Heartbreaking implications

A friend of mine posted on facebook: “Our President is new…the Great Commission is not. As our President begins his new work, it’s time for Christians to get back to their work.”

Here was my original response. The only part I left in the comment is the part in bold below but I’m posting my full thought below.

I fear for many of our American Christian brothers and sisters, the “work” they think they’re supposed to be doing is furthering political agendas, garnished with Jesus-talk to give the facade of spirituality. I came of age in the 80s and the early days of the religious right and was an enthusiastic partaker for many years. In this election the mask was finally taken off. Principles that they swore were unshakable (and that they used to bludgeon past Presidents) suddenly were discarded. So I really appreciate the sentiment, Mark. But I don’t believe it anymore. Lord, we need a generation of Kingdom-minded, not Nationalistic, Christians who will have their focus on God’s kingdom and not on political idolatry.

The Republican party is not now and never has been the answer. I repent for ever thinking it was.

Implied in your post is a heartbreaking truth – so many devoted so much time in service of a political idol while the great commission calling on their life languished,and the witness of the American church suffered greatly. Unpopular opinion, I know.

Vision casting

My Pastor, Steve Bezner, has written a post at For the Church titled The Slippery Slope of Vision Salesmanship (casting vision without feeling icky). He begins with some hard-learned lessons; a list of things not to do. Among the ones that most resonated with me as a layman with a heart for a people group and visions and dreams of my own:

Stop Making Church Growth the Goal: In our church we talk intentionally about expanding the Kingdom of God rather than increasing church attendance. Do I want our church to increase in size? Of course. But Kingdom work may often mean valuable ministry in the city that will help other churches or even lead people away from your church to help other churches. The gospel has always had people leaving churches to follow the Lord’s call. Release them.

Stop Making Church Growth Your Identity: Jesus said, “I will grow my church.” Your name is not in that verse. Your job is to be faithful. Yes, be intelligent. Yes, employ skill. But when things do not go the the way you anticipated—and, yes, that will happen—you are to hold fast to the finished work of Jesus, not attendance numbers. I was once addicted to church attendance. Don’t be. It is not good. Trust me.

He then goes on to explain the things that make up a good vision strategy. Read the whole thing, it’s good!

We need old college ministers

So why am I – a 39 year old, bald, father of 5 – still trudging out on campus mixing it up with 18 year olds?

Because college students are the most strategic mission field in the world.

From We need old college ministers by Tim Casteel.

Being a lot older than 39, there’s a danger that I’m biased. But in my experience with students over the decades, I’ve noticed that some of the absolute best mentors and disciplers – often times absolutely beloved by the students – were/are people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

In fact, one of the most dynamic and effective disciplers of high school girls that I know is turning 70 next year.

Age is not a limiter. Passion and commitment are. We need all ages pouring into students.

Also: “college students are the most strategic mission field in the world.” Yes x 1,000,000.

Thoughts on a new season

My friend Riley recounts what he’s learned at our church over the years. His dad, who has been the music minister at our church for a long time, is moving on to work for World Hope. This is one of those *good* resignations, because it’s God moving someone on, not a break in fellowship. They will still be church members, at least for awhile.

I love the Sheehans. God speed you guys!

I’ll make just a quick hitlist of just some hard lessons I learned through 16 years of worshipping, fellowshipping and working at Houston Northwest:
  1. If you base your vision for a church on a man or a program, and invest all that you are into it, you will ultimately be let down. Base your vision on God, and be faithful to Him. He might use a man or a program, but he certainly is not either of those.
  2. If you work hard for others and not unto the Lord, you’ll be left dissatisfied. People are people. God is God. Approval from man tastes sweet on the tongue, but doesn’t fulfill the appetite. Slaving away for man’s approval will leave you worn out, tired, wasted, and useless. Instead entrust your work to the Lord.
  3. If you don’t have patience and love in all you do, you will harbor bitterness and become ineffective in your ministry. Bitterness leads nowhere but to sin. Carry yourself in love, grace, and kindness. Most of the times the finger you point at others should also point back to yourself. And when that realization is made, then the Cross and the Gospel’s universal truth seem much more poignant.
  4. Before you say or do anything, and as you say/do it, and after… think of and enjoy the Gospel. If we don’t fight sin and build ministries on the Gospel, they’ll crumble. If we don’t build words on Gospel truth, they’ll fail. If we don’t encourage other people in the Gospel, but with other means, they won’t be refreshed.

. . .

So here’s to you HNW, and all you have meant to me. May you continue to grow and flourish in a love for the Gospel, God, the world, and each other. I love you with all my heart.

In Christ

-Riley

Great wisdom. The above is just a few excerpts. Read the whole thing if you can.

Preparing

Today I’ll finish preparing to teach a Bible study tomorrow, one that I don’t deserve to teach.

I almost always feel that way. My words and actions of the past week come back to me (and this isn’t false piety – I was a self-indulgent jerk this week at times).

But teach I shall, and I pray God speaks, in spite of me.

On a more positive note . . .

What a great day in the College and Young Singles class! We had more singles there than I can remember in a long, long time. The worship by Molly and Zach was very good, and Charles did a tremendous job finishing up his two-part teaching on stewardship, ending with our stewardship of the Gospel.

It was a really good morning. Very encouraging. We also announced the starting up of HomeGroups in early February.

It was a good end to a pretty challenging and tiring weekend. I think I’ll cap it off with some time spent organizing the attic (that’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of fun, right?) :-)

And, after that, time to get ready for a challenging and tiring week. There are lots of big doings at work and I’m in the middle of some of them. Whew.

Oh, I almost forgot. Congratulations Colts!

Why are we losing the kids?

Jack Hammer asks “Why are we losing the kids?”

The whole post is good, and his many reasons are all spot-on, I believe. Some hit me a bit too close to me as a parent, actually.

But this one really jumped out at me. It applies to all, not just young people:

11. Many young people have heard very little of the “fear of God.” They have a warped image of God that magnifies his love and mercy while almost completely ignoring his holiness, majesty, and wrath. Subsequently, they walk in pride and rebellion.

This attitude manifests itself in irreverence, but that’s just a symptom of a deeper symptom.

So many of us don’t fear God. And yet that fear is so vital, so good, such a doorway to wisdom, to obedience, and to a real relationship with the Lord.

Good reminder for me . . .

[H/T Milton]

Overheard in church today

Our pastor, when discussing the impulse to communicate with people over email and texts.

“The New Testament calls us to be incarnational.”

His point wasn’t that email or texts (or blogs for that matter) are wrong. It’s just that we need to take every effort to be with people in person, to “get our hands dirty”, to know people intimately, in person.