Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 31: God...What are You Doing?

I am getting pretty excited about the summer! The thing that amazes me in life is seeing where God is taking you. This summer will be one of those times where I am following God into uncharted territory. In a few short days I was asked to do a short speaking for a Life Promotions event. Life Promotions is the organization that puts on “Lifefest.” They have a golf charity event to raise funds for their ministry and the founder will not be able to make it. I was in awe when they called me to fill this person’s spot. When a moment like this happens…I always sit back and ask, “God…what are you up to?”

In one month I am going on my biggest adventure in quite some time. I have taken my wife to Grand Cayman Islands twice for scuba/snorkeling vacations. We have been to New York four times…once to see the David Letterman show and once because a television network flew me there to be on a game show and once because I won tickets for Saturday Night Live (with Coldplay as the musical guest). I would say this next month will rate as high as the other trips. For a few years I attended Cornerstone music festival and for anyone that has been there…they will tell you it changes your life. It is hard to explain but their truly is something life changing about that experience. I remember going to see many Christian bands play, hear great teachings, see concerts that go until two in the morning, and lastly sitting in the Sanctuary tent to hear Pastor Bob Beeman speak. I grew up listening to Pastor Bob at the end of tapes, CD’s, videos of Christian rock music that I bought. In my teen years I remember calling the Sanctuary counseling line with teen struggles. This year I was invited to speak at the Sanctuary tent….to say I am humbled would be an understatement. From the day Pastor Bob asked me I have been in awe. Again…an experience where I am left asking “God….what are you doing?”

This is what I have discovered in ministry. Don’t attempt to blaze your own trail and get ahead of God. It is very important to let things grow organically grow and see where God is taking you. Things like this just come natural and you will be truly amazed where God takes you….I am amazed weekly what God allows me to do.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 30: Great Church?

I received a book entitled, " Breakout Churches: Discover How To Make The Leap by Thom S. Rainer" as a gift a year or so ago which was a very kind gesture. The book deals with church growth and what defines a good church from a great church. As I was reading this book, it was making many great points. The one point that I would beg to differ which caused me to set the book down never to read again was this. They define a good church as one that has 50 plus people attending but cannot reach the 1000 person mark. As you read through the book, they go on to define a great church as one that is over 1000.
I have a couple thoughts on this point:

1. Do they take into consideration rural communities? I do not believe they do as they talk about rural being a population of 25,000.

2. All of these "great" churches might be adding to kingdom growth through their other various ministries.

I will admit that never every church is great, some may in fact cause more harm to the body of Christ than good. That is a very small number though of churches.

I would say this to the author to be careful on his definitions, as the pastor of a smaller church, I would consider it a great church. Ask someone who attends and life has been changed by what God has done in their life.

Today at Radiant Fellowship is what I define as a great church. A great staff with awesome volunteers making the church service happen. This mixed with new people from all walks of life and lifestyles there to hear a message, worship, and hear from God. That makes a great church....freedom from religion to seek after a real God.

Use discernment when reading some writings from Christian authors.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 29: Confusion

Today I am perplexed (for awhile I have been) by three examples of people when I am chatting with some in counseling be it in person or online (Skype, Facebook, Email, etc.).

The first type of person is the one who messes up, makes mistakes and yet it is never their fault. This can be true in a few different areas. I knew of one staff pastor that had twelve positions in I believe 14 years which caused this person to become quite bitter. What is interesting is each place this person was was the churches fault they left. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this person...according the them. Anytime a pastor goes through that many positions, how can you not sit back and think..."perhaps it is me and something needs to change." There is a flipside to this, if a single church goes through 12 pastors (be it staff or senior) in 14 years then their truly is something wrong with that church and it needs to change or in my opinion get shut down and restart it.

The second type of person I see relates to marriage. It never ceases to amaze me when one partner in a marriage is unfaithful (in one case I know someone that was unfaithful 3 times) and yet they don't seem to see anything wrong with it. If they do see something wrong with it, it appears to be a "whoopsie daisy" and they get upset when their partner cannot deal with the lies anymore and files for divorce. Divorce is a bad thing but even the Apostle Paul lays out reasons why it is okay. So, when the spouse that was hurt by the situation files for divorce....the offender makes that person out to be an awful person. There is TWO sides to every story...we must remember that in all situations.

The third type are those things that happen in churches. You know the situation where someone has hurt you so deeply that you walk with a limp (metaphorically speaking) after that situation. Perhaps you are wiser from the situation but still hurt none the less. My experience in these situations might ring true with many who have been treated unfairly in church. In my situation the ones who do the offending are the ones who usually will not apologize and require an apology from the one that got hurt. This plays out often when the offended chooses to discuss what happened, it ends that person needs to apologize according to the one that originally started it.

It is one of those things in life that does not make a whole lot of sense. We all have quirks, but if we are willing to look at ourselves honestly now and then...we will hopefully not fall into these that are blinded by their own actions.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 28: Again, I am Amazed

This has a been a great week. I would encourage you to take some time this weekend and enjoy time with your family as we remember those who served our country.

I look forward to sharing with you some cool things going on with the ministry I started, "That's not my God" in a blog tomorrow.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 27: Buddha is Coming to Radiant Fellowship!

Buddha may be joining us for service this week at Radiant Fellowship! I got a call today from a lady at our church who runs our cafe before service each week. She apparently made friends with the lady that does her nails here in Waupaca and is of Asian descent. The conversation eventually got to our cafe volunteer inviting this lady to church. Apparently the lady responded "as long as I can bring Buddha." This resulted in a phone call I got later from our cafe volunteer asking if this is okay. I would love to have Buddha sit in service sometime!

This is a classic scenario in church growth, some may get offended but I welcome it! I love to see other people's responses to someone in this case bringing their belief system with them and perhaps a small Buddha statue. Why am I so cool and calm about it? Jesus wins! How many times throughout scripture did people bring their God to an argument and the true God prevailed? ALWAYS. It is my job to love this person and be happy they came to Radiant Fellowship. Perhaps we can learn some things from them as well. Are you with me?

Buddhists believe.... Enlightenment lay in the “middle way,” not in luxurious indulgence or self-mortification. These are the ‘Four Noble Truths’—1) To live is to suffer. 2) Suffering is caused by desire. 3) One can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachments. 4) This is achieved by following the noble eightfold path. The “eightfold path” consists of having a right 1) View 2) Intention 3) Speech 4) Action, 5) Livelihood 6) Effort (properly direct energies) 7) Mindfulness (meditation) 8) Concentration (focus). The Buddha's teachings were collected into the Tripitaka or “three baskets.”

There are other things they believe like "Karma" and such which really is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Sounds similar to Christianity? Perhaps. Would these things be able to be translated into Christianity...I think so. The teachings that are not in-line with what we believe is between that person and God/Holy Spirit to hash out. It is as if there is zeal there and they are so close....just make a couple of clicks over and say hello to my God!

I am looking forward to the possibility of this visit!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 26: Be a Blessing

Today was another lesson for me in blessing 101. When we first got James (our 2 year old son) and I say “got” because we adopted him and literally got him delivered to our door…my cousin donated a TON of clothes to us that her son just a few months earlier out-grew. It was an awesome blessing to be given such a stash of clothes.

Today we were pricing a ton of things for our rummage sale this weekend that has nothing to offer guys. This rummage has so many baby items that any parent that comes to our house will think they hit the mother-load with all the clothes we are selling between our stuff and my brothers stuff. Tonight as we were pricing things, my second cousin called me and informed me that she would like some clothes for her baby yet to be born. Since she lives in Michigan she just trusts our judgment to set aside clothes and pay us later.

After we were done talking, Tracy and I looked at all of the 0-3 months clothes we had and decided to “pay it forward” and bless her with ALL of the 0-3 month clothes Emma had. It felt so good to bless her with those clothes because she needed them and (we didn’t have to price them).

It is important that we understand that you may be the answer to someone’s prayer…even if it is with just baby clothes. We are blessed so we can be a blessing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 25: Reaching EVERYONE

Today I had an interesting conversation while getting my number 2 guard haircut. I lovingly call my hair style "The Tennis Ball." It is short enough that if I sprayed it yellow it would appear to look and feel like a tennis ball. While getting my hair cut the lady asked me the first question, "so are you off today?" I jokingly said "yeah I pretty much set my own hours." She asked what I did and so I went on to explain to her that I am the pastor of Radiant Fellowship here in Waupaca. She stopped and looked at me and said, "You are a pastor? I would have not been able to tell because of your age and how you look." I was wearing camo shorts and my Tourniquet t-shirt (large rusty looking skull that says, "Where Moth and Rust Destroy" and yes it is a Christian metal group).

We began to talk about church and once again here is a lady that does not feel welcome to church because of her past. I will be the first to admit that I could get on her side right away but, I know that it is not always the churches fault when someone does not feel welcome. Any person that visits a church has to be willing to let their guard down in order to be accepted. The conversation took a hard bend towards what kind of people we accept at our church. On and on she went with different types of people ranging from divorced, Goth, and the million dollar we accept people from the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender) community at our church. She got a response I don't think she was expecting to get from a pastor. I said, "yes, with arms wide open." She was blown away by my response. Although she was not part of the LGBT community, people have a way of asking the extreme questions. She ended our time by saying, "That is a place worth checking out."

There is one thing I hate about being pastor, that is people assume I am like many of the others. There are so many other pastors I look up to and consider like-mindedness with me. Unfortunately, the common public don't know of the Rob Bells, Brian McLarens, Dan Kimball's of the world. They know the local church that turned their church life into a pile of garbage and won't go back again. I do church at the pub, I hang out with people the church may give up on, I engage in conversation with people from the LGBT community, I talk to people who have addictions, I try to befriend everyone from all walks of life. IT IS NOT FOR ME TO JUDGE THEM! I pray that if they come to church and even if they don't...I pray and entrust them to God that what needs to be changed will be changed. It is so important to establish friendship first.

Here is my philosophy on church....if we have a bunch of people who have arrived (or think they have arrived) and dress the same, act the same, look the same....we are no longer doing ministry. Awhile ago we had our windows open and the smell of cigarette smoke entered the church because of the ash trays we have outside the building. I turned to one of my board members and said, "do you smell that? That's the smell of ministry." Radiant Fellowship and I as the pastor have no desire to have a church that appears to have it all together. If church service begins and in walks a group of people that we have been hanging out with from "church at the pub" or a group from the Waupaca Hotel come in and perhaps have an odor or look to them...this is going to be one pastor that will be jumping for joy. THAT IS WHAT MINISTRY IS ALL ABOUT.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 24: Time to Celebrate

One of the joys of being a pastor is celebrating when others celebrate. After I began a college/career aged ministry as a spin-off of the youth group in Milwaukee (because these teens that grew up did not want to leave youth group to go to Wednesday night bible study....can't blame them.) I noticed a lot of these people were starting to get their first rental to live at. This is a big time in a person's life. I thought what a great thing to celebrate! On any given Tuesday at youth group we would have a pile of goodies waiting for the person that got their first rental.

Fast forward a few years now that I am a lead pastor and still enjoy doing these things. At Radiant Fellowship we believe in celebrating milestones. We have had a few people in the church buy their first home which we celebrated as a church. We have also had many people that have had their first baby which we celebrate as well. The lingering question is how do we celebrate such a thing? As soon as I find out someone bought their first home or is having their first baby, I send out a mass email to everyone at our church. I request that we all pitch in and bring items for the family celebrating. That Sunday when the family comes to church they may or may not suspect what is going on but they do see a PILE of new things to take home with them. I remember one person had to make a couple trips with their car to get home all of the new gifts for their first home. They got everything from tons of toilet paper to Mountain Dew, to cleaning supplies. This is a fun thing for a church to do.

One of the questions I get asked when we do something like that is "Well, you can do that because you are a small church." I would say yes and no to that. Even in a church of hundreds you can do this kind of thing, you just send the person home with more goodies. These are the fun things churches can do to tighten up the bond of friendship in a community. I know for Radiant Fellowship it is something we do. If someone asks us, "hey I have a friend.....can you? " I will honestly answer no. Many people want the perks of this little fellowship but don't want to attend for one reason or another. We are a family and if someone wants to come and be a part of it...we will celebrate with them. Some things have to be reserved for just community.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 23: The Importance of Organization

This weekend I was with a friend that I look up to and consider one of my mentors when it comes to business. He has 20 years on me but we engaged in some good conversation while fishing. We talked about working at home compared to going to an office. We both came to the conclusion that it takes a lot of will power to have a home office. This is where some pastors find themselves along with staff. My friend told me, “there is no way I could do it; I have to get away to work.” I went on to tell him that you have to be very disciplined whether you are full time or a part time at a church and working out of a home office. The reason for the discipline is that when you are at home you can become so preoccupied with other things. You can begin to get caught up with kids, house things, etc. These of course are not bad…you have to stay disciplined to get things done so you do not become a night before preparer. I much rather come to church on Sunday or Wednesday with nothing to do other than hang out with people.

I thought I would share what my week looks like and the importance of charting out a course for each week. On Mondays I do nothing…ABSOLUTELY nothing (at least I try to keep it that way). The reason for this as you can see from a previous post…if you don’t keep a day open for yourself you will go insane because theoretically a pastor has office hours, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way. Tuesdays I have staff meeting in the morning and then when my wife comes home from work I begin and wrap up my Wednesday night study. This is also the time I update the church podcast with the message from the Sunday before. This is also a time when I begin to work on my message for Sunday. On Wednesday’s after bible study I work for about 3-4 hours on my message along with power point, etc. This is also a time I examine issues going on in the church that need to be addressed. These issues can range from putting out fires, to working on fine-tuning the way things are done. Thursday is the day I do printing, sending out he e-newsletter and work on all things tech. From examining the website to working on things at the church, it all has to have attention paid to it. When Friday rolls around I wrap up my message and make sure everything is good to go for Sunday. Throughout the week there is always time for appointments, Facebooking, and meeting with people to just fellowship with.

Am I able to stick with this format every week? No. I can tell you already this week is going to be messed up due to things out of my control. This plan however is what I stick to 90% of the time because the one thing I do not want to become is someone so overwhelmed from procrastination that I have no time for the key thing and that is time with people and my family.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 22: Here it is

I just got back from a family vacation and had to play cleaning person at church when I got back. This resulted in me not getting home until 10:15 p.m. I will blog we miss a day.

Day 21: Pastors Only Work on Sundays Right?

So, as a pastor I can speak to this issue that I was confronted with today. Here is how the conversation went, "so how is your wife with you not being busy all the time? Sundays and Wednesdays must be your busiest days each week."
This question is one I in no way take offense to because it was a common, innocent enough question. In fact, I find humor in these sort of questions. I am the type of pastor that welcomes any kind of question in order to help someone understand things in life. So, let me speak to this issue in points.

1. Not being busy all the time: Those of you that might be reading this who are pastors will always get a chuckle out of this statement. It is true for me personally that I am not cruising 8 hours a day 7 days a week like I would if I was to work at a factory or something. But, I remember clocking myself one week on how much time I spend working on church things and it came in at 56 hours. Though there may be a day or two where very little is required of me, there are far more times where much is required from a pastor as explained in point #2.

2. Sundays and Wednesdays must be your busiest days: On the contrary, these are not the busiest days for me. Wednesday nights in fact are a pretty easy going day for me. We have a awesome lady from our church who does our Wednesday night bible study who has a real gift to do this sort of thing. Sundays? Well, I am actually prepared for what I am going to speak on and the other details (preparing bulletin, putting sermon into outline form, making power point, etc.) by Thursday night before Sunday, so...when I get to church on Sunday, I am not sitting in the back room away from everyone trying to put my sermon together or anything. Rather, I am out and mingling enjoying friendships and getting to know other people on a Sunday morning. Oh, and it allows me time to get a cafe mocha from our cafe!

Now, let me expound on what goes on in a pastors life beyond just Wednesday and Sundays. Again, let me say I am in no way offended by the question. I think it is good for people to understand what goes on in the life of a pastor in a week. And I will do this by going 1...2...3....4 etc. This is not a complaint, these things are things that anyone going into ministry should accept as part of their life call into full time ministry, i won't speak for every pastor but I ENJOY THESE THINGS!

1. You think you have family problems? Trying compounding your problems with the problems of 1, 4, 6 or more other families or individuals that are telling you there problem and may even want advice on how to fix it. This is a weekly a pastor I welcome it, we all need someone we can talk to which is why I am here. So, meeting with people can consume alot of time, thats okay, that is why I am here.

2. Secretary? In many small churches including Radiant Fellowship, a secretary would be a luxury. Many pastors end up doing there own mailings, making there own newsletter, church bulletins, answering the phone, returning calls, dealing with sales people (YOU WOULD BE SHOCKED HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE CALL A CHURCH). And any other thing a secretary does. This is something we hope to get in a volunteer-part time manner this year at Radiant Fellowship.

3. Counseling: You have a problem, need advice, just someone to talk to? That's why we are here. In 2006 I had 5 marriage counselings and 4 pre-marriage counselings which means 4 wedding ceremonies. Sounds like an easy task but each couple meets over 6-7 weeks for an hour and a half per meeting. This can be emotionally draining for a pastor to deal with other peoples problems as they listen and become part of the discussion to help people reconcile a marriage or prepare for marriage. Again, not a bad thing for a pastor...I enjoy helping people in these areas.

4. In many churches, the pastor is also a maintenance person as well for the building...enough said on that. Preaching one moment, trying to dislodge a brown trout from the toilet with a plunger the next.

5. Meetings: Each ministry has a leader and each leader wants guidance and coaching to make there ministry better. Meeting with people can be time consuming but it betters the church and the people that attend. Meetings are not always short either.

6. Community involvement: I will speak personally on this matter. As a representation to the city of how a church can be involved in a community I serve as a City of Waupaca Police Department Chaplain which includes random ride-alongs with officers, meeting with someone who may be suicidal, or delivering a death notice to someones door. I am on the board at the Pregnancy Information Center, I am on the board of directors at the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce, and also a Waupaca Jaycee member. These are all things that are time consuming as well but I enjoy it.

There are more things that go into a pastors life beyond what I listed (3 a.m. calls from someone on my personal cell who is ready to give up, the trip to Chicago because the parents of someone has a car that won't start and they need to pick their kid up from the airport, and much much more, going to Appleton 2-3 times a day for a to drive a husband who is too elderly to drive it but desperately wants to see his wife in the hospital, funerals, etc.).

So does a pastor work on just Sundays and Wednesdays....not this one, those are my easy days. Whoever you are at whatever church, encourage your pastor and pray for them often.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 20: Relax and Renew

I remember my days as a single youth pastor and all the time I put into the work of the ministry. Day and night I would work on things not taking a whole lot of time for myself. The youth group grew and the ministry was going well. It was a few years into it when I was told I need to take some time off…that was difficult to do after attending Jeanne Mayo conferences and her constantly repeating, “He who puts in the most time wins!” You know, I love Jeanne Mayo but I think she was wrong here.

Now that I am at the ripe old age of 36 lol I have learned to take more time for myself. I hold my Mondays sacred and try to do any church business. If you have ever tried to call me on a Monday, you might notice it goes straight to voicemail. I love my church but I need some time off.

Tonight I am sitting in my good friend’s house in Minocqua with my family and two other families (this is a big house). They always give us the bedroom upstairs that overlooks the lake. These friends of mine are in their 50’s but were with me during my hardest time in ministry and always made their lake home a place for Tracy and me to come and relax.

The first time I walked into their house in 2005 there was a sign that read “Relax and renew.” As a pastor, church staff, etc. it is very important to do just that. If you ever think you are so busy or so important in ministry that you cannot get away, here is a humbling reminder. The church made it how many years before you got there? They will do just fine if you are gone “relaxing and renewing” for a week or weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 19: Church Membership....I Don't Think So

One of the things I wrestled with as a pastor and as a church is the issue of church membership. Some would say becoming a member of any church sends chills down their back. A church can do membership right and many do it wrong.

When Radiant Fellowship restarted after some humble beginnings our leadership team wrestled with this idea. Most of the people on our leadership team had bad experiences with this in their past and told me in a meeting, "we will not become a member of another church ever again." I know for me, it seemed the only time "members" got a letter from the pastor where I was youth pastor was to reprimand them for not giving faithfully. This did not set well with me, I wanted to get around this in the worst way but realized it was a necessary evil to establish ourselves. What did we do?

After many meetings we decided to drop the word membership and use the word partnership. We got rid of the elitist mentality that the word member conjures up and used the word partner. It is my philosophy that this defuses the negative connotation membership has and puts everyone on the same level saying, "we are partners in ministry with each other." We got around the word "member" in our bylaws by stating early on in this document that "from here we will refer to members as partners."

Having partners has been so refreshing for us! Our partnership class is one and a half hours long verses the hideously long 6 week course held at ungodly early hours on a Saturday morning. At Radiant Fellowship the partnership will randomly get emails for no other reason than to show appreciation to those that are partners.

It is a simple little thing but for us it makes sense.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 18: Kids

Today has been easily one of the toughest days with having kids. It seemed like no matter what Tracy or I did for James and Emma they just FREAKED OUT all the more as we moved into the dinner hour. I felt like saying, "JEEZ KIDS...WE BUILT YOU A NICE NEW SWINGSET! BE NICE TO US!"

I think parents find themselves in these times and perhaps realize you could have gone easier on them when they were acting naughty. I know I find myself at that point right now as I look back at the day and think about those two kids sleeping right now in the other room.

This is the paradox I find to be weird. My kids pushed me and Tracy to new limits today and yet as I look back at the day and think about James in his swing laughing or moving into that stage where he farts and says, "What's that?" or Emma just being cute and giggling, my love for these kiddos grew even more today. I almost get Oprah'd (teary eyed) thinking about how much I love my kids.

What a blessing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 18: The Times They Are-A-Changin

Bob Dylan said it best "The times they are-a-changing." This pertains to all areas of life but I want to focus on church life. One big thing I get accused of is being on Facebook a lot! First of all, if you are a Blackberry user then you are on Facebook all of the time. You can literally get your Facebook pushed straight to your phone. I will take it one step further....if you have any device that has "apps" you will have Facebook all of the time.

I have two reasons as to why I am ranting about Facebook. The first is that this social networking site has changed the way churches conduct themselves. If it hasn't changed your will whether you like it or not. When a church makes changes in their staff or volunteers, it would be my suggestion that they do this at the highest level of integrity and grace. Perhaps even at a higher level than a secular company would (I hate the word secular btw). You may ask why? I have seen too many times where churches mishandle letting someone go, it was done at a less than professional level. Usually when a church does not have a legitimate excuse, they hide behind the "God card" and you know...I think that puts God in a awkward position. I am not saying churches should not let people go. One of the first things I had to do when I became the pastor of Radiant Fellowship was to fire a staff decision I made that year. However, to fire a staff person the wrong way or to cut volunteers for less than flattering will end up on Facebook. The problem with that is anything that ends up on Facebook in someone's status can spread quickly and become viral. Now not only do the people at your church know both sides of the does the many other people that can read status updates from those affected which can make a church look bad REALLY quick.

Second reason is that technology can be a great friend to churches. I am still utterly baffled by churches that do not have a website. At the very least a church should have a blog site which can function as a church website. I will go one step further and say Facebook can be one of the greatest tools out there for pastors to use. If you are an introvert, you can sit behind a computer monitor and socialize with people you normally never would be able to reach all while taking in epic amounts of Mt. Dew and Red Vines! I have made many new connections both within this city and outside of this city that I will share in days to come. However, having a Facebook presence and not being afraid to engage in random discussion is huge in today's society. It has led to growth at our church which is a great thing!

Whether churches want to embrace it or not, we have this vast thing called the internet and it is changing the way we do church. Why not embrace it and run with it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 17: My Opinion on the Assemblies of God

I started a facebook group/ministry awhile ago entitled, “That’s not my God.” One of the big questions I get from people is “What denomination are you affiliated with?” Undoubtedly, I will get this more when I speak this summer at Cornerstone Festival and travel to Switzerland next March. We live in a society where there are so many denominations that even being non-denominational has become a denomination. I am affiliated with the Assemblies of God.

At first glance some might think….”you are allowed to do this or that in the Assemblies of God?” One big question I got was “What do they think about church at the pub?” I suppose some people will have their reasons as to why the Assemblies of God is “the man”. You know what though? Every denomination has something people could complain about….here is my honest assessment about the Assemblies of God.

I have been with them since 1997 when I officially got my certified ministers degree. I can honestly say that this state (Wisconsin) has great opportunities to fellowship with other pastors. My group that I meet with each month is so much fun that my wife and I really get disappointed when we are not able to make it. The support we get from our district office is second to none when it comes to having someone to lean on. What I appreciate the most is the accountability and the freedom we as churches/pastors have to try new things. Living in Waupaca, the home of the Assembly of God district office for our state I get asked “do you feel pressure from the powers that be?” No! In fact they get jazzed when you try a new ministry.

I suppose some have gripes about the Assembly of God…some are legitimate. I can tell you though that I have had many positive experiences with them. The reason I started this blog is that some younger “pastors to be” asked me to share my daily experiences. I would suggest checking out the A/G if you are not sure who to get your credentials through.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 16: You Have to be Flexible

“You have to be flexible.” These are the words of my pastor when I began to mentor under him as a young na├»ve “pastor to be.” I recall going to my first meeting and I asked, “So what kind of ministry will I be doing?” He calmly responded, “Cleaning the church bathrooms.” THIS WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED! Where am I going with this? A group of young adults have asked me to do this one year blogging project. I am going to explain to you in this blog that you must be flexible while being a pastor.

This weekend was set and on the calendar looked great. Here was the plan….have my parents in from out of town to hang out with my family along with my brother’s family. We were going to build a swing set for my kids and take in a church event. You will find out very quick that if you are a pastor (particularly lead pastor) that your days can change in a moment. I had to go from a day of relaxing with family to speaking with a family that is days away from losing their mom who was a founder of Radiant Fellowship. After speaking with this family I then switch gears to church supply re-stocker (Sam’s Club restocking) and garbage man. Is this a bad thing? NO. It just means you have to roll with what comes your way. This is the life of a pastor.

Something I have discovered particularly in smaller churches is that you become a person that wears many hats. Again, is this a bad thing? No….it is the life you have chosen so embrace it. Why? Because you will have those days when you are kicking back enjoying a brat off the grill, a Sprecher root beer in hand while watching the kids play and someone drives up to your house crying and needs crisis counseling. I remember one day 6-7 years ago I get a call at 2 a.m. that kid in my youth group was raped, I was asked to come and be with this person. Another example was sitting with a family at the D.A. office in Milwaukee until midnight because of something that happened to their child. Today, building a swingset and than a call….”One of your founding partners of Radiant Fellowship is days from passing away in Illinois.” I just did the funeral for this person’s husband a few months ago. Again, these things are to be expected if you are a pastor but, if you are not flexible then you won’t make it. You must learn to balance your time than and make cuts in other areas. ALWAYS REMEMBER….you are a spouse first (if are you first) then you are a pastor.


As I was posting this blog yet another fire started that I have to now put out and it is 10:00 p.m. You have to be flexible.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 15: What a Blessing

One of the things that makes a pastor very happy is when the church works together to help out one of its own. There has been multiple times in which we rallied to help a person or family in our church. I recall one time we had a large amount of money set aside to do a city outreach. It was about that time a new family at our church needed a new roof on a section of their home. This was a single parent with great kids. The powers that be could not help them so we decided to take the money we had set aside for this outreach and bless this family with a new roof, drywall, etc.

We have multiple stories like this at our church where we reach out to our own. I personally believe it is important to do things for those outside of the church. I believe that it is even more important to take care of those inside of the church. What a joy and blessin

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 14: Papa Bear is Roaring

There are a few things that really get to me, they are people that willingly walk away from their life in Christ, people that tell me how to parent, Waupaca drivers and those that tell me "I have a word from the Lord for you" and it ends up being just a prying message they want to tell you and end up slapping "God" on it so they have something to hide behind.

The last couple of days I had some fun on my facebook status. Alright I know what you are thinking..."don't you do that every day?" Yes, you are probably right. If you know me than you know I am one of the most real and transparent pastors you will ever meet. I don't say that proudly, I just have seen my share of "fake" ones and refuse to be like. I believe whatever means you win the friendship of someone, it is by those means you must maintain that friendship. If I get a friend from being fake...they will someday see the real me and might see me as a fake. Being real is one of the best things a Pastor can do to those they call friends, parishioners, etc.

I recently posted how I made a comment to someone in the Pick n Save parking lot because this old timer called me a "Bastard" in front of my children. I responded to this man light-heartedly with no vulgar language. Someone on facebook sent me a private message saying, "I felt the Lord telling me to tell you....." and then went on to tell me how I should parent. It took everything in my power not to fire off some kind of response. Instead, I kept the "old Bob" at bay and responded nicely.

I will be the first to admit that when a TRUE prophet...and in the words of Darin Hufford, "99.99% of them out there that claim to be one are not" speaks to me...I will listen. Many times though a pastor becomes an easy target for people telling them how to do something and will label it "God has given me a message for you." Whenever a pastor gets someone making a statement like that....brace yourself...USUALLY it is not going to make you very happy. Instead of the person just coming out and saying, "hey I got an issue with what you did" they slap the God label on it. They must think you will not respond because "God told them" to say this. This is where my transparency comes in....NOT ME. A word should be to edify and build up...not tell you how to parent when you are already a Godly parent. ended up in a "un-friending" on facebook. Will this person still like me? I would hope so. What happens if they don't like me anymore? That's the way it goes I guess.

My kids will know that I am a husband first, a father second and a pastor third. If ANYONE is going to blast my parenting skills or calls me a vulgar name in front of my kids, guess what? My kids will see a dad with backbone and not someone that is going to roll over and take it. I have no desire for James to be a push-over when he gets older and I will model to him, how not to be one. I expect Emma to be more lady like and to find a man when she gets older that will support her and build her be strong.

Does this make me any less of a pastor, Christian, or dad? I don't think so...I believe it models to my kids what a dad should be. Okay papa bear has roared enough........

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 13: Turn the Cheek

Have you ever had those verses in the bible that when quoted to you, you are left telling yourself, "That cannot be what that verse means." Two scriptures come to mind when in this category. The first verse of course is Matthew 7:1 about not judging. The second verse that stands out to me is Matthew 5:39 that says, "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

I have been working on this verse for some time and after a facebook status I posted today, many thought it was funny but a few sent private messages to about "turning the other cheek." Here is my thought process on this. If someone does wrong to you or calls you something belittling...are you to just take it? Do you just rollover and take the verbal beating? Do you become a doormat for everyone to walk on? I am not sure this is what Jesus had in mind after researching this verse for awhile. If in fact we are to rollover and take the hits than why did Jesus often times respond to the Pharisee's with sarcasm? Why did Paul respond at all to people that persecuted him? This verse in my opinion must have a deeper meaning otherwise Jesus contradicted his own words if in fact we are interpreting this verse correctly today.

"The literal interpretation of this scripture would be in which the command refers specifically to a manual strike against the side of a person's face, can be supported by reference to historical and other factors. At the time of Jesus, striking someone deemed to be of a lower class with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person "turned the other cheek," the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. The other alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality." (wikipedia). Equality coming from a higher up would not be done because that would put them on the same level as the person they are belittling.

This is perhaps different than a person walking by me in a grocery store parking lot and calling me a vulgar name in front of my children and me responding with a sharp yet non-vulgar response. Perhaps this is one of those verses in the bible that many use correctly and incorrectly.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 12: Short But Thought Provoking

Today was a great day. I have a short blog today but one that I feel is very relevant. My thought is this, if you cannot do ministry in your home then you cannot do it outside of the home. Thoughts?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 11: Dig Deeper

One of my favorite past-times is studying stories in the bible that Imay have a deeper meaning. One of the stories I have been working on is that of Jonah. Apparently there is allot more going on here than what they taught me in Sunday school.

The trouble one can run into when digging deeper into scripture is that you begin to learn things not normally taught by other teachers. This can get one of two responses out of people. The first response? A thank you for the fresh insight into scripture causing a person to grow deeper in the knowledge of who Christ is. The second response? Some may have hesitations resulting in them thinking you are way off theologically and therefore consider you a whacko. These kind of people usually are the ones that believe in a dogmatic gospel.

Once in awhile you may find yourself off base on a teaching. This is okay! When you begin to study things it may come out the wrong way. Simply admit it and offer apologies. When you study things, some things are just better left unspoken in a church setting and more suibtable for small groups. In the rare case you are wrong, own up to it and move on. At least you are digging deeper to find some hidden truths that will benefit you.

Beginning this Sunday I will be teaching on two major lessons I learned from the book of Jonah. These teachings have come after much time, prayer, research, and confirmation. It never ceases to amaze me what a great God we serve...I will go more into this beginning this Sunday at church.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 10: I Got Nothing

I guess I do not have a whole lot to share today. I really appreciate the response I got from someone today that told me " Just wanted to say I'm enjoying your blog. Blessings!" To be honest, today is a day I am looking forward to being over. Like a ship on the sea that is standing still, the air is out of my sails and I am looking forward to a better tomorrow. Yes this happens in the life of a least transparent ones. Things are fine but am ready to be done. I pray you have a great day tomorrow as you celebrate mother's day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 9: You're Fired!

Recently I have been boggled by something I hear happening in churches. It truly boggles my mind how some institutions can manipulate people. More and more I hear of people that are fired from a church and somehow are asked to “stick-around” or “we will call you in the future if we need you.” When a person gets let go from a church, it is different than a normal day job. In my opinion, the reason for this is that churches will typically handle a firing in a less than professional way. This causes hurt and issues of unforgivness on both sides. Usually the one that got fired will ultimately be the one forgiving when the when doing the firing should also be the one forgiving.

Now, when you are fired from any place…who would go back to work or help out as needed? This is the trend I am seeing. For the person being fired, it is very important to just leave and start fresh. In regards to the one doing the firing….cut them loose and realize that firing someone means to let them go. You are not free to manipulate them any longer.

When we forgive those that have hurt us as volunteers, staff, etc. it is important NOT to forget. Many times we are taught, “forgive and forget.” Honestly I do not see that being taught in scripture. Sometimes we are taught to “forgive and remember.” Remember the verse in 2 Peter 2:22 that says, “Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"a]'> and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."? This scripture has many implications. Perhaps it is talking to the issue of returning to things that have hurt us in the past only to be hurt again. This can be a trend which ends up in a cycle of constant hurt and issues of forgiveness.

If you are cut loose by an institution/church then go. Do yourself a favor and go. The longer you stay in a situation you are not happy with, the more bitter you become. Start fresh and new and you will see your life become much happier.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 8: Learning Day

It is a safe assumption to say I am a computer/tech geek. We all tend to find what we are good at and go with it. Today that changed for me, I became just a little bit more of a mechanic as I replaced my own breaks on my truck today. My friend Ben Gabbert showed me how to do a brake pad replacement and then I did the other one.

When you go into the ministry, you can expect to wear many hats. You will be custodian, secretary and more. The perk is you save money and are able to help others.

I would suggest to always take advantage of learning new won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 7: I Like It

As a pastor I have many highlights in any given week. These things can range from church related issues to hearing some encouraging news. Intertwine these with my own family and the joy that brings, I would say life is good. I am not downplaying the fact there are those moments you want to rip your hair out or jump in the fishing boat not to return for a few hours. Luckily those days don't happen too often.

Tonight was a highlight. I love to preach but I love to teach as well. I am not saying I am good at it, just saying I like to teach. We are working through "A Bible Study on How to Study the Bible." It brings allot of joy to me when people begin to study the bible for themselves because they know how.

I think people are enjoying it because the conversation that started at these Wednesday night sessions, they trickle on throughout the week with email, phone calls, etc. I am so thankful for people that want to grow and begin to study the deeper things of the bible.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 6: It's Okay...Go For It

One of the things I enjoy doing is illustrating messages with some sort of pop-culture item. What I don't understand why is it okay to use "secular (I hate that word)" poems, books, movies, and quotes to illustrate a message but when it comes to "secular" music...some church goers get uptight. Somewhere in history the word Christian went from being a noun to a verb. I write this blog to say, sometimes the best way to illustrate a point is by using a "secular" song. I am not condoning the use of songs that are blatantly evil. I am merely suggesting songs that have powerful truths that would never come out of the Christian music industry. This means...we have to listen to secular music to do this. Oh boy! For those who say, "you should not be quoting secular sources," let's go down that road for a moment.

First of all, have you ever examined who let's say the apostle Paul quotes in Acts 17:28 when he says, 'For in him we live and move and have our being... .' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' He is quoting Aratus of Cilicia. How about Titus 1:12 Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." Who was he quoting here? How about Epimenides of Crete! Just for kicks, what about I Corinthians 15:33 Paul writes, Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." hmmmm....nice saying, sounds biblical...but he quoted Menander, author of the Greek comedy Thais. So what is the deal with these people he is quoting? All Pagans. And how would he happen to know that information? Perhaps he read their poetry and pulled these quotes to use for his teaching purposes. This is just one SMALL example of how bible teachers used "secular" things to drive the point across.

Can the Holy Spirit of God not redeem a "secular" song and use it for God's own purpose? I love the idea that he can! Imagine God ransacking the music aisles and declaring it to be his territory, his arsenal, and his voice. We willingly engage nature and non-human aspects of creation in order to get closer to God, why not engage secular media for the same purpose?

If people would stop judging things they don't understand, perhaps the Christian life would be something more people would be more interested in. What Jesus had all setup as a beautiful thing in the new testament, the church has torn to pieces. To quote Paul, Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh" he wasn't talking to the Gentiles...people who heard about the message and believed and got behind it. He was talking to the "Good Christian Jews that lived by the law" that made the gospel something it shouldn't be.

Funny story: About a year ago I had a couple come to the church I pastor. I knew this couple from my early teen years and literally got discouraged that they showed up at Radiant Fellowship. They would not fit in and make my life as the pastor unpleasent. It just happened we were talking about "A Couples Love." To drive the point, the intro music was Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride and Joy." Let's just say after that service this couple is being a blessing somewhere else.
"All Truth is God's Truth"-St. Augustine

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 5: Planning Ahead

If there is one thing the worship director loves at the church I pastor, it is knowing where I am going with the messages. I am so thankful for a worship director that takes the time to care about what I am teaching on so that she can gear the songs for that service in that direction.

I used to be big into doing series and quite honest really enjoyed doing them. However, there came a point where I decided to do "one-off " messages. Here in lies the danger. When you decide to go week to week and not lock into a series you can really fall behind and blame lack of preparedness on "waiting on the holy spirit."

Tonight I just completed my message itinerary for the next seven weeks. I am quite jazzed about this line-up. This is not a series but rather just a cluster of messages that will challenge people and perhaps raise a few eyebrows given the title of some of them. A person asked, "does that leave room for the holy spirit when you plan out that far?" I always respond, "I am always wanting to speak on what the holy spirit has for me, I just like for him to show up early." I am not a Saturday night preparer and do not desire to ever be like that.

Bottom line: Preparedness makes for a happy worship leader and the church knows you have something to say.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 4: Church at the Pub

One of the highlights of my week is attending church in two different places. The first place is at a building on Sunday mornings with a church called Radiant Fellowship which is in Waupaca, WI. The second place where we meet for church is located at the Paca Pub, also located in Waupaca. I am SO thankful for the great group from Radiant Fellowship that comes out to support this ministry.

Let me dwell on the second location for awhile because on any given Sunday you will see status updates on facebook from people talking about how great their worship experiences were in the morning. I find that very few comment on how their outreach experience was that night at the local pub/tavern/watering hole.

Tonight was the 5th time we met for “church at the pub.” I am still amazed at the bridges God is building as he is with us at this place. Tonight the jukebox was in full effect. We heard everything from Lady Antebellum to the Black Eyed Peas (requested by Ben from our church because we played a snip-it of their song in church for the announcements lol). As always a classic rock song comes on and a lady in her 50’s at the end of the bar started to sing along to is and I said, “Ah….Marshall Tucker Band…just downloaded this one to my iPod.” She was pretty happy that someone knew the name of that band given the younger crowd in the pub tonight. I said, “Not too bad for a pastor is it?” Just then a friend of hers asked me what church I was the pastor of in which I responded, “Radiant Fellowship.” The lady that asked me knew where it was but what was key is the other lady asked, “Are you Pastor Bob?” It ends up that this lady is the manager of the pub and was there on her off time to celebrate her birthday. See, this lady originally told me that we could not meet at the pub because we were a church. After I talked with her on the phone a couple of months ago she finally gave us permission to meet there. Tonight she got to meet about ten of us from the church and kept telling us how great it is that we are there. She was really impressed by our group and that we just enjoyed conversations with people without ulterior motives. The only thing I do is pray before I go in and pray when I leave that God would work on these people’s hearts (and mine as well) to show them that they have a friend in this church that meets there on Sunday nights.

If you are going to be a Christian then you have to meet people where they are. Is this a radical thing to do? Perhaps. I will share something even more radical in days come. DON’T BE AFRAID TO REACH THE LOST.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 3: I Love Technology...Always and Forever....

One of the things that excites about doing ministry is trying new things to reach people. One of the core values of the church I pastor is:

RELEVANT INNOVATION is essential for continued effective ministry.
We will continually search for new and culturally relevant ways to present Christ's message while remaining true to Scripture. We will discontinue activities and ministries that have lost relevance and effectiveness. We believe in building the kingdom through creativity, innovation, and risk-taking.

Tomorrow I am excited because we are having our second “Skype service”. Something I have come to discover about technology and church is that we are sometimes afraid to try new things until someone else is doing it. And even when someone else is doing it, we will wait a few more years until it becomes popular. We have done everything from texting the pastor during a message to ask questions to our “skype services.” I recall a time when I was a youth pastor back in Milwaukee. It was sometime in 1997 or so that I used a clip on a 32” tv in front of a church from “Dead Poet’s Society” to illustrate a point in my message on a Sunday morning without the pastor knowing. After that service many people told me how moved they were with that illustration. However, the pastor thought differently and told me not to do it again. I think it was a ministry jealousy thing that really unraveled years down the road. The funny thing is that this pastor told me four or five years later “we should get a video projector so that I can show video clips to illustrate message points.” You can imagine my thoughts…..don’t wait to try something new!

So what is a “Skype service”? Skype is a free download service which allows you to connect with other Skype users around the world live like you are on a phone with a video camera. The great thing is you can see them and the person you are talking to can see you. Are you seeing where this can go for a church? Last month we had author and ministry head for “The Free Believer’s Network” Darin Hufford, speak at our church live from Phoenix, Arizona. Tomorrow we have Pastor Bob Beeman of Sanctuary International speaking to us live from Switzerland. Pastor Bob has been instrumental in getting the Christian metal scene going and to this day a person I consider to be MY pastor. I admire this man greatly.

We do this no different than if we had a guest speaker AT the church. We conduct service as normal and when it is time for the speaker to go, we switch over to the computer and away we go. What we are doing has gotten other ministries looking at us as an example of what their ministry can do. We even have a business in town looking at using the same technology since we started these. From a fiscal standpoint for churches though think about who you could have speak at your church live without flying them in. Yes, they still get an honorarium for speaking.

What I would tell any pastor reading this blog. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW! You don’t need to wait for someone else to do something before you try it. Mostly, don’t be afraid to fail! Churches should strive for perfection but they should not be afraid of failure either. We could introduce our guest speaker and everything could go wrong. It takes a step of faith and always well worth it!