Monthly Archives: December 2007

Broken Body

The body of Christ experienced a terrible tragedy yesterday as two shootings took the lives of people at a YWAM base and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of those who were slain or hurt in the senseless attacks.

YWAM is an organization that does a lot to serve the communities where it runs training schools and outreach missions. New Life is an active church in the area with a passion for worship and prayer.

God, You are much bigger than this tragedy. May the local Christian body in the area come together to provide needed assistance and support.

The entire Christian community rejoices that many lives were saved thanks to the quick action by security staff at the New Life Church. 

The body of Christ in America is a little broken today after the loss of life. The good news is that Jesus, You, restore that which is broken.

God. may You get the glory out of this horrible situation. May divine comfort come to those who have been hurt by the shootings. We are all thankful that the loss of life was not greater than it was. Amen!

Christian Kleenex

You know how to tell a really good ministry leader? Look for a person who will seek to serve you into your Kingdom calling and renewed spiritual health before trying to use you to help complete a ministry objective or fill a program opening.

I have been in churches every since a kid. One thing that I have strongly disliked are the various ways that ministry leaders use slight of hand, false adulation, guilt, friendship, and even God to keep the ministry machine going. I have met many current and former church goers that feel the same way. Jesus would likely feel the same way too. 

Check out this little ministry insight from Jesus. He said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46). 

Some might think that I missed the exegesis on this because Jesus was talking about interpretation of the law and the rules for living a godly life. And while that is true, I believe Jesus would apply the same principle to church or ministry leaders that use people as a means to an end without really taking the time to help them with their life issues and spiritual growth.

If you are a ministry leader, stop to consider when was the last time you honestly sat down and asked how the key volunteers are doing. Are you praying for them by name on a regular basis? Are you intune to their life enough to detect if things are not going well? Do they feel like you have an open door policy?

This issue of volunteers and paid staff in churches came up during a conversation that I had with a friend about things that are going on in his church. 

I don’t believe that people who excessively use and abuse volunteers in churches do this with any intentional malice. Mostly, they don’t even realize they do it. And if they did, they might think it is okay because it helps grow God’s kingdom. Or at least that is what they tell themselves.

Many of the culprits are ministry addicts that feel other church members should be just as dedicated as they are. They may not be aware that their own lives are out of balance and a poor example of spiritual wholeness.

This enthusiastic leader may say, “So and so is a little burnt out right now. We’re just giving them some space.” This sounds spiritual until you realize that the ministry leader has not changed his/her methods. The leader has just gone on to fresh meat.

We have to realize why people do this and address the idolatry and sinfulness beneath it.

Quite honestly, many of us as leaders need to regularly take inventory of those under our care and repent for our mishandling of their time, talent, passion and lives. I am including myself in this little address because I am just as guilty as the next guy. I have asked people to do things in the past that I knew was not a good idea because I needed someone to do it.

It takes a mature pastor to be willing to kill some ministries for the emotional, family and spiritual well being of the flock. Most are not willing to go there. 

Ministry leaders must stop using fellow Christians like they are Kleenex. People are not disposal. You can’t just use one up, throw them away and then get another. That is not how God does things. It certainly is not how His Church should operate either.

God created every person in His image with value and a purpose. If you burden people with stuff to do that does not fall into their purpose, you could actually be causing them to disobey God all the while you are convinced that you are doing a godly work.

I will never forget one of my leaders who addressed this issue in my life. His name is Rev. Billy Dempsey. He was my campus ministry at Missouri’s RUF outreach. He met me one day to discuss a problem that he saw.

Billy came to my apartment and said, “Chaille, You seem to be overly committed to a variety of ministries in the community. I have been talking with a couple other leaders who have noticed the same thing. Your overcommitments are causing you personal harm and making you ineffective in your ministry efforts. You can’t do everything son. You aren’t Jesus and even He didn’t do everything by Himself. I would hate to lose you as a leader because you have a lot of potential. But I would rather see you go than continue on this path. If this become a pattern in your life, it could harm your reputation and more importantly your relationship with Christ. You need to take some time to pray and listen to see what God has told you to focus on and what to let go. I’ll love you and be your friend no matter what you decide.”

The fact that I can remember so many details from a conversation that took place eight years ago shows just how much of an impact it had on me.

Are you that kind of leader? Are you following that kind of leader? If not, there is no time like the present to throw away bad ministry habits and start over. 

Doing a Lot with a Little

The following is from the view point of a disciple of Jesus. It is based on Matthew 14:12-22. I took some artistic license in presenting my own spin on the feeding of the multitude.

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It had already been a long day by the time the crowds started to gather. We had received word that a dear friend and teacher, John the Baptist had been ruthlessly beheaded by Herod Antipas. Many of us knew John. He was Jesus’ cousin. It was a deep loss of an inspiring figure. The news saddened our hearts and raised concern of our own safety. Some connected Jesus’ ministry to John. It made us wonder if we were in danger too.

Jesus took his disciples into a desert place to be alone. But it was hard to get away with Jesus because crowds followed Him wherever He went. Soon, the people heard of Jesus’ presence and followed Him on foot out to a remote place. We, the disciples, wanted the crowds to go away. Our minds were stilling swirling with recent events. Plus, we were tired from traveling and a long period of ministry.

But Jesus saw the crowds and was moved with compassion. He healed the sick and taught great things. As a matter of fact, he went on for a long time. He went too long if you ask me.

It was getting late, the crowds needed food, and we were in a remote place. The pragmatic thing was to send them away. Maybe the crowds could find food in the surrounding villages. They could go and buy provisions to sustain them. It was also what our weary souls needed. After all, we had intended on getting away before the crowds showed up.

We disciples agreed that somebody should say something to Jesus. I drew the short straw and had to be the voice of reason. Usually, Peter was the one who said what we all were thinking. This time, I got the honors.

I motioned to Jesus and said, “Excuse me, teacher.” He gave me one of those looks that wanted to know why I was disturbing Him when He in the middle of something important. I stood back and motioned as if He should come talk to me when He had a moment. Then He just kept on going and going. I felt like He healed or spoke directly to every peasant in the area.

I knew that I had to interrupt. I stepped up and said, “Master, it is late. These people have been here a long time, and they need food. Let’s send them into the nearby villages so that they can get something to eat.”

This sounded like a reasonable request. Jesus had this way of saying things we didn’t expect. It got to the point that we began to expect the unexpected.

Jesus said with a straight face, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

I looked back at him as if He had lost His mind. Some of the other disciples chuckled under their breath. Just to put things in perspective, there were 5,000 men in the audience, plus women and children.

In modern context, imagine if you went to a large restaurant and you got the bill that covered every one in the restaurant. Not only that, you received a second bill that covered everyone that had eaten in the restaurant over the past month. What if you were expected to pay for that tab? That is kind of how Jesus’ command sounded to me.

We did our best to find food and found only five loaves and two fishes among the crowd. Surely, this would convince Jesus to send the people away. But no, He had something else in mind.

Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.” I was wondering what He would do with so little. Maybe He was going to eat it Himself. Was this some kind of test for us?

I scratched my head in amazement and complied. Jesus then instructed the crowds to sit down. Suddenly, we disciples began to worry what would happen if this crowd went hungry.

Jesus looked up to heaven. Then, He blessed and broke the bread. It was a beautiful prayer. Jesus acted like He was hosting a great feast. We didn’t know what to make of the scene.

Then, Jesus told us to distribute the food. He went and sat down and left us to deal with the multitudes of people. It didn’t seem fair. He had built up a high level of expectation. We were supposed to make the best of it with virtually nothing to work with. It was classic Jesus.

One of the disciples asked, “Do you want us to pass all of it out?” as if to mock the great banquet we had to distribute. Jesus didn’t seem amused by our sarcasm. He gave us the look, and we did what He asked.

I pulled out bread and tried to give a little bit to everyone. When I thought we had given it all out, I apologized to people in the crowd. I tried to explain that we did the best with what we had. Then, I feel one of the other disciples poking me on the shoulder. He said there was more in the basket. Astonished, I gave out what I saw and turned to apologize to some other folks. Then, the other disciple called my name and told me to hand out more. I turned to see even more in the basket. At first, I though that somehow I had lost count. But as I started to hand out fish and bread, I noticed that more kept on coming.

Then, we all started to rejoice. It became a festive atmosphere. There was bread. There was fish. There was food aplenty. We all laughed at the great banquet that miraculously appeared. The crowd began to buzz with excitement. You wouldn’t believe what people were saying about Jesus.

There was more than enough to feed everyone. We even had leftovers. We collected twelve baskets, one for each disciple. This reminded us that Jesus can take the little that we have and multiply it to bless many people. There will be more than enough for us to have leftovers. 

It was an amazing moment. We had gone from wanting to send the crowds away to experiencing and participating in an incredible miracle. For a while, we had forgotten the horrible news of the day. Honestly, we were relishing the moment when Jesus broke up the party. Jesus zigged again when we thought he should have zagged. Why not enjoy this miracle and use it to further the cause?

Jesus told us we had to get in the boat and go to the other side. He said that He would dismiss the crowds and would join us on the other side of lake. We didn’t want to leave Him? But we obeyed. He had been right about the food. He was probably right about this even though we didn’t understand.

As we got in the boat, one of the disciples asked, “How are you going to get to the other side if we take the boat? Are you going to get another boat?” One of the other disciples responded, “After today, it wouldn’t surprise me if He walked on water to us.” Jesus just smiled and sent us on our way.

You know He did walk on water. But that is another story for another day.

Modern Prophets

“Documentary filmmakers are becoming the modern-day prophets. They’re the people who are looking at the world and seeing that things are not right and asking the provocative and challenging questions we need to hear to deal with issues of modern-day slavery, sex trafficking, poverty, hunger and justice. Moves can help us understand the place in the world where God really grieves the injustice and the evil we see.” – Will Stoller-Lee of the Windrider Forum

I couldn’t agree more. That is why I have become a documentary junkie. Some people get addicted to video games. I love documentary films. I like them from a wide variety of viewpoints too. I even love to see short films and youtube videos. Some of my favorite film projects are short Internet videos. I especially like projects that take on current issues or social ills using humor and unique film techniques.

Here are two example of funny Internet shorts that hit current issues. These bits are somewhat edgy. But I think Jib Jab did a good job with them.

http://www.jibjab.com/originals/big_box_mart

http://www.jibjab.com/originals/drugs_i_need

So if you had one topic that you could make a movie on, what would it be? What social or life issue would you highlight? What would your message be?

More on this to come…

Re-Entry

Why does it seem so easy to fall back into bad habits and so hard to stay on the right path? What happens when the spiritual high wears off?

It can be very easy to give up and just accept defeat when it comes to spiritual challenges in our lives. I have been thinking a lot about this lately.

Here’s the typical pattern. A person goes on a retreat, mission trip, or discipleship training school. It could even be something like a rehab program. This person is removed from his/her typical environment and placed in an artificial surrounding. Many of the pressures and triggers that cause problems are removed. The person is introduced to new routines. Reverse peer pressure causes individuals to develop good habits and “spiritual disciplines.”

Everything seems to be going well. But I wonder how much the person has really changed. If you take the individual out of the new construct, will the changes still be there?

If the change depends too much on the system surrounding the person, then the peron may never really experience much internal change.  That is what I see takes place on many of these spiritual experiences that claim to strive for lasting transformation and discipleship.

Transformation takes time, and the only way to test the quality of the tempering is to see how the individual responds when put back into a challenging environment. Notice I didn’t say hostile environment. A challenging environment could be a place with no real conflict other than busyness or boredom.

All of this is to say that I believe re-entry is the most critical aspect of any revival/renewal experience. More camps and mission trips do little good if the person is not prepared for their life back home. That is why I wonder if taking people completely out of the environment is the best thing. Shouldn’t we help them learn how to cope and be victorious in their typical setting?

While the isolation approach may work for monks or nuns, it only works because they dedicate their life to the monastery or convent. That is not the reality for most people. What if mission events, camps, retreats, discipleship programs, included a lot of free will and less strict discipline? What if the experience included opportunities to wrestle with their real world dynamic and new spiritual disciplines at the same time?

All of this relates to my previous post titled “Manage Expectations” where I quoted Bill Hybels the senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He said that there has to come a point where Christians learn to feed themselves. This is true about spiritual motivation and discipline too. We have to respond to our daily changes by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our will has to be subject to Christ.

Do you have any thoughts on re-entry? What you have seen work in the lives of your community of faith? Does this all start with getting a real glimpse of who God really is?

I welcome your thoughts.

Leaning toward Huck

A while back I wrote about the Republican candidates for president, I was at a complete loss of who to vote for in the primaries. I generally don’t consider Democrats. But just about everything was up for grabs. 

I am staunchly pro life, but I started to begin to wonder if all the candidates from the major parties on the final ballot would be pro choice. I was even willing to consider a Democrat if he or she was pro life. I don’t consider myself a one issue voter, but I have a hard time voting for someone who is pro choice because I believe most abortion is murder.

Anyway, there are many issues that concern me – foreign policy, immigration, out of control government spending, education, decaying U.S. infrastructure, monetary policies that favor the elite, environmental stewardship, etc. I have yet to find a candidate where I agree 100% on all these key issues. But I am starting to see some key differences between the various candidates thanks to the latest Republican debate.

I didn’t think there was any competent candidate who would represent my worldview, which is a critical factor for me.  I want a good candidate who is capable of leading the nation. A close second is finding someone who shares my worldview.  I am starting to believe that Mike Huckabee may be that person.  

Honestly, I would not have given Huckabee the time of day two months ago for two reasons. First, he was a minister, which naturally makes me suspicious. I know that I am a Christian. And as such, I should want to vote for a minister. But I have serious doubts about many well-known ministers who have been active on the political scene. So far Huckabee seems to be a different guy based on his answers.

Second, the guy’s last name is Huckabee, and he is from Arkansas. How sophisticated can a guy from Arkansas be if his last name is Huckabee? I had visions of the new incarnation of George W. Bush, only this time the guy would be from Arkansas not Texas.

I have to apologize to Huckabee because I pre-judged him. And I warn you not to do the same thing because he seems to be the real deal.

After watching him during the recent debate, I have started to rethink my attitude toward his candidacy. Then I watched an interview that he did with Glenn Beck. For the record, I don’t listen to any conservative talk show host, including Beck. I find most talk radio and political TV shows to be too divisive. I came across the following clip when researching Huckabee. It blew me away to see how close his responses are to what I would say if asked the same questions.

http://www.mikehuckabee.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=597 

I have some real problems with the Republicans right now. Huckabee didn’t shy away from criticizing his own party for the things it has done wrong including its poor response to Katrina, scandals/abuse of power and abandoning its core principles. He was polite yet very truthful.

Sure, I have my doubts if he can win. But I would rather back the real deal than just be pragmatic and support the guy who has the best chance to beat Clinton or Obama.

I am not completely sold on Huckabee. I have some concerns about his stances on immigration and taxes. And I know all this stuff has come out about his record on releasing a violent sex offender when he was governor of Arkansas. I will wait to see what shakes out on those question marks before saying, “I’m with Mike.”

It is just too early to pick any one candidate. But at this point, I am leaning toward Huck. Wow, it’s amazing how a few weeks can change your perspective on a person.

What Would a Kingdom Company Look Like?

A few different people talked today at my church about taking a leap of faith at work. The key focus is to be a generous, loving enterprise that puts God first. I was challenged even as our company is facing some tough times. God has been providing and giving us favor despite price pressures and competitive challenges. New products are starting to come on line, and I am beginning to feel a bit optimistic for the first time in months.

Michael Thaler, a local entrepreneur and leader in the church, shared about how God met Him time and time again as he took leaps of faith with his company. He runs a company called Equity Concepts (http://www.equity-concepts.com). It has launched a variety of service initiatives designed to reach the poor in Niger. Hearing Michael’s story caused me to stop and realize that my family business has just begun to scratch the surface of what it means to be a Kingdom company.

A Kingdom company is a business that really runs for God’s Kingdom and glory. The bottom line is not the driving factor. Honoring God is. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Encourage employees to put an inspiration word or thought on their e-mails and voice mail messages.
  • Involve periods of strategic silent prayer and meditation in all planning meetings.
  • Hold a weekly prayer and Bible study during office hours.
  • Do a company mission project where the company covers the cost if the employee will donate the time.
  • Adopt a special service project/mission emphasis as a company.
  • Empower employees to lead service initiatives. Give the staff a budget and let them run with it. 
  • Create service and personal enrichment committees to help spear head spiritual and community service efforts.
  • Encourage employees to go the extra mile by giving excellent customer service.
  • Publicly recognize employee accomplishments and foster an environment where excellence is rewarded.
  • Provide the employee a certain amount of money per year to donate to a charitable cause.  
  • Provide employees one paid day off per year to do a community service. Work with employees to allow flexible hours to do community service projects.
  • Offer free counseling services with an office chaplain.
  • Pray for employees by name ever day. Pray for customers regularly as well.
  • Require employees to hold to ethical business practices and follow all necessary laws. Discipline employees that violate laws or company procedures in a fair and equitable manner.
  • Avoid favoritism. Company leaders should set the example for all new initiatives.
  • Managers should take personal interests in employee development and even personal problems as appropriate.
  • Providing pro-bono service to non-profit organizations.
  • Avoid negative promotion and competitor bashing. Speak ill of no man.
  • Provide freedom of religion while honoring God as the CEO of the company.
  • Encourage employees to show interest in the personal lives of customers and their needs at the moment.
  • Listening is one of the best ways to show that you care. Encourage employees and management to really listen to each other instead of trying to talk over each other.
  • Promote Christ via your Web site and other public communications, such as company newsletter.

The ideas are limitless. Now, I just have to figure out where to start because you can’t do everything in one day. And I know it will take a lot more than just me. It starts with management casting the vision and then releasing the staff to make it happen.