What are you doing with your resources?

(Please note, this post is not meant to single out any one church or organization my area. If you are a local pastor or leader, it is not a direct attack on you, but on the American church as a collective group)

What I want to talk about today is a question we as Christians will be faced with then we stand before God. It is a question what we should all be keeping in mind as we go about our lives.

“What have you done with the tools I have given you to advance My Kingdom?”

For a lot of people this is a scary question. Because when we look at how we use our time and resources, I think we can all agree that we are not using them to the best of God’s Kingdom. Most of us prefer to sit back and complain about what it happening around us instead of stepping up and trying to make a change.

I live in an area of the country that is just ravaged by drugs, heroin in particular (last stat I saw had my area as the #3 per capita in heroin us in the entire country). This drug brings with it prostitution (sex slavery) as well as rampant alcoholism.  Yet most churches in my area simply sit back and watch this epidemic spread more and more without want to take any action. Yes, it is on every prayer list (and do not mistake me, prayer SHOULD be the first step in any decision we make) but normally that is as far as it goes.

It comes down to this simple fact: most churches today have an inside out model instead of an outside in model. They want to cater to everyone inside their church walls, and not worry about those outside the walls.  Yes this stings to hear if you are a church leader, but seriously examine how much sincere and true outreach do you do?  What is the ratio of resources your devote to discipleship in the church versus outreach beyond your walls.

And I am not talking about missionaries outside of your area. I am speaking about right in your community.  Once again, do not misunderstand me, I am in no way saying local churches should not support overseas missions. But we should not be doing so at the expense of outreach right outside our front door.  “What did you do with the resources I gave you?” This should be the question on your mind as you go about making decisions on where to put your time and money. It is not about YOU or your church getting praise and glory. It is about bringing people to Christ through any means you have at your disposal.

The battle of traditional versus contemporary, praise and worship versus hymns, chairs versus pews  and all the other mundane arguments that occur in the modern church today take away from the most important function of the church: to bring people into God’s family.  And this goes to any organization who profess to have a mission of bringing people closer to God. As soon as you start putting limitations on how you are going to deliver God’s Word, you instantly lose your stated goal.

Jesus did not say “go out and preach only the King James bible using only hymns and piano”.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)

Notice there is no mention at all of the teaching method. It simply says go and teach. People learn and people come to Christ in different ways, and we need to stop focusing on the “how” they are coming to know The Lord and instead begin focusing on the “if” they are coming to know God. Just because you might not like a certain type of music, or a certain style of preaching, does not mean the person who is sitting next to you who is not saved will not be able to connect with it.

We live in a society so worried about offending people that we have let this attitude invade our churches. No longer are different styles of worship allowed. We have put a dividing line in place, saying this is how we worship in this building and if you don’t like it, there is the door.  We have shut our minds off to any possibility that someone may be drawn to Christ in a different way than we are teaching, so we keep on doing the same things over and over and over, and then complain that it is not working.

I have heard people say “well, people will be drawn through the doors of a church when God calls them”. Well if that is the case, why even do any form of outreach at all? Why bother witnessing to anyone?  This statement always makes me laugh. Our job as Christians is to lead a life that helps people see Christ through us, and then make every effort to lead those around us to Christ. This does not mean only those we are comfortable with. This does not mean only those who walk through our church doors.

We are to get outside of our church walls, into our communities, and let me people know about the love of Christ. We are NOT to simply sit on our churches and wait for them to come to us.

The biggest and most valuable resource we all have the equal supply of is our time.  It costs no money to lead a Jesus led life. It cost no money to tell someone about God’s plan for salvation. It costs no money for any of us to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus.

What is does cost us is time. Time away from Netflix, Facebook and Instagram. It makes us focus on what is important, and causes us to make to difficult decisions in how we best allocate the resource of time. If you were to stand before God right now, and have to answer “Did you do your best with the resources I provided you”, how would you answer?

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I’m Saved, Now What?

The modern church does one thing very well, and that is brag about the number of baptisms it does on a weekly basis. We see pictures of churches setting up pools in their parking lots, and “dunking” hundreds or even thousands of people on a weekend. We see the numbers flash across the big digital displays about how many people “came to know Christ” on any given Sunday. The list goes on and on. But the one thing we never hear about is what happens to those people after the baptism. We never hear the plan these churches have to help strengthen those new in Christ. And the reason is because there is no plan. It is all about the flash and spectacle of the baptism, and then just push them aside for the next group of dunkees.

So to those out there who may be asking “Ok, I am saved, now what?”, I want to give you a little help, because I was fortunate enough to be become a member of a church who does not believe in the dunk them and leave them strategy. If you feel like you are wandering, wanting to know Jesus more, but have no idea how to, let me guide you a bit (which some help from a discipleship notebook I have been going through).

The first step is to pray. And not just a recited prayer written in a book somewhere. Have a discussion with God in a private, quite place. Tell Him your fears, your sins and your dreams. Let Him know what is in your heart. Let Him HEAR you say why you need Him. A prayer spoken out loud to God does not carry any more weight with Him than one said silently, but it will help you unburden yourself to God.  If you do this from your heart, you will feel better. Think about your attitude change when you tell a good friend something you have been hiding from them.  Now think about how much greater that change will be when you tell your Creator what is troubling your heart and what you are thankful for.

Pray is not a one and done activity. It is an ongoing communication with God throughout your day. You should set aside time each day to seclude yourself to be alone with God, but this is not the only time you should speak to Him. I find myself all throughout my day asking God for guidance, thanking Him for His blessings and asking  forgiveness. Do not fall into the “this is my time to pray” trap so many do. Pray whenever you want to take something to God, not just when it is time to run down your prayer list or prayer chain.

Once you become in Christ, it is time to seriously invest in a proper bible. Many will say “but I have the bible app on my phone / tablet and will just use it”. That’s great, I have that too, and use it every day. But that app will not substitute sitting down with God’s Word in front of you, alone from all distractions, and studying. You know what else your phone or tablet has on it? It has your email, your Facebook, your Twitter and all other distractions the world can throw at you. Turn the phone off, put it away, and pick up a notebook and your own bible and start to read the Word of God distraction free. I would also recommend a solid bible dictionary (I use a Smith’s).  As you start studying the bible, you are going to find yourself wondering “what is that?” or “who is this person”.  Write it down and go back and look it up when you finish reading. This is what is means to study the bible as opposed to simply reading it. The stronger you become in God’s Word, and the more you start to understand it, the more powerful and focused your prayer life will become.

So you are now praying and studying the bible with vigor, but still feel like you are not getting that full connection with God? That is because you are only halfway there. Like most everything here on earth, you need a support system in place to help you. And for Christians, that support system comes from fellow believers. Find a bible teaching church and become active and involved. Showing up on Sunday mornings for an hour and maybe Wednesday evenings is not being active and involved.  (You can see many other posts and videos from me on this subject). You need to dig in and ask questions. When you come across something in your daily reading you don’t understand or need clarification on, go to your pastor or a deacon and ask. That is what they are there for. If you find you are not getting a solid bible foundation in your pastor’s messages, then it is time to start looking for a different place to fellowship. Even Jesus quoted scripture when we spoke to the masses. Fellowship with other believers is vital to helping you grow in your relationship with Christ.

Finally, it is time to go out and tell others about this wonder gift of salvation God has given to all who believe in His Son.  This is the call to every single one of us in Christ. This is also where almost every one of use falls staggeringly short. If you are new in Christ, you may be scared or feel like you do not have the knowledge to be able to speak with someone about God. Let me share this little passage of scripture with you to show you that you are not alone:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” … Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 3:11, 4:10-11 NKJV)

Two times Moses, the writer of the first five books of God’s Word and the leader of the Israelites, tells God “send someone else, I am not capable of doing what you want.” But look at God’s response “I will be your mouth and teach you what to say.” That same guidance and power is with every single person in Christ today, all we have to do it ask God to guide us. Pray to God to make known to you the chances you have to give His salvation message, and pray for the heart and the head to carry out His will.

Pray, study, fellowship and evangelize. If you are new in Christ, those are the four foundational pillars to grow from.  Rejoice in the grace of God, and immerse yourself in His Glory.

Uninteded Priorities

This is going to kind of piggyback off the post from Sunday.  I have been thinking the past couple days about the message you send with the priorities you have in your life. Most the time, it is in an unintentional message. It is simple decisions you make every day that when looked out from the worldly point of view, show that you value things of the world over things of God.

So what exactly is it I am talking about here? Let me give you an example. Most churches across this country have the same schedule. Sunday morning services (a combination of Sunday school/worship service). Then you will have a Sunday evening service and a mid-week services (normally Wednesday night).  The most attended service is normally always the Sunday morning worship, which makes me ask one question: where is everyone during Sunday school, Sunday evening service and Wednesday evening service?

Now, the answers are going to be something like this:

  1. I can’t get up early enough to make it to Sunday school.
  2. My household is so hectic, I can’t get everyone ready in time to make it to Sunday school.
  3. Sundays are the only time off we all have as a family, so we need to take the time in the evening to do family things.
  4. I am just so tired by the time Sunday evenings roll around, I can’t get motivated to go back to church.
  5. I or my kids have (insert any workout or sports practice) on Wednesday evenings, and just don’t think it is fair to them to not have them participate.

I am sure there are some others that I am forgetting here, but those will be the main ones. These are very common and not outlandish reasons to not attend the services outside of the main Sunday evening worship service. Most would look at this list and say there is nothing really wrong. But I am here to tell you that this list is one of the major reason the church, families, and even the country is in the shape we are in today.

Let me rephrase the question of why are people only attending Sunday morning worship. Instead of asking why do people not come, put it this way: what do you have going on in your life that is more important than worshipping God? See, when you put it this way, it suddenly becomes a much more uncomfortable discussion. Because now you have to look at the unintended consequences of your actions. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you and your children. Everytime you say “I am not going to church because of….” you are telling people “I am placing this activity over celebrating God.” You are making all around you know where your priorities lie.

Now, if you think I am being a little over dramatic here, simply using this to shock people, let me make it clear I am not. I could not be more serious. You are placing it out to everyone who sees your actions that it is ok to put God second in your life as long as YOU are comfortable. As long as YOU need that extra hour of sleep, or need to be a little tougher on your children, or have to tell your teens they will not be able to do the activity they want too, YOUR life will be less hectic and more comfortable.

But by doing this, you are also letting your kids, your teens, and those around you not in Christ that it is ok to put worldly things over Godly things. It is ok to place activities that are temporary over that which is preparing you and them for the eternal. People around me hear me speak everyday about the importance of putting God first in everything you do.

There are many other forms of unintended priorities in our daily life. From the movies we watch to the companies we support, every choice and action we take shows the world around us what we prioritize. So urge you all to stop for a moment, and think about the small choices you are making and thinking about the unintended priorities they are showing your family, your friends and all you come into contact with on a daily basis.

Beauty and the Agenda Beast

I was simply going to let this one pass. Every day, I see many stories pop up which affect how we, as Christians, should live in society. Through the endless scrolls of Facebook and Twitter, I come across so much agenda driven material, I would do nothing but write all day long on the things I see. So when I saw Disney was going to slightly insert the gay agenda into their newest Beauty and the Beast release, I rolled my eyes with an “Of course they are, because the director of the movie wants to rip apart bibles in the hotel rooms he stay in.”

I made one post on my Facebook about this (around the same time I urged my Christian brothers and sisters to avoid The Shack as well).  I figured enough believers would realize how destructive the movie would be to their children and simply make the Godly choice to not subject their kids to this sin. Apparently the power of a complaining 7 year old is more powerful than the call to stay strong in God, because as I type this, the movie is about to cross the $170 million barrier in just 3 days. That will make it the highest grossing PG movie opening weekend ever.

More importantly, this gives Disney and all the other studios open season to continue to trickle sinful behavior into material designed for children. All they have to say is “well, you Christians had no issue it with it in this movie, so we will just continue to indoctrinate your children with the sins of the world.”

I am sure I will lose friends on my social networks over this posting, because I saw in my feed throughout the weekend that many of them went to the movie, and raved about it. I also saw many of my friends went to The Shack last week. My question to you is simple: At what point did you decide to simply forgot our call to Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:2 NKJV). When did the Christians of this country think is was ok to ignore God’s Word when it tells us Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV). Did you discern that the will of God was to have you sit through a movie which promotes homosexuality? Did you think it was good, acceptable and perfect?

“But it was just one little scene” is what I am sure some of you will say. My response is simple, that scene is in a violation of God’s Word, and should never be put into your mind. Period, end of discussion. There is no other response.  Playing the “it was just one small scene” card is EXACTLY what Disney was hoping for Christians to do. They were counting on us as a church to not draw the line and say enough is enough. We will no longer allow you to put sin into our mind. Instead, the Christians of America simply opened their wallets and said “take what you want, so I don’t have to say no to my kids”.

This is not just a gay issue. It is EVERY form of entertainment coming out of Hollywood today that promotes unGodly ways. I was stunned last month when I saw two pastor friends of mine excited to be going to Fifty Shades Darker. Another could not wait to step into John Wick 2.  These are people who are charged with leading churches excited to be going into movies which completely destroy God’s Word. I wanted to scream “what are you thinking!!” But then I remembered, everyone must come to realize on their own what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes.

As Christians, we should be showing the world through every action we do every day what it means to live a life led by the bible. Part of living that life is NOT supporting things which are against the bible. I heard two quick little things this week which to me hit this point home. In our Wednesday night bible study, my pastor said “If the world embraces you and your behavior, there is probably too much compromise in your life”. Then this morning in his sermon he said “If the world thinks we are one of them, what we are doing is actually denying Jesus.”

Powerful things to think about the next time you decide to download that new disc, tune into that TV show or put your money down at the box office.

Plant where you are placed

I recently started to trim down my follow list on Facebook. This was not the normal trimming I encourage everyone to do to get rid of things which are ungodly. No, I started trimming churches from my likes. Oh Patrick, how could you do such a thing?!  you might ask. It’s simple, I began to become jealous of things other churches were doing that mine wasn’t. I was falling into the church comparison trap. 

It is perfectly fine to look at other churches and ask yourself “is this something that would benefit our church and our community if implemented?” What is not ok is to say “why can’t my church be doing this?” This is what I was doing. I would see something and instantly run to my pastor saying “we need to do this, it will be awesome for the church.” Instead, I should have paused and asked God “is this something that you want me to move forward with in the church?” 

It comes down to one thing we all need to start doing: learn to serve in your home church and stop looking for “bigger”chances. God will provide you with the chances to spread His Word, you just have be willing to do it. When we learn to listen to God’s leanings in our heart and stop wanting to follow our own desires, we will do the most impactful work for the Kingdom. 

You are placed where you are because God believes that is where you can best serve Him. By fighting this, you are saying you know more than God. Is this really the message you want to be putting out in the world? 

I came to my home church with big ideas. I was going to make all kinds of changes, make the church “cool”and “hip” and “modern” (my words here). The problem is, none of those things were needed in my church. What was needed was my skill and abilities in other areas I never thought I would be called into.Three years ago when I walked through the doors of my home church, I never dreamed I would be standing in front of the congregation on Sunday evenings giving the message. Or on select Wednesday nights. I never dreamed I would be called into action to help organize the county summer park vespers services. 

But I finally stopped fighting God. I tore away the blinders that something “needed fixed” and instead accept I would be used anyway God wanted to use me where I was. I stopped looking for something better and realized what I had was more than anything I could ever want. 

I encourage you all today to pause and reflect on what you are doing in your local churches. Are you playing the church comparison game I was playing? If so, stop and look into your own church walls and ask God “what can I do to serve You in this building today?” You will see that God will open doors to you to minister that you did not even realize were there. 

Are You Ready?

Think about how many times a day you ask this question, or something similar. “Kids, are you ready for school?” “Is that report ready?” your boss may ask. “Is dinner ready?” “Is my dry cleaning ready to be picked up?” Over and over again, we ask it in one form or another. 

But the most important “are you ready?” is never one we think about. Are you ready to meet God? Are you ready for eternity? Are you ready to go create disciples in the world? 

The above scripture passge lets us know that there are only two types of people in God’s eyes: those who produce good fruit (words / works for Him and His kingdom) and those who produce bad fruit (words / works for Satan and the world). There is no gray area or fence sitting here. So you need to ask yourself, are you ready to face God and answer for the fruit you have produced while here on earth? Are you ready to say yes, I have been a good and faithful servant, doing all I could let people know about His kingdom, about repentance and about salvation through Christ. 

It is a simple question with a complex answer. Because I don’t think any of us would be willing to say there are ready. Because all of us know there is more we can do to help move God’s Kingdom forward here on earth. We know there are many missed opportunities every day to tell someone about Jesus’s blood and love. But we don’t. We don’t because we are too busy getting ready for the things of the world, and don’t take the time to produce the good fruit we are called to produce. 

Emotions like anger, jealous and doubt creep into our minds and make us stay quiet about God. We make excuses like “I don’t have the money to do this” (one I am ashamed to admit I have used many times in the past) when in our hearts we know we don’t need a dime to tell someone about Jesus. We get our feelings hurt when we are told no by our church (once again, no problem admitting this one as well) when upon reflection we realize that no was the right answer at the time. 

Are you ready does not mean do you have the money, resources or man power to do something for Jesus. Are you ready means do you have the spirit inside you to say yes God, use me anyway you want to use me on this earth for Your good works. 

Making yourself ready to do God’s work is the first step. God will provide the tools you need to produce His fruit, you just need to be ready to accept them. 

Why Do We Go To Church?

This morning, my pastor shared on article on his Facebook page that I thought I was going to hate. (you can see it here). The title told me I was in for another one of those “us vs. them” lectures on how bad modern church worship is. I was all ready to type out a response, but I figured it would be a good idea to actually read the article first.

The first third was exactly what I thought it would be. But at the start of the second third, I realized the writer was conveying the message I delivered on a Wednesday night in church a couple months back. And that message is simply one single question: Why are you stepping through the doors of your church?

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:14-17)

The article quoted some scripture, but to me, this is the entire key verse in regards to the modern worship movement. It to my own paraphrase on it:

To the church of America write, because you are disengaged, I will vomit you out of my mouth

The issue is not worship styles, or the “entertainment” factor, it is the engagement factor when people leave the walls of the church. We take for granted the privilege we have to be able to walk into a house of worship and openly praise God. All over the world, people are walking 5 miles to a church with no electricity or water, and share a bible and sing praises to God. Yet we want to argue about what instrument should be played on Sunday?

The point of the church is worship, but so often, we do not even know what this word means. I read two definitions of worship that I think sum it up best for me:

  • An offering of your life to God in response to His life in you
  • A response to who God is to you and what He does in your life

In other words, worship does not just take place in a building 2 hours on Sunday morning and an hour Wednesday night. It is a continuous process of thanking God for all the blessings He has given you.

I do agree with the author of the article in that I sometimes think that the more glitz and glamour that are added into worshiping God, the less worship actually takes place. It becomes more about the show than the substance.

I know this sounds incredibly strange coming from me, someone that is pushing for more and more tech in my church. And the reason I am pushing for a more modern looking church is to attract a more, shall we say, youthful demographic. So I am completely aware that what I am typing go against the things I am pushing for in my home church. But, those things I am pushing for are geared to bringing more of the unchurched in our community through the doors. Once those new in the congregation come in, why are they staying? That is where the key question is. If all the new purchases we are making do not bring about a worshipful spirit in church walls, then honestly I have to ask the same questions brought up in the article. Worshiping God should be the top priority we have in walking through church doors, and anything blocking our path do doing that needs to be put aside when we enter.

Which brings me to the second reason we should be coming to church, and that is to learn. We should be coming through the doors of our churches with our minds focused on learning and understanding God’s Word better. In our Sunday school classes, we should be bringing to the table questions we have from our bible reading the week before and then we should be offering up answers to others questions.  During the sermon message, we should be taking notes on what we hear, and going back and looking at those notes as we read through the bible passages that are mentioned. Your mindset should be on gaining biblical knowledge and understanding. And do to this, your mind needs to be free of any and all worldly distractions what might be in it.  YOU MUST BE ENGAGED. And you cannot be engaged if you are concentrating on other things other than the message that is being presented.

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  (Acts 17:10-11)

Self-evaluation – you should be made to feel uncomfortable and want to make a change in your life every time you leave the church. What is said from the pulpit should make you examine your life, and make you want to make actionable changes to draw closer to Jesus. If you are not feeling moved to change when your leave your church, either your pastor is not telling you the truth or you are not engaged in what they are saying enough to see the areas in your life which they are talking about.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Cor 13:5)

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1: 23-24)

You see, if we simply sit in church each week and hear the words being said up here, without actually listening to what is being said, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We should be made to feel a need of action in our lives about what is being said up from our pastor. If we are not, either the pastor is being ineffective or we are simply choosing to ignore those parts which will make us question the way we are living.

And finally, we should be coming to church for community.  I have spoken many times about how the church used to be the center of social activities in communities.  And I am convinced this has stopped being true because we have become disengaged with our own community. The church as a whole has lost the urgency to create a feeling of community.  When you come through the doors of your church, you must be of the mindset that the church is the focal point of your community.

Since joining my church, I have witnessed firsthand how, when it has the right mindset, can show what a loving community is can be. Both with my mom’s passing and with my accident, I came to realize how I had fallen short in engaging myself into the community mindset.

This is one of the reasons I decided in 2016 to give control of the music booking website to someone else. I realized that I was focusing on the wrong things, and that my time and energy should be placed locally in helping achieve the things I am speaking of here.

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

We love the idea of community.  Everyone engaged and involved and connected, but how many people show up here longing for  someone to reach out to them, shake their hand and have more than a 2 second conversation.  – Craig Groeschel

 So while I am not agree with everything in the article linked above, I do understand the need for us all to question why it is we walk through our church doors. Is it for the entertainment, or is it to draw closer to Jesus. I say it a lot: It is ok to bring the lost through the doors with the fun stuff, but once you get them through the doors, it has to turn serious. And there is nothing more serious than eternal life.