Trust Him… and MOVE!

We’ve all heard the the expression that life is the sum total of our choices. Whether or not you completely buy this relationship is immaterial. What is clear, is that life shouldn’t be left to chance. We need to make the right decisions. For a believer, this isn’t as daunting as it appears because God is on our team!

My father used to say if you don’t know where you’re going, any ole’ road will do. In other words, if we don’t want to wander aimlessly, we must determine a course for our lives—a goal and destination—that orders our steps and strengthens our focus.

Obviously the most important decision anyone can make to start determining this destination is to accept Jesus Christ as savior, thereby beginning the journey of faith that brings us to a personal relationship with our creator! From there, the path of our lives requires a great deal of prayer and consideration regarding things like our career, marriage, parenting, etc. Life is filled with tough decisions. I get it.

I run into people all the time that seem to be living in survival mode. When faced with the uncertainty and difficulty of life, we sometimes become overwhelmed and focus on maintaining our current situation rather than forging ahead toward our destinies. The trials and tribulations of life can often lead to inactivity. Falling into this trap is a terrible mistake that will cost you dearly in the end.

I think the problem is often that we become too paralyzed by fear of the unknown to make the bold decisions that accomplish our goals and progress our plans. We say things like, “I’m just trusting God,” or “I’m believing for a turn-around.” While I urge each and everyone of you to trust your lives to Him, I don’t think we realize the latitude and freedom God gives us to determine our destinations.

Too often we use these statements to mask or rationalize our inaction, which is never the right choice—if you’re not ever learning, moving and growing, you’re falling behind. Life is no doubt filled with tough choices, but for a believer in the context of a relationship with Christ, trusting God means believing that He isn’t going to let you fail!

A good example of what I’m talking about in scripture is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. In this parable, Jesus tells of a business man who goes on a long journey, entrusting his wealth to his servants. When he returns, he finds that two of the servants have worked out business plans and doubled his investment. He rightly commends them saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

In stark contrast the third servant reveals that because he was afraid to disappoint his master, he buried the investment in the ground, reasoning that this would be the safest possible use of the talents entrusted to him. Angrily the master scolds the third servant and sends him away.

While the parable should be very familiar to most of us, I believe we often miss some of its central truths. Most significantly, this is a story of opportunity—the opportunity God gives to all believers to take what He has entrusted us with and get the best from it. When God blesses us with children, a loving spouse or a rewarding career, we must be prepared to work hard, seek God and do what is right. Preparation is key and action is a necessity.

Part of this preparation is putting a proper plan with measurable goals. Next, we can’t be afraid to change up the things in our lives that aren’t working—there is no shame in going back to the drawing board!

We must become comfortable with doing what is necessary to put things into proper order. I urge each and every one of you to strive to become architects of your lives. A person of dedication to the outcome is not always comfortable or even right, but we can move boldly forward knowing that a believer is never alone.

All of us must trust God, but in trusting Him, we have a freedom and mandate to charge ahead, implementing plans and using the talents and abilities God has placed in each of us.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

Church Culture pt. 2

Sometimes people spend so much time focusing on the details, that we completely lose sight of the big picture. I find this is especially true in the church world—ministers and parishioners run around so consumed by programs, classes and servicing the saints that we forget about the big things—the great commandment to love God, to love neighbor and, most importantly, the great commission. The biggest concern of any group of believers should be how to take the Gospel message to those who are far away from Christ.

If you polled a typical group of believers, I suspect the consensus would overwhelmingly support this idea, yet we continue to sit in our churches, so hyper-focused on ourselves—our preferences, tastes and comfort—that we do nothing to reach the lost and demonstrate the love of Christ to the world in a meaningful way. Moving a group toward a specific goal is naturally difficult—with so many people and parts involved in a typical church, without a strong, united vision, it is very natural for individuals to lose sight of the mission and focus on positions and departments. Church culture proliferates this tendency through exalting individuals and minimizing the collective mission.

My father became a pastor when I was very young, so I’ve seen the gamut of church styles, doctrines and administrations over my lifetime. More often than not, I’ve observed good intentions for reaching the lost in these churches, but their policies, attitudes and behaviors work in direct opposition to these intentions. In order for the church to thrive and meet the Gospel mandate in an ever-secular world, we must move away from the personality driven model that is so pervasive in the contemporary church, towards a system that builds strong, Spirit-led cultures that organize individuals and departments around a collective mission. The Gospel message cannot remain in the confines of the hallow buildings we call churches—it must be actively carried by people who are passionate to see lives changed in every day life.

I’m talking about empowering people to be effective ministers—energizing and motivating them to work towards a common, Godly vision. These ministers will know the Gospel message and have the confidence to communicate it in a relevant and vibrant manner. The personality-driven model has made Christianity a spectator sport, but Jesus and the Disciples played full contact Christianity!

One of the profound characteristics of the early church was that they held the teachings of the Apostles in common. This common, empowering culture that produced the incredible results observed by early church disciples like Stephen. In churches today, disciples are too often relegated to church service rather than Christ service—they open doors, usher folks to their seats and help with the mundane needs of the church. While these things are necessary for a successful corporate gathering, do they do anything to empower and equip the saints for the real ministry of Christ? Just about nothing the modern church concerns herself with helps to reach those far away from Christ. Our systems train the saints to serve the church and promote the idea that the work of ministry should be carried out by a select minority of believers.

The view that God has gifted and chosen a few and the rest of us are there to watch the show, go home and leave ministry at the church door must be eradicated from our thinking! I fully acknowledge the leadership gifts that God gives to the church—throughout the early church God sent men to groups of people. These men preached the Gospel with power and God confirmed His word with many signs and wonders. I am in no way suggesting that leadership should stop leading—rather, I am proposing we reconsider how Godly leadership trains, equips and empowers the saints. I am suggesting we strive to build a church culture that moves us toward our mission and puts the big picture front and center. Instead of the iconic-personality approach of modern day Christianity, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to inspire everyone to participate in ministry. We have glamorized senior ministry to such a degree that we have buildings full of people waiting for their big chance, meanwhile missing all the simple, everyday opportunities for ministry that made Jesus and the early church so effective at reaching the lost.

The big picture is not filling seats—it’s evangelizing the lost and making strong disciples. I want to encourage everyone to realize you can make a difference in the world, and it starts one life at at time.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

Building a Culture

Culture is the shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes a group of people. Every group of people has a unique culture. In the corporate world, companies spend millions of dollars and work tirelessly at establishing a culture that helps them meet their goals, organizing teams around a common mission and shared set of values.

In the religious community, we think changing up our dress codes and removing some of the old hymns makes us progressive or relevant in some superficial way. We focus on revising the most trivial aspects of our church cultures and hope that somehow this will trick the world into embracing us. However, simply modifying our dress or updating our music will never establish the kind of culture that produces fruit and changes lives.

Most churches I’m families with have great faith for a harvest of souls but little understanding of the the culture they are seeking to impact. We have been so fearful of becoming “worldly” that we have no idea of how to reach anyone beyond our little niches. Despite this trend among contemporary Christians, the most culturally relevant person in human history was without a doubt Jesus Christ.

He understood His target audience. His message was incredibly effective and accessible to large crowds and small groups alike. He could speak to the hearts of anyone He came across—from prostitutes to tax collectors or the sick in body, there was no one He couldn’t minister to. Though Christ in no way condoned their behavior, He never made them feel uncomfortable in His presence.

In fact, the only people who didn’t receive Him was His own. The religious community gave him trouble on every level. He was the Messiah, the change agent the earth was waiting on, but they never accepted Him because He didn’t look anything like what they expected.

So often people rally around the idea of change. The concept of change is applauded but implementation is often met with entirely different emotions. The Jews wouldn’t have had a problem with Jesus if He could have conformed to their ideology and tradition—this is an example of a rigid culture standing in the way of purpose and plans of God.

Culture shock is something we understand from the stand point of the differences between geographic regions—the culture in African countries differs radically from the culture in America and adjusting to a markedly different culture often provokes unpleasant emotions and anxiety. The real question becomes is this the reason people in the church community are so afraid to deviate from their tradition and liturgy? Maybe it’s about preserving our comfort and predictability.

I don’t understand all of the apprehensions Christians have to change but one thing is certain, fundamental changes to church culture must come if Christianity is to remain the religion of this nation. Although the great reformers of history came from England, now England, and the rest of Europe, is post-Christian. The city of London is experiencing an explosion of Muslim followers, building thousands of mosques to accommodate this growth. You might believe such a shift could never happen in this nation, but I’m certain Spurgeon and Wesley thought the same of England not long ago.

We must being willing to allow God the opportunity to speak to us all concerning how He wants His church to function in contemporary culture. What is clear is that church has to be more than singing, preaching and offerings—the maintenance of the saints can no longer be our primary objective. While this is part of the local assembly’s role, we cannot allow pursuing the comfort of the saints trump our work on the Great Commission.

Why shouldn’t we change, with purpose, to better reach the lost? We know who it is we are to reach, so why can’t we reach them? If we truly understood our target audience as Jesus understood His, we would get the same results. After all, it is His church and He set the ultimate example we should follow.

Taking the gospel to the lost in an effective, relevant way should be our greatest goal. To do it, we have to build a strong culture in our churches that places connecting the lost with Christ as a greater priority than entertaining the saints. Part of my commitment this year is to build a culture in our church that is conducive to carrying out the great commission, energizing the saints and organizing our efforts to reach the lost.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll introduce the core values that will anchor our culture to this mission. The first of these values is we don’t save seats. To create a culture that emphasizes the lost, we must be more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.