Archives For Church

iStockEncouragementOne of the inevitabilities of life and the ministry is that people will abandon you.  Not everyone will go the distance with you.

The fact is, we live in a quitter culture.  People walk away from their jobs, their spouses, their new year’s resolutions, and their churches.

Near the end of the apostle Paul’s ministry some of his coworkers abandoned him.  That absolutely amazes me.  Just the thought of being able to serve alongside Paul fires me up.  But people left him.  My guess is, based on typical human reasoning, they had “good reasons” for leaving Paul high and dry.  After all, they had “justifiable concerns” of Paul.

Over the years I have followed some pastors with incredible ministries.  Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Perry Noble.  Their stories are similar.  They have all had good friends and coworkers abandon them, and of course, all left for “good reasons.”  In every case it was the pastor’s fault.

So I’m sure it was the same for the apostle Paul.

Perhaps those who abandoned Paul were concerned that his prison sentence showed that God was not in his minstry.

Whatever their reasoning they left.  But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16 is asking God to greatly reward Onesiphorus who stood with him and encouraged him while he was lanquishing in prison.  “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...”

My guess is you will cross paths with someone this week who has been abandoned by someone.  They are feeling incredible loneliness.

Stay alert and take the time to step in and encourage.  You will be glad you did.  And God may just happen to shine on you, and even your family.

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!