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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The First 3 Things to Do at a New Ministry

ministry

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Very often pastors are called to a new ministry. However, if we are not careful we can carry over some of the baggage of the past and allow that to impact what God can do with us in a new place.

So what did we do to avoid ill feelings and potholes that may trip us up as we begin this new chapter in our lives? Let’s look at the first three things to do:

1.Rejoice in the Work

Celebrate it. God has moved us to something that can be the greatest place we have ever been. It may be that all our ups and downs were meant for this time in our ministry to see God do great things,

Build new relationships. This is the time to get to know new people and reach out to them as their new pastor. They may have heartaches and struggles that they have gone through. They may have been hurt in church (we all have). We need to pour ourselves into them.

Use this time to be grateful and thankful. God has called us into His work for a reason. God called us here and the people are ready to do a new thing. We should be too!

2. Learn From Your Past Mistakes

Regardless of what happened in our last ministry, we have to evaluate the mistakes we’ve made. Maybe it was a blindspot in leadership. A style the old church preferred or we simply didn’t understand the why of what went wrong.

The reality is we have to honestly look at ourselves and not repeat the same misstep.

We may need to visit more, show more love, not snap in a meeting, or really examine our preaching. Maybe it is our study habits, or something we need to strengthen. But we can’t allow pride to keep us from being better.

3. Don’t Look Back

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:62

Don’t bring up the past hurt. You may have been deeply wounded by people you thought were your friends and wonder why things went wrong. But reliving the failure or heartache does’t help anyone.

Avoid looking at what is going on in the old church. We shouldn’t stop by their website or listen to the interim preacher. We shouldn’t celebrate, even secretly, if people have left and things are going wrong.

Limit conversations with that past congregation. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It simply keeps our focus on where it should be—our present ministry.

That is the important thing to remember. God has allowed us a new thing. It is imperative that we realize we need to go forward. Just as church people need to forgive the past, we do too. For the sake of the kingdom, and the community, may we enjoy what God is doing.

God is never done with us.

“God never loses sight of the treasure which He has placed in our earthen vessels.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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2 Traps Pastors Must Avoid

pastors

Satan often flavors his bait to the individual. The enemy is very alert to what works on men and women who seek to serve God. But there are two traps the enemy places patiently for all of us. Very often we are unaware that they lay waiting for us to be caught in them.

What are they?

1.Anger

This isn’t righteous indignation. It’s not Jesus turning over the money changer tables.

This is a situation that catches us off guard. A committee meeting that a stray comment gets under our skin. A church leader who said they supported our decision then went back on their word in the meeting.

We may not go off on a tirade. But a deep sigh, jaw clenched, snap of a comeback, and people see us mad. When this happens we have given ground to the enemy.

The Bible tells us, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:24

Quarrelsome, angry pastors are not what the flock needs. They need us loving and kind even when they act like sheep and go astray.

The second trap is harder to admit.

2.Arrogance

Once we come to a church and it begins to grow people very often say nice things about us. They may even exaggerate our giftedness.

When this happens pride very subtly slips into our thoughts. We may even begin to feel like this church could never grow unless we were the pastor.

The Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” But how do we see this trap before we fall?

Perhaps Pastor Peter can answer this. “Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’” Matthew 19:27

What do we get out of this follow Jesus deal? Shouldn’t there be benefits for the preacher? The one who proclaims God’s Word to His people ought to have a special closeness, or a blessing hotline to heaven, right?

In this day of self promotion and mega-star saints we, too often, fall into these traps. Gold, Glory, and Girls have ruined many a man of God. But anger and arrogance have caused too many of us to lose a ministry.

Be watchful and ready. Stay humble and grateful.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

3 Facts Every Pastor Needs to Know

facts

There are many issues in life we just have to go through. There are other things that are facts we learn along the way. Some we wish weren’t true and others we are grateful to find out.

Ministry itself is an occupation (calling) that is unlike any other. We pastors have to see that the facts of ministry are inherent to all of us.

Let me give you 3:

1.You will be hurt.

This usually is the wake up call of ministry. If you haven’t been hurt by a friend, leader, church member, then just please get ready. It is going to happen.

You won’t see it coming. A person you have trusted, opened up to, or just been kind to, is going to hurt you. Jesus said, ”If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” John 15:20.

Also remember Paul told Timothy, “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12

But the hurt is deepest when you give them your heart. You will do your best and still not please people. Which leads us to:

2. You are not perfect.

You are going to make a bad decision. There are always situations we should have or could have handled differently. But the reality is we can’t get every one of them right.

That is why we have to be prepared for the times we blow it. Too often we are very hard on ourselves, and other people may expect more out of us than they should. But we have to see ourselves as God sees us.

The Bible says, “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:14

When we fail, Jesus knows we are only human, even if we are pastors.

Remember:

3. God still loves you.

When you are hurt, when you fail, never forget God still loves you. Pastor, dear brother, if I could beg you to know this point, I am doing it.

You may lose a church, leave a bad situation, or just plain mess up, but that doesn’t negate that God loves you deeply. You are one of God’s special servants. Don’t let the enemy try to tell you otherwise.

If God did sky writing, He’d write your name under these words:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  1 John 3:1

“No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”  John 16:27

God loves you. He knows you will be hurt and you will make mistakes. But your calling is certain.

You are on the front lines of the battlefield. Expect hardships; expect to be bloodied. But know you are not alone.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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What is the Devil’s Favorite Tool?

tool

I have red handled pliers with deep grooves that can be used to pull nails or loosen bolts. That tool is what I use most often.

The enemy of our souls has a favorite tool as well. It’s the thing that paralyzes us the fastest. The Bible tells us: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Whether it’s fear of failure, what others think, losing a job, a person, getting old, or dying, the enemy reaches in his toolbox and pulls out his red handled pliers of fear.

Fear intimidates us. It could be called the what if syndrome. “What if I fail?” “What if I lose everything?”

The devil successfully used this against the entire Israelite army by placing a loud mouth giant in front of them. He demanded, “‘Send me a man who will fight me!’ When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.” 1 Samuel 17:10-11

Goliath told them if they win the Philistines would be their slaves. But if he won the Israelites would be the Philistine’s slaves.

The army was terrified. Knees knocking shaking in their shoes. Fear made them a slave.

But all it took was a boy who had a stone and a sling. A young man who had killed a lion and a bear, who was brave enough to believe God wanted what was best for him and his home.

David had practiced throwing stones with his sling. If he had a fence post and a coke can he would have taken it out at fifty feet. Dead-eyed faith fights fear.

Max Lucado wrote, “Can you imagine a life with no fear? What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?”

The what if questions of fear need to be replaced with the answers of faith. As the psalmist wrote, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

Or as Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” Job 13:15

If this is my final battle, then I will trust Him.

What if we lose our home? What if we lose our wealth? What if we lose our children? Could we, like Job, still trust?

That’s what fear does. It shakes our trust in God. It’s the stone of fear that hits us between the eyes of faith. Fear is demonic. It’s a “spirit of fear.” Designed to intimidate us. The Goliath that stands and yells, “Can you defeat me?”

We can’t. But God gives us the tools to face the giant.

The next time the devil grabs those red handled pliers of fear, remember, you have a tool.

Grab your sling, pick up a stone, and let it fly.

You will lose some things here on earth. But none of them matter in heaven.

Keep Looking up!

Pastor Rodney

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Why Do Churches Die?

churches die

Why do churches die? A big question don’t you think?

It’s something that is happening everyday in America. The statistic is that 3,700 churches close their doors each year in our nation.

Why? What has happened to a church that started with a focus that reached all people, loved their neighbors, and cared for each other?

Somewhere, somehow, deception crawled into the church and convinced a small group of people that they were the church. This deception then caused the other members to listen to that small group of people, and the body died of a cancer that could have been cured.

What happens?

They Focus Inward

Those dying churches think the church is the building. It’s where their granny sat and played the organ. It’s the pulpit Uncle Hugh hewed from an oak tree that was struck by lightning on his property.

They focus inward and on the past. The good old days takes them down a path of fewer and fewer people, and then money turns them into stingy Christians. They save, but rarely share anything in the community.

They Fail to Support Their Leader

They don’t keep a pastor long. They have a stretch where someone hangs on, but too often the pastor is a turn-over every three or so years. He is not supported financially, and the vision of change he encourages falls on deaf ears.

Vision Dies

The church has a couple of things they do that make the small group feel good, but new people and overall church health are not a priority.

In the past, the church may have flourished, but now they are simply trying to hold on to what they have left. When this mindset permeates the church, anything that disturbs the current of contentment is viewed as wrong.

This is why so many are starting new churches today. The established church cannot be moved from it’s entrenched position. Church planters realize that a fresh start in a community is the very thing the local church needs.

Is it?

What, besides revival, can change that dying church? Leaders in those churches are not the pastors. The deacons, committees, or a family or two are the leadership.

A new pastor won’t fix it. A change in leadership will, but the pastor who goes to that dying church is never really the leader. He is the man that preaches. He may be supported for a year, but that support quickly fades when he does something the leadership doesn’t like.

Will those churches ever change? I doubt it. They cannot see beyond their own wants. Their focus is self-centered, and when new people see that, they wind up leaving. Any growth that happened under a new pastor quickly fades away.

There is more to add on this topic. But the reality is, we need new church starts. We also need revival.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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http://www.charismanews.com/us/53715-study-thousands-of-churches-closing-every-year-but-there-is-a-silver-lining

Why Have Christians Lost Their Voice?

no voice

The times they are a changing. Many would say too fast or in the wrong direction. The reality is our once Christian nation has thrown off its biblical idealism.

The agenda of Satan is taking over our nation. Can we Christians really do anything about it?

Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler writes in his blog post about Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School:

“As he makes his case, he argues that liberal judges are now in the majority and that the Supreme Court, given the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is unlikely to reverse any liberal decisions handed down by lower courts. Federal judges, Tushnet argues, ‘no longer have to be worried about reversal by the Supreme Court if they take aggressively liberal positions.’”

Our nation has turned like milk a few days after its expiration date.

The transgender bathroom decree by President Obama is the latest example of Christian laryngitis.

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd told Todd Starnes, “It’s an outrageous attack on our Creator Himself, upon human sexuality and morality and a further advancement of the flagrant attack on religious freedom in our culture,”

“The leader of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination said the president’s decree is an extreme overreach by the federal government, and he called on Christians to speak out. ‘Sooner or later we have to determine that enough is enough. It’s not going to change until Christians get involved in this battle.’”

Christians today have more avenues available to speak up and speak out than ever before. Social media has given us so much opportunity to speak the love of Christ, and yet it is often used to attack brothers and sisters who disagree with our biblical bent, music preference, or Bible version.

We have argued, complained, criticized, slandered, split churches, and yelled at each other far too long. Why should the world see us as salt and light?

Do we love each other? Do we show joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Where is our spiritual fruit?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have lost our voice. It’s not because we aren’t talking, or don’t have a platform. We have lost our voice because we are not united.

Until our churches get united individually, until revival comes in the local church, we cannot speak to anything.

The Bible tells us, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17

We need revival. We need the Holy Spirit to blow through the church again.

The world is not listening to us. Some may criticize that sentence. But if we Christians get right with God, then the power of God will be back in our churches.

Then they will hear Him.

Pastor Rodney

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http://www.albertmohler.com The Moral Revolutionaries

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/13/starnes-must-defy-obamas-transgender-decree-no-matter-cost.html

3 Expectations of a Pastor’s Wife

promises

Ministry is difficult. If you have never have been hurt, talked about, criticized, or slandered in ministry then you should be thankful. The expectations on a pastor are high—the expectations on the pastor’s wife are unreachable. His wife and children bare the brunt of churches flaws.

What does the church expect from a pastor’s wife?

1.She serves wherever is needed

There have been several church interviews where my wife was asked if she played the piano. It used to be a given that the pastor’s wife was the church piano player or choir director. Now that has changed some. But the pastor’s wife must serve somewhere.

It doesn’t matter if her children are young; she needs to be involved where the need is. Nursery worker, children’s church, women’s director, Sunday School teacher, VBS, painter, hostess, kitchen helper, and the list of possibilities grows.

Whatever the church needs, the pastor’s wife fills the requirement. She is expected to do it because her husband is employed by the church.

2. She remains silent on issues

Even though she works and serves faithfully, she is expected to be silent about church politics. When her husband comes home from a deacon’s meeting, finance meeting, personnel meeting, or a meeting-meeting, she has to listen but never speak to the attacks he faces.

She cannot even defend her husband against the gossip people bring against him. Church people look at her as a nonresident of the community and church with no say so about issues her husband goes through.

If she speaks to a “friend” (if that’s possible) too often they talk to someone, and then the issue gets bigger than before. The pastor’s wife has learned the hard way; it is better for her family if she remains silent.

3. She will always put church before family

The church doesn’t seem to mind that she has small children. In fact that’s one reason they loved the pastor and his family in the beginning. Since the pastor’s family has moved away from family, the pastor’s wife has to bring the children to anything she is expected to be a part of.

Sometimes she has to take them to the nursery while a function is going on, and she winds up being the nursery worker that night for the rest of the church.

The pastor and his family have to do Christmas Eve services for the church members who expect it, and too often the pastor’s family cannot go visit their parents during the holidays. The church comes first, and the pastor’s wife learns that is just the way it is.

These Godly ladies will have a special place in heaven. They tolerate more than people will ever know. Snide remarks about their husbands, friends that have expectations of having the pastor’s ear, or a cold shoulder by members who are mad that week.

If you know a pastor’s wife—pray for them. Very often you will never see their hurt. Thank them for all they do. Show your gratitude for their call. It is a call.

If you are a pastor’s wife—thank you! You should have an appreciation month all to your own. May your church see the love you have for them!

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10

Keep looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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3 Things the Enemy Won’t Tell You About Your Pastor

tug of war with the enemy

The enemy has lied to the church. We have failed to see, as pastors and churches, how deceived we have become. All across the United States churches are in trouble. But what can we do?

The first place to start is to understand the relationship between pastor and people—shepherd and flock. Look at this wonderful verse:

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” 2 Timothy 2:24

This verse describes the personalty, preaching, and patience of a pastor. This is what we must strive to do. The worst thing a pastor can be is argumentative, unkind, and impatient.

In order to live this way, the pastor needs you to know some things. Things that many assume but may not feel. These are also things that we feel and wish the flock understood about us. So in order to be what we can be for you, please know these about us.

1. We love you

Far too often, a pastor moves into a new area and isn’t from there. The pastor may be welcomed initially, but then someone finally says it, “You aren’t from here.” The pastor didn’t go to school there, or doesn’t know so and so, and by the way, everybody knows so and so.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the pastor truly loves the people.

Think of this like a marriage. When a groom marries into a family, he is part of the family. He loves his new family, but he didn’t grow up in that home. He wasn’t part of that horrible Christmas present in 1997. But he still loves the family.

The pastor wants you to understand he loves you.

2. We are human

Mistakes will be made. The pastor may not respond in a way someone expects. He may not think about something being as important as someone else does. The pastor may forget to call someone, or say something wrong.

Remember, the pastor isn’t from here.

This is where the pastor needs Godly people. People in the church who want the pastor to succeed. They forgive, and they help their friends and neighbors see that the pastor will make mistakes. After all, we all are human.

3. We need encouragement

Being a pastor is not encouraging work. Very often we beat ourselves up for failing to do something correctly. We also are under enormous pressure to perform. The church must grow, the people must be happy, and the pastor must always be on duty.

We are also attacked by the enemy. The enemy knows if a pastor can be taken down then the church will lose.

Statistically, we are losing ground. 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged. To make matters worse, 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

It’s difficult to find a friend because sometimes we have to make a decision the friend may not agree with. Just as many churches have been hurt, so have many pastors. Without mutual encouragement, the ministry may not make it.

The only way to combat what the enemy is doing in our churches is to stick together and work through the differences. It’s not that God’s people are bad, its that the enemy is always working against us.

When we see that, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” then the church can fight the forces of evil together.

Together we will win.

Pastor Rodney

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http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/

Pastor: What Do You Do When You Hurt?

Where would you find the King?

Have you been hurt in ministry?

We have all been there. Maybe it happens when the one year honeymoon has expired, and the people have started to grumble about the new guy. Maybe it took longer, but suddenly the murmuring has risen.

Or it could take years and then a situation happens that you didn’t see coming.

You may begin to rethink why you moved from your last church. You could have stayed; things weren’t so bad. Maybe you are in the middle of the battle and wonder why they called you here to begin with.

Here’s the deal: What they liked about us was that we weren’t the last guy. Sounds encouraging, right?

Church people, like our society today, focus on the negative. The things they didn’t like about the former pastor are actually positives for us. We are “different” from the last guy. BUT there were some things they liked about the last guy.

His positives may be negatives for us.

After the shiny new guy smell wears off, they start focusing on our negatives. Especially if the church isn’t growing. These days how many really are growing?

If we let this get to us then we will eventually become burdened down with all the problems people say are our fault. Then we can’t minister to the people who really need us.

So what do you do?

1.Stay close and clean

When you are getting attacked, talked about, or just plain ignored, it is easy to want to defend yourself. Things will be said and even made up about you. You have to fight the urge to stand against that.

Pray more. Pray for them. It doesn’t matter if we feel like it or not, we must pray. Walk around the sanctuary and pray for people as you think about where they sit. They rarely change pews anyway!

Read your Bible. Challenge yourself to walk with David as Saul came after him. Read Job or Daniel’s prayer life as the angel waited for Michael to come and help. Maybe read how Moses was attacked by Miriam. We probably shouldn’t pray God gives the gossipers leprosy though.

2. Feed the Flock

Really focus on the others. The people that do love us are usually far greater than the ones who don’t. Oh, the naysayers may tell us otherwise,or we may just imagine it’s a lot of people. The reality is we are still called to “feed the flock of God.”

The church has to be fed, and that is more important than anything we do.

We need to be more like Nehemiah. “I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?’”
Nehemiah 6:3

We can’t ignore the problem because it won’t go away. But we have to stay focused on our relationship with Jesus and the work God called us to do whether there is criticism or not.

Keep looking Up!

Rodney

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