A Surprising Response from a Retiring Pastor

I had somewhat of a shocking conversation with a friend who had led a successful church for over 3 decades. I had not communicated with him for a long time and it was good to see him.  He is a wonderful, well-respected pastor both by his church and the community. His ministry and church situation is everything many younger leaders would aspire to.  It is a great church with good programs, a nice building, influential people and a wonderful staff.  I hadn’t seen him in quite a while and when I greeted him he said something very unexpected, “You may not have heard it yet but I am officially and really retiring now.”  The next words that came out of his mouth shocked me, “I’m tired of feeding fat lazy Christians.   I want to get on and do something significant in the next phase of my life.”

“I am really retiring now.  I am tired of feeding fat lazy Christians. I want to get on and do something significant in the next phase of my life.” Retiring Pastor 

It was unexpected because this man was one of the kindest well-respected leaders I know.  He is known for his gentle approach to pastoring.  My response to him was a little surprising to me and somewhat prophetic,  “I hear ya!  If we see our role as building a church to please and attract consumer Christians then we will become spiritual chaplains of people’s narcissism.”  He agreed wholeheartedly.

This interaction made me think of a satirical Christian website’s post about the absurdity of how consumer Christians approach leaving a church titled, “Babylon Bee Signs You Should Find A New Church Home.” 

Consumer Christianity is the polar opposite of the implications Jesus described in following Him, “Lay your life down…lose your life for My sake…serve others…take up your cross…forsake all and follow Me.”  May this realization of consumer Christianity stir something of the zeal of God in us to fulfill the reason Jesus laid down His life. He didn’t lay His life down to have a people zealous for their own interest (consumer Christianity) but His.  Titus 2:13-14  looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  (14)  who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to Himself a special people, zealous of good works.

Babylon Bee Signs You Should Find A New Church

December 21, 2016

“How do I know if I should leave my church?”

It’s a question everyone wonders from time to time—and not one to take lightly. Transitioning between churches can be a messy time in the life of the Christian and his or her family and church body.

So how do you know if it’s time to say “adiós”? The Babylon Bee is here to help, with five meticulously researched and peer-reviewed signs that you should leave your church behind.

  • The full-service cafe discontinues your favorite seasonal drink. If winter rolls around and the coffee shop in the foyer decides not to run its usual peppermint mocha promotional, it’s time to start Googling “good churches in my area.” It’s a sure sign that the church has abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints. (This should go without saying, but if your church doesn’t have a full-service coffee shop, its lampstand has been removed long ago).
  • The church fails to immediately respond to your weekly helpful comment card feedback. When you say “jump,” your church should say “how high?” You pay their salaries after all—meaning they work for you. Pastors that don’t immediately make major changes to the worship experience, their preaching style, the decor of the building, or the genres of music on offer based on the fifteen helpful comment cards you turn in each week are not expressing love for the brethren, which may indicate they’re not saved at all.
  • Someone expresses concern that you missed the last eighteen services. A church that shows interest in regular church membership is like a creepy ex-girlfriend that can’t let go. Can you say “red flag?” Run, don’t walk, away from this aberrant and apostate congregation.
  • The men’s retreat features fewer than twenty fully automatic rifles. There’s nothing more disappointing than gearing up for your church’s annual men’s retreat only to discover it’s nothing more than a couple days of Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship. In fact, Jesus Himself rebuked the church at Laodicea for being lukewarm, which scholars believe indicates their men’s ministry never once went on a week-long hunting expedition in the Yukon. (Women, substitute “fully automatic rifles” with “crafting tables.”)
  • The pastor faithfully preaches the Bible on a weekly basis. Pastors who keep sticking to the same faithful presentation of the Word of God each week lack imagination, honestly. How can your church be a fun, exciting place with engaging programs and appealing special events if the pastor guy keeps rambling on about sin, repentance, and new life in Christ, while systematically preaching and teaching the Scriptures? Think about it.

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list—there are hundreds of thousands of legitimate reasons for leaving a church, especially if the pastor isn’t making a concerted effort to appease your every whim and earn your business. But if your church lines up with any of the above points, there’s a really good chance it is time for you to move on.

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Prayer For Mission and Prayer On Mission

Prayer on Mission is like breathing. We inhale God’s presence as we pray, and we exhale His presence as we pray for others.

Every one of God’s people is called to His family mission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, Jn 17:18, 20:21, Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11).  God’s mission is not for a few “special Christians” with a “special call.”  Missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time, across the street, as well as across the ocean.

In our calling to engage in God’s mission we must remember that we can’t save anyone by our own efforts.  We are not called to save but to sow.  We are to sow seeds of God’s Kingdom.

A key to mission that seems too good to be true

What if there was a master key that would enable us to do the following?

  • Go straight to someone’s heart in an instant bypassing all the mental reasonings in a split second.
  • Communication Jesus to someone without people’s interruptions or deflective questions
  • Avoid the arguments of “my belief versus yours” while communicating Jesus
  • Hold the higher ground of influence above people’s resistance.
  • Giving “seeds” of God’s word with prophetic words, words of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment communicated (with wisdom) uninterrupted by the people you are giving them to.
  • Communicating and impacting people from other religious backgrounds.
  • See the power of God released upon people without resistance.

Is there a way to do these things or does it sound too good to be true?  Prayer for people is an often neglected key that will enable the previous things mentioned to happen.  In the accounts of Jesus sending the 12 and 70 on mission (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10) His first order of business was to “pray to the Lord of the harvest”.  Then they were to pray for people as they, “give a blessing, heal the sick, and cast out demons?”

When you pray people yield their agenda and become somewhat passive.  As you pray you get free access to their hearts.  Most of the time offering to pray for someone about something is inoffensive and communicates care.

Of all the times I have offered to pray for someone both inside and outside the church only once have I been turned down.  I even offered to pray at a public intersection for an atheist who was protesting and holding a sign touting the great virtues of atheism.  I ask her if she would mind if I offered a prayer to the God that she doesn’t believe exist.  After all what harm would it do since she didn’t think anything was there.  To my amazement, she said she wouldn’t mind so I took her up on the offer right there on the street, in front of all her atheist friends.

God’s Spiritual Bee Sting

When we pray for people there is an instant connection to God, His presence, and His resources.  There is an immediate impact of God.  Prayer in this way is like getting stung by a bee.  You often know it is buzzing around but can’t see where it is until it stings you.  When you pray for someone you go directly past all their reluctance and like a bee sting it will make an impact.

As we are inquiring and entering into conversations with people about their family, health, work, or circumstances we will find out something we can pray for.  In that moment we can say, “would you mind if I pray for you about that?”   Then as we pray we bring them into direct contact with the all-powerful God of the universe.  It is an instant connection with God.

Prayer is a key, a door, and a bridge over which God’s power flows.  I remember an evangelist giving the following observations to encourage us to pray for people.   There is nothing that can’t be prayed for.

  • When you don’t know what to do, pray for them.
  • When you can’t speak the language prayer for them.
  • When you don’t have the time to speak a lot, pray for them.
  • When you know the issue is too big for you, pray for them
  • When you might not see them again, pray for them. 

As we go on mission in our everyday life we need to have confidence that we can lead people into an encounter with God.  We fear that people will just watch us pray for them instead of entering into God with us.  We can ask them to participate like close you eyes, bow your head, or extend your hands like you are receiving etc. Sometimes outward/natural steps can lead to an inward spiritual reality (1  Cor 15:46 “first the natural then the spiritual).

Most of the time prayer is a matter of calling people to focus their attention on Him.  You can also ask God to open their senses.  Paul prayed this way in Ephesians, “open the eyes of their heart to His great power towards us…the same power He exercised when He raised Jesus from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20).

God’s kingdom isn’t just a lot of words. It is power. 1 Cor 4:20

We must remember that God’s “Kingdom isn’t just words but power” (1 Cor 4:20).  We want to connect people with God’s supernatural power as they connect with the supernatural God.

I had the great privilege of watching this as an observer when I walked up behind my wife as she was asking a lady if she could pray for her.  The lady responded in a pleasantly surprised way, “I have never had anyone ask me that before…I guess so.”  I was looking over my wife’s shoulder into the lady’s face.  At first, she didn’t know what to do and her eyes started to blink then she shut them and her head went down.  When my wife was done with the short prayer the lady’s eyes opened with tears in them and she said, “that was great…I felt an amazing peace.”  Then to our surprise, she said, “That felt so wonderful I think people should have people pray for them more often.”  This opened a door to speak more about Jesus.

Don’t forget to use an important key that works in any situation…prayer!

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