Monday, August 26, 2013

Ideas for spending money

One of the unfortunate duties of a church pastor is fielding the many requests for how the church might spend it's money. It's unfortunate, not because people don't have some really great ideas, but because most of the time you have to say "no" to funding those ideas. I would say that I get an average of 10-12 requests a month for support from the church budget for funding. Here are three reasons I say "no" 1. Money in the church in not unlimited. I know some people have an impression that churches have lots of money - especially big churches. But the truth is that most churches have definitive budgets for the ministry they believe God has called them to. This not only includes outreach, but important things like paying the staff fairly and supporting the ministries within the church. Yearly, we make decisions on staff, ministries, programming, etc... based solely on the ministry God has entrusted to us here. There is no such thing as "extra" money. Churches usually plan beyond what they intend to take in (this is called vision) and either invest more fully in their ministry when resources are abundant, or cut back when resources are less than expected. 2. Saying "no" means saying "yes". There is also an impression (I assume from all of the requests) that some churches are waiting around for someone to tell them what they should be doing with their resources. However, a church that is moving forward with the gospel and the calling God has for them, will be very strategic in the ministries and missions they support. When I say "no" to a request to plant a church or fund a new bus for an outreach ministry, I'm actually saying "yes" to the ministries that God has laid on the hearts of the leaders here. I'm excited about what the Spirit is leading us to do and I want to pour all available resources into those things! 3. God is leading us too. The opening line in the brochure, phone call, or email for many is "God is leading me to..." I often want to respond by saying, "Well, God is leading us too". The point is that if we are paying attention to the Holy Spirit - He is leading all of us who are in Christ. However, as in the case of Paul and Barnabus concerning John Mark - he is often leading us in different directions. I'm not missing God's call just because mine doesn't line up with yours. Often, I can affirm God's calling for your passion - but sometimes, I wonder if the phrase "God's leading me.." is just a spiritual line to add weight to the what someone is getting ready to do. Once again, you must do what God is leading you to do, but I equally must do the same and if yours doesn't line up with mine, you have to respect that. Well, those are just some ramblings of a pastor on Monday morning, but at least consider these things before you suggest a spending idea to your pastor.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fourth service

Well, yesterday was another "vision" day at Eastview, and the excitement of many back in town and ready for school to start added to the electricity of the morning. I absolutely love sharing what God has led the elders and leaders of Eastview to prayerfully pursue - but admittedly it is tiring. Even a talker like me was out of words when three services were all over. Anyway, my favorite communication was the announcement that starting January 12th Eastview will begin a new worship service on Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. Announcing it is the easy part. Making it happen will take the hand of God, but we move forward trusting Him. How did we decide on Sunday at 5:00? Well..... First, we asked the staff to give their suggestions in a meeting we had over a year ago. We had at least fifteen different suggestions - so much for consensus. So, then our leadership team got together and began to pray and ask ourselves some value questions. I admittedly have a bias against Saturday nights because I think it depletes staff and key volunteer leaders. So, we moved away from a Saturday night scenario. Then we tried to figure out how to do four on Sundays. Should we do two Sunday morning and two Sunday afternoon/night? Should we do them all on Sunday morning and shorten our services? Should we just add to our morning schedule and have a 1:15 p.m. afternoon service? After brainstorming these detail questions, we began to focus on what we think might help us most accomplish our vision here at Eastview. What time would allow the most people to be able to grow as Christ followers? Where could we foster ridiculous love most? And maybe most importantly, how could we get more evangelistic as "dangerous witnesses"? In other words, if the church at it's best is irresistible, then what time could we accommodate those who want to come into our fellowship? Remember that all the while, over a period of months (if not a year) we continued to pray. Then we heard of a church in the Chicago area that started a 5:00 p.m. Sunday service with great results. So we talked with them and determined that in spite of all the challenges - it just might be our best option. Think of these "wins" for an early evening worship service on Sundays. 1. Those who go out of town for a long weekend can still get back in town and attend church on Sunday. 2. Those who have custody of their kids every other weekend can now bring them every Sunday night. 3. Those who meet for small group on Sunday night (over 40% at Eastview do) can just meet before or after. 4. Families can have all day together with no sports or activities and still get their kids to church and home for school the next day by 6:30 5. Families who have children in traveling sports can come to church when they get back in town. 6. Those who work on Sunday mornings can now come to Eastview. Well, I wish I had seven because that seems more spiritual...but we'll leave it at six. Now we have four months to plant, water, and pray for God's growth. Can't wait to see what happens.

Monday, August 12, 2013

truth and myths

The passage I preached from yesterday in II Timothy 4 included those words, "the time is coming...when (people) will turn away from listening to the truth and will wander off into myths". This led to me mentioning several myths toward the end of our sermon which I will list again here: "science and Christianity are opposed", "abortion is about a woman's right to choose", "there are many paths to God", "the kids will be okay (in divorce)", "material possessions will make you happy", "living together before marriage will strengthen you marriage", "homosexuality is something you are born with", and "your value comes from outward beauty". I actually had many more listed, but the sermon was already long, so I stuck with this list. 1. Why did I stick with this list? These are the predominant things I see in culture that and a younger generation and many Christians have bought into. 2. Why did I have to be specific in the sermon? Because, the media and social blitz in our society is unrelenting in it's perpetual propaganda of unChristian values. At some point, I want to present the truth in such a way that maybe someone will at least consider that this world isn't right and God's Word is. 3. What has the response been? I haven't gotten any scathing e-mails yet this morning, but I think they'll come. Every preacher that has ever preached has been we'll see. Ironically, it was three college students who thanked me for speaking the truth. 4. Why should someone who disagrees with me, listen to the sermon I preach? Because I sincerely believe what I'm saying is the truth of God's Word, and though imperfect in so many ways I'm honestly trying to live this Jesus following life, and I speak the truth because of my love for those who hear the Word of God. This morning, the world goes on inventing, promoting, and encouraging the myths of a culture hopelessly devoted to it's selfish pleasures, but the truth of God remains and so I'll keep preaching it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Complex Body

Have you ever considered the complexity of the church? Whatever local church you attend is probably more complex than you probably realize. I know that in our setting there a literally thousands of functions that take place all the time to keep our church running. Consider these questions: Who prints the bulletins? who fills communion cups?who cleans the toys in the nursery? who writes lessons for 2 year olds? who help jumps the battery of the car after service? who puts batteries in the wireless microphones? who cleans the baptistery? who makes sure there are paper towels in the restroom? who gets coffee for the meeting? etc... I could go on. The point is that in the local church, people who are gifted for and have a passion for these things (and countless more)do them every week for the good of the body of Christ. I was reading I Corinthians 12 again today and I was struck with the complexity of the Body of Christ. I think the apostle Paul correctly compares it to the human body since it too is a very detailed entity. Think of the millions of cells functioning exactly as they were designed to keep the blood flowing, the oxygen inhaling, the food digesting, the brain thinking, the legs walking, etc... Paul's point is that just as God designed the human body to be a complex orchestration of many parts coming together to equal life - He also designed the church (His spiritual body) to be a complex design of many parts coming together to bring eternal life. And we are a part of it. I've come to think that we are probably a smaller part of it than we think. I have heard people humbly refer to themselves as the big toe, or ear lobe of the body of Christ, but I think we're probably smaller than that. When I consider the worldwide body of Christ, we are probably more likely microscopic cells. I'm not an earlobe in the Body of Christ, I'm a cell that makes up a freckle on the earlobe of the body of Christ. In other words, pretty small... BUT INDISPENSABLE! Paul is convinced in his teaching that each part of the body is appointed by God, apportioned by the Spirit, and necessary for the good of the Body. So the church is complex. And we are each a very small part. But the body wouldn't be the same without us. Think about the that you little cell. You are not the point, but God's point is to use you to make his!