Today was my last regular board meeting at Mercy Church. The church I started with small group from scratch. No mother sending people. Simply raw faith and some faith raising support from our launch team tithing, other Alliance churches, non-alliance and individuals.
I'm glad to have been privileged to create, lead and hand off leadership of Mercy Church here 10 years and 6 months after that first meeting in the basement of the old Gourley building, many at Sioux Falls Seminary and homes.
In the month ahead I will provide some reflections on this transition out of a church I planted under the guiding and empowering of the Holy Spirit to reach those not reached in typical evangelical churches in Sioux Falls.
In the next five Sundays I will be talking about Mercy Church DNA - it's unique niche in the Sioux Falls community.
So be praying for me, my family and my spiritual family at Mercy as we are all in transition. Pray for the board - also acting as the search Team - and Don Wiggins the Alliance DS who will help guide them.
As we near the end of our time here I will also share more about where we are going and appreciate your prayers for favor with our new place and city of service and leadership.
Best in Christ,
I was listening to a pod cast from This American Life (NPR) a while ago with one segment that was all about a weird phenomenon that I assumed everyone had. However there are some people who do not and a sub-group who takes it to an extreme by actively pursuing it.
I experience this sensation from time to time but have never pursued it as an intentional experience. What is it? Apparently is has a label: ASMR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_sensory_meridian_response).
Reflecting on this, that it is an experience that I do not seek, it just happens in various circumstances but there are some who have made the experience into a life pursuit.
weird" experience that I vividly remember having first as a small child maybe at age 3 or 4, was waking up and listening late at night, in the dark and hearing something like an electronic tingling sound (not to be confused with the feeling above - but perhaps related). Later on I learned this has a label and category - normal, subjective tinnitus.
In extremely quiet places this buzzing, tonal, electric sound is in my hearing.
This causes me to obverse how wondrous and so strange it is to be embodied. Beyond that, what all of these physical/mental experiences have in common is that they are at the edge of my normal sensory experiences. They usually come at unexpected moments.
These are not something I would want to pursue, like some apparently do, with cult-like fervor. However, they remind me that it is on the margins, the edges of normal where we encounter new and wonderful things. It is at the edges where we are reminded of "the deeper, older magic."
If control is our highest value then we miss new re-ordering experiences. I believe this is why the experience of God's energies through the Holy Spirit's working is vital for the church (believers and questioners together in face-to-face community -large and small). The Spirit is at work drawing and calling through common grace play e.g.: (art, nature, sport) and enchanted direct embodied play (gifts of the Spirit in the common gathering) and holy imagination. We can easily drown Him out through our controlish ways. Missing empowering experiences that we can own and in turn can call us into new ways of pursuing life.
What if the very thing, edges, you've tried so hard to avoid are the very experiences that will empower and change your whole way of living? What if you hear a new direction? What if daily there are directions to go - you've never explored before?
This is entering into Kingdom of God life - it's counter the ways of the noise of the world and the world tries to drown it out.
But sometimes, in unexpected glimpses you taste the experience and if you stay awake to it long enough - you will begin to reorder your life around it. Bringing hope, joy, peace and ...
Shel: as one who identifies with an Anabaptist/Charismatic blend this was a word right on que:
Be Not Afraid: A Letter to my Charismatic Brothers and Sisters September 8, 2014
My dear Brothers and Sisters:
I have been wanting to write this letter for a while now. Perhaps it’s silly to think that it will matter in any meaningful way, but I’m okay with being silly. Remember, we have always loved to sing about how we’ll become “even more undignified than this.” Acting a fool for the Lord is an okay place for me.
Our charismatic roots stretch back over 2,000 years of Christianity but our more modern family history begins with the Pentecostal movement of 1901 moving through to the Charismatic movement of the 1960s and then the Third Wave of the 1980s. That is when I joined our tribe – a skinny kid with a sensitive spirit and a thirsty heart and a mean dance-kick. I have been a charismatic woman for more than 30 years now. Even after a season of my life when I walked far away from our traditions, gathering the greater story of our Church and history to myself, I now find myself corkscrewing back over and over again to the teachings of my childhood, the songs, the practices. For more than one hundred years, we’ve arguably been at the forefront of the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and those gifts in operation for the growth of the Church and the redemption of the world. But perhaps that is the root of our suspicions – we’ve been outsiders for so long that we’ve become convinced that we are, in fact, marginalized. When nothing could be further from the truth. Out of all the movements of Christianity, our tribe of Pentecostalism or charismatic Christians is still the fastest growing in the world. As Harvard theologian Harvey Cox said, pentecostalism is “reshaping religion in the 21st century.” People who want to moan and groan about the waning influence of the Church have forgotten the global story and the bigger story of our little movement.
I think that kind of influence brings a demand for thoughtfulness and care, don’t you?
But over the past few years, as I’ve personally become even more charismatic in my practices and in my theology, I have found myself distancing myself from our broader family of charismatics, particularly our more public voices. I crave thoughtful voices, I crave hope and faith, and even, yes, a prophetic imagination. Even as my theology remains staunchly charismatic, I have found myself distancing from the culture of being a charismatic.
But we’ve all splintered as a movement over the years – which perhaps shouldn’t surprise us. It has happened to every other movement within Christianity, we shouldn’t be so proud as to think we would be exempt from this natural growth and change. It’s inevitable and likely even helpful.
Yet here I am writing to us all now, as a larger family united by the Spirit, wherever we fall on our history and practices, church affiliation or theology.
Family, I believe the Spirit has a word for us: be not afraid.
This message has been central to our history and it is key for our future.
I’ve been particularly grieved by two incidents within our tribe over the past few weeks. First, our brother Michael Gungor, one of the most thoughtful musical artists of our time, has been publicly vilified across Christian media – both traditional, online, and social – for openly discussing his belief in an old earth rather than a young earth. Our tribe has been quick to pounce on him in particular since he is one of our own. Yet he is not alone in this belief, of course, many well respected and orthodox Christians throughout the ages have held to the scientific evidence of the universe while still affirming the creeds and Scripture fully. But instead, many in our tribe have settled with fear-mongering misinformation. Often putting words and beliefs into Michael’s mouth that simply aren’t true, accusing him of everything from heresy to abandoning his faith to pride.
This reaction to Michael’s beliefs has grieved me for several reasons. First the lack of charity for him, the swiftness with which so many have kicked him to the curb, the hateful tones, the way that many in our leadership have simply fanned the flames of fanaticism and fundamentalism rather than engaging in thoughtful and careful care not only for each other’s souls but for the Church.
But second, I have been grieved because of the underlying truth at the heart of these reactions: fear. People talk about Michael and they are AFRAID. Afraid of the slippery slope, afraid of nuance...READ THE REST HERE: http://sarahbessey.com/afraid-letter-charismatic-brothers-sisters/
Shel: As I approach 18 years of FT ministry this article rings so very true. The National C&MA Facebook page linked to this article today.
The Secret Pain of Pastors
by Philip Wagner
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Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:
The President of the United States
A university president
A CEO of a hospital and
Is that true? Pastors love God and love people. They get to pray for people, lead people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and teach the Word about God.
That’s the dream job. You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf and preach. I want to do that!
Here is the secret. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for wimps.
This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges.
Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people. Some wound their families because they are so involved in ministry. Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.
Approximately 85 percent of churches in America have less than 200 people. Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people. The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group. Staffs are small, and needs are great. In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer and fundraiser.
Who can be all of that?
Ninety percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Seventy percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
Personally, I love being a pastor. I have a great staff. We have great people in our church. I am content whether going through good times or difficult seasons. Of course, it’s a lot easier to be "content" when things are good. I have great friends who are pastors. My marriage is strong. I am a better man because of my time in ministry.
Some of the unique problems that pastors face are:
Pastors can be criticized by a lot of people for a multitude of things.
“Music is too loud. Worship is not long enough. It’s too long.”
“Sermon is not deep enough. It’s too long.”
“Pastor thinks he’s too important. It took me three weeks to get an appointment.”
“You talk too much about money.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute, Pastor?” This simple question can cause a pastor to think: “Oy vey. Now what?”
We pastors need to find a way to not take criticism so personally and learn from truths that could be hidden in the criticism.
Members leave, leaders leave and pastors’ friends leave. The reality is—people leave.
The smaller the church, the more obvious it is when people leave. Some leave for reasonable decisions; many leave ‘ungracefully.’ They leave the big churches, too—by the thousands.
People leave T.D. Jakes’ church, and they leave Andy Stanley’s church.
When our church had about 150 people and some would leave, it was so disappointing. I tried to console myself by thinking, “They may be leaving by the dozens here at Oasis, but thousands have left Jack Hayford’s church, and he’s a great pastor.” … That only helped for a minute.
“We want something deeper.”
“My needs aren’t getting met.”
These comments can feel like a personal rejection.
Every pastor has heard, “I’m not getting fed here.” Bill Hybels has heard it. Wayne Cordero, Dino Rizzo, Ed Young, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick and Matthew Barnett have heard it.
Really? Not getting fed? In those churches? How is that possible?
One of the most difficult conditions to achieve is to have a “tough skin and a soft heart.” Love people, hold them lightly and don’t take it personally.
“Uhhh, OK. Lord, help us.”
Trusting church members with personal burdens can backfire. They may end up telling the pastor's personal issues to others. Staff leaders can take church members away. The pastor trusts a person with the platform or title, and that person uses the influence given to them to take people away. The Judas kiss.
Church staff causing problems is a betrayal. Pastors rightfully think, “I’m paying you to solve problems. I can get new problems for free. I don’t need to pay someone a salary to create them.”
Forty percent report a conflict with a church member at least once a month.
Eighty five percent of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members and associate pastors.
The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change.
Forty percent of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
We pastors have to find a way, with God’s grace, to love people as if we have never been hurt before.
Who’s my friend? Who can I trust? If I tell another pastor my problems, will he criticize me, tell others or just treat me differently?
Seventy percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
Are my friends really my friends or a church member who is a temporary friend who may leave any day now?
Healthy friendships are crucial to a fulfilling life, especially to the wellbeing of a pastor. Put special effort in this area.
Fifty percent of the ministers starting out will not last five years.
Seventy percent felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50 percent still felt called.
Keeping personally refreshed is an art and a science … and extremely important.
When fatigue comes in, you not only look half-empty, but also dirty, contaminated and undrinkable.
6. Frustrations & Disappointments
Disappointments come in many ways.
Because of smaller congregations, the average compensation package for pastors is between $35,000 and $40,000. There are many things pastors in this salary range are not able to do for their family that other people around them can do.
There are many areas of ministry in which judging "success" is difficult. Pastors can be hard on themselves. We work in an area that good work and good effort does not always guarantee success.
Many pastors work hard but are missing some kind of "X-factor." They are good people, sincere believers, love God, know the Word, have great content in their sermons, but somehow it’s not clicking. It’s frustrating.
It’s like a worship leader who loves Jesus and has a great singing voice but somehow cannot lead people in an effective worship experience.
Some days, leaders feel like they can’t seem to do anything right. The ministry finally gets momentum, and then a leader in the church falls. Things are going well, and then a couple of your biggest givers leave.
The church needs money, but the pastor doesn’t want to put too much focus on money. It’s not about the money—but it becomes about the money.
All of this can be overwhelming.
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
Fifty percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
they could, but have no other way of making a living.
45.5 percent of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
This is not the case for all pastors. In fact, many that I know have managed to handle these issues well.
How Christians and church members can help:
Pray for your pastor.
Pray for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage and family. Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity and clarity.
Protect your pastor.
As best as you can, don’t allow or participate in gossip and criticism. How can you serve and problem solve to prevent overload?
Encourage your pastor.
Thank him or her for his or her work and ministry. Thank them for their sacrifice. Tell them a specific time in which you or someone you know experienced a life change in their church. Honor them to others. Let your pastors know you are praying for them. According to the Barna report—the profession of “pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”
Don’t give up, pastor! Persistence is powerful.
Keep on. Really! Your work, your labor of love and your sacrifice matters.
I realize the last thing a pastor needs is another sermon. But these verses have helped me. Hold on to God’s Word with your life.
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9 NLT
Be careful of the comparison trap.
Looking at other ministries can be inspiring. Comparing yourself to other churches can be destructive and discouraging.
Make new pastor friends. Expose yourself to new influences, new leaders, churches or ministries that are doing some things differently.
Discover to some fresh views and ideas. Sometimes, it just takes one or two new ideas that can change momentum around.
Pastors that are struggling or are no longer in ministry may have unresolved hurts. I encourage you to find healing. Seek counseling; find a local Celebrate Recovery group; equip yourself with resources on healing (some examples are Safe People or Boundaries) and share your secrets with safe people. Remember, you're only as sick as your secrets.
*The Fuller Institute, George Barna and Pastoral Care Inc. provide the statistics I have used in this post.
Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Generositywater.org. Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.
Shel - great answer to a question we all face in seasons of life (more or less).
Greg, you’re always talking about how we need to keep our eyes fixed on the cross to see and experience God’s love for us. But I find myself arguing with God, asking him: “How am I to believe that you love us that much when you don’t love me enough to lift the veil over my mind and break me free with your love?” I have never felt any of God’s love, or presence or anything! The truth is that God feels distant, unloving, and even non-existent, and it angers me that my Father, who supposedly loves me, leaves me in this godless prison. Why doesn’t God lift the veil and make himself real to me? B.
I’m so sorry to hear your plight. I completely understand the anger you express. You feel like you’re helplessly imprisoned in a godless dungeon and naturally wonder why God doesn’t deliver you, especially if he truly loves you as much as he says he does.
Now, I can’t pretend to know all the reasons why you can’t seem to experience the reality of God. But I’ll share with you what little I do know and what I’ve found has worked for me and countless others.
All of our emotions are associated with videos and soundtracks and other experiences we automatically run in our brains. We think by replicating our real life experiences in our heads, with all five senses, and there is always an emotional component to our thought. We tend to think that people and events outside us cause us to be angry or happy or whatever, but actually the thing that produces our emotion is the way we interpret people and events outside of us. And we interpret them automatically by conjuring up videos and soundtracks and other experiences in response to the people and events outside of us.
This is why a person might say to two different people, “you are fat,” and one cries while the other laughs. To the first, the words perhaps evoked memories of being publicly humiliated on a bus in 6th grade, while to the other it conjured up the image of an insecure five-year-old insulting them as they attempt to impress their five-year-old peers, or something like that. We usually aren’t aware of the videos and soundtracks we run in our brain, because they occur at about 1/3000th of a second, much faster than our consciousness can attend to. But THIS is how all emotions operate.
So, if you change the mental pictures you run in your brain, you change your emotions.
All that is to say if you’re feeling like God is distant, unloving, non-existent, it’s because you are unwittingly running videos and soundtracks and other experiences in your brain of a distant, unloving and/or non-existent deity. Anyone who experienced what you experienced in your mind would feel the way you feel. This isn’t your fault B. Who knows how the crap in our brain got there? The important thing is to realize that the crap is there and that this crap is the source of our crappy emotional experience. Most importantly, you need to know there is something you can do about it.
Here’s what I recommend.
a) First, know the intellectual reasons why you believe Jesus is the definitive revelation of God. Some people base their faith on personal experiences they’ve had, but I find this to be far too fickle and subjective. I instead ground my faith in historical and philosophical considerations. If I actually experience God’s love or anything spiritually, that is great, but if I don’t, it doesn’t at all affect my faith that this is true. (If you’re uncertain about why you believe, I encourage you to study the matter, e.g. Letters from a Skeptic, by my dad and me or The Jesus Legend by Paul Eddy and me).
b) Once I’ve intellectually resolved that Jesus is the definitive revelation of God, I now try to get all my thinking to line up with this (2 Cor 10:3-5). And a major part of this is making regular time to imagine Jesus. I put on some beautiful music, turn out the lights, and then meet Jesus, listen to what he has to say to me (always the same wonderful stuff he says in the NT, but now it’s to me personally). I sometimes take walks with Jesus, and we sometimes go back into the past and redo wounding memories. I talk about this in my book Seeing Is Believing and also in Escaping the Matrix (with Al Larson), both of which I strongly recommend for you.
c) This imaginative exercise will probably initially feel like you’re “making this up” on your own. Any time we do something “new” in our imagination, it feels like WE are making it up. Don’t worry about this. Even if you were “just making it up,” you’re still bringing your mind in line with what is true (see “a”), and that’s a good thing. For example, if I imagine Jesus right next to me right now, who cares if I’m making it up? I have good reason to believe Jesus is right here next to me. So if I imagine him here, I just made my overall worldview more accurate. In fact, my perception of my room at any moment is inaccurate to the degree that I see the room without him.
But if you open your imagination to the Spirit, whose job it is to unite us more and more with Jesus, I think that over time you’ll sometimes become aware that you are not “making this up.” We encounter the real Jesus in our imagination. (BTW, this is a very traditional practice, called “cataphatic prayer,” and the imagination has been called “the inner sanctuary,” precisely because it was understood to be the place where we encounter Christ).
d) Don’t enter into this imaginative exercise for the purpose of experiencing emotions. That will sabotage the whole thing. Rather, enter the imaginative exercise because you believe it’s true that Jesus is the definitive revelation of God. So don’t try to experience anything, and don’t get bugged if you don’t. But over time, if you are consistent with this, you’ll likely find that you begin to experience the feeling of being loved by him and begin to feel love toward him. Most of the time I spend in imaginative prayer I don’t feel much, but on occasion I get beautifully moved.
Finally, you might be wondering — why doesn’t God just “remove the veil” and cause me to experience him? There are always an unfathomable number of variables that affect the extent to which God can and can’t break through in our world (see my Is God to Blame?). But one important variable may be this. God wants us to be empowered to take back all that the enemy stole. And the first thing we need to learn to take back is our mind. We do have authority over what we think, and therefore over what we feel. It’s just that in our fallen state, we rarely use this. We thus allow our thoughts and feelings to be dictated to us by others — which is why most people feel they just are the way they are and can’t change. But Scripture everywhere tells us what to think (e.g. Phil.4:8), which presupposes we have power over what we think. And while God is always working to open us to as much of him as possible, I don’t think he ever wants to lobotomize us by controlling our brain for us.
Anyway, I hope you try this for a significant period of time and I hope you find it begins to make the truth of Jesus feel more real.
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/09/why-cant-i-feel-god-q-a/#sthash.KZbx9QYb.dpuf
As we are getting ready to put our house on the market I am reminded that we are embodied and this is a gift.
God created material and spirit together in this creation project. We humans are the height of this grand gift -creating as an overflow of love.
Some had said Satan/spiritual forces of evil in part became that way out of jealousy over our embodied spiritness. Out of this they have worked to get us to over or under emphasize this great gifts. E.g. gnostic- the material world/body is all bad and spirit all good. Or pop-atheism - there is only materiality - no spirit.
These two edges keep us from deeper delight, play, and boundaries that sustain life and play.
I naturally will miss one place and people - that is good. I will also embrace new place and people. So it's a strange season for me.
Well I've avoided most FB posting on the subject. I vetoed (self-censored and asked a few friends - who had mixed thoughts on a teaching Sunday on it) giving a talk on it. BUT a blog post will make it through:
Ken Ham distorts and flat out lies about what makes one orthodox. Christians have NEVER agreed on how to read Genesis creation accounts. His particular interpretation of a young earth reading is the most NEW and Novel.
YEC Young Earth (Ham)
OEC Old Earth
LFV Literary Framework
TE Theistic Evolution
are all in the camp of orthodoxy and Biblical authority.
Here's the one that Ham can't even speak straight about on a good day: http://biologos.org/
If I were really fired up - I'd say inviting Ken to "preach" his gospel at LL is akin to inviting a (fill-in-the-blank) _______________ denier. Yes they are out there, yes they spin "evidence", yet they are not mainstream and twist the facts.
Big difference one sees the evil of the deniers of various facts that do not align with their pre-supposed idea.
Many believers who are sympathetic to Ham miss that he's turning a secondary issue into a primary one in his arguments. He is attaching his interpretation of Genesis (and other Biblical creation accounts) to a modern-era reading scheme. But what is worse is that he is attaching it to the core of what it means to be a believer/orthodox christian (adding it to the creed/basic Christianity- which affirms God created and sustains and is covenant-ly involved - BUT DOES NOT settle the "how"). THIS IS THE CLASSIC DEFINITION OF A HERESY 101. Jesus gains authority from an interpretive "slight-of-hand" "bait-and-switch" regarding a particular view of Scripture. Instead of rightly ordered (according the Bible itself): all things hang on Jesus - first and foremost. Jesus is knowing through belief in Him by faith which comes through reading, hearing, personal experience, revelation. The Bible's main thrust is to testify to Jesus and affirm/give boundary to the spiritual experiences made real in the church's worship, the creation and personal spiritual experience.
Moreover, by doing this he is pushing people away from salvation by making this secondary debate primary. He is doing what Jesus confronted the Pharisees on, "slamming the doors of the Kingdom of God on people's faces who are trying to enter" by magnifying their interpretations of Scripture over the MAIN AND CLEAR TEACHINGS.
You are certainly entitled to opinions on secondary christian doctrines - but what you are not entitled to is to tack them onto the faith and apostolic preaching of salvation.
That is "another gospel".
The Chicago Debate on Calvinism - with a Soldier's Review of Zahnd's (nonviolent) 'victory'