Compassion100K

Last week I had a rally in Atlanta, to get ready for the year of compassion. One of the guests, a leader of the Homeless Coalition for Atlanta said something that broke my heart:

“When the homeless come to us, they say that churches are mean to them. We hear this all the time.”

We can do better. We must. The church needs to look at the BIG FIVE and ask themselves: What will we do to show God’s love and compassion?

The Big Five are: Hunger, Homelessness, Human Trafficking, Health and Help.

Who will step up?

The problem with looking at politicians to solve our issues is that at the end of the day, they will disappoint you. I believe (and you may well disagree) that Christians need to speak truth to power, not try to become the ruling power.

It’s a difficult balance. We need to be close enough to the powerful that they hear us and detached enough they don’t control us. Close enough we can impact systematic injustice while at the same time detached enough to be able to point people to the gospel. Hence the title, which came from Russell Moore’s book: From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority.

Here are three pitfalls to avoid as you deal with social issues:

  1. Not aware.

For some, speaking about difficult issues like race, injustice or human traffic is rare simply because they live in a bubble. It’s difficult to speak on issues that that do not affect you personally. Take for example human traffic and sexual exploitation. It has hundreds of thousands of victims here in America yet as a church we are just beginning to have a conversation about it. It took me a while to “get it”. I don’t know anyone who has been a victim. When I immersed myself in the reality of this insidious problem, it helped me speak what God’s ideal is for women and children that are victims and how the church can respond in a loving and real way. Since there is a tendency to detach oneself from the news you see on TV or in your TL, ask and pray: God, what am I missing?

  1. Not now.

These are the “take it slow” segment of the population. Most often I hear this call from people that are not impacted by the problem or issues that affect another segment of the population. MLK put it well when he took to task the people that wanted to wait for civil rights. Becoming a prophetic minority includes making people uncomfortable. Seldom has any significant change been effected without the relentless push to end and correct whatever injustice prevails. The prophetic minority needs to point out sin, even the ones we aren’t comfortable addressing.

  1. Not ever.

This one is slightly different from the first one. When the unaware are confronted with facts, they will willingly jump to help. The not ever crowd refuses to change even in the face of the evidence. It is probably the hardest to deal with. They are the ones who will frustrate you in the Facebook arguments about how privilege does not exist, racism is dead and we are all playing in the same field.

Let me close with an illustration.

In the 1980’s in the midst of an AIDS crisis, many popular churches condemned homosexuality and said that AIDS was a judgement from God. Others stood on the side quietly while people died. Instead of providing a better way, showing compassion we alienated ourselves from a problem that took millions of lives. I believe we can do better. I don’t have to embrace the sin to embrace the sinner. You can stand tall for truth, yet be a champion of compassion.

How are you addressing the BIG FIVE in your community? Let me know in the comment section.

It’s not easy being good at what you do.

I remember being invited to speak for 1,000 pastors. I said yes, and prepared my message. As I sat in front getting ready to speak, a fear like I’ve never experienced before gripped me. Voices in my head said things like:

What were you thinking saying yes?

You will not do very well!

The best thing you can do right now is get up and go. Run, Roger, RUN!

I had to calm myself down and pray. I spoke and God blessed, but I wondered if I was the only one who struggled with it. Now I know I wasn’t.

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside, befriend and mentor some outstanding pastors. Most of them have at least three of the five characteristics I list below. This list probably also applies to other successful people as well.

Here’s the five:

  1. Often think they are crazy.

One of the greatest traits of a leader is the capacity to detect atrophy. Outstanding leaders have a sense something is not right, but see others just carrying on and believe something is wrong with THEM, not everyone else! They are able to see what’s wrong easier than others.

  1. Often have bouts with doubt and discouragement.

Pastor’s lives are often characterized by intense, stressful, busy times followed by periods of quiet nothingness. That can often lead to doubt and discouragement when the expectations (whomever they came from) were not met. It usually happens after a mountain top experience.

  1. Often have powerful opposition.

Success breeds opposition. Successful leaders wish they could just leave well enough alone, promote the status quo, stop with all the boat rocking and just mark their time until they leave. They can’t. That produces enemies. The fierce emails, long and difficult conversations, people leaving all are associated with success. That’s the side we don’t see when we look at the completed process.

  1. Often struggle in a personal area that no one knows.

The list is endless. Anxiety and difficulty sleeping (my hand is raised). Finances. Victims of past abuse in one of its forms. Addiction. Difficult marriage. Lack of sexual intimacy with spouse. Many times that happened in the past. Often it’s happening now.

  1. Extremely talented.

Amazingly they are able to function at a high level, but they do. They read, learn, and improve. They turn around churches and business. They make it work.

The next time you see a great leader and think “hey that guy/girl has it easy” think again. Pray for them. Give them grace. Its not easy being good at what you do.

A new year is upon us. Most people make resolutions for weight loss, getting out of debt or making you a better you. Here is an idea? How about we make a resolution to combat one of the most pervasive yet ignored human disasters happening right now in a city near you? Human trafficking affects hundreds thousands of victims every year. And we can do something about it!

Here is what you can do.

  1. Understand it is happening in YOUR town.

Just because you don’t know anyone affected by it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Take 10 minutes and Google it. It’s happening everywhere! Here are a couple of websites to check out:

http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/united_states_of_america/ngos

http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/

  1. Understand root causes.

Most (if not all) of the victims have suffered sexual abuse. Imagine what kind of home life they must have had that prostitution/sex trade is preferable to what they left behind. Instead of continuing to have interminable board meetings about the use of drums or whether cheese is allowed at potluck, let’s work together to combat the root causes in our community.

  1. Do something.

Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Here are 5 practical things you can do THIS year:

  1. Visit. In your town there are organizations working with Human Trafficking victims. Set up a meeting. A quick perusal of the internet will tell you where to go.
  2. Fund it. Last November we had an evangelism conference. We sold the CD’s and raised $3,500 for Selah Freedom. It was quick, easy and significant to them. They are looking to buy a van for victims, our gift would be used to enhance their operations.
  3. March. Organize a march, or join one.
  4. Invite. Ask them to make a presentation in your church. It’s amazing what happens when people see the level of destruction that is going on under their noses.
  5. Fix. Volunteer at a local shelter to fix, paint, and mentor. They welcome volunteers.

Let me know what you are doing, would love to share with others.

 

I’ve planted a church. Or six. I don’t say that to show off, just so you know I didn’t read this in a book or heard it in a conference, I lived it. I certainly did not start ministry thinking I was going to plant churches, but since I prayed the “anything you want” prayer that’s what God sent me to do. I have seen patterns emerge that can make the church planting process easier or harder. Here are some things the new baby needs and doesn’t.

1. It needs your best people.

I remember when my senior pastor on my first year of ministry took me aside and said: “I’m giving you 100 people from the mother church. Go plant a new congregation.” He did not send the disgruntled, the ones who opposed him or the dysfunctional element. He sent the young, the bright, and the committed. Interesting pattern that emerged:

Bad: People complained that the best people were leaving.

Good: The church survived and thrived.

  1. It needs financial support.

Another church plant I participated in was sent with $15,000 that helped buy sound systems and many of the things needed to launch. We often ask: How can I give if I am struggling?” Just a reminder, sometimes you have to do a faith check instead of a bank statement perusal. I have never seen a mother church run out of money because they supported a church plant that was God inspired. The question should not be what’s in it for me? Instead ask what’s in it for the kingdom?

Bad: people from the mother church that contributed to the mother church for years were told: “Nope, you can’t take anything when you leave”.

Good: You know that guy Jesus that said: It is more blessed…?” Yep. It happens.

  1. It doesn’t need your criticism and jealousy.

Mothers are not supposed to be jealous of their kids are they? This fact is overlooked. Church planters are people who are under constant and direct attack from the enemy. Your prayers that it works instead of your list of reasons why it won’t would be a great start. Don’t criticize their worship, their methods, their leadership structure, their existence. Fear more the loss of unchurched people to sin than the exodus of some of your members. Fear is not the best reason to speak out.

Here is a sample of what happened in the west coast. (Approximate figures)

20 years ago, 1 church attendance of 350 members.

Church planting started.

Today 4 churches, close to 2,000 members, including a multicultural.

Attendance in mother church around 350.

The kingdom grows better by multiplication. Next year we want to plant 200 new churches in NAD, around 30 new ones right here in the Southern Union. Will you join us? I’ll end with an old saying: Lead. Follow.

Or get out of the way of the spirit.

 

There are funds available, $10,000 per church plant for 3-4 church plants per conference. Please consult with your leaders and stay tuned: http://www.nadministerial.org/

 

I have four children. As I raised them, we followed (and still do) some basic principles that have been beneficial to our family. We aren’t perfect. We share as a way of spurring discussion and helping in even a small way.

Here are three. Next week, we will look at some more.

  1. Admit it.

On a regular basis (around once a quarter) we get the family together and ask the kids one simple question:

What can we do to improve as parents?

This has given them freedom to be honest. One time my son told me: “Dad, I think sometimes you lie. You promise to take us to eat ice cream and something always comes up.” I wanted to defend my job, my calling, and my reasons. I didn’t. I admitted I was wrong. Sought to improve.

One benefit of doing this regularly is that it helps when the tables are turned. Open dialogue and freedom to express your perspective are central to our house.

 

  1. Show up.

I loved to play sports, but my dad never attended my games. I promised myself I wasn’t going to do the same thing, but I did. Isn’t it amazing how we revert to the wrong way of doing it, because it was normal growing up. Healthiness requires intentionality and accountability. After God worked on me, it changed. I left meetings to be at their games. I want their memories to include me. I want to be in the pictures. Every choice you made disappoints someone. Don’t let it be your family.

 

  1. Healthy church.

I kept my children at the healthiest church of my district. Took a lot of flak for it, but looking back it was worth it. If they end up leaving one day, they won’t be able to point to the dysfunction in the local church as a reason. Healthy churches matter.

I want to pray for your children. Send me their names and I will pray for them this week.

This has surely been an eventful week! Social media has been ablaze with discussion on whether Syrian refugees should relocate to United States. Here is my take on it. Feel free to disagree. Let’s just keep it civil.

  1. Risk.

One of the most common responses many share is the element of risk. I get it. It is risky. All the vetting in the world will not guarantee that unsavory elements bent on destruction will be kept at bay.

Yet…before we refuse help to those that need it most, please consider this. The gospel is risky. So is following Jesus.

It was risky for missionaries to go to foreign land where they were eaten, beaten and killed. They put their families at risk, many of them going to preach with a one way ticket.

It was risky for the disciples to share Jesus’ message across the world. Most died as a result.

It was risky for people in Nazi Germany to hide in their homes Jewish people. They put their families at risk of death.

There are many words to describe discipleship. Safe is not one of them.

 

  1. Responsibility.

Just because there is a possibility of harm, does not preclude me from the responsibility of loving and caring for the least of these. Pictures of that baby washing ashore eats at me every day. I have kids and grandkids. What if that was my situation? What would I do? It is my belief, and you may well disagree, that the choice is not between helping the least of these or keeping my family safe. It is between saving the least of these or following a biblical command. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am.

 

  1. Refugees.

We usually reject what we don’t know. Let’s do away for a moment with political rhetoric and posturing, tracking lists or rabid dogs analogies. These are people. Kids like yours. Women like your mom. Men like your brother. The bigger question I seldom hear asked is this: What causes people in that region to think blowing themselves up is a better choice than their lives? (thanks Yamil for that question) What is going on that they would think that putting your child on an overcrowded boat is a better idea than staying where you are? What a wonderful time to follow the many commands of Jesus regarding the least of these. Many years from now as people look back what will they say about the church? A post-Christian wrote me this week:

“You Christians are amazing. Although this is an unscientific poll,

but a quick browse through my FB pages I see that many of the so called Christians,

are the one refusing to accept the refugees, and the so called godless heathens

are the ones calling for compassion and charity to them.”

 

Somehow, we need to find a way to do better. I believe we can.

Stop eating C.R.A.P.

imprrh@gmail.com —  November 6, 2015 — 1 Comment

Stop eating C.R.A.P. That was the teacher’s encouragement in a weight loss seminar I attended. I didn’t work.

Hi. My name is Roger. I work out 6 days a week, drink plenty of water, and still struggle with my weight. The culprit?

C.R.A.P.

It stands for:

Carbonated drinks and coffee

Refined sugars

Artificial preservatives and additives

Processed foods

I want to share my story of weight loss and gain, and loss and gain, with the hopes of encouraging you in your journey.

It’s been close to a year now, since my wife and I started putting the desire to get healthier into action. We have lost around 32 pounds and KEPT IT OFF. We are exercising regularly and eating better. Not perfect. Better. Here is how we are doing it:

  1. Guilt, shame and imposition did not work.

I’ve always been a vegetarian so that part was easy. But it is perfectly common to see vegetarians that are unhealthy. I know. I was one of them. I was out of shape, and added a couple of pounds every year. That doesn’t seem like a lot, except that it went on for around 15 years. I don’t aspire to know all the answers as far as what works, but what I do know DOES NOT is shaming, guilt and imposition. I had an acquaintance who was extremely involved in veganism. His approach was to make me feel less than, stupid and incapable. I ran the other way. If you want to change someone, explain and set an example, leave the enforcing to the Holy Spirit,

  1. Desire and goals are two different things.

Desire is what you want. Goals have timelines, deadlines and are:

Specific.

Measurable.

Reachable.

We did not set out to lose 100 pounds. We just took it day by day, doing T25 this week, then the next week, then the next. We haven’t stopped.

  1. I decided.

That phrase was key. If you notice, most of the conversations with people that achieve something important, forgive, or overcome obstacles have that phrase somewhere in there. We decided to start working out. It wasn’t our anniversary. Birthday. New Year’s resolution. It was 17th of December. A day just like any other. We don’t promise. We decide. Promises keep you living in the future, frustrated about your past. A decision involves the present. Today. Whether I feel like it or not.

We are not where we would like to be. I still eat C.R.A.P. on occasion. But it’s improving. Understanding that I am after progress and not perfection, after my goals and not yours, has helped.

Pray for us. Share your story and tips about what worked for you.

I decided.


We’re more famous than bacon! For such a small denomination we are certainly in the news a lot lately. Two items in particular have propelled us to the forefront:

1. Ben Carson running for president.

2. Bacon (and other processed meats) as a source of cancer.

Here is an opportunity not to be missed. There are three things you can do (and shouldn’t do) as an Adventist:

1. Contact your elected officials to share what your particular congregation is doing.

Its concerning to me that in many towns the local Adventist church has little connection with elected officials. We are not in the business of endorsing candidates but we can leverage the attention to let people know we exist and are active in the community. I met recently with the US Congressman for Georgia and was able to secure help for a health fair we are doing next year part of COMPASSION 100k. Use a three step process:

Meet with them, ask them what the town needs, do that!

2. Be compassionate as you share the news of the cancer causing meat.

A smug winner is as bad as a sore loser. The way some of us are acting on social media demonstrates a lack of empathy for the people we want to win over. Posting the story is excellent. Smug comments like “I told you so” or “take that you meat eating savages” are not. Our denominational emphasis on health can open many doors, if done in a healthy way. By the way, let’s make sure not to cherry pick stories. There was one last week also about the benefits of dark chocolate. Please don’t send me a link about dark chocolate, just send me some.

3. Use social media advertising.

This article by Rodlie Ortiz is especially appropriate now and a must read: http://www.modernekklesia.com/facebook-evangelism/

Once again, with our name recognition increasing, leverage that attention to drive people to check you out. According to the latest research, a “cause” will raise the interest of the “nones” in your church. So as I finish today let me ask you three simple questions:

When are you contacting your elected officials to share what your church is doing and ask what the city needs?

How are you using social media to let people know where to find you?

Are you being respectful as your share the new findings on health?

And last but most important,

When was the last time you had some dark chocolate?

Let me know what your church is doing in the comment section.