Monday, August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him."  Luke 5:1-11

"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him."   Luke 5:27-28

Continuing on the theme of the sanctity of work, I remind you that many of the significant servants of the Bible were called by God while they were busy working. The Scripture references above affirm that. Remember that Moses was tending sheep when he saw the burning bush. God often met with David as he was tending his sheep. The angels appeared to shepherds in the fields announcing the good news of Jesus' birth. And, Jesus Himself, had a job as a carpenter until He entered His final three years of life and ministry.

I came across this article by a researcher named Craig Galati that explains why God calls busy people:

There is an old adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” It certainly seems true that busy people do get things done, but I wanted to know why. I decided to poll a few people I know who are very effective in their work to find out.

Before I describe my findings, I want to establish a common definition of what I mean by a busy person. For the purposes of this article, a busy person is one who is sought after for his specific specialty because he does it well. He is the one who always has something to do and he is the one everyone chooses to help them when a task needs to be accomplished. He is not the unorganized, multi-tasker who swoops in with a flurry of activity but never really accomplishes much beyond creating chaos. The busy person I refer to is a performer and, because of his ability, is busy. He works on important things, not just busywork!

With that said, here are my findings:

Busy people are organized. It didn’t come as a surprise to that the people with whom I spoke, those who were busy and accomplished, were also very organized. Although there were a few exceptions to this rule, in most cases these busy people knew what they were working on, how long it would take, what resources they needed, when they needed resources, and they had a path to follow including contingencies. They spent the time necessary to plan an appropriate course of action. At times, these people didn’t appear to be as busy as the person next to them with the overflowing desk, but their workload and accomplishments indicated otherwise.

Busy people delegate. One of the ways top performers get things done is through timely and appropriate delegation. They have mastered the art of what and to whom tasks should be delegated. They also are accomplished in keeping track of the delegated work and provide support to their team. This keeps them from putting their team members in a panic or crisis mode and eliminates the need for micromanaging. I was told that when delegating, it is important to keep in touch with what the entire team is working on and ensure that all involved are communicating effectively among themselves.

Busy people spend time planning. The busiest people with whom I spoke were also the calmest. It was explained to me that one is not nervous working a well-thought-out plan. Busy people spend the time it takes to develop a solid work plan. When I asked how they were able to find the extra time it takes to plan, I was told that it didn’t require additional time to plan. The time it takes to plan is more than offset by the more effective use of time executing the plan. The high performers also explained that without a well-thought-out plan, people begin working on tasks that may or may not be relevant to the overall goals of the project. The plan is the key. Spending the appropriate time planning will ensure that the work meets its objectives, that tasks are sequenced well, and time is use effectively.

Busy people are driven. The busy people with whom I spoke were all very successful. I already knew that; they didn’t need to tell me. In fact, the busy people acted with a cool confidence that clearly told me that they knew they were successful and didn’t need outside recognition of that fact. They are driven by a need to succeed and to do a great job, and internal satisfaction is their reward.

The conclusion I draw to the adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person,” is that busy people get things done because they are organized, driven and the are effective delegators. Most importantly, busy people get things done because they plan their work well to ensure its success.

I know you work hard and stay busy, but will you be busy for Jesus?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30, 2015

"Love must be honest and true. Hate what is evil. Hold on to what is good. Love each other deeply. Honor others more than yourselves." Romans 12:9-10

"Love each other deeply" says the Scripture. The word that is used is the word for "brotherly love". Within the fellowship of the church you are to love others like family. The "phileo" type of love is the highest measure of love which human beings are capable of sharing. It refers to a genuine warm emotional feeling of fondness and familiarity. In other words, when you love a fellow Christian give it all you've got. Don't hold back.

Why should you not love your fellow believers like you love family? After all, you have the same Father. If you love God you certainly should love those in your church fellowship who also love God. You love them because God, your Father loves them. You love them deeply because they are spiritual family.

And why should you not love your fellow believers who not only share you Father, but also share your faith. Faith is a powerful force in the life of a believer. Faith is a set of beliefs about Who God is, how He operates, how He loves you and what He wants you to do and to become. A common system of beliefs and values can form a strong bond for friendship and fellowship among believers in a local church. Sharing strong beliefs at the core of your being with other believers is a strong uniting factor.

Also, when you worship and work together within the fellowship of a church you share the same focus. You want that fellowship to prosper and grow. The people and the pastors and the ministries of that church has inspired you and instructed you and invested in you over the years and it has become an important part of your life. Because you value that you value others who share your passion for the the health of that church. You are a team, you are members of the body who are working together to achieve shared goals. That is a strong common bond.

Love one another deeply as you would a brother or a sister. Live in unity and harmony with them. Share spiritual community as you worship together , serve each other and reach out to the needs in your city.

Having the same Father, the same faith and an identical focus are important factors in loving each other deeply (like brothers or sisters) within a local church fellowship. It is a powerful bond! It will bless you in your spirit and build you in your spiritual development!

Do you have a brotherly love for those who worship with you?

If not, why not?

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 29, 2015

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." I Corinthians 13:8

A local church can have dynamic and entertaining preaching but not have love.

A church can have tongues and prayer languages operating in it but not have love.

A church can have great strategies and experience and knowledge and yet lack love.

When Church was at its best and growing by the hundreds as recorded in Acts 2, do you know what it had? It had all four of these elements: powerful preaching by dynamic pastors, it had those who spoke in tongues, and it had those who received knowledge from God, and it was established on a firm foundation of love!

So, it is possible for a church to have it all!

It is preferable for a church to have it all when "ALL" includes love first and foremost!

I am committed to building a church like that because it was a church like that which captured my heart and changed my life! I have been a part of several churches that were build on love and I saw how powerful they were! Lives were changed on a regular basis and the fellowship was irresistible!

FredWes is very close to becoming a church like that!

Where love is the rule preaching is better!  It's better because it is more passionate. It is better because when you preach what you love to people you love there is a more personal connection. Preaching is more practical when you know and love the people you can apply God's truths more effectively.

Where love is in operation tongues and all the other spiritual gifts operate effectively and in unity.

Where love is the rule knowledge and wisdom come from above. God gives inspiration and insight for all the plans and strategies of a local church.

Love works every time it is tried! In every relationship. In every decision. In every planning meeting and in every board meeting.

Loving people to life is much more that just a catchy slogan, it is a commitment to live out the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment every day in every decision.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 28, 2015

 "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." I Corinthians 13:8

So, if it's not good to build a church solely around a charismatic preacher, or charismatic gifts or current trendy cultural strategies what SHOULD your build it around?

Here's a hint: "Love never fails".

At FredWes we are committed to building a healthy and growing church on the foundation of Godly love. We are seeking to build a church guided by the Great Commandment and committed to the Great Commission. Those two big obedience points are how we show God we love Him and are committed to His will. Those principles should form the foundation for all Christian ministry. Those practices will accomplish the purpose of the church which is to glorify God through proclaiming the Gospel.

Love works every time it is tried. It is relatively easy to understand how an individual can express love but how does a church do it?

There in is the challenge!

When a church chooses to build around a dynamic preacher, they can place the responsibility for church growth on his talents, his gifts and those of his close inner-circle people. Everyone will rise or fall on his performance.

If a church depends on speaking in tongues and ecstatic utterances for growth, they will draw people who thrive on feelings and emotions and who need visible evidence to enhance their faith. But over time those emotions that work for you may eventually work against you.

A church that decides to build from the strategy and vision of another successful church, they will soon discover they are not that church and realize the strategies aren't as effective for them. If they are unable to adjust those strategies to fit their realities or ditch them altogether and seek God's vision for the church it will struggle mightily.

So, clearly, the chance of failure for either of these church growth options is higher than one that works every time it is tried.

While it is easy to identify a preacher, and obvious when the gift of tongues is operating. A strategy can be written on a chart. But love is harder to quantify or chart.

Building a church on the foundation of love requires an emphasis on relationships and places responsibility on each member to develop healthy relationship in each of these areas:

1) Faith - Love God through a personal relationship in Jesus Christ. Grow in that relationship by obeying and serving Him. How can you have a successful foundation for a church without starting here?

2) Family - Love your spouse and build a healthy marriage relationship. Love your children by teaching them, training them and disciplining them.

3) FredWes - Love your fellow believers in the FredWes family in the fellowship of worship, serving, and praying together.

4) Friends - Develop healthy friendships with neighbors and co-workers so you can leverage those relationships to earn the right to share your faith in Christ.

This is the foundation FredWes has chosen to build our church upon. We will stake our future on building healthy relationships according to God's Word and in His Spirit. When we use the tag line "Loving You to LIFE" this is what we mean.

I can live AND love with this vision!

Who will join me?


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 27, 2015

"Where there is knowledge it shall pass away." I Corinthians 13:8

Let's face it, the Corinthian Church was not a healthy church but yet it has a lot it can teach the modern church about what is necessary for a church to be healthy.

So far we have learned that a healthy church:
  • Builds around good solid Biblical preaching but not around the personality or talents of the pastor as the church's foundation.
  • Allows for the operation of the gift of tongues within Biblical guidelines and avoids the divisive pitfalls that often accompany the practice of this gift. Building a church upon the doctrine of tongues is a prescription for failure
Today we will learn one other temporary foundation to avoid building your church upon - knowledge.

What does he mean by "knowledge"?

"Knowledge" in this case refers to certain insight or discernment given by the Holy Spirit enabling you to know or learn what you wouldn't know otherwise.

That sounds like a good thing! How can that be destructive to a church?

Here is how I have seen knowledge become a negative factor to a church. In my years of ministering in local churches and serving with pastors knowledge becomes destructive when it becomes a substitute for a clear Holy Spirit vision.

I don't know how many times I have seen a struggling church attempt to revitalize itself by imitating a strategy from another church judged to be successful. They make the mistake of believing because it worked for that church it will work for theirs.

The idea you can build a healthy growing church on someone else's vision and strategy is not a prescription for success or blessing. Trusting in the strategies of men in the place of seeking wisdom and direction from God is not a prescription for healthy growth. And yet we run from coast to coast and from one church growth conference to the next seeking knowledge on how to build a spiritual church.

Shouldn't we start by staying in our place of prayer until we get some knowledge from God?

August 26, 2015

"Where there are tongues they will be stilled" I Corinthians 13:8 

This chapter is introduced as "the more excellent way". More excellent than what?

In short, it is more excellent than the church operating in the flesh.

Chapter 12 finds Paul introducing the concept of spiritual gifts and how they fit into the design of the church. Chapter 14 is instruction in the two most coveted gifts, prophecy and tongues. These gifts are desired because they are the most public and bring the most attention and praise to those possessing them.

The key word in spiritual gifts is the word "spiritual". Gifts are designed to operate in the Spirit of God which is the point of Chapter 13. When spiritual gifts operate in the fruit of the Spirit it brings the blessing of health to a church. But when gifts operate in the flesh they can create strife and division within a church.

So, that brings us to our theme of improper foundations for building a church. Preaching/prophecy can be a tricky foundation when the focus shifts from the preaching to the preacher. And without a sustained and intentional focus that will happen. When it happens it doesn't end well.

Likewise, a church built on a foundation speaking in tongues is not a long-term formula for success. Many churches are built around the doctrine of speaking in tongues. 

What is speaking in tongues?

That is the problem. There are differing ideas and attitudes about what this gift is and how it operates. Some say it is an ecstatic language for the purpose of praying and communing with God. They would call this a "prayer language" or "praying in the Spirit". Others say it is a language that promotes worship and some would say it aids in evangelism. Where there are differing opinions there is a high potential for strife and division.

Because of the confusion around the primary purpose of tongues there is high potential for a congregation to have disagreements. A healthy church enjoys unity but unity is hard to find when they are fundamental misunderstandings and disagreements surrounding their primary doctrine.

If you have been around the faith for awhile and have any familiarity with churches you probably have a story about a church that has split because of disagreements over the purpose and use of tongues. 

The doctrine of tongues and speaking in tongues have probably caused more church splits that any other religious doctrine. So, with this being true, why would we choose to build a church on this foundation of the gift of speaking in tongues? That doesn't seem like a formula for long-term success.

Over the years I have heard stories of churches that have been split over the controversy caused by division over tongues. Some of them have been Wesleyan Churches.

It is interesting to note that in comparing and contrasting spiritual gifts Paul ranks preaching/prophecy as a more useful gift to the Church than speaking in tongues. But he also has positive things to say about them both.

A healthy church needs strong biblical preaching and can benefit from those who properly use the gift of tongues. But using either as the foundation to build a church upon is a prescription for failure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

"But where there are prophecies they shall cease." I Corinthians 13:8

The word used for "prophecies" is more about forth-telling than it is about foretelling. In other words, it refers to preaching not predicting.

Many things in the church have changed over the generations but thankfully, preaching remains central in churches. The Word is the life-blood of any healthy church. Those who are fortunate enough to be called to preach the Word should devote themselves to prayer and study to assure they do it as well as they can.

It has been my great joy to preach and teach the Word for 44 years now. I would be thrilled to have another 44 years to do it!

I want to establish my high regard for preaching the Word before I move on in this article.

Now, for some context and perspective. The Corinthian church had one of the greatest preachers ever in the Apostle Paul but it was an extremely unhealthy church. They also had another dynamic preacher named Apollos!

So, as important as preaching is, building a church solely on the foundation of preaching is not the best way to build. I know that sounds contradictory so let me explain.

As evidenced in the Corinthian Church, preaching easily becomes intricately identified with the preacher and over time his persona and personality can steal the church's focus.

When that happens, the church begins to become unhealthy.

One church that comes to mind is the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. For forty years this church prospered in the shadow of Hollywood and Disneyland under the preaching and promotion skills of Dr. Robert Schuller. His engaging personality and positive self-help sermons were featured on a weekly television show "The Hour of Power!". Using the world-wide platform of television and a score of best-selling books He leveraged his popularity to build an amazing architectural marvel known as "The Crystal Cathedral".  

But, unfortunately, as age took a toll on his energy, his mental sharpness, and his judgment, he was unable to maintain the level of performance needed to sustain the momentum. For all his success he had failed to raise up a successor. The ministry went bankrupt and the building was purchased by the Catholic Diocese.

This story is a high profile example but by no means an isolated case. It serves as a sad reminder that while it is important to build a church around Biblical preaching the leadership should be very careful not to allow it to be built around the preacher.

Preachers can fail. Preachers come and go. Churches that build primarily around a preacher will ultimately fail. "Love never fails!"

August 24, 2015

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they shall be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away." I Corinthians 13:8

As I come to the end of this Summer sermon series on I Corinthians 13:8, I was given an unexpected but very valuable and practical insight into church health.

Remember that this letter was written to a church! The Church in Corinth was a very gifted church but also quite a carnal body of believers. As a result, we see a struggling strife-filled church. So, all of the advice and counsel offered by the Apostle Paul was in the context of bringing spiritual health to an unhealthy church.

For our purposes at FredWes I want to offer a justification for our ministry vision of "loving people to life".

I want you to notice four points of emphasis active in this church: love, preaching, speaking in tongues, and knowledge. As I noticed it and thought about it I came to the realization that many modern churches pick these same emphases to build their churches upon. Let me give you an example.

There are preaching (prophecy) based churches. 

Preaching the Word of God is a central priority and sacred responsibility of any church. It is one way we justify our existence. No church can be healthy unless it has solid Bible-based preaching presented with practical life applications.

BUT there are churches who build their vision around the preaching ministry of a certain preacher. The talent, the personality, and giftedness of that preacher become the driving force of that congregation. People invite their friends primarily to see and hear that preacher. Much of the church budget is directed around the purpose of promoting his preaching skills on TV or radio or building bigger buildings to accommodate more "fans" of their celebrity preacher. In this environment it is easy for the preacher to begin believing his own celebrity status. While this model has worked to create some large and influential churches, they often don't endure past the end of that pastor's tenure.

Speaking in unknown or ecstatic languages (tongues) is a central emphasis for some churches. Some Christians believe that speaking in these mystical languages is the evidence of having been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is the will of God for every believer but there is debate about whether the evidence of being Spirit-filled is manifested primarily through this gift of tongues or by the manifestation of spiritual fruit. (See Galatians 5:16-26).

Churches have been and are being built around the teaching of speaking in tongues. The manifestation of this gift becomes the central focus of their worship, their teaching, their preaching, their doctrines and their ministry emphasis. In many cases, these churches do not have happy endings just as, what happened in the Corinthians Church, this practice becomes a source of spiritual pride that becomes divisive. There are large churches that have been built around this emphasis but not many healthy ones.

Also, there are many churches built around "knowledge". What do I mean by that? What am I talking about? I am referring to churches that build around a big idea or a strategy borrowed from another successful church. They believe that imitating a successful model will guarantee such for their church. While some large and significant churches have been built  by essentially becoming "clones" of another church, it is very tempting to become so enamored or committed to implementing and sustaining the strategy they lose site of Biblical mandates for the Church.

While there can be no denying that growing and influential churches exist using each of these three visions, it is clear that the central truth of I Corinthians 13 is there's a better foundation upon which to build a church.

Do you  know what that is?

Is your church built on one of these three models?