Belong Local

How many times have you seen “shop local” or “dine local” in your town? Although this is mostly something that is seen in smaller towns, it is a marketing campaign for locals to stop shopping at national chains and the internet and go to the local shops, markets and restaurants. Why? Because buying local helps build the local economy. Experts say that if just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.

But what about the idea of belonging local? I’m not talking about belonging to a gym or a local club. I’m talking about belonging to a local church. (Key emphasis on local and church.) Don’t check out on me yet…but think about it. Many Christians don’t belong to a church and some Christians simply go when it’s convenient. And then some of us “go” to a church that isn’t even local. We’ll drive to a massive church that’s 30-60 minutes away and “go”, just to get lost in the crowd – forsaking the call of belonging to a church.

I think the reason “belonging to a church” is foreign to us is that we treat the church like it’s secondary to our faith. Maybe because we’ve been hurt in the church or maybe it’s because we just don’t care. However you feel about the church, as believers the church is who we are. So we can either say we don’t want to identify ourselves as the church because of poor decisions by other morons, or we can take on the name and redefine it for everyone who doesn’t know what the church is supposed to be.

The truth is that Jesus never intended for us to to go to church. Jesus said that He is building a church (from the Greek word ecclesia – a gathering of people.) He isn’t starting a go fund me page for a building program, rather he is building a people. And it baffles me when “Christians” say they want nothing to do with what Jesus said he is building. It’s like expressing your affections to your friend, but hatred towards their spouse. Jesus’ intention for us is to belong to His bride, The Church. Belong to what is the cure to every issue in this world. Brokenness? Poverty? Loneliness? Addictions? Hurts? The Church has the answer – it’s what we are supposed to belong to. And I’m so convinced that God wants to do something so spectacular in our community today – but we as Christians are holding people back from that movement because we are individuals who simply refuse to belong to a church.

My challenge for us is to stop going to church and start belonging to church. Let’s stop being critical of her and start building her up with our gifts. Stop trying to drain all of her resources and start giving to her.  Stop going when it’s convenient for you and start belonging faithfully. Stop coming by yourself and start bringing people with you to grow her. Stop comparing your church to the latest fad in the next town and start building her up.

Don’t forsake the church or attend apathetically – belong local to the ecclesia – The Bride of Jesus.

Words Matter

I’m in the middle of a teaching series at Refuge Point called Just Sayin’. Like me, you’re probably overly familiar with that phrase. If not, it goes something like this: Someone states a critical opinion to stir the pot and then says, “I’m just sayin'”. Or someone wants to give an aggressive PSA and then ends it with “Just Sayin'”. Others often express some form of gossip, negative view, or a cheap shot at someone and then ends the rhetoric with, “I’m Just Sayin'”. What these people don’t understand is that their “Just Sayin'” rhetoric has the power to change the direction of someones life.

Think about how powerful words are. Yet doesn’t it seem like the smallest phrases of words have the greatest impact? When you said, “I do” – did that phrase not change your life? When you said, “yes or no” to that drug or when you said “yes” to that person in the back seat of your car? Think about how those simple yet powerful words changed the trajectory of your life. And to know that we have the power with the words we speak to either bring life or death to a situation should weigh heavy on every person.

The average person will spend 1/5 of his/her life speaking. (Unless you’re like me…it’s more like 3/5.) Of that time, I wonder how many of us are using our words to bring life to situations. I would imagine it would be very little. For most of us, encouragement and spreading God’s love and grace isn’t on our lips. Rather, it’s words of gossip. Gossip is talking about someone without that someone. We simply fill the voids of our conversations with gossip just so we can avoid dealing with the issues and sins of our own hearts. It’s also negativity. Most of us can never say something good about another person because we’re consumed with all the bad he/she has done.

If you’re like me, then you feel defeated when you start thinking about all of this. So what’s our remedy? Jesus said that from the overflow of our heart, the mouth speaks. So, if there’s death in our hearts, then words of death will come out of our mouths. But if there’s life in our hearts, we’ll speak life. The remedy is to ask Jesus to transform our heart. The issue is never the action, it’s always the heart. The way to watch the words coming out of your mouth is to watch what is going into your heart. Store up good things in your heart and watch good things come out of your life.

“The words of a person’s mouth are deep waters, a flowing river, a fountain of wisdom.” Proverbs 18:4 (CSB)

Success vs. Faithfulness

Our culture is inundated with how to achieve success. Not only are we bombarded with how to be successful, we are painted a black and white picture of what success looks like. To our cultures standards, success looks like good health, six pack abs, nice house and car, and an extremely successful business or job. Think about how social media has influenced the picture of success for wherever you are in your life. If you’re a pastor, then check out the biggest names in the church world. If you’re trying to get healthy and in shape, then check out all of the fitness models. If you’re a mom or dad, then check out how Sally and Bob (I don’t know a Sally and Bob) are buying their kids the latest toys and hottest clothes.

And as a pastor, I am guilty of wanting this picture of success. I want my sermons to be successful, I want our numbers to be successful, I want my staff to be successful, I want my family to be successful – and I could go on forever here.

But what if I told you that success isn’t the end game? What if looking like everyone else isn’t what we’re supposed to do? Now, I don’t think that wanting success is a total bad idea, it just cannot be the main idea. Do you know how exhausting it is trying to live to the standards of success in our world? Jesus paints a clear picture for us about the one thing he wants from us in Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ I’m going to give you the most freeing thing you will hear today: Jesus never called you to be successful, he called you to be faithful. 

The problem is that since we are too caught up with trying to be successful, faithfulness takes a back seat in our priority list and we miss what God is trying to do in and through us. God wants us to be faithful with both the large and small things of life, simply because he’s looking for a people who will place more value in faithfulness over success.

But maybe, just maybe, for those of us who are comparing our lives to the rock stars of social media, maybe we ought to redefine what success looks like. Because success should mean that we are being faithful in what God has entrusted us with.

What Most Pastors Want to Say

(If you are not a pastor, this post is also for you.)

I have been leading Refuge Point Church for 6 years now and I’ve been in the ministry for 14 years so I feel like I have enough experience to explain some of the emotions that some pastors (and church staffers) go through. It’s also important to start off by saying that I have been extremely blessed with some amazing life giving people at Refuge Point. I have an unhealthy love for you guys and you are the best people I know. The people at Refuge Point Church are seriously some of the most amazing people on the planet. I’m one of the luckiest pastors to have you guys and I’m extremely blessed that even some of you see the ugliest parts of me and love me despite the ugliness. 

Before we dive in to this, let’s have a brief discussion of the job of a pastor. A pastor has been entrusted to lead a local church, but Jesus is the head of the Church. A pastor is not to be placed on a pedestal, because the pastor is NOT a king or a dictator. A pastors primary job is to equip the church. (See Ephesians 4). A pastor, which translates as shepherd, smells like the sheep, corrects the sheep and goes after the sheep. A pastor is not responsible for wiping your butt, and the pastor is not the churches whore and the church is not his his pimp.

So, with that said, (everyone breath) lets talk about what your pastor wants to tell you:

1) I Love You and The Church. It’s true. I can’t tell you enough how much I love people. And not to sound like I pick favorites, but I love people who are selfless and life giving. I love pouring in to people and watching God grow them further than ever before. And I’m flipping passionate about seeing The Church grow. 

2) I am a human. I know that’s simple, but think about it. That means that pastors are not perfect and we will also sin and fail you. I may even “accidentally” cut you off on the highway. In fact, give me just a couple of minutes and I will disappoint you, heck I may even miss a hospital visit. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or care for you, it just means that I simply wasn’t able to get to you.

3) My Family > You. I remember mine and Merinda’s first kiss, I cried when I asked Merinda to marry me, I cried when Jude was born, and I cried when my boo (Nora) was born. I’ve poured my entire life in to these three and nothing will change that. My first call of pastoring is to pastor/love my family first. They are only second to my relationship with Jesus. I will always pick them over you and nothing will ever change that.

4) I Get Really Down in the Dumps When People Leave. However, there are some that I open the back door and throw a party when they leave. (I kid…but seriously, we hide the fireworks.) But that’s not always the case. For the most part it hurts me, my wife, and the other leaders of our church when you leave. The pastoral heart in me weeps because I know you shouldn’t be leaving. I know the church is not perfect, but we are trying our best to equip you and your family to do the work of ministry. And it really hurts when we’ve spent so much time pastoring you through difficult times, only to find out that you got mad about one small thing and you did the adult thing and just went bye bye. So, when you leave, know that you are deeply missed by your pastor.

5) I Don’t Like Control Freaks. I’m not talking about strong willed individuals or people with A type personalities. Rather, I’m talking about the people that want to take over and get you off the course God has set you on. They are generally all about themselves. Seriously, if you are coming to a church to try to take over, please do everyone a favor and leave. You are the person I was just talking about that is celebrated when you exit the building. I love creative approaches, I love strategic meetings, and I love different methods BUT I do NOT love it when you come with an agenda and try to derail us from the vision that God has called us to. Get behind your pastor and churches vision, and if they don’t have one, pray that God will give them a fresh vision for your community.

6) I Want to See You Flourish. Which, for me, means that I want you to live the abundant life that Jesus has called you in to. I want to see you overcome addictions. I want to see your marriage flourish. I want to see your children saved. I want to see you healed. I want to see you prosper. I want you to be serious about the commands of God: evangelism, praying, giving, serving, studying the Bible, worshiping with your life, etc.

Again, I am blessed to be serving some of the greatest people on earth. But it always hasn’t been rainbows and butterfly’s – but I’m extremely grateful for the season we are in now. 

So for all the pastors out there, what would you want to say to your church? (Or previous church?)