Archives For ministry

Most businesses fail in the first five years.63399507023589182799

We know what failure means when it comes to business. It means that the business did not make enough money. It means that the owner could not feed his or her family. And beside the financial cost, there is probably a big emotional cost to a failed business as well. People pour their hearts into something that they hope will succeed and when it does not, it feels more like a personal failure.

But what does it mean for a church to fail?

This last week, I saw not one but two blogs about churches that “failed,” meaning they closed shop, went out of business, so to speak.

My heart went out to the authors, because I’ve been there. I’ve been a part of a church that ended. And it is heartbreaking.

But at the same time, I ask myself, what do we mean by a church failing? A church is not a business. A church is not a corporation. So what happens when we define a church in the terms of a business? What happens when we define “success” and “failure” the same way Wal-Mart defines those terms?

I have made a realization in the years since my own church failed. What happens is that the church has not failed. We have failed to define “church.”

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What does Joel Osteen know that the rest of us don’t?joel-osteen-and-wife1

If you are not one of his fans, you would probably answer, “Nothing.”

There has been quite a little bit of chatter as of late about Victoria Osteen finally “outing” herself and her husband and the gospel they are really preaching. She summarized their philosophy by saying that when we obey God, we do not do it for God, but for ourselves. We do it because God’s greatest desire is for us to be “happy.” So this whole exercise of going to church, reading our Bibles, being Christians is not really for God, it’s for us.

Well those statements set off a little chain reaction among quite a bit of blog-land. “Finally,” we said, “at least we know what they really believe!” At least one mega-famous pastor is being honest about the false gospel he is preaching.

But wait a minute.

Take everything that you might believe about the Osteens, their church, their gospel, their wealth or their haircuts. Take all of that pent up frustration and wad it up into a big wet lump in your throat.

Because despite all of these things, as loathe as we may be to admit it, much of the evangelical church can learn something from the Osteens. We might even learn something about ourselves.

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What qualifies someone to “preach?” You know, stand up in front of everyone and tell them about Jesus?bible-at-pulpit

I suppose the debate will go on, maybe indefinitely, about who gets to speak in front of the church, whether it’s behind a pulpit, on a stool, or with an iPad.

A lot of people think that one of the primary qualifications of a preacher is gender. There are a lot of people, male and female, who are uncomfortable with the idea of women preaching at church. Opinions range from the mild preference for listening to men, to the “biblical” mandate of men in the pulpit.

I don’t know if that’s a reality that we will see changed in our lifetimes. (And plenty of people would argue that it should not change.)

But here is what I do know.

No one needs permission from anyone else to preach. Not men. Not women. No one.

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They say that patience is a virtue.DSC_3310

I think it’s one of those virtues that isn’t always at the top of our lists.

We like things fast.  We want things now. 

When we order food, we want it promptly so we can gobble it up and move on with our day.

This is my final post from Africa.  I’ll board my plane tonight and head back to America.  America, where we can see new homes and strip malls pop up like weeds.  America, where get annoyed when a friend is late to a meeting or a job takes longer than planned or a text message takes more than a few seconds to reach its destination.

The glacial pace of this earth does not suit our whims and timetables.

And when it comes to problems, we want the solutions now.  We wonder what is taking so long.  We complain because there is still poverty, there is still corruption, there is still evil in the world, and we want the job to be done today.

But what I have seen in Uganda and Rwanda is that if we want to be a part of the solution, we have to be willing to not even see the fruits of our labor.  Because it takes a very long time for the fruit to grow.

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This week, TIME announced their person of the year is Pope Francis.time-person-of-the-year-cover-pope-francis

He’s been in office less than a year.  But he hasn’t wasted any time attracting attention, ironically, through a demeanor that oozes humility.  The attention he has garnered has been just what the papacy and the church needs, even if there are critics who don’t want the kind of attention he is attracting.

But clearly, Francis is winning over the world.  I’m not even Catholic, and I think the guy is amazing.

The Pope has been the most talked about person on Facebook and other social media this year.  TIME magazine’s choice doesn’t crown a person of the year, so much as it acknowledges what everyone already knows.

Now we are coming up on a new year, which is the perfect time to make a resolution.

What if I resolved that next year, was going to be Person of the Year?

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I love my wife.

But sometimes, I don’t tell her enough.  Or I don’t communicate it in a way that she can receive it.

That’s not her fault.  It’s my fault for presuming that she should just feel loved because she’s married to me.

In the last couple of weeks, a couple of news stories have caught my attention.  One is national news (at least in Christian circles), jmac1002the Strange Fire conference, led by John MacArthur.  The other was local news in my town.  A couple of restaurant patrons, in lieu of a tip, wrote a “loving” message to their server, whom they assumed was homosexual.  (You can see where this is going already.  Be warned, there are slurs quoted below.)

And although both events seem as if they have nothing in common, they have a common thread.  The perpetrators invoked “love” as their motivation.

It seems that “love” really does cover a multitude of sins, at least if you tell everyone that’s your motivation.  But these two examples prove, once again, how good Christians can be at using the word “love” in vain, and both can teach us something about what it means to truly love others.

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