Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
This year has been a huge transitional year for our ministry, Christian Unity Ministries. We will always remember 2013 as the year we transitioned from a small, church consultation ministry operated by Blake and a few of his friends in their spare time to a full-fledged, global non-profit organization with a paid staff and active arms operating in churches and denominational entities all over the world. Last year’s budget: approximately $75,000. The 2013 budget: approximately $350,000. That, my friends, is a God-sized transition!
One of the most painful transitions, it seems, is the one going on in me…the transition toward becoming the visionary leader this new organization now requires. And, just to get very specific here for purposes of this post, I am thinking primarily about the transition into becoming a leader in matters of money and fundraising. Anyone who knows me very well at all, knows that I have simply never been very passionate about fundraising. I have long recognized the eternal truth that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And so, it has always been easier for me to just avoid talking (or thinking) about money rather than having to delve into any theology concerning …
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:18-20
It seems to me that the scene has by now played out for me at least a hundred times. I am counseling with a pastor who has been put through the wringer by his congregation and has been maligned and injured and his family has been as well. He has fallen victim to the church at its very worst and he now has the scars to show for it. He expresses to me his utter dismay and surprise and talks about how seminary simply did not prepare him for this. His wife expresses shock that God’s own people could behave so badly and that this was NOT what she signed on for when she agreed to marry a pastor. I listen, and I weep with them, and I grieve for them…and then I think to myself, “Welcome to the ministry. This is it. Welcome.”
Jesus was always pretty clear about the downside to following Him…the cost would be great, the sacrifice extraordinary. He never sugar-coated that. He was completely unapologetic about it throughout his entire ministry. So, I suppose my thinking has always been, “If that is true for every follower of Jesus, how much more so for those called out to shepherd other followers of Jesus?” Vocational ministry, in short, is simply not about comfort. It is about ministering to a bunch of poorly-behaved, stinky sheep who bite and who hurt you and who get …
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
There is a very simple explanation for why so many people outside the church accuse the church of being full of hypocrites…why people who profess to be Christians often appear to talk one way, but walk an entirely different way. It is because it is absolutely true.
I learned some time ago that knowing the Bible does not make me a better follower of Christ, and in fact, does not really change me at all. I can attend church every Sunday, attend small group every Monday night and discuss in great depth what I believe this scripture means or that scripture means…I can listen to Christian radio all day long and can subscribe to podcasts of my favorite preachers…I can read my Bible every day…I can graduate from Seminary with advanced knowledge in Greek and Hebrew…I can do all these things, but if I am only a knower of God’s Word but do not become a doer of God’s Word, I am the biggest hypocrite of all. And I am not changing for the better.
In The Gathering, which happens to be the class I have the privilege of teaching on Sunday mornings, we talk about each of us having a “next step” to take toward God. No matter where we are in our faith walk, from the strongest athiest to the most mature believer, we each have a next step to take. Scripture teaches us what that next step looks like. The same passage of scripture may show one next step for you and another entirely different next step for me. That is the beauty and the power of God’s Word. But in every case, taking that “next …