Yesterday I preached the 3rd week of our “I am a Church Member” series where I discussed leading our families to be healthy church members.
One of the big questions we need to ask is how am I showing my family members what it means to love God, to love others, and to love the church?
It can be so easy in the church to hold onto old grudges and division than to seek healing, unity, and forgive others. At times we forget how much we have been forgiven and we forget to extend that same forgiveness to others.
In our American society we have been conditioned to think that the church exists to meet our desires, wants, and preferences rather understanding that as a member of the church we are to give and to serve. If we are to break this cycle we must lead our families by our example. We must love as Jesus loves us. We must extend forgiveness as Jesus forgives us. We must extend grace just as much as Jesus has shown in grace.
I believe one of the things that keeps many churches from moving forward with the mission of making disciples is people tearing each other apart within the church. When we do this we end up spending our time arguing with one another, putting down one another, and beating each other up instead of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of us reaching out to a world that is hurting, broken, and looking for truth, we end up wasting our time putting out fires.
Proverbs 26:20-22 says, “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. What dainty morsels rumors are-but they sink deep into one’s heart.”
So my question is are you putting more fuel on the fire or are you stopping gossip when it starts? When someone comes to you as the Scripture says with a “dainty morsel” of a rumor it can be tempting to listen to it, but when you do what things are sinking into your heart? When we continue to put more fuel on the gossip fire we let Satan gain a foothold in our hearts and in our churches. Soon there is division, hate, jealousy, slander, and people choosing sides is this what we want?
So today we have to make the decision to either keep pouring fuel on the fire or we put that nasty, destructive fire out. We will either be known in our communities as a church that destroys one another or a church that loves one another…it’s our choice.
This is my first post since last February and these past months have been a whirlwind of activity. I started attending United Theological Seminary this past February as I began pursuing my Masters of Divinity degree, so I can become an Elder in the United Methodist Church. I also left my position as the Minister of Youth and Young Adults at Church of the Cross UMC in Toledo, Ohio to be the Senior Pastor at Faith UMC in Arcanum, Ohio. The last big thing is my wife and I found out we will be having our first child together and it will be a baby girl! I have an adopted son who is 16 whom I adopted from Ukraine with my ex-wife, but our baby will be our first biological child together for Lindsey and I.
So as you can see this past year has been pretty busy with me pursing a new degree, starting a new position as a Senior Pastor for the first time ever, and a child on the way! I don’t know about you but that is enough to keep my head spinning for a while.
I have been at my new position as Pastor since October 15th so just about 2 months now. In this time I have learned a lot about being a Pastor and still have tons to learn. One of my roles as Pastor is to oversee where we are going as a church. Whether you work in the ministry or in a secular field one thing we hear over and over again is mission and purpose statements. As I began reflecting on that for our church I realized I want something more than just something written on paper.
Please do not take this the wrong way, because I think mission statements can be important to our churches as they can help guide us to make wise decisions and let people know what we are pursuing. However, if all we have is something written on a piece a paper then we are missing the point. What I truly desire is for the church to not just memorize a statement but when someone wants to know what our church is about they will be able to see it is a church that is seeking to help believers grow in their faith, a church that desires to serve others, a church that strives to go and make other disciples. May they see this not just because it is just written down, or we have it memorized, but may it be the DNA of our church for all to see.
How about you? What is your thought on mission statements and what they mean for churches?
It’s a mission trip not a vacation. This is a value I have been trying to get teens and adults in our church to grasp in regards to teen mission trips the last several years. When I have conversations with youth ministers in various church sizes, denominations, and locations it seems to be a struggle many are having when it comes to conveying the purpose of taking teens on a mission trip. When it comes to youth mission trips it can begin to be viewed as just one more thing the youth do each year a.k.a “The teens each year always have a retreat, go skiing, do a car wash fundraiser, and go on a mission trip.”
In my humble opinion here is the problem, I believe we can begin to forget the purpose in why we go on a mission trip in the first place. I know people will probably have various reasons in taking youth to various locations whether they be domestic or international but here is my rational…
1. To go into the world and make disciples
In the great commission we were given the mission to go out into the world to make disciples. For this to happen we have to personally be growing in the faith ourselves, we need to be a part of the church body, we need to be seeking Christ both in our individual lives and as the body of Christ together. I know some will definitely disagree with me on this point and say that a youth mission trip is a great place to bring a teen who does not know Christ in hopes of them coming to know him throughout the week of service. Does this happen at times? Sure, but my question is should that be the focus? Should the focus be on bringing teens who don’t know Christ or have strayed and are making really poor choices right now in hopes of them turning things around? Or should it be on taking teens who are seeking Christ in their everyday lives and want to share the love of Christ with those around them? Obviously no one is perfect except Jesus and all teens and adults will have room in their lives for growth in their faith but what will be the focus?
2. To reach out to hurting world
We continually see through the scriptures Jesus reaching out and helping not only spiritual needs but physical needs as well. We can read through the scriptures and see where when Jesus met the physical need of someone it opened the door for the spiritual needs as well. Mission trips are a great opportunity to reach out to those who are hurting around us.
I live in Ohio and this year I decided to take our teens to Cincinnati, Ohio for our youth mission trip. Every other year I have taken teens out-of-state but I wanted the teens to see that people in our own state are hurting and need physical needs met as well as spiritual healing through Jesus Christ. I want them to see that we are not going on a mission trip so they can get away from home for a week, we are not going so they can goof off with friends for a week, we are not going for a vacation but we are going to so we can spread the name of Jesus Christ.
Why do you bring youth on a mission trip?
Filed under Church, Missions
When you begin to talk about legacy it can bring up a lot of images of fame, name recognition but we fail to recognize that God desires for us to leave a legacy much greater than that. Many times legacies can seem “me” focused but as the church may we begin to see that God has a desire for us to leave a legacy that is beyond ourselves and continues to give him praise and glory for years to come. For this to happen though we need a lot less bench warmers and more people getting into the game. We need people who are willing to say “I want to do what is best for the kingdom of God even if that is not the way we have always done it or the way I personally like it.”
It is easy for us to choose two options
1. Dig our heels in and demand things to stay the way they are because that is how we like it.
2. Leave our church and go to another because things are not being done the way I like instead of helping the environment to change.
I believe that God wants us to seek him with all our heart as we dive into the scriptures, as we fall down on our knees in prayer, and seek his kingdom above all else! Do we want to leave a legacy where we love God, love our neighbor and have an impact on our community, nation, and world more than we want things to be done our way or the way it has always been done?
Ah yes….meetings the thing none of us can avoid. Whether you serve in the ministry or work at a secular job we all encounter the joy of having to go to meetings for our occupation. In the last 2 days I have had 4 meetings that I have had to attend. Some meetings we attend can be great and accomplish a lot while others can seem to drag on like a never-ending marathon of the TV show “Whitney”. There are times we are able to collaborate with others who work alongside us and accomplish great things and there are other times that we might feel like we are having a meeting just to have a meeting.
Here are some of my personal thoughts and questions about meetings…
- Do we even need a meeting?
- Do we have to sit down for this meeting or can we do it standing up to make it shorter?
- What will be the structure of our meeting? What are we trying to accomplish?
- Am I respecting people’s time with the meeting by keeping it productive and moving to accomplish our goals?
After the meeting ask yourself?
- Did we accomplish the purpose we set out to with our meeting?
- How will the churches mission advance because of what was discussed?
- What was learned from the meeting?
When it comes to meetings what are some of the things you have done to make them the most effective? What are some of the biggest time wasters? What are some important principles you try to use when you are leading meetings? What are ways you get involved in meetings you are not leading?
Today I met with my youth ministry support group….we don’t really have a name but there were 8 of us there today from various denominations both Protestant and Catholic, Full time and Part time, those specifically in youth ministry and those who work with youth and various other areas. I really look forward to these meetings because it gives us all a chance to lift one another up in prayer, ask questions, share doubts, admit frustrations, and offer solutions. Did we solve all the problems in youth ministry today…no not by a long shot. However, it is great to know we are not alone in this but we have partners in the ministry. It is easy to begin looking at each other as “the competition” because we are all trying to reach out to teens in our local area but no good comes from this. As Christians we are all part of the body of Christ. We may differ in styles, disagree on how things should be done, and theology but nevertheless we are called to reach out into our world and make disciples for Christ.
If you don’t make the intentional effort it is easy to put yourself on an island all by yourself in the ministry and that can be a very lonely place. I want to challenge you this next week if you don’t have a ministry group you meet with find one to become a part of…if there isn’t one then start one! If you happen to be in the Toledo, Ohio area, you read my blog, and work with youth and would like to be a part of our group let me know!
Remember we are stronger together!