You are probably thinking a variety of things as you read a one-word title “Roots”. As I dwell on Holy Week, I remember my roots in the United Methodist Church. I am not fond of the denomination as a whole, but I grew up with some great people in our little church in Virginia. As in any church, some were truly born again while others were just playing church. For me as a born again believer, the meaning of Holy Week was deep.
In my pursuit of more conservative Christianity, I forgot my roots. I “threw the baby out with the bath water” because I did not want to look liberal if I accepted anything from my roots. As a 38 year old who has grown in many areas, I have regained an appreciation for these special days in the church.
I must admit that I have not thought much about Easter this year. When I do not hold a “church job”, it is easy to forget about it. For years, I was preparing months in advance for Easter with extra choir rehearsals. As a pastor, I was thinking about preaching a message that was Spirit-led yet not the standard Resurrection Sunday message. This year, I have been sick for the last two weeks leading up to Easter. So now I sit here at the computer and try to focus on Easter Sunday.
Today marks the night our Savior was betrayed. One of the very disciples Jesus selected would sell him out to be crucified. Tomorrow will commemorate the death of our Savior on Calvary. Praise God that the story did not stop there. Sunday focuses on Jesus conquering death. Because He lives, we too shall live.
My celebrations this weekend will not be anything like the ones I had growing up. There will not be the somber Good Friday service where all the church decorations were taken out and the congregation would walk out in silence. There will not be the decorating of the sanctuary with Easter lilies on Saturday for the 8:00 am service on Sunday followed by breakfast. Over 20 years later, things are a lot different. One thing remains – eternal life is available through the Lord Jesus Christ to all who place their faith and trust in Him. Your traditions may vary, but this message rooted in the heart of God must stay the same.
A few days ago, I read a tweet that disturbed my spirit. The one who tweeted this is young lady who is a WordPress blogger, so I know her story. She made a statement that she had difficulty attending churches because of the way she is treated. It reminded me once again that the church does not know how to minister to certain individuals. I would like to highlight these groups for the purpose of challenging us all to think about how we can do better in reaching people in these groups to overcome rather than be overcome by their circumstances.
Divorcees – I understand that divorce is not God’s perfect plan for people. Why do I really understand? I have been there and done that. I have experienced the havoc that divorce can wreak upon a man, woman, and children. Many people in the church know what the Bible says about it. The job in the church is not to kick those suffering through divorce while they are down. Having a DivorceCare ministry is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. The mentality of the church body must change. Divorced people do not have the plague!
Addicts – This is a messy one. But did Jesus shy away from messy? NO! In fact, he addressed the messiest people and loved them. He was constantly reaching out to societal outcasts. I’m glad some churches have a Celebrate Recovery ministry. That is wonderful! Once again, many in the church possess a mentality that those who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, etc. are the lowest of the low. Have we considered that they are self-medicating because there is a deeper problem at hand?
Homosexuals and those who struggle with gender identity – The church is great about screaming the verses that address this subject, but have we every really thought about the psychological struggles going on beneath the surface? Have we considered that maybe a guy did not have a male role model, was raised by women, and does not know how to live in this world as a man? Many of these people are not shaking their fist at God and choosing to be this way because they hate God. I know people who genuinely struggle in this area. It is time for the church to minister to these who are struggling in a gender-confused society. The Holy Spirit is still at work and can work on people.
Those who struggle with mental health issues – This is another thing that the church has made progress in, but I still read responses to those reaching out for help and want to come through my app and give some people a revelation. Many factors contribute to mental illness. Those struggling with mental illness do not need you telling them to rebuke it in Jesus’ name, read more Scripture, or pray more. I can testify to the fact that I tried every bit of that to still struggle with depression. I screamed warfare prayers, quoted warfare Scriptures, sang victory songs, and did everything that I heard I was supposed to do. And please don’t say my faith was weak! The government and the church are failing in addressing mental health. It’s time for a change!
Those who have been abused – The church does not know how to address those who have been physically or sexually abused. It is not enough to tell some girl who was raped by her father that she needs to forgive him and move on. Someone who has experienced such a traumatic event has layers of issues that will take a long time to heal. Recently, several churches were called out for knowingly hiding sexual abuse that happened within the walls of the church. I have even heard pastors blame women because their husbands physically abused them. Come on! This has to stop!
Those struggling with eating disorders – This is an awareness that has been heightened by people like Caralyn at beautybeyondbones.com. If you don’t follow her site, you should. Other followers on Twitter struggle with this. Today’s society progress a bad idea about the “perfect” image. These people need love too and help as they learn to accept who they are in Christ.
Those of another race – We are too quick to accept society’s stereotype of particular races without hearing from those whose culture and race is different. It’s time to sit down, put the past behind, and really listen to their perspective. If we never have these honest discussions, we will continue to fail in this area.
What would I suggest that needs to happen?
Provide classes to the church that are led by trained professionals in these areas. Nine times out of ten, pastors do not receive the adequate training to address these issues. Do an interview style sermon. Educate the people.
Create a judgment-free zone where these who are struggling can find hope and help. It starts with the leadership and trickles down. Teach this stuff from the pulpit. Rebuke those who are harsh toward these individuals.
As a leader, pray, study, and study some more. Be intentional about talking to people who struggle in these areas. It’s time to change this view of the church. Ignorance and laziness are poor excuses.
Not many pastors or people in ministry can be honest about how they really feel. I choose to unload it on my blog. Some may say that is not wise. Others have commented on how refreshing it is. All I know is I found a voice that was stifled, and it came out by way of divorce and counseling. I found a healthy form of authenticity that has opened doors for personal ministry that would have otherwise been possible.
For the last several weeks, my attention was turned a different direction. I had been in contact with a church in the area about a position that would have necessitated a miracle, but I investigated this open door. I met some really great people and experienced some things I would not have experienced without this opportunity. It was the most unusual interview process. Halfway through, I sensed that I was not a good fit. Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure it was not personal insecurity speaking. When I sat down with the chairman of the committee, it was a refreshingly honest and professional discussion. It is a great ministry, and I know God will send the right person in His time. It still leaves me with this one question – How do I fit into God’s kingdom work at this stage of life?
This season has tested my willingness. I drove 3 1/2 hours once to preach with no idea of how God would take care of expenses. He took care of everything. While churches are gracious to give a small financial contribution, I have found greater joy in going where I knew the church could not provide compensation or would not. I discovered how much I had bought into the professional ministry mentality that my experience and training was worth a certain dollar amount. Honestly, it amounts to a student loan debt that I will never live to pay. Another honest statement – the early disciples were mightily used of God and some had no education. I am not putting a premium on ignorance, but nothing beats learning directly from God.
Another bump in the road has been a virus that was passed around the home. It has lingered with me for nearly 2 weeks. It forced me to slow down and rethink some things. I don’t have much figured out at this point. I do know that I don’t want to miss God’s open doors while I’m creating different ones in my mind.
I still know that these are in my heart:
But I also know that passion does not always equal calling. This may be a totally different season, and I’m missing the big picture. I asked for your continued prayers. Many of you have been reading this stuff faithfully for the last 3 1/2 years and have encouraged me more than you’ll ever know. When all is said and done, I just want to know that I have done God’s will for my life.
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need.” So thankful for this reminder from Pastor Randy Burbank. This brother in Christ has been a tremendous encouragement to me, and I know he will encourage you through this biblical truth.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock…
It is sad that we live in a society that has created the stereotypical man and stereotypical woman. While some men and women reflect the societal stereotype, many do not. I cannot speak from a female perspective, but I can tell you a few things about a man.
Many view the needs of a man as simple: food and sex. I actually heard a pastor preach and tell the women in the congregation to keep their men well fed and well bred. It’s not that simple. This is not one-size-fits-all, but here are some things to consider. I welcome some tasteful insight in the comments.
Men want to be respected. If a man feels disrespected, you should expect a breakdown in communication. If a man feels like the one who approaches him is being condescending, he will shut down.
Men want affirmation. If a man does not feel appreciated, he will eventually not want to give his best because he will feel like it is not good enough.
Men don’t want to be nagged. This has some relation to the previous statement regarding affirmation. If all a man hears is what he does wrong or has his every move controlled, he will fight back or internalize his feelings that will eventually lead to bitterness.
Men do have emotions. The men I saw in my family acted tough, but I saw their softer sides. They tried to act like they had it all together, but they were affected by things emotionally.
To the ladies reading this, the man in your life may not seem like what I describe. Every man is different. Find out his love language and “speak it” as he should do the same for you.
I will close with a few resources that I have found helpful:
“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
“His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard E. Harley, Jr.
“Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs
Communication is key, so it is necessary for you to know true needs of a man. It is not as black and white as you might think.
It’s 2 a.m. and I just can’t sleep. In the last 3 hours I have seen 3 different pastors post about struggling with discouragement and stress in their church due to bullies. It breaks my heart for them and brings up old hurts from when I had an experience with a bully in church. So I wanted to write about 3 common traits of a church bully and 3 responses for the pastor who finds themselves the target of the bully.
3 Common Traits of a Church Bully
Constant Passive Aggressiveness
A bully rarely comes right out and faces you one on one. While sometimes this can be the case, in my experience the bully will be passive aggressive towards you at church, on social media, and in private communications like texts or phone calls. You see this especially with feigned support or involvement…
In the advent season I began writing Healing the Soul, and I wrote a section called Sins of the Tongue. I did this study to prepare for Lent. Ash Wednesday is March 6th. I am going to use this post to prepare for Lent. I am not going to get discouraged when I fail. I have the rest of my life to change my bad habits. I know that I need continue and not give up. Silence is golden. Knowing when to talk and when to stop talking. I also wrote on silence this year. My message to others is my message to myself.
I was speaking with someone recently who said, “I just don’t understand why all these things are happening to me at once. What have I done wrong that God would allow all this to happen? Have I been that bad?”
Let’s be honest. We have all asked these questions and made these statements. We have this false theology that every bad thing is a punishment from God and that every good thing is a blessing. That is so far from true!
Look at the book of Job. The first chapter says he was a righteous man. In other words, he had done nothing that would warrant the loss of all his belongings and children. Later, his body is covered with boils and his wife tells him to curse God and die. God was not punishing him. God strategically placed this in Scripture so that you and I would know that bad things happen to ALL people both good and bad.
The mature question to ask when you are in the midst of hardships is “What is God trying to teach me through the bad times?” When you remain teachable, God will make you a stronger person who will be able to help others.
I have heard many make the statement, “A Divorced person cannot do premarital or relationship counseling because he or she couldn’t keep his or her marriage together.” Makes sense, right? Or does it? If the opening statement is true, then a womanizing counselor can cheat on his wife who lovingly stays by his side can provide sound counsel? If no one is aware of his cheating ways, the opening statement would “stand to reason”. Or would it?
Many marriages stay together, but longevity does not necessarily equal success. I know many who are miserable in their long marriages. I observe men who constantly belittle their wives publicly and privately or women who do the same. No one sees the horrible arguments behind closed doors and issues that never get resolved, yet people assume they can provide counsel because they stay together. That’s ludicrous!
As one who is divorced and remarried, I can give counsel – not from my successful first marriage (because it wasn’t) but because of what I learned. I do my best to be transparent about my own flaws. I tell people of attitudes and actions that should have been different. I don’t have a perfect marriage now, but the Holy Spirit can fill me to speak just as much as ever before. God used a donkey to speak in the Old Testament, and He can still use them today (take that as you will).
We cannot play God and say what He will or will not use. God can used unlikely people throughout history, and He continues to do so. Never underestimate our great God!
When I was in college and seminary, there was much emphasis placed on leadership. The more I watched and listened to different pastors, the emphasis turned away from service and turned toward being more like a CEO of a business. While pastors and people in authority must be professional, they should never be “above” doing certain tasks.
Tonight, a pastor in the area asked if I would run lyrics for their worship team practice. My past experience has primarily been on stage rather than behind the scenes. Was I too good for that? No! Did it give me a greater appreciation for those who project announcements, lyrics, and other forms of media on screens in worship services? Yes!
As a leader, you will gain tremendous respect from people when they see you are willing to do the same things they do. They respect you when you express appreciation for their service.
At work, I have seen nurses do a CNA’s job. Not one single nurse ever acted like the work was beneath them. Why? They understand that a leader is also a servant. They care about their patients, so they will go above and beyond to provide quality care.
May all of us who hold leadership positions be humble enough to