Establishing a New Church Part Five: Love, Serve, Disciple

ImageIn my last writing, I talked about being sensible in your expectations. What follows is what I consider the ‘Hardtack’ of ministry. Hardtack, as some may remember, is basic sustenance that soldiers would carry in case of emergency. While not a gourmet meal, it was useful to sustain life and when survival is the key, it was great to have. If your church is to survive, this ‘hardtack’ had better be available at all times….

For me, the mantra of ministry is to “Love, Serve, & Disciple” other people. The words are organized in an order for a reason. Love should flow from our relationship with Christ. It should permeate all that we do. Even when we’re having a bad day, we can still choose to love others. Every Christian and many non-believers know the verse from John 3:16 about Jesus coming to save us but not as many, including Christians, know the words of 1 John 3:16…

This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

Wow! Did you get that? John 3:16 tells about God giving us his only son to save us and this verse says that we should give our lives for each other. If you do nothing else but live this verse, is it church? However you answer know this, if you DO NOT live this verse, any and everything else you do as a group is NOT church. End of discussion.

As we read God’s Word and allow it to permeate our hearts, the next logical step is to serve others in love. Jesus modeled this for us when he left heaven and His throne to become a servant to each of us. Thus, when we approach God for direction, Jesus reminds us…

“Whoever wants to be the most important must make others more important than themselves. They must serve everyone else.” (Mark 9:35)

Too many churches today serve a system, a building program, or professional staff. How many are serving everyone else? Granted, it’s hard to get everyone on board to do things. Even in large institutional churches we see the “Pareto” principle of 20% doing 80% of the work and vice-versa for the lax attenders. But the goal of leadership is to live these verses. Some do it very well. Others, in my humble opinion, do a great job ‘outsourcing’ this work to others, including government programs, para-church ministries (which are excellent by the way), and someone else.

You might feel you’re not gifted in this area but more likely it’s an excuse to avoid the hard (and necessary) work of ministry. Learning to love, then living it by serving opens the door to where most churches want to start…Discipleship. Many call it evangelism which can be a good term but the two are different. Evangelism is promoting the gospel of Christ…So if that’s what you REALLY want to do go back and re-read this post up to this point because Jesus says this:

“Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.” (Mark 10:45)

Hmmm…It seems the first two points of my writing are encapsulated in this one verse. He gave his life away (in love) to others and He willingly chose to serve others rather than be served which He was fully entitled to. If that is the case, then to promote THIS message (evangelism) would be to live it out since Jesus did say to follow His example right? Right? To me, this is a non-negotiable. To push it off on others, to delegate it to a ‘program’ (which many pastors do) is SIN. Yes, I called it SIN. It’s being disobedient to God’s call and that my friends is SIN. God will not bless sin. You may think you have a church if you neglect this part of the Christian life but what you really have is a religious social club.

If we now accept the premise that to love and to serve IS evangelism, then it makes sense that out of those actions comes conversions. This is where you must learn to use Scripture to lead someone to faith in Christ. After you’ve loved and served, God will open doors for you to share with others about the Body Life in Christ. Having done this, NOW you can Disciple…This is where the familiar ‘Great Commission’ from Jesus comes in:

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Living life together as a group, loving and serving each other and people outside of your group, and serving Jesus in all things will bring about new converts. We must be solid handlers of God’s Word and biblical discipleship is a must. In a future series, I will share more about this area but for now let me share with you a life verse for me. It comes from the Apostle Paul:

What you have heard me teach publicly you should teach to others. Share these teachings with people you can trust. Then they will be able to teach others these same things. (2 Timothy 2:2)

THIS to me is discipleship. Allowing others to duplicate what has just happened. New Churches will establish themselves from such a basic execution of this verse. You cannot skip any of the three steps of this process in order to produce body life, all three MUST be there. And I might add, all three must be present in your life if you are truly a Christian. You cannot donate money to an organization to do this work for you. If you’re a pastor, you must model this to your church and expect it from those who you consider your leaders. If it’s not present in them, find new leaders. God will not bless disobedience to what He has made His commandment.

More in my next post…

Establishing a New Church Part Five: Love, Serve, Disciple

Establishing a New Church – Part Four: Be Sensible

Park Here Please!This sounds like an odd point in this series but truly, I’ve seen things in establishing churches that cause me to shake my head and wonder if the person doing them has actually ever read the entire bible. What do I mean? Going over the top. I was guilty of this. I spent a lot of money on advertising my ‘church’ and though I would say some advertising is okay, you really want to be careful overdoing it when promoting Jesus.

You’ve all seen the the cards. You get your mail and some family dressed in nice but casual clothes holding a smiling child behind a cityscape or rural landscape (depending on your location) beckons you to visit a ‘relevant’ church ‘on mission’ for Jesus. They sing newer music, provide name brand coffee, some have round tables for you to sit at during worship, and they all invite you to ‘come as you are’ because ‘this isn’t your parents’ church’ (as if this was soooo bad).

When you get to the building where the ‘church’ gathers, you are given special parking spaces, directed by signs, and met by someone at the church to ‘check in’ your kids and immediately have them leave your grasp to sanitary environments based on age. You are then conveniently shuttled to the snack area for that ‘name brand’ coffee and perhaps a sales table to buy materials based on that month’s teaching from the bible. Perhaps there are free media materials for you. Surely there are pamphlets outlining the small group ministry, singles groups, children’s play days, and such. The hope is, that you feel so welcomed, that you will come and tell your friends. Makes sense…until it doesn’t.

Let me ask you something…What other business operates in this manner? First off, how many other places do you go where your kids have to leave you for age appropriate space? (Please don’t include the gym for those of you who work out. It’s not a good correlation). Where else do you go weekly where you listen to 20-30 minutes of music followed by 30 or more minutes of oratory designed to change your life? I’m not diminishing the role of preaching here. I’ve been preaching for over 14 years now (as of this writing) and yes it has great value to the hearers but I think many have abandoned what the ministry of preaching is truly about. It’s about instruction, which involves knowing your people, which is possible when you live life with them day by day. Many pastors I know of cannot do this because they simply do not have the time. The pressures of professional ministry make it impossible for pastors to get to know their people this intimately. Some have even resorted to ‘video preaching’ because the crowds are vast and spread out over several campuses.

Be sensible….

When the apostle Paul established churches, he put men in charge who he had trained and continually discipled as they went. These men, the Elders, led the smaller groups who worked collaboratively as one to help others in other parts of the country. They ate together, they laughed and cried together, they knew each other intimately and love was present. Needs were met and the instruction given taken to heart because of the bond present in the body. Paul did not attempt to preach weekly to these groups but left their instruction to the Word of God that was given and the integrity of the people who were commissioned for leadership. This was not without serious problems at times (Read 1 and 2 Corinthians for reference!). But it allowed a bond to be built and as questions arose, Paul would answer in the form of letters (most of our New Testament). These letters gave instruction in God’s principles for life. Their validity could be seen in their seamless integration with much of the Bible of the day (The Old Testament). It was an efficient, decentralized, but yet connected network that changed the world. How did it spread? Through the living witness of changed lives…

Not a postcard with empty promises, a smack at the older generation, or Christianized versions of secular enterprises. How come?

Because the early disciples had to be sensible…and you should be too. You are unique…Let your work be as unique as you.

Establishing a New Church – Part Four: Be Sensible

Establishing a New Church – Part Three: Get a Job!

ImageToo many people try to establish new churches for the wrong reasons. I mentioned earlier not listening to the experts who try to dissect who’s wired and who’s not for establishing new churches. Without contradicting myself let me give you the short list of who’s NOT ready (notice I didn’t say will never be able) to establish a church…

1) Someone who’s not happy at their present pastorate (or job) 2) A Youth Pastor or similar leader who is ready to ‘move up’
3) Someone who can’t seem to stay happy at any position in ministry
4) Someone who thinks “if only they’d listen to me” (I was once that guy) And most importantly…..
5) SOMEONE WHO’S NEVER WORKED A REAL SECULAR JOB

Why do I emphatically state the last one? Because, if you are going to establish anything of lasting value for Jesus, you need to be able to relate to those you are serving. Jesus was a carpenter for nearly all of his adult life. Paul mended tents. Despite his amazing education, he wasn’t afraid to carry his mending tools with him and utilize his hands to work hard to support his mission. Today, we have professionalized the pastor’s job and now many mission agencies provide a full-time salary for a family (maybe even two or three families) to go to an area and establish a new work. Can this method be effective? Yes but many will still fail and the cost of those failed works exponentially increases the overall cost for the one work that DOES succeed. In this way, the spread of the gospel will move at a snail’s pace compared to other ways of doing this same work…

How?

Well, as I’ve stated before, you must be unique. Uniqueness requires thinking outside the box and that will require you to get a job, maybe even a full time job, to fund your work as you establish your vision. There’s nothing wrong with this. I will admit that for nearly a decade, I worked very hard, put in long hours, and was paid a full time salary to revitalize a dead church (it had closed a few years earlier but was being held together by a group of about 8-10 people). There was a lot that needed done and I do not regret having gone down that road. It was necessary at the time but overall if I regret any one thing during those early years, it’s that I didn’t insist on working at least a part time secular job. I inquired about it at the outset but was told by my sending agency who was paying me that no moonlighting was allowed. I was emphatically told to focus only on the work at hand (which was substantial) and not to be distracted. Looking back, I understood and still do the reasons for this. The relaunch and reestablishment of this church was going to be very involved. It required focus. But still, I could have worked and lessened the burden on my salary. I should have. Now, by necessity, I’m working nearly full time at one job, part time at another, and receive gifts from my sending churches to help with our expenses. This is very New Testament and how I see the Apostle Paul establishing many new works over his journeys in Acts:

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
(1 Thessalonians 2:9)

You need to work for several reasons. The easiest one is, you need to meet people. Getting a job in a service industry puts you in contact with many folks who may be searching. It also gives you a platform to share with your co-workers. You cannot and do not want to abuse this privilege but if you serve Jesus in this job, he will likely open doors for you that you did not expect. I’ve been blessed in my secular work and you will be too. Another reason: You need freedom. Many agencies will pay you a salary but will also require (and they have the right) that you will do things a certain way and if you do not, then you risk having your salary pulled. You can and should be accountable for your ministry but you cannot and should not have to please even the most marginal of folks who many times will insist you do things a certain way using the very methods I’ve told you to avoid. This new thinking by necessity will force you to be bi-vocational but the freedom you will have to establish a life transforming movement for Jesus depends on it. are you ready? Good! Then go online, start applying for your part/full time job and keep dreaming and outlining the vision God has given you.

Establishing a New Church – Part Three: Get a Job!

Establishing a New Church – Part Two: Stay Away From Others’ Methods

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Continuing in my thoughts on church planting is this simple thought. I might even use the word adjure as a stronger form of request. DO NOT use another’s method for establishing a church. I made this mistake not once, not twice, but MANY times in my past ministry efforts. It’s easy to do. You walk into a Christian bookstore these days and you’ll find all sorts of helpful kits and curriculum designed to foster a new system of building a church. The premise is “It worked in this large/small area, it can work for YOU!” Of course the caveat is that each of these ‘systems’ state within their text that this will be ‘hard work’ and that you have to be committed to the task in order for it to succeed. What these experts do not realize is that by saying these things (which all sound good because if you’re serving Jesus you want to work hard right?) they have unknowingly built into their ‘system’ the idea of failure and this failure is what Satan uses to speak to the church ‘planter’ (I’m not even sure I like this term anymore) about his shortcomings. Ultimately, when this new ‘system’ doesn’t work (and it will NOT for many) it must be that you didn’t work hard enough, weren’t smart enough, and shouldn’t be doing this in the first place.

I purchased several of these ‘systems’. As a manager and someone who had seen and been a part of success in the business world, I wanted badly to emulate that on a spiritual level. My motive was right. I knew how to do it. I had done it before. I just needed to find a way to tap into the model that best fit my community and I was set. My own denomination’s church planting agency had flown many of us in for seminars on how to incorporate ideas such as the five fingered ‘FAITH’ acronym for winning the lost, how to set up a daycare in your church to attract families and later, how to use another acronym, LYNTYS, to basically do the same things. None of these were bad on the surface. In fact, good ideas could be gleaned from any of them. The problem was that the methods were another man’s. The ‘system’ might work for them but God has called you in your unique ability to establish something different. This idea is different from the business world where business practices can be modeled and a system transferred (with only slight adjustments) and if the individual has the acumen and work ethic, can expect some measure of success. This doesn’t work in the church world…Despite what some will tell you, it doesn’t.

Make no mistake, you CAN emulate another’s system. In the 90’s everyone wanted to model their discipleship methods after Rick Warren’s baseball diamond. Now, I can find multiple copies of his “Purpose Driven Church” on the used bookstore shelves for a buck or less. His method was amazingly good…for him. But you have to be unique! Which leads me to something I wrote earlier in this series. These methods are great and can be used with profit if you mine them for ideas and not for a system or method. But you cannot do this until you’ve wrestled with God’s call and his way of wanting to use you. Until you get a passion for your unique work in this grand plan of God’s, you will be a potential victim of the church planting industry. If you succumb, you may actually build a group, have some worldly successes, but in the end you will fail. I’m not saying you MIGHT fail. I’m saying you WILL fail. God wants to do something different in each of us. Sure there are standards in His Word but Paul’s method of establishing ‘churches’ was different from Peter’s and both were different than that of Thomas, John, Philip, Nathaniel, and the rest of the disciples who were dispersed to other parts of the World to spread the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing ideas, talking to mentors, and finding others who are doing the same thing to understand the joys and pitfalls you may find yourself in. But make the journey distinctly your own. Take time to read God’s Word over and over again. Keep a notebook, pray, and seek guidance and then, launch out with just you and your spouse (if you’re married) and then build something great for Jesus!

Establishing a New Church – Part Two: Stay Away From Others’ Methods

Establishing a New Church – Part One: DON’T Listen to the Experts

ImageWhen I started keeping a written journal, I wondered about it’s value over the long haul. I don’t journal as often as I should, but I guess it’s all a matter of capturing your feelings in the moment. A blog shouldn’t. A blog is public but a journal is personal. It’s where you share your rawest of emotions as you work through things in life. In my work planting a church, I wrote many things I would never publish in a blog or any form of public writing but captured within those pages in pen and pencil are gems that I look back on now and glean wisdom from for my future…The main takeaway from the majority of my writing is DO NOT listen to the experts… If you are truly called to plant a church, understand this much; you are called to be unique in HOW you do this.

Today, we have networks which have their place in terms of what they can offer you but ultimately you will do something different than anyone else if you are called by God to the task. What has happened is rather than developing such networks as a resource, the subculture of church planting has built an industry where we have allowed these networks to mirror secular professional HR firms. We have screenings to see if someone is wired properly to plant, we have endless surveys to take to see if the area to which we are called is uniquely ready for a ‘church’ (not the true Church that Christ died for), and we have ‘experts’ willing to coach us in how it’s done. You have ‘preview’ services leading up to the ‘big day’ where you ‘kick off” the work and if you’ve done everything right, you’ll have 100, 200, maybe more people coming to your church. It’s an industry..NOT an organism. It’s not church…It’s a religious social club.

All through the New Testament I see Jesus moving from place to place, talking to people, building a relationship, and enjoying meals with others while teaching them about His Heavenly Father. When the disciples began their work of spreading the gospel after the dispersion in Acts, we see them going from place to place making disciples and then placing within them the task of replicating what has been done so that the message of Jesus Christ was passed on in a simple, straightforward manner. Paul didn’t come to town and start ‘preview’ services. He proclaimed truth, made disciples, and then put a simple structure in place to see to it that the disciples would grow in their faith. They expected duplication of the process almost immediately (2 Tim. 2:2). They didn’t screen the new disciples to see where their personalities fit on a DISC profile assessment.

If you want to plant a church, here’s my profile assessment for you: Have you made disciples? How many have you baptized? How many of whom you baptized and discipled are now doing the same thing? How many spiritual ‘grandchildren’ or ‘great-grandchildren’ do you now have? Are your disciples, making disciples who make disciples? If not, then pray long and hard about whether or not you want to plant a church. You might have the business sense. You might be able to raise money. You might even have the backing of an entire denominational church planting agency but if you’re not seeing this simple practice in your ministry then you will effectively build a religious social club and nothing more. It may look good, the pictures may show smiles, but if real life transformation isn’t taking place then it’s all “Whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27) as Jesus would say. In summary, read what you can. Glean ideas but not an entire method from what you read. Be sensible and do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5) and build something unique. The Kingdom of God requires your best, not something rehashed from somebody else. I’ll share more in my next post…

Establishing a New Church – Part One: DON’T Listen to the Experts

My Thoughts on Church “Planting”: Introduction

Today begins a series of posts that I have been working on for some time regarding my own thoughts about church planting. After 12 years (as of this writing) working to establish a church in the Denver metropolitan area, God has given me a challenging new vision and a vibrant spirit to see it carried out. To be honest, this move of God has been calling me for the past few years and I’ve struggled with it. I tried to move away from it thinking it to be just some irrational thought in my mind but God’s calling was made even more clearer as I resisted. While not experiencing a Jonah like moment of being in the belly of a whale, I did have a bit of a disconnect as God called me back to the vision he had originally set in my heart. Even as I write, I’m learning new things as God directs this next chapter for the church I lead and the new vision he has given us. In journaling my thoughts, I noted that several things have taken shape in my heart that should challenge and encourage others looking to make a lasting impact for the kingdom of God in this arena. Church planting can be a huge challenge and the plethora of experts in this field, along with the associated industry that has followed them can cause many to question the call God has given them similar to my own disconnect. Many will leave the vision on the table to stay in their ‘safe’ area of ministry rather than venture into the unknown. So as I share these thoughts in a series, let me give you my own brief rundown of points (and these are not in any specific order) to consider and challenge you…

1) Don’t listen to the experts
2) Stay away from others’ methods
3) Get a job, even if it’s part time
4) Be sensible
5) Love, Serve, Disciple
6) Attendance is overrated
7) Life Transformation is what counts

I think that’s enough to get us started. I may think of more later but for now, I’ll leave you to think on these things and I’ll try to unpack them in an honest, straightforward manner. I don’t expect everyone reading to agree with my conclusions. I’m not looking for complete agreement here. Rather, I want to challenge your thinking. For those who’ve considered their own call to plant but have delayed it because they are worried about what their parents, spouse, church family, and others would think, consider it again. That is all I would ask. I’ll have more to share soon…Thanks for reading

My Thoughts on Church “Planting”: Introduction

The REAL Marriage Problem in the Church

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Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marriage should be honored by everyone. And every marriage should be kept pure between husband and wife. God will judge guilty those who commit sexual sins and adultery.
(Hebrews 13:4)

While much of the rhetoric in the public square these days focuses on the issue of gay marriage, the church has an even bigger issue on its hands and has for a long time. The problem of co-habitation. As a culture we have largely accepted the idea that a man and woman can live together as though married and even start a family, buy a home, and build assets together as married couples have traditionally done through the years, all without ever covenanting to one another in marriage.

As a Christian I understand the secular life outside the church is one where I can observe but in Christ’s love, cannot judge those who have no knowledge of or desire for Jesus Christ. But when these same folks claim to be Christian and even come to the church for acceptance of their lifestyle choice, I must revert to what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians who were dealing with many of the same issues we are today:

Those outside the church it is not my business to judge. but surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church—God alone can judge those who are outside.
(1 Corinthians 5:12a Phillips)

The tension the church body faces today is one where it is viewed as being harsh or judgmental if it shares truth with couples who are involved in this type of lifestyle. The sexual revolution of the 60’s opened a door to open relationships in our current culture and the generation of today are the children of that era. They see little wrong in trying things out to see if it works. The problem is, in most cases, it will not work. While cohabitation is on the rise in our society, statistics still show that roughly 50% of cohabiting couples will never marry. They also show that divorce is more likely than with couples who marry prior to living together.

So with the number of cohabiting couples steadily increasing it only makes sense that these same couples will find their way into the church and ultimately, expect the congregation to accept their lifestyle choice. The challenge to respond in love while staying true to biblical principle is difficult. Of course, the Apostle Paul knew this as well when he wrote:

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
(2 Timothy 4:2-4)

I’m always loving toward couples in any living situation however when they ask for my counsel or opinion, I’ve found it best to cut to the chase and share with them first from scripture before suggesting steps for improvement. The Bible is clear on this matter, we should wait until marriage to live together. A covenant marriage is a life changing step despite the triviality our culture ascribes to it today. The real problem with this issue is the mindset of our kids growing up. The adults of today were led down this path by the generation before as I mentioned previously. What legacy will we leave our children and grandchildren in the value of marriage and waiting for the proper mate?

References:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/cohabitation-is-lasting-l_n_3043212.html
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/04/cohabitation-families-pregnancy/2050073/

The REAL Marriage Problem in the Church

My Life and Writing

I’ve spent the past few months pondering my future writing endeavors. I’ve written and posted to this blog fairly regularly over the past five years since starting it but in the past 18 months or so, not as much. A lot of this was because of my changing life. As much as I’d like to spend time on my creative side (and I’ve been encouraged by many to keep writing), I’ve been hindered because of increasing demands on my time. As my closest friends know, I now work three jobs to support first my family and also the ministry of the church I lead. ’nuff said.

On top of all of this, I’m now back in graduate school pursuing one final degree designed to help me in my future endeavors. This is a long range goal as I’ve written about extensively here. One that will likely take me nearly five years to complete. I’m both exhausted and excited at the same time. All of this has affected my platform to reach others but more than that, the social media landscape is changing. Every few years, significant changes occur and the past year has seen some changes for the good. I think people are realizing that Facebook has slowly transformed into the equivalent of our high school years, but now with up to the minute drama for many. The death of Google Reader in the coming months will bring about a different means of communication in blogging. Face it, aggregators are phasing out as new ways of accessing information develop. How blogging will be affected remains to be seen. Twitter is becoming a more reliable source of instant information dissemination, Google Plus, while not having the footprint of Facebook, is becoming the connection point of more professional communication, and the picture based sites are more for friends who want to share life. I think Guy Kawasaki has captured this well in his book on Google Plus when he outlines how the social media landscape looks at present.

So what can my friends expect of me here? I will continue to write. Despite my commitments, I plan to try to post here as often as the mood strikes. I will still post about productivity, leadership, and life growth. In the past year, I’ve put much of this to the maximum test given what’s on my plate these days. Twitter for me is becoming a place to share thoughts, insights, and funny things that happen in life. Facebook connects me with old friends, helps me to communicate with the church family, and make connections in general. Done right, it’s the meeting place for lighthearted communication although some have seemingly turned it into a soap opera! Google Plus is focused communication for me. It’s where I do most of my professional work as a writer, speaker, and pastor.

We are blessed to have so many ways to communicate. I look forward to continuing to build and strengthen the relationships I have and to make new friends along the way. At some point, the book(s) I’m writing will one day see the light. One day….. Thanks all for your continued support of my work here. Blessings to all of my friends across the world.

My Life and Writing

The Unexamined Life

The great philosopher Socrates was alleged to have said: “The unexamined life is not worth living” or something very close to it. Whether he truly said this or not, the quote is one that is valuable to digest. How many of us take the time to review the past experiences of our or others’ lives and integrate those learning times into our future? Very few of us I suppose.

In my quest to continue to grow and live a meaningful life, I’ve once again begun the habit of keeping a journal with me to capture thoughts, write out problems, share solutions (or failures) and learn from them. So many times an idea or thought comes to mind and I try to find a place and time to remember these bits of information and capture them but in the long run, many go forgotten. It’s simply too hard to remember it all. At other times, I struggle with feelings and emotions which can consume me. I’ve learned in the past year since my weight loss experience (written about on this blog) that I will never see myself as truly being thin. I will always have a mental picture of me as being fat and that image is one that can unknowingly lead me to neglect other areas of my growth. I took some time away from the blog in 2012 to focus on some big life changes that came my way after the weight loss. One of the discoveries I made was that in making major changes in my life, especially after entering my 40’s, I had failed to capture the source of much of the negative energy that was hindering me in areas known only to myself.

As I began planning my goals for 2013 I began looking into ways to better review and grow from these feelings and thoughts. Journaling is a good way to do this. By keeping a journal close at hand, you can capture thoughts on paper in the moment. By reviewing them, you can see trends in your thinking that can limit and sometimes block your learning. It’s also good to review the ideas, quotes, and other gems you capture along the way and integrate those into your thinking as you review your entries and plot a new trajectory for your life. I know some who read these words will say “That’s too much work!” and you’re right to a degree. It is work. Too much? I don’t think so. Not when I can see the potential for growth by building a new habit. The work in writing is one thing. The additional work in reviewing what you write, crafting solutions, and sharing those follow up thoughts is even more work but it can be so very rewarding if you give it time. Face it, in five years you can be in the same rut you’re in now or you can plot a new course for growth and living a full life and make changes as you spot habits and trends in your journals and be more fulfilled down the road. Which do you choose?

I purchased some audio programs to listen to as I work out that helped with me ideas for journaling and working on my thoughts. My daily time in God’s Word helps in this endeavor with the wisdom of the ages to address all of what I write about. It’s a win-win situation for the person committed to personal growth. As I march toward my 50th birthday (in a few years) I’m already in the full throws of mid-life. I’ve begun thinking about where I’ll be in other ten years when 60 lies over the horizon should God allow me to live that long. I want to look back with no regrets. I want to grow more now than I did in my 20’s when I thought I had an eternity to live. I want to leave my family with a legacy of living.

The unexamined life IS not worth living. Taking the time to grow and improve shouldn’t fade as you get older but rather, it should be a refining time for you to take your rich life experiences, share them, and grow from them. Start today!

The Unexamined Life

The New “State” Church in America

Today I see the culmination of a new religious tyranny in our country.  It’s certainly nothing that hasn’t been slowly taking shape over the past 20 or so years. However, recent years have seen the rapid ascent of this strangulation of freedom in the public square, one that many good people died centuries ago to protect.

I’m speaking of the recent flap over Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio’s invitation and subsequent dis-invitation to the Presidential inauguration simply because of his views on homosexuality. After seeing the list of invites to what has become an over hyped party, a liberal watchdog group dug up material that Giglio preached in the 1990’s that identified his view on sexual orientation as being…..Conservative Evangelical…What a big surprise! The new moral compass of our nation apparently is to stomp out such views as out of touch and not inclusive to everyone. Really? If I understand the logic here, Giglio is being persecuted for his views which are traditionally held views in much of the Christian churches in America. In so doing, the inauguration committee has stated that they will find someone to replace him whose views are more inclusive. So the views of conservative Christians no longer are considered part of this “inclusive” club of the nation? What does that do to the committee’s argument here? It nullifies it. By supposedly trying to invite tolerance, it has brought about a gross intolerance that Americans should not stand for.

Giglio was not invited to share his view in a political atmosphere. Nor was he lined up to preach specific doctrine. No, he was invited to give a prayer. A simple prayer. His privately held views on homosexuality were not part of this and why they matter in this event is beyond me. I could understand if his views were more in line with sects in the Islamic faith that think homosexuals should be killed. But then, Franklin Graham’s views on the topic of Islam were enough to get him booted from the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon in 2010. Again, his statements on the topic were in line with Conservative Evangelicals and that was enough for persecution to begin even though his father had been a spiritual guide to our nation’s presidents longer that I have been alive.

Four years ago, the same watchdog groups that attacked Giglio went after Rick Warren when he was invited to offer the same prayer at the presidential inauguration. It seems that since these groups feel they were the ones to elect our President, they should be considered in all decisions of what is “inclusive” and if not, they will rattle their sabers until they get what they want. It’s funny that when similar groups opposing such views do the very same thing, they are marginalized as backwoods, hillbilly, out of touch, rednecks. Seeing the apparent success of such radical intolerance leads me to wonder where our nation will be in 2017 when a new President will be inaugurated and undoubtedly, such tyrannical groups as these will be trying to further snuff out the religious freedoms we are blessed to enjoy for the moment.

If our President wants to show true leadership for all of America, he needs to step up to the plate now and snuff out this radical element of our society. During the campaign, I heard passionate emphasis on working with all Americans from the east coast to the west and all parts in between. Conservative evangelicals are a large part of this, a very large part. Their voices count too. This group can hold its view and still be a part of the public square just as homosexuals can. Within the context of public events such as the Presidential inauguration, neither side has a right to impose its views on the other. It also stands to reason that those same views should not determine who gets invited and who gets persecuted.

I pray for our nation.

The New “State” Church in America