Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

AVOIDING THE NUISANCE OF NEGATIVITY

The failure of congregations to progress and move forward are numerous. Manifold. It would require numerous pages to describe the various reasons for congregational decline.

One major reason why congregations often fall into decline though stems from a most subtle and overlooked factor: abnormal negativity being in operation within a church fellowship. While negativity can emerge in any size fellowship, it will often occur in smaller congregations. With congregations that are more passive in their culture than they are active in ministry.

Certain members will begin to find fault with something that’s been said or not said; that’s been done or left undone. The supposed fault will be exaggerated. Blown out of proportion. Talked about to a point of exasperation. And like cancer it will grow like a rolling snow ball among a certain group who have been apprised of the supposed fault. The fault will then eventually be raised to a most unnecessary and highly elevated status.

Congregations fail to understand that such activities are highly dismantling. It damages a church on the inside. It nonetheless damages a church and its image among those on the outside. A church with negativity comes to inherit a reputation and image of being a fighting and feuding fellowship. People soon choose to avoid any connection with a church that’s like this. If I could portray its evil in the most effective way possible, I would refer to it as one of the, “sins of highly defective congregations.”

Problems like this need to be highlighted. Brought into the daylight. Exposed. But problems need solutions. Ways, that is, to avoid such a serious pitfall in congregational life. How may the evil of negativity be overcome?

  • By persons asking themselves, “am I part of the problem of negativity? In other words, have I fallen into this evil and subtle trap with others?”
  • By understanding that negativity is part of the devil’s strategy for disrupting a congregation’s unity.
  • By eliminating yourself from the circle of influencers who major in negativity.
  • By understanding that you are hurting the health and well-being of your congregation by being a  participant in negative messaging.
  • By recognizing and understanding that abnormal engagement in negativity is one of the “sins of highly defective churches.”
  • By acknowledging negativity as a growing problem in your life, and making a departure from it, along with asking for God’s forgiveness, as you seek a renewed pathway.
  • By planting positive seeds rather than negative seeds in the life of your congregation, as you develop a positive attitude with the use of your lips and life.

Negativity, I’m discovering, can easily become a lifestyle. A response to everything experienced. An ever developing attitude.  It can be initiated much easier than it can be eliminated. Only as we look to God for direction through Scripture and prayer, and come to see its evil in operation, are we able to make a departure from its evil ways.

I like the following words from an anonymous source: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”

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September 17, 2013 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

GOD AND THE ATTENDANCE BOARD

Most congregations I’m aware of today put great emphasis on their attendance board. To them the attendance board reflects the impact their congregation is making on their community. If the numbers are up, the congregation is doing well. If the numbers are down, weeping and gnashing of teeth is set in motion and can be heard throughout the congregation.

Additionally, the attendance board is predictably placed in a prominent spot. Congregations want everyone to see it. To view it carefully. For the attendance board will perhaps be a cause for current boasting and pride.  At other times it will set off an urgent alarm that calls for some immediate attention and remedial action. Something such as, another new church program to motivate church members and visitors to attend more regularly. Or, an effort to begin what I call the “blame game.” Penning the problem for declining attendance on someone such as the preacher or preachers.

In other words, concern with the attendance board enables congregations to incorrectly measure success or failure. Progress or retreat. Making headway or moving toward the cemetery. Knowing how many are present on any given Sunday is also joined to a concern with who’s there and who isn’t there.

It may sound like I’m making fun of the attendance board. Belittling it. Making it appear unnecessary. Making an urgent appeal to transport it to the junkyard. But that isn’t my position here at all. My concern is that we make more of the attendance board in a congregation’s success than we do anything else. It has become the reigning king. Yet, nowhere in the New Testament do I see any such over-emphasis and fanaticism.

A preacher of years past has made the following excellent statement: “Sometimes we are more concerned about the absence of the people than we are the presence of the Lord.” Was Vance Havner on target? Is what he’s saying true of your church? Does your church place the majority of its concern on the people who are there and who are not there? In the process, has your church overlooked the more most important reason for gathering: TO ENCOUNTER GOD IN THE PUBLIC WORSHIP TIME? HAS GOD BEEN INCLUDED ON YOUR ATTENDANCE BOARD?

Allow me to make a few observations at this juncture.

  • Could the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of congregations today be attributed to this wrong use of the attendance board? Have congregations given more attention to the people who are there than they have God?
  • Do congregations need to remove the attendance board from public view as a helpful means of getting the focus more on God than who is or who is not there?
  • Is it possible that our hearts have been positioned in the wrong place when we arrive at church gatherings? If the attendance board is our main concern and focus then this has happened.
  • Should we remove the attendance board, keep track of figures, but utilize the figures more in a wholistic way, as only one of many means of measuring a congregations success or failure? A congregations progress is not attached to the attendance board alone.

One church leader shared with me his concern and sense of guilt about using the attendance board as a lone measuring device. Thus, he indicated that when he counted attendance he would add the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the number. Why? Because if God isn’t there, have we missed the major reason for why we’ve assembled and exist as a church body??

July 4, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

Overcoming The Holy Huddle

With few exceptions congregations enjoy informing me that they are a friendly fellowship. And I must add here that they are friendly with me about highlighting their friendliness. They even go so far as to engage in bragging about being friendly. Yet, their friendliness is really all about the crowd with whom they’ve become familiar. They enjoy their private activities, like being together often, and eventually evolve into the assumption that friendliness isn’t a quality that’s lacking among them.

What’s amazing to these inside folks, however, is when they learn the feelings of those who enter their church for the first time from the outside.  These individuals see and experience a totally different picture than what the insiders experience. In place of friendliness they are aware of what I wish to designate as the operation of a “holy huddle.” This “holy huddle” group seldom ever breaks the huddle long enough to welcome newcomers who walk inside one of their congregations services. That is, those who are outside the normal crowd that the insiders are used to seeing.

Another thing that often happens in established congregations is small interest groups. They do form. And they enjoy being together. In fact, they stay together. Hang together. They enjoy doing things in which common interests pervade. They erect their own programs, establish marginal mindsets, and structure comfortable zones in which they seek to maintain and control their turf. But an outsider, even a member of the same congregation, cannot join their elitist group. They won’t let them. And anyone who endeavors to crack into their group will be ignored. They will even go so far as to try and exclude those who attempt to challenge their “holy huddle.”

Allow me to openly say here that nothing is more damaging and divisive to having a healthy congregation than that of the existence of a “holy huddle” mentality. It’s wrecking many congregations in this day. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it. Have even heard church visitors who are extremely unhappy with it.

I’ve described the problem. Tried to describe it vividly and genuinely. But it’s not good to present a problem and offer no corrective. No solution. How can congregations break the “holy huddle” practice?

  • By highlighting the problem. This practice often continues to raise its ugly head today because no positive efforts are ever put forward to identify and describe its evil presence. It becomes a vicious growing snowball as it continues rushing downhill.
  • By each member committing himself or herself to being a solution to this existing problem. This will happen as he or she rufuses to become a contributing member to this “holy huddle” mentality.
  • By the effort to prevent any marginalized or private group or groups from forming and creating divisive cells within the larger church body.
  • By a faithful teaching and preaching of the Scriptures that attempts to focus on the dangers of such groups forming and disrupting a congregations unity.
  • By faithfully loving all of God’s creation, everyone He’s created, regardless of their ages, appearances or backgrounds. The human body has various members, but these members must work together rather than work against each other. This important lesson needs to be continually learned within the body of Christ.

The next step involves YOU. Will YOU be a contributor to the “holy huddle” clan? Or, will YOU choose to be the problem solver by faithfully and responsibly huddling with all God’s people in God’s great work in YOUR larger community and world??

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

DEALING WITH DIOTREPHES (Part Two)

In my previous blog I focused on a first century churchman by the name of Diotrephes. The Apostle John labeled Diotrephes as a notorious bad guy in verses 9-13 of his brief third letter. In what way was Diotrephes a bad guy? In several ways. He was divisive. Dictatorial. Iron fisted. Non-accepting of some brethren. Unwilling to receive certain church leaders, John himself being one of them.

Diotrephes was an evident problem for the health and well being of the first century church. But get this:  Diotrephes has not disappeared. Vanished. Left the building. Ceased his existence. He’s produced a few sons and daughters. Others after his kind. Diotrephes is still hanging around. Maybe he’s even in your congregation today.

Do you ignore him? Act like he isn’t there? Tolerate him? Give him space to operate? Cater to a vast assortment of his evil ways and demands?

John had already determined his own course of action with Diotrephes. “If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account …” (The Message – 3 John 10). Thus, he wasn’t going to ignore him. Put up with him. Give him space. Tolerate his evil practices.

Amazingly though, I do not generally find this course of pro-action taken here by John occuring in 21st century congregations. There is rather a spirit of passivity. Hoping he will go away. That he will find another church. Get out of our hair. Finally cease his evil ways.

But it won’t happen. Believe me!! Diotrephes is the Jack Russell Terrier kind of church leader. He enjoys a good fight. In fact, the more he fights, the more determined he becomes to win his battles. How do I know? I’ve experienced his kind. Others in church leadership have also shared their stories with me about Diotrephes.

What are some ways to deal with the Diotrephes types in your congregation? That’s the important question. Answering this question will help deal more effectively with a Diotrephes type. Here are my suggestions.

  • Teach regularly in the church about the significant and subtle difference between power and authority. Why? Because  authority is something that’s delegated, power isn’t. Diotrephes types assume power and then exercise it with vigor. But be careful even to those whom you delegate the role of authority in your church. For authority can be delegated to the wrong persons. Always remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
  • Be sure that you do not allow a Diotrephes to turn you into one of his own kind. For he is generally a master at plying his trade. He can make you think that following him is the right path. The correct path. Even as you openly confront and address him you can easily develop into a Diotrephes type yourself. I’ve seen this happen over and over. Be cautious here!!
  • Develop kingdom thinking in your church as opposed to mere institutional thinking. When church leaders become overly concerned with the church institution, running the church that is, they veer off in the wrong direction. This is because the church is not about politically advancing the religious positions of humans; it is rather about the kingdom thinking of our Lord and what matters to Him. Is your church directed by persons with the kingdom eyes of Jesus, or, the institutional eyes of misled church leaders like Diotrephes??
  • Prayer is the most significant Divine resource for dealing with any problem. It is especially important in dealing with a Diotrephes. Pray for those who are Diotrephes types. Pray that you and others do not become a member of the Diotrephes family.

My thoughts offered here are only suggestive and not exhaustive. If it moves your thinking in the direction of responsibly dealing with a Diotrephes, then my purpose will have been achieved. For I am committed to having a healthy church in these unhealthy times in which we find ourselves.

November 23, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

DEALING WITH DIOTREPHES

Are you aware of the four books in the New Testament that have only one chapter? If so, have you read them? Considered them closely? Pondered their message?

In past days I have not given much time or attention to these documents. In fact, I have largely ignored them. Brushed them aside. Why? Because I thought their size must indicate the unimportance of their content. It appeared the writers of the New Testament were including them to simply add further bulk to the existing New Testament material.

That was wrong on my part. Terribly wrong. A response I should not have taken. Because they have much vital  information for believers and the church. It is sad we have often missed the foregoing fact.

An example of their significance was brought home to me in III John 9-13. These verses of John the Apostle focus the reader’s attention on a church leader by the name of Diotrephes. He is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament but here alone in these verses. He isn’t a good guy either. Rather, he is a notoriously bad guy.

Diotrephes is creating much division in the church. He is heavy-handed and iron-fisted. A dictator and controller of the first order. He has set himself on top in the church. Become the preeminent one. The one in charge. The CEO. It was either his way or the highway. A willingness to be under his thumb or be black-balled from the fellowship.

He obviously was rejecting the leadership function of John and any other appointed leaders in the church. No one had delegated him to this upper role. Named him as being the chief. Put him out front. He rather elevated himself. Diotrephes was rejecting and removing not only accepted and recognized church leaders in his first century setting, but anyone else who stood in the way of his dictatorial path.

I asked myself the question: Why was this information about Diotrephes included by John in his Letter? One general response is because it was an inspired writing that emanated from God Himself. But I think it is an intentional eye-opener for congregations in the first century and in the 21st century as well. Specifically, these individuals, like Diotrephes, will become a formidable problem with whom the local church will need to be aware of. A failure to recognize their presence will be a dam or roadblock to achieving the mission of the church.

In every congregation I have served there has been at least one, if not more, Diotrephes types. They can become a nightmare for pastoral leaders. More importantly, they can become the devil in disguise within the church. You can tolerate them, or confront them. Face them or let them go free. But their presence makes a smooth path in congregational life impossible.

John revealed in the tenth verse that he was not going to tolerate Diostrephes in his time, nor was he going to remain silent about the evil practices he was exercising in congregational life. If congregational leaders and the church as a whole is going to be a healthy fellowship in the 21st century, we cannot set idly by either. Always we need to be aware of a Diotrephes!!

In a forthcoming blog I will suggest some important ways to address and deal with Diotrephes types in your congregation. Always remember that followers of Christ must speak the truth in the spirit of Christian love, regardless of the problems that are present.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | 1 Comment

DEVELOPING HEALTHIER CONGREGATIONS

I was sharing with a friend today regarding having a healthier church. He wanted to know if congregations make Christians unhealthy, or, Christians make congregations unhealthy. My response was that the problem was not an either/or, but a both/and.

The response I gave did not originate with me having a good armchair theory. Or, with having some of my personal feelings expressed. My experience in church life, coupled with a knowledge of Scripture, has demonstrated the presence and operation that takes place on both sides. The following items will definitely render a church as being an unhealthy body. Here is the list:

  • It is a church that is a religious institution and is not kingdom oriented.
  • It is a church where legalism is birthed and grows, and members are kept under the thumb of control.
  • It is a congregation where fighting and wrangling has taken the place of unity and love.
  • It is a church where hate and animosity reigns. This spirit being practiced will grow and will create a congregation of fear and intimidation.
  • It is a church where guarding money is more important than practicing faith in God’s promises.
  • It is a church where cliques or groupie types politically operate their fellowship and are not subservient to the overall purpose of the Lord and His church.
  • It is a church where consistent and positive biblical preaching and teaching is applied to daily living.
  • It is a church that practices the reason it exists: to glorify God by continuously engaging in disciple making.

Allow me to change directions at this juncture. What will make a Christian an unhealthy member of a church body?

  • When being a church member replaces being a Christian disciple.
  • When life in a church is for personal reasons of promotion, connecting with certain people that one prefers, and with lacking an understanding of what being a Christian really means.
  • When they are certain about their salvation. Certainty helps one grow in positive ways among others.
  • When they mix their congregational life with public and private worship; fellowship is enjoyed with other believers; attending meetings is accompanied by acts of service; discipling others is developed and continuously practiced as an important means of glorifying God.
  • When they identify their spiritual gifts and then utilize them. They assume responsibility for living in the way God designed them.
  • When they possess positive attitudes in place of having negative and destructive attitudes among those inside the church and outside the church.
  • When they are passionate and not passive with their faith. They demonstrate a contagious spirit and attitude.
  • When they are positive persons about their church and do not engage in bashing their fellowship.
  • When they spend time in daily Bible study and prayer.

I have been suggestive and not exhaustive here. But I do believe that the points emphasized will serve to make possible both healthy congregations and healthy Christians.

What do you think??

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

ANSWERING AN INTIMIDATING QUESTION

A person captured my attention recently with some questions. The questions were these: Should a congregation ever be expected to close its doors? In other words, does a church reach a point in which its life and influence no longer matter? Can a congregations presence become unnecessary?

I didn’t answer immediately. Give an off-the-cuff quick pontifical type response. Age and experience has taught me to back off when I’m challenged with such an intimidating bombshell. Why? Because I may become guilty of advancing an agenda that enthrones the Devil and ignores God. Additionally, I may be placing myself in a position where I have no place. No right-of-way. No jurisdiction whatsoever.

Thus, any attempt to think about closing a church would be a procedure with which I would have great difficulty considering. For no congregation can ever justifiably relinquich its Divine mandate to announce the gospel message of good news. To cease leading persons to follow Jesus. To no longer minister to the ongoing needs of ones brethren.

Yet, while I would never call for closing a congregation, there are times when congregations throw question marks on their existence. Serious questions marks. These question marks emerge when:

  • Congregations are no longer discipling others to follow Christ Jesus.
  • Congregations exist only for US and not for HIM.
  • Congregations are only about ME and not about my BRETHREN.
  • Congregations place their own human ingenuity ahead of God’s wisdom and prayer.
  • Congregations practice and display internal disunity and serve as an alienating enigma to their local community.
  • Congregations fall into the trap of existing only on Sunday so that people are able to get together and catch up on all the latest news and gossip.
  • Special interest groups in a congregation seek to control and shape the church into their own turf.
  • Congregations are more like their culture than being like the Christ they’ve vowed to serve.
  • Congregations are no longer connected to the ministry of outreach in their community.

Bob Snyder says the following about the importance of outreach: “The best way to kill a church is to squeeze it into a building. For without contact with people in need and publicly witnessing faith and trust in Jesus, a church will quietly die.” So very true!

But pay close attention also to Billy Sunday’s words: “The church is not a dormitory for sleepers, it is an institution for workers; it is not a rest camp, it is a front-line trench.” Sunday is correct in his observations. Yet, while a church isn’t really about working to gain Divine favor, Divine favor does propel Christians into a life of service and “good works!” Divine favor no less energizes Christ followers into being those persons who are making a difference in this dark and confusing world.

So, once again for the record, I am not ever in favor of closing a congregations doors. But congregations should definitely avoid the ever present danger of becoming a serious enigma – a question mark in their community. What are your thoughts?

May 16, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

GIVING ATTENTION TO THE AURA

I continue to preach, teach, and write in regard to church health. Not because I’ve assumed it as my job as a Christian leader. Nor is it because I derive some special joy in pointing the ills of congregations in our time. So, why then do I continue the ministry of church health?

Someone once taught me that NEED is the MOTHER of INVENTION. And there is a need to address the health issues of congregations today. Why? Because everywhere I go words are being directed at me about the concerns persons have with their stumbling congregations. What can we do? How can we become an attractive and influential fellowship once again? We’ve lost our glory days! Those times in which we were a joyful and excited fellowship. Now, we are aimed downhill and seem to be headed there on a fast track. These and many other comments have been shared and have troubled me to no end.

Allow me to also point out that the biblical writers shared my current concern. For they courageously addressed items that were destroying the health of congregations in their time. While these early writers and leaders shared a positive message of good news, they nonetheless followed this up with various items of deep concern about the health and well-being of their early congregations. Evidently the problems of the early church were reaching their ears.

A word that has gripped me of late is the word, aura. What does it mean? Imply? Or, what message does it give? For my purposes here I wish to define the word as having a certain air. A certain feeling. A certain awareness that something is amiss. Has gone wrong. It gives a rather negative sense that something just isn’t right.

When I move among established congregations I pick up rather quickly on this negative aura that has invaded many congregations. As I relate with the members I get a sense that something is stirring that isn’t good. There are some who have formed their own comfortable cliques, or, special groups; words and actions are demonstrated that reveal members are out of sorts with one another; negative criticism is encountered from some; gossip is heard; complaining is in the air; threats about leaving the church are uttered; playing the blame-game is on a rampage; and one feels worse after coming inside than he or she does in the outside world.

In one meeting with a congregations leadership I listened for two hours to the uttering of one gripe after another. When I was finally given a chance to speak I asked, “is there anything you can tell me about this church that’s positive?” Silence reigned for a few moments. And finally a few good points were shared. But the church was so full of negativities and conflicts, it was evident to me that it would be next to impossible for this church to get its head above water and become a healthy organism again.

As I was preparing today’s blog I read some alarming thoughts from Bill Easum. He indicated that when church guests enter a service, their antennas are up. Never think for one moment they do not read the unsettling state of affairs that often exist inside a troubled church. Easum then states: “You may think we’re being overly dramatic, but time after time we find unresolved conflict literally killing a church.” What is worse, congregations are tolerating this conflict, and do nothing about what is making them ill and signing their death warrant.

What is the message here? The problem isn’t the outside world. Rather, the problem is more often the church itself. And unless the abnormal conflict is addressed and dealt with responsibly, the graveyard may be the next step for a church!!

May 10, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Shepherds, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

DISCOVERING THE REAL ENEMY

Allow me to share the primary enemy all congregations face today. Surprisingly, it is not the outside world. The non-churched population. The evil culture. Those groups which oppose and resist the Christian message. Yet, the church nonetheless wants to blame the world for its failures and lack of success.

But the outside world is not the primary enemy the church faces. Never has been. Never will be. The greatest enemy for the church is the church itself. “Do what? You’re blaming the church for the current ills that beset it?” Yes, I am.

You know why? For the following reason: what the church is will either serve to advances its mission, or, will hinder its efforts.

This brings to mind the comic strip character, Pogo. Remember him? Sometimes even a Pogo can serve to bring us to our senses. Help us through simple language to see ourselves as we really are. Offer insights that will catch us off guard and challenge our thinking and actions. Listen to Pogo’s counsel: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Interesting statement, isn’t it? But in what sense is the church its greatest enemy? An important question to ask. One that calls for serious thought and reflection. So please note the following words: Your congregations has an aura. A distinctive air. An image. And what your church exudes to others will either be negative or positive; attractive or ugly; magnetic or repelling. In many established congregations their existing aura has turned off many in place of drawing them to God and His church.

This happens when congregations become known as fighters; gossipers; whiners; complainers; controllers; and yes, mean-sprited types that roam the church terrain like a watch dog. I’ve encountered them. So have you. Thus, when you question why congregations are unhealthy and non-growing the reason should immediately jump up before your eyes. Returning to Pogo once more, would you need to say of your church: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Such a revelation is most difficult and painful for any guilty congregation to acknowledge, and then face. Are these troubled congregations able to go through a radical change? Experience healing? Can they eventually emerge as a turnaround church?

Why though do congregations become their own worst enemy? Turn as a snake on themselves? Those questions have often revolved around in my mind. I remember hearing Carl Ketcherside say: “There once was a time we claimed to love each other and talk about Jesus; and now we claim to love Jesus and talk about each other.”

Congregations have often become guilty of losing their way. Of forgetting their roots and reason for existence. Becoming selfish in place of selfless. Life is all about them, and not about HIM. But never think for one moment that the outside world fails to see this congregational enemy at work today. As a result, they want none of it. What they see isn’t about Jesus. Doesn’t represent HIM at all. Nor does it do anything for the sincere seeker.

A church like this is more frequently than not resisted. Ignored. Avoided like the plague. Why? Because it gives no clear indication of being a Christian assembly. A place where healing and life can be offered. Where hurting lives can be rescued. It has become a context where satanic bitterness and back-biting rule the day.

Jesus has taught us to pray in this manner: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 – NKJV). But my searching question is this one: “HOW CAN THERE BE HEAVEN ON EARTH WHEN HEAVEN HAS OFTEN BEEN REPLACED WITH HELL ON EARTH?”

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

A TROUBLESOME CONTRAST

An amazing ongoing problem is the simultaneous presence and experience of both good and evil in the world.  For example: There are those who murder and those who save. Those who hate and those who love. Those who discourage and those who encourage. Those who spread negativity and those who bring joy. Those who take away and those who give. Those who spread ill will and those who multiply good will.

Why this puzzling contrast? This strange dilemma? Can it be changed? Stopped? Turned around? Experience the good permanently replacing the evil? See God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

Quite honestly, this problem has always been unacceptable to me. Something Unnecessary. For I am perpetually wanting to live in a world free of taint and terror. In a context where serenity and security replace sin and a soiled existence.

That wish, of course, is only a utopian dream. Something than can’t really happen. For this present age is ruled by the prince of darkness. The evil one. The one who attempts to bring death. Furthermore, Jesus has taught us that in this world we will encounter various tribulations and trials.

But the reality of good and evil, however, doesn’t end with its presence in the larger world. Sometimes this alarming contrast emerges even in congregations. Church fellowships. Those places where God’s Sovreignty is taught and proclaimed. Where light is expected to reign over darkness.

In what ways do good and evil often exist simultaneously in congregations? In the following ways:

  • When internal disunity is continuously disrupting the unity Jesus prayed would exist.
  • When private and selfish agendas emerge and replace the Savior’s agenda.
  • When the religious institution and its secondary concerns gets in the way of God’s kingdom rule.
  • When a congregations tainted reputation blocks their ability to be a transforming community presence.
  • When stagnation and legalism prevent Christians from being the salt and light Jesus intended and expected.
  • When the attitudes and dispositions of some congregational members serve to repel those on the outside from wanting to come inside.

A churchman informed me: “Bill, I’ve been in the church for some forty years, but I’ve only been a Christian for ten of those forty years!!” I am surprised that I did not pass out following this admission. But further reflection made me aware that I too could have once given the same testimony.

But one more question: Why is such a confession even necessary? Needed? Because it flows out of a blessed and unique day of awakening. A time in which great joy came forth and was birthed. For one was delivered from outer darkness and brought into the interior light. Belongs to the Divine Sovreign in place of the devil. Is now a disciple and not an embarassing  destructive element in congregational life.

Like my confessing friend, I no longer want to be a tare among the wheat. Be one who hurts more than helps. Hinders more than heals. Harms more than brings holiness. In the words of a memorable old hymn: “I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.”

Will you join me in this glorious journey??

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment