Posts Tagged ‘church’

My home church, Victory Fellowship Church, has just released a new worship album! It’s called “So Close to Me” and features 79 minutes of music and 13 songs.

The CD was recorded live at the church during a night of praise and worship and features many original songs among other favorites of our congregation. This is an actual live album – not one that was recorded live then re-recorded in the studio. A few things were fixed here and there in post-production but there are no overdubs and you can find mistakes if you’re looking for them!

I’m so proud of the praise team at VFC. They are truly a group of servants who genuinely want nothing more than to please the Father. It’s rare to find authentic worship musicians with no pride or ulterior motives and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to lead this team! We pray that as you listen and worship along with us, the same thickness of His presence we felt in our sanctuary that night would find you right where you listen. Check out one the songs on the CD called “Alabaster Jar” below.

We are asking for $10 donations for this CD in order to raise money for new sound equipment. If you’d like to get a copy, they are available at our church or just click HERE to donate $10 (Paypal, Credit/Debit) and pay to have it shipped directly to you.

I’ve never been much of an Art History buff but Pointillism has always fascinated me. Its a painting technique where instead of actually painting an object, the artist gives the impression of the object using many small dots. One of my favorite scenes in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is where Ferris and crew visit the Chicago Museum of Art. One of the images that has always stuck with me is where Cameron is looking at “A Sunday Afternoon in the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Gorges Seurat. He begins to look at the face of the little girl in the painting and sees that the girl is not really an actual girl at all, but many dots that give the impression of a girl.

Not too long ago, I was spending some time seeking God with our church leadership team and I was reminded of this scene. Yes, evidently God has seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 🙂 I began to realize that God is a Pointillist. We Christians are not being asked to product some glorious, beautiful painting with our lives. We are simply called to be a dot.  Kinda takes the pressure off doesn’t it? As we grow in Him, we allow Him to make us the right color dot to achieve the overall picture He desires. We also allow him to place our dot in whatever part of the painting He needs us to be in. Then, He connects our dots and we, as a unified selfless mass of dots, can be seen by the world as the beautiful masterpiece that God has created.

When I talk about being the right color dot, I’m talking about being who God has called you to be. Color is an interesting thing. We perceive color when an object reflects light. In the same way, those of us who “walk in the light as He is in the light” should be reflecting Him in our own unique “color” that he has called us to be. You may be a red dot. I may be a blue dot. Thats OK – we need to be different color dots in order to properly reflect the full expression of the painting God is creating on Earth. Be the dot God has made you to be and allow others to be their own color. Who would marvel at a painting of a bunch of green dots? How boring! Walk in confidence with your own unique giftings and callings.

Once we get the color of our dot right, we also need to make sure we’re allowing God to place our dot in the right part of the painting. What is the “scene” God is calling you to be a part of? A dot by itself is just a dot. But a dot arranged together with other dots is how an image can be seen. Allow yourself to be part of something bigger than yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that the organized American church system is broken. No one should ever feel like they are simply a cog in the church machine that requires them to bear the burden of Christian service at the expense of their personal peace. But I also think there has to be balance. Stagnant water stinks.

I say we stop trying to be the whole painting. Just learn to be a dot – your dot. Don’t be afraid to be the color dot he made you and reflect Him your own way. Allow Him to place you were He needs you. Then He’ll connect the dots and can reveal to the world the beautiful masterpiece of Redeemed Humanity painted with the blood of Christ.

Ok, so I think this will be my last post on this. I’ve enjoyed considering these things and its been interesting to look at my own life and see if I am a potential church headline. I hope you do the same.

The last thing I want mention here is the idea of “blind spots” found in A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God by Larry Osborne. And by the way, this is a great book for those who like to question the assumptions and status quo of Western church – especially concerning the individual growth progresssion of Christians. I loved it. Check out this passage:

“The Bible says of King Asa, “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.” (I Kings 15:14) God had said to destroy the high places and Asa didn’t do it? How could he be fully committed? Yet God said he was.

In fact, we all have our “high places,” our blind spots, areas where we simply don’t get it. Martin Luther was anti-semitic. Many American Christians supported slavery and segregation. Yet God uses people who have blind spots.

In someone else, a blind spot looks like pure disobedience. A genuine blind spot is different from willful disobedience. It is something I honestly don’t see, a truth I’m unable to grasp or an issue I’ve not yet come to grips with. The idea that God makes allowances for some sins is hard to swallow, especially when it’s not one of our sins.

Knowing this helps me to see others differently, to be less quick to assail those who hold viewpoints and positions that strike me as out of line with Scripture. What may look like a hard heart or deliberate disobedience might be a “blind spot,” like King Asa’s. It also helps me to remember that the speck I hardly notice in my eye may really be a log.”

What great insight! These “blind spots” as Osborne calls them may also contribute to the falling of many ministers. Maybe some of these issues that led to the downfall of certain ministers were blind spots in their lives – not willful disobedience. But instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to work with them and change them, we remove them from ministry because they no longer meet our ministry standards of perfection (see part one of this discussion). I’m reminded of the whole Darrell Evans/gambling thing a few years back.

Of course, this can’t be a cop-out – purposeful and willful sin is not the same as a blindspot. But maybe we need to give each other a break, including ministers. Its a tough job!

I welcome any comments – let me know why you think so many ministers fall seem to fall.

So I am in the middle of considering why ministers seem to fall so often. As one commenter pointed out, we only hear of a few of these things per year and in the grand scheme of things, its not like this stuff happens everyday. That sounds very fair to me. However, I can’t help but wonder how many public embarrassing failures would be too many. Is 5 per year OK? Can we settle for that? What about 10? In part one, I stated that I thought the system the church has adpoted for full-time ministers is broken and holds the minister to a standard they cannot live up to.

This time, I want to look at it from a different angle. One commenter said they thought a lot of it had to do with the pride of the ministers. I agree with this. But I think its overly simplistic to just say well, they’re full of themselves. Again, this post is about asking why. So I ask – why do ministers get prideful?

I don’t know all ministers (big surprise!). There are thousands of full time teachers, preachers, administrators, musicians, evangelists etc. working in the body of Christ in America today. Since I don’t know them, I can’t speak to their intents. However I do know myself (yea I took Socrates’ advice) and as someone who has dealt with pride in ministry, I think I might have a few things to add.

As I began leading worship and teaching youth several years ago, I noticed something really interesting. My personal life didn’t seem to effect my effectiveness in ministry. For example, if I spent most of the day listening to worship and praying in the spirit, I was pretty much expecting and would almost always see an incredible time of worship that night and powerful youth services. However, occasionally I’d have a bad day at work, snap at a coworker and cuss out a client under my breath after an irritating call. Maybe I’d “flesh out” and watch Family Guy and listen to Avenged Sevenfold. On these days, to my amazement, we would have an equally amazing time of worship – sometimes even more so. And when I laid my hands on the youth, they’d still get saved, healed and delivered.  What?!, I would think, How in the world did that happen? I fully expected to flop as a minister because of my personal failings. But what I’ve learned over the years is that ministry is a calling and really has nothing to do with me. Furthermore, because God’s desire to set people free is so strong, my personal inconsistencies don’t influence His desire to move among His people. He is willing to overlook my failings because He is so desperate to be with His children.

We see this over and over in the bible. People like Abraham (who knocks up his servant), Moses (who kills an Egyptian), David (who commits adultery and murders), and Sampson, etc. all have the call of God on their lives and God uses them through their imperfections to lead his people. He dealt with each minister’s sin privately and, contingent upon eventual repentance, he continued to use these men.

Wow! I don’t know about you but that brings so much hope to me. First of all it relieves me from the weight of that perfection goal I feel as a minister. Secondly, it demonstrates God’s amazing love for his people.

Unfortunately, it can also create a situation where a minister feels that they are “above the law” and since God continues to use them even though they are in sin, they don’t see the need to repent. I believe this is the root of pride that causes many ministers to fall. Because their ministries seem unaffacted by their sin, they don’t have any sense of urgency to repent. They misintepret God’s willingness to use their imperfection for the sake of his people as God’s indifference toward their sin. Eventually, sin catches up to the minister (as it always does) and once again, the church makes headlines.

I’m currently mulling over the question why does it seem that so many ministers fall? This started with the whole Todd Bentley/Lakeland revival thing. It seems that at least once a year, Christians hear of preachers, teachers, musicians, etc. who stumble into sin or have some secret uncovered that disqualifies them from ministry. Why does it seem to happen so often? I have a few ideas and will be sharing them over the next several weeks.

The first point I want to make is that the positions we as Christians force on our leaders (head pastor, Christian music star, worldwide evangelist and general “man of God”) are designed to fail. These people have so much expectation and pressure to perform, there is hardly any man (or woman) that can withstand it. People put them on a pedestal, looking to these folks (instead of Jesus) as the example of how to live out our faith. Who can handle that kind of pressure? Although Paul regularly defended his right to speak correction to the churches he founded, he never did so based on his own merit or qualifications.

Christians have been lazy. Instead of doing the work of the ministry ourselves, we have raised up people for ourselves to do the ministry for us. We’ve said we’ll go on about our own lives and we’ll pay you to do what we should be doing. We have sub-contracted out the work of the ministry and laid it at the feet of men and women who can’t bear the burden we ask them to carry. It is the body of Christ who is supposed to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11,12. Pastors, teachers, preachers, etc. are there to build us up so we can do the job, not do the job for us. Oh, its a great deal for us though. We can keep our jobs, reputation, and paycheck unblemished. But while the ministers do what the church body should be doing, many end up alienating family members (been around a preacher’s kid lately?) struggling with secret sin, and barely staying married.  All we have to do is show up once a week and pay them, just like the yard man. And if he doesn’t do a good job, we’ll find another.

Who can stand under that pressure? We created a system that destines ministers to fail and punishes them when they do.  Under this construct, Christianity becomes a belief system devoid of action instead of a lifestyle . In trying to please the ones who pay for their food, house and hobbies, our leaders have become professionals trying to earn their keep.

Wow, that’s cynical. But something to consider.

More to come…

Ok, so a few weeks back I posted on how I was disgusted with the reaction to the news that Todd Bentley and his wife were separating. You can find that here. Basically I was upset that so many people had received this news with apparent glee since it proved their anti-Lakeland stances correct. No one seemed to care that a man was being destroyed (whether it was his own fault or not).

So now its been a few months and more information has come out – specifically, the separation was due to an emotional affair he had with a woman other than his wife. With this came realizations that this had been an issue in the past and Todd had been restored. Well, he slipped back again and now the Lakeland revival is no more. Services have stopped and Todd is on permanent hiatus. It seems to have blown up as fast as it blew in.

I received an email from a friend that Dutch Sheets had written about the whole incident. You can read that here.  He basically apologizes to the Body of Christ on behalf of…well, the Body of Christ. I thought it was a little self-serving but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He called for greater discernment among leaders and asked that we not be so quick to throw caution to the wind and embrace anything that looks like revival. I really didn’t mind the letter because it seemed pretty balanced and wasn’t either of the typical “I told you so” or “touch not God’s anointed” speeches that seem so prevalent.

But here’s what I want to get to: why did this happen? I’m not interested in being right. I’m not interested in who had a “check in their spirit,” who called it first or what anyone thinks about Todd Bentley. At best that’s inconsequential and at worst its godless pride. What I wanna know is how can a man who led others to the Lord, saw miracles and energized the charismatic church so quickly and effectively fall so far so suddenly? What about the countless others we’ve heard of – from Ted Haggard, Ray Boltz and Michael Guglielmucci to the glory days of Bakker and Swaggart. What about the many local pastors whom you and I have never heard of who slept with secretaries, divorced wives, stole money, and lived secret lives? What about the Christian musicians who do the same? Why does this happen so regularly to the leaders in the body of Christ?

I’ve been thinking about that and I will be posting several articles called “Why Do Ministers Fall” exploring the topic over the next few weeks.

There are certain phrases that I use over and over with my youth group that really capture what I feel is the essence of pure, raw Christianity. I previously posted about one here.  The phrase I want to talk about in this post is “it’s OK to not be OK, but it’s not OK to stay not OK.” I can’t claim making this one up. I’m almost positive I read it somewhere but can’t recall who said or where I heard it. Convenient, huh?

The first part of this – “it’s OK to not be OK” – is extremely important for Christians to embrace. Unfortunately for a lot of churches, Sunday morning service has become a self-indulgent fashion show where we can show off how pious we are, how well we have our lives together and how color coordinated our children can be. Churchgoers seem all to happy to paint on the facade, ignore their issues and “play” church. The problem is, this flies in the face of how Jesus tells us ministry should be when he said ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Why act like everything is OK when its not? Sure, we shouldn’t mope around the church building depressed and angry, but we shouldn’t lie either. There should be freedom in our services to admit to oursleves and others that we all have needs. But for many instead of singing “Just As I Am,” we really sing “Just As I Want You To Think I Am.” The church is a hospital, not a country club. We are there because we need more of Jesus, not because we already have enough of Him. It’s OK to not be OK!

…But its not OK to stay not OK. Once we can freely admit our faults and shortcomings, its not fine to stay and wallow in them. God desires transparency in his people, but he doesn’t allow purposeful sin to continue. There seems to be a grace period he gives us while his spirit changes us. But the Bible is clear that those who have made peace with their sin and practice lawlessness (with no attempts to remove it from their lives) are outside His will. You, Christian, are not allowed to stay bound in sin. Jesus didn’t die so you could remain spiritually sick.

it’s OK to not be OK, but it’s not OK to stay not OK. Quick, say that 5 times real fast. 🙂 Its sort of a tongue twister, but I believe its the key to true spiritual growth while celebrating freedom in Christ.