church

Community Greetings

Photo credit: lightstock.com I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings. (‭Romans‬ ‭16:‭1-16‬ (NLT)


I expect most people either skip over or skim through the end of epistles with all the greetings. But if the Word of God is inspired and able to equip us for God's service (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we need to take a closer look at these greetings. What can we learn from them?

Long, long ago, in a world without mobile phones and the world-wide-web, people wrote letters and talked to each other face to face. This might be hard to imagine for some people, but it's true!

These greetings were more than courteous gestures, they were testimonies and acknowledgements. Sometimes there were warnings or exhortations, but mostly they were words of encouragement. All of them remind us of the nature of the early church.

One singular element of the early church that is still sought today was their sense of community. They had a bond of fellowship through their common relationship with Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

The church was a large, spread out community that had this one common bond—Jesus. It was like extended family. Paul knew what they knew—people are the most important element of community.

People united by their relationship with Jesus were the heartbeat of the church. Not its leaders, nor its organizational infrastructure, but their relationship with one another through Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

The Commitment of Community

Photo credit: lightstock.com In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.

I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.

They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.

As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.

Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭22-33‬ (NLT)


Why do you go to church, if you go at all? What do you like best? What do you not like so much?

When I pastored in Southern California, many new-to-town visitors wanted to know what our church had to offer them. Today, this shopping for a good church is more prevalent than ever.

I often hear people say they want community, especially when it comes to church. Ok, but community—genuine community—requires commitment, a mutual commitment.

Paul speaks of bringing a gift to the church in Jerusalem, donated by other believers. He also expects the believers in Rome to provide for his travel.

Real church community, as seen in the early church (Acts 2:44-47), requires a commitment on everyone's part.

So when you're looking for a church, consider what you're willing to give rather than what you might get. ©Word-Strong_2016

New Territory

Photo credit: lightstock.com I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. 

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭14-21 (NLT)


The letter to the Romans was written to people who were believers, people who knew and understood the truth of the gospel. Many of them could teach and share the gospel with others.

Here the apostle Paul reveals his heart for those who've not heard the gospel. Those who don't know of Jesus or of God's redemptive love for them. This is Paul's ambition.

His ambition is not for a bigger and better church. It's to reach out to those who've never heard the redemption message in the gospel and are not engaged with those who do know it. His focus is to reach nonbelievers.

Today, as in times past, much of the growth of one church is at the cost of another. Believers in one church body transfer to another one that seems better for whatever reason.

And yet, over 40% of the world's population are unreached by the message of God's redemptive love—over 3 billion people are unreached. Some of these unreached or unengaged peoples have immigrated to North America.

Now, more and more young people, born and raised in America, are part of a new, growing group of unreached and unengaged people.

It's time to stake out new territory. This means each believer is responsible to reach out to others, and church leaders need to equip their people to do this.

Let's reach out to the unreached and unengaged, especially in our own neighborhoods, and help support missionaries who go to other nations to reach the unreached. ©Word-Strong_2016

Responsibility of Revelation

Photo credit: lightstock.com Let me explain. Christ became a servant for the Jewish people to reveal God’s truth. As a result, he fulfilled God’s promise to the ancestors of the Jewish people. 

People who are not Jewish praise God for his mercy as well. This is what the Scriptures say,

“That is why I will give thanks to you among the nations and I will sing praises to your name.”

And Scripture says again, “You nations, be happy together with his people!”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise him, all you people of the world!”

Again, Isaiah says, “There will be a root from Jesse. He will rise to rule the nations, and he will give the nations hope.”

May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭8-13 (GW)


Israel was chosen by God to be His people—His nation. Not because they were special, but for a special purpose.

God wanted a people who lived differently than the majority of people in the world. People who served a living God instead of caught up in superstitions and idolatry. He wanted them to be His light of revelation to other nations, but they failed to do this.

This is the responsibility of the church—the global community of believers who personally follow Jesus, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

We—the global community of believers—are to bring the light of redemptive grace and hope found in Jesus to a world lost in spiritual darkness and ignorance.

God's Spirit dwelling in believers is the source of our hope, joy, and peace. He is the source of light a world in darkness needs. So, let Him shine through you! ©Word-Strong_2016


Here's an older song taken from this psalm— I waited

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

Real Harmony

Photo credit: lightstock.com So those of us who have a strong ⌊faith⌋ must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose ⌊faith⌋ is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.

Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.  (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭1-7‬ (GW)


It's easy to overanalyze things. Action item lists are popular and success formulas are sought by many. A lot of time is invested to figure out what makes one thing successful where another one fails.

In doing this, we tend to overlook what's obvious and simple. The realm of spiritual truth is no different. The secret to unity among believers doesn't require psychological tests or deep theological treatises.

First, we need to be patient with others who don't measure up spiritually to our expectations (verses 1-3), and learn from the example of faithful believers before us (verse 4).

But the most important thing is to follow the example of Jesus together (verse 5). We need to accept one another as Jesus accepted us (verse 7).

Think about it. That may seem a tall order, but the simple focus is Jesus—His gracious, humble example.

The key to real harmony among followers of Jesus is treating one another with the gracious humility we see in Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

GMO-Free Community (part 1)

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JChillingsworth In the last few years you have probably noticed the buzz around "organic community." Yet, are we all on the same page with the definition of that phrase?

What do I mean by "organic community"?

Here are a few of my thoughts on what it means.

Organic Gardening

When we read through the scriptures we find many examples of how physical gardening reveals spiritual truth.

The Psalms compare a man to a tree planted by water. Jesus often used gardening when He spoke in parables. It is very natural for us to see spiritual truth in physical things or circumstances.

To have an organic garden you must start with organic seed. The seed needs to be free of all human tampering.

To spare you from information overload, some seed is genetically modified by scientists. We often see packages of food with labels stating that it is GMO-free.

GMO or GMO-free?

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) do have an advantage. They are protected from attack from outside threats like bugs, weather, and even help food last longer.

Yet, GMO seed produces food that may be dangerous to our health. Many times we a utopian type of community. We must understand that organic seed is bigger than us.

Organic seed has a beginning with a Creator. It has an origin we can't take credit for, but it's planted in a garden we are called to nurture. To keep an organic garden growing and living, effort and intentionality must be put forth.

If the garden isn't tended, the garden dies. Everything organic has risk and reward. To have organic community we must realize the bigger than us source, and be very intentional in our nurturing.

Organic community

Organic community is a body of diverse, yet committed people.

Diversity within a group of people requires intentionality. Humans tend to come together based on similarities. That's normal. That's why we having sayings like, "Birds of a feather flock together."

The danger of being in a community based on similarities of interests, hobbies, nationalities, or race, is it tends to turn into more of a social club than community.

To experience the fullness of community we must risk and expect a level of discomfort due to difference. From that, we will reap the fruits of fullness, ability to love on a deeper level, and have a bigger picture of life.

Do you want organic community?

I am glad to see and hear the buzz about organic community. May all this buzz and desire turn into intentionality to tend the organic garden of community.

Forget about formulas and methods. Focus on the Seed which is Christ Himself.

What do you see Jesus doing?

What is he blessing?

What is he building?

What is he loving?

Now go out and plug into that.


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.


This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

Gifted for a Purpose

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Because of the kindness that God has shown me, I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.

Our bodies have many parts, but these parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.

God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. If your gift is speaking what God has revealed, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith. If your gift is serving, then devote yourself to serving.

If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If it is encouraging others, devote yourself to giving encouragement. If it is sharing, be generous. If it is leadership, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping people in need, help them cheerfully. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭3-8 (GW)


The mark of a life impacted by God's grace is humility. Jesus is our prime example. We can only comprehend God's grace in its fullness because of Jesus. He is the personification of grace.

Jesus also personifies humility (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8). This is our starting point for considering the gifts of God. The gifts of God are just that—gifts. They are not skills or abilities. They cannot be taught or caught.

These gifts are the extension of God's grace—His undeserved kindness. They are of spiritual origin, not some embedded DNA code in a person.

The primary purpose of these gifts is to strengthen the church, the Body of Christ. They are not the possession of an individual person. These gifts are given by God (through the Holy Spirit) to fulfill God's purposes for His church.

This exhortation reminds us that when God distributes a specific gift to a person, he or she is to exercise this gift in humility for the benefit of others in the church.

Has God gifted you in one of these seven gifts? Then use it well under the Lord's guidance with gracious humility. ©Word-Strong_2016

A Man and His Faith

Ayele_teaching_Omo Last week, I took a quick look at theology—our beliefs about God. We've all got theology, but we all don't believe the same things. By "we," I mean humanity.

Why don't we believe the same things? Because we're all different, with different backgrounds, and different life stories.

This week, I want to look at the intriguing life story of a friend of mine.

My Ethiopian friend

I first met Benjamin (pronounced Beny-a-min) at a church service and liked him immediately. He was the first Ethiopian I met, but not the last. His life story intrigued me, yet it stirred some controversy. He has a common name, but his life story is far from common.

He was born in rural Ethiopia into a muslim family. When he came home from school and saw smoke rising from his home, he was happy. He knew his mother was cooking a special meal for his father, who had other wives than his mother.

He came to faith in Jesus through dreams, as I've heard take place for many of Islamic faith. Because of his choice to follow Jesus, he was ostracized by his family, which sent him on a search.

Benjamin set out to find help to learn about his new faith and was directed to missionaries in Kenya. Along the way, he was captured by Communist soldiers who tortured him for his faith in brutal ways. Eventually, he found the guidance he needed, and came to America for education.

A passion for his people

I met Benjamin as he raised support to work with a mission in Kenya. He became a missionary to Ethiopian refugees gathered in neighboring Somalia. These were his people and he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus.

I had him preach at our church a couple of times in the mid-eighties, so I heard much of his story. We also spent time talking about his mission and passion for reaching his people with the gospel.

I found Benjamin to be a man of great faith and integrity. He was childlike in the ways of American culture and social norms, but well-read and intelligent. I trusted him.

An interrupted testimony

He told me of a time when he shared his testimony at another church. The pastor invited him on the recommendation of someone in his congregation. As he told the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ, the pastor interrupted him and had him sit down.

The pastor told him he didn't believe in such things (the supernatural experiences), and discounted his life story. This stunned my friend Benjamin. It saddened me as he told me of it. Needless to say, this pastor was not one of his supporters.

Here was a man of integrity and without deceit who shared his personal encounter with Jesus, but he was not believed. Why? Because the pastor couldn't get past his own theological filters.

I'm glad for my encounter with Benjamin. His life added more depth and fullness to mine. He was one more encouragement for my own missionary experience. Years later I would visit his homeland (see photo above).

When we moved to the Philippines and he moved to Kenya, we lost contact with each other. But I will never forget Benjamin and his faith.

We're not all the same

Our experiences and encounters in pursuit of the truth shape and impact our faith and understanding of God. Identical experiences don't produce the same results. A simple reading of the gospels reveals this.

All of the apostles were afraid of Jesus as He walked on the water. Only Peter got out of the boat to walk towards Him (Matt 14:22-33). The Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus realized He was innocent, unlike his fellow soldiers (Luke 23:47). After Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).

Each of us view things differently. We often draw different conclusions with different perspectives from similar experiences. So, how can we possibly have any unity in the Christian faith? Benjamin and I shared the same faith in Jesus, but our life stories were very different.

The Christian faith is a personal faith because it's centered on the person of Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more unified we become as a group. This can be seen during a worship service, as the Lord intends (1 Cor 12:12-14, 25).

A question and a challenge

Last week, I mentioned two things I hoped to get more response on, so here it goes again.

Would any of you reading this post be interested in learning more about inductive Bible study? If that sounds interesting, let me know.

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important to your spiritual growth and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

I'd love to hear your responses to any of the above. You can post it in the comments for this post, or post it on the Word-Strong Facebook page.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post!

Relational Interruptions

SweetWorship_CCFB_2-14 Life interrupted my plans this weekend. Not in a bad way, but my plans to work on this blog post were disrupted with a couple of valuable life events.

Saturday night, a pastor I've mentored for several months contacted me to ask if I could fill in for him because he was sick. So, I began preparing a message for the following morning. In the morning, I headed south to a church whom I've assisted over the last several months and where I've preached a few times.

By Sunday night, I hadn't started my post, but had two unexpected encounters. One with a young couple I've encouraged over the past few months, another with a young missionary family who served in the Philippines and needed a place to stay.

Ministry and people

Life as a pastor and missionary is full of what might be called relational interruptions. I mean, without people there is no viable ministry. People are the work of the ministry, not all the tasks of doing ministry.

Don't get me wrong. Doing ministry involves many, many tasks, some of them very important and some quite mundane. But these tasks are meaningless if they're carried out at the expense of relationships.

When the work (aka tasks) of the ministry becomes more important than the people, priorities get out of balance, which brings unintended consequences.

[bctt tweet="Life as a pastor and missionary is full of relational interruptions"]

Thousands and thousands of families are sacrificed on the altar of ministry by well-intentioned pastors and missionaries. This is also true for those who volunteer their service to a ministry.

Consequently, people can become collateral damage in the wake of churches, or missionaries, driven to complete their ministry mandates.

Ministry-related injuries

It ought not to be, but too often people get hurt, slighted, taken advantage of, or just plain run over by the machinery of ministry or some heavy-handed leader. I get it. My family and I have endured our share of ministry-related injuries.

But I see that as the norm, not the exception. I accept it as part of the reality of family life—church family life. And I'm pretty sure no one gets excluded from it.

[bctt tweet="The work of the ministry should never be more important than the people"]

Plenty of blogs shout about ministry abuse, but this isn't one of them. I want to share a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions.

[bctt tweet="We had a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions"]

My unplanned appointments

My wife and I got a call Saturday night from our daughter in Daytona Beach. A young missionary family we know needed a place to stay Sunday night. Their plans fell through, that is, someone backed out of a commitment to them, and the four of them needed a place to stay.

How could we say no? I mean, yes we had plans, but we had an empty guest room, and had experienced similar things in our own lives as missionaries. So, we prepared for our guests, which included two preschool boys.

After the morning service, I greeted people and intended to head back home, but was pulled aside for a few necessary conversations. The young couple who lead worship and youth ministry asked me to lunch. OK, so I know I've got guests arriving, but I knew God set up an appointment I needed to keep.

Meals with a purpose

Once again, I enjoyed a meal and conversation with this young couple, and an opportunity to encourage them in what God gave them to do. It was simple. It was relational. It was a relational interruption, and it was worth every minute.

[bctt tweet="God-appointed relational interruptions are worth every minute they take"]

The afternoon and evening were a time of catching up with a young family who stayed with us several years ago in the Philippines. They were in the process of transitioning out of their ministry in the Philippines into a new organization and ministry assignment.

They are still going through what's called reverse cultural shock. This varies for everyone, but it takes up to a year or so to fully transition from your home on the mission field when reentering your home culture. Truth is, you never fully transition, because you're forever changed. But that's another subject for another day.

We all headed out for an early dinner together. Not exactly the kind of date night we planned for Valentine's Day, but it was clear that this was God's plan.

A responsibility, not an obligation

Once again, our meeting with them was an opportunity to encourage those younger than us in ministry we've experienced. They appreciated the time and so did we. Once again, we get to share in the life and ministry of others. This is a privilege, not an obligation. It's also a responsibility.

I see this type of mentoring and ministry of encouragement as our responsibility. Who? Those of us who are older and experienced in ministry, and who live a life of faith in God's kingdom.

[bctt tweet="Those of us who are older & experienced need to mentor & encourage others younger than us"]

Susan and I feel a strong commitment about this. It's part of our passing the baton to another generation. Isn't that the responsibility of every generation? I'm pretty sure that's been true for centuries, and I see that as God's plan for His kingdom.

So...that's why this post is late this Monday. Anyway, it's a national holiday, a time to be a little laid back ;-)

What are some God-arranged relational interruptions you've had?


BTW, here's a link to the (unedited) message I shared this Sunday titled Don't Drift Away

[audio mp3="http://word-strong.com/wp-content/uploads/Dont_Drift_Away-Heb2_1-4.mp3"][/audio]

 

Fuel for the Soul—part 2

Photo credit: lightstock.com Each generation, often each decade, new advancements and discoveries take place. We call it progress. But progress often creates unintended consequences.

Some consequences are responded to and resolved, while others are accepted as the cost of progress. One simple example is pollution related to industrialization with all its inventions.

In America, we've dealt with the plague of smog fairly well, but urban sprawl continues to encroach upon our landscape and environment.

In a similar way, the advancement and progress of the church brings unintended consequences for God's people and kingdom on earth.

In Fuel for the Soul—part 1, I asked two questions—

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?

In this post, I want to give you my thoughts on this based on the advice given to a young elder named Timothy by the apostle Paul—

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:12-13 NIV)

I highlighted two important parts of this advice—setting an example, and the priority of Scripture in the ministry of the church.

The role of the church

A lot of people have a lot of ideas for what the role of the church should be. Most of the ideas are subjective. That is, they are based on a personal perception or need.

Since Jesus is the founder and head of the church, it makes sense to go with His overarching purpose for the church. It's called the Great Commission, parts of which are found in all four gospels and in Acts.

Paul's advice to Timothy of setting an example is emphasized throughout his pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). It was also the cornerstone of Jesus' public and private ministry with His followers.

Importance of the Scriptures in ministry

In the text above (1 Tim 4:13), Paul sees public reading, preaching, and teaching of the Scriptures as a priority for Timothy setting an example for the believers. Are there other important elements in the church's role of nurturing God's people? Of course!

But the place of the Scriptures in the ministry of the church has suffered over the years.

[bctt tweet="Unintended consequences come when the church embraces the culture to reach people"]

This happens when the church tries to reach people by embracing the surrounding culture. It is not new to our time, but it's a tactic that often has unintended consequences.

Foundation for our faith

In many traditional or liturgical churches, the lectio divina is used as a guide for reading and praying through the Scriptures. It can be a helpful guide.

Less traditional plans for reading through the Scriptures have been around for years, and digital reading plans have flourished via electronic or online Bibles. Just google Bible reading plans!

I shared my own experience, in a prior post, of my initial involvement with a church that continues to emphasize teaching through the Scriptures. This was foundational for my faith.

The Scriptures are a vital part of growing in the Christian faith. They can not be neglected. Neglecting God's Word dishonors God, and is unhealthy for us and the church. As Christians, the Scriptures are fuel for the soul.

[bctt tweet="As Christians, the Scriptures are fuel for the soul"]

How can you incorporate the Bible in your own personal relationship with Jesus?

Let's look at the three things Paul spoke of—public reading of Scripture, preaching, and teaching.

Public reading of Scripture

In most of the churches I've been involved with or led, public reading of the Bible was a regular part of the service.

Before we planted a church, my wife and I served in a church and retreat ministry in the low desert of Southern California. One of the pastors had a strong Lutheran background, so each Sunday he would read from the Bible.

He did it well. His voice was strong, yet he modulated his tone and volume to fit what he read. When he read the Scriptures it was engaging and understandable.

[bctt tweet="I think public reading of the Scriptures is a lost art"]

A lost art

I think public reading of the Scriptures is a lost art.

I cringe when I hear someone reading monotone through a Bible passage. It's boring and uninteresting. Likewise, hearing someone rush through a text so they can share their own thoughts grieves me.

When I taught homiletics in the Philippines, I worked on this with the students. I would demonstrate reading with thoughtfulness, feeling, a natural pace, and reverence. Then I gave them an opportunity to do it.

I would critique and correct them when they did it poorly, and I encouraged them when they did it well.

Public Bible reading may be the only time someone in church hears the Scriptures. It needs to be done and done well.

[bctt tweet="Public Bible reading may be the only time someone hears the Scriptures"]

Jesus our example

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example. Reading the Scriptures was central to worship in the synagogue, and we see Jesus honoring it (Luke 4:16-21).

We also see Jesus giving people a correct understanding of the Scriptures, as He taught them in the open (Matt 5:17-20) and in the temple area (Luke 20:1-8).

[bctt tweet="Reading the Scriptures was central to worship in the synagogue"]

One advantage of our digitized world is how many resources there are for listening to the Bible read by a good reader. Again, just google audio Bibles!

Many people neither read well or like to read. Today, if people do read it is often reduced to scanning. So, hearing the Bible read is valuable and needed.

But even for those of us who like to read, hearing the Bible can be powerful and a great aid to meditating on God's Word.

What's your experience with listening to the Bible?

Do you regularly listen to the Bible more than read it?


Next week I'll try to look more closely at preaching and teaching—both the church's role in these, and how both can be incorporated into our life of faith.

Fuel for the Soul—part 1

Photo credit: lightstock.com What makes humans different from all other mammals? We have a soul, that is, we are a soul with a body—a spiritual soul. We don't live by instinct, but reason.

We have emotions connected to our thoughts, which effect our behavior. We are moral beings and are made like our Creator.

Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. We reflect on the past, imagine the future, while living in the present. And we need something more than just food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities. We need nourishment for our soul.

A need to know

The first human was created in the likeness or image of God, as are all humans. Humankind was created to rule over all other creatures on the earth, in the sea, and the air (Gen 1:26). This was the original design.

God also gave the first humans responsibility and purpose (Gen 1:28-30). He also gave us the capacity to think and reason (Gen 2:15-17), along with the need for companionship (Gen 2:18-25).

We also have the capacity to be wrong. This is made clear in Genesis 3. We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination. This enables us to be creative and productive.

[bctt tweet="We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination"]

"What is truth?"

But what truth do we need? Many claim to know and understand the truth, but all truth is not the same. This is revealed in the dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, where Pilate asks, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)

I was somewhat like Pilate earlier in my life. I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible. Along with other religious and philosophical books, I read the Bible every day for about two years.

Did I understand what I was reading? No. I was like the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah whom Philip encountered (Acts 8:30-31). I needed some guidance, but where would I go and who could help me?

[bctt tweet="I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible for about two years"]

Fuel for my soul

Right before 1970, I was invited to a church where the Bible was taught in a simple, clear way. This church became a reference point for me.

I still wandered a while longer, but returned there, made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus, was grounded in the truth, and began serving in God's kingdom.

What was the key? The truth of God's written Word. I realized it was the fuel I needed for my soul to grow in a healthy way. It was the nutrition—the food—my soul longed for and needed.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God's written Word was what my soul longed for and needed"]

Spirit and life

As pointed out by many, when jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus answered him with the truth of Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). The devil's first temptation appealed to the Lord's hunger, after a 40-day fast.

Jesus' answer was, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3, where God reminded His people that our spiritual need is greater than the physical.

[bctt tweet="God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul"]

This is what struck a chord in my heart. God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul.

Jesus made this clear to His first followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

But not everyone either accepts or realizes this, only those with a personal commitment to Jesus. Here is Peter's testimony about it—

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?


We'll look at answering these two questions in a follow-up post soon.

 

A New Year with New Plans

2016_fireworks I'm not very big on making New Years resolutions, as mentioned in a recent post– More Than Promises. I'm also not a formal goal-setter, though maybe I should be ;-)

But I do have some new plans for the coming year. Some of it is carry-over from 2015, but it's still new or yet to be done. I'll share some of it in this post, which is more personal than my usual posts.

Happy New Year!

TNSK_fireplace2015-16Here's the closest we get to a Christmas card photo this year! Susan and I stopped doing Christmas cards many, many years ago for a few reasons. One is expense, but a bigger one is the time involved doing it, especially in this digital age.

While on the mission field, we started doing newsletters to stay in touch. But we enjoy getting cards from others, so thanks to all that sent them to us!

Nowadays, we keep somewhat current via Facebook and email, text, and some calls. How different things are today when it comes to communication!

Some family news

Christmas was a little more quiet this year with our family a bit more spread out than last year. Our youngest daughter and her family are in Germany, where her husband serves in the military.

Our older daughter lives more than an hour south of us with a new job, and she was able to visit her sister in Germany before Christmas.

Our younger son and his wife live in San Antonio, TX, where they both work as PA's in urgent care centers. We visited them between Christmas and New Years and had a great time.

Our oldest son and his family are still local and work with two local ministries, so we get to see our other three grandchildren pretty often. We had fun with all of them during Christmas and New Year's weekend.

Our next travel will be to Germany for the birth of our fifth grandchild, yay!

What's happening now

My wife is working full-time as the assistant director in a Christian preschool near us. She's also taking an online course related to her job, so she stays busy!

I continue blogging 3 times a week and leading 3 Bible studies through the week. I continue to work with Poimen Ministries and will be representing this ministry at an upcoming pastors conference in FL this month.

I'm also working with the church we've been involved with for the past 3 years (RCC) in an advisory/coach role. I did a ministry evaluation for them last summer and have been working with them over the past few months. This is a temporary role in preparation for the addition of an executive pastor to come on staff this year.

What's ahead

As mentioned in a fall update post, my heart for teaching and training overseas, especially in the Philippines, was stirred in a fresh way last summer.

I plan to go over to the Philippines this year (summertime?) to work with the Bible college and a church in Manila. I've wanted to help set up more extension campuses connected to the school in Dumaguete, where the Bible college just celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

For a long time, I've wanted to develop some online courses. I've developed a couple, but they haven't launched well. Recently, I met a Christian brother who developed a platform for online courses that is user-friendly and affordable.

I've developed some preliminary course outlines, so now I need to do the work of recording videos and setting up the courses. I'm excited and challenged about this opportunity!

Feedback Please

Would you please give me some feedback on the following questions?

  1. What type of online courses would you be interested in?
  2. Of the 3 posts I do each week, which is your favorite or most beneficial?
  3. If I started a podcast, what topics or focus would interest you?

You can respond via this link– contact or by email– trip(at)word-strong(dot)com

I look forward to your input... Thanks!

Adopted and Accepted

IMG_3137 It’s an amazing thing to watch a child meet and bond with their adoptive family. My wife and I, with our daughters, witnessed this many, many times over the past two decades. It never gets old.

For us and our Filipino staff, it was a bittersweet time. It was sad to say goodbye, but seeing this union filled us with great joy. We saw adoptive parents from many parts of the world come greet their children. Language barriers melted away with love and affection.

We also saw some of the children we cared for reunite with their families of origin. This reminds me of God’s restoring love for those who return to Him and trust in Him again.

The church worldwide is like a huge blended family. We may look different on the outside, we may sound different, and even have different customs, but we’re of the same family. Read more...


This was originally posted at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog— Adopted and Accepted

Have a blessed New Year!

 

What Can We Learn from Dead Churches?

Photo credit: unsplash.com KHillacre Throughout the history of the Christian church, there have been cycles of life and death. Cycles of revival and decline are evident by their impact upon the culture around them—both good and bad.

What about individual churches? You can find similar cycles of revival and decline. Some churches seem to thrive, while others struggle to survive.

Is death and decline an inevitable destination for every church? Not if we're willing to learn from history.

Thom S Rainer's book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, doesn't sound like a fun read. I wouldn't call it fun, but it is enlightening, and in the end, encouraging.

I could easily see various churches I've known or been involved with that identified with Rainer's post-life church assessment. These are actual churches Dr Rainer worked with and knew.

He begins with a story of a church as if it had been a patient, in denial of her real condition. She no longer had vision and followed a familiar path to death. It's a sobering look at fourteen different churches who died. The author provides insights as to why, and later gives twelve responses to the question, "Is There Hope...?"

What is learned from the autopsy

Amazon-Autopsy_ChurchAll the insights Rainer writes about are helpful, but a few struck home in a sad way. He speaks of the Slow Erosion (Chap 2) that takes place, and of the inward and rigid focus a church develops.

In the The Past Is the Hero (Chap 3), a fixation develops on the "good old days." I've seen this too often in churches who experienced high points during the Jesus Movement, but this applies to other churches also. Rainer says this was the "most pervasive and common thread" in all of the autopsies, which created a backwards-looking vision.

This nostalgic, inward focus eventually leads to a church with ...No Clear Purpose (Chap 10). I've seen this way too often, churches that "do church," but have no clear direction or purpose except to exist.

Out of place and out of sorts

Rainer's small, succinct chapters yield insights into churches who didn't change, though the community around them did (Chap 4). Other churches rarely prayed together (Chap 9), and others became ...Obsessed Over the Facilities (Chap 11).

A chapter that struck a sad, familiar chord is where, The Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission (Chap 6). As a missionary and pastor, this one grieves me the most. The focus of the church becomes so inward that the command to "Go!" is set aside and forgotten.

I see this in both a lack of local evangelistic outreach and disinterest in world missions. This is pervasive throughout America today, along with a diminished focus on discipleship and equipping God's people.

Another great insight looked at the life stages and decrease in pastoral tenure (Chap 8). Rainer lays out five general stages of relationship between a pastor and the church. From my own experience, I found these to be accurate and remember going through or seeing each stage.

Is there hope?

An autopsy isn't fun, unless you're a forensic doctor I guess. So the book doesn't end on a down note but with hope.

Rainer lays out twelve responses to give hope. These are laid out in three categories of churches— those with sick symptoms, very sick, and dying.

You might think the last category isn't going to have much hope, but you'd be wrong. It's all a matter of focus and perspective, which is lost in a sick or dying church.

Final thoughts

I was sent this book by my friend, Pastor Bill Holdridge, who established Poimen Ministries, and graciously allows me to be part of this ministry to pastors and churches. He's seen all of this more than I have. If you're a pastor and concerned about the health of your church, I encourage you to contact Bill or any of us with Poimen Ministries.

So I recommend Dr Rainer's book for any pastor, no matter what your current role may be in church. It is well worth the read.

Here's a blog post of Dr Rainer's that echoes much of the same issues in his book– 8 Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980's

Another resource I recommend is the blog of Pastor Karl Vaters, especially for pastors of small churches– New Small Church. Karl has a clear focus and purpose that is healthy and outward, and is a great encouragement to many.


If any of this post encourages you, or you see its value for someone else, please feel free to share it! Thanks for reading!

 

Risking Community to the Next Generation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_lukepamer I've found a kindred spirit in Pastor Ed Underwood. Ed is pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, CA.

We are both products of the Jesus People Movement of the early 1970's, fans of the LA Dodgers and the USC Trojans, and grandparents.

We're ministry veterans (old guys) who want to see a fresh revival in the church, and are committed to intentional, relational discipleship to equip and raise up the next generation of leaders. Here's Ed's post

Sooner or later, the ones who always get things done in a local church, the ones who make the key decisions, they will die.

It’s a one-to-one ratio. Everyone in our faith communities will die–pastors, elders, deacons, volunteers, teachers, and everyday serious disciples of Christ–every one of us will die.

A sad reality? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be a desperate problem.

Unless the ones who are closest to the end refuse to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation.

[bctt tweet="We need to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation. @EdUnderwood" via="no"]

Jesus’ community is the church. Notice that he didn’t choose one person over forty to birth his church.

Notice also that Jesus’ devoted followers, the Apostles, were constantly building into the next generation. Peter took John Mark under wing, Paul had his Timothy and Titus.

But all the teaching, equipping and modeling is lost if those of us who are on in years refuse to pass through the threshold of trust.

The Threshold

The day will come when we not only speak truth into the next generation, train the next generation, equip the next generation, and encourage the next generation, but we also hand off to them. Until we trust the next generation to do what we’ve been doing all of our talk about loving community and caring about the future of the work of God is just that.

Talk

Because we’ve stepped back from the real test of trusting God’s Spirit at work in the next generation.

Trust

Until we actually give them voice, space, and ownership, we’re just one more bunch of old Christians clinging to the inertia of institutionalized church.

And we’re the ones who lose, because if we’ve done what Jesus asked us to do–make disciples–we’re missing the greatest earthly joy of community: watching the next generation’s giftedness glorify our Lord.

The Payoff

Last weekend we risked our beloved community, Church of the Open Door, to the next generation.

When I first proposed this radical idea to hand off responsibility for our 100th Centennial Celebration to the next generation there were a few raised eyebrows. I mean this was a big deal. What if they blow it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if? What if? What if?

If you’re reading this and you’re over forty you need to know that you’ll never run out of “what ifs.”

I have some better what ifs:

What if they have creative ideas we would never imagine?

What if they could energize a demographic we’ve lost touch with?

What if they, not us, are on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit’s doing in this world?

A tent, family, and hashtags

We risked it.

And rather than blowing it the next generation of Church of the Open Door blew our minds.

With creativity.

With energy.

With a front row seat to the power of the Spirit in their lives.

They wanted informal, not formal. They wanted family friendly, not program driven. They wanted it outside under a tent, not in the worship center. They wanted to build a memory for their children. And they wanted a hashtag rather than a videographer and a memorial magazine.

Wow!

I still can’t figure out how to use the #cod100th hashtag, but every time someone under thirty shows me how I can’t believe how spectacular our 100th Anniversary was.

It seems Church of the Open Door’s future is in good hands.


 

I read Ed's book, Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus, and realized we were kindred spirits. We have similar passions! We want to pass on to the next generation all that Jesus has poured into us.

I hope you'll visit his site where you'll find more great posts and some great resources. Here's the link to the original post on Ed's site— Risking Community to the Next Generation

Ed is featuring one of my recent posts, so check it out at— EdUnderwood.com

Pastor, Where's Your Timothy?

Photo credit: lightstock.com_pearl Mentoring is a hot topic these days. Access to information, even for repairs and DIY projects, is unprecedented through the world-wide web. A whole new industry emerged over the past decade—online entrepreneurship. It's spawned a new generation of experts.

A new wave of experts has rippled through the church, as well. New, trendy, cutting edge churches are launched every week, at least it seems so. Notice I said launched, not planted. But something is missing.

The need for mentoring is great in the church, but for more reasons than you might think.

Experience needed

The older generation in churches are a valuable part of the church. They provide stability and commitment, and are often the most consistent and generous givers. But many with gray hair have more to offer than consistent giving and commitment.

They have experience, and that experience is valuable and needed.

Older pastors and leaders can be valuable mentors for young leaders and potential leaders. They are a living resource for the church. And what do young leaders lack? Experience!

[bctt tweet="Young leaders lack experience and need mentors"]

Responsibility of the church

Discipleship is more than a buzzword, as is the idea of being missional. I've heard many pastors and leaders speak on equipping the church, but I don't see it happening enough.

Oh sure, Bible colleges, seminaries, and other ministry training options exist, even discipleship curriculum. But the church lacks well-equipped leaders ready to lead the church into the next decade or two.

Equipping does not take place through teaching or training programs. None of those existed for the early church.

[bctt tweet="Equipping leaders doesn't just take place through teaching or training programs"]

What did they have? Leaders who discipled in simple ways. Their goal was to personally transfer their own relationship and experience with Jesus to others (2 Timothy 2:1-2), as Jesus did with His followers.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13 NIV)

Life example was a key element of discipleship and leadership development in the early church (1 Cor 11:1). They were on a mission, the Lord's mission (Matt 28:19-20).

New wine, new leaders

A healthy physical body requires new cells to replenish and promote continued health. In a healthy church, those new cells are young people. They are potential leaders.

I say potential because they need to be equipped and trained up, as Jesus did with His first followers, and as we see the apostle Paul did with Timothy and others (John 13:15; 2 Tim 1:13).

In a dialog with some religious leaders, Jesus said that new wine needed to be put into new wineskins. In that context, He was speaking of the New Covenant—a new way of relationship with God.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the skins burst and the wine is spilled out and the skins are destroyed. Instead they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved. (Matt 9:17 NET)

Many of us want God to bring revival, a new outpouring and moving of God's Spirit. But are we ready for it? Not if we aren't training up Timothy-type leaders and releasing ministry to them.

[bctt tweet="Many of us want God to bring revival, but are we ready for it?"]

If you're a pastor or in a place of pastoral leadership, you need to ask yourself an honest question— Pastor, where's your Timothy?

What's a pastor to do?

  • Personally disciple people— those who have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus and those who seek Him
  • Give people opportunities— those who are both faithful and ready to step out in faith
  • Provide further training— for those who show commitment and aptitude for leadership
  • Encourage and equip all the people— not by yourself, but through those raised up in leadership
  • Be an example of a servant-leader— Jesus' is our prime example, as in John 13:1-17
  • Find a Timothy—a son in the faith—to pass the responsibility of ministry on to them

This is a two-part post. Stay tuned for the follow-up on this one.

These links help provide some background for this article—

Aging Congregations

8 Implications– of aging boomer pastors & church staff

Who is Blameless?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_zach minor When I was young, we'd play a game at the beach called Cut the Cake. We'd lay in the sand, make a mound, and put a stick at the top. Each person would cut away at the “cake” until the stick fell.

Whoever made it fall would lose and suffer some consequence, like throwing sand at them.

Sometimes pastors and leaders feel like the stick in the “cake.” People tend to elevate leaders on a pedestal, then chip away with criticism. Sooner or later the leader falls from favor.

Unrealistic expectations

So, is it wrong to expect a lot from church leaders? No. But some people misinterpret this verse, which leads to unrealistic expectations—

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money. Titus 1:7 (NKJV)

After reading this, some may think that any blame disqualifies a person to lead. Perhaps the language of this verse confuses people. Let's be honest. Is there really anybody that is blameless? Right! I believe that fits only one human in history, Jesus.

A better understanding

So, who is this intended for? Originally, for those church leaders called to be overseers, including pastors, elders, and others with responsibility for overseeing, or shepherding, God's people in ministry.

However, blameless doesn’t mean perfect in behavior but in example. This is explained by the rest of the verse.

When it says a bishop (overseer) is a steward of God, it clarifies the person’s role. This person is to be in submission to the Lord Jesus above all, as a servant of God. The idea of stewardship implies accountability to the Lord and His church.

Examples not perfection

The list of things to not be is both descriptive and helpful in understanding what blamelessness is, and in a sense, what it is not.

An overseer, a shepherd of God’s people, is not to be self-willed. This lines up with a basic concept Jesus taught for any of His followers—self-denial. This person should not be quick-tempered.

Well, isn’t that to be so for all true followers of Jesus?

An elder (shepherd) is not to be given to wine, or as it says in other versions, not a heavy drinker. Nor should they be violent, greedy, or pursuing dishonest gain.

Again, shouldn’t these things be true of all followers of Jesus?

Do you see how this works?

Our church leaders are examples to and for us. As they follow Jesus, they model how we are to follow Him.

Some questions to consider—

Who are leaders within your church that you respect? Why do you respect them? 

What are ways you’ve been critical of others, especially leaders?

Are these same behaviors present in your life?

Some practical steps to take—

Encourage a church leader this week because of their example in life and leadership.

Then, learn from their example and put it into practice in your own life.


The original, unedited version of this post is on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Who is Blameless?

We'll get back to the Bible study in Ecclesiastes next week.

Thanks for reading and please share this post with others!

From Sea to Shining Sea

©2015-@tkbeyond I've gone from the Pacific, to the Atlantic, then back to the Pacific this weekend. Well, the last trip was more virtual than actual.

After six weeks in Juneau, AK, I returned home to Jacksonville, FL—from the far NW coast of America to the SE coast. After an enjoyable day with my wife, I had the treat of meeting up with a pastor-friend from the Philippines.

I joined him, his wife, and two other couples to watch the big fight, featuring Manny Pacquiao. It was like spending an evening in the Philippines, well, sort of.

On assignment

Mendenhall-glacier

Six weeks ago, I left the warmth of sunny FL to serve as pastor for a church in Juneau, AK. I was the last in a team of five pastors with Poimen Ministries.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we provided pastoral care and leadership while their pastor is on sabbatical. Each of us served with a different style and focus of service.

Our point man, and team leader for this assignment, laid a solid groundwork for the rest of us. After Juneau in the winter, the founder of Poimen Ministries went to Peru on an extended assignment at a Bible college. My pastor-friend who preceded me went to serve in Eastern Europe and the Middle East this month. BTW, when I say assignment, we see ourselves assigned by God, not by any institution.

It's been a privilege to serve with my fellow pastors, and to serve the Body of Christ.

A new family connection

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My role focused on discipleship and leadership development, but my first responsibility was to engage with the people and embrace a new church family.

It's a bit daunting to serve the church body of a fellow pastor, especially when you're the last of five surrogate pastors. I say surrogate because we served in the place of a fellow pastor.

It's quite an adjustment for this church family, and it's a bit like being a substitute teacher for each of us. Thankfully, this church welcomed and served us, as we endeavored to serve them.

I was privileged and blessed to build new friendships, teach and encourage the church, including preach on Resurrection Sunday, and recognize and ordain four men as leaders in the church.

I also got to do some cool (literally!) hiking and sightseeing, including a seaplane ride, and take a bunch of photos. It was a great time with a great church family. After six weeks away I was ready to be home, but it was with mixed feelings I left this new-found family and many friendships.

Back home, back to work

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Of course, it was great to see my wife after six long weeks away! I left a much cooler beginning of spring in Juneau, to arrive to the typically perfect spring weather in Jacksonville. After a sunny breakfast in the backyard, Susan and I headed to the Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach, with lots of people, vendor booths, and, of course, lots of shrimp.

An unexpected surprise was reuniting with a Filipino pastor-friend in Jacksonville. He and his family now live in NC, but he and his wife were visiting friends. I was invited to join them and two other couples to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match.

Although the outcome was disappointing, it was fun watching a Filipino folk hero with Filipino friends. For a short while, it was like being back in the Philippines!

Now that I'm back home, it's back to my regular work. But then, my life and work have never been what you would call regular.

©2015 @tkbeyond