Give a car, change a life

This month, as a part of Compassion 100k we held an End it Now rally. Hundreds of Adventists from Atlanta gathered at Berean SDA Church to declare our opposition to the sinful practice of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking.

The part that was most special to me was the ending. We gave a car to a domestic violence survivor, a mother with three children that is visiting one of the local churches. I am not an emotional person, but even I was moved to see how a mother that has a job, but no reliable transportation, kept repeating over and over to her kids: “look, this is for us, this is for us!”

These three things I learned:

1. Just because we can’t help everyone, doesn’t mean we can’t help someone.

One of the questions people ask is: “wouldn’t this create requests that will be overwhelming?” The short answer is not. This isn’t the first time its happened and we haven’t seen it happen. There are many Domestic Violence survivors in Atlanta. We just changed the life of one. We are grateful to God for the resources for that.

2. Unity maximizes impact.

During 2016 the city churches have been participating in an initiative called Compassion 100k. It was great to see Korean, Anglo, African Americans, Hispanics, Rumanians and many more gathered together. Some had never been in that area before. In a country sometimes deeply divided, the gospel shows that unity maximizes impact.

3. This is part of a process.

The next step is to provide free health care on Sunday August 28th. (volunteers needed, ask me how or wrote khernandez@southernunion.com) Then an evangelism initiative. Compassion needs to become a lifestyle not an initiative.

 

Thanks for praying for us!

Do we believe black people?
This week was a tough one. The loss of life, from different walks of life, was difficult and painful for all, but especially for the African American community. Since I am an Adventist pastor I will share one question from an Adventist perspective that has been on my mind for a while:
Do we believe black people? Specifically, black Adventists?
Do we believe them when they tell us that they live in fear of the police? Do we believe them when they say they experience racism on a regular basis? Do we believe them when they share their anxiety at the judicial system? Do we believe them when they talk about their life experience? Do we believe them when they say that typing #blacklivesmatter does not mean others don’t? Do we believe them, period?

I wish I could say we did.

The silence in the pulpits, deflection online, calls for patience when justice is warranted and negative reaction on social media say otherwise.
A good example is the call for prayer from the NAD Administration. I am so proud of my NAD leadership showing compassion in a time of grief. The reaction on social media was varied, mostly split by racial lines. Go check it out. Statements like (I paraphrase)
*Slavery was good because it made black people more spiritual
*I am ashamed of my church
*Stop stirring race wars
*This is part of the liberal agenda
So the question is, again, do we believe black Adventist or not?

Here are three final thoughts:
1. You can use your platform to express your condolences, and acknowledge that the pain is real. They need to know we get it, we grieve with them, and we love them.

2. Supporting a grieving community does not mean you are anti-cop, a follower or George Soros or pushing a political agenda.

3. The black community cares about the murders in Chicago. Stop using that as a deflection. When my wife comes to talk to me about a problem she had at work that day that caused her pain, I don’t tell her: hey but what about the problem you and your mom had last night? I listen and acknowledge the pain THIS problem is causing, RIGHT NOW. Let’s believe them when they say this is a problem!
Take some time to listen to our African American brother and sisters. I just want to say, at least from me and my house. We love you. We hear you. We believe you.

Unless your name is Andy Stanley, you probably don’t hit home runs every time you speak, but there are things you can do to bring that batting average up from the Mendoza line. Let’s start with things to avoid:

  1. Don’t go on forever.

I know, we should start with the beginning but frankly this can disengage people more than you know. Land the plane. Even if you don’t finish strong, please finish. I’m absolutely sure you can add information to your talk, but good speakers are dexterous with the scalpel. Dexterous. Now there’s a word for you.

  1. Don’t chase rabbits.

Stay on point. That’s why I preach with points. Since I am prone to wonder in more ways than one, it makes me stay focused. I strongly suggest you listen to yourself. When I recommend to pastors I always get push back about not liking to listen to yourself talk. Ok, but you want everyone else to? Doesn’t make sense to me. If you can’t summarize in a phrase what you are speaking on this weekend it’s not ready.

  1. Don’t delay your departure.

Come out like a boxer, swinging. No one cares about all the people you are thanking and all the small talk you’re making because you’re nervous. Miss me with all the preliminaries. If you don’t get to it, people get going. They might not leave the building; they just leave you. Also, see #1.

  1. Don’t try to be funny.

In fact, don’t try to be anything. I believe that humor can lower defenses and appropriately used will be helpful. The best humor is natural, its self-deprecating and not at the expense of other. The great evangelists like E. E. Cleveland always used humor, in the context of the message and it flowed. If you are not a funny guy, you’re not a funny guy. The pulpit doesn’t change you, it just squeezes out what’s inside of you.

  1. Don’t miss the gospel.

If you can’t connect the gospel to your message, you don’t need to be preaching it. I can get good advice from people much better qualified than you. I need the good news. Since the main purpose of a gospel message is heart transformation, not just behavior modification, there is only one thing that can do it: It’s called the G.O.S.P.E.L.

 

Share what your thoughts about things not to do.

Ministry is great. Except when it isn’t. But most of the time is awesome! I wish I had known these 10 things BEFORE I started.

  1. If you close your church on a Sabbath, you seldom make up those tithes and offerings. I wish it was different and people returned a faithful tithe no matter what. Not the case. Prepare to adjust for 10-30% in loss of income that month.
  2. The person who invites you to eat first when you arrive at a new district has the same name everywhere: Hidden Agenda. I always tell pastors to be careful of the one who has nothing good to say, nothing bad to say or invites you first when you get there.
  3. It is hard to rise above the fray and preach biblically and not reactively to people that hate you, want you gone and are actively working to make your life hard. Every church has them. Good people move away and die. These people stay forever!
  4. People will expect you to promote, enhance and sustain ineffective programs you had absolutely no part in creating. My thanks to one of my favorite writers, Pastor Shawn Brace for this one.
  5. Every church has selective conservatives. For example a pastor I know was hit hard for having an Easter Outreach. The people that were upset called him on the carpet about paganism etc. They had a conversation with him with the backdrop of a floor to ceiling bar. Alcohol is OK I guess, as long as you don’t look for eggs one Sunday a year. (Thanks to Kendall Turcios for this one)
  6. It is seldom about preserving pure doctrine. It’s more often than not about control.
  7. The smaller the church the greater the potential for one person to control it. It usually is not you. (see #6)
  8. Everyone wants to reach the lost. As long as they are not like, super lost. We prefer semi-saved people.
  9. Everyone wants to be innovative as long as you keep everything the same. That happens when we fall in love with methods, marry them and have children. There is a need to teach the difference between:

Essential

Conviction

Preference

  1. “We don’t believe in traditional evangelism” is usually code for we don’t do any evangelism. We just hope people see our sign or our 1992 webpage and come in.

Thanks for reading!

 

A while back I was speaking at a church. Everything was ready and I was excited. Then I arrived at the “hotel”.

I was met by: *A front desk with several varieties of condoms for sale.

*A restaurant that doubled as a discotheque (it can’t be called a club, the décor didn’t allow it)

*Shady characters in the hallways.

*Lights that went on and off on their own in my musty room.

After I was done with this event the inviter asked about the accommodations. How do you answer THAT!?

Since I hear so many horror stories, please allow me to share some helpful ideas. There are three principles that are overlooked or blatantly ignored:

  1. Clarity.

If you are a guest speaker be clear. Over-clear. Super-clear. Below I have included a detailed speaker form. That minimizes the hassle of condom selling, haunted, shady discotheque hotels. If an honorarium is expected, ask for it. I always make my own travel accommodations for this reason. Be clear. If you are inviting someone and plan to put him/her in a hotel you wouldn’t stay yourself, fly them Spirit and send them home with a tie or a plaque, then let them know. No bait and switch.

  1. Respect.

Don’t take advantage of the guest. This is especially true for young pastors. The difference between a shady hotel and a good one (not talking 5 stars, just a decent bed without bugs) is for sure less than $50 and often less than $20. Also, the 3 stop ticket, the wait at the airport, the staying with a family with kids that keep them up or the meals that serve crazy food can be avoided. Treat them with:

Excellence.

Intentionality.

It doesn’t take that much! You expect third world accommodations in the third world. Not in the USA. If you don’t have the resources, wait a bit and do it right.

 

  1. Awareness.

Usually the church that invites is thinking about their event, their planning and their success. Put that aside for a moment. The pastor you invited is not paid to minister to you. He/she had to rearrange their schedule, spend time prepping, hire baby sitters, and be away from the family. Traveling isn’t glamorous believe me. No one I know is getting rich off speaking engagements, not in the Adventist church. Those reports you see with mansions and Teslas don’t exist here. More like townhouses and Hondas. Be aware of the other side. Put some respek on that profession!

Any nightmare scenarios you want to share?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Information:

Name: _________________________________________

Address: ____________________________    City:  ________   State:  ____    Zip Code:  ______

Email Address: ________________________            Cell Phone#:  _________________________

 

 

Flight Information:     

              I prefer to make my own flight arrangements          

              *Please make flight arrangements for me (please fill in the following information below)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

DOB: ______________________       Departure Airport:  __________________

Preferred Airline: __________________        Frequent Flyer # ________________________

 

 

 

Hotel Information:     

              I prefer to make my own hotel reservation              

              *Please make hotel reservations for me (Fill in the following information below.  Also, be sure to bring a credit card to provide for incidentals.  The hotel requests this.)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

Preferred Hotel Chain: __________________            Frequent Traveler # ___________________

 

 

 

Car Rental Information:         

              I prefer to make my own car rental reservation       

              *Please make car rental reservations for me (Fill in the following information below.)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

DOB: ______________________       Driver’s License #:  __________________  State:  _______

Preferred Car Rental Company: __________________         Membership # _________________

 

 

 

 

AV Needs:

Projector:                       Laptop:                           Microphone:                 (Type:  _____________)

Remote: ______________________               Other:  ____________________________

I use:                  PC                        MAC     Presentation Format:               Keynote            Powerpoint

Your presentation will be projected from                   Pulpit Connection                            Sound Room

 

 

Handouts/Resources:

Handouts:       I will bring my own copies/handouts               Please make copies for me

Resources:        Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Resource Set Up Needs: _______________________________________________________

 

 

 

Special Requests:        (Please inform us of any dietary needs, allergies, or other special requests below)

              ___________________________________________________________________

              ___________________________________________________________________

              ___________________________________________________________________


“Arguing with an antagonist is like playing chess with a pigeon.

They will poop all over your board and then strut around like they won”

Internet.

 

New levels bring new devils. Whatever God blesses, the devil attacks, so if you don’t want anyone to attack you, get on your knees tonight and ask God not to bless you! In 26 years as a local pastor and administrator I have observed that antagonists follow a pattern with their attacks. By knowing this information I am about to share, it won’t be less hurtful, but at least you can see the hate coming and prepare better. Another principle to remember is that the following list is not always sequential, but often will include all elements by the time the attack is done.

 

  1. Control.

The first step is control. This is done two ways:

*Doing favors so you owe them.

*Exerting their influence they perceive they have to make you do what they want.

That is why it’s important to love everyone, but trust a few.

  1. Dismissal

If they can’t control you, they will ridicule, dismiss and even sometimes stop talking to you. Smirks and sarcasm will dominate any interactions. This is the passive/aggressive preferred method. The problem is, the anointing on your life is impossible to ignore. Private anointing brings public blessings and there is no way to ignore God’s operations in your life.

 

  1. Attack. Letters, emails, phone calls, secret meetings, sucker-punch board meetings. When they see that dismissal and control won’t work, they will resort to direct attacks. It’s sad, but some are not only willing to die for the truth they are willing to kill for it. Often the language is couched in religious jargon, but make no mistake, its pain and removal they are after. This is the hardest part, because what is plainly obvious to you when you see God’s blessing is completely oblivious to them. Everything you do screams threat to them. Stay above the fray. Address the hate but don’t embrace it.

 

  1. Enlist others to attack.

Another way haters increase the level of attacks is by enlisting others to join them. It is at this point that the depression hits the hardest in you. Your most basic desire is to respond by defending yourself and attacking back. Please resist that temptation. Don’t spend much time following them around to correct the attacks. God has not called you to defend yourself, but to be faithful. Here is what I do:

*Spend extra time in prayer and fasting.

*Talk about it with a trusted friend.

*Go out of my way to act in loving ways to my attackers.

People eventually will see the same issues you saw. It takes a while, but believe me, it will happen.

 

I feel like some of you are in this position right now. Allow me to pray for you. If you want me to be more specific in my prayers shoot me an email at rhernandez@southernunion.com

Remember that if God is for you, the ones who are against you are wasting their time.

“Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard study, plan, devise methods, to reach people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention.” – Evangelism, p123.

Last Sunday night we finished a meeting in Orlando Florida. We tried a new method (at least for Hispanics) during the reaping meeting. I was very pleased with the process and results. This was not a city wide meeting like the one we had in Raleigh earlier in the year (I will write about that one soon). It was one church, who dared to do something different.

 

  1. Need and setting.

Orlando is a big city with a big need. The church is a 1,000 member plus church with varied results in the past doing evangelism. It has 2 services and many young families and busy professionals call it their church home.

 

  1. Method.

There were several key elements in our process.

*Emphasis on service through season of service.

*A nine month preparation.

          *A well-known, gospel recording artist (Jaci Velazquez, Dany Berrios, Amanecer) Some were Adventist groups. Most were not.

*I spoke the same messages with distinct Adventist flavour as I always do. I covered the five S’s for sure. (Sabbath, state of the dead, second coming, salvation, sacrificial giving) Another important note: I did not spend significant more resources than other series.

 

  1. Results.

There were five distinguishable characteristics that resulted from this approach. It is important to mention that we sent ZERO mailers. We advertised in radio, people invited their friends to a well-done event (bulk of guests) and musicians advertised for us in their social media pages.

Quantity of guests that attended. The lowest night was 186. That’s guests. In one church. At the end of the week we had over 600 guests that attended at least once.

Young people that attended. Some people say that young people don’t support evangelism. We probably had over 50% under 35. Many couples, with kids, that came every night.

Level of education of people that made decisions. God loves everyone, no matter their level of education. I only mention this because there is the perception that we mostly reach uneducated folk. I had several conversations with medical professionals, engineers, and teachers. People well to do, who not only came, but brought friends with them.

Decisions. We had over 40 baptisms of people who had been coming to church already, and many who signed up for a 8 week follow-up study I wrote called We all have problems on Sabbath morning at SS time.

The “these guys are not weird at all” conversations. We had those with people that had never set foot in a SDA church. Many from other faith backgrounds were introduced to our beliefs because they came for the musician they were familiar with (known) and we shared practical messages with many of our cherished beliefs (unknown). There were many who had no faith background at all, had never trusted Jesus, and time after time shared with me how they brought their friends. I believe Jesus calls us to be different, not weird.

The support of the local church. This church I was told, doesn’t come out during the week. Thing is, they did. A lot. Full house every night. I was glad to see that.

Final recommendations.

This isn’t for everyone. In some of our churches inviting a person from another church is an invitation to your own funeral. Yet we found it to be a great way of reaching the community. I hope to try this again next year in an English speaking church in Tampa (Lifespring). Whatever you do, let’s never lose sight of why we do this. We are about seeing people in heaven.

 

If you want to see the messages, go here www.iglesiafc.com

If you have sincere questions about a specific methodology, please leave them below. If you have a desire to enter into negative discussions please pray for me instead, I have another series coming up in June that will take much of my energy.

 

Some quotations you may find helpful

 

“In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts. Ministers … will find it necessary to put forth extraordinary efforts. They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly.” – Testimonies Vol 9, p109.

 

“Whatever may have been your former practice, it is not necessary to repeat it again and again in the same way. God would have new and untried methods followed. Break in on the people – surprise them.” – Evangelism, p125.

 

“Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard study, plan, devise methods, to reach people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention.” – Evangelism, p123.

 

“Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the past, but let no-one, because of this, block the way by criticism.” – Testimonies Volume 7, p25.

 

“New methods and new plans will spring from new circumstances.” – Testimonies Vol 6, p476.

 

“There are some minds which do not grow with the work but allow the work to grow far beyond them…. Those who do not discern and adapt themselves to the increasing demands of the work should not stand blocking the wheels, and thus hindering the advancement of others.” – Evangelism, pages 104, 105.

I grew up in church. Since birth I was immersed in the church culture. Let’s count the times we connected with religion/church/biblical instruction.

We went to church:

Sabbath School

Sermon

Afternoon witnessing

Vespers

Sunday night

Monday night

Wednesday night

Friday night youth service

We had sundown and morning worship

I also attended an Adventist school

 

Since my dad was also an evangelist, we had months were I spent most nights setting up the three carrousels of projector slides, along with a “dissolver” (Google it!).   I also set up the movie projector with two reels, to watch a movie about the dangers of smoking called “I’m Sorry Baby” and another one about the life of Jesus that was pretty cool. I got a lot of church, but not enough Christ.

 

Yet for 22 years I missed the gospel. How does that happen? Am I the only one this happened to?

 

I liked going to church. The only thing that I struggled with was some the rules and regulations that did not make sense to a teenage boy. They say that rules without relationship leads to rebellion, and that is exactly what happened to me. I was shown the what without the why. I received knowledge without power.

 

That has three negative consequences:

  1. Knowledge without power is frustrating. You never feel secure, because you never know when you have done enough. Should you pray one or two hours? Maybe an all-nighter would be even better. You work towards victory instead of from victory. There is never a finish line. It’s the race where the dog can never reach the rabbit right in front of him. It’s like the song says “Forever running, but losing the race…” One of the most vivid memories of growing up is having a constant feeling of guilt. I knew what was right, yet I couldn’t do it. That was very frustrating. It happens to plenty of Christians every day. Think about it for a moment.

 

  • Millions know about the dangers of smoking, yet plenty choose to do it.
  • Millions know about the benefits of going to school, yet many drop out.
  • Millions know about the consequences of premarital sex. Yet teenage pregnancy is rampant.
  • We know what to do. But we don’t. Why? Because information is good, but not good enough.

 

  1. Knowledge without power is dangerous. It can make you feel superior, and act superior. It can make you think that all you need to convert someone is to share information with them. I had no problem reciting the eschatological timeline. I could produce all the texts that proved why we were the correct church and Catholics were not. This is dangerous, not because prophetic information is not good, it is, but because when conversion has not happened, knowledge can be used as a billy club, even if in your own private life you are struggling with secret sin. This Ellen White quote summarizes what happens in an unconverted heart:

“There need to be far more lessons in the ministry of the Word of true conversion than of the arguments of the doctrines. For it is far easier and more natural for the heart that is not under the control of the Spirit of Christ to choose doctrinal subjects rather than the practical. There are many Christ-less discourses given no more acceptable to God than was the offering of Cain. They are not in harmony with God.”{VSS – The Voice in Speech and Song pg 342.3}

 

  1. Knowledge without power makes secondary issues, primary. The greatest battles in the church I went to growing up were secondary issues. Hair length for guys. Movie theater attendance. Whether jeans were appropriate for church. Long battles. Lively discussions. Always followed by more rules and less freedom. When we make everything a sin, eventually nothing becomes a sin. It seemed to me that the greatest questions of life, were left unattended, especially the most important one, how to develop a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until I was a junior in college that I understood that concept, and the knowledge of a loving Savior traveled the hardest 18 inches in the world, from my head to my heart.

 

One day, when I was still a kid, a well-intentioned parishioner gave me a bag of green army soldiers. It probably had a hundred of them. As a young boy, that was heaven. I started playing war immediately! When my parents came home, and saw what was happening, it was disappointing to them. They asked me to get some scissors, and proceeded to lecture me on the evils of war, and cut off all the guns from the soldiers. They encouraged me to become a medical missionary as they handed over all the green soldiers, which had less arms than before. I tell this story to give you a glimpse of the type of atmosphere I grew up with. I’m convinced my parents did the best they could. They loved us and wanted to see us in heaven, and went about it the best they knew how. Yet, the reality of the Christian experience teaches us that the key to conversion, is to bring Jesus into our heart. Our efforts should be dedicated to that end, because when that happens, real transformation takes place.

 

In summary, it seemed that people in my church (and sometimes in my house), were more interested in compliance, even if conversion didn’t happen. As long as you looked the part, it was OK. Fear was used as motivator to change. The problem with that strategy is that it never lasts. Jesus changes from the inside out and that takes time. What He is after is character transformation, not just compliance to the rules. He wants to make you free, forever.

 

I’ve tried to correct that in my kids. I will tell you what I did in an upcoming blog.

 

Don’t miss the gospel. Legalist say Jesus is not enough. Liberal say Jesus isn’t necessary. The gospel says Jesus is all. It drives, permeates and infuses doctrinal understanding, praxis and lifestyle.

 

Jesus is enough.