Growing A Church Is Bad For Your Soul

There are many things that we know are bad for us. Candy eats away at our teeth. Bacon clogs our heart (allegedly). Texting while driving takes lives. Smoking gives us cancer and/or lung disease. Isolation brings depression or at least deep loneliness. Anger breads bitterness which births cynicism, hard heartedness, and just plain old meanness. Some things in life should be avoided because no matter how they taste or feel they are just bad for us.

There are many spiritual practices and positions that are similarly bad for us. The avoidance of corporate worship, a rejection of accountability, the judging of others behavior and intentions, the willingness to live disobediently are all things that Christians know are bad for us and should be corrected immediately if we want to have healthy spiritual lives and relationships. Some things just don’t mix and anytime we have more of our own self, our own freedoms, our own flaws mixed with the work that God is trying to do in us we will find self inflicted wounds and perhaps fatal tendencies in our formation. The good things that God gives us often come into conflict with the bad feelings, choices, and habits that we are desperate to maintain our freedom over and that is bad for the Christian soul.

Pastors are no exception to this truth. In fact, we may even be in more danger as we are fatigued by the weight and worry of a church culture that is less and less interested in being a Christian community and much more fascinated in being a Christian club or take out service. We are all in need of salvation and not just from our sins, but from our sinfulness, our selfishness, our self reliance, and our searching for a God that we can make in our own image. Pastors that follow the pattern of cultural trends will discover sooner or later that they are neck deep in the soup that brings sickness to our souls.

It is no secret that the church is in trouble in America. Much of the responsibility could be credited to the misunderstanding and mistakes made by pastors in leading the church and forming disciples. Those two are not the same thing, but that should be aligned or at the very least headed in the same direction. Too often they are not. While there are many reasons that the church is the way it is, it seems that the American church has done a particularly good job of messing up what God began birthing as a beautiful creation. Instead of making disciples and building beautiful community we have been busy enlarging, expanding, and exponentially obsessing on getting bigger, more powerful, financially stable/secure, and way too often chasing relevance as if it was a core value for the New Testament church. Leadership training is more common in churches than spiritual formation. It is easier to convince someone to be a better leader than it is to suggest to them that they should go deeper into discipleship. So pastors pick the more popular and profitable route or message.

This. Must. Change.

Church growth is not only not good. It is bad. Please read that again so that it sinks in on every level. The effects of professional ministers offering professional goods and services in the pursuit of making the gospel popular at all costs has made the church weak, confused, and sick. The prognosis is not only negative, but it is terminal unless we are delivered from our empty philosophy and mistaken identity.

The key to moving away from a church growth mindset and practices is not a change in strategy, but spirit. It does not require a new method, but a new master. To achieve freedom from the weight of promising big things we need a vision from producing small circles of disciples and quality leaders. If pastors are to be saved from the ministry of the American ideal it will necessitate an act of God that is greater than the activity of being professional competent or charismatically capable.

Pastors be warned what I am suggesting is not easy and will not work like an overnight charm. You can not blink your eyes and be transformed from your old habits of multiplying, maximizing, merging, mastering, and making up success stories to alleviate denominational loss and augment the need to be personally glorified or respected. It will be a process. It will be a slow, painful, lonely process, but along the way you will be affirmed in your spirit and you might find pilgrims that are on the same journey you are on.

Many churches will not like what you are saying/doing. It goes agains the grain of there investment over the last 40 years. You may not be voted out, but they may vote to personally leave or they may stay and offer the most apathetic involvement you or they can imagine. Don’t give up and don’t lose heart. Keep at the task of forming disciples and creating a community of faith, hope, and love. Preach the gospel rather than pragmatic principles and let the Holy Spirit show them the “how to’s” of living the Christian life.

God expects you to walk in the righteous way rather than the relevant way. No matter what a book or a Bishop says to you as a pastor the primary leading of a pastor is in the way that Jesus is headed. Anywhere he goes or anything he says is relevant. The world then fits into his agenda. Jesus may have gone to the people and shared in the culture, but it is a mistake to say or think that he acclimated to the Roman way or even the way of popular Judaism. The only relevancy test that we have as pastors and as congregants is based in forsaking this world and following him.

Denominations aren’t likely to lead this change, but they might follow. They also might not. You may not get support from anyone in your tribe that would think what you preach or propose makes sense. Your work might produce the kind of results that gets conference leaders to visit you with questions and concerns. Don’t panic. If pastoral work is to be fruitful it will not be from the hormones of fool proof ideas for breaking the 200 barrier. It will be the product of a long obedience in the direction of God’s leading you to form disciples and call those disciples into ministry.

The vision that God gives to us is not a body that grows bigger and bigger. It is a vision of a church that grows deeper in discipleship and broader in mission. That is a vision that is good for the soul because it leads us to measure our ministry in lives formed in Christ rather than parking spots or programs launched.  A church may very well grow to become a large body of believers, but it is not a healthy church if disciples are not being formed and sent. Any obsession that a pastor has over their work should focus on a passion for being faithful to the gospel and spilled out in Christian service to others.

Growing a church is bad for your soul or at least it can be. Any good doctor of the church would remember often that maybe growing the church isn’t the job of the pastor. That’s the job of the Spirit. Perhaps the reason that growing a church can be bad for the soul is because that is not what God intended us to do. It just might be that the the sooner we get away from thinking we are called to grow a church and get to the work of telling our people not to dream of such things, the easier it will be for us to get to the work God has called us to. That kind of work is forever good for the soul.

 

Mother’s Day Revisited

We all have a mother. There is no getting around it. Having a mother is an intricate part of the procreating process that God dreamed into our earthly reality. While I know that science and social experimentation have tweaked the birthing process since it was first introduced, the genetics of a mother are still required. Without a mother there is no baby. The same is true of a father, but I digress.

What happens following birth though is greatly different from child to child. Some will be placed in their mother’s arms and held tightly until they leave home as grown ups. Others will never be cradled by mom and will long for her touch. Others will find warmth, nurture, and tenderness in the arms of another mother and be forever grateful for her role in their life. Many will reflect on their mother’s touch as hot or cold or as accepting or rejecting. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes as well as perspectives and practices. Hopefully we can all appreciate our mother for who she is rather than what she did for mothers are real people in our life and not just providers of our next meal.

Yesterday across the country millions of people stopped to thank mom. Flowers, cards, gifts, and expensive meals were provided as a gesture of appreciation. Christian congregations ordered their liturgy to reflect on mothers and how they are gifts of God to children and to the family. Sports teams and entertainment venues marketed Mother’s Day as a great time to come out to the ball park or come into the concert hall. Parks and backyards were full of families eating and laughing who get together only two or three times a year to catch up and refocus on the family. Mom was the MVP, MOP, GOAT, and the GDP all in one yesterday and rightfully so. Yesterday was a day for mom to rest, reflect, be revered, and rejoice at the work of her hands. It was her day of reward.

But that was yesterday.

Today is a day for mom to go back to work. You have 364 days until your next free day and every one of them will count. So let’s make the most of the next year. I am writing to every mom on behalf of every kid so read carefully and apply where appropriate.

Mom’s we need you to…

  • Help us to smile, laugh, breathe, and skip. Life takes that away from us at every chance.
  • Remind us of how much you love us, pray for us, and appreciate us. Sometimes you are the only one who does.
  • Teach us to mind our manners, eat right, and behave ourselves. We forget those things that you taught us so long ago.
  • Recount for us the story of our birth and beginnings. That will help orient us time and time again in life when we are lost or confused. Heritage is way more valuable than we sometimes think.
  • Be a person of real faith and certainty that God is at work in all things. No matter what seems to be taking place.
  • Stop worrying about us. Advise us and encourage us, but worry, anxiety, and heart burn only hurts you and us.
  • Show us how to forgive and faithfully love those who hurt us. No one forgives like a mother so teach us please.
  • Stop chasing our childhood and help us navigate adulthood. It is a jungle out here and you know the way. Show us like you showed us how to tie a shoe or wash behind our ears.
  • Take care of yourself. Not with cosmetics and clothes or fads and follies that adorn your outward appearance. Take care of the inside of you – your heart, your mind, your soul. Those are the treasures most important to your children.
  • Tell us that we are smart, we are kind, and we are important. (Thanks Aibileen!) That is all that we ever really need to know as children and you are the greatest source of it on earth.
  • Never give up on us. We are still growing up sometimes even at 44.  🙂

I will likely think of other things for your mom “to do” list, but that is a start. Don’t try and conquer all of it today or this week. Pace yourself as you get back to work. Don’t be overwhelmed by the load. You are a mom and God has made you just a little lower than a super hero (but a much better cook (probably.) You’ve got this and you getting this will make all the difference in us.

We love you. Hopefully it won’t take another year to say that. Let’s talk soon. Now get to work so we can go back to being kids.

I Have Some Bad News

pux-phil

Today is that day. You know the day that comes around once a year and gets us all in a ruckus. No not Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter or 4th of July. Not even Saint Pat’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Today is Groundhog day and we will find out if more winter is on the way or if Spring is springing early this year. Cross your fingers and say a prayer.

Most of my life there was only one source to get this valuable information – Punxsutawney Phil. He lives of course in Punxsutawney, PA and for 130 years has given us cause to pay attention to his town on February 2nd. Every town should be famous for something and a rodent whose shadow controls the emotions of his citizens is as good as anything I guess. This morning I found out that in Marion, OH there is a hog named Buckeye Chuck. Unbelievable. What a rip off. I bet Phil is a mad little critter. His one day to be the center of attention for the whole world and his fame is tarnished by an imposter from North Central Ohio. Poor Phil.

I have some bad news. Imposters are not just in the ground hog species and they aren’t just in Ohio. Although there are plenty of those around here to be found. Imposters come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds, all cities and settings. Don’t think your space is void of the possibility. Be warned, but don’t be alarmed.

Imposters are rampant in our day. Some try tell you they are the best leaders when they are really copy cats of someone else’s better ideas. Some will tell you that they are making things great again while they subversively take things in a particular direction that pleases and profits their constituency. Some will make you believe they are the powerful teachers on truthful topics when they are only telling you what you want to hear and fueling your fears/insecurities with familiar rhetoric. Some will make believe to like you, accept you, love you, all while searching for your immediate replacement to meet their needs or fulfill their agenda. Imposters come in the form of leaders, pastors, teachers, churches, Trump University, celebrities, friends, and of course ground hogs.

Imposters are wide spread and wildly popular. Don’t be fooled. Listen carefully and look into the life and character of those you listen too and follow. Think, pray, discern if their words or direction do good or bring harm to others. Reject new things that are only shiny, but possess no substance. Embrace old things that have shown themselves to be tried and tested. Question those who make promises to some while offering threats to others. Be willing to walk away from those whose leadership doesn’t pass the test of authenticity, good will, and generous living. Buy into people who buy into people, but rid yourselves of the stock of those who discount others based on race, religion, or the right side of things.

Be the real deal. Impeach the imposters in your life (at least in your heart.) Be authentic. Don’t believe everything you hear. Learn to look, listen, and launch in a direction that benefits you AND others. Champion words and ways that are substantially useful and not just stylistically comforting. Resist the temptation to hope for a quicker change of season so that you may live into the season that God has called you to.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18)

What Does it Mean When You Stop Following Someone?

social-media

Social media is a great thing. It is helps us keep up with the lives of friends and families that we are separated from by distance. It helps us connect to people that we sort of know, but may not have been formally introduced. It helps us monitor breaking news from around the world and from inside our network. It helps us feel like we are an active part of a global family of more than 6 billion brothers and sisters.

Social media also makes us aware of what people are thinking and what they believe about life, politics, sports, and even intimate relationships. For every 100 people we know that practice good social media manners we know one person that whines, moans and complains about the smallest of things. We know someone that is intent on shouting their agenda to people as loudly as possible. We know someone that has very little empathy for anybody or anything and likely aren’t interested in developing any. We know someone that boils our blood every time they post an arrogant statement, a tasteless picture, an insensitive quote, or even a inflaming emoji.

So we unfriend them or we unfollow them. Problem solved. Or is it?

When we unfollow or unfriend someone in silence we may not be doing them any favors. They likely don’t know that we no longer read their posts and assume that we are closely keeping taps on their every thought and word. People who are so clueless about what they say or post are usually equally clueless about what people think about them. It is a matter of lacking self awareness and it oozes throughout every detail of their life. They just don’t get it and likely don’t care to.

So what does it mean to stop following someone?

It may mean…

That the friendship is not deep enough to confront or counsel someone about how they are perceived. (Maybe we need to work to change that.)

That confrontation is not an option and so a careful separation is necessary. (Maybe this says something about how we value perspectives more than people. Think about that one for a minute.)

That being connected to many people is more important than being real with a few. (Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that someone we have never been in the same room with has a different view on politics or faith than we do.)

That people are who they are and there is little hope in their ability to change or get it together. (Maybe believing that people can become self aware is our first hope and prayer before we do anything.)

That conversation is better kept at a safe distance than brought in for a close encounter. (Maybe we a phone call or cup of coffee would be good ways to discuss tension.)
As a leader who works with a very diverse population of people in my church/organization as well as with public stakeholders I am challenged daily about what to do. Who do I ignore? Who do I confront? Who do I write off? Who do I unfriend?

Every Christian should be careful to consider the matter as well. We are called to live together in brotherly/sisterly love, but love doesn’t mean that we ignore bad behavior nor does it mean that we quietly dismiss the person as an unsalvageable social media soul. We don’t just rebuke someone in the name of love with the first thing we think of and we can’t just unplug any remembrance of the person without thought to our role as a witness in their life. And for heaven’s sakes we aren’t the social media police having to argue, confront, debunk every bad thought or word we read online. Sometimes a deep, cleansing breath is what we need before doing anything. Unfollowing and unfriending after accepting friendship with someone can be viewed as a rejection and if they are a Christian or church connection that can be extremely difficult.

Here is my working strategy on managing social media contacts or connections:

I am careful about who I friend or link up to on social media so that I can be very careful about managing those relationships. My goal is not quantity, but quality with those in my network. I don’t have to like or love every post I see and my emoji isn’t required as an expression of my approval or lack there of. If the issue is one of personal perspective and they communicate it professionally or with some level of composure then it is okay to have a different perspective. If they insult me then forgiveness is first, but conversation comes close as the second response. If they destroy a whole culture, tribe, party, family, church or any other grouping in a public way then rebuke and removal must be considered. Being connected is not more important than being real.

Unfollowing and unfriending is sometimes the right thing to do, but it comes with consequences personally and socially. Choose those options deliberately and wisely. Manage the friendship well and tension will likely manage itself. Be careful with feelings – yours, theirs, others – and direct communication can be helpful and possibly transforming. Don’t be overly sensitive, but don’t fall asleep at the wheel and let your feed get blown up by a loose cannon friend or associate. Be genuine in your faith, your feelings, your feedback and people will likely have respect for where you are coming from.

Friendship is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
– Muhammad Ali

Holiness Lost and Found

take-time-to-be-holy

It seems to me that a lot of my good, good friends these days have lost sight of what is most important in loving and leading all of God’s people. And when I say ‘all of God’s people’ I mean ALL – red and yellow, black and white, Democrat and Republican, gay and straight, rich and poor, educated and simple, American citizens and global friends. ALL is not a reflection of one’s faith, but a condition of one’s creative origin in the heart of God for the relational purposes of God to live for the glory of God. All of these people groups matter to us because they all matter to God.

Who I am thinking about and speaking to is anyone who claims Jesus as Savior and Lord. My calling and pulpit is primarily one to the people of faith who are called to not only believe in a higher power in all things, but to live to a higher standard at all times. By ‘standard’ I might say purpose or way or ethic or cause, but I mean the same thing. Christians of all traditions, denominations, ethnicities, and political parties are first called to embrace the kingdom of God that has come and is coming. To embrace such a kingdom is to embrace the way of the king. His way is a way of love. His way is a way of hope. His way is a way of gentleness and meekness. His way is a way of reconciliation. His way is a way of holiness.

But we seem to have certainly lost this way of living together in America and especially in the American church.

Chuck Colson – that politician turned theologian – said that “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.” I’m gonna add “friendship by friendship, stranger by stranger, thought by thought, word by word, feeling by feeling” to his train of practical holiness. He is right of course. Our job is not to win the day politically. Nor is it to hurl truth bombs to the party that has newly acquired, but temporary power. Holiness is our word, thought, and deed. Any other view of what God has called us to is incomplete and inconsiderate to the hope God has for his new creations.

Perhaps it isn’t so much a problem of believing, but a lack of seeing it in the body of Christ. We have lost a vision of God’s holiness because our spiritual idols and ideals aren’t interested in transformed living at all. The mind of Christ is not attractive to most people. A heart after God’s own heart is not appealing to the populous. Life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit is not nearly as cool as living in the prestige of the creative freedom and force of any generation. Journeying together as the body of Christ is no longer possible because individual choice and philosophy is greater than the good of unity and wholeness in Christ.

Little by little, day by day we are losing our ability as a church to see the way of holiness that is open and available to us as God’s holy people. Not because it is leaving us, but because we insist on pursuing a faith that is forged in the relevancy of our time rather than the righteousness of Christ. We have lost sight on what it means to live peculiarly and particularly.

 

This election and the outcry from the results has gouged the eyes of believers so viciously that we can’t even see the shame we are sharing with our groans and grimaces, our posting and preaching, or our smirks and smiles. We have lost full sight this year on where earthly politics fit into our kingdom way.

I’ll say it again. The way of our king is the way of holiness. But holiness is hard to see, hear, or taste in the after shocks of this election gone wrong. We can’t see a holy future because we have lost sight of what living holy in the present might look or feel like.
Life has happened to us and we have let it blind us and put blame in our hearts for what we have lost. We can no longer see or remember the way of holiness in our church and it shows in our recent attitudes and behavior.

We have lost sight of the way when we divide by party at the cost of being unified in Christ. We have lost sight of the way when we let our labeling of others harm the love we should have for them. We have lost sight of the way when we would rather grandstand in social media with our fears than pray in private because we are full of faith. We have lost sight of the way when we go underground and leave the discussion because we declare all other views stupid, unspiritual, and damning of our future. We have lost sight of the holiness of God when we let our fear and failures, emotions and exchanges, or our aches and pains lead us off of the way of holiness that this kingdom of God has called us to.

Fox News, CNN, the Today Show, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Facebook, nor Twitter will show us that way. None of them are fair and balanced nor are they full of grace or truth. They are a business that is out to make money and shape consumers. We either see them for who they are and lean on God’s Spirit to help us despite them OR we walk blindly into their web to be confused and stirred to anger. We will not find them walking in the kingdom way. They will never lead us on the way of holiness. But don’t blame them because they have a mission rooted in wealth and power. We know what we are getting because we know who they are.

But that is not who we are. We are God’s holy people. Make no mistake about it. Holiness is the way that God has called us to live as a person and as a people.

This way – God’s way of holy living, loving and leading – is a gift to us. Let us find it again together. If the people of God can walk together in the holy way that God has called us and prepared for us, then the ALL of creation might one day see its beauty too. The defense of our way of living or our abided rights is not going to lead us anywhere beyond where we are today. But a vision for and call to the holy way of God will bring our dead and decayed spirits and congregations alive in Christ and full of the purposed activity in every change that comes to our country and our world.

God’s vision for us is greater than any woman or man’s vision for our country. Don’t defend or die for the wrong thing. Don’t lose hope hoping that a President or a party will make us great again. They won’t because they can’t. Trust in God and pursue His way for your life, the church, and our country. On this there is not a diversity of views or positions. There is God’s way and then there is the way of the world.

Let’s find again a vision for the way God wants to lead us as a people…ALL people.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35 – ESV)

Fail. Failing. Failed.

 

fail

I fail everyday at something. And so do you.

It’s true. No one is 100% with every attempt. Even the most capable at many things is not perfect in everything. It is not a matter of when we fail, but how often and where we fail that are the better questions to ask.

Statistics say that more often than not we fail at a much higher percentage than we succeed. That is true of hitting a baseball where 33.3% of the time will get you a sniff at the Hall of Fame. If I had only known that earlier in life! Its seems to be true with grade school grades nowadays as a 60 % is a D which technically passes you onto the next section or subject. In my days a D meant that I had to consider running away from home. When did passing chemistry become so easy?

Failing usually requires more than one mishap or mess up. To fail at something requires we  have a series of “dropped balls” or “oppsy daises.”  When it becomes obvious that failure has arrived it is because one, two, three, or twenty opportunities of success has  passed us by.  Failing ultimately settles in because time and time again we chose not to act in positive, pro active ways to guarantee or garner success.

If you failed at something today it is quite likely that you aren’t a failure. It just means that you messed up. It might mean that you need to revisit the failure and examine what you could do differently. It might mean that you need to apologize and eat a little crow over a relational fail with a spouse or a friend. It might mean that you need to repent and pledge to never act or live in that failed way again. But one fail today does not make you a failure or mean that you are failing in that way. Being able to see that failure is not (usually) a single moment, but a habitual pattern is the most helpful, healthy thing we can remind ourselves of each day.

Cheers!

So, cheers to that dad that failed at keeping his anger suppressed at the site of a poor progress report. Tomorrow is a new chance to succeed by showing love and patience.

Cheers to the mom that had a “knock down drag out” with little Ms over her clothes, hair, or general attitude about life. You’ll win her back tomorrow.

Cheers to the girl/boy that feels like nothing went right today at all and that everybody hates you. It didn’t and they don’t. You are special, unique, and beautiful. Wait and see what tomorrow holds for you.

Cheers to the boy who wrecked his car and almost created a catastrophic event. You are not a bad driver, you are not reckless,  you are not out of control. You made a mistake. Slow down. Life is worth strolling through rather than racing past.

Cheers to the coach who has given their all to a team only to feel unappreciated and discounted by players, parents, and administration. Your investment into one player for one season will make you a success for a lifetime.

Cheers to the pastor/church who had a down Sunday. You didn’t fail because people didn’t show up or the offering plates were light this week. Failing only occurs if the gospel is absent from your preaching, worship, fellowship, and outreach – regardless of the scale you work on.

Cheers to the Christian sister/brother who worked all day to glorify God in the way you live and work only to lose it in frustration and fear. God doesn’t judge you based on your performance. He has embraced you in all your failures so that in Christ you may become the aroma of success living in faith, hope, and love.

Let’s not swim in our failures and we should not fail boldly to prove a point. But we are not the sum total of a days (or a lifetime) worth of failing. We are somebody that God made with purpose and pride. Failing is a part of living. To never fail – or never admit failure – is to not be real. Real things fall, bleed, and break. Real things also are helped, healed, and given hope.

Cheer up. Failure is not only an option, but a reality. And it just may be our way to a better life as we grow up from having fallen down.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.            (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Least, Last, and Living in Reversal

serve him

 

“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” (Matthew 20:16 – The Message)

Service. That is the call that God gives to those who put their faith in salvation through Christ Jesus. Specifically, God has called us to serve others in as many ways and places as we can possibly can. Serving others is not naturally what we want to do, but spiritually becomes our calling because it is what He has gifted us to do. With our faith comes a reordering of the way we have done life up until the moment we meet Jesus. That is where life gets interesting for us. His mission becomes our mission. Our heart begins to beat the same as His heart. Our agenda is transformed by His agenda. Our rhetoric is shaped to be the same as His righteous rhetoric. And yes, our politics should be the same as His politics – which doesn’t have much to do at all with the RNC or the DNC.

According to Mt 20:16 we find that by putting ourselves last we find ourselves first in the kingdom of God. This is not a plan to get ahead by manipulating the words of scripture. This is a life of reordering our priorities, our plans, our place so that God can use us most effectively and most graciously in the lives of others. If we want to be a leader we must take up the towel of service. If we want to be a great church we must be a church that pours into the lives of others (the poor, the lost, the next generation, the alien, etc…) If we want to be a great nation we must learn that service is not measured by community hours or positions of tenure, but by sacrifice, sharing, supporting each other and standing together.

When we serve we do so without expectation or personal gain or standing. We serve because we are convinced that the least and the last belong to the community that God has called us to build. Our focus is not a particular demographic, but a global demonstration of love for others and most importantly a love for the kingdom that God is building. That kingdom is being built with or without us. God is building that kingdom even when we don’t approve of His methods or the membership that He has gathered. His is a kingdom of least and the last as well of the lost and the looking.

That is the reversal that only God can pull off -one that makes the sinner into a saint, a prodigal into a beloved child, and a thief into a servant. A great and glorious action of a greater God who takes pleasure in renewing and rebuilding a world that is beaten down and destroyed. God’s mighty acts of reversing the status quo testifies to both His sovereignty and His love for all creation. Yes, our God is a God that is able (sovereign) and willing (loving) to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can imagine. Wow!

That kind of God makes me glad/joyful/content to be the least and the last in anything He is doing. Count me in God. I’m with you!