Moving Out of The Valley of Indecision
I’ve been thinking a lot about indecision lately. Oftentimes in the lives of people of faith, we blame indecisiveness on a “prompting” or “nudge” from God:
“I’m waiting on God to make a decision about this new job opportunity.”
“I’m praying through whether or not I should ask that girl I like on a date.”
“We can’t spend those resources because I haven’t heard from God yet.”
What these statements usually reflect is simple, human indecisiveness; only now, we can excuse that lack of decision-making because God is backing up our choices—or non-choices, as it were.
I was struck by something I read recently from the wisdom literature of an ancient culture. One of its writers said: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”
Not only is this writer saying, “Think through your actions for yourself,” but he seems to be saying, “And stick with the decisions that you make!”
I want to do more of this. I don’t want to blame God for my inaction or indecision. I want to trust that as I partner with God in my decision-making process, He’ll be guiding me along the way. That way, when the moment of decision comes, I can make a clear and thought-through decision without hesitating—steadfast.
My guess is some of you want the ability to make your own decisions again. Your ability to decide for yourself has been eroded by well-meaning people who want you to believe that God will be mad if you do something on your own initiative. They’re well intentioned, but they are wrong.
Talk with friends, mentors or peers. Think through the decisions that lie ahead. Give careful thought to where each road may lead, but decide something.
You may fail along the way. You may make wrong decisions. You may not think through all the possibilities that await on the other side of the hill you’re traveling on. That’s OK.
You were created with a brain that can think and process and mull over and rethink and categorize and filter and reprocess and decide. Yes, there is a place where the transcendent meets our thinking, but it aids and directs—it doesn’t restrict.
Isn’t that refreshing? Take these words to heart: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Go. Think. Decide. Do. The world will be better for it.
“I think that it’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization. Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for
life til death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should either.”
—Actor Kirk Cameron in an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight
in March when asked about gay marriage.
Pastors’ Priorities to Improve Congregations
How do more than 600 senior pastors of Protestant churches nationwide surveyed plan to improve the strategic, operational and administrative aspects of their ministries in the next year based on 12 possible activities?
59% would assess church’s vision and mission
38% would assess church’s reputation in the community
31% would measure demographic and spiritual needs of the
25% would focus on safety and security issues
25% would revamp budgeting and spending process
22% would assess church’s spiritual transformation
22% would invest in facilities and equipment for children
19% would invest in audio and visual equipment
18% would invest in facilities and equipment for youth and teens
18% would invest in technology and digital media
6% would work with an organization to help increase giving
2% would hire a search firm to help you hire the right person
Source: Barna Group
Morality Cannot Be Legislated
When you try and legislate morality, it almost always fails. Sure, you’ll get a few converts along the way. You may even get enough people to start a movement of some sort. But eventually, you’ll fail. People will revolt and turn against you.
Why? Because people don’t like to be told what to do. I don’t mean that in a, “I’m taking my ball and going home!” kind of way. I mean that in a, “people would rather be pulled along by vision than pushed by force” kind of way.
Morality is not a head matter. It’s a heart matter. We know this instinctively, but we feel it acutely when the government tells people what they can and cannot say and to whom.
“You can attract more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”—an old saying, but most certainly true. If I seek to live a moral life, it should be for the betterment of my own life and those around me. If you do not seek to live by those same morals, what business of that is mine?
Hopefully, the vibrancy and light coming from my life will speak louder than any 10,000 words I could hope to say.
Can You Back It Up In The Word?
“Do you have any Scripture to back that up?” I find that to be one of the most irritating questions on the planet.
Do I have a disdain for Scripture? Hardly. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t find myself immersed in it in some fashion.
The question irks me because most of the time, the people asking want to prove a point. They want to trip you up. Nab you. “Ah-ha!” they say when you come up empty in your Scripture memory banks.
They seem to believe that the Bible is nothing more than a reference book, with all the right answers to life neatly cataloged in an easily referenced index.
Let me ask you this: Do you believe punching babies in the face is always a bad idea? Of course you do.Let me ask you another question: Do you believe that shooting methamphetamine into your veins is a bad idea? I certainly hope so.
Now, if someone asked you to cite a Scripture verse for your aforementioned beliefs, where would you go? What verse would you cite? If you read the same Bible I do, you won’t be able to. They’re not in there.
Oops. What do we do then? What do we do when the answers we’re looking for aren’t plainly obvious in Scripture? Jesus Himself spoke to this when He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39, NLT)
The answers we seek aren’t in a book. They’re in a man. That’s where we get things wrong.
Justin M. Wise is director of projects and development for the Center for Church Communication (cfcclabs.org), a resource for church communicators. Follow him online at justin.am.
Bivocationalism and the New Pastor
When I was in seminary, we took a mandatory class on pastoral care. Initially, I brushed it off as a needless requirement to satisfy—until one day in class when two of my friends began discussing burnout in the church and the heavy demands put on local pastors. The conversation ended up leaving me wondering about the future role of pastors in our local churches.
One of my friends, who’s characteristically reserved about his personal life, opened up on the subject.
“I’m getting to a point where I’m wondering just what my vocational future will be,” he said. “I know my limitations, and I’m simply uninterested in assuming the mantle of perfect superhero to lead a bunch of Christians down some imaginary journey to their own perfection.
“If I find a church that wants a messed up dude like myself and feels like paying me to be their pastor and offer them what I have ... I’ll do my best to earn their generosity.
“But I also want to keep my fingers in [my current job] because I’ve developed some great relationships there that I want to maintain (and I think I’m good at it, and I enjoy it). So, if that means that I’ll be doing the sort of bivocational thing, that’s on the table for me.”
His thinking was echoed by many in the class. The people I went to school with were already
in ministry, leading churches and ministries daily. They’re the pastors, deacons, elders and board members that make up your church.
I’m beginning to wonder if bivocationalism is going to be a necessary part of the pastorate for the 21st century? I wonder if we’ve created a role in the “superhero” pastor that is, to borrow a business term, not “scalable” for future generations.
Bivocationalism might provide the healthy distance for pastors and their congregations while alleviating growing economic concerns in many (not all) North American churches.
Paul seemed to advocate bivocationalism. Jesus was a carpenter. I know of one church that requires (yes, requires) the pastoral staff to be bivocational. It forces them as a staff to get out into the community and outside the four walls of their church.
Bivocationalism won’t be for everyone, obviously, but it might be for you. If you’re a pastor, have you thought through what this might look like in your own life and ministry? What would be some of the challenges, some of the benefits?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them with me on Twitter: Justin Wise .net/Twitter.
Fresh Ideas for ‘iMinistry’
Having my iPad now for about a year, I feel like I’m just starting to explore some of its abilities. I started thinking about how to use an iPad in ministry settings. None of these reasons will make you race out and plunk down the cash, but if you’ve been thinking about getting an iPad, this may give you some more fuel (or justification). In ascending order, here’s my list:
No. 4: Conference Check-Ins. I don’t know about you, but conference check-ins (at least at the conferences I attend) are a bumblefest. Check-in here; pick up this packet there; stand in the line that coordinates with your pet’s first name. Ugh. What if you had three people standing at each door, armed with iPads, checking people in with a yet-to-be-made app? You check people in at the door, hand them your packet of info right before they enter the conference space, all in one, fluid motion.
No. 3: Whiteboard Apps. What if you could wirelessly connect your iPad to the screens in your worship center? Then, you could fire up a whiteboard app (it may already exist, I don’t know) and scribble away with your finger. Whatever you see on the iPad, you see on the screen. I know more than one pastor who would love to get their hands on something like this. Somebody make it happen!
No. 2: Preaching/Teaching. When I preach or teach, I use notes. Lots of them. But one of my least favorite parts is all the paper. Fumbling around with pages of notes while trying to keep a speaking rhythm together proves difficult (and can make you look like the Nutty Professor).
Enter the iPad. I’ve tried this out now a couple of times and I have to say, I’ve found a winner. It’s pretty simple:
No shuffling papers, just an easy scroll through my notes. All in one place. Genius.
No. 1: And the most creative way to use an iPad? Your idea. Yeah, yours. Share with us how you’ve been using your iPad in ministry. It doesn’t even have to be yours. What are some of the ways you’ve seen people leverage this technology to make their ministry lives easier? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them with me on Twitter: JustinWise.net/Twitter.
Finding god’s will for your life
Finding God’s will is as easy as asking the question, “What can I not keep myself from doing?” Before you start thinking too deeply, I’m not talking about when you start eating Oreos and can’t stop. Nor am I talking about an unhealthy addiction. This is deeper than mere habit.
I have a friend who literally cannot stop creating. He’s drawing, sketching, programming, creating, thinking—constantly creating new visual art. “I can barely go a weekend without creating something new,” he says. That’s knowing God’s will for his life. It’s God’s call from His heart to my friend’s heart.
So the question is, “What can you not keep yourself from doing?” What seems to flow out of you naturally, sometimes with little or no help?
What do you do? Answer that question, and you’re on your way to finding God’s will.
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