Archive for the ‘GCC’ Category

Conventional wisdom tells us that we are supposed to become better at things we are not that good at.  However there’s another school of thought in leadership circles that says to focus on our strengths.  In a recent video series called Trombone Player Wanted, Leadership guru Marcus Buckingham shows how a young boy is yearning to play the drums yet he seems stuck as the trombone player.  It’s something he does well, but not great.  His real passion are the drums.  The video is really well done and the point is very powerful…do what you are passionate about, do what you are really, really good at, follow your strengths.

I get the point.  Don’t just be mediocre at everything, try to be great at one thing.  Unfortunately for many people this is a luxury.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do at the office or the home was what we were great at?  Forget making the bed and keeping the house clean because I’m just not that good at it!  If you are a student in school you could skip Algebra but attend Art classes all day.  Is “well rounded” a thing of the past with the advent of finding your strengths?

As a pastor who works with people who have various levels of talents and passions, this is a really important concept for me to grapple with.  There are many who want to serve in areas where they may not quite be up to snuff compared to others.  Perhaps they are new to a certain ministry or have never been given an opportunity before.  Then there are others who are just going through the motions…volunteering without passion.  Do I push these folks to only do what they are really strong at?  Do I help them discover their true passion?  What if they are passionate about teaching but they can’t hold anyone’s attention?  How about if they “love love love” singing but they can’t hold a tune?

Maybe the question is not so much what are you passionate about or what your strongest at right now…but what has the Lord called you to?  And even beyond that, where have you been faithful whether or not you love it?  I appreciate the way that the apostle Paul said to Timothy that he should “entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified…”(2 Timothy 2:2).  It’s as if we need to emphasize faithfulness and commitment and serving above everything else.  After that, God equips and raises us up.  Then we are strengthened and even looked upon as individuals who are truly qualified, truly gifted.

What do you think?  Is it more important to focus on your strengths or to grow in areas where you are weak?  I think we all can agree that whatever the Lord truly calls us to…whatever ministry He asks us to serve in, or to whomever He has sent us to reach…that He will strengthen us if we are faithful to Him!

-Peter

Advertisements

The first church I went to was in Miami Beach Florida.  It was mostly a group of young Jewish believer who knew how to practice community and grace in a way that I had never seen before.  I gave my life to Jesus there.  It was during the worship time while the music was playing and the people were singing in a decidedly messianic fashion.  The narrow storefront church was filled to capacity and everyone was participating vigorously in the service.

The next week at church I remember wanting to sing along with the same gusto as everyone else, except I didn’t know the words.  I don’t think we had an overhead projector back then, but I seem to remember that we just had to learn the words as we sang them…learning them by heart.  There was another thing that was quite different than my church today-  hand held instruments.  Some people brought their own fancily designed embroidered bells and tambourines, others borrowed the ones in a box as you came in.  Since I barely knew any of the songs, I thought a good way to participate would be to grab an instrument from the box.  For the next several months I would be the “unofficial” percussionist on the wood blocks.  I had never done anything like this before, tapping away on beat and even adding an extra whack here and there.  I don’t think I was any good, but no one seemed to mind.

Fast forward to today in our church.  We don’t encourage people to bring their own music makers.  First off, we think that it’s a bit distracting and attention gathering.  Unlike my Miami Beach days when everyone was playing something in that small storefront church one or two wood block players or tambourine shakers would really stand out.  In our church it’s the worship team and singers up on the platform that help lead the rest of us in song pointing us to the Lord.  And they are pretty good at it…which is the second point.  Rarely have I heard someone who brings a tambourine to church really sound good, keep beat and add to the experience.  My guess is that they probably wouldn’t make it on the worship team so this is an easy way to bypass the auditions.

I know some of you may be thinking, what’s the big deal…let em shake that thang. And I would if it worked.  If people weren’t looking their way, thrown off by the beat, and instead were encouraged by their enthusiasm…maybe I’d reconsider.  But the bigger issue is one of being willing to lay down your tambourine at the altar and not press the issue. If the tambourine or anything else is connected to who you are as a worshipper, that’s not good.

Back to Miami Beach…One particular Sunday I came into worship and realized that someone had taken the wood blocks out of the instrument box before me.  I felt a little lost, a little out of place.  This was my comfort zone.  I didn’t know the words…now I didn’t have any way to worship.  That morning was a turning point because I began to sing, I put my  hands together to clap and realized that worship wasn’t dependent on my music maker, but on me.

How about you…do you need a certain kind of music to worship?  Do you like tambourines?  Does your churches’ worship team encourage you to connect with God when you sing?

-Peter

I’ve always been amazed at how some pastors can seem to manage massive growth in their churches.  We are in New England where mega-churches are more myth than reality.  Often I’ve thought if that has more to do with the post-Christian landscape of the northeast, but lately I’m wondering if it’s more to do with a higher emphasis on community and being real than some of our big city and Bible belt neighbors.

I can’t imagine being a pastor that is unfamiliar with a vast number of the folks who I am called to lead.  I know that some would say that I really have to change and get over the fact that if we want our church to grow into the thousands then I have to look at my role as more of a pastor of leaders or CEO type than a shepherd/teacher.  I just can’t do it.  Yet for some strange reason we have seen our church continue to grow and now are moving into a multi-site model of ministry that keeps our pastors knowing the people who we serve.

Have you ever felt like you have to compromise who you are as a pastor to grow the church?  I like knowing people’s names, although I am not really great at it, especially as we have seen growth.  So should I just face the fact that I can’t know everyone and stop trying?  Instead I encourage the church as a whole to be relationally driven. True, I can’t take everyone out for coffee, but I can some.  Andy Stanley recently said in a message I heard, “do for one what you wish you could do for many.”  To me, that’s the heart of a pastor.

I want to be normal, not supernatural or separated from the people I am called to pastor.  I don’t want to run backstage after the service or be whisked away by bodyguards because I’m so in demand.  Yet, I desperately want to see our church grow with new believers who are becoming followers of Jesus.  Growth is good when it’s not about me.  So maybe I do have to get over my tendency to want to know everyone and just get on with breeding a culture of community that includes my limitations.  Growth will never take the pastor out of who I am.

-Peter

I am not the type to say that the end of the world is coming.  Yet I can’t help to think of a story I heard that reminds me of where we are today as a nation, as a world…and mostly as the church. 

A priest and pastor and rabbi are standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that reads, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s too late!” They planned to hold up the sign to each passing car.”Leave us alone you religious nuts!” yelled the first driver as he sped by. From around the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash.”Do you think,” said one clergy to the other, “we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”

I don’t know how close we are to the end, but I really believe that there are a lot of bridges out today.  Whether we put our trust in the economy, the government, our jobs, our portfolios, our education, our families or even those things that have always worked for us in the past…we are headed on a road that is going to end up coming to a dead end.  My big concern is for those of us in the church that are not much different from those who don’t claim to follow Christ.  As Francis Chan recently said in a quote I heard, “those of us with the Holy Spirit, ought to think and behave differently than those without the Holy Spirit.”  Do we?  Really?

When I hear Christians talking about the upcoming presidential election as the answer to our issues, (if only we get the right man or woman in office then things will turn around)…I am more concerned than where we are today.  Politics are not going to save us, they’ve never changed a human heart, it’s just ups and downs much like the history of the kings of Israel.

I’m not fearful though.  I’m not discouraged.  I’m not preaching gloom and doom.  But I do feel like we need to get our house in order spiritually and practically.  If we are not doing what we know to do, we’ve got to change that.  If we are walking in ways that are selfish, we must get out of ourselves.  If we are not in true community, then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to change our independent hearts.  You see, it’s not really about those who don’t know Jesus…but about those of us who do.  Like Scripture says, we are to pray for blessings in our cities, for the people around us and for the nation that we live in, for their peace (Jer 29:7).  But we are to be the peacemakers that are living out the truth of the gospel in such a way that they will “see our good works and glorify God.”  We aren’t to curse and be angry and join in the rage against the machine…but blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

The other day I received a very sobering email from another pastor.  At first I wasn’t inclined to read it because it came as a mass distribution list email.  I don’t like those and I really don’t like it when I’m not blind-copied, which I wasn’t.  But something (namely the Holy Spirit) pressed me to read and ponder.  I want to just quote a small section of this email, which I read as a prophecy to the church today, the body of Christ here and now:

One of the greatest areas where we American Christians fail is our firm belief that America is such a blessed nation that we will never suffer judgment at the hand of God.  Throughout our history, we have known blessing upon blessing– even through our country was severely tested in a great civil war.  Today we think that we are being carried forward on the strength of all those past victories.  What slavery, greed, racism, Nazism, and communism failed to do, we are accomplishing all by ourselves by ignoring the warnings contained in God’s Word.  We desperately need to listen to what God is saying and respond to Him, personally and not politically. (Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr., First Baptist Church of Pocasset, MA)

It’s not gloom and doom…it’s warning lights, opportunities for mercy, chances to be the very light in the darkness that Jesus says we are.  But we must get right…get our houses in order.  We must do things like simplify, stop living for self, stop complaining and becoming depressed when things don’t go our way, stop comparing and building our own personal kingdom come.

The end my not be near, but the bridge is out…let’s slow down and find out His will for our lives, our church, and then the nation will follow.

I did it again.  I got everyone’s lips smacking last Sunday as I described my fantastic Eggplant Parmigiana recipe.  Not everyone likes Eggplant, but somehow I can make it sound so delicious and flavorful that even the skeptics wanted the recipe.  It helps that we’re in a 21 day fast as a church, a time when anything sounds luscious.

When I think of the body of Christ, I think about Eggplant Parmigaina.  It’s probably because of all the time and effort and the various ingredients that go into the dish, and the layers upon layers that become one meal that I truly love.  Let me explain:

After finding that perfectly ripe eggplant, you slice it into thin 1/4 inch round slices.  (This has to be perfect or else you get rubbery or tough eggplant- and that stinks.)  Then you dip it into egg and coat them with Italian bread crumbs.  Get the olive oil nice and hot in a large skillet and begin frying each eggplant piece so that it is golden brown.  This is where I get carried away sometimes, because the smell is out of this world and I am tempted just to nibble the food right now.   Anyway, so you fry it up, dry it on paper towels and prepare the baking dish.  Here you create layers of tomato sauce, eggplant, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese- over and over again until you are up to the top of the dish.  Now you put it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until it’s piping hot!

So there’s the recipe…now here’s the point:  We are like divine Eggplant Parmigiana because when we work together as the body of Christ we become one.  When we worship together, serve together, give together, love together, join together- all of our individuality remains intact, but all of our togetherness is so much better.  It’s such a good mix and very appealing to those around us.  We are fragrant and appetizing!

Whether or not you are a fan of Eggplant, if you are a member of Christ’s church, your involvement with the local church ought to resemble something like this Italian recipe.

Feel free to try the recipe, but even more than that, be the part of the body that God has created you to be!

-Peter

The Christmas season is upon us- a time of peace, joy and of course, Love.  But so many people don’t connect with the idea of love because we have defined it to mean that I’m always happy and everything is going fantastic.  This may be especially true when relating to God as Love.

Many people either have an intellectual mindset that God may be love, but He is not really in my day-to-day world.  Others ask how God can be love when there is so much suffering and difficulty in the world.  And most have a definition of love that is strictly feeling and emotion based.  So, if God is love, how does it relate to me?

For those who have never actually experienced an unconditional, no strings attached kind of love, it’s hard to relate.  And if we only think of love as something that makes me feel good and gives me anything and everything I want, it’s also difficult to connect with God’s love.  Because God’s love goes beyond human reason and understanding, and transforms us into something that we cannot be without it.

A perfect example of this is found in the Christmas story.  God became man.  That in and of itself is love.  He became us to feel what we feel, to suffer what we suffer, to be familiar with our pain, our happiness, our disappointment and our rejoicing.  But it didn’t end with Him coming as a baby or living as a young man.  It didn’t end with the cross and it didn’t end with the resurrection either.  Because God’s love continues to flow through those who know it.

“God lives in us and His love is made complete in us,” is what the Bible tells us in 1 John 4.  If God is love, then it is meant to flow through those who have experienced Him.  This is the answer for the worlds suffering, for individual heartache and for all those who are searching for love but don’t know where to look.  It came in the form of a man and still comes in the form of men and women today.  As someone said, “Emmanuel-God with us,  wasn’t just a 33 year experiment, but the permanent way God connects with people.”

I think that there is something supernatural about both receiving and giving God’s love.  In fact, I think it’s in that place where it flows in and then out that we know God’s love in its fullness.  This Christmas, let’s get beyond the presents, and come into His presence by being the kind of people where Love Flows Through.

 

I can’t help but to think how helpless I am.  Even with all the willpower I muster up I still know that unless the Lord Himself works in my life, my efforts are really, really weak.  Yet, the fact that God uses ordinary human beings: jars of clay filled with something we cannot earn- His presence and glory, is a greater thought than how broken I am.

That’s why we have to do something with our healing other than bask in it.  I’ve known many who have been so blessed by their experience with God but then see them do very little with it other than flaunt their new found life as a trophy.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t praise and rejoice…but that it’s got to get beyond us and flow to others.  Grace found, grace given!

I was recently reading in the gospels and saw how many times Jesus healed the broken and immediately sent them back to their hometown or out to others.  The woman at the well, the invalid man on the mat, the guy filled with so many demons that he said his name was “Legion.”  All of these were wounded healers, not fully complete, but on the journey toward healing.  What I mean is that instead of going with Jesus and becoming part of the entourage, they took what they had been given and brought it to others.

I think all of us are called to be wounded healers.  Whether we have had a tough upbringing and God brought us through that…or if we had some physical challenges and God is working through that…or if we are seeing God in the midst of questions and challenges.  C.S. Lewis once said,  “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice.”

A lot of times we think that we just need more of Jesus, and I agree, we do.  But, I wonder if our next encounter with Jesus is in our encounters with others who need the Jesus that we have, who need the healing we are experiencing.  Could it be that as we confess our life and show our brokenness being healed that we are further healed.  Maybe it’s not only our sin that we confess to one another, but our forgiven sin, our healing, our woundedness.

The man set free from demons begged Jesus to go with him, and I can understand why.  Who wouldn’t want the nurture of the Savior, the touch of the master again and again. Jesus wouldn’t let him though.  He said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” Go…and become a wounded healer.

-Peter