Pastoral Care

It’s All About His Presence

“It is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in their personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into him, that they may delight in his presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer
Chicago Illinois
June 16, 1948
From the Preface of: The Pursuit of God

What do you think the application is?

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You Are One of “Those” People.

Success is not a matter of Luck.

Are you ready to make a positive choice what you want? Are you finished with hoping and relying on luck? Let me know what you’re going to do.

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Gary’s Rules

Several years ago we started watching NCIS. It used to be a great show about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service before it got political. The characters are great and the story’s were great. I really liked all the characters but I loved Gibbs.

Gibbs is the leader of the team and is a seemingly heartless pragmatist. Until you get to know him. You find out quickly that he has a huge heart and lots of baggage. But is very good at his job and a great leader. Someone I would like to emulate in some ways, in others not so much. One of the mainstay of the show is Gibbs rules. He doesn’t write them down. He feels it’s his job to teach the rules and he expects everyone on the team to know them.

I started thinking. “what are my rules?” so I started a list and here they are, 30 of Gary’s rules:

  1. Always default to relationship
  2. Always assume the best in people
  3. Don’t make arbitrary rules
  4. Always give your people a “why”; or they will come up with their own and they will be wrong
  5. Always give honor and respect; not always obedience
  6. Never judge motives, only fruit
  7. What you allow you promote
  8. What you reward you get more of
  9. Unity trumps disunity
  10. Continually cast vision
  11. Email is the lowest form of communication; texts are the next lowest
  12. Vision that creates opportunity for others; will never lack the involvement of others
  13. Sometimes your’re wrong; when you’re wrong apologize, it’s a sign of strength.
  14. Direction comes before correction
  15. Always over communicate
  16. Don’t give too much attention to your biggest fans or your biggest critics
  17. If you’re going to get into trouble anyway; get into trouble doing the right thing.
  18. Be predictable; your team should always know how you will react
  19. Training too close to the decision making process looks like lobbying.
  20. Ignore the squeaky wheel
  21. Ignore your weaknesses; hire or delegate to your weakness
  22. The best time to remove a team member is before they’re on the team.
  23. Always reward faithfulness over giftedness.
  24. Never confuse familiarity with understanding
  25. Focus on building big people not big organizations
  26. Nothing grows without conflict
  27. Consensus is the end of leadership
  28. Be very careful when playing the “God” card
  29. Take responsibility not blame
  30. Always give credit, take blame

These are not all original. I’ve stolen most of them and have forgotten mostly where they came from so if you know the origin feel free to give credit in the comments.

I plan to do a series of blog posts expounding on these rules someday. Stay tuned.

What do you think?
What would you add?

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Do We Need Something New?

Back to Basics

I attended a state college in Nebraska as a brand new believer where the campus ministry was all about discipleship. Their hearts cry was II Timothy 2:2:

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 
II Timothy 2:2 NLT

Very simple but not easy. One of the leaders carried around a copy of The Master Plan of Evangelism in his back pocket and if you invited him to dinner you better set at least two other places because he was bringing “trustworthy”, or what he called “FAT” people (Faithful, Available, Teachable), with him. What he was doing was simple. He was simply sharing life with faithful men. But not easy, they were with him all the time.

If you have followed this space you know I love technology and I love systems. However my rule #1 is “always default to relationship”. People are the point of everything we do. Consider what Paul thought would be his final conversation with the elders at Ephesus.

So guard yourselves and God’s people, Feed and shepherd God’s flock-his church, purchased with his own blood-over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. 
Acts 20:28 NLT, emphasis mine

When we get a revelation of this it changes everything we do. Jesus bought His people with “His Own Blood” and then appointed us as stewards of His greatest treasure. Don’t get caught up in the word “Elder”. If you are a leader in the church, or in any organization, you have been “appointed by the Holy Spirit” (see Romans 13 if you’re not sure about that) to “shepherd” them.

We are always looking for a new idea, a new tool, a new system, a new book, a new revelation. Not saying that’s a bad thing we should use every tool at our disposal to complete the call God has put on our lives. However:

Hans Ur von Balthasar wrote in his book Prayer:

we think that God’s Word has been heard on earth for so long that by now it is almost used up, that it is about time for some new word, as if we had the right to demand one.

James Clear wrote today in “Do More of What Works Already“.

There are many examples of behaviors, big and small, that have the opportunity to drive progress in our lives if we just did them with more consistency. Flossing every day. Never missing workouts. Performing fundamental business tasks each day, not just when you have time. Apologizing more often. Writing Thank You notes each week. Of course, these answers are boring. Mastering the fundamentals isn’t sexy, but it works.

We definitely need revival in the church but in my humble opinion we will bring revival by returning to the fundamental things of the faith ourselves and bringing as many people along with us as will go.

Do something simple today. Spend 20 minutes in the gospel of John, call an old friend and thank them for what they have contributed to your life, invite your neighbor to Church this Easter Sunday. Simple kindness is a game changer.

Life naturally becomes more and more complicated and we must fight to keep things simple. Make a decision today to be a people focused leader. With the empowering of the Holy Spirit look for the gifting in those entrusted to you, call it out, equip it, and release it. That is how we will change the world.

Let me know how it goes.

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The Sheep Are Not The Problem

Before I get into the purpose of this post I need to clarify a few things.

First of all life for me the past year has been very busy. Learning a new job that requires all of me for at least 45 hours a week leaves me with no bandwidth at all to maintain this site or any of my social media the way I would like so I have been posting articles written by others that I think are interesting. Also I’m sorry for not responding to every comment I wish I could.

The primary purpose of these posts are to start a conversation.

Recently I posted an article entitled “Who Will Lead Through The Church Disaster” by Randy Bohlender. Over the weekend I posted “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship” and “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore“. I’ve also got coming up in my buffer app “Why Men Have Stopped Singing In Church

This morning I was looking through my Facebook news feed and a friend posted something to the effect of “Stop posting negative things about the way we worship”. I’m not assuming he is responding to me specifically because there does seem to be a lot of articles about what is wrong with worship.  Today I got comments on “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore” and while looking through my news feed for something else I found “What Is The Real Problem With Todays Evangelical Worship

Looks like I’ve stumbled into a conversation.

Here are my thoughts.

Since 1982 I’ve been in this arena. Reading and searching for wisdom from all kinds of people. When I first started there was very little being written on contemporary worship. Now everywhere I look someone has an opinion on it. Some good; much of it not so good. I’m also a part of several online worship communities from communities like Worship The Rock to groups within LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Frankly I’m saddened by the bulk of the questions and answers being posted.

One post asked the question “What do I do with people who complain the songs are too high when they don’t know how to sing?”. Others are talking about “At what point do I have enough musicians on my team?”, or “Our worship team is full how do I tell people no”. I even saw a post by someone who I highly respect. A staff worship pastor, songwriter, teacher, and mentor say. “As I get older I want to be purposeful about raising up the next generation”. I’ve commented on this here so I won’t go over it again. These are just a few of the many threads that break my heart.

Every problem is a leadership problem.

I’m not saying every problem is caused by leadership but I am saying if your people are distracted, not passionate, or don’t understand what you’re doing its your job to lead them and lead them with a pastor’s heart.

I found “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost Its Way” on a Methodist website that is spot on.

Here is the money quote:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

I hope this is not your problem. I hope you understand your role as a prophet, pastor, teacher, and theologian when you stand in front of your congregation. If not get this book.

May I also suggest a few practical solutions.

  1. Have the correct EQ.
  2. Have the correct volume. Sometimes its necessary for people to not hear themselves other times its necessary that they do. It depends on the size of the group.
  3. Have songs in the correct keys. If you’re doing everything in the keys of B and C I wonder if your leading worship.
  4. Leave the lights up so we can see people’s faces and lead them in worship.
  5. Keep your eyes open and connect with people.
  6. Pick songs that are congregational. If every song in your set list is from KLOVE or have octave jumps in them I wonder if your leading worship.

 

Bottom line, stop blaming the congregation for not worshiping. It’s up to us to lead them and teach them. Bring them lovingly into the presence of God. Meet them where they are and take them someplace.

Maybe the reason there are so many articles about what’s wrong with worship is because something is wrong with worship. 10 years ago there was lots of criticism of contemporary worship that was based on style not substance but when the congregation stops participating its time for us to start asking why.

Let the conversation continue.

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Worship Culture

This weekend I had the privilege of attending Peak Life Churches “Worship Culture Weekend”.

It was a weekend meant to define what the worship culture at Peak Life Church would be.

Culture is defined this way:

To till, to plow, to guard. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another; a set of traits that have been plowed into a groups way of life.

What culture are you plowing?

If you don’t define it and guard it. Your culture will become something you probably don’t want.

It is essential that you cast vision at every meeting and every practice. You must establish a foundation and then continually build and repair as you grow. Those who were there in the beginning will forget and new people will not pick it up by osmosis.

Culture must be plowed and guarded.

Let’s partner together to lay a solid foundation you can build on. Worship team retreats are a great way to get everyone on the same page.

Contact me here to talk about the possibilities for your team. You can preview some of the teaching here.

I look forward to helping you build what God has entrusted to you in your context.

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Faithfulness or Giftedness

There is an old adage that says “That which you allow you promote”. It’s very true.

Church people will be 10 minutes late no matter what. If you start at 10:00 people will begin to walk in at 10:10. If you start at 10:30 people will begin to walk in at 10:40. If you wait until 10:10 to get started it won’t be long until people start to walk in at 10:20.

If we don’t talk to one person about inappropriate clothing very soon others will begin to think the inappropriate clothing is ok, its accepted.

The same is true when it comes to promoting people into positions of leadership. Whatever character qualities we promote will be the type of people we attract. We spend lots of time trying to make everyone a leader, which I think is a terrible waste of time and resources, instead of giving those entrusted to us opportunities to die and to serve. It is only in the context of serving together that we can discern the gifting in those entrusted to us and who is called to set vision, direction, and pace.

Justin Holcomb writes in The Resurgence Blog:

Scripture focuses more on character than it does on methods, more on faithfulness than it does on fruitfulness, and more on making disciples of Christ than it does on developing leaders. The Bible is not the least bit shy about pointing out the failures of even the best leaders.

When we promote giftedness over faithfulness we will get giftedness over faithfulness and all the problems that go along with that. We must always only promote faithfulness, character, and equipping over everything else. Everything we do communicates something make sure you are communicating the right things.

We so often think type A strong personality people are natural leaders. It’s not true. Jesus modeled what true servant leadership looks like. It looks like laying down your life.

What are your thoughts?

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Always Assume The Best Of People

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Where Are You In The Process?

I have been asking God to give me a glimpse of where I am and where He is taking me, and yesterday He showed me something amazing. It may not be just for me so I wanted to share it. I pray it will be helpful to you.

In Ezekial 36 from verse 16 to 20 we hear about the nation of Israel acting badly. I don’t want to draw any conclusions as they apply to me or to us.  I merely want to make the observation that Israel was not repenting or crying out to God. They were behaving badly.

God says in verse 22 when people see you they know you are my people and because I have concern for my holy name I will do this:

  1. I will take you from the nations and bring you into your own land.
  2. I will sprinkle you with clean water and cleanse you from your filthiness.
  3. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit.
  4. I will cause you to walk in My statutes and keep my judgments.

Then:

  1. You will dwell in the land you will be my people and I will be your God
  2. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness
  3. I will call for the grain and multiply it and bring no famine on you.
  4. I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.

There are several observations and applications I could make but I just want to make four:

  1. The nation of Israel was not being good, spiritual, repentant, or anything else worthy of God’s favor. He did it merely because they were His people and He wanted the nations all around them to know “that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate” vs 36
  2. Everything happened because God did it. Israel did nothing. (don’t take this too far)
  3. When you read; commandment, covenant, statutes, judgments etc. insert faith. We are under the new covenant. (again, don’t take this too far. keep it simple)
  4. Once He has done these things and caused us to live by faith. Then we will inherit the land and be blessed.

In order for this to be a theological piece it would have taken many more words than this and I’ve already abused the boundaries of a blog post. So please take some time to read Ezekial 36 and consider where you are in the process and thank God for the coming multiplication of grain and fruit. Then thank Him for His mercy, His long-suffering, His loving-kindness, and His grace. Submit to the process, He is good.

Selah.

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The Friends of Job

What immediately springs to mind when you hear, “the friends of Job”?

It’s not positive is it?

We think of the misdiagnosis of Jobs problem and the subsequent bad advice. However it started out in a way we can learn from.

In Chapter 2 verse 11 it says they made an appointment together to “come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”

In trying to be a friend I know that I have not always been as helpful as the friends of Job.

In Verse 13 “they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him.”

It was Job who finally spoke. I wonder how long the friends would have sat in silence. How long would I?

Several years ago a good friend of mine lost a child very unexpectedly  I didn’t want to call. I had no idea what to say. I had never been through anything like this but as a pastor I felt I had to say something. So I said…

“There are no words, if there were, I would say them.” And then we wept together.

Being a friend doesn’t always mean knowing what to say. It often means we mourn with those who mourn and we rejoice with those who rejoice. It means making an appointment with other friends or just making a decision to go, sit on the ground, and weep.

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