Hang out with people you don’t agree with

Over the years of pastoring my current church I have developed strong ties with most of the churches in my community. In fact, those ties are closer in some ways than with my own denomination.

From certain perspectives, some would say it’s because I’m probably backslidden. ;)

What I have learned over the years is I can develop friendships with other pastors, other believers from other denominations and theological perspectives, and out of that friendship find a way to converse about the things that typically divide us. I begin to hear them. They begin to hear me. And we find respect through the differences.

I also find that when I hang out with people I don’t agree with, I learn. If I want to live in the echo chamber of my “right” thoughts all the time, and only listen to the people I agree with… I will find a very small room. But if I listen to other opinions and thoughts, I am able to grow. I am able to solidify my own beliefs, I am able to learn the character of Christ in compassion, I am able to hear without automatically condemning… I grow in my ability to stretch my own mind.

Too often we want to hunker down in our theological bunkers and lob the occasional political/theological grenade at the other side with a silly Facebook post and think, ‘THERE! TAKE THAT!”

I have grown to hate that avenue. Holding to my own convictions and still listening to others causes me, at times, to “take fire” from people who normally like me… or don’t like me anymore. I haven’t figured that out.

But I have found that when I center in on Christ and insist that all conversation around me center on Christ, we can discuss the “peripheral” issues much better.

Hang out with pastors in your community you don’t agree with. Read theologians you don’t agree with. Hone in on WHY you don’t agree, and don’t start with, “I disagree because that person’s an idiot.” Start smarter. Live larger.

And keep Christ as the center… not your hard and fast doctrinal rules.

 

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Be Yourself But Better

Screen-Shot-2013-02-20-at-4.08.17-PMThis is a quip I have often told my preaching students, “Be yourself, but better!” The old wisdom was “Be yourself” but as far as I’m concerned we all need improving. If we were to just “be ourselves” we would never become who we need to become. I get the idea of the wisdom (so don’t inundate me with hate comments): don’t try to be like someone else. I just think it sounds better than what I would have said before. :-)

I was reminded of this as I encouraged one of my students in their preaching. The usual request for prayer is that we not preach our own message, but the message of the Lord. This is fine except that it ignores the very humanity of our God in Christ Jesus. It forgets that the Scriptures are as fully human words couched in human contexts as they are the words of the living God inspired by the Spirit. They were not dictated. These words were inspired via the history, mentality, language, etc. of each writer. And if that can be confessed to be God’s word, shouldn’t the preacher also expect to preach from their own history, mentality, language, etc. all the while preaching with the authority of the Lord?

We are created in the image of God. We bear his imprint on our very lives. But we are also being redeemed and so we are in need of renewal and regeneration. We are in need of being ever conformed to the image of Christ, of being transformed in the renewing of our minds, of being sanctified through and through. So be yourself, but better. Better by the enablement of the Spirit of God. Better by the blood of the Lamb. Better by the love of the Father. A better preacher preaching a better message, but still your message…empowered by His Spirit.

 

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Pastor Faithfully

When megachurch pastors make key decisions in their ministries, it is really news. It should be, since the numbers in their church have a big impact on the community. So, when a megachurch pastor makes a bigger effort to dialogue with Muslims or homosexuals… just to reach out… it’s news.

When thousands of pastors simply pastor in their communities, it’s not news. Not here. But it IS the Kingdom. So… pastor your community. No, it won’t make news. Don’t even bother with a Facebook post. Just pastor your community. All of them. Let the Kingdom come through your obedience and allow the Holy Spirit to sort it all out when its said and done.

We won’t make news, but we can impact the community on behalf of the Kingdom of God. Thousands of times… every day… blue chip pastors will saturate their communities with faithfulness and the power and peace of the Holy Spirit. His Kingdom comes.

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Filed under Christian Living, Discipleship, megachurch, Pastoring

What it is, and what it ain’t

I love seeing what other great preachers/teachers are saying on a particular subject. From time to time I will browse sermon transcripts or look up videos or podcasts. A couple of favorite preachers I’ve had over the years brought me to a realization this week as I listened to them on the subject of water baptism.

When they went through the biblical teaching on water baptism, I noticed a lot of time spent on what “it ain’t” vs. what “it is.” They were arguing Catholic doctrine, etc., I am sure.

But it left me with something to think about in my teaching. Do I focus on the argument NOT in the room? Do I build a sermon on a doctrine based on the arguments in my head, or am I taking on real life discussions within my own congregation?

For these guys, I think one spent probably 50 percent of his time on “what it ain’t” and the other guy maybe 30-35 percent. I understood their arguments, but when I was looking more for “what it is”… I had to wade through a lot of stuff.

I need to keep in mind that I need to primarily deliver “what is IS” and not so much “what it ain’t.”

 

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I want to be a great shepherd

I am preparing lectures on the Gospel of John for a time of teaching in Ethiopia in the fall. Gary Burge has an excellent commentary in the NIV Application Commentary on John. These are some notes on John 10 that reflect on being a shepherd:

SHEPHERDS. We need to be great shepherds! Psalm 23 is the model. It’s about leading people THROUGH the desert. IN the desert the good shepherd still knows how to care for his sheep. He gets them protected. He gets them in quiet places. He guards them in the hard places. Competent shepherds must have skills and tools or else their sheep will become prey either to the elements or to wild animals in the region.

Help us to be GREAT shepherds! We, as shepherds, need to be able to lead those we are responsible for into the good places. Even in desert times, we still take care of sheep. We need our lives equipped by the Great Shepherd to truly take care of our sheep, and not just be hirelings looking for the next gig.

 

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Eugene Peterson on the Small Church

PetersonI was just reading an old Today’s Pentecostal Evangel (Oct.10, 2004) and noticed an interview with Eugene Peterson (pastor, professor, and author of The Message, ). He offers the following answer to the question, “What did pastoring a church for almost 30 years teach you?”

I started out being a professor. I didn’t know how to be a pastor–and here I was starting this new church. I realized there was no way I could be a pastor except in a small place. I had to know the people–there names, their lives. I was deliberate in staying small. Pastors of larger churches can do wonderful things, but they can’t be pastors. To get people to live the things in the Bible you don’t just say it from the pulpit. You have to live with them and know their lives. [p.13, emphasis added]

Peterson countered the trend towards bigger is better and offered an alternative vision of pastoral life wherein staying small didn’t mean stopping outreach, but meant creating other communities where the church could gather in celebration and worship and where the pastor might continue to actually pastor the congregation by sharing in their lives. May we care for the flock given us by intentionally sharing our lives together.

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Celebrating the Wins

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My District Superintendent often asks us what wins we are celebrating because we want to celebrate them together. I personally love his language (and perspective). I know some pastors who seem to only focus on their losses, but I want to celebrate my wins and my church’s wins.

But this post is not actually about that. My thoughts today are about celebrating the wins of others. I have friends who just received a huge blessing in their life. It was a huge win. And yet there are some other folks I know who seem to resent this family receiving such a blessing.

Why is that we can rejoice in pur wins, but then think others don’t deserve to be celebrated in their wins? Shouldn’t the church “rejoice with those who rejoice”? Shouldn’t we be excited for others receiving blessings in their lives? Can’t we celebrate the wins of others even when (perhaps even especially when) we ourselves are not currently enjoying big wins or maybe even loss?

When we rejoice with others we overcome jealousy. When we celebrate others’ wins we overcome covetousness. Let’s celebrate each others’ wins. So what are your wins that we can celebrate today?

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