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Posted on Mar 4, 2016 in Blog, Church, Dear Leader, Featured, Humility, Leadership, Unity

An Open Letter to Andy Stanley From the Pastor of a Small Church

An Open Letter to Andy Stanley From the Pastor of a Small Church

Dear Andy,

First off, I love you. Seriously. I’ve spent a lot of time studying your way of doing things. I’ve been an Andy Stanley champion for a decade. I’ve bought your books and ready them. Some of them more than once. There is great insight in them for up and coming pastors like myself. I’ve used your podcasts, I’ve bought books you’ve recommended on your leadership podcast. I’ve loved having you as a source of wisdom and input into my ministry since I discovered you in 2005. So, I feel like I’ve known you for over a decade.

Second, I don’t normally write these kinds of posts. I generally try to write posts that will help the people I know and lead be better disciples. Most of them don’t know about Andy’s remarks, and probably never would. But, in this instance I feel compelled to respond. And, I feel like I may have something to offer you for a change. And, I’m hoping you’ll hear me. Chances aren’t great you’ll ever read this letter, but it’s worth a shot. I’m not anti-mega church like so many. We can disagree without hating each other, right? More on that later.

Third, my intent in writing this letter is to share with other pastors of small churches some of the things I’ve learned – which is being pointed out by the response to your comments. I was offended, though I’m trying not to be.

Recently, you preached a sermon at your church, where you spoke ill of small churches. And from the outcry I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve had your hands full dealing with the backlash as a result. (The video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZhhpiU4d0A). I’m sure that’s not been fun. But, I’m also sure you’re learning a lot from it. At least, I hope you are.

Since you were pretty direct and blunt in your remarks, I’ll just go ahead and be blunt and direct in my response as well. You said some pretty stupid things in that sermon. I get where you were coming from, but I think you probably could have been a little more careful. I’ll be honest. I didn’t go watch the whole sermon. I didn’t care to after what I saw and heard. I’ve listened to a lot of your sermons over the years. I’ve shared them with my friends, family and church.

Along with being the pastor of a small church, I’ve worked in several mid-sized to large churches as well. So, in part, I understand both worlds. Not to the level you do, but I get more than many. That said, I’m not one of those “mega churches are evil” people. I see you reach a lot of people for the kingdom. And I thank God for what you and so many other mega churches are able to do.

But there were some words that are going to be hard to get over. And as a result, will change the amount of influence I’ll allow you to have in my life and ministry in the future. I refuse to write you off, but my pursuit of your teaching will be a little more tempered.

These are a few of the quotes from the snipet I saw.

“If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult, get over it. Find yourself a big ‘ol church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”

“You drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church.”

“Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”

As is so often said nowadays, it’s not just what you said, it’s also how you said it. It wasn’t just a comment that was made in passing. It was a remark that you spent time preparing. I decipher this based on the point you wrote out on your screen. “Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.” I know you work on your sermons well in advance, you’ve said you work on three sermons at a time at one of your earlier drive conferences. So, You probably worked on this sermon for a few weeks. So, it’s hard for me to imagine this was off the cuff and not well thought out. Because that’s not you. And, the manner with which you made these remarks show that you are very passionate about what you said. And, I guess if that’s your strategy, you should be passionate. But, what if you’re wrong? In fact, you’ve said “Your beliefs shape your attitudes.” Perhaps this is why you spoke with such passion.

Does your, phrase that pays principle apply to your church? If your church is teaching children to hate church, should people choose a different church? Isn’t it also selfish for parents to drag their kids to your church if they hate your church?

You’ve also said, “It is when our hearts are stirred that we become most aware of what they contain.” (Source: It came from within! The The Shocking Truth of What lurks in the Heart). Is that what your heart contains, complete disdain for all us small churches out in the world struggling and wishing we had the resources you have at your disposal?

I don’t pretend to know the pressure and scrutiny you are under as a mega leader in the American Christian church. I can’t imagine having so many people scrutinize my sermons and listen for things that can be taken personally. I’m sure I’ve said similarly offensive things, it’s just that there aren’t tens of thousands of church leaders and Christians listening to me.

As you have said: “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” (Source: The principle of the path) Somewhere along the way, your priorities seem to have gotten a little out of whack. That is, assuming you believe what you said. And that’s why I’m writing this really long letter. Because, maybe it will serve as a catalyst to help you create some disciplines that correct your path for the future. I know that sounds arrogant, but you’ve also said we’re supposed to learn from everyone. That we should be asking good questions.

From reading your books, I don’t think you’ve had a ton of experience leading a small church. North Point was a plant/split from your dad’s church that started with 1,000 people. You may not understand the challenges we small church pastors face. We work on strategy and systems in the same way you do, but we don’t have a pool of thousands of people to draw from the implement the strategy. Often times, if we think something is extremely important and needs to be done, we are the ones who have to get it done.

You may not understand what it’s like to have a megachurch down the street from you, and have people leave your church to go there. You may not understand what it’s like to have friends leave your church because the mega church offers more than your church can imagine. There may be a lot of things you just don’t understand because you’ve never had to lead a small church. And to be honest, I refuse to judge you or condemn you for your lack of knowledge. Instead, I’m hoping you’ll learn from us small church pastors. Because while you have things to teach us, believe it or not, there may be a thing or two you can learn from us. And, to be honest, if you’re not willing to learn from me/us, it’s foolish for me/us to continue to learn from you.

As far as I’m concerned, you’re forgiven. I probably put too much stock in your words anyway. So, it’s also on me that I put myself in a position to be offended by your words. At the same time, it does me not good to carry a grudge against you or any pastor. We have more to learn from one another. And if we can all walk a little more humbly, the Kingdom of God will advance in a much more biblical and unified fashion than we have seen in the past.

To my fellow small church pastors who may be reading this letter, learn from me. Several years ago I realized I was allowing pastors such as Andy Stanley and Matt Chandler among others to have too much influence in my ministry. Learn what you can from them, but be more concerned about what God wants to do through you in the church he has you in. He put YOU there for a reason. If God wanted Andy or Matt to be pastoring your church, God would move them there. Can we learn from them? Absolutely. In fact, to this day, If Andy or Matt were to offer to mentor me as a young pastor, I would still take them up on their offer. I don’t expect that to happen. (How awesome would it be if each Mega church pastor took some young, small church pastors under their wing for a year or two or three – at no cost! After all, do for one what you wish you could do for all – right Andy?) But, let’s stop elevating one another as idols in ministry and be more focused on being and doing who and what God wants for us. And don’t use this as a tool to talk down about other churches. We all know, if they were to scrutinize us in the same fashion, they’d find something to make us look bad too.

Anyway, Andy. Thanks for your apology. It is accepted. (Of course, I know about your apology because I follow you on Twitter, maybe I’ll get lucky enough for you to follow me back someday.) And my hope and prayer is that God will use this in your life to further the mission of the Kingdom of God in our modern day and age, and that this may become a tool that actually unites us and sharpens our attack.

You’re an awesome guy who just happened to offend thousands of other awesome men and women who used to look up to you. It just shows us you’re as human and flawed as we are. Who knows, maybe that’s why you said what you said. But, you may want to think a little more carefully the next time before you say something to drive off all the leaders you’ve been trying to lead for the last 10-12 years.

Thanks for listening,

David

 

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Posted on Oct 21, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Humility, Lost Virtues

The Definition Of You

The Definition Of You

Facebook is filled with it. The world wants desperately for you to choose it. It’s a secret most don’t want you to know. Because if you find out, there’s a good chance it will have devastating consequences for the way of life that is derived from it.

What is “it”?

“It” is the way we define ourselves. “It” is about the source of our identity.

You see, the world wants you to find your definition in all of the things that keep the world’s profit margins up for the shareholders.

They want you to define yourself based on the compare and contrast model. You contrast yourself to someone else and see how you compare.

I’m not just talking about possessions. Yes it is one of the areas. You see that your friend has a new phone, so you want a new phone. Your ride in your friends new car so you want a new car. You start to define your level of success based on your ability to keep up with your friends. A big part of the danger is that you’re not just comparing yourself to one person, but to many. One friend has the means to buy a new phone, but not necessarily the means to buy a new car. While the one person you are trying to keep up with may make close to the same amount as you, that’s not true when you add them all up. You are trying to keep up with a multimillion dollar enterprise when you consider the incomes of all the different people. Possessions is an aspect, but it’s only one.

We see someone with a different body style and chemistry post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter. We see, in one snapshot, the effects of a journey they have been on. They have been working on it for years, and we see the progress they have made. And we compare ourselves to that picture. We don’t compare ourselves to the journey, we compare ourselves to the results we see. And we don’t measure up.

We see someone who has a gift or talent that we don’t have and what they are able to do with it. And we compare. They have a natural ability that makes them so good at what they do. We aren’t even close. We wish we were.

We see the highlights of someone else’s life that they post and we compare ourselves to them. We see the snapshots of what they did today but didn’t see the work that went into that one snapshot. We see the picture of their kids, but we didn’t see the coercion that took place before the picture was snapped to get the kids to look at the camera. We don’t see any of that. We just see the one moment of perfection and compare it to our lifetime of imperfection.

We see someone all dressed up and going out for a fun night, but didn’t see them before they got into the shower.

I currently have 1,137 friends on Facebook. How many of you instantly compared yourself? How many of you instantly decided you were more or less successful based on whether you have more or less friends than I do?

I have 1,137 friends on Facebook. That’s 1,137 different lives. That’s 1,137 different highlight reels. That’s 1,137 different snapshots. It is impossible for me to keep up with what’s going on in that many lives. I can’t do it, let alone try to keep my life up with their lives. I can’t compare my life to that many lives and keep up. I may be able to keep up with one other person. Maybe two. But not 3, 300 or 3000. It’s impossible.

And that’s what we do every day. We look at the 50 people who post updates that morning and we compare ourselves to them. But for those 50 moments in time we see, there were also thousands of moments that led up to that one moment we saw.

For instance, my mom has been posting pictures of my dad’s progress in painting his barn. I see drastic differences in between the pictures. It’s amazing. But my dad has been hard at work scraping and pressure washing and painting a coat of primer and a coat of red paint. There has been a lot of work I haven’t seen. Hours and weeks of hours working to get to the point I saw.

Why do we define ourselves by comparison? Why do we contrast our lives with the lives of others and see how we measure up?

I think the answer is simple. It’s because we are still at the center of our universe. We are still responsible for our own identity. And when we are responsible for our identity the only way to know if we are making any progress is to look around us and see if we are ahead of or behind of the others around us.

But, what if we’re not supposed to be at the center of our own universe? What if we weren’t built for everything to revolve around us? How would that change things?

What if you weren’t defined by what you do? What if you weren’t defined by your successes or failures? What if you weren’t defined by your abilities and talents? What if you weren’t defined by your possessions? What if you weren’t defined by your highlights? What if you weren’t defined by polished moments you are willing to share with the world?

Wouldn’t that be freeing? Wouldn’t that change everything?

The truth of the matter is, that is the truth of the matter.

You aren’t defined by comparison. You aren’t defined by you.

You are defined by whose image you are made in. Your value does not change based on your ability to outperform people on Facebook. Your value does not change based on anything you can do or own. Your worth is not based on the amount in your account. You are made in God’s image. That means you have value no matter what. That means you are irreplaceable. There is only one you. God created you and designed you. You have worth just as you are. You have worth because you are made in God’s image.

You have so much worth that God sent his son to die for you. You have so much worth that the creator of the universe left behind his kingly throne, walked this earth, paid the ransom for yours and my sins. You have so much worth that God went through all that so that He could walk with you, know you, dwell in you.

That’s who you are. That’s your definition. It’s not your past. It’s not the mistakes you’ve made. It’s not your sexuality. It’s not your income. It’s not your family. It’s not your body type. It’s not your blood type or your skin type. It’s not the color of your hair, the size of your pants or your address. It’s not how up with culture you are. It’s not which political party you affiliate with. It’s not the causes you fight for. It’s not who you were. It’s not the others you wish you could be. It’s none of that.

See yourself, today as God sees you. Made in His Image. Worth the life of His son. Valuable. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Loved. Sons and Daughters of the Most High God.

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Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Humility, Intentional Living, Proverbious

The Prayer of Jabez – Rev. Ermal Wilson

The Prayer of Jabez – Rev. Ermal Wilson

In this edition of “Timeless Wisdom from Rev. Ermal Wilson” we will  hear the first of three sermons from a Revival at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Oak Hill, Ohio. In this first message he shares with us from the prayer of Jabez, which he had been preaching on long before the book make the verse popular. You’ll hear a little of the Pilgrim Holiness style prayer meeting at the end of the talk. But, just before that, there is a really powerful illustration that I had never heard him share before. The illustration is worth the time listening in and of itself. (There is a bit of a gap in the content of the talk. This was recorded in the days of Tape. So there is a gap where the tape had to reverse directions to record.)

Listen in!

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Posted on Jan 27, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Humility, Intentional Living, Proverbious

If God Will Give You One More Year – Rev. Ermal Wilson

If God Will Give You One More Year – Rev. Ermal Wilson

We live in a world where you can find pretty much everything online. There are archives of all kinds out there. You can hear voices every since there have been devices to record them. Of course, this massive online collection is also filled with billions of hours of meaningless content that makes many of us question our very existence.

And that’s exactly what is motivating these posts.

My grandfather, who passed away in April of 2014, was a preacher. He spent much of his life behind the pulpit in one way or another. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of recordings of him preaching. But we do have some.

Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing those recordings with you. He spent a lot of his life traveling and sharing with churches in revivals. And I’ll be honest with you, I’m hoping that by sharing these with you, there may be others who have recordings of some of his sermons that will dig out those old tapes and share them with me.

Nevertheless, the messages he preached, including this one that was preached over 20 years ago, still have a very timely message for us today.

I encourage you to listen in and let God speak to you!

(The audio starts at about 10 seconds in. Also, early in the recording, for about 30 seconds it will sound like he walks away from the mic, but he gets back quickly.)

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Posted on Jan 21, 2015 in Church, Culture, Featured, Humility, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Unity

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

There’s a group of idiots out there. Most of us know who they are. They’re known as Westboro Baptist. They protest everything. They first got their bad rap because they protested the funerals of fallen soldiers. Seems like a great idea right? Let’s protest the people who fight for the right for us to protest.

Now, it seems they protest everything. They’d probably protest Jesus if He was walking on the earth today.

Between their protesting of funerals and LGBT rallies and events, they’ve become pretty disliked amongst a lot of groups of people. They probably argue that Christians aren’t supposed to be liked. They probably think they’re being persecuted for their faith. The reality is, they’re being persecuted for being idiots.

Bible-ThumperBut, that’s not really the reason I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post out of a bit of frustration.

“Why are you frustrated, bro?” (I like to call myself bro, it makes me feel relevant.)

The reason I’m frustrated is that I, as a Christ follower and Bible believer often get lumped into the same category as the Westboro Bigots. And it’s unfair. And inaccurate.

The fact that I believe in the Bible does not make me a fundamentalist. It does not mean I want to thump those who don’t agree with me over the head with my bible. It doesn’t mean I want to protest Gay pride parades and shout hate speech.

But, too often, those of us who believe what the Bible ACTUALLY says are lumped into the category with those who distort its message.

Do I disagree with those who say I must condone beliefs and practices that are counter to what the Bible teaches? Yes. Do I hate them? No. Will I treat those I disagree with in an ungodly and unChristlike fashion? No. In fact, I will do my best to love those who disagree with me as Christ would love them. I may fall short from time to time, just as I fall short at loving those with whom I agree. But, will do my best to love.

So, to lump me in with haters just isn’t fair.

Because of this practice, we have silenced the voices of those who probably understand best what the Bible teaches. And so, those would approach the conversation with love are left in this weird middle place. We don’t agree with the radical Westboro idiots. But, neither do we agree with those who say we must compromise on what the Bible teaches.

I can believe the Bible without being a fundamentalist. In fact, I tend to think there are a lot of problems with fundamentalism. I think there are problems with any view of Christianity that minimizes loving your neighbor to elevate proving your stance.

We cannot form doctrine in response to cultural pressures. We should seek to discover what the Bible says when we are presented with cultural issues, but our aim should seek to discover the truth of God’s word not to react to what we think is wrong because the voices of culture around us are so loud. We should have a passion to know God that drives us to discover every possible way we can apply His truth to our lives and our world. 

We must always form doctrine out of the truth the Bible actually speaks. If the Bible doesn’t say it, we cannot infer it. Where the Bible isn’t clear, we cannot insert a definitive statement. We can use our best judgement to say, “The Bible doesn’t make this clear, but my best answer in light of God’s word is…”

And we must be lovers of God and his word so that we can rightfully form a belief system that represents the entirety of God’s thought. Our desire for perfectly logical systems cannot trump what the Bible says and doesn’t say. We cannot approach the Bible to find proof for our way of thinking. We cannot approach the Bible to prove our theoLOGICAL system is the right one. If the bible contradicts our theology, our theology must change.

My hope and aim is to start being a voice of humility, honesty and authenticity in this dialog. And I hope more of us will find the courage to add our voice to this discussion and others like it. Just because we disagree does not mean we are released from our command to love.

And a word to my fellow, non-fundamentalist, Bible believing Christian brothers and sisters. We must first be known by our love. This is how the world will know that we follow Christ, by our love for one another. There is no room for us to begin with hatred and slander. It’s just not an option. Let your life prove wrong those who claim we are haters simply because we disagree. But, we must learn to bring a much needed voice of reason to these crucial conversations. Especially when they are happening within the church. To be silent is not an option. But if we approach our disagreements with humility, honesty and authenticity, we will be able to be a part of the crucial conversations that are going to shape the next generation of Christianity.

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Posted on Nov 5, 2014 in Blog, Culture, Humility, Leadership, repost

The Two Things Millennials Must Fix Now: WAKE UP!

The Two Things Millennials Must Fix Now: WAKE UP!

Before you get all judgey with your self-righteous indignation, you need to know that I am a millennial. Just barely, but I am one. I’m kind of in between being a millennial and a Generation-Xer. So, when you hear these words you need to hear that I am not just the speaker, but I’m also the audience.

Now that I’ve said that, hear me on this fellow millennials: We have got to grow up and we’ve got to do it fast. I interact with us on a daily basis, and what I see in who we have are, whether we were raised that way or we’ve become that way, is terrifying. We’re on the verge of destroying the world and we don’t even know it. We’ve got to grow up and we’ve got to act fast.

Now that I’ve pained such a happy picture for you, let me explain.

There are two things we are doing that go hand in hand, and when they are played out, they aren’t sustainable. What are those two things? Entitlement & Abdication. Let me define my terms.

By entitlement, I’m talking about the mentality that we are entitled to anything that we want. We think we have a right to everything our heart desires. Entitlement is “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”

By Abdication I mean this: failure to fulfill a responsibility or duty. This is the concept that the locus of our responsibility is outside of us. Everyone around us is responsible for everything in our lives.

I’m sure you see it, but just in case you don’t, here is how the two play hand in hand. We believe that we are inherently deserving of privileges and special treatment and that it is someone else’ responsibility to give it to me. It’s someone else’s responsibility to take care of me and ensure that I get the special treatment that I deserve.

If you’re a millennial, what you’re probably thinking now is: here’s another conservative, old school pastor who thinks we should be moving culture back to what it was like in the 1950’s. You can think that, but the fact that you’re reading this article on a device through technology that wasn’t available more than a decade ago should give credence to the fact that I don’t want to go back to the 50’s.

My aim in writing this is to do my part, to take responsibility you might say, to help up see our faults and to find a path we can walk that is sustainable.

Maybe we just need to stop and think about it logically for a moment. If I am inherently deserving of special privileges and treatment and it’s someone else’s responsibility to provide that for me, what happens when all the people who are currently providing these things die? I know it’s morbid, but it’s a fact of life. Our parents will eventually die. I know this with certainty. What’s going to happen when the people who provide for our special treatment are gone? Who is going to provide for you?

I’m guessing you’re probably thinking that it will be the government’s responsibility. Let’s just say that the American government runs at the highest level of efficiency and is able to use every penny of every dollar with extreme financial prowess. That’s hard to say and imagine, I understand, but let’s say it anyway. What is the primary source of funds for our government? Taxes. Right? Well, if all the people who are doing the work right now die off, who is going to be left to pay taxes? If all the people who are responsible to provide for my special treatment disappear, who is going to be able to pay the government the taxes they will need to provide for my lifestyle?

This is where logic should kick in. If it’s the government’s job to provide for my special treatment, and no one works which means the government doesn’t have any money, how is the government going to be able to provide the treatment I deserve? That’s where loans come in, right?

Okay, so we have currently borrowed 17 trillion dollars. That’s $17, 000,000,000,000.00. One trillion is one million times one billion. To give you some perspective, it’s roughly (on average because the distance is always changing) 1,267,200,000 feet between the earth and the moon. Feet, not miles. A dollar bill is about 6″ long. If you were to stretch dollar bills from end to end, you would have to go back and forth between the moon 6,707+ times to get to 17 trillion. You could literally pave a highway between earth and the moon with dollar bills.

And that’s just what we’ve currently borrowed. If people stop working and our government has to borrow more money than they do now, we’ll be able to drive our cars to Proxima Centauri. It’ll be like the autobahn, except it would take us 85 years to get there if we were going as fast as the Orion-type craft.

What will eventually happen is we’ll go bankrupt. There is only about 60 trillion dollars in the world. And our country has blown through a third of that money. Once we go bankrupt, we will no longer be America, we’ll be the possession of some other country. And, there are no other countries with an economy big enough to support our lifestyle. Which means we’ll lose our entire way of life.

This is the wake up call I’m talking about. If we don’t stop our entitlement and abdication, we will literally destroy the world. I’m not talking politics. I’m not talking conservative versus liberal. I’m not talking left versus right. I’m not talking Republican versus democrat. I’m talking common sense and logic. If we don’t stop this crazy notion that the world exists to give me special treatment and it’s everyone else’s responsibility but mine to do that, we’re finished.

So, we need to grow up. We need to own our faults and start working proactively to correct them. We need to use our brains and think about the truth of the matter, not what we want the truth to be. Because no matter how much I want to be a giraffe, I never will be. No matter how much I want to be Randy Jackson, it just ain’t gonna happen dawg.

Now, what about you? Are you just sitting there, ticked off and spraying your computer screen with chewed up Cheetos or are you going to get busy fixing what we’ve broken? It doesn’t do any good to blame anyone for it. There are a thousand places to put the blame, but that’s not going to fix our problem. We are going to fix our problem. In fact, we are the only ones who can fix our problem. It’s our responsibility. It falls on our shoulders. The only way we can get the special treatment we think we deserve is if we get out there and earn it for ourselves.

I can tell you this, those of us who do will be the ones everyone else looks to get us out of the mess we are heading toward. So, let’s prepare now, and let’s be the ones who decided to fix what we broke.

WAKE UP!

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