Come Apart or You’ll Come Apart

In 1999, I was serving a church and I had the privilege of staying with a widow in the church. She had not been a believer but for a few years, but she had the joy of the Lord. I wasn’t sure how it would work out with me as an 18-year-old college student staying with a 67-year-old lady for the summer. She was very gracious and spoiled me rotten.

The day I packed up my dorm room to stay there for the summer, she showed me around the house. There was one thing that she said that sticks out to me to this day. When she showed me the room where I would be staying, she pointed to the rocking chair and said, “Here’s a rocking chair where you might want to sit sometime and come apart for a while.” I had not heard that from anywhere other than the Bible at that point in my life.

God set the precedent for “coming apart” or resting. God didn’t need rest, but He set a pattern for mankind when He rested on the seventh day after spending 6 days creating the world. Jesus also did this frequently. I want you to note some of the times He went to pray alone.

  • After feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14:23)
  • After healing many and casting out demons (Mark 1:35)
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane before His betrayal and arrest (Luke 22:39)

Notice that these prayers either happened before or after very intense events in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. If He needed to get alone with the Father, wouldn’t you think that we need it even more?

May this be a reminder to us all that we need to get alone with God daily. Otherwise, we find ourselves spiritually anemic and unable to win the battle. Let’s resolve today that we will daily draw strength from being alone with God.

A Valuable Lesson for Pastors in Dealing with Difficult People

When I entered my first pastorate, I knew I would have difficulties. This is understood when you are dealing with people. As I began to pastor the church, I quickly discovered I had 3 churches under one roof: those who warmed a pew, those who tried to control matters, and those who truly wanted to be the church Jesus intended. I was called to lovingly pastor all 3 groups, but I knew that my ministry would be received differently by each group.

I discovered that the pew warmers were appreciative. They had no vested interest other than attending some Sunday morning services, maybe Sunday School, and dropping some money in the plate. They didn’t cause problems, but they were not your main workers. When things got ugly, they were not going to be voices that would be heard.

The clique that tried to operate things was content with the status quo. Nothing I did ever satisfied them. They did not want to change anything and really liked the power they had held for many years. They don’t like when a pastor gets his direction from God without consulting them first. The “good old boy system” takes precedence over biblical principle.

The third group I discovered stuck through the hard times but tended to be drowned out by the clique. They were, however, my chief encouragers. Although these folks held positions, they did not like to rock the boat. Many people fail to realize that Jesus was confrontational, and confrontation can be done spiritually.

I quickly discovered that I could not let the “powers that be” drive the ministry. I would have dishonored God had I done that. They did not like it, but I wanted to be able to answer to God with a clear conscience. My calling was to empower those who wanted to do things God’s way and give them a voice, so that is what I did during my rather brief pastorate. I had people tell me, “Matthew, I have been in this church 30 years and feel like I finally have a voice.” I was speechless yet thankful. The cream rose to the top, and many of these people found their voice.

When your naysayers are the loudest, give the real backbone of the church a megaphone. They will develop courage and ultimately become your key leaders. Others will become brave enough to become sick of the corruption and Head a different direction. Don’t enable! Empower!

Don’t Label My Kid! – In The News!

I have no doubt that many who read my blog have been involved in foster care. My co-blogger and friend, TJ Petri, received a wonderful opportunity to publish an article for Dr. John DeGarmo. If you have been involved or are considering or are involved currently in foster care, I encourage you to read this. Click on the link in the post from Dr. DeGarmo’s site.

dr john

When Dr John DeGarmo contacted me about possibly contributing a piece for his upcoming December Blog Posting, I was without words. It’s not often you get an invitation from the guru of your trade to actually share your expertise. With more accolades and accomplishments in the Foster Care field than anyone I have known, I was caught off guard to say the least. I can honestly say that Dr. John and his wife are the only couple I know of who have had more foster kids live with them than I.

I have had 45! To be asked to give my opinion on an issue that is constantly under scrutiny by state and federal regulators was very satisfying and meant a lot to me.

I am glad to share both a proud moment of his – him and his wife being recognized by none other than Good Morning America and…

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“I Just Don’t Like That New Music”

Have you ever heard that in church (I’m talking about the title of the post)? Better yet, have you been the one to say it? I remember going through this early in music ministry and continuing to face it until I stepped out of it. The first pastor I worked with during the very early stage of a worship blending told one of the church members, “You don’t like it because you don’t know it.” He hit the nail on the head. We often don’t like what we don’t know. I hated frozen custard because it rhymes with mustard until I tried frozen custard. It tastes NOTHING like mustard!

So, why do people tend to like older songs?

  • Familiarity
  • Simple rhythms
  • Fond memories connected with them
  • They were taught that new music is sinful although the Bible says to sing to the Lord a NEW SONG!

So how do we get past this resistance of newer music?

  • Expose your people to it when they are coming in before and after services.
  • Have an ensemble/worship team open the service with it to introduce it.
  • Assign it to a soloist to sing sometime.
  • If your church has a choir, teach it to them first before you take it to the congregation. Let them introduce it. Many choirs step down at some point in the service, so it’s great to have those voices scattered throughout the worship center while those who are unfamiliar will pick up on it.
  • Use these songs regularly. Waiting too long before you sing it again kills the momentum you built with it.

What I am sharing with you is from experience. This wisdom was passed down to me, and it worked. Here’s what happened:

  • Senior adults were asking for the congregation to sing the latest contemporary songs. I was shocked!
  • The people were singing these songs as confidently as they were singing the hymns. That was exciting!
  • All generations were united in worship.

Some of you who read this may be going through this age-old struggle in your church. I hope this helps some pastor or worship leader navigate these muddy waters.

Surprise Encounters

I began my “on the field” part of the work day meeting a lovely new family. While serving as a hospice chaplain has its moments of sadness, I get to meet some amazing people. After the visit, I headed to lunch.

When I went into the restaurant, I saw someone I have not seen in quite some time. My plan was to sit and do a little message prep for church and then keep seeing patients. Instead, I sat down with this man who also happens to be a pastor. He also teaches at a college nearby.

As you can guess, we talked about ministry. I caught on his latest assignments from God as he did mine. When I was younger in ministry, that was all I talked about. Now it is a more rare occasion, so I take the opportunities that come. I talked with him about this because he knows what it’s like.

When you are going through an issue in your life, you don’t want to talk to just anyone. You want to talk to someone who has some experience. When I was going through a divorce, I wanted to talk to someone who could relate and give me some perspective. I did not want someone who had some textbook theory and answers from an experience they never had. When it comes to parenting teens, I want to talk to weep with others going through the experience. (Can I get a witness?)

Whatever you face today, find someone who knows the path. I will highly suggest that men speak with men and women with women to maintain good boundaries. You will be surprised how many people have been through similar situations and can give you WISE counsel. Don’t go to a fool! Find someone you know who walks with God and has your best interest at heart. That talk may turn out to be a surprise encounter.

When Ministry Gets Funny

Today, I went to visit a lady whose memory is slipping. While I am saddened by how a person’s mind goes, they can say the funniest things.

I was mentioning about moving to the other side of town. She asked if I was alone. I said my wife and the kids moved with me. She asked me when I got married. I told her that we married a little over 2 years ago. She then said, “You dirty dog, you! Does she know about me?”

If you think ministry is dull, you haven’t done it!

So Many Blogs, So Little Time

To my WordPress audience, I try to do my best to get around and visit your blogs. My goal is to go through the list of those I follow and read posts by alphabetical order of the blog title. Sometimes it works, while other times it doesn’t. If I haven’t gotten around to you in a while, it is because I follow a bunch of blogs. I don’t know the count, but I spent a few hours the other day going through and barely got anywhere.

I want to encourage you to develop a game plan of whose posts you will read and when. That’s what blogging is all about – camaraderie. Let’s continue encouraging each other and making a concentrated effort to having a reading. Feel free to comment or like if something jumped out at you. Bottom line – make your blogging manageable. I’m preaching the same sermon to myself.

Remembering God’s Promises

I was driving down the road the other day, praying (with eyes open) about my God-given desires for ministry and how they will continue to unfold. God interrupted me. I wasn’t pausing to listen like I should, so I’m glad He interrupted me. It was not an audible voice. It was His Holy Spirit bringing a verse back to my mind – “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:24). Then God broke it down into 3 parts:

I CALLED YOU!

I AM FAITHFUL!

I WILL DO IT!

That will get your attention! God reminded me of what should be obvious, but His servants can be a little slow (or a lot slow) at times.

I had to step back in my mind and remember that although I do not see all the details unfolding before my eyes, God is faithful to His promise. The things He has put in my heart for the future will come to pass. It may take months or a few years, but God will do it.

We are an impatient generation. Some of what God has put within us may not unfold for decades. Are we willing to wait, or will we walk away and be unfaithful to a God who never forsakes us?

Let this be a reminder to you. God called you! God is faithful! God will do it!

The Healing Has Begun

My friend who preached this morning introduced us to this song by Matthew West. I immediately connected with it. Although I have not experienced physical sickness beyond something simple, but God has healed my broken, discouraged heart.

Many who read this may be walking through something right now. You got a bad report from the doctor. You may be close to losing your home. A child may have wandered far from God, or a spouse may have decided to walk away and you are left with a broken heart. God wants to begin the healing process in your life. It is a process. You will go through ups and downs, but your scars will one day tell a story of a God who does miracles.

Let this song minister to you.

Share the Stage

It is so easy in leadership to hog the spotlight. When you are at the top, the temptation is great to steal all the glory. As you grow in Christ, you want to help develop people while God gets all the glory.

Today, I “shared the stage” with a dear friend who is one of the men in our church. God called him several years ago to ministry. Many of us get detoured when life happens, but he has not given up. Today, he preached for the first time in a long time. He shared the subject of forgiveness and he kept it real. It was my joy to give him an opportunity to stir up the gift God put in him. I’m looking forward to giving him more opportunities and seeing God call others from our church.

As we are moving forward, I’m realizing more and more how I must share the stage so that people can develop their own gifts and help others develop in Christ. I cannot do it alone, and I don’t want to. God is unveiling a plan for me to “share the stage”, and I can’t wait to see it all unfold.

If you are a part of a church that will not allow you to develop your gifts, I encourage you to find a place that will. Don’t grow stale and let life pass you by because the leadership in your church uses a select few. Please pray for us as we go deeper in developing fully devoted followers of Christ.