General & Specific Revelation

I posted this blog before we actually launched this blog so I thought it would be worth a repost.

The arguments never seem to end.

There are those who argue that evangelism must come only through words. “The Gospel must be preached!” They yell.

Then there are those who argue that evangelism must come first through actions. “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.” They parrot (supposedly attributed to Francis of Assisi).

Both sides are very adamant that they are right and yell at the other camp. Well more honestly, one side yells and the other side shakes their heads condescendingly but in the name of love will not address it publicly. 🙂
So Christians are again finding themselves fighting against other Christians instead of outshining the lost in the cause of Jesus.

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For My Bi-vocational Homies

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21


The Clueless Pastor

I’ll never forget attending a conference in Washington two months into being a lead pastor.  It was the annual conference that Pastor Wayne Taylor and Calvary Fellowship put on, this time at Warm Beach in Washington state.  When me and my wife received the invitation for the conference I looked at Jen and said, “I need to get trained.  We’re going to this conference!”

Because one of the conference speakers had to cancel last minute there were a few hours that needed to be filled during the conference schedule.  Much to my dismay as an introvert, pastor Wayne decided that during the open times we would pass around a microphone and give each pastor the chance to stand up in front of the five or six-hundred people in attendance and request prayer for something specific in their lives or ministry.

I was really sweating it as the microphone was making its way to me.  I didn’t even feel qualified to be standing with the other pastors having only been “official” for a couple months.  Honestly, I even thought about trying to sit down and hope the mic would pass me without anyone noticing.  But rather than lie, I decided to stand and just be open when my turn to speak came.  So when I got the mic I simply said, “Hi. My name’s Kellen and I’m from Salmon, Idaho.  I’m twenty-five years old.  I’ve been a pastor for two months and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”  To my surprise the whole place broke out in spontaneous applause and laughter!  After the laughter died down I added (while shaking mind you), “Please just pray for continued confidence in the Lord’s enablement.”  And that’s what pastor Wayne prayed for me along with the other people.

“Confidence in the Lord’s enablement.”  I now believe that prayer request was Spirit-born.  I thought I was just being nervous.  But looking back now I can see that is exactly what I should’ve been praying for then, and what I need to be continually relying upon and praying for now seven years into vocational ministry.

Real Ministry = Pressure

Ministry is intense.  To be sure some seasons are more like a pressure-cooker than others, but ministry always brings with it heat and trials.  One of the most challenging times of my life was when I was pastoring a Calvary Chapel in rural Idaho.  During one particular season I was taking 20 credit hours from Calvary Chapel Bible College by correspondence, preaching Sunday mornings in Acts, leading the midweek study on Wednesday evenings in Genesis, teaching the new believer study on Tuesday nights, leading the leadership training class on Saturday mornings, doing all the administrative and counseling work for the church during the week, planning/leading worship and running the team rehearsal on Wednesday afternoons, learning how to be a pastor and a new dad at the same time, and working to stay fruitful and invested as a husband.  Looking back at that time I know I should be dead.  The only explanation for why my wife and I are still in the game is the supernatural enabling grace of the Holy Spirit!

Turning up the Heat

If that season of ministry was tough, church-planting was brutal.  Working forty hours a week, commuting nearly an hour one way to start shifts which were at times as early as 4:30 am (harsh for a non  morning-person), leading a men’s study on Tuesdays, a house church gathering on Wednesdays, preaching on Sundays, continuing to learn how to be a dad and stay invested as a husband, hear from God about location, vision, new leaders, and overall church-plant strategy were some of the many things I had to chip away at during our first year planting Refuge Church.  I praise God for the original planting team of five other adults and our three kids that were there helping through this process in so many ways.  With their help planting was brutal. Without their help I dare say it would’ve been impossible.

This month marks one year that I’ve been supported full-time by Refuge Church.  I’m so thankful to be in this spot.  I certainly don’t feel like I have any more time than I did when I was bi-vocational.  But I can at least spread my time with greater flexibility so as to get things done.  As I write this today I’m incredibly thankful for the unexpected but fast growth of our church.  I’m thankful that we are planning our seventieth baptism since launching two years ago which will take place in March.  I’m thankful for so many blessings of God that we’ve seen.  But one of the things I’m most thankful for are the co-laborers God has raised up to assist me.  God has given me seven other good men that are carrying the load of oversight.  One of them has already been ordained as a pastor at Refuge Church.  The six others are in our elder/pastor assessment and training process sharing the load with us.

As we wrap this post up I want to give encouragement to these men and others who are in shoes similar to theirs, and similar to those I’ve been in.  I want to encourage the bi-vocational guys with a few things that the Spirit has spoken to me at different times to keep me going when the pressures of jobs, school, family, and ministry have seemed too much in different seasons.  When the flames of trial are licking our face, we remember…


1. God is Sovereign 

When you’re bi-vocational your tendency is to stress over the fact that you can’t get done what you want to get done because you don’t have enough time in the day.  The enemy uses this dynamic to get us focused on “going full-time” so we can have more time.  Satan uses this to get us frustrated and discontent.  God’s sovereignty is the antidote to this unhealthy place of heart.  Do what you do have time for to the best of your ability and entrust the rest to Jesus, the real pastor of the church.  It is His harvest and work.  He can give you more time, a different job, or turn the hearts of those you feel may be holding you back.  If He isn’t doing those things than your job is to do what you can do faithfully and then rest in God’s sovereignty.

I recently heard a pastor say that though many preachers deliver beautiful and powerful messages on the sovereignty of God with their mouths, they preach a message of open-theism with their lives.  They say God is sovereign but their stress and micro-management preach that they are sovereign.  They say God is sovereign but their anger toward those not giving them their God-promised opportunity preach that those over them are sovereign.  So, our wives and families hear us preach God’s sovereignty in the Bible study, but at home they know dad believes everything really depends on him.  Rest in God’s sovereignty men.

 2. God is Sanctifying You Today 

This one can hurt.  Instead of asking “When will this end?” every five seconds when our circumstances are hard we need to spend more time asking “What is this for?”  God is more concerned about what He is doing in you through the instruments of life’s trials than He is concerned about what’s getting done through you.  There is no such thing as wasted suffering and pain for God’s people.  As hard as things can seem at times, if God is letting us go through trials it is because He intends to do something in us through them that will be more beneficial to us than it would have been had He let us skip the trial altogether.

3. God is Preparing you for Tomorrow 

The lessons we learn through ministry pressure and suffering are not just about us, but they’re about those we will lead in the future.  If you know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet as a poor and over-worked bi-vocational pastor, you will be a great comfort to those you counsel later in ministry who are struggling to make ends meet.  If you learn how to trust God through working a job you don’t enjoy with difficult co-workers, you will be a better counselor to others in similar situations.  When we suffer God is making us useable for future ministry opportunities.  As Dustin Kensrue wrote, “As long as we live every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart.”

4. God has given you a mission field

God could have you in any job.  He could have opened any opportunity He wanted for you.  But He gave you the job you have.  You are sent to your workplace every day as a missionary.  Until and unless God’s purpose for you being in the mission field of your job is complete, you will stay there.  How you stay there is up to you.  Will you be there grudgingly and complaining?  Or will you go to work every day with a sense of discovery praying toward fulfilling the purpose and touching the people Jesus has sent you to fulfill and bless?

5. Jesus is your Sabbath

The truth is that if you’re not satisfied in Jesus as a bi-vocational pastor then you won’t be satisfied in full-time ministry either.  I’ve chased the carrot of ministry opportunities only to discover that nothing I attain, and no opportunity of service I receive ever satisfies my heart if that’s what I’m expecting it to do.  I’ve had the chance to be involved with many types of ministry that most guys my age wait for years to enjoy.  But you know what my heart says every time I get to fulfill a ministry dream? “Well, it’s still not Jesus.”  Jesus is our Sabbath and our soul rest.  We tell people no job, experience, or relationship will satisfy them and that the hole in their heart must be filled with Jesus to be healed, and then we treat ministry as our idol expecting it to do what only Jesus can.  Let’s practice what we preach and be satisfied in Jesus alone.

Final Encouragement

To all my bi-vocational homies out there- Hang in there!  We love you, and so does your God!  God is stretching your capacity.  He is making you an instrument of grace for future use.  He is doing heart surgery in you so you can be spiritually healthy.  He is sovereign and also your sabbath rest.  Our goal isn’t to “go full-time.”  Our goal is to fulfill whatever role Jesus has for us to play in spreading His kingdom, die faithful, and enter into the joy of our Master with the title of “faithful servants.”  My prayer for you today is the prayer I requested for myself at that conference.  I’m praying for you that today and for the rest of your days you will enjoy continued confidence in the Lord’s enablement to fulfill your ministry, faithful to the end.


“You Can Act Like A Man!”

There are times in each of our lives, in each of our ministries, in the things that the Lord has us involved in, where we wind up losing sight of who He is and where He is in the situation. We become overwhelmed by fear. We take our eyes off of Him and put them on the circumstance(s). And this can cause major damage in those “good works, which He prepared beforehand for us to also walk in”.

We see great and mighty things where as others around us see only stormy waves and winds. We hear the Lord’s voice and find courage where others around us are overwhelmed by fear. We have the faith to cry out to the Lord and say things like, “If this really is You, Lord, command me to take a ‘step of faith’ and come out of where I am now and come to where you are!”

And to our shock and amazement, He does!

And we step ‘out of the boat’! And the work that He has called us out into is birthed and begins to take shape…even in the midst of the storms raging around us. And we seem to be momentarily unaware of the full force of the winds, and the height of the waves, and the ‘perilous risk’ we are taking, the apparent foolishness of leaving the comfort of where we were and stepping out to what seems to others as certain doom. From our vantage point we think ‘What a miracle! Look at what God is doing in and through us! God is so good. He is faithful to His word.’ And we become like men obsessed. Men who have a laser-like focus. We set our faces like flint to forge out into the thing Jesus has commanded us into and nothing shall dissuade us nor deter us! And we take those first steps, those crucial steps that must be taken, and we are happy to be the one to lay down out lives and all we are in order to be fully pleasing to Him.

But, after a step or two, we begin to hear the voices from the boat we stepped out of. Questioning, complaint, accusing…

…And we begin to sink. We lose sight of the Lord and His miraculous command which miraculously enables us to step out. We begin to ask ourselves, as we sit in the Lord’s presence, “How did I get here? What am I doing in this mess?” And we may even begin to wonder out loud, “I don’t know what to do…I don’t know what to do…”

When I hear a man say something along these lines (and believe me, I’ve said them myself) I often envision the Lord (played by Don Corleone) listening to me (played by Johnny Fontane) bemoan the fact of not knowing what to do now, leaping up grabbing me by the shoulders and yelling out, “You can act like a man!”  ‘smack’ “What’s a matter with you?…”

A man, more specifically, a godly man, one who has seen the Lord in the storm and sought the Lord as to His command to ‘step out of the boat’ into the impossible  and has actually done it, knows what is to be done in this situation. They put their trust in the Lord and place all of their eggs into one basket, so to speak, banking on nothing else and no one else to grab them by the hand and pull them from their floundering state and place their feet on “solid ground” again.

They cry out, “Lord, save me!”

Brethren, let us not lose heart if we find ourselves floundering and flailing in the work that He has gifted, called and enabled us for. Take your eyes off of man and cry out to the Lord…for He is mighty to save.

Extra Credit:

Don Corleone goes on after ‘exhorting’ Johnny. He says, “Do you spend time with your family?”

“Of course I do.”

“Good, because a man that never spends time with his family can never be a real man.”

Happy Valentines Day. Bless those wives and kids of yours by spending some time with them. 🙂


God’s Means of Grace for Ministry and Life

Been thinking about last week’s post by Jeff Jackson (“The Pulpit AND the People Skills of the Pastor—

For me, it’s a crucial topic. I have struggled with the people part of ministry, I do still struggle with it, and I will continue to struggle with it. It’s going to be with me … this struggle … until I fall asleep or the rapture comes. I’m resigned to that fact.

Because I don’t want to be one of those guys who lament, “Lord, the ministry would be wonderful, were it not for the people,” and because I do want to be one of those guys who act as Jesus’ assistant pastor … and therefore treat them as He does—I will work through these struggles.

I will utilize the means of grace the Lord has given us. I will rely upon:

1. My identity in Christ. No matter how well I do or how badly I do, I am not defined by people’s estimation of me. I’m defined by God’s view of me through His Son, which is the only wholly accurate measurement of my life. He loves me even though I may struggle with myself.

2. My calling to ministry. Paul told timid Timothy to wage the good warfare according to the prophecies that pointed to him (1 Timothy 1:18). I will remember that it was not my idea that I go into the ministry. Rather, it was a calling upon my life. I have very specific and supernatural events that I remember as part of that calling. I chew on these again and again, and am greatly encouraged.

3. The fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It was David who wrote Psalm 139. Even though he was a man of great strength, he also had his weaknesses. I am probably more introvert than extrovert, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, God made me that way. I can be comfortable in my own skin.

4. His strength being perfected in my weakness. Weaknesses are opportunities for grace. My confession of relational weakness results in sufficient grace being poured into my life. This grace enables me to overcome insufficiencies, to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

5. God’s anointing upon my life. When Jesus told the man with the withered hand to stretch out that hand, He was telling him to do something that he may have never done. Yet, Jesus’ command was His promise of Divine enablement, when obeyed by faith. As this man obeyed Jesus and relied upon His word/commandment, Jesus gave him the ability to do something he was incapable of doing in the natural. Jesus commands me to be a pulpit pastor and a people pastor. He will enable me.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, {6} who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant… (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

6. His school of relationships. I have always thought that if I can do it at home, I can do it anywhere. The home is a classroom for all of life. The things I am learning in my marriage are totally transferable. If I trust the Lord to help me apply 1 Peter 3:7, I can trust Him to extend the application to the body of Christ.

7. The word of God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the power of prayer. These are the staples of our walks with Christ. The word teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, trains us in righteous living, matures us, and equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit empowers us for service and provides overcoming grace against the power of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Prayer is the way we access the Bible’s  truth and the Spirit’s strength.

I’m stopping after number seven. It’s the number of completion, so I must be done.  Cool

Magnets — The pulpit AND the people skills of the pastor.

I’m in the midst of discipling, mentoring, and preparing another young man for ministry as a senior pastor.  I’ve done this with a handful of guys over the years both in the U.S. and abroad and I totally enjoy the process.  Whether I’m training a pioneer church planter or someone to step into the role as the senior pastor of an existing church that is making a transition to a new pastor, there are a few foundational principles that I believe are extremely valuable to pass on to them.

Over the past few weeks both in Phoenix and in my recent trip to the San Diego area to teach the Perspectives course, I have met with quite a few pastors and other people who are in various forms of full-time ministry or who are missionaries.  The subject of the “church” always seems to come up and we inevitably begin sharing our views of what “doing church” looks like now and how it may need to be radically altered in the not so distant future.  And as you know if you read this blog at all, these are the kinds of issues that are regular topics on this blog.

It does seem to me that what all of us acknowledge and are mostly in agreement with is the reality that technology and the unlimited availability anyone has to access great bible teaching 24 hours a day, is probably going to be more and more of a game changer in the way we “do” church.

In the “old days” the local church pastor’s ability to teach and preach God’s Word was the primary magnet for drawing in and then keeping new people.  In many ways, if the average person wanted to hear God’s Word proclaimed in a relevant way to where they were living, the pulpit ministry of the local church was really the only place to find that.  At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, the strength of the magnet that the pulpit was in times past has probably lessened to some degree and will probably continue to do so.

Because of this new paradigm we’re in, a paradigm that I believe will continue and thus require greater and greater consideration by the leadership of local churches, the Lord has shown me that a couple of the key principles that He taught me and that I’ve passed on to men preparing for pastoral work are more relevant than ever.  Here’s a summary of two of those principles:

1.  When you’re new to the role of the being a senior pastor, (or the regular guy in the pulpit), you’re ability to teach God’s Word will NOT be what draws people in or what keeps people in the church.  Honestly, most new guys just aren’t that good at teaching God’s Word!  Looking back on my own pulpit history, it’s painfully clear that my ability to communicate God’s Word wasn’t the primary tool God used to build the churches I pioneered.

What does God use to draw and keep the people?

2.  You’re willingness to engage people in real relationship.  When you take the initiative to spend time with individuals and families in their homes and of course, while they’re at church, and transparently share your story and genuinely probe them to find out their stories, people respond.  When they know that your desire is not just to feed them from the pulpit, (which you aren’t that good at right now anyway), but to sincerely tend them, (John 21:15-17), they are more likely to choose to be a part of what God is calling you to lead.

The people will hang with you because they are known and loved by someone who is also willing to be known and loved–while your teaching skills increase.  In other words, your relationships with them will give you the slack you need in order to develop your teaching gift.

With where things are at now and where they are headed in our culture, these two points are even more important.  Because the local church is no longer the primary place or source to obtain solid bible teaching and because of the priority that personal relationships and “community” seem to have among younger people, it’s probably time to concentrate on increasing the strength of another magnet.  We must certainly maintain and keep strong the pulpit magnet because the competition is incredible.  But the times seem to indicate that if we neglect the magnet of real relationship and community and are unwilling to take that magnet out of the walls of our church buildings, rust and less useful to God may be ahead.


Why I Don’t Fight the Translation Wars

I called Calvary Costa Mesa in 1985 and told them that I would like to affiliate the church I pastored with Calvary Chapel.  They said, “Great, we’ll put you on the list.”  I’ve been a Calvary pastor ever since.  I know, times have changed.

I had used the New American Standard Bible since January of 1972.

By the way, NASB means ‘Now and Always, Slightly Better.’  Wink

It was required for exegesis, memory work, and homiletics at the Bible College I attended. I had grown quite familiar with its rhythms and patterns and accustomed to its cadence and pace.  But I thought, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  I knew that CC used the KJV.  I knew that I would not use the KJV, but I seriously thought about switching to the New King James Version.  But before I did…

I have discovered that the question to ask isn’t: “What is the best translation?”  That question can start fistfights in the lobby after service!  I didn’t ask myself whether the NKJV was a better translation than the NASB – or vice-versa.  I asked the question: “Which is the best Greek text underlying the various translations?”  The KJV is based upon the Greek manuscripts comprising the Textus Receptus, while the NASB is based upon the eclectic text – a compilation of Greek texts discovered subsequent to the translation of the KJV from the Textus Receptus.  After some study I came to the conclusion that the Textus Receptus is not superior to the eclectic text nor is the eclectic text superior to the Textus Receptus.  And somewhere in the middle of this I decided to retain my use of the NASB.

While reading the literature of the translation wars that accuse the NASB of downplaying the deity of Christ or the KJV of butchering the Greek at this place or scolding the NIV for obscuring the text at that other place, I wearied of it all.  It seemed to me that the accusations were overall petty and I could not, with intellectual integrity, follow to the conclusion of a completely flawed translation.  There are places in all of them that could stand some revision, but to throw them out wholesale as the devil’s work seemed foolish and agenda driven.  (“Well, what about ‘The Message’?”  That’s a paraphrase and not a translation and so it is outside the scope of this article.)

I think I am post-modern when it comes to translations – preference wins out.  I don’t think that one is better than the other.  That’s why I don’t fight the translation wars.  If, after hearing me preach from the Slightly Better version, someone comes and tells me that they use the NIV, NKJV, HCSB, EB, BEE, ESV, etc., I say, “Praise the Lord.”  If they tell me that they will continue to use their “New World Translation”, we’ll have a fistfight in the lobby!

Anti Rights?

One of the hot political topics over the last several years has been the issue of marriage as it relates to the LGBT or homosexual community. With the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision today and 2012 being a major election year, we’re certainly going to be hearing a lot of rhetoric surrounding this topic once again.

This has become a major rallying point for many in the conservative community, especially the [incredibly] influential evangelical movement in America. The standard position among Evangelical Christians has been one against the redefining of marriage. Thus many conservatives have funded campaigns to legally define marriage as being between a man and a women. At the outset I want to make it very clear that I believe and agree with the conservative position on this issue.

This is a theological issue. God ordained marriage as being between a man and a woman. Every culture has a basic framework for this family relationship because every culture grew out of God’s initial creation as described in the book of Genesis. The question I seek to tackle here is how we, the church, ought to engage in this discussion as we move forward into the 21st century.

This is a divisive issue. As a result of its divisiveness, it is used (like abortion and immigration) as a political weapon in campaigns to pit groups against one another and influence votes. Other than division, very little ever results from the political campaign rhetoric.

Losing the war of words

This debate has shifted, and although some “battles” have been won on the conservative side, the momentum has begun to slide to the other side, because the phraseology of the debate has changed. Such as in the debate over abortion, where we, conservatives, are now deemed “anti-abortion”, whereas they are “pro-choice”. Likewise, an ever so slight wording change has shifted the discussion over marriage. The discourse has moved from that of marriage to civil rights. We are now the “anti-rights” camp, and they, “pro-rights.” As a result, the generation called “Millennials” (those born between 1980 and 2000) are now moving into voting age and are largely pro gay marriage. Millennials will be the largest voting demographic for the next generation, therefore, as it stands now, within the next 20 years we will see the legalization of homosexual marriage in America (as well as the likely legalization of marijuana). This presents us, the church, with an incredibly difficult situation. Or is it actually an opportunity?

Changing the debate

I do believe that there is a better way wherein we can turn this discussion around, while maintaining a footing from which the church can speak into our culture in the years to come.

I do not know a single American Christian who does not love his/her civil liberties. That being the case, we should agree with the LGBT community that they should not in any way be denied civil liberties. This is not a religious issue, it’s constitutional. We are quick to cry foul when we think our rights are being infringed upon but not so quick to do so when the rights of others are endangered. We must be consistent in our position, therefore we ought to be pro rights in this area also. The question is, how can we be pro rights while maintaining a biblical position?

Yes, we believe that homosexual behavior is sin. We do not think that the institution of marriage can be redefined, for it was ordained and defined by God. Therefore, since marriage is a religious institution, and the public sector of our nation desires to maintain a separation of church and state, we the church, ought to petition our government to remove themselves from the discussion of marriage, by having them refuse to continue in providing marriage licenses. In the place of marriage licenses the government should grant civil unions only. They would determine who receives such unions and the rights associated with them. (As a side note, the government needs to clearly define who should receive such rights, as we are quickly moving in a direction wherein we have no ability to draw a line between who receives rights and who does not. In such a case we would have no ground from which to say that polygamist, pedophile or incestuous unions could not be valid).

If the church would spearhead this move, we would carry the discussion in a whole new direction. Marriage would maintain its religious definition as being a God ordained union between a man and a woman. Churches would continue to preform marriages under God’s ordered institution, while requiring those being married to also receive a legal civil union through the state, and then, we would no longer be portrayed as those taking rights from those seeking them.  Additionally, I think such a move by the church would bring to light that many within the LGBT community have a deeper motivation than the legal redefinition of marriage.

This is, by the way, not a new or original idea; Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz wrote on the subject in an LA Times op-ed in December of 2003, and many others have weighed in since that time.  There may be a number of issues I am overlooking as I open this discussion, but at the very least I think it is a discussion we need to have.


Strain Out The “Hype” Flies

Ecclesiastes 10:1   Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.

Solomon tells us that a small thing can negatively affect a great thing.

I wish to address what may be a small thing.

There is a tendency among some church to hype things.

The word “hype” is defines as follows.


verb (used with object)

1.  to stimulate, excite, or agitate (usually followed by up ): She was hyped up at the thought of owning her own car.

2.  to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight.

3.  to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually followed by up ).


4.  exaggerated publicity; hoopla.

5.  an ingenious or questionable claim, method, etc., used in advertising, promotion, or publicity to intensify the effect.

Some church leadership leans in this direction.  In an effort to engage congregants and attract the unbelieving world, efforts are made to convince people that they need to be at the next conference, outreach, teaching series, church service, or other event.

Words and phrases like “life changing”, “revolutionary”, “once in a lifetime” or “epic” are used repeatedly. I wonder if these words actually have lost their meaning to many people.

Every pastor or lay minister believes in the power of God and the power of the Gospel to change lives.  I do not mean to downplay godly efforts that are blessed by our loving God.

What I am concerned with is the overstatement which some church leaders think is needed in order to convince people that they ought to attend the next event.

Are some churches inadvertently creating an “artificial excitement” and hyping people and events up, believing that necessary way to convince people to attend?

Are we creating a Pavlovian response in the people, in that they feel they need to be excited because the church leaders are excited, and that the next event will be epic? It is almost as if “excitement breeds excitement”, as opposed to “Jesus breeds excitement”.

Please understand that I am all for being excited about the work we do.  I think it is great to read a facebook post from a pastor who is excited to teach a passage, and who is inviting his church to be there.  A shared excitement is not what concerns me.

What does concern me are the “little flies in the ointment”, in which the pastor takes the next step ever so slightly.  Pastoral excitement seamlessly turns into a gentle and/or extreme hyping up of the congregant.  The importance of the next series, or the newest book by the pastor, is treated as a “must see, must have, must do” opportunity that the congregant dare not miss.

We who preach are all about cause and effect.  We want people to be affected for their personal blessing, and for the glory of God.  We want them to be affected for the purposes of the kingdom of God. We want to see people changed.  Are we trusting that Jesus and the Gospel are enough of a “cause” to bring to right affect/effect?

The question we must ask ourselves is this:  Am I ever so slightly using carnal means to accomplish this?  Are the godly intentions and biblical methods that I use, being slightly affected by the “little flies in the ointment”?  Am I planting a mixed crop of godly living which is stirred up by mixed methods and reasoning that nudge the flesh in barely discernable ways?

Are my thoughts subjective and possibly wrong?  Absolutely.  Am I in the place of rightly judging how another pastor reaches people.  That is not my place.  I have my opinions, but I have been wrong many times.

Or, there may be truth is this.

May we who serve Jesus and serve people be ruthless in our self examination of such things.

May we be careful to strain out “the little flies in the ointment”.