Past Exhilaration

Roller Coaster

I can still remember the day that I got through the fear. I remember it well. I was in the eighth grade and my parents took me and my brother to Disney World. The drive to get there from our home just outside of Washington DC seemed like it took forever, which is one of the things that helped me get over my fear. I told myself, “I’m not traveling all the way down to Disney World and not riding these awesome roller coasters everyone’s talking about, just because I’m afraid!”

So, there I was standing with my brother outside of the coaster I heard about the most: Space Mountain.

After the ride was over I realized a couple of things: one, I was still alive, and second, that was actually exhilarating! Like, I want to ride that again! I think we rode that crazy roller coaster eight times strait!

This opened the world of roller coasters to me. That summer when we went as a family to a theme park close to our home I was riding everything they had. And, I’ve never stopped. When my daughter was six years old, I had her on every adult ride she was tall enough to climb on; and she loved it too.

But, I realized something after years of riding the same rides that used to be so exciting to me. After riding a roller coaster 50 times, it loses much of it’s exhilaration. It’s just not as exciting anymore.

You know, so many people walk into churches and they’re looking for something. And they should be! Everyone who walks into a church is looking for what they’re looking for. What I mean is they know what kind of music they like, and what they don’t, what kind of church “feel” they like, and what they don’t, what kind of preaching they like…You get the point.

When they come into church and it’s what they like, it’s exhilarating. I often have conversations with folks about that. They’ll say, “the worship is fantastic,” “the sermons are just what I need” or “the people are so friendly I feel like I’m at home.” Just so you know, to be a pastor and hear these things is definitely a win!

Inevitably, however, after a while the church can become like my experience with roller coasters. What was once so exhilarating is now, because of familiarity, no longer that big of a deal. And, it becomes easy to drift. What happens? The same thing with so many Christians in America. They stay for a while at a church, it loses it’s exhilaration, then off to the next. So many American Christians are bouncing from church to church because the excitement and newness wears off after while.

What’s the answer?

1. Remember what church is really all about.

If you’re looking for a church you should find one that makes you glad you were there. There’s nothing worse than boring church. As a matter of fact, it’s a tragedy when worship of our great God and His Word are made boring—because there’s nothing boring about them!

But, church is not about being excited all the time. It’s actually about Jesus and following Him. If you didn’t know this, following Him is not always easy and He never promised it would be.

2. Remember that Jesus brought you to His church on purpose. 

You are a part of the whole and that matters more than you may know. Paul uses the metaphor of a “body” for the local church. And a great metaphor it is. A body only functions correctly when all it’s parts are in place and healthy.

Paul Tripp explains it this way:

Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.

It’s good that you loved what you saw and experienced when you first went to your church but make sure your love for Jesus and understanding why He calls the church together become important to you too. Then, you’ll become a part of the church’s mission:

Reach people with the Gospel—make disciples—change the world.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing more exhilarating than being a part of the church that way!

3. Church doesn’t exist for Christian consumption.

If Christians are always just looking to be exhilarated, the work of the church will actually never be done. And, that work is the only thing going on in this world that’s actually of eternal impact. That’s pretty important.

Thom Rainer states this very well in his book I Am A Church Member.

Rainer states that Jesus,

placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the Gospel.

In other words, Christ brought us together for so much more than a fleeting feeling of exhilaration.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in church, I’m sure it’s been for you like roller coasters became for me when I was a teenager—exhilarating at first but not so much with more familiarity. Just know, that for you to see the church as more than that, is incredibly important. It won’t always be so exhilarating, the sermon won’t always be exactly what you want to hear, and the song choice won’t always be the one you like the most.

But, the purpose and eternal impact of the church will never be less than Jesus gave His life for it to be. And that’s a huge calling, purpose and impact that needs to include you.

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Seven Ways to Heal Your Pastor

 7 Ways to Heal Your Pastor.001

 I shared a blog article from Thom Rainer yesterday on Facebook called “Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor”. I shared it, not to make a point nor to direct it at anyone, but simply because I agree with the article. I received quite a bit of feedback from sharing it which prompted me to write this post. I have experienced all of the hurts that Thom Rainer listed as well as some that are not there but I thought it would be good to write a article from the other perspective. I used the word “heal” in the title because it’s a pseudonym of “hurt” but what I mean is how you encourage your pastor. Having pastored a church for 5 1/2 years now, I’ve not only experienced some hurts but also some encouragement. This list may surprise you because it doesn’t included saying how good you thought the sermon was or how good of a person you think he is. It’s different than that.

This is how you encourage your pastor:

1.  When you’re faithful

There is nothing that encourages your pastor more than your faithfulness. It’s true that when you don’t come it can be discouraging but when you’re there, when you’re faithful to worship, it lifts your pastor’s spirit in ways you’ll never know. The pastor spends his entire week getting ready for Sunday. Oh, there’s a lot of things we must do throughout the week with church administration, helping the hurting and making disciples but there’s nothing like Sunday morning worship. We look forward to it all week long!

Also, when you’re faithful in your giving. Nothing will put a knot in your pastor’s stomach on Monday morning quicker than a bad offering report from Sunday. But, the opposite is also true. Nothing makes a Monday morning sweeter than when your pastor sees the offering report and you were faithful to give. Now, he can go on through his week without financial worry nagging ruthlessly at his subconscious.

Your faithfulness is amazing!

2.  When you’re loving each other

Every pastor has stories of watching church people shred each other in disagreement and conflicts. But, when you love each other, I mean really love each other, it is incredibly uplifting to your pastor. Not only when you say “I love you” but more when you treat each other in genuine love in how you act, live and cooperate. To see you do that, makes your pastor feel like you’re loving him.

3. When you’re telling others

So many people come to church just to get something out of it, but to watch you and hear your stories of how you are telling others about Jesus and inviting others to the gathering of the church is uplifting and inspiring. Not only is this true of how your pastor feels but also how others in the church feel. It’s encouraging to see you living your life for Christ and with His heart for others. Your pastor knows that this happens as God’s Word works in your heart like it’s working in his and he knows that you’re truly “abiding in the Vine.”

4.  When you sacrifice

When your pastor sees you pour out your life when it’s not easy, that’s so encouraging. It’s at this moment he remembers that he’s not doing this alone and it’s not all up to him. Sometimes he feels like everyone is expecting him to spend his life  (and sometimes his family’s life too) for the Gospel but when you live a sacrificial life it let’s him know you’re willing to spend your life too. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is for your pastor when he gets to serve with you in this kind of way (instead of just serving you).

5.  When you pray

It’s always encouraging when you tell your pastor you’re praying for him but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean when your pastor sees you come to prayer meetings, praying at the altar, or even better, when he finds out that you took it upon yourselves to have a group prayer time without him planning it or asking you to do it. I can’t put into words what that means to your pastor. Again, he’s reminded that he’s not alone and he’s reminded that people are impacted by Christ and following Him.

6.  When you Worship

What I mean by worship is when your pastor can hear your voices filling the worship center, when you raise your hands (those of you who do that sort of thing) and when you’re so focussed on Christ that the tears are running down your face. It is so encouraging when you worship with smiles across your face and joy beaming from your countenance. It so makes a pastor remember why he’s doing what he’s doing and that the Word is bringing return. (Remember, Sunday is the day he’s always working for and toward.)  There’s nothing like people worshiping God is Spirit and Truth!

7.  When you love his wife

Many pastors wives don’t struggle because of people disrespecting or being unkind to them, they struggle because they so often feel left out. As awesome as it is for your pastor to see you interacting with each other, especially outside of church services, it’s incredibly uplifting when you invite and include his wife. Nothing breathes life into your pastor more than when the church is breathing life into his wife. When she has joy in the ministry so does her husband.

Do any of these surprise you? 

Much more than verbal expressions like, “that was a nice sermon” when you’re walking out the door Sunday, the above are ways that you can be a huge encouragement and even bring healing to some of the hurt your pastor has. Try it out, you’ll make a difference.

 

Generational Pride – How has it affected the church?

The sin of pride is generational. This, of course, is true on several levels. First, generational sin has effected every generation from the first, Adam. The pride of Adam, which could be encapsulated in the statement, “I want to be like God,” is something that has been passed upon us all. (See Romans 5:12)

Then, there’s the pride that can be passed on through more recent generations; a culture of pride. We see a great example of this in the book of Daniel. Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon before the Medes took over the kingdom during a night of hard partying by the Babylonian royalty. This was predicted by Daniel. As Daniel explains Belshazzar’s dream and the judgment that is coming, he makes it known that Belshazzar has not learned from the past kings, specifically Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel sites the problem of pride and its result in the life of Nebuchadnezzar:

But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.” (Daniel 5:20, ESV)

Daniel goes on to reveal that this has passed upon Belshazzar generationally:

And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,” (Daniel 5:22, ESV)

We could all easily find some examples of this type of generational pride as we see it played out in some of our own families, or the families to whom we minister. We all have stories of people stuck in the generational sins of abuse or addiction and many of us have helped people, sometimes even in our own families, through struggles with these.

As I look at the story of the kings in Daniel, and the truth that there can be generational sins in leadership, I wonder how much this type of generational sin has affected the church.

I’ve noticed in the culture in which I pastor some strong residue from the sins of the church in the not so distant past. It seems that many pulpits, here in the Bible belt, have been filled with the declaration that those of us in the church have it all together, and what the world really needs is to be like us. There is no more dangerous sermon than this.

The result of such preaching of pride are several generations of Christians who are so caught up with the idolatry of exteriors that they can’t fathom that someone can come to Christ who doesn’t first look like them. This has been distilled down to Bible versions, clothing standards, music standards and other externals and opinions which should never cause disruption within a church. The observation of this generational sin of pride is the opposite of the message of humility that comes from preaching the cross.

It’s imperative that the message of the church be a message of humility. That is, we are not proud because of who we are in Christ but incredibly humbled. That way the church is never trying to exalt itself in the eyes of the world, but Jesus alone is exalted.

I think I can safely say there is a healthy trend in churches, especially those who want to see people outside of the faith impacted by the Gospel, to remember the humility that a relationship with Jesus brings. No one walks away from an encounter with Jesus the same. That’s a fact. When we live and serve out of a humility and passion that comes from an encounter with Jesus, instead of the pride of being better than someone else, we can then reach with compassion those who so desperately need to see the love and grace of Christ as we have.

But, are we at risk for other generational sins fueled by pride? I wonder if there are sins of pride committed in the church today that will be past down to future generations? Here’s a couple that may be looming on the horizon:

  1. There seems to be a trend, largely brought on by social media that the name of the game in ministry now is to become famous. (Admittedly, I say this using the platform of social media.) It seems so many now are just trying to build their platform to gain the notice of publishers. I’m guessing that’s the desired outcome. Now, I certainly don’t think it’s a sin to have an impact on a lot of people. It’s a noble thing to try and gain as big an audience as possible to hear and be affected by the Gospel. But, it’s imperative that the churches goal, as well as all of us who are in vocational ministry, is to make Jesus and Jesus alone famous.
  1. Secondly, is a continued drive to define ministries, or people personally, by their possessions. I will say that it’s a good thing that we seem to be trending away from prosperity doctrine but a poverty doctrine can become just as destructive. Either way, people still end up with the pride of possessions, either by defining their spirituality by what they have, or what they don’t have. (Of course, in our nation we are much more predisposed to a search for prosperity.) Either way, if we become defined at all by possession it’s a sure way to become entangled with pride.

The lesson for us as we look at the past, and the future, is that we need to make sure and realize that the sin of pride is extremely destructive. Even as the kingdom was torn from the hands of Belshazzar, pride will cause great destruction within the church; and it has. So, it’s imperative that we learn a lesson from the book of Daniel. God will share His glory with no one. There is no one in all creation who should know that better than those of us who serve in the context of the local church.

May our words be like those recorded of Nebuchadnezzar:

It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:2–3, ESV)