What Do You Do in Galilee?

followers

“He departed to Galilee…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Isaiah…The people who sat is darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” Matthew 4:12-16

Here in Matthew 4:12-16, Jesus started His ministry. It was immediately after His baptism, and then the Bible tells us He began to preach. Jesus ministry began in Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to Capernaum.

Very often the call of God is moving from a place we know into the unknown. It’s a shove of our faith to launch out into the unexpected. Maybe God is moving you from a safe place to a stretch place?

Are you ready?

Whatever the season of life we all start out in Galilee. It’s the first place of ministry. We may not feel prepared but for that place we are. You may not be a polished pastor, a gifted speaker, or a well-worn writer but Galilee is calling you.

Like Jesus, we must go because those folks who are there are either lost (“darkness”) or in the “shadow of death” (maybe of hope) and a new light must dawn. We are the ones who should bring the light of Christ to every ministry God calls us to.

Our text says the people “have seen a great light.” When Saul (Paul) was called, that’s exactly what He saw. However, it’s a humbling call. Paul would later write some of the most beautiful words on God’s call in the Bible:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

He tells them all I know is Jesus, the Great Light. Then Paul says, I was weak, scared, and didn’t have the right words. Been there?

When God calls us to Galilee, Corinth, or the Church in the Wildwood, we just give them Jesus. In our speech, spirit, and especially in our actions. When Jesus is all we know, then the people will see His light in us.

Are you in Galilee?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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How to Make Others Better

others

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Philippians 2:3

We speak a lot about leadership. Being strong leaders, focused leaders, and growing as a leader.

But how do we make others better when we aren’t leading? Do we lead from behind?

During the Second Great Awakening in America, Charles Finney was in the forefront among the great evangelists. God was using him to change the culture of the church. He began what we call modern day evangelism.

Many people know him.

However, few know the name, Daniel Nash.

Daniel Nash was born in 1775 at an unknown place in the USA. No one knows what happened in his life before he was 40.

What we do know about him is at the age of 40 he became the pastor of a Presbyterian church in upper New York State. During his first year there, around 70 people were saved in something of a mini-revival.

But he withdrew after being voted out of the church. The rejection from those he loved wounded him deeply. Also, as a result of a serious eye infection, he spent several weeks in a dark room where he could not read or write.

The broken preacher began to pray earnestly, and so began one of the greatest prayer evangelism ministries ever.

Nash, at the age of 48, dedicated his life to prayer. Long before Finney would arrive in a town, Nash would be there in an empty cellar or boarding house room praying for the power of God to enter the city.

Finney told this story: “When I got to town to start a revival, a lady contacted me who ran a boarding house.”

The lady said, “Brother Finney, do you know a Father Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten a bite of food.”

She continued,“I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning, and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days, lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in and I didn’t know what to do. Would you please come see about them?”

“No, it isn’t necessary,” Finney replied. “They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.”

Finney knew that God sent Nash to help make him a better preacher. Finney said this about Nash, “He concentrated entirely on praying for people who were so hard that they could not be reached in any other way.”

Nash is a mighty example of how God changed a man’s circumstance to make someone else better. We don’t talk about that much, but how many of us have had people who have strengthened our faith?

Being fired as a pastor isn’t what preachers aspire to. It is even viewed as negative on our resume. But God has a way of taking our worse tragedy and changing it to a mighty triumph.

Within four months of Nash’s death, Finney left evangelism for the pastorate. The great prayer warrior of his crusades was gone.

If you want to see the grave of Daniel Nash, you have to drive to upper New York, almost to the Canadian border. There, in a neglected cemetery along a dirt road, you will find a tombstone that says it all:

DANIEL NASH
Laborer with Finney
MIGHTY IN PRAYER

Pastor Rodney

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Pastor, Are “THEY” or “THEM” in Your Church Too?

crowd of people

“They” have been in every church I served and they seem to be members of every church my friend’s pastor. “They” show up in Deacon’s meetings, committee meetings, phone calls, and even in emails.

Who are they?

“Pastor, they are upset. The decision you made, the phone call you didn’t make, the out-patient surgery you missed, they got their feelings hurt. You pastor offended them.”

That’s right “they” have family members named “them.”

They and them have been around a while. They are easily offended and they never give you the benefit of the doubt. They question your motives, shake your hand, and even give a friendly smile.

You may never know who they are because they never talk with you, they go to others and talk about you. And, we never know how many of them there is.

They ruin our sleep, and can even wreck our ministry. Jesus speaks to they and them and how to deal with those people.

1.Don’t Worry

Would it help if Jesus dealt with them too? Jesus told the disciples about them. “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour. What you should speak:” Matthew 10: 19

Is it possible to not worry about them? They will talk, they will complain, and they will hurt our feelings but we aren’t to worry about them.

Sometimes in our churches, they go to other leaders and the leaders don’t know what to do with them. They grew up with them. Now suddenly they are not happy. They need to be heard. Spiritually mature deacons realize these people are the ones who habitually complain.

The next step is to talk with them. But they seem to always be nameless. Even when pushed a church leader will say, “They didn’t want their name mentioned.”

What? How can I find out who they are? If I can’t talk to them, then how can this be fixed?

Jesus speaks again to this, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.”  Matthew 10:23

Sometimes they become louder than the rest of them. They get their way and we are left wondering why this all happened. Rest assured we are not alone.

Jesus gives another way to deal with them:

  1. Do Not Fear

“Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” Matthew 10:26

Fear paralyzes us. Jesus says that they will be brought out into the light. That’s right Jesus will uncover them. They will not remain anonymous. These people will not stay hidden forever.

We may not see them here but Jesus will have an uncovering party in heaven. The hidden words will be revealed. The secret meetings will be seen.

Please know pastor, names will be taken. The scales will be balanced. We may have to move churches but God will move heaven to make this happen.

They will answer. I’m starting to feel better about them. How about you?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Why Do Pastor’s Grow Weary?

weary-traveler

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9

You’ve seen it. Your pastor just isn’t as happy as he used to be. The smile isn’t as wide. His eyes don’t glow when he talks to people. His joy has faded.

He’s weary. Worn out.

If you are a pastor you’ve felt it. You are not preaching with the same gusto. Studying is a struggle. Prayer feels like a prick in your heart.

Your heart? Yes, that’s where the problem lies.

As our verse says our hope is that we can go around “doing good.” We want to plant seed and watch it grow in do-good garden. The fruit of our work starts with us being able to cultivate hearts that are fertile for God.

But, the reality is not every heart is fertile. Some just want us to do what they think we should do. That’s why Paul said, “not grow weary.” Like a crop of doing good, weeds begin to spring up and need to be plucked.

“Dealt with” is probably a better phrase. See, people and problems are always intertwined in the do-good garden.

People have agendas and they want something from us. Sometimes their agendas keep us from doing good. They place us in situations we can’t succeed in and then the failure weed grows in our heart.

People begin to talk about us. Sometimes what they are saying isn’t even true. A complaint. A critique. A criticism.

What can we do? Keep going and growing.

Without growth the plant dies. Without spiritual growth the heart dies. We have to keep praying, reading our Bibles, studying, witnessing, and ministering to the people. If we let a person keep us from growing, we will quit going to people and doing good.

That’s what the enemy wants. Discouragement is the greatest weed the enemy plants.

As I said earlier, people and problems are intertwined in ministry. Problems are always connected to people. We have to deal with people continually. When problems aren’t dealt with they grow.

Then we cannot reap the harvest. Weeds have choked out healthy growth. The church garden is weed infested.

When we feel like there is no fruit, no growth, we give up.

First, it’s just in our heart. Then it’s written all over our face. Our smile is forced. Our preaching isn’t what it once was because we are staring at the weeds.

So what do we do? Pull the weeds. Deal with the person. In love. But deal with it. We cannot continue doing good if all we feel is bad.

I have been there. I have given up. But, the good news is God never gives up on us.

I’d love to pray with you or talk with you. You can email me @Liftupyourday.com

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Pastor: 5 Ways to Avoid Burnout

match-burnout

The turn burnout has been around for years. It makes sense that a CEO, Manager, or someone who is in the spotlight all the time should struggle with it. But can a pastor really suffer from burnout?

It seems burnout in the ministry isn’t really something we notice. Now mega-church pastors Perry Noble, and Pete Wilson, have resigned burnout has become a relevant ministry topic.

There are also statistics for pastor burnout:

23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.

But, what really causes burnout? And, how can it be avoided?

Let me suggest 5 ways:

1.Do things you love to do

There is nothing wrong with finding what you love to do and doing it. If it’s writing a blog (mine), encouraging others (mine too), fishing, hunting, bowling, shooting basketball, lifting weights, walking, running, reading, or fixing up old cars, do it!

We have to do the things we love and notice none of those had anything to do with your ministry. Get out of the church and unwind.

2. Ask for help

Like Donald Trump, there are more people who wants us to succeed than not. People in the church very often don’t get asked to help do anything. We assume they feel like we should do everything. Not everyone feels that way.

Inviting everyone to do something in the church will open up ways for us not to have to do everything. Ask people to help.

3. Know your limits

You are not superman. You can’t leap small buildings with a single bound. Therefore, we must know what we can and can’t do. There are some things we simply aren’t good at. If we know what these are we can go back to step 2 and fix it.

Saying no really is a way to freedom. If we can figure out what we enjoy, and what we want to do it is a perfect fit.

4. Visit your Flock

Nothing replaces this. They want us to do it. They feel special when we do. It also is a way for us to get to know who they really are. We get to meet them in their arena and let them open up their home to us.

Many pastors today believe they don’t have time to do this. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It builds the church and that is our #1 responsibility.

5. Be involved in the community

Again, our people want this. Ball games are an easy way to do it. Civic clubs, meet with police, firefighters, there are many opportunities to fit into a new community. The reality is we usually are not from that town. We need to be involved.

Another thought to ponder is maybe unrealistic expectations cause burnout. Many times on our part. Could we feel that we are the pastor so the people should just follow?

Here’s a good quote to tie this up, “The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.” David Whyte

If our heart is for that flock, then we will never burnout.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Is Social Media Hurting the Cause of Christ?

social-media

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Social Media has provided a way for people to say anything they want without physically interacting. Many brothers and sisters in Christ have chosen to be critical of lost people, politics, and far too often each other.

It is almost as if we have decided that we must “stand up” for the way we view Scripture by “putting down” anything we disagree with.

Some have chosen to be overly critical. A nice Christian post that quotes someone another Christian doesn’t like is immediately condemned in the name of God. Today “heresy” is not noticing WHO said, “Jesus loves you” in a scenic picture quote.

What is more disturbing is fellow pastors and self-proclaimed theologians are attacking well meaning Christians who simply want to post encouraging words on social media.

Why?

Why do we have to be critical of each other? Why can’t we simply scroll through our news feeds without attacking other brothers or sisters in Christ?

It’s NOT God’s way for us. We are to “let no corrupt talk come out of our mouths.” Corrupt means, evil, filthy, and even abusive. There is no doubt some Christians are being “abusive” on social media.

But Paul doesn’t end with what NOT to say. He adds the way our speech should be. “Only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Building up, fits the occasion, and there it is—Grace.

Have we forgotten grace? Have we forgotten our speech is for building up the church? Can’t we find it in our hearts to encourage each other? Or better yet, can’t we use social media to brag on Jesus?

He is who we should be talking about. The One who purged our sins. The One who forgives us time and time again for our sins.

We could be flooding social media with the Gospel. As lost people spew filth, we could be speaking purity. As lost people speak hate, we could be showing love.

Sadly, if we cannot speak love to each other, why should lost people see us any differently from themselves?

I pray we can change.

Pastor Rodney

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Pastor, When is it Time to Leave?

leave or stay

“And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

Leaving a church is a difficult decision. How can we know when our time is up? When is it time for the pastor to leave?

I’d like to suggest 3 ways to know when.

1.Passion fades

When our heart is not on fire for that flock something is wrong. It may be us, or it may be that some of the people aren’t necessarily that excited we are there.

Obviously, when we first come, there is a great sense of enthusiasm and optimism. We must understand the honeymoon doesn’t last. That’s when we have to sort through the passion of our heart and see if it is still for these people.

It could be we have just lost our own way. It could be that we need to make a change in our leadership, sermon prep, or habits we have developed. We may need a refreshing conference or a break. But we have to find our passion.

It could be our heart has changed for them. Our heart may be moving toward a new work.

2.Strained Relationships

Very often there have been leadership challenges and consequences that have caused a strain in our relationships. We may have rebuked someone or even snapped at a person in a meeting. That causes ill feelings toward them or them toward us.

We have to stop and evaluate these relationships. Can they be mended? Its there something we can do to fix the hurt or anger they feel?

Most of the time the person says something like, “There is nothing wrong.” “We are fine.” But the reality is they don’t want to go through the difficult process of reconciliation. As the pastor, we must be the one to go out of our way to make things right.

However, if there are several leaders, or a plan by a few to keep the relationship strained, we cannot fix anything. We must pray that God will break through and heal hearts.

Sometimes the strain is so great the only way out is to leave—for our sake and theirs.

3.Vision is foggy

We know the verse, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

I have seen clearly that once God is moving me, my vision begins to get cloudy. The fog seems to hide what is next for the church. I can’t seem to stay certain on what is next for the church. I don’t think it’s our fault; I believe it is God’s way of saying move on.

When we lose our vision the people can’t seem to see why coming to church is important. There is a period of non-commitment to the purpose and direction of the church. Volunteers are hard to find.

This is not an exhaustive list. And any one of these three can be evident at one time or the other. But when all three are there, it is time to leave. I know we don’t go until God says, but the reality is our spirit and the church’s spirit are dying inside.

Leaving is always difficult. Some are tougher than others. But ultimately God is moving us through a series of peaks and valleys to get us where we can do the most good.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Has the Church Lost its Priority?

Priority of Prayer

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:13

When Jesus dealt with the religious robbers he declared the priority of HIS House. It will be known as the place where prayer is the chief goal of the church.

Could it be that the religious money changers were robbing the people of currency and also robbing the people of spiritual currency with God?

We know this Scripture. We have preached it and prayed about it. We have tried different prayer methods and have seen little response to our pleas to pray corporately. But isn’t it time to get back to what the church must put first?

LifeWay Christian Resources surveyed more than 1,300 evangelical leaders from around the world to determine what they perceived to be the “Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Church.”

The number one issue was:

1.Prayer: The need for more ongoing, passionate prayer in both personal and church life.

We shout about how God’s people aren’t winning souls. We have heard sermons with statistics like, 90% of Christians never win a soul to Christ. However, Google that stat and it’s nowhere to be found.

We have strategies on how we need to do this or that to reach young people or target young families. Facility and ministry needs that zero in on reaching a specific demographic.

But honestly couldn’t it just be we have lost the belief that prayer must be first in the church?

Even if our giftedness and passion leans toward evangelism remember: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Luke 10:2

JESUS said, so PRAY to the Lord of the harvest.

Jesus said again,”Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

He further stated, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

But we know this. We know to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) We know to be persistent in prayer, “never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Then why isn’t this working? Why are the days so dark and revival is a word we used to use?

Could it be the enemy has actually convinced us that prayer doesn’t work?

Wesleyan Methodist Pastor and author of The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick wrote, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Let’s get back on our knees. More than ever we have to make prayer the priority in our churches. Start a prayer group in your home. Maybe a small group in your church.

After all Jesus promised, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless your day.

Pastor Rodney

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Prayer: No. 1 issue in churches, survey of leaders shows

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1148687.Samuel_Chadwick

Regaining Balance

Do you have Balance?

A middle-aged pastor said, “I’ll tell you what I struggle with, and it’s constant. It’s church vs. family vs. what I have left over for some of my personal needs. How do I balance my life so it’s not either totally structured and rigid or totally hang-loose and spontaneous? I like to achieve, but I also like to be with people and invest in them. So how do I achieve both?”

We all want balance in our lives. A balanced life is the key to joy, peace, and effectiveness. But living a balanced life is not easy. Finding balance seems to be a struggle for most people today. It’s not the too little to do anymore. Our lives are crowded and complex. The answer lies not in the balance of our abilities but in our ability to balance.

What do we do to regain balance? The answers are found in the word balance.

Be decisive in what matters most. Determine what matters most we prevent us from engaging too much time in activities that are not important.

Ask for help. Don’t be too stubborn or proud to ask for assistance when you need it.

Live with margin. Margin-less living is the disease of our culture. We live our lives like a page typed-single spaced, top to bottom, and edge to edge. Margin is having breath at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, time between appointments.

Attitude means you are willing to wait before you decide if something is bad. Often, what may appear to be bad might actually turn out to be good.

Never lose your focus. Watch a graceful ballerina when she spins. While her entire body is spinning rapidly, she holds her head still as long as she possibly can, fixing her eyes on a distant point. Then, at the last possible fraction of a second, she turns her head completely around and finds the point again. She is focusing on a single point to help her stay balanced even when everything else around her is spinning. For us we keep our focus on the purpose of our lives.

Concentrate on your gifts. Wise up and say yes to the best that you can offer and give. Sometimes in our efforts to win approval we give in to the lesser things and our energy is wasted working outside our giftedness.

Eliminate the unnecessary. Many of the activities that we engage in our not necessarily wrong, they are simply not necessary. We need to develop the skill of discretionary neglect.

Allow me to rephrase a statement from Jesus: “Come to Me, all you who are worn out and weighed down by scrambling to meet the demands of others, and I will bring quiet to your spirits. Serve Me, follow Me, and—because I am caring and understanding—I will stop the clamoring in your souls. For what I ask of you is not a burden at all.” Life is not a crowded to-do list but a blank stretch of canvas. It is not trying to balance all of the demands of our lives but simply doing this day what God would have us do. Then, and only then, will we find balance.

Rick Ezell

Visit Rick @RickEzellDefiningMoments

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The Field of Dreams Approach to the Church

Millennials

(This article originally appeared in the Baptist Courier.)

I still like the movie Field of Dreams.  I must confess that I get choked up every time I watch the end of the movie where Ray (played by Kevin Costner) ask his dad, “Hey Dad!  You want to have a catch?”

Early in the movie, Ray hears a mysterious voice stating, “If you build it he will come.”  In response he builds a baseball field among the cornfields near his Iowan house and witnesses a spectral baseball team that converges on the field to play ball.

Sadly, a number of churches approach their communities with a Field of Dreams mindset regarding their facilities.  Although they are not evangelistic and have dusty baptisteries, they believe renovating their facilities or building new facilities “to attract young people” will cause Millennials and young families to flock to their church buildings in droves; however, when we look at what Millennials actually say is important to them regarding the church, we see a much different picture.

Here is a short list of some of the things Millennials say attract them to churches:

1 They want preaching that is not shallow.  Millennials want biblical preaching that asks and answers hard questions in life.  To appeal to this generation of young people, preaching must have depth.
2 They want authentic worship. Young adults are not as concerned that churches utilize a particular style of music in worship.  They are attracted to authentic worship that reflects the culture of that local congregation.  They do want worship to have both authenticity and quality.
3 They want community. Millennials are attracted to congregations that promote biblical community where church members actively participate in making disciples.  They also want multigenerational small groups where they can learn from believers who are further along in age and spiritual maturity.
4 They want community ministry involvement. Young adults desire to serve in churches that are actively ministering in their communities.  They want to address social needs and concerns within the area surrounding the church.  Millennials also are concerned with justice issues around the world and want to participate in churches that address these issues.
5 They want church buildings that are functional. Millennials aren’t so concerned with being a part of churches that have flashy or “cool” worship centers.  They will worship at churches who are being the church, regardless of the style of the building or the worship center.

So, rather than focusing on renovating or building worship space to attract young people or young families, churches should concentrate on making disciples of people in their surrounding communities and being authentically biblical congregations.

To be growing and healthy congregations, churches must consist of church members who regularly share the gospel in their everyday interactions and relationships with their family members, friends, and acquaintances.  Such congregations are welcoming and open, but are led by pastors who do not shy away from preaching biblical sermons that address hard topics or hard questions.

You can build it; however, if you are not an authentic church that prioritizes building gospel relationships and making disciples, they won’t come.

Dr. Tim McKnight

Read more from Tim @drtimmcknight.com

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