When I was growing up I lived in climate known as the High Desert. Our altitude was 2500 above sea level which presented several challenges. First off, our seasons were very extreme. In the summer it got to 110 degrees and in the winter it would go well below freezing and the wind was always blowing. Add to that we lived in a rain shadow and you begin understand why they called it a desert. My dad was an electrical contractor and I often followed him to his jobs when I was young. From time to time we had to dig ditches to lay pipe for power lines we were running. Ditches were always the most dreaded job because we were a desert in name only. There was no sand around, it was hard packed soil that often couldn’t be conquered with a shovel. My dad was cheap and didn’t want to pay for a ditch digger so he had his sons dig the ditches. Usually after a day of aggravated tension my dad would break down and go and rent a ditch digger. The reason? The cheap labor didn’t get very far in that hard soil and were very vocal in our struggle.
Building pipelines in ministry is very similar. You need to create pipelines that will bring continual resources to areas that need it but the actual ditch that you lay the pipe in is the most difficult task. Thats because you have to till soil in the hearts of people that usually aren’t too willing for change and are very used to how things are. Yet pipelines are what sustain ministry over the long haul. Let me explain.
If you want a growing thriving worship ministry you can go around recruiting capable adults in the church and fill the platform hoping they gel together. That is the way most churches go about it. Pay a worship leader who is supposed to form a team. It works but it is often in crisis mode because of always putting out fires and filling holes in the lineup. It exhausts the leader.
The alternative for that is to create a pipeline of people in your church that is constantly training and equipping people for their time to step up and serve. This process is much more labor intensive but produces results and resources that every church needs. How do you do this? For a pipeline to be useful you have to have an input and an output. Instead of trying to constantly fill the input with adults start younger, much younger. Think Kids choir. Develop a kids choir in your church where these children are taught how to worship properly and do it in front of the church. Not only will it create outreach opportunities because every relative will come watch them sing, but it will begin to create a pool of people who can eventually become singers and possibly musicians. They participate in the choir for several years in grammar school and its amazing how many of those children want to learn an instrument in Jr High and High School to be a part of the band. So then you create a school of worship where they can be taught guitar, bass, drums, and if your ambitious piano. Next thing you know your youth group has a worship team leading at youth events made up solely of youth. Have that group lead the adults every fifth Sunday of the month.
What’ve you done is lay the trench for the pipeline and create a pool of talented people who can one day step up and serve on the adult worship team. Pretty soon you are developing multiple worship teams who are rotating Sundays, playing midweek, and at special events. Then the inevitable happens. Other churches start to poach your leaders to work at their church. You can get defensive over this or you can realize that this is the normal process and you can own it. The ultimate goal would be to develop outreach teams that can go and bless other churches either temporarily or permanently because the pipeline at your church is constantly flowing there is always someone ready to step up.
This process can be repeated in every ministry. Looking for children’s workers? Start with the pre-teens and youth and have them serve as helpers who eventually work their way up to teaching. Any area in the church can benefit from a pipeline mentality, it just takes a leader who is willing to do the hard work early and dig the trenches. Once you do, let the pipeline flow naturally. Don’t block it up too much with useless requirements. Over time you will reap the fruit of a well irrigated congregation but right now get to digging.
Sonya wasn’t focused on her mom offering encouragement at the other end of the rails, she was just focused on taking the next step. After several surgeries and months of recovery she was finally able to start doing some physical therapy. Her weak legs didn’t resemble the tone ones that used to run cross country, instead they looked like shriveled vegetables ready to be thrown out. She was determined to walk again and possibly run but right now her concern was the next step… and then the next one. She knew what she had lost in the accident and realized that getting back to that level was going to take a lot of work. It wasn’t the thought of crossing the finish line that motivated her but the fear of remaining like this, or getting worse, that pushed her.
A lot of people are like Sonya. They may not be physically recovering like her but many are recovering from addictions, bad relationships, or the consequences from poor decisions. Others are recovering from being burnt or burned out at another church. Many people are paralyzed as well from over expectations in their life. We are raised to think we can do anything if we put the effort into it. So we feel like a failure when we don’t become the next president or American Idol. This leaves many people trying to figure out their lives and what to do next. They aren’t so interested in the finish line as they are what is the next step they need to take to get back on their feet.
The church is the only place equipped by God to help people through this process. Sure you can go to other places and they will give you plans or advice on what to do, but the church is the only place where the real issue will be dealt with, the soul. Jesus is the only one who can heal the broken heart, repair the past, and renew the soul. If we are too focused on the plan God has for these people we will miss opportunities to show them God’s goodness in the immediate moment. Teaching them to trust in Him, step by step, is the key to the journey.
Jesus always intended on us looking to Him for our next step. Discipleship is in fact walking in the steps of a master. We are to look to our master, Jesus Christ, for the next step we are to take. So whether we are picking ourselves up from a fall or we are feeling like God is moving on our hearts to take a step of faith we are always looking for the next. This manifests itself in many different ways. Sometimes the next step is just to rest and recover. For others it may mean getting into a small group where we can be held accountable or stepping out in faith by serving in an area outside of our comfort zone. Still for some God is offering them the adventure of a lifetime by calling them to step into leadership in HIs church. Whatever it may be God wants us to seek Him for the next step. At The Village Chapel one of our main goals is to get you to take your next step of faith. We are here to help you do that.
What is the next step that God is asking you to take? He won’t be content with you remaining sidelined. He will always nudge you (never force) to trust Him for what is next. Has he already been moving in your heart? If your heart rate jumping just reading this? That’s okay. Steps always take courage, but when we take it we won’t regret it. Take that step of faith today and watch God work.
Our staff just got done reading Radical: Taking back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. All of us were challenged and blessed by the book. David Platt’s heart for missions and reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ bleeds on every page. His writing is challenging and convicting. Several times I wanted to sell everything and ask God where he wanted to send our family.
The American Dream is that pie in the sky thought that if you have everything the world says is successful you will be happy. For us Americans it means a house, a couple of cars, a spouse, and 2.5 kids. This dream can be elusive. If we do get close to it the necessary maintenance to keep up that lifestyle actually prevents us from enjoying it.
Platt offers an alternative. He challenges us to think globally when it comes to our faith. 4.5 billion people have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and most of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. By us turning our focus on those needs not only will we reach people for Jesus but in turn it will open our lives to the life God truly desires for us.
Interlaced throughout the book are stories of missionary trips Platt has taken as well as classic missionary stories by some of the greats. When he described the hunger and great risk many people take just to come to a bible study it was humbling. We don’t realize the persecution and struggles many Christians have that we would never even dream of.
Probably the most convicting thing in the book was the story of the USS United States. It was a battle ship that was built in the 1950’s to be the fastest troop carrier in our fleet. It was capable of bringing thousands of troops to battle yet was never used for that. It became a luxury liner for Presidents and famous guests. It was such a great analogy about what the church was built for and what it has become. We are built to bring the workers to the harvest but instead we are sitting on the pool deck unwilling to go to battle. Meanwhile thousands die of disease and hunger not knowing Jesus.
It’s time to get radical. Time to pare back our safe lives and live out the mission Jesus has called us to. The book ends by challenging its readers to do five things: 1. Pray for the Entire world in a year, 2. Read through the Entire Word in a year, 3. Give Sacrificially towards the Kingdom, 4. Go One Week a year on a missions trip, and finally 5. Commit to a Biblical Community. The thinking is that by doing these for a year it will change our perspective and give us a desire to go where God leads us.
Last weeks links were focused on leadership, and while that was good, the audience that this blog reaches is primarily my friends and people who attend my church. So I tweaked the links to be more helpful for that audience. Thus I have changed the name of this weekly post to Life Links. Below are some articles that I have read and recommend. Please click on them. If there are other resources you would like to see just leave a comment on the blog or on facebook and I will do my best.
- Marriage: 10 Signs Your Marriage is Drifting Many marriages were in trouble long before the problems became apparent. That is because they started to drift off course and no one noticed till it was too late. This article helps us recognize those signs before its too late.
- Money: Take Baby Steps to get out of debt The average America spends 110% of what they make. Doesn’t take a math degree to figure out that leads to debt. Dave Ramsey gives us seven baby steps to get out of debt.
- Devotional: 11 Steps to Memorizing an Entire Book of the Bible Scripture memorization is one of the best disciplines a Christian can develop in their life. Right now my two oldest are memorizing the first chapter of James at school and will recite it as a class in front of the whole school. They are excited and they are learning.
- Serving: Christ Builds His Church, We Make Disciples Our job is to Go and Make disciples. That means teaching them the Bible then giving them opportunities to put it into practice. We need to equip each member of the church with the tools necessary to live for Christ and then challenge them to live it on a daily basis.
- Book: Radical by David Platt Each week I am going to recommend a book. This week it is Radical by David Platt. Our staff is going through this right now and it is really challenging us.
- Technology: You Version The best Bible app on the planet and its free! I use it everyday. It has all the Bibles you need and then some, and it has every kind of devotional you can think of. Great tool for getting God’s word in us.
- Humor: Tim Conway as a Dentist Finally I like to end on a humorous note. Tim Conway turned 78 this week and I think he is one of the funniest people ever to live. When he and Harvey Korman got together it didn’t get any better. Here is one of the funniest of thier skits.
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
There are a lot of opinions about the book of Revelation. Books have been written about the different views. Are you Pre, Mid, or Post Tribulation seems to be the question most asked. We want to know when Jesus is coming back. Jesus told us we don’t know the day or the hour so a lot of speculation is worthless, but when it comes to the tribulation I believe there are some very telling verses that leads us to a Pre-tribulation rapture.
Revelation 4:1 gives us three clues the church has been raptured before the tribulation. While there are many more verses and cross references we can use to prove this point, namely Revelation 3:10, we will just focus on these three:
- Voice Like a Trumpet: We read that John heard a voice like a trumpet calling him up to heaven. In the Old Testament trumpets were used to summon groups of people together for things like battle or to tell people to move from one place to another. For instance when it was time for the Jews to move in the desert they would blow a trumpet. That meant it was time to pick up their tents and move to the next destination. John hearing the trumpet is like telling the church that it is time to pick up their earthly tents and change locations to heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
- A Heavenly Perspective: The second clue we are given is John’s perspective for the tribulation. He writes it from a heavenly perspective. Jesus has called him up to heaven and he writes what he sees while watching it from heaven. John didn’t go through the tribulation, he was removed from it. In Revelation 3:10 Jesus tells the church of Philadelphia that he will keep them from the hour of trial. The word “from” is from the Greek word “ek” which means to remove and where we get our word exit from. God is going to spare the church from his wrath by removing them before the tribulation.
Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth
- No Mention of the Church: The final clue we get is that from chapter 4 until chapter 19 we don’t see the church mentioned. That is curious because the church is mentioned twenty times in the first three chapters. You would think that God would mention his caring for or protecting the church during all of the judgments, especially if he has promised to keep them from it. Well he doesn’t need to mention the church because they are with Him in heaven.
There is so much more to write and as I teach through the book of Revelation I will try to post weekly reviews of some the material that I have taught on in the previous Sunday. If you would like to listen to the whole message you can click here.
Pain is inevitable if you are going to lead anyone else besides yourself. Your capability to lead others will be directly tied to the amount of pain you can endure while you are leading them. If you are pain adverse don’t lead others. If you don’t like confrontation don’t go into ministry. Pain is one of the results of the fall of man and since that time people just haven’t gotten along. Trying to get people who don’t get along is that leadership is. To be honest though sometimes the pain can be unbearable. It’s then when you realize the Christian saying: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is so far from the truth. Does God bring you through it? Yes. Do you have the strength in you to endure it? Not even close.
That is what makes Sam Chand’s book “Leadership Pain” so good. To be honest I couldn’t put it down but there were times I wanted to throw the book out of my office (which wouldn’t be smart because I read all my books through the Kindle app on my iPad). His whole thesis is that “We only grow to the threshold of pain we are able to endure.” There is so much truth in that but I had never considered it from that perspective. Over and over again he hits you with quotes that support that like; “ If you’re not hurting, you’re not leading” and “Often the difference between where I am and where God wants me to be is the pain I’m unwilling to endure.” How many times have I avoided painful situations and then I am stuck with the problem a lot longer than I should’ve been? Leaders have to endure pain, it comes with the job. Many leaders don’t arrive at where God wants them to be because they didn’t have a big enough pain threshold.
If you think about it, all of us have grown and learned the most from our pain. It has drawn us closer to Jesus and helped us realize how inadequate we are. We have to realize as Chand says; “Pain isn’t the enemy. Our inability to face it is a far greater danger.” Ignoring the pain causes devastating long term consequences but there is hope. Our pain tells us we are doing something right and headed in the right direction. If there was no resistance or pain in our ministry then something is really be wrong.
So how do you handle this pain? What if you’re sitting here and bleeding from the battles you have been through? Dr. Chand gives us some advice: Understand your pain, clarify the lessons you are learning, spend time with leaders who have higher pain thresholds than you, be aware of your internal temperature, and listen to your wife or best friend.
There are so many nuggets in this book. He interweaves some great stories that really bring home the point. This is not a psychological tome in which it defines the scientific effect of pain on our brains but deals in real life ministry on how pain affects and us and how we can better deal with it. If you are struggling with pain that you can’t control I recommend reading this book.
I read a lot. I am always reading articles, blogs, and books. I come across some good stuff that I don’t always share so I thought I would do what many do and that is to give you a synopsis of some the links to the stuff I’ve read this week:
- Thick Skin, Tender Hearts by Eric Geiger: This is the challenge of every leader. To develop thick skin so you can endure the criticisms while at the same time keeping your heart tender so you can still minister to people.
- 5 Reasons to Use Evernote by Ron Edmonson: Tech can really trip people up and finding a multisolution app that can catch all of your stuff is hard. I use Evernote and its the best of hundreds I have tried. Here is an article on why Evernote.
- Recommended Book: Leadership Pain by Sam Chand: I will do a book review on this next week but this is one of the best I have read in a while. His whole thesis is that you only grow as a leader to the threshold of pain you can endure.
- Funny Link: Adult Onset Calvinsim. This is blog is making the rounds and is hysterical if you know anything about this. Most of the guys who wrote this are jabbing themselves.