Month: November 2011

Move the Mountain

New Life Church has $23 million of debt, meaning each month, we spend more on debt than we send to missionaries overseas or to support the Dream Centers here in our city. The elders (our Super Committee) and I believe 2012 will be the year the mountain is moved.

In our weekend gatherings, I announced that we will receive a special offering on Sunday night, January 8th at the Dream Team party. This team is the core leadership of our church, including staff, elders and all of our wonderful volunteers and group leaders. We want to lead the way with a first fruit sacrificial offering.

Later in the spring, on Sunday, March 11th, the remainder of the church will have the opportunity to give in all three weekend services. I am so excited to see what God will do through the generosity of New Lifers.

The elders and I believe we are to set aside 10% of the offering for “right now” opportunities that may include Dream Center projects and other strategic ministries to our city. More details will come later, but there are some huge possibilities on the horizon, including the apartment complex for homeless single moms that I mentioned a few weeks ago.

The remaining 90% will go straight to debt retirement, allowing us, in time, to lower our payments and release more money into ministry. We have been told that if we could retire $3million, we could refinance at a better interest rate and a lower monthly payment. Of course, I do believe we can pay it all off, but sometimes the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Thanks for your prayers on this matter. I am so thankful for all the encouragement from New Lifers who have told me they have the same mandate and burden from God to see this mountain of debt moved. I am hopeful for what is ahead and grateful to be on the journey with each of you.

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Parenting and Parachuting

Being a parent is like jumping out of an airplane. You only get one chance to get it right. The thrill of beginning the journey is replaced by a hope that everything lands on target. Pam and I today are out of the plane, the rip cord has been pulled and we are drifting slowly down to the target zone. We are not experts, but we are experienced.

Not long ago, I was asked to consider writing a parenting book. I laughed. They were serious. I laughed again. I told them, no one should write a book on parenting until all their kids were out of the house and successfully launched into adulthood. In fact, the toughest part of parenting may be the time your kids leave the house until they are married or launched. We still have that part of the journey ahead of us.

Our kiddos are 13 and 11, so I have just started enjoying the world of teenager. Notice, I did not say I “dread” the teenage years. I believe we mostly get what we speak and expect, so I am speaking and expecting that Abram and Callie will be awesome teenagers.

Looking back on the toddler and elementary years, Pam and I made a lot of mistakes, but got a few things right. Here are a few insights that I hope are helpful.

1. Be predictable when they are young. Most bad behaviors with little ones happen at 2pm in a Wal-Mart or at 9pm in a restaurant. That’s because they should be napping and sleeping at those times, not in aisle 3 or at a Red Robin.

2. Get control of bad manners as soon as they recognize the Queen’s English. It is a lot easier to wrestle their rebellion to the ground when they are in onesy’s  than when they are wanting to borrow your car. We demand Abram and Callie say “yes m’am” and “no m’am”, “please” and “thank you” with no exceptions. Old school, maybe, but I don’t like brats, especially in my house.

3. Both our kids are taught to respond immediately to us when we call their name. When they are older, I suspect they will respond as quickly when God whispers to them.

4. Our kids are required to greet us when we come home. We also greet them when they come home. If they ignore my entrance, whatever TV show or game that is distracting them, gets turned off.

5. We laugh a lot at our house. Make sure you enter their world, learn their jokes, and giggle with them, even if it’s over really silly stuff.

6. Learn their love language. Read Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages” to learn how your child primarily gives and receives love. It will change your relationship for the better, I promise.

7. Model a passionate lifestyle of following Jesus.  Our kids are paying a lot more attention to what we do and say than we think. Passionate parents most often produce passionate children. Breaking News – You don’t have to have amazing family devotions every single night, either. Take a deep breath. Live it and they will catch it.

8. Go on dates with your daughters and adventures with your sons. One on one time is super important. They must know that they are individuals with immense importance to you.

9. Give them responsibilities that have rewards for being obedient and consequences for missing the mark. I have these same responsibilities as an adult. It’s called a job.

10. Slow down the pace and savor their innocence. I know your kid is probably going to write the next great concerto, but that insane schedule you have them on every week is not fun for you or them. Let them be kids with a lot of space to breathe and play. Let them have a sabbath, too. The 10 commandments are for everyone.

What have you learned along the way?

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Confronting Sin in the Local Church

A man in our church came to me recently with a heavy heart. His daughter was married to a man who had recently been caught in adultery. The couple went to another church here in town and the father contacted their pastor to see if he would confront his son-in-law on this obvious sin. The pastor refused, not seeing it as his duty. What? Not his duty? If we’re really pastors, it’s actually one of our primary responsibilities, especially if we love the people we lead.

Not surprisingly, fewer and fewer church leaders are willing to go to people who are living in open sin and confront them. Why? Do we lack the courage? Are we ignoring the biblical mandate as leaders to protect the innocent from the harmful?

Many times in my role as pastor and elder, I have had hard meetings with people in the church. I never look forward to them and I certainly get no joy from them, but they are super necessary if the church is to remain healthy. In fact, some of the great spiritual breakthroughs I’ve experienced as a leader have happened after I had dealt scripturally with sin issues. God tends to show up in churches where there is repentance, grace and spiritual health.

Primarily, I believe elders and pastors have a responsibility to graciously confront people in three key areas.

1. Unrepentant Sin

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. WIth such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 NIV

Paul is talking about people who are aware of their disobedience, but refuse to repent and change their behavior. Obviously Paul is not talking about moral perfection, but he is challenging us to confront people so they can turn away from the very things that will destroy their lives. Compassion, not angry judgment, is the motivation for challenging their behavior. Notice, also, that Paul is not talking about confronting unbelievers, who show up to explore Jesus in our churches. We must love them and model grace, by all means. He is talking about people who call themselves Christians, but are purposely being deceitful.

2. Divisive Behavior

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” Titus 3:10 NIV

Nothing welcomes the work of the Holy Spirit into a church more than unity. That’s why it is so important to protect it. Divisiveness occurs when people are more concerned about winning an argument than building a friendship. Divisive people do not want an honest debate or to possibly be enlightened by new information, they want to win at all costs. Divisive people are the most difficult to confront because they normally enjoy angry debates, but we still must go to them for their sake and the health of the fellowship.

3. Heresy or false teaching

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith.” I Timothy 1:3-4

I remember when I was on staff at Gateway Church, in the early days when only a few hundred were attending, a young couple asked to meet with me. We were sitting at an I-Hop restaurant, and they told me they did not believe in the virgin birth, but they still wanted to lead one of our small groups. I told them as nicely as possible that they were certainly welcome to attend, but they could not lead or influence others while believing such doctrine. I never saw them again, and that is a bummer, but I am also thankful that the flock I was assigned to protect was able to hear sound teaching from group leaders.

As a pastor, I get to participate in a lot of great events like weddings, baby dedications, sermons on Sunday, leading worship at the Lord’s table and singing together as a worshipping family. However, shepherds are not only suppose to lead sheep beside still waters, but also protect them from wolves when needed. It is not warm, fuzzy or fun, but it is a clear mandate from the Chief Shepherd, without a doubt.

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