guitar

The importance of culturally relevant musical forms in worship

Last month Tim wrote a great article on worship entitled “Toddler Worship.” His observations are, I believe, truly important for maturing believers. It is certain that we should not aim at the lowest common denominator when leading our churches, therefore it is foolish to craft a worship service to meet the immature in their immaturity and cater to it in such a way that they never grow.

Early in my pastoral ministry, as a youth pastor, I sought to set the bar high for the 50 or so Jr. High students I ministered to. The level of teaching they received during my 4 year tenure, was likely over their heads. Or at least the adults visiting my services told me so. I was actually not surprised that many of them grasped far more of what was taught than most adults gave them credit for. I set this purely as a qualifier for what I am about to say, especially since I do not really disagree with that Tim wrote. I’m not one to water things down for the sake of attracting people.

Several years ago, while preaching and teaching 8 to 10 hours a week for an extended period, I came down with a virus, which resulted in the loss of my voice. After healing from the illness I found that my ability to speak had drastically been affected. For several months I preached with what felt like an incredibly weak voice. By the end of Sunday services I’d be very near losing my voice. I also found that I was completely unable to engage in musical worship prior to preaching; in some ways this was a bit of an existential crises.

I’m almost sorry to admit it [now]; to that point worship to me had been inextricably linked to music. Not being able to sing caused me to rethink the paradigm of worship I’d come to know within modern evangelicalism. In my rethinking process I’ve come to recognize a number of important truths.

1. Music is not worship, but God created music to be the fastest onramp to genuine worship in spirit and truth.

2. God created music to stir our emotions, which informs us that worship should be emotional.

Genuine worship does not need music, but is greatly aided by it. One can just as easily enter into emotionally engaging worship by meditating upon God and His word while standing before the Grand Canyon, Bridalveil Falls, or merely considering His greatness.

* The affect of music upon our emotions can be for good or for bad. God did not dictate that music would only affect us in a positive or happy way. Music played at a faster tempo with major chords generally stirs happy emotions, whereas music played at a slower tempo with minors evokes sad emotions. Dissonance in music stirs negative anxiety and fear (maybe Fusco can produce some dissonant fear conjuring worship for us). 

3. Worship music that only engages the emotions is severely lacking and creates worshipers of worship as a means to emotional euphoria (ie emotionalism).

This point has been regularly reconfirmed for me over the last 10 years in working with youth and college students.

4. The theologically correct lyrics of emotionally stirring worship songs will engage the mind with the emotions to produce “heart worship.”

The engagement of the mind is essential. The emotions conjured up by the greatness of the Grand Canyon causes one to be in wonder (or worship) of the awesomeness of the Colorado River, whereas another is brought into honorable worship by seeing the same sight, while rehearsing God’s word in their mind or setting their affections upon Him.

5. Theologically correct lyrics attached to emotionally unengaging music shortchanges genuine worship.

6. Since worship music should effect us at an emotional level, style of music is important and varies from culture to culture, and across generational lines.

This time last year we were blessed to offer The Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course at CCEsco. One of our instructors, Ron Binder, brought this issue of style in musical worship home for me.

Ron is a Wycliffe missionary and an expert in Ethnomusicology. during a portion of his lecture he spoke on the importance of culturally relevant musical forms in worship, and explained that just as individuals have a “heart language,” they also have a “heart music.” This “heart music” is the style or musical form that will most engage their emotions and draw them into “heart worship.”

If this is true, and I believe it is, then we ought to honestly consider this as we are seeking to disciple our fellowships in worship, especially when we consider that the Father is seeking those that will worship Him in spirit and truth. So, I do agree with Tim that we should not cater to people’s immaturity, and that we should do our best to separate the music from the worship.  But at the same time I continue to find that I need to think through the realities of style in worship far more than I ever did before.

7. Worship in spirit and truth is responsive, thus we cannot expect a person to “experience” heart worship immediately at the open of a corporate worship service. 

8.  A musical worship service, or corporate worship time should [therefore] be progressive (psalms, hymns, spiritual songs…).  It [the worship service] should lead people into worship.

Since my introduction to Calvary Chapel at age 11, my primary experience of a musical worship has been that which is engaged in for approximately 30 minutes prior to the sermon, and/or what is practiced at many of our believers meetings, camps and retreats.  These are, in our movement, commonly call “Afterglows.”

In my (purely personal, non-scientific) observation of these meetings, there seems [at times] to be very little intentionality in our worship and something of a “storm the throne room” approach.  In the last several years I’ve heard many a worship leader and/or pastor lament the fact that their people are “not worshiping,” which is generally gauged by the lack of participation (i.e. singing) by the gathered assembly.  In considering this complaint, I’ve developed a theory that a worship service that draws the worshipers into heart worship should progress from psalms to hymns, which results in spiritual songs.

Psalms are – generally speaking – scripture put to music.  John Calvin believed singing anything other than the Psalms was inappropriate for Christian worship and unworthy of God.  I don’t know if I’d go that far.   But, such singing of the scriptures sets our minds upon God’s word and aids us in taking God’s word into our hearts, as music is a tremendously powerful mnemonic device.

Hymns are doctrinal and theological in nature; they exalt the attributes of God’s character and nature; they give intellectual and theological expression to our faith.  Martin Luther said, “Let me write the hymns of a Church, and I care not who may write its creeds and volumes of theology — I will determine its faith.”

Spiritual Songs are adorations, supplications, petitions, confessions, thanksgivings, etc…  They are spiritually inspired from man to God or God to man and tend to be prophetic in nature and spontaneous.  Such songs are the overflow of our heart in devotion to God.

 I believe that the lack of participation many observe in worship today is related to the fact that much of our modern worship tends to be “spiritual song” dominant.  If one does not properly, and progressively, lead the body into worship, they will likely not engage in worship as their heart has not been properly prepared to sing devotional confessions of praise or petition (e.g. “You [God] are the air I breath,” “You are all I want, you are all I need,” “Lord my one request, my only aim, Lord reign in me again.”).

I am, however, encouraged by many of the new hymns being developed by individuals like Keith Getty and groups such as  Sovereign Grace and Indelible Grace Music.

Ultimately worship is God’s idea.  He created us to worship and is seeking such who will worship Him.  John Piper is right, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” God is worthy of our worship and our greatest experiences of pleasurable joy are rooted in our worship of Him.  He inhabits the praises of His people and in His presence is fullness of joy.  These truths have challenged me over the last several years to more seriously consider the theology of worship.  Perhaps it’s a good challenge for the church as a whole?

 

lessons-of-being-human

Five Ministry Lessons for the Young Church Planter – Daniel Fusco

Planting a church is hard enough. But planting a church when you are young (I mean less than 35 years of age) can make it even harder. There are less life experiences to draw from, people’s perceptions, as well as, to be honest, the fact that younger people have a tendency to be more ‘green’. I say this because I was (am) one of those young planters. I was taken on staff at a church at 24 and I stepped out to plant a church at close to 26. Planted the second church at 30 and then the third one at 35. My hope is that this article will be an encouragement to those of you who are younger.

1. Let no one despise your youth
Therefore, you shouldn’t either

Paul wrote 2 letters to Timothy that we have in our Bibles. Timothy was a young pastor and Paul exhorted him to “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”(1 Timothy 4:12). Paul told Timothy that it was not about your age but it was about your walk. Young church planters will often hear a lot of misgivings by older people about their age. I sure did. But we need to take the Word of God to heart. We should be an example of godliness. Let no one despise your youth. Oftentimes a younger pastor will despise his own youth. Listen, if the Lord has called you into the ministry, than you should trust Him. We have tremendous examples of young men who were mightily used by God: David with Goliath, Stephen in the Book of Acts, and our Lord Jesus. Oftentimes, the Sovereign God can use the zeal of youth powerfully.

2. Shut up and Listen.
God may have blessed you with teachers

One of the biggest mistakes that young pastors make is talking too much. Let me give you an example, you teach a sermon on Creation. Then someone who is a college level physicist comes up to you and begins to call you to account on your bad science. Most young pastors will start to argue and walk away and think, ‘This guy doesn’t trust the Lord’. I have found that God will put people into our fellowships that know a lot more than us about many things. We are called to teach the Word and love the people. But that doesn’t mean that we have cornered the market on all forms of knowledge. When someone in your fellowship is taking the time to correct you about something that they know more about, shut up and listen. Ask questions. Learn from the people that God is asking to learn from you. In my life as a pastorate, I have been blessed to have men and women in the fellowships that are significantly smarter than me in many areas. I have learned, grown, and been shaped by the wisdom that God has given to these precious people. Don’t forget to shut up and listen!

3. Honor your Elders
People in different life places understand things uniquely

This point is very similar to point 2 in many respects. When I say honor your elders, I mean it in two distinct ways. 1) If the Lord has given you elders in leadership in the fellowship, honor them. This is both Biblical and rational. Elders will often keep you balanced and sharp. They will be the first to stop you from making a major mistake. They should have opportunity to speak into your life. 2) People who are older (and in different life places) than you should be honored. Before I was married, I honored the married people in the fellowship by learning about the experience of marriage from them. For the parents, I would ask them about the application of the Bible to their parenting. I honored them by seeking to understand how the Lord is leading them in their respective office. I have been blessed in both church plants that I have been involved with to have godly elderly people involved. They are invaluable resources of wisdom. Honor them.

4. Let all Criticism be Constructive
Even when it wasn’t meant to be

As a pastor, you’ll hear tons of criticisms about everything. The fishbowl of public ministry can be grueling to even the thickest-skinned pastor. I have learned that every criticism that I have ever received has some merit. I remember one time; an angry woman told me that I had no love because I refused her request. She said it in anger and I could have easily dismissed her. But in reality, I don’t love nearly as fully or perfectly as Jesus does. So her criticism drove me to seek the Lord for more of His love. Rather than dismissing criticism out of hand, why not take a moment to bring it before the Lord to see what He might say. I have often found that the best thing I can do when someone levies a criticism is to ask him or her to pray for me right then and there. The Lord almost always ministers to my heart at that time.

5. If you Defend Yourself, God will let you
So don’t be defensive and let Him be your defense

I’ve heard Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel say ‘if you defend yourself, God will let you’ a myriad of times. It’s so true. If you go to defend yourself, God will let you. Being defensive is simply pride on display. David let the Lord be his defense. So did Jesus. You don’t have to defend yourself. If you are in the right, the Light of the world will reveal it in due time. If you are in the wrong, well, the Light of the world will reveal it in due time. Until then, trust in the Lord with all your heart. Repent when needed and rejoice in His grace.

sound waves 2

Called to Plant

Called to Plant

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…”[1] – Jesus

 

“If there is one characteristic that is absolutely essential for effective ministry, it’s that we must first have a sense of calling—the conviction in our hearts that God has chosen and called us to serve Him.”[2]Chuck Smith

The work of church planting must begin with the calling of a man of God.  Church planting isn’t merely something you wake up one day and choose as a new career move.  At least this is not God’s desire for church planters.  The call to church planting is the call to apostolic missionary work.  With that said, we will begin by considering what the call of God will look like in the life of a man who is truly called to the work of church planting in the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.


OUR CALL MUST BE OBJECTIVE

The first thing that should be noted on the subject of calling is that the call of God on a man has an objective side to it.  Paul speaks of some qualities of a called man that can objectively be evaluated in two of the Pastoral Epistles.[8]  Let’s consider the objective qualifications of a man called to lead in Jesus’ church from First Timothy 3:1-7:

 “(1) This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. (2) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; (3) not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; (4) one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (5) For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); (6) not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the Devil. (7) Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the Devil.” 

 Paul tells us that the call to lead in Jesus’ church begins with desire in verse one.  There must be a driving inward conviction and desire to serve as an overseer of Christ’s people.  And yet, a strong desire is not enough.  Paul goes on to give his readers a list which provides objective standards by which we can assess ourselves and other men when determining if we are the kind of man Jesus calls to plant or lead His churches.  This means that though a desire to plant is necessary to consider yourself called to plant churches, this desire by itself is insufficient to determine whether you have truly been called by Jesus for that mission.  You must meet the other qualifications of a called man given in the text.

The General Reality of Your Life

Now, if you’re anything like me you read that list and think, “Who do you think I am? Jesus?”  We all know that it would be impossible to completely live up to every qualification Paul lays out for us in this passage at every moment of every day.  The point is that these things must be the general reality in the life of a man who is genuinely called by Jesus to lead in His church.  We will stumble and fall as all men do.[10]  However, the general portrait and continual pursuit of our lives will reflect the qualities listed above if we are called to lead in the church of Christ.

One Necessary Gift

One particular qualification should be singled out for a minute before we move on.  The qualification of being, “able to teach,” is what separates overseers in Christ’s church from deacons, whose qualifications Paul goes on to list in this same chapter in First Timothy.  The other qualifications primarily have to do with personal character and the treatment of others.  The ability to teach has to do with spiritual gifting.  It is the spiritual gift of teaching that a man must have to be any kind of elder/overseer in Christ’s church.  That would include functioning as a church planter.  It is implied that one who would serve as a pastor or church planting pastor needs to go through a season of being observed and assessed as they take opportunities in which they can test and demonstrate their ability to teach the word of God effectively.  This is the only way to confirm whether or not a man is gifted to teach; they must be given chances to teach, and the fruit must be evaluated.

If the gift of teaching isn’t confirmed in him, than in spite of a man’s desire to plant or pastor, and regardless of his integrity, he cannot possibly be called to church planting.  This doesn’t mean he is worthless; it simply means he must have a different role to play in the body of Christ.

This also doesn’t mean that he has to be the best Bible teacher in the world.  Sometimes we act as though men should be discouraged from pursuing the obvious call of God on their life just because they aren’t as good of a Bible teacher as Greg Laurie, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, or Chuck Smith.  This is stupid, to put it bluntly!  Every Bible teacher has weaknesses whether we recognize it or not.  The important thing is that the prospective planter is capable of communicating the word accurately, growing in their gift, and that the people of God are maturing spiritually under their ministry.[11]  Drawing on an analogy from baseball, I once heard Mark Driscoll say in regard to evaluating a man’s gift of teaching that a guy doesn’t need to hit it out of the park every time, but they do need to hit singles and doubles pretty regularly.  I think that’s a good idea of what it means to be able to teach.


OUR CALL MUST BE SUBJECTIVE

In addition to the objective call of God on a would-be church planter, I believe there must also be a timely and accompanying subjective call given by the Holy Spirit.  Prior to listing the character traits and gifting a man must have before being a leader in the church, Paul said, “If any man desires the office of an overseer it is a good work he desires to do.”[12]  Paul moves from desire to qualifications, not the other way around.  Again, this is because a man may have the character and even gifting needed to be a leader in the church, and yet not be called.  His character and gifting must accompany an intense desire for the work!

Men Without Heart

Huge amounts of damage has been done to Christ’s people because men who had good character and gifting took leadership roles in the body of Christ for which they had no heart desire to fulfill.  The ministry to the called is a necessity, not merely an option.  A called man will have a passion for the work the Holy Spirit is leading him into.  If you don’t have a Holy Spirit given passion for church planting you will never be able to obey the command given through Peter to Christ’s leading men: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”[13]

Two important applications can be made from Peter’s instruction.  First, if you are a strong Christian man who is aware that you generally have good character and also the gift of teaching which is required for elders, you need to make sure you still don’t take on the task of functioning as an elder or lead church planter UNLESS YOU ALSO HAVE THE DESIRE!  You will only end up hurting yourself, your family, and the church if you don’t have a Holy Spirit implanted intense desire for the work.  The ministry isn’t to be something you do by compulsion.  You will hinder what Jesus is doing in the church, not help it.  So please don’t feel the need to pull your bootstraps up and proverbially take one for the team by merely being a warm body in a needed area of service.  You will only deal a deadly blow to the team!

Secondly, those in leadership who want to be instrumental in training elders and church planters need to continually fight the temptation to empower good and gifted men who lack personal desire for the work.  Gifted men with good character and no desire for ministry will be unproductive, unmotivated sources of huge frustration for you.  You will hurt them, Christ’s people, and the mission by putting them into a place of leadership for which God hasn’t given them a burden.  Keep waiting on the Lord and He will raise up the right leaders with the right character, gifting, and desires in His own time.[14]  Jesus will equip, mold, and inspire the men He calls from the inside out.[15]

 

OUR CALL AND THE AFFIRMATION OF SPIRIT-LED LEADERSHIP

When Jesus is calling a man into the war of church planting, another way He will confirm His call is by speaking His will clearly through the Holy Spirit to the leaders in the prospective planter’s life.  Ample biblical texts demonstrate this principle.  Saul (Paul) and Barnabas’ call to church planting was confirmed when the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically through another leader as they were gathered together in a time of worship and prayer before God.[16]

Paul wrote reminding Timothy of a time when a prophecy given by the Holy Spirit regarding his call to pastoral and church planting ministry was spoken over him by the elders in his life.[17]  Jogging Timothy’s memory about that charismatic moment was intended by Paul to reignite confidence in his heart in regard to his calling, enabling him to continue on when the mission had become almost unbearably difficult for him.  The memory of Timothy’s Spirit-led leaders confirming his call would serve to encourage the young pastor and church planter to persevere being confident of the Lord’s will for him based on that moment.

Later on in his ministry Paul would command both Timothy and Titus to take on the role of being the lone men who would evaluate multiple potential church leaders for placement in leadership roles over the new church plants they’d established.[18]  They were to make the decision about whether or not to utilize these prospective leaders on their own with just the leading of God and the foundation of what they’d learned already serving with Paul as the basis for their decisions. Clearly Paul believed that as men already proven to be God-called missionaries, the Lord would use them to confirm the same call in other men’s lives.  Paul specifically instructed Timothy on two separate occasions to view the role of identifying, training, teaching, and mobilizing other men for leadership in the church as something he was to take very seriously as a pastor.[19]

Again, this all serves to demonstrate that God delights to make His call on future elders and church planters clear through giving confirming insight through those already successfully serving as elders and church planters.  A man’s call to church leadership and church planting will be confirmed by the Lord through the encouragement of Spirit-led men already serving in those roles.

 

Personal Story

When I was 22 I began serving as the worship pastor of an Evangelical Free church in West Point, Utah.  Early on in my time with this ministry, the pastor who is a great friend to me to this day asked if I would share the Word a little bit before we observed the Lord’s Supper together as a church one Sunday morning.  After service that day my pastor told me that he had discovered my gift; he said I had a gift for teaching.  He was basing that off of the ability I demonstrated to read a text, pick out the points, and apply the truth to the church in regard to the Lord’s Supper.

From that day forward he began to ask me periodically when I was going to preach a sermon.  I would usually respond by saying, “never!”  I didn’t think that I could teach the Bible.  I was scared to get in front of people and talk.  I’d never taken a public speaking class.  I was in choir in public school for four years and only attended one performance because I was so scared to get in front of people that I couldn’t even do it as part of a large group!  But my pastor had seen a gift in me that I couldn’t.  Ultimately Jesus continued to give me a burden for ministry and for teaching the Word, and later took me down the adventurous path of church planting.  But my journey down this path began with the affirmation of Spirit-led leaders in my life who had journeyed this way before me who saw the clear calling God had on my life as they watched me assist them in ministry.  It will be the same in the life of every man called of God to plant churches.  You’re leaders will see your call, and affirm your call.

 

OUR CALL AND THE AFFIRMATION OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

If a man is called, not only will Spirit-led leaders be able to identify and confirm the call, but so will the wider body of Christ with which the man is locally associated.  This is why Paul told Timothy to give himself to fulfilling His function as pastor/teacher in such a way that his progress would, “be evident to all.”[20]  When a man is Spirit-gifted for what he is doing it will be obvious not only to those he is assisting, but also to those he is leading.   Paul knew that, and he also knew it would encourage Timothy to see people affirming his growth in what Jesus had obviously designed him to do.  That is why he told him to persevere and grow in his gifts. He knew that as people saw his growth and received from God through him that they would be able to affirm his calling.

In the book of Acts we see the apostles looking to the affirmation of the local church to confirm the call of God on the lives of certain men to help take care of local churches.  This is the case in Acts six where we find the appointment of seven men by the apostles to take care of some physical needs in the church in Jerusalem.[21]  This is also clear in Acts sixteen where Paul pays attention to Timothy’s reputation with the body of disciples in his hometown before officially bringing him onto his church planting team.  He knew that Timothy’s leadership potential would either be validated or brought into question based on the observations of the local believers that knew him best.[22]

An Important Issue

The affirmation of our calling through leaders who have gone before us and other believers with whom we are in consistent community is more important than we sometimes admit.  I have personally seen people ignore the warnings received from their leaders and other Christians in this area to their own detriment.  Perhaps pride hinders them from humbly receiving exhortation.  What I do know is that we need to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the wider body of Christ about our desire to pastor and plant churches.  There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.[23]  Specifically regarding the call to church planting, God’s people will see it if we have it.  Men Jesus has already used in that role will see it.  If they don’t see it, you’re probably not called, at least, not yet.

If you’re not called to church planting, than know that Jesus has something better for you that will glorify Him and bring satisfaction and purpose to your life if you let Him have His way!  Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up at the proper time.  In the meantime, rest in His will for your life today!

 

Summary and Exhortation

In summary, it is absolutely imperative that a man discerns whether or not He is called by Jesus to be a church planter before pursuing the work church planting.  The called man will have the objective side of his call manifested through Christ-like character and a Holy Spirit given ability to teach God’s Word that has been demonstrated practically.  He will have an accompanying subjective side to his call that will be manifested as an intense inward desire for the mission of church planting born in him by the Holy Spirit.  His call will be confirmed by leaders who’ve gone before him, as well as through the wider affirmation of the local church of which he is a part.  If these aspects are in your life, you may be called to plant a church.  If they aren’t in your life, I would wait for the Lord to give you more clarity and direction.

*Note- The above post is an excerpt taken from the book, “The Spirit-led Mission: the Church Planting Philosophy of Refuge Church” by Kellen Criswell 


[1] John 15:16a NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Page 3.

[8] I, II Timothy & Titus

[10] 1 Corinthians 10:13

[11] 1 Timothy 4:13-16

[12] 1 Timothy 3:1 NKJV

[13] 1 Peter 5:2-4 NKJV

[14] Acts 13:1-3; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2-4

[15] 1 Timothy 1:12

[16] Acts 13:1-3

[17] 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6;

[18] 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[19] 1 Timothy 5:22-24;  2 Timothy 2:2

[20] 1 Timothy 4:14

[21] Acts 6:1-7

[22] Acts 16:2

[23] Proverbs 24:6

mag

Magnifying?

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,”

Luke 1:46

Always remember that it is the people, and not the plan, that God is interested in.

It is people that He is interested in sanctifying, and not ministries.

That is not saying that He does not care for the plan or the ministry. But it is the closeness of His people to His heart, and having His mind from which the plan is made manifest, and the ministry, as empowered by His Spirit, which flows from the relationship and the communion that His people have with their Father who is in heaven.

The Gospel is not just a message to be imbibed and then stored away. No, rather the Gospel is to be taken in, absorbed, and put to use, lived out, by the people of God as they are in total dependence upon Him for their strength.

This, in one aspect, is how we, as His people, as His church in the world, are able to bring honor and glory to the Name that is above every other name. This Gospel is exemplified in and through the follower of Jesus. His fame and presence are carried about by the people of God in their homes, their workplaces, their college campuses, the corner coffee shop.

The way we live our lives out is to be our greatest concern, our greatest area of focus in each of our lives personally and corporately. And not because it makes us better people or adds to our own righteousness, but rather it is the Name of Jesus Christ, His Person, His Righteous Reputation which s at stake. His glory is on the line.

Men don’t see Jesus physically, just like we don’t minister to Him personally when we offer a cup of cold water in His name or visit the sick or sacrifice something we have to help someone who doesn’t have.

“”Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'”

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'”

Matthew 25:34-40

Jesus wasn’t seen. It was His brothers and sisters, those who are His, co-heirs, who were served…and Jesus accounts it as being ministered to Himself.

All that being said to say this.

Men and women don’t see Jesus physically today. They see His disciples ministering. They see His Body serving. They see us living among them, talking to them, spending time with them, eating and drinking with them, sharing the reason for the hope that lies within us with them.

God is interested in involving and using us in what He is doing. The relationship is key. What the life, the ministry, the example looks like flows from that relationship.

Heard a great quote over the weekend from Ed Stetzer.

“Hold the model loosely, hold the Gospel tightly.”


biblejournal

What I Would Say to Future Pastors

A while back a seminary student asked me the following question: “If you were going to teach a class titled ‘Introduction to Pastoral Ministry’ what would be the top three things you would want your students to grasp? Why?”

I’m passing my response along to you. While my response is geared toward those sensing a call to the ministry of pastor-teacher, I believe it can provoke and challenge all of us.

For non-pastors, this will help create understanding re: the pastor’s calling and role in the kingdom of God.

Hopefully, it will also motivate and encourage everyone to pursue the kingdom of God and the life of the Spirit will all vigor and focus. These are hard times we’re living in. We need serious believers.

God bless you as you read. Thanks for doing so.

In Christ,

Bill Holdridge

__________________________________________________________

QUESTION:

“If you were going to teach a class titled ‘Introduction to Pastoral Ministry’ what would be the top three things you would want your students to grasp? Why?”

RESPONSE:

1. The importance of a vibrant, personal relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Not every person going into ministry knows the Lord. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Just because someone has a seminary or Bible college degree does not mean that he/she is actually converted. So that’s of primary importance. I would probably go ahead and preach the gospel in my first class, emphasizing the great truths of the gospel, and the necessity of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3,4; John 3:3-8; John 1:12, etc.). Then I would give an invitation to receive Christ … in the class!

Beyond that, I would emphasis the need to develop a strong personal, devotional life. Time in personal prayer and the Word. Journaling. Praying in the Spirit. Too many times, the work we do in preparation for ministry replaces our actual fellowship with the Lord. It’s easy to let happen, but it’s wrong.

Only the minister who is abiding and truly enjoying the Lord will bear His fruit (1 John 1:1-4; John 15:1-8).

2. A complete dependence upon the New Covenant and its principles.

Zechariah prophesied that it is not by might, nor by [human] power, but by the Spirit that God’s work will be accomplished (Zechariah 4:6).

The essence of the New Covenant is Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 – “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who has made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The first disciples were commanded to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. When Pentecost came, the Spirit of God came upon them to give them power for ministry. There is every indication that they continued functioning by this power … they did not revert back to their old methods or abilities. The Lord was the One doing the work.

The New Covenant as described by Ray C. Stedman in his excellent book Authentic Christianity is what I’m talking about. That book would be required reading. Honesty, integrity, authenticity, etc. are also emphasized in Stedman’s treatment of 2 Corinthians chapters 2-6.

Too much of the work of the church is being done today by human wisdom, creativity, and programs. I fear that if the Holy Spirit were to wholly remove Himself from what much of the church does, He would hardly be missed, if at all.

This is a tragic situation and worthy of our foremost focus, that it may change.

3. A lifetime commitment to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God.

This is the primary work of the minister, to pray and minister God’s Word. The Acts 6 story illustrates this truth. Rather than serve tables, the apostles were to dedicate themselves to these things. The same is true of every pastor-teacher.

While there are some teachers who may not be pastors, it is imperative that true pastors embrace the call to teach the Bible (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The greatest need in the church today, world-wide, is for the systematic teaching of the whole counsel of God. Paul the apostle proclaimed his own guiltlessness re: the Ephesians when he said that he had not shunned to declare to them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). When he was with them, he taught them all the Bible there was to teach.

Today, too many pastors are opting for sermon-ettes for Christian-ettes. The fact is that we are serving Christianity “lite” in many of our churches. The pulpit is weak in doctrine and content. Therefore, the believers are spiritually undernourished and immature.

George Barna (pollster, demographer, and sociologist) refers to only 9% of American “believers” possessing and operating according to a Christian worldview.

The whole of scripture—from Genesis to Revelation—has been given to us for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness, and for the equipping of the saints for their ministries (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The work of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints. How else will be able to do that, except by the Word of God?

If our purpose is to build big churches with big budgets, buildings, and programs, we don’t need the Word of God. But if our purpose is to build strong people with big hearts who fear God, know what their spiritual gifts are, and who follow the Lord as cross-bearing, self-denying disciples, then we need to minister the Word of God.

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The Soldier

Soldiers fight.  That is what soldiers do.

Yes, they do other things.  Soldiers feel the same things that non soldiers feel, think things that non-soldiers think, and want some of the same things that non-soldiers want, but in a major way, they are very different.  Soldiers fight.

The soldier fights when others are at rest. He has a different schedule than the non-soldier.  When he does rest, he doesn’t forget that there is a battle, and always feels that he must be ready to respond at any moment. He must maintain his state of readiness.  He may not be fighting, but he is never out of the fight. He must not resent the non-soldier’s abundance of free time.  The soldier is a soldier by choice.  His life is different.

The soldier fights because he understands what is at stake.  Others may not understand the enemy, the battle, or the risk, but the soldier understands that there is much at risk. Others may mock the idea of there being a battle or an enemy.  Non-soldiers may imagine that soldiers exaggerate the facts, and embellish the reports. The non-soldier may imagine that the soldier is in the fight only for his own glory.  The non-soldier cannot relate to the intensity of the soldier’s mind and heart, for he doesn’t understand the battle.  The soldier does, however, understand the non-soldier, for the soldier used to be passive, indifferent, and distracted, just like the non-soldier, until the reality of the fight was revealed to him.  Then he raised his hand, committed his heart, and changed his lifestyle.

The soldier understands that he belongs to something much bigger than himself.  He is not his own.  He doesn’t make his own decisions.  He doesn’t plan his own life.  He listens for the voice of his Superior, and he responds accordingly.

The soldier cannot allow himself to be discouraged by those that analyze and make comments about the battle, but themselves, do not fight.  The soldier knows that he is not fully understood except by those that fight with him, and who share the same struggles.  It is among fellow soldiers that he finds his best comradery.  The analysts and pundits pontificate, while the soldier does the work. He sometimes resents the so-called experts that criticize from the safety of their well-furnished vantage points.  He has justifiable anger at those who second guess his best efforts, but have never faced the enemy.  Yet in all of this, the soldier fights for the pundit and for the analyst. He shakes his head from time to time at their naivety and arrogance, but then gets back into the battle. He cannot afford to be distracted by them.  There is too much at stake.

The soldier sometimes wants to quit.  He remembers past failures, and how those failures allowed others to be hurt, or prevented victories for his side.  At times, he has heard the call to charge, but hesitated.  He knows true fear, and at times reverts back into his instinct of self-preservation.  He also fears making a mistake that will allow others to be hurt, yet he cannot allow himself to be paralyzed by fear, for the enemy keeps coming.  The soldier must fight forward, regardless of his fear for himself or for others.

The soldier must be careful about evaluating of his fellow soldiers.  He understands their frailties, for he shares them, and has felt them.  He may feel critical of his comrades at times.  They may seem to lack intensity, focus, and dedication, but except for rare occasions, the soldier realizes that he has done the same, and his criticism fades.

The soldier lives for the cause though others minimize the cause.  The soldier fights for others who cannot or will not fight for themselves.  The soldier hopes for the best for others, while often times, others only hope for themselves.

The soldier continues on though few thank him, shake his hand, or consider his sacrifices.

In all of this, the soldier realizes that he cannot be anything other than a soldier.  It is who and what he is.  He cannot do anything else, though at times he may want to.  He is what he is.

He is a soldier.  God has made him one.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
(2 Timothy 2:3, 4) 

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Ministry Transitions by David Guzik

Way back in 1982, Lance Ralston and I brought together two home Bible studies and started Calvary Chapel of Oxnard. We were both young and inexperienced, but God blessed our development as pastors and our work. I’m filled with fond memories when I think of those early years of ministry.

Lance Ralston is still there, faithfully serving Calvary Chapel of Oxnard almost 30 years later. The church has grown, matured, and prospered in that time. It’s a wonderful example of faithful ministry and God’s blessing on a man and his work.

As for me, I’m on my fourth ministry assignment while Lance is still with same congregation in Oxnard. After 7 years with Lance, I went to Simi Valley and started Calvary Chapel of Simi Valley. After 14 years in Simi Valley, I went to Germany to start the Calvary Chapel Bible College campus in Siegen. After 7 years in Siegen, I find myself back in Southern California, this time serving the congregation at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.

Over those years I hope I have learned a little bit about when it is time to leave a particular ministry assignment and go forth to something else. Following are a few random principles that come to mind.

Don’t leave out of discouragement. There are many good reasons to leave one work and anticipate another. Discouragement is never a good reason. Though I have certainly known seasons of discouragement in serving God and His people, I can say that I have never left a work because of it. We are to serve God in season and out of season, and it just wrong to leave if the primary motive is discouragement.

A general sense of dissatisfaction may prompt you. Sometimes people stay in a place too long, because they don’t listen to the ways God may nudge them with a gentle sense of dissatisfaction. They stubbornly stay, until that sense of dissatisfaction bleeds out and becomes specific. They become unhappy with so many things, and they end up leaving frustrated, complaining, and sometimes embittered. Thankfully, that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve learned that God can simply give you a sense that what you have done at a particular place is finished for you, and it is time to move on to what’s next.

Don’t even think about such a big change unless your spouse is really in agreement. For each of our big changes, Inga-Lill and I have been in wonderful agreement. It hasn’t been a matter of one of us dragging the other along. We’ve walked together in each transition. If you and your spouse aren’t in agreement, then get praying – both individually and as a couple. God will guide you and bring you into unity into the mind of Christ (not necessarily your mind) as you seek Him. Don’t go forward until He does.

You may know what you are moving on to, you may not. I think of my three departures (from Oxnard, from Simi Valley, and from Germany). In one I knew what I was moving on to when I decided it was time to leave, and in two I did not. For me, that isn’t really the deciding factor. If God shows me my time is drawing to a close at a place, then it doesn’t really matter if I know right away what He is opening up next. He will show me in His timing.

You aren’t a failure for leaving. While each one of my departures has been difficult – mostly because of the wonderful personal relationships built up in each place – I never felt like I was a failure because I left. I simply knew that if God wanted me to stay at a place longer, I would; and I tried to leave any perceptions of failure or success up to Him. We say that faithfulness is more important success, but we often don’t believe it. Here’s a challenging question: Can you be satisfied and happy if other people think you are a failure, but you know you have been faithful? That shows how much relative value you put on success and faithfulness.

Don’t believe the lie of sanctification by relocation. Sometimes we think everything that frustrates us in our present place will be fixed just by going to another place. That is a foolish lie. If you aren’t being transformed by the renewing of your mind right where you are at, a change won’t make a difference. Wherever you go, you take you with you.

Do everything you can to leave in the right way. If you love the people you have served, you owe them the very best until the end. Be honest. Be honorable. Love to the very end. That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t disappoint some of them at some points (some of them may insist you don’t leave at all). But do all you can so your own conscience is clear, knowing you have done what you can and should to leave in the right way. Ask God to show you those who need some specific love and attention in closing your work in a particular place.

Our world is changing. It used to be much more common for a man or a woman to leave their education, get a job, and stay with that company for 30 or 40 years, get their gold watch and retire. Today, it is far more common for people to make two or three or more significant transitions in their life. It’s certainly been true for me.

Thinking of what God has done in and through Lance Ralston, sometimes I get a little jealous. If God wanted it, I could have been the one serving that one congregation for 30 plus years. I could have been dedicating the children of those I dedicated decades before. I could have known the depth of remaining in the same place for that long. Yet, that simply wasn’t what God had for me – but it certainly was what God had for Lance. I really do think that God helping us, we have each been faithful to our callings; to the individual race God has for us to run. God will help you also to run your race, even if it means some transitions along the way.

 

Pastor and Bible teacher David Guzik has served in pastoral ministry since 1982 in many different roles. He presently pastors Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, but previously served as the director of a small international Bible College in Germany. He founded and pastored Calvary Chapel Simi Valley for fourteen years and co-pastored Calvary Chapel Oxnard before that. He is married to Inga-Lill, and has three adult children. David holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written several books and commentaries that are available at Enduring Word.

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The local church and illegal immigrants–remember the Gibeonites!

I’m a follower of Jesus, I’m a pastor of a local church that is heavily engaged with serving the immigrants that live in our local community, and I’m a person who believes the bible is God’s self-revelation and that the historical events recorded in the bible actually took place at a specific time in history. I also believe that God has recorded those events, and many other things, for our benefit (1 Cor 10:11). I’m also convinced that if we take the time to understand the historical and cultural context of the times in which these events took place, we can discover principles that transcend all times and cultures. I also believe that those principles can and should be expressed by specific practices relevant and understandable to any specific culture.

Having said all of this, I am also something else, I am…….deeply troubled.

What specifically is troubling me? It appears to me that many self-proclaimed followers of Jesus here in America view themselves first and foremost as citizens of the United States of America, rather than first and foremost as citizens of the Kingdom of God. That for a number of reason too numerous to go into here, they live with the faulty understanding that somehow, the United States is a valid and perhaps the only true expression of the Kingdom of God in a political form. That the American “way of life” and the American “dream” are somehow in complete agreement with and are actually a great example of the truths that citizens of the Kingdom of God should navigate life by. And that somehow, the stumbling and unraveling of America will inflict a major death-blow to the Kingdom of God.

Needless to say, I beg to differ with those that hold these views.

I base the above summary of Christian American’s views on many conversations I’ve had with people around the country and right here in Phoenix. If you don’t understand why I would describe many self-proclaimed followers of Jesus in this way, here’s a quick summary of just some of what I’ve experienced since I arrived in Phoenix and began working among the refugee community:

The Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in the state, has run a couple of articles in the past few years about the work my church does with refugees in our local community. After each article was published I received telephone calls from people claiming to be Christians who accused me of being a contributor to the train wreck that the American “way of life” is headed toward. I was told that I had no idea what I was doing by giving help to “those people” and one lady went as far as stating that she hoped when the kids of “those people” start gangs and cause turmoil, that my kids and grandkids will suffer at their hands. Again, these were people claiming to be Christians. Even when I explained that we work primarily with refugees who arrive completely legal under U.S. State Department guidelines and oversight and that 90 percent of the refugees would go back to their home country tomorrow if they could do so without the risk of being put tortured or put to death by a variety of means, some of these callers still spit venom in my direction. But, and this too is troubling, even those who softened their rhetoric after understanding the situation of refugees, on the other hand, were quick to tell me that those other immigrants, those “illegals” are the main culprits that are contributing to the ruin of our country.

What is going on here? In my opinion, as I’ve described above, some crucial lines have been blurred regarding the Kingdom of God and the United States of America. I’m convicted and convinced that it is the responsibility of those who take the Word of God seriously, especially those who pastor local churches, to bring some biblical truth and principles to bear regarding followers of Jesus and immigrants, even ILLEGAL-IMMIGRANTS!

The bible is full of admonitions for God’s people to be an expression of His love and care for the fatherless, the widow, the poor and oppressed, and the “stranger” that lives among us, (Deut. 10:17-22 being just one of dozens of examples). But does the bible have anything to say about the stranger or foreigners who live in our midst and who came here by “illegal” means? How should His people relate to those who have used deception to circumvent the clear laws of a sovereign people in order to sneak in and live in the presence of God’s people? How should His people interact with those who have snuck in among us in order to avoid what they perceive as an inevitable death much earlier than they would desire?

Are there a principles from a historical incident recorded in God’s Word that might apply to the situation followers of Jesus find themselves in at our moment in history? I believe there are.

Let’s consider those pesky Gibeonites!

Is it possible that God recorded the whole story of the Gibeonites and their interaction with God’s people so that His followers in America more than 2,500 years later might be able to clear up some of the very important lines that have been blurred? I think so.

Without expositing the texts in detail, let me give you a few key points from the story of Israel and the Gibeonites that I believe contain principles for us today.

1. God permitted the Gibeonites to deceive Joshua and peace was made with them and a covenant agreed to that will permit them to live. (Josh 9:15)

2. When they discovered they had been deceived, they didn’t give them what they deserved. A commitment had been made to them and Joshua wouldn’t permit them to break that commitment…even a commitment that was actually the result of the Gibeonites deceptiveness. This decision was not popular with the majority of God’s people and caused them to complain against their spiritual leaders. (Josh 9:18)

3. The Gibeonites agreed to be woodcutters and water carriers, (jobs nobody else really wanted to do), to stay alive and live among and be blessed by the blessings God was going to pour out on His people. (Josh 9:21-27)

4. The “long day of Joshua”, when the sun stood still, was triggered by God’s calling His people to protect the Gibeonites that were living in their midst. (Josh 10:6-15) The Lord fought for Israel in a unique way as Israel was His tool of protection for the “illegals” that lived among them.

5. Even generations later, mistreatment of the Gibeonites by Saul and some members of his house in their zeal for their own ethnicity brought serious consequences on members of their own family at a later point in time, David even permitting the Gibeonites to determine what form the justice should take (2 Sam 21:1-9)

Me thinks it would behoove the body of Christ in America to consider and apply the principles I’ve just unpackaged.

The following is my thought process based on these principles:

–Personally, I’m not commissioned by my government to enforce immigration law, but I am commissioned by my God to love the stranger, the poor, and the oppressed, regardless of their immigration status.

–I don’t view the changing ethnic make-up of our neighborhoods and our country as a threat to the American “way of life”. I view them as an amazing opportunity for me personally and the members of my church and God’s true followers nation-wide, to be able to obey the “great commission” (Matt 28:18-20) and have a direct, participatory role in helping Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 a reality….what a privilege!

–If those I serve and share Jesus with are here illegally and they are apprended and deported, I will weep with them, encourage them to stand strong as they face the justice of deportation that they deserve, view them as missionaries being sent to a needy field at government expense, and then maintain communication with them as they represent Jesus in their cities and among their own people.

–I don’t believe any country’s borders should be eliminated. I believe it’s every government’s responsibility to have immigration laws and enforce them. I don’t have a problem with a border fence, national ID cards, or any other reasonable steps a government takes to try to ensure the safety and success of it’s own people. But none of those things is the responsibility of the Kingdom of God…it’s priorities–the King’s priorities are usually quite opposite.

Let’s grab our motto back from the Blues Brothers: “we’re on a mission from God here”! And let’s thank God for those pesky Gibeonites and what it reveals about Him and the responsibilities of the citizens of His Kingdom.

5883glycerine_soap

Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality

I was in a grocery store line many years ago and TV Guide’s cover advertised an article entitled, “Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality.”  I thought that was about the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.  Soap Operas are all about prima donna drama, selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment.  These are the polar opposites of Biblical morality.  “That’s just plain dumb,” I thought, but I was so intrigued that I bought that issue of TV Guide.  I read the article, and by the end of it the author had me convinced that indeed, soap operas teach Biblical morality.

Here’s his premise: the Bible teaches that selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment will result in unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyless people.  What do we see on soap operas?  Unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyles people. Soap operas are a backhanded reinforcement of Biblical morality.  It would not ring psychologically true, even in our jaded culture, to have a program where people murder, commit adultery, lie, steal, hate, covet, scheme, etc., and live happy, joy filled, worry free lives.

Hollywood actors and actresses can glorify out-of-wedlock or extra-marital sex on the movie screen, but when their real life spouses commit adultery – they divorce.  They can’t get away from the moral standard impressed upon their hearts.  When people choose to live outside the moral standard of our Creator, any happiness and joy they seem to have is a cosmetic that has to be put on before leaving home to mask the basic discontent of their lives.

J. Budziszewski, in the September 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine, helps us understand why this is so.  In his article The Furies of Conscience, he artfully unfolds the way our conscience functions.

Conscience works in three different modes:

  • Cautionary – alerts us to peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it.
  • Accusatory – indicts us for the wrong we have already done.
  • Avenging – punishes the soul who does wrong and fails to heed the indictment of the accusation.

Conscience is therefore teacher, judge, or executioner, depending on what mode it is working: cautionary, accusing, or avenging.  It appears that the workings of conscience cannot be stopped – they can be ignored, but ignored at the peril of the one denying and hardening their conscience.

The article in its fullness will go a long way in informing and equipping the pastor in understanding how even the pagan or the backsliding Christian cannot escape the reach of conscience.  This will greatly aid you in counseling and preaching and understanding yourself.  It can be found at http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-07-027-f

I was convinced – soap operas teach Biblical morality.  No, they don’t preach against the vices that are portrayed, but they do demonstrate that those who live in these vices never experience the true joy of life and only find themselves broken again and again.  As pastors, counselors, and preachers, we can rest assured that a life of rebellion is an empty life, regardless of the smiles and the thrills that attend it.  Pastor, your church is filled with soap opera characters.  Like most churches, the soaps have no larger than life heroes – no Rockys, no Rambos, no Indiana Jones’.  They portray regular people living in the furies of conscience.  Many who listen to you Sunday after Sunday are being decimated by the furies of conscience. By Christ, we can see through the smiling faces into the broken hearts, we can see past the bling to the sting, and we can present a Savior who can silence the furies of conscience.  Biblical morality is inescapable – even by those so desperately seeking to overthrow it.

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Take a Vacation

I didn’t take a vacation for three years after coming to restart Valley Baptist Church.  I have no regrets for this.  I think there are seasons when sacrifice is required, but in year three I traveled a great deal.  I missed two Sundays traveling to Mongolia to visit missionaries in May, two weeks vacation in Lake Tahoe in July, and then two weeks visiting Israel for personal enrichment in September.  I almost never miss Sundays at Valley Baptist Church because I feel it is important for me to be there as the leader of the church, but in 2010 I missed 6 weeks and it helped the church regardless of my concerns!

Today, as you read this, I am in Spain preparing to come home after a two week vacation in Spain and detour trip to Italy to meet with a missionary from the church.

Here are some benefits to getting away:

1.  It allows the leaders to step up and run things while you are gone.  In the early years the planter does just about everything and it is hard to step back and delegate.  Leaving creates a real need that must be filled, or in other words it forces you to delegate things you do.  In this process, you will discover things you should not do as the leader.  After three years I had a solid team in place that could run things seamlessly without me.  I am not the linchpin at the church, going away proved it.  I believe my leaving allowed the church to mature even more.  I have found great liberation in learning that I am just a part of the body…not many parts of the body that keep it alive.

2.  It refreshes your soul.  There is something about disengaging from the daily grind that helps re-energize my passion for the ministry and zeal for preaching that is zapped through 52 weeks of preaching and ministering to the flock.  Getting away and restoring your soul does wonders for your ability to preach and teach with passion.  I believe getting away will help me stay in this battle for years to come.  I don’t want to become a statistic of the many pastors who burn out or crash and burn along the journey.

3.  Enjoying the family exclusively comes in these getaways.  I want to enjoy my family daily and to make memories that will stick with my kids for their lifetime.  Vacations are wonder ways to shut off the world and to focus on your own family exclusively for a few weeks.  I also love traveling overseas and meeting with missionaries.   I long to expose my two girls (ages 5 and 2) to the work that God is doing around the world.  So many Christians have such a narrow view of how God is working (i.e.  Republican United States…) Man, at the time of writing, I have two week till we fly out for vacation.  I can’t wait.

I can’t encourage you enough.  You must take time off for a vacation on a regular basis it will do wonders for you and the body you minister to!  Sorry if this is short, brief, or broken in thought…I have that “last day of school feeling” as I prepare for vacation!