Relational Poverty

When I was a youth pastor, I’d take annual foreign mission trips with my students. And leading up to the trip we’d have training and prep to do. Of the many talks we would have, one in particular was about the difference between relative poverty and absolute poverty.

One shows a poverty existing only in comparison to what you possess/own.
The other is a state of poverty in which a person/people have no capability to live.

And sure enough, while on the trip, I’d have one-on-one conversations with students who were struggling seeing people who had food, shelter, and family BUT didn’t possess what (in their American mindset) was anything suitable for their personal standard for living. They’d see children playing and families singing but couldn’t wrap their minds around how they could possess that type of heart without the “possessions” that make us Americans comfortable.

I miss those trips with students.
I miss de-briefing with them.
I miss hearing how much they learned about what really matters in the Kingdom of God.
I miss seeing them begin to engage in their worlds because their faith deepened from leaving for a week, unplugging from the world they knew, and plugging into community and mission.

But there’s another type of poverty that I see growing. I’ll call it, “relational poverty.” we live in a day and age of loneliness and isolation. We live in a time of having thousands of social media friends and followers but nobody to have a conversation with. We’ve replace handshakes and hugs with “likes” and “favorites.” One on end, someone feels like they’ve reached out because they clicked a button on a status. On the other end, a person searches for something else to post in order to get their next stimulating fix from social media attention.

We don’t have an absence of connection; we have an absence of contact.

We live in an age of relational poverty. We know a lot of people. But we don’t really know them” and/or nobody really knows us.

This has been something I’ve pondered over the past month in our series on faith here at Kfirst called “The 13th Floor.” We’ve been exploring what faith is and how to operate in it. And as I’m going over a number of study-notes I see a small bullet point I typed out a few months ago that caught my eye:

“Faith grows best in community.”

What does this have to do with relational poverty? Everything.

From the beginning of time, we were created to be in community/relationship with others and with God. And the results of the “original sin” was to attack those relationships (blame each other and God) and to isolate (hide) ourselves. No wonder why God said “it is not good for man to be alone.” I believe this was more than a statement about marriage but a state of our being. We were created to be in and operate in relationship with others.

And I truly believe that’s where faith grows best.

It’s no wonder that one of the greatest attacks to faith in Christ in an age of over-connection is to impoverish us of relationships. We can’t find unity of faith in denominations because we live in constant criticism of others. We can’t celebrate faith because we envy what someone else has been blessed with. We have immature faith because we do not seek out the mentorship (spiritual fathers and mothers) of those who’ve gone before us. We can’t develop faith though dialogue because we haven’t learned how to disagree “agreeably” on surface issues and live in agreement on the foundational things of Jesus. We can’t pass on faith  because we’re too busy attacking/despising another generation instead of celebrating what makes the other distinct so that we can learn from each other.

I believe in being a person of prayer. I believe in being in the Scriptures daily. I believe in living a life of worship. Those are necessary for nourishing the soul. But without relationships, I would truly question how can faith actually exist and grow.

Why do I still believe in the Church? Because my faith isn’t in the Church but in Jesus. And because my faith is in Jesus, it allows me to navigate relationships without the expectations in people who I should have in Christ alone. He is the “author” of my faith (Hebrews 12:1), and He “perfects” grows it. And I believe that faith growth happens best in community.

And it’s in the community of Church that my faith is challenged and deepened by interacting with people of various backgrounds and generations. It’s in those relationships I can celebrate what God is doing in others to give me challenge and hope for my own faith. I find my faith grown as I sit with others in dialogue and civil conversation. I find my faith strengthened when I see people of a variety of color, nationality, background, and economics come together under the name of Jesus.

Would you take a huge step of faith this week? Make a relational initiation of contact with someone. Sit for coffee or a meal with someone you don’t normally connect with. Find someone of a younger generation to learn from. Find a peer to sit with an encourage. Call up someone of an older generation and inquire of their story. Seek out someone of a difference race to listen and learn.

Get in community. Watch the level of relational poverty diminish and faith rise in His Church.

 

Love you all. Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

My Friend Leon: 3 Ways You can Get Community in Your Life

Last Sunday, I was doing an introduction for a friend who was bringing the message at Kfirst. Jp Dorsey brought an outstanding word to our congregation that I have been chewing on ever since the weekend. If you were not able to join us, check it out here.

In my intro for Jp, there was a statement that I shared that far too many pastors believe. It was brought up all too often when in bible college and throughout my first position:

Ministry is a lonely place. 

Quite often, I revisit that statement to revise it to say, “Ministry can be a lonely place.” Even though there’s some aspect of truth to the original saying, it comes off to ministers as a “sentence” to be imprisoned by instead of a warning of the danger of isolation.

And when I think about these 21 years of ministry, I recognize, first, I am here because of Jesus. For, apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). And to him, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

But I also see that I am still here because of community. I believe I’m still in pastoral ministry, not because of a resolve I posses, but because of the men and women who refused to allow me to do this ministry thing alone.  I’m here because of those who stood by me in my pain, put up with my drama, showed patience with my frustrations, challenged me in my thinking, encouraged me in my worst days, offered a place to explore creativity, gave me wisdom through decisions, and offered me a place to find my smile and to laugh.

And Leon Beaudin has been one of those people.

I may be from the Metro Detroit area, but Midland became “home.” I was hired as the Youth Pastor of CCC in 2002, but inside, I was broken and hurting; confused and frustrated. Midland for most is simply a nice city to live. For me, it was a city of refuge. Why? I found a renewed passion for Jesus, my calling, and the mission of the Church. God brought people along side of me. And Leon was a huge part of that.

My friend is bringing an era of 30 years of ministry at CCC to a close. And my heart is not to just honor him but to challenge others to find community like what I found in Leon.

Share a cup.
I miss hearing those immortal words down the office hallway, “Hey Youth Boy, do you want some coffee?” Really, this is how it all began. He shared a cup of coffee. I can’t say I was a huge coffee drinker in that day, but I was willing to connect to the dude who sat at the organ. There is such depth to an uncomplicated action like an invitation like that. Coffee may not seem like much, but for someone who was starving for relational connections, it meant everything. A meeting at the coffeepot (even though it was Folgers) opened my heart to one of my most valued friends.

Give a couch.
I remembered the first time I walked in his office and just plopped on his couch as if it was a therapy session (which it probably was). His reply was hilarious. “You do realize you’re not the first youth pastor to lay on that couch trying to figure things out?”

But I caught something in that statement (other than the fact that us Youth Pastors have lots of issues to work through). Not only was he approachable, but he was available. I’ve know those who were approachable but never available. Then there are others who are available, but not approachable. My friend Leon was both. I don’t think he’ll ever fully grasp how much value he poured into me through those 7 years especially when the first contact came about Kalamazoo. I cannot imagine what that journey would have looked like without his wisdom and perspective.

Open up a table.
His invitation to eat, whether it was a restaurant or his home, was a place to find my smile. Leon understood the value of laughter and joy. The table was a place to share stories and memories. I remember when he picked up my…er…his bulldog Baxter. Leon invited my family over for dinner so that Baxter could get used to children.

My son Ethan and Baxter

The atmosphere did more than make us crave having our own pet, it breathed joy into our souls. I’m convinced that most of our pastors don’t necessarily need counsel as much as we need to laugh. And if we can recapture our joy, perhaps we can re-envision healthier ministry.

In Luke 19, Jesus approached a very socially lonely man.  Zacchaeus felt like an outsider to the people around him (for good reason). He really had nobody around him willing to give him the time of day. He knew of God. He also knew that his vocation made him to be very much an outsider to everyone. Jesus’ simple action of stopping, noticing, and offering time opened up Zacchaeus’ heart to be impacted by the Kingdom of God.

To every person reading this, I honor my friend, and in doing do, honor the One he represents. As scripture says, “Give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). And it behoves me to not just tell you about the blessing he’s been to me but to challenge you in two ways:

  • Put your faith in Jesus and not people.
    • People are human and prone to mistakes. When we seek in people what we should be seeking in God, we place demands upon them they are not equipped to provide.
  • Be a friend. Be community for others.
    • It’s not done for the “thanks” you get but for the glory God receives. Your initiating connection and authentic friendship can bridge a gap over someone’s pain and into their heart.
  • Find a friend. Get community in your life. 
    • There is initiative on your part to reach back and/or ask people. Be in position to engage with others. Be willing to risk some relationship knowing that it may or may not work out. I’ve had those that we didn’t quite “connect.” That’s fine. Just don’t stop trying.

Leon, apart from all of the jokes and jabs we’ve thrown each other over the past 17 years, there lies a depth of love and appreciation for you in the Barringer’s hearts. You’re an amazing man of God and Jesus shines amazingly through you.

Love you bro. And there’s aways a cup of coffee waiting for you in Kalamazoo.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Seven-Day Church”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, we continued our current series “I Am Church” at Kfirst. In this new series of talks, we are emphasizing the mindset that we don’t go to church; we are the church. And this series, we’ll be diving into the book of Acts and looking at some of the fundamental elements of the early church.

Week 2 was a special morning as we turned our attention to Acts 2 and the most used Greek word to describe the Church:

Ecclesia – “Called out ones”

And that is the Church the world needs to see. A people “called out” of

  • Hopelessness into hope
  • Fear into faith.
  • “Me first” into “others first.”
  • Partisanship into partnership.
  • Dreariness into possibility.

In Acts 2, we see what formed the Church was not to be what mimicked the world around them but what Christ looked like in whatever they were engaged in, in whatever they’re involved in, with whoever they came in contact with. And they found that bringing the Church to their world was what Christ was talking about when He spoke in Matthew 5:14,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

As the “Ecclesia” the “called out ones,” is there something that the Lord is “calling you out of” in order that more of Christ can be seen in you?

A two-fold challenge this week for you:

  • 1-Personal change. Spend time in prayer. Is there an area you feel the Lord is “calling you out of” in your life?
  • 2-Community encounter. Make this your morning prayer before you head into your day, “Lord, let me become more aware of your presence, aware of people’s needs, and the obedience to meet both of them there.”

This month, we’re asking Kfirst to dive into the book of Acts and use S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer). If you need a reading plan, click HERE for one on youversion

Read it daily. In fact, find someone to meet with once a week to talk and pray about it. And when you pray, would you make your prayer,

Jesus, do this IN me, start with me.”

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: This is the song we introduced yesterday.

Pastoring in a Vacuum: 4 Ways to Invite Much Needed Connection

In my backpack, apart from my laptop, you’ll find 3 essentials. My iPad, my journal, and a book I’m reading (don’t judge me for not saying “bible” as it’s always accessible on my phone and/or tablet). The reasons for these three:

  • My iPad for my bible and my tunes
  • A book positions me to be stretched and deepened.
  • My journal position to process what I am learning and write down what God is speaking to me.

(Why I journal and why you should consider it.)

In my latest read, “Divine Direction” by Craig Groeschel, I’m working on some things to help mentor young adults. But chapter 6 has really hammered me hard on something that I find far too many pastors struggle with: Connection.

He says,

“…consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential: (1) a friend to challenge you and bring out your best, (2) a friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith, and (3) a friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it.” (pg. 152)

This was a “selah” moment. Honestly, I found myself setting down my book and sending out intentional texts of encouragement to a few pastors that have been those 3 key relationships to me.

But please know…This was not how I started ministry.

Yes I had “friends.” But to allow or invite friends on all three of those levels is a whole other issue. I can say, in those first couple years, I only had a “version” of the #2 type of friends. They were the people I ran to in the challenging times. But that was it. It wasn’t that I didn’t possess any other type of friend. The reality was, I was guarded regarding others. My insecurities kept me from asking for too much help or, in some cases, allowing others to help. I found some semblance of satisfaction in “figuring it out myself” while longing for community and mentorship. Back then I called it “work ethic.” 20 years later, I call it for what it really was: pride.

Operating in a vacuum (isolation), unfortunately, is how a number of pastors operate in ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the situations that my fellow co-laborers experience. For some, geography is a challenge. You feel so far away from friendships and denominational connections that the locational disconnect translates into relational chasms. Maybe like me, you have, what I would call, a “genetic” challenge. I term myself as a “nurtured extrovert.” By nature, I’m shy and very quiet, and thus, became my excuse to not reach out. Now-a-days, my wife wonders why  I have to engage in conversation with random strangers in the mall.  For others, age is a huge relational issue. I can appreciate being the only minister in the room from one particular generation and you long for a peer to connect with.  Then there are “situational” challenges. I totally get wanting to find someone who is in a similar place in ministry who shares either a similar place of ministry or a specific season in the life of a church.  I know, personally, I love finding other pastors and churches who have walked similar paths and/or tracking along where I see and envision Kfirst.

But regardless of the challenge, we (ministers) have to power through and to intentionally engage in community. We were divinely designed to live in community. I get how busy you are. But there are times we are so busy doing “good” things that we, many times, can miss out on the “best” things. And, in my limited experiential opinion, operating in relationship as a minister is one of those “best” things we cannot ignore. As my mentor has said to me in so many occasions,

“The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.”

If we expect our congregations to work in community, we ought to practice it first. How dare we ask people to do something we refuse to live out. Relationships is what I have discovered is a phenomenal way to have both healthy ministry and longevity in ministry (positions and vocation). It’s time to lay down our pride. It is time to toss aside our insecurities with the local “competition” (other churches). You were not built for seclusion; you have been created to grow and live in community.

So how can we do this in 2017? How does this practically look? These are not “ground breaking” ideas but they will position you to get out of your vacuum.

  1. Practice the PBT model.
    • Find a Paul (find a mentor or two).
    • Find a Timothy (find someone to disciple).
    • Find a Barnabas (find peers to encourage and be encouraged).
  2. Join a network.
    • Kfirst is part of the River Valley Network. I love that I get to interact with churches from all over the nation and develop a camaraderie with pastors from a variety of size churches and generations.
    • I am involved in some online FB groups. Though they are not a “network” per se, they have become a network of ministers to have ongoing discussions and constant feedback. I love hearing from people who are very much not like me but possess a similar Kingdom heart.
    • I’m always on the hunt for other “networks” and “groups” for me and my staff to help us learn as well as possibly use us to pour into someone else. We can’t just be consumers; we need to be contributors.
  3. Leverage social media.
    • My disclaimer: social media doesn’t equate to deep relationships. BUT it can be an avenue to develop relational connections.
    • I have used all facets of social media to follow churches and ministers to create connections. Peering into the world of other churches helps elevate my vision and gets me out of my little box that I have put ministry in.
  4. Look outside of your denomination. 
    • I love the Assemblies of God. But the Kingdom of God is bigger than our denomination…er…fellowship (#AGJokes). My move to a smaller town in mid-Michigan in the summer of 2002 really opened my eyes and my heart to embrace other ministers who were not A/G but were engaging the Jesus’ Kingdom. I love engaging with pastors in my Kalamazoo area. I love knowing their heart. I also love to be able to recommend other churches when someone comes to Kfirst and doesn’t feel a “fit” in our church community.  And that can’t happen if you (1) are insecure and (2) don’t know the pastors in your city.

I know there are probably other ways, but I wanted to challenge you and keep it simple. Craig Groeschel hit me hard and has made me sit back and reevaluate my connections and I think you should to.

Do you have “community”? Maybe a better question: Will you allow “community” to help you grow and, in turn, will help them grow?

Love you all. Praying for you as you step into connections and allow God to work through community.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: If you’re looking for a marriage resource, check out my book by clicking on the image:

Kingdom Health: 3 Pastoral Lessons from the Vineyard

One of the strategies of preaching that I’ve really tried to learn from Jesus’ example was the ability to connect the Kingdom to present surroundings/experiences. He was a master at helping to give people understanding by turning people’s attention to things like fields, birds, lost coins, and sheep. A tangible metaphor helped explain the Kingdom in a way that people of that culture could understand and grow from.

It’s for that reason, most of my sermon illustrations come from personal experience and not a book. Jesus didn’t get his illustrations from hanging out at the Temple everyday. He walked around the local cities and villages. Jesus took notice of people and atmospheres. I believe if pastors/preachers are looking for fresh illustrations, the best ones are waiting for you…

  • …outside of your office. Be a pastor who is in your community.
  • …when you spend time with your spouse and/or family. My wife and children have taught me a ton of lessons, but remember, only use family illustrations with permission.
  • …during times of leisure/fun. It’s amazing the things you can learn about yourself if you’ll stop taking life so serious and enjoy yourself.
  • …on vacations. Usually, vacations help lower my guard a bit. And it’s in that place of vulnerability, where moments happen and God speaks.

If we’ll take a moment to listen, it’s amazing where the Lord will speak to us from. And for me, one of those moments happened in the Napa Valley.  I’ll admit, I was nervous about being in a winery. I remember telling my wife and kids, “no one posts anything on social media” out of fear of what people would assume. In my denomination, there has been so much recent debate about alcohol and the last thing I wanted was a fantastic experience, on one of the best vacations of my life, to turn into a social media debate.  I wasn’t there to drink. I was spending time with some amazing friends to experience a tour of a historic winery.

The guide walked us through a variety of locations. He would stop, tell us about the winemaking process, but also interject some history. The more he talked, the more notes I was typing into my phone. I remember, at one point, turning to my wife and saying, “Every pastor should take this tour.”

For example, I learned that the vineyard owner would find the most difficult soil and plant there.  Finding easy, fertile soil produced fast growth but sour fruit. He discovered that the harder the plant worked, the sweeter the fruit.  (Insert “church planting” or a “discipleship” lesson HERE.)

But apart from the vast amount of things I learned from the vine, I really grasped onto some Kingdom lessons that came from the history the man behind the vineyard.  He has been referred to as the face of the Napa Valley: Robert Mondavi.

Here’s some simple pastoral lessons from Robert Mondavi: 

1 – I am not here to build my empire; I’m called to build the Kingdom. Prohibition was devastating to the valley. Not only were their economics devastated, but people came to the valley and started burning the vineyards. Family’s whose livelihoods, not to mention their homes, were in those fields.  People lost everything. Robert Mondavi was one of the few whose fields survived. When prohibition was lifted, he welcomed those who lost everything to come to work for him.  He didn’t see others as “rivals.” He saw broken people.

For too long, we have treated the church across the street (or across town) as a “rival church.” The competition spirit amongst pastors has absolutely grieved me. Why? Because I was there. Other churches (namely youth groups at the time) were nothing more than the ministries I needed to “beat.” I get it. I’ve been at the place where coveting, envy, and frustration crowded out my passion and vision. I totally get being so frustrated with my lack of results that I pointed fingers at other pastors and churches instead of checking my own heart and seeing the Enemy for who he is.

The winemaker and his history was the reminder of the Pastor who took me in and showed me that the Kingdom always trumps Empire. He showed me that success wasn’t the size of my ministry but the expanding of the Kingdom of God.  Pastors are co-laborers and not rivals; we, together, serve Jesus. Which leads me to…

2 – I am to freely pour out what has been poured into me. What Robert Mondavi had, he offered to others. This man gave displaced families and workers an opportunity to learn and engage in what he was doing.  Nothing was hidden.  He shared his methods and talents. And when they were in a place to move out on their own, he helped them to start their own vineyards.

This is a mentality I didn’t always understand. I think I was more worried about making a name for myself, my church, and my denomination than I was lifting up the name of Jesus. I think sometimes we’re more worried about branding OUR church that we’ve forgotten WHO we are doing this for.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with branding, marketing, and doing things with excellence as long as it exalts the name of Jesus.

One of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made (and continue to make) is to chase mentors.  If you’re waiting for mentors to chase you, you’re missing the point of it all. Growth comes when we lower our pride and admit we need help. It’s why, in the midst of my own ministry hurt, I ran after the “Robert Mondavi” type pastors who weren’t jealous of others but were zealous for the Kingdom. I desperately needed (and still need) pastors who were willing to share what they have without any worry of reciprocation.  And because of their faithfulness, it increased my passion and filled me with hope for a future of healthy ministry.

And for that reason, freely I received, I want to freely give to anyone who comes to me as God gives the opportunities.

3 – Networking means “God is working.” God works in community. Our guide told us that when, Robert Mondavi learned something new, he would call together the local vineyard owners to share what he discovered. Why? He philosophy was, “When I help others, I raise the vintage of the Valley.”

This was completely contradictory to what my nature wanted as well as what I learned in ministry.  In my broken pastoral mind, what I had was mine, and if I shared it, I then have to share the “success.” Not only that, but IF I shared it, I wanted to make sure I raised the “vintage of my reputation.” I was driven to build MY church not realizing that it wasn’t MINE to begin with.

I am eternally grateful for the healthy pastors who spoke into my life for the purpose of “raising the vintage of the Kingdom.” I’m thankful to the Paul’s (mentor) and Barnabas’ (encourager) who unselfishly poured into me from their own failures and successes, from their creativity and dreams. The more I networked with other leaders, the more health I began to see in ministry. The greater opportunities of allowing people to speak into me lead to a deeper move of God in my life. I don’t think that happens by chance. The scriptures are proof that God works through community. We just have to allow for that.

I seriously wish I could take pastors through that tour. Apart from leaning about wine, vines, and crop growth (which is brought up so often in scripture), the Kingdom lessons have transformed my ministry philosophy.

Today, purpose in your heart to take a new turn in ministry. Make the decision to raise the vintage of the Kingdom by taking strategic next steps to see Kingdom health in your life.

Repent of selfishness and give God your brokeness.
Chase a mentor. Be a mentor.
Share a some of your failures; Celebrate His victories.
And when God does/shows something new to you, call up another pastor to talk about it.

Raise the vintage of the Kingdom today.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Pastor to Pastor: 3 Key Connections and 3 Key Questions

I sincerely love my neighbors, the Chandlers. They are a retired ministry couple that have the sweetest demeanor about them. Whenever I can, I love to look for opportunities to help them. In the winter “try” to assist them with the snow removal on their sidewalk and driveway. I will say last winter, to God be the glory, I NOT ONCE sucked up and destroyed their newspaper with my snow-blower as I did every previous winter. I’m pretty proud of myself. They didn’t have to deal with the snow AND they got to read their local news.

Whenever I have conversations with Rev. Chandler (that’s what I call him), I feel that I continue to cheat myself of wisdom by not talking with him more. He is a fountain of wisdom, joy, and encouragement. There isn’t a time I walk away from him where my checks don’t hurt from smiling so much. I love my neighbors. But being ministers is about the only thing we have in common.

  • He grew up in the South; I grew up in the mid-West. That is to say, our context of our upbringing by location as well as time-frame of society is vastly different. 
  • Our ministry education came from colleges who were steeped in our perspective denominations. So our pastoral training was shaped differently. 
  • We are involved in a different denominations. The way our ministerial “coverings” operate are drastically different.
  • He is African-american and I am not. His perspective on the recent events of our nation have been absolutely fascinating. He has given me a context that is both invaluable and enlightening.
  • Lastly, he and I are in a vastly different season in life. He keeps saying he’s retired, but his schedule would prove that wrong. I’m 40, and I feel like I’ve just begun.

Coming out of my conversation with him, I’m given the simple reminder:

Never stop learning; Never stop growing.

I’m a pastor who loves talking with pastors. And, it seems, I can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t matter what someone’s age is or what church size they lead, I just want to learn and grow. In the presence of other ministers, I’m a sponge.  There are times I ask questions. There are moments I just shut up to watch and listen. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” And, perhaps the reason why there are ministers “dulled” in their passion and practices is because they’ve never (or rarely) positioned themselves to be in the presence of other pieces of iron.

I had ministered that way for a while. I thought ministry was, by nature, lonely. But I soon discovered: Ministry doesn’t have to be lonely. There was iron all around. I needed other pastors. They need me. But I needed to change some mindsets: 

  • I needed to open up my eyes to see the Kingdom is bigger than my denomination and generation.
  • I needed to lower my pride to see my preferences/style wasn’t the only way to reach people.
  • I needed to make an effort to reach out instead of excuses of why I shouldn’t.

My deep passion to be everything that Christ has called me to be has pushed me out of my comfort zone. The Holy Spirit has put such a conviction inside of me that pushes me to cultivate and develop the ministry God has allowed me to serve in. And I recognize that process doesn’t happen in isolation; God designed it to happen in community. 

My mind goes to Ezekiel 47. The prophet is shown a stream flowing from the Temple. And wherever water was able to flow, life was produced. Wherever the water became stagnant, life dissipated.

...Then he led me back along the riverbank. When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure. There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows….But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. Ezekiel 47:7-9; 11 NLT

As a ministers, we have a responsibility to keep a “stream” flowing into our lives as to foster growth. From personal time in the presence of God (which is essential above all others) to reading and gathering information and wisdom, there are a plethora of opportunities to get out of the stagnate and into a “growth-flow.”  You need to keep learning. The people you lead need you to keep growing. And one of the ways I have found to be extremely valuable in doing that is through 3 very key connections each with key question to ask. I also feel, it’s a very biblical model of relationships.

1 – A minister more experienced than yourself. (a Paul)
Question to ask: What would you tell yourself if you were my age?
I never want to stop being a “Timothy” looking to hear from a “Paul.” And my question is to bring the pastor into my context but with through the filter of his/her perspective and experience. I was on a plane ride back from Africa when I asked this question to another minister. Summed up, he said, “I’d tell myself, ‘someone else could have taught that class, led that meeting, and met with that person.’ I’d tell myself, ‘Sunday’s can survive without me.’ David,  you need to be at your child’s ball game and recital. You need to help with homework. You need to date your wife. You need to be by her side.”

2 – A minister similar in age but not necessarily a similar ministry situation. (a Barnabas)
Question to ask: What are you learning right now?
The context of a generation can create a deep relational connection. And it’s from this frame of reference where we should be fantastic encourager (a Barnabas) to each other. And my favorite question to ask to those of my generation is both an inquiry and a challenge. You should be learning something because we never stop growing. The question doesn’t depend upon the size, location, or style of ministry. It’s to hear about what the Holy Spirit is doing in others. It challenges me. It encourages me. And I hope what I have to share does the same for them. 

3 – A minister who is new/newer to ministry. (a Timothy)
Question to ask: What have you discovered in ministry?
This is actually a question I ask newlyweds (those who’ve been married for 1-2 years) all the time. I feel the newer perspective is absolutely enlightening as well as refreshing. I think well-experienced ministers need this perspective. The fresh outlook, the passion and excitement, the willingness to risk, and the insatiable desire to win the world for Christ shouldn’t be something we look to dampen so that “they can get a dose of reality.” The fire they have should be what challenges our passion and reignites our heart for what propelled us into ministry. 

I’ll say it again: Never stop learning. Never stop growing. But the development of your life and your  ministry cannot happen in isolation. God designed the Kingdom to be worked through in community. 

This week, meet with a Paul. Call up a Barnabas. Sit down for coffee with a Timothy. Ask some questions; let iron sharpen iron.

And let the Kingdom be glorified as you continue to grow. 

Love you pastors. I believe in you because I believe in the One who calls and equips you. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Our Kfirst Values: God works in community

I started a series a few weeks about the values of our church community. Here at Kfirst, our mission is our passion:  We make it simple for people to find and follow Jesus. And our values guide us towards that goal.

Check out last weeks by clicking on the value statement:

Week 1 – Everyone is Significant.

Week 2 – We are Contributors

This week…God Works in Community.

God works in communuty

In the book of Genesis, we see the beginning; the creation story. Each day brings newness, and each day we are told that what was created was very good.

Of all of the things that are referred to as “good,” there was one specific element that was, according to God, “not good” (Genesis 2:18).  Man was alone. Man was searching for connection. And he found no community.

Relationships are of high value to God. In other words, community is necessary. From Old Testament to New Testament, God shows his desire to move in and through community. Even in cases of dealing with individuals, it was to impact one to go and connect and affect all of the people.

The Christian life was not designed to be lived out in isolation, but rather to be lived out in the context of a community (such as Kfirst). Like any other Christ-centered church, we are designed to be a complete body of believers. Each individual contributes his or her own giftedness, passions, and strengths to complement others.  Peoples’ weaknesses are complemented by other’s strengths. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you need other people to contribute to you. We need one another, because, together, we create community…

…AND it’s how God desires to move in us and through us.

It’s why I say so often,

“The Enemy works in isolation; God works in community.”

The word “community” is both comforting and challenging. Why? With this one word, we are comforted that we don’t have to traverse through life on our own. Regardless of the season of life we are dealing with, the Church is meant to provide the avenue for which God can move. If there is a need, our “community” can reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. If someone is hurting, our “community” can be the arms to embrace and the shoulder to cry upon. Church community helps become the tangible reminder of the words of Jesus who said, “I will be with you always.” There are times I needed the tangible touch of God in my life. And that touch-point came through The Church.

But with the same word, “community,” there is a challenge: to work together as members of a greater body. 44% of the New Testament letters teach us how we to get along with one another. “One another” statements occur 59 times as commands in the Bible, love one another, accept one another, be devoted to one another, live in harmony with one another, build up one another, care for one another, be patient with one another, list goes on. Community becomes the place where we exercise forgiveness and grace. It’s the place where we learn humility and patience. Is it challenging? Absolutely. Because community is where our lives our shaped. And as we are shaped, so is the community.

We can’t do life alone. Healthy relationships are at the heart of all we do. Because it’s through relationships, God builds a community to help reach the world around us. Is it a comfort? You better believe it. Is it challenging? I’ll say, I’m better because of it. I love the Church and think that the best is yet to come. Not because of any one person but because life is better with friends.  Life is better with community.