Archives For May 2015

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.

In the early 90’s I was a theology student with a desire to make a difference. In early December I found out about the Evangelism Council and along with my friend Jose Cortes Jr. signed up to go. We were prohibited to attend (at least I was) by the Greek teacher, but we went anyway. I ended up having to repeat the class. It was worth it.

I heard this tall, rough around the edges, straight talking preacher with a New York accent. He spoke on the word Go. He said: “I looked up the word Go in the Greek, and it means…Go!”

He made an impact on my life. As I reflected on his life (he fell asleep in Jesus today) I want to share three things I learned from this evangelism giant:

1. You can be real. He was one of the first preachers I connected with, that didn’t try to impress me with oratory but rather spoke truth he was obviously living himself. He told stories about real people, with real issues. He spoke “truth with handles”. It was relatable. It was memorable. It was real. Not a lot of real people in the world. He was one.

2. You don’t have to please everyone. Not everyone liked his style. Not everyone liked the fact that he extended grace to people. He would suffer no fools, he had little time to argue finer points of theology because he was committed to growing the kingdom.

3. His passion for evangelism. I heard three speakers that week that inspired me. Ron, EE, Finley. They all had their styles. They all had their methods. They were all successful. Ron Halvorsen Sr. had credibility when he spoke about evangelism because he did evangelism.

Rest in Jesus.

Go, still means Go.

 

 

If you’ve attended church for any length of time, you probably had a moment when you cringed when something inappropriate was said, someone acted a fool or a leader or pastor neglected to prepare for their part. When cringe-full moments happen the first people I think about are guests that might get the impression that worship done halfheartedly is the norm, not the exception. Give the wrong person the mic and bad things happen. For example: (these are all verifiable accounts of cringe-full Sabbaths experiences)

*A children’s story about the loaves and fishes that excluded the fishes because the one who was telling it was vegan and would not promote the eating of fish.

*A church where everyone is over 70. As children’s story time comes, (there are no children present) they go ahead and tell it anyway.

Here are three thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it positive.

I know there are hard scriptures, not every part of the bible is sugar and sweet. I get it. We don’t want sermonettes that produce christianettes. Even when presenting hard truths, present the hope that we have in Jesus. Why do we always equate seriousness with holiness?  Smile. Congratulate the ones that are early in Sabbath school instead of griping about the lack of attendance. Give people hope. Lord knows they need it.

  1. Keep it professional.

Many times I hear the following three excuses for a lack of professionalism in worship services when people in charge of special music sing out of tune, we start late, or have interminable announcements:

*They are committed.

*They are sincere.

*They are spiritual.

Question for you. Do you get operated by a bad surgeon that is spiritual? Would you take a chance getting on a plane with an inefficient yet committed pilot who is sincere in his desire to fly?

Sincere and effective. Spiritual and excellent. Committed and prepared. Let’s stop giving people passes just because they tried. Raise the standard.

  1. Keep it personal.

Instead of speaking to the crowd, break your audience down into individuals. What does the single mother need to hear? How about the elderly man that lives alone? There are first time guests, long time members and everything in between. Instead of addressing the crowd, address individuals. Personalizing the presentation will engage the people listening and will not exclude the ones that need a message from the Lord that day.

Praying that all your worship services will be cringe free!

Last February I wrote a blog on an evangelistic initiative on Sunday morning from First Church in Huntsville Alabama.

The reaction to that eight week outreach was swift. It was basically divided into three responses:

  1. Surge is a compromise, the beginning of the Omega Apostasy and the worst thing ever.
  2. Surge is an innovative evangelism that should be tried.
  3. Surge has elements that I disagree with and some I don’t, let’s take a wait and see attitude.

The trial period is over. These are my reflections:

  1. It amazing how quickly we rush to judge things we have no immediate knowledge of. People hear Sunday and Worship together and go crazy. Some of the internet posts were not only pointedly critical, they were downright angry and nasty. Having talked with Pastor Snell from the beginning, I know for a fact most did not contact him or the church and ask questions. Mathew 18 was thrown out, and replaced by accusations and innuendos. I believe we can do better.
  2. Results matter. No I am not saying that the ends justify the means. No I am not saying that we should use EVERY new strategy people come up with. Yes I am saying that just because we shouldn’t use EVERY new strategy we shouldn’t use ANY new strategy.

He preached biblical doctrine.

He did it on a trial period. For 8th weeks.

He had 10 baptisms with 10 more getting ready.

There was no confusion, there was no apostasy. In fact the opposite happened.

  1. Believe the source, not the media, (social, print or online) I have learned after a while that websites, news outlets and people will often spin to their preconceived concepts. That includes all of us, myself included. That is why it’s important to speak to the source. They have much more information that a third party.

The first Surge is now over. Here are the results. It would be wise to take a look at what happened, including the addition to the church of over ten people. As I said in the first blog, they need our prayers much more than our opinions.

Watch a full report here: https://vimeo.com/126728807

Truth is not afraid of innovation.