Every day you wake up, you should ask yourself two questions:

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Ask any church whether we should do community service and your will get almost universal agreement in a “yes” response.  We want to help people. We know we should. Do we?

Churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

  1. Charity- This level focuses on providing assistance for immediate needs. I would venture a guess that most churches expend their efforts and budget in this level. Examples are:

*Food bank

*Clothes closet

*Utility or rent assistance

*Funeral expense.

Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, so it is perfectly biblical for churches to “do good”. We don’t want to eliminate charity, but we do want to enhance and expand it. I must question whether I am doing enough, when the same people come back week after week for the same needs. In order to break that cycle, consider two other levels of involvement.

  1. Certification- A smaller percentage of churches provide training that can help a person improve their situation. ESL classes, job training, job fairs, computer skills are all examples of certification. The objective here is that the people that are in need can acquire skills and connections that can help them go to another level.
  2. Change Systems- An even smaller percentage of churches work in this third level. This level works through word and deed to address systemic deficiencies that if improved or transformed can increase opportunities and decrease the probabilities of people continuing in vicious cycles of poverty, abuse and neglect for generation after generation. While we don’t tell a hungry person to wait 5 years while we change some laws before we can feed them, we also don’t isolate ourselves from lawmakers and systems that can hinder the possibilities and lives of real people.

Neglecting our social responsibility and using our influence and voice to address the abuse, injustice and system dysfunction is, I believe, not just an option but a mandate.

Consider this quote:

“A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.”  (Mount of Blessings 137)

Remember, churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

Level one: Charity- We want to give a person a fish. (sorry vegans, it’s just an illustration!)

Level two: Certification- we teach the person to fish.

Level three: Change systems- we work so that it possible that the person can own a lake. With fish in it.

When you look around your community, how would you respond to the two questions posed at the beginning of the chapter?

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Coming up:

Over the next weeks I will share how to go about doing this in your local church, and how to impact your community in all three levels.

Leaders want to take everyone with them to the next level. They want to inspire people to go beyond what is now. Since most of us want to be liked, we have a hard time processing resistance. We believe that reasonable people will see the light in the plan we are proposing and enthusiastically support it.

That is hardly ever the case. People are…human. Flawed, imperfect. Just like you! In every organization you will find the supporters, go-getters and on-boarders as well as the downers, dissenters and dissatisfied.

If you spend your time trying to get the last three on board, your train will never leave the station.

Here are three principles to remember when you deal with those three D’s:

  1. Its ok not to take everyone.

Some can’t go. You can’t require gallon size production from pint sized people.

Some won’t go. They have seen the future and they enthusiastically wish to stay where they are.

Some shouldn’t go. If they did, they would only mess it up for the others.

Leaders recognize the three types and deal with them accordingly. Do me a favor. Repeat to yourself at least three times every day: It’s ok not to take everyone.

The pain of losing the three D’s is always less than the pain they will produce if they come with you. What I am trying to tell you is that it will be painful either way.

You choose.

  1. Ask yourself the hard questions.

Your must deal in reality, not make believe. That process starts with asking yourself hard, honest questions. John Maxwell invites leaders to ask themselves the following hard ones:

How much of my energy will I let them take? How much of my time will I let them take? How much of my focus will I let them take? How much of my joy will I let them take? How much of the resources will I let them take? Maxwell, John C. (2014-10-07). Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership

  1. Not your job description.

Don’t you think God has been trying to change those D’s before you even knew them? He hasn’t succeeded yet. What makes you think you can do a better job? When people show you who they are, BELIEVE THEM! If they could have changed, they would have by now. Don’t stop loving them, but understand that maybe it won’t be you leading them.

 

What are your thoughts? What do you do about downers, dissenters and dissatisfied? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

The words Cyber Attack revealed in computer machine code through a magnifying glass  - stock photoHe said. She said. He shared an EGW quote, she doubled it. If you noticed, internet drama is common, even expected. Nothing wrong with expressing your views and convictions online, after all, it’s YOUR wall, but I wanted to take a moment to ask for reflection. Before you engage in another of those internet skirmishes, think of this:

  1. 1. As you look at our present discussion over WO, #Surge, whatever, is the tone of the present discussion more or less likely to attract unbelievers to the church?
  2. Why do you feel the need to get defensive over every point?
  3. After engaging in an internet skirmish, do you feel closer to God? To your brother and sister?
  4. Are there better things you could be doing?
  5. Do you really think the other side will change because you provided a list of quotes?
  6. How much time do you spend praying for people you disagree with? As much time as you spend arguing?
  7. You do know that unbelievers are monitoring the conversation, right?
  8. When young people watch you write are they inspired to grow closer to God or is it just another confirmation in their minds about church people having irrelevant conversations?
  9. How many people have you personally led to Christ in the last 12 months?
  10. Who died and appointed you God?

 

Stick to the main thing and make sure the main thing remains the main thing.

God honors, God honoring risk.

First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville Alabama is a growing, solid, innovative Adventist church from South Central Conference. Recently an article on a local newspaper created quite a stir. (http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2015/02/seventh-day_adventist_sunday.html)

Some loved the idea. Some hated it with a passion. Some are adopting a wait and see attitude. Social media has been buzzing with the news and the story has gone semi-viral.

Since I minister primarily to pastors and leaders, this becomes a great opportunity for a teaching moment. When making a decision that involves risk, it is wise to ask yourself four questions:

  1. Why are we doing this?

Is it a passion to reach unbelievers? The Huntsville First has averaged 3 baptisms per week in the last 2 years. They have regularly done (yearly) evangelism. Traditional reaping meetings have brought over 100 people (in one meeting!) I get the sense that this church is fueled by reaching out, that their purpose is not to mask Adventist identity but to find as many avenues as possible to make our message known.

In every decision, the why precedes and informs everything else. That is determined by scripture, not social media.

  1. Who are we doing this for?

The purpose of the meeting states the intent. It is to be a first point of contact with unbelievers. After reading and interacting with people on social media, there is a concern that we don’t compromise or identity just to reach unbelievers. I feel you. If the past is any indication, Pastor Snell has used his Wednesday night prayer meeting time to connect with the community. Those initial connections on Wednesday, for felt-need type classes have resulted in people accepting the Adventist message and joining the remnant church. It amazing to see the level of vitriol by people that have never even been there or read much about the purpose. The same desire is fueling this.

  1. What are we doing?

It was surprising to me the amount of negative feedback. Growing up in the Inter-American division we always had worship on Sunday night. It was a staple of our week. The interesting thing is that our division is one of the most conservative, traditional and growing, yet they meet every week on Sunday for an evangelistic service. So, meeting on Sunday for worship and sharing our beliefs is been done by thousands of churches. It’s not new. Maybe it’s the time of the day that has people riled up, because having church on Sunday itself has not proven to be a first step to compromise in thousands of churches around the world.

  1. What safeguards are in place?

It’s important, even when venturing on a new endeavor to ask for prayer and counsel. It is my understanding that Pastor Snell did not wake up one Sunday morning and said: “Hey, let’s have church everybody.” While we must all be open to counsel, we also must respect the local church process of months, even years that led here. Here are some quotes to consider:

“For some months we have been planning to hold grove meetings near St. Helena, Calistoga, and other places in the Napa Valley. The first one was held on Sunday, June 7, in the Hot Springs Park, at Calistoga. The conference lent us some folding chairs. The members of the Calistoga church are anxious to carry the truth to those who have not heard it, and they made thoughtful preparation for the meeting. We were confident that open-air meetings would be the means of reaching some who would not attend a service held in a church. And thus they have proved.” – {Ev 405.1}

“The brethren in Melbourne are considering the matter of securing land upon which to build a humble house of worship. The halls which can be obtained are neither convenient nor suitable for the worship of God. We are glad that the number of Sabbath keepers is increasing to such an extent that the halls are not large enough to accommodate those who assemble on the Sabbath for the worship of God. We should have places of meeting so that on Sunday those who are inclined to hear the truth might come out to the services. The Lord has many souls in Melbourne and its suburbs who have not yet heard anything in regard to present truth. They have not heard the warning message of the third angel, but it must be given to the people, and we must do all that lies in our power to proclaim the message.”
-EGW, Manuscript Releases Volume Twenty, page 165, paragraph 4

“Whenever it is possible, let religious services be held on Sunday. Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns, and speak with power and assurance of the Saviour’s love. Speak on temperance and on true religious experience.” — Testimonies Vol. 9T 233.

 

God honors God honoring risk. I will pray for First Church. They need my prayers more than my opinions.

Here is Pastor Snell himself in the Podcast, courtesy of PELC Power Tools http://www.pastorsleadership.org/media

 

 

 

Maybe I am naïve. Maybe I have not been living in the real world, but it seems to me that the level of vitriol, accusations and slander INSIDE the church has risen in recent years. I average a conversation a week with a pastor or church leader that is recovering from deep wounds inflicted by another Christian. One pastor shared with me how the level of attacks got so bad his wife stated taking anxiety meds and every time the phone rang she would jump. Where is Jesus in that?

It’s common. It’s painful. It must stop.

When we seek to engage others in a destructive manner, it serves three painful purposes:

  1. Distracting

I call it chasing “the devils rabbits”. Most of the time that is spent arguing and debating personal viewpoints that are secondary issues (and believe me, most are) is time that could be better spent in sharing positive messages, connecting people with Christ, and loving and serving our neighbors. At the end of the day, no one changes their mind and you don’t lose your old opinion, only a friend. I personally commit to spend less time responding and more time doing. Will you join me?

  1. Discouraging

Do you ever wonder what people outside the church think about our petty fights? Do you think that by reading some of our “Adventist” websites and blogs they would see the church they would like to join or divisiveness they would like to avoid? Do you think our present conversation on Women in Ministry for example encourages or discourages unbelievers? Are you taking into consideration that your words against a fellow believer can be read by non-members? Is your tone helpful? Are your words building bridges or walls? At the end of the day, any conversation that keeps people from the kingdom is not productive, no matter how holy the author proposes to be.

  1. Destructive

If there is anything that breaks my heart more is hearing about good leaders that want to stop, quit or leave as a result of internet attacks. Some call it relentless. Some have shared with me that it took them into depression. I had a friend of mine that shared some worship principles in a conference, and when she got home, there were messages in her answering machine from other Christians telling her she was going to hell. All this over a worship style! Her mom heard it before she did and started crying.  Words matter. They hurt real people with real lives.

My call to all of us, is to please stop. Please reconsider posting inflammatory videos. Don’t resort to personal attacks. Let’s be the church where unbelievers are critical of what we believed but amazed about how we loved each other.

Seldom does a movie come by that you can recommend with a clear conscience. This is one. Please read below how you can use this movie as an evangelistic opportunity or an alternative to movies that do not have a biblical value system. I will let the producer share his thoughts with you:

“Thank you very much for the encouragement and the support – and for sending the Barna study to me.   We’re truly excited about your willingness to share the evangelism opportunity with Old Fashioned.

If you direct your pastors to the www.oldfashionedmovie.com website, they will find free resources such as sermons, guides, video clips and other printed materials that will equip them in creating church programming centered on love and relationships.  If  they register on the home page of the website, they will be alerted as new resources become available.   The church resources also can be found directly on http://www.oldfashionedmovie.com/churchresources.

Besides the website, please share our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/OldFashionedMovie.

In addition, I’ve attached a presentation that outlines the evangelism opportunities available with a focus on Millenials that might be helpful as well.  Feel free to pass along as a downloadable link here:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/8czdkpqsvxlqhhj/OF%20Overview%20for%20R%20Hernandez.pptx?dl=0

 

 

“So often we have allowed the material means by which we live to outdistance the spiritual end for which we live. We our mentality to outrun our morality. We have allowed our technology to outrun our theology. And if we are not careful we will end up with guided missiles and misguided men. And that is a necessity now, more than ever before, to keep the means, rather than ends, for which we live, abreast with the means by which we live.”  (MLK Speech from Puerto Rico, 1962)

I sometimes hear that we live in a post-racial America. I wish we did. We don’t. That is especially significant in the church, where Sabbath morning is still the most segregated hour in the week. I am eternally optimistic, but I also wish we could have honest conversations instead of just playing nice in front of people and hardball behind the scenes. I wanted to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, as a pastor from a Hispanic heritage. I wanted on this day, to share my feelings on race and religion (both hot topics, so forgive me in advance).

Here are three perspectives:

  1. Thanks.

As a Hispanic in North America, I do not take lightly the fact that many of the privileges that we enjoy today and take for granted, others paid for with their lives. I am thankful to Dr. King for letting his faith drive his actions, for being not just a voice for justice and freedom, but a person that understood this simple fact: we lose the right to speak to a culture we are unwilling to engage and when merited, challenged.

  1. Concern.

Have we made progress in the church? Sure. Is it all fixed? No. Here are some specific instances I have personally experienced:

*A pastor asked me if he could baptize someone he called “an illegal”?

*A pastor in a conference in the west that told his Hispanic colleague that he should stand in front of the church and tell every person “that had no papers to go back to Mexico”.

*The question I get asked five times out of ten: “Are you the ministerial guy for ALL or just Hispanics?”

*Do you speak Mexican?

Chance starts with us. Instead of taking our cues from the media and the talking points from the talking heads, why don’t we take the time to get to know someone from another culture?

  1. Hope.

I have seen many instances of progress. I have seen in the last 10 years many Hispanics being appointed to positions of leadership. I have seen a desire in cities all across the Southern Union to ignore previous silo mentality and start to work along with churches in the other conferences to be more effective in reaching their city. One of the most common questions I hear (literally every week) has to do with the state/regional conference reality. Even today there is a petition to re-examine the present construct. (https://www.change.org/p/north-american-division-of-seventh-day-adventists-let-s-end-ethnically-separate-conferences) While I have issues with the blanket “Let’s do away with regional conferences” (that’s troublesome in itself, think about it) I do hear voices looking for a better way forward. Change is hard. Almost impossible. But I am hopeful. And grateful.

Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t like scuba diving. I’m afraid of snakes and heights. I’m not a fan of being in the dark, by myself. That’s exactly the reason why I took a scuba diving class, went to Africa’s bush on a mission trip and sleep alone in hotels frequently. The height challenge? I’m still working on that! Fear. If you’re human, you experience it, but if you want to grow, you are going to need to deal with it. Successful people take risks, which often causes fear. Consider this: “…while preparing hundreds of executives to face tomorrow’s challenges, Apte’s team has made some surprising discoveries about the common problems modern professionals face. Rather than a lack of time, money, or manpower, many stem from two unlikely sources, he says. Specifically: a lack of risk tolerance and a resistance to change. Steinberg, Scott (2015-01-06). Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty (Kindle Locations 56-59). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Here are 7 reasons people let fear win (instead of taking risks to be successful):

  1. Fear of failure.

Failure is the cost of doing ministry, or business, or life. If you are not experiencing significant success often, it probably means you are not failing enough.

  1. Fear of embarrassment.

What will they say? What will they think? How will they react? Let me ask you a question. Since when are other people’s opinions the driving force behind your decisions?

  1. Fear of losing control.

If your primary goal is to keep control over every detail, and your spiritual gift is micromanaging, then people will call you “the boss” but never successful.

  1. Fear of rejection.

Rejection is the sandpaper that God uses to polish the work of art he is creating in you. It’s not your enemy, it’s your ally.

  1. Fear of confrontation.

What we don’t confront we don’t conquer, so stopping from moving because you will need to confront attitudes, people and systems is not a valid reason. You are the leader. Not the peace-keeper.

  1. Fear of isolation.

It’s true, it’s lonely at the top, but God seldom gives the vision to the people. He shares with one what will benefit many.

  1. Fear of change and uncertainty.

Fear smuggles your past into your future. Go TSA on it and stop it at the gate. Live your life based more on imagination and less on memory.   What are you afraid of? What change or initiative are you wanting to do but are afraid to? If you want me to pray for you, leave a comment or message me.   (today’s blog was based on the book: Steinberg, Scott (2015-01-06). Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty)