Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Job Description

It is interesting to look at Biblical text from a variety of views.  I am reading Matthew 10 and it could be viewed as a job description of sorts.  It describes the job ahead ... the compensation ... the challenges ... the authority under which the work is done ... warnings about how the job will be evaluated by both the friendly and unfriendly ... it describes impossible tasks and both rewards and punishment of doing the job right.  Paul might (in 1 Corinthians 2) describe this job description as part of God's foolishness that is contra to everything worldly and in tune with everything Godly.  If you read the job description you might think "Why would anyone agree to do that?"

So it is with those who would be Christ followers.  I have a friend in Montgomery who is involved with youth ministry.  She doesn't get paid well ... she doesn't get much support ... she isn't appreciated like she probably deserves ... but she continues.  Why?  Because she loves the kids and she has a servant heart. I have talked lots with those in youth ministry and have found that my friend is the rule ... not the exception.  This scenario is happening all around the country and is epidemic.  As I read Matthew 10 it ends with a phrase that convicts me ... "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." Matthew 10:42.  When I think about "the least of these" our youth come to mind.  They are seeking God ... they are asking questions ... they are hungry and thirsty to hear the Good News of God's Word ... they often have no guidance from home ... they see the world around them and (like most older folks I know) know something is wrong.  They seek ways to follow God and live in the plan God has for them but they have learned to distrust many of their adult role models.  Again, why?

I think the answer (or at least one of them) lies in Matthew 10.  They hear of a simple Gospel that leads to difficulty, hardship and even suffering ... all for a cause worth the effort.  Then they look around and see comfort ... fear of hardship ... a church that hires people to deal with the messiness of life ... and they hear everything we are saying (be careful little mouth what you say).  The fact of the matter is, they see our fear of jumping into their messiness in stark contrast to a Jesus who ran to the messiness of life (and to the messy people).

Your church will not be one of those who runs away from the messiness of our youth or of our adults.  We will be looking at creative solutions to ministering to our youth and college kids because we don't consider the do-nothing alternative a viable one.  We will do what Jesus asked when He understood that doing ministry was sometimes lonely ... "He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38).  It is probably no accident that these are the two verses preceding Jesus sending out disciples in Matthew 10.  And it is a call to each of us who say we are followers and disciples ... to follow and disciple!  What say you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Tomorrow I will be riding to Montgomery, Millbrook and Nashville on a mini-vacation ... then Sunday I will be preaching both services at Prattville 1st United Methodist Church in Prattville, Alabama.  It will be a bit of a homecoming and I will meet old and new friends, see my grand kids and I will miss my flock here in Santa Rosa Beach.  To get the places I am going I will be driving Lee's car and using the GPS on my phone.  Other travelers will come to these locations by bus, plane and other modes of travel.

As I was thinking about this I wondered how people reach the place where they meet and develop a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ?  For some this will be an event.  For others it will be a process that may take months or years.  In any case, it is our primary calling to lead people to that place.  My journey went a bit like this ...

When I was 9 I gave my life to Christ at a Baptist church in Charlotte.  I had little clue what that moment actually meant and received little directional guidance from that church.  Thankfully I had some home guidance that was solid and cumulative over the years.  At 34 I finally reached that place where I had the heart, head and soul knowledge that all came together in what I would call a true faith decision and I was baptized into the faith with my son and daughter in Louisiana.  I would count that as my true faith decision.  I am not alone.  John Wesley served as an Anglican pastor for years ... was a religious person ... was actually an ordained minister ... and even served as a missionary in Georgia until one day, at age 35, his heart was 'strangely warmed' and he too reached that place of salvation and conversion.  Millions have come to know Jesus because of what God did with John Wesley, and his conversion is directly connected to my conversion as we share similar experiences in our conversion/salvation experience.  But without the foundation of learning, serving, family and church I don't think either of us would have reached that place where we became the people God could use for His Kingdom work.

Some of you tell me you had different experiences and directions. While I am thankful for those who led and taught me in those early years (and I am truly thankful for Godly parents who upheld God's direction at home) I am truly indebted to a pastor named Jimmy Pyles who taught, preached, modeled and led me to a place of true faith.   He is the reason I am a pastor ... and he was a solid foundation for my family in a little church in Louisiana.  I so recall the value and necessity of those who taught me during that time I was watching, listening, learning and observing.  It is interesting ... the people that taught me the faith were not the 'religious' people who pushed me down the 'Roman Road' or fed me the Christian 'cliche' of the week.'  They were those who stopped from their busy life and taught me ... spent time with me ... engaged me in conversation ... took the time to break down theology into bite sized chunks that I could digest and save for that day when God called me.  I think John Wesley would say the same about those who influenced him.  In fact, a group of Moravians who were unafraid of God's provision during a terrible storm showed John that his faith needed a gut check.  I also believe Jesus knew this key to faith when he told amazing stories ... gave people the truth whether they wanted it or not ... and generally avoided much of the 'church-speak' we somehow believe is effective.

Are you needing direction?  God says we can come to him by bus, plane, car or on foot ... just come empty handed, empty-hearted and ready to be filled.  I, our staff and hopefully our worship will tell you the truth in a way that challenges you to process what Jesus said.  I pray that you will come (as I did when I was 34 years old) to a place of humility when I realized my path ... my direction ... my plan ... was clearly not working.  My pastor told me about a God with a plan for me and a path I could follow.  He didn't ask me to wash up before I came in the door.  He didn't profess the holiness of liturgical hoops I needed to jump through to be saved.  He just said God loved me where I was and that I didn't need to fear the journey forward ... God had a plan and a way.  Thank you, Jimmy!  You told me and showed me Jesus.  You prayed for me and my family.  You didn't feed me Christian one-liners.  You reflected Jesus to me.  I will try to do the same for my flock too!  And thank you Jesus for sending Jimmy to me right at the perfect time.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Do you want our church to be a deep, lasting, loving and difference-making influence in our community?  I know I would be honored to be used by God in that way.  But to accomplish this goal, we need depth.

As I watch both US Olympic basketball teams I see other countries with some great players.  In the games with the US they hold their own for awhile and sometimes are able to get the upper hand.  But in the end (at least most of the time) the US is relentless.  How can we do this?  We have more good players on the squad than any other team.  We have depth.

Good News has depth.  We have loads of talented adults who could be part of our ministry team.  Sunday I spoke about Paul telling Timothy to "throw yourself into the game."  Our talented adults could do this.  They could come into the game and say "How can I help us win?  How can I be a part of difference-making for children and youth?  How can God use me in the battle for the hearts, minds, and souls of our children?"  Here's the problem ... to help the the team we must join the team.  Here are some places you can make our team better ...

Be part of our Joy Club ministry on Wednesday afternoons.  With your help we will be able to serve 80+ children each week ... at current volunteer levels we will need to turn kids and families away.  In Olympic terms we have the talent to be in the podium for a medal but without depth we won't be able to make the finals in an event God has appointed us to win.

So ... you aren't into children?  OK ... become a volunteer with our youth.  They will challenge you, grow you, frustrate you and bless you with their view of life and the world.  Our Youth Pastor is three volunteers short ... yet we know God has called us to field a winning team.  We have lots to do ... just not many willing to be used and be the doers.  Our depth needs your help.

I write this blog knowing that some of you will say "Yes ... somebody should help but I am so busy ... I sure hope someone helps Josh and Dayna."  Some of you will say (with your inaction) what is said so often throughout our county ... our state ... our country.  I would rather be home watching someone else invest and sacrifice for the 'win.'  I'll stay on the sidelines while others try to win one for the home team.

I want to leave you with a verse and a question.  The verse follows Jesus sending out his 'team' called disciples.  People liked the team and wanted to be part of the team, but on their terms.  Jesus knew that to have a 'team' He needed people who were willing to invest ... be led by the team leader ... be followers ... be willing to be used however they were going to be most useful to the overall goal.  I won't add commentary here ... I just ask you to think about how God would like to use you.  Here are Jesus' words from Luke ...
"As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 NLT