Call it intuition, call it instinct, but there’s a nagging sense in me that says “church is messy.” To be clear, what I mean by that is simply “untidy,” not perfect, can be disorderly. Even as a young man I was always suspicious of things that looked too tidy, too perfect—too sanitized, too "Stepford Wives."
Think Corinth, then Ephesus and Sardis, and you know that church is not perfect. That’s the reason young people get turned off by church. Self-righteousness, which projects an unreal piety that covers up mistakes—or worse, pretends to not make any—is nothing more than hypocrisy. Like preachers who call out errors in others, but have secret lives.
Herein lies the importance of discipleship, of life exchange, of being real, of acknowledging that while we are sinners, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is capable of transforming us into saints. Discipleship that speaks of a journey of ever-increasing trust blooms into faith as we encounter Christ’s love each day.
The problem of prejudice is real. Sadly, even heroes of the faith like Peter have been guilty of it.
Prejudice is defined as “preconceived opinion(s) that causes one to dislike, be hostile to or behave unjustly toward others.”
We continue to find it along racial lines, social standing and religious background, and even among gender, age and sexual orientation. All too often, even Christians are guilty of prejudice.
“When Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.” (Gal. 2:11-12a, NIV)
Paul saw prejudice as sin, regardless of who was guilty of it. A telltale sign of prejudice is who you are eating or not eating with.
I believe the most overlooked key to growing a church is this: We must love unbelievers the way Jesus did. Without His passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels, it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34). How many people would call your church that?
Jesus loved being with people and they felt it. Even little children wanted to be around Jesus, which speaks volumes about what kind of person he was and what kind of pastor he’d be. Children instinctively seem to gravitate toward loving, accepting people.
On my recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, over dinner we were blessed to have a friendly waiter named Everest. It’s not very often that you meet a man named Everest; he is actually my first.
With a name like Everest, I was reminded of another man I met at the wedding I attended recently—his name is Gideon Lasco, a 26-year-old mountaineer who climbed Mt. Apo (highest peak in the Philippines) when he was 19.
It was obvious from his name that he had a Christian background. As it turns out, he is a pastor’s son. Gideon is also a prolific blogger in his highly visited site pinoymountaineer.com. My brief conversation with this young man was pretty insightful.
The Petersen House in Washington D.C. is the house across the street from Ford’s Theatre, where a mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot by John Wilkes Booth. A few hours later, Lincoln succumbed to his wounds and, as then Secretary of War Edwin Stanton observed, passed into the ages.
For years, his blood-stained pillow remained on display—a testimony to the horrific events of April 14, 1865, and the violent death of one of our greatest presidents.
A while back, some friends of mine visited the Petersen House only to discover that the pillow had been removed, and placed into storage. The only item that contained the blood of the "Great Emancipator" had been taken out of public sight and put into a place where it could, potentially, be forgotten.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew that faith and obedience are the keys to God’s blessing, so she chose to go with God’s destiny for her life
Now, as a pastor, I want God to bless your life. I want him to bless you spiritually. I want him to bless you financially. I want him to bless your career and family and relationships and health. But if you have a plan for your life—I’ll tell you—you’re on your own.
God is not going to bless your plan. God did not put you on Earth to live for yourself. He put you on Earth for something much bigger than that. And when you go with his plan for your life, he will bless it.