Key Questions When Evaluating Ministry or Life Options

The other day while going through old files, I found a piece of paper that I used a while back to make a ministry decision. I was trying to pray through and decide where to live and do ministry.  Honestly, I still don’t know if I made the right decision in the past. Like any decision, there were positives and negatives for each possible path way. There were risks no matter which decision I made.

May my questions help if you ever find yourself in the same boat.

1.) Is the Holy Spirit guiding me to either option? Or is this a decision I am free to make fully on my own? Can I honor God and His call at either place? Can good fruit come from either choice? Why or why not?

2.) Which leader that I would serve under to I trust and connect with the most? How long will this leader likely be there?

3.) Which option most needs what I am hoping to launch? Where will it be easier to recruit volunteers and participants?

4.) Which is easier to create a ministry or a culture?

5.) Which ministry partner has offered more resources (financial, facilities and people)?

6.) Where am I more likely to find my wife?

7.) Do I want more autonomy or direction with more top-level feedback?

8.) If I don’t leave my hometown now, will I ever leave?

9.) Which location/opportunity will be easier? Which will likely be the most fun?

10.) How much is recruitment/ministry growth fear a key driver in my decision?

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Despise the Process

Why in such a hurry? That was the gist of the message that pastor Mike Todd delivered at the 2019 Vous Conference. This gathering focuses on young adults in the Church. And Todd’s message were certainly a word in due season. In a world full of next day delivery, Facebook likes and social media followers, Todd let everyone know that following God’s plan is not easy, nor does it come quickly. Jesus is not a fast service kind of God.

Mike Todd suggested that just like a good home cooked meal takes time to make, you can’t rush the process. Don’t expect to be newbie one day and the guy on the platform the next. It could take years or decades for your God-given dreams to come true.

Todd spoke about the call of King David in 1 Samuel 16. He pointed out that after being anointed as king by the prophet Nathan, he went back to the pasture to tend his father’s sheep. David didn’t ascend to the throne right away. It took years to occur and involved many obstacles including pursuit and murderous efforts by King Saul to sabotage him.

Todd explained, “Just like David, God may put you in the shadows so that you can develop the character you will need for the future…You can’t Instagram integrity. You can’t Facebook faithfulness.”

But we like to try to hurry up the wait. We want it now? Waiting can become the seeds of resentment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It all depends on how you view each season of your life. Why get worked up over something you can’t change? What would happen if you are just faithful in this moment where you are? Todd suggested that many in the audience need to go back where they are unknown to tend the pasture and grow spiritually so that they are ready when a platform comes. Don’t waste the wait. Seize it for the gift that it can be.

Proverbs 3:5-6 calls believers to trust in the Lord. The path ahead for the moment may not make sense. David wasn’t looking to be king. Actually, he wasn’t even invited to the party. His father didn’t consider him worthy enough to be there to meet the prophet. He was the youngest who was tending the sheep and the goats.

Todd admonished, “The Lord is looking for humble servants – people who can serve Him at the goat level.”

Todd called on these emerging leaders to get humble before God and to serve in simple, obscure ways. He stated, “How you steward the pasture determines if you will ever lead in the palace.”

A reason to tend the goats is so that you remain humble and aware if you ever reach the throne. Saul had been anointed too as a leader. He was God’s first choice, but he forgot his goat level and ended up losing the throne.

It can be so easy to despair when our current season is not what we desire the most. The call may come to fruition in the most unusual way and at the most unexpected time. Todd warned, “Your next season is dependent on this season… This is not a wasted season.”

After the goat level comes the guitar level. This occurred when David served in the palace and played music for the king. David was improving his skill. He was learning about what life was like in the palace. The first time that David ever goes to the palace, he enters as a servant.

Then comes the Goliath level where David is ready to take an incredible stand against an impossible enemy. But David doesn’t even see how big the problem is. He focuses on the might of his God.

Todd encouraged the audience at Vous to go back to their churches and communities to be an answer to a problem. That is how you grow so that God can elevate you. Todd further explained, “Elevation comes from God.

This is what happened with David. He didn’t try to seize the throne by force. He was wise enough to know that God would raise him to become king at the right time. David trusted God’s timeline. But it can be so hard for us to follow his example when we live in an instantaneous culture.

Focus on what you can do now to do the little things right. If God has called you, He will elevate and raise you up at the appointed time. The first call for all believers is to seek God’s face (Psalm 27).

Don’t despise the process because there is no way around it to be ready and successful in God’s Kingdom.

Maybe We All Need to Go Back To Kindergarten?

Robert Fulghum wrote a book years ago titled, “All I Really Need to Know I  Learned in Kindergarten. ” He identified 16 principles to live by. In this day and age of online outrage and everyone is an expert on everything, I wonder if we would all be better off if we acted more like how we were taught to behave in kindergarten. These are Fulghum’s keys to life. Some good advice because COVID-19 has brought out some of the best and some of the worst in our society, including The Church.

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

I’m A Little Confused

So, I am excited that baseball might not be canceled for the season. For starters, I love baseball. Secondly, America could use its national pastime to get things back on track. Sure, we need to be smart and safe. Sound science and public health must be of paramount concern. But am I missing something?

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told reporters, “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.” ESPN wrote about the public health experts comments: https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/29038491/dr-anthony-fauci-promotes-single-site-fan-free-return-sports.

I get the whole no fans thing. I understand reducing travel and having everyone in one or a few cities. I understand reducing physical contact (as much as possible) and testing players. I understand waiting until testing of players and MLB personnel doesn’t put a strain on essential medical testing.

What I don’t get is the whole put everyone in hotels and keeping them from their families notion. Let me get this straight? You have a bunch of world-class athletes who are mostly in their 20s and 30s. Most are in pretty good physical shape with limited  high-risk health factors for COVID-19.

Many MLB players have young families. I doubt their wives are going to be excited about being quarantined from their husbands for months. While COVID-19 can impact younger people, everything I have seen suggested that the highest risk is for people over 50 years old and with health conditions. The virus mostly has limited impact on children and teens.

So, the people who are most at risk in MLB are the owners, managers, coaches and other club personnel. MLB can take precautions to reduce their exposure to players and other people. More meetings can be held remotely using technology. Managers or coaches can stay in the stands or in a booth away from players. MLB could install phones that are monitored to allow greater communications when physical distance prevents sign communications. And if somebody is a player or other club personnel with adverse health risks, extra precautions can be taken for them including masks, barriers, etc. If someone is really concerned about the health risk, they can take sick leave or work out other arrangements with the MLB club. Balls and strikes would be called by robo umpires. DH for both leagues to reduce impact on pitchers and allow for a compressed schedule.

Players can move to Arizona for 2-5 months with their families. They would probably rather rent homes instead of be in hotel rooms. But they could do that too if they would prefer. The social and psychological impact of being separated from families for months would likely be an incentive for them to agree to social distance restrictions for their families as long as they can still work and still be with their families. Most players and baseball personnel probably want to get back to work if possible. And I think they would probably rather take the COVID-19 risk than be separated for months from their families.

MLB could set up a COVID-19 testing and treatment facility in Arizona to handle testing and care for players and club personnel and MLB staff. MLB would monitor everyone in the baseball bubble and enforce guidelines, such as compliance with statewide social distancing and other best practices. Families of those in the baseball bubble may have to abide by strict social distancing for those outside of the baseball bubble. But these restrictions would be reduced as it makes sense. Players and personnel who test positive would be treated and put in quarantine for the appropriate time period. MLB baseball could also require anyone in the bubble to be tested or quarantined if any family in the bubble develop COVID-19 symptoms.

Likely a bunch of players will come down with the virus although most will have minimal symptoms. That is why MLB clubs should add another 4-10 players on the active roster to fill in gaps.

Forcing players and club personnel to separate from their families seems like a safety precaution that won’t significantly reduce public health risks of the baseball bubble. At the same time, it would put significant life, family and psychological strain on everyone involved. Why put in rules that don’t really make everyone safer if it damages the quality of life?

Baseball is important. But family is more important. I believe that MLB can find a way to protect the health of everyone in the bubble while allowing players to play ball and stay with their families. Sure, there will be risks. But there are risks no matter what you decide with COVID-19.

Basically, I like a lot of the ideas being suggested in the Arizona plan; I would just expand the bubble to include families. This may mean more transmission in the bubble, but that may be hard to stop regardless.

 

Zoom Zoom… Back in Time

Mix Leadership Team Zoom Zoom

Sometimes you don’t know how amazing a group of people are until you are no longer together. I felt this way the other night while on a Zoom call with my former youth group leadership team. We were missing a few characters. But these people all in some way impacted my life and the lives of many amazing students.

Doing youth ministry is a calling, but it is also a blessing — especially when you get a chance to share unforgettable experiences with young people who you know are going to leave a legacy in the world.

So, I wanted to just brag a little bit on my old team.

PD (Daniel Susenbach) – He was the leader of the pack, the eternal optimist. Daniel has never met a stranger. He is the kind of guy who can make you bust a gut laughing and then believe you can do almost anything the next minute. He is one of my best friends, and if I had to be stranded on deserted island with a group of people, I certainly would want him there.

Tim Matthews (Timmmmmm!) – I think he could literally preach the cover off a Bible, and the young people would be like, “Oh man! Do that again.” Tim knew how to say something that you never forget. He also has an amazing life story, and is a ton of fun. With Tim, you know that following Jesus is never boring. {Tim is not in the picture, nor was on the Zoom call 😦  } Next time Tim, next time.

Joanna Fowler (Mrs. J) – She was always the cool mom and administrator. She made us all look good by being prepared for almost anything. Some people who had her job would be kind of by the book. But she always laughed and made everyone feel special. Mrs. J. was the adult in the room who knew how to keep everyone safe. At the same time, she was able to connect with students.

Jim and Melinda Patterson – Yes, these are two people not one. But they are such a great team. They are an amazing couple who I count as very good friends. I love so much about them, especially how different they are from each other. If I was going into spiritual warfare, I can’t think of a better servant and prayer warrior than Jim (P. Diddy). He knows how to get to the root of the matter, and he is willing to go deep and be there for youngsters. Jim is very wise and loves to pun. I even love that about him (just don’t tell him). Melinda is always the voice of reason in the room. She loves people enough to tell them the truth. And she never seems to let much get to her. Oh, and the Pattersons are hilarious when you see them interact together. I chuckling just thinking about some of my discussion with them in their kitchen.

Mama Karen – She was like a mother or older sister to so many of the Mix students. She has always been a youth worker rockstar.  Oh, and she is a great cook. Three words “Baby Angel Cake.” Inside joke, but trust me… so good. Karen is full of love and her name should be caring because she is like 90% heart. Karen knows how to be a safe person in a world full of unhealthy people.

Heidi – Speaking of funny. Literally, I don’t know if I have ever laughed around somebody so much as Heidi. She always knew how to put the truth in a joke. But don’t let her shenanigans fool you, she was wise and knew how to see through student’s crap. Plus, she has this way that her eye twitches when she is upset. It’s sort of like a super power that keeps her from going insane. Heidi connected well with students and is an amazing friend.

Mike Jefferson – Mike really loved the middle school students. In the dictionary under the word “Faithful” is a picture of Mike. Full of the Spirit and always willing to forgive, Mike is one of those guys who makes a bigger impact than anyone realizes. I learned a lot from his gentle demeanor and approach to ministry. He does have a mental disorder because he is a Washington Redskins fan. But nobody is perfect. 😉

Diane Burns – Always represented how parents might feel well in our discussions. She is an amazing prayer warrior who was willing to be there for students. She raised three world-class kids, who are now adults. She has been a super volunteer for years.

Bryan and Darla – Students loved Bryan, and he connected well with some of the outsider kids. Super witty and smart, Bryan is very competitive. He challenged me to be a better youth leader… just don’t tell him I said that. Darla is also competitive and smart. We once played a game of assassin with rubber bands, she killed me by pretending she wanted to have a spiritual discussion. {I never forgot that Darla.} Darla is very logical and dependable. She is just a super solid person who will do what she says she will do.

Super Honorable Mention: Charlie Coker, Emilie Hyatt (Coker) and so many others…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why Many People Don’t Answer the Call to Be Christian Mentors

One of the clearest commandments in the New Testament to the disciples, and thus to the Church is to make disciples of all nations. This is one area where we don’t need a call for the Lord. He has already given it. We don’t need to wonder if we are called to help others connect and grow in their relationship with God. That is something all true Christ followers should engage in. And it will look different for everyone. There is no one way to do it.

I will never forget one time when an older man in Virginia said, “I can’t disciple anyone. I don’t know that much about the Bible. I love God, but I couldn’t lead a small group of men talking about the Bible.”

I asked the man, “What do you like to do?” He responded, “I like to work on classic cars.” I suggested, “You mean to tell me that there aren’t some young men in your community who know nothing about cars and wouldn’t love to learn and maybe even drive a classic car after fixing it?” He looked at me and said, “Yeah, I guess that could work. But that isn’t discipleship.” I asked, “Who said? You could teach these young guys about cars and involve some life lessons while you work. You could maybe chat about one Bible verse while you are under the hood replacing parts or changing the oil. All you need to do is be intentional with offering your time and a listening ear.” He said, “Yeah, but what if I don’t know the answer to a Bible question. I replied, “You ain’t God. Just tell you are not sure but will do some digging and praying and get back to them. It’s as easy as that.”

This man left that day with a new definition of discipleship. It isn’t a Bible study or therapy session. Or it doesn’t have to be just that. Discipleship is a walk. It starts with being available and willing to care.

My Discipleship Definition: Connecting people to Christ and leading them to a vibrant relationship with Him, His Church and His mission.

No where in there do you see a requirement to know everything or be a great teacher. Those skills help. But most people just need one thing, your time and attention.

In talking with many people through the years, I have found these four common reasons why many Christians do not answer this call.
1.) Nobody ever did it for me, so I haven’t had a proper model to follow.
2.) I don’t feel qualified because there is so much I don’t know about God and the Bible. Or I am far from perfect and am afraid that I am not ready.
3.) I don’t know who to approach about mentoring and don’t know how to start.
4.) I am too busy doing other things with work, family and ministry.

Reason #1
• You may not have had a good example to follow on this earth. But if God has called you to it, He will equip you to do it.
Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

• Jesus is our example. (Matthew 16:24 and 1 John 2:6)
• Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting.
• It isn’t too late to seek a mentor yourself.
• Every believer should be investing in their own spiritual development.

Reason #2
• You aren’t supposed to be Bible Answer Man. That’s not what a spiritual mentor is.

There is only one true guru, and His name is Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Reason #3
• The Lord will make a connection and place somebody along your path if you pray and ask for it.
• Grow in Christ and others will be attracted to you. (Colossians 3:16)
• Pray and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13)

Reason #4
• If Jesus commanded us to make disciples, why don’t you think you have time to do it? What is more important than a prime command of Christ?
• We have to move from an additional mindset to an intentional one where we look to involve discipleship in our daily rhythms. It isn’t about doing more. It is about involving more people in your life and spiritual development. The best way to do this is to make one or two meals per month an opportunity to be intentional to help others grow in their relationship with God and others.
• All it takes is one person. Do you have time to invest in the spiritual growth of one person? This may already be somebody that you know.

In Business As It Is In Heaven

When Jesus prayed “in earth as it is in heaven” did He mean that for business too? I think he did.

Recently, I heard a teaching from Bethel Pastor Bill Johnson on the Christian business website, https://heaveninbusiness.com/. He spoke on the basics of Christian principles in business and suggested that Christians have a critical role to play in the business world. Johnson said that Christians in the work world have a responsibility to show others what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. In other words, bring heaven down to earth by how we live and share God’s love. 

When Christians walk into work, we have a much bigger mission than just what is written on the wall. Sure, we need to turn a profit. Even more importantly, we need to leave a positive impact. We need to be the first to apologize and own up or what we have done wrong. We should model out servant leadership. Honestly, is there any other kind of leadership that truly works?

Bill Johnson stated, “You should make people at work thirsty for God.” You don’t have to preach. But you do have to live it out and extend invitations to a bigger mission.  One thing that Bill Johnson said he likes to do is adopt local businesses and just see how he can develop a relationship with the owner and bless the business. He will frequent the establishment and really pray for it. What would happen in the business world if more Christians followed this example? Before we have an encounter at work, we stop and turn our affection to God not that huge work problem. We become aware and conscious of the Spirit of God coming upon us.

Johnson explained, “The Holy Spirit lives in me for my sake, but He comes upon me for the benefit of others to impact the world around me.”

If we are going to bring heaven down to earth, then we better know a bit about heaven. What does it look like when the Kingdom of Heaven invades earth? I think it looks a lot like Matthew 5-7. God turns our value system up side down and makes us truly right side up. A Christian business shines and stands out not by its preaching, but by the freedom and the hope it brings to others. Christians in the work world should be diligent workers and peacemakers – the kind of people you want to have around because they focus on positive things and speaks words of life to teammates.

Pastor Bill Johnson told a story about a major word a group at Bethel received after a time of prayer. He summarized the spiritual truth, “The person with the most hope will have the most influence.” Wow, that hit me like a 2×4. Have I let fear and focus on what is wrong cloud my vision to what could be right? Do I bring hope to my workplace and other relationships?

Johnson said that if we let the size of our problem dominate our thinking we will never realize the miracle that could await. This leads us to focus on the details and not the big picture. It mires us down in all the problems. God wants to raise up business people for His glory to impact the world for good. And the business world is the last great unreached mission field in America. Many of us have been afraid to let the light shine because we didn’t want to make others uncomfortable. But there are ways to bring divine principles to bear in a way that can even bless a secular work environment. A city on a hall is a place that stands out in the dark as Johnson explained. It is a refuge and a comfort for those who are lost.

As the salt of the world, the Church needs to bring flavor to the community. And flavor is influence. Johnson declared that Christians have a duty and responsibility to bless our community including the local businesses with God’s hope, love and generosity.

So, what does this look like for me to live out Matthew 5-7 in the work world? I am struggling every day. Hopefully, each new day I am a bit better than the last day. Johnson talked about how the shadow of the apostles was able to heal people. He asked, “What is released in our shadow?” He then explained, “Your shadow will always release what overshadows you.”

This means if you are full of anger, bitterness, fear or resentment, that will come out. You can’t hide it. If you are full of God’s love, hope and faith, that will overflow and bless others. Those things follow us and leave a positive or negative wake behind us.

So, what’s coming out of your shadow?