Ministry is out there

In my last post, I talked about our need to assist Christians in discovering ministries outside of the Sunday morning worship time. Basically, we need to expand our view of what ministry is. The time we spend in corporate worship is such a small percentage of our week; if that’s the only place that ministry takes place, the church will be insignificant in its community.

We have 168 hours in a week. If we take out 8 hours a day for sleep, that still leaves 112. How much time do we spend in corporate worship? Anywhere from one to four hours. That’s a small part of 112 hours; if that’s the focus of our ministry, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives are largely unfruitful.

We need vision. We need imagination. We need creativity. We need to continually find ways to serve God outside of the assembly, as well as inside.

Christian leaders should be focused on equipping the saints for works of ministry, on spurring them on to love and good deeds. We need to encourage our people to explore their gifts, to explore different ways of serving and ministering to the people around them.

When all we see is the assembly, we are doomed to a lifestyle of power plays and doctrinal arguments. When we lift our vision and see what the church can do around our community and around our world, we’ll soon be too busy serving to have time to argue over minutiae.

Get up. Get out. Go serve. Come together to worship God and recharge our batteries for another week of service.

Ministry is out there, not in here. Until we learn that, I don’t see anything for us but fussing, fighting, and decline.

By the way, I noticed that the Church Inside Out books are now available on Amazon.

You can buy the main book here:

You can buy the workbook here:

Service and servants, ministry and ministers

I’ve been involved in church leadership to some degree for most of my adult life. So any criticisms I might have toward the church grow out of self-analysis and awareness of my own failures. This is especially true with this post.

One problem I see in the church has to do with helping our members find their place to serve within the body. I was reminded of this when reading what one sister wrote:

I used to lament over not loving to bake casseroles and decorate for baby showers. If I could do those things I would have been more useful in most church settings I have experienced.

This isn’t meant to be a post about gender roles, even though that’s what this sister was writing about. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, but it’s not what I’m getting at.

Her words made me recognize what a poor job we’ve done in helping people see that most of what the church does happens outside of our assembly time. It’s not just women who are frustrated. I think one reason that so many men drop out of church is that they think if they aren’t gifted to serve in a public way, they aren’t useful in the body. For many of them, even baking and hosting aren’t options. If they aren’t talented speakers or skilled song leaders, they feel that they have little or nothing to offer the church.

Much of this boils down to what I call our “edifice complex,” the obsession we have with our Sunday morning assembly. We miss the fact that we are defined by what we do outside of the church building, not inside it. Worshiping God together is crucial; I’m not asking us to take away the importance of our Sunday gatherings. Instead, I’m asking us to sanctify the rest of the week, to see that our acts of ministry outside of the Sunday assembly are as important as what we do when we’re together.

Men and women must learn to value their gifts as administrators. We need them to rejoice at their ability to recognize physical needs and meet them. When we limit ministry to preaching and leading worship, we exclude large percentages of the body, even if we allow women to participate more fully than in the past.

Until we achieve a healthy view of ministry which includes all Christians, we will always have large numbers of men and women who feel frustrated and disengaged. As long as we fail to value the wide variety of gifts within the body, we will struggle to connect with many church members.

Let’s equip the saints for works of service. Let’s spur one another on to love and good works. Let’s learn to serve and minister according to the multifaceted grace of God.

Links To Go (May 12, 2017)

Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us

These are all worthy topics for discussion, but they are also fairly cold and abstract. So a better way to appreciate the power of these five might be to take the very small view instead of the very large — to examine the role each of them plays in your own day-to-day activities, and the particular grip each holds on your psyche.
So, last week I came up with a fun game: If an evil, tech-phobic monarch forced you to abandon each of the Frightful Five, in which order would you do so, and how much would your life deteriorate as a result?

The ‘Frightful Five’ Aren’t So Scary, as Long as They’re Competing

Plainly there is no cause to be Pollyannaish. It’s sensible to be wary of acquisitions and potential overreach. And there may be specific cases that cross the line and should be reined in. Over all though, the kind of competition we see among Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft tends to sort things out naturally and brutally.

On Refusing to Live a Hurried Life

Perhaps it would do them good — perhaps it would do all of us good to take a look at our “anxious driven frantic hearts.” Perhaps what we need is to build the discipline of stillness into our habits each day so that our hearts can rest in the Lord instead of desperately trying to move faster and faster.

Why You Should Learn to Say ‘No’ More Often

One technique is the refusal strategy. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt found that saying “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t” allowed participants to extract themselves from unwanted commitments.
While “I can’t” sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, “I don’t” implies you’ve established certain rules for yourself, suggesting conviction and stability. And since it’s personal, it also maintains the social connection humans crave.

Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think

But more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.

Though still conservative, young evangelicals are more liberal than their elders on some issues

Millennials are more likely than older adults to take liberal positions on social and political issues. This generation gap exists even among evangelical Protestants – who constitute one of the country’s most conservative religious groups – in areas including same-sex marriage, immigration and environmentalism.

Americans Worry About Moral Decline, Can’t Agree on Right and Wrong

Most older Americans say right and wrong never change. Younger Americans—not so much.
A new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found a significant generation gap in how Americans view morality.
More than 6 in 10 of those older than 45 say right and wrong do not change. For those 35 and younger, fewer than 4 in 10 make that claim.

Eight Major Changes in Churches the Past Ten Years

  1. Today: Smaller worship gatherings.
    Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings.
  2. Today: Smaller church facilities
    Ten years ago: Larger church facilities
  3. Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister
    Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader
  4. Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members
    Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff
  5. Today: Emphasis on congregational singing
    Ten years ago: Emphasis on performance singing
  6. Today: Community focus
    Ten years ago: Community myopia
  7. Today: Vital importance of groups
    Ten years ago: Marginal importance of groups
  8. Today: Church leaders are continuous learners
    Ten years ago: Church leaders were “degree and done”

Key findings about U.S. immigrants

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 82% think immigrants strengthen the country with their hard work and talents, and just 13% say they are a burden. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, roughly as many (44%) say immigrants are a burden as say immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents (39%).

The Cross-Resurrection Contradiction

The cross of Jesus reveals that the experience of suffering is contained within God’s own nature. It reveals a God who is intimately involved in the world, who is moved and affected by all that we experience, and who willingly becomes vulnerable to suffering.

Running Without Legs

This post caught my attention for several reasons – not the least for shaking my perspectives about this world we live in, for contradicting that, “What is the world coming to?” voice. I really think that sometimes we have grown very fixated on negative things to the detriment of our spiritual lives. Hopeless and pessimistic attitudes can impair our spiritual walking in a way this child’s disability fails to impede him.

How to Reach a Child’s Heart for Christ

Moralism and manipulation harden a child’s heart. But the gospel is God’s message of love and grace that transforms the heart of a child.

Pepperdine Lectures 2017

Teaching on Church Inside Out

I was out in Malibu last week, speaking at the Pepperdine Lectures. Included in that “speaking” were two sessions where I served as translator for Tony Fernández from Cuba.

Tony arrives in Los Angeles

Tony flew direct from Havana to Los Angeles, a first for him. Much easier than having to stop in Miami to do customs and immigration. He was only in the States for a few days, but it was a needed break from him from the fast-paced life of ministry that he normally leads.

Church Inside Out had good placement in the Pepperdine Bookstore

The class I taught was based on my “Church Inside Out” book and the seminar I lead based on that material. Tony talked about church-planting in Cuba and the power of prayer in the Christian family. I was sorry that more people didn’t make it to Tony’s classes. I think I should have included “Cuba” in the titles of his classes, just to generate more interest. He has such good information to share.

Buena Park Church of Christ auditorium

On Sunday, I got to speak to the Buena Park Church of Christ. The congregation is made up of English speakers and Spanish speakers, so I did a bilingual class and sermon, talking about what the Hope For Life ministry is doing around the world. Lovely group of people.

I have 3 more lectureship-type events coming up later this year. I’ll be at the Red River Family Encampment in late June, followed by the Lipscomb Summer Celebration that same week. Then in September I’ll be speaking at the Harding lectures. If any readers expect to be at any of those events, I’d love to meet up!

Pepperdine has put recordings of the classes and keynotes on iTunes; you can find them here. You can listen to my class, Tony’s classes, and lots of other good presentations from this lectureship.

Teaching on Church Inside Out

Links To Go (May 2, 2017)

(Links shared to make you think or make you laugh; no agreement nor endorsement implied)

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

But a growing segment— 19 percent in 2017, up from 10 percent in 2011—say it’s simply a book of teachings and stories written by men.
That group has remained fairly stable in recent years (17% in 2013, 19% in 2014, 21% in 2015, and 22% in 2016). So this year for their State of the Bible report, ABS and Barna asked the people in that category a new question: If you think the Bible was written only by humans, do you think it was meant to be manipulative or controlling?
Almost 4 out of 5 skeptics said yes, which adds up to 13 percent of the US population. (A similar number of Americans told LifeWay that the Bible was bigoted (8%) or harmful (7%).)

Signs of the Apocalypse?

These dark and troubled days need not testify to the power of death and the triumph of chaos, but they can be for us another step in our journey toward God’s promised Heaven and earth. What the world interprets as chaos and destruction, Jesus reads as opportunity. So lift up your head. Don’t be afraid. Lean toward the future with God. Walk as disciples of Jesus.

Pope Francis and Coptic pope agree not to re-baptize

In a joint declaration signed April 28 by Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria during Francis’ visit to the Orthodox St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, the two churches agreed that they would not hold baptisms for members of one church wishing to join the other.

EPA removes climate change data, other scientific information from website

The Environmental Protection Agency is updating its website and, in the process, has removed a page that explained the causes and effects of climate change.

What the Press Still Doesn’t Get About Trump

Now that journalists have spent a few months covering President Trump, we asked a range of media critics, political operatives, historians and more: What does the press still get wrong about Trump, and what do we just not get at all?

Who Decides Who Decides? Developing an Action Plan

Using the above criteria can help your leader group determine whether a particular decision should be made primarily by the minister, primarily by the elders, or through some mutual process. For many leadership teams, it can be a difficult conversation to have. Yet I am certain that many leaders know the frustration and wasted time that accompany unnecessarily endless discussions about a particular decision. Having clear, written guidelines about who decides what will empower your leadership team for meaningful work.

Becoming an Effective Assimilating Church

So everyone is gifted. God has put every new member coming into the Levy family into the body exactly as he desires. He recreated them to fit and plug right into the body of Christ. It then becomes up to local body to help them assimilate in order for them to use that gift.

Census: More Americans 18-to-34 Now Live With Parents Than With Spouse

“There are now more young people living with their parents than in any other arrangement,” says the Census Bureau study.
“What is more,” says the study, “almost 9 in 10 young people who were living in their parents’ home a year ago are still living there today, making it the most stable living arrangement.”

The Science Is In: Sarcasm Makes You (and Your Friends) Smarter

When you’re brain first hears a sarcastic comment it goes through three stages to understand it. First, the language section in the brain interprets the literal meaning of the word or words. Then, the frontal lobes and right hemisphere break down the intention of the speaker and look at things such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expression to interpret differences between the actual meaning of the word and this specific social context of the word. And lastly, the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex makes a decision on whether or not the comment is sarcastic based off of our social and emotional interpretation.

Tornado Carries Mobile Home 130 Miles, Family inside Unharmed

A family from Tulsa, Oklahoma, underwent the scariest experience of their life yesterday, when their mobile home was carried over 130 miles by a tornado, landing in a rural Kansas area. Five members of the same family were inside the building during its “flight”, and all of them have miraculously survived without injuries.