Pentecostal

All posts tagged Pentecostal

Saving a Pastor Time and Money

Published October 2, 2017 by Dawn

My old job kept me in captivity most of the time. Captive to monotonous conversations I couldn’t get out of even for a phone call. I was a receptionist. I do recall, however, one of the shortest and most meaningful conversations of my life. I made an enemy in less than two minutes.

I didn’t mean to. It was really just a case of not thinking before I spoke, but it did two things: it freed me up to get back to work and delivered a gut-punch of truth I wouldn’t have muttered if I would have thought about it. After years of cultivating the precious habit, I now think before I speak (sometimes, rather than never) and usually give truth more tactfully, but this lady didn’t even see it coming.

A coworker of mine had sidled up to the counter and peered down at me while I ended a phone call. Poor lady. She was just trying to put some distance between herself and her own nightmarish conversation. But she picked me to talk to and that might not have been the best decision …

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but she was telling me about her second job. She was a social worker by day and a public speaker by … another day. Her topic: building the church. She traveled on the weekends delivering conferences on how to build the church through best business practice. My first question was pure curiosity: “People pay for that?” She bragged, “Yeah!” Then I did it. Engrossed by the idea and in the spirit of conversation, I mused, “That’s so weird! I mean, Jesus said in the Bible, ‘I will build the church.’ I can’t believe pastors pay for that!”

I kid you not.

She gave me a hurt look and without saying another word, she turned and walked to the farthest corner of the room and sat down. She gave me pitiful glances for the next half an hour and I just smiled dimwittedly at her because I had no idea how much I had hurt her ego.

I’ve been thinking about this for over a week now because for once, I finally understand why people pay for things like that. Someone told me a few Sundays past that they are seeking another church because as much as they love the one I attend, they preferred to be in a church where the youth are on fire for God. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, as that’s so important. Inside, though, it stung. I’m the youth leader…

When the Lord called me into youth ministry, I committed to God that I would never rely on gimmicks to build up a youth group. I told the Lord that day that I would simply teach the Word of God and let the chips fall where they may. I ministered for years to groups of three or four … sometimes two, and on some occasions, one. Every once in a while, the group would swell to eight, ten or twelve. Inevitably, though, I’d lose some and the numbers would go down again. Remembering that it’s important to be faithful in the little things, I have always just pressed on, teaching a message each week to whomever showed up that I had faithfully studied and prayed over all week prior. God was faithful to give me a word in due season and I was faithful to feed His sheep. I knew what she meant, though. We’re not, per se, “on fire.”

This friend’s comment, as honest and admirable as it was, hurt my pride. I went home and prayed in my closet, “God, if there’s someone else you want to move in here, please send them! I am not so proud that I won’t sit down and let someone else rock this for your glory. I wouldn’t mind being done.” I’ve been doing youth ministry for nine years.

I felt the desperation. I felt what many pastors must feel after faithfully ministering for so long to a congregation that is either dying or dead. And I finally realized that we’re all like the woman in the Gospels with the issue of blood. We’re dealing with a sickness that’s been persisting for so long, we’re desperate. We’re willing to throw money at anything that seems promising, even if it means paying someone to strategize about the carpet, the seating arrangements, the music and the length of the sermon. We’ll even trust a carnal businessman if he’s promising a positive change to the depressing state of our churches.

But, like her, perhaps our hope will not be found there. Jesus said in John 6:44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” Unfortunately, that means we’ve wasted a lot of time and money, and fruitless effort, trying to do something no man (or woman) on earth can do. And I think we’re a little confused about what it means to be on fire, too. We can purchase the amazing theatre lights, go for broke on our musical instruments and shout the roof down, but that’s all just hype if people don’t leave services changed. As a teacher, I have seen many students go from Wednesday night youth to Friday night dances wearing the shortest and most revealing dresses and cussing like a sailor. Undulating with the sway of human depravity and hiding behind their sheepish grins when our eyes meet. These young people are not on fire, even if they raise their hands and worship or give the most eloquent testimonies.

Dear pastors and youth pastors, please don’t waste another penny on conferences that promise to make a difference. Trust me, they won’t. I’ll save you time and money by shortening the truth to this: touching Jesus in prayer and intercession is the only thing that’s going to work. Holiness doesn’t always look like a loud, boisterous service. God spoke to Elijah on the mount in a still small voice, not in the earthquake, wind or fire. You can’t replicate the work of the Holy Spirit and get the same results Jesus got. Be faithful in prayer, teach what God speaks to you and leave the burden to God. If you are desperate, good! That just means you’ve read and understand James 3:1, which says, “not many of you should become teachers, brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

If you are afraid you aren’t doing something right as a minister, it’s okay. It’s humbling when you think about it: God chose jars of clay with hearts of stone to use to minister to the world. On our own, we are rather pitiful. We need God to infuse us. Infuse the worship and message we bring with His power and set people on fire because we can’t do that on our own. No matter how much we water down the gospel to fill the pews, we will not see people on fire for God in our own strength.

I hope this takes a load off. It does for me, at least. If you find this piece offending, I think it’s probably because you think too much of yourself. Jars of clay. Remember that. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power does not come from us, but from God” (2 Cor. 4:7). God bless, friends!

 

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Dear Shepherd, Go and Feed My Sheep

Published July 7, 2016 by Dawn

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).

I live in the heart of America. Or maybe it’s America’s waistline. I don’t know … it’s called the Bible Belt. Waistline it is …

There’s a church on every corner where I come from. Many towns around here have more churches than bars, banks or schools. I even been to several places that I thought might have had more churches than homesteads. We have definitely given the Lord a place to stay in the waistline of America.

Do you want to know what else we have here in abundance? Rehab clinics. Because I happen to come from a place that also has an overabundance of drug addicts. The county I live in is #2 in the state for heroin usage, and by the looks of things, the margin separating us from #1 is getting smaller and smaller by the day.

I was out running the other day and passed three churches on one street. A building in between them, with an inscription above the door that said, “Erected in 1952 Educational Building for  —–“ It was the church’s Sunday school building. It was two or three stories tall, a real monument to the wealth of the church, and the youth that must have inhabited their great sanctuaries. That church is still as big as it used to be, but sadly, it’s congregation has dwindled to a faithful few.

I’ve been running past these churches for days, listening to the Lord speak a message to me that frankly, is kind of hard to share. It’s not popular. But He’s given me such a burden about it, I am sitting here trying to figure out how to be tactful so you’ll keep reading …

America is filled with churches that are filled with dry bones. Bones that once had the breath of life in them, but now they’re just embers of a dying fire. The message of Christ – the message that is so powerfully capable of saving the multitudes and changing the hearts of millions – has become meaningless drivel. The church has capitulated to a crowd of self-seekers who Jesus said, “Honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). How long have we watered down the Gospel so that people can be comfortable in our pews? How long have we given them a powerless motivational speech so they don’t have to deal with the Holy Spirit’s conviction? They come into church with itching ears and instead of giving them a truth that requires them to be real with God, we give them a lie so they feel good about themselves. We’ve turned the Gospel into a lie to shield them from the truth of repentance. Listen to me! There is no forgiveness without repentance. Therefore, there is no grace without confronting the sin inside. The law was given so that our sins would be known to us so that we can receive grace (Romans 5:10). But “where there is no law, there is no trespass” (Romans 4:15). Paul is telling us that because we hear the law, we are conscious of our sin. That knowledge leads us to Christ because we are separated from God while living in sin. Jesus died so we can have access to forgiveness and freedom from the chains of sin. We are no longer bound to it, we are free!

This is such a powerful, liberating message. But it’s also foolishness and unacceptable. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Sadly, we’ve catered to the people who see it as foolishness instead of letting God’s word be true and every man a liar. We’ve created a parallel Gospel with all the “good” parts that everyone wants to hear. You know, the parts that tell us how awesome God thinks we are, and how much He loves us and wants to do amazing things in our lives. And so as not to offend anyone, we’ve taken out all the parts we don’t want to deal with.

  • Be holy as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44,20:26)
  • The one who does what is sinful is of the devil (1 John 3:8)
  • No one who is born of God keeps on sinning (1 John 3:9)
  • “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
  • “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” *Hebrews 10:26-27)

The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died so that we can be free from the grip of sin. Humanity was given a free will that was subject to the law of sin for thousands of years until Christ came and, by his death, liberated our wills, giving us control again so that we can live in Him, not in sin.

Just like the Israelites in the desert, so many people come in to church and become terrified by God’s righteousness. They don’t like hearing that they are wrong, because they are just living out the New Age gospel that tells them that their happiness is god. They don’t realize that either way, there’s a fire they’re going to face. It will either be the purifying fire of God that consumes them and burns up everything in their lives that is not in line with His Spirit, or it will be the eternal fire that consumes forever the enemies of God. And we aren’t comfortable with this part of the Gospel to their detriment, and ours. Dear preachers, haven’t you read James 3:1? “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Your motivational speeches that lack power and truth are killing people all around you and God is saying to us, just as he said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people … so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. If I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 3:17-18). That’s a high calling, brothers and sisters. Is there no fear and trembling when God speaks this word to you? Perhaps that is the place to start.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

This is a good word! A liberating word. Remember the day God reached down into the muck and mire of your life and pulled you out? You heard the full Gospel. You wrestled with it. You were broken by it, and then mended by Jesus. Remember that day? It was a good one! That message that rescued you was meant to rescue others. It’s powerful. It will bring people back into the churches. Give them Jesus! When Paul began his missionary journey, he began his ministry debating the Old Testament in the temple. By the time he made it around to the Corinthians, his method – his message – had changed drastically. He said to them, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

The message of the cross is powerful. It’s also offensive to the flesh, and our churches are full of people who have been encouraged to live in the flesh for so long, we are afraid to give them the simple truth. We tickle their ears to keep them happy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. By hook or by crook, Satan vows to have us and he is having his way in our churches and our communities because we don’t want to come before the congregation in fear and trembling. We want them to be comfortable and we want to be comfortable.

Let me challenge you, pastor friend. Get back to the basics. Trade in your crafty message of half-truths for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you want power back in your church and you want to fill the pews again and see people saved, get back to the unadulterated Word of God. Put down the books written by men you admire and aspire to be and consult with God over your message. See if He doesn’t lead you back to Jesus. Then Jesus will say to you, I am sure, “Go and feed my sheep” (John 21:17).