The internet is ablaze with news on the court’s decision that allows same sex couples to wed. In the midst of the discussion about what happened and how it affects Christians and churches, there are some things you can’t control. There are some things you can. If you are a Christian, there are five things you can do:

  1. You can have a great marriage.

It is certainly harder to make a case for the sanctity of marriage by a Christian church that has similar percentages of divorce than unbelievers. Love your spouse. Show the world that the biblical model works, it’s a blessing and can help you grow in faith. Pray with and for your family. Restore the family altar. Instead of interminably reposting articles, spend some of that time loving your spouse and praying for you kids. Not many people changed their minds because of an article they read. Many did because of a relationship they had and an example they admired.

  1. You can trust God.

You can disagree with the court. That is your right. You can express your concern. That is your privilege. Just don’t forget God was not surprised nor is he rendered powerless by a court’s decision. You can still trust God to work out whatever He chooses, however He chooses.

  1. You can be kind.

I perfectly understand the preoccupation that arises when what was, is no longer. I just pray we are kind. You can be principled and patient, courageous and kind, clear and loving. Remember that everyone is in need of grace, including yourself.

  1. You can remain calm.

One of the unfortunate consequences that happen during highly controversial times is the jumping to conclusions based on fear and speculation instead of facts. No one is coming to padlock your church doors this weekend. No one is forcing our pastors to marry same sex couples. Argentina and Canada allow it and our churches there still share the word every Sabbath. That is not to say we should be silent or oblivious. We should practice what divers do when in a difficult situation: remain calm and work it out.

  1. You can continue to share the gospel.

A thought for my Adventist friends. The power of the gospel is incredibly more effective than any political strategy. If we believe that the gospel is not just the verbal assent to a doctrine but that it results in changed lives, wouldn’t it make sense to getting as many people as we can exposed to it as fast as we can?

Let’s pray that our mission is not detoured by the fixation on a decision. Share the gospel. Love your family. Live for Jesus.

 

I’m on the road quite a bit. This summer for example, I will be sleeping in my bed 8 days. Total. If you travel, here are four tips I learned along the way that will benefit you.

  1. Join frequent programs.

Early on in my life I always looked for the cheapest option. That is not always the best route. When you join frequent flyer/hotel/car programs you get perks only reserved for members that make travel easier. Give you an example or two. I was traveling with my family for a speaking appointment. Weather affected our plans significant. Instead of waiting in line to rebook for two hours, I walked right to the delta counter for sky priority and fixed our travel plans very quickly. It does not take many trips to earn rewards. The way I see it, the benefits of frequent programs help you in the following ways:

Free upgrades. You did not pay a lot, but received a lot. That sounds like grace to me.

Options. Options are always good.

Easier to change when plans change.

Traveling is not glamourous. It’s tiring actually. Any advantage you can get to make that experience a bit better is great. At the end of the day, you end up saving the church money (or yourself) when you travel.

  1. Use lesser known travel insights to help you.

Here is an example of what I mean. I needed to travel from Huntsville to Atlanta, one way. A ticket was over $400. If I bought a ticket to Charlotte that stops in Atlanta, it was less than half. The best website for that is https://skiplagged.com/ Why that happens, I have no idea, but it does. You can’t have checked baggage is the only drawback.

  1. Be connected for great deals. (Especially overseas)

I follow Airfare Watchdog. They scour the internet for super great deals. I can find tickets to Africa for $700, to Europe for $500 and many stateside trips for dirt cheap, for example Carolina to Orlando for $79 RT is a recent example. Here is their twitter handle: https://twitter.com/airfarewatchdog If your plans are flexible and you are on a budget, they are the perfect resource.  Be alerted that Southwest is not on travel search engines, so search directly on their site. www.southwest.com They also have some good deals often.

  1. Insist on making your own travel arrangements or having them follow a specific itinerary.

I have learned the hard way that when people invite you to speak, they don’t always understand or care about the impact it has on you physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. I have been flown with two layovers, leaving my house at 4am and arriving 12 hours later, to then speak 5 times and flown back with a similar schedule. This is not about being a prima donna. It’s about basic decency. When I invite I ask the guest what airline and hotel they prefer. I get to invite them again. Here are two articles with a downloadable guest form you can fill out when invited.

http://leadsu.org/2014/04/21/348/

For me, at the end of the day, it’s about being a good steward of God’s resources. Any other recommendations? Let me know in comment section.

I know you’re thinking “boy, I wish someone would write one more article on Women’s Ordination”. Well, your wish is my command. I have prayed about this for a while now, and I have decided to take a particular course of action the moment the vote is taken:

  1. I plan to pray for my church. (its God’s church, really)

This church was His before I was here, and it will be His after I am just a mention in an old yearbook. I wonder how many times we have prayed for the church. Not for others to agree with us. Not for others to change. Not for others to comply, or else. To truly pray, wishing the best on the whole body, not just the people I agree with is not just commendable, it’s a command! I will pray.

  1. I plan to finish the year with evangelism.

Atlanta is my focus in the last semester of this year. We are planning to minister to three thousand people in one day with a health fair, and follow that up with twenty five simultaneous evangelistic meetings that will conclude with a city wide three day reaping meeting.  We are praying for 500 new believers to come into the church this year as a result. While I hold strong views in support of women in ministry, an even strongly held value is lost people and their need for a savior. I won’t allow a controversy to determine the quality of the effort in reaching those God misses the most.

  1. I plan to love people I disagree with. Some from a distance.

This is not always easy. I don’t spend time arguing on Facebook and will swiftly unfriend and block aggressive saints that are not only willing to die for the truth, they are willing to kill for it. That does not mean I don’t love them. I agree with Jon Accuff that sometimes the best gift you can give an attacker is distance. Loving means not calling them names, questioning motives or demonizing people. Loving mean giving those on the opposite side the same grace I’ve experienced in my own life.

Won’t you join me in praying, working and loving?

In college I took six semesters of biblical languages. It was required. I also took one required counseling class. One. I have had thousands of requests from people seeking my help in counseling them. I have never (so far) had someone call me at 3am with a problem interpreting the meaning of the Greek aorist tense.

Now, I do not want to denigrate theological training. It’s imperative that our pastors are hermeneutically sound (some issues we are having right now stem from a lack thereof).  I do believe we are skewed in the side of the theological, and neglectful in the practical. That is especially apparent in the lack of available counseling options for our members.

Sound biblical counselors are important for three reasons:

  1. The resistance to biblical counseling is real.

I don’t know how it is in other demographic segments, but in the Hispanic culture counseling is seen as either a sign of weakness or a worldly, non-Christian practice. I mean, why would you go to counseling if you have God? As with other issues, prayer is important, but not enough. There are some things you can’t just pray away.

  1. The need for counseling is real.

It has been alarming to discover that counseling is more needed in the segments and areas that need it the most. Many problems lie just below the surface that revolve around the three A’s of dysfunction:

Abuse

Abandonment

Addiction

From those three dastardly seeds grow the trees Absalonic Adventists hang themselves from. Another reality is that many times good Christian counseling is either unavailable or inaccessible because of lack of funds. If you are a pastor in a city where there is more than one church, you could join with other churches and fund this valuable service. One of my friends Nicole Parker, who is a counselor describes the amount of requests she gets as “overwhelming”. She is not alone. This is very common with the counselors I meet.

  1. The correct process is needed.

Pastors are expected to be counselors, yet we were never trained to do so.  After experiencing some epic fails I suggest the following three step process:

Listen.

Pray.

Refer.

I tell people that came to me with emotional needs or scars that the process of healing would not be easy, fast, or to be done in isolation. My own wife went through counseling for one year before we got married for scars from her past. I saw the positive effects of a biblical counselor first hand.

Hopefully we can work together to help the ones who need it most.

In the early 90’s I was a theology student with a desire to make a difference. In early December I found out about the Evangelism Council and along with my friend Jose Cortes Jr. signed up to go. We were prohibited to attend (at least I was) by the Greek teacher, but we went anyway. I ended up having to repeat the class. It was worth it.

I heard this tall, rough around the edges, straight talking preacher with a New York accent. He spoke on the word Go. He said: “I looked up the word Go in the Greek, and it means…Go!”

He made an impact on my life. As I reflected on his life (he fell asleep in Jesus today) I want to share three things I learned from this evangelism giant:

1. You can be real. He was one of the first preachers I connected with, that didn’t try to impress me with oratory but rather spoke truth he was obviously living himself. He told stories about real people, with real issues. He spoke “truth with handles”. It was relatable. It was memorable. It was real. Not a lot of real people in the world. He was one.

2. You don’t have to please everyone. Not everyone liked his style. Not everyone liked the fact that he extended grace to people. He would suffer no fools, he had little time to argue finer points of theology because he was committed to growing the kingdom.

3. His passion for evangelism. I heard three speakers that week that inspired me. Ron, EE, Finley. They all had their styles. They all had their methods. They were all successful. Ron Halvorsen Sr. had credibility when he spoke about evangelism because he did evangelism.

Rest in Jesus.

Go, still means Go.

 

 

If you’ve attended church for any length of time, you probably had a moment when you cringed when something inappropriate was said, someone acted a fool or a leader or pastor neglected to prepare for their part. When cringe-full moments happen the first people I think about are guests that might get the impression that worship done halfheartedly is the norm, not the exception. Give the wrong person the mic and bad things happen. For example: (these are all verifiable accounts of cringe-full Sabbaths experiences)

*A children’s story about the loaves and fishes that excluded the fishes because the one who was telling it was vegan and would not promote the eating of fish.

*A church where everyone is over 70. As children’s story time comes, (there are no children present) they go ahead and tell it anyway.

Here are three thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it positive.

I know there are hard scriptures, not every part of the bible is sugar and sweet. I get it. We don’t want sermonettes that produce christianettes. Even when presenting hard truths, present the hope that we have in Jesus. Why do we always equate seriousness with holiness?  Smile. Congratulate the ones that are early in Sabbath school instead of griping about the lack of attendance. Give people hope. Lord knows they need it.

  1. Keep it professional.

Many times I hear the following three excuses for a lack of professionalism in worship services when people in charge of special music sing out of tune, we start late, or have interminable announcements:

*They are committed.

*They are sincere.

*They are spiritual.

Question for you. Do you get operated by a bad surgeon that is spiritual? Would you take a chance getting on a plane with an inefficient yet committed pilot who is sincere in his desire to fly?

Sincere and effective. Spiritual and excellent. Committed and prepared. Let’s stop giving people passes just because they tried. Raise the standard.

  1. Keep it personal.

Instead of speaking to the crowd, break your audience down into individuals. What does the single mother need to hear? How about the elderly man that lives alone? There are first time guests, long time members and everything in between. Instead of addressing the crowd, address individuals. Personalizing the presentation will engage the people listening and will not exclude the ones that need a message from the Lord that day.

Praying that all your worship services will be cringe free!

Last February I wrote a blog on an evangelistic initiative on Sunday morning from First Church in Huntsville Alabama.

The reaction to that eight week outreach was swift. It was basically divided into three responses:

  1. Surge is a compromise, the beginning of the Omega Apostasy and the worst thing ever.
  2. Surge is an innovative evangelism that should be tried.
  3. Surge has elements that I disagree with and some I don’t, let’s take a wait and see attitude.

The trial period is over. These are my reflections:

  1. It amazing how quickly we rush to judge things we have no immediate knowledge of. People hear Sunday and Worship together and go crazy. Some of the internet posts were not only pointedly critical, they were downright angry and nasty. Having talked with Pastor Snell from the beginning, I know for a fact most did not contact him or the church and ask questions. Mathew 18 was thrown out, and replaced by accusations and innuendos. I believe we can do better.
  2. Results matter. No I am not saying that the ends justify the means. No I am not saying that we should use EVERY new strategy people come up with. Yes I am saying that just because we shouldn’t use EVERY new strategy we shouldn’t use ANY new strategy.

He preached biblical doctrine.

He did it on a trial period. For 8th weeks.

He had 10 baptisms with 10 more getting ready.

There was no confusion, there was no apostasy. In fact the opposite happened.

  1. Believe the source, not the media, (social, print or online) I have learned after a while that websites, news outlets and people will often spin to their preconceived concepts. That includes all of us, myself included. That is why it’s important to speak to the source. They have much more information that a third party.

The first Surge is now over. Here are the results. It would be wise to take a look at what happened, including the addition to the church of over ten people. As I said in the first blog, they need our prayers much more than our opinions.

Watch a full report here: https://vimeo.com/126728807

Truth is not afraid of innovation.

ADRA Nepal's photo.Luke 19:41 But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.

Since last week my twitter and Facebook have been inundated with two hashtags:

#prayfornepal

#prayforbaltimore

I believe prayer is important. I believe prayer is essential. I believe prayer is necessary. I also believe it’s not enough.

To sit idly, from miles away, without being moved to action, is not what God had in mind when he sent us as ambassadors of his kingdom to the cities.

So, what can we do?

  1. For starters, give.

Hashtags won’t feed a displaced family. Prayer can give hope, but it won’t rebuild a house. As we look at the cities ravaged by injustice, poverty or natural disasters we can do more than pray. We must. Consider for example giving to www.adra.org/ They already have a presence there. There are a myriad of opportunities to help in Baltimore. You can give, you can help with cleanup, and you can have meaningful conversations with minority communities.

  1. Ask yourself why, not just what.

When we see buildings burning in one city and in ruble in another, we must ask the deeper question. There are eschatological implications. There are sociological implications. There are even soteriological implications. Dig deeper. There is always something more. In order to effect change, it is not only important to look for answers, it is paramount we look for solutions.

  1. Remember the city.

In many cases, instead of loving the city, we have been leaving the city, not just physically but relationally.  Love is more than a feeling for the city, it’s action in the city.  Jesus cried for the city, and had compassion for the people living there. That was wonderful, but not enough. He took those feelings and put them in action, as he healed, preached, helped. Cities have not traditionally been known for being centers of discipleship, conversions or morality. Taking that into consideration, there are several attitudes that one can take towards the cities.  There are at least four in the bible:

  1. Leave the city. Acts 16:39
  2. Condemn the city. Luke 9:53-55
  3. Avoid going into the city. Mathew 16:21-23
  4. Love the city. Mathew 9:36

 

What will you? #dosomething