Thoughts on Ducks and A&E

People need to seriously relax. The Duck Dynasty thing on all fronts is absurd. I’ve seen & heard few reasoned responses to this. Here are the key thoughts:

1) The comments that are creating the storm are woefully taken out of context. People are zeroing in on one part and ignoring the rest. Given who Phil is, his response to the question is consistent. That people are shocked is what is shocking. This can’t be stated enough: Phil consider’s himself a deviant because of his lifestyle prior to meeting Jesus. A&E’s response to this just polarizes the issue father. Expecting someone to be what they’re not is crazy. This whole thing shouldn’t be a crisis at all.

2) There hasn’t been a reasoned and/or civil discussion on the LGBT issue. Many states had the issue forced upon them by a court overturning a democratic vote. This is highly problematic and creates polarization rather than a calm and civil response. The LGBT could learn much from MLK, Ghandi and Jesus. Christians and other opponents playing on rigorous defense could also do the same. In polarization there is little listening and no peacemaking. How the story with Chickfil-A ended is a model BOTH sides need to move towards.

3) Ad hominem attacks are in poor taste. automatically labeling those who disagree with LGBT as anti-gay, homophobic, haters and/or ignorant doesn’t help their cause. Calling someone a hater when they’re not will destroy your credibility in the long run. You may vehemently disagree with another’s position, but doing what you can to silence and denigrate them will also lose you credibility in the long run. This also holds true for Christians who label LGBT community as anti-God with a one way ticket to hell. Bible makes clear all have sinned, it’s a matter of what sin, not if.

4)  The need for biblical clarity is huge, especially in peacemaking. The Bible describes all sex acts outside of a heterosexual marriage as sin. There are some who try gimmicks to work around that, but the Bible is clear on the matter. The biggest frustration I see in this crisis is many professing Christians who are really clueless on handling the Bible and communicate it in ways that unbiblical.

5) I can’t say this enough: boycotts are really lame. Be a peacemaker, stop adding to the conflict. Also, intolerance doesn’t solve intolerance. Hate doesn’t solve hate.

6) Stop shouting and start listening. GLAAD’s response to the situation and the response to those supporting Phil are both part of the problem. Could Phil’s answer be more gracious? Yes. Could GLAAD’s response been more gracious? Yes. Could people’s response today be more gracious? Yes.

7) The first amendment is an issue. I’ve heard a few times that “It’s ok for him to hold and discuss such views in private but it has no place in the public square.” That sentiment is expressly against the first amendment. I disagree with gay-marriage, but I’d fight tooth and nail for their right to discuss their belief in the public square. The reverse should also be true.

Let both sides of this issue take the harder road of listening and peacemaking. It’s easy to shout at one another. But, in the end we all lose. Let’s call this for what it is, as a society we all dropped the ball and could do better. Rather than fire Phil, have him sit down with those in the LGBT community and listen to each other and both learn from each other. We may disagree strongly, but we can still love, serve and live together as one community.

Finding a new church family

IMG_1394I’m asked often by friends and family advice on finding a new church family. This post is much longer than normal, and general advice on the issue, not specific to any one person. I say finding a church family because I despise the term church shopping.  You’re a brother or sister in Christ, not a consumer. Church is family (Ephesians 1). I’m assuming you’re praying over every step. Pray. Pray. Pray! Ok, here we go:

Step 1: Leave justly!
If you’re relocating or if the church is sending you to another ministry, you’ve left justly. Sin is where things get messy. Matters of conscience even more so. It is ESSENTIAL to deal with matters. Leaving quietly to not create a mess robs you & the church of grace. If you are avoiding conflict or are being explosive, repent and work towards reconciliation! If you’re leaving on a good note, you should still connect with the church so people understand why and grow. Be a grace multiplier not a grace robber.

I am not saying it is wrong to ever leave a church family. I am implying that in North America we trend towards consumerism or conflict avoidance too often. Don’t be a tool of satan or live the sinful attitude of church consumerism. To be clear: Make sure you leave justly. Let’s try to avoid awkward when we’re in heaven moments.

Step 2: Take a good look in the mirror!
You are a saint because Jesus paid for your sins. Until you see Jesus face to face you’ll struggle with sin. Second, you are a unique part of the body of Christ. Your struggles and your gifting (often two sides of the same coin) are part of church growth. Before seeking a new family, take time to look in the mirror. How are you doing spiritually? What lessons have you learned from you earlier church ministry? Is there a new passion or calling God is giving you? Are you pursuing God or yourself?

Searching for a new church family will put you in a critical spirit. You will notice lots of things you do not like or worse you’ll overlook things because your consumerism tendencies kick in. (A big sign of that is compromising your theology for preferences.) Look in the mirror and make sure you’re very well aware of the log that is in your own eye. Church is family, meaning your job is to love and support the family. Church is not about you, but do not neglect how God wired you. God may be calling you to a particular church because it lacks what you have to offer, worts and all.

Step 3: Theology then method then people
Sound biblical teaching & theology is essential. If they’re not teaching the Bible, RUN! There is a difference between teaching from the Bible and teaching the Bible. If the church doesn’t hold to sound theology it will not be good in the long run. We act based on what we believe. Key question: How big of a deal is Jesus & the Bible to the church?

Next comes method. If method comes first, repent of ‘methodolatry.’ For example, if you’ll only look at churches with certain music or a certain program like AWANA, chances are good you’re committing to methodolatry. Don’t overlook something because it lacks a method or has a method you’re uncomfortable with. Don’t write off methods either. Use discernment, ask questions. Methodology matters. Sometimes a method that is important to you, but lacking to a church may be a result of no one to lead or support it.

People are essential. Are the people messy or are they white washed tombs? A church can be totally modern, cool, with great music, etc and be a dark, legalistic, dead church. Energy, coolness & size are often inaccurate church health indicators. (For an extreme example of why, just think of the under ground church.) You’re not the savior, but you are family. Can you say I’m here to love, support and serve these people? Solid theology and method is about supporting people in the mission of the Gospel. Healthy churches are quirky and messy regardless of size. Key question: Is the church a happy dysfunctional family?

Step 4: Examine the church
Here are three things to look out for after Step 3: Character over charisma, service over sensationalism, and people over programs. Our culture is driven by consumerism, which means you and I struggle with this too. You’ll need to attend the church for over a month to get some sense of this.

Character: Is the church more interested in who people are or what they do? This is the issue of being over doing. Look for a church that is concerned with who looks at you in the mirror each morning. Key thing to look for: Churches will make mistakes, do they own up to it?

Service: Is the church quick to love and support its church family first and then the community? It’s hard to serve the community if you’re not caring for one another. Both are essential to the mission of the Gospel. A church that isn’t outward focuses isn’t healthy. A church that focuses outwardly but neglects inward care is unstable.

People: Does the church focus on building people up or one what they can get out of people? Does the leadership seek your help in reaching the pastor’s vision, or do they help people pursue God’s calling? Is the church a business or is it family?

Step 5: Making the choice
This will be awkward because it is different. There is no perfect church because church is messy. It may not have what you want because God needs you there to make it happen. It may not be the size church you like or are comfortable with. There will be things you like and things you don’t. At this step the question is: Can you call these people family? If not, why not?

If you’ve been deeply hurt by your earlier church, a key question to work through: Can I heal here? You cannot avoid the healing process. Healing isn’t always about feeling good again, it can be a painful process. Be upfront with church leadership about the need to heal. They’ll give you sound counsel, and may even recommend a church that may be more helpful.

Timeframe:
Finding a church family takes time. It’ll likely take 6 months to a year. Don’t rush the process. When you’re on Step 4 with a church, don’t work on creating a list of churches and then move to Step 5. If Step 4 checks out and Step 5 checks out, welcome home. For military families or others that move often, you’ll naturally pick up this process on a faster pace.

Children:
Don’t look for a church that has something for your children. Reverse the question. Look for a church where your children can be a part. Church isn’t about you and it’s not about your kids either. Activity doesn’t mean discipleship. A small church can be just as vibrant as a large one for discipling your children. Don’t fear large churches. Kids can be dynamically discipled in large churches too. We often hide our consumerism in the name of our children.

Discuss it as a family. Train your children to be mission minded. ‘Did you like’ is a bad question. What children need they often dislike. don’t ignore their input about dislikes, be cautious on how you respond to it. Children can be spiritual champions, we as adults often hold them back. Ask them if there are ways they can support and serve the church. Teach your children through this process that church isn’t about them. When you find your new family, remind your children that you’re there to love and support the people of the church.

What process do you use? What would you add to this?

People don’t have enough cheerleaders…

DSC_0527People don’t have enough cheerleaders, but they have plenty of critics. I’ve found the difference is really a choice a person makes. We can choose act as a cheerleader or we can choose act as a critic. In our hyper-critical church world, the choice is often to be a critic.

Biblical love is HARD!
Practicing 1 Corinthians 13 love, or Philippians 4:8-9 is HARD! How hard is it to trust and believe all things? Just by saying that the ‘Yeah, but’ crowd starts bubbling up about discernment or sin. Truth does not trump love nor love truth. How can I assume the best knowing that many are [insert the worst possible stereotype you can think of here]? Because that is what the Bible instructs me to do. After all, love is the more excellent way. Excellence is hard, messy and an intentional choice.

Act don’t react
Cheerleading is an intentional act, criticism is a reaction. Cheerleaders promote what they are FOR. Critics promote what they are AGAINST. Cheerleaders see what’s wrong, but push for what’s best. Critics see what is wrong, and push what is wrong. Cheerleaders praise in public and criticize in private. Critics criticize in public and (maybe) praise in private, hedged with said criticism. Cheerleading is hard because there are things seen that are frustrating. Criticism is easy because it is easier to destroy instead of build up. Cheerleaders trust God. Critics play God. What are you FOR?

Yeah, but the truth must be stated, right?
Promoting what you are for is stating truth. The statement “telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do” often puts truth above love. Think of it this way: out of the heart the mouth speaks. If I speak truth critically instead of lovingly, there is a theological error in my heart. We act based on what we believe. The ‘Yeah, but’ Crowd often speaks truth out of theological error.

God is God and we’re not
Paul didn’t mind his critics judging him or his motives. Why? Because God does. In fact, Paul didn’t even bother to judge himself for the same reason. Paul didn’t mind preachers making a name for themselves. Why? Because the Gospel was still being proclaimed. Paul didn’t go nuclear on false teaching in the Ephesian church. WHAT!? Paul sent Timothy to to instruct false teachers and bring them inline with the Bible. Cheerleading is a patient, long-suffering work that “GOD may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…”

The bottom line:
I choose to be a cheerleader rather than a critic. Praise in public, criticize in in private. Cheerleading is about building up. It is not being naive about faults. Cheerleading is recognizing the value of one’s strengths that we can learn from. The Holy Spirit is really good at his job. He will accomplish his task of making people Christlike. Keep what you are for as the main thing. Promoting such naturally and patiently deals with the things you are critical of.

Reflections on R13 conference

IMG_2359My reason for attending was to gain insight into the direction of culture & the church. The information and input were critical to setting up LFC’s direction. At the end of the day, the most important question at a ministry conference is who did God design your church to be. (Yes, in know it’s Jesus’ church.) I’ve heard and seen many churches get shipwrecked by returning pastors. Prior to the conference, friends reminded me of that fact and that the vision God gives me is important but as a pastor my job is to draw our the vision God gives the church.

Stop hedging
“Just say you like someone. I like Mark Driscoll. Nobody agrees with everything about a person. I don’t even agree with myself sometimes.” ~ Rick Warren
This jumped out at me for several reasons. 1) I’m often asked why I like XYZ, followed by all the reasons I should like XYZ. 2) I was anti-Driscoll for a while and then grew to tolerate him. Seeing how other leaders affected him and sharpened(softened ironically) his ministry I figured I should not hedge. I like Mark too. 3) I’ve frequently heard Rick Warren criticized, especially by followers of John MacArthur. Rick Warren is the first guy I’ve seen get down on his knees and pray for pastors out of all the conferences I’ve been too. I like Rick too!

Serving Jesus hurts
“When, not if… When, not if… WHEN, not if… I said, when, not if you are betrayed…” ~Crawford Loritts
The speakers talked about the wounds of ministry. The larger your influence the more criticism you will take. Betrayal is part of the ministry package. The danger in hurt is acting out of hurt. We must serve out of the Gospel in the Spirit’s power. The temptation to act out of hurt is great and doing such will not produce good fruit. Pain is part of the sanctifying work God is doing through us. Ministry is about being and becoming who God designed you to be.

Vision isn’t about you

“If you think your vision is about you and it’s your vision, then you will hurt people and fail in the vision.” ~Crawford Lorries

Each speaker warned about our identity being in our vision or in the church. What matters more than our vision is our character, who we are when no one is looking. While the push was to grasp a God-given vision, it is our growth in Christ that matters more. If our identity is in our vision and our ministry we won’t let things go and give things away – requirements of a pastor. We are given a message to pass on. (I like Crawford too!)

John MacArthur disappoints
There was no anger or bitterness at John. Many highly view him as a man of God and appreciate his passion to teach the Word. The feeling of John not showing up felt like a let down to people. All the talk about it being a stunt or a trap for John was not true. The X3Watch booth with the cardboard cut out of John and Mark was classic. We laughed at ourselves too. After all, the host speaker called us all stupid. That said, John was respected and he disappointed.

Wake up church!
“Stop practicing repentance leads to hypocrisy, stop preaching repentance leads to heresy.” ~Mark Driscoll
The church needs to actively and intentionally change gears and get back on message. A major paradigm shift in culture has come and gone. The last session unveiled a massive research project on the unchurched or de-churched. Key to this is that the meaning of tolerance has changed. The new definition of tolerance is highly intolerant of Christianity. I’m reserving judgement on “riot evangelism,” but I do believe that love & courage can go together.

The bottom line:
The conference and divine appointments at the conference were well worth the investment. I learned a ton, met with God, and enjoyed the Seattle coffee I missed so much. For sure, I miss judged Mark Driscoll in a few ways. I think the church can learn a lot from him and Mars Hill just as they try to learn lots from others. Perhaps the message of humility is good for all churches to hear.

Book Review: A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

resurgence“You didn’t think you were here just to kill time listening to Christian music until Jesus returned or you died, did you? Get to work.” P. 246

“A Call to Resurgence: will Christianity have a funeral or a future?” can be summed up in a simple sentence: Jesus’ church needs to aggressively refocus her attention and energy on the mission of making disciples of Jesus. Pastor Mark nails down the issues the church is facing in the culture of the United States. Regardless of your view of Pastor Mark, this book is a critical read for church leaders. It is a wake up call.

Things have changed
Over the last few years I noticed that culture shifted greatly. The light went on when speaking at a boys camp. When the least intellectual Christian sports jock asks a deeply apologetical question with antagonism towards Christianity- a paradigm shift has come and gone. Mark declares accurately that Christendom is dead in America. Culture will no longer carry Christians’ water and will instead be antagonistic towards it. If this thought is new to you, chapters 1 & 2 will be very helpful in describing the fall of Christendom.

Call it for what it is
Pastor Mark pulls no punches. (He often mentions or alludes to stories where this tendency may have caused some turmoil.) The interplay of humor, truth, humility and a call to focus on Jesus is interesting. He makes his point clear. Throughout the book is a clear message to pastors: It’s time to show courage in our calling.

Loving is a must, character is core, but Jesus is central!
Demonstrating biblical love is critical. I appreciate the issue of community and helping people the book brings out. Also running throughout the book is the issue of character, particularly in men. It is foundational to ministry, but is only accomplished through Spirit-empowerment. (Yes, there really is a 3rd member of the trinity!) All of that is to make Jesus known. We must proclaim a risen savior, Jesus. None of our acts of love or our character maters if we’re not sharing the Gospel.

Tribes & the Holy Ghost
Pastor Mark is not calling for weakened theology, but he is calling for us to speak with each other. Given the rising antagonism that the church is now and will continue to face we simply don’t have time to attack one another. There are issues where we disagree and conversations that should be had, but they shouldn’t distract us from our primary mission. That said, Mark accurately states that the Holy Spirit is a major issue that tribes need to work through. This may sound strange to some, but we must not put out the Spirit’s fire.

The bottom line:
A paradigm shift has come and gone for our country and Jesus’ church needs to quickly sharpen her focus without watering down or editing her message. There is no longer a dominate Christian view like “evangelicalism” anymore, but instead various “tribes” that must get back on mission. I appreciate Pastor Mark’s work and his communication on a much-needed message.

Act don’t react: Odd Rapid Chemical Reactions

DSC_0336Act don’t react is a core proverb I follow. In studying history, particularly church history, I found people tend to react more than act. This often causes an unbalance or defining yourself as what you’re not vs what you are. Acting means to operate and explain who you are. Given my feeds lighting up with the “Strange Fire” conference, here are my thoughts to illustrate the proverb:

People don’t respond well do a direct assault.
Carefronting is done best from the side door because it focuses on relationships. Rather than set up a conference as a reaction to something, set it up to promote who you are. As such you teach truth and through that you can also rightly critique in error movements. Direct assaults, particularly in today’s culture, can inhibit your point.

Love really does matter!
Can the what about truth, what about sin garbage! If those were your first two thoughts, serious time needs to be spent in 1 Corinthians 13. Love does not equal being wishy-washy. What love focuses on is making a difference, not a point. The cross wasn’t pleasant, easy, or wishy-washy, but it was love. People who often here love and then think “what about truth, what about sin” often want to make a point and not a difference.

Rhetoric matters.
Paul instructs Timothy to guard his doctrine AND his speech. Speaking truth wrongly is sin just as teaching false doctrine is sin. Jesus made a joke about this scenario, something about removing a log from our own eye. We ACT based on what we BELIEVE. Bad rhetoric stems from a bad belief system. Further, bad rhetoric inhibits your goal. Stating “well, I’m standing for the truth” is no excuse. Rhetoric should first promote who you are.

It’s messy!
Ministry is messy! Acting vs reacting is grueling, hard, and takes time. It is not clean cut, often doesn’t get you accolades, but it is what the Spirit teaches us. I’ll let Paul speak to this:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

God has a plan, and we’re not God.
The story of Joseph makes this point well in Genesis 37-50. God’s plan will not be thwarted, even by our own mistakes! We’re not God, and while we’re called to guard our doctrine and speak truth, we should ACT on that vs react to other movements. Gently guiding and teaching people about is avoids the egg-shell walk. It also demonstrates class. Finally, it demonstrates humility by letting God be God. After all, God is the one who brings people to repentance.
The bottom line:
Act, don’t react!

Social Media, Politics & The Gospel

IMG_1746Speaking the truth in love is a conversation, it isn’t a statement. To separate social media, politics and the Gospel is counter productive. Life isn’t a group of separate boxes. Life is a unified whole where one area does affect another. As Christians we often use the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love,’ but we often fail to realize that is a conversation, not just making an uncomfortable statement for the benefit of another.

The social media dance
There are three groups in relation to social media, politics and the Gospel. 1)The why can’t we get along group. 2)The politics (left, right or libertarian) over the Gospel group. 3)The drop politics and only focus on the Gospel group. The dance is about trying to figure out the right balance or being naive about things beyond our focus. The danger is we see the three things as separate things.

Social Media
The first group is most vocal when there is an online ‘war.’ They’re the ones who say the online war turns people off from the church, social media isn’t the place for the discussion, etc. The problem is this group often says the same thing in private conversations too. Avoidance of conflict does not bring about peace. It sacrifices love and truth.

Politics
We the people in order to form a more perfect union have to talk. Again, speaking the truth in love is a conversation. Avoiding politics because we don’t like it hinders forming a more perfect union. How do we expect to act civil with something we don’t converse about and how are we to hold our leaders accountable if there is no conversation? We can blame our leaders, but they’re a reflection of us. Maybe many avoid politics because it forces us to look in the mirror and think. (Obnoxious political posts not withstanding.) Groups that often put politics over the Gospel forget love.

The Gospel
The Gospel should permeate ALL our life. It’s not just about getting into heaven and listening to Christian music. Truth AND love are essential. As Christians we should be prayerful, respectful and speak truth. Politics should not be about loyalty to a party, but bringing truth to bear. Justice, mercy and humility are three essentials often missing in our political discourse. To avoid politics to keep a focus on the Gospel removes influence towards peace. Love, truth and respect are needed in political discourse. After all, much of what Jesus taught should affect our political viewpoint.

The bottom line:
We need to get back to speaking the truth in love as a conversation. We shouldn’t hide from speaking to the larger issues our society is struggling with because the Bible has answers and speaks to the soul of each person. To the first group, choose courage. To the second group, tone it down and pursue truth over party. To the last group, show how the Gospel sheds light onto the challenging issues of our day.