Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Under the Table”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday we continued our series “Back to the Table” at Kfirst. Though this is a new series of talks, the topic is NOT new as this is our third series that visits the “table practice of Jesus.” We see our lives as a “table” of hospitality. We see opportunities to change the world is done through Jesus’ approach to others at a shared table.

The “Table” is really three specific items: It is the SYMBOL, the MESSAGE, and the ACTION of the Kingdom of God. So when we show the radical hospitality of Jesus, we show, speak, and live the Kingdom of God.

Today we spoke out of Mark 6 in a message called “Under the Table.” When someone is paid “under the table,” it’s because they don’t want what they have to be subject to an authority. And so often we sit at a table with others, have a smile on our face, but we pass negativity under the surface because we don’t want to subject our hurts to the authority of Christ. In our scripture, the crowd was such offense to Jesus that they missed out on miracles they could have experienced. As we read verses 1-6, two words stuck out today:

  1. Carpenter
    • The Greek word is really “craftsman.” Jesus learned to build tables before he sat at them. It is such a great challenge for all of us. Are we known for what we build or what we break? Do we build bridges (tables) or do we break them down?
  2. Offended
    • This word is derived from a word describing a stick to spring a trap. And that’s exactly what offense wants to do to our hearts. It wants to spring a trap that captures us and snares us into being so consumed with hurt we miss out on what God has in store for us.

And that’s exactly what happens when we leave offense beneath the surface. We miss out on miracles because we are so wrapped up in our issues.

This week, look to be a carpenter and “build a table/bridge” with hospitality. Look to create the symbol, message, through the actions of love and grace. Second, check your heart for anything that’s under the surface. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas that you may need to subject the authority of Jesus and the peace and healing He provides.

Love you all. Praying over you this week.

BTW: Here’s a song for your week

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Rx for Offense” #PivotPoint

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

We continued our current series at Kfirst. “Pivot Point” has been our study of the life of Jacob. Even though he didn’t have the “model life”, God always had something beautiful in store for him. Our goal yesterday was to help people understand: “We can’t live in the Land of Promise without leaving our place of offense.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

img_6562

So many of us want the promises of God but don’t want to be obedient to what the promises require us to do. And one of those areas of obedience is releasing offenses. Jacob left the land of promise because of the issues between him and Esau. And he knew when God called him to go home in Genesis 31:13, he would have to face his brother and a 50-year-old offense.

In the narrative of Genesis 32, Jacob gives us three examples of what happens when we don’t deal with offense correctly:

  1. Dwelt on offenses lead to misguided reactions. (v. 3-4)
    • Instead of responding with a personal interaction, Jacob pushes his servants to take care of things for him.
  2. Picked up offenses will exaggerated issues. (v. 6)
    • Jacob finds out Esau is on his way. He panics and begins to divide his family to, in his mind, preserve some of them from his brothers wrath he assumes is still there.
  3. Unattended offenses create self-serving responses. (v. 9, 16)
    • He puts it on God to deal with.
    • He sends his servants again with a load of gifts to buy Esau’s favor.

https://twitter.com/DawnHause/status/790207807073185792

In view of Jacob’s decisions, our heart is to dismantle what the enemy wants to use to divide the body of Christ. We want to step into a biblical prescription for offense.

  1. Be intentional about offense. Matthew 18:15-20
    • Engage with God.
    • Re-engage the person who offended you.
  2. Be intentional about humility. 1 Peter 5:5
    • Humility opens up the door for opportunity for others to listen and for us to grow.
  3. Be intentional about information. Ephesians 4:15
    • We should never express ourselves at the expense of the character of Jesus.
  4. Be intentional about forgiveness. Proverbs 19:11
    • I can’t choose the offense I’m offered, but I can choose what I hold on to.

Ask the Holy Spirit to check your heart. Ask him to show you if any offense is being held in your hands. Rest in the grace that Christ offers and be a distributor of that grace.

This week, if you need a scripture reading plan, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you on Sunday!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist that we learned on Sunday:

Chips are Bad for the Heart: 4 Reasons Why You Can’t Minister with a Chip on Your Shoulder

I think most people can admit that, deep down, you have a love for chip.  Save your comments on saturated fats and cholesterol, I know they’re not healthy, but can we just admit, that apart from the health factors, chips taste amazing? As you are reading this, most likely you are imagining not just a type of chip (corn, potato, veggie, etc) but a specific brand of that chip.

Growing up, we were a “Better Made” family.  Not only were they a local chain (Detroit) but they were pretty dang good. And I can’t remember a time in my childhood where we didn’t have a bag of Better Made around. It was my father’s favorite brand and it was the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of ice-cold Coke and a football game.

But when I think about chips, this is the commercial that comes to mind:

It takes me back to a simpler time when I didn’t have to care about what I was eating because track and football was burning it all off.  

But, lately, that slogan “You can’t have just one” has been what’s on my mind. Why? I’m preparing for a message in our series, “Pivot Point” here at Kfirst on the issue of offense. And as I study, I recognize that entertaining offense in our hearts opens us up to more offense. Like a small bite from a poisonous snake, the offense-venom spreads throughout our spiritual bloodstream at a prolific rate.

My focus turned from my message and went into inspecting my heart. Here in the coffeehouse, the Holy Spirit began to work upon me. I looked over the past 19+ years of ministry and could see far too many moments when it seemed I had allowed offense to not just be present but to frame my ministry.

I found myself staring at a blank page in my journal and writing the words:

Chips and ministry don’t work; pastoring with a chip on your shoulder will destroy you.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “chip on the shoulder”? I’ve usually experienced the usage of it in the sports world as someone is described as, “playing with a chip on their shoulder.” Usually it means that someone is acting out of a feeling of inferiority or a grudge. So in the context of my journal entry, to pastor with “chip on your shoulder” means you minister while holding an offense or grievance.  And, unfortunately, I’ve wasted too much time and squandered too many opportunities feeding off of those “chips.”

I wonder if a few of you have as well.

Why don’t “Chips” (offense) and ministry work? Here are 4 reasons why:

1 – Offense mimics “passion” and “progress.”
One of the most deceptive things about offense is it impersonates itself as something that is permissible to entertain. We think ministering with a “chip on our shoulder” is a badge of honor. But in reality, that sensation of momentum and drive we’re experiencing is really a focus that is directed inward. In other words, the false sense of motivation isn’t Christ-focus, it’s Me-focused. You’re determined to make “you” shine as to prove a point instead of living to glorify Christ.  

2 – Offense is addictive.
Living with offense is, far too easily, a place to hang your hat. It feeds a victim mentality which finds identity in a place of hurt. And that place of hurt is an addictive place to live. It creates a story; a narrative to live by. But I wonder if too many of us our more addicted to talking about our pain than we are talking about the healing Jesus can bring. As a minister (let alone a believer), if we find our identity in ANYTHING other than Jesus, we are living from a sub-par place that will lead us to sub-par locations. We don’t live FOR an identity; we live FROM an identity. And from our identity in Christ, a victim mentality is impossible to maintain. If we are healed in Him, if we operate in Him, then what we do will flow out of Him and not our offenses.

3 – Offense gives a false sense of fullness.
I think there’s a real challenge to this. When I entertain offense, I tend to continue to feed off of it. And the more I feed off of it, the less healthy mindsets I feed on. I’ll go back to my “chip” metaphor. How many times have you started snacking on junk food before a meal because you were extremely hungry? But when you got to the meal, you couldn’t eat what was put before you (that is probably 10 times healthier for you) because you had filled your stomach with junk. Offense wants to stuff you and weigh you down by leaving no room for that which can build and grow you.

4 – Offense clogs up the life-flow.
Offense in ministry is what high cholesterol is to your blood. The presence of it will slow down life, inflame issues beyond what they should, and lead you toward death. The death I’m talking about is beyond the physical. I’ve watch churches dying from issues of offense. Relationships between churches have been destroyed over it. I’ve seen pastor’s marriages plummet as offense is entertained. The more you entertain it, the less surprised you should be when you, your family, and the ministry you are involved in start suffering from offense’s catastrophic results.

I love the quote from Steven Furtick on the subject,

“Offense is a moment; offended is a choice.”

Are you ministering with a “chip on your shoulder”? Are you living with offense?  I’ve been there. I understand. And like you, can have a lot of excuses to carry my offense. None of us can be excused from being faced with offense. But we do have a choice about picking it up and letting it be the frame for which we live life and operate in ministry. But no justification can rationalize carrying the burden of the unnecessary pain of not dropping offenses, offering forgiveness, and allowing Christ to bring deep healing.   

Is there any more fitting scripture about this than John 10:10?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Please learn from this pastor who used to live off “chips.” Offense is what the Enemy wants to used to steal your joy. He wants to kill your calling. Destruction is all he is after. But releasing the “chip” and grasping onto Christ brings us to a place that is nothing short of a full life (which includes a full ministry).

I love ya pastor.  I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Pastor to Pastor: How Do You Deal With People Leaving the Church?

I’ve never hidden my heart for pastors.  I think part of it is the fact that I am currently in pastoral ministry. But what drives the other side is, when I was a broken and frustrated pastor, others lent their ear and freely gave their insight and wisdom.  So, in essence, how in the world could I ever hold back anything that God has given me?  

Freely received; freely given.  Thine is the Kingdom.

Weekly, calls come in from pastors wanting to talk about a variety of subjects. I welcome calls like that. Why? I want to learn and grow and I think conversations with fellow co-laborers is a great avenue to let “iron sharpen iron.” I feel every interaction I have with a fellow minister is a growing opportunity for both of us to grow. One of the subjects that inevitably comes up is the struggle that comes when people leave the church.

I’m not necessarily talking about people abandoning their faith (whole other blog).  I’m talking about that moment when people decide to stop attending the church you pastor and attend somewhere else because your church community isn’t a fit for them.  It’s a moment that can suck to deal with. I love people and I wish everyone could find their fit at Kfirst.  But I realize that isn’t realistic.

Seven years ago, a very good friend told me that, minimally, 30% of the people who voted you (wanted you) in as the pastor would depart and go somewhere else.  Some because you would never be who they thought you were (expectations both realistic and unrealistic). Some left because of too much change, not enough change, or they didn’t see the change they wanted to see (see expectations). Some departed because their hearts were too connected to previous leadership (styles and approach).  Still, some left because of offense and frustration. 

Pastors, if there’s anything I can implore of you during congregation transitions, it’s this: Reflect Jesus to people when they come to your church; reflect Jesus if people leave your church. 

What do you do? As a pastor, how do you approach people leaving because they didn’t find a “fit” at your church? It’s as simple as 1,2, 3.

  1. Bless them. If they’re courageous enough to leave in an honorable way AND let you know, you need to push past any hurt or frustration and do, what I think, is the most honorable thing to do: bless them. 
    • Offer prayer over them. Bless their search for a church community. Speak blessing over their home.
    • Offer to help them find a church. It’s rare people take me up on that, but my heart has to be for the Kingdom more than my church or denomination.
  2. Speak well of them. Shut your mouth. Shut down the gossip (if any) about them. Let the words of your mouth and the meditation of our heart be honorable to the Lord. Just because they left your church community doesn’t mean they departed the Kingdom of God.
    • “Pastor, did you know ______ left the church?” “Yep.  We talked and had prayer.”
    • “Pastor, I heard ________ left because of _________.” “Well, first, I chose to believe the best of _________. Second, stop talking about it. Third, tell the people you’re hearing this from to stop talking about it. That’s between _______ and God and we can’t run our church community by gossip and assumption.”
  3. Respond well to them. I see people in the mall, neighborhood, social media, etc. that have left Kfirst. Them being here doesn’t decide if I like them personally or not. For some, Kfirst wasn’t the “fit” for them and that’s okay. I’ve developed some great friendships with people in the community that didn’t find their “fit” at our church. That’s fine.  That happens and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.   Don’t respond to people in a crappy way just because they don’t attend any more (I wish I didn’t have to type that).  Grow up and treat people with respect and kindness. 

Here’s some final thoughts to lend to you: 

  • Be merciful. I believe mercy is best illustrated as “velvet steel.” If someone encounter’s you, they experience the velvet (kindness, honor, respect).  Yet, the steel prevents you from being a doormat. Know who you are in your identity in Christ.
  • If I offended someone, I’ll be the first to ask for forgiveness regardless of whether I feel they’re justified in their offense. 
    • It could have been a complete misunderstanding, but regardless, I offended and I should initiate asking for forgiveness. 
  • If someone is offended, they should be the one to initiate a connection.  If I know about it (sometimes someone is hacked off and never tells me), I’ll try to connect.  But he/she needs to take responsibility and step up to Matthew 18 the situation. 
  • Anyone telling me “God is leading me away” will always get a reply, “I’m gonna respect what you have personally heard from God.”
    • Who am I to argue with what God is speaking if they’re not going into a place of sin. (A reminder: Leaving your church isn’t a sin.)
  • I don’t play politics. “If I do _________, will you stay?” When someone is departing from your church community, negotiating doesn’t fix anything.  It only pacifies the situation.
  • If someone has experiencing hurt and/or offense, my goal isn’t to “keep” them, but help them into healing. 
    • If they stay, I want them healthy.
    • If they still leave, I want them leaving healthy.
  • If someone disagrees and wants to leave, I just ask that we agree to disagree. I just believe that we can embrace Jesus, not necessarily see eye-to-eye on every detail in life, and STILL be cordial with each other. 
  • I don’t do exit interviews. That has been a place for me to get annihilated while empowering someone with the hammer to do it all the while, they get to leave and I’m left picking up the pieces. 
  • Don’t tolerate sinful practices. Gossip, slander, and bitterness are not Kingdom attributes.

Again, reflect Jesus to people when they come to your church; reflect Jesus if people leave your church. Perhaps if we (the pastors) will do a better job reflecting Christ during these situations, the parishioners will have the example to follow. 

My prayer over you is that God would help give abundant wisdom (James 1) of you as you traverse through this amazing opportunity to lead a local church community. I speak God’s blessing over you in handling both when people come AND when they leave. Remember,  with people, resources, strategy, wisdom, let your heart and your leadership reflect: 

Freely received; freely given.  Thine is the Kingdom.

Love you pastors.  I believe in you. You are a tremendous gift to the Kingdom. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Godly Venting?” : 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Vent

I can be quite silly with venting.  Social media has been my therapeutic outlet for my continual disappointment with my sports teams (I apologize to the twitterverse and Facebook world).  But I think both you and I know what I’m talking about when I use the word “venting.” Some of your venting is quite obvious because you use the words “just sayin” at the end of your rant (as if the phrase is a new form punctuation in the english language). Others, you start off with “I apologize for the length of this” as if to say, “gird your loins, I’m about to unload.”

I can hear some of your thoughts right now. “Dave, you’re blowing this out of proportion. Let people do what they want. For some, that’s their only outlet.”

But that’s just the thing.  It is an outlet.  Your best friend is an outlet.  Your coworker is an outlet. But just because you have an “outlet” doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest one and, two, your venting may not be actually getting you help.  

PLEASE NOTE: Momentary relief is no substitution for deep lasting health.

This blog isn’t here to beat you up.  It’s here to encourage you to get help…the right help. Much of the venting I’ve been privy to has been an excuse to “unload” displeasure about other people instead of going to the person.  In the name of “venting,” proper healthy conflict is avoided and a septic inner attitude or mindset is facilitated. It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to get healthy.

Here’s some questions to ask yourself before you go “venting” to someone…

1 – Am I wanting Godly PERSPECTIVE or just an opportunity to PERPETUATE the issue?

This is why I love how the entire book of Psalms starts out, Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2

Do you avail yourself with what God’s Word may say to the situation?  I’m convinced that, if people who came to me to “vent” started with the Word, conservatively speaking, ¾ of my appointments would cancel on me. I have learned that a majority of Christians won’t check the scriptures because either, first, they already know what it’s gonna say, and second, you don’t want to do it. The other portion doesn’t know and/or needs direction on how to practically do it.  And for that, I’m glad to help.

2 – Am I willing move into healthy ACTIONS or sit in ASSUMPTION?

So much of venting results from stewing over something and coming upon conclusions that may or may not be reality. Thus, venting can be constant spillover of issues that are being ignited by assumption with little to no healthy actions.

Why does the Hebrew writer tell us to, “Fix your mind on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2)?  Because of the example of Christ.  He didn’t sit in assumption over our sinful condition as to wonder why we are doing what we are doing and/or what the heck we are thinking when we do what we do. He joyfully stepped forward in action. Joy isn’t found in the situation (can’t say the cross was a fun thing to endure). Joy is found in the presence of God. And His presence and His example propels us to fixate upon Him and the health he wants to bring.  He gives us a perspective of what needs to be done as opposed to what might be going on.

3 – Is my goal to END the story or RETELL it?

Do you want to see resolution or are you just wanting to rehash it? What is your goal? Refusing to take appropriate steps forward by unhealthy venting is like scratching a rash thinking it’s going to solve something when, in reality, it’s spreading it.

So many people are used to venting a story that has, in essence, become the identity they live by. They’re a constant victim. It’s time to lay down the story and begin one new in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old has gone and a new ‘story’ has begun.” Continuing a story can continue an identity.  Start a new identity in Christ and, thus, a new story.

4 – Do I want to RESOURCE healing or am I looking to REPRODUCE I’m experiencing?

There’s an old saying. “Misery loves company.” Very similar to 3, this has a bit of a twist. Instead of just finding people to retell it to, some people vent to rally people to their cause. One of the best ways to resource healing is to go to the person for whom you have offense with. As you do:

  • Go with a humble heart. Be open to the fact that you could be wrong about the person and/or the entire situation.
  • Check your tones and mannerisms.
  • Be ready to be the first to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
  • Go into it go get a HEALTHY result and not necessarily your DESIRED result.
    • Resolving conflict biblically doesn’t always mean you get your way OR that you win.

5 – Am I looking to PROCESS or am I looking to UNLOAD?

This is where the real help comes in. Unloading feels good for a moment. I’ll admit, getting something off my chest has the sensation of relief. But stopping right there leaves you feeling lighter, but also empty. On top of that, most people are ready to fill the newly discovered relief/ emptiness with the same substance they had been carrying before. Having Godly counsel and wisdom spoken into your frustration properly processes the issues of the heart to become a foundation of health and vitality.

Do more than look for someone to help unload what you are carrying? Those people are easy to find (and sometimes eager to be involved in your business).

Find someone:

  • Who loves Jesus.
  • Who knows the Word.
  • Who cares for people.
  • Who will approach the situation objectively and confidentially.
  • Who loves you enough to say the tough things (even what you don’t want to hear).

If you are needing to “vent,” chances are, there are deeper issues than the need to “get something out in the open.” Don’t deal with it is isolation.  I don’t want you to deal with this on your own. As I’ve said so many times,

The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.

Get some help. And HELP is as simple as:

1 – Turn to Christ.  “What does Jesus think about me?” (BTW: He loves you immensely and don’t let anyone tell you different!!!!)

2 – Turn to His Word. “What does the Bible say about what I’m dealing with?”

3 – Get Godly counsel.  “Who can help me process this instead of helping me unload?

Love ya. Rein back your “venting” and step into a healthy mindset of how to approach the inner frustration you are experiencing.  I believe if we’ll turn to Him first, if we put Him first in our offenses and hurts, he’ll do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to His power at work within us.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Pastors and Conflict: 8 Purposeful Actions to Help Heal Conflict

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I sat in my office very early Monday and journaled about conflict.  As a pastor, I recognize that conflict is inevitable. Why? I’m human and I deal with humans.  I’m imperfect. I pastor an imperfect congregation. The more I understand that, the less pressure it puts upon me to be perfect. 

It was about 5 years ago, someone told me, “your job is to keep people from conflict.”  How impossible is that? Jesus didn’t even do that. But it’s a mantle that so many pastors take upon themselves.  

Pastors feel like a firefighter; constantly putting out little fires everywhere because people do not know how to navigate through healthy Biblical conflict (that’s another blog). We take upon ourselves the responsibility to solve everything so that everyone is happy and satisfied. Again, Jesus didn’t even do that. 

There’s also the constant pressure to make the church about the preference of the weekly attender.  With literally, hundreds of opinions and varied ideas for what the church “should” do is enough to rip the joy from why you do ministry.  And because you don’t do what people want you to do, you are blamed for “not caring” and/or not “hearing people.” 

So I started penning down some thoughts in my journal to share with my staff in our weekly staff meeting. I’m going to type them out like their written so their not well explained.  But you’ll get the gist. 

Here’s what I came up with and shared with my pastoral staff: 

1 – Defuse with compassion.
– Look at the world through the eyes of the “offended.” Get inside their skin and understand from their perspective. What’s their home life like? What season of life are they in? Are they dealing with issues that is intensifying the situation? Grab their perspective.
– Approach it humbly. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. Have a teachable spirit.

2 – Validate their feelings. 
– Be cautious to tell someone they are wrong to feel that way.  Feelings are real. Emotions are real.
– Connect to what he/she is feeling. This may be the greatest connection point.
– Perspective IS reality.  Help give direction by guiding him/her though their focus. 

3 – Bring the conflict to the proper battlefield. 
– Be in the proper place and the proper time for conflict. Sunday morning in the church hallway isn’t the right place. 
– Make sure it’s the right venue. I saw a pastor in the coffeehouse the other day trying to deal with marital conflict.  That may not have been the best choice.
– Have the right people there.  My dad always says, “there’s two sides to every dime…then there’s the edge of the dime nobody is telling you.”

4 – Agree on what will be discussed and keep the meeting about THAT point.
– Try to stay on point to bring resolution. Keep the main thing the “main thing.”
– When a meeting is set, agree on what will be talked about to help keep focus.  Don’t get blindsided. 

 5 – Take ownership/responsibility over what you need to.
– Don’t take on undo faults. Taking on undo credit both good and bad isn’t healthy. 
– Don’t throw people under the bus.  Help guide your appointment to healthy biblical Matthew 18 conflict. 
– Represent yourself, your staff, and your church well. Be humble yet firm. 
– Represent The Church well.  Show the love and compassion of Jesus.

6 – Ask for forgiveness if you are at fault. 
– Avoid saying, “I’m sorry” and use “will you forgive me.” There’s a massive difference. “I’m sorry” helps establish sorrow.  “Will you forgive me” initiates the responsibility of forgiveness from the other party. 

7 – Give forgiveness. 
– If someone apologizes offer forgiveness verbally.  “I forgive you” does so much more than “it’s okay.” When forgiveness is extended, it releases an individual.  
– Communicate it afterwords.  It could be a note/card. Maybe it’s a text or message. To many people picture a vindictive God because their pastor doesn’t communicate or walk in forgiveness well.  

8 – Resolution doesn’t mean everyone gets what they want. INCLUDING YOU THE PASTOR.
– Keep the main thing Jesus and His Kingdom.
– Embrace and celebrate what you share.
– You may agree to disagree.
– Pray together.
– Give direction and accountability.
– Go after the Kingdom win and not the personal win. 

Do we as a staff (or any pastoral staff for that matter) have this stuff down perfect? Nope.  We’re human which is why we all need reminders of how to approach people with the same grace that Christ shows us.

Be humble. Be teachable. Show the love of Jesus.

Rinse and repeat.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…