It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.
It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.
It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.
It can be heard in the quiet, nighttime sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer.
When it comes to work ethic, I was raised in the old-school by a West Texas dad who felt it was his parental duty to teach the next generation the value of minimum wage, back-breaking, manual labor.
The first job he arranged for me was digging ditches. That’s right, my dad secured my brother and I summer jobs as ditch-diggers, installing underground telephone cables ten hours a day in the 100-degree Mississippi heat for $1.65 an hour.
Since I complained so much about the heat, the next summer he got me an indoor job. So I spent that summer inside an UN-air conditioned warehouse loading 50-pound fertilizer bags onto pallets. During our breaks we would go outside to cool off. The inside of that warehouse was hotter than outside.
Anytime we exalt the men of God above the God of men, the church has been charmed. I thoroughly and wholeheartedly believe in honoring deserving men and women of God. This is right and well pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Paul instructs us in the Book of Romans to give honor where honor is due. Quite honestly, honor is a rare commodity in many Christian circles nowadays. We would do well if we practiced giving honor to those who merit it more. But trouble is on the horizon when we exalt our leaders as if they are Gods and give glory to them that is due the Lord. Men can and should be honored, but they must never be worshipped.
Our culture says bigger is better. But in the kingdom of God, less is often more.
There’s nothing more disheartening to a preacher than to see empty seats in a church service. I’ll be honest—I like meetings where you have to pull out extra chairs and put people in the aisles. Why? Because I assume if God’s blessing is on a meeting it will be packed. I like numbers because, in my carnal thinking, crowds are more significant.
Our culture puts value on things depending on how popular they are, and we are guilty of applying this rule in the church. We like big. We even rate churches based on size. We know that the three largest churches in America in 2013 are (1) Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, (2) Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries and (3) Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. The assumption is that these churches are leading the way in making spiritual impact.
A friend of mine just lost his job. He’s in his 50s with two kids in college, and he’s worried. Another friend just laid off a large number of employees. And a surprising number of recent college graduates that I know are not landing jobs.
That’s a negative headline—but it’s a true headline. There are some job openings, people are getting hired, and there is hope! But we must admit it’s tough out there right now.
I talk with pastors around the country every week and “church finance” is all over the place. Some churches are doing well financially, and many are not. Few are just holding steady, it’s more like holding on.