Archives For May 2014

She was over fifty. So was he. They met at church and a short time later they started dating. Both had failed in previous marriages. Both found healing and happiness. I had the pleasure of marrying them several years ago. They are still going strong today. That was your classic boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy beats girl up, girl leaves him, girl finds several other boys, girl has no luck finding the one, girl finally matures and heals with God’s help, girl falls in love and is happy, story.

One of the best (and most difficult) part of being in ministry is spending time listening to people that have relationship issues/questions. I enjoyed praying with and sharing some of my life experiences with singles. Here is some of the best advice I have learned over the years. Every case is different, but I have seen some common threads.

1. One is a complete number.

The line “you complete me” was great for a movie, but not for real life. When we put our expectations on others and want them to “complete us” what we are really saying is that there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. Being complete and confident in who God made you to be will allow to give and receive love more significantly.

2. Unequal effort yields unwelcome results.

I have seen this one so many times. One gives. The other receives. One puts out the effort, sacrifices, goes all out. The other? Not so much. For any relationship to work, both must give, sacrifice and go all in. If you are doing all the giving, ask yourself: Why do I allow my boyfriend/girlfriend to disrespect me by their response to my love. These type of molehills in dating become mountains in marriage (see #3)

3. Whatever issue you have now, gets bigger when you marry.

A possessive partner becomes more possessive. So with an addict. Ditto with a jealous or insecure partner. Marriage seldom fixes the issue, but compounds it. (see #2)

4. Why?

Why do you need a man? Or a woman? Why do you seem to jump so fast from one relationship to another that the ink from the Dear John letter is not even dry yet. I have seen people get into relationships for the wrong reason:

*I’m lonely- if you are lonely, get a dog.

*I feel my train is leaving- sometimes that is good. There is always another train. Always. And this one smells better.

*I hate my life- relationships are not escape hatches.

*I need sex- it’s deeper than that. Trying to maintain and grow a relationship that is spiritual/mental/physical on a purely physical level is setting yourself up for failure. Save sex for marriage. Then become really good at it for the rest of your life.

5. God factor.

#3 applies here too. Two things to do:

  1. Become passionate about God.
  2. Become passionate about finding someone who shares that passion.

 

What are some counsel you have heard that is beneficial? I would love your responses in the comments section.

Eliminating the Dog and Pony Show

Most churches have special “visitor” days. The announcement usually goes something like this:

On Sabbath May 3rd, the pastor/leader/announcement guy says: “Brothers and sisters, on May 29th, we are having friends and family day. Please invite your friends and family to come out that Sabbath.”

Think about this for a moment. When you announce that May 29th will be a special “bring your friends and family” to church day it does two things:

a. Wrong message to guests.

What message does that send to the friends and family that are there visiting on May 3rd? Not a very good one! They might feel duped, or that they came on the wrong Sabbath. No one likes to feel that they got less than the best. This happens sometimes in our evangelism, where we go out of our way to be friendly, people hear well prepared messages, receive gifts and listen to heartwarming music. Then it’s over and we go back to doing church as usual. No wonder some stop coming. That wasn’t what they signed up for!

b. Wrong message to members.

Having Dog and Pony shows as your only way to attract newcomers subconsciously send the message to your people that they are not supposed to bring new people to church EVERY week. Every week should be special. Every week should be friendly. Every week we should try to invite, challenge and call for people to follow Jesus. Every week. Not just on special visitor days.

Here is what I would recommend. Make every Sabbath a special Sabbath: Preach, model and plan for these two things:

1. Excellence. I say this all the time: excellence honors God and inspires people. Excellence is being able to do something at a high level for a sustained period of time. Anyone can get lucky and hit a homerun once in a while. Even a broken clock can tell the right time twice a day. Strive to do your best every week. It might be regular church for you, but it could be life changing for a guest.

2. Intentionality. We should not be surprised that guests came, we expected them and we are glad they are here. We are glad that lost people decided to join us and we had already in mind what we would say, do, and prepare for them.

What are your thoughts? How can we take advantage of special days without becoming dog and pony churches?

*(Yes. I don’t know faux pas is either. But got you to read this!)

It was a Wednesday night. I was a young pastor. A guest showed up to my church and asked if he could sing. I did not speak to him, just had the message relayed to me. Since I trusted my leaders I approved the special music.

The guy sang. Strike that. The guy got up and attempted to express vocally what he had heard in the track at some point. It sounded nothing like the original, for sure. It was the worst attempt at singing I have ever heard. The accompaniment track was just background music, because it seemed he was singing an entirely different song. It was one of those “earth swallow me, I’m going to kill someone (in Jesus name) this is probably my last day as a pastor” moments.

When he was done, someone said amen. Enthusiastically. (there is one of those in your church too)

I get to be at a different church every Sabbath. I’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are three suggestions for people that lead worship/sing in church.

1. Pick songs people know. (By people I mean other people than those in your worship team.)

I believe in the 20% rule. No more than 20% of the songs in the song service/worship set should be foreign to the audience. This happens too much. This especially refers to the FIRST song in your set. Worship time is no time to practice. The less familiar the people and yourself are with the song the easier the opportunity to mess up (see #3). Now, to be fair, I believe that God didn’t stop inspiring music in 1957. New songs are not our enemies. Just don’t be so current that you lose your audience.

2. Pick singing over talking.

One of these days I am going to write a blog about worship leaders that go on and on…and on. That day is not today. I will say, that while a short thought might prepare the minds and hearts of the people to worship, please never do this:

  1. Tell a long story. Especially about yourself. Especially if has nothing to do with the song. It’s not about you.
  2. Chastise people for not singing or telling them to sing loud. Why do you do this? Shame and guilt with a side plate of yelling do no good.
  3. Make people stand for 4 songs. You know who likes this? Let me see…NOBODY. Guests don’t. People with small kids don’t. People with bad backs don’t. People that are vertically challenged don’t.

3. Pick preparation over last minute.

Repeat this after me: Last. Minute. Is. My. Enemy. When things are done last minute bad stuff happens:

  1. You start picking the same songs over and over.
  2. Your probability that the computer/piano/mic/projector malfunctions is higher.

I leave you with this familiar, yet very practical quote of Ellen White:

Singing is a part of the worship of God, but in the bungling manner in which it is often conducted, it is no credit to the truth, and no honor to God. There should be system and order in this as well as every other part of the Lord’s work. Organize a company of the best singers, whose voices can lead the congregation, and then let all who will, unite with them. Those who sing should make an effort to sing in harmony; they should devote some time to practice, that they may employ this talent to the glory of God. (Evangelism 506)

God. Excellence. Organization. Practice. Sounds like a great plan to me.

Fue un miércoles por la noche. Yo era un joven pastor. Un invitado se presentó a la iglesia y preguntó si podía cantar. No hable con él, mis lideres me preguntaron. Como yo confiaba en ellos aprobé la música especial.

El señor canto. O mejor dicho, trato de hacerlo. El trató de expresar verbalmente lo que había oído en la pista. No sonó nada como la pista. Fue el peor intento de canto que he oído. La pista de acompañamiento era sólo música de fondo, porque parecía que estaba cantando una canción completamente diferente. Era uno de esos ” tierra trágame, voy a matar a alguien ( en nombre de Jesús ), este es probablemente mi último día como pastor ” momentos.

Cuando terminó, alguien dijo amén. Con entusiasmo. (hay uno de esos en tu iglesia también)
Tengo la oportunidad de estar en una iglesia diferente cada sábado. He oído lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo. He aquí tres sugerencias para las personas que dirigen la adoración / cantos en la iglesia.

1. Elija canciones que la gente conoce. (Por la gente que quiero decir otras personas que no están en tu grupo de alabanza.) Yo creo en la regla del 20%. No más del 20% de las canciones en el servicio de canto deben ser nuevas para la audiencia. Esto ocurre demasiado. Especialmente la primera canción. Los momentos de adoración no son los mejores para practicar. Mientras menos conocidos los cantos para la gente y para usted más fácil será cometer errores. (ver # 3 ). Ahora para ser justos, yo no creo que Dios dejo de inspirar nueva música en el 1957. Las nuevas canciones no son nuestros enemigos. Pero, no sea tan relevante que pierda su audiencia.

2. Elija cantar sobre hablar. Uno de estos días voy a escribir un blog acerca de los líderes de adoración que hablan y hablan… y hablan. Ese día no es hoy. Mientras que es cierto que un pensamiento corto puede preparar las mentes y los corazones de la gente a la adoración, por favor no hagan esto:

a. Cuente una historia larga. Sobre todo acerca de ti mismo. Sobre todo si no tiene nada que ver con la canción. No se trata de ti. b. Regañar a la gente por no cantar o decirles que canten mas alto no funciona. ¿Por qué haces esto? La vergüenza y la culpa no hacen ningún bien. c. Hagan que la gente se pare y se siente constantemente (especialmente mantenerlos de pie por 4 canciones). ¿Sabes a quién le gusta esto? Déjame ver … A NADIE. Ni a las visitas, ni a las personas con hijos pequeños, ni a las personas con problemas de espalda ni a los que sufren de incapacidad de desarrollo vertical.

3. Elija la preparación antes que hacer las cosas a último minuto. Repita esto después de mí: Ultimo. Minuto. Es. Mi. Enemigo. Cuando se hacen las cosas de último minuto cosas malas suceden: a. Comienzas a cantar las mismas canciones una y otra vez. Si vuelvo a oir el “El Mejor Lugar del Mundo” me voy a tirar del 7mo piso. b. La probabilidad de que el equipo / piano / micrófono / proyector no funcionen bien es mayor.

Les dejo con esta cita familiar, pero muy práctica de Elena G. de White : “El canto es una parte de la adoración de Dios, sino en la manera torpe en que se realiza a menudo, no da crédito a la verdad, y no honra a Dios. Debiera haber un sistema y un orden en esto, así como cualquier otra parte de la obra del Señor. Organícense un grupo de los mejores cantantes, cuyas voces puedan dirigir a la congregación, y luego dejen que todos se unan a ellos. Los que cantan debe hacer un esfuerzo para cantar en armonía, deben dedicar algún tiempo a la práctica, que se pueda emplear este talento para la gloria de Dios. {Evangelismo 506,2}

Dios. Excelencia. Organización. Práctica. Suena como un gran plan para mí.

Most churches/denominations start with a Pioneer mentality. They are willing to sacrifice for the cause, to go boldly where no man or woman has gone before. They are willing to take risks, innovate, do things differently. At some point, that all changes. People become settlers. It becomes about them. Their music. Their taste. Their preferences. The lost can come, yes, but we are not going to disturb our lives to go get them. Ask yourself: How many people come to my church, week after week, year after year, and bring NO ONE as a guest? Why does that happen? A settler mentality has set in.

Everyone says they want new people to come to their church. Until they show up. It’s been my observation that the longer people are members of a church the more they forget how unbelievers actually live. Some studies have found that in just five years after a person is baptized his circle of friends is composed primarily of church people.

What steps can you take to increase the evangelism participation in your life and your congregation?

What can we do to restore a Pioneer frame of mind? You overcome this in three ways:

a. Preach it consistently.

Vision leaks. The evangelism vision leaks faster. There is a natural and supernatural resistance to evangelism. Since preaching increases participation, the pulpit should be a regular promoter of this spiritual expectation. This is what worked for me:

1. Every week we had a public testimony of a person who was won, a small group that did outreach or something related to evangelism. Stories work better than just exhortation.

2. I had a month long series pretty much every year on evangelism/sharing your faith.

3. We had a class for members once a quarter where we brought in a guest speaker to teach the church on an area related to evangelism. Members paid $10 and we provided lunch and materials.

4. We made evangelism the first point (sometimes the only point) of the agenda.

b. Live it personally.

Since we can’t really take anyone where we have not been ourselves, we should not expect our members to invite their friends when we haven’t brought ours. I once had a pastor tell me straight up that he never had brought one person to Jesus personally. Four years of college. Three years in Andrews. Five years in the ministry. He had more classes on evangelism than people evangelized.

c. Address it privately.

Not sharing your faith is a spiritual problem. If you saw a spiritual problem in other areas, you would probably address it. Why not here? I believe a part of the responsibility of a pastor is to confront atrophy. Lovingly. Patiently. Specifically.

Any other ideas or comments? Share them below.