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LET’S TALK ABOUT ME

Ego

   Everyone likes a pat on the back or for someone to say, “Great Job!”  The reality is that pride is always lurking in the shadows.  We can easily be driven way too much by the praise and applause of others.  Philippians 3:8 says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”

     As we develop our intimacy with Christ we become less dependent upon the need for man’s applause.  When our identity is in Christ then we will no longer be dependent upon our accomplishments or the accolades of others.  Galatians 1:10 says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”  Be careful, you can even get proud that you are not like everybody else!     

     America has a virus; “Celebrity-itis.”  We have deified athletes, actors, musicians, and even some pastors.  Because we are such an individualistic society we have developed a celebrity culture that idolizes certain individuals.  In Multiplying Missional Leaders, Mike Breen puts it this way, “Now, there is nothing dark or sinister about celebrity in and of itself.  You can’t make the argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in His day.  However, the problem with celebrity comes when we ignore the difference between being famous and being significant.”    

     Pride, arrogance, and a lack of humility can slip up on anyone.  Man’s nature is prone to take credit for the things that we should not take credit for.  The virus of Celebrity can easily infect anyone and can only be contained with a humble spirit.  James is very clear that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.   Listen to what several leaders have said about the desire to a celebrity:

  • “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” —Jesus
  • “He must increase, but I must decrease.” —John the Baptist
  • “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think;” —Paul
  • “Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.” —Andrew Murray
  • “If pastors become “rock stars” or “celebrities” today we shouldn’t be surprised to see them in rehab tomorrow.”  —Lukas Naugle
  • “God sends no one away except those who are full of themselves.” —D.L. Moody
  • “We forget that the entrance exam to heaven is a blood test, not a Scantron.  Pride and a lack of love nullify our knowledge.” —Larry Osborne
  • “Humility is not just declaring that you are not God.  It is daily dying to your desire to be God.” —Darrin Patrick
  • “When God measures a man he puts the tape around the heart, not the head.” —Howard Hendricks
  • “Too many of us are simply climbing ladders that don’t matter.” —Shawn Lovejoy

     Here is part of a recent blog by Rick Warren on this subject, “Even writing a blog post on this almost guarantees comments about pots and kettles.  And I get that.  I’m as human as you are.  And if we are all honest with ourselves, we would admit that it is a struggle for each of us in some way.  However, sometimes to personally admit to our own arrogance, we need prodding.  

     Why?  Because we often become blind to our own faults.  The reason it is so dangerous, especially for those of us in ministry positions, is that it can become a cancer to our ministry. I could, and I guess you could as well, name dozens of pastors whose arrogance and pride led them to a very public, very shameful fall.  Arrogance stifles mission.  It redirects the focus of our ministry to us instead of to a kingdom focus.  And if left unchecked, our ministry will begin to exist for its purpose, not God’s purposes.”

COMPETITION OR COOPERATION

Boxing 

 “It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game!”  Really?  In the hyper-competitive culture we live in?  Those words are pretty shallow because they are not practiced in the “win at any cost” environment we live in.  Many will do whatever it takes to get the edge whether that is using steroids, cheating on a test, or even throwing basketballs at players who are not performing up to expectations.  The pressure is intense and the temptation is paramount to take any shortcut possible and to see everyone around you as the “competition!”

     Competition in sports is one thing, and not all competition is bad, but competition between churches grieves the heart of God.  In Luke 9:50 Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”  The real competition is against the enemy and the forces of darkness.  We have an adversary and the battle lines have been drawn.  Churches need to be penetrating the darkness and rescue those who are perishing instead of swapping sheep.  Almost all statistics back up the fact that over 90 percent of church growth is due to transfer growth.  Some reports say that only one percent of church growth is conversion growth.

    It is alarming when some churches begin to believe, promote, and teach that they are the only ones that have it right.  Years ago, when we were church planters in Northern Illinois a new church plant in our area was visiting door to door.  They happened to knock the door of one of our faithful members who asked them why they were planting in that area.  They said because there were no biblical Baptist churches in the area.  He began asking what was wrong with several churches and they verbalized a charge against every one of them.  When he asked them about Northside their response was, “They hold their microphones when they sing!”

     We should rejoice when a new church plant comes to an area because they can reach people that maybe we cannot reach.  Our motives must be to win the lost and depopulate hell, not attack others who have the same mandate we have been given by God.  In my S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) journaling God spoke to my heart about praying for other churches in Jer. 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

     As the children of Israel were headed into Babylonian captivity they were told to pray for their city.  They were slaves who were being taken to a foreign land to live in captivity but still God tells them to pray for their city!  God convicted me that I was not praying for my city, city officials, policemen, firemen, my neighbors, the lost, other Christians, pastors, and other churches who are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You experience a heart and attitude adjustment toward those you are praying for. 

     When you begin interceding and praying for others you no longer see them as the enemy or the competition and you begin thinking of ways you can help and bless them.  Praying daily for those in your city and circle of influence does a couple of things:

  • It transforms your relationship with them.  You realize that they are not the enemy.
  • It changes your heart toward them.  Col. 4:12 says, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
  • It breaks the stronghold of bitterness and unforgiveness.
  • It reminds you to represent Christ no matter how others may treat you. 
  • It places the adversary as the enemy and you labor to diminish the darkness and advance God’s Kingdom.

     Prayer causes us to not only to do things right but to do the right things.  Here is a great quote from Ralph Neighbour Jr, “If you have a choice to make between praying and doing, choose to pray.  You will accomplish more by your doing, because you did.”  When church members pray daily for the members of their group they always multiply faster than those who only pray for one another occasionally.

     We need to pray for our city, one another, and others sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ!    

PRAYER-CARE-SHARE

Prayer Care Share

Mission America is connected with the Lausanne Conference with their focus on reaching all of North America with the gospel.  They have begun a new campaign called Love 2020 with a threefold approach of Prayer, Care, and Share.  They state, “The vision of Love 2020 is for every person in America to be loved by at least one Christ follower, who is living a prayer-care-share lifestyle by the year-end of 2020.”  The spirit and passion to blanket our country with the gospel of Jesus Christ was very compelling.

It was my joy and privilege to meet with Mission America last week in Chicago, IL.  They invited twelve different affinity groups to come together and consider how the Love 2020 initiative could become a reality- not just a vision of what could be.  The affinity spheres included government officials, marriage and counseling ministries, denominational leaders, prison ministries, and others.  My invitation came because Tom Nebel with Converge Worldwide was asked to bring several church planting leaders to the table.

One of the presentations shared the history of evangelism around the world.  The Jesus Film was able to answer the “what” in many cultures that had no previous knowledge of the gospel.  The tract Four Spiritual Laws (and others) answered the “how” for those who were asking.  Now many in our culture are asking “why” because they have a negative image of Christianity.  Researcher George Barna just released a new study entitled Are Christians More like Jesus or More Like the Pharisees?  His findings revealed that most Christians lack Jesus’ love for others. 

The church planting affinity group I was a part of gave a report to the leadership at the end of the meeting that, “The church planting world is always excited and encouraged to get behind any initative that promotes Christians loving others the way Jesus loves us!”  We praise the Lord for leaders who have a passion to get the gospel not only presented but demonstrated by the love of Christ to every person in our nation.  We also expressed our skepticism that some might see this as the newest “bestest” program on the market to turn everything around for every ministry.

All of the church planting leaders felt that most planters are already striving to live missionally by demonstrating the love of Christ in as many practical ways as they can while being faithful to present and preach the whole gospel.  Our heart was, “Great idea!  Now let’s do it!”  Every believer can begin, right now, to reach those in their circle of influence through Prayer-Care-Share.  Our minds raced, “What could it look like?”  “What might God do if Christians began to make this their daily practice and lifestyle?”  

You do not have to wait for the packet to come out or receive the email update but you can start by praying faithfully and fervently for your neighbors, co-workers, family members, and others you know who need Christ.  You could check out www.love2020.com and you will find a very simple biblical missional approach that every believer can follow.  We are called to be missionaries in our zip codes and remember that “The Holy Spirit moves in wonderful and mysterious ways when we pray for people.  He convicts, woos, and draws people to Jesus.”

The first step is Prayer: Praying for those who do not know Jesus.  Then you can Care: Show them love in tangible ways through acts of kindness and meeting needs.  Then it is time to Share: Share the gospel with them lovingly and appropriately.  We need winsome courageous believers who are not relying on their presentation but are looking to God for His power and presence to move in mighty ways.  Where might God be asking you to get started and who has he placed in your life to Pray-Care-Share!

Dr. Paul Cedar said, “We are not asking you to become involved in another short-term program.  We believe it is time for us to change our long-term lifestyle by becoming praying, caring, and sharing followers of Jesus.”

Every Christ follower can and should practice Prayer, Care, and Share!