Apr 20, 2017

Your Pastor Needs You In Conflict

Earlier this week I shared on my blog how pointless conflict nearly made me quit ministry. For most of us in ministry we don’t talk about this, out of fear of being perceived weak, unspiritual, selfish, or losing our jobs. Frankly there have been days where I have not left my bed as sorrow consumed my soul. I don’t in any way believe that God caused my pain, but I do believe that He can and will use my pain for His glory. I am a better pastor and leader because I have walked through the fire of ministry.  

I also want to be an encourager to other pastors who feel alone in their conflicts. The loneliest place in a church is the pastor’s office (and house). Most of us walk this road alone afraid of sharing our pain.

When my family (the pastor’s wife and kids feel the pain) and I were walking through conflict, God gave us gifts to help us survive. One of the greatest gifts God gave us was the good people of His church. This is what you can do for your pastor.

1. Pray for Him.
The fight to destroy a pastor is first and foremost a spiritual war. If the enemy can succeed, he will destroy the pastor’s ministry, morality, marriage, and reputation. The greatest way to support your pastor is in prayer.

2. Take him (or ladies, his wife) out to eat.
Walking through conflict is lonely. As an outsider to his church and community, he does not know who he can trust. In the middle of conflict the pastor (and his wife) need time with people who care about them. Take your pastor hunting or out to eat. The pastor needs moments to enjoy life because for most pastors, ministry is life. When ministry turns sour, he lives it round the clock.

3. Send him texts/notes/emails and cards.
As a pastor, I cherish hand written notes. I save them and place them on the back of a door where only I can see them. When conflict comes these notes serve as reminders of the love of the church. Even daily texts where a pastor knows he is prayed for give him strength.

4. Fight so he doesn’t have to.
Deep down your pastor wants to love and care for the church, even those who are coming against him. Let him win by continuing to care for the church while you fight for him.

5. Mediate in the conflict.
You pastor does not want to win the fight at the expense of other church members. He wants to bring peace to it. If God has given you the temperament to bring both parties to the table, use your gift. Your pastor would rather have a peaceful resolution than a bloody victory.

6. Give him and his wife a night out.
Your pastor needs time to be with his wife. They talk little about their pain at home in an attempt to shelter their kids from the conflict. When you give him a night out, he will probably go eat and talk the entire time about the church with his wife, but it is a gift where he doesn’t have to guard his words around his kids.

7. Create protection for him in your church constitution.
There is nothing scarier for a pastor than knowing he is a mob away from unemployment. When times are good in the church, create solid personnel policies which protect your staff. Insecure pastors tend to make insecure (people pleasing) decisions. If you create stability and security for your pastor, he will lead even through tough decisions.

8. Practice church discipline if necessary.
This might be the most difficult step any church can take. If there are people who constantly create conflict in the church and become a burden to the pastor or staff, the church (not just the pastor) needs to stand up for what is right. Scripture is clear that causing disunity in the church does not build up the body. It abuses the body. Scripture states clearly in Titus that those who cause conflict after being warned should face church discipline.

I know of very few pastors who move to new churches because it is a bigger church. Most of us endure within churches till we get to the point where we can no longer do ministry or where our hearts hurt and we seek an escape. We all want to be the 30 year guy in a church. When you stand with your pastor, you may find that he will become your long term pastor.

Apr 17, 2017

How Conflict Almost Made Me Quit Ministry

I have realized in 12 years of senior pastoring that my prefered style of leading is by unifying the body around the mission of the church. In this, I do everything I can to avoid conflict, often allowing my critics to badmouth me without fighting back. Frankly, I have learned over time that my feelings will heal and that God will vindicate me. Conflict is just a part of ministry.

I remember the first major conflict I had as a minister. There was an older man in the church on blood thinners who thought that the church was just too cold. As I would work my way through the room, building relationships and greeting new people, he always “beelined” his way straight to me. One particular Sunday I let my feelings get the best of me, and I exclaimed “Jesus Christ did not die so that we would spend our lives arguing over air conditioning.” Frankly, I stand by what I said, but I regret the way I said it.  Deep within my heart, I felt a sadness. I was broken that comfort was a hill to die on in the church.  

Within those 12 years of ministry, I have learned that church conflicts don’t grow from people pursuing the Word of God. I have never seen a church fight over a desire to reach their community with the gospel of Christ. Church conflicts almost always start selfishly.

This past week, my wife and I were discussing the life of ministry we have shared over the years.  To be honest, both of us still bear the scars from past hurts experienced while in the ministry, and there are  days where our souls ache from the pain.  In our discussion, we were brought back to a time when a former church I was pastoring voted to remove a good portion of my salary, a move that was made because someone had originally gotten upset because of that blasted air conditioner. Yes, really. When they didn’t get their way, they staged a walkout. The topic of the conflict was over 3 degrees.  People left a church over “3 degrees” of temperature.  Jesus did not die for that.

Sadly, Jenn and I still feel the pain and occasional depression that came from that business meeting.

As a pastor, I have been chewed out for having too many decorations on stage, not wearing a tie, wearing a tie, not playing enough hymns, playing too many hymns, keeping the temperature too cold, keeping the temperature too warm, and for riding my bike to work when we didn't have two cars because a nosy member could not drive by to make sure I was there. (By the way, we only had one car because my salary was so small that buying another car was impossible.)

One of the most humiliating parts of ministry is when church members use your salary as a talking point to further their cause, yet it is often one of the first places church members go in a conflict.

Pastors don’t quit because they get tired of ministry. They grow weary and quit (sometimes the ministry all together) because they spend their lives trying to find solutions to problems for which Jesus did not die for in the first place.  I can tell you the lowest points of my 12 year ministry have been trying to appease people who bring conflict over their own perceived comfort.

I guess I am writing this blog because I see the good that is happening at FBCV. We are baptizing and seeing lives changed weekly through the ministry of our church.   I have enough experience to know what is coming next. The greatest tool Satan uses to cripple the American church that is striving to serve God is conflict within their membership. He turns the hearts of just a few to distract the church from its mission.

God is doing great things at FBCV.  We have become a target to be neutralized by the devil, so when you see conflict arise, know where it is coming from.  If we end up arguing over 3 degrees, our focus will turn away from God’s mission to our own.

Did Jesus die for your comfort or will you sacrifice your comfort for God’s kingdom?

Apr 10, 2017

How You Can Make Easter Sunday Successful at Your Church

Easter Sunday is possibly the biggest Sunday we will see all year at First Baptist Vidalia. Our services will be packed with family and friends who are coming together to worship the risen Saviour.  Easter Sunday is also one of the greatest opportunities we have to share the good news of the gospel with members of our community. I have taken the liberty below to list a few ways to help you in making our guests feel welcome and to encourage them to encounter the gospel this Easter Sunday.

1. Invite your neighbors to join you.
Easter week seems to be the one week all year that most people are looking for an invitation to go to church. Many former members might consider coming back and a personal invitation is all it would take to encourage them.  Many of your family members will be glad to go, but you have to ask. This Easter, invite your neighbors. Offer to pick them up, buy them donuts or offer to take them to lunch afterwards.  There is no greater way to celebrate Easter than to see your friend and family turn to Jesus.

2. Give up your seat.
Easter Sunday services will be packed!  It is expected and anticipated!  Would you consider coming to the 8:00am service in order to make room for our new guests?  Also, would you be mindful and leave the back rows open, along with aisle seats?  This will free up space and  will make seating much easier for our new friends. If you notice a lack of seating, please be willing to give up your spot or go to an overflow room so that our first time and return guests will have room to join us comfortably.

3. Make new friends.
Easter morning, when first time or return guests walk by you, take time to get to know them.  Be sure to Introduce yourself, learn their names and be intentional in your efforts to connect with them.  God brings the mission field to us on Easter Sundays.  What an amazing opportunity this is to share the love of Christ and extend the fellowship of our church to new friends.

4. Invite guests back.
Your invitation to them doesn’t have to begin and end Easter Sunday.  There is nothing worse than inviting a friend to Easter and then waiting a whole year to invite them back.  My hope is that your guests will experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ through our church on Easter Sunday in a way that will draw them back week after week.  One of the easiest ways to reach our community is to invite them back the Sunday after Easter.

5. Park in the back of the lot or carpool to church.
While accommodating our guests on Easter Sunday, we need to not only worry about seating, but parking as well. On this specific Sunday, let me encourage you to carpool to church and then park towards the back of our lot. We want to make Easter Sunday as easy on our guests as possible and this begins when they drive up in the parking lot.

Friends I cannot wait to celebrate Easter Sunday with you. Will you join me as we reach our community with the gospel of Jesus.

Apr 8, 2017

Feminism: From the Perspective of a Southern Baptist Pastor and Dad of Two Girls

As a Southern Baptist pastor, my views and my theology in large part reflect the tribe I belong to. I am conservative, I hold a high view on reading God’s original intent in Scripture and, and I preach messages expositorily (verse by verse) from the Bible. This includes my belief that men and women are created equally in the sight of God, yet complementary in the way that they live. I believe in traditional roles between men and women.

For those of you who know me, this should not come as a surprise. I was raised in a conservative Christian home. I was taught the word of God, saw it modeled by a mom who chose me over a vocation and a dad who modeled scriptural leadership.

When I became a dad to two beautiful girls, the idea of family roles was challenged. I’ll shoot straight— my wife is far smarter than me. Not by a little but by a lot. I have a daughter that will be smarter than both of us combined and another whose charismatic joy will open doors for her that I will never be able to touch.

I am challenged when I look to my girls and think that the job I have is one our faith says they can’t have. To tell you the truth, with the brains and charisma of my kids, I might be disheartened if one day they came home to tell me that they are going to “waste” their gifts to be “just” stay at home moms. It is a struggle I see my wife walk through when she is asked what she does and says, “I’m just a stay at home mom.”

This week as I studied for my coming sermon, I looked at the story of Leah and Rachel. In the story, both Leah and Rachel believe the lie that they only matter if they can produce children for their husband. The story of their lives is one of emptiness and heartache as they never measure up to find worth in their husband’s eyes. They never find value in their husband’s eyes nor their own. Their only value is in what they can produce.

Isn’t this the lie that a fallen and broken world has placed on women? It tells them that their value is only found in what is measurable. It says that your value is determined by your job. It says your value is determined by how you look or what a scale says. It says your value is found only when you can do what men do. Sadly this way of thinking does not give women value, but instead actually devalues them. It says that you only have value if you work, if you’re pretty, or if you act like a man.

What Leah and Rachel missed is that their value was not ever found in what they produced. Their value was found in who God said they were. Their value was in embracing the distinct characteristic God gave them to magnify His likeness.

God has created men and women both to display who He is distinctly through our masculinity and femininity. This means God calls men, the way He makes them, to some things, just as He calls women to others. Our value is not found in what we do.

I pray that my children would not be trapped in the delusion that they are only valuable if they are pretty. I hope they find more to life than what a job offers. I hope they find their life in God.

God gave me a gift when he sent me my wife. What attracted me to her was not her looks or her intellect. What attracted me to my wife was her godliness. Since being married, she has given me a gift of magnifying God through being a pastor’s wife, a stay at home mom, and a ministry helpmate. In this, she has embraced a calling from God to use her gifts, not to make a name for herself but instead to magnify the name of God to our kids and those she touches.

I will gladly say that God created men and women differently because their value does not rest in what they do, but instead in the fact that God Himself values them distinctly.

By the way, I would be exceedingly  glad if my girls grew up to be stay at home moms, pastor’s wives, or even missionary wives.

Feb 27, 2017

Why Christians Should Support Religious Liberty for Muslims, Even When We Disagree With Islam

Recently there has been a bit of commotion within the Southern Baptist world around a stand Russell Moore took defending a Muslim congregation’s right to worship. Several churches have taken to hold money from the convention over this stand. We need to be clear, Moore did not come out in support of muslim beliefs. He did not give SBC money to the church. He simply defended their right to worship.

Baptists in general should be the grandest supporters of religious freedom for all. Baptists are born from puritans and anabaptists who fled Europe because they were being killed for their beliefs. When America was being founded, our country almost was launched without the protection for all to worship freely. Roger Williams, the founder of the First Baptist Church of America, led the state of Rhode Island to hold out from joining our country until the protection of all religions were guaranteed the right to worship and practice their beliefs. Baptists, as the severe minority, would not have survived if it were not  for these protections. Written into the DNA of Baptists is the freedom of worship for everyone.

In recent days religious liberty has come under attack. The questions of whether one’s religious beliefs can direct their business have already been lost in our increasingly secular age. The constitutional right of religious liberty is eroding quickly. Today, christians face the temptation of surrendering this constitutional right inadvertently. If christians state that Muslims do not have the same inalienable rights as they do, they will lose their own religious liberty.

If we say that muslims do not have the right to build a house of worship for themselves, we should not be surprised when we are denied the right to build a house of worship in communities where we are no longer the majority. Our religious liberty, from a political standpoint, is tied to the same freedom that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Mormons share.

This does not mean we believe that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Mormons are right. It means that we support their political freedom to practice their religion. We can disagree with their religious convictions yet still support their governmental freedoms.

Very simply, the day that Muslims are denied the right to build a mosque is the day we surrender our right to build a church. The day Muslims are denied the right to practice their faith is the day we are denied the right to practice ours.

Religious liberty is not real liberty if it only gives freedom to the majority religion. For religious liberty to exist in America, it must be a right granted to every religious group. As Muslim liberty goes so goes Christian liberty.

I stand with Russell Moore and the ERLC.

Feb 9, 2017

Should a Christian Watch 50 Shades Darker?

50 Shades Darker is porn. Let's be straightforward about it. 50 shades is not a romantic movie to watch with your significant other, and it is not a catalyst to spice up your relationship. It is porn.

We are now living in the full expression of the sexual revolution, and it is important for us as believers to understand the consequences of our actions. Going to watch a movie that involves any nudity or sexual act has far reaching consequences. 

1. Watching porn kills your relationship with God. 
As Christians, the motivation of our lives should not be whether something is permissible but instead whether our actions lead us further into a relationship with God or away. Let me be clear -- porn is a sin. Jesus states in Scripture that anyone “who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

John Piper articulates clearly what watching shows like 50 Shades or Game of Thrones does in his blog

2. Watching porn pollutes your mind. 
Porn works in the same way drugs work. The images consumed cause a reaction in your brain which demand more and more. When porn takes a foothold in your life, it will only escalate. Like a drug, you will not be satisfied by the images you previously viewed but will need more graphic and vivid forms.  

This article by The Gospel Coalition communicates the physiological changes that will happen in your mind when you consume porn. (There are videos at the end that are more easily understood.)

3. Watching porn will hurt your sexual life. 
The affects of porn on your sexual life are serious. An addiction is caused because porn both creates an unrealistic expectation of your partner and raises what is necessary for pleasure since the pornography has numbed your brain. Simply put, porn will destroy your sex life. In a time where people are turning to porn to spice up things, porn will actually cripple your sexual relationship. 

Fight the New Drug, communicates this point in detail here

4. Watching porn will destroy your marriage. 
Porn is selfish. It is gratifying yourself in an act which God built for trust. Porn will devalue your spouse, erode the trust of your marriage, make you see you partner as a sexual object and not a person, and eventually lead you to isolation.  Porn will destroy your marriage. 

Relevant Magazine details the effects of porn on marriage. 

5. Watching porn enables an industry of sex trafficking. 
Huffington Post makes the point more simply that I can, “As long as America’s men are being trained to think that violent, disturbing pornography is sexually acceptable, an enormous clientele for sex traffickers is being created every day in homes, college dorms, and apartments across the nation.”

With all of that said, don’t watch 50 Shades. Unsubscribe from HBO and create accountability in your home for what your eyes see. Porn is far more dangerous than you realize. Let's own up to this vile practice and take the steps necessary to remove it from our lives.

Feb 3, 2017

How the Church Should Respond to Muslim Refugees

In recent days in America, the discussion of Muslim immigrants has been reawakened. The discussion centers around whether America should open its borders to displaced Muslims and accept the risk that a fractional minority might come meaning harm or protect our people and close our borders until we can be sure of our safety.

I am going to be straightforward here. There are many people on both sides of this issue who are far smarter and have better information than I do and who would be better equipped to discuss this. I am in no way qualified to approach this topic with anything other than reaction, which is where most of us are.

My passion and expertise are in the church. As this discussion has moved forward, I believe God has exposed the fear we live with which has paralyzed the people of God from ministry and evangelism to a people whom God has called us to reach. My care does not lie in the decisions of the White House but instead in the hearts of the people of God.

God has called the church to bring the Gospel to all nations. Within this command, God did not tell the church to go only to those who would be friendly to the church or go only to those who were our allies. He called the church to every people group across this world. This means we bring the message with our words and our actions that God has loved his enemies by sacrificing himself for them. This means we as Christians are called to take up the same cross of self sacrifice for those who are our enemies.

Paul, in the book of Romans, states that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many in the Roman church were growing weary of the persecution they faced on an everyday basis. Paul’s statement was an encouragement to continue to live out the bold love of Jesus Christ towards people whom they feared.

Christian friends, let's leave the politics to the politicians and embrace the call of Christ.Will you pray for the millions of Muslims across our world who do not know Jesus? When you see a Muslim family, will you intentionally go out of your way to know them and love them? Many foreign families long for community and friendships which become difficult in these politically polarizing times. Will you show the same love to them that Christ has shown to you? This summer, FBC Vidalia is going on mission to love and share the good news of Christ with Muslims. There would be no greater gift you can give to these people than the gift of life in Jesus Christ. Would you consider going?

Muslims are not our enemies. They are image bearers of God for whom Jesus Christ died. If Jesus Christ died for them, our call is to follow Him.