Kickstarter Project: Flannelgraph Jesus

Another book about Jesus?

Yes! But I think you’ll like it. Here’s why: First, it’s not for theologians or super Christians—it’s for everybody. You won’t need an exegetical dictionary to read it. You’ll only need to be interested in seeing Jesus in a refreshingly new light. Second, it might change your life. Scratch that, Jesus will change your life. Especially when you get a better understanding of how awesome he really was!

As a pastor, my dream is to help people get a clearer picture of Jesus. It’s time to go beyond a one-dimensional picture of Christ and see the man, who lived, laughed, loved, and ultimately died for the world. He’s so much more than just the Bible story Jesus. There are so many characteristics of his personality that go unnoticed or underappreciated.

I’m raising the funds so that I can self-publish the book. Here’s a breakdown of how the money will be used:

* Cover Design $500

* Interior Layout $250

* Copy Editing $500

* First printing $1,000

* Marketing $500

* Miscellaneous $250

Total cost is $3,000

The first draft is already completed and is 22,000 words. After final editing and revisions, I expect to finish at 25,000. That will make the finished product about 125 pages.

Tentative Chapter Titles:

Didn’t Know He Was Funny

Didn’t Know He Was Tough

Didn’t Know He Was Rebellious

Didn’t Know He Was Teacher

Didn’t Know He Was a Friend

Didn’t Know He Was a Brother

Didn’t Know He Was Creator

Didn’t Know He Was Messiah

Risks and challenges

Because the first draft is already completed, the biggest challenge that I have now is editing. Currently, the manuscript is being reviewed by my team of “beta readers.” This is sort of like a test audience for movies. Once I hear back from my beta readers I will make changes and then submit to my editor.

I’m working with a couple people that have a lot of credibility in the Christian book publishing world so I’m getting lots of good guidance along the way.

Does What I Do REALLY Matter?

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

This is guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Kandi Johnson. She is a writer, blogger, published author, and a certified health coach. Her blog celebrates life by offering people hope and inspiration from God’s perspective. Please check it out and sign up for her email list at kandijohnson.com. She also has a 5-star rated book at Amazon.com called Healing Anorexia: Learning Acceptance by Embracing God’s Love.


Do you question if what you do REALLY matters?  Who it matters to?  Is there a REASON that you not only exist but that there is something directing the paths of your days, hours, minutes?  I often question this myself.  As one who has served in many aspects of ministry leadership, I feel the weight of “making my life count”, and yet often find myself wandering aimlessly through days, and without notice, seasons and years pass by too quickly.

Recently, I had the awesome responsibility of writing the obituary for my mother, who passed away at the age of 92.  My mother spent her entire life as a Pastor’s wife, as well as holding numerous church leadership positions.  How would I sum up the life of such an amazing person who meant everything to you, as well as impacted the lives of so many around her, in 300 words?  As I considered her life (in chronological order), I realized that it was best to sum up her life based upon her favorite scripture, then expand from there.  At the top of the page, I penned Proverbs 3:5,6  which said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not to thy own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  As I considered this wisdom, I was able to grasp the true meaning of what her life meant, because she LIVED this scripture – she TRUSTED, ACKNOWLEDGED and allowed God to DIRECT her life.

TRUST

Are you trusting in God?  Do you trust that He will not only provide the basics for you but also give you the desires of your heart?  Do you realize that Trust is rooted in Faith and is displayed by an optimistic outlook on life?  In Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV), scripture tells us that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…”  When we view our lives with a negative outlook, we are not trusting in God.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Do you acknowledge God each day? “Do you give God credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky” or “the stars were in alignment”?  Acknowledging God is also known as having a grateful heart and giving thanks to God.  Psalm 100:4,5 (NIV) says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”   When we greet each day with a thankful heart and go through each moment with a heart of appreciation, we not only have a more peaceful day, but we grasp a glimpse of our purpose in life, often in the eyes of others.

Do you give Him credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky”Click To Tweet

DIRECT

Do you allow God to direct your life, or do you want to hang on to the wheel?  Psalm 25:4 (NIV) says “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Instead of walking through each day in a fog, choose to make the most of each day by allowing God to guide you to His path – no matter what your tasks or day looks like.  Give your best because EVERYTHING you do is for Him.

As the scripture says in Proverbs – “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.  When He is directing your path (which He IS when you acknowledge Him), you will find yourself looking back on your day and realizing that you did have meaningful encounters that you hadn’t planned, and your life, for that day, fulfilled His purpose.

Kandi Johnson, The Vibrant Author
www.kandijohnson.com

Six Steps To Financial Freedom

In 2005 my wife and I were in the middle of a financial catastrophe that we created for ourselves. We were $70,000 in debt (not including our mortgage) and the financial strain was having a profoundly negative impact on our family and our ministry.

Then we made a drastic change. At the urging of my father, we enrolled in Financial Peace University (FPU), a program created by Christian money guru, Dave Ramsey. It was a game changer!

Within 3 years, my wife and I became debt free and began saving for the future. I cannot stress how important this was for our marriage, our family, and our ministry. I highly recommend FPU for anyone that is struggling with money, however, if you don’t have the time to attend the class then here’s are six steps that can help lead you to financial freedom.

1 – Make A Decision…No More Credit!

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul takes time to stress the importance of paying what you owe. He shares this encouragement within the greater context of paying government taxes but the principle can be expanded. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

When it comes to spending money, it’s simple. Don’t borrow. If you want to change your financial future you have to change your mind. You have to decide that you will never borrow money again. Period. Get rid of those credit cards. Say no to those credit offers from Target. Shred the endless credit card applications that you receive in the mail. This type of hardened resolve is what will provide the strong foundation for steps 2-6.

When it comes to spending money, it’s simple. Don’t borrow.Click To Tweet

2 – Make A Budget and Stick To It

I love the story that Jesus tells in the gospel of Luke. He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) Of course, Jesus is actually talking about the cost of discipleship, but there is an obvious financial implication in this parable. A half-built tower sends a message to all who pass by–the man failed to budget properly.

If you desire financial success you need to know how much you can spend each day, each week, and each month. That’s called a budget. A good budget will help you reach your goals and most importantly a budget will inform you when to stop spending.

A couple things to remember when starting a budget. First, it won’t start working right away. It takes time— at least a few months—so don’t get discouraged. Second, simplicity is good. Sometimes the best way to start is with a pencil, pen, and a yellow pad. Fancy software based budgets and apps tend to overcomplicate the process and cause failure. Keep it simple!

3 – Make A Backup Plan

Budgets can only handle the costs that you are expecting. Unexpected costs, or emergencies, will break your budget quickly. Dave Ramsey recommends putting $1,000 in an emergency fund in order to cover emergencies. If you can’t do that right away, make at least 5-10% of your budget available for emergencies.

In Proverbs, Solomon illustrates this idea by pointing out the diligence of the ant. He says, “Though the ant has no ruler or chief, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Prov 6:8)

The ant knows that winter is coming and that means she has to save for a time when disaster is imminent. For this tiny creature, emergencies are regularly occurring events. It’s the same for us. We should expect emergencies too. Tires wear out, people get sick, jobs can be lost, etc.

4 – Pay Off Your Debt

Drive downtown in any major city and look at the tallest buildings. What do they all have in common? They are almost always banks. Banks are in the business of lending money and let me tell you, business is good! At an average interest rate of 16.31%, banks know that you are a great investment. As long as you are someone else’s investment you will never get ahead.

According to The Motley Fool, the average American family carries more than $90,000 not including mortgage debt. That’s an incredible statistic. Even if those numbers are inflated by half it’s still a big problem.

When most people look at their mountain of debt they say, “I’ll never be able to pay that off.” But it’s not true. What you need is resolve and momentum. Cut back on all unnecessary expenses. Your mobile plan, cable bill, restaurant tab, and entertainment costs are good places to start. Remember this, you don’t have to give up the fun stuff forever, you just have to give it up while you are paying off debt. You can do anything, no matter how difficult or painful, if you know you don’t have to do it forever.

5 – Work, Work, Work

My friend has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” It’s funny and it’s true. The key to getting out of debt and staying out of debt is to work really hard. Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” It’s time to stop talking about making a change and get to work.

Changing your financial future means working harder than you ever have before. Ask yourself, can I get extra shifts? Get an extra job? Get two extra jobs? People do it all the time. Of course it’s not fun but it won’t last forever.

Plus, the extra effort is good for you. When you realize how much work it takes to get out of debt on your own, you be less likely to climb into debt again. It’s important to “feel the pain” of your own bad mistakes. You dug the whole, you’ll have to climb out of it on your own.

6 – Set Aside God’s Money First

Truthfully, this is the most important factor when it comes to financial freedom. It’s something you need to consider doing first–before you take any other action financially.

How you spend your money says a lot about who you are spiritually. When you spend everything you have, borrow more, and pile up a load of debt, you’re being less than a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Look no further than Jesus’ parable of the talents for instruction in this matter (Matthew 25:14-30).

Everything, and I mean everything belongs to God (Psalm 24:1) and he has blessed each of us with a small portion of it. Are you able to give back to him—first? Are you able to say, “Yes Lord, I trust you enough to give some of my blessing back to you, knowing that you’ll provide for me no matter what?”

wealth is not the acquisition of lots of money, it is the freedom from having to worry about acquiring a lot of moneyClick To Tweet

When you can cheerfully give to God first you’ll unlock the secret to financial freedom. See, wealth is not the acquisition of lots of money, it is the freedom from having to worry about acquiring a lot of money. See the difference?

In conclusion, let me say this. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. At one time my life, family, marriage, and ministry were on the brink of collapse. But God changed me through the power of his word. If I did it, you can too.

Additional resources:

https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu

http://www.crosswalk.com/family/finances/

http://www.crown.org

 

The New Church Guest Challenge

For the whole month of October, I have been on a sabbatical. It’s been a refreshing experience for me. I’ve been able to read some books, spend time in prayer, and rest my spirit.

But being on sabbatical has also helped me gain a new insight on what it means to be a visitor to church. Each week I’ve attended a different church. It’s such an exhilarating experience, walking into a brand new place, meeting new people, hearing a sermon (instead of giving one).

However, what strikes me most is how out of place and strange it feels to be a guest in a church. Frankly, it’s kind of scary. Then it hit me, this is how EVERY new person feels when they walk into my church on Sunday. Just knowing what it feels like to be new helps to give me a sense of how I need to treat new each person that attends my church. So, I’m issuing “The New Church Guest Challenge” to you! Here’s how you do it

1 – Tell your pastor you’ll be missing for a week

It’s not that you need their permission–unless you’re volunteering every Sunday. Still, it’s nice to let him or her know what you’re up to. Truthfully, some pastors will be against the idea. Just assure them that your goal is to learn more about how to get better at welcoming new people to the congregation. If you go to a really big church you can probably skip this step.

2 – Decide to visit a nearby local church

Pick a church that is similar to your own. For example, if you go to a large Baptist church, don’t choose a small Pentecostal church to visit. Instead, do your best to match size and denomination. Also, pick a place where you don’t know anyone–that way you will have a truly “new” experience.

3 – Get the full experience

Arrive early enough to be greeted and maybe grab some coffee. Don’t come 30 seconds before they start and miss all of the uncomfortableness. Also, bring the whole family (if they’re willing). You will get some great insight from your kids on what it’s like to be new too. It could be uncomfortable, but at least you’ll be together.

4 – Remember what it feels like to be new

The goal is not for you to evaluate how well the other church does worship or preaching, the goal is for you to “feel” what it’s like to be new. You’ll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.

You'll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.Click To Tweet

5 – Talk about your experience with others

What was it that made you feel welcome? What made you feel like an outsider? Was it easy to find a parking space? Did you know where to go? These are things that you probably take for granted at your regular church but new people don’t.

6 – Go back to your regular church and turn your findings into action!

So now that you remember the awkward feeling you’ll be ready to react. For example, remember that long “meet & greet” at the church where you visited? If no one really came over to say ‘hi’ now you know that you have to be that person at your own church. Find the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Does your church need better signage to direct guests to the restrooms or nursery? Point it out to someone that can make a difference.

So give it a try sometime and then let me know what you found out. I’m convinced that if we all put our heads together and learn from our experiences we will be helping people find the church and find Jesus. After all, isn’t that the overall goal?

Six Surefire Ways To Alienate New People

Matheus Ferrero

Nobody tries to alienate people that are visiting church. As ministry leaders, we should be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the message of the gospel. Even so, churches across the country are accidentally excluding potential attendees by simply forgetting what it’s like to be new. We need to be intentional about what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

However, if you wish to ostracize your weekly visitors then, by all means, try these six surefire ways to alienate new people at your church.

Sing Songs That No One Knows

I know that your worship leader has been working on his/her new album and that the congregation loves it. However, the new people don’t know those songs and can feel very alienated during the worship service. Even songs that were written and recorded by professional but little-known worship groups can be a challenge for the newcomer.

Solution? Consider playing at least a couple songs that are popular in case someone new shows up.

If you must play an obscure song, mix it into the set after you’ve brought the congregation into worship together and helped everyone connect to God.

Fail To Introduce Yourself To The Congregation

You wouldn’t think this would matter too much but you would be surprised. A new person has no idea who anyone is. So, when someone gets on stage and starts talking, visitors don’t know if that person is the lead pastor, an elder, a member, or some dude that had the guts to grab the mic.

By asking each speaker (announcements, welcome, offering talk, etc.) to start by saying something like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I’m on staff here..” or “My name is Paula and I’m a member here…” helps new people get some context for who is who.

This helps people feel more comfortable. By the way, when you don’t do this, newcomers assume that almost everyone up on the stage is working at the church.

Have An Exceptionally Long Meet & Greet Time

First of all, you should ditch the “meet and greet.” You know what I’m talking about–it’s the moment that the worship leader or pastor says, “hey there, take a few minutes and say hi to the people around you.” They might as well be saying, “hey there new people, for the next few minutes you’ll be standing uncomfortably by your selves while everybody says hi to people they already know.”

Too harsh? Not really. Ask anyone who’s visited a new church how they feel about being forced to meet new people in such a non-escapable environment. Only the most gregarious and outgoing new people appreciate the meet & greet.

Be Sure To Mention Situations and People Inclusive To The Church

How does it feel to be left out of a private joke? Pretty terrible. That’s sort of the feeling that new people have when the pastor is speaking about a situation that only the current congregation knows about. “Remember when Tom flooded the basement?” he might say. “That was a bad day!” Well, we can only guess because we weren’t there and we don’t know who Tom is.

You could say, “In 2001, Tom, our janitor accidentally impaled a water pipe while installing the new sign for the children’s area. By the time we figured out where the water was coming from we were standing in ankle deep water!” (autobiographical illustration, by the way)

That helps because you’ve given enough information to help even a first-time guest know what you talking about. They won’t feel left out of the joke that way.

A related habit that a lot of ministry leaders have is referring to Bible passages and stories casually, assuming that everyone knows them. If you refer to a well-known Bible story or verse, don’t assume everyone knows about it already. That’s insider talk and it subconsciously excludes people who don’t know the Bible.

Don’t Give People Time To Find Bible Passages

As a preacher, this is a huge pet-peeve of mine. The reason? I used to do this A LOT! When I first starting preaching I would place bookmarks in my Bible ahead of time so I could find them fast. The problem was that no one else in the congregation could find them as quickly.

For example, if you are speaking and you say, “please turn to 1 Peter 3,” you need to turn there with everyone else. Once you get there, look out in the audience and see if most people are done flipping pages. Once they are, then you can reference the verse you’re asking them to find.

You say, “but there will be a lot of silence while we are all looking.” Yeah, that’s ok. People won’t be listening to you when they are searching in their Bibles anyway. This is especially true for new people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as everyone else. For many visitors, this could be their very first experience with God’s word. Make their first experience a positive one by helping them feel successful in finding the Bible verses you’re talking about.

And for Heaven’s sake (literally), use the Bible when you preach!

Overwhelm New People By Being Too Friendly

For a while, the greeters in our church were too happy to see new people. It’s true! I actually got that feedback from a visitor once. They said, “your people were too happy to see me.”

What they meant was that the greeters sort of bombarded them on the way in the door. It’s the same feeling you might’ve had the last time you walked onto a used car lot–the sales guy runs out of the office and attaches himself to your leg.

Smaller churches are especially susceptible to this problem for a couple reasons. First, because they tend to be so excited to see new people, hoping that the church will grow. Second, because there are fewer people it’s easier to determine who is new.

The solution? Whelm people. Don’t OVERwhelm them, don’t UNDERwhelm them either. Just ‘whelm’ them. Yes, it’s a word.

Be happy to see them and welcome them cheerfully. Then let them experience the church at their own pace. Most visitors don’t need to know everything about the congregation on their first visit.

Perfectionism In The Church Sucks

When I first got started in ministry many years ago, I worked with a few people who were perfectionists. I thought I was supposed to be that way too. I wanted everything in the church to be 100% flawless, the music, the video, the sermons, the coffee! I wanted the church to be as good as, if not better than, the “outside” world. But this is a trap and it caused me an incredible amount of disappointment in ministry.

Top ministry leaders talk about how God deserves our best. They say that anything less than pure excellence is less than pleasing to God. But come on, give me a break. No one can hit a home run every time, right?

Too much of that talk causes the local church to grow dissatisfied, feeling like nothing will ever be good enough. Small churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have the budget or talent to support the production levels of larger churches.

It’s time to stop the madness. Here are four solid reasons why perfectionism sucks.

Perfection Is Unachievable

By definition, it is not possible to be perfect. Because to be perfect, you have to be perfect all the time–see the problem? There’s no way to be flawless in your life, your spirituality, your teaching, your leading, your parenting, and so on. It’s like when my dog chases his tail. He doesn’t realize that he’s never going to catch it. At first, he’s entertained by the chase, but after a while, he gets tired and gives up.

This is my story, and to be honest, I still struggle with it. On Sunday I want things to be good–no, I want them to be great. My motives are pure enough; I’m hoping that people will see that we are a quality bunch of people who love Jesus and care enough to do things well. However, sometimes my desire for high-quality is at the expense of our volunteers. They are only capable of doing their best based on available time, God-given talent, or persona aptitude. I’m realizing now that it is less about the result and more about the process.

Perfection Ignores The Journey

You’ve heard the phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” In the church family, that’s true. As a matter of fact, the church is the journey. That’s because our destination lies beyond the boundaries of this life, where perfection is provided by God himself.

Inside the church, it’s about spiritual growth and that’s a messy business. Any time a group of people get together, try to agree on common goals, and then attempt to live by those goals, there will be some chaos. Especially because different people within the body of Christ are at different phases of their spiritual growth. Remember, the Apostle Paul’s wrote all but one of his letters to correct problems within the early church. The believers were in process then, and they continue to be today.

Inside the church, it's about spiritual growth and that's a messy business.Click To Tweet

And besides, the point of a church isn’t “the show” on Sunday morning. The point is how we interact all week long. Are we encouraging each other? (Heb 10:25) Are we holding each other accountable? (Gal 6:1) Are we loving each other? (John 13:35) And, are we sharing the gospel? That’s the main business of the church.

Imperfection Is A Mark of Authenticity

Before I proposed to my wife, I remember visiting a jewelry store to look at diamonds. I was surprised to learn that the mark of authenticity within a diamond are the flaws – tiny streaks or flecks visible only with a microscope. Only fake gems are completely pure.

A church full of people is like a church full of diamonds. If we pretend that everything is perfect then we fall short of being credible. John said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)

This is especially important when it comes to reaching people outside of the church. No one wants to be labeled as a hypocrite and people are generally considered to be hypocritical when they say one thing and then do another. Maybe we don’t say we are perfect with words, but we might hope to portray that image through our worship styles, clothing, and speech, lighting, etc. In a sense, perfectionism alienates people from the church, and ultimately from Christ.

Living With Purpose

It’s time to redefine perfection here on earth. Since no one can achieve it anyway, let’s do away with the word in our churches. Instead, you might like the word PURPOSE. Let’s do things with purpose. Let’s worship with purpose, speak with purpose, let’s make sure that we do our best – not because we are hoping to attain some level of perfection, but because we have a purpose to show the congregation and our community the beauty of God’s grace. The purpose is to grow as disciples. This happens best because we understand what we are trying to achieve as believers and why.

Our purpose can certainly have a sense of quality too. If we are doing things on purpose then everyone involved should give as much of their time and talent as possible. Because our purpose is more important than perfection.

Make Your Goals A Reality With This Planner

Note: this is a non-paid endorsement. I love this planner and I think you might like it too. That’s why I’m writing about it.


I’ve just discovered the Full Focus Planner and I love it. Designed by Michael Hyatt, the Full Focus Planner is a great tool to help you stay focused and productive while achieving your goals. Here’s why it works.

It’s Analog, Not Digital

According to Hyatt, research shows the value of so-called analog activities – essentially anything that does not involve a digital medium. Analog tasks like reading books, drawing, and handwriting are essential to help the brain concentrate while producing better memory and higher levels of focus. This rings true for me. I love sitting in a quiet place, figuring out my day, writing notes, lists, and ideas with ink and paper.

Granted, Hyatt suggests using a hybrid approach to planning, which involves the Full Focus Planner in addition to iCal or Google calendar and apps like Nozbe.

Goals Are Highly Prioritized

One of the key features of the planner is the priority it places on creating and setting goals for the day, week, weekend, quarter, and year. For the week and day, you decide on your “big 3,” these are the things that must be done this week or day. These tasks are often derived from the goals and objectives spelled out in your monthly and quarterly tasks.

It makes sense to me. For the longest time, I floated through my day without aim, just handling tasks before they became emergencies. Meanwhile, I was ignoring my own professional and personal goals. There’s nothing wrong with having goals but they only become reality when you create a plan to reach them. According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “a goal without a plan is only a wish.” So True.

Training Videos Included

One of the things I have appreciated is the additional video tutorials that Hyatt makes available for purchasers of the planner. There are 12 videos in all and they cover everything from best practices to creating daily rituals for morning and night. So much of what is included in the tutorial seems obvious but organized so that what seems obvious is now effective. It’s more than a Moleskine journal or notebook–it’s a system.

It’s High Quality

This planner looks amazing. It’s just the right size, with a beautifully bound cover, thick ivory-colored pages, and two smart book-mark ribbons that complement the package. It’s thicker than a traditional Moleskine but much smaller than a Franklin Planner or some type of binder-based planner that can be purchased at Office Depot or Target.

If there is a drawback to the system it’s that it only covers 3 months. That being said, a planner system like this would have to be about the size of an encyclopedia in order to last a whole year. It’s a little pricey, $37 each, but well worth it.

For those of you that are reading, I recommend you check it out.

3 Good Reasons To Leave Your Church

Leaving Church

They say, “all good things must come to an end.” Often, that is true when it comes to the relationship you have with your church family. Leaving is never easy but in some cases it is necessary.

In a previous post, I suggested that there were some very terrible reasons for leaving a church. But, are there any good reasons to leave a church? Yes, there are plenty, and here are three:

Spiritual Abuse

If the leaders of your church use biblical pressure tactics to coerce or manipulate you in any way, it’s time for you to move on. I have heard of pastors that twist the Bible in order to guilt people into serving or giving money. I have seen pastors and leaders who reduce Christianity to a list of rules that must be followed by their congregation at all costs. When their followers fall short of these regulations they are shamed, disgraced, and penalized — often publicly.

This is nothing new and Jesus opposed these types of leaders. In Matthew 23:4 he said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” He criticized the Jewish leaders for holding their followers to a higher standard than even they were able to follow.

Spiritual abuse is a dangerous trend and is often disguised as the pursuit of holiness. Of course, being holy is something that all believers should aspire to (1 Peter 1:14–16), but our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.

Our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.Click To Tweet

Teaching That Is Unbiblical

When someone in the congregation says, “I’m not being fed,” it usually means they don’t like the preaching in their church. Sometimes their reasons for not liking the preaching are superficial. For example, they don’t think the pastor is funny enough, or his/her sermons are too long, or they don’t appreciate their style.

But there are occasions when a pastor falls short of their call to teach the Word accurately and consistently. Defective teaching is harder to judge, considering the wide variety of teaching styles and methods. But, if you notice that your teaching pastor consistently avoids using the Bible during his/her messages, turns every single message into a political statement, or adds their own ideas to the gospel, you should be on high alert.

The Apostle Paul faced this exact situation on a number of occasions. He wrote to the church in Galatia to warn them about perverting the gospel through false teaching. He said, “but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7) A few verses later he says they should be cursed!

If your church leaders are preaching any gospel other than the simple truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified and raised for your sins to the eternal glory of God — it’s time to go.

Your Gifts are Needed Elsewhere

On a more positive note, there are times when there is no controversy and no abuse, however, the gifts and talents that you have been given are needed more in a different congregation.

About 7 years ago a good friend and member of our worship band came to me and told me he was leaving our church. He loved our church family and everything about the congregation. However, he felt called to be a part of the worship team at a smaller church across town. Since our music team was well-stocked with talented musicians and theirs was not, he knew his talents would make a bigger impact for the gospel in their church. We blessed him and his family as he left, knowing that he was leaving for the right reasons.

If you are a follower of Christ then you have been given a gift (1 Peter 4:10). Are you are using that gift to its fullest potential at your church? If not, find out how to get involved so that you can strengthen your church family and be a part of the gospel’s forward movement. However, if your gift is needed in a different church, then pray and ask God if it’s time to go. While it may be difficult to leave your church family, it’s always the right idea to follow God’s call, even if that means saying goodbye to a church you love.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you been a part of a church that abused its congregation? If you have let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

3 Terrible Reasons To Leave Your Church

leaving church leave

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time I’ve seen my share of people leave our church. Sometimes they go nicely, and for good reason. Other times they leave in a hail storm of controversy and bitterness.

Believe it or not, sometimes leaving a church is the right thing to do. Often times though, people leave for very bad reasons and when they do they cause damage to the body of believers.

Here are the 3 worst reasons you can give to leave your church body:

The Music Is Too Loud

Over the years I’ve heard this one more than a few times. If this is the only issue you have with a church it shouldn’t be enough to cause your exit. In almost every church in America (certainly every church under 300 people), the band and sound team are made up of volunteers. These well-meaning and dedicated men and women are not professional audio engineers. They are usually well-meaning folks trying to do their best on Sunday morning.

If the sound is legitimately too loud then I suggest you do a couple things:

First, volunteer to be a part of the sound team! That way, with your hand on the control knob you’ll be able to make sure the sound is just perfect for you. But be aware, you’ll likely field a number of other complaints such as, “I couldn’t hear my son’s guitar at all” or “why isn’t my daughter’s voice louder?”

Second, you could simply purchase an inexpensive pair of sound reducing ear plugs! I’m being serious. There’s no shame in doing this – especially if you love everything else about your church family.

I’m Just Not Getting Fed

Not only is this a bad reason for leaving your church, it’s not biblical. Actually, uttering the phrase “I’m not getting fed” reveals a lot about your lack of spiritual maturity. Only a spiritually immature Christian would think it’s the job of the pastors or ministry leaders to hand-feed them. As a believer, the goal is to feed yourself.

The writer of Hebrews illustrates this clearly by calling out the Jewish believers for their lack of understanding and for having the inability to feed themselves. He/she says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food… (Heb 5:12)” We all know that babies drink milk while adults eat solid food. Infants are hand-fed, but eventually learn to eat on their own. Spiritually speaking, it’s obvious – mature Christians should be able to feed themselves. In that way, the church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen. The teacher makes the food (teaching) available and perhaps even combines the ingredients (draws conclusions, points out an application, etc.), but the mature believer does the work.

The church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen Click To Tweet

Even if you think the preaching is subpar or if you’re not 100% interested in every topic your pastor chooses, as long as the Bible is open you should be able to get something out of it. You might just have to do some of the chewing.

The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites

Well, that’s just stupid. Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. It’s full of liars, drunks, and cheaters too. Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Sick people belong in a hospital and sinners belong in a church!

Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Click To Tweet

If you leave your church hoping to avoid hypocrites then you’ll never find a church home. Every church is full of men and women who are recovering from the effect of sin in their lives. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he said, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)” Obviously, Paul has to say this because it’s not exactly happening–the people need a reminder. And guess where they are? In the church!

If you feel the need to leave a church because it’s full of hypocrites then the best thing to do is take a good look in the mirror. There’s a good chance you have a plank in your eye! (Matt 7:5)

So, are there reasons to leave a church? Of course! There are several good reasons to leave but they are all Biblical reasons. Stay tuned, I will write an article called, “3 Biblical Reasons To Leave Your Church” next week.

How To Be A Better Listener: 3 Simple Tips

Every ministry leader needs to be a good listener. Unfortunately, listening is a lost art. This is especially true in an era where opinion and individualism are valued over practically everything else. Everyone wants to be heard, but it seems that few want to listen.
 
The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we should be the listeners for our followers and flock. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to be a better listener, and while I still struggle from time to time I have learned a few simple methods to help be a better listener.

Stop Talking

I remember when I was about 20 I was having a conversation with an older gentleman about music outside after church. After 10 minutes of my non-stop talking, he finally said, “Will you please shut up? It’s not much of a conversation if you don’t let me talk too!”
 
That was a wake-up call for me. Suddenly I understood, it’s frustrating for the other person if you don’t let them speak.

So, when you’re listening to someone, stop talking. Completely. And if you do decide to speak, ask follow up questions that allow the other person to elaborate on what they are saying. Even better, paraphrase what the other person is saying back to them. This lets them know that you are listening and understanding their point of view.
 
Perhaps the Apostle James said it best, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)

Body Language

The posture of a listener is also important. If you’re seated while listening, lean forward. This tells the other person that you are interested. Eye contact is critical too. Look at the person that is speaking to you, not past them. Also, be wary of body language that signals boredom or loss of interest. Don’t fidget with your hands, don’t look at your watch, and please, please do not look at your phone.
Good listening is about putting the needs of other people first. It’s really about humility. Allowing another person to take center stage in a conversation is challenging. The Apostle Paul writes about the model of humility in Philippians 2:3-4, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He says this is how Jesus acted toward others and we should too. Imagine what a good listener Jesus must’ve been!

Be Patient

This might be the hardest part of listening. Good listening takes time. The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we feel like we don’t have a lot of time and so we aren’t always the best listeners.
 
Plenty of times I have sat with people who are sharing challenges and problems in their lives with me. Often, they don’t get to the point right away. In my head, I think, “get to the point so I can solve your problem quickly!” But helping them “solve” their problems is not why they’ve come to see me. Isn’t it God’s responsibility to solve problems anyway? They just want to be heard.
 
Eugene Peterson says, “Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s for only five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.” (Read Eugene Peterson’s article at Christianity Today)
 
The brother of Jesus wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Notice that he is not saying you’ll be forgiven (that comes from God), but healed. There is something very powerful that happens when we talk to each other about our problems, challenges, and sins.