Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Relationship or 911 system

This seems to be a question that so many people ask on a regular basis, even many who do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior. When bad things happen, many times the natural thing to do is blame God. Ask where has he been, why did he allow those things to happen. The other side of this question can come from God. I wonder if God thinks life this: "Where are my people when things are going so great in their lives? The only time that they come to me is if they need something. It seems that they care nothing for me but want me to fulfill their to do list daily. All they ever want is to receive but they never want to give anything up for me. Then when things do begin to happen in their lives here they come running to me again. This might be the first time they have talked with me in weeks, months, or days but now they are in trouble and need someone to bail them out."
What is so amazing is that so many times God our Father in heaven does help us out and provides for us. Think if you had someone that the only time they ever called you was because they wanted something from you. When the phone would ring, you see their name and think, what do they want from me now. Would it be any different with God? We are to have a relationship with him, he is not our 911 system that we call on just when we need something.
Following Christ is about a relationship and it is about having faith in someone that we cannot see or fully prove scientifically but neither can we prove the Big Bang Theory yet people believe in that. Sometimes our faith is tested by God, by our enemy (Satan) or we tend to make a mess of things ourselves many times.
There have been a lot of things happening in our church and last week I set in my office and tears began to well up because I knew all of the people that were hurting and here I was going to preach on Sunday about Surrendering to God. On Friday I thought I had nothing to give after giving so much to our people that needed us as their pastors. The Spirit spoke to me the following passage: 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul is talking about how he has a thron in his side that will not go away (some thought his sight going bad) whatever it was God decided to not take it from Paul. Here's what Jesus said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I was weak this weekend but God's power through the Holy Spirit made it possible for people to surrender so many things to Him from their lives (new followers of Christ) to jobs, marriages etc. It was a weekend service I will never forget. There are circumstances that I still do not understand that went on this past week, but I do know this: God's grace is sufficient for anything that goes on in our lives. However, to understand his grace and love for us you must have a thriving relationship with God and not a 911 system mentality.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Changing Lives starts with a small group of people

Some thoughts have been running through my head in the last several weeks and I want to share them here. I know that there are many people who read this blog, but do not respond and that is fine, but maybe some will after this. If you look throughout church history people changing people's lives always start small. I think of John and Charles Wesley over in England when it was just a few who decided that they wanted to be sold out for Christ, and the result has been millions of people coming to Christ through out hundreds of years. I also think about Billy G. and his crusades how they started out with a man who said that being a nominal Christian was not good enough and devoted himself and others to prayer, now they have affected millions of people. And finally I think of two brothers Michael and Travis Spann who I am friends with and had the opportunity to play ball with on many occassions. They decided 6-8 months ago that just being on a Christian campus was not good enough anymore and devoted themselves to praying for revival on Asbury's campus in Kentucky, and God has heard not only their prayers but others as well and answered them. Now many people have either come to Christ for the first time or rededicated their lives. When people are serious about Christ and dedicated to prayer God cannot help but move. Our young adult ministry is dedicating themselves to prayer, and it starts with the leadership, me. I want to see our church dedicate themselves to prayer, not a five minute thank you God for what I have but a time of God change not only my life but the lives of those I come into contact with daily. Without prayer we will only be going through the hoops of the Christian walk and too many people are already doing that including myself at times. We have a small group of people now dedicated to the cause of changing people's lives, and it will be fun to see how God cannot help but answer our prayers.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Struggles of ministry (part 2)

Struggles of Ministry (Part 2)
Ok so it has been a while since I updated but here is my second part. Hope it helps to see into the pastor's heart in regards to ministry.

6) Ministry happens with volunteers.
To make ministry happen effectively for God’s kingdom…hold that thought for one moment. As I talk about God here, it can be at times as though He is just a thought or philosophical person we talk about. God is a real person who lives inside of us through the person of the Holy Spirit and not just a thought that we mention in passing. OK…that is important when understanding that ministry for God’s kingdom happens effectively through volunteers. It is impossible for strong ministry to be done by just the pastoral staff, it takes a community of believers to make it happen affectively.

7) There tends to be opposition regardless of how the ministry is going
One thing that I have learned while in ministry is that even though things might be going well, there tends to be those out who see it differently. I am not sure if these people are intentional about what they “talking” to me about but I want to take their word at face value. As a pastor, I want to hear what others are saying but on the other side, some people need to filter some of their own thoughts at times.

8) You have to count on your team to get things done
Even though you want and believe that your team can and will get things done, often times it just doesn’t happen. Even thought a vision might look great, you have the best job descriptions out there, and can help your leaders along the way, some people just do not lead. In our ministry, I have to count on 14 small group leaders, my core team of six leaders for our young adult ministry, my prayer team, and a number of other leaders to make ministry happen effectively. When any of these areas fail (including me), it affects the entire ministry. I love my leaders that I have and they are more helpful then I can tell you. Without them, I could not do the ministry that God has given me. However, when a leader is not sold out to a ministry or committed to doing what they say they are going to do, it not only affects me, but many, many others around us. As my friend Nathan says, “You have to count on your team, but it can come at a cost.”

9) You always need more leaders for ministry
This is one of those struggles that have been around as long as the church has been around. As ministry grows, you always need leaders but when a ministry is not flowing it can be the lack of leaders as well. We have a few small groups here at our church that really need to multiply but trying to find people to lead them is hard. I am always praying, asking and seeking for more leaders but many just do not feel that they have the time to do it, or they feel inadequate (but they feel adequate to tell me when things are wrong J). If after awhile leaders are not found to serve in ministry positions, it affects the entire church and the people who are looking for a place to connect with God and connect with other people. An example for us right now is outreach. We do not have anyone who is willing to step up and lead in this area and it has affected that area of ministry. One of the things I hear is that our church is not doing enough outreach, what if instead of telling our staff that, these people got together and started a core team for outreach? Leaders are hard to come by, but boy do we have some great ones. You need them to have effective ministries.

10) Not being able to concentrate on a particular ministry
Now, please do not read this as whining. Ministry is what it is but here is a thought. As a connections pastor, I have responsibilities in a variety of areas, which is good to be doing different ministries. However, the down side of this is spreading your time among each of them. Here is an example: Many of our small groups meet on Sunday evenings or afternoons, and I want to be able to visit each one of these. But because we have pastor’s brunch, discipleship classes, families wanting to go out to eat, then our young adult ministry that meets on Sunday nights, my Sunday’s are pretty much taken up therefore making it to those small groups is almost impossible. Too be able to focus on one area of ministry is a dream but as long as my leaders are willing to be committed having different areas to focus on will not be so bad.

Please let me know what you are thinking. Again, there are many who like to read but not respond, what do you agree with or disagree with. Ways to improve?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Coming Back From Costa Rica

Well...I am back from Costa Rica now. It was a trip that I will never forget, and the people will always be on my heart. I know that some people say that there is a high that you sense for awhile but then it goes away and the routine sets back in. I want to say no to that kind of thinking! You have to be willing to not allow that thinking to begin to start because once you do it is over and you will go back to being in a routine. I learned so much while I was down south from the people and I want to share a few things here:

1) I am no where near where I need to be spiritually. I believe that I have taken my Christian walk for granted and seeing the people there made me realize that God is so active in people's live if we will allow him to be.

2) I still have so far to go when it comes to being a servant of others. Just because you serve some people at your house, or do a service project here or there does not mean that you have a servants heart. It is a lifestyle that has to happen daily, and without hesitation, others come before yourself is the bottom line.

3) In America, we are so fortunate to have what we do, yet we are always looking to have more, or what we have is not good enough. Between Dave Ramsey and this trip my wife and I sold our Camery and bought a 1992 Honda so that we can help others out more.

4) I learned alot about people from my church. It was great to see how each one had different talents and gifts that they could use to impact people for God's kingdom. I was proud to be their pastor.

5) I learned a lot about myself as well. If I am willing, growing closer to God is something that can happen everyday that I wake up. He is always ready and willing but do I have the desire to grow closer to him. I do not want to have a little flame but a forest fire for the person who gave his life for me on the cross so that I would not have to. I want to take that fire and pass it on to others, not for a day but for a lifetime.

As I was in Costa Rica, I made some close friends. One person in paticular impacted my life. As I was talking with them, I mentioned about how much of a servants heart the people had. Their response has made me think. They said, "We are servants because we learned it from our pastor. If you want your people to be servants then you have to be the one to lead." It is something that I am now in the process of continuing to work on. God's spirit is on these people, and I want his spirit to be on my people as well, but it must start with me.

What an awsome trip!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

As a ministry/church grows there are struggles (Part 1)

As I have been here at Wendover Hills for about six months, I have learned so many things about life, my spiritual walk and what it takes to run a church. For this blog, I want to talk about a few struggles (a buddy of mine did this and it was helpful to me, thanks Nate K) that I have seen in my own life as we grow as a church and as a young adult ministry. There have been pastor's who want to know how we continue to grow our ministry, but also what are some struggles to a growing ministry. I will focus on young adults ministry a bit more in these first few thoughts and then talk about our church as well. I want to talk about some of the struggles of a growing ministry first.

1). Short on resources, short on contacts.
In regards to our young adult ministry, it is hard to have contact with other pastors who share my passion and vision for college and young adults. Our ministry really is unique because there are so many churches who have nothing at all for young adults. As I have asked pastors about this the answers are some what troubling. "They do not contribute as much to the church." "We do not have the resources for them." These kinds of answers get me down and as I talk with other pastors about our young adult ministry, I almost feel bad that we have one because it is successful.

2). Yound adults are just flat out hard to reach.
I am not saying that they are not reachable but it takes a ton of time and effort to reach this age group. Just having them go to church and hear a sermon is not enough. So much more must go into leading this ministry. They want to know that people are being real with them. They also do not just take what a pastor says to the bank, but they want to investigate it themselves. Finding things for them to do together is absolutley essential, but you must find things that are inexpensive. I have a person on my leadership team for this purpose, he finds things for us to do as a ministry that is inexpensive yet fun. Rember, that if you do not reach someone for Christ by the age of 18 then your percentage of reaching them goes way down.

3) As a ministry or church for that matter grows, there is less and less encouragement from people.
I know that my honeymoon stage is over at my church and people realize that I have made and will make mistakes. I think that people believe that we, as pastors, are getting encouragement from others but rarely do we get encouragement from people in the congregation, other pastors (who see our church as different anyways), even leadership over all. As my buddy Nate says, "you don't go into ministry for encouragement but for the call of seeing people come to Christ." How true that statement is. Another friend of mine who is a Senior pastor said, "People come to the pastor and want encouragement but when the pastor needs it, who is there to give it?"
Very rarley do I get a call or e-mail from someone just giving encouragement. It is normally something that I did wrong, could do better, have not done yet etc.

4) As this church grows, and our young adult ministry grows, people are going to feel neglected.
I have learned that it is impossible to touch everyone, all the time. I need to be recruiting leaders and teaching them how to do ministry. This is why our small groups are so vitally important to this church. The leaders become the ones who do ministry and make impacts on people's lives. We can get so much more ministry done when we have 20 leaders then if we have two pastors (how many we have at my church) tyring to do it all. I have to be willing to allow people to do ministry. This is something God is speaking to me about big time. He is telling me, "Bryan you are not the only person who can reach people." I am working on this. There are people who are so much better at doing things than I am, I need to let them do it.
I know as the church has grown, for the pastors to touch each person it is hard. I am sure there have been questions "Why doesn't he call me more?" Why doesn't he spend as much time with me" Why? Why? Why? This is hard to explain to people that has the ministry grows it becomes more and more difficult to do, and this can cause hurt feelings on both sides.

5) There is more conflict and administration stuff.
This has been the hardest one for me to deal with. I am a people person (extroverted) it is where I get my energy from, being with people. However, the admin. will not take care of itself. I have to force myself to sit and do the things that the denomination wants (Ordination stuff ready for January's meeting, being on the discipeship team for the disctrict etc. etc.) I think I believed that coming into ministry it was going to be 70% of the time with people and 30% of the time doing planning, communication etc. I was wrong. There is announcements, cards to be sent, staff meetings, board meetings, leadership meeting (men, youth, young adult, small group, ministry leaders meetings and the list can go on), finding more leaders, meeting times, preparing for church services etc. I am trying hard to keep it balanced but it is much more difficult then I thought it would be.
As a church grows there is more conflict as well. It is something that is just part of life, not the church but life. Let me break this down a bit:
Leaders: You have leaders who want you to invest more time into them but you just do not have it. Or they say I am too busy to help out anymore, I am burnt out etc. so I am leaving the team. Or something even more difficult, you have to ask someone to step out of ministry, boy is that one hard to do.
Young Adults: Why don't you come to this event or that event in the evening and just hang out with us. Why don't you mentor me? Again, why? why? why?
People: I cannot understand why the pastor has not called us, or asked us out to dinner. They went out with such and such a family. I have missed a few weeks, why didn't the pastor call me.
Here is the hardest one that I have had to deal with since being in ministry with both our young adult ministry and here at my church. I have a problem with the pastor and he should know it. When a church or ministry is small, the pastor can touch everyone, know who is there and who is not. He can have dinner every other week with people and reach everyone. However, as the church/ministry grows it is impossible to keep up this area. As pastors, we must have a heads up if there is an issue, I wish I could be a mind reader but for now I am not. As a pastor, you will need to understand that as ministries grow your focus will have to be on developing leaders. The hard part is that people are going to have their feelings hurt along the way, including yours. However, this (developing leaders) will be the only way that a growing ministry will be able to sustain its growth. So many pastors get burned out because they feel that they have to be the one doing everything. The bottom line is that you as a pastor cannot touch everyone. For your church to move ahead, your people will need to understand this aspect of ministry, it is part of God blessing your church/ministry with growth.

This is part of an e-mail that I am sending to some pastors who are wanting to know some struggles of our minitry and church as it grows.
What are some of your thoughts out there?
What do you agree with/disagree with?

Part 2 will come in a few days.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas, bah humbug

I say this not because it is something I think but because it is what a very few people think, yet they are able to have a huge negative impact on Christmas. You can no longer sing songs in schools because a few people think that they are having Christmas pushed down their throats. That's funny because I do not hear them complaining when they get the day, or week off because of the holiday. Shouldn't they be standing at the door waiting to go to work, or their kids should be standing at the door ready for school because this holiday shouldn't affect them. How is it, how is it that a minority of the people make the policy. What if a few Chrstians took a stand and made the case that our rights are being trampled because they are simply pushing Christmas right out the door. Telling our kids that they cannot sing carols, and the like.
We have had Christmas around this country (built on Christian values) for over 200 years and now in the past two or three years a few people can complain, for honestly no other reason than to complain, and poof no more singing of carols, no more Christmas plays etc. It is the same thing with the pledge, a dad says his daughter's rights are being violated because she is made to say "under God." Are you kidding me? The daughter has never said a word about it, how about her dad forcing his views on her? As Christians, we are losing small battle after small battle and many continue to do nothing about or stand up for what we believe, even if we did we would be considered right wing fanatics. But maybe that's what this world (which is not getting any better needs) some right wing, on fire, could care what anyone else thinks, people on fire for Christ. I don't know, maybe its better if we just celebrate this holiday sitting back and just be thankful for what Christ did for us (which really wan't much) he was born for the sole purpose that we should live :)
Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Christians serve the same God, right???

It is interesting to think about. When someone says that they are a Christian then you think of the Bible, and following Christ's teachings etc. However, the Christian community is so divided on so many issues that one begins to wonder. Let me give you an example. I was reading the paper about the Baptist convention that was held here not to long ago. The big issue was homosexuality. There were some who thought that gays have the right to be leaders in the church. God would not shun them and neither should we was the cry from this group. On the other side was those who made the point that Jesus would never have been around them and you have to watch who you associate yourself with (totally disagree with that line of thinking, especially if you read the New Testament in whatever version you want). What about those who say that God has only chosen certain people to get into heaven or that if you are a Christian and sin once, then get hit by a car, you are out of luck. There are hundreds of other differences out there, but are all of these Biblical? I guess you won't know until you dig in the Word yourself. Give me some thoughts on this.