“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.

Corey Johnson

Unless you have been in a mission trip outside the country or on your yearly media fast, you’ve probably heard about the incident last month in Southern University regarding offensive comments towards African Americans in general, and my pastor friend Corey in particular. (https://twitter.com/coreymaurice)

I sincerely believe in never wasting a crisis. If (that’s a big if, but nevertheless an if) the result of a painful Friday is a move to heal, restore and unite then love won. An important first step is the ability to listen:

  1. Listening helps us to respond with sensitivity and understanding.

I was concerned with the response to the racial slurs. It demonstrated the long ways we still have to go. Here are some responses I saw consistently in social media. Some of them are true. None of them are helpful.

*It was a minority. Not everyone feels that way.

*Lets ignore the trolls.

*The problem is black history month.

*The problem is divided conferences, eliminate black conferences!

Those comments reflect a non-listening attitude. Instead of trying to minimize, deflect, ignore and even justify, let’s do something radical. Let’s listen! Listen to the pain. Listen to the reasons. Listen to the facts. Ask questions. Listen some more. For example, my first reaction (to which I had to check myself) to a pain-filled night is: “well, that’s just a minority” reveals bias. I needed to step back and enter the pain of the preacher (I’ve been there!). Let’s listen.

One day I came home to find my wife crying. She had a bad day at work. As she started to tell me about it I committed a cardinal sin. I interrupted and told her to quit her job. She immediately snapped back and said: “That’s not what I need right now. I need for you to L.I.S.T.E.N.” (hands in her hip and everything). Lesson learned. We don’t listen to the exclusion of action. Listening precedes action and informs it. It really is frustrating to explain race issues or any other issue to people that say “don’t confuse me with the facts, because I have already made up my mind!”

  1. Listening should move us to action.

I hope there are some tangible (I have been pleasantly surprised with what has already started to take place) action steps taken. If all we do is listen we are like the 75 year old college student that has attended school for 40 years but never graduates. Follow me for a second. The reason you sit in class (listening) is that one day soon, you will go out and get a job (action). Both components are essential.

Listening without action frustrates.

Action without listening complicates.

Another example is a pep-rally. The reason a team has a pep-rally is to then go and play the game. Without the game, pep-rallies are meaningless. Let’s vow (starting with me) to listen.

What sustainable, intentional, spirit filled action steps will we take now?

Let me know your thoughts.

James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

P1KLogo

What if every church over 300 members planted a church in North America?

It been proven statistically that churches that plant churches grow. The national conversation about church plants has been rekindled with the Plant100 initiative, but it hasn’t been without some pushback. As I talk with pastors and administrators about church planting, I find that there are three reasons why we don’t plant.

I can relate with the hesitancy. I experienced it! My intention is not trying to scold, as much as I am trying to point out the problem and provide solutions.

Here are three reasons pastors/administrators won’t plant, each with a solution:

  1. Afraid.

They will tell you is finances, but the underlying problem is fear. Statements like these are common:

From administrations: How will be staff them? What if they want an FTE?

From pastors: We are hardly making ends meet, if my congregation diminishes by 10-20% we will go in the red for sure! Who is going to lead if my best leaders go?

We are afraid. Let’s just call it what it is.

SOLUTION: Open more lanes. You know when you go to Walmart and there are 25 lanes available but only one is open? People get frustrated and leave. Bi-vocational pastors and lay pastors can provide options. Florida conference has close to 100 churches led by VLP’s (volunteer lay pastors). Why can’t that happen other places?

The conversation needs to shift, from it being about my fears and becoming about lost people!

  1. Unaware.

Some pastors would like to plant, but won’t because they have very little training. Dr. Tom Evans in the seminary is one of our church planting guru’s, but even he is spread thin. The required church planting classes are almost non-existent. This we can change and should.

SOLUTION: Seeds, Exponential and a new program called: Church Planter’s Boot Camp let by NAD ministerial associate Jose Cortes Jr can help. Blaming your lack of action on your theological training is not saving any lost people.

  1. Ego

This one is the hardest one to admit. I know it was for me. Here is the key principle: Your church will never be large enough to satisfy an ego driven ministry. I had a church of 500. Then 700. Then close to 1,000. As long as I let my ego get in the way, I always wanted more. We had 2 services, and contrary to every human ego instinct I had, we planted a church that on the first day had 150 members. It was hard!

SOLUTION: This is what I did. I gave the leadership of the church plant “head-hunting license”. I told them to recruit anyone and everyone they needed. They did. Once again, it was hard! Then I did the same thing with a 2nd generation church. Today all three churches are healthy.

What do you do now? Don’t be afraid. Get trained. Get your ego out of it. It’s about lost people. It always is.

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.