Loving Your Wife With Intentionality

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25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33 | NLT

We are called to be men of intentionality.  We are given the opportunity and responsibility of living life on purpose, with a purpose, and for a purpose.  It’s this same attitude of intentionality that we are to take on as husbands and that’s what this blog is all about.

In our series at Illumination Church, “Blessed”, we are taking on Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus verse by verse.  This last Sunday brought us to a place where the focus was placed on the role of men and women in marriage, how women are to submit to their husbands and how the husband must love his wife and die for her.  I want to spend some time following up with the role of men in marriage in this blog post.

What Is Love?
Husband.  You are called to love your wife, and not just love your wife, but to love your wife in the same way that Jesus Christ loves the church.  In order for us to understand what this kind of love looks like, we must first understand what this kind of love is and then look to the examples of how Christ demonstrates this love for the church.  Let’s go…

“Love” – In Ephesians 5:25, we read that the role of the husband is to love his wife.  There are five different types of the word love used in the New Testament, five Greek words that assign different meanings, each significant to their context and setting.  In this case, the word love found in the original text is ἀγαπάω or agapa(o).  This is a derivative of an agape kind of love, which is a verb and implies action associated to the word.  What’s more is that it reads like this by definition: “to take pleasure in” or “to long for”.  This kind of love is a love that is undeserved and is given without merit, the kind of love that Jesus gives us, the Bride of Christ (church body).

Now that we have a bit of a better understanding of the kind of love that husbands are to exhibit to their wives, let’s look at some of the examples as set by Jesus – “love your wives just as Christ loved the church”.

Christ Loved The Church
To understand how we, as husbands, are to love our wives, we must first understand how Christ loved the church.  Without these examples, we wonder aimlessly throughout marriage without purpose or intention, but hoping for a “great marriage”.

Here are some examples that Christ demonstrates his love for the church; examples that we can be intentional about implementing in our lives and marriages.

Humility – Christ humbled himself for the church.  Philippians 2:5-8 says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privilege; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  Jesus, awesome in power, intentionally surrendered his position and humbled himself, giving up everything, including his life, in meek position out of love.  That’s humility; to have access to infinite power and position, yet giving it up and taking on the posture of a slave willingly and out of love.  Christ loved the church through his humility.

As a husband, you have the opportunity to love your wife through demonstrating humility in how you live your life, more specifically how you interact with your wife.  Humility doesn’t mean conceding and forfeiting your convictions to simply say, “yes dear”.  What it means is that you are intentional about setting aside your own agenda for the betterment of your marriage and to honor your wife.  An example.  Start by listening to what she has to say.  Don’t talk over her or already be formulating your next sentence while she is still talking.  Actively listen to what your wife is saying, ask clarifying questions, affirm her in what she is saying, and respond in kindness.  This is just one example.  There are many more like it, examples of demonstrating humility in your marriage:

  • apologize when you mess up
  • don’t always have to be right or have the last word
  • do what she wants to do (date night, vacation, movie, dinner, etc.)
  • pick up some extra chores around the house; ones that you might not think is “man’s work” and give her a break

Death – Christ gave up his life for our salvation.  Romans 5:6-9 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.”  We were destined for death because of our sin nature (Romans 3:23), but Christ died in our place and made a way for us to experience life in light of what he did when he died for our sins.  Jesus died for the church in order that we might experience life.  Christ loved the church through his death.

While most men are quick to go to a place in their mind where death means putting up his life for his wife in a dangerous situation where she is being attacked or throwing yourself in front of a moving vehicle in an effort to save your wife, this is unlikely and is really only a small percentage of what it means to be willing to die for your wife.  A far more realistic idea of what laying down your life for your wife looks like is to mutually submit (Eph. 5:21) to your wife daily by doing the dishes, changing the baby’s diaper, walking the dogs, folding her laundry, making dinner, and giving her some time to herself.  This idea of dying to yourself also looks like doing what you can to help your wife achieve her dreams and become all that God has intended for her to be.  Simply put, it means putting your wife before yourself and that will require dying to yourself.

Prayer – Christ prayed for the church.  John 17:6-26 is an incredible example of how Christ, hours before he would lay down his life through death on the cross for you and me, prayed for his church.  Jesus gives us this example and I can’t think of a greater way for a husband to love his wife than to pray for and with her.

Some ideas of how you, as a husband, can be praying for your wife include:

  • prayer for her relationship with God to grow and mature
  • prayer for her as a daughter of God to exhibit characteristics of God in her life
  • prayer for her place of employment (if applicable)
  • prayer for her as a homemaker (if applicable)
  • prayer for her as a mother (if applicable)
  • prayer for her in the form of praise for the opportunity that you have to have her in your life

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of prayers that you can pray for your wife, but can serve as a great catalyst for an intentional prayer life on behalf of your wife.  Start by praying for your wife every morning while you’re in the shower or getting ready for the day.  End your day praying with your wife before bed.

Affirmation – Christ affirmed the church. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  This example of Jesus’ encouragement follows an entire conversation that Jesus has (John 15:18-16:33) with his disciples about the things that they will soon face in light of their relationship with Jesus as well as his affirmation of who they are and what they are committed to.

One of the greatest gifts that we, as husbands, can give our wives is the gift of affirmation.  There is nothing in this world like a positive comment from a husband to his wife; it’s powerful!  What’s more is that it is an example of how Jesus loved the church and how we are to love our wives.

Some examples of affirming your wife might be:

  • tell her how much you appreciate her as a person…and why
  • make sure she knows how beautiful you think she is
  • thank her for what she does for you and your family (give specifics)
  • take a trip down memory lane and share some of your fondest memories of her with her

This may not come natural to you, but it’s a game-changer for your marriage and is an example that Jesus sets for us as husbands, to affirm our wives.  Start today and change the trajectory of your marriage forever.

Service – Christ served the church.  John 13 shows us how Jesus served his disciples:“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.  When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”  Jesus demonstrates his love through his intentional service with the disciples – he took on the position of the lowest servant in a household and washed his disciple’s feet, an unthinkable act for someone of Jesus’ position and stature.

As a husband, you have the awesome opportunity to demonstrate your love for your wife by laying down your life through service to her.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who told me about how he stopped along the side of the road on a 100′ day coming straight from work dressed in business attire to change his wife’s tire on her vehicle.  He wasn’t necessarily excited to be there or to mess with a disgusting, dirty tire, or to have semi trucks whipping by as he was laying on the ground changing his wife’s tire.  That said, he was glad to have the opportunity to demonstrate his love to his wife through serving her in this manner.

There are many ways every day that you and I can demonstrate our love to our wives by intentionally serving her:

  • make the bed (without begin asked)
  • vacuum the carpet (without being asked)
  • volunteer to go grocery shopping (without being asked)
  • take out the garbage (without being asked)
  • pick up the kids from dance or soccer or band (without being asked)
  • put the laundry away (without being asked)

Ask yourself how you might demonstrate love for your wife and be willing to lay down your life by serving your wife today – what can you do to serve her?  Now put your thoughts into action man of God.

Lead – Christ leads the church.  In Matthew we see how Jesus leads the church,18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Christ demonstrated a life of leadership, specifically 3-years of ministry, which was recorded for you and I to believe and to apply to our lives.  What’s more is that Jesus gives us the mandate and the authority to lead out of his leadership.

To lead our wives doesn’t mean that we lord it over them.  Instead, we lead by example, we lead out of obedience, we lead out of our relationship with Jesus, we lead out of love, we lead out of submission, we lead because we are called to lead and willingly accept that awesome responsibility and incredible mandate for husbands.

In order for any of us husbands to effectively lead our wives, we must first have a healthy perspective of what biblical leadership is and what our responsibility in leading looks like.  What’s more is that in an effort to effectively lead our wives, we must have their trust, admiration, and respect.  This cannot be demanded of anyone, but is something that is earned over time and through experience.  Stop and ask yourself if you’ve earned the right to lead your wife.  If the answer is “no”, it’s not too late.  You can began by growing in your relationship with God through prayer, through reading your Bible, through accountability with other godly men, and by demonstrating sound judgement one choice at a time.  The ability to lead your wife is earned and not given.  We must take this responsibility incredibly serious!

Are you leading:

  • with the way you work?
  • with the way you treat your children?
  • with the words you use?
  • with your attitude?
  • with your finances?
  • with your volunteer work in the church and community?
  • with your devotional life?
  • with your prayer life?
  • with your involvement in your local church?

These are just a few of the questions we’ve got to wrestle with in an effort to effectively lead our wives through laying down our lives out of love for our wives.

Though wives are called to submit to their husbands, and we’ll address that this week, we, as husbands are given three times the instruction to love our wives and to lay down our lives for our brides.  This isn’t an accident but is very intentional.

Man of God.  Love your wife today and know that you’re not in this journey alone.

I pray that this study will be helpful and effective in spurring you and I, as husbands, on in our role and responsibility as a husband.

-A. Anderson

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37 Reasons I Loved Camp Zion

Several months ago I was invited to speak at a Family Camp for the NorthCentral Conference of the Evangelical Church of North America, Camp Zion.  Being honest I was hesitant, not because I don’t enjoy speaking, but because of all that I would have to give up for the week – my responsibilities as a Lead Pastor, my son’s soccer schedule, my gym workouts, and my bed.  I know that what I just shared sounds ridiculous and I must admit that I’m even a bit embarrassed as I process the reasons that I thought twice before becoming excited.  I never realized how “pre-madonna” I could be.

It didn’t take long before I moved past my selfish thoughts and desires agreeing to speak at the camp and over the next several months, weeks, and days leading up to the camp my heart grew ever more excited for the possibilities of what God could do in the lives of those at camp and in my life.  

Here are 37 reasons I loved Camp Zion this year:
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The young people represented in this picture are just some of the young men and women who responded to the gospel message of Jesus Christ, 37 in all, most of whom are pictured above.  Throughout the week different people made commitments to surrender their life to God and allow Him to lead them as they learn to LEAD in life.  Each one of these students has an incredible story, really!  God is working through their lives in ways that I cannot articulate.  I was and continue to be blown away by their faith in God and their belief that He is going to use them to make a difference in their world.  They are many of the reasons that I loved Camp Zion and am glad that I went.

Man, watching someone come to an understanding of their need for a right relationship with Jesus Christ never gets old.  

And to think that I might not have been a part of what God wanted to do in and now through the lives of these youth who were in attendance at Camp Zion because of the minor inconvenience of many creature comforts this world has to offer.  I even got to the point of justifying it in my head as what ministry I would be missing here at home.  Man, I’m glad the Holy Spirit kicked my butt into gear and that I surrendered my agenda for the will of God.  In the end, I feel like I’m the one who learned the most and experienced an incredible amount at camp through what God all throughout the week at Camp Zion through these kids.

This leads to my thought for the day…

How much of what God has in store for you and me are we missing out on because we don’t want to be inconvenienced?

I guess I wonder if, when we choose to not follow through with an opportunity that God presents us with, if we aren’t that much different than the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus at most costs: (Mark 10:17-27 | NLT)

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.  But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”  This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”  The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.  Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

How often do we come to Jesus with what we think are good intentions?  How much do we think we desire the things of God?  Up until the point in which we encounter Jesus and truly consider His will in our lives, following Him at, well most costs sounds great.  It’s usually the last 10% that we don’t want to give up in order to follow what God has for us to do.

What’s your last 10%?  What’s keeping you from pursuing Christ in all things, in all areas of your life?

I want to encourage you to be purposeful today about the things that God’s call you to.  You don’t know how God will use you and work in and through you in light of your obedience in following him.  It could change the trajectory of someone’s eternity today?!

Learning to die to self,

A. Anderson

 

Intentional Breakthrough

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Do you ever feel like your stuck in a desert somewhere and you can’t seem to find your way out?  Does it ever seem like it doesn’t matter what you try, life seems like it’s destined for the desert places and so you lose sight of what lies beyond the dusty dryness, a parched land that has become all too familiar and has begun to feel like home.

I’ve been there.  In some moments it feels like I’m still there; stuck looking for an oasis from the scorching heat of this world that seemingly oppresses my soul and burns me up inside.

The good news is that we, you and me, don’t have to stay in the desert.

Signs of Desert Dwelling:

  1. If it can go wrong, it will probably go wrong
  2. All I can see in front of me is burnt ground with no signs of life
  3. At times, the desert seems too long with no end in sight
  4. I’ve been here long enough that this now seems familiar, even to the point of comfort
  5. What would I do with myself if I were to ever leave this dry place

I’ve been in the desert place more times than I care to admit and the signs of desert dwelling above are just a few of the symptoms that I’ve experienced in my time out in the desert.

Recently God revealed to me the idea of an INTENTIONAL BREAKTHROUGH.  Just this past Sunday I was sitting at my dining room table long before anyone else in my family woke up and was reading in my personal devotion time.  I read from Hebrews 1 & 2 and then the Holy Spirit lead me to Psalm 54, a Psalm of David when he was camped out in the mountains in hiding from King Saul who sought his life.  David’s words capture the imagination penetrating deep into the heart where one can readily identify with the grief of being stuck, but so desperately waiting and wanting a way out.  It was in this Psalm that God spoke to me these words:

“Intentional Breakthrough”

I have been looking at the desert through the same lenses for so long that I am used to the landscape of the dry ground that my feet reside on.  But what I have failed to comprehend and where God brought me on Sunday was to a place of looking at life beyond the desert dwelling.  And in order for me to see beyond my current circumstance it would require being intentional about earnestly seeking a breakthrough, a place of getting to different ground, solid ground, where Christ is my foundation, the Holy Spirit my tour guide, and God is the landscape of life.

I am committing to fast and pray for this intentional breakthrough and am asking God to give me a new lens by which I might see in order to allow the Spirit of God to lead me out of desert dwelling and into a promised land flowing with His assurance.

It’s my understanding that God is with me even in the desert, that God can and will use our desert experiences to bring glory to His name, and that He loves me right where I’m at but He’s not willing to leave me there.  So I will seek an intentional breakthrough and press in to God as He leads me out of this desert place, dry and weary land where death permeates the atmosphere.

And you?  Where are you today?  Are you in a desert land or are you experiencing the fullness of God through an intentional breakthrough?  Wherever you are I am certain of this, that God is with you and me, and that He will never leave us nor forsake.

Press in to Him today in spite of your spiritual location and allow the Spirit of God to lead you on this journey today.

A. Anderson

A no good, awful, frazzled, terrible kind of day!

ImageHave you ever experienced one of those days, the type of day that just can’t be summed up in one word because it wouldn’t do it justice?  I don’t mean a bad day or even a horrible day…

I’m talking about a no good, awful, frazzled, terrible kind of day!

I heard an orator once say that if you weren’t having a challenging day, you had either just come out of one or that one was coming.  The point of his message wasn’t that we have bad days, but that we are realistic about life and what we do with the bad days that we’ll face.

In a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to his friends and believers at the church in Philippi, Paul had this to say about no good, awful, frazzled, terrible kind of days:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 / NIV)

Seems easy enough, right?  It’s all a matter of perspective and how we process that which we are encountering.  Yet somehow we can allow some of our days to turn into the worst of country songs out there; you know, the kind of day and song where your dog dies, your cow eats your dead dog, your tractor runs over your cow, your tractor breaks down after running over the cow that ate the dead dog, and your wife burns the macaroni and cheese bake.

What would happen if we, in the middle of our crummy circumstances, took God at his Word:

God says in His Word that:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God says in His Word that: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

God says in His Word that: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

God says in His Word that: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

God says in His Word that: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

God’s Word is more than a dusty old history book.  It’s full of promise and purpose.  It is active and alive.  It’s a game-changer when we allow it be take root in our lives.

Honestly, yesterday – June 10th, 2013, has been one of the hardest days (all day) in my life over the last 5-years.  It literally felt as though nothing went right from my first meeting at 7:00AM to my last meeting which ended at nearly 11:00PM.  I experienced the gamete of emotions yesterday, everything from frustration to sorrow, to anger, to complete disbelief at the things that took place around me and in my life, some of which I brought upon myself and many other things that were far beyond my control.

In light of everything that happened which contributed to making my day a no good, awful, frazzled, terrible kind of day, what I will remember most was how God brought me through.  Here are 3 specific ways that God carried me through yesterday, and things that I want to encourage you to look for in those times where everything seems to be falling apart:

  1. I wasn’t alone!
    Not only was God with me, but he SURROUNDED me with family and friends, men and women who know me from my innermost being, that loved me through the circumstances of the day.  I am so grateful for my amazingly incredible wife, Stacy, for her unconditional tough love and gracious support of me as her friend, as her husband, and as a partner in ministry.  I’m also blessed beyond words by the men and women that God has blessed me to serve alongside in ministry, people of integrity and passion who live life for God on purpose.  Without them, yesterday may have seemed nearly unbearable, but because of them, I wasn’t alone!
  2. God is in control
    I’m not in control.  No matter how much I think I am in control or feel the need to be in control, I’m not in control.  God is in control.  Ephesians 1 makes this point perfectly clear when Paul writes, “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”  No matter the circumstances of life, God is in control and I can either try to fight the author and perfecter of life on how to drive this vessel, or I can surrender my will for His good, pleasing, and perfect will in spite of all life’s circumstances.  Either way, God is in control.
  3. I’m on a mission
    I shouldn’t be taken back by the garbage that I was faced with yesterday.  I’m on a mission from God and there is an adversary that continues to press in to the battle lines in hopes of thwarting, discouraging, even destroying the mission of God in my life.  And this isn’t new to me.  No!  Men and women for centuries have crossed the same enemy lines, God’s appointed like Moses and Joseph and Jacob and Mordecai and Esther and King David and the disciples…and JESUS himself came face-to-face with the tactics of the enemy in hopes of taking him off track and off task, out of the mission that God had for these men and women.  What’s important is that, in spite of the attempts and attacks at taking you and I off mission, God has a greater plan and purpose for us through living out the mission of His in our lives.  I need to remember that I’m on a mission.

The three things that I just mentioned in addition to the promises of God through His Word are not an exhaustive list, but a great place to start in terms of remembering who we are and what we are on those no good, awful, frazzled, terrible kind of days!

I pray that you find encouragement in knowing that YOU…

Are a child of God (Galatians 3:26)
Are created in His image (Genesis 1:27)
Are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
Are not in this alone (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Are more than a conquerer (Romans 8:31-39)

Remember this, there is nobody greater than God:

Dream: Your passion for your church

As a Pastor for better than 15-years, I must confess that I have oft forgotten what ministry outside of vocational ministry looks like; the passion, the purpose, the dream.  It’s a piece of heaven on earth that God gives us, his children, and it’s that ministry that drives the outward expression of our inward faith in obedience.

But what happens when people within the church lose sight of the vision and dream for the local church?

In talking with countless men and women over the years and in states from the far east coast to the far west coast and beyond, I have found that the response to life within the church or lack thereof carries with it many similarities.

I’ve put together a list of 5 symptoms for a person’s loss of vision or inability to dream within their church.  This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it is a good representation of what I’ve seen and heard in over a decade of life in ministry.  I invite you to consider the symptoms and to honestly evaluate your own heart toward your church, and then to consider the article that I’ve included from one of my favorite bloggers, Thom Rainer, below.

Five symptoms of a person’s lost vision and dreams within the local church:

  • You start using words and terms like “attend church” rather than I belong to, or my church.
    This separation is subtle, but speaks volumes about a person’s ability to understand and carry out the vision and dreams of Christ through the local church, and a lot of times it has a lot more to do with a lack of mission and vision or dreams within the local church than it does with the buy-in of people from the community.  None the less, this is a tell-tale sign that you have lost the ability to dream within your local church.  If you find yourself no longer identifying with your church, you might have lost sight of the dreams…
  • You no longer give a tithe, or money, and if you do it’s done begrudgingly.
    I’ve heard too many pastors and leaders within the church tell me about how people within their church “vote” with their wallets and their feet.  That is, if they don’t understand, believe or buy-in to the dreams of the church, they’ll stop giving.  I’m not sure if this a form of picketing or punishment, but it’s indicative of an individual who doesn’t understand and hasn’t adopted the mission, vision, and dreams of the local church.  This, no longer giving, is dangerous as it is as much a reflection of a person’s heart and love for Christ (faith through obedience) as it is a statement of dissatisfaction. If you find yourself less inclined to budget for and cheerfully give to the storehouse, you might have lost sight of the dream…
  • You find reasons NOT to be at church.
    Family gatherings.  Kid’s sports.  Too tired.  Not feeling well.  Stuff to do around the house.  I don’t need to attend church to be a Christian.  I’ve heard these all and a whole lot more.  The fact is, these are often symptoms of a greater problem – a loss or lack of passion for the vision and dreams of the Holy Spirit in your church.  The truth of the matter is that if a person, any person, not only understands but also believes in the dreams of his or her local church, they are excited to participate and engage in life and ministry within the church.  If you find yourself less inclined to actively participate in your church, you might have lost sight of the dreams…
  • You become very critical of the church.
    Sure, every church the world over is going to have some things that could use tweaking, adjusting, adapting, and even overhauling.  In spite of all of the quirks and faults of the local church, when a person identifies with the dreams of where God has called the church to go, that criticism becomes constructive and a call to action rather than a point of contention and gossip amongst peers within the church.  If you find yourself quick to complain about your church, you might have lost sight of the dreams…
  •  You think “church shopping” sounds like a good idea.
    Church shopping?  Really?!  I’m not sure where this term originates from but it’s probably one of the saddest terms in the “christianese” language or in the church to date.  To use the term church shopping, it insinuates that you don’t know the ingredients of the church, what’s in it, what the nutritional value is, or if you like the brand enough to buy it.  Don’t get me wrong.  If you’re someone who is new to an area, looking for a local church to belong to matters and makes sense; I would even recommend doing your due diligence to know what the MVP’s (mission, vision, values, purpose, passions) of the local church are before you commit.  What I’m saying is that if you’ve been involved in a community of believers for any length of time, to simply up and leave to find something else that meets your needs in place of working with the Pastor and the leadership of the church to help re-fine and maybe even define the vision and dreams of the church, can be more of a detriment to the body than you might realize.  If you find yourself thinking about church shopping, you might have lost sight of the dreams…

The following is an article that I read this morning from Thom Rainer, a christian leader and church visioneer.  He entitled the article, “I am a church member who dream dreams: A statement of church revitalization.”  In his article, Thom does a great job addressing some of the thoughts that will likely cross every believers mind in some form or fashion as they think about life in their church.

My hope is that as you read this article you will read it with an open mind and a pliable heart; not as ammunition for the pastor, the leaders, or the church, but as a resource to stir up that fire within you that seems to have faded or even died over time.

-A. Anderson

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And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17, HCSB – I am a church member who dreams dreams. I know that my church could use a new vision and new fire. I know that we have seen better days in our history. Sometimes it seems that we are going through the motions. I dream of a day when the vision is once again clear and the fire is intense.I am a church member who dreams dreams. Sometimes we members hang on to those things we like instead of asking God what He wants. I dream of a day when it will not be about my programs, preferences, and desires. I dream of a day when I am giving all and asking for nothing. I am a church member who dreams dreams.I know that no dream can become a dream unless we are people of prayer. Too often I give lip service to prayer. Too often I fail to pray for my pastor and my church. Too often I don’t really act like prayer matters. I dream of a day when prayer is powerful in our church.I am a church member who dreams dreams.I dream that God will break our hearts for those in our community.  That we will not neglect the hurting, the homeless, the strugglers, and the stragglers. I dream of a day when we are so powerfully present in our community that people know us by name.

I am a church member who dreams dreams.

Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. I dream of a day when we do the same in our church. I dream of a day when our hearts are so broken for those who do not know Jesus Christ, that we cannot help but speak about Him. Indeed, I dream that we will share the gospel at home and to the ends of the earth.

I am a church member who dreams dreams.

Churches are declining and dying all around us. Perhaps my church is one of those, or close to becoming one of those. I dream of a day when we will have no doubt in this church that we are vibrant and alive. Indeed I dream of a day when we come to this place excited and anticipating what God will do next.

I am a church member who dreams dreams.

But dreams cannot remain mere dreams. They must soon move to action. So I will continue to dream dreams. But I will also seek to be God’s instrument for those dreams. I will dream a dream that the old hymn is about me: “God send a revival, and let it begin in me.”

You’re My Hero!

I recently read a blog by Dr. Chuck Lawless, a Professor and Dean of Southeastern Seminary.  It was compelling and caused me to think about how we; you, me, my children, our community, look at heros.  

Who is your hero?

Why is he/she your hero?

For many, and with the constant release of films depicting Superheros of all shapes and sizes, children clammer to stores in hopes of picking up their favorite action hero figurine, movie, book, or costume.  And while this isn’t bad in and of itself, what would this world look like if our children and if we looked at missionaries, as Pastors, as lay leaders in the church as heros?

In Chuck’s blog, he does a great job bringing these thoughts to light.

 

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LEADERS AS HEROES
By Dr. Chuck Lawless

I usually think about heroes during two holidays of the year: Memorial Day and July 4th. On both days, I’m reminded of the cost many before us have paid so we might be free today. I know very few of their names, but they are nevertheless heroes.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to missionaries in Russia, and I commented that they were some of my heroes.  With a humility that typifies missionaries, they encouraged me not to see them as heroes.  “We’re just doing what God called us to do,” they told me.

I’ve heard the same words from pastors of churches that are genuinely reaching non-believers and making disciples of Christ.  It seems like the more the church is really making an eternal difference, the more likely it is that the pastor is humble and self-effacing.

Many laypersons in churches exhibit this same attitude. For example, these members of churches I’ve led come quickly to mind:

  • Sonney, a deacon who struggled to read but loved God’s Word
  • Ed, who taught me about the importance of small groups
  • Allen, who is a trophy of God’s transforming power
  • Christie, a children’s teacher who reached out to the most unloving kids

I could tell stories of my spiritual heroes for hours. Rather than make these missionaries, pastors, and laypersons feel uncomfortable, however, I have generally tried to be more cautious about speaking words of praise for them.

I’ve now changed my mind.  Ask our children who their heroes are, and I fear they will speak of a cartoon figure, a movie character, or a television superhero.  I hope they would name their parents, but I’m not persuaded that would always happen. I am fairly certain the children would not name their pastor, and I doubt most could even name a missionary. Our children can likely name others who attend church with us, but I’m not sure they would list them as heroes.

That reality, I think, is tragic. Who of the next generation will take the gospel to the ends of the earth if they don’t know the stories of missionaries? How many of our children will be open to a call to ministry because their a church leader has been a hero?  How many will long to be like their pastor who preaches the Word, lives a holy life, models personal evangelism, and loves God’s church?

Will our children know by heroic example they can be a strong Christian and a public school teacher? A well-trained CPA who models Christian integrity? A politician who stands up for righteousness? A bus driver who transports students during the week and teaches the Bible on Sunday?  A church elder and a police officer?

I want our kids to find their heroes among church leaders.

My point is not to rob God of His glory by being man-centered. Rather, it is to give God His due glory for the leaders He has given the church.  It is to praise Him for the men and women who have challenged us to follow God in radical obedience—to take risks necessary to do the Great Commission at a local, national, and international level.

So, missionary who is serving in the middle of nowhere, know that you are one of my heroes.  Church planter starting a congregation amid millions of people in your urban setting, you are my hero as well.  To the pastor who passionately shares Christ day in and day out, you, too, are numbered among my heroes. Faithful layperson who voluntarily serves the church each week, you are also in that group.

I know that makes all of you uncomfortable, but that’s part of what makes you my heroes.  You serve persistently and passionately without suffering from spiritual arrogance.  I call you my heroes without apology, knowing you will deflect any praise to the gracious God who has chosen to use you. I wish our children could know all of you.

What kind of church are you?!

risk-reward

So I’ve been thinking about church growth, health in the local church, and what my role and responsibility is within the context of a healthy church as the Lead Pastor of a church plant.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking through…

Several years ago I worked with a Pastor of a large church in a small community in Eastern North Carolina.  When asked how he was able to create a culture of church growth based on unconventional wisdom when everyone else operated under convenience, comfort, and status quo, my friend and Pastor, Jeff Severt, described three kinds of churches in a way that I will never forget, and that has made all of the difference in the world for me as I now pastor a church plant south of Minneapolis.

Church 1 – “Undertaking”
Undertaking churches are those churches that have lost sight of all vision and have adopted an inability to dream beyond themselves.  In some circles this is also called a “grave holder” or the “faithful few” church.  These are generally churches that have become so internally focused on maintaining traditions that were passed down to them or that they created that they are unwilling to shift or change to fit culture and context for fear of losing something in place of gaining nothing.

Undertaking churches might be identified by these attributes:

  • You can’t or won’t confront or risk offending the “big givers” for fear they may leave the church
  • You know where everyone parks, where they sit, who they will talk to, and what they will talk about
  • The same people are doing the same things in the same way and are content with it
  • The Pastor is biding his/her time until retirement

When you operate as an undertaking church, that’s exactly what will happen.  You’ll have a faithful few that will carry the church right into the grave and that will be it; that’s the end of that churches history, heritage, influence, and story.  That undertaking church becomes another statistic and another reason for people to be skeptical of christianity in the 21 Century.

 

Church 2 – “Care-taking”
Care-taking churches look great to those who are in them.  People’s needs are being met.  It’s comfortable.  There’s not a lot of growth, but we don’t seem to be losing that many people either.  Care-taking churches, also known as the “holy huddle”, typically focus on internal programs; ministries that meet the needs of the people already in the church.  This is a Cheers kind of church; a place where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.  While at first these churches don’t seem to be in bad shape, given enough time they will naturally morph into an undertaking church and won’t have seen it coming or won’t have thought it possible or perhaps were okay with that possibility.

These are some of the identifying markers of a care taking church:

  • If it’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed
  • That’s not how we do things around here
  • Everyone deserves buy-in and a say when it comes to the direction of the church
  • How many people from the church came to the event or activity (know who’s missing by name)
  • The Pastor is expected to be at everything; after all, that’s what he gets paid for

 

Church 3 – “Risk-taking”
Risk-taking churches are those churches that are willing to think outside of the box and do anything, just short of sinning, to see the church grow.  The risk-taking church is focused on and committed to what I call the MVP’s (mission, vision, values, purpose, and passion).  Unlike the undertaking or care-taking churches, the risk-taking church isn’t held captive to a label – missional, relational, attractional, etc., but realizes that it takes everything, including the kitchen sink to grow the church both in Spirit and in breadth, and none of which is possible without God in and through all things.  Risk-taking churches care less about what people in the church think of their plans and programs, and are so convicted and convinced of God’s will and desire for their church that if they did anything else, it would be sinful.

You might be a risk-taking church if:

  • You see people as people and not projects
  • You’re involved in your community; festivals, events, activities, meeting needs, education, etc.
  • You see problems as potential and potential as possibilities
  • “If we can dream it, we can do it” becomes a mantra
  • New salvations, baptisms, disciplining and equipping people, and getting people into leadership is a part of the DNA of your church

Now I don’t pretend to have it all figured out and at 34-years old and only 15-years in, I wouldn’t profess to know it all.  What I’m processing are churches that I’ve been a part of and that I’ve seen close up and personal.  I’m considering the countless conversations that I’ve had with pastors and people both in seminary as well as on the streets about churches of all shapes and sizes.  That said, I’m absolutely committed to doing life and ministry as a risk-taker; I’m convinced that doing anything short of sin to bring the light of Christ to people is what I want to be a part of.

There are many, many churches who believe in what they’re doing and I’m not here to lay judgement on any one of them.  In fact, as callous as it may sound, that’s their thing and I don’t necessarily want to spend my time trying to convince people who aren’t interested that there is another way to do life and ministry; church that focuses on the lost at all cost.  Now don’t get me wrong, I would love for all churches to be committed to doing everything possible to honor God and share the gospel message while making disciples.  If I can help any church in any way…I’m in.  But as Benjamin Franklin once said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”  There are far too many people who need Jesus for me to be spinning my wheels trying to convince anyone in undertaking or care-taking churches that there’s another way to be the church.

A great article that I recently read from ChurchLeadership, an article by Thom Rainer, is great food for thought on the topic of healthy churches.  You can check that out here: www.churchleaders.com/?news=139407/.

-A. Anderson