Monday, April 17, 2006

Adequacy

Ministry is "the incredible call of an inadequate man to an impossible task for an indefinite period time." At least that's how one of my seminary professors described it. I think it's a fair definition.

A man that I am mentoring toward pastoral ministry told me "the enemy was really in my ears this past week." I asked him what the enemy had been telling him. He said, "He's telling me that I am not qualified to be a pastor." My reply probably surprised him, but I said, "He's right about that. You are not qualified. For that matter, neither am I."

Characteristic of the enemy is that his accusations possess an element of truth. The problem with the enemy is that his "spin" on the truth is not redemptive. We will often feel inadequate for what God is calling us to do, and we should. But "the rest of the story" (that the enemy will conveniently leave out) is that God loves to use "jars of clay" as containers for His glory.

1 Corinthians 1:25-31
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Samson was a mighty man, big man on campus and the judge of Israel. The irony of his story was that he accomplished more for God in his death than he did in his life. At the conclusion of his story he prayed to God for strength to “push in the pillars” on God’s enemies. God granted the request and demonstrated that a weak man, totally dependent on God, is more powerful than a strong man operating in his own strength.


In every world religion, man pursues God. Only in Christianity does God pursue man. Following is a poem that I have enjoyed through the years to describe God’s pursuit.

O long and dark the stairs I trod

With trembling feet to find my God

Gaining a foothold bit by bit,

Then slipping back and losing it.

Never progressing, striving still

With weakening grasp and faltering will,

Bleeding to climb to God, while he

Serenely smiled, unnoting me.

Then came a certain time when I

Loosened my hold and fell thereby;

Down to the lowest step my fall,

As if I had not climbed at all.

Now when I lay despairing there,

Listen….a footfall on the stair,

On that same stair where I afraid,

Faltered and fell and lay dismayed.

And lo, when hope had ceased to be,

My God came down the stairs to me.


C.S. Lewis wrote a series of books called the Chronicles of Narnia. The first of the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been made into a movie, now out on DVD. They did a pretty good job on the movie, but there is an important part of the story they missed. It came following the resurrection. In both the book and the movie, Susan and Lucy witness the terror and sorrow of Aslan’s death at the hands of the Great White Witch and her henchmen. He is slain on this great concrete table. And then they witness the resurrection. But in the book, what happens next is a surprise.

“Oh children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!” He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made the leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, but she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hill-top he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind. And the funny thing was when all three finally lay together panting in the sun the girls no longer felt in the least tired or hungry or thirsty.

What an awesome description of a relationship with God: Lucy couldn’t figure out if she was playing with a thunderstorm or a kitten. But she knew she was playing. The celebration of Easter is not just the resurrection of Christ’s body. It is the resurrection of a relationship, a playful one, between God and you.

Leaders

At CTK we are trying to create the right climate for a leader to grow. A leader is someone who:

- Influences other people.

- Possesses a knack for working with other people.

- Is a servant.

- Sees what needs to be done.

- Takes responsibility for results.

Everything rises and falls with leadership. Leader development is a “critical success factor” for CTK. We are surrounded by tens of thousands of lost people. We want to deploy thousands of small groups as lifeboats to rescue the lost. Where will we find the leaders for these groups, and the attendant Worship Center? Look for leaders to surface among.....

- those who are “growers”

- names that come to mind when you think of the leader profile above

- people who are susceptible to your leadership

- friends who could fill in for you

- entrepreneurs and managers in business

- folks who are frustrated followers

- ones who take charge in a crisis

As you are looking for leaders gravitate toward people you enjoy. Keep lists of prospects, and pray for them by name. When you get the chance, ask them, “Would you consider being a leader?” Treat prospects like they’re involved long before they are. Build community with potential leaders: think social events, not just meetings. Use absences strategically. When you need to be away, have your prospective leader fill your shoes.

Relax and have fun. Remember, God is more concerned about this than we are.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Leadership development is more art than science. Even Jesus did not bat 1.000 - He identified 12; failed 1, and deployed 11. Keep at it. The number one way to multiply your ministry is by identifying, deploying, training and supporting leaders. Who’s on your list today?

Mind

Romans 12 speaks of "renewing the mind" as key to spiritual transformation. But what exactly does this mean? It means re-channeling and re-grooving our minds so that thoughts and feelings naturally follow the narrow path of Christ. There is a physiological reprogramming that needs to happen for people's minds, as there are ruts carved out in childhood. Consider the following....

By the time the child reaches her third birthday the number of successful connections made is colossal - up to fifteen thousand synaptic connections for each of its one hundred billion neurons.

But this is too many. She is overloaded with the volume of information whirling around inside her head. She needs to make sense of it all. Her sense. So during the next ten years or so, he brain refines and focuses its network of connections. The stronger synaptic connections become stronger still. The weaker ones wither away. Dr. Harry Chugani, professor of neurology at Wayne State University Medical School, likens this pruning process to a highway system:

"Roads with the most traffic get widened. The ones that are rarely used fall into disrepair."

Scientists are still arguing about what causes some mental highways to be used more regularly than others. Some contend that the child's genetic inheritance predisposes her toward certain mental pathways. Other claim that the way she is raised has a significant effect on which pathways will survive the Darwinian pruning and which will die.

These views are not mutually exclusive. But whatever their nature-nurture bias, few disagree on the outcome of this mental pruning. By the time the child reaches her early teens, she has half as many synaptic connections as she did when she was three. Her brain has carved out a unique network of connections. She has some beautiful, frictionless, traffic-free, four-lane highways, where the connections are smooth and strong. And she has some barren wastelands, where no signal at all makes it across.

If she ends up with a four-lane highway for empathy, she will feel every emotion for those around her as though it were her own. By contrast, if she has a wasteland for empathy, she will be emotionally blind, forever saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person – not out of malice, but simply out of an inability to pick up the frequency of the emotional signals being sent. Likewise if she has a four-lane highway for confrontation, she will be that lucky person whose brain just hands her one perfect word after another during the heat of a debate. If she has a wasteland for confrontation, she will find that her brain always shuts her mouth down at the most crucial moments. (The Decade of the Brain.)

As pastors, we are in the de-programming/re-programming business. Mental models that have been constructed, often need to be torn down. Instead there needs to be a four-lane highway developed of love, joy, peace, etc. (the fruit of the Spirit). Through your teaching, praying, exhorting, and counseling, you are getting people’s minds off “the broad road” that leads to destruction, and onto the path that leads to life.

Complaints

People need to be heard. Sometimes we’re a little “non-plussed” about what they feel they need to be heard about. But they need to be heard.

They also need to be trained to bring their complaint in the right way to the right people – people who are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. When third parties are “triangled” into the situation, it can feel like gossip or backbiting, even if that is not what’s intended. In that regard….

1) Don’t take unsigned letters, or complaints. These should go immediately into the round file. Whoever gets it first should disposes of it immediately. Unsigned “bombs” are the written equivalent of burning a cross on someone’s lawn and running away.

2) Don’t allow people to say things like, “I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve told me that….” This is the verbal equivalent to people giving us an unsigned complaint. It just makes the reporter the paper it’s written on. It presents us with nameless, faceless people out there who we can’t get back to, or give an explanation to. Whenever this occurs, the follow up questions should be “Who are these people” and “Why haven’t they talked to the person directly?” We want to deal with problems on the merits, not based on public opinion or polling.

If complaints, criticisms or accusations are brought to you (big or small), you should:

1) Listen to what they have to say, and reply, “OK, I understand.” Remain calm. Express confidence that God is bigger than this problem, no matter how big this problem may be.

2) Be careful about joining their feelings (even though we’ll often share them), because, believe me, many people will take that and run with it (“I talked to Dave…and he agrees with me about Fred!”). It is a hard thing to not “join in”, and requires us to discipline our own feelings at times, but as you go up the ladder of leadership you have fewer and fewer rights, and greater and greater responsibilities. The fact is, having someone else feel the same as the complainant can magnify the problem, or worse yet, be a crack in the wall that can be later exploited for division. Satan loves to use the predictability of human nature to breed dissension. Against this attack, we will only be as strong as our weakest link.

3) Ask yourself, “Spiritually, what’s going on here, if anything?” Be discerning about motivations. Sometimes (not always) the “problem” is with the person bringing the complaint. Ask yourself, “Is this person dissatisfied with life? Are they a chronic complainer? Is this person generally supportive? Is ‘the problem’ not the real problem? Is there something else going on here? Do they have in mind the best for everyone, or just themselves? Are they in a position to really understand the bigger picture?” If unsure, probe deeper to find out more.

4) Affirm the person being talked about as a brother or sister in the Lord. Say, “I know that God is doing some great things in sister-so-and-so, and, regardless of the problems, I’m really glad she’s a part of our church family.” Affirm the person, not necessarily the decision, or their behavior. The fact may be that their decision or behavior was inappropriate (remember: we’re ALL sinners).

5) Ask the person to consider how important the matter really is in the bigger scope of things. Sometimes people need to get perspective. I think it is the job of leaders to help people put things in perspective. It may be one of those things where we need to extend grace to people and allow them to be different from us, or even to fail. Love covers over a multitude of sins. We each carry a bucket of water or of gas with us. We can either pour gas on the fire and magnify the problem, or pour water on the fire and minimize it. Ask yourself, who is going to get a name for themselves here; God or Satan. If it’s Satan, we want to minimize the publicity he gets for what he is doing in people’s lives. If it’s God, we want to maximize the publicity He gets for what He is doing in people’s lives.

6) If the matter remains substantial in their minds, instruct them to go directly to the person with whom they have a complaint – the decision maker. The process outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 is bedrock for problem solving in God’s family. Don’t accept or volunteer for the job of “messenger boy.” Say in very clear terms, “I think it would be best if they heard that from you directly,” or “Why don’t you tell that person exactly what you just told me?” If they say that they already have talked with them, then offer to go back with them a second time. But let them do the talking. People need to own their own feelings, and not have us be a facilitator, caretaker, or enabler for them. One of the clearest indicators of how big the problem really is, is a person’s willingness, or unwillingness to actually talk with the person responsible. Until the person has gone to the offender directly, we don’t have anything but a disgruntled person on our hands.

The difference between functional families and dysfunctional families is not that one has problems, but the other doesn’t. Both have their problems. It’s just that in a functional family the problems are dealt with directly and appropriately.

Outreach

At CTK we are trying to be better at outreach than than “in-drag.” We want to be more centrifugal than centripetal. We want to develop a sending style instead of an attractional one. This is why I enjoyed very much what Michael Frost wrote in his book The Shaping of Things to Come (pp.42,43):

Some time ago I was watching my daughter play soccer in a local park. Next to the field was an asphalt area where a group of model-car enthusiasts had set up a track and were using remote controls to race their cars against each other’s. The constant buzz of the miniature motors caught our attention and we wandered over to watch what they were doing. We soon realized we had encountered a lost suburban tribe. Everyone looked the same. They all wore tight black jeans and checkered flannel shirts. They wore baseball caps with car manufacturers’ logos on them. They had parked their cars – virtually all drove pickups – beside the track, and their wives or girlfriends sat in one of the truckbeds talking and laughing loudly. It was a tribe in every sense of the word – dress code, language, culture, and customs. We learned that once a month on a Sunday morning they met to race each other, to discuss the latest designs in model cars, and to drink and laugh and build community.

If the nearby church decided that this suburban tribe needed to hear about the saving work of Christ, how would they reach them? The attractional church would hold special services for model-car racers. It would design an excellent flyer explaining that Jesus loves model-car enthusiasts, and they would place one under the windshield wipers of each pickup. It would try to find a recently converted model-car enthusiast and have him share his testimony one Sunday morning. The attractional church would seek to do anything it could to draw the car racing fraternity into its church building. This might even work if you’re dealing with a localized community with some geographic proximity to the church building. But a car club community usually draws people from a very large geographical area. The model-car club is probably a city-wide community, and its members probably drive great distances to come to its monthly meetings. They are not drawn together by some geographical proximity, but by a commonly held interest. And to complicate matters further, they meet on Sunday mornings!

The attractional church is stuck! Even though it has a close-knit community of people (likely non-churchgoers) right outside its door, it has no mechanism for sharing Christ with them. Since they (the car club members) are not likely to run up at the church service one Sunday (doesn’t the attractional church love stories of people miraculously turning up at the church service searching for meaning and purpose!), the only way to share Christ’s love with them must be to go to them. It would be a decidedly incarnational choice if a few members of a local church, so moved by compassion for the car enthusiasts right across the road, chose to buy a model car and join the club!.......If the spirit of our missionary God were to sweep through such a church, we don’t doubt that the church itself might buy a few model cars and commission some of its members to miss the morning service so that they can fully enter into the community of the car club. By racing cars and repairing cars, they could earn the right of relationship to share their thoughts on life and their love for Jesus.

I have to admit, when I first read this story, the punch line caught me by surprise. But only because I still have some “un-learning” to do about how to reach out to an unchurched culture. Foreign missionaries know that they must join tribal activities if they are to reach the tribe. But in America the attractional model has been so pervasive that it is difficult to transition our impulses from “how can we get them to come to us?” to “how can we go to them?”


“How much of the traditional church’s energy goes into adjusting their programs and their public meetings to cater to an unseen constituency? If we get our seating, our parking, our children’s program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come. This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people don’t join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they’re unhappy with the product. The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light.” (The Shaping of Things to Come)


We are in the forefront of a tectonic shift that is happening in the church. I describe the organic, multi-site approach under construction at CTK as Deliberate Simplicity. But there are actually several books that are coming out right now describing the shift in thinking and behavior, including....

Revolution, George Barna
The Shaping of Things to Come, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Organic Church, Neil Cole
Church Planting Movements, David Garrison

The overwhelming conclusion you will reach after reading these books is, “We are part of something that is much bigger than we are.”

Recovery

In Luke 15 we read that Jesus was criticized for “welcoming sinners and eating with them.” In response to that criticism Jesus told three great stories all in defense of hanging out with "sinners” - the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. All have the same punch line: God's heart is toward the lost.

The story of the lost sheep demonstrates that God's love is focused. As God looks across his sheep, his eyes run directly to the one who is missing. He is not fixated on counting the ones who are “already here.” 99% of his sheep were accounted for, but His eyes search for the lost one, the broken one. He's concerned for their well-being, safety, redemption and recovery.

The story of the lost coin shows us how God's love is persistent. He doesn't give up. He turns the place upside down to get at the object of his affection. He's knows the intrinsic value of each and every coin.

The story of the lost son makes it clear that God's love is unconditional. The father runs to his son when he is “still a long way off.” Dad doesn't even ask where he's been or what he's done, he's just glad to have him back in the family!

Standing by at the reunion of the prodigal son, is an older brother (a bit part that Christ not-so-subtly assigns to his religious critics). The older son is upset because he's been behaving himself, but the party is being thrown for the prodigal son. The wandering brother is getting the attention. How unfair can that be!?!

Bingo! It's not fair. It's grace. It's undeserved...it's unearned....yet it's given freely. The Bible says: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Our God is a God of grace. “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefit upon the undeserving,” says A.W. Tozer. God loves us in spite of who we are, not because of who we are.

It is our hope at CTK to treat people better than they deserve to be treated. That is certainly what God has done for us. We learn how to treat others by how God has treated us.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
- Psalm 103:8-13

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
- Ephesians 4:32-5:2

At CTK we don’t view failures as final. We have a culture of recovery. The sheep can come back into the fold. The coin can come back into the bag. The son can come back into the family. The sinner can be a son. The ruined can be redeemed, recovered, recruited, renewed and reproducing.

I’ve learned how to treat people because of how they’ve treated me.
- An employee at Ritz Carlton

That’s not to say that sin doesn’t bring consequences. But we are not looking to create unnecessary consequences for broken people. We know that sin carries it’s own “built in” spanking. Provided that someone is “pointed in the right direction” we want to run to them with love, acceptance, and forgiveness, even if they are “a long ways off.”

In the 1929 Rose Bowl, UCLA played Georgia Tech. Toward the end of the first half, Roy Riegels from Georgia Tech picked up a UCLA fumble and ran for the goal line. Unfortunately for him, he had been spun around in the scramble for the ball and was heading for the wrong end zone. A teammate chased him and tackled him from behind just short of scoring a touchdown for the other team. Georgia Tech could not move the ball, and punting from their own end zone, had the punt blocked. UCLA scored to take the lead just before the end of the half. The Georgia Tech locker room was silent at half time. “Wrong way Roy Riegels” say quietly in a corner with a towel over his head. Then Coach Price spoke. All he said was: “The same team that started the first half, will start the second half.” Not a big statement, but an important one for Roy to hear.

We all fall. We all fail. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Sin is anything in our lives (thought, word or deed) that is inconsistent with God's character or laws. Some of us have fallen farther than others, and created a bigger dust cloud. But we’re all sinners in need of a savior. There are people at CTK who have lied, cheated, stolen, hated, lusted, gossiped, been self-centered, unkind. You name it, we've done it. And that's why we're here. But our past is an inadequate predictor of our future. There is hope for the future and forgiveness for the past.


What statements can a church make that will communicate that there is a “second half”? Script a half dozen hope-filled statements that could be made.

Forgiveness

I like our mission at CTK a lot: “To create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurch people in love, acceptance and forgiveness so that they may experience the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.” I like our mission, but I have to admit that it is hard. Some of the words in that statement are loaded. One, is the word “forgiveness.”

Early in my marriage, as Kristyn and I were about to go to sleep, I did something that wasn't in my best interests....I touched her. I think it was a timing problem, because Kristyn was almost asleep. She was in that semi-conscious stage. I don't know what got into me, but it was at that precise moment that I touched her; and as I recall she went AAAH! And what happened next really hurt.

Which brings me to the subject of forgiveness, because forgiveness is something we all need. We all poke and annoy and disturb. We all get poked and annoyed and disturbed. And the antidote for all of this is forgiveness. Forgiveness can be the cure for so much that ails us.

I'd like for you to think for a minute, and place a mental checkmark next to any of the following hurts that you may have experienced. Have you....

Been Lied to

Had a promise broken

Been neglected by grown children

Suffered violent crime against yourself or a loved one

Been treated unfairly by an employer

Seen your parents divorced

Been slandered, or falsely accused

Been divorced by a mate

Had a mate commit adultery or other sexual sin

Been rejected by parents

Been stolen from

Been cheated in a business/financial deal

Had a rebellious/wayward son or daughter

Been belittled

Suffered an alcoholic parent or mate

Been publicly humiliated

Been abused (physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually)


If so, then you need to know something about forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not mean that we will cease to hurt. Forgiveness does not mean that we will forget. Forgiveness is not pretending that the offense did not really matter. Forgiveness is not acting as if things are just the same as before the offense. Forgiveness does not mean that we will tolerate this behavior in the future (I love C.S. Lewis’ statement that “There are some things which we can forgive, that we cannot tolerate”).

Forgiveness is letting it go. It is remembering it, but remembering it differently. It is “remembering redemptively.” Forgiveness means that this real and horrible offense will not be allowed to be “the end of the story.” It means that we will no longer allow the offense to drive a wedge between us, hurting and injuring one another, or others. It means that the power of love is greater than the power of the offense. It means there is hope for the future.

In forgiveness we release our offenders so that they are no longer bound to us. In a very real sense, we are freeing them to receive God's grace. It sets them free, and sets us free, as well. Bitterness is an acid that destroys the container in which it is kept.

When Paul wrote the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 2 he was speaking to some people who were having a hard time letting go of what a man in their group had done. Paul instructed the church to grant the man forgiveness for two reasons. One is for the encouragement of the sinner: “Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him (v.7,8).” The other reason is for the defeat of Satan: “When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes (v.10,11).”

Satan evidently takes a personal interest in seeing that unforgiveness is perpetuated. He distorts our thinking, and “outsmarts” us on this one. Neil Anderson says, “Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to unforgiveness.” I agree with that.


Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive, as we did during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of talk makes me sick,’ they say. And half of them already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?’ So do I. I wonder very much. - C.S. Lewis, Learning in War-Time


Here is a small group study on forgiveness....

Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,' he begged, `and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,' he said, `I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

1. To whom do you say “I’m sorry” the most?

2. Do you tend to be more like the master who forgave (v. 27) or the servant who wouldn’t forgive (v. 30)?

3. When you get hurt in relationships, what do you usually do?

q have it out with the person

q sulk for three days

q withdraw into myself

q cry on someone’s shoulder

q try to look at it from the other person’s point of view

q watch reruns all night

q complain to God

q other: ____________________


4. Is there someone you are working on forgiving?

5. How can we support each other in prayer?

Stickiness

Deliberate Simplicity is counter intuitive. How can less be more? More, after all, is more. The answer is found partly in the “stickiness” of simplicity.

The experience of shopping at Costco is very sticky. By “sticky” I mean that there are qualities inherent in the Costco encounter that are extremely attractive and engaging. Small things can be big. Maybe it’s the $1.50 hot dogs. Or the free food samples. Or the lineup of plasma TVs as you walk in. Or the book table. True, the floors are concrete and the lighting is industrial, but wandering the wide aisles in search of treasure is pure fun.

Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller The Tipping Point identifies stickiness as one of the reasons less can be more. He credits stickiness for the popularity of the very simple hit children’s show, “Blue’s Clues.”

It is half an hour, not an hour. It doesn’t have an ensemble cast. It has just one live actor, Steve, a fresh-faced man in his early twenties in khakis and a rugby shirt, who acts as the show’s host. Instead of a varied, magazine format, each episode follows a singular story line – the exploits of an animated dog by the name of Blue. It has a flat, two-dimensional feel, more like a video version of a picture book than a television show. The pace is deliberate. The script is punctuated with excruciatingly long pauses. There is none of the humor or wordplay or cleverness that characterizes Sesame Street. One of the animated characters on the show, a mailbox, is called Mailbox. Two other regular characters, a shovel and a pail, are called Shovel and Pail. And Blue, of course, the show’s star, is Blue because she’s the color blue. It is difficult, as an adult, to watch Blue’s Clues and not wonder how this show could ever represent an improvement over Sesame Street. And yet it does. Within months of its debut in 1996, Blue’s Clues was trouncing Sesame Street in the ratings.

Stickiness can be found in small things. Given a powerful enough vision, as Yoda might say, “Size matters not.” For instance, children viewing Blue’s Clues are often asked to help “find” characters on the screen. The participatory nature of the program engages children in a way that other programming does not. That simple factor, though unspectacular, and easy to implement, keeps kids coming back for more.

Small touches can make satisfied adult customers as well. The Polaroid picture (taken with their salesperson) with which Saturn customers leave the car lot is an artifact that engages the relationship in a way that a signed contract can not. The satisfaction that comes from that token is an excellent return on the investment of a $30 instant camera. A simple moment of recognition or mutual sharing can last a very long time and reinforce the experience significantly.

There are a number of sticky things we do at CTK. We serve good coffee free. We also have the flavored creamers. We start on time, and end on time. We talk in conversational tone. We have a Q&A time at the conclusion of the teaching. We under-emphasize the offering. We may not have all the bells and whistles that other churches have, but we make up for it by being memorable in little ways.

I remember well the first service I ever attended at CTK in Bellingham. The service started on time. The band began to play, and led an uninterrupted series of 5-6 songs. The pastor came up to pray, and then sat on a stool to speak. He spoke for 20-25 minutes in a clear and concise manner. The service closed with another song led by the band. There were no announcements. No “special” musical numbers. No comedy. No drama. No video. Yet it was extremely engaging. Almost startlingly so. The word of God was presented in a clear, compelling way with an obvious sensitivity to the unchurched. The service was done in an hour. Simplicity can mean having a very leisurely, but meaning-full service.

The mistake many congregations make when they launch a new service to reach occasional worshippers and people in the community is that they launch a complex service. They know how to do a complex, traditional service. They launch a complex, contemporary service. Why it does not work is not because it is a contemporary service. It does not work because it is too complex. To be sure, it is a contemporary service, but it has too many steps in the order of worship, the music is too complex, and the service is too wordy. They would have been better off launching a simple, traditional service.
Kennon Callahan, Small, Strong Congregations

It takes courage in today’s ecclesiastical landscape to keep it simple. You must fight fear. Psychologists state that in our modern culture there’s a “paranoia of omission.” There’s a sense that you have to cover all your options. There’s a fear that if we don’t have multiple attractions for people that we might not be able to engage them. Deliberate Simplicity requires faith that the gospel, simply presented, is sufficiently powerful and life-changing. The gospel is in and of itself “sticky.” The Word of God - all by itself - has the power to bring people to Christ and to keep them there.

Acceptance

Our byline, “Always A Place For You” communicates that CTK is a place of acceptance. Our mission is to deliver on the promise.

I am often reminded how critical acceptance is to CTK’s culture. Many people have found acceptance at CTK, when they have not felt accepted in another church context. After a service one time a lady who was going through a difficult time approached me and described her previous church experience: “The church we were attending was a really nice church if you didn’t have very big problems. But the more I opened up to people about what we were going through the more they pulled away.”

Romans 15:7 asks us to "accept one another....just as Christ accepted you." At CTK we like to say: God takes you where you are. He just won’t leave you where you are. When people enter a CTK small group, cafĂ© or Worship Center, we assume that they are coming to us with “baggage.” We presuppose that they do not have their stuff together. We welcome them as “fellow-strugglers.”

Ministry is simply helping people where they are, with what they need to get where they need to go. Sometimes, when people do not feel acceptance, they don’t get where they need to go. At CTK we try to accept people as they are without trying to make them conform into a pre-conceived image. We try not to manipulate people. We try to stay out of the judgment seat. We don’t demand that others accept our views or lifestyle in order to get our time and attention.

Some of our friends sent their kids to stay with relatives in Southern California while they went on a cruise. I asked how their kids liked Disneyland. Mom said that the kids enjoyed it, although the first words of their youngest daughter when she got off the plane was, "You know that Pluto? I went up to give him a hug and he walked away from me." I jokingly told the parent, “You better start setting money aside right now for therapy.” We all have a strong need for acceptance, and a great fear of rejection, that we don't outgrow.

Many people fear that they are not good enough for Christians, for church or for God. Ironically, the misconception is based on lies that have been manufactured by Satan and distributed by Christians. Well meaning Christians have trafficked in the “there are good people, and there are bad people” distortion. The extension of this, of course, is that the church walls are the dividing line. The people who have their stuff together are inside the walls of the church. The people outside the wall are not good people.

The lie that there are good people and bad people takes two forms. The first is that we could never do what others have done. The other is that others could not do what we have done. There is a pathology among people that wants to think there are good people and bad people. The Bible blows this up: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

When Jesus was brought a woman who was caught in adultery he said, “Let's go ahead and stone her. Why don't those of you who are without sin throw the first stone.” He made his point. It is a fallacy to think that we could never do what others have done. We already have done what others have done. We've sinned.

The second expression of the “good people, bad people fallacy” is to think that others could never do what we have done. Sometimes the “good people, bad people” lie plays out in the form of shameful feelings that we are the ones who are hopelessly broken. In reality we are all made out of the same stuff – dust and divine spit - and sometimes it’s not very good stuff.

Shame takes root because of an unfair comparison. We have inside information on ourselves. But as we look at others, we see only what they allow us to see. We compare what we know about ourselves on the inside to what we see of others on the outside. Thus Paul instructed, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). We have to trust the Bible when it tells us that we are all in the same boat. There are not good people and bad people. There are just people. People in need of a savior.

We are NOT responsible for other's behavior, no matter what someone in church may have told you. This is how this plays out: Someone comes along, and they have problems in their life, and we start to feel that their problem somehow reflects on us. What if people know that this person is attending our church? Won't that somehow reflect on the rest of us? The biblical answer is no.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. - 2 Corinthians 5:10

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. - Romans 14:4

People don't answer to us. They answer to God. We do not have a responsibility for people. We have a responsibility to people.

Judgmental people sometimes ask me, "Do you know that ‘so and so’ is attending your church?" My response probably surprises them. I say, “Hey that's great! Thank you so much for letting me know. We are praying that God will send us broken people….people with ruin and wreckage in their lives. I guess He’s answering our prayer!”

In a traditional church the sense you often get is that “We all have our stuff together, and if anyone comes in here who doesn’t have their stuff together we are going to be all over that.” At CTK we have turned that inside out. We regularly communicate “We are here because we know that we do not have our stuff together, and if anyone ever comes in here who does seem to have their stuff together we are going to be all over that.”

The “good news” is, even though we are all sinners, God is a God of grace. Christ died for us all. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. God is redemptive. With God, there are no hopeless causes. There are future chapters to be written in every person’s story. We share in the vision of what God can do in a life.

Love

Christ the King Community Church is called to “reach out effectively to unchurched people in love....”

Lyrics to an old Burt Bacharac song proposed “What the world needs now is love, sweet love….it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Through the materialistic lens of our western culture we tend to think that if you can’t:

Buy it

Drive it

Consume it

Hold it

Store it

Operate it

Inhabit it

Or sell it


It’s not valuable….


But the best things in life are free. Like love. I read about one of the most successful executives of one of the largest corporations in America. When he was asked about how he achieved such stunning results he said, “I just took principles from the Bible and put them into action on the job.” He said, “Love is a legitimate business strategy.” Love is indeed the “killer app.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In God’s scheme of things, love is more important than giftedness, insight or accomplishments. Let me paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, and make it personal to me and to Christ the King, like this….

If I, as a pastor, can attract an audience which fills all of the bleachers in the largest stadium, or if I address millions on television, or if I sit back quietly in a book-lined study and write book after book which lands on the best seller list, and if I am not a loving person, I am only a successful huckster displaying his wares. If I finish my doctorate degree and hang the diploma proudly in my office, or if I lead a massive charge to change the moral fabric of our community, and if Christ the King Church becomes the fastest growing church in America, and I don’t have love, I am only a paper moon shining over a cardboard sea. And if I triple my tithe and send mission teams around the world, and if I break my health in ministry and outreach, and if I don’t have love, I have only wasted my time and shouted vainly into the wind.

What is love? Love is what seeks the best for it’s object. It’s a commitment to the other person’s well-being. It is not so much a feeling to be felt as an action to be learned.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
- 1 John 4:7,8

If we are growing in God, we are going to have a growing capacity to love. A growing capacity to love means:

1. Loving more people than you’ve ever loved before
2. Growing in the kinds of people you love
3. Loving over longer periods of time
4. Loving in more ways that you’ve loved before

The owner of an espresso stand In Portland was surprised one morning to have one of her customers not only pay for her latte, but also for the latte of the person behind her. It put a smile on the owner’s face to tell the next customer her drink had already been paid for. The second customer was so pleased that someone else had bought her coffee that she paid for the next customer. The string continued for two hours and 27 customers. What a great return on a $3 investment.

Our mission statement at Christ the King has the word love right in the middle of it because we think it is the highest leverage point. And love is one of those things you can’t just talk about, you have to do. The Beatles sang quite often about love. One of their most popular songs was “Love is All you Need.” But Julian Lennon was abandoned by his father, John, at the age of five. When interviewed about the experience, Julian said,

I felt he was a hypocrite. Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world, but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces? You can’t do it, not if you’re being true and honest with yourself.

Churches also will find that it’s a lot easier to sing about love, than it is to love. But Jesus said that love is the primary indicator of who is a Christ-follower, and who is not: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are never more like God than when we love.

On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a thin dress, with little hope of a decent meal. I became angry and said to God: “Why did you permit this? Why don’t you do something about it?” For awhile God said nothing. That night he replied, quite suddenly. “I certainly did something about it. I made you.”

I wonder whether God might say the same thing to Christ the King Community Church: “This is why I made you, CTK. I made you to reach out in love.”


Is it theoretically possible for a church to not be characterized by love, and yet be completely faithful to its calling?

Energy

Antiquated management theory emphasized time management. You only have so much time, so manage it well so that the things that matter most get the time they need. Current management theory emphasizes energy management. You only have so much energy. Manage your energy well so that the things that matter most get the energy they need. The shift is helpful in a ministry context where you can experience disproportionate impact from events that really do not take much time.

Not all ministry activities are created equal. To say that all ministry events are equal would be like saying that the Super Bowl is like every football game. Troy Aikman, a three-time winner in the Super Bowl, provides some insights into the difference...

My first Super Bowl, I never slept better before a game. No butterflies, no anxiety, no nervousness, nothing. The pregame ritual, getting taped and all that, was just like it is for any other game. It was a beautiful day in Pasadena, and I was just so relaxed.

But then they had the player introductions, and it was like somebody had hit me in the face with a Louisville Slugger….You hear a lot of players talking about how it’s just another game. Well, it’s not just another game. It’s the Super Bowl, and it’s totally different from any game you’ve ever played.

In the same way that the Super Bowl is not just another football game, there are some ministry activities – speaking engagements, meetings, counseling sessions – that are more intensive than others. Intensive Ministry Activities (IMAs) take something out of you, that other more routine activities do not. This disproportionate impact may be because of…

Complexity: Is the task complicated? Are there a number of people or steps involved? If so, it is an IMA.

Demands: Do you have to be the “up-fronter”? Do you need to be “on”? If so, it is an IMA.

Dynamics: Are we moving into the enemy’s territory? Do we sense spiritual opposition? If so, it is an IMA.

Conflicts: Are interpersonal challenges part of the story? Is there “stuff” to work through? Is so, it is an IMA.

Disappointment: How disappointed would we be if this doesn’t work out? Is it risky? If so, it is an IMA.

After an intensive ministry event, you need time for “digestion.” Momentary events can take days, months or years to process. If you are in the room when a marriage melts down, or a child dies, or hateful words are said, you can’t always just “shake it off.” It sticks to you. And you may need as much time to process what you’ve been through, as they do.

After an IMA, you need to plan on “compensation.” For instance, if you have had a particularly discouraging meeting that has “taken a lot out of you,” you should follow that with something fun (a ball game, a movie, a good book) to put something back in. If you have a week where you “put in” 70 hours, you should follow that with a lighter week, where you “take some time off.” You can only borrow from tomorrow’s energy for so long before you have to pay it back. Know your limits and stay within them. If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.

Those in ministry must regularly monitor their physical, emotional and spiritual gauges, especially following IMAs. Throughout my ministry I tried to use Monday as a “Personal Work Day” to read my gauges.

Physical Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing physically?

Emotional Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing emotionally?

Spiritual Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing spiritually?

The gauge that often gets “missed” is the Emotional gauge. Many leaders are good about reading their Physical Gauge (am I getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, exercise?), and their Spiritual Gauge (am I in the Word and prayer?), and not as adept at reading the Emotional Gauge (am I discouraged, frustrated, lonely?). But we ignore the Emotional Gauge are our own peril. Emotional emptiness can lead to unhealthy attempts to “medicate” our pain. This is how men who are spiritually and physically fit become casualties to addictive behavior.

Jesus modeled a balance of input with output. Over the course of a three year ministry, we actually have recorded in the gospels about three months of activity. Where was the rest of the time spent? Away. Recuperating.

In our job descriptions at CTK we have often included this statement about time away: “Provided that the ministry is ‘covered’ during absence, a staff person can take whatever time may be needed for personal renewal and vacation, with pay. Generally, it is expected that the harder you work, the more time off may be needed, and that the biblical pattern of the Sabbath (six parts work, one part rest) is a good pattern to be followed.” If you follow the logic of this statement, a pastor would be “off” about six Sundays a year. It seems like a lot, unless you remember that not all ministry activities are created equal.


Rest is a form of spiritual warfare. It means trusting that God is going to do what God is going to do even when you are not doing what you can do.

Urgency

A man went to his doctor for a checkup. The doctor finally emerged and told him the bad news. “You only have a short time to live.” “How long?” he asked. “Ten…” replied the doctor. “Ten what?” The man said. “Ten years? Ten months? Ten weeks? Ten days?” “….nine, eight, seven….”

All joking aside – the clock is ticking. In a Deliberately Simple church, there is a sense that time is short. There’s a feeling of necessity to act. It comes back to this: Hell is hot, and forever is a long, long time. There is a responsibility we have to reach as many people as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can. The church is a place of salvation. The church does not save you. Only the gospel saves you. But the church plays a vital role. We carry this “good news” as a sacred trust. It is our duty to disseminate this truth far and wide. To this end we are intentional and aggressive in our strategies. Time is precious. There is an urgency about our work. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants as many people as possible to accept His offer of salvation. The Lord is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

“I’m ok, you’re ok” complacency produces terminal inaction for churches. We have to get urgency up, fear down, complacency down. We have to get predisposed to go anywhere, to anyone, and to go now. As Samuel Johsnon said, “Imminent execution does concentrate the mind wonderfully.”

There’s an image in the novel “The Catcher In the Rye” where Holden Caulfield, the hero of the novel, dreams that thousands of children are wandering through a field of rye that has grown so high they can’t see they are heading for cliff. They can’t hear Caulfield as he screams to warn them. All he can think to do is run for the cliff’s edge and try to catch as many as he can before they fall.

As an outreach church, there’s an urgency about our message. If there is no hell there is no reason for us to exist. But if there is a hell, then we have a responsibility to others. The church holds the hope of the world in its hands. The church is a conduit for the life-changing power of God. What is going on in my church is the most important thing happening in the community.

When John Sculley was CEO of Pepsi, he was approached by Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs about coming to Apple. When Sculley resisted, Jobs challenged him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” The question led Sculley to give the next chapter of his life to the computer industry. Yet, as revolutionary as computers have been, nothing can impact our world for time and eternity like the saving grace of Christ.

The power of God is in the gospel (Romans 1). To remain viable, we must stay focused on the life-changing message of Jesus Christ: that God loves us and wants us in His family.

Matthew 25 recounts a story Jesus told of an oriental master, and three servants. The generous master gives the servants varying levels of finances (5,2,1 talents) and then leaves on an extended trip. Because of the context in which this story is told (the return of Christ and how we are to live in light of his return) it’s clear that the master represents Christ. The three servants represent His disciples. But it is in the details that Jesus really makes his points. First, the master gave the servants a lot of money. A talent, translated across cultures, with inflation, could represent as much as $200,000. Second, the master gave the trust without restrictions. He basically says, “Here’s the money, I’ll be back.” He doesn’t put limitations on the funds. He doesn’t even make suggestions for the money’s use. But the master does have some assumptions. While he didn’t tell them what to do with the money, he assumes they’ll do something.

The bottom line of the story is that God wants us to be adventurous. He charges us to be entrepreneurs. He challenges us to be creative. He calls us to be aggressive. He invites us to take risks. Jesus’ answer to how we are to live in light of his return is: “Go for it!” We’re not to wait around. We’re to get busy. We’re not to wait for instructions. We’re to take initiative. We’re not to live in fear. We’re to proceed in faith.

How does this apply to a Deliberately Simple church? We are the servants who are blessed by a generous Master. We are the ones in a position to do something. You know what we are going to do? We’re not going to play it safe. We’re going to try to get the greatest return possible. We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to stay flexible. We’re going to try to reach as many people as we possibly can as fast as we possibly can. We are going to put whatever has been put at our disposal “in motion” for the salvation of others.

I occasionally enjoy watching poker tournaments on television. I don’t yet understand all of the nuances of the game, but one thing has become apparent to me: The best of the best, when they get the right hand, bet big. Setting aside the morality of gambling (this may be hard for some to do, I understand), the game of poker is a great analogy for church ministry. We all are dealt a hand to play. We have choices that we can make about how to play that hand. We long for “the thrill of victory.” We loath “the agony of defeat.” And in both poker and ministry, to be successful you have to be willing to go “all in.” Jesus says, “I’ve dealt you a great hand. Now go and play it. I’ll be back to pick up my winnings.” Jim Collins said, “The most effective investment strategy is a highly undiversified portfolio when you are right.”

Oskar Schindler, popularized in the movie Schindler’s List, ran a factory that was a haven for Jews. At the end of the movie, with the defeat of the Nazis, Schindler walks to his car, and the Jews whom he has saved, line both sides of the street. As he makes his way, he walks by row after row of faces. He is given a letter of thanks, signed by each person and a ring, on which is carved a verse from the Talmud: "He who saves a single life, saves the world." He takes the ring and leans toward Isaac Stern, the factory foreman, and in a voice so low, he has to be asked to say it again, says, "I could have done more." He points to his car and his lapel pin (both of which could have been sold to bribe German officials) and breaks down in tears: "I could have done more."

In 2001, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk had a catastrophic accident 350 feet below the Barents Sea. The enormous vessel – over three football fields long – lay immobilized at the bottom of the ocean. It was five days until the Russian government asked for help for its stranded sailors. When ships finally arrived in the region their sonar picked up the sounds of sailors banging on the inside of the hull of the Kursk. Unfortunately, there was no contingency plan to rescue sailors from a sunken submarine. Slowly the oxygen supplies ran out. The crew was left to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their breathing became more rapid, they started gasping for air, started to feel severe pain and then fell unconscious. It was a sad ending. Angry relatives could not understand why the Russian government had not prepared to respond to such an emergency.

What if? What if someone had planned an effective strategy ahead of time? What if they were ready to go? What if they responded quickly? What if, instead of the entire crew being lost, the crew was saved? What if, instead of a funeral filled with mourning, there was a celebration filled with joy? I don’t know. Church? What if?

Book

I had Mormon missionaries pay me a visit recently. I warned them that we might end up having a “lively” conversation, but they proceeded into their presentation undeterred. I was a little disheveled in my Saturday morning pajamas, but I braved the open doorway for about a half hour exchange. At one point they asked me if I had read the book of Mormon. I told them I had. They asked me what I thought. I told them I was unimpressed. I said, “When you read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, you realize that one of these books is truly beautiful, and the other has a lot of makeup on in an attempt to look beautiful.” I don’t have any problem putting the Bible up head-to-head with any other purported revelation. It more than holds its own. It is quite clearly in a league of its own, intrinsically. The Bible has the “ring of truth” to it. It is its own best evidence for what it claims to be.

Emile Cailliet, in his book Journey into the Light, describes his first encounter with the Bible. He did not believe in God (he was a naturalist). He was not religious (he was a philosopher). He was writing a book as a kind of self therapy. His wife gave him a Bible as a source. He had never read it before. He rushed into his study and began to read. Later he wrote:

I read, and read and read with an indescribable warmth surging within. I could not find words to express my awe and wonder. And suddenly the realization dawned upon me: This was the Book that would understand me. The very clue to the secret of human life was disclosed right there in everyday language.

The Word of God is truly living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. As we get into the Bible, it gets into us. We interpret it, but it also interprets us. Martin Luther once commented, “The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet. It runs after me. It has hands. It lays hold of me.”

It measures six-by-nine
But it can fill the largest hall.

It measures six-by-nine
But it can touch the deepest need.

It measures six-by-nine
But it can reach any heart,
Bridge any gap,
Open any door.

Yet it only measures six-by-nine.

John Wesley wrote “I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing; the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book.”

How long has it been since you spent some time with the Book? Not for study or sermon preparation. But for you?


[In the 90s I took the time to write out a Personal Doctrinal Statement...if you would be interested in the entire statement, email me...following are the first several paragraphs, dealing with Presuppositions, and my Beliefs about the Bible...]

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in God. There is a good reason for this: As long as I can remember, He has been interested in me (1 John 4:19).

For me, the discussion of God (“Theology” - theos, God + logos, discourse) is no mere academic exercise. God is my Father, and I am His child. I am fascinated by His love for me, and enjoy spending time in His presence, hearing his words.

I am thankful for parents, teachers, pastors, and professors who have helped me to know Him better. The following statements summarize what I’ve come to know thus far.

My Presuppositions

Prior to stating my beliefs it would seem appropriate to reveal the presuppositions which have been the foundation for my conclusions.

I hold three primary assumptions in this statement of belief:

1. There is a God (Genesis 1:1).

2. This God has disclosed Himself to man (Psalm 19, Romans 1, I John 5:9-12, John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-11).

3. Man, by reason of his being in the image of God, is able to receive and comprehend God's revelation (Romans 1:19,20).

I am prepared to concede that these propositions are non-demonstrable and that I cling to them as true on the basis of a sovereign work in me that has caused faith (Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Romans 8:28-30). Yet, these presuppositions have corresponded accurately with the facts of the world around me.

My Beliefs About the Bible

The sources of information from which I have derived my beliefs regarding the Bible are two-fold: 1) from statements within the text of Scripture that make self-disclosure as to the Book's nature, and 2) from an examination of the phenomena which we find as Scripture. While I see the value of both means of investigation, I have given priority here to an exegesis and understanding of the statements which Scripture makes itself respecting its nature. [This is consistent with my approach in other religious inquiries.] As aids in this endeavor I have called upon reason, tradition and previous statements of faith.

I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally and plenarily inspired and inerrant Word of God (II Timothy 3:16). I hold the Bible, as originally given through human agents (II Peter 1:21), to be without fallacy or error in all that it states and see this as a most crucial article of faith with implications for the entire life and practice of Christians everywhere (II Timothy 3:16,17), being that the Bible contains the full content of the extant written revelation of God for mankind. With the great fathers of Christian history I declare my unreserved confidence in the total trustworthiness of the Scriptures, believing that any view which imputes to them a lesser degree of inerrancy than total is in conflict with the Bible's self-testimony in general and with the teachings of Jesus Christ in particular. Out of obedience to the Lord of the Church I seek to submit myself wholeheartedly to His authoritative view of Holy Writ, and, by God's grace, to subsequent compliance with the direction found therein. (Adapted from the Ligonier Statement of October, 1973)

I believe the 66 books of the Bible to be "God's Word" (Matthew 15:6; John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12). As such the Bible stands alone, and cannot be categorized with other literature as to its character and content. It is the unique and recognized record of God's revelation to man. Amazingly, the Bible was composed over a period of 1500 years by over 35 human authors. Yet it over and over again declares itself to be the Word of God and is without contradiction in what it says. Its authority, influence, subject matter and supreme character set it apart as "The Book." Archeology, geography, history, science, psychology and Christian experience all confirm what Christ himself said nearly 2000 years ago, "Thy Word is Truth" (John 17:17).

I believe that God has manifested His Word to us in accord with the supreme purpose that He should receive the honor, glory and praise of His created order (Romans 5:2,11). The revelation of God (or about God) has provided man with a worthy object for love and devotion, has given him ground for faith and peace of mind, and has given him assurance of salvation in time and eternity.

Revelation

By revelation I mean "unveiling" (from Greek apocalypto), and in the realm of theology, the whole process by which God has made Himself known to man. This includes the general revelation of God in the human conscience (Romans 2:14-16), in nature (Psalm 19:1-4), in history (Acts 14:17; 17:24-30) and in man's thinking ability (Romans 1:18-20). It also incorporates several special forms of divine self-disclosure, such as Theophanies (Exodus 3:2f), dreams and visions (Numbers 12:6-10), miraculous events (Genesis 9), prophets (Exodus 4,7), apostles (Acts 1,10; I Corinthians 9,15), Jesus Christ (John 1:14,18; Hebrews 1:1f) and the Scriptures, which not only bear witness to the other modes of revelation but are themselves God's revelation.

These various methods of mediation are necessitated by the fact that God is transcendent (Isaiah 45:15), and man, by reason of the fall, has been impaired in his ability to receive Divine disclosure (I Corinthians 2:14; II Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1f; Romans 1:28). God has, then, by His grace, chosen to communicate propositionally and personally with sinful man (Titus 2:11-14); not simply to unleash facts, but to bring man into fellowship with God.

Inspiration

"Inspiration is that inexplicable working of the Holy Spirit whereby He guided the human authors of the Bible in choosing the very words they used in writing every portion of the original manuscripts, so that the Bible is in all parts infallible as to truth and final as to authority." The very writings are the product of God's creative breath (II Timothy 3:16), though the human imprint is unmistakable throughout. While there are various theories which have been proposed as a solution to this tension (that it is a divine product, yet produced by man) the position which reflects most accurately the teaching of Scripture is that inspiration is "concursive", involving the divine involvement of the Holy Spirit throughout the writing process (II Peter 1:21) so that the very words which were placed on the original manuscripts could be said to be "God-breathed." I believe that, in addition to at times revealing supernatural truth to the writers, the Holy Spirit was in sovereign control of the varied aspects of the literary process, including the author's background, experiences, literary ability, selection of sources (if utilized), vocabulary and emotions. Yet, the Holy Spirit at no point impaired human personality.

The extent of inspiration is clearly plenary, applying to all portions of Scripture (II Timothy 3:16) in both Testaments (I Timothy 5:18). The intensiveness of inspiration is definitely verbal, as this is evidenced by the claim of the classical text (II Timothy 3:16), emphasized in the testimony of Paul, that he spoke with "words...taught by the Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:13), and indicated by Christ when He declared that even the smallest part of a Hebrew word or letter could not be broken (Matthew 5:18).

Inerrancy

I believe that the Bible is inerrant, and that in all that it intends to assert there is not contradiction between it and truth (fact). Since the very words of Scripture are the product of God's creative breath, and since God's character is without flaw, error or imperfection (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18), the Scriptures likewise are without error. This fact is evidenced over and again from even the closest scrutiny of the sacred text. What difficulties that may remain (though few indeed) I believe can and will be accounted for when either more facts are uncovered, our interpretative processes are more properly applied, or we are enlightened in glorification. Until that time I choose to unflinchingly uphold the total inerrancy of Scripture. Within the structure of my theocentric (God-centered) world view, I will trust God and admit my own finiteness rather that set my reason up as judge and impugn Scripture.

Canonicity

The word "canon" means a rule or standard, and "in relation to the Bible it refers to the collection of books which passed a test of authenticity and authority" (Ryrie). The canonicity of the books of the Bible is not ultimately determined by man as much as it is observed by him. Man simply recognized the intrinsic properties within the 66 books of Scripture which set it apart as God-breathed, and thereby the infallible Word of God. This is possible due to the fact that God has throughout history made it clear when He is communicating, by self-authenticating that correspondence. Scripture likewise bears those inherent qualities by which it is evident that it is a divinely "expired" document. We may recognize that Scripture is God's Word as well as we would recognize that a diamond is a diamond. The substance of the authenticity is not external, but internal (I Thessalonians 1:5).

A priority of faith is necessary in the process of canonicity. The Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that these are God's Words (I Thessalonians 2:13; I John 5:9; 2:20,27; John 16:13,14).

While I admit to a certain subjectivity in this matter, I do not hold to a blind faith or faith in a vacuum, for there seem to be objective, identifiable evidences which have served as criteria by which the books were "discovered." Though none of these principles stand alone, together I believe they weave a formidable grid for man to recognize the special authority of God's Word:

1. Is the book AUTHORITATIVE? Does it ring with "Thus saith the Lord?"

2. Is the book PROPHETIC? Was it written by a prophet or apostle (or under them?)

3. Is the book AUTHENTIC? Was it written where, when and by whom it claims?

4. Is the book DYNAMIC? Does it change lives?

5. Is the book RECEIVED? Has the book been generally received by God's people?

6. Is the book ACCURATE? Is is free from any demonstrable, factual error?

7. Is the book CONGRUENT? Does it correlate with other scripture?

I believe that special strength is found within a synthesis of the first two principles so that we can say that those books which claim to be the Word of God and were written by an apostle or prophet (or someone under their auspices) are canonical (John 16:13). Likewise principle 5 has merit in that our belief in a sovereign God who is personally involved in the lives of believers would presuppose an overwhelming unanimity among God's people; something which has indeed occurred in relationship to the canonicity of Scripture.

As to whether the canon is closed, I concur with those throughout history who have thought that it is. This comes from an integration of Scriptural and Theological evidence. Particular Biblical evidence is gleaned from the contexts of Genesis 1,2 and Revelation 21,22. The parallels and fulfillments that are found in these passages, and the statement of Revelation 22:18,19, hint at limits of the canon. The book of Revelation appears to be the natural literary conclusion to the Bible, and is believed by many to be the last book written.

Theologically it would logically follow that if God has indeed preserved additional material to that which we presently have in our possession He would have revealed such to His church. But this has not taken place. Furthermore, because of the nature of the apostles and prophets as foundational in the initial organization of the church (Ephesians 2:20), I do not believe additional inscripturation to be a possibility at this later date, since the apostolic and prophetic offices were temporary and were not continued beyond the first century.

Authority

I believe that the Bible, when properly interpreted, asserts the ultimate and final standard of truth for faith, practice and understanding. As such it demands our inquiry (Acts 17:11), our submission (Hebrews 4:12), and our obedience (James 1:22; John 10:35). It is completely accurate and trustworthy in all matters to which it speaks, whether these be religious or not. While the Bible may be considered to be great literature, it is much more than this; it is the Word of God to us and our supreme, unchanging authority in a lawless age. Scripture is something with which we cannot enjoy the privilege of indifference; its divine character demands our allegiance.

Interpretation

Interpretation is the process of explicating the meaning of Scripture. It is both a science and an art since it involves both principle and skillful technique. "The basic principle of interpretation is to interpret plainly" (Ryrie). Normative interpretation begins with the concept that "When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense." This involves an understanding of the words, context (both grammatical and historical) and the theme of the writing. It does not negate the use of figures of speech, idioms and phenomenal language, but instead allows for the complexities of human language with special hermeneutics. The believer can depend upon the Spirit to guide him "into all the truth" (John 16:13; I Cor. 2:6-16) so that he can enjoy the great profit of Scripture (II Timothy 3:15-17; John 17:17).

Preservation

Scripture clearly teaches that the Word of God will be eternally preserved (Psalm 119:89,152,160; Matthew 24:35; I Peter 1:23). God will evidently see to it that His Word will not be eliminated but will be perpetuated to all generations. Approximately 5000 New Testament manuscripts give evidence that God's Word has indeed been carefully preserved, and, in a trustworthy manner. It can be maintained safely that the Holy Spirit has guided and superintended the preservation of His Book throughout the centuries. To the extent that our Bible texts reflect the words and sense of the original manuscripts, we have God’s Word.

Pressure

All tasks carry with them a certain amount of pressure. Ministry has it’s unique combination of stresses. How you handle these stresses can “make or break” you. To better manage the pressure of ministry....

1. Understand where the pressure is coming from.

While stresses may feel similar, the origins may differ. Some possibilities:
• Spiritual opposition (we’re in a war)
• Personal life issues (challenges with spouse, kids, etc.)
• Organizational growth (more people, being understaffed, etc.)
• Personal work habits (laziness, poor planning, etc.)

The appropriate response to pressure will depend on where the pressure is coming from. Organizational stresses need organizational solutions. Spiritual stresses need spiritual solutions. Don’t try to organize your way out of a spiritual attack. Conversely, don’t try to pray your way out of disorganization. Proper diagnosis precedes proper remedy.

By the way, the enemy will exploit all of these pressures and more to get at you. I am convinced that many of his firy darts are natural, instead of supernatural. He knows that things as mundane as the laundry not being done can frustrate us. Don’t think that He doesn’t leverage any and all forms of pressure in our lives. He loves to use “the predictability of human nature” to his advantage.

2. Maintain your spiritual health at all times.

There is no substitute for a growing, vibrant personal life, particularly when you are under pressure. You are too busy not to pray. Ten minutes a day in the word, plus ten minutes per day in prayer (10+10) is the MINIMUM. Stay on your knees so the bullets keep flying over your head. Stephen Covey calls this “sharpening the saw.” Paul calls it “keeping in step with the Spirit.” Whatever you call it – a devotional life, quiet time, spiritual disciplines, etc. - don’t try to do ministry without it. Spiritual ends require spiritual means.

3. Remain sensitive to the “tragedy of the commons.”

As organizations grow, stresses come first to “common areas” – areas that are common to everyone. For instance, a receptionist takes calls for everyone. As there are more “everyones” there are more calls and more pressure. (At a certain point, with enough call volume, there may be a need for a second receptionist, or an automated phone system to keep things manageable.) The pastor himself is often a victim of this “tragedy of the commons.” For instance, the pastor is “the counselor” to everyone. At a certain point, the pastor needs to be referring people to other counselors (I think after a max of six counseling hours per week), or hiring an associate pastor. Common areas need to be monitored and reorganized for scalability, in order to protect from burnout.

4. Account for “project weight.”

The feeling of responsibility for a project can be called “project weight.” People feel more weight at certain times than others (e.g. a teaching pastor on Saturday night typically “feels the weight”). When you are in the process of reorganizing a ministry, starting another service, or launching another site, there is additional weight on your shoulders. Others should be more sensitive when a person is shouldering project weight. The weight needs to be redistributed when it gets too heavy, or when you feel like you’ve had to shoulder it for too long.

5. Pay back borrowed strength.

You can only borrow from tomorrow’s strength for so long, before you have to pay it back. If you have had a particularly stressful stretch of ministry (lots of crisis, meetings, spiritual warfare), you will need to compensate by taking an appropriate break, or by “coasting” for awhile. There is a divine rhythm with which God expects his children to be in sync. There is a sleep rhythm (16 hours awake, 8 hours asleep). There is the sabbath rhythm (six parts work, one part rest). There is the seasonal rhythm (fall, winter, spring, summer). Make sure that there is a downbeat in your life. And if you have borrowed from tomorrow’s strength by curtailing sleep, day’s off or vacations, catch up before the debt grows.

6. Change gears.

Instead of working the engine harder, get into a higher gear. With a higher gear ratio there is more speed, with greater efficiency. If we stay in too low of a gear too long we burn up the engine (and sadly, don’t get very far in the process). Change gears by delegating and redistributing the work load, sharing project weight with others, and maintaining a manageable span of care (5-7 direct reports). Use Sunday night or Monday to review your personal life plan, and prioritize.

7. Reach out.

I have probably not communicated this clearly enough, or often enough, but please know that I am on your side, and that you can call on me for support. If you need encouragement or counsel, or just a shoulder to cry on, I would count it a privilege to support you in what God has called you to do. If you are facing pressure or temptation, please don’t isolate, or become a victim. Do the extremely courageous thing, that many are too proud to do: reach out. At a time in my ministry when I was feeling overwhelmed, I did not reach out, and became a casualty. I would not want this for my enemies, much less my friends. By virtue of the fact that you are receiving this dMail, I take it that you are in ministry, and have an important role in the lives of others. Please don’t allow self-pity or impression management to get in the way of your health. Go the distance.

Effectiveness

When I was Christmas shopping I ran into some folks I had known from the past at CTK. I'll call them Bill and Mary. They left the church a couple years ago. They did not move out of the community. They left to attend another church. They left in a good way. They called me up and told me that they were leaving. They told me why. They blessed me as they were leaving, but they left just the same. I had not seen them in a while, but I had thought about them. So here we are in a major department store, standing face to face. These can be awkward moments for an ex-pastor, but we had a pleasant conversation. Once again, they were very encouraging to me. And something they said was instructive. They said, "We always really enjoyed your teaching." It echoed what they had told me when they left, "We are going to miss your teaching, but....."

Now think about that for a second. They enjoyed my teaching. But they left. How does that work? Let this be a lesson to us all: meaningful teaching can help to attract people to your ministry, but it is not enough to keep people in your ministry. What keeps people is: meaningful relationships and meaningful responsibilities. Bill and Mary did not find what they need, so they moved on. It was that simple. The teaching was not enough to keep them there. It seldom is.

I don't want to diminish the value of strong teaching. I don't think that you can grow a strong, healthy, replicating ministry without it. But it is not enough, in and of itself. If pastoral effectiveness consisted of good teaching, most of the pastors in America would be pastoring growing churches. But, in fact, some of the best teachers in the country you've never heard because they are pastoring small, stagnant churches.

True pastoral effectiveness is found in leadership - leading people toward meaningful relationships and meaningful responsibilities. I evidently didn't show good enough leadership for Bill and Mary. And my teaching, no matter how good, could not make up for it.

Here's the tell-tale: When Bill and Mary left, not many people missed them. Why? Because they were not "plugged in." They were not a part of a small group. They did not have meaningful relationships. When they left, they did not leave "a hole." Why? Because they were not part of a ministry team. They weren't contributing to the mission in a way that was meaningful.

Had I spent a little less time preparing my weekly message, and a little more time making phone calls and getting groups and ministry teams organized, I could have been farther ahead, at least with Bill and Mary. There is an immediate feedback loop with teaching that can delude us from the hard work of social architecture. We can retreat into our study and dream up clever phrases and analogies, meanwhile, what people really need from us is not being delivered. They need our help to develop their relationship with God and other brothers and sisters in Christ. They need our help to find their purpose, and be equipped to do the work of the ministry.

We are living in a different time. It is the information age. There was a time when a pastor was valued simply for the insights that he could bring. Those days are gone. If someone is truly looking for excellent Biblical teaching they can hear the best possible on Christian radio each and every day. They can buy books, CDs and DVDs. They can download audio files. They can do a Google search and obtain research on any and every topic in which they might have interest. Really, you, as a pastor, can't beat that.

But what you can provide for people, that the Christian book store and the internet cannot, is meaningful relationships, and meaningful responsibilities. When was the last time you "hooked someone up"?

War

Between earth and heaven there is a war going on. The conflict is taking place in a realm that John Wimber referred to as “the excluded middle.” It was Wimber’s contention that evangelicals largely exclude from their thinking the realities going on in the spirit realm, preferring to focus instead on either the tangible world around us, or else the celestial world awaiting us above - heaven. But the scripture is clear that we must engage with forces in the middle we cannot see, but that are nevertheless real.

Every now and then I am reminded of just how spiritually charged our world’s atmosphere is. One reminder came at the end of a book I just finished called Presence, by Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, and Flowers. This is not a Christian book (a couple of the authors are Buddhist), but they cite some phenomena that is interesting:

A recent study has shown that random number generators (RNGs) around the world behaved in highly nonrandom ways on September 11, 2001. RNGs are computer programs that generate numbers that meet statistical conditions for randomness, required for various research applications. They are shielded from electromagnetics, telecommunications, and all other known forces that could cause systematic biases. In other words, these are computer programs that are supposed to be insulated from all external influences and are tested regularly to assure that this is so. An ongoing monitoring study of thirty-seven RNGs around the world showed the extent of the anomalous behavior on September 11. A recent report in the Foundations of Physics Letters documents an abnormally high average variance, autocorrelation (correlation among successive numbers generated by each program), and “internode” correlation (correlation among the different programs) across this global network – on average, the probability of what was observed was less than one in a thousand. Moreover, the minute-by-minute behavior of these statistics across the global network matches the chronology of the terrorist attacks, with the non-random behavior starting about 5:00 AM and peaking around 11:00 AM, Eastern (U.S.) daylight time, staying extremely deviant into the evening. In the words of the authors, the “substantial deviations from chance expectation” on September 11 have potentially “profound theoretical and practical implications.” They conclude that “it is unlikely that [known] environmental factors could cause the correlations we observe” and that, barring demonstration to the contrary, “we are obliged to confront the possibility that the measured correlations may be directly associated with some (as yet poorly understood) aspect of consciousness attendant to global events.”

In other words, if I can summarize, “some weird stuff is going on, and we don’t know what to make of it, but it seems organized, and spiritual.” I’m not quite sure what to make of this, either. But the possibility exists that during the hours surrounding the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center there was heightened demonic activity that might account for some of the phenomena. We know that it was a dark day for humanity. We know that there is a “dark side” out there (principalities, powers, rulers of darkness) in Satan and his demons. With a biblical worldview we may be able to connect the dots on this one.


Paul gave us some instruction on how to get along in a world with spiritual conflict: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3,4). Worldly weapons in this context might include ingenuity, rhetoric, showmanship, splashiness, forwardness, charm, and charisma. Paul doesn’t use these. Instead he uses weapons that can demolish strongholds. A stronghold was a massively fortified tower that only required a few men to guard it. What does this mean in non-metaphorical language? Paul unpacks his metaphor in verse 5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

A spiritual warrior is trying to “take captive every thought.” The strongholds are between people’s ears. The picture is of a military expedition into enemy territory, an expedition so effective that every plan of the enemy is thwarted, every scheme foiled, every counter-offensive beaten. The designs and schemes of sinful men are captured by Christ and brought under a new authority. The weapons in the warrior’s hands destroy the way people think and demolish the mental structures by which they live their lives in rebellion against God. In his own words, Paul’s weapons tear down “every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” This means that many who dismiss the crucified Christ with scorn come in time to embrace his lordship, cherish the cross, abandon self-promotion, and exchange it for self-denial and obedience.

That’s what the weapons do. But what are the weapons? As the conflict is essentially spiritual, so are the weapons (Ephesians 6:13-18):

-the truth of the gospel

-righteousness

-boldness borne of a deep grasp of the gospel

-faith

-salvation itself

-the Word of God

-vigilant prayer

Those are Paul’s powerful weapons. Spiritual ends require spiritual means.

Argue a skeptic into a corner, and you will not take his mind captive for Christ; but pray for him, proclaim the gospel to him, live out the gospel of peace before him, walk righteously by faith until he senses your ultimate allegiance and citizenship are vastly different from his own, and you may discover that the power of truth, the convicting and regenerating work of the HS, and the glories of Christ Jesus shatter his reasons and demolish his arguments until you take captive his mind and heart to make them obedient to Christ.

Fight the good fight!

Excitement

John Rosemond is a family psychologist who has written about the epidemic of boredom among today’s affluent American kids. When he travels overseas, he asks parents “Do your kids complain about boredom?” The answer is invariably, “No.” When he surveys the previous generation in America and asks, “When you were raising your kids, did they complain about boredom?” They tell him, “Rarely.” But when he asks parents in America today whether their children complain of boredom, they say, “All the time.”

When he asks overseas about the number of toys the kids have, parents usually respond, “Toys?” When he asks older adults in this country how many toys their kids had growing up, the answer ranges from 1-10, and often they’ll say, “we mainly used a cardboard box for fun.” In contrast his research indicates that the average 5 year old in America today has 260 toys.

More significant than the number of toys is the fact that today’s toys “make the noise for you.” In previous generations and in different parts of the world the noise of a fire truck, or the shooting sound of a toy soldier would have to be supplied by the child. But the experience is more entertaining, because there are an infinite number of ways to make a siren noise. For the previous generation the toy soldier was in one position, and did not talk. So you had to supply so much more imagination to the experience. But that was the fun of it. Playing now is very controlled, and it’s b-o-r-i-n-g. It’s passive, instead of active.

I think John Rosemead has put his finger on one of the reasons the average church experience has become so blasĂ©. Someone’s doing it all for us. The paid staff do the ministry. They make all the noise. We just sit back passively and enjoy the show. The irony is that a passive approach to church ends up being less stimulating in the long run.

When you help people become engaged in either a small group or ministry team, you do more than increase the size of your ministry. You raise the quality of it as well. The most exciting experience for a Christian is to be hands-on and engaged; active in ministry instead of passive. When Christians find a place where they can make some noise, their faith takes on new meaning.

When you are personally involved, Christianity becomes a real, lively experience between you and God. You’re almost never bored.


One of the better quotes I’ve come across lately: “Church has become so complicated that you have to be a professional to do it.”