A KBC Boy from CU, SWBTS, SBTS and back to CU with No Problems Whatsoever

In the midst of a rather weighty and public dialogue happening between Campbellsville University and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I wanted to shore up a few personal things about my experience as a Campbellsville student (’99 alumnus) and as a CU School of Theology faculty member since 2008.

I can’t speak for everyone who has been through our doors, but here are the indisputable, unshakeable facts about my personal experience at CU and connection with the KBC.

- I was saved and baptized in a rural KBC church in 1987 – the Lewisport Baptist Church in Lewisport, KY – through the ministry of VBS.  I have been a member of KBC church every year of my born-again Christian life, except while in TX during seminary.

- My home church supported my decision to go to Campbellsville University in the mid-90’s and even helped me financially.

- My personal faith in Christ exploded while at CU.  My understanding and belief in the Bible grew 10-fold.  My love for taking the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world “blew up” while studying here.  My call to ministry was significantly nurtured and encouraged.  The opportunities to serve in KBC churches and in God’s kingdom through all sorts of ministries was enhanced and elevated simply because I was at CU.

- After CU, I studied at Southwestern Baptist Theo. Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.  There wasn’t one thing at SWBTS that made me question my academic experience at CU.  It only added to what was already there – biblically, theologically, philosophically, and practically – everything was in line.

- While in seminary, I served in two SBC churches as youth minister.  In those churches I used what I learned at CU and from SWBTS without having to modify any of my core convictions or theological roots.  They were perfectly in line with traditional Baptistic ways.

- After seminary, I served a KBC church in Northern KY.  Again, no problems whatsoever theologically, biblically or practically.  My training at CU combined with SWBTS was in sync with kingdom-building, Gospel-expanding principles of leadership and strategy.

- As I began my doctoral studies at the Southern Baptist Theo. Seminary, again there were no problems whatsoever.  Actually, what I had learned at CU, plus SWBTS, plus in practical church experience made my SBTS time even more fruitful.  There were no snickers that a CU guy was studying at SBTS.  Even as I finished at SBTS and started my first year teaching at CU, no one said a word.  No one hinted of any problems.  All in all, everything was positive as far as I could tell.

- Six years ago when I came to CU to be considered for a position in the School of Theology, I was asked lots of questions.  My theology, biblical interpretation, methodology, experience, and practice of the spiritual disciplines were all questioned in the interview process.  Not because I was a risky candidate, but because that is what we do with everyone who is considered.

- In the 6 years I have been in the classroom, I have never been told to do anything other than teach biblical truths with my theological convictions openly and honestly before my students Everyone knows where I stand on things and that has never been a problem.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

- In addition to teaching, CU leaders have overwhelmingly embraced and encouraged me to continue serving in KBC churches.  I have served four KBC churches as interim pastor: Parkway BC, Bethany BC, Lancaster BC and Hurstbourne BC.  There has never been any issues with me being a CU, SWBTS, SBTS and KBC guy.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

- Lastly, my wife is nearing the completion of her Ph.D. from SBTS in Family Ministry and has taught five classes at CU as an adjunct instructor.  Again, no problems or issues whatsoever.

Are you seeing a running theme?  In summary, we are, and have always been, KBC connected.  My family are, and will continue to be,  members of a KBC church.  I will hopefully, if God wills, continue serving as an interim pastor in KBC churches.

Some have said CU hasn’t changed.  I disagree.  If anything, CU is more KBC connected now than ever before.

Interim No. 6 Coming to a Close

Kids of HBC

Easter Sunday @ Hurstbourne Baptist Church

Next Sunday, Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville will come together to extend a call to my friend and current student pastor Bro. Cameron Debity.  If all goes well, this means interim pastorate no. 6 is coming to a close.

With each of these six churches and interim contexts, I have learned new lessons about this type of ministry and church leadership in general.  Here are a few lessons I picked up this time around.

1.  Even in the city, rural-like hospitality still works.   There is an assumption that when you live in a major city with hundreds of thousands of people no one wants you in their home or at their table.  While that can be true in some places, I found at HBC that there was still a sweet sense of in-home hospitality.  There hasn’t hardly been a Sunday in over 6 months where we didn’t have an invitation to a home for lunch.  Maybe this is only because I am the pastor, but it is so good to see that table fellowship is still alive.

2.  People of means have the same basic needs as people who struggle.   HBC is located in a rather affluent section of Louisville.  Many of the attenders are, or have been in the past, very successful men and women in their line of work.  One might think because of their status in life they don’t need anything, but that is not true.  It doesn’t matter how much is in the checking account or sitting in mutual funds, people are still people.  And people have needs.  No matter who you are or what you earn, people struggle with sin.  People struggle with relationships.  People struggle making Jesus first and foremost in their lives.

3.  When there are multiple staff members and a senior pastor moves on, the primary goal is to embolden and champion the staff who remain.  This was the first time in any interim where I had a rather large team remaining – 6 full-time teammates, each who were competent, flexible, and really strong in their particular areas of service.   I found the key in this interim was to let them loose.  To challenge them to go big or go home.  To praise them publicly and privately and encourage them to boost their ministry areas 5-fold.  The outcome was the church never felt like we were in an “interim.”  We were able to create momentum which turned the interim phase into a season of advance, not a season of survival.

If all goes well, my last day at Hurstbourne Baptist Church will be August 10.  This has been one of the best interim experiences I’ve had.  Lots of heart connections.  Lots of great times together in worship.  Lots of meaningful conversations.  This experience is going to be hard to match.

Who knows where interim no. 7 might land us next.

Worship Leaders Wanted – The Hardest Find in Church Ministry

helpTeaching pastors are a dime a dozen.  Youth ministers are everywhere.  Children’s ministry leaders are sought after all the time.  But where are the worship pastors?

Where are the music ministers?  Where are the creative-types that lead us each and every Sunday to the throne of grace?  Where are coming from?  Where have they gone?   The answer: no one knows.

As an interim pastor and frequent guest speaker in churches, I serve alongside all sorts of worship leaders.  Very few are full-time staff members; most are part-time, cross-vocational servant-leaders pulling two or three jobs to forge a living.  In smaller churches, you mostly have faithful volunteers with little or no musical training but who have a desire to serve God.

I love them all.  I love their heart.  I love their willingness to get up there and lead people who often look like marble statues with frowny faces :(.  I love when they partner with me as the teacher/preacher to make the entire service meaningful.

But their kind are going extinct.  They are dying away.  And the younger generation are not moving up to fill their spots.  It seems that the younger generation could care less.

Why is this happening?  Let me suggest a few possible reasons.

First, in our day and time theology is king and the teaching/preaching ministry of the church has become exalted as the highest order of church-based ministry.  While there is no doubt theology is critical in our culture with rampant pluralism, relativistic secularization, and a large segment of our population who are biblically illiterate, but does that mean the preaching and teaching ministry must command the majority of our worship time?  I would offer that most of our deeply held theological roots come not from sermons, but from songs.  (I’ve written on when pastors were the hymn writers.)

Another reason is perceived value.  As pastor/theologians view their role as the most essential for church health and spiritual growth, other ministry platforms are viewed as less valuable or subsequently inferior.  I wouldn’t say they are viewed as insufficient, but their value is not essential.   The common notion among many preaching pastors today is that as long as the teaching/preaching ministry is good, strong and biblically faithful, then other sectors of ministry will, by proxy, succeed.  I am not sure I agree with that conclusion.

A third reason is that it hard to find someone who believes God has called them into worship ministry.  You might discover someone with talent in vocal or instrumental music, or in songwriting, or even in leading people in corporate worship, but the last thing they are considering is using these talents for the Lord through local church ministry.  I teach hundreds of young adults preparing for future ministry and rarely do I have any student who believes God has called them to lead worship as their vocation.

Rewind back 25 years.  In those days, the music minister (or music director) was viewed as second most important team member on the church staff, far ahead of youth, children or education.  The role was highly important because of the amount of “face time” they shared with the teaching pastor.  The two-man team was like as Batman and Robin, Jordan and Pippen, Andy and Barney.  They worked as a tag-team planning worship elements, service designs, and ways to incorporate creativity into the plan.  This function is very rare today.

Today, the worship minister is not that important.  Most church leaders view children’s ministry as the #2 most important staff position to fill.  A poor children’s ministry equates to fewer young families and diminished growth potential.  Worship leadership might make it to the third or fourth slot on most church teams.

All these reasons (and many more) lead to lessened interest in exploring God’s call in worship ministry.

Fast forward 25 years.  I anticipate there will be few, if any, young people following God’s call into music ministry.  I believe there will be very few full-time worship pastors, only found on large church staffs with multiple services.  I sense that schools of music at the seminary and Christian college level will no longer prepare students in church music or worship leadership.  Those degrees will go away.

I believe the want ads will be filled with churches desperately looking for someone, anyone, to lead worship at their church, but no one will be applying.

These are just my predictions.  I hope I am utterly wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

 

Two Types of Teams – Church Staff and College Dept

Two groups of people dividedOver the past decade, I have served on two types of teams – a church staff team and an academic departmental team.  Five years on the first; six years and counting on the second.

In retrospect, these two types of teams could not be any more different.  Something I wish I could have understood way back when.

Here are some differences between the two.

1.  Church staff teams work very close to one another, while academic department teams have lots of internal space.

Church staffs usually share the same calendar with everyone fighting for dates.  They also have to share resources from the same budget, utilizing the same key people, reserving the same facility space, and sometimes even the sharing the same office.  Everything is close; everything is shared.  One thing done by a particular staff person effects everyone else in some way or another.  No one is an island unto themselves.

Academic teams are very different.  There is more internal space between the faculty members.  While they may have to share the departmental budget, they usually function from their own calendar, working independently from their own class schedule, making improvements to their own degree programs, and even separating their own students from others in the department.  The internal space within provides more individualism and less shared resources.  This can be both a good thing and a source of conflict if not managed properly.

2.  Church staff teams meet frequently, while academic department teams may meet once or twice a month.

Again, this promotes more internal space between faculty and their day-to-day activities.  Church staffs have to communicate with each other.  They have to know what the other team members are doing, so not to disrupt the delicate balance of everything.  Significant time meeting one-on-one with your senior pastor or sitting down together as a team is essential.

Academic teams do not have this requirement.  As long as you are doing your thing, teaching your classes, meeting with your students, you are good to go.  You also have the academic calendar and its scheduled breaks like fall break, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break.  There are times when it might be two or three months before I see any my colleagues on a regular basis.

3.  Church staff teams must be unified and functioning in a semi-healthy dynamic in order to succeed.  Academic department team don’t require the same level of unity. 

The indicators of success are so wildly different. For the church staff, success might be measured in spiritual growth or programmatic advancement or development of an effective outreach strategy.  For the academic dept., success is mostly measured in numeric growth, graduation rates, retention from year to year, new program development, and adding of faculty members.

The academic dept. team can say,  “Hey, we had a great year” and really not be united behind a singular vision or even enjoying spending time with one another.  That is not the case with a church staff.

A seasoned faculty member once told me that teaching on the college campus is like playing on the Ryder’s Cup squad – Everyone is collectively on the team, but you still play your match by yourself.  As long as you personally are doing your part, you don’t have to really like or even play along with your academic team mates.

4.  Lastly, church staff teams live in a highly emotional environment, while academic dept. teams only experience high emotion once or twice per year, usually around the end of term.

The discipleship and soul-care of saints and expanding the kingdom through evangelism form a very emotional environment for the church staff.  Everything is personal.  Relationships are personal.  Church politics are personal.  Team dynamics among the staff is very personal.  Not to mention living life together with church members whom you love and who love you in return.  The heart is always engaged.

Academic dept. teams are not like this.  While there are personal relationships among colleagues and meaningful relationships with students, the environment is not nearly as emotional.  It can be at times, but it usually is not.  Students move on.  Semesters move on.  Graduation comes every December and May.  The fall semester becomes the spring semester and then everyone leaves for summer break.   We start again in the fall and follow the pattern year after year.

As I look back over the past eleven years, these two types of team stand in stark contrast.  I never knew how different they really are.  I wrongly assumed the team I joined on the college campus would be very similar to the team I left from church.  I was wrong.  They are two completely different environments.  I don’t think one is better and the other worse; they are just wildly different.

 

When the Cost of Everything Goes Up and Giving Goes Down

I was listening to a church budget discussion a couple of weeks ago in a Budget & Finance Committee meeting.  For those who are not Southern Baptist, most SBC churches have a some sort of committee or team which is largely responsible for putting together and presenting a yearly church budget to which the congregation votes on.  They are also responsible for looking at expenses and giving trends throughout the year.

This particular church has noticed a trend line that is tracking toward a $100k shortfall for the year.  One of the vocal leaders, who happens to have a MBA in Accounting and 45 years in corporate management, said these words which have hung heavy on my heart for weeks.

He said (paraphrased),

“Everything we pay for is getting more expense.  From vehicle, property, and liability insurance, to all the food for the various meal, to the gas for the church bus, to medical coverage for the staff, to printing costs, literature costs, to toilet paper and paper plates.  We have been asked to give more to missions, support church planting, and update all our facilities to be eye-catching and seeker-friendly,  yet the giving keeps doing down.”

In other words, the cost of everything the church spends its money on is getting more expense and giving continues to decline.   If you created two trends lines, the expense line would be going up and up and the giving line would be going down.  All the while the church has maintained its average attendance over the past 5 years.

Giving-decline1Why is giving going down?  Many have pointed to a changing demographic in charitable giving.

It is largely generational with younger Gen. X and Millennial believers unable, or unwilling, to give at the same rates as Boomers and Builders.  When Boomers retire and Builders pass away, church contributions will never be the same again.

It is also simple economics in the home.  If the cost of gas, food, mortgages, insurance, and the like are getting more expense at church, the same is happening to families.  Individuals and families with significant student loan and credit card debt are absolutely strapped.

It is also a discipleship issue.  The idea of tithing or stewardship have lost their ability to be heard in our culture.  Everyone loves a Cold Water Challenge or a 5K Run/Walk for Cancer, but there is a hostile attitude toward consistently, sacrificially giving with no strings attached to the local church.

What solutions might there be for this giving paradigm shift?

I believe cross-vocational ministry is going to be key.  The single major expense a church normally has is personnel and staff.  If we could embrace a cross-vocational ministry approach to lessen personnel cost, there would more ministry funds elsewhere.

But cross-vocational ministry is challenging, especially for churches over 200 in attendance.

  • How is the church supposed to survive if no one is in the office 40 hours a week?
  • How is the church supposed to survive if all the pastoral staff work in other places alongside of their pastoral ministry?
  • How is the church supposed to survive when a church members needs have to be put on the back burner because one of the pastors is at work…their other work.

I hope to answer these questions more in the days to follow.

Church Ministry Resumes vs. Personal Advertisement Pieces

Last year, I was asked to help a church searching for a lead pastor.  They asked me to look through all the resumes they had received and see if I agreed with their top 5 candidates.  It was the first time that I, as a pastor who has my own personal church ministry resume, looked over so many other pastor’s church ministry resumes.  I was completely, utterly shocked.

binder

Binder Full of Ministry Resumes

The spectrum of difference in design and scope was unbelievable.

Some resumes looked like full-color, 4-page media press releases.  Pictures, backgrounds, graphic designs, and interactive links.  One extreme resume had the prospective pastor in various tight-fitting muscle shirts, standing in intimidating poses with lightning bolts and thunder clouds surrounding him, like he was Thor or a WWE wrestler.

I promise you, I am not making this up.  He sold himself as a hell-fire preacher and prophet who brought with him apostolic signs and wonders.  I guess that is why he needed lightning bolts.

Others were really poor Microsoft Word resume templates with barely any information, no images, terrible spelling, and pathetic design.  These resumes communicated humility (which I appreciated) but also poor work ethic, no creativity, and lack of vision or skill.

So where is the balance?  Where is the middle ground between speaking to your experience and giftedness without selling yourself to the highest bidder?  How can a pastor selection team learn about your convictions and passion in ministry and yet not feel if they are being sold something?

Here are some ideas for the church ministry resume.

1.  Be honest and clear and minimize the hype.  Don’t exaggerate. Don’t embellish.  Be forthright and upfront.  Tell your true ministry experience and journey without hyperbolic language.  Remember it is God who is the giver of all good gifts and you are not a gift to the ministry world.  In the same vein, don’t be so humble, so contrite, so simple that the prospective church feels sorry for you.  You are a servant of the King – live in that calling with courage and confidence.

2.  Be helpful, resourceful and industrious.  Make the printed resume easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to access additional information.  While business resumes are usually no more than 2 pages in length, a ministry resume is not held to that same standard.  It can be longer and more developed without the perception of overkill.

I highly recommend creating an additional biographical blog site to go along with the ministry resume.  This site becomes a virtual repository of personal and theological information.  On the site, you can create links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, embed recent Twitter feeds, post and link any sermon video or audio available from any church, add your personal philosophy of ministry statement plus any doctrinal or theological statement you hold to.  You could add pictures or photo albums of your family to give a sense of who you are outside of ministry.

3.  Be visually-oriented and narratively-focused.  Every person under the age of 60 is visually-oriented.  They need pictures, images, and color to move their eyes across the page.  Without going overboard, your resume needs to have a visual appeal to it.  Consider your church’s bulletin.  What if it was only text and no images?  Would you want to read through it?

Also be narratively-focused.  While bullet points and jaunted sentences might appeal to the quick reader, your resume needs to tell a story.  The story of your journey with Jesus, call into ministry, and experience from the field.  It needs to have a beginning, a past, and a present flow.  Bulleted lists and strict outlines struggle in communicating time and story.

I am in no way an expert on church ministry resumes, but I offer mine as an example to start with.  My church ministry resume has gone through thousands of edits and redesigns.  The great part is, I am not looking for a church position so I don’t feel any sense of urgency.  If it helps, be my guest.

Church Ministry Resume 2014

 

Go Cross-Vo Not Bi-Vo

I have been involved in bi-vocational ministry for the past 6 years.  This simply means I work a normal, full-time job (for me on the faculty of a Christian university) and serve part-time in local churches.  I have loved every minute in this dual ministry role.

What I do not love is the terminology: bi-vo.  Bi-vo, short for bi-vocational, has a negative connotation to it.  To most people in the pews it means that their pastor or church staff member is split in two.  That your heart is divided.  That you have to focused on one job to the detriment of the other.  As if you are in a tug-of-war between two jobs – one will win, the other will lose.

tug-o-war1

In bi-vo ministry, someone wins, someone will lose.

While more and more churches are considering going bi-vo because of financial constraints and/or declining attendance, they feel having a bi-vo pastor or bi-vo worship leader is a sign of defeat and impending death.  In all actuality, bi-vo can be a huge boost in lay-ministry involvement, community engagement and potential outreach.

Therefore, I think we need to change the language.  I think we need to reframe the vision and conversation surrounding bi-vocational ministry.

From this point forward, I will use the phrase “cross-vocational” instead of bi-vo.

  • Cross-vocational means you are living equally in two worlds: the marketplace and the ministry location.
  • Cross-vocational means you have on-going relationships with two groups simultaneously – your brothers and sisters in Christ and those you serve in the workplace.
  • Cross-vocational means you are fluid, entrepreneurial, creative, willing to be flexible, able to lead and succeed in both contexts.

Cross-vocational ministry has been the calling card of our missionaries and church planters for centuries.  They all have had to work both sides of the ministry field, in the world and out of the world, serving those who have yet to hear and to those who are fully committed to Christ.  I believe the cross-vocational spirit will come to more and more pastors and church leaders in the days ahead.

I believe a cross-vocational shift is coming in America for three primary reasons.

1.  Significant differences between the Builders & Boomers and the X’ers and Millennials in giving and stewardship patterns will result in precipitous declines in church budgets.  There will simply not be enough resources to fully-fund church staff, especially in light of health care cost.  (See my recent post on the ending of full-time paid youth ministry.)

2.  As evangelism and baptisms decrease, pastors and church leaders will demand freedom to engage unreached people within their communities.  This access will only come from unhinging themselves from a pervasive Christian sub-culture inside the church and interacting with more non-believers out in the real world.

3.  As churches streamlining and simplifying their ministry efforts and programming (aka the winnowing effect), they will have to say “no” to the secondary, more peripheral ministries in lieu of keeping the essential ministries.  The end result will be less day-to-day work to do.  This means less needed, fully-funded paid staff.

I do not see any way around this ministry shift.

I do see a large number of churches really struggling with this new reality.  But if they want to be proactive, they might consider going cross-vo now when its their choice instead of going cross-vo later when they have no choice.

(To be continued. More on cross-vocational ministry in the days to come.)

 

 

 

 

 

The End of Paid Youth Ministry

Every two years I teach a class called Introduction to Youth Ministry.  And every two years, I wonder if it will be the last go-round.

I have been speculating and saying publicly for years that full-time youth ministry positions were going the way of the dinosaur.  I could see it in the job postings, hear it in conversations with Educational Ministry professionals, and watch it in the churches of KY, where I serve.

At one point (5 or 6 years ago), I was receiving two or three calls a week asking for resumes of young, graduating CU students looking to serve in full-time youth ministry.  But those calls are becoming less and less.  The vast majority of calls I now receive are for children’s ministry leaders.

While I knew a change was afoot, I didn’t have any other supporting evidence.  Until Group Magazine published its May/June 2014 edition with the front cover questioning “The End of Paid Youth Ministry?” I knew someone would eventually start talking about this shift.

The piece is written by Mark Devries, founder of Ministry Architects, formerly Youth Ministry Architects.

group magazine small

Group Magazine May/June 2014 Edition

Devries tracks compensation and benefit packages for full-time youth ministry leaders over the past decade.  The trend showed that from 2005-2010, there was an increase in salary and benefit packages.  Yet after 2010, there has been a steady decline.

Since that point, the compensation packages have been moving downward, making the average compensation in 2012 – $37,500, which includes take home pay, medical insurance, life insurance, retirement, travel and resource expenses all in one bundle.  In reality, the take-home pay is much closer to $25,000 which is hard to live on in America, particularly in the cities, as a single income.  Its doable, but a stretch.

The other trend of interest is youth ministry leaders who work a second job, meaning the youth ministry is not their only source of income.  Since 2005 that percentage has increased from 17% to 36%.

Devries conclusion is simple and straightforward:  “It’s not the end of paid youth ministry, but the end of full-time, fully-benefited youth ministry.”  Churches, with tighter budgets and the insufficient funds to keep up with rising medical cost, are thinking differently.

Devries goes on to say,

When we assess all the ancillary expenses required for a full-time employee, it’s not hard to understand this shift – health and other benefits for a full-timer can run as much as 30 percent of salary, making two part-timers (without benefits) a much better ‘deal’ for many churches than one full-timer. (emphasis mine)

I have seen this trend everywhere.  Churches can hire two interns or two part-time youth leaders, say one for middle school and one for high school, or one for children and one for teenagers, and not provide any benefits, insurance or time off.  In a sense, they get two (or even three) for the price of one. I have been seeing this for years.

To all my Ed. Min. students (and anyone else interested in youth ministry), if you want to serve students in the local church then find a great job doing something in the public or private sector.  Something you love.  Something you can live on.  Something you can find fulfillment in.  And then seek out a youth ministry position to serve teenagers and students in the local church.

Devries seals this revised vision when he says, “Working a second job to support our ministry calling doesn’t mean we’re bi-vocational – it’s a single vocation, expressed in different ways.”  Absolutely on-point and will be essential in the future.

Thank you Group Magazine for bringing light to this change.  We needed to hear it.

One Year as CU Faculty Chair

Dr. Frank Cheatham, Dr. Joseph Owens, Congressman Ed Whitfield, Dr. Michael Carter, myself, Mrs. Paula Smith, Dr. Mark Bradley

Commencement Breakfast, May 3, 2014 at the President’s Home. From Left to Right: Dr. Frank Cheatham, Dr. Joseph Owens, Congressman Ed Whitfield (KY-1st District), Dr. Michael Carter, myself, Mrs. Paula Smith, Dr. Mark Bradley

For the past year, I have had the great honor as serving as the Campbellsville Univ. Faculty Forum Chair.  With only 5 years of faculty experience, I was completely shocked to be asked to serve on this role.  There are many qualified, experienced, and much more adept faculty members at Campbellsville Univ., but I was asked nevertheless.

I’ve learned when an opportunity is presented, you can either accept the task and try to rise to the occasion or run from it.  In this instance, I chose to walk through the door and allow God to grow me through the experience.  And God certainly had some leadership tests along the way.

We began the school year in difficult days.  Prior to the start of classes, the university family lost two dear members of the staff.  While a new school year should feel hopeful and full of anticipation, there was a shadow of darkness and grief over us all.  When two employees pass in the prime of their lives, it is hard to understand.  One of those beloved saints was my next door office buddy, Mr. Paul Dameron, a Druien Hall brother.  I still miss hearing his booming voice coming through our paper-thin walls.

The fall semester progressed with both ups and downs.  Great enrollment on the main campus, yet some programs (including several that I oversee) took a dip.  But we pressed on and tried to rely on God’s grace, good decision making, wise counsel, and see every challenge as opportunity for improvement.

The December Faculty Forum meeting included the announcement that Dr. Frank Cheatham, who has served at CU for 41 years, would be retiring at the end of 2014.  If you want a picture of faithful, steady, integrity-filled leadership over the long haul, Dr. Cheatham would be that picture.  I love being able to say Dr. Cheatham has been my professor, my boss boss, and now a friend and mentor.

The spring semester culminated in our SACSCOC 10 year accreditation visit.  This evaluation process for academic institutions is rigorous and extensive.  We were thrilled to hear we came through in very good shape.

The year ended in the commencement services over the weekend.  As faculty chair, I was invited to offer the benediction prayer.  It occurred to me on Saturday during the undergraduate ceremony that it has been 15 years (almost to the day) since I walked across that grey, noisy stage in J.K. Powell Athletic Center.

In 15 years, I went from being a student in the seats anxious to receive my diploma, to the CU Faculty Chair seated on the platform watching my students receive theirs. This included one of my Ed. Min. students doing a standing back-flip on the stage and nearly causing me to have a heart attack.  (Thanks Rico!)

Fifteen years from one seat to the another.  This, to me, is absolutely unbelievable.  I am so thankful and humbled.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured what God might do.  To serve my school, my alma mater, my fellow colleagues, and my God in this role of leadership has been such a blessing.

Thank you Lord for opening doors for the most unqualified, undeserving, ill-equipped academic leader in training.

 

 

 

Do Things That Don’t Need a Vote

vote

Do Things That Don’t Need a Vote.

While in seminary, I was given a book written by Dr. Paul Powell, former pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX.  The book was called “Shepherding the Sheep in the Smaller Church.”  There was a little hidden gem in the back of the book that I have never forgotten.

Dr. Powell encouraged anyone shepherding a smaller (or any size) church to do things that didn’t need a vote.  He encouraged pastors and ministers to do the little things that didn’t need money or permission to be done.  Little things that as a pastor no one could say yes or no to like starting a small group in your home or visiting shut-ins.

Over the years in ministry I keep going back to that little mantra – “do things that don’t need a vote.”  I have added a few other suggestions to my list like…

1.  Send hand-written thank you notes.  Those still catch a surprised and grateful eye.

2.  Send small group leaders a mid-week encouragement email as they are studying for Sunday.  Their study and teaching preparation is as important as yours.  Don’t you love it when someone writes/calls and says “I’m praying for you as prepare.”  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  It goes a long way.

3.  Personally invite people to come to your church.  Invite your friends.  Invite your family.  For me, I invite my students all the time.  When you brings guests, it encourages others to do the same.

4.  When preaching, communicate vision and direction in where you see the Lord moving.  Tell your people what you see happening.  While the church newsletter or blog is fine to share vision dates and details, your “face-time” on Sunday morning should be used wisely in casting the direction.  You only have their undivided attention for the first 5 minutes of the message, make it count in moving the ship forward.

5.  Pray for people who come to the altar by laying on hands.  If you believe in the power of prayer (as I do), encourage your people by praying over them.  If possible, invite some others to join you in praying for their needs.  There is nothing more unifying and humbling.

6.  Walk the isles before worship and spend time with your people.  Dr. Ken Hemphill called the 10 minutes before worship the 10 most important minutes in ministry.  Don’t seal yourself off in your office or “green room.”  Be among your sheep.  Talk with them.  Visit with them.  Sit down and pray for them if they ask you to.  Trust me, they all know you are thinking about the sermon and the service, but you have been called to be their “pastor”, not their professional Bible teacher or speaker.  A pastor spends time among their sheep.

I could go on and on.

I feel like church leaders, especially in smaller or mid-sized churches, feel as if they have limited authority in leadership.  While there might be policies and procedures in place for spending larger amounts of money or specific steps to take in securing prime real estate on the church calendar, there is much ministry that can be done without any red tape.

Spend your energies doing those little things that don’t need a vote and you will find greater success in your overall ministry leadership.

My Experience as a Campbellsvillian

Teaching in Druien Hall.

Rampant news has been swirling – some true, some false – about my alma mater and employer Campbellsville University with specific attention directed toward my area the CU School of Theology.

I have not had any desire to pour more fuel on this raging fire and have actually encouraged my students to stay out of the fray, however, I have been encouraged to speak about my experience at CU as a student back in the 90’s in the School of Theology.

I offer three truths about my alma mater and school.

1.  As a student, this place changed my life forever by exposing me to Christ, to his calling for my life, to the truthfulness of Scripture, to the ministry of serving others as unto the Lord, to the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and to the role of loving people who are from every Christian tradition.  As I had the opportunity to serve Christ in closed countries, in major urban centers, and down dirt paths, I learned that you shouldn’t get too bothered about who is a Methodist and who is a Baptist.  You are just happy to serve alongside people who, like you, love Jesus and want to tell others about Him.

2.  As a student, I was trained by great men and women of God who loved Jesus, His Word, the Gospel and the mission of the church.  Faithful men like Dr. Ted Taylor who has served 40+ years in local church ministry and Dr. John Hurtgen whose passion for the New Testament and Christian fellowship are as evident today as they were back then.  Also outstanding Christian women and scholars like Dr. Paula Qualls who loved the Old Testament more than anyone I’ve ever met and showed me how to love it as well.

3.  As a student, I formed lifelong friendships with many brothers and sisters in Christ who are now serving around the world as missionaries and in our nation as pastors and ministers.  These friendships continue to model one of the School of Theology core values: partners in enduring fellowship.

Lastly, I want all to know that I came to faith in Jesus through the ministry of a KBC church in Lewisport, KY.  I was baptized, discipled and called to ministry in a KBC church.  I have served on two KBC church staffs.  I have been an interim pastor for four KBC churches.  I have four CP-supported theological degrees – one from CU, two from SWBTS and one from SBTS.  I am a Southern Baptist and KY Baptist through and through.

I believe the Bible is true.  I believe the Gospel is the only means of salvation.  I believe that my role as a man, husband, father, pastor, and professor is to offer and explain this glorious Gospel to every person I meet.   These biblical convictions have never been questioned or prevented while attending, or now while teaching, at CU.  They have only been encouraged and enhanced.  I have a platform that most pastors never have.  I get to teach unbelieving young men and women the Gospel in class every day and they have to come and listen.  This is a wonderful mission.

I am proud to be a small part of the CU story.  I love my alma mater and employer.

Serving from a Place of Fear

fear

Serving Christ from a place of fear.

Over the past several months, I have had numerous conversations with pastors, ministers, and key denominational leaders in various leadership positions.  These are men and women I highly respect and admire for their calling, their efforts to expand the Kingdom of God, and their passion to make Jesus’ name great.

But there is also something that worries me and brings me pause. Many of these amazing Christian leaders are serving from a place of fear.

There is a place within their hearts that are always cautious, afraid, anxious, and nervous about what people will think, what people will say, how people will respond.  This fear makes them second-guess everything they do and never feel as if their work before the Lord is satisfactory.

I have personally struggled with this type of fear (especially when I was on full-time church staff).  Honestly, it is strange to be afraid of the people you are trying to serve.  Are shepherds afraid of what their sheep will think about them?  I sincerely doubt it.

Yet when this fear sits in, there is no confidence and contentment in knowing you are doing the best you can with the resources you have, even though that is exactly what you are doing.  Instead you feel like you are constantly on edge waiting for the next criticism, the next complaint, the next condescending letter to come in.  You feel like you are always looking over your shoulder for someone to stab you in the back.  It is a terrible, gripping feeling.

As I reflect on these conversations and my own experience with this fear, my heart and soul goes to the Word of Life.  I think about the VBS theme verse for last year: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  Great words from the Apostle Paul to a young man with a big responsibility of leadership.  But even beyond this sometimes over-used verse, I think about Paul’s words to the Galatians about himself.

He writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ?” (Galatians 1:10)

Could it be that when we continually bow down and seek the approval of man, we no longer, therefore, serve Christ?  Are these two approvals, that of people and that of Jesus, in opposition to one another.

I have found the approval of man to be so fleeting.  One minute you are everyone’s hero; the next you are everyone’s enemy.  But Jesus is not so fickle.  He is not so easily swayed.

He knows your heart, more than just your actions.  He knows your intentions and motivations, more than just the results.  Jesus sees your effort, even when things don’t come together rightly.   Shouldn’t He be the only one we seek approval from?

In the end when we’ve finished this race called life, no person from any church or any event is going to judge our service to the King, only Jesus will.  Maybe that knowledge will give us the kind of courage to serve not from a place of fear, but from a place of unflinching faith.

What I’ve Learned About KidMin While On the Road with LifeWay

vbs preview 3

VBS Preview Event in Ridgecrest, NC

For the last several weeks, I have been on the road with LifeWay Kids training VBS leaders from around the country and North America.  We have traveled to North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and will be in Florida this weekend.

There have been VBS leaders from every state in the union including Alaska and Hawaii and from our neighbors in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Once everything is finished, we will have trained nearly 6000 VBS leaders who will in turn train another 70,000+ leaders who will host and lead 3 million boys, girls, teens and adults in VBS this year.  I am overwhelmed by the power of multiplication and the enormous influence VBS has on Kids Ministry around the world.

vbs nashville 1 web

VBS Preview Event in Nashville, TN

Over the last few weeks of ministry, I have learned several important truths about those who lead and serve in Kids Ministry around the nation.

I have learned that…

1.  THEY ARE PASSIONATE.  These servant-leaders are absolutely passionate about their own personal faith in Christ and the work assigned to them by God in serving kids and families.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the next generation know Jesus and grow in Him.  Their passion and vitality is infectious.

2.  THEY ARE HARDWORKING.  These leaders go the extra mile and often do it without any appreciation or recognition.  Without exception, Kids Ministry is the largest people and volunteer network in the church.  It is usually the most demanding with all sorts of different needs among different age groups.  It is usually the most under-funded, yet all the while it is the single most effective evangelistic tool the church has at its disposal.  These leaders get it done week after week, year after year and I applaud them.

3.  Lastly, THEY ARE HUNGRY FOR HELP.  When a KidMin leader attends a training session, they sit on the edge of their seats hungry for any tip, any suggestion, any instruction we can give.  They take page after page of notes.  They listen with their eyes and ears and hearts wide open.  They are starving for anything that will help them lead better.

I have taught similar sessions for pastors, ministers and deacons and I promise you the sessions are not the same.  I am not slamming pastors (goodness, I am one), but the intensity level is not nearly the same as these KidMin leaders.  Pastors tend to generally appreciate the training but all the while are checking their phones, day-dreaming, catching up on some sleep, and running back and forth to the lobby to take a call.  Not so with the KidMin leader.  This is their chance to be equipped and they are in it full on.

My heart and soul goes out to these 6000 VBS leaders.  In the months ahead, they will labor to get volunteers, make preparations, decide about budgets, argue with the church maintenance staff, stay up late, get up early, all to share the love of Christ with kids and families.  We know their labor will not be in vain.

I am simply humbled and honored to be able to meet them, encourage them, and give them a glimmer of hope because I am a VBS salvation.  It still works and will continue to work for generations to come.

The Shift from Prof to Agent – How to Get a Good Reference from Me

Show me the ministry!!!!

Show me the ministry!!!!

This is my 6th year at Campbellsville Univ.  I have taught over 80 classes in my short teaching career, which includes lots of undergraduate and plenty of graduate level courses.

Many of my students have graduated or are nearing graduation and are starting to look for ministry positions and/or make a shift to more full-time ministry roles.

This puts me in a new position as their prof.  I was just their teacher, now I am their AGENT.  I am one of their references trying to help them get placed in ministry.

On the back page of their resume, my name is listed as someone a prospective church or para-church ministry can call to talk about this student.  So how do I comment on my students.  What information do I try to share with a prospective church or ministry about my students?

In other words, how do you get a good reference from me?

1.  First, your academic performance matters to me.  Academics are not the only thing that matters, but my exposure to you has primarily been academic.  So if you do poorly in my classes, I will probably give you a poor reference.  At its core, academics are more about discipline and hard work than IQ and GPA.  If you didn’t work hard in a ministry preparation class, then you probably won’t work hard in ministry.

2.  Second, your personality type matters to me.  Are you a team player?  Are you a natural leader?  Do you have charisma?  Are you introverted and extroverted?  How do you relate to other students in the School of Theology?  All ministries, no matter if in a church, on the mission field, or in a non-profit organization, are people-focused.  How you handle yourself around others and in groups is very important.

3.  Third, your outside of class activities matter to me.  Did you work camp in the summer?  Have you been involved in mission trips?  Do you regularly attend church on Sunday?  Have you been in campus ministry leadership?  Usually, I am asked first about your academic performance, but then very shortly after I am asked about your outside of class ministry activities.  You got to have both – in proper balance.  Academics first, extra-curricular second.

4.  Fourth and finally, your spiritual maturity matters to me.  I am always asked for your spiritual strengths and weaknesses.  Prospective churches and ministries want to know how God has equipped you for kingdom service and what areas are showing up as personal struggles.  Relationships?  Worry?  Anger?  We all have them, so don’t worry too much.  But keep asking the Lord to show you areas that you can grow in Him.

Spiritual maturity is found in seeking biblical wisdom, practicing spiritual disciplines, and allowing others to continually sharpen you. 

Why Kids Ministry is the New Youth Ministry

puppetsTwenty years ago (think vintage 1990’s), churches begged, borrowed, and pleaded with their people to find the funds to hire a youth minister.  They were willing to do whatever it took to get someone, anyone to work with the teenagers.  Whatever it required, a youth minister had to be found.  The mindset was clear: someone has to work with our teens because “they are the church of tomorrow.”

Youth ministry in evangelical churches was thriving.  Youth ministers were seen as fun, trendy, responsive to the culture, able to relate big truths to young minds.  They were creative, loved praise and worship music, and knew how to put together a rockin’ mission trip on a tight budget.  Youth camp attendance was pushing all-time highs.  Youth conferences were abounding.  Youth ministry publications were everywhere.  It was a great time to be a teenager and an even better time to be in youth ministry.

So I ask you, where is all that energy and inertia today?  Well, it is not in youth ministry.  Things have shifted younger in the past 20 years.

children-ministry

Today (think vintage 2010’s), all that energy and inertia has shifted to kids ministry.  A children’s pastor or family minister is the most sought after position, outside of senior pastor, in American evangelical churches.

Churches are desperate to find and hire qualified, trained, responsible people to lead the nursery, pre-school and K-5 areas, otherwise no sensible parent will come.  The consumer parenting culture of Gen X, which is having more babies than their Boomer parents, demand churches to upgrade every corner of the children ministry. 

The facility has to look like a McDonald’s PlayPlace, only better.  Equipped with better security, better lighting, pristine cleanliness, background checks on volunteers, slick lanyards identifying workers in matching t-shirts.  The shiny polish of youth ministry has been expanded and multiplied for young ones.  These kids ministries are well oil machines with programs and contingency plans that surpass all other ministry areas (if they are successful), including the worship ministry which used to command the show.

I was told by a high level denominational leader recently that an experienced, qualified, theologically trained, former professional educator (aka ex-teacher) who felt a call to kids ministry could name their price.  They could pick any church, any city, any denomination and just determine what they wanted to make and someone would offer it to them.  They are the rarest breed of minister in the ministry marketplace.

This trend is not dying away anytime soon.  It will be here for a while.  At least until all these kids become teens.

Enter Ministry or Go to Seminary : What Should a Young 20-Something Do First?

Seminary student

Should I enter ministry or go to seminary first?

My ministry students are primarily 18-22 years old.  They are the traditional, undergraduate college years.  They left home after graduating high school a few years back and hopefully after attaining their four year degree, they are ready to launch into the real world of ministry prepared and equipped.

Let me repeat, my graduating students are 22 years old, maybe 23 at the oldest.  Would your church hire a 23 year old to serve on your church staff?

If you were on a Personnel Team or a church staff search team, would a resume of a 23 year old college graduate jump out at you as being a top-notch choice?  They would have a basic theological education.  They might have completed a summer or semester internship working in some sort of ministry.  They are probably going to be single and dating or possibly engaged, but rarely married.

My question to you is:  Would they be a top-tier candidate?  If not, why not?

I get calls and emails every week from churches looking for staff members in youth, children, discipleship, worship, and many for lead pastors.  But when I explain that my students are usually not older than 23 and mostly single, they decide to look elsewhere.  It would be fine for these young adults to serve as an intern or even as a ministry assistant, but not in significant leadership.  The opinion is that they are just too young.  The searching church wants someone with extensive experience, but only willing to pay the bare minimum.

So what do I advise my graduating college seniors?  I encourage them to go to graduate school or seminary.  Another year or two is only going to help them enter into church staff positions with more theological education and hopefully more experience in a part-time ministry setting, and possibly even a significant other in tow.

It is sad to think we need to delay them 2 or 3 years before we will consider them “ready for service.”  We don’t say that about 18-19 year olds in the US military or a 22 year old teaching high school in the public school system.  So why do we think this way in church ministry?

I believe we need to embrace these young adults.  I believe we need to give them a shot to enter into ministry at 22 or 23 and see what God might bring to our churches through them.  I think we need to listen to them and give them a fair shake.

I was 26 years old when a church finally gave me a full-time chance to serve as their Associate Pastor.  I had been part-time youth minister for 4 years and completed two seminary degrees.  I was married, but had no children.   I sent my ministry resume to over 100 churches from NY to FL and every state in-between.  Not one gave me a call or an interview.

But a single church with no posted vacancy, no budgeted salary, and not even a search team in place invited me to  come and serve with them.  It was one of the best ministry opportunities of my life thus far.  I wonder if that same place would have given me a shot 4 years earlier as a college graduate with no experience and no wife.  I bet they would have, because it was (and still is) that kind of place.  But they are rare.

Would your church be willing to take a shot on a 22 year old in full-time ministry?  I hope so.  They have a lot to offer the kingdom of God.  They might even teach you something new.

Being BOTH Denominationally Loyal AND Fervently Ecumenical

Over this past week three events converged together to influence me, yet again, concerning my personal convictions of being BOTH denominationally-loyal AND at the same time fervently ecumenical.

  • Event No. 1 – I preached a 4-day revival at church with dual affiliation with my tribe (Southern Bapt) and a more moderate form of Baptist life, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
  • Event No 2 – The CEO of the Southern Bapt. Conv. Executive Committee Dr. Frank Page was on our campus, speaking in chapel, meeting with local pastors, and sharing in my class.
  • Event no. 3 – I finished an interim at a Christian Church – Disciples of Christ – in Hodgenville.

In one week, I was stretched to see the significant work of other baptistic forms of ministry, 2) made increasing proud of my Southern Bapt. roots and heritage and its mission around the world for the Gospel, and 3) said goodbye to a wonderful group of Christ-honoring believers of another tribe altogether who I don’t align with biblically or theologically, but was able to worship and preach for them for several months without any issue whatsoever.

My conclusion is simpleYou can be BOTH denominationally-loyal AND fervently ecumenical at the very same time.

Without question, I am very denominationally-loyal to my tribe called Southern Baptist.  I came to faith in a SBC church through an amazing ministry called vacation Bible school.  I was baptized, discipled and ordained to the ministry in a SBC church.  I have four degrees from three SBC-connected institutions.  I was married by a Baptist pastor in a Baptist church to a Baptist girl.  My personal church membership from salvation until today is in a SBC church.  I firmly believe in the doctrine, mission and direction of my tribe with all my heart.

But I am also very committed to being fervently ecumenical.  Being ecumenical is having the vision that more than one tribe (or denomination) will be in heaven and that you can do more together for the Gospel than you can apart.  We live in a post-Christian, postmodern America where faithful, biblical Christianity is moving to the periphery of the society and I fervently believe we need each other more now than ever.

I think it is all about perspective and context.  Consider this scenario.

You are in the Middle East doing underground mission work and you happen to discover another group of like-minded Christians working among the same people group, but from another denomination.  Do you work with them or reject them entirely?

Well, you carefully consider their missiological framework and understanding of salvation, that is by faith alone in Christ alone, and you begin working with them as best as you possible can without compromising your convictions and remaining biblically faithful.  You will both be in Heaven together one day, why not work together now for the Gospel and bring more souls with you.

Seems easy right.  Its not.  I have found the closer the denominations are to each other, the harder it is for them to trust each other and work together.  For example, it is very difficult for the conservative Baptists and more moderate Baptists to work together because they have purposely separated from each other for a variety of reasons.  Those reasons might be a particular theological doctrine or most likely a social issue but the intentional division drives a hard wedge between the two groups.

Likewise I have come to recognize it is tough for the Disciples of Christ tribe to work closely with the independent Christian church groups because they have purposely separated from each other and have no desire to rejoin.

Conversely, I find it is much easier for two tribes who are relatively far apart theologically to come together for a single purpose and work hand-in-hand.  For example, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are coming together on issues like human trafficking, the sanctity of human life, and the mandatory coverage of contraceptives.  You also see various groups who would differ on all sorts of theological and liturgical issues working together in disaster relief or Operation Christian Child shoe boxes.

So what is my point.  I believe the American 21st century Evangelical Christian must embrace the BOTH/AND nature of being BOTH denominationally-loyal AND fervently ecumenical.  Our culture and world is turning ever-increasingly more hostile toward the Gospel and message of Jesus Christ.  In a world where we are moving more and more toward the minority, division and isolation into tribal loyalties will not be helpful.

Whatever you might think of the Together for the Gospel movement, I believe they have embraced the right motto – We can come together for the Gospel of Jesus and be both denominationally-loyal and fervently ecumenical.

What I Would Lose If I Went Back into FT Pastoral Ministry

Pulpit view

What would happen if I went back?

I get asked all the time if I am planning to go back into full-time pastoral ministry?  The question usually comes from a well-meaning church member at a church I am interiming at.  The question is harmless and is meant to be a genuine interest in my calling and God’s will for life, but it always causes me to think.

What if I left Christian higher education and went back into full-time pastoral ministry?  What would I lose?  What would I give up?  What would I exchange to be back in a FT pastoral staff position?

So far I have come up with 5 pretty good reasons why I believe God has put right where He wants me to be.

1.  Access to numerous unbelievers.  In my general education classes and walking all around campus are young men and women from all over the world and around our country who do not know the love of God in Christ Jesus.  They have come to our Christian college for all sorts of reasons and at some point are expecting us to tell them what makes us different than other schools they considered.  They are EXPECTING us to share the Good News of Jesus with them.  Did you read that right?  They are expecting us to share the Gospel with them.  What an opportunity?  What a mission we have before us?

2.  Opportunity to teach about Jesus in an academic classroom.  Students, some who believe and some who do not, take my class called Christ and Culture as part of their general education requirements.  Get this – they have to study the Bible in order to get an A.  They have to be able to explain the Good News of Jesus in order to pass one of the tests.  That is unheard of.  While they don’t have to become Christians to pass the course, they are exposed to the truths of the Gospel by an unashamed born-again Christian who believes the Bible is true and wants to help them with their questions about faith.  This is amazing and definitely not like pastoral ministry.

3.  Invitation to walk alongside younger believers in a critical times in their lives.  Consider the number of youth group Christians who drop out of church during the college years.  My job encourages me to come alongside these struggling believers and lift them up in their journey with Jesus.  I get to ask them “how are things going between you and God?” and actually listen to their stories.  This is such a critical moment in their lives and I believe it is so helpful to have professors and campus staff who care enough to ask.  This happens every single day.

4.  Freedom to serve alongside various churches, pastors, ministries, and even denominations for future generations.  Because of my role at CU, I have freedom to help numerous churches and pastoral leaders.  Unlike pastoral ministry, I am not confined to one single congregation as their pastor and therefore am more fluid and flexible to help whoever needs help.

For example, because of my work at CU and connections to fellow CU alums, God opened the door for me to work alongside LifeWay’s CentriKid camps and VBS for the past couple years.  These ministries alone will reach 27,000 and 4 million kids and adults each year respectively.  My part is little and somewhat insignificant.  But being a small part in these huge ministries makes an enormous kingdom impact.  Last year at CentriKid, nearly 1000 children come to faith in Christ.  VBS is estimated to have seen 80,000+ children, teens, and adults make professions of faith last year.  Again, my part is small in comparison to others, but I am humbled to even be on these teams in a small capacity.

5.  Lastly, I have a chance to give back to a place that radically shaped me.  Campbellsville Univ. is not only my employer, it is also my alma mater.  I love this place!  Words will never express what God did in my life during my 4 years here.  Now I am sure there are many fine Christian institutions and universities.  I am sure God is working mightily on all sorts of campuses – state, private, Christian and otherwise.

But I get the chance to give back to the place that shaped me personally.  Not the institution, but the people who served within the institution.  They took time to invest in my life, my ministry, my personal development as a man and my academic abilities as a student. I am indebted to this place and love getting the chance to replicate my experience in the lives of others.

For those reason and probably a hundred others, it is easy to answer those who ask if I would ever consider going back into full-time pastoral ministry, “No. I don’t think so. God has got me right where He wants me.”

Who Do You Really Work For? Part 2

Because I work, I am…

  • I am a better husband to my wife.
  • I am a better time manager.
  • I am a wiser steward of God’s resources.  It all belongs to Him.
  • I am a more generous person because I have something to give away.
  • I am a better example to my sons of manhood, fatherhood, and husbandry.
  • I am a stronger contributor to my local church.
  • I am a more invested member of my local community.
  • I am given opportunities to use my strengths and improve upon my failures.
  • I am exposed to different people than my normal circle would provide.
  • I am given a chance to use my talents as unto the Lord.
  • I am participating in something outside of myself.
  • I am less self-centered and more collaborative.
  • I am taught humility and servant-leadership.
  • I am given a platform to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • I am blessed with resources to provide for the wants and needs of my family.
  • I am given a chance to see the world through others’ eyes.

Because I work, I am growing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Who Do You Really Work For?

workrailroad

“I’ve Been Working On…”

Over the weekend, I was able to listen to Dr. David Platt from The Church at Brook Hills preach an amazing sermon called “The Cross and the Christian’s Work” on the meaning of work in the life of the believer (Listen here).

Several key passages were very meaningful to me, but two in particular that I wanted to share.

  • Colossians 3:23-24  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Whatever your job may be, whatever position, occupation, or means of making an income you have, work it in such a way as to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as an act of worship.  Everyday on the job, make it your mission to work as an act of devotion and honor to Christ, not to a man, a boss or even a company.

Certainly you are getting rewards in the form of a paycheck, benefits, vacation days, experience, and the like, but there are other rewards at stake – eternal rewards.  Your eternal reward is an inheritance of eternal life though the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, which propels us to do our job “heartily” as unto Him, not satisfactorily to just get by.

Ask yourself this question:  If Creator God was your direct supervisor at work, how would your annual evaluation be this year?  Did you work heartily for Him?  Did you worship Jesus by doing your job with excellence, diligence, competence, and integrity?

The second passage is comparable.

  • 1 Timothy 5:8  But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Our call to provide and care for our families, through the resources provided by our work, is an outward witness of our faith in Christ.  By not providing for our families, the Apostle Paul equates a denial of the faith and being “worse” than an unbelieving person.

Dr. Platt was quick to point out that those suffering from chronic illness or debilitating disease are not commanded to work when their bodies simply won’t cooperate.  Additionally, this is not a command for children, teens, or students preparing in school and college for their working careers.  But for those who are able physically and mentally to work and hold the responsibility of provision for their families, there is a call to get up and go to work.

The job, task or the amount paid for the work is not a factor.  We need to work and provide for our families because it holds up the witness and testimony of God’s saving grace in our lives.

I wrote these thoughts in my journal back in May 2013.

Why Does My Work Matter to God?  What Does It Produces in Me?

  • Work gives me a sense of individual purpose and direction. Not divine purpose and direction, but purpose and direction nonetheless.
  • Work provides for our families needs and wants and gives me the ability to make financial investments in kingdom work.
  • Work creates an opportunity for the spiritual discipline of stewardship to grow in me.
  • Work creates an opportunity for spiritual gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and definitely self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) to be birthed in me.
  • Work builds in me a pattern of suffering, character, hope, endurance, and perseverance in good times and in bad (Romans 5:3-5).
  • Work provides an opportunity for me to witness to unbelievers both verbally and visually (Matthew 5:16).
  • Work teaches me how to be a life-long learner, a good steward of other people’s stuff, a manager of people & time, and to be a leader, trainer and equipper of future generations.  All of these traits are be transferable to ministry within the local church.
  • Work helps me learn to lean on God’s provision by using the talents, gifts, interests, passions, and skills He gave to me to be best used for His glory and great name.

I love my job, there is no question about it, but I know I am the rare breed.  Most people dislike or barely tolerate the work they do.

But possibly if your perspective shifted so that you began to see your work as a gift from God, you might start to love it more.  You might even be able to see God as the one you work for, not just a paycheck.  I promise you, He is the best boss you’ll ever have.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,859 other followers