4 Questions to Answer Before Leaving Your Church

Depending on your location in the US, many of us can choose from a variety of churches. Our attendance could be at any number of location congregations. This means that many of us will have to think through leaving or staying at our current congregations during challenging times.

I want you to know I understand there are times when God truly will call us to relocate to a new congregation. This isn’t a black and white issue. Leaving is sometimes justified, but so is staying. Sadly, I think we’re more prone to abandoning ship than getting in the trenches.

The decision between staying and leaving can be a weighty one. Here are four questions to answer before you leave your current church family.

  1. Have I prayed for the issue I’m concerned about?Sounds simple, but I would bet the answer is often “no.” By discussing our qualms with God, our minds are calmed, and we become convicted about pessimistic opinions of our church. Ask God what you might do to help the situation. I’ve noticed many times the most intense critics serve the least.
  2. Have you been serving?Whenever I’ve had to weigh through this same decision myself, this has been the most convicting question. My inactivity led to disgruntlement. Serving has a way of helping us buy into the direction and mission of the local church as we lock arms with fellow Christians to advance the gospel.
  3. Have you been an advocate of your pastoral team?They have to deal with everyone’s expectations. Eventually, that takes a toll on them. Pastors need to be encouraged, probably more than laypeople. They’re pouring their lives out in service. If we encourage them, we may see God change our thoughts to a more positive outlook.
  4. What are your expectations?And, I’ll add, are they realistic? Every church is full of imperfections. It will be that way until God unites us in eternity. To be honest, our expectations don’t really matter. We’re to embrace what is expected of us– to be contributing, Christ honoring members of a local congregation that promotes healthy local churches. We are called to contribute, not to consume.

Answering these four questions may help you do some honest soul searching. Try and find reasons why you are considering leaving, bring them before the Lord, and let Him lead you to stay or find a church that you can readily contribute to.

5 Traits of a Christian Work Ethic

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. – Colossians 3:23 (CSB)

…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (CSB) 

I’m a big fan of podcasts, so I listen to quite a few throughout the week. Recently, I listened to The Art of Manliness’ episode titled “What It Means to Be a Quiet Professional” (if you’d like to listen, click the link(s) at the bottom of this post).

Guest Rob Haul works with and trains American special forces troops. From those interactions he has learned the art of being a quiet craftsman. 

Rob’s insights drew a lot of connections to the verses I listed above. Taking Rob’s thoughts a step further, I want to unpack a Christian work ethic that is biblically similar to Rob’s philosophy of work.

Here are five foundational traits of a Christian work ethic. 

  1. Work with quiet humility. Christians should be folks who let their work speak for them, opting to never self-promote, unlike the co-worker who can’t go five minutes without talking about his latest and greatest excel spreadsheet. In the words of the Proverb, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth – a stranger, not your own lips” (27:2, NLT). 
  2. Work that is quality craftsmanship. Christians don’t cut corners. We should understand that we are never perfect, but strive to do our work to the highest quality we can within the time window provided. 
  3. Work that flows out of constant learning. The Christian understands that he or she can always get better at a job. Learning keeps us humble and sharp. It progresses and refines the skills of our trades. 
  4. Work as opportunities to bring glory to God. Good work will get recognized, and that recognition will build relationships with influential people. My dad has a great reputation in his company, and consequentially gets to show the love of Jesus to important superiors. Proverbs 22:29, one of my life verses, says “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” (NASB). 
  5. Work that demonstrates contentment. One trait I admire most about my dad is that he fulfills his role at work with honor and dignity. Never once have I ever heard him talk about exposing another colleague to get ahead. Why? Because he is fully devoted to doing his current job well, and he leaves promotions in the divine hands of his Father. 

We will spend the majority of our lives at work. Let’s leverage those opportunities to share the gospel through our vocations. 

Podcast:

For Spotify users: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5fIkPm2dXyfUGGDXGkYt1E?si=BHnMWexbRiq7Hf7P-EP2aA

For iTunes users: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/389-what-it-means-to-be-a-quiet-professional/id332516054?i=1000406972378&mt=2

You Might Want to Be a Famous Minister If…

The struggle for power and influence is certainly in the church. There are many on-ramps for ministers to gain influence (like the internet, social media, etc.). I’ve observed fellow seminarians who are primarily ambitious about one thing.

What is this one thing? As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, many in ministry prep settings, and those already serving as vocational ministers, are driven by fame.

Reality is, a fractional number of men in Bible colleges and seminaries will ever be the face of a large ministry, so why are so many young men driven to achieve this level of popularity?

Before I unpack this thought, let me clarify. There is nothing wrong with God-given influence. We can look at the life of Billy Graham and undeniably see the sovereignty of God in Billy’s vocational appointment on this earth. The problem is when ministers become driven to achieve popular status instead of choosing faithfulness.

So, you might want to be a famous minister if…

  1. People are a means to an end for you. This is so easy to spot. Constant forgetting of names, superior spiritual language discussing “when I traveled here” and when I was talking with [insert other famous Christian] are all indicators that people are nothing more than status symbols to you.
  2. You’re enamored by people who are famous. There’s nothing wrong with having role models, but if you really really want to be popular, you’re probably secretly jealous of those guys speaking at large conferences and conventions. If they release a how-to book for ministry, you’ll eat it up because it might contain the secret formula to your big break.
  3. You see one-on-one ministry as less significant than mass ministry. If sharing a meal with a church member is less of a priority to you than your limelight moment on stage, something is off. Christ made both ministries equal, and many of His most powerful moments were between Him and one other person (ex: John 4, the women at the well).
  4. You use social media like other famous Christians (without their platform). For some reason there is this new trend of young ministers using their social medias as if they have thousands of people paying attention. It’s impersonal (as if the internet were ever “personable”).
  5. You want people’s affirmation, not their transformation. Plain and simple, do you desire that people see Jesus in you (which means you’ll get a lot less attention), or do you secretly want them to constantly praise you for your efforts? Does the sermon need to be effective because people are spiritually starved or because your reputation needs some boosting? Just food for thought…

My prayer is that more and more young guys will start to see ministry as the emptying of ourselves instead of the filling of our egos. As always, we must check our pride to make sure Christ is the end goal of His ministry through us.

The Silence of Suffering

We’ve heard of suffering in silence. Although this can lead to intense feelings of loneliness, sometimes we experience beautiful times with the Lord in the quiet.

As I’ve reflected on times of suffering in my life and in the lives of those I know, I see a new element of suffering, and I want to take a short moment to highlight it.

My thought is this: when we suffer we seem to work our way into a quiet place, where we listen better. The listening can take different forms. Maybe we value the Word more. Maybe our thoughts are more prayerful. Either way, the silence becomes a space to hear the voice of God.

Suffering cleanses our spiritual ears to hear what He’s saying. We learn a heightened sensitivity to His voice. Those who are truly hurting need only a whisper from God.

Communication with the Father is tangible, almost audible when we need it the most. Then we begin to know “man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, CSB). Prayer is essential for survival of the sufferer.

In the silence of suffering we hear the echoing voice of the Holy Spirit, as He comforts, consoles, and guides us in our darkest days. Rest in the silence, as you listen for your Savior.

Slow Down

I love my friends. Each has such a special place in my life. God has given me many gifts through my friends. Among those many gifts are timely, astounding conversations. You know the type – they’re natural, they just seem to flow at the right time out of a pleasant place.

Last Friday night was one of those times for me. I rarely mention names in my posts, but I want to because…well, it’s Dave (ironically, he doesn’t read these posts, so he will never know).

Dave embodies many things worthy of emulation, but last Friday he reminded me of a key truth. I want to share it with you.

Slow down.

I’m practical. I live for efficiency. Everything in my day is planned out to be as time-saving as possible. My devotions are pointed and disciplined.

Dave is chill. He’s been in Romans for, like, two years…He said that casually, but the statement rattled around in my head for a while. He reminded me to actually engage what I read in the Bible. True transformation doesn’t come by consuming copious amounts but by having real encounters with the truths written on its pages. To use Eugene Peterson’s term, it has to be “metabolized” into our systems. It must be ingested, digested, and put to use for it to become real to us.

God is as interested in the journey as the destination. He is growing us every step of the way, so why rush His words? Shouldn’t we savor them?

For me, I needed to be reminded to slow down in my personal study. I was losing more than I was gaining in my old method of reading. In what areas of life might you need to slow down? It’s worth praying through…

Created to Care

This side of eternity is scarred by pain, heartache, disappointment, and danger. Simply living can feel treacherous. Because we live under the curse of sin, all of us will suffer circumstances that we would rather avoid.

When God allows life to take us through a valley, it can be easy to lose sight of reality in the shadows. We will experience this, and so will the people in our lives.

As Christians, this should create a unique bond among us. Here is a question for you to consider: how much do you care about other people’s hardships?

Take a second or two to really think through your answer to that question. I have noticed in my own heart and in the lives of many other Christians a coldness towards the suffering of others…until it’s you.

If we wait to care for the hurting until we are hurting, it will be too late. Here are four questions to consider when you are ministering to someone who is suffering. The first two are introspective, meaning they will (hopefully) correct faulty thinking. The last two are calls to action, asking what can I do to help this person through their difficult season. I challenge myself with these questions often.

  1. If I had their circumstances, how would my emotional health be? This question may seem like an odd place to start, but often people who are going through impossible circumstances feel like they’re drowning emotionally. Ask some basic questions about how they are, and if they put a guard up, gently persist. If you show genuine care, you might be surprised at what comes out. The information they share may help them as they get a chance to process with a friend and experience outward sympathy.
  2. Can I be a source of joy for this burdened person? You can see it on their face. It looks like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I’m an over thinker. One of God’s greatest gifts to me when I’m walking through hard times is friends that make me laugh. Can you be the same source of timely humor for someone who is burdened today? Be on the lookout for a long face.
  3. What unmet needs can I minister to? Sometimes people are hurting physically and could use some help cleaning around their house. Maybe they’re hungry. You may even be able to help out financially with some medication. Without being condescending, check on how their material needs are being supplied and see if you can make any practical contributions.
  4. Have I asked enough questions? Not everyone welcomes questions, but I would bet most people enjoy verbalizing their struggles. It helps dispel loneliness. Ask thorough, genuine questions. They will be so grateful.

Of course, all of these depend on the fact that you actually care. If you feel cold or distant from hurting folks, pray that God might break your heart for the things that break His, then be His hands and feet to minister to the broken around.

Christian Millennial’s Number One Unaddressed Issue

Although we take a lot of criticism, millennials possess many strengths. We yearn for success in our families, handle money surprisingly well (when we have it!), and are notoriously socially inclusive.*

But there is something I believe Christian millennials are doing that I fear will have unforeseen consequences.

I believe the greatest issue facing our generation is a delayed sense of seriousness about the Lord. I have observed a lack of complete submission to the Lord in the millennial workforce and college setting.

I know this feeling well, as this was much of my own college experience. Even while knowing I was called to pursue ministry preparation, I still found myself cyclically walking through seasons asking one big question: Is the price of holiness worth the sacrifice of worldliness? 

This is where our generation is. Many see their peers living in “self-discovery,” experimenting with sin to see which flavor they like better – Christ, or living for self.

Playing with sin puts the Christian in a holding pattern. When we see following Christ in this light, our reasoning says, “I’ll get serious when I’m dating, or married, or when the kids come, or when…” There is never a true resolution because devoting all of ourselves to Christ is a matter of the will, not emotions.

To conclude, the source of this issue is unique to each individual, but we can still trace it’s origin to how millennials answer whether or not the price of holiness is worth the sacrifice of worldliness.

We need to remember that any worldly experience lost cannot compare to the joys of knowing Christ more (Phil 3:8). Obedience is rewarded with a greater knowledge and experience of God. No sin will ever satisfy like the gift of knowing Christ more intimately.

So, I ask my millennial readers, is the price of holiness worth the sacrifice of worldliness? I pray you will answer with a confident “yes.” For my older readers, please help us in this area. We can use your direction! The time to follow the Lord seriously is now!

*The 8 Greatest Strengths of Generation Y. (2014, February 03). Retrieved February 03, 2018, from http://www.onlinecollege.org/the-8-greatest-strengths-of-generation-y/