Does Jesus Really Need Facebook?

As Christians we’ve come up with all kinds of ways to tell people that I love Jesus. It began with bumper stickers on our cars – anybody remember God is My Co-Pilot? and it quickly spread to tee shirts and mugs for your office desk. One of the latest ways to make sure that people know you’re a Christian is your Facebook page.

Have you ever wondered why we need extraneous ways to declare our faith? Is it because people won’t know who we are just by looking at us? If so, what does that say about us?

As Christians don’t we already have a way to declare to other people who we are and where we stand on the person of Jesus Christ? Why do we need a tee-shirt or bumper sticker or Facebook page to tell people that we’re Christians? They should already know that by our lives. And that may be the problem. Perhaps our lives don’t reflect Christ the way they should so, just to make sure people aren’t confused about who we are, we declare it on Facebook.

The Apostle Paul wrote that every Christian is an epistle (a book) . . . known and read by all men (2 Corinthians 3:2).The page of our lives should be enough to show Jesus Christ to anyone who reads it.

Matthew’s gospel adds to this when it says, Let your light (life) so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). If our lives are lived in agreement with the Word of God so that they shine out the person of Jesus, people will see who we are and that will lead them to give glory to God.

I’m not sure if a Facebook page can do that. God is into people not technology.

As a Christian, your life is like the page of a book. Make sure that the people who read your book are reading something worthwhile.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

A Word of Caution to the Church

There is a movement in our country (it’s possible that it’s wider spread than just the U.S.) that is threatening the Church of Jesus Christ. I don’t know what to call it but I do know what it looks like.

It looks a lot like politics.

In all of the finger-pointing, political posturing, marches, social media posts and just general conversations that are taking place around the hot button issues of today (immigration, reproductive rights, the economy, the Supreme Court appointments, etc.), we are in danger of forgetting who we are as Christians.

So let me remind all of us (not the least, myself) that we are the FAMILY of God, united under one banner, in one name, for one cause.

Our unity in Jesus Christ must be stronger than our political differences.

Anything that divides us is not worth it – no, it is Wrong!

Something can be wrong for the Christian on several levels.

-It can be wrong because it is contrary to the teaching of God’s Word (don’t push your political agenda too far here. There are great brothers and sisters on different sides of most political issues).

-It can be wrong because we have allowed it to achieve something that it never should have achieved (IE division – see 1 Corinthians 1. I’m of the Democrats. I’m of the Republicans. I’m of the Libertarians – my paraphrase).

-It can be wrong because we have elevated it to a place to which it should never have been elevated (IE above the church of Jesus Christ – see Colossians 1:18).

I’m sure that all of these apply to various people in the church.

My point is not to stifle political debate among Christians. It’s to make sure that we keep the debates in their proper place. The temporal (earthly politics) can never be allowed to supersede the spiritual (the Family of God).

We can agree to disagree but we can never agree to separate or divide over earthly matters. They are simply not as important as the Church.

If we have to get rid of something it has to be that which has the potential to divide us.

But it seems that many Christians are willing to jettison the unity of the church in favor of expressing their political opinions.

We are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Not eager to engage in verbal combat.

One of the passages that the Haitian Christians often share with their American visitors is Psalm 133. Verse one puts it into context – Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Unity among Christians is good, it is pleasant. Division is not.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Christians Don’t Need Another Celebrity

For some reason Christians seem to need celebrities. When a Christian achieves celebrity status our chests swell with pride. One of us has made it! We finally have value. When someone with a connection to Hollywood or professional sports becomes a Christian the internet explodes with rejoicing. But it’s not exactly a Luke 15:10 rejoicing. It’s like we need someone with celebrity status to validate our existence. A celebrity Christian lets us hold our heads up high. We need our Tim Tebows.

None of this is new. When I was young and living on the West coast in the 60’s our Boys Brigade group traveled to Oakland to hear all star baseball player Felipe Alou give his testimony. We were awestruck. We weren’t just in the presence of a Christian – we were in the presence of a bon a fide star who believed like we believed. There was a lot of hero worshipping going on that night. We went away convinced that what we believed was real – it HAD to be, he believed it too.

Times haven’t changed. We still get giddy whenever a celebrity announces that they have accepted Christ. One of the recent stories circulating the Christian realm is that action hero, Sylvester Stallone became a Christian several years ago. An article has popped up twice in the past week on my Facebook page (this is not a criticism of those dear friends – good people all – who posted it). The title was, Sylvester Stallone: I Have Surrendered My Life to Jesus Christ, and the article linked to a video produced in 2006 by Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Robertson could hardly contain his enthusiasm that another poor soul had been rescued from the evil clutches of Hollywood.

The only trouble is that nowhere in the video did Stallone make that confession. He talked about God and how his life in Hollywood had gotten out of control but he never confessed Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. To his discredit Robertson never pressed him on the issue. The entire interview was more about publicity for the latest Rocky movie than it was a testimony for Jesus Christ.

Since that interview Stallone has said things that are cause for serious skepticism. For example in a 2010 interview with GQ magazine he was asked about eternity. Here’s the exchange:

Q: Do you ever have any concerns about your own mortality?

A: I don’t believe that we go anyplace. You make your heaven and hell right
here, and you are what you leave behind. But don’t think that you’re going to change anything; you’re not.

Not exactly what you would expect to hear from someone who had surrendered his life to Jesus.

When Stallone’s publicity rep was asked in 2013 to verify that Stallone had given his life to Jesus Christ his reply was one word – “wrong”. After first jumping on the Stallone bandwagon, the Conservative Tribune, to their credit, corrected their original report and asked their readers to pray for Stallone’s conversion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy when anyone – famous or not, comes to Christ. What perplexes me is why we get more excited about the thought that perhaps Sylvester Stallone became a Christian than we do about John Doe who lives down the street making a genuine profession of faith. Why does Pat Robertson give a seriously questionable interview to someone who talks all about God but can’t say Jesus is my Lord and Savior? I suspect for Robertson televisions ratings have something to do with it. That’s beyond sad.

Here’s the bottom line: Christians don’t need another celebrity to validate their faith – we already have One and He’s all that we need (Colossians 2:10).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Should You Drink Starbucks Coffee?

By now you have probably read about the Starbucks controversy. It’s all over the internet. It centers around Starbucks’ Christmas coffee cups. I don’t patronize Starbucks – I don’t even like their coffee. But that’s not the point.

There are Christians who are as mad as hel . . . sorry I got carried away for a moment. Anyway they’re mad because Starbucks has removed all Christmas decorations from their coffee cups and replaced them with a simple red cup.

Well some – many evangelical Christians are up in arms about it. They see it as an attack on our Christian values and they’re not going to take it anymore!

I’d like to offer an alternative perspective from the pen of Professor Clifford Stumme from Liberty University. He just says it better than I could.

You don’t need to agree with him – just hear him out and ask yourself if what he says makes sense for Christians.

If you want to read his original article (which I have duplicated below) you can read it at http://cliffordstumme.com/2015/11/06/merrychristmasstarbucks-is-a-symptom-of-pointless-conservative-christian-self-martyrdom/

#merrychristmasstarbucks Is a Symptom of Pointless Conservative Christian Self-Martyrdom

You may have seen the pictures or videos Conservative Christians are spreading around the Internet of the words “Merry Christmas” handwritten on Starbucks’s redesigned red Christmas cups.

The phenomenon was started by Joshua Feuerstein, a former evangelist and current antagonist of “political correctness.” He realized that Starbucks had redesigned its cups to remove festive Christmas tree branches and ornaments, and had made its cup much more simple, with a sleek, red design.

Feuerstein claimed that Starbucks employees are no longer allowed to say “Merry Christmas” on the job (and a real-live Starbucks barista has debunked this claim in the comments below–thanks, Judi). He concluded that Starbucks was making war on Christmas and filmed this video:

(Note: here’s the link to the video if you want to watch it, Pastor Steve. https://www.facebook.com/joshua.feuerstein.5/videos/689569711145714/)

Feuerstein says in the description of his video: “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus … SO I PRANKED THEM … and they HATE IT!!!!

I did some quick research and found what Feuerstein found: Starbucks through its VP of Design & Content claims that “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs . . . This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

This leads me to conclude what Feuerstein concludes: Starbucks is being more inclusive of holidays and what people celebrate this time of year.

What Feuerstein doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that (1) Starbucks is an international company that markets to people both in America and elsewhere who do not celebrate Christmas and (2) that even if Starbucks was run by Christians (which recent decisions by the company suggest it isn’t) wishing people Merry Christmas does not directly spread the Gospel. As it is, Christmas is almost completely taken over by consumerist capitalism. Any blow to Christmas in America is a blow not directly to Christ, but maybe more likely to Wal-Mart or .

What is Feuerstein doing wrong? There are five things I’d like to talk with him about if he’d be willing to contact me:

1. He’s trying to impose Christian morals on a secular company. Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth that holds spiritual meaning for Christians. The rest of the world celebrates other things on December 25th and certainly the least festive thing is to try to make people feel guilty or stupid for not acknowledging your holiday.

2. He’s confusing a greeting with the holiday. Christmas is larger and bigger and will happen whether a company recognizes it or not.

3. He’s taking the battle to a company rather than to the hearts and minds of people. As we’ve seen in the past few months, Starbucks tends to serve as a stomping grounds for flashy, dramatic conservative Christian performances of antagonistic faith. It is a great place to demonstrate how you stand up to the “liberals of the world,” and because Starbucks wants your money and for you to like them, they won’t fight back. They don’t care. These people are still buying coffee. And, incidentally, while Starbucks is demonstrated at, friends and neighbors who could be being loved or given truth to about the Gospel are being ignored.

4. He’s equating Christianity with conservatism. Conservatives are right about a lot–I identify as one–but Christian does not equal conservative and certainly doesn’t equal American or gun-owner. When Feuerstein flashes his gun and challenges “all great Americans and Christians” to “prank” Starbucks as though they are the same thing (probably something he could clarify but which his syntax implies), he’s completely wrong.

5. Feuerstein isn’t convincing anyone. By accusing Starbucks of hating Jesus in his video description, he’s vilifying them and using flashy click-bait tactics to spread his video. His tactics encourage disagreement and win-lose situations.

What should we be doing?

If you’re an American and a Christian worried about the growing absence of Christ in public businesses or institutions there are three things that we can do that won’t make the situation worse:

1. We can stop martyring ourselves with no cause and stop “fighting back” with flashy, viral, passive-aggressive demonstrations. Losing a Christmas greeting on a cup is very small battle compared to the battle for the one neighbor you’ve been meaning to tell about Jesus but haven’t gotten around to talking to yet. Starbucks isn’t persecuting us and even if they were, our marching orders from Christ himself are simple: “Turn the other cheek.”

2. Do extraordinary acts of love. It’s not about winning arguments or using brute shows of force. By the way, if Feurestein is correct in saying that tens of thousands of Christians have visited Starbucks in the last 20 hours and done this, that’s at least $100,000 worth of business he’s sent to his opponent. Starbucks is laughing all the way to the bank. And if Feuerstein’s sarcastic, flippant, aggressive attitude is indicative of the attitudes of those working with him, Starbucks employees probably aren’t being convinced of the extraordinary love of Christ.

3. Stop equating Christianity with America or conservatism or gun rights. Civilizations come and go. They are mortal in the truest sense as C. S. Lewis points out in The Weight of Glory. Human souls are eternal. If we were expelled from America, lost all of our guns, or couldn’t vote for Republican candidates anymore, we Christians would still be Christians, and we could still follow Christ. The rest of that can melt away. (Admittedly, such a situation sounds terrible, and it’d be difficult for me to let go of some of those things peacefully, but Christ is in me perfecting me so that I truly can cling to Him when I lose everything else.)

That’s all I’ve got to say, and I’d love to chat with Mr. Feuerstein if he’s available. I’m sorry to my regular readers for deviating from my pop song analyses. Have a wonderful day everyone, and let’s love people well.

As I said at the beginning, you may not agree with everything Professor Stumme said, but there’s a lot there to digest.

Matthew 10:16 – Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Secret Life of a Pastor – Part 1

PastorBeing a pastor is an interesting job. Sometimes it’s rewarding, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you want to quit, sometimes you revel in the joy. Sometimes you see spiritual progress in the lives of people, many times you don’t. Some days you wonder if God really knew what He was doing when He led you into ministry, sometimes you’re confident that He has a plan.

It’s complicated.

Recently an article was published on churchleaders.com with the title These Are Your Pastor’s Secrets: Read Slowly. Written by a former pastor it detailed many of the frustrations that pastors struggle with.

And why so many pastors leave the ministry.

The dangers in republishing an article like this are many:

-everyone will think that there are problems in my church

-someone in my church will take it personally and become angry

-people will think that I’m fishing for compliments

-it will embarrass my wife or children

I realize that I can’t totally avoid these dangers. And that even if I give a disclaimer some people will read more into this than they should. But this is much bigger than me or my church and many people outside my church read this blog. In fact there are more people outside my church who read this than there are inside.

So this is for all of us.

I also know some people think that they know everything about their pastor – what he’s thinking; why he responds to you the way he does; how he feels. Trust me, you have no idea. After reading this I hope that you’ll have a little better idea.

So much more could have been said by the author and I’ll try to resist the urge to expand too much on what he has written. However at the end of each point I’ll add some of my own thoughts in italics. I’ll mark it clearly so you’ll be able to tell what is the author’s and what is mine.

Because of the length of this article I’ll split it into two blogs, one this week and the second one next week.

So for those of you who are either curious or brave enough, here’s Part 1 of These Are Your Pastor’s Secrets: Read Slowly

“My dad was a minister in a church. My uncles were ministers. My cousin’s a minister. About 30 of my best friends are, or were, ministers.

I was a minister, until I quit seven years ago. Probably forever.

It’s difficult being a minister. In the hard times, I always felt like many of the people in the church didn’t really understand us. Where our hearts were, how we were feeling, what our intentions were, how best to help us help the church. Which often felt dysfunctional.

And I spent a lot of my down time thinking about a list of things I wish the church understood.

But while I was in the position, saying them would have sounded only like whining. Or it would have been uncomfortably vulnerable.

Now that I’m seven years removed from ministry, with no chance of returning, I want to offer some of these things to you who attend church regularly, hoping that they might be received in a different, more constructive spirit. I’ve really got nothing invested here any more, except love and respect for my brothers and sisters who do this for a living. And a hope that I can make someone’s life just a little better.

A disclaimer is in order. I ran these by a large handful of ministers this week, and most of them said something akin to ‘Yes, exactly!’ But there were one or two who responded saying that they’ve had a different, better experience with ministry, and that most of these don’t apply to them. But I think it’s fair to say that about nine out of 10 ministers relate strongly to most of what’s here.

It might also be weird that I’ve written them in the first person, as though I’m currently a minister. I’m not. But since I was born and bred and trained for it, and since I did it for so many years, I’m placing myself back into the fold for this post. Most of it comes from my own personal experience anyway.

So here’s what your minister wishes you understood. Give it a read, give it some thought and give him or her a bigger hug than usual tomorrow morning.

1. Our greatest fear is irrelevance.

It’s not losing our jobs, hurting your feelings or accidentally saying the F word during a sermon.

Those fears are there. But they are nothing compared to the nagging fear that what we say and do is making zero difference in your life.

That you are only showing up to church because of habit, or obligation or mental illness. That we are laying ourselves bare to write and deliver a sermon every week that nobody is hearing.

If your pastor has made an actual difference in your life ever, by word or deed or example or friendship, take some time this week to let him or her know, in as much detail as you can. You cannot imagine how far that will go.

My thoughts

I can relate to this. Pastors are pastors because they want to make a real difference in people’s lives. It’s not for the money (God knows!). It’s not for the fame. It’s not to live a comfortable life. It’s because we believe that teaching the Word of God can make a real difference in people’s lives. Yet we rarely see the difference. And we won’t know unless you share it with us.

I’m not fishing for compliments. I would just like to know that what I spend my life doing actually makes a difference in someone’s life. Anyone’s life.

And I take it very seriously when God says that I will give an account to Him for the people in my church (Hebrews 13:17). Frankly that terrifies me.

2. We are mama’s boys. 

Apologies to the female pastors, this one’s just about the guys. I’ve read studies that higher than 80 percent of male pastors say they are much closer to their mothers than their fathers.

This has a lot of implications, and it explains why we’re more likely to play an instrument than fire a gun, have coffee with a friend than watch a game, read a book than restore an old Mustang. It also means that nobody in the church gets our attention as much as the old ladies, who can make or break our day with a kind word or a disapproving scowl.

When you’re dealing with your male pastor, keep in mind that he’s more likely to speak the language of nurture over discipline, collaboration over competition, forgiveness over punishment. These aren’t things he learned in seminary, these are things he learned in diapers.

My thoughts

OK, anyone who knows me, knows that I’d rather fire the gun, watch a football game and restore the Mustang (although I do like to read a good history). So even I don’t relate to this point very well – sorry.

3. She or he sees you when you’re sleeping.

Some people in the pews think there’s a two way mirror between them and the pulpit, that they can see the pastor but the pastor can’t see them.

Wrong. We see you yawn, look at your phone, whisper something into your wife’s ear. Sleep.

Which is fine. If we’re boring, it’s not your fault, it’s ours.

But just be aware that we see you, and that if you can manage to at least look like you’re a little more interested, it might actually feed some energy back to us and give us more zing. Energy goes two ways.

My thoughts

I’ve been blessed in both my churches to have most people at least look like they’re interested in what I have to say. There is the occasional sleeper, but most people listen.

All I can say is thank you!

4. We think about quitting a lot.

Behind closed doors, most ministers talk about moving on with regularity.

The job is hard in a way that people who’ve never done it cannot understand. Not physically, or even mentally. But emotionally, it can wreck you. I don’t fully understand why, although I have theories.

But just know, when you’re choosing how to interact with her or him, that your pastor is probably hurting and tired and wishing she or he could quit. And that, in most cases, the only thing keeping him or her there is a sense of love and obligation to you. Be gentle, sensitive and grateful for that.

My thoughts

Thankfully this has not been my experience – at least not most days. While I don’t think a lot about quitting, I do think a lot about why I’m not more effective; why I can’t motivate people to be more godly; why our church isn’t making more of an impact for Christ.

5. We envy people who can be themselves. 

We wish we could cuss or mess up without it making headlines. We wish we could be enthusiastic about a hobby without people raising their eyebrows about how much time and money we’re spending on it. We wish we could make angry political remarks on Facebook.

You know, all the things that you feel free to do all the time.

You want us to be human, but not too human. Believe me, we know. And it’s probably for the best that we are charged with setting a good example, it makes sense. But just know, we sometimes envy your freedom to just be yourself.”

My thoughts

This is not only true of the pastor but of the pastor’s wife and children. Everyone has certain expectations of the pastor’s family. Expectations that no one has of your wife or family.

Even if you can’t let the pastor just be human, please don’t put expectations on his wife or children that you don’t want someone putting on your wife or children. Remember, you didn’t hire my wife or children. Whatever they do in the church they are volunteers just like you. Please give them space. Don’t impose your expectations for me onto them.

OK, back to me. I hope this was enlightening. It has been my experience that most people in the churches that I’ve been privileged to serve are kind and supportive. However, I think that this is still helpful, even if it’s just to give you an insight into the life and mind of a pastor.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Some Thought-Provoking Observations

If you’ve read my blog for very long you know that I occasionally reblog (is that even a word?) something I’ve read that I think is worth passing on.

The following was written by Pastor Carey Nieuwhof, pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto Canada. He’s one of a group of pastors that I call the young guns. They’re young, energetic, passionate pastors, mostly under the age of 40 who are making a noticeable difference for Christ.

I think you’ll find his article enlightening even if you don’t agree with him on every point.

I’ve had to remove many of his links so if you want to follow them, you can find his original blog at http://careynieuwhof.com/2015/07/5-stupid-things-the-church-needs-to-stop-doing-to-make-progress/. Just clip and paste it into your browser.

So here it is, weird Canadian spellings, thought-provoking title and all.

5 Stupid Things The Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress

The church has more than its share of critics these days.

Sometimes the criticism is unwarranted. People project their issues onto a congregation or onto the church, which is never healthy.

And, of course, the church will inevitably run into criticism.

What we’re doing is counter-cultural and will never be met with universal applause. The Gospel, even when powerfully shared, got John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, Jesus and the prophets killed, just to name a few.

While it seems strange to say it, even love, when seen fully and magnificently, gets rejected.

But other times we absolutely deserve the criticism that comes our way.

Often these days, it seems, we’re not ridiculed or persecuted because we’re fighting nobly. Nope, sometimes we just shoot ourselves in the foot.

Here are 5 things that, in my view, would help the mission of the church become more authentic and more effective if we could just stop doing them.

1. Being So Weird Online

Too many Christians come across online as either

Toxic (Hello angry ranters, trolls and haters);

Cynical (Yes, we know you’re disappointed with everyone all the time and no one gets it as right as you); or

Syrupy (So sweet we can’t stand the taste and are not really sure you live in the real world)

Why do so many Christians think their social media feed is a place to show the world their weirdness?

It gives the impression that if you’re going to follow Jesus you also need to become socially awkward.

I know people might say “no, I’m just being authentic”. But being authentic does not mean being weird.

I think a general rule is if you can’t imagine saying it in real life to a person, you shouldn’t say it online.

If you go to post something and you think, well, that would be braggy if I said that to someone, that’s a healthy check. It means you’d be bragging. So don’t post it.

Similarly, if you think “Well, people would just walk out of the room if I said that in real life,” then maybe don’t say it.

If you’re always angry or cynical or all you do is complain online and you think “well, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that in real life,” then that’s a clue that maybe you shouldn’t say it, or be like that.

And if you think “well, then I’ll have nothing to post,” then you’ve likely put your finger on a deeper issue.

Christians, let’s just stop being so weird online, okay?

2. Commenting on Politics

Part of the weirdness is political.

God is not a Republican or a Democrat, or in my country, a Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat. Nor is God an independent.

God is God.

When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church.

Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government.

As I shared in more detail here, Jesus and Paul spend surprisingly little time trying to influence the government. Jesus completely rejected the idea of becoming the government when people asked him to become their political leader.

I know some will say “well, God has opinions about things happening today”.
I’m sure he does.

But when authentic Christians sincerely share different views on subjects, we should be very careful about speaking for God.

And, after all, when God happens to have all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not even worshipping God anymore.

You might be worshipping yourself.

3. Handling Conflict So Poorly

The church should be the best in the world at handling conflict. We were taught by Jesus exactly how to do it.

Yet we often side step. We gossip. We talk about other people rather than to people.

We avoid conflict. Or we run into it like a bulldozer claiming we’re all about truth.

If we just handled conflict humbly, gently, introspectively and bravely, we would be so much better.

If you really want to see how to restore someone in love, listen to this message by Andy Stanley on judgment and helping others who are sinning. It’s brilliant.

If we handled conflict more healthily, our churches would be so much healthier.

And a healthy church is a church that can help other people get healthier.

4. Ranking Sin Selectively

Christians have become fairly good at focusing on the moral failings of others while ignoring their own.

We pretend that the worst sin you can commit is sexual. And—don’t get me wrong—sexual sin has serious implications.

But so does gossip. And divisiveness. And quarrelling—sins Christians routinely ignore. Mostly because we commit them.

I would suggest that just as many congregations have been ruined by gossip, divisiveness and quarrelling as have been stained by sexual sin. But you’d never know it given the way we talk about sin.

I’m all for surrendering our sexuality to Christ. But I’m also all for submitting our propensity to gossip, our divisiveness and our quarrelling to Jesus and dealing with that seriously.

Imagine what the church might look like if that happened.

And we haven’t even touched gossip, gluttony or envy yet, all things with which Christians routinely self-medicate their pain.

Maybe if Christians humbly confessed their sins first, the world would be more likely to come to terms with their sins.

So here’s an idea. Instead of pretending someone else’s sin is worse than your sin, confess your sin.

You’ll be in such a better place if you do that. And so will they.

You might actually be able to help them.

5. Judging Outsiders

This is a pet peeve of mine.

As I outlined here, we in the modern church have largely ignored Paul’s injunction to stop judging non-Christians. Even Jesus said he didn’t come into the world to judge it, but to save it.

I completely get the urge to judge our neighbours and even the world. Things bother me too.

But I have to refrain. Our faith in Christ demands it.

Before ministry, I was a lawyer. In first year law, I remember having a crisis because I couldn’t imagine representing a client I believed might be guilty.

I stayed after class one day to talk to my criminal law professor about it. He assured me of a few things. First, if your client tells you he’s guilty, you can’t ethically enter a non-guilty plea.

That made me feel better.

But then he told me that almost every client says they’re not guilty.
I got nervous again.

“Well what if you think he’s guilty but he says he’s not…doesn’t that put you in a horrible bind?”

I’ll never forget his answer.

“You’re confusing you’re role, Carey. You’re not the judge. You’re his lawyer. Your job is —ethically, morally and legally—to give him the best day he can possibly have in court. The judge will decide whether he’s guilty or not.”

I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.

So Christians, the world has a judge. And it’s not you.

He’s fairer than you. More just than you. More perfect than you. And far more accurate.

In the meantime, do your best to help reconcile your brothers and sister in the world to their heavenly father through Christ. That’s your job.

Take some comfort in that. And for all these reasons and more, stop judging.

Some good advice.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

How Effective is Your Church?

One of the issues that all pastors struggle with is gauging the effectiveness of the church they serve. One of the reasons pastors even care about this issue is because for a pastor, the effectiveness of his church is directly related to the effectiveness of his ministry. After all, pastors like to know that they aren’t just spinning their wheels. They like to know that their lives are counting for something; that they are making a difference. I believe that the vast majority of evangelical pastors desperately want their church to be spiritually effective, to be spiritually health. That is what they give their lives for (obviously in the context of giving their lives in service to Christ).

So what are the things that indicate an effective church? Attendance? Annual growth? Baptisms? Offerings? Number of guests? Percentage of people in small groups? Pastors have used all of these and probably a few more to evaluate the effectiveness of their church. But are these really the marks of an effective church?

A pastor friend recently posted this on his Facebook site (it wasn’t original with him).

THE MARK OF AN EFFECTIVE CHURCH IS NOT HOW MANY PEOPLE COME BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE DIFFERENTLY AS A RESULT OF HAVING BEEN THERE.

Wow! That hit close to home and it hurt (thanks brother RD!). Pastors can’t help but take this personally. Maybe too personally. You see pastors are part of that wonderful process that God uses to change lives. Yes, the Holy Spirit plays a major role and yes, the Word of God is extremely important and yes, the people themselves have a responsibility to change the things in their lives that need to be changed. But the pastor also plays a role. After all, he is the one who is invested with teaching the Word in ways that changes lives (2 Timothy 4:2). He is the one who will answer for the lives of the people in his church (Hebrews 13:17). And that means that when the church isn’t effective the pastor has to shoulder some of the responsibility.

But the bottom line is this – the effectiveness of a church is not about the size of the church, it’s about people who continue to live differently as a result of having been in the church. It’s possible to have a church of a thousand uncommitted people. That would be a church where no one is living differently as a result of having been there. And it’s possible to have a church of fifty people whose lives have been, and are continuing to be changed because they were there (of course pastors want both – a church of a thousand whose lives have been changed!). When we begin to judge the effectiveness of a church by any standard other than changed lives, we are missing the point of church. It’s not about the numbers (and I’m like any other pastor, I’d like bigger numbers!), it’s about the lives. Changed lives.

So back to the question: How Effective is Your Church? No, not your pastor’s church – YOUR church. You. How effective are you as a Christian? Forget the size of your church, have you cooperated with the Spirit of God and the Word of God and seen consistent spiritual change in your life? The effectiveness of your church will depend on the spiritual change in your life and the lives of the other people in your church.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve