Archives for : November2015


Slow to Speak


In James 1:19 we are given three commands: Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath!  These are given to us in the context of our willingness to receive God’s word with a submissive heart.  We are challenged in verse 21 to “humbly receive the word God has planted in your hearts.”  How do you receive God’s word?  Is it the absolute authority in every area of your life? The real challenge is not just to hear His word but to also do what it says.

The word of God is able to transform our lives and because of that fact we are to continually remain submitted to its truth.  It begins by listening closely, quick to hear, to His voice in our lives through scripture and the Holy Spirit.  In the Message I love how it words Pro 3:5-7, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart: don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.  Run to God! Run from evil!”

The second command, slow to speak, is tied directly to the first.  Once we are placing ourselves in the position to hear from God that will enable us to speak correctly when the time comes to speak up.  There are two things your speech should accomplish.

  • First, it should edify those who hear it.
  • Second, it should honor the Lord!

How wonderful it would be if every time we spoke those two things were true?  Jesus was full of grace and truth.  Our language must be controlled by a heart that is grace-giving and truth-telling.

Here are a few guidelines as you embrace this truth of being slow to speak:

  1. Say what you mean and mean what you say! Matt 5:37 says, “But let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.”  If you tell someone you are praying for them it means that you are actually praying!  You don’t have to swear on a stack of bibles to convince people you are honest because your life has demonstrated that your word can be trusted.
  2. Listen more and talk less! The simple truth is that if you are talking, you are not listening.  But when you do talk you should make sure that you choose your words wisely.  Make sure they are centered in His word and controlled by the Spirit.  Pro 17:28 says, “Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips.”  When you speak to quickly you may win the battle but lose the war.
  3. Your opinion is just that, your opinion! All too often we speak of absolutes that are not absolutes but rather just our personal preferences.  We get all hung up on things that really do not matter while people need to hear the gospel.  Think about this, what is distracting you from fulfilling the Great Commission?  We say we love the lost and have a burden to share the love of Christ with them.  Are we regularly doing that?
  4. Telling it like it is does not necessarily mean that is how it is! This is closely related to number three but there is usually a greater arrogance here.  This individual presents themselves to be the only who has figured it out and the only one who has been able to detect the real truth.  They see this “telling it like it is” as their spiritual gift and no one else really sees it as a gift.  Remember we are admonished to speak the truth in love!
  5. Just because you sincerely believe it does not mean that you are correct! It certainly appears that James is addressing some people in the church who were saying and teaching whatever happened to come into their minds.  This is why in Jam 3:1 he says, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many ways.”  You may be sincere in what you believe but have you studied the scriptures on the matter?

We have a tremendous responsibility to speak correctly in a way that is consistent with the word of God and directed by the Holy Spirit.  We should be careful about the advice we give, how quick we are to give our opinion, and how convinced we are that we know what needs to be said.  James spends all of chapter 3 explaining the importance of the proper control of the tongue and our need for God’s help in controlling it!

“Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” -Col 4:6 

Tune In, Tone Down, Sweeten Up


The memory is vivid, even though it was 30 years ago, of Evangeist Mark Cole preaching at our church camp in Illinois. His text was James 1:18-22 with the focus on verse 19. We were challenged to be “swift to hear” (Tune In), “slow to speak” (Tone Down), and “slow to wrath” (Sweeten Up).

The truths of those three commands from the word of God have stuck with me through the years and challenged me to think of how churches need to implement them into their culture. A healthy church is always careful to be listening to God’s will for their ministry.

The temptation will be ever present to run out and get the newest idea or program and then expect God to bless it. Have we humbled ourselves and submitted to what God would have us to do? Are we passionately desiring to hear God’s voice and how will we know when we have? With all the hustle and bustle of today how can we intentionally make sure we are listening to him?

In How to Listen to God Charles Stanley offers five ways to identify God’s voice. These principles will help to guide you and your church to make sure you are hearing from the Lord and following his steps. Isaiah 30:21 says “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.” Isn’t that what we all want; to hear a word from the Lord and know that He has spoken?

Here are the 5 principles shared by Dr. Stanley:

First, God’s voice is consistent with His word! He will never tell you or anyone else to do anything that is the opposite of His truth already given to us in the scriptures. For example many struggle with past guilt even though they have been forgiven from it but the memory continues to haunt them. They bear a lot of unnecessary guilt, shame, and reproach. The devil is a liar and the accuser of believers. The truth, however is found in Rom 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Second, God’s voice usually conflicts with human wisdom! This is not to say that God ignores human wisdom but Jesus quite often did the exact opposite of what people expected. Matthew 5:38-39 is a perfect example of where Jesus challenges us to do the opposite of what human wisdom might compel us to do. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Third, God’s voice is contrary to fleshly desires! When Jesus called for people to follow Him He did not say “Come and Get!” but rather “Come and Die!” In Luke 9:23-24 He said, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For  whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He does not lead us to fulfill our materialism and consumeristic ways. John 12:24 says, “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.

Fourth, God’s voice challenges our faith! When God speaks it will require us to trust Him enough to step out in faith. It will force us to take a risk by believing what He says more than what everyone else might be saying. He challenged the armies of Israel to do some pretty risky things at times so that they would know that He gave them the victory not the mightiness of their armies. Remember that Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him.”

Fifth, God’s voice will require you to be courageous! When the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land He tells Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous!” In Joshua 1:9 He says, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” When God speaks it will require faith, taking a risk, and having the courage to obey Him regardless of what others may say!

When God does speak to us it is not always to deliver us from a difficult situation. He speaks to give us wisdom on how to make it through that situation. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

His main objective is not always to give us comfort but when He speaks it does always give us confidence. I may not feel all goose bumpy and excited about what He says but I will have confidence that I am where He wants me to be faithfully following Him.

God does still speak today through His word and the Holy Spirit guides us and directs us. We must make sure we are leaning in to hear Him clearly and correctly. Press your ear up as close as you can to ensure you can hear His still small voice.

5 Questions Every Church Needs to Ask


Recently, Daniel Im, Director of Church Multiplication for @newchurches with Lifeway, shared five questions on Twitter that every church planter needs to answer. I agree that they do need to be asked by church planters, but they also need to be asked by every ministry and every church.

Bill Hybels has said, “The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” I agree with this but also think it should include “members” because we are in this together. There is a great need to remember what Jim Collins has said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

The old addage says it well, “Don’t forget that many hands make light work!” We must be on the same page and the only way to do that is to lay a biblical foundation that defines who we are and why we do what we do. We are in this together and if we want our team to function properly then we need to provide the training and tools to accomplish the task to which God has called us!

  1. What is the Church? A New Testament church is a local congregation of baptized believers in Jesus Christ who are united by covenant in belief of what God has revealed and in obedience to what He has commanded. The church is not an organization but a living and breathing organism. We are the body of Christ and an extension of heaven on earth. The local church is to be the best expression of God’s kingdom in the here and now. We must not forget that we are a “who” not a “what.”
  2. Why does the Church Exist? The church’s mission is evangelizing sinners by preaching the gospel, baptizing those who believe, and maturing them by instruction and discipline. We should not be afraid of the term “sinners” because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “there are none righteous, no not one.” Member or not, we are all sinners and we are not sinners because we have sinned but we sin because we are sinners. The church exists to be a place of refuge and safety for sinners to hear the gospel.
  3. What Should Your Church be Known For? Hopefully, every church will be known for the mighty God we serve. We should be known as a place of worship where we stay centered on God. We need to always desire to love God more. We should also be known as a family where we stay connected to one another and learn to love one another more. Then we should be a place that is concerned about our communities. We want to love God more, love people more, and then love more people. The early church engaged unbelievers rather than avoiding them. Luke 14:12-14 says it very clearly, “He also said to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'”
  4. How do you Protect Your Church’s Identity? God calls us to an altar before He ever calls us to a position, a platform, or a program. The pastor’s ultimate calling is not first and foremost to pastor the church but rather to walk with Jesus everyday. That is every members’ first priority, not attending every service, not serving a particular ministry, and not even particpating in corporate worship. Our first responsibility is to love the Lord with all of our heart and then reflect the heart of God to people around us!
  5. How do you put your church’s identity on display? The reality is that when people think of your church they first think of the members they know. Right or wrong, they determine what kind of church you are by how members they know live their lives and display the love of Christ. Matt. 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Even more more important than representing our church we are called to be ambassadors for Christ. II Cor. 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.”

It has been said many times before but remember that your life is the only Bible some people will ever read. Do they see Christ in you? Have you been the feet and hands of Christ to the lost, the last, and the least?  Make sure you know the answers to these 5 important calrifying questions!


Getting Connected


How do you continue to attract people without giving in to the consumer culture of today? Maybe the bigger question is – “can you?” We want people to come and connect at a service or activity in order to hear the gospel. Many debate how far you should go to get people to come. The focus here is not what you do in order to get them to come but what you will do with them if they do come.

What will you do with everyone if they do show up? Every church must develop a process that turns consumers into contributors. You want them to come in and once they do, you want them to participate. In his book Fusion, Nelson Searcy addresses the challenges of turning first-time guests into fully-engaged members of your church. The problem is bigger than getting them there, because once you get them there will you be able to keep them coming? How will you help them get connected?

We hear a lot of talk about an assimilation system but what does that mean? Assimilate means to “take in and incorporate as one’s own.” Assimilation means practicing biblical hospitality. It is warmly welcoming those who visit our churches and showing them we would love for them to come again and consider attending regularly. How well are you assimilating people in your church from being first-time guests to being fully-engaged members?

In The Purpose-Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission, Rick Warren speaks of how you want to move people from the outer circle (low commitment/low spiritual maturity) to the inner circle (high commitment/high spiritual maturity). The goal is to always be moving people to a deeper level of commitment from community to crowd, from crowd to congregation, from congregation to committed, and from committed to the core.

There has been an unwritten system in some churches that first you must believe and only then you can belong. Once you belong long enough then you can be blessed by how the church will help you. What if we reversed this order? What is we blessed people so that they wanted to belong because we demonstrated the love of God to them? What if we allowed them to hang out and feel like a part of our fellowship even before they believed?

  • First, have entry level roles! Find places for them to serve and help. Think about what kind of roles people can help in even before they are members. People want to be involved and volunteerism is at an all time high.
  • Second, ask them personally to help! In a recent survey people were asked why they didn’t help at the church. Their response was shocking, “No one ever asked us!” It is not enough to have it in the bulletin or announce it from the platform.
  • Third, build a servant-leader culture! Make sure that everyone understands that no one leads who does not first serve. Make everyone start at the same place and work up from there. Some will move up faster but this protects you from preferential treatment.
  • Fourth, give projects before you give anyone a position! This is closely connected to number four and the key is to always think small first. See if they handle a small project before giving them more.
  • Fifth, develop a first serve ministry! Give people the opportunity to try different ministries. Let them “kick the tires” to see if a particular ministry is where they would like to continue serving. Assign them to assist someone they can follow around and show them the ropes.
  • Sixth, have a core value of every member serving in a ministry! You must track progress and make sure everyone is serving in some role and contributing to the ministry of the church.
  • Seventh, celebrate those who are serving on the campus and off the campus! You certainly want to have the necessary roles filled for effective ministry but as you grow there will not be enough positions for everyone. There will be those who are led to volunteer in ministries or start ministries that serve in the community. That is a good thing and we should be excited about the church getting outside the four walls of the building.

In building an assimilation system here are a couple more things to think about. Build a chain of command where everyone knows who is in charge and with whom they need to stay in contact. Also, when someone has signed up to serve and they cannot make it train them to realize that it is their responsibility to fill their role. No one should be responsible for having to find several replacements at the last moment. Entry level does not mean no responsibility.

Healthy churches are always striving to get better at figuring out how to develop the best system possible to move consumers to becoming contributors!