Posts Tagged With: division

Problem Solved!

It was a scandal in the making.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, a vast cultural divide threatened to rip asunder the fragile fabric of unity these first believers in Jesus earlier enjoyed.

As we learned last week (Podcast #27), the story begins,

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”

That was, as you will remember, a dire situation for these precious widows. Dire in the extreme. Women who had lost their husbands, and who were now among the most vulnerable in that male-dominated society. Females forced to live in a world that diminished women to a subservient status. One that rendered them uneducated, unskilled, unemployable, utterly without resources. Totally dependent.

Now that they had become followers of Jesus, they could not return to their synagogues for support. Not to worry. We read earlier in Acts 2 that

“(These first believers) would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it… and shared their food happily and freely.”

Not any more.

Last week, we went into much detail about the collision of cultures faced by these early believers. A vast cultural divide between the Greek-speaking (Hellenistic) believers who were in the minority, and Hebrew-speaking believers who were in the majority. A cultural divide of church-splitting potential.

So wide a divide that the majority discriminated against the minority to the risk of the lives of Greek-speaking widows.

This was serious. So serious that the Apostles (all Twelve of the Apostles) were forced to drop everything in order to address problem.

Their solution was nothing short of brilliant! For them. And for us!

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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More Than Just a Food-Fight. So.Much.More

It was a matter of life and death. Literally.

Make no mistake about this: As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, these “rumblings of discontent,” as Luke characterized them, represented anything but some small-time, garden variety, trivial church-squabble.

What happened here in Acts 6 exposed a clash of cultures that tore asunder the awe-inspiring oneness heretofore enjoyed by the Jerusalem Christian Community.

You might remember what we observed as recently as at the end of Acts 4.

Verse 32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Not any more!

Now, sadly, at the beginning of Acts 6, that blessed unity coupled with their selfless generosity Was.No.More.

Something had changed.

Their fellowship fractured. Their unity dissolved into disunity. A rift developed that literally rent the fragile fabric of unity completely in half.

Again, at the risk of sounding redundant, I must stress two vitally important points before I immerse you in the nitty-gritty of what exactly was going on here.

FIRST: We make a grave error of interpretation and application of Acts 6 if we view this not-so-exemplary episode as just the first of the kinds of common conflicts that characterize so many church squabbles and skirmishes today.

This was not some intramural argument about what style of music we should have in our worship services, or the color of carpet we should install in the new Fellowship Hall. You know—the kinds of stuff over which churches so frequently split these days.

Again, this was literally a matter of life and death. The lives of the most vulnerable of these first committed Christ-followers were in jeopardy, not because of external persecution.

SECOND: Please understand that this church fight exposed an internal underlying clash of cultures that was far more serious than we might realize.

On the surface of things, a casual reader might merely relegate this Acts 6 kerfuffle to growing pains—too many people added to the church in too short a time. Rapid growth that resulted in a first-of-its-kind food-fight within hallowed halls of that first century church. Because conflict certainly does involve growth and food. But dig a little deeper and we’ll discover that growth and food were merely symptoms of a potentially deadly disease that threatened to rot the soul of this newly-founded church.

Now listen carefully: Believe it or not, this conflict involved the exact same clash of cultures that we as committed Christ-followers are attempting to navigate even today.

It is Today as it was Then.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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God’s Biblical Blueprint for Every Local Church

After a wonderful week ministering at Hume Lake, it’s so good to be home. And so glorious to be back in the amazing book of Acts.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the elegant simplicity of what God intended His local churches to look like, and how He intended for them to function, coupled with unencumbered sincerity of His biblical blueprint for every local church ministry, is breathtaking to behold.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Glorious Gift of Tongues

It is one of the great ironies of Christian life.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the Holy Spirit came to this earth in Jesus’ absence in part to bring a supernatural unity to committed Christ-followers throughout the world.

For example, we read in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

That phrase “the unity of the Spirit” notwithstanding, Christians throughout the world have arguably divided more over the gifts of Holy Spirit than any other single issue. Divisions that, quite frankly, have turned spiritually toxic.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do not speak in tongues, you are at the least not filled with the Spirit; and at the worst, not a Christian at all.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do speak in tongues, you are believing a false Gospel and consequently going to Hell.

So as we enter this discussion, I will give to you my promise, and make to you my plea.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Most Important Person of Whom You Have (Perhaps) Never Heard

His name was Matthias.

I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you had no recollection of this selfless servant of Christ.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Matthias is mentioned only twice in the NT, both times here in Acts 1 (verses 23 and 26).

At first blush, Matthias may appear to be just a footnote in the ever-developing drama of redemption. But I can assure you that he is anything but.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

wheat fieldReady to have a somewhat sobering, definitely enlightening, and #Oh.So.Encouraging discussion?

Then welcome to this week’s PODCAST!!!

An encouraging discussion, certainly to me personally, and hopefully to you, because Jesus’ 2nd parable, The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (the 1st we discussed last week, The Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seeds) is spot-on as far as Jesus predicting with pinpoint accuracy EXACTLY what would be taking place in our contemporary Christian culture and communities today…

…And why!

A thought-provoking portrait upon which you and I need to gaze with insight and understanding.

This is one of those messages that puts so much into its proper perspective. Honestly, I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU LISTEN!!!

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An Inconvenient Truth for Every Church Member/Attender to Consider!

broken-churchYesterday I posted this rather brief, yet complementary (to Rick Warren) and self-disclosing (since my highlighting this one quote out of an entire sermon did not come out of a vacuum) statement on my Facebook Timeline:

Rick Warren rocked it today @R13 conference. “The average Pastor leaves because of 7 people.” Woe to those who run out their pastors.

The response in terms of both “Likes” and “Shares” and comments took me completely by surprise.

Sadly, Warren’s observation resonated with a whole lot of people.

So with that in mind, allow me, ever-so-briefly, to pull back the curtain and let rank-and-file church members in on a dirty little secret — an inconvenient truth that not too many worship service attendees know, but one that every pastor without exception fully and completely and sadly understands.

At first blush, one might be tempted to think, “7 people? How can only 7 people (on average) commandeer an entire congregation?” 

Well, before I answer that, let me assure you that Warren’s observation is spot-on. I’ve been devastated by two churches, both times because of the influence of — yes, it’s true — only 7 people.

Add to that the fact that within the last few weeks, I spoke to a now-former pastor of a mega-church who was kicked to the curb by the negative influence of — Are you ready? — a grand total of only 3 families. Do the math. We’re talking 6 adults out of a congregation of some three thousand, who effectively and systematically spread such malicious gossip about my friend to the masses that he could no longer minister effectively in that church.

How does it happen? you ask.

Here’s how. The inconvenient truth:

Those who oppose their pastors may be small in number, but they are free to spread their discontent about the leadership to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Not only that, but they are free to name names. They are free to level any accusation that they want with impunity. They are free to spread outright lies. They can twist the truth and shade it to their advantage. Or they can tell the truth out of context, creating out of the truth a totally false reality. It doesn’t matter which tactic they employ. The results are the same. The damage caused is far-too-often irrevocable.

Now, here’s where we pastors are sitting ducks, defenselessly so. 

We refuse to lower ourselves to that level. We strive to stay above the fray. We do not name names. We do not traffic in malicious gossip. We take the high-road.

Simply put, they are free to say anything that they want to about us, while we refuse to return evil for evil, and therefore we say nothing. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We refuse to discredit our critics, even as they work overtime to discredit us. We do not respond to gossip with gossip. We do not engage in a he-said, he-said defense of ourselves. We do not tell our side of the story. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We do none of that because 1. It would be sin to do so; and 2. It wouldn’t do any good anyway because such self-defensive measures only intensify the conflict, leading to endless meetings producing conflicting/contradictory/confusing information. Congregational food-fights never lead to any positive or productive outcomes. And frankly, to engage in such worldly tactics is beneath the office of Pastor.

We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

Look, not to put a personal spin on this by making this all about me, but only so that you know that I know where so many pastors are coming from. Much to my everlasting sorrow, there are people in my community (perhaps even some who will read this blog) who believe that I am fundamentally evil. They turn away from me when they see me coming down the aisle in WalMart. They warn other Christ-followers about me. In some cases, bad reports about me have been spread by individuals who have never even met me!

Why do you think that Jesus said,

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town…

Jesus knew something about being on the receiving end of malicious gossip. And He, in response, said nothing.

Neither do we.

God is our defense. And I’m OK with that. God takes care of His own. And that’s fine by me. He has, and He will.

But the devastation caused to the innocent bystanders — in churches of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands — is incalculable. Not to mention the damage to countless pastors, many of whom have left the ministry. This because the viciousness of a few (an average of only 7) cost them far too much in terms of their families and/or their health. Men and women who just wanted to serve God and love their people.

Yes, as I posted yesterday on Facebook, so say I now…

Woe to those who run out their pastors.

So what’s the answer? 

First: STOP LISTENING. Gossip is gossip, whether you are on the telling end, or the hearing end. Both the gossiper and gossipee is equally guilty before God for all of the damage done by the gossip.

The next time someone approaches you with a complaint about a pastor, humbly, graciously, lovingly, but firmly tell them to SHUT THE HECK UP!!! And then calmly walk away.

HAVE NOTHING TO DO with those who traffic in malicious gossip. Is that too strong for you? Then ponder this niggling little point: If they gossip about the pastor, what makes you think they won’t one day gossip about you???

I mean, look… Silly me… I thought church was about worshipping God. When did it become about finding fault with one another? Finding fault with our pastors?

How can we keep our eyes focused on God when we are looking for the faults in others? How can we keep our ears attuned to God’s Word when we give an ear to other peoples’ gossiping words? Especially about the pastor, the one tasked with teaching us God’s Word?

This is not complicated, my friends.

Second: PRAY FOR YOUR PASTORS. We’re just human. No one of us ever claims perfection. (If we did, you should run for the hills!)

Please. I beg you. Let us be imperfect. Let us lead from weakness.

Let us in our brokenness help to heal your brokenness. And when we do need breaking, trust me when I say that God is perfectly capable of breaking us without others lending Him a helping hand.

You know, it wasn’t long after I was thrown under the proverbial church bus that I stumbled into a friend’s church on a Sunday morning, and literally broke down and wept. Know why? Because the pastor of that church said this to his congregation:

You just love me, and are thankful I’m here.

I sobbed because that’s all I (or any pastor) has ever wanted. Just to be loved, and for the people to be thankful that we are here.

I really don’t think that’s setting the bar very high. Do you?

Finally: If you just can’t bring yourself to support your pastor, QUIETLY walk away. Don’t pitch a fit. Don’t raise a ruckus. Don’t devastate a church by sowing seeds of division within the church. If asked, just simply and quietly tell your friends that you are being led to worship elsewhere, period. Nothing else needs to be said.

Want to hear a lie? I mean a devilish lie. Straight from the pit of Hell itself. A lie that goes like this…

Pastors come and go, but this is my church.

Ummm, excuse me. Your church? I thought it was Jesus’ church. If it is Jesus’ church, it’s His call, and only His call, as to if or when He removes a pastor. Not yours! And certainly not the self-appointed seven.

So let Jesus be the head of His church. And if you are uncomfortable with the way Jesus is leading His church, QUIETLY find another one.

“Wow,” you might now be thinking. “You sound so angry.” To which I say, “I don’t sound angry. I am angry.” 

I am angry about all of the many pastors who once filled pulpits who are now sitting on the sidelines, this because of an average of only 7 sinning people in those churches.

I am angry about all of the “innocent” people who once went to church and loved it. But today, they will not darken the door of a church because of all of the in-fighting caused by an average of only 7 ungodly people within those churches.

I am angry about the many hurting people in our communities who will never turn to the churches in their communities for their longed-for answers. But why would they? Not when we can’t even keep our church-houses in order. All because of an average of only 7 self-focused people inside of those churches.

Listen. Don’t you worry about me being angry. Worry far more about God being angry. Because He is.

So, yeah. My Facebook post — or more accurately, Rick Warren’s astute observation — sure did resonate with a lot of people.

I am just oh-so-thankful for God’s gift of grace in my life, a humble little fellowship of loving, affirming, committed Christ-followers called The Safe Haven. A redemptive community where they just love me and are thankful that I’m here.

I pray that every pastor is as blessed as me.

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