Why Would a Church Plant a Church?

It really is a good question. Why wouldn’t a healthy church body just continue growing its own existing attendance, offerings, leadership, and “followship,” and let that be enough?  Certainly, a church body may feel pushed to plant a church because its present facilities are limited, or it is land-locked so it can’t just build a bigger building.  Perhaps it resists going to two services to accommodate growth because of the possibility of losing unity in the body. But shouldn’t there be more reasons for church planting than merely pragmatic ones?  I believe that there are, indeed, several profound reasons for doing so that go far beyond the practical.

Churches planting churches is founded in God’s design for humanity to reproduce. God created man in His own image. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with His image bearers (Gen 1:28). When we replicate God’s image across the earth, we speak of God’s rule and proclaim His glory! Reproducing image bearers sets forth God’s mission for spreading His fame. Later, Christ came to the dirt-gardening-green-1214394earth to bring humanity salvation and before He left, He gave once again a more pronounced mission to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19,20). So each person made in God’s image who has been given new life through Jesus are to reproduce disciples of Jesus. The church is where disciples grow and flourish in Christ’s own image. The culmination then of a group of people making disciples of Jesus should naturally be reproduction–one body of believers forming a new body of believers for the purpose of making more disciples of Jesus. This is God’s plan.

Churches planting churches live out  a mission founded in God’s design for humanity to reproduce. God created man in His own image, then commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with His image bearers (Gen 1:28).  When we replicate God’s image across the earth,  we speak of God’s rule, proclaim His glory, and live out God’s mission for spreading His fame.  Christ came to the earth to bring humanity salvation, and before He left, He gave a more pronounced mission to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19,20).  So, each person made in God’s image who has been given new life through Jesus is to reproduce disciples of Jesus. The church is where disciples grow and flourish in Christ’s own image. The culmination, then, of a group of people making disciples of Jesus should naturally be reproduction–one body of believers forming a new body of believers for the purpose of making more disciples of Jesus. This is God’s plan. 

Churches planting churches are forced to trust God. Trusting God is always an adventure into the unknown. God told Abraham to go to a place that “I will show you” (Gen. 12:1), and though several times he demonstrated lapses of confidence in God,  Abraham did follow and is later recognized as a person of sweet faith (Heb. 11:8). God intends for His people to trust Him.  Church reproduction is a supreme act of faith in God on the part of the planting body.  It places the church in a position of dependency due to limited funds, limited people, limited facilities, and often limited leadership.  It is a process by which faith takes root because people are forced to run to the Unlimited One for help. And is not total dependency upon God for the full expression of His great glory always the place where God’s people should find their resting place?  Planting a church forces all involved to look to Him in a very intentional way, and in doing so, their faith is forged and strengthened.

Churches planting churches get to experience a taste of life in the early church. Paul makes clear in Romans 15:19 “so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of  the gospel of Christ.” As you read his epistles, you see that the reproduction of godly men is the goal of the ministry of Paul, and he exhorts his followers to minister in such a way that they, too, reproduce godly men.  (Titus 1:5; 2 Tim 2:1).  Paul went into major cities from Jerusalem to Illyricum and in-between, seeking to produce churches that would reproduce churches within those cities. This process shows that a church is indeed to be a missionary congregation that is to live out the missional outreach of God to people to create a new people for His glory. Each time a church gives birth, it takes that body back to the roots of the early church and accomplishes the same purpose that Christ and the apostles set forth to accomplish (Eph. 2:20). I say that there is truly nothing like this experience in all of the world!

Churches planting churches stir up a greater passion for the things of God in the people of GodThis is one of the sweetest results of church planting. Christ will build His church, and we as human beings simply get to be a part of it, but in the process, the things of God become a more precious and superior priority for the people of God.  This happens in several, tangible ways:

  • Prayer becomes vital – 1Thess 5:25“Brethren, pray for us!”
  • Love for one another grows – 1Thess 3:12 – “…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another…”
  • Giving becomes much more important – 2 Cor 8:3-5 – “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” This passage describes  financial giving, but a church planting a church is driven to other kinds of sacrificial giving, which may include people, possessions, and even property to help establish the new work.
  • Service to each other blossoms –1 Peter 4:10 –  “As each has received a gift,  use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Every person serving is important in God’s Kingdom work, and never is this service more vital than in the forming of a new body.
  • Leaning on God becomes the safe zone.  Prov. 3:5-6  – “…in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”  Every time a new church meets together, there is a communal  sense of the need to trust God.  People experience  many emotions as God directs their paths in the process of growing His church, and leaning on Him becomes the safe zone for each step along the way!
  • People recognize the unique value of one another. – Rom 12:9-10 –  “Let love be genuine…Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Genuine love for God and for people happens in Christ’s church when the Gospel pulsates through its heart. This work of grace should not be taken for granted nor should it be forgotten. Christ died for people!

Churches planting churches will experience difficulty. Of course, like everything we set out to do in a very fallen world, planting a church can be difficult.  There are a number of reasons for this. People who carry with them some sort of religious or “spiritual” agenda are often attracted to church plants. They can come with smiling faces and seem thrilled to be a part of something new, yet inwardly, they are really wanting something that is formed to their own liking. They often begin by being very service-oriented, but their service is simply the key they will use to open the door of their personal agenda. Church planters often face real spiritual roadblocks that are thrown at them often by the Evil One who wants to discourage the planter or even take the planter out. Anytime a church is planted, it should prepare for real spiritual battle. Church plants often begins with only a few people coming.  Visiting families with children like to have nurseries and children’s ministries already in place for their families. If the core group starting the church has only one or two children, the experience of the visiting family can be discouraging,  and that of the core group’s children can be lonely.  These things and others like them seem small and insignificant, but they can be real threats to the overall success of the church plant. 

The metaphor of birth is an excellent one for a church to ponder when working through both these difficulties and experiencing the joy of new life.  Pregnancy, like the process of preparing to plant a church, is long and can be hard.  Parents-to-be, like a church planting a church,  battle anxiety about the unknown.  Birth itself is painful and arduous, yet there really is nothing in the world like the birth of your son or daughter. It is an experience I will never forget! The same is true of a church giving birth to another church. It is an opportunity to claim a front-row seat to see the hand of God building His Kingdom for His great glory! Pray, plan, prepare, and pursue planting a church! 

Growing Old Is Not For Sissies

I turned 60 this year–actually a few months ago now. I think the dust of it all has settled and I’m in a better condition to talk about it. Hitting this mark shook me up more than I anticipated.

So, I have been doing some thinking. I know, that is dangerous, but hang with me. The question I have asked is legitimate, I think. “What do I know now that I didn’t know or maybe was afraid to think about when I was younger?” I think that is a legitimate question for someone my age to ask.

So, I began a list. In no certain order…

Life is rarely as it seems. This comes as a big surprise to a young person. When we are all young, we all have in our minds how life should work out. We may never say or even know how to express it, but we have expectations. However, life is rarely like what we think. In God’s providence for us, He moves in us and through us for His own purposes and it is often so very different. We wouldn’t chose those ways, but looking back, they were perfect for us. We may not have liked it at the time, but God was shaping our hearts in such profound ways. Early in our marriage and ministry, God put us in some of the most confusing and even ungodly places to minister. I say now that through those times, I learned more of what not to do in ministry than what ministry really was. There were some very difficult days, but now, I am so thankful God put us through it all. I now am constantly aware that most likely, what I am seeing now in life and ministry is not what it seems, and I can trust that God can and will put it all together for me for my good and His glory. Age has allowed me to see this and be ok with it and even expect it now.

Genuine friends are few. I guess I had a weird view of what a friend should be and do. Looking back now, my idea of a friend wasn’t very accurate. Over time, I have learned that really, there are concentric circles of acquaintances with really only a very, very few real friends. I’m slow, I guess, but I see it now so I can adjust. I began to understand this when we lived in Germany and the Saudi War broke out. Someone asked me, “If we do get invaded (in Germany) who would you call first?” Immediately, I knew of one name of a friend that I knew if I called him, he was resourceful and concerned enough and between the both of us, we could make an escape. That guy is still someone I could go to and we can pick right up where we left off and enjoy each others company. This is just one example, but there are people that God gives you for long lasting relationships but they are very few and far between. This is not a complaint, just a reality from my perspective. I continue to be thankful for their friendship.

Family is a sweet gift from God – treat it with care. There truly is nothing like family. No matter how dysfunctional your family may seem, it is the core institution that all of us were created to be a part. I now have a clearer sense of how important not just parents are but also how important in-laws can be in a family. I am now an in-law. I have learned much from my mother and father-in-law how to love, care for, and treat family. I have learned how to be a grand-father (or “Pops” as I am now called). But most of all, when it comes right down to it, it is the family that is where I am most at home, where I find some of my greatest joys and where I can count on to get the most honest feedback for my life. My children (all three of them with their spouses) are my greatest friends. I am now exploring the world of grand parenting and finding moments of great and unspeakable joy in learning how God has made them and how God is working His glory out in their lives. I travel this road with great care and find it so rewarding. Family is a sweet gift from God!

Pain hurts. We all know physical pain hurts–boy, does it ever! But I continue to learn that there is other pain in life and it hurts as well. Sin causes pain. The way people respond to other people and circumstances in life can cause excruciating pain. There’s unbearable pain when parents don’t parent with love. There’s inner pain when people walk away from Christ’s church. There’s unspeakable pain when some of life’s expectations don’t live up to what was advertised. Sin causes pain…and it hurts. Sometimes terribly. I don’t think anyone ever told me this in my twenties–or, at least, maybe I wasn’t listening. Probably more of the latter.

I am far more depraved than I could ever imagine. The word “depraved” for some sparks all kinds of theological debates. I’m not going there in this piece. But, I will say this, it is true. I am far more depraved than I could ever imagine. My heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and quite frankly, from time to time, it scares me how much God’s grace and mercy keeps me from my own depravity. I have learned to love the hymn, “He Will Hold Me Fast” mainly because I know in my soul that if Jesus doesn’t hold me fast, I am a goner! But the sweetness to seeing this is the fact that Jesus has set His love on me even though He knows my wickedness. Just amazing, isn’t it?

Jesus is so much more than a ticket to heaven. I was raised to understand that “being saved” meant I would go to heaven. We sang, “I Got A Mansion” and it thus implied heaven and a huge house was the focal point, the apex of salvation. So, Jesus was my ticket there. Who wouldn’t want to go there? Now, that sentiment is not wrong, it just isn’t entirely right. My redemption in Christ is far, far more than this. It is my privilege into the presence of the Father Himself. Christ’s righteousness imputed to me means I have been given life–eternal life. Access to the Father is the sweetest because it is that all important relationship that was forfeited by my sin and willfulness against Him. This is all of grace and all of His magnificent love seen in the perfect work of Christ alone! Once again, it is just amazing, isn’t it?

Grace is the 3-in-one oil for the cogs of life. Grace is God’s favor extended to me that has finds no merit in me. It is God’s divine enablement given to me to live out His perfections in a very imperfect world. Grace makes the cogs in life work more effectively. As we have been given this favor from God even though we don’t deserve it, we are given a whole other platform now on which we can serve others. The law pushes us to a merit system for living that honestly, no one can measure up. God’s grace is available to those who humbly need it and is given freely. Grace then becomes like the 3-in-One oil that my father used to use to free up rusty screws or bolts. That particular brand has been replaced by W-D 40 but it still does the same thing–it loosens things and causes them to work and function properly. I praise God for His grace that enables me to function properly in life.

There are no magic wands! Finally, there are no magic wands in life is there? There are no quick fixes. There are no 3-steps to happiness or 5 Easy Lessons for a Happy Marriage – all of that is hype. All there is really is a life that is daily. Every day, all the time and in every way, our only source of contentment, satisfaction, success, joy or happiness or anything else you would give yourself to better your life can only be found in Christ…alone. This is not just a pitch for reformational thinking, it is just how life really is. I’ve watched it now for 60 years and have been in ministry for 37+ years of that 60 and have only begun to learn Christ, love Christ and live Him. Everyday, by grace and through faith, I get to live His perfections as I depend on Him alone. The more I seek anything outside of His grace and glory, the more difficult life gets for me and those around me. Nothing magic here! Just ordinary living filled with repentance and faith in Christ and by His great grace. That is enough! Really.

Life is so difficult…

Sin has so tarnished all of life. One of the sad realities of sin is that sin is never singular. There is never a time where we sin one sin. James makes it very clear in James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So often, sin piles upon sin and the results of this can make life very difficult for everyone involved. Their sin means you are suddenly faced with perhaps some very difficult circumstances to navigate through. You must first navigate through your own sin that just comes gushing out of your heart. If that isn’t enough, you must learn then to navigate through the sin of those around you who are reacting to the original sin. Layers and layers of sin, destruction, hurt, and discouragement can really throttle your soul and turn your heart from the sweet grace of God in Christ. So, when these things take place, it is important that we have some real anchors for our soul that are sure and steadfast.  

Below is a list I have used personally to help steady my soul when facing difficult circumstances. Maybe you have some steady anchor points you would add these to. Consider these truths!

1. Immediately guard your thoughts. Our mind is so deceitful and can very boldly think things that are quite nasty and very hurtful if not held in check. Few people knew this better than the prison-bound Apostle Paul. While in prison he wrote his letter to the Philippian church that speaks of the joy in Christ that is unlike anything here on earth. In Philippians 4:8 he writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” “[You] think on these things.” It seems to be very clear there are several other things you could think but you don’t. Instead, you turn your mind to “these things.” I would simply add the word, “immediately” to that! Immediately, think on these things. Setting your thoughts toward God when your heart would naturally think its own thoughts is vital to stability.

2. Only Speak that which is true.The immediate default of our heart is always “self-righteousness” and it seems to come out of nowhere. We immediately seek to protect ourselves from hurt. We quickly seek to justify our wrong actions or reactions to the difficulty, or we seek to simply escape it all by ignoring or pretending it didn’t happen. These actions flow out of the lie that somehow, we can either manipulate life, control the circumstance, or sway others to our view of the storyline. Our “creative” (read deceitful) minds will be tempted to put a spin on the story that will favor us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:25 “…put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth…” When the difficulty arises, guard your thoughts and watch your words! Truth is so vital. Your spin on the truth will only work evil and will eventually destroy relationships around you. 

3. Don’t repay evil for evil. This is just a natural impulse, isn’t it? There’s an attitude adjustment that needs to be made here. The word “repay” is the idea to render and carries the idea of paying in full. It is the attitude, “You do this to me, I do this back to you in full!” It is a vicious punch-and-counter-punch that can actually be reflexive. Paul says this in Romans 12:17 and then adds “but give thought to that which is honorable in the sight of all.” He calls for self-control—Holy Spirit control! Act! Don’t react. Take a deep breath and allow the Spirit of God to adjust your attitude. Jesus did this perfectly on our behalf. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1Peter 2:23 

Amazing, isn’t it? This is only possible by trusting the Father who judges justly! 

4. See your log first! Pride is a killer! God resists the proud! Others are not the biggest sinner in the room. Matthew 7:3-5 compels each of us to cease from looking at the spot in our brother’s eye and look first to the log in our own eye. A person who is consumed with self-glory has to keep pointing at the spots in others eye in order to justify their view of self. But it is more than a spot in our eye! It is a log! See it! Get help removing it. Do that first! To constantly point out someone’s unrighteousness is nasty and so destructive to relationships. Certainly do not make their unrighteousness a topic of conversation to others. God gives grace to the humble to see your own log.

5. Be reconciled! We are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation. In Christ, because of His gracious gift of righteousness imputed to our account, we are then to take His righteousness and apply it to every relationship in life. Once again, the Apostle Paul speaks to this in 2Corinthians 5:18 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;” Christians are to be people who pursue reconciliation. Understandably, there may be times when because of the hardness of hearts, reconciliation will seem impossible. You can do everything you can possibly do to set the table for reconciliation, but the other party won’t come and participate. However, In Christ, we can always be the ones pursuing it with grace in our hearts.

6. Look to your Savior. This is not listed last in order of importance as much as it is for emphasis. The process of our sanctification is often pictured as the Christian on an upward way “new heights I’m gaining every day.” The emphasis seems to be on our works and every day we are getting better and better at holiness. It sounds good, but it’s not really a complete picture of what is happening. The victory given to us is Christ’s victory on our behalf. Peter says it best in 2 Peter 3:18 “Grow in grace and knowledge of Christ!” Peter is seeking to encourage persecuted people not to “do more; try harder” to persevere but to be looking to their Savior. True spiritual growth is seen in our understanding in a clearer way all that Christ has already done for us on our behalf and trustingHis finished work. These very difficult times are God’s way of showing us our default of self-glory and thus giving us the grace to repent and turn in faith to His work in us for His glory. Our sanctification is growth in faith in Christ not in our perfect work. Look upward and outward rather than inward or downward! Look to your Savior and don’t take the eyes of your heart off of Him!

Christ alone is our steady anchor. It is in Him and through Him that we can even possibly begin to handle the very difficult times with courage. His steadfast love and care for us work in us His great grace and glory but we cannot be passive. We are called to repentance and faith! Trust Him!

I’m a perfectionist!

I never really wanted to be. I never thought I could be. But, I am!

I remember well as a young student pianist I would drive my Mom nuts when I practiced. I would take a two-note phrase and go over, and over, and over it until I could perform it perfectly three times in a row. If I made a mistake, I would start all over again. Usually, somewhere in the middle of my striving, I would get so frustrated that I would take both hands and hit the keyboard striking as many notes as possible. By this time, my mother would ever-so-cautiously enter the room, tap me on the shoulder, and softly say, “Why don’t you get yourself a drink of water and come back to this later?” Mom knew what she was doing. While that worked to divert my mind and emotions temporarily, it did nothing to quiet the beast that was forming in me and showing it’s ugly head. I say ugly, because that is exactly what it is. It is ug-ly!

Striving to be perfect is damaging on so many levels. We don’t realize everything that is connected to it at the time, but the evil beast from within is there storming about and seeking who it may devour.

The implications behind my perfectionism

I call them implications because they are not often quite so readily seen.

If I am perfect, I don’t really need a Savior. Now, think on this long and hard. If I can somehow, someway do it right or actually be right, why would I need Jesus. This is perhaps the most difficult truth about my supposed perfectionism. Jesus really didn’t need to die. We don’t need Jesus, really. This is more than just wrong, it is heretically wrong! This is rebellion at its worst. It goes against all that God’s Word teaches. I become the savior and I am my own righteousness. It speaks of ingratitude for Jesus. All that God did for us in Christ is unnecessary. Wow. I don’t want to go down that road at all.

If I am perfect, woe to the people around me! You see, if I am perfect, it is a perfection of my own making. It’s not God’s perfection, it is mine. It’s not really perfection at all and yet I demand that not only I must live up to it (which in itself is a big hoax) but everyone around me must live up to my standard. The problem is they don’t know my standard and so they fail miserably and constantly. But this is good for my perfection because it makes my position of perfection even better because no one else can be perfect like me! I then look down on them and treat them as the failures they are. I let them know about it too! They will never meet up to my standards. Over time, though, because no one meets my standards, people grow weary of not being able to meet up to my standards and they begin to resent me and desire to not to be around me. I am left to wonder why and am often sulking and feeling sorry for myself when I really it brought it on myself because “I have to be right!” I end up treating people in such selfish and unkind ways.

Yah, woe to them!

Well, the Apostle Paul understood this quandary of life. In 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of a dialogue he had with God. He said that God gave him a “gift of a handicap to keep me in constant awareness of his limitations.” (V7 in the Message). He went on to say that he didn’t quite think of it as a gift at first, but when God showed him that in his weakness, Christ’s strength became visible in his life, he was glad to have his gift! He was glad to have his God-given handicap. His imperfection made him glad! In fact V10 says, “Now I take my limitations in stride, and with good cheer!”

Wait! Who really does that? Who really is glad and with good cheer in their limitations? Not a perfectionist! You see, my faux perfectionist heart is full of self-glory that keeps me from the two greatest commands of all Scripture: Love God, and love people (Luke 10:27). It’s damaging to the glory of Christ around me and it takes away an opportunity to love my neighbor. Why then am I even in this world then? No wonder I am discouraged!

But because of the Gospel of Jesus, I get to be a repenting faux perfectionist! And, I’m glad!

For more reading on this subject read here.

Words of Truth

Every once in a while, we all need a re-boot! For PC people, that means you do the ol’ crtl-alt-delete that starts the computer over again. I’m a Mac guy and don’t do that kinda thing anymore 🙂
But today, spiritually, I needed to.sunrise
So here are 10 thoughts that I reminded myself.

1. Whatever happens today, by grace, I get to find my greatest satisfaction in Christ alone.
2. Make the Gospel sweet and filling through intentional confession and repentance.
3. By God’s grace, I get to serve Him and serve every person God brings into my life. I am but a servant and sacrificially give of myself to others.
4. I will be tested in every way imaginable. I get to take a breath and remember where it came from before I respond to every single step.
5. I will feel overwhelmed in an almost breath-taking way. Remember that God’s kindness is behind every pain, sorrow, and joy.
6. There is nothing in life like knowing God and being known by Him.
7. Life is rarely as it looks – I should not be deceived.
8. God’s grace is far greater than my evil, wicked heart.
9. God’s glory is the ultimate in every single part of life.
10. Everything I need is already mine by the kindness of Christ’s perfect righteousness. He is my Shepherd – I shall not want!

How Does One Leave His Church?

I told a group of people recently that someone needs to write a book on “How To Leave Their Church.” I think for the most part leaving a church should almost never happen. I have watched people come and go in churches now for most of my life. Sometimes, for very good reasons, people leave one church and go to another. I had to do this just once in my life as a church member (not for ministry reasons) and it was torture. As a shepherd, I have watched over and over people leave one church and go to another or just drop out of church altogether and in my experience many of the reasons people have left are certainly avoidable while very, very few are unavoidable and understandable according to the Word.
The question I pose without going into the question of whether one should leave or not is, “Just how should one leave the church?” Let me offer a few suggestions coming from one who shepherds the heart of people and will stand some day and given an account. church1

1. Be honest with yourself about why you are leaving. Luke 8:15 speaks of the good soil that truly receives the seed is a heart that is honest and good. True believers are constantly being warned about “deceiving ourselves” in Scripture (Jam 1:22). Because sin is so deceptive, we have to be honest with ourselves and leave open the reality that we may not be seeing things correctly.  God gives us many good ways to do this without violating other truths in Scripture. Gather people around you who will fearlessly speak truth into your life.  Read the Word and again I say “Read the Word.” Usually if we are not seeing things correctly in one area, you can pretty well take it to the bank that you are not seeing things truthfully in other areas.  Sin is very blinding.  Check your ambitions, your motives, your reasonings but most of all your adherence to the Word itself. Is your reason a genuine biblical reason or is there something going on in the church that is simply a preference issue? Do you have Scripture to back up your reason or are you just uncomfortable? Ask yourself, “How is God using this in my life to change me?” Be brutally honest!

2.  Humbly speak to the leadership. Understand what is being said here. God puts leadership in place for many reasons–but all of them have something to do with His great glory. It really isn’t that leadership can do no wrong (although, honestly, leadership can give that impression all too often). However imperfect they are, God has allowed them their existence in that position. If leadership is unqualified biblically and you can biblically prove it (two witnesses 1Tim 5:19) and if your objection is truly church-wide, then you have a bigger problem than this one article can handle.  The fact that God allows leadership to exist speaks to God’s design that is intentional and with purpose.  So, as you approach leadership, do so asking questions with a heart that earnestly and humbly wants to know God’s will and not to seek proof of your suspicions.  Questions always help the leadership speak to your concern which in turn, makes the path to resolution accessible.

3. Be honest with leadership. Many will go to leadership with their concerns but it often is covered with words like, “I have had some people come to me with these concerns.” It very well may be that one or two people have talked to you, but be careful that it isn’t also true that you went to them seeking to find out if they would agree with you on your “concern.” It may also be true that others do have those concerns, but that is not why you are meeting with leadership.  You are meeting with leadership because you have the concerns.  The fact that others have similar concerns does not necessarily validate your concern and really shouldn’t play into it.  It may well they are blind or prejudiced in the same areas you are and thus are not really helping you see things honestly. An honest heart is not concerned about “who” is right; it is much more concerned about “what” is right.

4.  Give time to your decision. Make sure you are not merely reacting. Give yourself room to be wrong. Time has a good way of revealing things.  Give leadership time for God to use your humble word to work in their lives. Give time on your knees. Give time to the Word. Give time for God to work His grace in your life. Remember, God is eternal which helps Him to be long-suffering, and forbear, and deal gently.  Time has away of tearing the curtain back so truth is exposed. God calls each of us to forbear with one another (Eph 4:2).

5.  Don’t burn bridges. If you must leave, be very careful to not let issues drive you away from caring and loving people.  Relationships are very important. Your walking away from a church will have impact on people, finances, and most importantly the gifts that God has given you to properly serve the church. These relationships are important ultimately for what God may be doing in their lives.  Burning bridges in relationships often can come back on bite you as you have no entrance back into the very lives God may want you to minister to later.

6.  Give proper notice graciously. Don’t just walk out. If you have obligations, finish them. Serve God’s Kingdom by serving the people you have obligated yourself to. Give leadership a chance to adjust to your absence ahead of time.  Be courageously gracious. Remember, people are not the enemy – we struggle not with flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).

7.  Immediately align yourself with another body of believers.  So many walk away from the church simply because they had a bad experience. It is in these transitional times when Satan can get his foot into a heart to stir up strife, pride, self-righteous thoughts, and a root of bitterness begins to grow. This is dangerous as the accountability of the body and the soul-searching ministry of the Spirit and Word will wane because of the absence from the body. This then becomes a situation that is worse than the original problem itself. Run to the Gospel! Run to Christ and the church He gave His life for. Be warned, though!  The next church will be imperfect to. The greener grass on the other side…needs mowing too.

The Amazing Work of God…in Prison!

We all know the apostle Paul and his life and ministry while God put Him in prison. Paul knew that he was in prison for the sake of the Gospel–not just because He preached the Gospel, but actually, being in prison was for the purpose that those in prison may hear the Gospel. prison
Some of you may know that I have a very dear friend who through some very unfortunate, yet God-ordained providences, God has placed him in prison. He has struggled deeply with many fears, anxieties, and human weaknesses. But his love for Christ and the Gospel has thrived. Take time to read this recent letter I received from him and marvel at God’s astounding goodness to use him as a tool for the spread of the Gospel. After you read it, spend some time in worshipping our great God!
“I JUST WANTED TO SEND AN UPDATE TO YOU — AND SHARE A BLESSING WITH YOU, THAT I JUST EXPERIENCED THIS PAST WEEK.

30 MONTHS AGO–WHEN I WAS IN PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL, AWAITING MY RESENTENCING HEARING IN RALEIGH, NC, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING A MAN NAMED WILL TO THE LORD. (WILL WAS MY BUNKMATE) A LOCAL CHURCH CAME EACH WEEK TO PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL AND GAVE USED BIBLES TO THE INMATES–THAT HAD BEEN DONATED BY THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS. I GOT A LARGE PRINT “OLD FASHIONED GOSPEL HOUR” BIBLE FOR WILL–AND HE ASKED ME EVERY MORNING–TO WRITE NOTES IN THE FRONT OF HIS BIBLE, AND HELP HIM STUDY HIS NEW BIBLE EACH DAY. I LEFT THAT JAIL AFTER MY RESENTENCING HEARING, AND WENT BACK TO FT. DIX.–THINKING I PROBABLY WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. ONE MONTH LATER–WILL WAS TRANSFERRED TO FT. DIX, AND ENDED UP BEING IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES THERE AT FT. DIX, AND CONTINUED TO GROW IN THE LORD. I WAS THEN TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, AND THOUGHT, AGAIN, THAT I WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. 3 MONTHS AGO–WILL SHOWED UP HERE AT PENSACOLA CAMP !! HE HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED HERE TO ENROLL IN THE BOP DRUG PROGRAM !! HE SHOWED ME HIS BIBLE–HOW HE HAD CONTINUED TO STUDY AND ADD TO HIS NOTES IN HIS BIBLE–THAT WE HAD BEEN WORKING ON TOGETHER AT FT. DIX. HE NOW IS INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES HERE, AND IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES.

WILL HAS A ROOM-MATE NAMED ALEX, THAT HE INVITED TO CHURCH–AND ALSO INVITED TO ENROLL IN OUR PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE CLASS. ALEX STARTED THE CLASS–AND AFTER OUR 4TH CLASS– ASKED ME TO MEET WITH HIM PRIVATELY, AND I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING ALEX TO THE LORD. ALEX HAS NOW BEEN STUDYING HIS BIBLE EVERY DAY–AND GROWING IN THE LORD–AND GETTING INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES. IT IS A JOY TO SEE HIM RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD, AND THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HIS HEART AND LIFE.

WHILE I WAS AT FT. DIX–THERE WAS A MAN NAMED “MEJIA”–THAT LIVED IN MY DORM — AND HE CAME TO THE CHAPEL SERVICES, AND TO OUR TUESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY CLASSES WITH STAN AND LISA. (STAN AND LISA ARE WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS THAT CAME IN EVERY WEEK FROM A LOCAL CHURCH–TO TEACH IN THE TUESDAY NIGHT CLASSES). AFTER A COUPLE OF MONTHS, “MEJIA” CAME TO THE LORD–AND ENDED UP HELPING WITH THE SPANISH INTERPRETING IN THE SUNDAY SERVICES AT FT. DIX. WHEN I LEFT FT. DIX TO COME HERE–I DIDN’T THINK I WOULD EVER SEE “MEJIA” AGAIN EITHER. GUESS WHAT !! THIS PAST WEEK–“MEJIA” WAS ALSO TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, TO ENROLL IN THE DRUG PROGRAM–AND WHEN HE ARRIVED HERE–HE WAS ASSIGNED TO LIVE IN WILL AND ALEX’S ROOM !! WHAT A BLESSING–GOD IS SO GOOD !!

THERE ARE 900 INMATES ON THIS COMPOUND–BUT GOD TOOK 3 MEN, FROM 3 DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY–THAT ALL ACCEPTED THE LORD WHILE IN PRISON–AND PUT THEM TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM– AND PUT THEM BACK TOGETHER WITH ME–SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO MENTOR AND MINISTER TOGETHER, AND CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE LORD TOGETHER !! GOD TAKES CARE OF EVERY LITTLE DETAIL IN EACH OF OUR LIVES– WHILE WE ARE ON THIS JOURNEY !! I AM SO THANKFUL.

THE MAN THAT IS THE SPANISH INTERPRETER FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES HERE AT PENSACOLA– IS LEAVING TO GO HOME THIS NEXT WEDNESDAY. GOD BROUGHT “MEJIA” HERE AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME, SO THAT HE CAN TAKE OVER, AND HELP DO THE INTERPRETING FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES. WHAT A BLESSING–AND WHAT AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S TIMING !!

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS–AND FOR PRAYING FOR ME, AND FOR THE MEN THAT ARE COMING TO THE CLASSES–AND FOR THOSE THAT HAVE COME TO THE LORD. YOU HAVE AN INTEGRAL PART IN EACH OF THEIR LIVES, AND THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN GOD’S WORD.

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO THE LORD FOR YOU — AND FOR ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ENCOURAGE ME, AND TO HELP ME. I DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. YOU ARE SUCH A BLESSING.
GOD BE WITH YOU, AND BLESS YOU.”
I LOVE YOU–
SCOTT