If you have grown in the Adventist church you probably have encountered people that are very strident in their views regarding the Christmas tree. Using faulty logic, questionable internet searches and often relying on other’s opinions and not a personal study, they attack the Christmas tree calling it pagan and abominable. In a church I am familiar with, a member not only spoke out against it, but when the board and pastor put one in the sanctuary, he became so infuriated that he went to church during the week and threw it in the trash.

Now, I get the concern for purity and wholeness that drives some individuals to reject everything that has pagan connotations, but there is a single, significant problem comprised of three words:

Ellen. G. White.

She wrote concerning the Christmas tree, and it was not to condemn it! Here are some quotes:

As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose.

On Christmas, so soon to come, let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath school scholars is a sin; for it may be made a great blessing.

.Review and Herald, December 9, 1884. (Portion in The Adventist Home , pp. 477-483).

We are now nearing the close of another year, and shall we not make these festal days opportunities in which to bring to God our offerings? I cannot say sacrifices, for we shall only be rendering to God that which is His already, and which He has only entrusted to us till He shall call for it. God would be well pleased if on Christmas each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? Will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts the actions and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.

The tree may be as tall and its branches as wide as shall best suit the occasion; but let its boughs be laden with the golden and silver fruit of your beneficence, and present this to Him as your Christmas gift.

Review and Herald, December 11, 1879.

Here are three short thoughts to consider:

1. Demonizing a tree sets you up for greater concerns down the road. Hear me out on this. If you are going to go against a clear statement on THIS issue, don’t be surprised when others go against her on OTHER issues. Can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t pick what you want and reject what doesn’t fit your world view. I have this thing about being Adventist. If my church considers Christmas ok, has trees in the GC and a president sending greetings, its hard for me to say: “Nope. I know better”.  http://www.bing.com/videos/search? q=ted+wilson+christmas+message&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=E6DF9A16F5A766904E5DE6DF9A16F5A766904E5D

2. Use the season to share Jesus. In an increasingly secular society, Christmas remains popular and can and should be used to share your blessed hope. Rejecting a tree and having a cow about its pagan origins doesn’t make us different, it makes us weird.

3. Your family can bless others. Here is something we did in our home this year.

*We tithed our clothes. We take around 10% of our clothes to Cuba.

*We shared gift baskets with our neighbors.

*Our kids received some cash. 10% was dedicated to projects that benefits people that can’t pay them back.

 

Let’s stay balanced and use this time to share Jesus.

 

In the last month I’ve had conversations with at least three people that have considered a major change in their employment:

*One considering going from a system to the private sector.

*One that has worked in the same department for 20 years to another department.

*One that is considering transitioning from leading a congregation to an educational organization.

Eventually you will get the phone call or email that presents the opportunity to change assignments or even careers. The possibility of a life change can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. So, if this is you right now, consider the following:

  1. Make your decision based on your passion not benefits.

Don’t miss this. Many people make decisions based primarily in how their new assignment benefits them. They start considering the benefits and stop there. They imagine the pay raise, the fact that their spouse will have a better job or the name recognition that accompanies a new title. They sacrifice passion at the altar of benefits. The problem comes when the benefits don’t live up to what they promised and hard times come. If benefits drive you, when those either diminish or disappear you will become miserable. Follow your passion. It will sustain you in the hard times and will propel you in the good times.

  1. Make your decision future growth not present affliction.

Affliction drives people to make rash and sudden decisions that often they end up regretting. Take some time off. Counsel with some friends. Spend time in prayer. Often what we need is perspective and rest not a change in location but a change in attitude. Remember, this affliction will pass.

  1. Make your decision based on growth not comfort level.

As with many other things in life, we tend to grow accustomed and comfortable with our occupation. Yes, you are good at what you do. But, could you be great at something else? The objective is not just to be efficient at what you do, but to change the world. So the question is: where can I do that best? Don’t be afraid of the call to stretch yourself beyond your current comfort level.

If you are considering a move and would like me to pray for you, just send me an email or DM and I promise I will.

En el último mes he tenido conversaciones con al menos tres personas que han considerado un cambio importante en su empleo:

* Una estaba considerando cambiar de una organización religiosa a trabajo personal.

* Uno que ha trabajado en el mismo departamento durante 20 años a otro departamento.

* Uno que está considerando la posibilidad de la transición de una congregación a una organización educativa. Eventualmente recibirás una llamada telefónica o correo electrónico que te presentara la oportunidad de cambiar tu asignación presente o incluso carreras. La posibilidad de un cambio de vida puede ser a la vez emocionante y estresante. Por lo tanto, considera lo siguiente:

  1. Haz tu decisión basada en tu pasión no en los beneficios. No te pierdas este punto. Muchas personas toman decisiones basadas principalmente los beneficios que recibirán en su nuevo trabajo. Ellos comienzan a considerar los beneficios y se detienen ahí. Se imaginan el aumento de sueldo, el hecho de que su cónyuge tendrá un mejor trabajo o el reconocimiento del nombre que acompaña a un nuevo título. Sacrifican la pasión en el altar de los beneficios. El problema viene cuando los beneficios no viven de acuerdo a lo que prometieron y vienen tiempos difíciles. Si los beneficios te dirigen, cuando disminuyan o desaparezcan vas a ser miserable. Sigue tu pasión. Ella te va a sostener en los momentos difíciles y le impulsara en los buenos tiempos.
  2. Haz tu decisión basada en el crecimiento futuro no en la aflicción presente. La aflicción impulsa a la gente a tomar decisiones precipitadas y repentinas que a menudo terminan lamentando. Tomate un poco de tiempo libre. Habla con amigos. Pasa tiempo en oración. A menudo, lo que necesitamos es una nueva perspectiva y descanso no un cambio de ubicación, pero un cambio de actitud. Recuerda, esta aflicción pasará.
  3. Haz tu decisión basado en crecimiento no en la comodidad. Tendemos a acostumbrarnos y ponernos cómodos en nuestra ocupación. Sí, eres bueno en lo que haces. Pero, ¿podrías ser excelente en otra cosa? El objetivo no es sólo ser eficiente en lo que haces, sino cambiar el mundo. Así que la pregunta es: ¿dónde puedo hacer un mayor impacto? No tengas miedo a estirarte más allá de tu nivel de comodidad actual. Si usted está considerando un movimiento y te gustaría que ore por ti, envía un correo electrónico o DM y te prometo que lo haré.

 

I had a conversation with a young talented professional last week. She is an Adventist. Bright. Young. Talented and frustrated. Her frustration stems from the resistance of some in the church to new ideas, but she is not willing to give up on it. She was looking to both vent and find ideas to use her talents for God and not having much success. Regretfully, those conversations happen way too often. There are cutting edge Adventist young professionals that wish to use their gifts for the church they love but are experiencing real roadblocks to using their God-given talents for the advancement of the kingdom. What do we do with the creatives in our church? Before we continue, let’s define our terms. Creatives are defined as:

 

  1. Having the ability or power to create.
  2. Productive.
  3. Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative.

Here are my thoughts on this issue. I understand that committed adventists may differ on this, and I respect your right to do so. My desire is not to convice you, but to help you hear what they are saying:

  1. Our attitude towards culture must change.

As I see it, there are some common responses to current culture:

Fight culture. Curse the darkness. Lament the fact that America is not what it used to be. Throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Avoid culture. Leave and go somewhere where you are surrounded with like minded people.

Ignore culture. Stay where you are, but act as if culture has no effect on you and your household.

Accept culture. Give up. Throw your hands up and surrender. Embrace it and adapt its values.

Transform culture. Engage it. Recognize that proximity and relationships can influence positive change.

I like the last option.

 

  1. Our attitude towards creatives must change.

The reality is that anything new in some circles in our church is met with outright rejection, not the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that the following underlying assumptions are present more often than we would like to admit:

What you came into the church with is holy and right.

Everything after that is either unholy or part of the Jesuit conspiracy that has infiltrated us.

I would like to remind you that the devil does not have a monopoly on the arts. Just because it’s new, it doesn’t mean its bad. Just because you “don’t get it”, doesn’t mean its bad. Just because someone else doesn’t like it doesn’t mean its bad. Should we use discernment? Absolutely. Should we constantly evaluate, create, innovate? For sure!

 

  1. Out attitude towards church growth must change.

I am an evangelist. I love to share the gospel and our message with people all across the world. I don’t for a moment think we should eliminate evangelism, but I do think we need to enhance it. There are segments of the population that will never be attracted to a traditional prophecy series while others are really moved by it. Since we want to reach everyone, we must design ways to do that. Visual arts have a power and reach that other mediums do not posses. This means:

Movies.

Music.

Animations. (that’s just like movies, I know)

Arts.

Consider for example SetinSandFilms.com  andHeather Moor. (www.setinsandfilms.com) She is a millennial, creative, and passionate Adventist that has a desire to bless her church. There are many like her. When I see the resistance and rejection of new methods I just think about the chance we are missing. We can at the same time engage young members and reach our world. Our distinctive beliefs in the age of postmodernism could resonate with many and could be given consideration instead of being discarded outright. Postmodernism can actually work in our favor.

Here is the big one. (my thanks to Ravi Zachariah for the term)

Worldview Evangelism.

This is especially significant for millennials. Before they consider some of our distinctive truths, the worldview must change. I don’t know of many better vehicles than the arts to effect that change. Hollywood has done it, many times in opposition to positive values. We have rejected it. Right now, we are facing an uphill battle to contextualize the gospel for a young generation. We could give up, or…we can use this medium to our advantage.

My website is http://www.SetinSandFilms.com  and they can contact me from thereSetinSandFilms.com SetinSandFilms.com 

In closing, I have an appeal to creatives. Don’t leave. Stand up. Don’t give up. Keep creating. Be patient with your church as your God is patient with you. Continue to wrap the everlasting gospel in new and attractive packaging.

Some of the most popular blog posts in the last 3 years have been these series on things we should stop saying. If you missed the previous ones here are the links.

http://leadsu.org/?s=five+things+

http://leadsu.org/2013/10/21/five-more-things-i-wish-people-would-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit/

http://leadsu.org/2013/12/15/five-even-more-things-i-wish-we-would-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit/

http://leadsu.org/2014/02/16/five-more-things-we-should-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit-part-iv/

Here five more (and a bonus):

  1. “Let’s tell the people we are starting at 7:00pm, so we can start at 7:30pm.”

This is Spanish church problem. I’m pretty sure other cultures respect people’s time and start on time. Here is my concern. We use this foolproof strategy thinking we can fool people into getting to church at the time we want them to. Only one problem. People are not dumb. If you do this every week, don’t you think people will pick up on it and arrive even later? How about this: Say 7pm. Start at 7pm.

  1. “Do you eat the image or the beast?”

This is a joke about whether you are vegetarian or not. It was funny like 30 years ago. Now the only people that laugh are the ones telling it and the ones that always laugh no matter the level of corniness of any joke. This usually happens at potlucks and Sabbath dinners. Next time that happens I’m going to respond with: “Neither one, but where should I put the pork ribs I brought today” with a straight face. What? Not funny? Neither is the “image of the beast” joke.

  1. “Let’s wait until people get here.”

One question: Why? Also, see #1.

  1. “How many of you had a hard week this week? I know I did.”

Really? You seem fine to me. How many bad weeks can you have dude? It seems like every week in church I hear this or a variation of it from someone. I just wonder what visitors are thinking. Here is good advice:

Get up.

Smile.

Sing.

Sit.

Please no long speeches that are unrelated to anything else. No venting or priming the pump. Its interesting to note that I seldom see people saying the opposite. Once in a while I would like someone to get up and say: “how many of you had an awesome week like I did? I sold my car, got a new boyfriend that doesn’t look like he just woke up, got a $1,000 check in the mail and passed my classes and to top it off I have a deeper understanding of the assurance of salvation”. Now that’s something to get excited about!

  1. “Are you a vegetarian? Do you eat fish, then?”

Here is a simple formula for you meat eaters: Unless the fish is made out of broccoli, no I don’t eat fish. In case you need further assistance, here is some basic information you may find useful:

Vegetarian-we eat nothing that’s an animal. Dead or alive.

Vegan- we are the ones with the 20 questions.

Raw- if you see one, take a picture. They have super human strength.

Bonus:

  1. “You know, I don’t eat __________________________.”

Some people feel the need to tell you what they don’t eat. No one asks them, but they feel compelled to share. A good way to respond would be: “So, do you eat fish then?”

 

Hopefully this made you smile. Have a great week and remember to stay active, healthy and holy.

 

 

The hardest, trickiest and most important word you will say today is…

No!

It’s a simple word. But oh how hard to say! Leaders want to help people. We acquire a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing others grow, heal and prosper. Hence, it’s really hard to say no when the need is real and the help (us) is available.

After 22 years in ministry I have noticed some patterns in myself and others. What I share today is the product of personal observation and experience. While it may not be the same for everyone, it is common enough to warrant a blog. Here are three things to consider:

  1. Margin-less leadership produces heart shrinkage.

Leadership has no finish line and if you are not careful and build intentional buffers in your calendar you will start resenting the same people you are supposed to be helping.

This is what I have learned to do:

  1. I schedule times for relaxation, reflection and family. An empty calendar is an invitation for someone else to fill it. It’s easier to say no when you know why.
  2. I remind myself that true friends are able to respect my no’s.
  3. I specifically schedule downtimes right after major events. Muscles need recovery time after strenuous exercise, as do your emotional muscles.

 

  1. Ask yourself why:

Always check your motivation. Feeling needed is sometimes more about ego food than it is about helping people. You should say no if you sense these elements as primary motivation:

Pressure- it’s hard to say no to people won’t take no for an answer, but the more you do it the better at it you become.

Guilt- if you do it because you feel guilty, you will experience “heart shrinkage”. Not all guilt is from God.

Convenience- especially say a big NO if it sacrifices one of the big three (family, faith, fitness) but will help you politically or strategically.

Avoidance- by saying no you will have criticism and confrontation, so you say yes to avoid that. Bad idea.

 

  1. Say no to things others can do.

The temptation of a leader is to take over and do what must be done because it’s easier, faster and it gets done right the first time. Don’t fall into that trap. Followers will allow you to do what you chose to do. The words “here, let me do that for you” are seldom spoken. You will have at least a 5 to 1 ratio of people giving you ideas vs helping you with tasks. The older you get, the more you should be doing what you are really good at and less of what others are good at.

Hopefully you will learn as I did, that NO is not a bad word. It can actually be freeing. Just say no.

I was invited to speak at a church. The day before my appointment I was looking online for information on the congregation, more specifically a way to contact the pastor. I was unable to. That and many similar experiences with our church online presence led me to wonder what seekers think when they see our websites.

In case you haven’t heard, the technological age is here. If your church has a non-existent presence on the internet you might be missing opportunities to connect with new or potential members. Furthermore if your church website is outdated, difficult to navigate and lacks important information (more on that in a bit) you might be saying to a whole demographic: “Please don’t come here, we’re good”.

Here are three recommendations:

  1. Make the main thing the main thing.

If I am Joe Unchurched, Mary Seeker or Peter Lookingforachurch the main questions I need answered in your website’s FIRST page are the following:

Where are you?

What are your service times?

How can I contact you?

Having me navigate through several options to try and find information that could be on the first page is madness and a turnoff. Nice pictures, a welcome, or the history of the SDA church are nice but not at the expense of the main thing. Every extra click, it’s a reason to click away.

Here is a church that does that right: http://collegedrivechurch.com

 

  1. Make your 2014 church website look different than a 1994 one.

1994 called. They want their templates back. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist!) In the website world, like in real estate, the key is template, template, template. I did an internet search for churches in Lawrenceville, GA where I live. If someone just moved into the area, there is a high probability they would look online for a church. I found information that was not very helpful or non-existent. The websites looked dated and provided little helpful information about the church itself. We can do better, and it’s not that complicated!

Another point where I see churches dropping the ball is having church newsletters on your website that are from 2012 or earlier. That’s just wrong. If it’s dated, you’re dated. No Bueno.

 

  1. Make your church website simple.

The more tabs you have, the more information you will need and the more time consuming it will become. Since most people can’t afford a full time webmaster, the cleaner and simpler the website the better and the less outdated content you will risk having. Look how clean and simple (yet well done) this website is: http://saddleback.com/. That’s a 25,000-member church. Now compare with any of our churches websites. Not the same, I know. But you get my point.

 

On upcoming weeks I will talk about branding, logos and mission statements. Meanwhile, here are some for you to look at: http://churchrelevance.com/resources/top-church-logos/

  1. Giveaway I am offering a 1-hour church media consultation for FREE for two winners. If you read this blog, or have a church in the Southern Union, you are eligible. Just put your name in the comment section, email me at rhernandez@southernunion.com or DM me on twitter @leadsu and I will draw one name before next week’s blog. This giveaway is courtesy of http://skamediaproductions.com, an extremely effective Adventist media team that can take care of all your needs. They get it. So should all of us.

This what the giveaway includes:

$185 Value – one M|3 Mini Session (Mentoring|Media|Ministry)

Length – 1-Hour (via phone, Skype, Hangout)

 

Includes:

  • pre-session assessment of your church’s existing online presence
  • unvarnished feedback on strengths & growth areas
  • coaching conversation to help you articulate your media goals
  • starter action plan to guide you toward a more effective online presence

If you aren’t a winner and still want to take advantage of skaMEDIA’s services, they are also offering a session discount to my readers within the Southern Union. Contact info@skaMEDIAproductions.com with the code LEADSU+M|3 to be eligible for the discount.

 

Me invitaron a predicar en una iglesia. El día antes de mi cita estaba buscando en el internet  información sobre la congregación, más específicamente una forma de ponerme en contacto con el pastor. No pude. Esa y muchas experiencias similares con nuestra presencia en línea me llevaron a preguntarme qué piensan los no-adventistas cuando ven nuestras páginas web.

En caso de que usted no lo sepa, la era tecnológica ya llego. Si su iglesia tiene una presencia inexistente en el Internet podría estar perdiendo oportunidades para conectar con miembros nuevos o potenciales. Por otra parte, si su sitio web ha quedado obsoleto, difícil de navegar y tiene falta de información importante (más sobre esto en un momento) le está prácticamente diciendo a todo un grupo demográfico: “Por favor, no vengas aquí, estamos bien”.
Aquí hay tres recomendaciones:

1. Asegúrese de que lo principal sea lo principal. Si yo soy Joe sin iglesia, María Perdida o Pedro Buscandounaiglesia las principales preguntas que tengo deben ser contestadas en la primera página de su sitio web. Estas son:

¿Dónde estás localizado?

¿Cuáles son sus horas de culto?

¿Cómo puedo ponerme en contacto con usted?

Tener que navegar a través de varias opciones para tratar de encontrar la información que podría estar en la primera página es una locura. Bonitas fotos, una bienvenida, o la historia de la iglesia adventista del séptimo día están bien, pero no a expensas de lo principal. Cada clic adicional, es una razón para hacer clic en otra página y perder un miembro en potencia.

2. Haga su sitio web de 2014 no del 1994. En el mundo web la clave es diseño, diseño, diseño. Hice una búsqueda en internet buscando iglesias en Lawrenceville, GA donde vivo. Si alguien se acaba de mudar a la zona, existe una alta probabilidad de que buscaría en el internet una iglesia. Encontré información que no era muy útil o inexistente. Los sitios web parecían anticuados y proporcionaron poca información útil acerca de la iglesia. Podemos hacerlo mejor, y no es tan complicado. Otro punto en el que veo iglesias dejar caer el balón es cuando tienen boletines de la iglesia en su página web que son del 2012 o antes. Eso está mal. Si está anticuado, estarás olvidado.

3. Haga su página sencilla. Cuantas más opciones e información hay más difícil va a ser mantenerla al día. Como la mayoría de la gente no tiene dinero para pagar a un webmaster a tiempo completo, mientras más limpio y sencillo el sitio web, mejor es.

Estoy ofreciendo una consulta para iglesias que quieran mejorar su presencia en el internet. Una hora gratis para dos ganadores. Si usted lee este blog, y tiene una iglesia en la unión del sur es elegible. Sólo tienes que poner tu nombre en la sección de comentarios, mandarme un correo electrónico y sacaré un nombre antes del blog de la semana que viene.

Este servicio es cortesía de http://skamediaproductions.com que es un servicio Adventista extremadamente eficaz que puede hacerse cargo de todas sus necesidades.

Esto es lo queincluye: Valor $185- 3M| Sesión(Media|Ministerio|Mentoring)

Longitud -1hora (a través del teléfono, Skype, Hangout)

Incluye:

•evaluación previa a la sesión de la actual presencia en línea de su iglesia

•retroalimentación sin adornos en los puntos fuertes y áreas de crecimiento

•conversación de coaching para ayudar a articular sus objetivos de medios de comunicación

• Plan de acción de arranque para guiarle hacia una presencia en línea más eficaz