Tag Archives: family

What is a Church to do?

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It has been a beautiful thing to work with the Aztec church of Christ over the last two years. I have seen many lives change as people grow in their understanding of the bible or even come to Jesus for the first time. As a church our Sunday morning attendance has more than doubled in the last two years and Sunday morning class attendance nearly matches our worship service attendance.

I have enjoyed listening as person after person has spoken of the love they feel in this congregation. People here really try to treat one another like family. We welcome people regardless of their background or flaws, and we treat them with joy. This has created a family atmosphere that I think is one of our greatest draws as a church reaching out into the community. When we follow Jesus’ two primary laws, Love God and Love Your Neighbor, we find that people want to be a part of what we are into.

It is easy to maintain that family dynamic when we are a church of 50-80, but when we grew over 100 we began to see that dynamic change a bit. Well, at least I’ve seen it. Haven’t you?

So how do we keep the small church love in a medium-sized church?

To keep from allowing our growth to hurt rather than bless our gatherings we have to recognize a few things. First we must recognize the dynamic of our congregation. We are a church made primarily of young to middle age families. We have some seniors who we love dearly, but they do not comprise the majority of our attendance. We are also a congregation that comes from all over the region. We aren’t a church entirely made up of people from our neighborhood or town. We have people that come from Aztec, Flora Vista, Crouch Mesa, Bloomfield, Navajo Dam, Cedar Hill, Farmington, La Plata, Bayfield Colorado and points in between. For many people it is difficult for us all to meet together more often than just Sunday mornings.

Second we must realize that more people means more contacts, and more contacts mean fewer meaningful contacts. In a church of 50 the preacher can get to know the few families represented fairly well, but in a church three times that size it is difficult for everyone to know everyone well. You may recognize this as you look around the room on Sunday and see people that you can’t call by name much less recall anything about them.

Third we should note that while not all people here are new Christians, many people are new within the last couple of years. This newness often brings a reluctance to jump in and get involved right off the bat in roles that are traditionally seen as leadership roles.

Church growth is a great thing, but it does bring certain beautiful challenges.

If you want to know what keeps me up at night it is this: how can I help this church continue to grow into mature disciples of Christ and maintain the family dynamic that we all love so dearly?

I know that the Spirit is the One who guides our moves as a church, but He has commissioned me to be a leader in this church. I take that responsibility seriously, and I’m excited to see where He leads.

As such, He has been showing me through the scriptures as well as church growth studies and discussions with other ministers of growing churches the direction He wants us to go to facilitate discipleship growth while maintaining the family dynamic.

This year you are going to hear me talk a lot about small groups. I am going to show you what the church looked like in the first century and how small groups were the key to church growth and health back then. I want to show you how small groups can be a key to helping all of us grow as disciples of Jesus in a much more meaningful way. I’m excited to show you how small groups bring unity and family atmosphere to a church whose numbers don’t support such dynamic.

There are other things that we will be working on as a church this year as well. We aren’t looking to start small groups tomorrow. I want to talk to you about this and help you see the joys of small groups before we ever embark on this journey. Many of you may even begin to realize that you’ve been involved with small groups already but didn’t recognize it as such.

I’m praying for Aztec church of Christ. I’m excited where the Spirit is leading us. Will you join me in prayer for the church as well? If you have questions or concerns, will you come talk with me about them? I’d love to hear what’s on your heart and mind.

May The Lord bring spiritual and physical growth to His church this year as we seek His will and strive to love Him more and love those around us as well. God bless you all.

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Hunters Who Never Hunt

IMG_4681It’s hunting season across the nation. Each morning thousands of people wake up before dawn and get into their vehicles or walk out to their desired location and listen and watch as the sun rises. This process usually begins with a gathering of tools and weapons needed for the hunt. If the hunt is for the day or for a week much preparation is needed before the day of the hunt.

Many hunters spend hours and hours hunting, not for game, but for areas where the game are. They do research and read books and peruse articles that may give them an edge on the hunt that they have chosen. They spend countless dollars on gadgets and gizmos they see as needed to reach their prize. They look at maps and drive miles upon miles to get to their hunting grounds.

Then there’s the hunt. The hunter is properly camouflaged and adequately still and quiet. They pick a place where they can find cover but still see well enough to find their quarry. Then they wait. They may make game calls with their gadgets if they deem necessary, but more important than gadgets is that they are in the right place at the right time, so they wait.

Hours and hours have gone into this one morning. The sun is rising. The air is calm and crisp. Anticipation and adrenaline runs high.

There’s the prize.

Now the harvest.

God be praised for the bounty of his creation.

What if they never went out?

What if week after week they talked about hunting. They paid for subscriptions to the best hunting magazines and read them cover to cover. They bought all the gadgets and gizmos and practiced them to perfection in the comfort of their homes (or the car if their wife deems necessary). They have the right gear and weapons.

What if they even got together at the local shop to talk about their latest gadget. They showed off their best camo. They talked about their favorite hunting dog.

What if they did all this but never went out and hunted.

Would they be hunters?

Week after week people flock to churches to sing praises to their God. They read their bibles and partake of the Lord’s Supper. They teach classes to people of all ages on how to know their bible and properly practice the traditions of their faith.

Many of these people know the bible forward and backwards. They can quote book chapter and verse with ease. They can tell you all about Jesus. They are good people and look like they have it all together.

Week after week they read the words written in black and white, and week after week they fail to put those words into practice.

Does that make them Christians? Is your knowledge of the bible what makes you a follower of Jesus? Is it not, rather, the way you live your life?

We call ourselves Christians, but how well are we evangelizing the world around us? Jesus seemed to make that a priority for his followers.

We call ourselves Christians, but we look like the world on every day but Sunday. Isn’t that contrary to what we are called to in the bible?

It’s time to stop pretending and start participating. You have been called to be fishers of men. You are called to hunt for the lost and rescue them from the wages of sin. It’s time to stop filling your buckets with preparation and start using your tools for the work you were called to do.

Join with me as we work together to do more than learn about Jesus. Join with me as we tell the world about him.


An Immovable Object Meets an Unstoppable Force

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Change is inevitable. If you look around you’ll see change everywhere. People change as their bodies grow and they age. Nature changes from day to day due to weather and usage. Minds change as they see a new way that makes more sense. Churches change as they encounter their culture in a new and relevant way. The Word of God doesn’t change, but people constantly change.

Except when they don’t.

Sometimes people look like they are changing, but on the inside they are just putting on a false show. They are doing what is necessary to manipulate the reactions of others around them. They say they want to change, but in reality change is too difficult or scary for them to actually do what is necessary to change. Perhaps they want to put on a show so that others won’t see the selfishness that looms just behind their facade. This is not change. This is putting on a mask in order to stay entrenched in that which makes you comfortable.

Maybe you’re there. Maybe you say you want to change – maybe you really do want to change – but the experience of doing so seems impossible. Maybe you only want to change because you want to see different results in someone else. Maybe you only want to change because you want to get something extra that you see others get. These motivations won’t grant you the success you secretly desire. They will be seen by those you seek to impress as manipulation and covetousness and hypocrisy.

So how do we actually change? We have to want with a different motivation.

I cannot create true change within myself as long as the desires within me are selfish. That word, selfish, defines a certain way of thinking that will only provide temporary strength needed to make change. To truly change, a person must look for strength beyond the superficiality of selfishness. To truly change a person must love.

Love is not self seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5).

When you begin to love then what you desire truly begins to melt away. When you love God, you strive for what He desires in you. You change not because of the benefit to you but out of love for Him.

When you love others you stop doing things to manipulate and coerce your own way. You begin to see and seek the way of others so that you can help them and serve them in whatever capacity needed. This is not for accolades. This is because you love them and have died to self.

When you love God and love others you will begin to do your best in all things. Laziness melts away for there is always something to be done for someone. You find yourself finally doing all the things you’ve been putting off for procrastination is selfishness. You become a model worker, spouse, parent, child.

When you learn the way of love you finally begin the journey of the life you were meant for. You begin to find satisfaction within yourself that cannot be taken away. Even when others chastise you, they are not able to tear you down for you are on a journey not guided by selfishness but by love…even for them.

This way of love mends all relationships: marriages, workplaces, families, churches.

When we find the way of love we will change. For some it will happen almost overnight. For others it may take a while. But in every case the people around will begin to notice that we’ve changed. We no longer look like our old self (that was supposed to be crucified when we came to Jesus). Now we begin to look more and more like Jesus to the world around us.

May you find change, and may the change be motivated by love as you grow into the image of Jesus.


Any ole excuse will do…

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In Luke 14, Jesus tells an odd little story.  It’s also mentioned in Matthew 22.

In this story, a rich man holds a great banquet, not unlike a party of today, and he invites all his friends and relatives and coworkers and other influential people, but one-by-one they all make excuses as to why they can’t come.  This hurts the master, and frustrates him too, so he orders the servants to go out and drag in all the poor and oppressed people off the streets of his town.  After they do all that, he has them go out into the countryside and get all those people too so that the party would be a full success.

Jesus said this is like the kingdom of heaven, and I believe it.

First of all, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are terms that are interchangeable for the same concept.  This is the rule or reign of God in our lives here on earth that causes us to be citizens of heaven.  Like the song says, “This world is not my home…”

We then, as Christians, are citizens of heaven, and you know we are citizens when you see the reign of God in our lives.  However, there are many people today who are just like these townsfolk in Luke 14.

These people make excuse after excuse as to why they shouldn’t attend the banquet.  One has some new oxen and needs to try them out.  One just bought a field and needs to go inspect it.  One just got married.

People today make similar excuses when faced with the decision of whether or not to follow God’s guidance in their life.  I see it all the time.  Someone has an opportunity to serve in some capacity to help others, but they are tired or have a party to go to.  Someone has an opportunity to tell someone else about Jesus, but they just aren’t gifted in that way – let someone else do it.  Someone has an opportunity to be at church with the rest of the kingdom of God, but it’s too early or too dull or too whatever.

As Christians, we are called to live as Children of God.  We are expected to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, but this kingdom is not a democracy.  It is a totalitarian dictatorship with God as supreme ruler.  The difference here that makes it attractive, however, is that the citizens get pardon after pardon because of the King’s Son.  The citizens are treated with respect and love.  The citizens were created by the King, and the King knows how each citizen should live to have the best life possible – eternal life.

So what kind of citizen are you?  Do you make excuse after excuse as to why you don’t need to do more than attend church every now and again?  Or are you the kind of citizen who follows God and allows Him to reign in your life?

I think that you’ll find the latter option to be the most fulfilling, rewarding existence possible.  Just today I heard someone say that you’ll never find happiness through self seeking.  It seems that it would work out great to please yourself in order to be happy, but it actually works quite the opposite.

So seek God and His reign in your life, and stop making excuses about it.  Then, get to the banquet – we have one every Sunday (we call it communion).


Killing Churches Daily

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There is one thing that tears up churches more than any other thing. In fact this may be the only reason churches split. What is it? It is a lack of conflict resolution skills.

If you are around people for very long then there will come a time when you will disagree with them. They may say or do something you do not like. They may NOT say or do something, and you might think they should. Maybe you think they should have listened to your advice or come to you for help but they didn’t. Now you’re upset.

Why? We usually get upset out of an elevated sense of self-worth. We see our ideas, actions, motives, etc. as being more pure or better than someone around us.

This is not love. This is pride. Pride is the opposite of love because pride has to do with selfishness, and love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13).

So, now you’re upset, and what do you do? You let it simmer inside. You think of all the stupid reasons that other imbecile should have done or said or not done whatever it is that you’re upset about. Then you find another friend and talk with them about this issue. Your friend agrees with you, and now they’re upset with this individual. By the way, that’s gossip and slander (2 Cor. 12:20). Then the rumor-mill starts, and before you know it there is a whole army of people looking for blood from this individual.

Their initial action may or may not have been wrong, but the subsequent actions are sinful and devastating to the church that belongs to Christ.

So what do we do? Jesus tells us what to do if someone sins against us:

Matthew 18:15-17
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Note that this isn’t them offending us. We can be offended, but if they haven’t sinned against us, then we need to check our pride. If we are holding a grudge based on something we are offended by, then we need to drop it and love our brother or sister.

But what if we sinned against them or even cause some strife against them and they aren’t mature enough to come to us first? Jesus addresses that too:

Matthew 5:23-24
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Notice that Jesus wants us to be about the ministry of reconciliation before we are able to come to him in worship.

If we are holding grudges against our brothers and sisters in Christ that isn’t love. We need to repent because we don’t love God if we aren’t loving our brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20-21).

So, let’s be people who practice the art of conflict resolution in love. Let’s keep our anger and pride in check. You are God’s gift to the church but you don’t have to remind the church of it. You are smart and have great ideas, but so do others. You may think a person should do something, but they’ll never know until you tell them in love. You may not like the actions of another, but you cannot control them – you can only control yourself and your reaction to them. Remember that you are all equal in God’s sight and equally loved by Him.

If we can remember that our love for them is more important than our need to be right then we will be able to get along just fine.

Jesus said the world will know that He is the messiah by our love for one another and our unity with one another (John 13, 17). Let’s be a shining example of that to the world around us.


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Why Did Jesus Weep?

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Death is hard. I used to think that I dealt with death pretty well, but these last two weeks have been pretty taxing.

Last week I had the honor of ministering to a family who had lost a young man who was 33. He went to sleep and didn’t wake up. He left behind two young children. This past week I was honored again to be able to minister to another family who lost a son, brother, and husband who was 28. He was murdered while helping a lady with her car.

Death is hard.

Unfortunately death is an inevitability for each and every one of us. How will we deal with it? How do we prepare for what will eventually befall us? Are you ready?

So many people live this life with a focus on today or even yesterday. We are supposed to do that, but we must never forget that there will come a day when we will meet our Maker. We must be prepared because we aren’t even guaranteed to make it out of today alive. James, the brother of Jesus, talks about how fragile our lives are. He says they are a mist or vapor that appears only for a moment. Then he speaks to what I think is key. He says (my paraphrase) to take advantage of every moment while here on earth.

I’ll be honest with you. My hope and confidence is in the resurrection. I plan on living forever with the Almighty, my Abba. I have confidence in this because I’ve been united with His Son in His death and resurrection. Romans 6 talks about when we are united with Christ. Then it says if we have been united with Jesus’ death and resurrection we will also have eternal life today and even after we physically die.

Do you have confidence that you will be raised to live with Christ forever? Do you have your plan for the future? Is your plan based on what your Creator has said in His word?

Death comes quickly. Death is hard. And for many people death is sad. But for those who have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection death is not the end. For us death is actually a time of celebration for the journey of our loved one is complete as he or she is ushered into the presence of the One they longed to see face to face – the Creator.

Paul says to the church in Corinth that they didn’t not have to grieve like those who have no hope because of the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet death is still hard.

Jesus went to raise his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. He had waited longer in the place he was before going just because he knew that Lazarus was going to die and he was going to raise his friend to glorify God. Yet, when he got to the funeral on the fourth day after Lazarus’ death he still saw all the people weeping, grieving over the loss of their loved one and Jesus wept too. He knows how hard death is on us. He loves us in the midst of it, and he offers a way to overcome death.

Jesus has overcome death through his resurrection. He offers that opportunity to you as well. Would you give your life to him and allow him to wash away all that keeps you from having eternal life? Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come.


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