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LETS GET REAL

Are we building genuine real relationships or are we settling for superficial friendships? We are comfortable talking about the weather, sports, and our family, but are we willing to go deeper? An essential part of building disciples requires nothing less than allowing other followers of Christ to become our close intimate friends. Our connection groups (small groups, Sunday School classes, etc.) need authentic relationships that will hold us accountable in our spiritual journeys.

II Timothy 2:2 says, ”And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Yes, this verse points to the fourth generation but also notice how it speaks to a community of believers by using plural nouns. It mentions witnesses, men, and others. These words have the same thing in common in talking about a group of people. Biblical discipleship occurs through relationships.

We all seek meaningful relationships yet they seem to be painfully absent aspects of discipleship. People are not looking for a friendly church but are looking for friends. Here are some great questions to ask about the authenticity of your relationships. Are the people in your connection groups friendly? It starts there but it must go deeper. Are the people in your group open and honest with one another?

We must not settle for shallowness but strive to build a strong support team. Do the people in your group check on and care for one another beyond and outside of the group meeting? Do you notice when others are not present and check on them to see if they are struggling? Remember, your connection groups are the first responders in your church for ministry and pastoral care. Spiritual growth occurs best when other believers share the same goals.

How well do you know the people in your connection (small) group? Are they just acquaintances or do you know them well enough to know their strengths and weaknesses? What are they struggling with the most? How can you best pray for them and encourage them? We are not called to walk alone but to walk in the light together. The biblical picture of real relationships in community is described clearly in Acts 2:42-47 where they “held all things common.”

In Real-Life Discipleship, Jim Putman defines a relational environment this way. “A relational environment is characterized by authenticity. A relational environment includes mutual accountability. An intentional leader creates a safe relational environment.” Here are a few suggestions on how to build real relationships that help everyone grow and mature in Christ.

First, keep your eyes open for those who are hurting and struggling. If they miss does anyone contact them or reach out to them? Do not take it for granted that they are ok but instead see if there is anything you can do to help them. Whether it is a call, a text message, an email, or even a visit they need to know that someone does care when they are absent.

Second, faithfully pray for those who are experiencing illness. Prayers are appreciated but it also might require doing something to help. Maybe they need someone to drop a meal by or to clean up their yard for them. What practical service could you perform for them that would be a blessing to them and encourage them? Make sure someone is handling this and accepts the responsibility of assigning contacts.

Third, connect them with someone who knows what they need to know. Someone in your congregation can help them when they need it but you will have to be very intentional to make sure they connect with them. When they are overwhelmed with finances, health, marriage, or a multitude of other challenges the beauty is that someone else in your connection group has probably been through what they are going through. They need to know that they are not the only ones.

Fourth, listen to them to hear where they are spiritually. We show someone how much we value them when we are willing to take the time to listen to them. As you listen make sure that you are ready to give them biblical answers to their situation. The importance of authenticity and transparency cannot be overstated. What are they really saying when they express their concerns? What are they not saying about their spiritual walk?

Fifth, speak the truth in love. Real relationships do not offer up false flattery or superficial pleasantries. They seek to speak the truth in love because they care about one another enough to even risk the relationship. This is especially true when you see that the other person is about to go against God’s word. For example: we are all a product of our past but we do not have to be prisoners to our past. They can have victory over their past hurts and habits by trusting in the Lord.

We need to pray for and seek to have an energy that causes us to remain connected and help others to stay connected. When we become disconnected from other believers it is a very dangerous thing. It will not be long before we begin to drift away from our church family and the Lord. Real relationships do not walk away from our family when they are struggling or if they fall into sin. Real relationships cause us step in closer, speak up more, and seek to restore.

Get to know those in your connection (small) group more intimately. Find out what their hobbies are, what fears they have, and what temptations they struggle with the most. Then pray for them, encourage them, and hold them accountable. We cannot grow spiritually as we should without other followers of Christ who are there to challenge us and inspire us in our walk with the Lord!

Authentic Values

Businesswoman hands holding white card sign with What is important to you ? question text message isolated on grey wall office background. Retro instagram style image

Much has been said and written about values. Are our values preferences or practices? In Acts 2:42-47 we are given the core values of the early church as teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They were not just preferences but daily practices. We know this because we are told they “devoted themselves” to these values. The passage does not say they sat around discussing or debating them but, rather, they were the daily practices of their lives.

In his book Value Driven Leadership, Aubrey Malphurs describes values as either “actual” or “aspirational.” Is there a difference? James 2:18 makes a clear distinction between the two in stating, “But someone will say, ’You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.” James also states in 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Malphurs describes actual and aspirational values in the following ways:

First, Actual Values are the beliefs we own and act on daily. These values come from inside of you and are who you are. It is authentic because they exist now, in the present, and describe what is true about you right now. Actual values are not just preferences but what you practice daily. When you share your actual values people around you shake their heads in affirmation because they see it and agree with you.

Second, Aspirational Values are beliefs you do not currently own. You know you should own them but you are not quite there yet. Aspirational values deal with what should be, not necessarily what actually is. These are values we would like to adopt such as being evangelistic. We desire to reach people with the gospel, but the truth is, we are really not that evangelistic; not yet. We aspire to be!

With these two descriptions of values by Dr. Malphurs, allow me to share a couple of observations we need to be aware of about values:

  1. Our Biblical values will be tested! For example, it is one thing to say we value loving people but we must realize that unconditional love can be put to the test daily. I John makes this very clear, “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”
  2. Are Biblical truths our values or our goals? We say we are burdened for the lost but what are we personally doing to reach them? It is wonderful to have the goal of reaching the world for Christ but what daily practices are we involved in that are helping us in that direction? The results will never change if we do not change our daily practices. What will we begin doing differently?
  3. Are Biblical truths our actual practices or just aspirational preferences? Jesus said that “men ought always to pray” but how much time are we actually spending in prayer? We say we value the word of God and should study it daily but is it our daily practice to have a quiet time in the word with our Lord? For our results to change our daily practices must change also.
  4. You cannot fake Biblical values! What you really value always shows up! If you really believe in the importance of sharing the gospel with people far from God, then you are constantly building relationships and bridges to them. You do not just talk about what you are going to do but you actually practice what you preach. Matthew 6:21 says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  5. Make sure your values are genuine and authentic! Be honest about it! At our church I like to say, “We want to be the friendliest church in the world!” I never say, “We are the friendliest church in the world, state, or even our city!” There is nothing wrong with openly admitting what goals you would like to adopt without claiming you have arrived. You cannot intellectualize values nor can you rationalize them.

Malphurs challenges us to examine our values to determine whether they are actual or aspirational. You can determine this by whether they are verbalized preferences and goals or are actual daily practices. Here are some excellent questions to ask about ourselves and our ministries: What values or beliefs should we adopt? What values and beliefs have we adopted? What would those looking in from the outside say we value? What are our real values? What key value ingredients are missing?

This is where many churches get in trouble and struggle because they resist what they need most; a complete or partial transition from one set of values to another. Do we value keeping members happy or do we value reaching our neighbors with the gospel? Do we value our traditions or do we value reaching our children and grandchildren with the gospel? Do we value our personal preferences or being culturally relevant while remaining Biblically sound?

Realize that conflict in churches often arises from differing values. Some value safety, comfort, and routine. Others value risk, sacrifice, and shaking things up. Every church must decide what they really value and if those values are not consistent with God’s mission for His church they must be willing to do whatever is necessary to be obedient to His plan for His church. Values can be measured by what our calendars contain and by our checkbooks.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are authentic about what they value and are willing to change to make sure God’s values are genuinely theirs!

Be Real

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Is you behavior consistent with what you say you believe? Does your church behave in a way that shows you mean what you say? We say we believe in evangelism but do we practice it? We say we know discipleship is important but is anyone being discipled? The things we say we value, are they truly convictions or are they just preferences? In James 1:22 we are challenged with his truth, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

We are told to not decieve ourselves and the idea here is that we need a reality check. A good friend of mine, Sam Douglass, says it this way, “It is time to interogate reality!” Are we deceiving ourselves? The word here refers to incorrect reasoning. In mathematics it is a miscaulculation. Gal 6:3 says, “For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing deceives himself.” The word of God makes it clear that when you hear the word without obeying it you are making a serious miscalculation.

James then gives us the analogy of a mirror. The mirrors of that day were nothing like what we have today. They were polished brass or bronze and only the wealthy could afford ones made of silver or gold. Even the most expensive ones had to be polished vigorously, postioned at just the right angle and placed in the best light to eventually see a fairly accurate image. The mirrors of today, invented in the 14th century, give an instant picture of how we really look compared to how we think we look.

Church, it is time to look into the mirror and see what we really look like not what we think we look like. The time has come to interogate our reality so that we might confess what needs to be confessed, correct what needs to be corrected, and then commit to what must be done for the kingdom to advance. What do we need to see in the mirror today? What area of our lives and our churches do be need to “Be Real” about? What is it that we need to see as we look intently into the perfect law of freedom?

  • First, we need to see ourselves! All of us need better self-awareness. We need to know how God uniquely made each one of us to better understand our strengths and our weaknesses. He has hard-wired all of us a particular way for His purposes. Every child of God has a unique spiritual gift and passions. It does not take long to see that when you read I Cor 12 and learn that we are to be unified even though there is such diversity in the body. Psa 139:14 says, “I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
  • Second, we need to see our abilities! What do we need to learn and what instruction do we need to receive? Our abilities are an accumulation of our training and our life experiences along the way. It is very easy to be an expert about things we are not involved in. On Sunday afternoons spectators enjoy being armchair quarterbacks. We need to be careful about being that way at church. It is easy to give advice about how ministries should be done that we never plan on helping with. One man said this, “Before I married I had three theories about raising children; now I have three children and no theories!”
  • Third, we need to see our relationship with Christ! Are we growing in the Lord and spirtually maturing daily? This is what brings together our personalities and our education by placing them under the authority of our Lord. Phil 3:10 says, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” First and foremost, how is your walk with Christ? Are you passionatley pursuing Him daily to know Him better?

Here is whay this is so important:

  1. If we are not real about ourselves we will be frustrated! There is always work to be done. There are always improvements that need to be made. That is why James has already challenged us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. He then tells us to be real because obedience is required and without obeying the truth it is really of no benefit to us or anyone else.
  2. If we are not real about our abilities we will be ineffective! How can you improve your skill set? How can you improve on what you are doing for Christ? Whatever ability you need to work on there is a great question to ask yourself. Who knows what I need to know? Figure that out and then get the instruction and training you need. Churches please do not give your people a job without clearly defining what their responsibilites are and equipping them for the role.
  3. If we are not real about our relationship with Christ we will have broken fellowship! A reality check is necessary because you can believe that your walk with Christ is better than it actually is. That is why James is telling us that we need to make sure that our behavior lines up with what we say we believe. Obedience is required! Luke 6:46 says it well, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are not afraid of a reality check in the mirror!

Accountability

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Accountability is talked about a lot and it is a necessary ingredient for our spiritual growth. It is important to have someone in our lives that holds us accountable for what we say we are going to do.

They love us enough to speak into our lives when they see us headed in the wrong direction. All of us need to build strong accountability relationships into our lives (Matt 17:1; II Tim 2:2).

Here is the reality though. You can only hold people accountable who want to be held accountable. It is kind of like what I have heard locksmiths say about our cars. “Your door locks only keep honest people honest!”

In other words you really can not hold someone accountable who does not want to be held accountable. There must be a submissive humble spirit in the heart of the one being held accountable.

Hear are five key questions you can use to hold yourself accountable:

  1. How is your spiritual life?
  2. How is your home life?
  3. How healthy is your ministry?
  4. How often are you sharing your faith?
  5. How often are you able to unplug to refresh and rest?

There is also the need for accountability partners in our life that we can be completely transparent and authentic with. Neil Cole has implemented 10 accountability questions into his LTG’s (Life Transformation Groups) discipleship process.

These are small groups of 2-3 people who study the word together and grow together. Here are the accountability questions they use:

  1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
  2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
  3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
  4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
  5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
  6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
  7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
  8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
  9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
  10. Have you been completely honest with me?

John Wesley developed these questions for his class meetings (small groups) to help them hold one another accountable:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today? Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  7. Am I enjoying prayer?
  8. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  9. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  10. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  11. Do I disobey God in anything?
  12. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  13. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  14. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  15. How do I spend my spare time?
  16. Am I proud?
  17. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  18. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard?
  19. If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

Spirituality does not flourish without accountability.

Dr Dave DeVries (www.missionalchallenge.com) says this about accountability. “Spiritual leaders value personal accountability. They realize that ultimately they are accountable to God for their decisions and leadership. Because they seek to please and honor God they appreciate and pursue other leaders who will help them to maintain high standards regarding character and conduct.”

“They welcome questions of others and don’t view themselves as above accountability. They also ask hard questions to make sure the leaders around them are above reproach. Personal accountablity is mutually required and pursued.”

Fake It Till You Make It

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Once again, this all too familiar statement was made to me, “I’ll just fake it till I make it!” The transparency was refreshing but the reality of how often I have lived by the same motto convicted me. All too often we procede ahead without knowing what we are doing, where we are going, how we will get there, and refusing to admit we need help.

We think, All we need is a little more time and we will figure it out? We reason wirh ourselves, Maybe we will know where we are after two more right turns?  We hope, If I act like I know what I’m doing maybe nobody will notice I don’t have a clue?

One of my favorite commercials is when an emergency occurs that requires the expertise of a doctor. Then the man helping is asked, “Are you a doctor?” To which he replies, “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” Unfortunately, not knowing what I am doing has never held me back.

The temptation can be to never admit that we do not have all the answers and we have not figured everything out. That is why I am committed to being a lifelong learner. Somebody out there knows what I need to know and we should always be on the outlook for them.

Why do we “Fake it till we make it?” Could it be that we are afraid of what people might discover about us? Could we also be afraid that we are no longer the authority on the subject? Maybe we are people pleasers and so we are more focused on impressing them?

Here are some attitudes and things that might be indicators that you are trying to fake it till you make it:

  • First, you think you must always have the answer! This is whay I do not like playing Bible trivia games. It is a no-win situation for a preacher. If you win, “Well of course you did, you’re a preacher!” If you lose, “And you call yourself a preacher?” We do not have to always have the answer and we need to admit it when we don’t. If we are not careful we can be tempted to make up an answer instead of finding the real answer. One of the best things you can say is, “You know, I’m not sure on that but I will do my best to find out!”
  • Second, I know what I am doing! Sometimes we are afraid to admit that we do not have it all together and that we are in way over our heads. We may not know know how to handle certain situations but there are people around us who do. Who is that knows what you need to know? Who do you need to talk to that can help you to figure it out? First, ask the Lord! Ed Stetzer says it this way, “Wise planning is not what I decide and then ask God to bless it, but I ask God what He desires of me, and then I pursue it!”
  • Third, I don’t need anybody else. I can do this! Maybe you can, but that is never the best way because two are always better than one. Tony Morgan has said, “A solo leader might draw a weekend crowd, but it takes a team to create healthy systems that foster sustained growth and opportunities for life change.” Should we be willing to do it alone if we have to? Definitely! Is that the best plan? Never! Be careful to not fall into the thinking that if you want it done right you have to do it yourself! If you do not have help now then begin training others so they can help.
  • Fourth, I’m tired of trusting people and getting burned! No doubt about it, people will let you down and disappoint you but it is worth the risk. Teamwork is messy and it takes……work! It doesn’t just happen but you have to be willing to pour into other people’s lives without any guarantee it will ever be beneficial for you or your ministry. Paul said this, “Demas has forsaked me having loved this present world!” The very people with whom you spend a lot of time and invest the most in may walk away but it is still worth it!
  • Fifth, shouldn’t they know what we are doing by now! Maybe so, but remember, vision leaks. Communicate what the need is and what the job requires up front. Make it clear! D.A. Horton said, “Disappointment takes place when you expect too much from someone you barely communicate with.” All too often we are guilty of placing people in positions without properly preparing them. Could it be that we are faking it till we make it because we were never trained either? In Teams That Thrive Ryan Hartwig and Warrin Bird say, “Less than 20% of leadership team leaders have received special training in how to lead teams.”

People appreciate transparency and authenticity. No one likes a fake even if they have the best intentions. They do love it when a leader says, “I need your help!” They want to know that it is not only their information and effort that matters but their opinions matter as well. Refuse to fake it till you make it!

Illusions of Grandeur

Illusions

   Illusionists can create situations where it is hard to tell what is reality and what is fake. With the use of sleight of hand, mirrors, and other techniques he convinces you that what you know is not real has happened. All of us have probably been spellbound by watching a skilled illusionist perform tricks where people disappear, seem to be cut in half, and many other feats. We can be easily fooled by hidden compartments, well timed distractions, very theatrical presentations, and because the hand is quicker than the eye.

     Something that concerns me greatly is, are there things in our churches and our lives that can create an illusion of spiritual health?  There are scriptures that have always haunted me concerning this possibility. Matt. 7 tells us that a person can have the illusion that they know God but the reality is that they have never known Him.  Rev. 3 teaches that a church can have the illusion that they are rich and in need of nothing yet they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Warren Weirsbe said, “To the public the Ephesian church was successful; to Christ, it had fallen.”

     Here are some things that can give a church the illusion that they are spiritually healthy:

  • Building and facilities: While having a location is a blessing, it can also cause us to focus on the wrong thing. Churches are meeting in movie theaters, schools, and under bridges reminding us that it’s not about the place but about what takes place when we worship. We have always said that the church is not brick and mortar but people.
  • Bells and whistles: Technology is great and there are many advancements that are a blessing to our services. The temptation could be to place too much emphasis on perfection and the production. The Bible reminds us that we can have the illusion of godliness but deny the power thereof.
  • Programs and activities: If we are not careful, we equate busyness with spiritual health. We must never allow activity to become a cheap substitute for our adoration of God. Jesus made it very clear that Mary had the right priority over her sister, Martha, in choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Individual believers can also think they are spiritually healthy when they are not. Here are some mistakes we make that can give the illusion of spiritual health:

  • Comparing ourselves to others: There is often someone we compare ourselves to thinking we are more faithful, more dedicated, and more spiritual. The standard is not to be like others, nor better than others. The biblical challenge is to live, look, and love like Jesus. Jesus told Peter not to worry about John but focus on his own service and life.
  • Faithfulness: Never missing services and always attending everything does not guarantee you are spiritually healthy.  It is easy to go through the motions while developing the habit of being faithful, which is a good habit, but not having a close intimate relationship with the Lord.  15:8 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
  • Longevity: We can think that because we have been a believer 20, 30, or 40 years that we are spiritually healthy.  It is not so much the quantity of time but rather the quality of time in following Christ.  We can have the illusion that we are spiritually healthy because we have been a believer a long time!

     Psalms 51:16-17 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  Remember, God looks at the heart and is more interested in why we do what we do than He is in what we do!  God is into motives and it is very possible to serve Him and give the illusion of being spiritually healthy while our hearts are far from Him. 

     Healthy churches and healthy Christians examine their hearts and their motives in order to serve the Lord so that He is honored and glorified!  They are very careful to not allow anything to give the illusion that they are spiritually healthy.  Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits (motives).” 

HOW TO HANDLE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

    At a Church Planting Leadership Fellowship (CPLF) in Nashville, TN, I heard it again; “Unrealistic Expectations!”  Several spoke about the difficulty of discouragement when big dreams and visions do not become a reality.  I remember years ago Jeff Swart, now pastor of First Baptist Church Galena, KS, describing two optimists stranded on a deserted island and setting their goal for Sunday School goal at three.  Now that is eternal optimism.

     All of us can struggle with unrealistic expectations.  In our Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI) Essentials training landmine #10 is Unrealistic Expectations!  It says, “We try to set goals by the standard of someone else’s church.  Faith can sometimes be confused with presumption or wishful thinking.  A church planter may have such a burning desire for a large, dynamic church that he will imagine that God has granted him certain numerical goals for the start of the new church.”

     Honestly, I can be way too idealistic in my thinking.  I will picture in my mind how something should be and when it happens it is never as I imagined.  That can create some disappointing situations in dealing with the gap between the ideal and reality.  The dictionary describes an idealist as: “a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.”  Idealism is: “the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are.”  Someone has said, “There can be a fine line between faith and presumption.” 

     DCPI says, “If attendance doesn’t measure up, both the pastor and his people may feel they have failed.  Instead of rejoicing in what God did, Birth Sunday may become a depressing experience.  Planting churches is a lot like raising children.  Every child is unique. Each one has its own growth rate, and every child grows to a different size and shape.  But parents love each one for who they are. Comparison with other children is unwise and unhealthy.  Whether 40 people came, or 400, or 4000, God was worshiped, the Bible was taught, and the love of Christ became real in a new church.  Let God set the expectations: it is His church.”

     There are at least two possible dangers that can come out of unrealistic expectations.  The first is The Copy-Cat Syndrome.  We idealistically think that because it worked for the larger church or the mega church, it has to work for us also.  So often we develop a strategy before we ever get to know the people we are trying to reach.  You must have a great understanding of the heartbeat of the community God has placed you in.  Don’t try to be someone else, be who God called you to be!  Tom Nebel says, “Culture trumps strategy every time!”

     The second possible danger of unrealistic expectations is The Comparison Obsession.  Why are they running 400 and we are only running 40?  Is it good to evaluate to be a stronger and healthier church?  Yes, but it can be unhealthy to always be comparing ourselves to someone else.  In the same way that we are all uniquely created different, every church is unique.  Every church’s leaders are unique and uniquely gifted.  Every assignment God gives us is a unique assignment in a unique location. 

     Unrealistic expectations can undermine what God is doing and cause us to be so goal driven and number conscious that we will never have the joy God intends.  Larry Osborne said this during our CPLF meeting, “Shepherd the sheep you have and don’t just use them to reach the sheep you want.”  Should we have a passion for the lost and pursuing them?  Most definitely, but we also must care for those who God has already connected to our ministries.  It is ok to lean toward being idealistic but you also must have an injection of realism. 

     Here are some realities that are good for every child of God and every one of His churches. 

  • Be real and authentic!  Don’t try to be somebody you are not or think you must be Wal-Mart and provide everything everyone wants.  Love goes a long way!  When you genuinely care about people they can tell and are drawn to that compassion.
  • Be aware of your giftedness!  All of us are uniquely gifted and God has placed gifted people in your churches.  Focus on your strengths and what you do have instead of coveting what others have.
  •  Be flexible!  Things will almost always be different than what you thought.  Know what the essentials are and never change them but be flexible on the non-essentials.  All too often churches are driven more by preferences than they are God’s directives.