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ThoughtShades

Opinions, expressions, essays and devotions. 


Saturday
Jul222017

Even More Tweaks for Preachers . . .

 

  1. Humor is seasoning, not the main course.
  2. Lone wolves get weird.
  3. Trust your spouse.
  4. Protect your voice.
  5. College-aged sermons are lost on elementary level minds.
  6. The more complicated your sermon, the less impact it will have.
  7. Emulate, don’t imitate.
  8. Real-life illustrations are better than Reader’s Digest stories.
  9. A walk in the woods may do more for your message than quoting a Bible commentary.
  10. An ethical spirit is more important than aptitude.
  11. Don’t be co-opted by a duplicitous colleague.
  12. Never be afraid of doing the right thing.
  13. In competitive play, be lighthearted, not fierce.
  14. Make every trip educational.
  15. Treat everything thing you see, hear or read in the news media with healthy skepticism.
  16. Never abandon your theme.
  17. Under a microscope, everyone is ugly.
  18. Learn the difference between a preference and a conviction.
  19. Your ego may be your number one enemy.
  20. Only the pastor, not assistants, should define and enforce church polity.
  21. Keep your preaching from becoming haranguing.
  22. Do not empower people without giving them specific parameters.
  23. Finish strong.
  24. All programs have expiration dates.
  25. Always activate your word editor in public.
  26. Sermons are like recipes: good ones are worth repeating.
  27. Only full transparency makes your mentor’s advice valid.
  28. Occasionally, ask yourself if you would do what you do if you were not getting paid.
  29. Selfish leadership exploits people.
  30. The antithesis of gratitude is greed.
Friday
Jul212017

More Tweaks for Preachers

  1. Don’t assign giftings.  Identify them.
  2. Misdiagnosis of people’s negatives or positives lead to problems.
  3. Set people free to pursue and express their talents. 
  4. Gush sincerely over people.  They love it.
  5. Be careful who you make a hero.
  6. Articulate your vision clearly to your ministerial staff.  They are your mouthpieces.
  7. More than anything, people expect spirituality out of you.
  8. “Flying off the handle” refers to an axe head.  Collateral damage ensues.
  9. Produce proof, receipts, and guarantees even when they’re not requested.
  10. Be like Jesus.  He was the first and the last.
  11. Eventually, you get paid not just for what you do, but for who you are.
  12. Extreme makeovers of your person make people nervous.
  13. Fanaticism is mindless devotion.  Authentic devotion is based on sound theology.
  14. Celebrate intentionally.
  15. Make sure people know you are trying to help them.
  16. It’s what you do with the church’s money that counts.
  17. Decibel level bears no proportional relationship to veracity.
  18. Truth is powerful, whether whispered or shouted.
  19. From Oscar Wilde: “True friends stab you in the front.”
  20. You cannot alienate everybody.
  21. Inadvertency kills.
  22. Preach to your people’s needs, not your own.
  23. Better to preach thirty minutes than one minute thirty times.
  24. Words are like water: too much can drown.
  25. If you fail to create the church’s atmosphere, someone else will.
  26. Always give people a reason to come back.
  27. Deliberate quietness permits the Spirit to work.
  28. Don’t preach through the altar service.
  29. Leading in worship means leading people to worship.
  30. Feeling isn’t everything, but it’s not bad to feel good.
Wednesday
Jul192017

Tweaks for Preachers

 

  • Preach faith, not frustrations.
  • Never obsess on one individual in the congregation.
  • The Word is food, not weaponry.
  • Pull, don’t push.
  • Beating down a door is a criminal act.
  • Questions are not threats.
  • 100% success is not possible.
  • People do love you.  Love them back.
  • Not everyone who responds cheers.
  • A cheer leader succeeds if the audience cheers, if that’s all you  want.
  • You may be full-time, but your people are not.
  • Don’t force everyone into the same mold.
  • Not every fight is a good fight. 
  • In the church, silence does not give consent.
  • You get what you preach.
  • Training is the hardest, but most rewarding work.
  • Talk to children if you want vibrancy.
  • Talk to young people if you want to know what’s going on.
  • Talk to working people if you want to know about stressors.
  • Talk only to a few elites if you want to be warped.
  • Talk to the elderly if you want to know truth.
  • Talk to your family if you want to know what others are thinking.
  • Talk to nobody if you want to shrink into irrelevance.
  • Talk to God if you want direction.
  • People change through education, not sensation.
  • Make form follow function.
  • The seeds of truth need the preparation of the plow.
  • Diversity for diversity’s sake is demeaning.
  • Lead people to God; don’t become their god.
  • Don’t blink.  Nothing is NOT happening.
  • Leadership is largely optics.
  • To love is not only to feel, but to act.
  • You cannot say yes to something without saying no to something else.
  • Inspiration is a quivering mass of protoplasm unless you have a skeletal structure.
  • The will of God most often guts the will of man.
  • Leadership needs consensus, but often forgoes companionship.
Wednesday
Jul192017

The Direction of Your Trajectory

“Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

How do you handle omniscience?  No, not you or me.  I’m talking about the disciples and Jesus.  He knew what they didn’t know, as they finally learned that after three and a half years.  His anointed words were more than wise or beautiful; they were packed with promise.  His mother, Mary, had it right way back at the marriage of Cana.  “Whatever He says to you, do it.” John 2:5. 

Now, it had come down to this.  Jesus’ work on earth was done; He was ready to go.  At Bethany, the moment of His shocking departure from this world to glory, He didn’t give His followers time for fond farewells.  He didn’t let them wallow in self-pity or in complaining about their loss. Instead, he revealed to them the exciting and glorious future of the church.  “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49.

Jesus had birthed a movement bursting with potential.  With its Leader gone, would it self-destruct?  Would it explode?  Implode?  Fizzle?  Would an ambitious strongman hijack it?  Or, would it splinter into little groups with divisive personalities vying for power?  Any of these things were possible.  Something was going to happen.  Knowing this, Jesus set the direction of the trajectory.  He transformed Himself into yet another manifestation—the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit, He would continue to lead His church. 

Fast forward to today.  Too many leaders pulsate with promise, but desperately need direction.  With powerful ministries, amazing congregations, golden opportunities and abundant blessings, they are potential trajectories in search of a direction.  They are like archers who place an arrow on the drawn bowstring and search the horizon for a target.  Should they wait and wait until they tire of holding the bow in a firing position?  Should they listen to voices who have their own agenda?  Or, should they get help locating the bullseye, and then unleash their potential?

Spirit-filled leaders emerged in the early church who gave the church the right direction.  Apostles Peter, Paul, James and John guided the band of believers in the right direction until it became a force that filled the earth.  The raw power didn’t erupt in a meaningless explosion.  It didn’t wane and fail.  It gathered momentum and rushed to revival and dominance.

If you are a leader, a shepherd, a minister who wants to know what to do and how to do it, you need someone who can give you right direction.  You don’t need a different doctrine.  You don’t need a belief system overhaul.  You don’t need deconstruction.  No one can make you into a leader; you could learn, however, how to be a better leader.  Someone can help you to know which way to go and how to make good decisions.  Who you are and what you have is all you need.  Your trajectory just needs the right direction. 

Or, should we say Trajexion?

The Trajexion Conference

  • A Quad-State Sponsored Event (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois)
  • Awesome lineup of speakers (Bernard, Woodward, Toney, Tisdale and more)
  • A truly unique conference (make it your church planning session for 2018)
  • Ft. Wayne, IN  Abundant Life Church, Pastor David Keller
  • November 15-17, 2017 
  • www.trajexion.org
  • Holiday Inn HQ Hotel (Reserve now for unbelievable special conference rate!)
Wednesday
Jul122017

Side Effects

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

I Googled a couple of prescription drugs the other day and wondered if I should take them or not.  One was called out as the fourth worst culprit for dangerous side effects among all the drugs studied.  Scary.  Such are the risks of modern medicine.  Today’s pharmaceutical industry has inundated us with grandiose claims of impossible cures, reliefs, suppressions and triumphs over pain and other maladies of the physical body.  Cryptic, hybrid names add to the mystique of products, paid actors tout the benefits of the pills, shots, cremes or ointments, and doctors (who say they derive no financial remuneration from the sales) claim that they recommend it to all their patients.  Fine.  Maybe, maybe not.  We all hope it works.

But … BUT, the Federal Drug Administration mandates that something else must follow these fantastic promises … something called side effects!  While the advertisers hope that the beautiful actors with their smiling faces, the glowing, fuzzy scenes portrayed and the depictions of healthy exercise will distract us, the forced admissions of the dangers of the drugs torpedo every tantalizing assertion.  Consumers of the product could develop other symptoms like fever, rash, numbness, disorientation or heart fibrillation.  They could experience a stroke, a heart attack, or death.  I suppose the rationale is that if you’re going to die, at least it will be painless.  You might even enjoy the journey!  The sardonic comment goes, “If the disease doesn’t kill you, the cure will!”

You might have to weigh out the pros and cons of the doc’s prescriptions, but when it comes to the Great Physician, you never have to worry about any attendant symptoms or conditions.  As Moses said to Hobab, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” Numbers 10:29 (NKJV).  Whatever God prescribes for us not only activates the intended benefit, it generates side effects that will bless one beyond our present circumstances.  Go with God.  He will do you no harm.

God prescribes forgiveness.  Some offenses are so painful that it’s possible to resent the command to forgive.  It appears that the act of forgiving the offending party denies real justice.  Doesn’t that person deserve to suffer?  Shouldn’t he or she be held accountable for trespasses?  It seems like forgiving is a backwards way of condoning a bad actor’s wrong behavior.  But, look at the side effects.  Grace is always superior to condemnation.  When you forgive, you take the high road.  When you forgive, you unload the burden of bitterness from your heart.  When you forgive, you open the door to love.  When you forgive, you set the table for reconciliation and restoration. 

God prescribes repentance.  Crucify the flesh, kill the old nature, deny yourself—these acts seem insulting, if not injurious, to your basic identity.  In our day of affirmation and unconditional support for whatever you want to be, repentance represents a throwback to a brutal age.  Yet, when you take the pill of repentance, beneficial side effects emerge.  Repentance brings life.  “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” Acts 11:18 (NKJV).  Repentance aligns a person with the true gospel. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47. Repentance paves the way for the Holy Ghost baptism. “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. Repent now and often.  It’s the hurt that helps.

God prescribes giving.  Greed and selfishness often drive human behavior.  Some tend to view giving as an imposition on the need for “stuff,” as a path to impoverishment, or as imperiling one’s welfare.  But, Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  (Acts 20:35).  How can this be?  Doesn’t giving deplete our resources?  No.  In fact, the opposite occurs because of the law of divine side effects.  “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (NKJV).  

God’s amazing side effects are mere bonus blessings to the principle command.  The additions promised in Matthew 6:33, as great as they may be, are still secondary to seeking the Kingdom of God.  Even if the side effects were negative, grasping the Kingdom of God would still be worth it.  You may find that you don’t even need the side effects once you obey the main command!  But, the additions put the nature of God on full display!  He always exceeds Himself.  My father would say, “I feel better now when I’m sick than I used to feel when I was well!”  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)

Tuesday
Jun272017

The Trajexion Conference

What is the Trajexion Conference difference?  This unique conference has been designed to be an intensely practical experience for pastors and their church staffs.  It combines high energy with a low-key approach, and blends seasoned wisdom of veteran church planters with innovative, adventurous spiritual entrepreneurs. The information presented to attendees is cutting edge, immediately usable and effective.  The format of presentations followed by collaboration encourages church staffs to talk about how to apply the principles and ideas they’ve just heard.  Presentations will be spiritual and anointed, but the emphasis will be on application rather than inspiration.    

Those who attend the Trajexion Conference are already highly motivated and inspired to make a difference in the Kingdom of God.  They lead revivalist churches, but they believe that more can and should be done to reach the world.  They are searching for a keener understanding of their challenges and they may be one or two steps from a breakout phase.  The presenters at Trajexion will help them to analyze their status quo, point out problem areas, and assist in creating winning strategies. 

The Trajexion Conference embraces the real future, not the future we hope it will be, or not a future that looks suspiciously like the past.  The real future consists of changing demographics, a burgeoning class of minorities, differing social and cultural experiences and radical departure from the values of yesteryear.  We believe in meeting this future with timeless truths of the Bible and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our convictions are not based on so-called progressive ideas of today, but on the tumultuous history of the Book of Acts.  It may be difficult to imagine, but the early church survived an ethnic crisis and a deadly political climate that posed a greater threat than anything we have faced.  They made it through these potential catastrophes by bucking their prejudices and maintaining an unshakeable confidence in the power of God to sustain them.  If we may be so bold, we believe that if you don’t like people of color, you won’t like the future.  If you don’t like changes in music, worship styles, costume, décor, architecture, terminology and methodology, you won’t like the future.

The Trajexion Conference believes that the world is the field.  The field that is white to harvest may look dangerous, strange, inconvenient and totally outside our comfort zones.  The field may look like something to reject, not hug.  But, we cannot cherry-pick our venues of preference and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist.  They do exist, with all their addictions, their convoluted ideas, their habits and hang-ups, their poverty, their wounds, their loves and their hatreds.  As fishers of men, we need anglers training to know how to catch every species out there, regardless of the risks involved.

Trajexion is thoroughly optimistic that we can do this.  One only has to look at the world of business, sports, entertainment, humanitarian concerns and faith-based initiatives, to see success.  Too many people are having too much success for us to ignore.  The obstacles may be big, but why should we try to make them even bigger?  Why should we magnify our enemies or bury ourselves under a mountain of our fears?  Through the power of God, the Word of God and a faith-infused ministry, we will see great things happen!

The Trajexion Conference, November 15-17, 2017, Ft. Wayne, IN, Abundant Life Church.  Join us!

Wednesday
Jun212017

What Is a Church Anyway?

Common sense tells you that you can’t know where you’re going until you find out where you are.  In terms of church concepts, a lot of people don’t have a clue where they are.  Can we get down to brass tacks? Let’s start slow.

 

  • A church is a group of people.
  • A church is a group of people who have common backgrounds.
  • A church is a group of people who think alike.
  • A church is a group of people who are similar in lifestyle.
  • A church is a group of people who meet once a week.
  • A church is a group of people who share life experiences.
  • A church is a group of people who live and grow together.

We’re not really getting anywhere with this line of thinking.  We might as well be describing a lodge or club.  Let’s try another way.

  • A church is a group of people who have the same political goals.
  • A church is a group of people who are comfortable with each other.
  • A church is a group of people who accept each other as they are.
  • A church is a group of people who celebrate diversity.
  • A church is place where it is okay to not be okay.

What do we have here?  This is more like an exercise in social experimentation than the church of the living God.  Let’s keep going.

  • A church is a safe place to associate with others.
  • A church is where people are taught good morals.
  • A church is a group of people who believe in God.
  • A church is a group of people who choose a pastor to direct them.
  • A church is a group of people who hire a pastor to look after them.
  • A church is a group of people who commit to each other mutual care and support.
  • A church is a place where people come to get uplifted and encouraged.
  • A church is a place where people hear a positive message for living their lives.
  • A church is a place where membership enhances your social status.

Closer, but we’re not there yet.  These are side benefits of the church, but it is so much more.

  • A church is a group of people who are followers of Jesus Christ.
  • A church is a group of people who believe in the Bible and practice its teachings.
  • A church is a group of people who have a dynamic experience with the Spirit of God.
  • A church is a place where people come alive in worship, praise and prayer.
  • A church is a place where signs, wonders and miracles take place.
  • A church is an exciting place where people’s lives are changed.
  • A church is a place where addictions are broken and people are delivered from bondage.

Yes … but, not quite.  At least we’re getting to the heart of the matter.  The problem is, churches that reach this state often settle here and plateau.  Instead of moving forward, they become satisfied.  They believe that they have arrived at the ultimate purpose.  But danger awaits churches that linger here.

  • They turn inward and emphasize meeting their own needs first.
  • They demand personal pastoral care that taxes their pastor’s time.
  • They begin to solidify their positions in the group.
  • They seek to perpetuate and defend their power.
  • They get overly interested in land, buildings and influence in the community.
  • They try to professionalize their operation and conform to secular definitions of church.
  • They obsess on worshipping their worship, mutual-admiration and entertaining themselves.
  • They lose their motivation to grow and reach out to the unchurched.

So, what is a church?

A church is an ecclesia, a “called-out” people.  What is it called out to do?

A church is a group of people called out by God to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ in the world.  It holds a deep and conscious conviction that it must spread the gospel, make disciples and reproduce itself over and over.  The true definition of a church lies not only in what it is, but what it does. “For God so loved the world …” The church of Jesus Christ understands that love that has no object is not love.  Love is not a thing to be studied, but a principle to be practiced.

Neil Cole says, “We must plant the seed of the gospel of the Kingdom and the fruit that will grow will be changed lives living out their faith together, and that’s exactly what we mean by “church.”  The true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but more apple trees. Within the fruit is found the seed of the next generation. Christ in us is the seed of the next generation. The difference this seed can leave in the soil of a people group is significant. We all carry within us the seed of future generations of the church. We are to take that seed and plant it in the soil of every people group under the authority of our King.

The difference this seed can leave in the soil of a people group is significant. If we put Christ and His kingdom first, we leave behind agents under submission to the reign of their King.” (cmaresources.org).

Mainline churches are dying.  Mega-churches are more collectors of disgruntled Christians than soul-saving stations.  Modern trends lean more toward introspection than outward evangelism.  Somebody desperately needs to light a fire—or more like ignite a volcanic explosion!—in order to impact an increasingly unchurched world.  How much longer can we wait?

Go.  Preach.  Disciple. Plant. Work while it is day, for the night is coming when no one can work!

Wednesday
Jun072017

Why Trajexion?

 

 

Are you tired of living in the reality gap?  Where you are today is probably not where you want to be tomorrow.  And tomorrow seems farther away from today than it has ever been.  It’s called the reality gap.  You would like to get out of it if you just knew how.  The Trajexion Conference can get you started.  Let’s talk. 

God has placed today’s church in the middle of a chaotic environment.  Many of us are going crazy figuring out what’s happening.  We’re not sure how to effectively evangelize the world, we are uncomfortable with relating to new generations, and we stumble over the present trying to keep our past relevant.  Statistics tell us that we’re not doing a good job at any of it.  Giving up is not an option, but taking the next step involves pain.  The truth will set you free, but it will probably hurt you first!  Brace yourself for a candid look at our attempts, our conventions, and ourselves. 

Given the present pace of evangelism, we are not only years behind, but catching up may soon be out of reach.  The number of souls we touch, compared to the number of souls now live on the planet—a number increasing exponentially with the current population trends—means that our methods are almost totally ineffective.  We’re stuck in the gap.  Obviously, if we continue in what we are doing, we will never get where we want to go.  Either we adjust our goals to account for factors beyond our control, or we resign ourselves to failure.  In terms of people and dollars, we’re hardly scratching the surface.  Can we solve our problem by simply pushing for greater sacrifice, greater giving, and greater efforts to take the gospel to the whole world?  Or, should we make major, even radical changes in our methods to match our efforts to our rhetoric?  

The Vision Gap.  Spiritual, financial and logistical obstacles stand in our way, but other barriers prevent us from reaching a worldwide level of evangelization as well.  The greatest obstacle—the proverbial elephant in the room—is stubbornly clinging to a vision that no longer squares with reality.  Pastors and churches need to analyze the gap between what they want to do and what they’re really doing.  When the vision target moves, the method of alignment—the aiming mechanics—must move with it.  Our problems are not peripheral, but systemic. 

The Demographic Gap.  The church faces major demographic changes in ethnicity and rural/urban challenges of the new millennium.   The Pew Research Center says, “Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, and the U.S. is projected to be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in the past 50 years, mostly from Latin America and Asia. Today, a near-record 14% of the country’s population is foreign born compared with just 5% in 1965. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration. American attitudes about immigration and diversity are supportive of these changes for the most part. More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it, and most say the U.S.’s increasing ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live.  (www.pewresearch.org).

Pew Research also projects other demographic changes that will continue to impact American culture.

  • Asia has replaced Latin America as the biggest source of new immigrants to the USA.
  • America’s demographic changes are shifting the electorate—and American politics.
  • Millennials, or those born after 1980, are the new generation to watch.
  • Women’s role in the labor force and politics has grown dramatically.
  • The American family is changing.
  • The share of Americans who live in middle class households is shrinking.
  • The U. S. population of Christians is declining and adults not involved in any religion is growing.
  • The world’s religious makeup will look a lot different by 2050.
  • The world is aging.

The Generation Gap.  The laser speed of technological change has driven a deep wedge between people of certain ages.  Change from the printing press to the automobile spread out over 500 years, but from the moon landing to the present took less than fifty.  Experts project the next fifty years will make the society of 2067 almost unrecognizable.  These innovations have already radically impacted present generations as witnessed in the rise of the Millennial Generation and Generation Z.  The traits of these emerging age groups make present methods of evangelism as useless as butter churns or potbelly stoves.

The Socioeconomic Gap.   Education levels and two-income households have brought about fundamental shifts in our culture.  The sexual revolution, the composition of the average family, the immigration explosion, the growth of entitlements, the illegal drug epidemic and many other changes challenge every facet of the church’s mission in the world.  We need to rip up the strategies of the past and start over.

So, why Trajexion?  It should be clear that we need to move on from outdated strategies and address new and residual barriers to growth.  No one person has the answer, but together, with the help of God, we can find our way forward.  Church congregations need to be strengthened.  New congregations need to be planted.  Fresh vision needs to be cast.  Rhetoric won’t work.  Dreaming leads nowhere.  We have to actually do something.  That’s why.