundance God had for him. Yet, for some reason, God wanted him to help clog the gates of heaven. 63 years ago he asked to God to cleanse him of his sins…

That man could pray.  And if you knew him…you were on his morning prayer list…I think one of the reasons he died was because he fell so in love with God that he couldn’t wait any longer… like a bride and groom anxious for their wedding day.

Papaw…even though you are currently busy celebrating and probably won’t read this….Well done good and faithful servant…well done.

(1 Corinthians 11:1)

-Landon DeCrastos

An Early Revival

flame“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

In this passage we find Solomon in the midst of an Old Testament revival. Solomon had just finished praying, and the spirit of the Lord poured out on the land, and filled the Temple to the point that there was no physical room for the priests to enter the facility. People were giving praises, spontaneous sacrifices were being made, song and dance broke out, and people were taken further in their relationship with God than ever before. All because one man wanted to do things the right way….

After building the Temple, Solomon thought it would be only fitting to invite the Lord once again into the Holiest place. Perhaps he thought that it would have been a waste of brick , mortar,and time  if God would not have been a part of the process. We see here that fervent prayer was the instigator for this amazing celebration. God had promised Solomon that, if he were to pray, then his people would benefit.

So, do we pray only to receive blessings? Is God a spiritual vending machine, ready to grant our every wish. No….but He desires to communicate with us on an intimate level. He wants to guide us to restoration, and heal our land. He must, however, be invited…

-Landon DeCrastos

Exposing Prayer

A-Prayer-For-YouToday, I woke up and started my normal routine. I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, and started to prepare to take a shower. In the midst of brushing my teeth, I hear a knock on the door and I hear a tiny giggle. I know it is my son behind the door, but I also hear the water running in the other bathroom so I know that my wife has started preparing his bath. Somewhat curious, I decided to open the door. There, giggling and standing in front of me, was my stark nude 2 year old son yelling “I’m a naked kid Daddy!” There is nothing cuter than a toddler rump.

Of course I laughed at this situation. I then thought about it on a different level. My son has no shame and does not recognize the concept of private versus public. He has nothing to hide and he does not feel vulnerable in front of us. He is filled with innocence and purity that is powerful despite the fact that he is too young to comprehend.

When God created humanity, this posture was the intention. Adam and Even had the awesome opportunity to live with God, speak with Him, and live in relationship with no barriers. Sin ruined this relationship, and shame, guilt, and depravity entered the scene.

When we talk about the concept of prayer, God wants us to communicate with Him in the way that humanity did at the beginning. He has not changed. He is the same loving Father. We have changed.

What would happen if we abandoned what we thought of ourselves (our unworthiness, shame, guilt, our past) and simply allowed ourselves to be vulnerable before our mighty yet loving God?

It all comes down to trust. Do we believe that God desires to communicate with us? Communication is a vital part of any relationship. This is why we were created.

-Landon DeCrastos

Prayer Sticks

First I want to apologize for talking about my son a lot in this blog. If you are reading this and making the inevitable conclusion that this post is about my son as well….you are right. Just humor me…stick with it….it will be over soon. Also, in a related matter…my son rules.

For a few weeks now, we have introduced our son to the concept of prayer sticks. These sticks have the names of various friends, and family written on them. Each night, Josiah will pull a stick out of the jar, and after his story, that is the stick we pray for. We have been praying with him since he was an infant, but he would mostly just listen or look at mommy and daddy shutting their eyes and make funny noises while we prayed.

When he first began to talk, he would say “Amen” when he knew the prayer was over. Several months ago, he asked us if he could pray. Often it would be him bashfully mumbling and we couldn’t understand a word. Within the last week, our son has asked to pray and his prayers have been coherent and actually very profound. I won’t go into the content of the prayers but it seems that God shows up when he prays. Lately, at the end, my wife and I will look at each other with amazement and wonder where he got the idea to pray for these specific areas of need.

Don’t take this as a statement of theological fact, but I almost wonder if God hears these prayers a little louder than most prayers that I pray. Not because God loves anyone more or less, but when prayers are prayed with innocence and sincerity at this level, one can feel an angel walk by.

My point? Teach your kids to pray. Prayer is a powerful weapon when yielded by someone as skilled as a child. Let them loose on the landscape of divine communication and just watch what happens.

Apparently with prayer sticks…..prayer sticks.

-Landon DeCrastos