This is the first episode of an online ministry segment here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church called The Takeaway. It goes a bit deeper and expands on an aspect of Sunday morning’s sermon that I felt needed addressing. You may go to this Sunday’s sermon online called “God Toward Us: Christ, our Prophet”–from the first sermon in the series, “Are You in the ‘Us’?”
Yesterday, I posted an article on how to deal with disappointment of others (and also when you disappoint others). I must have had this on my radar, but I came across two other articles that dealt with the same issues, this time toward pastors.
How Criticism of Jay Cutler is Like Criticism of Pastors (HT: Adam Embry):
Pastors just can’t win. They preach too long; they preach too short. They preach too theologically, they preach too shallow. They counsel too little; they counsel too much. They lead too much with a business perspective; they lead too little with a business perspective. They are too sociable; they are not sociable enough.
… Pastors, if they rip on Jay Cutler, who is one of the top 15 best quarterbacks on the planet, then folks will rip you, too.
I wonder how many pastors are shocked when they get the first nasty e-mail telling them that they are not a good teacher, a poor fit for the church, or that the last pastor had real vision. I wonder how many enter vocational ministry realizing that some of the people they welcome for dinner, drink coffee with, and confide in will turn around and slander them, gossip about them, betray confidences, and even mobilize support against them.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the receiving end of this as a pastor, but I have been there. Few things sting worse. And I did not post these articles as a shot over the bow about what has happened to me recently.
I posted them because I recognize that both myself, the pastors on our team, my fellow pastor friends, and others all over struggle with this. We want to please Christ with all we have, but there are others who are vocal who also say they want to please Christ, but want them to please them and Christ. They are not one in the same. I know that one day, this will happen to me again. And do you know what I will do?
- I will grieve over this breach of relationship.
- I will pray for my own heart in whatever I did to contribute and be gracious in seeking forgiveness and restoration.
- I will pray for their heart, that they will see if their grievance is to the true proportion of the issue at hand—and that they will be gracious in restoration.
- Then I will trust God and move on to the next item up for ministry.
If young pastors can last in their ministry five years, through the ups and downs of it all, and still feel a sense of calling from God and are willing to persevere, that is a good healthy sign.
Pray for your pastors. We will not always get it right, but we do love you and love our churches and love the communities our churches are in.
Remember Kevin Ware? He broke his leg against Duke in the NCAA Tournament last year that was about as gruesome as anything you have seen in athletics! The hashtag #prayforware took over Twitter that day.
The prayers were answered. Ware scored six points in 10 minutes this past week in an exhibition game.
God has answered the prayers, providing doctors to help him in surgery and therapy, and giving us a body that works to heal itself. Amazing!
Glad you’re back, Kevin!
One of the most liberating things I’ve ever heard as a leader and as a follower of Christ is this: you cannot please everyone.
Along with this, one of the most painful things I’ve realized it this: you cannot please everyone.
None of us get it right all the time. None of us. Not you. Not I. None of my friends have. None of my staff at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church have. None of my church members have either.
(I’ll give you time to let that soak in before you press on.)
Times will arise when you will be disappointed in others because, in turn, they will not please you. We all have a filter through which we look at our lives and look at others. If others do not match up to that standard, you will have a time of disappointment.
It is at this exact moment you have a choice to make. Will grace make its home in your heart…
… or will it take a holiday?
When someone disappoints you, and lets you down, it can go from sadness, to hurt, to anger or even betrayal. Some zing past those mileposts faster than others, but others make take their time, allow it to sink in, and the journey still continues.
If you are on this journey, take the Gospel Off Ramp. What do I mean? Before you hit those mileposts, apply the gospel of what Christ has accomplished (read Romans 8:31-39). His love, applied through His atoning work on the cross, has forgiven us of our sins and cleansed us. The Gospel Off-Ramp means that we refuse by His Spirit to allow that sin and sadness and hurt to dig in. But how?
In Colossians 4:5-6, the apostle Paul gives some wise counsel:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
So from this verse, here are five ways to make sure grace does not take a holiday in how you deal with others.
1. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8).
Are you disappointed in others frequently? Ask God for wisdom to see if the issue is with others, or ultimately with you? He has promised to give the believer the necessary wisdom to move forward. You see, when it comes to how God deals with His people, grace never takes a holiday. Grace is not merely for salvation, but His graciousness moves in us. (You may say, “Yes, Paul says this is how we should be toward outsiders.” True, but he brings that out because it’s easier to be gracious to fellow believers that you love. If you’re having trouble being gracious to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Ask God for a double portion of wisdom–now!)
2. Make the best use of your time.
Should someone have disappointed you, how are you using your time? Are you letting it fester, or are you keeping short accounts (Matthew 5:21-26)? Or will you take time to pray for perspective? If it’s legitimate, will you take time to speak with others about the issue at hand.
3. Should you speak to others about your issue, throw some salt on your speech.
Calvin helps clarify what this means: ”Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain.” In others words, the sarcasm and biting humor should not be used as the culture does.
On the other side of that coin, we should also realize that, among our brothers and sisters in Christ, should others use those devices clearly because they love us, we should have graciousness to respond accordingly. When my dad is walking with my mom at church, some of their friends will ask her, “What’s that thing following you around?” On the surface, is it nice? Not particularly. But my parents know that these are their friends and that’s how they express their friendship–to joke about something that is clearly absurd. Take all these into consideration! Throw some salt on that speech.
4. Maybe you need to give others a break–maybe.
Yes, people will disappoint you. Yet, you at some point will disappoint them. None of us are immune. But just as God’s grace never takes a holiday in our justification, it never takes a holiday in our sanctification. Maybe we just need to give each other a break! Maybe we just need to talk! Maybe we need to evaluate our standards to see if they lack grace but are all justice and judgment. If you’re all justice and judgment, may heaven help you in dealing with other mortals. But if we have been apprehended by grace, we just need to cut others some slack and pick our battles. If this is the case, refer to #s 1-3.
Has grace taken a holiday in your life and relationships?
Pray based on Who He is!
Pray based on what He’s done!
Pray about how we respond!
On Sunday morning, about an hour before we head out the door to go to church, my son and I had an interesting conversation. He’s eight years old, very inquisitive, and loves going to church–thanks in large part to the incredible Sunday School teachers we have here.
Sunday mornings for us are no different that any other family trying to get four children (and two adults) out the door with some sense of sanity. But David and I found ourselves sitting on the couch (I don’t remember what we were doing), so I asked him this question:
Why do you think we go to church?
Not surprisingly, he stopped, thought, and then said, “To learn about Jesus.”
I told him quickly, “Yes, but can’t we learn about Jesus other places besides church?”
“Yes, we can.”
“So, why do you think we go to church?”
“To praise God?”
“Yes, we can go there to praise God, but we can do that anywhere, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
So, I asked one final time: “Why we you think we go to church?”
I must confess, I was proud of him that he didn’t say, “Because you’re the pastor and that’s your job!” But I can honestly say, we would go to a Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, missions-active church even if I were not the pastor.
But he finally shrugged his shoulders. I didn’t ask anymore because I did not want to discourage him or (even worse) leave him with the idea that church for the believer is optional.
So I told him a verse from the Bible:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
I told him, “Son, we go there not only to be fed by the Word of God and to praise God, but we go so that we may help others be strong for Jesus in their lives as well. So church is not just for us, it’s for us to help others love Jesus with all they have.”
God established local churches as Kingdom outposts to help us be strengthened to spread God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations–and in our case, from Centennial to the corners of creation.
The local church is a Heavenly Embassy where His ambassadors may come to learn what the message of our Sovereign Commander-in-Chief would have us say–”God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Feel free to listen to this past Sunday’s sermon on being Reconciled Reconcilers, the last part of our Gospel-Gripped Character series.
Last weekend, we held the Mile High Preaching Conference on October 25-26 with Dr. Hershael York. It was a tremendous time, and we thank Dr. York for his time. Give this a listen.
Session 3: Preaching to a Postmodern Culture
October was Pastor Appreciation Month. Our folks at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in South Denver made this pastor feel appreciated, to be sure. It was in October of 2011 that I received the call to pastor this church, and on December 1, 2011, I came (with my golden retriever Biscuit and whatever I could fit in my 1996 Buick Regal) and head west.
I had spent eight years previously as pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church just outside of Lexington, Kentucky—and it’s never easy leaving family. I am grateful for the lessons I learned there. Seminary may have taught me how to preach, but that little church in Athens (pronounced AY-thens) gave me a crash course in pastoring and dealing with people.
I think sometimes pastors and ministers forget that we are dealing with people. Yes, we have the Bible, but we do not just preach the Bible; we preach the Bible to people! We may bring in programs and set up various ways of getting things done, but we do this to help people take the next step in discipleship.
God has provided 12 reasons why I love Arapahoe Road Baptist Church. I could think of others, but here are the top 12.
- They love to hear the Word preached, and want to know how to plug the Word in to their lives. One dear senior adult shared with me not long ago how grateful she was for the preaching because “you explain the Bible rather than just tell us what it says.” Friends, that’s expositional preaching. I’m passionate about that, I want others to be passionate about that—simply because our people are starving for knowing what they believe and why they believe it.
- They let guests (not visitors, guests) know they are welcomed, loved, and treasured in Christ. We are a strong Southern-transplant makeup of our church. Yes, we are in Denver—about as different from Southern culture as you can imagine. But one thing that this mindset brings about is a genuine love of people. The term “Southern hospitality” is true, and our folks certainly leverage that to their advantage. Granted, do we have to realize we are not in the South, sure. What’s the expression: you can take the man out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the man? It’s true to an extent. But in a culture where folks want to stay to themselves, having others show genuine Christian love and care is a plus that’s needed here. Badly.
- Our Sunday School classes have a desire to know what the Word says (whether they use The Gospel Project, Explore the Bible, The Bible for Life, etc.).
- A culture is developing to be more missional in our Acts 1:8 paradigm. We are working to adopt an elementary school in our area (Jerusalem), have a relationship with Sugar City with Eddie Nicandro and his food distribution in a very hard-hit area (Judea), will look to establish a relationship with either a group in Utah or Wyoming (Samaria), and have a great connection with missionaries in Hungary, Russia, and now Trinidad & Tobago (ends of the earth). But more than this, we hear of folks working to establish relationships with their repairmen, bankers, waiters at restaurants they frequent, and other areas. Keep at it!
- I love our Wednesday night prayer times. About 20 of us gather to explore the Psalm of the Night, look at what that Psalm says about who God is, what He has done, and how we respond—then we use that as a grid for our prayer groups over the last 20 minutes. This has been a trial and error (of course, you can never err with prayer), but God is crystallizing what prayer times should look like among us. It’s good to pray—and it’s good to hear your brothers and sisters pray.
- I love how our children’s workers show the children and parents the love of Christ and their love for them. We didn’t have many children’s activities when I came in December 2011—just Sunday School. But one of our members, Bob Scott, began laying the groundwork for when I came and the folks were ready to charge ahead. Soon, we had a Wednesday night children’s time (with me having four children, they would at least have four present!), that soon bloomed into AWANA where now around 40 children are coming. I say this only to boast in the Lord. God has blessed us with some fantastic leaders who always want to do things well and to do things better.
- I’m grateful for our deacons. In both churches where I was/am a full-time pastor, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful deacons. God provided again. These men do not want to serve as a board, making all the decisions. They want to serve their pastor (me) and help him (me) with the physical needs of the church, while I’m free to tend to the spiritual needs—just like Acts 6:1-7 ordains.
- I’m grateful for the leadership and administrative team. When I came in December 2011, there was Connie (who had been the lead administrative assistant since 1980), Diane (she does publications as well as put our worship music together, and leads our praise team), Joanna (our financial secretary), Milton (our custodian since 1988), and Steven (our part-time interim student pastor). Connie, Diane, and Milton are still here. Steven is now our student pastor (no interim now). God has brought on Adam Embry as our Discipleship and Administration Pastor. Terri has taken over for Joanna, who retired in May. God provides. I could not be happier with this team. There is a culture around the office of joy, mutual respect, and (most of all) a desire to serve our church in the name of Christ. Only God could have brought us all together like this with our different personalities to be the servant machine it’s become.
- I’m grateful for our worship team. All volunteers. All having full-time jobs. Yet, they lead our singing, our worship choir, our praise team, our handbells, our Dixieland Jazz Band (no, that’s not a typo—we use the gifts and talents folks have, to the glory of God and to the vision of our church)—and do this with a desire to be Scriptural, with songs that are singable. Our desire is to have a joyful sound that’s doctrinally sound where skills abound and praise resounds.
- I love that it’s multigenerational. I wrote on this recently.
- I’m grateful that Jesus is still in charge. This is His church. Not ours. Yes, He has given us each other, but the church is His to give. Is ARBC perfect? No! But Jesus loves us enough to take us along, and enough folks are in the church led by Christ to move the church in a good direction. But as pastor, I’m grateful that the church belongs to Christ. He has put me here as the undershepherd to preach and care for the flock. Pray that I would continually remain under Christ’s leadership.
- Hey ARBC folks—you fill this one in. What are some things you love about your church? Use the hashtag #ilovearbc if you post on Facebook or Twitter.
This pastor appreciates you greatly! We have work to do. God may lead in some changes down the road. But know this: your pastor (and I know your pastors) love you more than life itself. Whatever comes will come out of a desire to love Christ, love His church, and love the community in which He’s placed us. Let’s stay the course!