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Take a Seat: Helping People Find Rest

Mark 6:31 (ESV) And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

We are in year three of our church plant and we have hit the ground running and never stopped, never looked back and never came up for air.  We are been hard grinding, winning souls, bringing wanderers home, making disciple making disciples, sending missionaries, impacting our city and advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every week we set up and tear down our whole church.  We have been setting up and tearing down now for 109 weeks.  It definitely takes it’s toll on our team.  Luckily for many we have put together schedules so that every person isn’t working every week.  Some want to work weekly and that is okay however, as a leader there is a time when we have to ask them to take a seat.  This is where we really find out what is more important people or program.  This is where we find out if we are a part of an organism, a living, breathing, growing, vibrant life form or an organization with mechanical structure.  Asking key people to take a seat isn’t easy and will never be easy however, it is absolutely necessary.  It is necessary for numerous reasons.  I’ll name two key reasons.  First it let’s the people know you love them for who they are not what they do and secondly it allows them to see the ministry will go forward without them.  It teaches them to trust in God not only in themselves as if we can’t make it without them.  Will the quality drop a bit?  Most likely, not always but there is a good chance.  What is more important program or people?  Jesus told his disciples come away with me, take a seat, and rest for a while because there were people pulling on them and they didn’t even have time to eat.  Church planting, ministry and life in general can have that same effect.  We must force ourselves to take a seat and we must force those who won’t take a seat to take a seat even if it hurts them.  In the long run you are helping them and you are helping your body of believers.  You are also setting an example of what is more important.  It is a difficult thing to do and sometimes it can be viewed as a negative.  This view must be changed.  It is a positive because it creates healthy practices and in the end will allow people to live out their full potential and have longevity in ministry.  Watching the NBA is a strong reminder of asking people to take a seat.  Sometimes it is because they get into foul trouble.  Sometimes in ministry if people don’t take a seat they get into foul trouble.  Meaning their attitude becomes foul and they have a negative impact on others around them.  Then our whole church is in jeopardy of getting into foul trouble.  Another reason the NBA coaches ask key players to taker a seat is to be sure they can be ready to play the whole season, series and or season.  If players don’t get the right amount of bench time they get worn out and not just one game is in jeopardy their whole season and sometimes their career can be placed in jeopardy.  They can just get slam worn out before their time.  As leaders we must not be willing to sacrifice anyone.  Asking them to take a seat is what is best for them and ultimately for the whole.  Be watchful over the people God has placed in your life.  If you see they are weary ask them to take a seat.  If you see them getting weary ask them to take a seat.  If you notice they are burning the candle at both ends have them take a seat.  Even if you don’t notice them burning the candle still ask them to be sure they are taking a seat.  Let them lovingly know if they don’t take a seat you will help them take a seat because you love them that much.  By God’s grace I truly believe that the success we have enjoyed and the retention rate we have for two years and are currently experiencing is a result of good leadership throughout the church.  Leaders who care more about people than programs.  Be encouraged!
 

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Learn to Discern

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In the past few months I have been put in some very unique circumstances.  Circumstances that have the potential to cause trouble inside and outside the church universal.  The root of this conundrum is the prophetic vs. the authentic. I am spirit filled (Non-denominational) and my only true point of reference in all this along with my spiritual heritage is spirit filled (Assemblies of God).  I totally 100%, no 1000%, believe in the prophetic.  I have seen the prophetic gifts at work building up the church in incredible fashion.  I have experienced the power of the prophetic gifts in my life personally.  That being said I also see the prophetic being misused regularly to garner support and to build ego.  Talk about a touchy subject!  I know, I get it!  But after reading Galatians 1 and studying it diligently I feel charged even greater to weigh everything that is being spoken (prophecy) against that which already has been spoken (The Word of God).  If there is any conflict between the existing revelation (God’s Word) and the prophecy being touted as from God, the speaker is in danger of being accursed according to Galatians for preaching another Gospel.

Galatians 1:8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

The prophet’s message must line up with the Word of God completely in order for it to be received even if it sounds totally awesome and really godly.  They may even change the tone of their voice for dramatic effect but if the message doesn’t line up and compliment the existing revelation (God’s Word) it must be discarded.  We must learn how to discern the message and discern the intent of the messenger.  Some really like the idea of the office of prophet but with that office of prophet comes heavy responsibility to weigh every word spoken in God’s name.  Prophecy outside the Biblical text isn’t equal to the Biblical text rather it is subject to the Biblical text to determine it’s authenticity.  We must be ever so careful not to elevate prophecy or the prophet above God and the Gospel.  Humans love our heroes and we love hero worship.  This just in: Heroes love to be worshiped.  We must discern the thought and intentions of the heart, but how?  The Word of God!  Let the Word of God discern it for you by weighing what is being said against scripture.

The Hebrew writer reminds us that it is the Word of God that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  I say this just so that we are careful and mindful.  Acts 20:28 teaches us that God has made us shepherds and overseers of His flock and we must be mindful not fearful of wolves keeping careful watch over ourselves and God’s flock.  Paul spends letter after letter dealing with the religious and the irreligious trying to add something to or take something away from the Gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Do I believe in prophecy?  Absolutely!  Do I believe that prophecy within the biblical text must be weighed and interpreted against the biblical text?  Absolutely!  Do I believe that prophecy outside of the biblical text must be weighed according to the biblical text?  Absolutely!  Any “prophet” fearful of what has been said in this blog must weigh their thoughts and intentions carefully.  I also send a strong caution to read, digest and discern Galatians 1:1-10.

Why did I write this blog today?  It is a simple answer: I love the Church of Jesus Christ.  Not just City on a Hill Church but the beautiful vibrant Church of Jesus Christ in this city and in the world.  We must be ever so careful to constantly discern the message and motives we preach and hear being preached.  Is the Church perfect?  No not by a long shot.  Is the Church of Jesus Christ the hope of the world?  Absolutely!  Jesus is coming back for His Church.  We are the Church.  Discernment within the Church universal is critical to seeing us fulfill our mission in this city and on the earth.  Whacked out, theologically unsound prophecies against the church only cause division and strife. Now don’t get me wrong we must bring correction within the church both local and universal.  However it is not with prophecy outside the biblical text but with prophecy within the biblical text.

To be honest with you I get frightened every once in a while.  I hear and see prophecy going out without being weighed according to the Word of God.  I see people receiving the messenger in good faith without weighing what is being said carefully and according to scripture.  It causes an alarm to go off in my heart.  I see a lot of lip service with fingers that wag but feet that don’t move.  That also helps us to discern what’s going on.  Do a fruit inspection!

My brothers and sisters I strongly urge you to weigh the message and the messenger according to the existing revelation found in the Word of God then we all will be able to discern what is from God and what is from man.  God’s Word is living and active.  God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Thank God for His Word!

The Good News is that even in all this beautiful mess, Jesus is building His Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail, that is a promise!  Be watchful!  Be mindful! Be encouraged!
 

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The Hum

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Last weekend kicked off year three in this church planting journey.  Glory to God forever!  Experts say your not an official church until after the third year but why would I start listening to them now.  We are and have been “the church” since we gathered together for our launch team meetings in April 2010.

The past two years of my life and ministry have been incredible and have left me awestruck at the work of God’s hands and His amazing grace.  It hasn’t been without it’s share of troubles, trials and turmoil.  The hours have been long and the work has been intense.  I thank God daily for the amazing team He has placed around me.  I also thank God for the Trustees of COAH.  These men and women know the importance of spiritual retreat and times of refreshing.  Every time I start to run on empty and every time I start to feel drained God provides a local pastors and leaders conference or retreat opportunity for me to be refreshed.  I can tell when one is needed when “The Hum” starts to drown out everything around me.

“The Hum” that is what I call it and how I describe the feeling I get my tank is running on fumes and I am at my physical, spiritual and mental tipping point.  “The Hum” is always there and it is not always bad.  It drives me, it motivates me, it is that place inside me that challenges me to answer God’s call, to face giants and take the next step on the adventure.  However, when “the Hum” gets so loud that I can’t hear myself think or I can’t turn off my mind I know it is time to shut it down for a while and re-center myself.  “The Hum’ is always there it is a calming buzz as I plug away fulfilling my call Loving God, Loving People and Preaching Jesus.  “The Hum” gets louder and more unmanageable as time goes on and event after event occurs.  In the past two years every time “The Hum” seeks to overtake me I shut down the engines and find a place to retreat, refresh and renew my heart, mind, soul emotions, and vision.

The Gospel writer Luke reminds us to pay careful attention to ourselves and to all of the flock.  The fatal flaw of so many pastors, leaders, parents for that matter people is that we forget to pay careful attention to ourselves.  It reminds me of the airplane safety orientation.  It says if cabin pressure changes the oxygen masks will fall place one on yourself then help others.  It seems selfish at first but it is practical and could save lives.  If the pressure gets to us while trying to help others no one gets help in the end and everyone perishes.  However, if we place the oxygen mask on ourselves the pressure doesn’t get to us and we are far more effective and capable of helping others.  We must be careful not to allow the daily pressures of life, work, ministry, whatever prevent us from helping others because we choose to ignore ‘The Hum’ or the pressure mounting in and around us.

If we are going to fulfill our divine calling it is going to require us to keep careful watch and pay careful attention to ourselves.  Our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health is critical to our lasting success in life and ministry.  Ignoring “The Hum” won’t make it go away.  Eventually it will be the only thing we hear.  It is challenging to listen to yourself.  Sometimes we think we can just push through one more this or one more that until it is too late.  Every three to six months I find a way to get away for one or two days to refocus and re-center.  Church planting and pastoring isn’t easy neither is life!  A retreat may be as easy as a few hours.  Some may not be able to take a day or two but an afternoon or evening is possible.  Talk to the people in your life.  Communicate that you hear “The Hum” and it is getting out of control.  Don’t answer for people let them say yes or no.  Don’t allow your pride to prevent you from getting help.  Parents, pastors, planters, people need to pay careful attention to yourselves.

For me church planting has been amazingly awesome and amazingly challenging.  The weight I feel for the people God has entrusted to my care is felt daily.  I gladly carry the weight by God’s grace.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  At the same time I cannot and will not ignore “The Hum” or the weight can and will easily become unbearable and render me ineffective.  My first resting place is with God.  I am closer to Jesus than I have ever been in my life.  Church planting and pastoring will do that for you and to you:)  My second resting place is with my wife.  She knows and can see when the cabin pressure is changing and “The Hum’ is drowning me.  My third resting place is the leadership of COAH. I can be and am totally transparent and honest with them.  They are my biggest cheer leaders and closest allies.  I also have my accountability partners both in state and out of state who help me tame and shoulder “The Hum”.

“The Hum” is real.  We all may not define it the same way but it is there.  We all feel it in some way, shape or form.  In the past two years I have heard of three pastors who have taken their own lives because of the cares of this world and the trappings of success.  I have watched countless others fall from grace and destroy their lives and the lives of those who love them.  I have seen marriages fall apart and families ripped apart because of the pressure of “The Hum”.  I implore you pay careful attention to yourselves and to those whom God has placed in your life.  Don’t let “The Hum” take you or them away.  Run to Jesus!  Retreat to Christ!  Call out for help to God and to your family, friends, co-workers or church family.

God has a plan for your life and my life.  “The Hum” is there and always will be there.  Let’s use it so the glory of God.  We will never live pressure free.  Notice it says if the cabin pressure changes, meaning there is pressure around us.  Be careful to pay attention to yourself and those you love.  If you see “The Hum” is getting to someone you love give them a gentle help.  If you are a husband or wife give them a few hours off or a night with the guys or girls.  If you are a parent take your kids away give them a day off school.  If you are a co-worker offer to cover a shift.  If you are a friend invite them to enjoy some mindless entertainment.  If you hear “The Hum” run to Jesus He is waiting, He is always waiting.  Be encouraged!

 

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