How one congregation improvises with music, but not the message
As a young pastor in training, I heard my father-in-law, the late John Osteen, tell an interesting story about a businessman who brought one of his attorney friends to church. The businessman was concerned the worship might be too exuberant for this dignified attorney. Sure enough, the person who worshiped beside them was very expressive. The businessman was certain his friend would be turned off by this.
Yet his friend’s comment after the service took him by surprise: “Please tell me what motivated that man to offer God such passionate praise. If I thought a relationship with God would bring me a reason to praise God like that, then I’d be interested in becoming a Christian.”
My father-in-law’s story both intrigued and inspired me. I knew I wanted to build an authentic church someday that could effectively reach mainstream America. I wanted the church I led to convince everyday people to open their hearts to God’s presence and power.
Yet I knew how skeptical they were. I also knew the answer to their skepticism needed to be more than theological; it had to be experiential too. And I knew that God wanted to do immeasurably more than all I asked or imagined according to His power that was at work in me (see Eph. 3:20).
Even today, I have not lost sight of this two-sided coin. How do we bring everyday people into an authentic relationship with God that inspires passionate praise? In our smaller city, we have found success with two simple concepts: relationship and relevance.
We like to say at Faith Family that “we hope to be the perfect church for people who aren’t.” We want to make it clear to people that God really doesn’t demand righteousness of us; rather, He develops it within us for our own good.
Jesus described God as a wise and merciful Father with arms open wide. But so many in our society don’t see Him that way. Instead, they see Him as the God who points an accusing finger at their weakness.
Fifteen years ago Sylvia came to our church. All we could tell about her initially was she was an attractive, single woman in her late 20s. But behind closed doors, she lived with a broken heart. Later she told me the only reason she stayed in our church the first year was because she loved learning the life-enhancing truths. She never planned on living fully devoted to God as those she saw around her were. After all, she was a lesbian and figured God was upset with her, not in love with her.
As she sat in church that year, something changed in her heart. She began to understand that God is a loving Father. I wept as she explained to me how in her prayer closet one day, she asked God to help her come out of the closet and into His arms. She asked Him to help her become a happy wife and mother. And that’s exactly what she is today: a happy wife and mother of three passionately praising God among us.
She’s also a leader in our church who has helped many people receive healing from a troubled past. She is known for her ability to repair and rebuild people who are seeking God.As I watch her worshiping in our congregation, I rejoice in the heart of Father God who didn’t say to Adam after his sin, “What have you done?” but rather, “Where are you?” God knew glorious, redemptive blessings follow the understanding that He wants to construct people, not condemn them. Let’s help our world know it!
Taking the first step in leading others to share their faith
Willing men inspire fear.
The one thing Satan fears more than any other is a man of God who’s willing to say two little words each day: “Use me.” As leaders, we especially grab the enemy’s attention when God burdens us to begin inviting others to explore a relationship with Christ. Satan will stop at nothing to keep us from fusing these two little words in our prayers; he knows he needs to keep them separate in leaders’ lives. Using something else is much better, he’ll say to us—people, substances, credit cards, false motivations, feelings. Using these things now is optimal.
If the enemy can make us a dedicated user, distracting our lives and minds with other things, he knows we won’t be available for God to use us. So go on, he says, use, abuse and blow a fuse! Satan would love to decommission you, dishonorably discharge you and destroy your availability to lead and be used by God.
The “me” part of “use me” is potentially just as good a derailment (if not better). It diverts our attention away from others and their need to know Christ by putting the focus on No. 1.
“What about me?”
“They’re all following me!”
“What’s in it for me?”
If Satan can’t turn us into users, he’ll exploit our self-centered nature, enticing us into self-absorption. When it comes to sharing your faith and leading others to share their faith, self-centeredness over others-centeredness helps him breathe a little easier. Focusing on you and your needs obscures your view. You begin to overlook or not see the people in your life who need Christ. C’mon, Satan says to us, why even risk it? What were you thinking, anyway? How does talking to them help you? Forget about it.
In the natural realm, when we as leaders do put these two words together and speak them sincerely to God, it may seem mundane. But in the spiritual world, huge repercussions take place:
Willingness on the part of God’s leaders to share the gospel is weapons-grade plutonium in spiritual warfare—the final ingredient that makes a nuclear impact possible. Telling someone else about the Lord requires humility and faith, the two most powerful agents of spiritual conductivity. God’s power flows most deeply through you when you leave the shores of safe, spiritual spin for the unpredictable rapids of evangelism.
Your spiritual life comes full circle when you’re willing to give away the same news you received and accepted yourself—and lead others to follow your example. You’ve risked combining responsibility with a willing availability to speak about Him. And once God’s man experiences His power in this way, no other experience can compare.
Kenny Luck is a men’s expert: speaker, author, founder and president of Every Man Ministries and the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., where 7,000 men participate in weekly small group gatherings. He has authored and coauthored 20 books, including his most recent title, Sleeping Giant: No Movement of God Without Men of God (B&H). For more information, go to everymanministries.com. Follow Luck on Twitter @Kenny_Luck and on Facebook at facebook.com/KennyLuck.
Chance. Coincidence. Happenstance. Those words don’t exist in the vocabulary of Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.
“Because our chaplains pray each morning for God's direction, we don't believe that we ever accidentally stumble into a meeting with somebody as we’re ministering in the aftermath of a disaster,” said Jack Munday, international director of the ministry. “Those encounters were put in place by God. We call them ‘divine appointments.’”
And those divine appointments have been happening for more than a month now in New York and New Jersey following the impact of Superstorm Sandy in late October.
Take, for instance, the recent experience of chaplains in Nassau County, N.Y., where the chaplains have been reaching out to hurting survivors since Oct. 29.