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For my fellow pastor friends

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

A pastor

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:

1. Criticism

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.
2. Rejection

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.

“I’m leaving.”

“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.”

3. Betrayal

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.
4. Loneliness

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.

5. Weariness

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.”
To Pastors.

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.

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Boyd: Why Can’t I feel God?

Shel - great answer to a question we all face in seasons of life (more or less).

- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/09/why-cant-i-feel-god-q-a/#sthash.KZbx9QYb.dpuf

Question:

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.

Answer:

Hi 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.

Blessings,

Greg
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/09/why-cant-i-feel-god-q-a/#sthash.KZbx9QYb.dpuf

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Loving Place and House

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.

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You Might Have Been Lied To – Green Eggs and Ham

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
RC Re-Creation
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".

-Shel

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The Chicago Debate on Calvinism – with a Soldier’s Review of Zahnd’s (nonviolent) ‘victory’

Ok I will avoid the freewill debate for a while. Here's my last... FYI my favorite theological word is "play"!

The Chicago Debate on Calvinism - with a Soldier's Review of Zahnd's (nonviolent) 'victory'

http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2014/08/the-chicago-debate-on-calvinism-with-a-soldiers-review-of-zahnds-nonviolent-victory.html

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Why Would You Ever Leave a Church You Love?

shel: was on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/27/leave-a-church-you-love-by-jarrod-robinson/ this speaks VERY closely to my Mercy Church experience.

I have bolded some parts that really resonate.


Why Would You Ever Leave a Church You Love? (by Jarrod Robinson, Southern Hills Church of Christ, Abilene)

My family and I just left a church we loved with all our hearts.

It has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made.

Nearly eight years ago my wife, Lauren, and I joined a new church family in the Dallas area. In many ways, it was love at first sight. The church leaders and staff were excited for us to be joining them, the church membership welcomed us with open arms, the, the congregation was located in a rapidly growing suburb, and the future seemed limitless. There was an undeniable sense of possibility and optimism blossoming in this new relationship.

I guess you could say that the first year was like the first year of marriage. Learning how to live together, figuring out how to share life, pushing through moments of misunderstanding and even conflict on the wings of willing hearts and through the life-giving power of new beginnings.

As is true in all relationships, that initial “honeymoon” period didn’t last forever, and it soon became clear that it was time for us to step into the harder – but even more fulfilling – stage of starting to build something together, something we all hoped with God’s help would have lasting significance.

By now, I knew the congregation well enough, and the congregation knew me well enough, for us to start asking more of one another than we ever could have at the start. We offered these mutual challenges not out of frustration or embarrassment or disappointment, but out of a deep sense of desiring something better, and not just for us, but also for the larger community around us. And the truth is, we stumbled some along the way as we tried to find new and better answers, but we stumbled together – we struggled as a family struggles – and we grew closer every step of the way.

Eventually, we reached a place where we were very comfortable. I was happy to be there, and the church seemed just as happy to have me there. As I listened to many of my pastor friends complain about the churches they served in, I would silently thank God that my experience was so different. Because while there were definitely difficult situations and tough days in my congregation, I always felt sure it was worth it.

Lauren and I often talked about spending the rest of our ministry life right where we were. The two of us would often have conversations late at night about our two daughters growing up surrounded by the same church family from the time they were born until they left the house for college. I occasionally thought about what it would be like to give a retirement speech many years from now, after four decades of faithful service in one church.

It felt safe and secure. It felt predictable. It felt like home.

Every so often, a search team member from another congregation would call me and ask me if I’d be willing to visit with them about the possibility of serving in a new place with new people. My response was always the same: “Thank you so much for your interest, but I don’t feel called to leave where I’m serving right now.”

Over and over again, I politely said, “No.” It always seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to stay loyal to my church family and I wanted to finish what we’d started together with God’s help. So my answer, time after time, was, “Thanks, but no.” Most of the time, I didn’t give it a second thought.

But several months ago, after one of those calls, these words from Scripture rang like a bell in my mind: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram went…”

These words haunted me for three days. And a question gradually started to form somewhere deep in my soul: “If God wanted to call me out of a place of comfortable safety and predictability to do an uncertain and risky new thing for the sake of others…how would God do that?” While speaking in an audible voice from heaven is obviously a possibility, how else would God speak to me?

It suddenly scared me to think of all the search team committee members from other churches that I’d automatically said, “No” to over the years. What if in refusing to really listen to them, what if in refusing to hear them out, I was unintentionally refusing to listen to God?

What if every time I told them, No,” I was also telling God, “No?”

What if, in an attempt to be loyal to one congregation, I was inadvertently ignoring a divine invitation to live out a broader loyalty to the kingdom of God? What would it mean to really listen without always trying to protect my current comfortable position? What if God wanted me to move beyond feeling at home somewhere to trusting that my true home is wherever God calls me to be?

In the end, Lauren and I didn’t make the decision to leave a church we loved because we were running away from some nagging dysfunction or an under-the-surface sense of disappointment. We weren’t bored. We didn’t choose to leave a church we loved because we’d convinced ourselves that a new church would be a better “career move.” We weren’t shopping around. We didn’t choose to leave a church we loved because we were able to fully answer all the questions we carry in our hearts. We simply decided to listen. We tried to hear God out.

And in end, I hope we chose to leave a church we loved because we were convinced that God had clearly been preparing us to help meet the challenges and opportunities a different church in the kingdom was facing.

I hope we chose to leave a church we loved because we felt God’s call to move past primarily receiving blessing to trying our best to also be a blessing.

I hope we chose to leave a church we loved, because the Lord said to Abram, “Go.” And Abram went. And so must we.

I know that sometimes – maybe even most of the time – God calls many of us to stay. I’m not saying that God is constantly calling all of us to “Go.”

All I’m saying is that we always need to be willing to listen. No matter what.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/27/leave-a-church-you-love-by-jarrod-robinson/#ixzz3BbeYCnhs

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The Risk of Love & the Source of Evil

The Risk of Love & the Source of Evil
26 Aug 2014 From ReKnew by Greg Boyd
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/08/the-risk-of-love-the-source-of-evil/#sthash.XbFq5EYJ.dpuf

On Sunday Greg tweeted the following:

Love IS a tremendous risk. But if humans ever concluded the risk was not worth it, we likely become extinct rather quickly. …

Yes, love is risky. It costs us everything, and we sometimes get terribly hurt. But it’s this risk that “makes the world go round.” …

And it seems to me that, once we accept that the risk inherent in love is worth it– for us AND for GOD–the problem of evil is resolved.

Here are some further reflections of Greg’s on the risk of love.

While there will always be a great deal of mystery as to why specific evil events transpire the way they do, the Bible does give us an answer as to how evil originates. It has to do with this precious and dangerous thing called free will.

God could have easily created a world in which nothing evil could never happen. But this world would not have been capable of love. Certainly God could have preprogrammed agents to say loving things and to act in loving ways. He could even have preprogrammed these automatons to believe they were choosing to love. But these preprogrammed agents would not genuinely be loving. Love can only be genuine if it’s freely chosen. Which means, unless a personal agent has the capacity to choose against love, they don’t really have the capacity to choose for it.

In fact, if you think deeply about it, I think you’ll agree that the concept of a “preprogrammed lover “ is completely meaningless,—similar to the concept of a “married bachelor” or a “round triangle.” The reason God can’t create these things is not that he lacks any power, but because a “married bachelor” and a “round triangle” are self-contradictory. They’re equivalent to nothingness, so it’s no limitation on God to say he can’t create them. So too, the reason God can’t create a “preprogrammed lover” is because the very idea of an agent who is capable of love but not capable of choosing against love is meaningless.

So, if God’s primary purpose in creation is raising up a people who are capable of receiving and reflecting his love and carrying out his will “on earth as it is in heaven,” these people will have to have the potential to choose against love. The same is true of angels. And this is how all evil originates. The price of the possibility of love is freedom, and with freedom comes the possibility of evil.

Though some Christians unfortunately think God’s will includes evil, the Bible depicts sin as evil precisely because it constitutes a rejection of God’s will. For example, Scripture says that the lawyers and Sadducees of Jesus’ day sin because they “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Lk 7:30, emphasis added). So too, through Isaiah the Lord says to the children of Israel:

Oh, rebellious children, says the LORD,

who carry out a plan, but not mine;

who make an alliance, but against my will,

adding sin to sin. (Is. 30:1, emphasis added)

As C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity, this is the most amazing aspect of creation: the omnipotent God created beings who have the capacity to reject him. He could have created a world that necessarily conforms to his every whim, but while this sort of creation would obviously be devoid of any evil or suffering, it also would be devoid of love.

This only touches the surface on what the Bible has to say about free will. I’ll say more in tomorrow’s post.
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/08/the-risk-of-love-the-source-of-evil/#sthash.XbFq5EYJ.dpuf

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This Morning at Mercy Church

Beloved Church,

I write to let you know, I/we announced our intention to resign the lead pastor role at Mercy Church this fall. We are waiting on a few items to come together before announcing a final date - but it's looking like mid-late October. We will have plenty of time to make our Fall launch successful and to say good-bye in small groups, coffee, lunch, etc.

We have poured our lives, our resources, our talents into Mercy Church since before it was a church! Sensing a pull of the Spirit we want to leave well and focus on the niche things that make Mercy Church a powerful blessing and alternative in the church community in Sioux Falls.

I will post the message and transition message online tomorrow at www.mercychurch.org/resources

We call on everyone to pray, to step up to leadership, to engage at a whole new level. I will not take my foot off the gas and coast - there's too much at stake for the Kingdom of God - until we leave.

Keep on being a place where questioners and believers come together around Jesus. Where we belong, question, share and grow. Where we value Evangelicalism, Spirit-filled, and Anabaptist teachings.

The best is yet to come for all!

In His OUTRAGEOUS love,

Shel and Anne Boese

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6 Things Every Strong Community Needs Community doesn’t always come naturally. Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one

“I think community has to be organic,” said the guy across the room.

6 Things Every Strong Community Needs
Community doesn't always come naturally.
Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one.

By Marisa Barnett August 18, 2014

Native of Lancaster County, PA, Marisa lives in Cape Town, South Africa where she serves with Paradigm Shift, a nonprofit organization that alleviates poverty by training and discipling the poor. Marisa blogs at ineedwords.com.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

I cringed and sucked in a deep breath. My heart picked up pace. My body always responds this way when something severely rubs me the wrong way.

As someone who had just left my community and moved across the ocean, the comment felt like a slap in the face.

The initial response in my head was defensive. Easy for you to say since you come from a well-known ministry. Community isn’t so organic when you’re changing cultures.

But my heart response was more along the lines of, What’s wrong with me? Why has it been anything BUT organic for me? Why do I have to try so hard?

For a long time, community seemed organic for me. I had lifelong friends that had been playing by my side since before we could talk. I had more recent friends that quickly became kindred spirits.

Community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

But when I moved, community was my biggest struggle, and it hasn’t been easy. Not because people aren’t friendly, not because people in my new city don’t have community, but because community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

I used to think all I need is God. And that the loneliness I’ve struggled with is just helping me to turn to God instead of relying too much on people. There is some truth to that. But the truth is our hearts need more than an individual relationship with God.

In Genesis 1, God creates the world. At the end of each new creation, God calls it good. Then God creates Adam.

So there’s Adam, living in what the most beautiful place there has ever been on earth. Adam walks with God. There is no sin separating him from God. He has all the food he needs. He knows nothing of shame or pain or sadness. He’s in paradise. Adam has it all.

And then, for the first time since the world has been created, God sees that something is not good. He says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Again, Adam has everything. A perfect relationship with God. Plenty of food. A safe and beautiful environment. Everything is working how it was created to work. And yet, it’s not enough.

This scenario isn’t just about marriage. Jesus, who was the perfect man, the “second Adam,” was single. But this speaks to a larger need we all have: A need for relationships and for community. We weren’t meant to be alone. In fact God says, “it is not good.”

Community is a buzzword, but it’s easier said than done. And often it’s more talked about than it is practiced.

As I’ve worked to develop community, I’ve learned that there are a few things every strong community needs:

  • Intentionality
  • Community has to be intentional. Even if it starts organically, it still has to be maintained.

    The community that Jesus formed with His 12 disciples was intentional. It wasn’t organic. It’s very unlikely that a tax collector and a fisherman would have naturally come together had Jesus not called them both. And there are decidedly some moments of tension within the group. It wasn’t this group of guys that just understood one another’s hearts and agreed on everything and sat by the fire singing kumbaya. They bickered, they disagreed, and they resented each other at times. But they became a community that multiplied and changed the world.

  • Diversity
  • Community can’t just be with people we feel comfortable with, who completely understand us and believe the same things as us.

    This is what I love about church families. The diversity, the differences, all of these imperfect people that come from different walks of life and yet share one common love: Jesus.

  • A Willingness to Embrace Awkwardness
  • Developing community can be awkward. I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements. It can mean awkward conversations, refused invitations, miscommunication and expectations not matching reality.

  • Openness
  • Invite others in. Come as you are and you’ll find me as I am.

    One of the best ways I’ve found in creating community is inviting people into my life, and into my home. Letting people see our imperfections (and our imperfect homes and meals), helps others to feel more free to be themselves. There is nothing like bonding over a flopped cake or an embarrassing moment.

    I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements.

  • The Ability to Have Fun Together
  • Create a memory. Stop just going out for coffee. While I love going out for coffee, coffee dates are better for maintaining relationships than starting new ones.

    Do something that will create a memory and bring people around a common cause. Whether it’s hiking a new trail or getting people together to raise awareness for a social justice issue or organizing a game night, initiate activities that will bring people together.

  • Inclusiveness
  • Expand your community. Don’t create cliques, create community. Always be expanding your community and looking for new people to invite in.

    Creating community has been an up and down process for me. I’ve had to work to put aside fear, laziness and anything that keeps me from stepping out and pursuing relationships. I’ve learned that I have to let go of self-preservation and self-criticism.

    Through community, and these new people God has brought in and out of my life, I’m encountering God in new ways and growing in ways I never could have without community.

    Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

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