You Shouldn’t Act That Way in Church

I have seen many in churches hatefully rebuke those who do not act the way they think they should “in church”. Like it or not, a lot of our culture today (even in what we mistakingly call “the Bible Belt”) has little or no experience with church. If people do not have a relationship with Christ or are not well-versed in “Churchianity”, why do we expect them to put on a Holy and righteous act? Is it because for some it is just that – an act? I’ll digress.

I heard the most beautiful story of a loving pastor’s rebuke to those who wrote a hateful, anonymous letter to a lady who didn’t act the “right way” in church. Many pastors, for fear of losing people and/or their money, would have sided with those who had been in the church a lot longer. Thankfully, this pastor sided with the lady who was not a cultured pew-warmer. I’m proud to say this pastor will be our church’s interim pastor in a few weeks.

I want to share the video with you of his message at a Wesleyan General Conference. The story begins at the 6:56 mark. I believe it might bless you like it blessed me.

Yep! They’re Real!

Oh, the various directions I could go with a title like this🤣! In the day of more social media connections than face-to-face interaction, it is easy for one to question if the man or woman on social media is who he/she portrays to be. Before I remarried, I spent a brief time on a dating site. If I ever talked to anyone, I always asked the lady in rather humorous ways if she was who she said she was. It didn’t want any surprises if we were ever to meet.

Over the last 4 years, I have made several connections through this blog. Within the last few weeks, I have had some great phone conversations with a few of these bloggers. Pastors Randy Burbank, William Strickland, Clarence Dalrymple, and Keith Haney are four of the bloggers I spoke with on the phone. Our contact through the blog has been so frequent that the conversations were very natural. These four men have encouraged me so much. These guys have walked the road a little while longer than I, do their insight is precious.

Fake people are a dime a dozen. You can find them anywhere. Real men and women who live their faith are more difficult to find. I’m so thankful to have found some people along the way who, despite distance, have been a tremendous blessing.

My challenge to you – be real! In a day full of fakes, be authentic and approachable. You have no idea the difference you will make in another person’s life.

When Will God Bless Me Again?

Have you walked through a season of loss in your life? Maybe it was the loss of a child. A parent. A spouse. Someone who meant much to you. Maybe it was the loss of financial security. Or maybe the loss or decline of your health. These things often lead us to think that God’s hand of blessing has been removed from our life.

I have discovered that people have some pretty screwy theology when it comes to God and how He relates to our difficulties. Some equate prosperity with blessing and poverty with a curse. Would it makes sense that those who seemingly prosper are doing something right, while those who are seemingly struggling have done something wrong for God to withhold His blessing?

The unbelieving world is watching believers like a hawk. All I have to do is comment on Twitter to discover that. I quickly see people’s hostility as they assume I believe a certain way by twisting a comment. The way you and I so dogmatically state our thoughts on the intentions of God give many unbelievers an excuse to stray from those who seemingly equate themselves with God since they claim to know His intentions so well.

Job’s friends dogmatically proclaimed to Job what they thought about his difficulties in life. The man lost his children, his livestock, and everything but a wife who told him to curse God and die. It seemed as if Job had nothing but God. Truthfully, God was all He needed.

Yesterday, I was asking the question, “When will God bless me again?” I has been nearly 6 years since life took a huge turn for me. I was having a huge moment yesterday when I allowed that screwy theology to come to the forefront. My wife mentioned Job’s restoration. I would honestly like to know the time frame on that.

Later that day, someone posted the verse of Job’s restoration on Twitter. I never noticed something about this verse until I saw it yesterday. Notice what Job 42:10 says: “And the Lord restores Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” Notice the italicized phrase. Could it be that Job had to work through some feelings of animosity toward these people and come to a point of forgiveness before he saw his restoration? I could not help but ask myself if I could compassionately and genuinely pray for those who have offended or wronged me.

The answer to this question of when God will bless me again can only be answered truthfully when we know what the real meaning of blessing is. God has given blessing in these last 6 years, but I must let God and God alone define what these blessings truly are. The fact that I have Him should be enough.

Call Me Rev. Volcano

Let me start by saying I only used the title “Rev.” because I am an ordained minister. I really don’t like it because it is not a biblical title. With that out of the way…

This ordained minister (me) erupted today. I know those who read this are too holy to explode in anger, but I did. I know some of you are gathering your stones and getting ready to comment to me about uncontrolled anger being a sin. So, I’m confessing my sin for the whole internet to see. Smart move, huh?

We are often known to allow things to bottle up inside us. These things are often related to work stress, home stress, financial stress, and a list of other things. One thing was the last straw and threw me over the edge. Then I got really theatrical and put on a good show for my wife and the neighbors. Don’t worry! Police were not called out, and there was no domestic violence.

No wonder Paul said, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4 is full of good practical advice. Following that, Paul said, “Neither five place to the devil.” Sadly, I’m sure the devil enjoyed my fit last night. I said things I wish I would not have said, but I’m grateful they were not directed to my wife. She was gracious to sit there and listen to me vent. I later apologized for dumping my truck load of frustration on her.

I have had many who read this blog thank me for saying things most ordained ministers would not say. We are slow to give pastors room to be as human as the people in the pews. That is why I’m determined to be a safe place for pastors to turn at any time. Struggling with your spouse? Struggling with parenting? Want to punch one of your deacons? No condemnation here. I’ll laugh with you. I’ll cry with you. I’ll scream with you. The only way to move forward is to be honest about where you are now.

I’m glad I erupted yesterday. It has not resolved my issues, but I was able to say how I really feel, and that is a step in the right direction. To all the other erupting volcanoes, you’re not alone.

Two Anniversaries

For those who know me or have been following my blog, you may have a few crazy thoughts in your mind when you read the title. You may be thinking I am talking about the two wedding anniversaries (one with my ex and one with my wife now). Others may be thinking I’m going to discuss the anniversary of my first marriage and the anniversary of the divorce date. While I might be crazy, I’m not that crazy.

I find it a bit ironic that this time frame holds two significant anniversaries in my life – one that was a bit sad and one that was very joyful. One happened in 2003, while the other happened in 2009 (ten years ago). The first was the anniversary of my departure from a church I dearly loved. I was 22 at the time, and the people followed my leadership so much better than I deserved. It was a ministry that I would consider my best days of ministry until 6 years later.

Ten years ago, I moved to this area. I was 28 and much more ready for this opportunity than I could have been at 22. After 6 years of micromanagement and only one or two compliments from the pastor, I was sure I would not take for granted the blessings I would potentially experience in this new ministry. I had a fresh vision and some lessons under my belt of how I would enter a new ministry better than I did the previous one. I did everything in this new ministry I wish I would have done in 2003. We live and learn.

In 2009, I sensed that I was entering a place where I spend a great deal of my future. For the first time, I felt like I was home. The people loved me, followed my leadership, and sent me off with mixed emotions as I entered my first pastorate. In my spirit, I knew I would return to the upstate of South Carolina. Little did I know it would be a year later.

The month of August is a month of transition for many. Many students begin a new year of school, college students begin a new year, and many people relocate with their work. We view anniversaries as celebrations, but they are also beginnings of transitioning into another year, another season.

Maybe this post is about more than two anniversaries. As I continue to write, I remember other scary transitions that took place in August – leaving my home state to attend Bible college in August 1998, leaving Bible college in 2001 to transfer to Liberty University Online and step into the unknown with full faith that God had a ministry opportunity that was not “in the bag”, and the realization August 2018 that my season as Lead Pastor of a church plant was coming to an end.

It is now August 2019, and I am in yet another transition. There are a few unknowns at this time, but there is ONE HUGE THING I KNOW – GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL AND HOLDS MY WORLD IN HIS HANDS! So I move forward…trading my fear for faith, trading past mistakes for insight I would not have had otherwise, trading my insecurities for security in who Christ is.

So here’s to many more Augusts where the God of the mountain is still God in the valley…

HELP!!!!!

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! Just kidding! That commercial became a joke that got so old that people who really experienced falls couldn’t get help. Now onto the real post…

As I have shared, I am entering a ministry to pastors and ministry leaders. In preparation for this, I have had some great conversations with pastors from the following denominations: Southern Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Lutheran (Missouri Synod), United Methodist, and Congregational Holiness. I would love to speak to some pastors and ministry leaders in some other denominations. If you are a church leader/pastor or attend a church where you think your pastor would take some time to talk to me, please email me at matthewwinters1980@gmail.com.

If the Lord Wills

When I went to bed last night, I had a few wonderful thoughts about the sleep I thought was ahead. I felt that I was falling asleep at a decent hour, and I would have an extra half hour to sleep due to one less obligation in the morning. A scream at 1:30 am changed that. My 3 year old occasionally wakes up sick due to digestive issues. It has been a long time, but this was the time. I got up to clean up and help her. It lasted about 30 minutes. I returned to bed, but guess what?!? I could not fall asleep. After almost an hour, I got up to snack and drink something. Now I sit here typing a blog post in hopes that I will asleep soon (hopefully quickly after I submit this for the world to read😀).

Isn’t it funny how we make plans? My plan was a solid night of sleep. For a little over 2 hours, it was nice and solid. It took me a few minutes before I could get it together to get out of bed to take care of the one I call “the boss lady”. (She’s a feisty little 3 year old.)

A passage of Scripture comes to mind. James 4:13-15 says this:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.””

We are so quick to make our plans and boast in them. Then life happens. We must remember that One greater than us has direction for us and has better plans, even if that means a few hours of missed sleep. But I was able to remember this sweet biblical reminder.

Now it’s time to go back to bed for part two of my sleep…if the Lord wills.

What Is a Worship Leader?

These must be examples of what worship leaders are, right?

I must say that I have been amused by the various titles for someone who directs music in a church – song Leader, music director, music pastor, minister of music, worship leader/pastor, magnification pastor, and the list goes on. I have seen everyone from a willing soul announcing a song number to the guy in a mid-life crisis in skinny jeans with holes in them.

I was in music ministry for over two decades. I will be the first to tell you that millions of people are better than me in this field, but I did have a few “successful” years in the journey. I consider those to be years when I personally learned how to worship with all I am and see a church begin to do the same. In that season, I learned a few things about what a music ministry should look like.

So, the question of the day is, “What are characteristics of a good ‘worship leader’?”

  • One who passionately worships even if he/she must do it alone. I remember many Sundays when my heart was so full, but I felt that few others were feeling it. I often said, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”
    One who points others to Jesus. I have watched many worship teams over the course of several years. Some were great performances. They were seamless. No apparent mistakes by vocalists or instrumentalists. When they were done, I felt like it was just a bunch of people who sang and played. There was no time to allow the Holy Spirit to move because they had a schedule to keep. No worship team member could share something God laid upon their heart. It was empty. The Messiah wasn’t magnified because the music was.
    One who teaches the church biblical worship. The “worship leader” does not have to preach, but he/she can teach truth in a way that exalts Christ and edifies believers. I watched our worship pastor and team lead us in a wonderful time of musical worship. Our lead pastor does the same thing. Those on stage grasp the concept, and it’s not about one person. The one person whose gift has impressed me is Mark Clarke, Music and Arts Pastor at Point Harbor Church in Chesapeake, Virginia. Mark has served there since 2006 and has done a remarkable job in mixing worship music to engage a congregation that is very multi-racial. He is African-American and is extremely versatile. I notice that he worships personally as he is on stage. His worship is so authentic that people want to join in. His comments between songs and support from the lead pastor have led Point Harbor to be a very unique place. I have contacted Mark on a few occasions, and he is always gracious.

The bottom line is that worship leaders can come in all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, etc. Not everyone has this gift and calling. Some possess the basics but need to remember that worship is a journey that, if you are going to lead, you must be at the forefront, guiding by example. Lead people to Christ. Lead them to biblical truth. Sacrifice style, performance, and egocentrism at the altar. Lead them in the kind of worship where the devil knows he is not welcome.

Worship Leaders as Models

I recently saw pictures of a worship leader modeling in a way that left very little to the imagination. From the persona of the model to the persona of the worship leader, I asked the question, “What is her life modeling?” This is a question we must all ask ourselves. To make it personal, what is MY life modeling?

Worship leaders are models. This is not a call from God to flaunt what He gave you. So what should a worship leader model? What should any professing child of God model?

  • Holiness – This must be biblically defined. Many have tried to define it as only your face and hands showing. Although holiness does manifest outwardly, the real measure of holiness is the heart. You and I cannot be Holy if the blood of Christ has not washed us clean. He must be in a relationship with Christ in order to be holy as He is holy.
  • Humility – This is a difficult thing for many public ministers to model because of the pressure to perform. I laugh (and sometimes internally cry) as I see worship leaders (whether vocal or instrumental) doing moves on stage like other performers they idolize. Many conduct themselves in such a way that you must be honored to hear such talent as what they provide. Arrogance leads to an empty, shallow performance where people are often left untouched because people are exalted above Christ.
  • Authenticity – The person on stage must be the same as the person off stage. I think that is all I should say about that.
  • Approachability – Too many worship leaders show up on stage for their part of “the show”, go backstage and goof off while the pastor is preaching, and show back up for their part. Those in the church never have an opportunity to connect with them. I’m glad Jesus didn’t have bouncers who kept the crowds away from Him.

Worship leaders are models. Every child of God is modeling something. The question is, “What are you modeling?”

Growth By Removal

I recently wrote a post about church growth and received some good feedback from many. I promised I would continue some thoughts on this subject, so I will follow through with my promise. God, however, enlightened me with something other than what I originally planned to write.

Someone has recently shared with me about a personal growth process. This growth process has involved the removal of some friends she thought were great, but she has discovered they were toxic. This removal was necessary for growth.

Let me illustrate this on a church level. Several years ago, a year had an issue with a secretary. This secretary had been in this role for a long time, had several family members in the church, and was married to a staff member. The “board” was afraid to address the issue. After several months, the pastor moved forward to remove this secretary, knowing that her spouse would also leave. Nearly 15 percent of the church left. The result was like any surgery. You grow through a healing process from the removal of the diseased organ, but health is restored in a better way than before.

You might ask what the biblical principle behind this might be. Galatians 5:9 says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. In the context of Galatians, Paul was addressing a group of people who were attempting to make certain works necessary for salvation. When we tolerate a little false doctrine or a little immorality, it affects the whole body like a small area infected by staph infection affects a person’s whole body.

The biggest hindrance to your church growth or personal growth may be something that needs to be removed. You will feel the effects of the removal for a season, but the long-term results are what you must keep in mind.