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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.

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Compassion Instead of Criticism

“One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Spinning Plates

I used to try and maintain a perfect Christian existence. Have you ever attempted this impossible labyrinth of legalism? It appears as holiness but is rooted in your strength instead of God’s.

A perfect Christian existence requires spinning the plates of holiness at all times. Every delicate dish of relationship and acceptance of others exists on top of thin, tall sticks of religious performance. 

It is no wonder that approach leads to comparison, criticism, and burnout. You have to always spin, spin, spin, to keep the system going. Neither you nor anyone else is allowed to make mistakes. Wobble, spin, spin.

This balancing act led me to be overly critical of myself and others. Maybe you can see the same attributes in your life. Wobble, wobble, spin.

My help came across as judgment instead of love. Spin, spin, spin. Those close to me interacted with me as if they were stepping on thin ice that cracked with every step. Wobble, wobble, spin. They were afraid to make mistakes around me. Spin, wobble, CRASH! 

I thought to permit myself and others to make mistakes would be licensing compromise. In actuality, it would just be allowing people to be human. Let’s take the plates off of the fragile poles of human effort and place them back on the table of God’s loving-kindness. Spinning plates are impressive, but we can’t eat off of the inevitable shattered pieces. 

A Distorted Lens

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”

– Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

When you have an impossible standard for yourself, you tend to hold others to the same requirements. It is like Judah Smith said in Jesus Is, “No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing.” 

Wearing this distorted lens of Christianity causes you to judge others by their actions and yourself by your intentions. You need to take these wonky glasses off if you are going to get out of your spiritual rut. It is not an authentic way to live. It is just a survival mechanism of a graceless Christianity. 

The fruit from this kind of root leads to gossip and gaining false justification from your own religious activities. We can do better than this. 

Here is how you can take the first step.

Start with It 

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Until you can give yourself grace, you will not have compassion for anyone else. Expecting perfection causes you to see the cup of everyone else’s life as half empty.

Do not make people have to earn your kindness. Start with it. If not, you end up complaining more than encouraging. Making a change in this area will cause what was once an inconvenience to be an opportunity to reflect the love of God. Being a dispenser of grace fills your life with the kind of fruit that brings God glory and you meaning. When you start with grace, you become too busy enjoying your faith to get sidetracked by the things that pollute it.

Do not make people have to earn your kindness. Start with it. If not, you end up complaining more than encouraging. Making a change in this area will cause what was once an inconvenience to be an opportunity to reflect the love of God. Being a dispenser of grace fills your life with the kind of fruit that brings God glory and you meaning. When you start with grace, you become too busy enjoying your faith to get sidetracked by the things that pollute it.

This blog is an excerpt from my new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, is out now. You can order it at Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.

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Serve Instead of Compete

My new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, is out now. You can order it at Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2. You can read Chapter 1 Here.

Surviving Religious Burnout Part 3

“The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.”

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Grateful Ones

Your faith is not a race against other Christians to the top. If you feel the need to do better than others, then you may be stuck in a pattern that leads to religious burnout. 

A burnout mindset tries to maintain different statuses of Christians. This class system is silly. The distance between you and anyone else is so minor compared to the gulf separating all of us from God without Christ. Your good works are not enough to attain or maintain the gift of righteousness. 

In his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards said, “What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?” There is only one class of Christian, the grateful ones.

The Way Out of Judging

“Love is a one-way street. It always moves away from self in the direction of the other. Love is the ultimate gift of ourselves to others. When we stop giving, we stop loving. When we stop loving, we stop growing, and unless we grow, we will never attain personal fulfillment; we will never open out to receive the life of God. It is through love we encounter God.”

Mother Teresa, Where There Is Love, There Is God

How do you unwind the knot of Christian elitism? It starts with serving. Helping others breaks the need to compete. It makes sure God gets the glory instead of you. Serving brings us back to loving, and loving is the way out of judging.

Avoiding Tragedy

One of the greatest tragedies of Christian leadership is to get to the top of your ladder and realize it is leaning against the wrong building. Jesus leaned his ladder on serving. He gave us the story of the Good Samaritan as our example for effective leadership (Luke 10:25-37). 

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.

V31-34

While two others were worried about their position, the Good Samaritan worried about people. The religious people who walked on the other side of the road avoided a tragedy but became one instead. The Samaritan was willing to get behind, so someone else could get ahead. He served and became a conduit of love that is still flowing today.

Leave a Review

Would you consider leaving a review for Surviving Religious Burnout on Amazon? If you have purchased the book on Amazon than this is doubly effective. If not, you can still leave a review after reading this blog since it is part of the book. This is one of the best things you can do to help support this book!

 

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Are You a Pharisee? Surviving Religious Burnout Part 2

How to Get Off The Spiritual Treadmill

My new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, Launches Tuesday, August 4. You can pre-order it now on Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. I wanted to give you a preview so here is an excerpt from Chapter 1.

Video Version

For the next few weeks I will be posting a video version of my blogs. Going to try this format out to see how you like it. So below is basically this same blog in video form. Let me know what you think. Should I keep doing this?

Have You Eve Met a Pharisee?

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

The Religious Rut

Have you ever met someone who is proud to be a modern-day Pharisee? Probably not. Most well-meaning believers are unaware they have slipped into a religious rut that resembles legalism. Their good works look like a thriving faith, but the roots are different. Without making a change, those stuck in this Christian performance trap will see their excitement replaced with exhaustion.

The Spiritual Treadmill

You can only run on this spiritual treadmill for so long before you realize you are going nowhere. The frustration of always moving but never arriving is enough to cause anyone to become discouraged and give up. 

Ask any of the millions of joggers in the world, and they will tell you running is not just meant to be work. Running should refresh you as you experience unexplored placed and familiar ones in a new way.

It is the same with your faith. Christianity is not an exercise in discipline. It should be an enjoyable, meaningful experience. 

It Is Not About Good Works

The Christian life should produce good works. It is not about good works. It is about knowing God and making Him known. Your good deeds are only sustainable when they come from an overflow of your love relationship with Jesus. When your position in Christ comes before your performance for Christ you are on your way to a refreshing life as a believer.

That is the point of this book. I want to help you get out of your spiritual rut and into an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity. To do this, we will have to dig up the roots of burnout. After that, we will plant seeds of truth that will lead to a flourishing faith.

What is Religious Burnout?

Religious burnout is a cycle of gaining your worth and security as a believer from what you do for God, instead of who you are in Christ. Some people may call it legalism. Others refer to it as being a Pharisee. I see it as a pit any of us can fall into on the path of good intentions.

A Christian performance trap will wear you out. It will ask more from you than God does. In return, it causes you to become judgmental and never feel content as a believer. True holiness is rooted in your connection to God, not your commitment to rules or your religious performance. Following rules may change your appearance, but only a love relationship with Jesus can transform your heart.

We all want to get the most out of our relationship with God. That is why you need to escape the Christian performance trap and take part in true high-performance Christianity. 

So what do you think? I would love to hear from you about this topic as well as if you think I should keep doing youtube videos on my posts.

I would love it if you cheked out my new mini-book on Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. It helps tremendously if you leave a review. After reading this post you definitely qualify as a reviewer!

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The Test of Faith During a Pandemic

How to Respond to a Spiritually Dry Season

Has your spiritual life suffered during the pandemic? Recent studies (1, 2) show there has been a significant drop in the number of believers who read the Bible daily during the COVID-19 Outbreak. On the other hand, non-believers are searching for God more than ever (3). I believe this shows both the promise and the problems of walking through a wilderness season in your faith.

Have you ever been in a spiritually dry season? You know, those times when your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling instead of making their way to heaven. You do not need a pandemic to experience this. It is something many of us go through at one time or another. Maybe you are in a similar situation now. If so, you are not alone.

Does God Lead Us To The Desert?

God lead the nation of Israel into the wilderness immediately after delivering them from Egypt. The desert was used to transform them from captives to conquerors.

The Spirit also led Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism before his public ministry began. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Matthew 4:1 ESV

Then there is this verse in Hosea.

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

– Hosea 2:14 NLT

Here we see God not only leads into the wilderness, but there is also the reward of Intimacy with Him there.

We should be careful not to ask God to take us out of somewhere He has led us into for His purposes. The wilderness seasons of life can cause us to feel alone and overlooked. These are not times when God had forgotten us but are when He has isolated from other things so we can focus on him.

The wilderness can be painful. We just want the desert to end. Here are three things I have learned to pray while in a spiritually dry season.

3 Prayers for the Desert

Ask God to show you what He would like you to learn

…instead of praying for Him to get you out of your circumstances.

I used to pray, “God, get me out!” When things got tough. Now, I know when I want to do this, it is always an alert God is up to something. Sometimes, the lesson is finding peace in waiting or redefining what success looks like. Other times God puts new tools in my hands I didn’t know I needed. It takes time to learn them before I can begin to see the benefits they can bring. 

Ask God to draw you closer to Him and make you more like Him

…instead of praying for things to God back to the way they were.

It can appear there is not much good we can take from some seasons of life. Thank God those are so few. But even in the darkest times, we can take away some good. That is because, in everything, God is always bringing us closer to Him and making us more like Him. We need to be open to the process. 

Ask God to prepare you for what he wants to give

…instead of asking why He has taken so much away.

Before God can provide us with what He wants us to have, we must be willing to make room by letting go of what we already have. The wilderness is the perfect place for this to happen.

The discomfort of the wilderness is mostly from detoxing even though we may feel like it is from a lack of something want. The desert causes us to lean on God in areas we have we have substituted with other things. The side effects of not having those things meet our needs on a surface level will soon be replaced by the satisfaction of allowing God to do a deeper work in us.

An Oasis in Every Desert

When life gets rough, we can still have some of the most tender moments with God. The intimacy that results from the wilderness is one of the main reasons we can always leave those seasons with gratitude.

There are other results from God leading us into the wilderness that can be found in Hosea as well.

“I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”

Hosea 2:15 NLT

The wilderness is not about God sending harm our way to purify us or make us better. He is not the author of bad news but He can turn our bad news into good news when we put our trust in Him. The wilderness is a season where God intentionally allows our lives to be stripped down in a way that may make us uncomfortable at the moment, but if we press through with our eyes on Him, He will bring us through a transformation we can be thankful for as a result. 

What are some lessons you have learned from the wilderness? What tips would you give a friend is you knew they were about to enter a desert season?

*Sources:

  1. https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/07/22/pandemic-has-people/
  2. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/state-of-bible-reading-coronavirus-barna-abs.html
  3. https://www.lightworkers.com/pandemic-has-led-to-reading-the-bible/

This content is an excerpt from my mini-book, The Case for Following Your Heart, and originally appeared on my blog June 2019.

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4 Things You May Not Know About Church Planting

Church planters are like the special forces of ministry. It takes courage to launch out into the unknown to serve people you have never met. It’s a worthy cause and one filled with lots of surprises along the way.

Some of the things I have learned working with church planters at ARC is what you would expect. Church planting is risky. You should get lots of experience leading and teaching in a local church before launching out. It requires a lot of coffee. Others were a surprise to discover. 

Here are 4 things you may not have considered about church planting:

Fundraising is easier and harder than you think.

When you make fundraising about the vision and the people you are going to reach, then it becomes much easier to make the ask. You are not asking for you. You are asking for the people you are going to reach. This frees you up to step out because you know what people are giving to is going to make an eternal difference.

This doesn’t mean fundraising is easy. In fact, in some ways fundraising is harder than you think. It is not something that starts or stops in the launch phase of a church plant. It starts long before you have the need by being faithful and considerate in the way you build relationships. It continues long after the launch because your church will continue to utilize financial resources to grow, reach more people, and serve the hurting and overlooked.

There is a language to church planting.

You must learn and speak the language of a church planter if you are going to start a church. When Jesus spoke he used stories and illustrations that were common to those he was speaking to. Church planters must use the same principle when starting a church.

You speak the language of a church planter when you translate insider Christian language into messaging everyone can understand. One way to do this is by communicating your reason for planting a church in a way that is meaningful to not only someone who already values faith and spirituality, but those you hope to reach as well. 

How you leave one season determines how you enter the next.

If you want to reap in favor, then you need to sow in honor. Even the best transitions can be challenging because a disconnection is taking place. When you speak well of, honor, and respect the wishes of your sending pastor you are investing in your own future by attracting loyal followers yourself.

When you go into your city it can be easy to only think of the needs of your new church plant. But remember, you are entering a community of existing churches. One day, you will be on the other end of a new church planter moving into your area. Lead the way with honor. Create an environment of unity in your city by asking how you can serve the other churches in your community instead of asking what they can do for you.

It takes longer than you think

You may be able to launch your church with ARC in as short as 6 months. This doesn’t mean everything you hoped to see will happen right away. It takes time to grow. Many times God has to grow your capacity as a leader before your church’s capacity to attract people can increase as well.

There are many aspects of your vision to start a church that will not be online for day one. Trying to get everything going all at once can lead to discouragement in you and exhaustion in your team. Dividing your focus prematurely can also lead to you not giving the essentials the attention they deserve. Parts of the vision will be realized on day one, others the next year, and still others in the years to come.

Church planting is an exciting journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. It also brings the reward of witnessing the miracle of new faith community being born first hand. If you like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out.

If you are a church planter then I would love to hear from you! What were some things you didn’t expect that you found out after launching out to start a church?

*This post first appears as a contribution on KevMill.com.

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Attributes of a Church Planter

How do you know if you are a church planter? Well, if you like to wear button-down plaid shirts, then there’s a good chance you were born to plant a church. Just kidding! But it is an odd recurring phenomenon I have noticed…

There are lots of personality tests out there, and spiritual gift assessments you can take that can help you determine if you are a good fit for church planting. Ultimately, if God has called you to it, then He will equip you for it. It doesn’t matter if you fit in any particular mold or not.

If you are wondering though, here are some characteristics I have noticed effective church planters possess.

5 Attributes of a Church Planter

Evangelistic
The heart of the Great Commission to make new disciples of Jesus. Is soul winning a burning passion of yours?

Authentic
Are you comfortable being yourself? There is a difference in learning from others and wanting to be like them at the expense of being your authentic self. It is important to know the difference. If you aren’t comfortable being yourself, then others will have a hard time being comfortable around you as well.

Engaging
You cannot rely on marketing tools or other people to build your team. You must be able to attract people to the vision God has given you. This happens through being authentic and speaking the everyday language of people outside of the church. Are you someone who can engage in modern culture, or do you speak in preachy religious terms?

Honoring
You must honor where you came from, and the churches in the area where you are going. You may know “honor-speak,” but do your actions and attitudes match your words? If you are not ready to honor, even when it hurts, then you are not prepared to be a church planter.

Life-giving
You must believe the best in others. You cannot claim to have great faith, without having great faith in people. The people God sends to help you launch your church are your greatest assets.

ARC has an assessment process that does a great job giving feedback on people’s readiness to plant a church. We don’t determine your call, because we know that is between you and God. We do our best though to help you find the right timing and circumstances to launch strong. Visit arcchurches.com to find out more about our process and to apply.

What attributes do you think make a great church planter? I know there are more than just what I mentioned. I’d love to hear from you!

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Altar Call Before Protocol

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Reinhard Bonnke

*I originally shared this story on my blog four years ago, but this is an updated version I have not posted before. I have been very moved by Reinhard Bonnke’s example of faith, integrity, and winning souls. I had the chance to host him when he was speaking at Bethany in 2011. It was an amazing experience spending time with someone who is so legendary in Heaven. After that, I read his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire. In this post, I give just one example of how he has inspired me to point people to Jesus whenever I can. For context, at the time this story takes place I had just begun a job working in sales after a year and a half working in retail, and before that seven years in ministry.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Transitioning from retail to my role at a technology company brought about some considerable changes to my daily life. The new position gave me a regular schedule. I was now able to get more involved in church as a leader. It also provided the chance to meet some interesting people.

As part of my job, I attended a networking event called “Around the Table.” I went to many different networking meetings in hopes of generating sales during this time, but this one was different. Instead of meeting at an office or restaurant, everyone taking part gathered in various community leaders’ homes for dinner and discussion. The area chamber of commerce hosted the event, and they decided the house where you would attend, not by who you knew, but by which topics you were interested in discussing. I read through a list of questions that determined where I would have dinner. The one that jumped out at me the most was, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

That question stopped me in my tracks. I had not seriously considered it before. I had stepped out of my comfort zone by taking time away from working in ministry, but so far, it had felt mostly like a failure. It was a question that was painful for me to answer. So why not attend a dinner party with a bunch of high powered strangers and discuss it with them?

I was happy to have Amy with me that night. She dazzled everyone with her charm. She is an elegant, timeless, and beautiful. I’m not just saying that because I will get major points for putting this in my blog. She is the kind of beauty that makes you look twice. She has big bright eyes and thick dark hair. She carries herself with confidence, and I knew she would shine at that business dinner. People probably liked me more because she was there.

About the same time I was hired at my technology job, Amy was asked to work at the church we were attending. The position was to assist with their non-profit organization, HP Serve. I couldn’t think of any better ending to this crazy experiment than to end up working at our new church together.

Instead, it was Amy working closely with the church through the non-profit as I continued to be a fish out of church. Amy is extremely talented. It makes sense why they would want her on staff, but it just seemed like another reminder that my dream of being in ministry was on an indefinite hiatus.

Feeling Out of Place

At dinner, Amy told every business leader about her work to help underprivileged and disadvantaged youth through HP Serve. She had everyone interested in finding out how they could get involved. They didn’t know part of her job included fundraising, which she seemed to be doing an effecting job doing as my plus one. All for Jesus, right? I enjoyed connecting and meeting some fascinating people as well, but I felt a little insecure. Amy had all the exciting things to talk about. I was just a salesperson at a dinner attended by people much higher up on the business food chain.

When it was time to eat, high powered business owners, CEO’s, and influential people in our community all sat around the table with Amy and me. I found it difficult to relate to a group of people who had accomplished amazing things in business. One person shared they had just spent Thanksgiving in New York City watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with iconic giant balloons floating by their hotel room. I wanted to contribute to the conversation, I really did, but then I remembered some words of wisdom someone once passed onto me, “You can be silent, and people may think you are an idiot, or you can open your mouth, and remove all doubt.”

By this point, I was two years away from the ministry world I had left. I had pizza experience and could tell them how to layer the cheese just right so that the bubbly goo baked to perfection. I could share hacks for their iPhones to make the battery last longer, or which data plan would allow them to have cheaper rates while they were in Paris. But it felt like too much time had passed since I mattered as a leader in the community.

Altar Call Before Protocol

I was silent for most of the evening until they got to the point in the dinner party where they asked that question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” As soon as the discussion began, a phrase popped into my mind, “Altar call before protocol.”

In his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, Reinhard Bonnke mentioned God speaking this same phrase to him over and over again as he was brought before presidents, rulers, and dignitaries throughout his ministry. I believe God had brought this to my remembrance to give a little bit of confidence for what would happen next.

It was clear that God wanted me to share the gospel with these 25 strangers, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. I was so intimidated by these people that I had hardly said a word the entire night. Then before I had time to put together a game plan, the host turned to me and asked, “Josh, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

I started with a philosophical quote in an attempt to engage the room. “Blaise Pascal says that ‘there is a God-shaped void in the heart of every man, and the only thing that can fill it is God Himself.’ If I knew I couldn’t fail, then I would spend the rest of my life helping people fill that void by connecting them to God.”

The room stared blankly at me. I need to unpack that a little, or they would think a crazy person had been invited to their fancy party.

“I would do this through writing books that show how God really is, and not how we perceive Him to be through religious filters.” Heads start to nod, and I take it a step further by sharing some of my journey to believe again with them.

“Not too long ago, I was a pastor on staff at a church. Then I felt God leading me to make a change. As a result, I ended up working in retail sales for a year and a half before working where I am now. I had to move out of my house and had to sell most of my belongings. Now that I am on the other side of the pulpit, I have had the chance to see things differently. During this time, I began to realize that I did not have a healthy way of relating to God, church life, or others. My old perspective was based on what I could do for God, instead of what God has already done for me. I want to write things that will encourage those who are down and out or feel away from God, that will help them find their way again.”

Throughout the night, people were commenting on how if they knew they couldn’t fail, then they would try and bring about positive social change. Everyone had a long list of what they thought would be the right fix. All of their ideas were admirable and selfless, but they left out the most significant force for change the world has ever known. While I had their attention, I felt it was an excellent opportunity to use that conversation to springboard into what I thought God most wanted me to say that night. “Altar call before protocol,” as Reinhard Bonnke would say.

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,’ and the love of God is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. It is our best hope for the troubles our city faces. While improvements in education, law enforcement, and health care are all needed and essential, that is not what is going to change our community. Only the gospel can do that.”

Ah, That’s Nice…

Throughout the evening, after someone shared for a moment, everyone would say something like, “Ah that’s so nice. You should do that!” then move on. That’s not what happened after I shared. Instead, the owner of the home we were in, who happened to be a top executive in a Fortune 500 company, said, “Wait a second, I don’t want to move on just yet. Let’s go back to what Josh was saying. Tell us more!”

I continued, “What I have learned is that many people do not understand the gospel. The good news is not that we can get to God, but that He has already come to us in Jesus. The Bible says that He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. Our part is not to go out and earn the right to have Him come to our house. It’s just to open the door in faith and ask him to come and sit at the table, and join us for dinner.”

After a few “amens” from the room, the host said, “You need to get to writing! That is a message people need to hear.” 

Throughout the rest of the evening, God was front and center and came up throughout our discussions. It was a fun time, and I was encouraged that God used me to share the gospel with people who I probably would have never had the chance to reach from a microphone at church.

I felt like a fish out of water that night, but I was making a difference. It is not only the preacher with the microphone that can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. That alone will never be enough. While that is needed, we also need people outside of the walls of the church, unafraid to be who God made them to be, even if there is not already a model for that. Maybe that is you?

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Fundraising Mistakes and Musts for Church Planters

Over the years at ARC I have seen some successful as well as some not so successful approaches to fundraising. Here are a few quick tips if you are looking to raise money for a church plant. 

Mistakes Church Planters Make with Fundraising

The biggest mistake people make is not making the ask at all. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to give to something you know is going to be good for the people you are reaching as well as well the person who is giving. It’s better to assume that people want to have the opportunity to be a blessing and are looking for an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing. 

The second mistake is making too strong of an ask. This can happen in multiple ways. One way is by asking someone for money who you do not have any relational equity with. You start fundraising, not with a meeting when you give a pitch, but by genuine relationship long before you make an ask. You may not always have that opportunity for long term relationship though. In this situation you want to make sure that you ask them to pray about getting involved instead of asking for money the first time you meet with them. 

The key to overcoming both of these mistakes of being too shy or too bold is to not make it about you. Make fundraising about the people you are reaching and the person who is having a chance to get involved with what God is doing.

Practical Steps to Fundraising Well

  1. Prepare for a fundraising meeting by finding out about the person you are meeting with. 
  2. Start the meeting by asking questions about them and their vision. This way you can better connect your vision to what they are already passionate about.
  3. Share your needs, but also share your vision, and your practical plan for sustainability. How are you going to get a return on their investment? 
  4. It’s always good to follow up and thank the person for their time with a personal note. 
  5. Being authentic and truly caring for each person you come into contact with may be the best fundraising strategy you can employ. 

Most pastors don’t get into church planting because they are passionate about fundraising. They step out in faith out of a love for God and people. I think we should keep these two things in front of us when fundraising. God is our source, and fundraising for a church plant is just one more way we can learn to lean on Him more.

If you would like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out

*This article first appeared as a contribution in the ARC Magazine.

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The Path to Healthy

How to move forward when you feel stuck in dysfunction

My youngest daughter hates wearing jackets. Getting her to put one on is always a struggle. On the other hand, she loves playing with dolls and tiny figurines. These two things collided recently when the sleeves of her coat got stuck around her hands that were each holding toy dolls. She couldn’t get the jacket off, which made her upset, and she also could no longer play with her toys, which made her even more upset.

Here’s the problem: she would not let me take the toys out of her hands so the jacket that was keeping her from playing with her toys could be removed. As long as she was not willing to let go of the toys, she could never really be free to play with them.

My daughter’s conundrum with her toys and jacket is how we can be in many areas. It is also an accurate way to describe codependent relationships and unhealthy environments. We feel stuck, but we can’t get out, because there are things we don’t want to be removed from our hands.

If we want to move forward on the path to healthy then there are things we have to let go of first. What are you holding on to that is keeping you in a relationship or position that you know is not the best for you? Usually, the thing we think we are going to lose by letting go is the very thing we are sacrificing by holding on.

Three Options

Letting go is scary. That is why so many people choose a different response. We shouldn’t be a turtle that hides-a-way in our shells and hopes the problem goes away. Avoiding an issue never solves it, and it almost never gets better on its own. Action must be taken, but it has to be the right action.

We also shouldn’t take on the role of crusader and cut down everyone in sight with the sword of truth. It is in this situation that we must be sensitive to building up the Kingdom and not tearing it down. While steps should be taken, they should be done through the lens of humility. This is the only way to guard our hearts and protect those we want to help without responding out of offense or hurt.

The third option is to be a responsible spiritual leader who puts your own health and that of your family (or future family), ahead of your pride, position, influence, and ambitions.

A Biblical Solution

Think about what David did when he left Saul. He didn’t raise an army and split the kingdom. David didn’t harass the king and the people with reports of his mistreatment. Instead, he moved on and allowed God to settle the matter in His own time. It was many years before David was elevated from the time he was mistreated. It took even longer than that if you consider his journey to becoming king from the time he was anointed. The wilderness seasons of his life that caused him to wrestle with God and his soul allowed him to become the great leader he was.

If you find yourself in an unhealthy situation, then the odds are you have become unhealthy in at least some small way yourself, and are probably unaware. That is why, instead of putting your hope in man, you must put your confidence in Christ. That may sound a little cliche, but let me help make this practical. Instead of pointing your finger at others, be willing to expose yourself – to the right influences. You should ultimately find your value in who you are in Christ and not a title or position.

Most of what I have had to say revolves around taking responsibility yourself, and allowing God to handle the dysfunction in others. This may not be what you hoped I would advise, but I promise you this is the best way to protect yourself, the people in your circle of influence, and leave the door open for reconciliation. I am convinced reconciliation is much more of a priority to God than we realize.

Reclaiming spiritual health after experiencing dysfunction in a church or ministry can be tough. With God’s help, and if we are willing to do some soul gardening of our own, then an enjoyable, meaningful Christian experience is possible.

This is my final post in this collection. You can read the entire group of blogs by selecting the “Soul Gardening” category.