I love music. I consider myself a supporter of musicians in the church. I don’t subscribe to the doctrine of “you’re doing it for God, so you should give your music and talent away for free”. I also believe musicians, singers, praise and worship leaders can improve. Next week we will have a musician share their side. This week I speak as a pastor, about five things I wish music people would keep in mind:

  1. Please participate in the rest of the service.

I have seen it countless times. The praise team or special music presenter finishes their assignment and instead of sitting down and listening, participating and growing they go outside, set up the sales table, or hang out backstage. I have even had praise and worship leaders start to put away their instruments as I am starting to preach. It’s not over because your part is finished. Stay. Pray. Listen. Grow.

  1. Please don’t preach.

Let’s make a deal. I won’t sing, you don’t preach. This is especially important at events such as camp-meetings, evangelistic series or pretty much every event where there is a time constraint.

  1. Please be clear on what a “love offering” is.

This addresses full or part time paid musicians or worship leaders. Being clear and specific will, in my estimation, eliminate many of the misunderstandings. A love offering for some churches is $50, for others is $500. When the financials are fuzzy in the front end, they usually become complicated in the end. If you do this for a living you deserve a living wage and for people not to take advantage of you. Be clear. While on this topic, don’t call a pastor desperate for a date, have them change their calendar around and then complain when the offering wasn’t what you expected.

  1. Please don’t do the “good morning/I can’t hear you” routine.

It goes something like this: “Good morning everyone. (“good morning” says the congregation) “I can’t hear you, GOOD MORINING (louder and firmer)” The congregation increases the volume. This is usually enough to placate the person with the microphone, except when it doesn’t, where the “good mornings” are followed by “didn’t you eat breakfast this morning?” or the always nice “hasn’t God been good to you”. Here is a tip: Just say good morning, smile, sing your heart out, and end it. We love God. That is not measured by our volume.

  1. Please remember it’s not about you.

I don’t like to cut songs out, but sometimes I have to. I don’t like to cut my sermon, but sometimes I have to. Don’t you hate it when the speaker says “they gave me 30 minutes but I am going to take more?” Its irritating, isn’t it?  Be flexible, be patient and be willing to understand we are all means to an end. We are just the instruments, conduits, channels to spread the Good News. It’s not about you, or me, but Him.

  1. (Bonus) the aftermath

Please don’t insist on selling me the unbought CD’s after the concert. This should be initiated by the host, not insisted upon by the singer.

Next week stay tuned, as the musicians let us know their side. Should be interesting!


If you have spent any time online in social media or otherwise, you have encountered them. They pick fights, they insult, attack and seem they only have one job: to rub you the wrong way. During the recent GC session there were some that made it a point to enter into conflict instead of dialogue. Here are four items to consider, when considering the antagonists in your social media life:

  1. It’s not your job to change their mind.

Engaging antagonists is a waste of time. That is easier said than done. It takes some restraint not respond in kind. It takes much more restraint to not answer at all!

I find myself making two mistakes:

I want people to love me.

I want people to see the light.

Maybe because at one point I was an insensitive, unloving person and God found me, changed me (still is!) that I am hopeful He can do the same for others. I have to accept the fact that while God’s power is unlimited, He has given me the precious gift of boundaries. Boundaries help define your limitations and send a clear message to others about where you stand.

  1. Ask yourself why.

As always, questions to yourself about yourself are helpful. Especially questions that start with “why”.

Why the fixation on antagonists? I ask myself that question often.

Here are some others:

Why do I try to change people’s minds despite the continuous and copious examples to the contrary? Why do I struggle with criticism? Why do I think it’s my job to change others and save the world? Why do I feel that I have to respond at all?

Spend some time talking to God about this today. Maybe it’s because my identity is so tied up in what I do and what I believe that any criticism is seen as an affront to my core. I propose a better way. Wrap yourself up in Christ. Your identity is Him. Him! God likes you. That should be sufficient. Why isn’t it?

  1. Understand the main difference between a hater and a true friend.

I don’t want to be surrounded with yes-men (or women). I want to have friends that will call me out when they see a mistake, sin or slippery slope. True friends have three things in common:

It’s private. They don’t assume the worst. They prefer private conversation instead of public argumentation.

It’s helpful. They don’t only point out where you might be in error, they offer to stand by you as they provide solutions.

It’s balanced. They address you not only when you mess up, but often provide affirmation and congratulations.

Haters are none of the above. They relish public argumentation, care more about their case than you and usually comment only when they need to make a correction.

  1. You can see the other side without needless confrontation.

Here is another why. Why do you think it’s YOU who must confront, change and connect with people that only are looking for fights not relationships? You can read all about the other position without needless confrontation.

Hoping for a better way forward. Anyone can be a Christian. Not everyone can be a disciple.

John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

The vote is in. The global church has voted not to allow Divisions to ordain. Since the decision, personal friends who are godly women who serve in full time ministry positions have expressed disappointment and hurt at both the decision and the reaction following the decision. I want to take some time this morning to let my sisters who minister the following three things:

  1. I want you to know you are admired.

Your work does not go unnoticed. Even though the vote yesterday was not about women in ministry (we have and will continue to have them) some have taken to the internet and social media to attack and gloat. This might seem like a direct devaluing of your calling and ministerial aptitude. I am proud of your accomplishments and being able to put up with people that speak first and think later. Your reaction of grace, unity and forgiveness in the midst of the turbulence has been inspiring.

  1. I want you to know you are valued.

It is human nature to be discouraged when something that appears so clear is not understood by others. It is in times like these that you must remember who called you, why and for what. Whatever resources and support you may need, please don’t hesitate to connect. You matter. You are important, crucial, and valuable.

  1. I want you to know I am praying for you.

This is not platitudes. I mean it. Know that today I will lift up your ministry, family and faith to the throne of heaven. Simply stated, prayer helps us get through hard times. You have spoken to disappointed people often in ministry. Remember those counsels as you communicate with your father today.

 

I love my church. Even when I don’t agree with it, it’s my church and will continue to be my church. I understand that people on both sides of the issue will read this note. Will you join me in praying for women in ministry today?

I have a burden for church planting. After being involved in it for most of my ministry, I haven’t found many other better ways of growing the kingdom. Advent Project is a new church plant in San Antonio. I visited with my family last Sabbath and here are my impressions.

  1. Intentional guest process. You would be amazed at how many churches have no intentional strategy to assimilate, welcome and connect with guests. The moment you arrive at Advent Hope you are met at the door by Millennials who welcome you with a smile. Then two more invited us to join their Sabbath School (it’s called Essentials). They did not just tell us where to go, they went with us, and showed us to our seats. The whole service walked the fine line with guests:

They did not overwhelm us.

They did not ignore us.

  1. Apologetics. It was clear by their literature, discussions and message that the leadership team valued making sure we engage both mind and heart. We met a young man who ate lunch with us. He shared that he was a PHD Student at a university close by. He was searching for God, started reading his bible and looked online for a church that worshiped on Sabbath. He found AP. Has been attending ever since. Another guest used to be an atheist, now comes regularly. It’s no secret why they have gone from 12 to over 50 in 7 months. They take seriously the things the bible takes seriously and they don’t the ones the bible does not.
  2. Use of media. Their website is modern and attractive, their literature/brochure is as well. It doesn’t look from the 90’s and that’s awesome. Here, take a look: http://adventproject.com/#/home/home How many church websites look like that?

This is a church to keep an eye on. If you want to connect with the pastor, here is his twitter: https://twitter.com/PastorGabePerea

When will you plant? Here is their desire:

We believe in…

Creativity over complacency.

Relationships over results.

Prayer over programs.

Christ above all else.

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.