September 10, 2012

A Movement vs. A Location

If you as a ministry leader, whether paid or volunteer, are equipping people to carry out God's plan only through the local church, you are not equipping them properly. Instead, we should focus on equipping them to fulfill God's plan through their lives which are connected & invested in the local church but not limited to use only inside the church. The local church is God's plan, but as leaders we cannot afford to equip believers to only leverage their gifts & influence only within the church setting. We have to equip people, model for people, & challenge people to take the mission of God outside the walls of the local church's gathering place.

"The Church Is A Movement Of God's People Not The Location Of A Building."

The church was not designed to gather together in a building, sing their songs, listen to their messages, do their programs, & then go home. Instead, it was designed & called to go outside & reach those who are "far off" to borrow Peter's terminology in Acts 2. The only reason you & I are now "insiders" in the church is because somebody decided to do something to reach out to you with the Gospel. When we forget that, we begin to forget our mission too. We can't afford to do that, & the world can't either.

How are you equipping those you lead to accomplish God's plan with their lives rather than just through the local church & it's programs? How are you modelling this priority in your leadership? Where are you investing in advancing God's Kingdom in a setting that is outside the walls of your building?

September 5, 2012

Preach Better Sermons Live Takeaways

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Preach Better Sermons Live event produced by the good people at The Rocket Company. This one day conference brought together both ministry leaders & business leaders to help them sharpen their communication skills in order to best communicate their messages. My personal conviction is that since the church has been entrusted with the best message in history we should do the best job possible communicating it. With that in mind, here are some of my biggest takeaways:

1) "Connection Not Information Is The Difference Between A Message That Soars & A Message That Falls Flat." -Jeff Henderson

2) "Great Preaching Over A Consistent Period Of Time Requires Me To Be A Follower Of Jesus First & A Preacher Of Jesus Second." -Jeff Henderson

3) The Wrong Approach With The Right Idea Undermines Your Message." -Andy Stanley

4) Andy Stanley's Five Guidelines To Preaching To The Unchurched
You'll have to buy Andy's new book to get those.

5) "This Generation Wants To Follow Jesus, Serve, & Change The World, Now If Possible. They Just Need Someone To Lead Them With Authenticity & Vision." -Louie Giglio

There's way more I could share, but I won't. If you missed the event in Atlanta, The Rocket Company will be bringing this event to different venues around the U.S. So check out the Preach Better Sermons Live website for details. A huge thanks to Casey Graham, the speakers, & the staff & volunteers who made this conference happen.

August 10, 2012

Theology & Leadership

Leadership Track At Camp In Spain
This summer while I was in Spain I was meeting with a group of young men & women in their late teens & 20's. The potential in that room was undeniable. They have a huge desire to be used by God & to be a part of a fresh movement in the church & through the church. However, they are running into obstacles. Many of them come from churches that don't have a lot in the way resources, but the most troubling obstacle many of them face is connected to the theological grid in many of their churches. When we were talking about the concept of godly leadership in ministry they shared a common sentiment found in their churches:"We don't need leadership, God does miracles."

While I understand that we don't want to exercise leadership in the same way or with the same values that we often see in the business world, we also don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because leadership isn't exercised in some arenas in a way that honors God doesn't mean that God's people should abandon it hoping that God will just magically accomplish His plan while we sit around & sing songs.

So I shared with this group of young potential leaders example after example of God using leaders to accomplish His purposes. I pointed them to people like Noah, Abraham, Gideon, Nehemiah, David, & Jesus' disciples as clear pictures of God using godly men & women to partner with Him in advancing His Kingdom & expanding His glory. Then to answer the whole question of why do we need leadership when God does miracles, I shared with them this important truth about the connection between the power of God & the leadership of God's people:

"The Bible Is Packed With God Using Leaders To Advance His Kingdom.
In Fact, That's Part Of The Miracle"

The miraculous power of God & the leadership skills of His people aren't mutually exclusive concepts. Throughout history God has been reaching out to us seeking to have a relationship with us. It's a relationship that saves us, but it's also a relationship that invites us into a partnership with God. As we follow God, He invites us to advance the Gospel & to expand His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. However, He doesn't just snap His fingers & make it happen. Instead, He empowers His people to be witnesses. He invites us to demonstrate the power of the Gospel through our lives & to share the Gospel with others when we have the opportunity. It's only by the miraculous power of God that such a diverse, dysfunctional group as the church could continue to be a force in the world.

Our theology must have a place for godly leadership. A theological system that leaves no room for God to use us not only isn't founded upon Scripture, it's just lazy.

August 1, 2012


Capitol Building of Catalonia in Barcelona
This summer I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Spain doing ministry. During that time our team worked with small churches in Barcelona, Zaragoza, & Madrid. In most cases, these churches represent the last stand of the church in Spain. While Spain is littered with beautiful old churches & majestic cathedrals, they are mostly empty, & those that aren't are not preaching the Gospel or being the church. The truth is that these small churches are the last line of defense, or maybe more appropriately, the last line of offense against Spain becoming 100% lost in a secular worldview or in the emptiness of religious tradition.

Here's the bad news: While these churches love God & want to be used to impact their cities, they are too often under-resourced & have little if any leadership. It's not their fault; it's just reality. In addition to that, they struggle with many of the same petty issues that plague the church in America, but with no leadership to guide them, the issues fester & could become the churches' undoing.

Now for the good news: There is a generation that is ready to take their neighborhoods, their cities, & yes, their nation for the Kingdom of God. While I was there, I was blown away by the group of young men & women in their 20s. They are sincere in their faith. They are passionate about God's glory & Kingdom. However, they haven't been equipped. As we left, we left with hope as we heard from church leaders reaching & utilizing this generation would become a priority. With proper training, these young disciples will quickly become important leaders in their local congregations. Another positive thing we encountered was the fact that many people we spoke with outside the church were actually very open & receptive to talking about the Gospel. If that hunger for truth can be combined with churches who are strategically reaching their communities, who knows what God might do?

So what were my takeaways from 2 weeks of ministry in Spain? Well, there are more than you or I have time for here, & truthfully, I'm still processing much of it. However, one thing bubbled to the top quickly for me.

"When You Have Greater Resources & Greater Opportunities,
You Also Have A Greater Responsibility To Take Advantage Of It."

The church in America is better resourced than the church in any other part of the world. Tiny churches in the backwoods of nowhere are able to accomplish things that these churches in major world cities can only dream of. Yet too often in our ministries, we squander opportunities & resources & settle for mediocrity. We don't set out to waste time, money, materials, energy, & everything else, but too often we don't set out to take full advantage of everything we have. The result: the same old same old mediocre ministry that reflects mediocre faith & mediocre stewardship of God's blessings on our ministries.
The fact that churches in other parts of the world would die to have our mediocre ministries is no excuse. In fact, it's the point. If our brothers & sisters around the world would love to have what we have (but don't), shouldn't we make sure we fully leverage it for the sake of the Gospel, God's glory, & His Kingdom?

July 30, 2012

Be Present

For the last year or so, the leadership organization/movement known as Catalyst has been exploring the theme of "Be Present". It's been all about making sure that as leaders we have one foot firmly planted in the "here & now" instead of being consumed solely with "what could be." After all, if you don't know where you are, you can't really get a vision for where you can go.

One way I've seen this tension at work in ministry leadership is the constant temptation for ministry leaders to focus primarily on what they can't do or aren't allowed to do in their current structure or tradition. I'm sure this is a tension in every area of leadership, ministry or otherwise, but the area of ministry leadership is what I know & live in everyday. There's not a leader in ministry, volunteer or paid, who hasn't struggled with this tension. In addition to that, there's the fact that church culture is a little more resistant to change than the culture in many businesses or other organizations. It's no wonder there's a little frustration on the part of leaders.

However, leaders' responsibility is to lead. That means progress has to be made, & if it can't be made in one area, there's a good chance there's another area where it can. The only problem is that if we as leaders are only focused on what restricts us, we'll miss out on the areas where we have freedom & flexibility to influence change or growth.

Here's a simple truth that we as leaders often miss: "To Be Present, Focus On What You Can Do Instead Of What You Can't." You can't "be present" as a leader while you're missing out on opportunities around you. Don't waste chances to lead in areas where you can make progress because you're angry or frustrated about the areas where you can't. After all, leading in the areas where you currently have the freedom to move may very well lead you to have future freedom in the places where you wish you did. Being present now in the things you can do may open the door to taking action in the things that you can't.

It's a tension we all have to manage. Just because you can't currently move in an area where you think you need to doesn't mean you shouldn't push a little. However, you cannot allow a roadblock in one area to distract you & consume you to the point that you miss out on the opportunities that do exist around you.

What areas in your leadership currently frustrate you because you don't feel you have the freedom to lead? On the other hand, what are the areas where you do have freedom? What are the opportunities in those areas that need your focus in order to see progress? How could seizing opportunities where you currently have freedom open the door to the areas where you don't?

April 3, 2012

The Difference Between Opinion & Perspective

I had an interesting conversation the other day about the varying opinions that anyone in leadership inevitably faces. Sometimes, literally every position on an issue or idea is represented in a group, & sometimes positions you didn't think existed are represented! So how do you know which opinions are more worthy of your time & recognition? After all, a leader can't act on every opinion that is expressed, much less the ones that are never voiced. One of the most effective ideas I've stumbled across (and believe me I stumbled onto it) is to draw a distinction between people who have an opinion & people who have perspective. It may sound like I'm splitting hairs, but there's something to this.

Think about it. Everybody has opinions. Even if it's a topic that we haven't given a lot of thought to, if someone asks what we think, we'll give our opinion on it. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it. It's just how we are. However, perspective requires something more than just talking about what we think.

Perspective Requires Investment.

People with opinions "think". People with perspective "know". People with perspective have invested themselves into something enough that their opinion is actually based on experience. You don't have to have that in order to form an opinion. There's nothing wrong with having an opinion & sometimes there's nothing wrong with voicing it, but the best opinions are really built on having a realistic perspective of the situation. Investment leads to perspective which leads to discernment.

So the next time you're confronted with a bunch of "opinions", try to figure out which opinion is really perspective, & that's easy. Simply ask, "Is this person invested?" Are they invested in you? Are they invested in the ministry? Are they invested in the business? Whatever the issue is, are they really invested? Not merely emotionally invested, but have they put in some sweat equity & time equity? Have they invested themselves into it?

March 27, 2012

Change Is What Matters

Ministry can be really busy. It's really easy to get caught up in the everyday, often mundane, details. That's why it's so important to pull away every once in awhile & looking at what is actually being produced by all that work by you & the people you serve with every week.

Are lives being changed? Are people discovering their gifting? Are they discovering ways they can leverage those gifts to advance God's Kingdom & the name of Jesus? Life change is what it's all about. Here's a recent story of how God, His Word, & His people impacted one young lady's life.

March 16, 2012

Preach Better Sermons Takeaways

Yesterday a fairly new ministry, Preaching Rocket, hosted it's first online conference. If you missed it, you missed out on preaching gold. Some of the most gifted communicators in ministry as well as a giant in the food service industry & one of the world's most successful comedians shared their insights about communication, preparation, & continuing to grow as a communicator. Here are a few of the big takeaways from my notes.

1) "Cook" Your Messages In A Crock Pot, Not A Microwave.
This idea was woven into some of the interviews that Jeff Henderson conducted. Jeff wasn't actually one of the guest presenters, but Jeff is an incredible communicator & teacher in his own right. His point is that your message is likely to be better the longer you let it ruminate in your heart & mind. If you're scrambling on Saturday night to get your message together, you may be able to bring some good information, but it probably has not had time to work its way through you.

2) Your Message Needs A Bottom Line.
Can you sum up your entire 30 to 45 minute message in a sentence? It sounds like an impossible task, but if you'll work on developing that one thing you want people to walk away with & then build everything else around it, your message stands a better chance of sticking & impacting the way people live their lives.

3) If You're Nervous About Your Sermon, You're Not Ready To Impact People.
Andy Stanley & Charles Stanley both brought this out in their interviews. When you take the platform worried about your performance or how you're going to look at the end of it, you are not really concerned about speaking truth & grace into the lives of the people in the audience. On top of that when you're worried about your performance, it's probably a sign that you're not really that well-prepared anyway.

4) You Can Only Preach As Well As You Pray.
That's straight from Dr. Charles Stanley. I don't think it needs any lame explanation from me. All I'll say is I heard as much about Dr. Stanley's prayer room during his interview as I did about preaching tips & tactics. It spoke volumes about him as a preacher.

5) Don't Leave Out The God Factor In Your Preaching.
It's very easy for preachers who have been preaching for a long time to simply rely on their exegetical & communication skills when preparing their messages. Louie Giglio talked about how easy that is & how easy it is to prepare an incredibly eloquent, persuasive message that is completely devoid of the power of God. Our messages don't change people; God does. If we're not begging Him to invade our words & leverage them for His glory, then we're leaving out a huge part of the preparation process.

6) Don't Leave Out The Fact That Jesus Was Not Just Fully God But Also Fully Man.
This came from Jeff Foxworthy of all people. When asked how he thought the 21st century church could reach men more effectively, he gave what was a very theologically deep answer. He said it's easy to paint Jesus as fully God when He's on the cross, but when you bring up the fact that He was fully man & really hammer that idea home, you realize "there's nothing sissy about Jesus." The problem is that most men see Christian masculinity as some soft, sissy thing, but when they realize that Christian manhood reflects the kind of man that Jesus was, it becomes much more appealing.

7) Preach With The End In Mind
Almost everyone communicated this concept in one way or another. Whether you do this or not can be seen in whether or not you give your audience something to do with the message. Do you have 1 or 2 action steps? Vanable Moody reminded us that the Word of God is a sword & a sword has 1 point. What is your 1 point? What is the 1 thing you want people to do with God's Word?

I could rattle off a lot of other takeaways, but since 7 is the number of completion, we'll stop there. Go check out Preaching Rocket's site & see if the resources they offer could be something that really benefits you in your preparation each week.

March 9, 2012

Growing As A Communicator-Part 3

This week I've been sharing some of the lessons I've learned over the years that have helped me grow as a communicator. I'm by no means an "expert", but I know I've grown in a lot of ways in the last 17 years when I first began teaching & preaching. Of all the lessons I could pass on to any communicator, no matter what field or what level of experience, I would pass on this one.

5) Learn From Others
Newsflash: You are not the best communicator in the world.I don't care how many people love your messages or how many pats on the back you get when you speak, there are communicators out there in all sorts of fields that you & I can learn from. Listen to as many different communicators as you can from all sorts of areas of expertise. Listen to people from your particular field, whether their style is similar to yours or not. Personally, I listen to several messages every week from different pastors. Some of these pastors have similar backgrounds & styles as I do, but some do not. Some have speaking styles that are more conversational & casual while others are much more scholarly in their approach. If you find a book or article from someone about how they communicate, read it. If you have the chance to hear from well respected communicators, take advantage of it, & take A LOT of notes.

Fortunately, just such an opportunity is coming up next week. On Thursday, March 15th the folks at Preaching Rocket are hosting a FREE online conference where you can learn from some incredible communicators. If you're in ministry, this is a must. Communicators like Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, & Jeff Foxworthy will talk about everything from developing content to engaging your audience. Don't miss the Preach Better Sermons Conference.

March 7, 2012

Growing As A Communicator-Part 2

Continuing with this week's topic of growing as communicators, here are a couple of other tips:

3) Internalize Your Message
I totally ripped this phrase off from Andy Stanley. It kind of has a double meaning. From a purely practical side, if you're speaking to a group of people about some topic, you don't need to be chained to your notes. If your message isn't important enough for you to learn, internalize, & deliver, then why should your audience? However, when you can deliver a message that's been internalized, the passion comes through. On a deeper level, internalizing the message means it becomes a part of who you are. That's where the passion comes through. You've spent enough time with the message that it has infected you & changed you. Internalize your message & your message will reach a new level of impact with your audience.

4) Prioritize Your Preparation
This is a little different from Planning Ahead. This has more to do with your regular, weekly preparation. As a pastor, I speak every week. At the same time, I'm also working on messages that will be delivered in the weeks ahead. If I'm not careful, things can get a little muddy., especially as I'm wrapping up one series & preparing to start a new one. That means my week to week preparation has to take a place of high priority in my schedule. Pastors, never apologize for your message prep. It is your highest priority as you equip the people you lead; make sure that's reflected in your prep. Also, don't apologize for the preparation process that works best for you. Just as your preaching is unique, your preparation to preach will be unique. When you prioritize your weekly prep & plan ahead for your bigger teaching plan, you'll be better prepared to handle the inevitable things that pop up in ministry that from time to time can consume a lot of your attention. Plan ahead & prioritize your preparation.

Friday I'll share one other big tip for growing as a communicator.

March 5, 2012

Growing As A Communicator

Everyone has to communicate, & most of us have to communicate verbally. Whether you are a stay at home mom, a pastor, a business owner, or a salesperson in the retail world, communication is a big part of what you do. However, it's also something that terrifies a lot of people, especially the idea of some sort of public communication. This week I want to share a few things that I've learned & that help me to be a better communicator & a communicator that is constantly looking to improve.

1) Know Your Message
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's shocking how many times I've had to listen to someone speak who obviously spent no time actually figuring out what they wanted to say. Recently I sat & listened to someone speak for almost 45 minutes & at the end a bunch of random information had been thrown at me & the audience, but there was no cohesive message. Know what you want to say. Don't talk until you do. Whether you're about to have a discussion with one of your kids or give a presentation at work, you have to know your message. One good rule of thumb I try to abide by is this: Can I distill my message into one memorable statement? If I can do that & then support it & reiterate it throughout a message, there's a better chance that it will be remembered & acted upon.

2) Plan Ahead
This isn't always possible, but most of the time it is. As a pastor who speaks pretty much every week, I know that people expect me to have something to say to them, & hopefully it's something worth paying attention to. Again this seems obvious, but if you wait until the last minute, you may not have anything to say or you may not find a way to say it so that it's actually absorbed. If you have a role where you're communicating to a group regularly, plan it out ahead of time. In my role as a pastor, I go into a year with an entire year planned out. For example, right now I know what my plan is for my Christmas teaching series. For those who say that this doesn't allow you room for spontaneity or the Spirit's leading, the reverse is actually true. Planning ahead actually gives you more freedom to adjust on the fly. If you're living week to week as a communicator, you literally do not have time to think about the bigger picture of your communication. Typically I try to stay anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks ahead in actual completed sermons, & I plan a rough teaching plan for an entire year. It gives me a plan to follow, but it also gives me room for flexibility when the plan may need to be altered.

Throughout the week I'll share some other things I've picked up & lessons I've learned the hard way over my years in ministry & as a communicator. Feel free to share any insights you may have or tips you have that have helped you grow as a communicator.

March 1, 2012

How To Remove The Pain From Message Prep

Preaching Rocket is a new organization committed to helping pastors grow as communicators of the most important message in the world. After talking to hundreds of preachers, they’ve found most preachers love preaching, but the grind of preparation can often become a pain. Here are three things they’ve seen.

1. Great Preaching Comes From A Great Preparation System. Perry Noble doesn’t prepare in a vacuum. He has a team at NewSpring Church that helps him prepare. Perry will talk about how this works at the FREE online event on March 15th.

2. A Preparation Day Is Better Than Feeling Like You Have To Prepare All The Time. Andy Stanley sets aside every Wednesday to prepare messages, and his team helps him keep this time guarded. While Andy is gifted, his commitment to preparation helps make his messages memorable. Andy will talk about the structure of his preparation day on the Preach Better Sermons online event.

3. Developing A Sermon Planning System Takes The Pain Out Of Preparation. There are things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis that will dramatically improve your preparation time and help you deliver better messages. Helping you put something like this into place will be a part of the free online event.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher. Sign up for the free online conference. Here are the details.
  • Date: March 15, 2012
  • Time: 1pm – 4pm EST
  • Speakers: Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Vanable Moody, Jeff Foxworthy. The event is being hosted by Jeff Henderson.
  • Registration: Free sign up at

February 24, 2012

Leadership Lessons From Moneyball

Valerie & I watched Moneyball last night. I was shocked that I got her to watch a baseball movie. A big thanks to the rugged good looks of Jonah Hill & that other guy, I think his name is Pitt, are probably in order for getting her to buy in. After all, it's not just a movie about baseball; it's a movie about the business end of baseball. I'm sure it sounded like a riveting topic to my wife who has never seen the baseball classic, The Natural & maybe not even Field of Dreams.

First off , it's a great movie. Great writing, great pace, & Jonah Hill actually does deserve the Best Supporting Actor nomination that he received. It probably won't win Best Picture & Brad Pitt probably won't get the Best Actor nod, but I'm just glad a movie with such mainstream success got attention at the Oscars. Usually it's just a bunch of odd ball flicks like The Artist that get all the attention.

After processing the movie, I was hit by some huge leadership lessons that jump out of this story of how Billy Beane built a winning baseball team with misfits, cast-offs, & nobodies.
1) What Has Always Worked Might Not Work In Your Current Context.
A business as usual approach to that Oakland A's team would have resulted in a mess, but turning the baseball world on its ear resulted in a division championship. It also laid a pattern for the Boston Red Sox to follow as they built their World Series team of just a few years later. What has always been done in your field might not work in your particular circumstances, & what you've always done might not be what you need to do in the specific context you might find yourself in.

2) The Guardians Of The Status Quo Are Ruthless & Powerful.
Billy Beane paid a pretty high price for what he did. His scouts thought he was insane. His manager was less than supportive, & the baseball world viewed him as a heretic...until they started winning. Then Billy Beane was a genius...until they lost. Then it was back to saying, "See I told you that wouldn't work." If there is something you have to change, be prepared to be wounded. Jonah Hill's character, Peter Brand, told Beane, "The first one through the wall gets the bloodiest."
3) Vision Must Be Cast & Re-Cast.
Leaders know this, but it's easy to get sidetracked by tasks. The result is that we & those we lead begin to lose focus on the ultimate goal. In the movie, the team doesn't really begin to take shape & fulfill their potential until Beane & Brand are shown meeting with players explaining what they are trying to do & how each player fits into the team.

4) Know The REAL Problem You're Trying To Solve
There is a great scene where Beane is sitting around the table with his scouts looking at the overwhelming task that faced them following the 2001 season. The scouts perceived the problem as one of simply replacing the player(s) they would lose in the off season. It's the same problem scouts & GMs have had to face every year. However, Billy Beane understood it wasn't that simple. They couldn't replace the guys they were losing because they couldn't afford to keep them, so how could they go sign someone to "replace" him. Beane understood that the real problem was that the baseball business system was inherently unfair. Therefore, they had to adapt or die. What is the real problem you & your ministry or organization are trying to solve? Don't spend your time focused on a symptom of the bigger issue.

Moneyball is a great movie. It's entertaining, funny, & really insightful. There's a little bit of language in it, but for a PG-13 movie, it's actually light on questionable content. It was really interesting to watch the movie & actually remember the events on which it's based. I'd recommend it to everybody.

February 21, 2012

Lessons From Walls

For the last few weeks, our church has been going through the series "Walls", which looks at the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Whenever we do a straightforward book study, I try to also read along on my own in order to not only try to keep up & anticipate where our pastor is headed with the series but to also hear the things from God that He wants me personally to get during the series. Now Nehemiah is easily one of my favorite books in the entire Bible, so narrowing all the good stuff in there down to a handful of nice, concise lessons is really hard for me, but here goes.

1) You Don't Have To Have A Pedigree To Lead A Great Movement Of God.
Nehemiah was a cup bearer, not a prophet, not a priest, not a teacher, yet God used Him greatly.

2) Once God Gives You A Burden, Pray & Plan
Nehemiah HAD to get back to Jerusalem but it seemed impossible, so he prayed, he planned, & when the opportunity came to present it to the king he was ready & God blessed it.

3) You Need Others To Accomplish The Mission God's Called You To
Nehemiah had a burden & a call, but it wasn't one that he could pull off alone. God always calls us to something that requires Him & His people in order to fulfill it.
4) You'll Need Extreme Focus In The Face Of Opposition
Nehemiah faced almost constant opposition. Whether they were simply degrading Nehemiah & the people or actually plotting to take Nehemiah down, enemies were around. Who your enemies & opponents are will tell others almost as much as who your friends are.

5) Doing Something That Lasts Must Include A Commitment To God's Word
Immediately after rebuilding the walls, the people were pointed back to God's word. While they had accomplished a huge project, the real project, the rebuilding of their fellowship with God, was at risk. Even with rebuild walls, the people could have easily fallen back into the sin that led to their exile & the destruction of the city. Real change comes from the transforming power of God's word at work in us. Make sure that your mission is rooted in God's bigger purpose revealed in His word.

January 10, 2012

Whine, Whine, Whine

The other day our pastor was preaching from Philippians 2 & the idea of "working out" our salvation & faith in Jesus Christ. The point of the message was that God has done a work in us, but we have a responsibility to work what God has done in us out through our life. As I was looking at this passage, I was struck by the fact that immediately following this instruction to "work out our faith" is the command, "Do everything without complaining or arguing..."

Could it be that our level of complaining & arguing & what we choose to whine & complain about is an indicator of how spiritual growth & maturity? After all, Paul goes on to say that the result of cutting out the whining & complaining is that we become "blameless & pure" & that we "shine like stars in the universe."

So why is this important? How does this really have any impact on our spiritual maturity? Here are a couple of my thoughts:

1) Whining, Complaining, & Arguing Is Usually An Indicator Of Selfishness
Sure, there are times when speaking up & pointing out something is not only right, it's necessary. However, my own experience & the experience of some people I recently talked to about this is that we complain about mostly meaningless stuff that our complaining won't change anyway. We just don't like it, so we let everyone know we don't like it. What that communicates is that everything is about what we want, & that's selfish. And I'm pretty sure that selfishness is the antithesis of Christ-likeness. So if we're known as a whiner or complainer, there's a good chance we are not growing in our faith.

2) It's Just A Waste Of Energy
Think about it, of all the things that you & I have ever whined & complained about, how often did we really end up getting our way? Everybody I've asked that questions to said they couldn't really remember a single instance where incessant complaining got them what they wanted. That tells me one of two things. First, what we put so much time & energy into complaining about was so insignificant that we don't even remember our "victory" when we got what we wanted. Secondly, our whining doesn't really work, & eventually we have to just learn to live with a situation or decision we're not crazy about. Why not put our energy into learning to live with it on the front end? After all, weeks, months, & years from now we won't remember it because it wasn't really that significant, & there's a good chance we're going to have to learn to live with it anyway. Why waste the time & energy? As believers we've been called to an urgent mission to advance the Kingdom. We need to make sure that when we speak up against something that it doesn't end up distracting us from that mission.

So maybe Paul was actually on to something. Maybe our willingness to let things go & a willingness to not always have to have our way is a major mark of growth as a follower of Jesus. And as a result, we are used by God to shine like stars in the middle of the darkest darkness imaginable.