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.
We were on a hike at the local state park. It was a beautiful day, and the shade during our walk provided a welcome reprieve from the sun’s rays. The excitement of “actually getting out of the house” hurried our preparations for exploring nature. We were armed with bottled water and our normal hiking clothes. It was time to have fun. Even the kids were enthused about the event (which speaks volumes since it had nothing to do with electronics). On the way to the park, we discussed what path we would take, and decided on one that was not terribly long, but provided some good scenic views. We had a late morning start so we wanted to make sure we timed it out right to eat lunch at the appropriate time.
As the hike started, we had a fairly typical experience (nodding our heads to people we passed, telling the kids not to pick up rocks and sticks, recounting stories of previous hikes, etc.). Then, as we approached an older couple walking the opposite direction, they told us of a hazard that we were about to experience. The rain from 2 days prior had caused certain low areas to collect water and form large mud pits that were difficult to cross. We thanked the couple for letting us know what was ahead of us, and trekked forward. Sure enough, we reached exactly what they described, and it was nice because we had mentally prepared for it. There were 3 different areas that contained mud and when we passed them, we soon saw other hikers who had not yet approached the mud pits. We then told them about what they were going to experience so they were also prepared.
This experience led me to reflect on Deuteronomy 6; a deeply foundational section of scripture referred to as “The Shema”. It is called this, because the first word in verse 4, in Hebrew, is literally “shema” (to listen/hear). In this writing (which was, and still is, regularly repeated/ prayed by committed Jews) emphasizes the holiness of God and our obedient response to Him. It also goes on to command followers to embed the message on their hearts AND pass down this communication to the next generation. This command wasn’t just conveyed to people with children, but to the whole worship community. It was everyone’s job to make sure this message was being preserved for future generations. It is life-giving and requires remembrance.
For many, it becomes tempting to seek out worship communities that mostly reflect their own current context in life. People often try to find congregations that have mostly people their own age, with the same age of children, or perhaps containing young married couples that share their same interests. I think this can be a mistake (depending on the heart attitude). While some of this is great, often what happens is that entire churches shut out those of other generational demographics. There tend to be a lack of older people with more life experience to help guide and disciple. Then, a new church growth book is published, and the author essentially wags his/ her finger at the older generation, telling them they have abandoned the younger generation.
In the same way that nice older couple told us about the mud hazard ahead, we need intergenerational worship experiences to help us prepare for future physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental hazards. If facilitated in a healthy way, the more mature generation can pour into the less mature by utilizing their stories. We simply cannot get this without older and younger generations experiencing life together. Older believers have a command (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) that they need to fulfill. Let’s not rob them of that.
Love you all.
Check out the recording for the online service today!! Click on the link below!
Check out the recording for today’s Easter Online service!
Professionals train and sacrifice countless hours to perfect their craft. It doesn’t matter if the area of expertise is in the arts, entertainment, sports, engineering, medicine or public service…the individual that betters themselves will be prepared for the most extreme challenges when it comes to their prowess. When firefighters work out, and keep their body fit, the point is to build strong muscles, so they are ready in case an unfortunate circumstance occurs, and someone needs rescued. These men and women perform repetitious exercises to not only build strength, but to build consistency and familiarity in a variety of tasks. Sports players do this same thing. A baseball player will swing their bat hundreds of times in a row, so that their mind and body is in sync. Actors are no different. These folks meditate over their lines until they are performing them in their sleep. In whatever situation, this idea is called “building muscle memory”.
Ask just about anyone on the street if they think that building muscle memory is a good thing, and most would agree that it is prudent. These same people may even recall a favorite moment in their discipline of choice and tell you how that person who hit the game-winning home run or the violinist who performed the flawless concerto inspired them to be better in their profession.
As great of an idea this concept is, for some reason, there is still significant backlash regarding this practice in our spiritual lives. People praise the soccer player that scores the winning goal but often look down on the Christian who has embraced ritual and tradition. It is so tempting to look at the life of an ancient early Christian or Jewish believer and dismiss their daily rhythms as archaic and meaningless. Sure, they may actually be meaningless, but that is not the fault of the practice, but perhaps the practitioner.
When we look in scripture, especially the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), we see countless commands given by God to His chosen people. Some of these seem so foreign to the 21st Century believer, and for those who feel “deeply enlightened”, they may even seem counter intuitive. The fact is, God used ritual and tradition to build muscle memory…even though some of it may not have made immediate sense. This memory developed over many generations, not to keep His people busy, but to prepare them for the personification of holiness that would eventually come. He wanted to condition them to respond to His leading…to learn to step out into territory that felt unnatural. It was no different than learning basic motor skills as a child, and putting them all together as an adult to become a contributing citizen.
The more I read and think about building a life of ritual, the more I am drawn to the fact that our ancient mothers and fathers had it absolutely right. Perhaps, we do not have to mimic their every move, but I think, to be healthy we must develop a life of consistent rhythm. You can shake your fist at me, and yell “legalism” all you want…but it seems like we don’t even bat an eye when it comes to developing habits that are unhealthy for us. Do you have a habit or struggle that you go to regularly for comfort or solace? Get my point? How about developing habits of praise and worship? How about setting up things in your life that will be a reminder of God’s faithfulness? What about Holy repetition?
To be honest, whether the religious ritual is weekly worship, daily prayer, or sacred personal reading…the point is not for us to be entertained or stimulated. The point is to be reminded, and to put ourselves in a position in which obedience comes more naturally.
Now…in the name of Jesus…Go and be His disciples. Train and remember where he has brought you from.
Speaking of “where He has brought you from” …Do you ever forget about that? If you do, it is possible you really misunderstand what it means to grow…In my next blog post, I am going to explore that…stay tuned.
…to be continued.
Let’s get real…Do you REALLY want to grow spiritually?
The High Priest opened the curtain and slowly walked into the Holy Place. His hands were still damp from the recent experience in the water basin. He took a deep breath as he walked through the threshold and whispered a quick prayer during the initial steps.
He looked to the left and made note of the candelabra. This priceless piece was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. Until this point, this lampstand has been used for several generations, but one would have poor observation skills not to notice that the stand still looked brand new. He knew that there was deep meaning in all the pieces that were placed in the Temple, but there was something in him that understood that there was a far deeper meaning to this lamp than what he could currently comprehend. Perhaps the full meaning would be revealed in time…
As he shuffled forward, his robe nearly dragged on the ground. He, once again, became aware of the weight of his breastplate. When he looked to his right side, he remembered the 12 tribes of Israel. This was symbolized by the loaves of bread on the table. The High Priest closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose. The smell of freshly baked wheat filled his nostrils, and for some reason, as if it was forcibly planted in his mind, stories of the times that God was faithful to His people were recalled.
The path became shorter, and the priest saw the last stand that he had to navigate around. The closer he got, the more the scent of incense gripped him. This small table had great significance, and the placement made it so it was almost an obstruction to the final goal. As the smoke filled the air, he was made acutely aware of his mission and purpose. The incense symbolized the prayers of the people that he was there to represent. One concept that struck him, that he had never thought of before, concerned the placement of this table. It was strategic. When God gave the instructions through Moses to build the original Tabernacle, it seems as if He wanted to make sure that prayer was the closest thing to Him. Perhaps there is more power in this action that we often think.
With a bowl full of blood in his hand, the High Priest approached the final curtain. He opened it to see the Arc of the Covenant. His heart pounded harder and harder. He felt slightly dizzy and had to compose himself. The makeshift room seemed to be illuminated and he felt as if it was significantly hotter. Then, he gave thanks to Yahweh, and began sprinkling the blood on the artifact. The experience seemed short lived as he concentrated on the ritual. He exited.
Weeks later, the High Priest heard rumors of a baby that was born not too far away. This child was born during the empire-wide census in a stable among animals. People spoke of a scandalized mother, who was pregnant before she was married to her husband. After a while, word about this little boy seemed to fade away. Perhaps we may hear more about this story later.
World Religious Movements class, fieldtrips to Reformed Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist temples, to observe and hear first hand the practice of their faith. Then, God added a little extra to the field trip – He’s so good, always.
Being a Christian who loves the Jewish people as the chosen of God (chosen as ambassadors and as the lineage for the gift of Christ), I was excited to hear what the Rabbi would share with us, and just before Passover too! The tour was lovely, and there is some artwork that I would like to return and view, but I confess, it broke my heart. Then, it called me to repentance.
Over and again, the cry of the Old Testament is ‘you have forgotten your first love, I Am the One who brought you out of bondage, and you have wandered away from Me.’ With gracious candor, we were told first hand that the goal and objective is social justice, and that in reviewing the Exodus, all should recognize the need to bring justice and freedom to others. This is worthy, and beautiful, but it’s a bit off target. God has become distant to them, and yet, have we not also pushed Him aside to chase lesser or more immediately demanding things? I have, and for that I’m truly sorry.
This was the overriding theme for my memory of the visit, but there were positive points. Two books were recommended, ‘American Grace’ (how religion unites & divides) and a chapter entitled ‘This Bread’ (reflections on Passover and Easter) from a 2 volume set named ‘My People’s Passover Haggadah’ (Vol 1, Vol 2, Review). One matter that gets pointed out is that in Passover, the sacrifice comes before the meal – in Easter, the meal comes before Jesus’ sacrifice. Even in this, He turned the prevailing ‘way of doing things’ on it’s head.
The Passover Seder is designed to be a full-sensory experience, involving sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch in the expression and memory, to bring about the most complete participation and impact possible. When considering the Exodus, each person is to view it as God personally reaching to rescue them, individually, from bondage. In turn, they are to seek to rescue others from oppression and social injustice, in any forum or form they find it. There is a widely published assertion that the central passage in the Bible (New Testament included) is Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” The Rabbi pointed out, in relation to this view of the Passover and proper response, that the central passage in the Torah (we know it as the Old Testament) is Leviticus 19:18 “…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Actually, in just now looking it up, I find Leviticus 19 to be the likely source text for Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5 – will do more research on that.)
He mentioned that over the past few decades, there has been a broadening of the spectrum of Jewish observance and the definition of what it means to be Jewish. Originally, the Jewish heritage was seen as being passed through the mothers (which brings up some interesting points for another post). Now, one may be Jewish by matrilineal heritage or by conversion, and this may apply to ethnicity and/or faith. Strict adherance to rules against intermarriage between Jews and those of other ethnicities and faiths has mostly gone by the wayside, and the children may be brought up as Jewish or not (or multi-observant), regardless of which parent has a Jewish heritage. He also mentioned that although some still believe they are divinely called to the life of a Rabbi or full-time minister in Judaism or other faiths, He made his decision from an occupational standpoint. This is a career in which he can study, teach, and apply himself to the betterment of his community, both the community of Jewish faith, and the diverse community that is found in his local chunk of America. If you want to know how these ideas hit me, refer back to the paragraph on heartbreak and repentance.
Most crushing, for me, was his unguarded initial reaction to a question regarding the upcoming Passover Seder, as a burden and a pain. True to my ongoing interpreter training, I reminded myself to keep a straight face and not burst into tears until later, in private. I managed. It wasn’t easy, it isn’t now.
Jesus, forgive us, when the opportunity to recall and celebrate your most precious gifts to us are seen as a bothersome inconvenience. As though living among us, from diapers to crucifixion and all the issues of warped humanity in between, was ~convenient~.
In the trip to the Hindu temple, I did not carry the same yearning for something insightful, nor the same disappointment. (I do wish we would have had a deaf person and an interpreter with us, as it was extremely difficult to hear our tour guide, occasionally impossible.) I found myself praying for the people there who were diligently seeking enlightenment and release from the heavy weight of negative karma. The idols, made of various materials, require great care, yet they can do nothing but sit silent and unhearing as those that regard them carefully follow the dictates of ritual, in hopes of a better life next time around. Are we similar? Do we carefully follow the dictates of ‘do & do not’ in hopes that the God we visit occasionally will grant us the better life after we leave this one? How often do we forget that the weight has been lifted, and to Him we owe every moment? How often do we forget to turn to the one who is alive, attentive, and active?
Speaking of active… we went to our next destination and arrived significantly early, so our group walked around the corner and quietly, respectfully, entered a lovely Monastery. 8-10 monks were in the process of singing their praise and prayers – the unison of these male voices resonated in the sanctuary. The wood, marble, and stained glass were exquisite. After they filed out, one returned to be gracious – he set aside his vow of silence for a few moments to greet and welcome us, point out visitor information, and answer a couple of questions. Then he politely requested that we make certain the door was latched as we exited. It wasn’t supposed to be open at that time. Hmm… oops… and yet, a much needed blessing. Thank You, Lord, for some surprise “Jesus time” in the middle of an idol-filled day.
After this, we went down the street a bit and found what we thought to be a Greek Orthodox church – it turned out to be Polish Catholic, one of the oldest churches in the area, and one of the few to remain after a recent thinning. (There had been about a dozen Catholic churches, each serving a different socio-linguistic group, as set up in the early years of America’s immigrant communities.) Again, the architecture and artwork was fabulous, and the music of the huge pipe organ washed over my spirit.
The altar had some decorations that caught my attention – cameo carvings, and in my mind, an invitation to reflect and pray about our own involvement in Jesus’ crucifixion. We were there, by proxy, yet in our daily lives we may revisit those same issues even now. The carvings were –
- a torch – when the mob went to the garden in the dark of night
- a sword and rod – when both religion and government were against Him
- a sword and ear – when Peter took matters into his own hands
- a money bag and coins – when Judas traded Christ for material greed
- a whip – complete with the barbs that tore His flesh to ribbons
- a rope – the self imposed price of betrayal, as Judas hanged himself
- a pitcher & basin – the attempt by Pilate to claim innocence
- a rooster – a reminder that our pride cannot conquer peer pressure, yet our Lord already knows ahead of time that we are weak, and He went through it all anyway
There were sculptures highlighting various moments in the journey to the cross, then the tomb. It hits me now, I didn’t see anything about the fact that the tomb is now vacant…hmm… we tend to forget that part sometimes. Other sculptures were veiled in purple fabric. Our gracious host pointed out that during this time, Holy Week, all is in mourning, but on resurrection morning, all veils will be lifted in celebration of Christ’s victory over death, the grave, and grief. He invited us to look around and stay as long as we wished – then mentioned that our timing on entry was perfect – the doors were supposed to be locked. Thank You, again, for a few more moments of focusing on You in the middle of this day.
Next stop, the Buddhist temple, and quite a sermon. In the natural, let me say that I’m no longer built for extended floor-sitting – kudos to the much older ladies and gentlemen who do just that, for the sake of their faith. The nun who greeted us was very sincere in her beliefs and that which she sought to convey, from the Buddhist perspective. I, for one, heard some very convicting words from the Lord as she spoke…
- Why do you study your faith? Is it not to gain wisdom and learn to be in community with your God?
- How intently do you study? How can you expect to be of service to others if you haven’t put the time and effort into communing with your God and internalizing what He has revealed of Himself?
- Why should the Buddha, or your God, help you in a moment of need or concern, if you don’t do anything to acknowledge and serve him any other time?
- It is not enough to believe in God in passing, one must be in communion with Him, and through that communion be increasingly purified of the bad in ourselves, while learning from Him how to live pure lives and become pure.
- None of us are born innocent – all carry the heavy weight of negative karma from past lives (we carry the corrupt nature that was passed down from the fall in Eden). If you should live 100 years, doing good things, avoiding murder, adultery, drunkenness, theft, and lying…you will still find yourself, in some weak protectionist moment, telling a lie to save yourself some pain. That moment, that small lie, is enough to mar the rest.
- Lying, in their definition, includes gossip, slander, and rude joking. (now, re-read the previous point, and see what the Bible says in Romans 3, especially v23 – ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God)
- Why is it that the doors of Christian churches are often locked? People may enter the temples at any time of any day to pray, but Christians go only a few times a week. How is that enough?
- You fill up on bad karma 6 days a week, not communing with your God, not letting Him purify you, then you have 1 day a week when you focus on Him and gather in the church to worship and pray. How is that enough?
- A nun’s day is full – preparation and service to the Buddhas and guardians of the dharma (the way to enlightenment), going out to serve others, a little food for herself, serving those who come to the temple, studies, and prayer/meditation. How is there time for else?
- One more message – knowing who we were, where we came from, and that we already had a belief system, she still unabashedly invited us to come back and learn what we needed to know so that we could move toward purity and enlightenment. She still testified to her faith and invited us to join her. Are we such faithful missionaries, do we care so much for the souls of others, really?
They’ve got us, honestly. The Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Reformed Jews, etc… They out-steward us in caring for the natural resources God has provided. They out-minister us in caring for the needs of others in their communities and around the world, whether those needs be physical or related to social justice. They out-grace us in welcoming others who are dirty or poor or different, even those who have a different belief about the world and the ultimate matters. They out-dedicate us in worship and reverence for their chosen deities. They out-simple us in their rejection or communal sharing of material goods. They out-discipline us in avoiding that which is understood to be sinful. Honestly, is there room to wonder why they can’t hear us when we try to tell them we know the One True Way to rid ourselves of the pervasive weight of sin and grow in the relationship that will ultimately lead to eternal joy in the home and presence of the Creator? And if you think I’m overboard or off-base, read the book of James.
Now, before you get excited or discouraged that I ‘saw the light in a Buddhist temple’, there were other things I took note of… she mentioned 84,000 different ways to follow Buddha… that anyone can become a Buddha (eventually, with dedication, etc), reminiscent of the serpent’s offer:
Genesis 3: 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
She went to great lengths to tell us over and again how the path is not so easy, not so glib, that many lives of dedication are required to purify us of bad karma (and how could we say that believing in Jesus in one lifetime is enough?), right before she spent another few paragraphs telling us that if we call on the name of one particular deity 7 times over 7 days, that deity will come for our souls when we die and take us to the pure land. The fact that she diligently made two absolutely opposing points didn’t phase her.
~Written by Janeen Jarrell at sglass.net
I am a young pastor, and I do not presume to think that I can offer up much worthwhile advice and encouragement to a new generation entering the ministry. I do think, however, that any amount of experience has its own level of anecdotal instruction that can be offered to anyone willing to listen.
This week, I have thought about what I have learned in my decade of formal ministry (volunteer and paid) and I think there are some things that are worth sharing. Some items being shared in this blog are a result of frustration that has helped to grow me as a minister. Other points are simply things I that have come to mind. Just know that none of them are meant to demean, discourage, or demonstrate anger. I just feel these things need to be said.
I love learning. Sometimes the learning involved pain, and other times it was a result of great joy.
Today, I want to share 5 Things I Have Learned As a Pastor.
People prioritize what matters
Sunday after Sunday pastors all over the world work their hardest to preach, teach, and display the Gospel in their lives. Their families often feel the brunt of the time and effort they put into sharing vision, meeting with those in need, and attending business meetings. Sometimes a pastor will give their all for a congregation who seem to look at the idea of worship as “something they will attend if they have nothing else to do”. Don’t get me wrong. Pastors are thankful that anyone shows up for worship, but we now live in a Christian culture that has prioritized other things over meeting together as was commanded of us in scripture.
Discouragement is only temporary
I’m going to let you in, behind the scenes, for a moment on what pastors talk about when they are together. Sometimes we talk about how things are progressing with the church. Other times we talk about how discouraged we are in a particular area of ministry. For some people in ministry, short seasons of discouragment end in resignation. It is easier to quit than to persevere. When discouragement comes, and it certainly will, it is always vital to lean into God and rely on His promises. The seasons of discouragement do not last forever. They can just be painful. When we tap into God’s resolve, then we find times of great spiritual wealth and ministerial progress.
There will be resistance
No matter what God has asked a person in ministry to do, resistance to that call is inevitable. Sometimes there is resistance because the author of lies is creating unnecessary conflict in the church. Other times (I am speaking to myself here) it is because personal pastoral agendas are forced and God’s will is not taken into account. Pastors are not exempt from being stubborn or having human thoughts, emotions, or actions. A consistent prayer life trains the mind and heart to more readily pick up Christ’s signals and gentle nudgings.
Lives matter to God
When looking at scripture, it is apparent that God has spent a lot of time showing humanity His love. Sure, there are times of discipline, but the way He guided the Israelites out of captivity, restored them multiple times after their transgressions. sent Himself to die, and gave us the Holy Spirit, no one can deny the energy that has gone into God’s affection for us. He calls pastors to be distributors of this love and grace. Christians in general have this call on their lives as well, and are compelled to share this message with the world. So, when someone comments that a pastor’s focus is “all about numbers”, they are actually somewhat correct. Every person matters to God, and He came to die for every single one. A pastor’s job is a response to this concept.
Often times, more energy is spent on lemurs than butterflies
Ok, so this one is a difficult topic to talk about. Now, I do not want to sound harsh or condescending, but this idea breaks my heart so I felt as if I needed to share. You may read this heading and be somewhat confused, but allow me to explain. I wrote another blog post a while ago that compared the personalities found in the church to animals that live in a zoo. Lemurs are animals that live in trees and eat berries and bugs. When there are no more berries or bugs in the tree they move on to another one that will suit their needs. Butterflies start as caterpillars, and camp out in trees or bushes. They are sheltered by the tree and allow themselves to be transformed. Often churches respond to God’s call to help those in need (in and out of the church), and sometimes it is the “lemurs” get the most attention. In the church, it is often the case that the ones that are the most helped are the first ones to leave. The church is a great place to seek transformation. No matter the result, though, we are called to serve.
Overall, I can honestly say that God has blessed me more than I deserve. His calling on my life to participate in the transformation of souls is something that invigorates me. Ideas keep me going, and His spirit not only makes up for my inadequacies, but moves me out of the way completely. He has also given me an amazing church family.
If you are a young pastor leading a church today, I implore you to lean on that calling. Don’t quit. It is a very difficult job, and it is not going to get any easier. You are not going to make millions and you may struggle to help grow the congregation you are in. Don’t be a “corporate ladder” type of pastor and just move to the next bigger church for the nice facility and salary package. There is a large family sitting in your pews waiting to see revival, and their souls need it. Be vulnerable, and build deep relationships. What if they leave? Well, then you will be deeply hurt, but don’t run away from being hurt. God’s call means more.
My fingers tap to the beat of a popular pop melody being played on the radio. The soft, rhythmic finger drumming is a socially exceptable form of what I wish to do, and that is stand up and shout the words at the top of my lungs. This is not because I want everyone to hear my beautiful singing voice, but so I can finally vanquish this parasitic tune from my brain. Tapping will have to do, and I notice that the chair I am sitting at in the doctor’s waiting room has distinct pitches and allow the full band in my mind to play on until the end. I hate waiting. I think that this feeling is universal.
Waiting is something that is fairly easy at first. In the depths of each of our own souls, each one of us has set a certain limit to how much waiting is acceptable depending on the circumstance. We wouldn’t expect the closing of a newly bought home to take only 5 minutes after the offer is placed, but if we are 7 minutes delayed in the expected enjoyment of a fast food cheeseburger then we must notify management of our dreadful plight.
Let’s look at the first disciples. It would have seemed as if they invented the idea of waiting. First, Jesus died. Then, they had to wait 3 days to see Him again in full glory. What happens next is both amazing and oddly frustrating. Christ spends time with His followers; then leaves again! Before He leaves, He tells the disciples and a smattering of other believers to sit, wait, and pray until He sends “round 2” of His wonderful work. These faithful few were instructed to pray. No short hail Marys or a wimpy “bless this food” type of prayer…but a converstation with God born out of desperation and spiritual hunger, with, by the way, no answer coming any time soon. So, they waited.
In the midst of the long wait, the Holy Spirit came and made all the waiting worth while. Victory was theirs, and they saw amazing fruit from their faithfulness. Then, the honeymoon phase was over. The Holy Spirit still gave the followers amazing testimonies and abilities, but Jesus also indicated that the best was even YET to come. He was talking about the end of days. The BIG finale. The final end to all of this…junk.
Well folks…we are it. Fast forward. We are the disciples that are now called to wait. He has not given us a time, day, or even specific decade, but Jesus has given us His spirit. That’s great, and I am happy but…why, then, do I feel so guilty about being impatient about this? Or, why do I sometimes secretly hope it doesn’t happen soon? I may be anxious or I may have more sinning to do.
The problem with waiting is it causes us to feel the need to keep ourselves busy. Also, the times in which we are tapping our toe force us into times of introspection and honesty. We want to fix everything ourselves and earn our Heavenly reward by our own merit, but Jesus has called us to something a little more uncomfortable…waiting…and deeper so…staying faithful.
Jesus is coming back. We must embrace the idea that this time of waiting could be an excellent time for us to make the world around us a better place. On top of that, there are people we could impact for His kingdom. Don’t give up just because impatience is a reality.
Stop tapping your toe. Get up and go! Be the hands and feet of Jesus before it is too late.
A 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.