When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4
What breaks your heart? What hurting people, what injustice, what dire circumstance haunts your prayer life and moves you to tears just thinking about it? What physical or emotional or Spiritual need in someone’s life has God placed before you and you just cannot stop thinking about it? If there is a ready answer to these questions, then I strongly suspect there is an assignment from God coming your way. I believe that, as you continue to take that “issue” before the Lord in your prayer life and when He continues to press it back into your lap, you have a clear directive from Him. It challenges you, it stresses you, because you feel absolutely ill-equipped to do anything about it. But as you pray, God just continues to keep it before you, and you come to what Henry Blackaby calls “a crisis of belief.” He goes on to say, “What you do next will reveal what you believe about God.”
Nehemiah’s example is startlingly relevant. He sat and listened to a report from his “brothers” about the goings-on in Jerusalem. If 10 of us had sat with him and listened to that report, most of us would have felt the pain and perhaps some of us would have been moved by it. But only Nehemiah was haunted by it for days or weeks, to the point it became an obsession for him. Because only Nehemiah was being given this assignment from God.
That is the way it works. God places a need before you and it truly moves you to action. Nehemiah shows the right way to respond to
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Ever see Valkyrie ? It’s a pretty good telling of a true story about the last of some 15 assassination attempts on Adolph Hitler’s life by his own army. The story is a primer on all the planning, all the details, all the “infrastructure” necessary to pull off a revolution. As a student of human dynamics and systems, the movie had me fascinated and frustrated at the same time. You will have to see the movie for yourself to see why.
But for an even better lesson about how to begin and maintain a revolution, check out Matthew 4:12-25. These few verses from near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry provide a beautiful summary of His complete ministry and serve as an excellent picture of just why Christianity is the greatest, the strongest, and the most sustained “revolution” the world has ever known. Moreover, remembering how Jesus began His ministry is a perfect way for every church to periodically review its own vision. It’s a bit of a checklist we can hold up against our ministry and ask, “How are we doing?” After all, the world is still very much in play and the revolution is still very much our game plan.
Jesus’ ministry had three critical aspects (three “strategic fronts”) which have made this revolution successful:
A clear message – “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.” What could be clearer than that? “Repent”: turn around, make a change, do things differently in order to bring about a different result. Stop doing what you’ve been doing. Change your perspective, change how you see everything, change how you do everything. Why? Because God is so much closer than you think. There
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
If one of the objectives of the Reformation was to blur the line between the two “classes” of church members (clergy and laymen) which existed at the time, then I think Martin Luther would be terribly disappointed in the traditional American church of today. We talk a lot about the “priesthood of the believer” and Spiritual gifts in every Christian and how we are all ministers, but the ministerial structure of our traditional protestant churches betrays us. We still have two classes of members: professional Christians (ministerial staff) and the rest of us. And, unfortunately, the rest of us are most often content to sit back and wait to be entertained and fed and ministered to by the professional Christians. Any attempts by Luther and friends to truly mobilize the laity of the church seem to have failed pretty miserably by most standards.
Okay, okay. Maybe it’s not quite that bad. But even among our healthiest churches, there is often this understanding, this “norm” that has the professional Christians doing the work (and getting paid for it) and the rest of us just coming up under them and supporting that work however we can. Our church offices and support staff are often geared toward that same paradigm. Our budgets, our programming, our communications strategies, virtually our entire infrastructure in the traditional evangelical church is bent toward this same attitude of paying our ministers to do ministry so that we don’t have to.
Because of this, my heart aches for the traditional church. I know there are plenty of non-traditional churches out there who are experimenting with other models…churches filled with people who have fled the traditional church in order to pursue …
The next two days are big days for me. My entire Advisory Board for my ministry will all converge upon San Antonio for our annual meeting. We will discuss all that we have seen God doing in the past year and we will chart the course for the coming year. For 9 years now this excellent (and growing) group of men and women have come from all over (at their own expense) for this event. They have come to represent many of my closest friends. And yet, I still get anxious about it.
I just cannot help but worry that any of them would ever leave one of these meetings and begin to wonder if their involvement is worth the trouble. I worry that any of them would ever wonder whether their investment in this ministry is really making a difference. I worry that they will not feel challenged to dream new dreams and to roll their sleeves up and get involved.
Yes, I am a little insecure here. No, I probably don’t really need to worry. But I think this kind of worrying is actually pretty healthy.
And we should probably do more of it in the church as well.
There was a study done several years ago in churches–I don’t remember who did it, probably the Barna Group, not sure (I’m racking up “lazy blogger” points here…sorry). It showed that a huge percentage of new church members who were not actively engaged in ministry or some kind of ministry-related service within 6 months of joining the church would never engage in ministry nor otherwise ever be “active” in that church. No real surprise there. We all know that a person’s motivation and passion for investing in the ministries of a church are probably never again as high as …
Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Our Bible study in my church this Summer has been on missional living and ministering outside the walls of the church. It looks at the New Testament church as described in the Bible and observes that those Christians (all of them…not just the apostles) were actively involved in responding to the human needs around them. Only some of them were Apostles, only some were pastors, but all of them were ministers…all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and were being used by God to accomplish significant things in the world around them. You may recall from this post that I believe in a mobilized laity, i.e., laymen who are actively involved in ministry.
And so these observations beg the question: what about my church? How can I use my influence to help my local body of believers become more ministry-minded and people-focused?
Well, I can tell you from personal experience what won’t work.
Do NOT start by identifying all of the human suffering and human needs around your church and then trying to structure to meet those needs. That approach seems logical enough. It is what I would call an “agency” approach: first identify the needs, then structure to meet them, then raise the funds to support the structure, then recruit the human resources to support the vision. It makes sense, doesn’t it? But without a healthy dose of exploring who your people are (i.e., your church, your pool of human resources) and how God is at work in their lives and how they have been gifted, you will end up with a ministry that looks good on paper but which lacks energy, passion, a sense of God’s presence …
Tuesday Re-mix – Here is an early post from last year, updated and rerun for your consideration.
There are some things about the “culture” of the church today that, in my humble opinion, need changing. There are some things we do very well, but there are some disciplines we tend to ignore and some attitudes we display that do not honor Christ. Obviously, there are some individual churches who are getting it mostly right and to whom these opinions probably don’t apply (it’s difficult talking about “the church” in broad strokes since there is such extraordinary diversity among us), but looking across the landscape of the Christian church in the Western world, there are some glaring deficiencies. And these are not simple behavioral issues that can be changed easily. They are cultural–i.e., they are deeply rooted and ingrained in the very “DNA” of today’s church. The change that is needed, therefore, is likewise a pretty profound, invasive shift at a cultural level. I won’t take the space here to begin listing the symptoms of what is wrong (if you have been drawn to this blog, you probably already have some ideas about that). Rather, I will jump right to the solution…or at least a part of the solution.
My good friend, Dr. Ann Farris taught me something important about change. If you want to change the results you are getting, you have to change your behavior (that’s not the part she taught me–everybody already knows this part). It’s that old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But often times, no matter how hard we try to change our behavior (be honest, how many of your new year’s resolutions have you already blown?) we do not. Paul talked about this is Romans …
Tuesday Re-mix: This is an update of a popular post I ran last year.
Do you agree with me that, to a large extent, the American church has fallen asleep in the pews? I don’t mean that literally (although there may be another post there). I mean that we have grown fat and lazy as servants and have been lulled to a state of Spiritual incapacitation by our “entertain me, feed me, give me, minister to me” consumer mentality. I think if the apostle Paul came to America today, he would be appalled.
I believe in an active laity. I believe the Spirit of God Himself lives, moves and manifests Himself through every believer. I believe God’s calling on my life (as a layman) is no less significant than His calling on a pastor’s life. I believe God gives laity specific assignments in Body life with an expectation that they will be met with faithfulness and commitment. Put all these “belief” pieces together and it means that I am often accused of “blurring the line” between laity and clergy in the church. Of that charge I am completely guilty.
Please understand, I believe strongly in the notion of pastoral authority. I believe God gives a pastor an ability to see what He (God) is doing across the landscape of a congregation and therefore have a critical insight on vision and direction of that congregation. In that regard, then, I believe there is a difference between being a pastor and being a layman. But I’m not convinced God intended the differences to go much further than that.
It seems to me that the church (at least the various church cultures with which I am familiar) is guilty of maintaining two classes of “citizens”: the professional clergy (whom we pay to do …