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How We Train Our Kids to Be Leaders

A neighbor recently commented that my oldest daughter, Sophie, is such a leader. She went on to say Sophie does an excellent job of getting other kids together and organizing activities without being bossy or demanding. I thanked her for the compliment. Then went on to tell her, “My goal is for Sophie to be a leader, but I actually never tell her to be a leader.”

Why I Never Call My Kids Leaders

Being a leader is not enough. How we lead determines the lasting impact of our influence. To help our kids become the leaders God designed them to be, we must be careful not to add unnecessary pressure, emphasize leaders are not just the people in charge, and help them become the best version of themselves.

Unnecessary Pressure

When you tell someone to be a leader, you may mean, “don’t follow the crowd when they do something wrong,” but the thought of “being a leader” can take own a life of its own in the mind of a child. If we do a good job affirming a child at home, then what we really want in those situations is for them to be who we know they are instead of trying to do what they think a leader would do. To me, that means, affirming their identity is more important than telling them to live up to a certain standard.

Not the Person in Charge

A leader is not just the person in charge. It is the person with influence. When kids hear “leader,” they may think they have to boss others around. If my kids become bossy and try to correct other kids, they lose influence and friends. That is why it is crucial to emphasize identity in young kids instead of leadership.

What We Do Instead

Affirming your child’s identity can help them be the leader they are meant to be among their friends because they will be leading out of their authentic selves instead of trying to enforce and live up to a certain standard. Being secure in their identity will prepare them to lead well as young adults when they can more understand the complexity of what it truly means to be a leader.

Benefits of Affirming

  1. When the child falls short, they land on who their parents (and God) say they are instead of the guilt and condemnation of not being the leader they are supposed to be.
  2. Affirming creates authentic confidence inside a child to lead out of who they are, in their own way, instead of striving to be what they think a leader should look like.
  3. When you affirm a child, you give them security instead of unintentionally inserting the idea that they have to live up to a certain standard as a leader to be good enough for your approval.
  4. When kids know who they are, they will not be afraid to be different. They are not gaining their identity from their friend group, being a part of what others are doing, or being the person in charge.

How We Affirm

Starting at about one-year-old, I created sayings that would build up each of my girls’ confidence and identity. As they grew, I would change what I said over them based on how each girl blossomed. I will share what I would tell Sophie each night as I rocked her to bed. 

“You are so sweet and so smart. So sensitive and so strong. You are my sweet, sweet, Sophie, that is so, so, sweet, and I love you so much. You are my very only special Sophie girl. There is no one else like you, and I think you are so pretty.”

There are some principles built into that saying that are important. 

Character

We celebrate character. Accomplishments are just the product of good character. So even when we point out accomplishments, we always highlight the character that got them there.

Special to Me

Kids need to know they are precious just because they exist and are part of their family, not because they live up to a certain standard. When I say the words, “I am proud of you,” it is connected to a godly decision or character they display 90% of the time. Kids want their parents to celebrate their victories, so of course, we do that. We just don’t make that the focus.

Superficial but Necessary

You’ll also notice I tell Sophie she is pretty, but not until after building up her identity in other ways first. Little girls need to hear they are lovely, just like little boys need to hear they are handsome and strong. Again, I want my daughter to know that true beauty abides in how they treat others. I want Cinderellas in my house and not Little Mermaids. 

I finished the conversation with my neighbor by telling her that a parent who emphasizes being a leader to their young children is a good thing. If you are doing that, you are already thinking ahead of the challenges kids will face and preparing them to stand firm. 

We have just chosen a different path based on our experience and how we have seen emphasizing and even pressuring people to be a leader can cause them to lead, but not from an authentic place. I figure I would spend my kids’ childhood building up their confidence and identity. I hope that as they get older, they will lead, not because they are supposed to or have to, but because their emotional bank account is full. This way, they can help others out of the overflow of who they are, and not because they need anything from those around them. These are the types of leaders I always enjoyed following the most, anyway.

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DEVELOPING LEADERS FOR CHURCH PLANTING AND BEYOND

You have heard the saying, ABC: Always be closing. In ministry the phrase should be ABD: Always be developing leaders (including recruiting leaders). When recruiting people for your church plant, consider reaching those far from Christ, finding people who need a church to grow in their faith, and gathering leaders who can help you support the mission of the church.

“If I were running a company today I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could [because] the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

Such a good thought for church planters in the recruiting phase. I believe this also applies to all seasons of any organization. Leaders are the skeleton that supports church growth. You can swell without good leaders. You can gather by taking advantage of seasons and great planning for an event. But sustainable growth requires great leaders and teams of leaders to hold the pieces together. Leaders are the ones who transmit the values and culture into others.

“Leaders are the skeleton that supports church growth.”

Understanding the following three phases of pastoring helps you develop leaders while taking care of everyone else in the church.

Reaching new people. If your church plant is not reaching out to those far from God, then you are missing the point. A new church should not merely add a new worship service to a community. It should be an outpost of help and rescue, actively displaying the love of Christ by helping people meet their spiritual and physical needs.

Caring for members. Members easily can be overlooked in the mix of starting a new church or growing an existing church. Alternately, they can become the total focus of a church that then unintentionally ignores other groups. Being a wise pastor means continuously providing love, encouragement, and correction to members. We must cry with them and celebrate them. Our goal with this group is to help them take one step at a time in their faith, patiently caring for them along the way.

Developing leaders. Leaders require a different type of attention and plan of action. We don’t love any group more than another, but to love everyone equally, we must love each person differently. As a church planter, keep your eyes open for gatherers. These are people who carry their own influence and have a desire to share that influence with you to grow the local church. The goal is to let them know they are appreciated, while encouraging them to carry the culture. They may get more access to you, and this investment is significant. When the time is right, you will multiply your efforts by delegating responsibility to your leaders.

To summarize, we must focus on recruiting three types of people: New people, through service and outreach; new members, through gatherings and pastoral care; and new leaders, through access and individualized plans. This is not only an important strategy for church planting; it is an effective approach to get and hang on to the right people and help your ministry achieve its mission of reaching the community and growing Christ-followers.

This article first appeared at arc churches.com

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Creating a Culture of Prayer

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” – Corrie ten Boom

Do you have intercessors providing a prayer shield for your church? How have you prioritized prayer in your church? In the uncertain times we live in, prayer has never been more critical. This not only true for you personally, but also for your team and church members. It is vital to create a culture of prayer in your church from the beginning. If we pray more than we preach, then we will never be preaching to just ourselves.*

The first two ARC churches both began with a season of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. Church of the Highlands continues to start each year with 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting and also does 21 Days of Prayer at the beginning of the school year. Church of the Highlands is known for its systems and practical help to church planters, but much of the church’s growth can be attributed to their commitment to prayer.

“If you are going to plant a church, then you have to win the war in the spiritual.” – Chris Hodges

Four Keys for Church Planters to Win the War in the Spiritual:

1. 21 Days of Prayer – Have a season of prayer and fasting leading up to your launch day. At ARC, we teach to launch on the fourth Sunday in January. Not only is this one of the most attended launch days on the calendar, but it also gives planters time to lead their team in 21 Days of Prayer leading up to their launch day.

2. Develop a Prayer Team – Have a prayer team as part of your dream team. I once heard it said that every decision for Christ is a result of someone else’s prayers. On your dream team, you should have members of your team praying during the worship experience. There is a spiritual battle taking place every time people come to church for the first time. Let’s post some prayer warriors at the spiritual gates of church services.

3. Have Personal Intercessors – As the church pastor, you need to have a few trusted people covering you and your family in prayer. The spiritual attacks on pastors in the season of launching a church is real. Your intercessors are those you communicate your schedule and needs to so that they can be proactive in praying for you.

4. Group Prayer – Lead a regular time of prayer with your church. Do not delegate the responsibility of group prayer to someone else. From the very beginning of your church, you should be the one leading these prayer meetings. Even later in your church’s life, when you may not lead every meeting, you should still show up. This communicates to the congregation that your church is a place of prayer and that you are winning the battle in the spiritual.

The first teaching in the ARC Church Planting process is “Winning the War in the Spiritual.” You can watch it for free at arcchurches.com. If you are a pastor looking for resources on prayer, you can find many helpful tools from Church of the Highlands. At this site, you will find teachings on prayer and downloaded prayer guides, and other useful items you can give out in your church.

*Rephrased from this quote: “See to it that we pray more than we preach, and we will never preach ourselves out.” A.W. Tozer

This content originally appeared at arcchurches.com.

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The Final Marketing Push

10 PROMOTIONAL BOOSTS FOR YOUR FINAL MARKETING PUSH

The plan works when you work the plan. Promoting your launch is not just about spending money. You have to be willing to invest in advertising leading up to your launch day, and you also have to hustle. There is a grind in your final marketing campaign’s weeks and days, but it will pay off on launch day if you are willing to work at it.

Here are ten strategies you can use to gain an additional boost for your final marketing push.

01. THE RULE OF SEVEN

You need seven interactions before you get a transaction. In the church world, that would be seven contacts before they visit.

We want to get in front of as many people as possible as often as possible. Do everything we can do to reach as many people as possible, but everything points back to one thing: the website.

02. YOUR WEBSITE

Before you make your final marketing push, you need to make sure you switch your pre-launch website to your full website.

Front and center on your website should be your launch date, service times, and location.

Registration for kids’ ministry should also be available on your website. This will help the registration lines tremendously on launch day.
Everything on your website should be designed with first-time guests in mind.

03. GET FEEDBACK ON YOUR PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL

What do people who do not go to church think about your marketing material?

Do not just hear what church people think. Ask some people who are not yet involved in a church.

Know thyself:

“Know what you’re good at and lean on that. Know what you are not good at and hire someone to do that.”

– Marc Poland, Discover Church

04. MAILER

Mailers have a higher return on investment than social media marketing, but you do not have to choose one or the other. Do both.

Have your mailer go along with what people are thinking about and touch on a felt need.

It is not just the quantity of mailers but the quality of the mailer. Get feedback from those who have sent mailers in the past. Run it by your coach.

“We sent 150,000 oversized mailers in Philadelphia and had 450 people on launch day, and almost a year later are still adding people to the team from the mailer. At least ten people on our leadership team now came from the mailer.”

–Marc Poland, Discover Church

Remember: Have the mailer point to the website.

“The largest single reason people showed up on launch day was because of the mailer.”

– Joe Adams, Manna Church

05. SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING

Do multiple ads on multiple platforms, each targeting different types of people.

“Everyone wants to be known/belong and to have purpose/reason to exist. No one can help people with this more than Jesus, so we based all of our ads around those two ideas.”

– Joe Adams, Manna Church

“You should do at least two posts a day starting nine days out only talking about launch day. We used images from preview services and encourage people on our launch team to share as much as possible on their social media platforms.”

–Joe Adams, Manna Church

Reminder: Keep communicating where you are meeting and when the launch taking place.

Share a post on the morning of your launch day: “We are meeting today and cannot wait to see you! Be here (location) at (service time)!”

06. COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS

Let people know what they can expect from your church. Do not assume people already know what kind of church you are and what your culture is.

Take a video of the setup and show them what you are preparing for them.

If you want people with kids to come to your church, prioritize communicating what they can expect in the kid’s spaces. Remember, you are asking them to leave their kids in a different room than they will be in when they have never met you or been to your church before.

07. PERSONAL INVITES

Person-to-person invites will be one of the top reasons people attend launch day and will be the leading reason people continue to visit after launch day.

Create a budget for invites: Let your team know you do not just want them to invite people but also to take them out to lunch. Reserve $1,000 for people to take friends out to lunch and invite them to church.

Print out small square invite cards that people can hand friends and family to use when inviting people.

Sharing social media posts is free and highly effective. Make sure your posts are sharable and encourage your team to be online evangelists and share as well.

08. BE VISIBLE

Every weekend leading up to launch, be visible in your community doing outreach and community engagement.

  • Buy school supplies for elementary schools. For example: buy boxes of crayons to give to kids in elementary schools and include an invite card.
    Pay for people’s meals in restaurants in your neighborhood and give them an invite card.
  • Go to a grocery store and give out gift cards with an invite card as they enter.
  • Give away gas at a gas station and hand them an invite card. “One person pulled up to the gas station with an empty tank of gas and had forgotten her wallet at home. She had no idea how she was going to get home that day. We bought her gas and saw her on launch day.” – Marc Poland, Discover Church
  • Video all of these outreaches and show them on your social media. If someone attends or joins your team from one of these events, then share that story!
  • SWAG – Give away shirts, coffee cups, whatever that keeps your church visible leading up to launch.

09. GET YOUR TEAM INVOLVED IN INEXPENSIVE OUTREACHES

Outreach does not have to take away your team’s focus from launch day. Many inexpensive, low effort outreaches can make a significant impact. Here are some ideas:

  • Give away packs of gum.
  • Give away bottles of water.
  • Give away dog treats at a dog park.

“We now have someone on our leadership team that first heard about Manna Church when someone gave them a bag of dog treats at a dog park.”

– Joe Adams, Manna Church
  • Buy McDonald’s Sundaes gift cards ($1) and hand them out to people as they enter the restaurant.

10. KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING

On the Monday after launch, start planning to promote your second service.

Take the best picture of your launch day you can find and post it with something like this: “Did you miss the launch this Sunday? Don’t worry. You can join us next Sunday (time and place).” Then boost it and ask your team to share it.

This content first appeared at arcchurches.com and was sourced from the ARC Coaching Webinar, “The Final Marketing Push,” with Joe Adams of Manna Church in Colorado Springs, CO, and Marc Poland of Discover Church in Philadelphia, PA. You can view this video in the ARC Resource File Library under training videos.

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How to Choose the Right Team

CORNERSTONES FOR TEAM BUILDING

What do you consider as the key factors when choosing who will be on your leadership team? Some leaders prefer to elevate people who show commitment even though they may not have the same level of charisma or gifting as someone else. Sometimes we put people in leadership positions because they are talented, even though they still need to grow in some areas. It is a delicate balance, but here are three areas to consider that I think will help when selecting the people who will work directly with you.

ATTRIBUTES OF A TEAM MEMBER WHO WILL LAST

Character
When you promote someone, you send a message to everyone else in your ministry of what you celebrate and what gets your attention. Often, a person’s character goes unnoticed, but you must show that it is a priority for you by elevating leaders who have demonstrated integrity.

We want the stars that will shine the longest, not necessarily the brightest. If you desire team members that will last, then make sure that their character is strong enough to support and sustain their gifting.

Capacity
While faithfulness is essential, it cannot be the only attribute we identify for promotion. Capacity also needs to be considered. This area of leadership covers a person’s giftedness and ability to continue to grow. Just like the area of character, it may take time to evaluate a leader’s capacity fully.

It is important to note that the same person who is good at doing a job may not be the best person to manage and motivate others to do that job. When you form a leadership team, you have to have people who can do the job and lead the people doing the job. Accomplishing this takes identifying someone’s capacity to grow into the role of being a leader.

Chemistry
For a team to last, there must also be chemistry. I believe you need to like the people that report directly to you. You do not have to be B.F.F. with every leader in your church. You need a variety of people and personalities to minister to the different types of people who walk through your doors. On the other hand, you should not have someone on your top leadership team who you do not look forward to seeing when you meet.

It would help if you also considered how a leader interacts with the other people on your team. Someone can have character, be gifted, and make your day when you see them, but if they do not get along with the rest of your team, you will have issues. Make sure they are not telling you just what you want to hear when you are around while not making an effort to get along with others. Your team has to have chemistry if it is also going to have longevity.

Bonus: Calling
One thing that often gets overlooked is that transition is a natural part of every team. Not everyone will be with you forever. That’s how swamps are made. Water flows in, but it never flows out. Sometimes someone has to go to make room for someone else you did not know you needed. You want your team to be committed, but you also want to make room for other people’s calling and the bigger picture of what God is up to in people’s lives.

This blog first appeared at arcchurches.com.

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The Surprising Path to Overcoming

Do you ever feel like life is not fair? Of course, you have. We all run into those situations in life, but what are these circumstances telling us about God and our relationship with Him?

I have heard it said that there are two types of people in the world. There are mercy people, and there are justice people. Mercy people want to make the world right by giving others a second chance. Justice people want to make the world right by defending people who are suffering. I tend to lean towards being a justice person. Wait, does this mean I can be in the next Justice League movie?

Being a justice-oriented person causes me to feel the pain of mistreated people. When I see someone taking advantage of others, it hurts my heart and stirs me to action. Cut to workout montage where I prepare myself for battle like Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky III. 

The problem is, I cannot always correct the wrongs of the world. In my mind, I will overcome injustice, but that is not always the case. It is similar to when you are watching a show, and the bad guy gets the upper hand and then the show ends on a cliff hanger. Doesn’t that make you grit your teeth in frustration? I know it does for me, and that is how I think you should feel when you read Psalm 73:2-8,10-12:

But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong.They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others.And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words.“What does God know?” they ask. Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”Look at these wicked people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

Psalm 73:2-8, 10-12 NLT

If you use social media as your guide, you might believe that overcoming mistreatment and unfairness is to put people on blast, stir up the mob, complain, criticize, and attack. For Christians, the surprising path to overcome mistreatment is different.

Getting stronger than those that come against us is not the solution. Running away is. That’s right, pull a Forrest Gump and solve your problems in a nice pair of Nike Cortez. When our problems are too big for us, then we should run – run to the one who is bigger than our problems, God. 

Not being able to overcome every injustice does show us something about God. It also teaches us about our relationship with him. It shows us God is merciful and gives people time to repent. Sometimes they do not. That is ok because God is also just. He will not leave us hanging, but He also wants us to learn something from situations where it seems we cannot overcome the bad guys in our story. 

We can see the solution in Psalm 64:1, 10 

O God, listen to my complaint. Protect my life from my enemies’ threats. The godly will rejoice in the Lord and find shelter in him. And those who do what is right will praise him.

Psalm 64:1, 10 (NLT)

We overcome by finding refuge in the Overcomer. We run away from our flesh’s and the world’s way of responding to problems and difficult people and run to our God. Not being able to be stronger than every difficult circumstance does not make you a weak person; refusing to admit that does. Unfair circumstances are just another (shall I say, good) reminder of how much we need God.

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Hello, Again

Hello, Again

Well, this is awkward. I have not written a new blog post in quite some time. So, I guess this is Hello, Again.

At the beginning of the year, I took time off from blogging and social media. I like to do that once or twice a year since I am online so much. It is always refreshing, but I also enjoy being in this space. I like creating content and sharing the digital world with people. 

What Have I Been Up To

Lately, I have been posting a lot of Reels to Instagram in place of blogging. These are 15-30 second videos where I share an inspirational thought. Some of them are silly, and others I share things I think are important. You can find them here: https://www.instagram.com/joshroberie/.

I have also been using Facebook to share content I would typically place on this blog. The reason being is the interaction is built into each post, and I can count on Facebook to put it in front of more people instead of only subscribers seeing my blog posts. You can connect with my Facebook page here (where I also share my reels): https://www.facebook.com/JRoberie. If you want to connect with my personal profile, you can do that here: https://www.facebook.com/joshroberie.

I have also been writing for other outlets and continue to work on new book projects that I am excited to share more about soon.

What Is Next  

I will be posting new content to this site starting, well, now. I also really want to do a podcast. I have been planning it out for years but do not want to do it if I cannot do it with excellence. I am not sure it is in the budget to get studio space and equipment for something like that, but I hope to have an option soon and guests you would want to hear from. 

Thanks for being a reader. I am looking forward to sharing with you more in 2021!

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Four Wrong Responses to the Pandemic

Why Are We Going Through a Pandemic?

Have you paused in the last ten months long enough to ask, “why?” Why are we going through a pandemic? God is love. He is omnipotent, and He is good. So why is all of creation groaning under the pain and suffering of a global pandemic?

We wondered the same thing after Hurricane Katrina. Was it the sin of New Orleans that brought this disaster upon the Gulf South region? Was God trying to get our attention?

You may even wonder something similar when things happen to you on a personal level. Are you experiencing bad things because God wants to punish you, correct you, or get your attention? If God loves me, and I was doing all the right things, then why am I experiencing bad things in my life?

God and the Pandemic

In God and the Pandemic, N.T. Wright poses the same questions concerning the pandemic in the opening chapter of the book. “Why is this happening? Is someone trying to tell us something? What are we supposed to do about it” (Wright)?

He then gives four typical responses to similar circumstances. I have seen them repeatedly during our Pandemic of 2020, but his examples are rooted in the ancient world.

Response 1: God Is Angry With Me

“In most of the ancient world, and many parts of the modern world too, major disasters (earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, plagues) are regularly associated with angry gods. Something bad has happened? Must be because ‘someone’ has it in for you” (Wright).

Is this plague like the flood of Noah? Is God punishing a world gone wild with sin? Even though God said He would never do that again (i), still 2/3’s of Christians believe the pandemic is a warning from God t change our ways (ii).

Response 2: This Is Just Part of God’s Plan

The Stoics believed, “Everything is programmed to turn out the way it does. You can’t change it; just learn to fit in” (Wright).

I have heard people say they do not want to wear a mask because if the virus is coming for them, so be it (iii). There isn’t anything they can do anyway. Everyone should just bite the bullet and let it come for those who will die anyway, and then the rest of us can get on with it.

Health experts have called intentional herd immunity “perverse” and a “terrible idea” (iv). This perspective also seems to go against the teaching of scripture:

“Don’t be selfish… Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4

“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21

“Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

“The Lord protects the strangers.” Psalm 146:9

God is Sovereign, but that does not mean we do not have a role to play as Christians in a pandemic.

Response 3: The Problems Are Someone Else’s Fault

According to the Epicureans, “everything is random. You can’t do anything about it. Make yourself comfortable as you can” (Wright).

Maybe you have thought, This will fade away soon, and things will be back to normal as soon as those “other” people start doing what they are supposed to or stop doing what they are not supposed to do.

We are not powerless in the pandemic, but we also should not enter the “the low-grade, but powerful ‘cultural wars’ [to] simply go for easy answers that reflect that irrelevant standoff” (Wright). Blaming China, the government, or people who do not wear masks without identifying your Christian responsibility when the world is hurting is not a viable solution.

Response 4: The End is Near

The Platonists “present life as just a shadow of reality. Bad things happen here, but we are destined for a different world” (Wright).

Wright says this is the point of view some Christians opt for. “Death isn’t the worst that can happen. We’re headed somewhere else anyway. All right, let’s be sensible, but please don’t shut down the churches. Or the golf clubs” (Wright).

The Christian Response

The best answer to why are we going through a pandemic might actually be a question. “‘What?’ What can we do?” When we volunteer to help those in need, we demonstrate the appropriate Christian response to a Pandemic (v). 

According to Wright, when we do this, we are modeling what the early Christians did in times of plagues. 

“In the first few centuries of our era, when serious sickness would strike a town or city, the well-to-do would run for the hills (patty of the problem was often low-lying, fetid air in a town). The Christians would stay and nurse people. Sometimes they caught the disease and died. People were astonished. What was that about? Oh, they replied, we are followers of this man Jesus. He put his life on the line to save us. So that’s what we do as well” (Wright).

Indeed, Jesus did command us to take up our cross and follow after Him (vi). He wants us to lay down our rights so that His Kingdom could be built here on earth as it is in Heaven. Oh, that the world would again be astonished by the Church in this same way. It is already happening through the generosity of believers, and I pray it will continue to be that way as we each navigate our personal responses to the pain of the pandemic.

(i) Genesis 8:21-22 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8%3A21-22&version=NKJV

(ii)  https://www.fox6now.com/news/poll-63-of-religious-americans-believe-covid-19-pandemic-is-message-from-god-for-humanity-to-change

(iii) https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29793295/vikings-qb-kirk-cousins-coronavirus-die-die

(iv) https://sports.yahoo.com/should-teams-actively-seek-herd-immunity-from-the-coronavirus-234449908.html

(v) God and The Pandemic, N.T. Wright Chapter 1 page 3.

(vi) Matthew 16:24-26 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2016%3A24-26&version=ESV

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Is It Unspiritual to Feel Forsaken?

Where Is God When It Hurts

Is it unspiritual to feel forsaken? While the feeling itself is not spiritual, it is important to know emotions are also not unspiritual. Authenticity is an essential attribute of true spirituality. Being honest about how we feel is not the same as letting our feelings control us, and going through a hard time does not mean you are less spiritual than someone who is not.

Inauthentic spirituality wants you to feel guilty about feeling bad. It says to have something going wrong in your life means there must be something wrong with you. This faux spirituality projects an image of perfection that easily chips under further inspection.

Is It OK To Be Honest About Our Pain

Psalm 38 is an excellent example of how God encourages us to be honest about our hurts, doubts, and sufferings.

We first see that he is honest about his sins and shortcomings.

1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,

Performance Christianity makes it challenging to find healing and deliverance from our sins because that mentality makes it difficult for us to own and take responsibility for our mistakes. When imperfection leads to rejection, redemption becomes impossible. Instead, we get hiding, defending, and hypocrisy.

Authenticity Is Not UnSpiritual

As we continue with this Psalm, we see that authenticity is celebrated, not avoided.

6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Some may say that David is being negative and needs to focus on the bright side of things. That perspective causes us to miss out on the hidden treasure found in God only when we bring our authentic feelings to Him.

Not Everyone Understands Our Pain

Then we come to feelings of rejection.

11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

Have you ever been in a situation that is so bad when friends try to relate their lack of understanding only highlights the pain more? They want to summarize your suffering in an attempt to empathize, but as foreigners to your turmoil, they fall short of fully describing your experience.

This is a tough place to be, but you are not alone. We have Psalms like this to remind us that when no one else understands, God does. He is with this in these moments. When human friendship falls short of relating to our sorrow, we get an invitation to intimacy with God that we would not have received otherwise. He draws us in, under the shadow of his wing, to offer comfort and refuge.

How To Respond to Difficult People

People are not the enemy, but as this Palm shoes, the enemy uses people to introduce conflict in our spiritual path. How does David respond to these attacks?

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

David uses these attacks to fine-tune his spiritual sensitivities. He knows some voices should be ignored. We should not listen to them, and we need not engage with them. Instead, we should refocus on elevating God’s voice above all others and responding to what He says about us and to us.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.

What We Learn From Waiting

Waiting is what makes authentic Christianity difficult. We do not want to deal with waiting. It gives us the opportunity to doubt ourselves and God and to believe our enemies are right. It takes more faith to wait than it does to act, sometimes.

Something else happens when we learn to ignore the wrong voices, listen to the right voice, and wait before acting.

18 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

When we do this, we are able to recognize the sin in our lives that hinders our relationship with God, others and prevents us from being the best reflection of them. When we respond to every attack and wrong voice, then we fall into the trap of blaming others and overlooking our own shortcomings. When we tune our spiritual station to God’s voice and wait, we often do not hear him pointing out what is wrong with others, but rather what he wants to change in us.

The Path to Redemption

This does not mean that the problem people in your life will go away.

19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.

I have found that the names and faces change, but there will always be “problem people” in my life. My goal is not to change them or remove them. Instead, I try to focus on what needs to change and be removed from me.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

God will be a refuge for you when you feel attacked and a comforter when you feel forsaken. That does not mean that he also does not want to help you grow through your adversity. I do not think His final plan of redemption for you is possible without you going through that metamorphosis. You will have to change ad God changes your circumstances for you.

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A Response to Political Corruption and Injustice

What Christians Can Learn From Jesus’ Political Problems

In John 18, we see two approaches to the unfair removal of a person of influence and a government’s unjust rule. Before we get into that, let’s look at what led to this controversial overstep of the ruling elite.

They Never Gave Him A Chance

Those in power resisted Jesus from the moment he came onto the political stage. He was a threat to leaders with influence on all sides. They tried to trap him, manipulate the narrative about him, and denied the legitimacy of his good works. Then came the awful day when they would finally have their chance to remove him from his perch of popularity with the masses. Does any of this sound familiar?

Protesting a Just Cause

How did his followers respond to this corruption and oppression of their message? They took out the sword. Peter slashed with all his might. He resisted the injustice with force – attacking the crooked power-hungry political agents that had come against him, ahem, I mean, God’s ways. He sliced off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Is this not unlike many of the responses we see on social media from Christians reacting to the current political climate? Could it be this is also symbolic of how we remove people’s ability to hear the gospel message from us when we attack them because of their political differences?

Maybe There Is Another Way

Jesus’ response was different. He said to put away the sword. Instead of dividing, he healed. In fact, Jesus restoring Malchus’s ear was his final miracle before the resurrection. This causes me to consider that maybe we gain more influence by being a part of the healing than we do by taking up the sword.

Instead of fighting back against outsiders, Jesus surrendered by allowing himself to be unjustly arrested. Being both the Lion and the Lamb, he did not go to slaughter silently. He spoke truth to power without sparing those who most protected his people’s interest. He did not brush their ungodly behavior under the political rug. How often we make excuses for leaders who offer us political refuge but live contrary to all we hold sacred. Jesus did not prop up these types of leaders in unrighteous reverence. He contended for the Kingdom of Heaven instead of compromising with those who could grant him favor with governing leaders.

What Is The Difference?

What caused the disparity between the response of Jesus and that of his disciples? We can find the answer in John 16. This is where Jesus confronts the worldly perspective of his followers. Even then, as they approached the end of their time with Jesus, they still did not view their current predicament with spiritual eyes. They lacked a heavenly perspective on their earthly situation, but why did they not see things correctly?

How Jesus prepared for this moment shows us why He trusted His Father’s plans while his disciples tried to take matter matters into their own hands. In the first verse of John 18, we see Jesus “had finished praying” right before the confrontation over the White House. Oops. There I go, again. I mean before the confrontation in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

We know the disciples failed to pray with Jesus even though he asked them to join him in doing so. Right before his arrest, Jesus corrected Peter about his lack of prayer in Matthew 26:39:

“And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

Where Is Your Hope?

Our political loyalties should not overshadow our role in Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven. We, as the church, should not be slashing around like Peter. Instead, we should be a source of healing like Jesus. The actions we take in times like these are directly connected to where our hope resides, or rather in whose presence we draw security. Prayer is not just a precaution or a response to persecution. It is where we find the power to bring healing to those who are hurting and the perspective to be a light in confusing times.