Blasting Off to My Greatest Adventure

This morning I pushed the “red button” to launch and signed a book contract. In the next nine to twelve months, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation will be on bookstore shelves and on Amazon! Praise God! It’s been a long time coming.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

I didn’t make this decision lightly. As I prayed about it for two weeks, I heard God say, “What are you afraid of? I gave you this book.” . . . or, did I? or, Was I just hearing what I wanted to hear God say? or, Was it just the voices in my head?

As I celebrated with family and friends, I could hear the subtle whisper of doubt in my ear.

Although the excitement of signing a book contract is overwhelming, so is the fear. What if no one buys my book? What if I can’t finish it on time? What if I FAIL?!

The fear of failure can be paralyzing.

I was watching William Lane Craig’s Defenders class on YouTube a couple months ago when he said, “Failure might be God’s will for your life.”

God’s will for your life can be that you fail. God can lead you into failure. Because he has things to teach you through failure that you can’t learn through success.  ~WLC

I had to stop and sit with that for a while. That thought has never crossed my mind.

Is it OK if failure is in God’s will for your life or for mine?

Obviously we won’t fail spiritually if we are following Christ. And we won’t fail when it comes to eternity. We have victory in Christ and nothing can change that. Amen!

But, what if it is not in His plan for me to be successful? Ever?! Would I be OK with that?

Again, I sat with it.

Part of me wanted to just jump up and appear holy and righteous by saying, “Whatever Thou willeth I will doeth with joyeth!” But, is that real? Could I really rejoice in that?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that failure and success are a state of mind. They are an attitude not an absolute.

My soul longs to love Jesus Christ and to follow Him with reckless abandon.

If we pursue Jesus as though He is the only thing that we are chasing, nothing else matters. If we surrender our lives to Christ, then success or failure become irrelevant.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if my book succeeds or fails. All that matters is if it brings glory to God and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him.

A friend of mine who was about to start fundraising for her new ministry once told me, “don’t chase after the money . . . . chase after the mission, and God will provide.”

As I rest on the threshold of this extraordinary adventure, this is my prayer.

Dear Abba, Father,

Lord, you are so good and so loving. Thank you for your Word and the promise that You will never leave me. You are always by side. Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Keep my eyes always on You as I venture out into the great unknown. Build my trust day by day, and keep my spirit open to your Word. Help me stay connected to the vine, Lord, because YOU are my lifeblood, YOU are the air I breathe, and YOU are my everything. In Your Son’s precious name. Amen.

To God be the glory!  Here we go!

 

7 Reasons why I am not jumping on the church growth bandwagon

It’s tiring being the weird one. Believe me . . . sometimes I wish that I could just go to church on Sundays, sit in the sanctuary, listen to a message, clap and sing praise songs, catch up with my friends, and go on my merry way.

  • Why can’t I just enjoy the new worship center that is twice as big as before?
  • Why can’t I be proud of the fact that droves of new people are coming in our doors on a regular basis?
  • Why can’t I be excited about a church that looks so good from the outside?
  • Why can’t I just get on board?

Lord knows that I have asked myself these questions many times. Why can’t I go back to the shallow end of the pool? Why do I have to dwell in the depths of the deep? Oh, I often contemplate it.

But, I know that I can’t go back. And, truth be told, I wouldn’t want to.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68

According to one blog post, “Growth is ALWAYS the goal of the New Testament church.”

I disagree. I don’t believe church growth should be our gauge for success.

Why?

Because church growth with a big ‘C’ (Christ’s Church) does not always equal church growth with a little ‘c’ (1 specific church). And church growth with a little ‘c’ doesn’t necessarily translate into more disciples, which is the purpose of Christ’s Church.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 28:19

There are 7 reasons why I don’t believe in church growth.


1. Not everyone can use their spiritual gifts

When you have a church with thousands of people, it is nearly impossible for everyone to use their spiritual gifts within the church. Only a select group will be able to.

What if there are 250 people at a church of 4,000 with the gift of preaching or pastoring? No church of any size has 250 pastors! That means that there are at least 240 people unable to use their spiritual gift.

God gives us all spiritual gifts, and we should all be using them within the ‘body of Christ’, the Church.

Is everyone using their spiritual gifts at large churches? The answer is likely ‘no’. It is more likely that there will be way more gifted people at a large church than can be utilized.

2. Small groups are no substitute for Church

Large churches answer the criticism of their size by saying, ‘we encourage everyone to join a small group’.

My husband and I have been in small groups off an on for twenty years. We have seldom experienced (C)hurch in any of them. Most small groups do not focus on scripture. They do not focus on the Holy Spirit and how He is moving in their lives. The majority of small groups are not about encouraging each other in boldness; or holding one another accountable to scripture.

Small groups are a social gathering.

“In the search for answers I began to attend a large church in our local town, but instead of answers, all I found was a sort of spiritual country club where the dues were a dollar a week in the offering plate.”   ~Willaim Lane Craig

According to Randy White, “The (small) groups engage in fellowship time, then go on their way as biblically empty as when they arrived.”

Small groups are not a substitute for church.

3. The problem with the 25 year plan

About five years ago, our church went through a building campaign. This is when I learned that our church had a 25 year plan.

It is not just having a 25 year plan that bothers me, it is being bound to it that does.

How can a church be spirit-led if it is bound to a plan that we created? If God tells us to move, and it conflicts with our 25 year plan, then what? Are we open to a different plan that God may have for us at any moment?

Can having a 25 year plan breed arrogance and independence instead of DEPENDENCE on God?

I can’t help but think about the stories of God leading His people in the Old Testament. What faith Moses and Joshua had when God asked them to do some crazy things! Every move that they made came directly from God.

God was leading them daily with a cloud by day and fire by night.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.   Exodus 13:21

To my knowledge, God has never given anyone in scripture a 25 year plan. The closest thing to a ‘plan’ is prophecy. And, prophesy is not a plan; it is a hope; it is a promise of the grace and salvation to come through Jesus Christ.

We, as the church, must surrender our ‘plan’ to God and let HIM guide us.

4. Campaign strategies don’t belong at church

Many churches hire consultants or building campaign strategists to help with their church growth campaigns. Churches should never look to someone with the word ‘strategist’ in their title for guidance. The word strategist is code for ‘we’re going to use our plan, not God’s.’

The head of the church is Christ and Christ alone.

Is Jesus Christ not good enough to lead us? Is that really what we believe? 

During the campaign, my husband and I were invited to participate in a building campaign meeting. I thought, ‘Ok, this is good, they want to know what we think about this.’ It ended up being a sales pitch.

We quickly realized that we were not there because they valued our opinions as brothers and sisters in Christ. They were recruiting us to be on their ‘sales team’.

A salesman, or ‘Building Campaign Consultant’ or whatever his title was, got up and started selling. The purpose of the meeting was to get people to advertise the building campaign to the church and the community. Lay people were not wanted for their insight about the direction of the church. They simply wanted bodies to make sales calls, to raise money or help with mass mailings. 

I felt used. And rightly so, I was being used. Not cool at church.

5. Church growth causes us to be inward focused

During building campaigns, everything suddenly is about (fill in a church name). Pride, disguised as church growth, can sneak in.

We start innocently talking about our history and showing pictures. Then we pat ourselves on the back about how much we have grown. It’s a slippery slope to becoming all about ‘us’.

We have to remember that the (C)hurch is not just our (c)hurch. Christ’s church is so much bigger than this building or that address. It is the entire body of Christ.

6. A large church must be run like a business

Logistically speaking, any organization over a certain number of people must be run like a business or it will fall apart.

Church is not a business. Yet, we have cheapened it to this level.

The amount of staff that a church has is a good indication of this ‘business mentality’. A large church must run like a business to manage the staff, expenses/assets, programs & projects.

7. A large church requires a lot of staff

A large church often has a lot of staff.

If there is a lot of staff, then there are fewer opportunities for lay people to step up in ministry.

When this is the case, the church body and the staff become disconnected. Instead of the church being all of God’s people, the staff are seen as the church and the members are just patrons.

We are all the church . . . . every one of us!  Large churches with a lot of paid staff must remember that church goers are as much ‘the Church’ as the paid staff.


God has given me a love for the Church. I am passionate about keeping it pure and holy.

However, Church is a tough one. Christ set the bar pretty high!

As mere mortals, the concept of Church is one that we can never fully grasp. The Church is made up of us, disciples of Christ, yet it is the body of our Lord and Savior. Church is both human and divine at the same time. Hard to grasp?! It definitely is!

Church is supernatural. It is beyond our understanding. I believe that is why there is so much strife in churches today and why we can’t seem to get it right.

Church was never meant to be a building with thousands of people. It was probably never meant to be about a building at all.

You and I are the (C)hurch. And as the (C)hurch, we must hold our (c)hurches accountable and be continually turning them back to Christ. 

The 2 sides of the coin of faith

This past semester I taught a worldviews and apologetics curriculum at my church that required a lot of supplementation and additional research. As I prepared, I found myself swimming in a sea of endless philosophical, theological and scientific statistics, facts, and arguments. This was a whole new world to me. My head was spinning! Who knew that the world of Christian apologetics was so extensive?!

For more than a decade, my brother has followed theologian, Christian apologist and philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig. Since I started watching debates several months ago, however, I have gained a great deal of respect for him.

Aside from the fact that Dr. Craig is brilliant and intellectually WAY over my head, his heart and his faith make him a compelling evangelist as well. It isn’t often that you see someone who has a healthy balance between the intellectual and the emotional side of their faith.

In his debates, he speaks of five arguments for the existence of God.

  1. God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe
  2. God is the best explanation for the fine tuning of the universe
  3. God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values in the world
  4. God is the best explanation for the historical facts pertaining to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
  5. God can be immediately known and experienced

The first four deal in the realms of science, philosophy, theology, history, and are basically facts and proofs. Then you get to the fifth argument, and it is purely personal and experiential.

A statement about knowing and experiencing God is emotional and quite bold for such a scholarly environment. It takes tenacity, and a humble heart to make such claims in the presence of highly esteemed intellectuals. Often, the world of academia has divorced the heart from the mind.

“Arguments for God could actually distract our attention from God himself”
~ William Lane Craig

I greatly admire him for not putting all of his eggs in one intellectual basket. Believing in God purely based on Kalam’s Cosmological argument, the teleological argument, or Leibniz’s contingency argument, as interesting and intellectually stimulating as they are, can only get you so far. At some point, one has to go beyond the intellectual realm to the heart and soul. For that is the realm of faith.

God is personal. And, The most wonderful part of this life is to know and experience Him.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.   James 4:8

I do believe that we can experience God intellectually as well as emotionally. My brother has said this for years. After all, He is the source of all knowledge.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6

I would encourage the more emotional believers to not neglect the intellectual side of God’s character. It’s sad when people assume that apologetics is dry and boring. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is like saying God is boring. How absurd!

When I started exploring apologetics, I was like a kid in a candy store! I found so much joy from gaining more awareness of this awesome God I serve. It added to my awe of Him. Discovering new aspects of God’s character is absolutely thrilling!

Similarly, intellectual and scholarly Christians should seek to know God on an experiential and emotional level. Things like singing praise songs or raising hands to God in worship may seem trivial to a scholarly person. However, exploring the different aspects of God’s character can only enrich your faith.

God is so immensely . . . . well, immense!! There are so many aspects of His character that it would take an infinite number of lifetimes to explore them all.

Does God matter? How important is a purpose driven life?

The other day I was watching a debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher DiCarlo. The topic was “Does God Matter?” Most of Dr. Craig’s debates seem to be on topics such as, does God exist? Is it reasonable to believe there is a God? Why is there something rather than nothing? And, has science buried God? 

These debates generally stay within the realm of cosmology, therefore, I was intrigued.

So, does God matter?

Everything that I am rests on the fact that God absolutely matters! God matters very much to me. And I would argue that He matters to you too; whether you realize it or not.

You can’t have purpose without God, and you can’t have life without purpose.

Do human beings need purpose? Of course we do! Does there need to be meaning to our lives? You bet there does!

There isn’t one human being on the planet that doesn’t have or need purpose for their lives. It is what separates us from the animals. We have a soul and therefore, we search for purpose and meaning.

Human beings are why creatures. We not only seek to know what, and how things work, but also, why. We want to know there is a reason. We need there to be something greater than ourselves. It’s human nature. We are not content with just the what’s, where’s, when’s, and how’s. We need to understand the why’s.

Loren Eiseley, an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer said, “Man is the cosmic orphan. He’s the only creature in the universe that asks why.”

According to the AnchorsAway curriculum written by Nancy Fitzgerald, everyone has five life questions. They all seem to echo the why’s that haunt us.

  1. From where did I come? . . . . why am I here?
  2. Why is there such a mess in the world? . . . . why am I here?
  3. Is there any hope? . . . . why am I here?
  4. What is my purpose in life? . . . . why am I here?
  5. What happens when I die? . . . . why am I here?

WHY AM I HERE?!! We must have an answer! 

Those of us who have kids remember that annoying why phase that toddlers go through. No matter what answer you give them, they continue to ask why? until infinity. It is innate in human nature to want to know why.

The why’s express our need for purpose.

Anybody who claims that we don’t all need or have purpose in life is most likely someone who has easily been able to find purpose in their own life. These are the people in which things have generally turned out well and they get to live out their passion in everyday life. They may not be aware that they are living with purpose. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

Then there are those that aren’t content in their lives. Things have not worked out well. They are the poor and the marginalized. They have not found their purpose in life. Or, they have not found a purpose to life. They are the sad, depressed, and hopeless people that roam the earth; often, they don’t know God.

Nothing is like hopelessness. No physical pain is like it, though it can lead to it. No fear is like it, though it can feed it. No feeling of loss as terrible as it may be, can compete with it.
~ Beth Moore

Dr. Craig, the Christian apologist, would say things like, “humans and the universe are doomed to die. The universe grows colder and colder as its energy runs out. And, eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light; there will be no life; there will be no heat.”

This is the future of our universe and our planet. It is inevitable. Any scientist, physicist, or cosmologist would confirm this fact.

Sound depressing? It absolutely is if there is no God!

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  1 Corinthians 15:17-19

To think that eventually our light will just go out and we will cease to be is a horrifying thought! How could any human being make peace with a reality like that?

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
– Macbeth, Shakespeare

DiCarlo, the atheist, would say we don’t need a God to be happy, be a good person and to have a good life. In one of his speeches, he says, “when the party is over, say goodnight.”

In general, we do not accept the finality of death.

Most people groups since the beginning of time have adopted religions that include an extension of life beyond death. Human beings cannot accept that we have an end.

Some believe that when you die, you become an animal and live on in nature. Other religions or worldviews believe in reincarnation and eventually becoming one with the universe. Most religious groups, cultures, tribes, and nations believe in life after death. They must. They are human.

God does matter. And because He matters, we matter. Thank you God for giving me purpose, and making my life matter.