Tweaks

Our garage was out of hand! So much STUFF was pilling up that it was getting difficult to pull the cars in! It was to the point that once the cars were carefully navigated into their places, we had to strategically duck and squeeze around side mirrors and doors to get out of the garage. Enough was enough! It was time to build shelves to get all the stuff off the ground and out of the way so there was space for the vehicles. The shelves added the benefit of space, but also made all the nick-nacks we needed to access more easily accessible. There was more than one benefit to the shelves. The garage just needed one slight adjustment to make many positive changes.

Repetition is easy. In our spiritual lives it takes less time and is more comfortable for us to keep things the same. Whether it be our daily bible reading, the way we pray, or the ministry projects we are involved in, keeping the same process and schedule makes faith easy. It allows us to do more when we act in repetition. But repetition could cause us to appear to have a strong faith, but really be complacent in our spiritual walk, to the point of going through the motions. Repetition could cause a lot to get done, but nothing fruitful to be happening at all.

The house you live in is a great example of this. Without continual slight modifications the house will slowly fall apart. In the same way, our faith walk staying the exact same will slowly fall apart. What slight changes need to be made in our ministries as a church to be fruitful? What about in your individual ministry? And in your personal spiritual walk? We need to always be seeking slight changes that can be made with this goal in mind:

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… Matthew 6:33

Making Ministry: Listening with Patience

One on one interactions mean we must know how to communicate by carrying on real conversations.  Holding the attitude of Paul in Acts 20, Gospel connections are not made by talking about the weather for an hour.  Gospel connections are made when a conversation fulfills the goals presented in James 5:16:

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

The healing referred to is not only a physical healing, it can also be a spiritual healing.  There is healing in confession of sins and temptations.  Through the many conversations I have been a part of in my ministry, I want to share a few pointers I have learned.  These suggestions do not come from a counseling degree, it is all from experience and careful application of the word of God, which brings me to the first suggestion:

Apply the Word

I do not have all the answers when it comes to scripture (surprising I know).  Sometimes, I am confused about the message of the Bible and how it is interacting in my life.  Being humble enough to share that confusion, and have confidence that God is leading me to clarity is an important part of discussion.  I never approach a Gospel centered conversation pretending to know all the answers.  Instead I willing share the clarity God has given me and how His word is applying to my life.  If we can honestly share our confusion, yet show confidence of faith, it allows Christ to shine through our weakness and trust builds within the conversation.

Quick to Listen

Be a listener.  Desire to know about the person you are conversing with.  Make it your goal to learn as much as you can about that person and you will listen more than you speak. You won’t discuss your life because you will be focused on learning about the life of the other person.  Check your heart as well: Do you desire to guide this person to Christ, or are you digging for your own personal gain?  The desires of your heart are important because they will be felt in the atmosphere of the conversation.  If your heart is truly led by Christ, the conversation will be led by Him as well.  He will give you the things to say and questions to ask.

Go ahead, Ask the Question

“So what ended up happening between you and your boyfriend?  How do your parents handle the hurt?  Walk me through the details of the rape.”

If you are seeking to help, if you genuinely want to lead that person toward the Gospel, the hard, personal questions will pop in your head.  Ask the question, don’t push it away.

You might say, “That’s not your place, that’s to personal!”

When I seek to fulfill the message of James 5:16, I believe we are meant to act differently than the world by not holding in the hard stuff of life, by not digging into the lives of others for personal gain, and by giving our burdens to one another so we can assist in leading to the feet of Jesus.  True believers will live out faith by living together through conversation in the good and the bad.

What makes this digging okay for believers but not from worldly standards: our heart.  Personal gain that the world seeks versus spiritual guidance toward the cross.

Wait for the Answer

When your heart is set toward guidance for that person, when you prayerfully approach a conversation, when you ask the hard question, you must have patience.  Any difficult conversation takes thoughtful time and careful words.  Showing trust is giving time, not trying to fill the silence.

Pray

Always end with prayer.  Ask for God’s guidance and remember His power in confession.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

More on Making Ministry:

Making Ministry: One connection at a time (Part 1)

Making Ministry: Healing the Hurt (Part 3) coming soon…

Care for the Widows

Guys CAN make flower arrangements!

Valentines week gave me a great opportunity to talk to my teenage boys about caring for the widows in our congregation.  For a special Guys only devotional, I purchased sets of flowers from a local flower shop and the teen boys created flower arrangements.  During the creation process, we discussed James 1:27, and the similarities between orphans and widows.

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When the creations were complete, we drove around town and delivered the flowers.

During our discussion, the boys brought up that we don’t think about the widows often.  They recognized that there is less of a chance of a widow having a closer community of friends and family who spend time with them, and even if they do, there are certainly times of loneliness.  Our widows aren’t people we appreciate often so finding the time to do so was extremely beneficial.

Outreach

What would you classify as outreach? As a church, we would mention our clothing giveaway, jail ministry, and the numerous home Bible studies that take place. Every once in a while we will add an event like a potato feed or summer picnic. Outreach could simply be defined as reaching out. Are these events ways that we are reaching out to non church members? When we look at outreach with these eyes, it seems so limiting.

In my confusion, I consulted Google (of course!). When I Googled “church outreach”, I found many events similar to the events listed above. There are so many ideas for events in performing outreach, but this effort still seemed… limiting!

The planned events can, and are, beneficial forms of outreach as long as reaching out is included, but if we look at scripture, we will see outreach through different eyes. In Luke 12, Jesus is instructing his apostles on true outreach.

And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God. -Luke 12:8

In Luke 12, Jesus warns not to get stuck in the box. He challenges to live higher than the expectations the world has for us. He reminds us that we have great value in God’s eyes. Outreach can’t be limited to structured events. Outreach is imparting spiritual words and actions to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Outreach is included in the messages we post on social media. Outreach isn’t an every once in a while thing, it is giving the truth about Christ to people every moment of every day.

Congregational outreach is tremendously influential because so much can be accomplished when we choose to work together for the purpose of discipleship, but let us not limit outreach to structured events. Outreach also includes every moment we are interacting with others, in a large group or just one on one. You are of value to both God’s heavenly kingdom and His earthly church when it comes to outreach. May you seek to respond to God’s placement of outreach in your daily life in directing the world to Christ and His church.

12 Hours of Prayer / Sleepover

Goal: To encourage youth to not only talk about spirituality, but practice living it out together.

One of my good friends, who is also a parent of some of the teenagers at my church, hosted a Friday night sleepover for over 30 teenagers at their house.  The desire was to get teenagers together from different towns for spiritual encouragement with one another.  We wanted to have a mostly unstructured event but to guide them toward spiritual conversations in their every day interactions with each other.  The only structured event for the evening was 12 hours of prayer.

The event began by having a conversation with the teenagers about the power of prayer.  The students filled out prayer cards (3×5 notecards) and signed up to pray for 15 minute time slots on a sign up sheet to pray throughout the night.

One of the rooms in the house was then set up as a prayer room.  A simple desk with a basket containing the filled out prayer cards, a bible, a journal so teens could write out verses or prayers, and a song book.  It was emphasized to the students that prayer is not always the bow your head routine we think of.

desk

It was a full evening of laughter, games, deep conversations, food, and prayer.  The teenagers did a great job of reminding one another when their time for prayer had come.  Many of the teens shared that although they thought 15 minutes was a long time to pray, once they began, they were interrupted by a knock that their time was up and it was someone else’s prayer slot.  When the 12 hours was up, we discussed James 5:13-16.

 

 

Draw Near

In the teaching world, they say routine and structure are what kids need to function at their best. When we become adults, we don’t seek routine and structure anymore most of us still crave consistency. We are much more comfortable when we know what is coming.

This week, I was making preparations for teaching a young boys study. It’s called the “Timothy study” because the idea is that older men are training up younger men to be important men of God as Paul did in his letters to Timothy. To get in the correct mindset for leading the young men, I decided to dedicate some time in reading through the books of first and second Timothy. I don’t typically spend that much focused time reading the Word, but God definitely challenged me during that time of reading. A ton of passages stuck out to me pertaining to growing up young people in the Lord:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare. – 1Timothy 1:18

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. – 1 Timothy 2:1

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. – 1 Timothy 3:14-15

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. – 1 Timothy 4:6

There were so many more as well! Reading through both books written to Timothy gave me encouragement, focus, and a direction. When we do something outside of our normal spiritual routine, typically we grow in a new way. We need to do something different sometimes to open our eyes and wake us up. Routine and structure can be good things, but change is also needed for growing nearer to God.

Hope

Teenagers are often held to such low standards. Working with teenagers teaches me a great deal!

I was having lunch with a friend, which I so often do. Walking into this time together, I expected to be the one listening and leading toward Jesus throughout the conversation. What I so often forget is that there are times God is needing to lead me, not have me do the leading for someone else.

During this lunch, I made a hope comment “I hope this works out for you” or something along those lines. The young teen looks me square in the eyes and says “There is only so much we can put our hope in.” The conversation continued, lunch ended, and we went on our way. I had a feeling of incompleteness wrestling within me. Her comment about hope stuck with me all day.

That evening, I was hearing from another teenager. She was expressing the struggle of so many friends putting her down at school, her lack of ability to believe her boyfriend, and a desire to trust her father who was making another promise, after so many promises unkept. That’s when the truth of scripture finally hit me!

“…and surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20

Let those words sink in. As we understand it, these are the final words of Christ right before ascending back into heaven. He’s telling his apostles where they need to place their hope. Hope in Christ is foundational, unwavering, and will hold us up! It will never fail us.

So I responded to this teenager that was experiencing so many people letting her down with this: When we place our hope in people, we fall hard. It hurts. Because people will never fully come through for us like Christ will. People, items, places, will always let us down. The incompleteness I was experiencing earlier in the day was the realization God was giving me that I had been putting so much hope in people.

When we put our hope in Christ, we know it will be an unfailing stronghold. There is only so much we can put our hope in.