Rules That Kill

It is true that Christianity often misrepresents the heart of God. That can be said of many other religious groups as well, but I will comment on Christianity and its misuse of the commandments of God.

It takes spiritual maturity to understand the heart of God which is behind a commandment of God. When considering the commandments of God, we must try to understand God’s intentions, not just His words. Why does God issue forth commandments for men to live by? What are His motives? Is God capricious in His decisions about how man should live, or is there a Loving Heart behind those Well Known Words. Are we to simply obey the commandments of God, and not be interested in God’s intentions?

In Matthew 12, we see Jesus confronted and spiritually attacked by the Pharisees, who were the religious legalists of the day. They were the so-called experts in what God had said, but they had lost all understanding in why God had said what he said. They had taken the laws of God, and expounded upon them. They had taken the simplicity of God’s Laws, which were intended for man’s good, and had written commentaries on them. They had created ridiculous scenarios about what God did and didn’t mean.


We read…
Matthew 12:1-8
 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” 3But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

When Jesus spoke of “mercy instead of sacrifice”, He meant this: Human life is more important than blind allegiance to the misapplication of a commandment of God.

The commandments were given to protect men, and to draw them close to God, that they might see His glory, and know His holiness. They were not given to punish men, and withhold blessings from them.

In the Old Testament economy, one could bring his sacrifice to God, but be unmerciful to his brother. Was that what God wanted? Would it have been right to withhold assistance to someone in need so that the worshiper could bring a sacrifice to God? Should people go hungry because of a misapplication of God’s law regarding work on the Sabbath? Should a man go on being crippled, when Jesus could heal him on the Sabbath? Should a man leave a sheep struggling and dying in a ditch, in order to “please God”, and not “work” on the sabbath?

Jesus exposed the poor logic and the hard hearts that these legalists had. They exalted man made religion over the needs of humanity. Jesus reminded them about when David had violated the Law of God to save life, instead of obeying the law and allowing life to be destroyed. We must understand the heart of God and His motivations in giving us His Laws.

May we not be guilty of the same sin as those legalists. May we understand both the holiness of God’s laws, and the value of every human life.

Israel – Part 2

I received several great responses to the questions I posed in my last post; exactly what I was hoping for when I posted them. So with this post I’d like to give some of my own answers.

What should be the response of the church to National Israel in the last days?

I think it should stir us to be keenly aware of what God is doing [prophetically] in our day. As I see it the Nation of Israel’s regathering and existence in these days is fulfillment of both Old and New Testament prophecies. I do recognize that my amillennial brothers (Daniel) will not agree, but you will one day 😉 (sorry I had to). Therefore, I think that the church should respond by doing just what Matthew 24 and 25 say in parable, be watching, waiting and continue working for the glory of Christ’s kingdom.

That said, I’m concerned that we (the evangelical church in America) sometimes turn a blind eye to certain unethical dealings of National Israel because, “Well, they’re ISRAEL.” Israel is an incredibly secular society filled with sinful people who need Jesus and therefore we ought to respond evangelistically. Yeah, I know, that’s a given.

How should we interpret and apply Paul’s words “To the Jew first” in the context of 21st century Christianity?

Let me preface my remark by saying, James Class, I totally respect your desire to serve among the Jewish People in Israel. I believe your heart for this was developed in prayer and by seeking God’s direction. Therefore, if any leader comes to the same conclusion by seeking the Lord for missions strategies, I applaud them.

That said, I don’t believe, as a general rule of missiology that the church should begin all missions endeavors by beginning with “the Jew first.” Furthermore, Jesus commission to His disciples, to begin at Jerusalem, move to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts, should not be held over all that we do in fulfilling the commission. In other words, a church in New Mexico doesn’t need to send missionaries to Jerusalem or Jews before they go to Africa or China. I think the principle has more to do with doing at home and in your own sphere first what you plan to do else where in missions.

How should we interpret and apply Paul’s words “To the Jew first” then? Just as they were intended to be when Paul wrote them. The gospel, by order of who it came by, came first to the Jewish people, but was never God’s intent to stay only with them. The power and magnitude of the gospel is not only for Jews. Praise God, it’s for us non-Jew gentiles too.

Should the evangelization of lost Israel take precedent over other lost peoples?

In line with the last answer, I don’t believe so. Lost peoples are lost peoples and there are a lot more lost non-Jews than there are lost Jews. Fact is we need more people fulfilling the great commission everywhere.

Does the promise of Genesis 12:3 (i.e. “I will bless those who bless you…”) mean that we—the church—should seek to bless, monetarily, the nation of Israel to receive a blessing ourselves?

So I’ll admit, this is kind of a trick question. If you read carefully you’ll note that I said “seek to bless… to receive a blessing.” I point this out because I believe the worst form of giving is giving that gives for the purpose of getting. This is akin to prosperity teaching that says, “You give to the Lord and you’re sowing a seed, you’re going to get tenfold, maybe even a hundredfold in return.” I am [personally] bothered when I hear people encourage physical or monetary blessing to the nation or people of Israel so that we can get a blessing in return.

Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? Do Muslims?

This may be the toughest question of the lot. It is, however, a relevant question to ask in light of discussion this past month  prompted by some articles surrounding Pastor Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s reported associations with Muslims in Orange County, CA.  I’m not sure I have the best answer for this, my own question, but I do have a few thoughts.

True worship of God must be offered through Jesus Christ as He is God, and [is] the way by which we are given access to God. Some could argue that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God, but I’d say that only worship offered in Christ is acceptable to God. Therefore, worship of the right God in the wrong way is [essentially] idolatry and therefore sinful. To this I would add that Muslims have a far greater respect for Jesus than Jews (twice in the last 6 months I’ve had Jewish Rabbi’s make rather condescending/mocking remarks about Jesus to me, that wouldn’t happen from a Muslim), which is, at least, an interesting thought for consideration.

Like the scribe of Mark 12, I think there are many Muslims in the world who are “not far from the kingdom of God.”

Seeking that Still Small Voice

I have to admit that I am in a transitional season in my life. Newly transplanted in the Pacific Northwest, transitioning into the Senior Pastor position at Crossroads Community Church, changes are everywhere. I have moved from young, small churches to a very large and established church. New surroundings and experiences. New challenges and events. But truly the biggest change that is happening is in my own heart. God is doing something in me.

I have realized in a new and profound way how loud our world has gotten. I have always been a fan of technology. I have always been an early adopter. But whether it is the Twittesphere, the blogosphere, the new Facebook crazes, viral YouTube videos, so much of it is just straight up noise. For some time I have been noticing how most of the internet chatter is just a regurgitation of a few profoundly gifted people. I find myself waking up and checking the phone first off, Twitter, Facebook, email, texts. All noise I tell you. I have no less than three noise devises on my person at any given time. How many of us find ourselves staring at our devises while people, true and living images of God, are right in front of us being ignored? How many of us hide behind our emails or computers while there is a vast and lost world needing to be connected with in Jesus’ name?

Deep within my heart there is a longing for the simplicity of the still small voice of God. The voice that doesn’t pander to celebrity or the winds of culture. The voice that speaks of love, community, hope and redemption. It’s that voice that doesn’t live in our superficial divides over theology or ministry style. It’s the voice that is deeply Biblical without being legalistic or superficial. It has nothing to do with the proclivities of modern evangelicals and the various camps. That voice has everything to do with love and truth. The voice that wants to help us help others see God’s grace at work in their lives and circumstances.

I have also realized that that still small voice is terrifying renegade. We come seeking one thing and we get another thing. We have wants/desires/hopes/dreams and we get God’s alternative and deeply perplexing agenda. We want to do and God says don’t do. We want reward when God says decrease. We want American dreams spiritually fulfilled and instead we get our status quo called into question and new and terrifying horizon energized.

I cannot speak for you. But for me, I am seeking that still small voice.

The Real Saint Patrick: His Life and Mission


Saint Patrick, the great fifth century Christian missionary to Ireland, has historically been a most intriguing and obscure figure to the Christian church, as well as the entire world. Countless myths and legends have been told about this man. Many poems and stories have been written about him. Many theologians and missiologists have debated extensively on his religious allegiance and missionary philosophy. The question is can anything be agreed upon about Saint Patrick? In all of the hype and interest generated by his life and mission, is there anything that can be known for sure about him in the twenty-first century?

This writing is an to attempt to give an account of the facts generally agreed upon by students of this intriguing man with the goal of painting as accurate a picture of his true life and mission as possible. The life and mission of Saint Patrick are a most fascinating and edifying study, and I’m excited to share some of what can be known about them.


Patrick was born sometime in the late fourth century between the years 385-390 A.D. in the area known today as northeast England. His people were called Britons. They were a Celtic people that had been Romanized under the Christian Roman Empire which in part encompassed modern-day England. Thus, Patrick was culturally very Roman and disconnected from his Celtic roots. The Britons spoke mainly Latin and an early form of Welsh. Patrick was born into an aristocratic, wealthy, and religious family. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon in the Roman Church and owned at least two estates. Not much is known about his mother.

Patrick seems to have been a fairly average boy in his early childhood. He went to school where he learned Latin (the common language at the time due to the influence of Rome) and Welsh, which was the more native and peasant tongue of the British Isles. Though his parents were actively involved in church and Patrick had grown up going to Mass, Patrick was at best a very lukewarm Christian in his younger days. Through a series of tragic events set in motion when he was a young man, his life, and especially the state of his lax Christian devotion, would change forever.


When Patrick was just sixteen years old he was taken captive along with many of his family’s servants when Irish pirates raided one of his father’s estates near the west coast of Britain at a town called Bannavem Taberniae. Patrick was forced onto a ship which sailed away to Ireland where he was sold in the slave market to a tribal chief and Druid named Miliuc Moccu Boin. The chief put Patrick to work tending his cattle herds in the Irish countryside.

Patrick remained enslaved for six years. It was during this time that he came to know the truth of Romans 8:28— “And we know that God causes all things work together for good to those that love God, to those that are called according to His purpose…” in experience. In his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West Again, George G. Hunter writes about the three key changes that Patrick went through during his time in captivity:

“During his years of enslavement, Patrick experienced three profound changes. First, the periods when Patrick was isolated in the wilderness herding cattle connected him with what theologians call the ‘natural revelation’ of God. He sensed with the winds, the seasons, the creatures, and the nights under the stars the presence of God; he identified this presence with the Triune God he had learned about in the Catechism. In his more or less autobiographical ‘Declaration’ Patrick tells us, ‘After I had arrived in Ireland I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me and my faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times every day and in the night nearly as often.’ Patrick became a devout Christian and the change was obvious to his captors.  Second, Patrick changed in another way during the periods he spent with his captors in their settlement. He came to understand the Irish Celtic people and their language and culture…Third Patrick came to love his captors, to identify with them, and to hope for their reconciliation to God. One day, he would feel they were his people.”


Thus, Patrick was converted, and now God had plans for him. In the sixth year of Patrick’s captivity he received a vision from God in which he was told that he was to escape his slavery and that a ship was waiting to take him home to Briton. A voice told him, “You are going home! Look! Your ship is ready!” Patrick rose from his sleep and fled from his captors to find a ship waiting for him. He attempted to acquire permission to sail home on the ship but the captain refused him. Patrick began praying and he tells us in his aforementioned Declaration that before his prayer was even completed God had changed the captain’s heart and he began calling for Patrick to come aboard. So Patrick made the 200 mile trip back to his homeland and people in Briton as the Holy Spirit had prophesied to him.

Once back home Patrick had hardly settled in when he would receive another word from God, this time functioning as his call to be the first missionary Bishop to Ireland, his place of captivity. John Holmes documents the extraordinary event:

One night he had a vision in which he saw a man named Victoricus coming to him with a great number of letters. He read the title of one which said, ‘THE CRY OF THE IRISH’ and at that moment he seemed to hear the voice of the people who lived by the Wood of Volcut which is by the western sea. Unitedly they said, ‘Holy youth we are asking you to come and walk among us again.’ Patrick was so moved that he could read no more…It would seem that from that moment there was born in his heart a burden to bring the Gospel to that nation from which he says, pointedly, ‘I was only just able to escape.’”


Upon receiving this divine commissioning Patrick determined to prepare himself for his destiny as a missionary to Ireland. He began studying the Celtic people and Irish language intently as his heart flamed for them. He also began to be very active in his local church. He became a Deacon and in a short time was elevated to the office of Bishop. Shortly after receiving his bishopric he left his homeland again for Ireland; this time not as a captive of pirates, but as the slave of Christ for the Gospel to the Irish. It was the year 432 A.D.


The Irish people that Patrick would serve were, in Roman terms, very much uncivilized. They had no organized cities, no real road systems, and they had no unified form of government. They moved in small nomadic groups through the rough countryside and forests of Ireland living off the land. The people lived in tribes (clans) that consisted mainly of extended family. Patrick knew that he would have to be innovative when it came to ministering to them. He would not be able to simply plant parish churches in the traditional sense near a populated city as the Church had done everywhere else. There were no such cities. He had to find new methods to reach a different culture.

So what did he do? Patrick’s method of reaching these tribal nomadic people was what we would call “contextualization” in missiological terms today. It seems that his practice was to seek out the leaders of the tribal settlement he went into in hopes of either converting them or at least getting permission to serve amongst them for strategic purposes. Next, he would engage people in conversation and service ministry for relationship building while looking for receptive individuals within the clan. He would pray for physically impaired and demon possessed people as well as assist in mediating conflicts between tribesmen. He would engage in open air preaching.

In all of this he did a great deal of contextualizing. For example, the Irish people were very musical and poetic, so Patrick employed the use of these art forms which made sense to them culturally in an attempt to communicate the truth of the Bible in ways they would understand. He wrote worshipful lyrics set to Celtic tunes for them to sing and portrayed biblical images for them in Celtic forms of visual arts. This enhanced his ability to communicate the message of Jesus to them effectively.

As groups of people began to be born-again through Patrick’s gospel teaching, instead of forcing them to become culturally Roman he would allow and encourage them to express the essence of real Christianity in Celtic forms. The most fascinating way he did this was by creating what Hunter calls “monastic communities” instead of Roman cathedrals. These were essentially the native Irish version of a church-plant. The monastic community lived the Christian life together in a circularly built fort. They would meet multiple times a day for worship and prayer, and in the evening for a biblical message every night. They lived together, worked together, ate together, and worshiped together. It was an extremely tightly knit body of believers that lived all of the Christian life in vibrant spiritual community. In his book Church History in Plain Language,Bruce Shelley said of these communities that, “…the monastic community, maintaining itself on the land, fitted the agricultural communities of the Celts better than the parish-church system so common in the Roman Empire.”


The main method of outreach from within the monastic community was that of hospitality. They had a guest house in a sectioned off portion of the community that was by far more comfortable than any other dwelling used by the believers themselves. They would love and serve every visitor that came to them and live the life of Christ out before them. Patrick considered himself and the believers in these communities accountable to God to serve this way because of his biblical conviction that believers are each a “letter of Christ.” He wanted the message of the love of Jesus to be communicated without words to unbelievers through their lifestyles of love and grace. They wanted to influence the lost into the faith by extending the love and Person of Christ to them in behavior and community.


Patrick’s method of contextualizing the gospel in presentation and the essence of Christian community in Celtic cultural expression proved very successful in the conversion of massive amounts of Irish people. Though much of Ireland is said to have remained unconverted upon his death in 460 A.D. there is thought to have been thousands of Christian converts in Ireland due to his ministry. Some estimate that there may have been as many as one-thousand believers in some of the individual larger monastic communities.


However, in spite of Patrick’s success in Ireland, his missionary years spent there were not all easy. In his Declaration Patrick writes of being persecuted, slandered, and even enslaved as many as three more times during his ministry. Things weren’t always easy for his converts either. In fact, one of the two original writings of Saint Patrick (unanimously held as authentic by scholars) which the world has access to today is a letter in which he rebukes a local ruler for allowing his men to brutally murder and pillage a group of freshly baptized believers and to sell their young women.

Clearly the most cutting opposition Patrick endured during his ministry was that of the disapproval of his tactics later expressed by the very church and people who had once affirmed and sent him out to serve Ireland. The traditional minds of the people in his hometown did not accept Patrick’s replacing of the culturally Roman aspects of Christianity with culturally Celtic expressions. Patrick clearly wrote from a distressed heart in addressing this issue in his Declaration.

The far-reaching missional impact of Saint Patrick’s ministry is impressive. Historians point to Ireland as becoming a mission work launching pad for years to come after the death of Patrick. It served as the home-base for missionary endeavors for the eventual evangelization of Britain, Germany, and Switzerland to name a few. An example of the great Irish missionaries that are said to have been products of Patrick’s work years earlier were men like Columbanus. A century after Patrick, Columbanus led the missionary charge into the above mentioned countries and established them as centers for evangelistic efforts.


Another thing that has been perpetuated throughout history ever since Patrick’s death is what seems to be a never ending debate between Catholics and Protestants over whether or not Patrick was what people today would consider a good Catholic or more of today’s evangelical theological persuasion. Patrick seems to be an interesting mix of both camps. While he was certainly an ordained Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Roman Empire (which certainly means he had practices and beliefs in common with today’s Catholicism), even a quick reading of his Declaration makes clear that his single most emphasized teaching was that of the simple gospel of grace. That fact shows that he was very evangelical even though the term was not yet used. It seems he was Roman Catholic by tradition, but evangelical in the essence of his gospel faith. This is abundantly clear from this quote taken from his Declaration in which he wrote of his purpose and success, “For I am very much God’s debtor who gave me such great grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth as he once had promised through his prophets.” The words “grace…reborn…and faith” in this quotation say it all.


Patrick’s life serves as a reminder to us that our circumstances are never out of the plan or control of God. Patrick was taken prisoner when he was just sixteen and was in captivity until he was twenty-two. I think Patrick must have been confused and lonely and wondered at times (even after his conversion) if God could or would help him. Yet, by the end of Patrick’s life it is absolutely clear that his time in captivity is exactly what he needed to go through to become the missionary warrior God wanted him to be. God was there the whole time working things out for His glory and Patrick’s good, no matter how bleak things probably seemed.

I have certainly never experienced anything like being taken captive for six years, but I have been through things like family divorce, physical affliction, and more. So in terms of application, I believe God would remind us through the life of Saint Patrick that our past is not an accident, and our present and future are not out of God’s control. God has allowed or caused everything we come into contact with because he wants to use it now or in the future to prepare us to effectively serve others for His glory. This is the truth in our hardships.

Holmes, J. M. The Real Saint Patrick. Belfast, N. Ireland: Ambassador Productions, 1997.

Hunter, George G. III. The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language 2nd Edition. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.


4 Questions & Knowing God’s Will

So many today are caught in the snare of wanting to “Know God’s Will” for their lives before they even lift a finger in saying or doing anything for the Kingdom of God.

I’ve boiled down a few thoughts and have come up with 4 questions I ask people to think through and answer regarding this quandary.

1) If you could do anything for the Kingdom of God, without thought of cost, how you would provide for it, etc., what would it be? Be Specific. (i.e. “What are you passionate about?”)


2)Who could you share this thought with to begin praying about it together? Could they come alongside you and help you do this?


3) What would be being produced in 5-10 years? What would be the fruit of your labors? How is it bringing glory to God?


4)What is stopping you from doing it?


It’s been really encouraging to see the reactions I get from different people I have talked through this process with, especially among the Millenials. Helping them begin to articulate the desires of their hearts into possible tangible steps that are feasible is exciting.

But it’s the last question that always stops them in their tracks, so to speak. It’s one thing to “Dream” about what they would love to do for the Kingdom of Jesus, investing their lives in such a way, but  a whole different animal to actually put feet to your passion and step out in the thing.

The Requirement of Self-Discipline

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”(1 Corinthians 9:27)

The Corinthian church gave Paul the apostle grief in certain areas … seems like there was a small but rebellious group within the fellowship that thought it necessary to challenge him regarding his style and his approach to ministry. Therefore, Paul the apostle thought it important to biblically explain and defend his actions. In doing so, he set the tone for all future ministers of the gospel.

Their issue with Paul centered around his rights as a minister. Among other things, they claimed that he (and Barnabas) should not be allowed to refrain from working (to wholly dedicate themselves to preaching and teaching). In other words, they had no right to full-time financial support.

Paul’s response presented a masterful scriptural case that paves the way for preachers of the gospel to receive material support in their ministries (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-14).

But this privilege is accompanied by responsibility (1 Corinthians 9:15-23). Even though the minister can and may receive a salary, it’s not a given that he do so. In Paul’s case, he refused financial support so he could offer the gospel free of charge. He reasoned that because this was his calling from God and the stewardship he’d received from Him, he should approach things this way. Woe to him if he didn’t preach the gospel! In fact, his ministry required him to radically adjust to each group he sought to reach. He would become all things to all men, that he might save some.

Paul’s approach to ministry is an example to all who minister in Christ’s name. And, Paul’s example requires a great deal of self discipline. A minister who develops a love for the world’s flavors will have a hard time avoiding self-indulgent attitudes. A minister who fails to see his calling as a mandate and stewardship will think that his service is optional, and that he is free to live for himself.

As a pastor of many years, I have observed a lot just by watching (quote from Yogi Berra). In some cases, I have seen leaders devolve into having the wrong vision for their service. They start to focus on the development of the organization, instead of the development of the people. As the organization grows, so does the capacity for them to draw a nice salary, live in a nice home, drive nice cars, and have a very comfortable lifestyle. If they’re not careful, this becomes their new treasure, and their heart will most surely follow (Matthew 6:21). Instead of valuing God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of the Great Commission, they value the “growth” of the church, which usually means growth in numbers and budgets and buildings and programs.

It requires self-discipline to maintain the correct vision and goals in life. After all, what are we here for?

Paul compares his own personal approach to self-discipline with that of a high-level athlete (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The athlete runs to win; the athlete is temperate (has self-control) in all things. The athlete competes for the crown at the end of the race. In other words, the athlete will do whatever it takes to compete and win.

So it is with us. First, we assess the goal of our life. Should not that be to hear these blessed words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)? Should not our goal be to discover the Divine purpose for our lives, our calling, and our stewardship?

If we maintain the correct goal (i.e. treasure), we must then give ourselves wholly to the fulfillment of it.

Thus, the need for self-discipline.

Whatsoever a man sows…a RANT

This is a rant.  This is my rant.  A rant is a verbal (or written) tantrum.  A rant is not to be reasoned with because the one ranting is not in a frame of mind to be reasoned with.  A rant can be filled with logical mistakes, historical fallacies, and spiritual foolishness and yet serve as a cathartic and can be persuasive in its own right, though filled with flaws because there is the seed of truth in it.  A rant is to be accepted or rejected, but not critically analyzed and debated.  The purpose of a rant isn’t to communicate information, but to express moral outrage.  In parsing a rant and analyzing its logic, its very essence is swept aside.  This is a rant.  This is my rant.

Listening to the radio the other day I heard of the imminent threat that radical Islam poses to America and to our sacred traditions.  The radio host was telling of how these terrorists are intent upon imposing their way of life upon us.  Our life and our way of life matters little to them – they are bent on empire.  They believe it is their destiny to swallow us alive.  They are waiting in the wings with violence in their hearts and murder on their breath to obliterate our great civilization.

As I listened, I began to think about America’s behavior in the past.  Somehow, Wink I was able to lay hold of an old radio broadcast by Tecumesh, chief of the Shawnee Indians.  He had a daily program that aired to the Indian nations in and around 1800.  There was great concern among the various tribes about the imminent threat that the white man presented to the indigenous peoples of this land.  He spoke of the godless Americans and immigrants from Europe who are pushing westward. Let’s listen in –  “Brothers, these men achieve their ends by violence and deceit.  They believe that what has been ours for centuries is theirs for the taking.  And take it they will.  They kill and burn and steal with no moral hindrance.  Their theologians and thinkers have what they believe is a manifest destiny and that it is their God’s will that this land be inhabited by them.  They will kill us in order to lay hold of what is ours.  Brothers, the Great Spirit does not guide them and they are strangers to the way of the Great Spirit.  What God they follow, I know not, but it is not a God of justice and mercy.”  The recording became indecipherable after this.

Back to 2012 – I listened to the radio broadcast of this evangelical decrying the godless, butchering Muslims wanting to invade our land and I got mad – not at radical Islam (and there is enough to be mad and alarmed at here); I didn’t get mad at the radio personality and his myopic vision; I was mad at our American ancestors.  This country was obtained by the shedding of innocent blood.  And the blood cries out.  Much wealth was gained by the oppression of an entire people (my rant has now switched  to how our ancestors enslaved millions of black people).  And the blood cries out.  We are still paying the price for this.

Obviously, we should resist any attempt by any people (radical Islam or otherwise) to invade/infiltrate/defeat our nation.  But let’s not be surprised that it’s happening.

We are being treated the way we treated others.

What goes around, comes around – on a cosmic/historic scale.  There was a famine in David’s day and the Lord told him that it was because of the way that Saul (a previous administration) had treated the Gibeonites.  And the blood cried out.  Their innocent blood was required by the hand of the nation.

I hear today of oppressive American policy practices abroad; of corporate America’s unjust business practices in third world nations.  And the blood cries out.  What goes around, comes around.  The seeds of injustice yield a harvest of hatred and violence.  And the blood cries out.  “O, God, make me a peacemaker.”

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  Galatians 6:7



Organizational Structure

There is no shortage of reading materials when it comes to church leadership and governance.  This is a topic that people like to write on because so many struggle through these issues.  I am no exception.  This May 20, I am celebrating the 5-year anniversary of restarting Valley Baptist Church.  We started with about 12 people with a vision and hope from God.  The ride has been amazing to say the least, but throughout the journey I have found that I have been stretched consistently as a leader.  Just when I think I have figured things out, everything has changed.  I guess this is just life.

Through this journey I have had great freedom to lead–for this I am thankful. Up to this point, I would describe our structure as “Pastor led, church affirmed.”  To assist the leading I have utilized a group of about 8 men that carry the title of “deacons” and a lady who carries the title of “treasurer.”  This structure is in place mainly because this was the structure (not the people) I inherited on paper.  The development was intentionally slow to grow trust with the church.  In June of 2009, I updated the constitution to expand and clarify some points, but not to radically alter the constitution. The main change was concerning the appointment of official leadership of the church.  Before it followed more of a congregational-led model whereas now leaders are appointed annually by the senior pastor and approved by the body at the annual meeting.  After five years, I feel like I am truly entering the season where I am free to lead the church.  There is trust.  I’m not going anywhere and the people know that I am here for them and am acting in the best interest of the church.

Here are some questions I have been wrestling through.  Where did your style of church governance come from?  A piece of paper, traditions, your denomination, or who knows?  Do you have a board?  Why?  Because business’ do?  I like asking a lot of questions and I find myself asking the all important question related to this subject, “What does the Bible have to say about this subject and how should it workout practically in my church?”

I’ve reached a point where I can no longer push the weight in a healthy manner.  If everyone showed up on a given Sunday, we would have about 150 people in attendance.  I cannot shepherd this many people alone, nor do I think we are done growing, so how do I lead the church into the next season?  From Scripture I am convinced the church is to be led through elders (along with a number of synonymous titles), with a leader amongst them, deacons that support, and a church of believers that fulfill the ministry.  The question is, “What does this look like practically for me in this setting in the coming years?”

How has this worked itself out in your ministry setting?  I would love to hear your input!

Here are some books that have encouraged me on this journey…

On Being a Pastor, Alistar Begg and Derek Prime

On Church Leadership, Mark Driscoll

Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne

The New Testament Deacon, Alexander Strauch

Saying it Well, Charles Swindoll