Tag: serving

Thoughts on Public Schooling

I grew up through public schools. Over the last few months I’ve had the honor to help out a public school district. I’m seeing and sensing a greater antagonism towards public education that is unhelpful. Here is my bottom line: Public schooling is profoundly local, requires parental engagement and is not the enemy. I encourage you to consider these thoughts:

Educators are our neighbors
If you’re stressed from family life, the inner-workings of your job and wanting to make a difference, then you’re like many of our educators. Most educators are concerned with how to help kids learn how to read, write, etc., while also walking through life. They do have a life outside of school in the communities we reside in and the churches we attend. I’ve heard from many public educators that they sometimes feel like second class church members because they teach in a public school. This is a sin churches should repent of! Think of educators as your neighbors.

Parents are wanted
The number one issue I hear from my educator friends is this: There is often a lack of parent engagement. I’ll repeat that for those who may be shocked: Educators have as a primary concern the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education. Many schools are what’s known as Title 1. To be a Title 1 school, the school is required to support parental engagement. Parents and guardians, we’re the ones that need to step up and improve education. By just engaging with our children and partnering with our educator neighbors we can make a difference. Ok, I know we’re all busy, but family comes first. Our kids are worth it.

Apathy is the enemy
Too often people view public education through the lens of national news, especially if one comes form a politically conservative viewpoint. It is easy to attack public education through a national viewpoint because we don’t have to act. Public education is a profoundly local issue. Teachers are very open to parental involvement. They conduct themselves with class and professionalism. Are there things we disagree with? I’m sure if it. The issue is we’re often not willing to engage with our community and make it a better place. Rather than being apathetic, let us be the cheerleaders of great educators.

Trust is the issue
Many fear public education because trust and a sense of community has eroded in our culture. It is hard to trust someone you don’t know. It is hard to effect change through antagonism. We listen close to those we consider friends. We don’t presume to tell our doctors how to do their job, but we wisely partner with them for better heath. The same is true of education. Be patient, take time and be involved. Your community and your public schools will be better for it. Work on building trust, and remember they’re human just like you!

A huge thanks to my sons’ school district!
I’m fortunate that my boys are a part of an excellent school district that puts kids first. I am a better leader and parent because of my interaction with my district’s educators. I’m amazed by their passion, class and professionalism. My community is a much better place because of their efforts!

Because we can…

messy small.001A camper gave me the pout lip and stated clearly for all that I was only doing this because I was getting paid. Upon informing him that I had to actually pay to work at the particular camp and had to work through some inconveniences to be there, he softened. We had a great conversation and week at camp. People are skeptical of good actions.

The beauty of the Gospel.
In the Gospel, we don’t have to good things. (Ducking under my virtual desk for things thrown at me.) We don’t have to earn a relationship with God. We don’t have to do good things so keep God happy with us. We don’t have to do good things because we are obligated to. (By this time some yeah, but seminary types are pulling out the long knives.) The beauty of the Gospel is that God is full satisfied with us because he is fully satisfied in the finish work of Jesus!

Because he could…
Let that sink in for a moment! Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross. God could have easily let the Earth just end in misery and not redemption. The beauty of the Gospel is God acted cause he could. We often coldly say that God’s character required it. This is one of the ways the Gospel is profoundly mysterious because it contains the interplay of perfect justice and perfect love. “Tear down this temple and I’ll rebuild it in three days!”

Because we can!
Why do we serve, because we can! We can serve because we don’t have to worry about what God thinks of us. We can serve because we’re free from the bondage of selfishness. Because of our security in Christ, Jesus enables us to serve. That is the power of the resurrection. As Paul puts it: “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” When our identity and our security is in Christ it profoundly frees us to be a blessing to others.

The bottom line:
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This core doctrine frees us to serve and be there for others.

Prayer Mentoring: Your role in church

Praying through your ministry at a church is an important aspect of prayer. I read this poem my senior year in college and it always stood out in how I pray over my service at a church. Use it in your own prayer life as you fulfill your ministry.

“This is my church…”
It is composed of people just like me.
It will be friendly if I am.
It will do a great work if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am generous.
It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them.
Its seats will be filled if I fill them.
It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service.
If I who make it what it is, am filled with these.
Therefore, with God’s help,
I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things
I want my church to be.

Christianity is not a crutch, it’s a wheelchair

20120606-105500.jpg
Christianity is about God providing what you and I are incapable of providing. A frequent statement on religion is that it’s a crutch. As Christians we forget that without Jesus showing up, a crutch will not be enough. No, Christianity is a wheelchair because apart from Christ we’re broken.

The freedom of being broken
Christianity is about Jesus. Paul says in Ephesians how we were once dead but made alive in Christ. He further states that by nature we were children of wrath. The Bible also uses terms like enemies of God, unworthy, etc. Here is the key: Jesus showed up and did what we could not nor cannot do. Freedom results in being broken because we have no need to worry if we’re good enough or capable enough to earn God’s favor.

Big savior, not stingy one
God did not dispense grace with a teaspoon or an eye dropper. God poured it on. God demonstrated GREAT love, being RICH in mercy, LAVISHING grace upon those in Christ. God did this so you can show His IMMEASURABLE riches of grace in KINDNESS towards us in Jesus. This is not a God who is mad, reluctant or stingy. This is a God who is present, active and very willing.

A family for good
Jesus freed us to bless others. Because we don’t have to worry about being capable of earning Grace, because we don’t have to worry if God is willing enough to care for us, in Jesus you and I have the freedom to focus on serving others. We should serve because that is what God expects to do. Not as a “Jesus project,” but because loving God means loving the things He loves- people. A trophy of God’s grace is a vibrant Christian who serves.

Dirty boys are cool
Moms love it when their boys are clean. Dads love it when their boys are muddy. It’s time the church gets muddy. If we’re a family for good then we need to be willing to get messy. More people need the wheel chair of God’s grace because people cannot save themselves, they need Jesus. We need to love people because God loves people. We need to love people with no expectation of return, because that’s what Jesus did. If we’re willing to serve with no expectation of return that opens the opportunity share about Jesus. Let’s get dirty. There’ll be a time to clean up later.

The Bottom line:
When we realize that Christianity is a wheelchair not a crutch it frees us up to be what God created us to be. In being broken we can love humbly, seeing messy lives as us if it were not for Grace. In seeing a big savior we have full assurance that God is willingly and actively involved in our life. He is our life. In being a family for good we see purpose and intentionality. In getting into the messy things of life we see God gave us a mission.

One more thing…
I’m fine with Christianity being a wheelchair. Resting in God and having Him taking us to where He wants us to go is the most incredible experience of life. God doesn’t push the chair on clean streets. God wants to hit the mud puddles! We can clean up for the supper later.

Book Review: reWritten by Bruce & Heather Moore

“With each life opportunity, God reveals to us more of His story for our lives and the potential for what we can become if we trust Him to author our future.” p. 35

Many of us have wondered, is this really how my life is supposed to be? Maybe your life’s story is marked by poor decisions or the hurtful actions of others. How can you turn things around? Is God still interested in using you? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Rewritten guides you through five life opportunities to exchange your story for God’s story. When you become the person He designed you to be and accomplish the tasks appointed to only you, you will experience the greatest fulfillment you could ever know and bring hope to a broken world.

The authors
Bruce & Heather Moore made the most extreme decision of their lives by leaving a large suburb church to rebirth a dying church with one year to live. They have seen the radical transformation of a church and the stories of countless lives rewritten. Bruce serves as Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship Tampa and they have a very active preschooler.

Layout
reWritten is logical and flows together well as a book. The book is written in three sections: Your Story, God’s Story and The Exchange. The aim of the books is towards those whose lives are a wreck, though anyone will benefit from reading it. The first part had me skeptical at first of the book, until I remembered that ministry is really that messy. The second part is well written. The third part is pure gold. I appreciate discussion and thought questions, ‘story builders,’ were well placed throughout the chapters than merely as an after thought.

Story as metaphor
The Moore’s use the concept of story as a metaphor throughout the book. The over all concept of exchanging our story for God’s story. reWritten reflects this in the layout. The metaphor adds significance to how God uniquely designed each one of us for His good purpose. What stands out from this is how approachable the book is; gracious and dealing with truth.

He said what?!
My heart leaped when I read the table of contents. We too often get locked into the idea that if life is good, then God is blessing. The Moore’s deal with the topics of humility and suffering! Too often these areas are ignored. Of note, the section of forgiveness is well done. It’s important to read the book from beginning to end to get the full scope, but mark the last section up well. It’s an excellent resource for counseling. I appreciate in how the personal stories shared makes God the hero. Some stories end exceptionally, while other end with ‘because this is what God wants of us.’

“With each moment that we suffer, God brings us gifts that change our perspective and allow other people to see His grace in our lives.” p. 139 on suffering

The writing
reWritten is approachable without being inaccurate. It is definitely written from a pastoral heart that cares deeply for people. The book has one of the best rhythms I’ve seen in a long time. The first section had me on edge a little as almost being cliché. When starting to read remember that, yes, ministry is that messy. We forget that too often. The second part is a clear description of God’s image in our lives and the rhythm really picks up there. The pattern of the book is one we should model in ministering to people; moving from where they’re at to where God wants the to be.

The bottom line:
reWritten is an excellent resource to help people to take the mess of their story and to seeing what God wants to do in their life. This is a book that pushes us to live Godly, seeking what He is doing in our circumstances. It builds a big picture of the great God we serve. Well written, the book also addresses topics we often ignore, such as humility and suffering. For those who actively council and minister to people, reWritten is a helpful guide to keep on hand.

A quote on a dynamic church…

A friend sent this quote by Chuck Colson to me. It got me thinking and its something we should ponder:

“I miss traveling abroad.  I always returned home from visiting out partners in Third World nations invigorated, revived, and encouraged.  I would often find more exciting, growing, church vitality in places like Sri Lanka or Papua New Guinea or Peru than in comfortable churches at home.

In many nations, the church is a tiny, embattled minority – and it has no superstars. So when the church wants to evangelize, for example it can’t depend on a celebrity or bring in Billy Graham for a crusade. The people do the work themselves. Which means the church functions as the church, not a bunch of observers watching someone else perform.

When we sit passively in our pews, paying some charismatic leader to entertain us and other staff people to do ministry, we do much more than miss the living dynamic of how Jesus intends His church to work in the world.  When we mimic the culture around us with our pedestal complex, we offend a holy, all powerful  God, the most grievous consequence of all.

Of course we should respect those who are invested with spiritual authority.  That’s biblical.  But there’s a difference between respect and adulation. With the latter, we are always in danger of stepping over the line giving glory to man rather than God.

It’s easy to see how the world’s fascination with fame has snuck into our tents  and sapped our effectiveness. Yet this attitude runs absolutely contrary to that which Christ modeled when He, the King of the universe, came to live among us as a suffering servant.”

P. 334-335  Being the Body by Chuck Colson.

Why not Wednesday? Expanding the mission in hard times…

For success to happen God needs to show up. But the vessels that carry God’s presence is people. In challenging times we can focus on what we lack, or we can embrace constraints by being creative. In being creative you need to get back to basics. The key for expanding the mission is people.

The Y factor
Early on in my ministry I attended “The Leadership Summit” put on by Willow Creek. Bill Hybels discussed what he called “The Y Factor.” You can read about it here. In dealing with a resource crunch, a member on his team wrote X (paid staff) + Y (volunteers) = Z (bearing fruit). Their focus was to double Y.

Y>X= expanding the mission
Expanding on that idea, the Y factor should be exponential. Truthfully, our “volunteers” support the church, serve in it, and more importantly, they’re the missionaries in all parts of our community. The church reaches its missions best when Y (volunteer staff) is greater than X (paid staff). Paid staff is important and vital- think of them as the coaching and support teams. But, paid staff are not the players- that’s the members. The better our members are equipped and mobilized, the greater our ministry impact.

Church is family
Pastor Mark Driscoll describes church as family. Church is extended family. You can hear him describe this here. There are no consumers in church. (At least, there shouldn’t be.) There are two kinds of people: family and guests. One of the marks of being in the Spirit is hospitality. One of the marks of being dialed into God is love. We’re family, and we should be an inviting one.

Free people up to serve
I blogged about a conversation I had with Pastor Pasma, found here. In that conversation he walked me through significant ministries that developed at the church I grew up in- powered by the people. He invested much time in the conversation talking about how to free people up to serve. “Staff to meet essentials… work to free people to serve.” Pastor pointedly stated how the people serving in the church is the truest mark of health and growth.

The Bottom line:
The church is people. The church success rests on people. Church growth is about people. While in hard, difficult or crazy times, the solution is your people. God’s power is evident in three things: Prayer. Bible. People. Loving God gives us a foundation for expanding the mission. Loving people gives us the means to make it happen.

The Gospel first, The Gospel central

What if everything was fine
Imagine no issues between couples, the husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. No children being disobedient, growing in wisdom, stature and favor with men. In laws knew their place and no outlaws in disgrace.

Imagine every gun silenced. No wars, rumors of wars and espionage. No government clandestine plots to overcome. No pollution, perfect climate and people knew what the left lane was for.

Imagine every belly full, every person with a warm bed and not a job a person dreads. No poverty, no debt not even a single regret. No trash on the street thrown or cancer in your body grown. No aids, colds and malaria. No suicide, depression or hysteria.

Imagine if we could bring about a world such as this. We’d still have a problem. We’d still be empty. The church would still be needed.

The Gospel first
The Gospel is of first importance. If all is well and good. No problems, secure job, everything kosher, you still need God. In fact Adam and Even in the garden had a perfect life and the issue was the same, they needed God. Ironic that in an Earth of perfection mankind chose rejection but in an Earth of depravity man must accept the message of the Gospel. The issue is the same. We need God. We don’t evangelize in heaven, for at that point it is too late.

The Gospel central
Our need of God makes the Gospel central. I am sure each of us can think of organizations that were about the Gospel but today are no longer. If we hold to pet doctrines and make them our mainstay, what we do is in vain. If Christ did not raise from the dead, it does not matter our view on things like creation, end times and other deep theological questions that should be discussed. Without the Gospel, we address societies ills in vain by meeting needs without hope.

Is God enough
If we move off the Gospel as saving us, of the Gospel making all things new, we dive deep into despair. The key question regardless of our circumstances or station in life is this: Is God enough? That is the central question to life and history. Even if we were to bring about a perfect world that question would still be there. For Adam and Eve, a relationship with God was not enough. Today we see the effects of running from God, to numerous to count.

The bottom line
The Gospel first, The Gospel central understands that Christ is truly the cornerstone of the church as well as a stumbling block. You cannot get around that without causing the church to fizzle out. With the Gospel being first and central it gives clarity to why we study and pursue the Scriptures; not as religion, but in relationally knowing God. It motivates to serve and love everyone. It understands the that problems of the world are far deeper than politics; they are issues of the soul needing God.

There is much more to knowing God than just the Gospel. But the Gospel is the doorway. The Gospel is not the only thing, but it must be first and central to the church. For in the Gospel the central question is answered: Yes, God is enough, and that changes everything.