The Baker Blog
Pastor Mike Baker Of Eastview Christian Church 2017

“That’ll leave a mark” is the constant refrain of the accident prone Tommy (played by Chris Farley) throughout the 1995 film Tommy Boy.  It’s simple, when something hard strikes a softer object (like Tommy’s head) it will leave some sort of impression.  And believe it or not, this is what we as Christians are called to do.  This is what Paul is talking about throughout his letters to believers in the first century when he uses the word “example”.

In II Thessalonians 3:6-9  Paul is reminding the Christians that while he was with them, he worked with his own hands to support himself.  It’s not that he wasn’t worthy of receiving monetary support while he preached the gospel.  Instead, he says in verse 9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”  Notice that word “example” in this verse.  It is the Greek word “tupon” which literally means “to strike” or “leave a mark”.  In Paul’s day it described (among other things) the mark left when a chisel was driven into a piece of marble to leave an impression (usually in the form of a letter for a monument).  We get our word “type” from this ancient word.  An old typewriter had individual keys that struck the page and left a distinctive mark on a sheet of paper.  

This means that Paul worked in Thessalonica to leave a mark on the Christians there.  Or said another way, he wanted to set an example.  Of course this “leaving a mark” is one of the most effective ways for Christ followers to influence the lives of those around us.  People often imitate our example better than listen to what we say.  As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”  This is the advice Paul gives Timothy when people look down on him because he is young “set an example (tupon again – literally “leave a mark on those around you”) by your speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” I Timothy 4:12.

So what are you doing today that will leave a mark on people that you hope makes a lasting impression.  What marks your children in your commitment to church?  They will follow your example long after they have heard your words.  What impresses your friends in your speech?  No amount of posing as a Jesus follower will influence more than what they consistently hear you say.  What example are you setting in your workplace or school with your ambitions, attitudes, and response to adversity?  People are watching us Christians.  Our actions matter, and good or bad, the way we act, love, talk, and live will change how they respond to Jesus.  And that’ll leave a mark that last forever.

Two questions: What in my life is an example worth imitating?  And What in my life is not worth imitating?  Pray for God to help you with the latter and magnify the former.  Cause both are gonna leave a mark. 

“That’ll leave a mark” is the constant refrain of the accident prone Tommy (played by Chris Farley) throughout the 1995 film Tommy Boy.  It’s simple, when something hard strikes a softer object (like Tommy’s head) it will leave some sort of impression.  And believe it or not, this is what we as Christians are called to do.  This is what Paul is talking about throughout his letters to believers in the first century when he uses the word “example”. In II Thessalonians 3:6-9  Paul is reminding the Christians that while he was with them, he worked with his own hands to support himself.  It’s not that he wasn’t worthy of receiving monetary support while he preached the gospel.  Instead, he says in verse 9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”  Notice that word “example” in this verse.  It is the Greek word “tupon” which literally means “to strike” or “leave a mark”.  In Paul’s day it described (among other things) the mark left when a chisel was driven into a piece of marble to leave an impression (usually in the form of a letter for […]

Read More... at 3:11 pm Comments Off

Maybe you’ve heard it, or maybe you’ve said it.  If you are in church circles you have likely caught wind of the popular notion that the church is designed to focus solely on outreach.  Especially in this culture of social reform and justice, the church (or so the right-sounding reasoning goes) should not waste God’s resources on buildings, programs, and ministries that benefit only the Christians who attend there.  Ever since the popular outreach, “the church has left the building” several years ago, some are inclined to think the church should always be out of the building.  But to think of the church as always going, is to miss some of the most basic teaching about the church.  I ask you to consider three functions of the church that must happen “in the building” (whatever that building is) and which require an “inward focus”:

1.  The church is a school.   Via the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the church is by design a place to learn about God’s Word – the Living word, Jesus and the written word, the Bible, which has been inspired by the Holy Spirit.  In the church God appointed apostles, prophets, evengelists, pastors, and teachers (I Corinthians 12:28) whose job it was to teach the teaching of God and Jesus.  At one point the apostles even refused to be involved in the social work of feeding widows so that they could dedicate themselves to the word!  (Acts 6:4).

2.  The church is a hospital.  Yesterday, I listed the physical, emotional, mental and physical needs of those in our church and suggested that the church is ultimately a spiritual emergency waiting room.  The bottom line, is that all Christ-followers need healing from time to time and the church is perfectly and divinely equipped to be a healing community.  The church is where the sick are healed.  The church is where the hopeless find hope.  The church is where the sinner finds forgiveness and resotoration.  The church is where the lonely find family.  The church is where the rejected find acceptance, the abused find safety, and the depressed find joy.  Those who are sick and suffering sometimes need to be lifted up, healed, and nurtured by others in the faith community.

3.  The church is a pep rally.  Consider the high school and college pep rally most educational institutions hold before homecoming.  What are those all about?  The football team is going to take the field and fight the battle.  The players are going to play the game.  The coaches are going to call the plays.   And the opposition is going to try to defeat them.  Why do all the students, band members, cheerleaders, faculty, and staff all wear school colors and cheer for themselves, together?  Because it gets everyone fired up for victory, it displays unity, and it brings confidence that we are all in this together.  For the same reason we come to church every Sunday.  When we sing songs about our Lord and preach of his all-conquering kingdom and are joined by others who believe the same thing, we gain confidence to face Monday morning, life’s challenges, and the world’s temptations.  The church comes together before it goes into the world, to get fired up about living for Jesus and in his victory.

Don’t get me wrong, the church is God’s mission in the world today…and that mission is a sending, but it is also a family gathering.  I suspect emphasis on both is essential to be the Bride Jesus is returning for.  And so, go to church so you can go to the world.  

Maybe you’ve heard it, or maybe you’ve said it.  If you are in church circles you have likely caught wind of the popular notion that the church is designed to focus solely on outreach.  Especially in this culture of social reform and justice, the church (or so the right-sounding reasoning goes) should not waste God’s resources on buildings, programs, and ministries that benefit only the Christians who attend there.  Ever since the popular outreach, “the church has left the building” several years ago, some are inclined to think the church should always be out of the building.  But to think of the church as always going, is to miss some of the most basic teaching about the church.  I ask you to consider three functions of the church that must happen “in the building” (whatever that building is) and which require an “inward focus”: 1.  The church is a school.   Via the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the church is by design a place to learn about God’s Word – the Living word, Jesus and the written word, the Bible, which has been inspired by the Holy Spirit.  In the church God appointed apostles, prophets, evengelists, pastors, and teachers […]

Read More... at 3:17 pm Comments Off

For most of my life, I have prayed. Since I grew up in the church, I was taught at an early age to fold my hands, bow my head, and close my eyes when I talked to God. My prayers then were about things like lost or dead pets, sick grandparents, and things I wanted God to give me. Obviously, throughout the years my prayers matured, or least I thought so. I had a bigger vocabulary and my petitions sounded more godly, but the content was essentially the same. My prayers tend to be about my pain, my needs, and my likes. Prayer can easily become my personal “God hotline” – there to fix any problem I may have. If you’re like me, I have a lot to learn about praying. Recently, I took a lesson from the apostle Paul when I stumbled across a sincere prayer request in I Thessalonians 5:25 where he simply says, “Brothers, pray for us.” It got me wondering what would an apostle’s prayer list look like. If Paul were in my small group or Sunday school class, what would he offer as a prayer request? I discovered that there was really one thing on his mind when it came to prayer. Did he request prayer for his immediate release from prison? Was he asking his fellow Christians to pray for his health, his prosperity, or his comfort? Were his prayers directed towards protection and safety? In a word, no. When Paul asked for prayers, it always seems to center around his ability to preach or share the gospel.

 In Ephesians 6:19 he asks the Christians in Ephesus to pray for him that “words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim..the gospel.” Note that the next verse indicates that he was in chains, but he doesn’t request prayers for release from jail. Then in Colossians 4:3&4 he asks for prayer that “God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery in Christ..that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Again, he is in prison but doesn’t ask them to pray for that. Then in II Thessalonians 3:1 his prayer request is that “the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored”.

 Here’s the prayer lesson: the apostle Paul could have come up with the most extensive prayer list in the world. Personally, he had enough sickness, injury, persecution, and ministry challenge to take up an entire prayer request session. But instead of praying for all of these legitimate (and might I add, completely biblical and acceptable) needs; he prayed that God might use him to spread the good news of Christ. This causes me (and hopefully you) to examine the things I talk to God about. Maybe it’s time to get past my personal needs, comforts, fears, and desires and move on to more mature prayers. Maybe I should be asking God to help me talk to my neighbor, co-worker, or fellow student about Jesus instead of asking him to fix my situation. If you’re like me, you have a lot to learn about praying.

For most of my life, I have prayed. Since I grew up in the church, I was taught at an early age to fold my hands, bow my head, and close my eyes when I talked to God. My prayers then were about things like lost or dead pets, sick grandparents, and things I wanted God to give me. Obviously, throughout the years my prayers matured, or least I thought so. I had a bigger vocabulary and my petitions sounded more godly, but the content was essentially the same. My prayers tend to be about my pain, my needs, and my likes. Prayer can easily become my personal “God hotline” – there to fix any problem I may have. If you’re like me, I have a lot to learn about praying. Recently, I took a lesson from the apostle Paul when I stumbled across a sincere prayer request in I Thessalonians 5:25 where he simply says, “Brothers, pray for us.” It got me wondering what would an apostle’s prayer list look like. If Paul were in my small group or Sunday school class, what would he offer as a prayer request? I discovered that there was really one thing on his […]

Read More... at 7:09 pm Comments Off

Maybe you’ve heard the latest statistics.  The average monthly church attendance for church goers is 1.7 times a month.  Or to put it another way, the average American church attendee goes to church a little over 20 Sundays a year.  We’re not talking about those who are not Christ-followers (we continue to hear how they are simply leaving church altogether), we’re talking about Jesus-loving church members who simply aren’t going to church.   

When I was a kid, this was unthinkable.  “Good Christians” in the 70′s and 80′s were expected to attend church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, and every Wednesday night for Bible study.  This was an unspoken minimal requirement.  I would wager that my family averaged more than 1.7 times a week in our church attendance as I was growing up.  Admittedly, there was a wrong understanding that our attendance equated with spirituality and/or favor with God; but we simply didn’t think of skipping church unless we were sick or out of town.  

While I don’t think all Christians should be at church every time the doors are open (that’s a whole other spiritual problem for another blog post); I am strongly advocating those in my church and any who will listen to me to start going to church more – as in every weekend, with few exceptions.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  You need church.  Jesus never intended for us to walk alone.  Christianity is not an individual sport.  It is a team sport.  And every part of the body needs every other part of the body.  “There are a variety of gifts” (I Corinthians 12:4) and all are empowered by the Holy Spirit (see I Corinthians 12:1).  But these gifts are not given just us to keep to ourselves.  They are designed so that there may be “no division in the body, but taht the members may have the same care for one another” (I Corinthians 12:25).  When you skip church you are not being cared for – mentality, physically, and most importantly spiritually.  You need be influenced by the teachers in the church, cared for by the servants in your church, built up by the encourages in your church, and worship with the musicians in your church….and you need this every week.

2.  Your church needs you.  Hebrews 11:25 encourages us “not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  There is something supernatural and holy about the gathering of the saints wherever they meet weekly.  When you’re not there, the body isn’t at full strength, but when you and everyone else shows up, Christian boldness is increased, faith is strengthened, hope spreads, and grace is felt.  If you are tempted to think “no one will miss me”.  Don’t.  There is a spirit-filled presence that can’t be measured with a simple head count.  

3.  Your attendance reveals priority.  Part of the struggle with church attendance is that our culture is too busy and church has become less of a priority.  When I was a kid, sports were essentially banned on Sunday morning and Wednesday night’s because of conflict with church.  Fewer businesses were open on Sundays and fewer people worked then.  Not to mention fewer people travelled and took long weekend vacations.  Let me be clear, it’s not a sin to take a five day weekend with your family to get away (though you should still seek a place of worship where you are).  But the effort you make and the things you substitute for church on Sunday speak volumes about your priority to worship.  If you constantly skip church for your kids soccer, band, or ballet; you modeling tothem that their activity is more important than church.  When you easily rearrange your schedule to golf on Sundays, frequently go camping on the weekend, or request the Sunday morning shift so you can have Saturday as a day of rest; you are saying that those things are more important than church.

Well, there you have it.  Three reason not to skip church.  Hope this challenges you to make church attendance a priority.  Of course, spring break begins Friday…

Maybe you’ve heard the latest statistics.  The average monthly church attendance for church goers is 1.7 times a month.  Or to put it another way, the average American church attendee goes to church a little over 20 Sundays a year.  We’re not talking about those who are not Christ-followers (we continue to hear how they are simply leaving church altogether), we’re talking about Jesus-loving church members who simply aren’t going to church.    When I was a kid, this was unthinkable.  “Good Christians” in the 70′s and 80′s were expected to attend church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, and every Wednesday night for Bible study.  This was an unspoken minimal requirement.  I would wager that my family averaged more than 1.7 times a week in our church attendance as I was growing up.  Admittedly, there was a wrong understanding that our attendance equated with spirituality and/or favor with God; but we simply didn’t think of skipping church unless we were sick or out of town.   While I don’t think all Christians should be at church every time the doors are open (that’s a whole other spiritual problem for another blog post); I am strongly advocating those in my […]

Read More... at 1:31 pm Comments Off

As many of you know I was in Africa last week to see the work of our partners from GOYA and REM ministries and Pastor Shadrack and Madame Violet.  Wow!  First of all, lions, zebras, impalas, hippos, rhinos, monkeys, crocodiles, giraffes, and snakes – this was a morning through the park in Nairobi.  Pretty spectacular – but not my favorite part.  Here are some random lessons I learned from my 72 hours in country.

1.  People who minister in Kenya sacrifice more than I ever have to do what God has called them to do.  Whether teaching in one of the slum schools (south B, or Kibera), or running an orphanage, or feeding tons of kids; the level of commitment is amazing. Most teachers walk many miles, one way, every day to teach their students.  The house parents of one orphanage oversee a normal sized, four bedroom house that houses over 50 children!  Space issues?  Forget about it.  Teachers spend hours in tiny classrooms (that they see as a blessing) with limited supplies to pour themselves into children and then beam when the kids recite Bible verses or sing songs about Jesus.  What are you sacrificing for Jesus?

2.  I don’t always see things clearly.  As we were walking through the new high school facility that our church partnered to build, we were being shown some last minute construction when a runaway water hose got water and mud all over my dress shoes and pants (I tried to dress nice for the dedication) and the accompanying Maasai tribal leader who was equally well-dressed in traditional garb.  Okay, I can be a neat freak…so I don’t like muddy water on my pants – but when apologized that I had spashed some on my friend he simply replied, “Water is a gift”.  And so it is…I just take water so much for granted that I worry about it splashing on my feet instead of being thankful that there is water at all.  What do you see today as a nuisance that others might see as a blessing?

3.  No really.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Twice in the last four months I have had the incredible privilege of representing our church to dedicate buildings (the other was in Damoh, India) that were essentially gifted and financed by our offerings.  I would not trade these experiences for any earthly good you could possibly give me.  In fact, I would gladly give up all the glitter, gold, and allure of the world’s stuff to be a part of giving to people who have so little and appreciate so much.  Seriously, if I never receive another gift in my life, but can continue to gift those in need…I will truly consider that a blessing.  When is the last time you gave extravagantly?  Try it, it will bless you.

As many of you know I was in Africa last week to see the work of our partners from GOYA and REM ministries and Pastor Shadrack and Madame Violet.  Wow!  First of all, lions, zebras, impalas, hippos, rhinos, monkeys, crocodiles, giraffes, and snakes – this was a morning through the park in Nairobi.  Pretty spectacular – but not my favorite part.  Here are some random lessons I learned from my 72 hours in country. 1.  People who minister in Kenya sacrifice more than I ever have to do what God has called them to do.  Whether teaching in one of the slum schools (south B, or Kibera), or running an orphanage, or feeding tons of kids; the level of commitment is amazing. Most teachers walk many miles, one way, every day to teach their students.  The house parents of one orphanage oversee a normal sized, four bedroom house that houses over 50 children!  Space issues?  Forget about it.  Teachers spend hours in tiny classrooms (that they see as a blessing) with limited supplies to pour themselves into children and then beam when the kids recite Bible verses or sing songs about Jesus.  What are you sacrificing for Jesus? 2.  I […]

Read More... at 2:22 pm Comments Off

I have been sharing with my staff a series of “vision killers” according to Scripture.   These are the things I see biblically as things that do not honor God and therefore hinder what God does through his people.  I pray against these everyday…both for me, my staff, and my church.  They are: Fear, Pride, Disunity, Complacency and Sin.  Yesterday we talked about Pride and it’s opposite (and desired) attitude of humility.

God is against pride but he is a fan of the humble.  It’s that simple.  James 4:6 reminds us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.  So if you want to assure your failure as you walk with God, just be prideful.  On the other hand, he gives grace to the humble so how can we practice the opposite of pride?

Well, the word used by Peter in I Peter 5:5&6 may be helpful.  There it says for us to “clothe ourselves with humility towards one another” and to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God”.   In two verses we are called to be humble towards one another and humble towards God.  What does that mean?  Well, the Greek word for humility and humble is too long for me to spell here, but it literally means an “understanding of not rising or being low”.   In other words, it is a spiritual attitude that can be reflected in two physically lowering positions.

When thinking of others, the image should be that of bowing.  This is followed in many cultures throughout the world where it is common to greet one another by bowing at the waist.  It says physically, “I bow in your presence”…or “I defer to you”.  Amazingly, this position of bowing would be a great spiritual exercise when thinking about others.  Try it.  As you pray, complain, criticize, judge, or think about those around you assume a bowing position.  Now consider them and pray for them.  This bowing will help your heart bow to them in humility.

When thinking about God, the image should be that of kneeling.  There is no more vulnerable position in the world than kneeling.  When we kneel we are literally lower which reminds us that God is obviously higher and this means we submit to his will, his work, and his way.  Again, give it a try next time you are praying.  Kneel and just see how awkward it feels to make demands of God and tell him how he should run the universe.   The more often we kneel physically, the more our hearts and minds will learn to bow to his will in our lives.

Want to work on pride?  Assume a position of humility.  Bow and kneel that he “may exalt you.”

I have been sharing with my staff a series of “vision killers” according to Scripture.   These are the things I see biblically as things that do not honor God and therefore hinder what God does through his people.  I pray against these everyday…both for me, my staff, and my church.  They are: Fear, Pride, Disunity, Complacency and Sin.  Yesterday we talked about Pride and it’s opposite (and desired) attitude of humility. God is against pride but he is a fan of the humble.  It’s that simple.  James 4:6 reminds us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.  So if you want to assure your failure as you walk with God, just be prideful.  On the other hand, he gives grace to the humble so how can we practice the opposite of pride? Well, the word used by Peter in I Peter 5:5&6 may be helpful.  There it says for us to “clothe ourselves with humility towards one another” and to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God”.   In two verses we are called to be humble towards one another and humble towards God.  What does that mean?  Well, the Greek word for humility […]

Read More... at 2:03 pm Comments Off

I was listening to some guy on ESPN talk radio wonder why Tony Dungy hadn’t made a statement (based on his Christian faith) about an NFL player who had revealed that he was atheist when he previously had opined on a player who had been open about his homosexuality.  He wondered, “Why doesn’t the coach come out and say something about the atheist player?’  I reasoned (talking to the radio in my car):”because no one in the media has asked him about it.”  If they did, he would have to answer according to his faith.   This is something the world just doesn’t understand.  Faith to us (real faith, real trust in Jesus and his words) is about a conviction we hold deep in our soul about the person Jesus.  Because of this, we are broadly misunderstood in this world, because there are so few people who live by convictions.

When you are convicted (convinced) about some reality the circumstances of life and relationships do not change those convictions.  Faith is being absolutely convinced something is true regardless of the circumstances.  Christians, like those we live with in the world have family members that are gay.  Christians work with people who are atheists.  Christians have friends who are Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews.  We love them.  We want the best for them and hope the best for them.  Not the world.  The world (media, Facebook conversations, and celebrities, poll numbers, etc..) proposes that every time we meet someone who thinks differently, or acts differently, or even acts opposite, that we should adjust what we believe to be sensitive and accepting or their reality.  This means the world is constantly adjusting what they believe.  Christians are different (and this is where we are most misunderstood) in that they have faith convictions that don’t change regardless of relationships or circumstances.

For example, we believe (really believe) that Jesus is the only way to God.  He said it when he was alive and taught his early followers, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”.  It is a polarizing  idea – you either believe it or you don’t.  But if you do (as I and other Christians do), you simply can’t agree that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Atheists will all get to God.  They don’t go together.  Jesus is the only way, or he is not.  There’s not even one shade of grey there.  Nor is there for other religions by the way.  All true Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists categorically deny that Jesus is the only way.  So we disagree. 

Another example can be found in the definition of right and wrong.  For the Christian, God has spoken through law, prophet, and Jesus.  He is very clear about sins – things we should and shouldn’t do.  He is also very clear that he never changes.  So, we (Christians) believe that!  We really believe that God’s words are right because, well, he’s God and he has made these “rights” and “wrongs” for our good.  So, when someone announces that they are embracing a sin.  We have to reject that notion.  The world doesn’t understand – our faith does not allow us to say, “Hey God had these rules once, but he was wrong, or changed his mind, or is out of touch”.   If God says it’s a sin, it’s a sin…and sin is bad.  So we reject sin (both in our lives and the lives of others).  Again, we disagree with the world’s view.

One last thing, the world doesn’t understand about Christians.  It is our love, not our hate that causes us to stand on what we believe.  You see, if we believe that we are all sinners and Jesus came to save us from our sins – then we must share that truth with everyone.  If what we believe is true (and remember we believe it is), then it would be the most evil hatred of all to keep eternal life to ourselves, not caring that others will be sent to eternal punishment.  At our very best, we love like Jesus and serve like Jesus.  But if you ask us what we believe, don’t be surprised at what we say.  Because in a world of wavering beliefs, we are convinced that Jesus is who he says he is and we are unable to go against our convictions.

I was listening to some guy on ESPN talk radio wonder why Tony Dungy hadn’t made a statement (based on his Christian faith) about an NFL player who had revealed that he was atheist when he previously had opined on a player who had been open about his homosexuality.  He wondered, “Why doesn’t the coach come out and say something about the atheist player?’  I reasoned (talking to the radio in my car):”because no one in the media has asked him about it.”  If they did, he would have to answer according to his faith.   This is something the world just doesn’t understand.  Faith to us (real faith, real trust in Jesus and his words) is about a conviction we hold deep in our soul about the person Jesus.  Because of this, we are broadly misunderstood in this world, because there are so few people who live by convictions. When you are convicted (convinced) about some reality the circumstances of life and relationships do not change those convictions.  Faith is being absolutely convinced something is true regardless of the circumstances.  Christians, like those we live with in the world have family members that are gay.  Christians work with people […]

Read More... at 6:33 pm Comments Off

In a few weeks, I’ll stand in front of the congregation my church (Eastviewchurch.net) to articulate the vision of our corner of the kingdom for the next ten years.  The first time I did this, I remember jotting down some notes about three days before that Sunday about where we were prayerfully heading and passionately trying to describe the future of the church.  Well, this is now the 8th time I’ve done this and though the vision is clear, the process of communicating it is harder than ever. Not because I’m less sure about where we’re going but because I realize just how important this communication is to the church.  I have come to know some things about a church vision, that I wasn’t aware of back then.  Here’s what I’m thinking about vision Sunday even as I pray, scribble on the white board, and talk things through in my mind (my best speeches are internal):

1) I believe in vision.  I believe that God has gifted some people in the Body to be leaders and that those who hold this role have a unique Spirit-given sense about where God is going.  I believe this is stirred up in the presence of other praying elders and pastors of a church so that on vision Sunday I can say with all sincerity “this seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).  There is every biblical reason to believe that the Holy Spirit inspires and guides leaders who are seeking to build up the Lord’s church.  I am confident of this.

2) The vision is not exact.  By this, I mean that I do not have God’s vantage point.  I don’t know if tomorrow is going to be my last, or this world’s last.  I don’t know what staff members will leave and what ones will be added. I don’t know what the economy will be like or if our attendance will continue to grow 7.6% a year.  This means that the vision I share is fuzzy.  This is not because God is fuzzy, but because He doesn’t see fit to let me in on just exactly how He is going to accomplish the vision.  There are a lot of things God doesn’t let me in on…thankfully.

3) The vision will cost.  To accomplish vision, God uses the faith, obedience, and sacrifice of his people.  This means that no vision is easy.  Beginning with me (leading by example), our regular giving will have to increase to accomplish the vision.  Our service to the community will have to increase.  The hours of labor will intensify.  We will have to separate ourselves from our worldliness even more.  We will have to pray harder than ever.  In short, we’ll have to follow Jesus more closely. We’ll have to forfeit personal goals, gains, and glories for the cause of this vision.

4) The vision will become our reality.  As I said, every year since I’ve been the Sr. Pastor here (and before that as I participated in this process with my predeccesor, Gary), the vision and strategy laid out to accomplish that vision is in retrospect, eerily similar.  Trust me, I’ve checked.  When we’ve envisioned $1M given to missions in five years above our budget it happens.  When we project our need for more staff to accomplish ministry, amazingly we end up with that number of staff.  When we project a level of assistance we hope to give to local families, we achieve it.  When we set goals for engaging a certain number of partcipants in small groups to grow their faith…it happens.  Why?  I think it’s because what you articulate in vision is what you pray and work for by faith.

Am I excited about vision Sunday?  Yep…and scared.  Because God is not finished with us…and He has given us a vision that we see dimly but will end exactly as He intended.

In a few weeks, I’ll stand in front of the congregation my church (Eastviewchurch.net) to articulate the vision of our corner of the kingdom for the next ten years.  The first time I did this, I remember jotting down some notes about three days before that Sunday about where we were prayerfully heading and passionately trying to describe the future of the church.  Well, this is now the 8th time I’ve done this and though the vision is clear, the process of communicating it is harder than ever. Not because I’m less sure about where we’re going but because I realize just how important this communication is to the church.  I have come to know some things about a church vision, that I wasn’t aware of back then.  Here’s what I’m thinking about vision Sunday even as I pray, scribble on the white board, and talk things through in my mind (my best speeches are internal): 1) I believe in vision.  I believe that God has gifted some people in the Body to be leaders and that those who hold this role have a unique Spirit-given sense about where God is going.  I believe this is stirred up in the […]

Read More... at 2:50 pm Comments Off

A leading cultural assessment of Christianity is that Jesus-followers and church goers are a bunch of hypocrites.  This is true, of course.  Because we don’t always do what we know we should and what we say others should.  On the other hand, our inability to do the right thing all the time is part of our message.  We simultaneously try to live the way that Jesus calls us to AND rely on his grace to forgive us, change us, and save us.  The message is straightforward.  Along with Paul, we say, “the things we want to do, we don’t do and the things we don’t want to do, we end up doing.  Who will save us from this mess?  Thanks be to God.  Jesus!!!!”  (Romans 7).

In fact, it is this culture that is completely hypocritical.  Every time a big news story hits, I’m blown away at the blatant and highly accepted hypocrisy.  Let me give you just two examples.

1.  Breaking rules.  Tom Brady breaks the rules by tampering with the inflation of footballs to gain an advantage and I hear.  “it’s no big deal”…”it didn’t make a difference in the game”…”he was just trying to get a competitive edge”.  On the other hand, the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia and killed 7 people so far has been shown to be going twice the speed limit.  But no one is saying “it’s no big deal, we all speed”…”the conductor was trying to get people there sooner”…  Nope. Everyone wants this guy’s head on a platter.  But which is it?  Cheating is okay or cheating is not okay?  Rules matter, or they don’t matter?  He world, make up your mind.  God says, it’s wrong to cheat and break his rules, and sometimes we Christ followers break rules, but we don’t call it okay.  We call it sin.  We say we’re sorry and try to do better with God’s help.  

2.  Last year, the hotshot from Texas A&M was drafted to play in the NFL.  He was known for partying and drinking, etc…  Many were vocally against his cocky attitude and his lifestyle and when he eventually had to check into a facility for substance abuse, many commented “it’s time for this guy to grow up”…”he needs to start acting like a professional”…”being in the spotlight comes with responsibility”.   On the other hand, a star from the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski is celebrated for his late night partying and gregarious boyish attitude towards fun.  And he is admired for it.  “I’d like to party with him”…”you don’t think he can drink with the best of them?”…”he’s just having a great time, I’d love to be his teammate”.   Is is okay for some guys to drink too much and for others it’s not.  Kinda hypocritical world.  Either getting drunk with friends is wrong or it’s not.  As Christians, we believe we should not get drunk because God says it’s a bad idea.  Yes, some Christians do.  But when we do, we call it what it is – wrong/sin.   We say we’re sorry and try to do better by God’s help.

I really could go on, but you get the point.  You have to decide.  Which is more hypocritical?  Saying something’s wrong even when I do it OR saying something wrong for some and okay for others?  I’ve said it before, but I think you’ll find Christians to be the most sincere hypocrites you’d ever want to meet.  We know the one who is perfect and we know we’re not, but by His grace he’s making us perfect.  Nothing false, two-faced, or hypocritical about that!  

A leading cultural assessment of Christianity is that Jesus-followers and church goers are a bunch of hypocrites.  This is true, of course.  Because we don’t always do what we know we should and what we say others should.  On the other hand, our inability to do the right thing all the time is part of our message.  We simultaneously try to live the way that Jesus calls us to AND rely on his grace to forgive us, change us, and save us.  The message is straightforward.  Along with Paul, we say, “the things we want to do, we don’t do and the things we don’t want to do, we end up doing.  Who will save us from this mess?  Thanks be to God.  Jesus!!!!”  (Romans 7). In fact, it is this culture that is completely hypocritical.  Every time a big news story hits, I’m blown away at the blatant and highly accepted hypocrisy.  Let me give you just two examples. 1.  Breaking rules.  Tom Brady breaks the rules by tampering with the inflation of footballs to gain an advantage and I hear.  “it’s no big deal”…”it didn’t make a difference in the game”…”he was just trying to get a competitive […]

Read More... at 2:45 pm Comments Off

In II Corinthians 11, Paul is recounting for the people of the Corinthian church just how much he has gone through to make sure the gospel is preached to them and others.  It’s a pretty impressive list and one that most of us never have (or will ever have to) endure for the cause of Christ.  Things like beatings, imprisonments, being stoned, shipwrecked, etc…  Thankfully, though, he doesn’t stop with these extraordinary challenges to ministry.  

In a very transparent moment (vs. 28), he admits “…there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  This is something that anyone who has been given the charge of ministry can relate to.  It certainly resonates with this pastor’s heart.  I have often said, it’s not the job of ministry that is so difficult; it is the weight of it. Indeed, from the time of Paul forward, this business of nurturing churches and Christians in their spiritual development causes the ones entrusted with leadership many sleepless nights as they think of all of the people, all of the challenges, all of the resources needed, and all of the mission yet to be accomplished.  It can all be overwhelming.  The pressure is real.  So with the reality of ministry pressure confirmed, here are some rules I’ve learned along the way to consider when I feel the anxiety of the church work I’m involved in.

1.  care deeply, but not too deeply.  I sometimes am comforted by the fact that I do get anxious for the church I serve.  It means simply that I care deeply.  The antithesis to this would be to not care…and that would be completely unacceptable for any Christian leader.  So there is joy, even in the concern.  The Lord has laid this burden on our hearts.  Keep caring.  But don’t care too much.  The fact is that ministry is never done.  Spiritual growth never stops.  You are never finished.  You never have enough volunteers.  You are never fully staffed or funded.  You never truly leave work…because it is a calling.  Over care will only discourage you.

2.  work but don’t depend on your strength alone.  There is another aspect of this statement of Paul that reminds me of the task of the Christian leader.  It requires hard work.  Paul was not a slacker.  He pushed it.  In fact, he may be one of the most driven leaders of all time.  He kept going, writing, traveling, preaching, training, and sending until the very end.  So, don’t think you can lead a ministry or a church without putting in some serious blood, sweat and tears.  On the other hand, no matter how hard you try, you can’t do the work that God has assigned to you.  There is a reason the Lord told the apostles to wait on the Holy Spirit.  You and I have access to this same Spirit.  We would do well to wait on Him as well.

3.  finally, Praise God for what he has entrusted to you.  I find another reason for joy in the midst of all this pressure and that is how awesome that God has entrusted something to us that is not easy, but of major eternal importance.  What else would I rather be doing except being used to affect the eternal story of salvation through Jesus in a world that is deeply in need of a Savior?!  There are days when I feel totally inadequate for the job, but then I’m reminded that God trusts me with it, so he must plan on empowering me to it.  

Hopefully these three simple rules will help you embrace and even enjoy the pressures that come with your respective ministries.  If you are concerned, you are in good company.

In II Corinthians 11, Paul is recounting for the people of the Corinthian church just how much he has gone through to make sure the gospel is preached to them and others.  It’s a pretty impressive list and one that most of us never have (or will ever have to) endure for the cause of Christ.  Things like beatings, imprisonments, being stoned, shipwrecked, etc…  Thankfully, though, he doesn’t stop with these extraordinary challenges to ministry.   In a very transparent moment (vs. 28), he admits “…there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  This is something that anyone who has been given the charge of ministry can relate to.  It certainly resonates with this pastor’s heart.  I have often said, it’s not the job of ministry that is so difficult; it is the weight of it. Indeed, from the time of Paul forward, this business of nurturing churches and Christians in their spiritual development causes the ones entrusted with leadership many sleepless nights as they think of all of the people, all of the challenges, all of the resources needed, and all of the mission yet to be accomplished.  It can all be overwhelming. […]

Read More... at 1:20 pm Comments Off
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