Friday, March 30, 2012

Responding Appropriately

Things haven’t changed much in the history of man and his relationship with God. We seek God when we need Him and act as though we don’t need Him when things appear to be going well.  I read about a guy who reminded me of this reality and God's mercy.

 "About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. (or maybe a ministry is dying) He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign.  But Hezekiah (sometimes we pastors) did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. (Really?) So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem (sometimes the church).  Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. (read the church)  So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime. (repentance for taking credit for God’s blessing)
Hezekiah was very wealthy and highly honored. . . . He built many towns and (multiple campuses) and acquired vast flocks and herds, for God had given him great wealth. . . .  And so he succeeded in everything he did.
However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon (media, magazines, publishers) to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart." (God has a right to humble us sometimes.)  2Chronicles 32:24-31 (additions mine)

God is more concerned about our hearts than He is about our stuff.  Remarkable stuff comes from a remarkable God working through ordinary people who trust the Lord and “respond appropriately to the kindness shown them.” 

Pastor, do you need to refocus on God’s work in your life or in your church?  We are here to help at ReFocused Ministry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monument or Movement?

Churchianity or Christianity . . . Church services or Christian servants . . . Monument or Movement . . . a Place or a People . . . Attendance or Advancement . . . Existing or Expanding . . . Protecting or Proclaiming . . . Functioning or Fishing . . . Resting or Risking . . . Satisfied or Striving . . . Sulking or Strategizing . . . Retreating or Refocusing?

Sometimes it is important to ponder on what the Church is and what it isn’t.

The Church, aka the body of Christ on the planet, is a life-proclaiming movement of God.  It is the bearer of God’s message of reconciliation.  It is the example of redemptive life and love. 
It is a group of people who have been:

The Church is not a building or meeting place.  It is not an organization (although bodies do have order).  It is not a private club of righteous people.  (Read about the Pharisees and other religious sorts.)  It is not the way to get to heaven. 

Movements drift into Fraternities . . . Fraternities become Monuments . . . Monuments become obsolete.  The “drift” is where the battle must be won.  The lifespan of any movement is six to ten years unless there is an intentional refocusing of the original vision and purpose.

Most of the time it takes outside eyes to see the inside issues.  Paul coached churches to help them stay on track and sent other men to do the same.  In the Book of Revelation we read of seven coaches (messengers) who were sent to seven churches to help them refocus. 

How about your church?  I’d love to help you address the drift and refocus on God’s plans, purpose and power.  Don't be so independent that you become inbred.  Check us out at and give me a call.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Change is a Top/Down Issue

Almost everyone would agree that the average church in America is in need of change.  But, there would be major disagreement on “what” needs to change.  On average, it appears that many feel the need to change pastors about every three to five years. (And some pastors feel they need to change churches.) Some have decided that they need to change music style or become more “contemporary” in their gathered services.  Some have decided to change locations, change their name or change denominational affiliation.  But, in reality, not much has really changed over the past two decades.

I’d like to boil it down to one key problem that is hindering the church in America from being the active, kingdom-advancing, light-producing, life-changing, hell-robbing body of believers it was designed to be.  As John Maxwell has pointed out, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” 

Many church leaders would agree that missions is important to the church, but few leaders embrace mission as the total purpose of the church (read “the work of the ministry”).  Many churches, because of their leadership, are inward focused, trying to grow, trying to be better, trying to please the membership.  Thriving churches, because of their leadership, are outward focused, striving to reach their community and the world, pushing to get the gospel to as many people as possible, willing to “do whatever it takes” to advance the kingdom of God.

It reminds me of the story of the chicken and the pig and their contribution to the bacon and egg breakfast.  The chicken contributed to the breakfast (We have a missions program.), but the pig gave his all to the breakfast. (We are “all in” and on mission.) 

Being “all in” means sacrifice and commitment.  It is risky and controversial.  It stretches church finances, challenges church programs, elevates kingdom priorities above personal preferences and takes conviction and courage.  It is hard work and offends some religious types, but it sure beats laying an egg.  It all begins with the leader’s perspective of his responsibility to the Lord concerning his call to lead the church.

All other changes that may take place come as a result of pursuing God's purpose for the church.  ReFocused Ministry is here to help pastors and their churches refocus on God’s purpose and experience the power of God’s pleasure.  Contact us.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Conformity . . . The Real Battle

Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that God does not want us to be like the world (people who do not know God) but rather He wants us to be transformed so that we can engage in His good and perfect will for our lives.  We are all about not looking like lost people, but I believe there is a deeper challenge to this command.

The word conformed (suschmatizw) means that we are not to "blend in" or be "schemed in" with the world.  The word transformed (metamorpow) means to be changed from the inside out.  We get our word metamorphosis from this Greek word.  It is what happens when a caterpillar is turned into a butterfly.  Conformity focuses on external appearance ... like the Pharisees. Transformation focuses on an internal, authentic change of mind and heart that shows up in an outward expression or appearance.

Conformity is a human tendency.  Rebellious teens "do their own thing" and conform to the latest trend and look.  Churches focus on not conforming to the world while they conform to the latest church trends and looks.  Why?  Because transformation is uncomfortable.  First, because it is not immediately apparent on the outside and therefore requires patience and trust.  Secondly, because it is not something we can control or make happen.  And finally, because it often results in being different than the surrounding culture which makes us the subject of criticism, judgement and attack.

I am the active agent in conformity.  God is the active agent in transformation.  I try to conform to what I want to be.  God wants to transform me into what He wants me to be.

Jesus was a transformational agent in a religious environment.  He knew the prostitute could be transformed by God's grace and power even though she didn't have it within herself to conform to the world's standards.  He also knew that conformity, even to high religious standards, traditions and practices, was not real . . . not authentic . . . and did not make anyone right with God.  

So . . . here's the BIG QUESTION: Are you trying to fit into the Christian world or are you allowing God to transform you into His image?  BTW . . . The same question can be asked of church leaders: Are you trying to fit into the Church world or are you allowing God to transform His church into a living change agent as His ambassador to a lost world.

We, as human beings, are such conformists.  We need to focus on God's work in our life . . . our church.  Trust Him . . . seek His counsel in His Word . . . obey His leading . . .  discover His good and perfect will for your life and for His church.  Comments welcome.