Ministry, leadership, discipleship, the local church and the deep riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
If you’ve dealt with people at all, it’s not an
earth-shattering revelation to recognize that people are different. We all come
from different backgrounds, upbringings and value systems. And as your
relationships begin to expand beyond your own culture, those differences can
In the local church, Jesus called us to reach people very
different from ourselves. The beautiful (and challenging) thing is that we’re
called to do it with people who are very different from each other. When we
begin to understand that our unity comes from Christ who saved us and
commissioned us, then we can start to embrace our differences and leverage them
the way God intends for us to.
There are at least four primary differences among the people
found in every church. In this post, we will look at two of those. As
leaders—by God’s grace and in the power of His Spirit—here are some ways to
bring those differences together to accomplish your mission.
Let’s face it—life’s not fair. As a leader, your goal is not
to try and make it fair. Some people in your church or organization will work
harder than others. You can either work yourself into a frenzy trying to get
everyone to “share the load”, or you can invest in those who are willing. The former
is futile, but the latter will actually get things done. But a word of caution
is in order here. Some people who seem like they’re hardly doing anything can
actually be doing more to accomplish your mission than you can imagine. Just because
a person is limited physically or otherwise, doesn’t mean they aren’t
significantly contributing through prayer or other behind-the-scenes efforts. God
doesn’t call us to do our fair share. He calls us to do what we can do—however
seemingly big or small—with all our might.
Different commitment levels
It would be nice if everyone was as committed to the mission
as you are. The reality is, some people will always be more sold-out than
others. There are at least two ways to handle this. The first seems to be the
default reaction of many leaders—guilt/cajole/harass the non-committed. If you
think that will work, then by all means, go right ahead. But you will never
guilt/cajole/harass anyone into a higher level of commitment. You will only
drive yourself and everyone around you into frustration—or worst case, you will
drive them away. As a leader, the best way you can build commitment is to build
excitement. Excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. It isn’t taught—it’s
caught. When people not only clearly understand the mission, but begin to
actually see the vision, they will begin to get as excited as you are. Some won’t.
But most will. The ones who won’t will marginalize themselves while the ones
who do will accomplish great things. As a leader, fuel the fired-up and quit trying
to light wet wood.
In the next post, we will look at two more differences we
can build together to accomplish the mission God has given us.
When thinking about clear communication, it’s tempting to
put all the emphasis on the sender. But in reality, the onus for
communication is on the receiver as much as the sender. It reminds me of
the old saying about leadership. If a leader thinks he’s leading and no one is
following, he’s just taking a walk. In the same way, if you think you’re
communicating but nobody’s listening, you’re just talking to yourself. And
there are some really special places people go who talk to themselves too much.
Are you present? It only makes sense that you need to be
present to receive a message that is being communicated to you. But how often do people rely on second or third hand information rather than receiving the
message directly from the communicator? In the context of the local church,
it’s important to be present as much as possible. Sermons are not like
inoculations—get your shot and you’re good to go. Instead, they are more like
regular daily nutrition. Eating only one meal every few weeks or so will leave
you malnourished—no matter how good the meal is. Growth requires regular,
consistent, systematic nourishment that can only come from being present when the
“food” is served.
Are you listening actively? There is a difference between
hearing and listening. Just ask your spouse. It is possible to hear all the
words your wife says about her day at work. But you will find yourself in a lot
of trouble if you don’t actively listen to her. Active listening is different
for different people and different contexts, but the bottom line is that it
requires you to do something. Take notes. Give verbal feedback. Ask questions
if appropriate. Listen with your whole body—nod your head (not nodding off to
sleep), make eye contact, sit up or lean toward the speaker. Your attention
span is like a muscle—you need to work it out to make it grow. Actively
listening will do that.
Are you eager to receive? Your attitude as a listener will
determine how much you get out of a message. If you don’t like the
communicator, you won’t get much out of it. If you have a predetermined
position on the subject or think you “know it all”, you are probably wasting
everybody’s time. To be a good receiver, you need to be eager to see something
you’ve never seen before. Before the message is communicated, pray about it. If
you know the text or the subject ahead of time, learn about it. One of the
reasons I am committed to systematic expositional preaching is that everybody
knows where we’re going to be next week—and the week after that. That way
everybody has the opportunity to eagerly anticipate the message by reading and
studying ahead. Go into the message with questions in your mind. Expect to be
changed by the message and you probably will.
Have the right kind of response
Do you disagree? You will not agree with every message that
is communicated to you—and you shouldn’t. We are inundated with messages in
this information age. Discernment is a necessity, but it requires effort.
Examine the sender’s character. What is his track record? Does he have a
reputation of being reliable? If the sender has proven himself to be reliable
and his character matches his message, spend extra time trying to figure out
exactly why you disagree with him. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11). Spend time
examining the sender’s message in light of your own biblical study. If you are
able, go to the speaker privately and seek clarification. Separate your
personal prejudices and preferences from the content of the message. Work hard
to give the sender’s message consideration before completely discounting it. If
the message only has minor points you disagree with, latch on to the points you
agree with and act on them. If it is unbiblical or heretical, or the message
doesn’t line up with the sender’s character, remove yourself from his teaching.
Do you agree? If you agree with the sender’s message, you
still have a responsibility to check the Bible to make sure what he is saying
is true. It is very easy for false teaching to tickle our ears by telling us
only the things we like to hear. Just because a speaker might pander to his
audience doesn’t make his teaching true or helpful. Be discerning about
messages you like as well as those you don’t like. Always take it to the Bible.
Discuss the message with other listeners. Discover why you agree. Are you
agreeing because the message is self-justifying? Or are you agreeing because it
challenges you and exalts Christ? Hopefully the latter is true. When you are
confident that your agreement is biblically grounded and genuine, then you need
to encourage the sender with positive feedback. Acknowledge your reception of
the message with both verbal and non-verbal feedback. Not only will that encourage
the speaker, it will help you to be an active listener and increase your
ability to retain what you hear.
Act on it. Finally, a right response requires action by the
receiver. Although all good speakers seek ways to apply their message to their
listeners, the ultimate responsibility for application belongs to the receiver.
How will this message change your life? What will you do as a result of it? Set
personal goals based on the message. Make sure they are specific. Many messages
you receive are beneficial, but broad. Narrow it down to a specific area of
your life. Make sure your goals are measurable and time-specific. “This week I
will do X at Y time each day.” Put them on your to-do list or your daily
planner. Also make sure they are realistic and achievable. You won’t be able to
save the world by Tuesday of next week. When a message is particularly
motivating, you can leave feeling ready to charge Hell with a water pistol.
That excitement is commendable—just not sustainable over the long haul unless you
set realistic incremental goals along the way. You probably won’t be able to do
everything at once—but you can do something every day along the way. The key is
to do something—act on what you heard.
Sometimes poor communication is because of bad senders—we’ve
all heard them. Sometimes it’s because of bad messages. As a speaker, I spend
most of my time studying and crafting messages that are biblical, relevant and
applicable. I work hard and pray hard to make sure my life matches my message.
The same is true of most preachers I know. As receivers, we need to make the
same kind of investment—because poor communication is just as likely caused by
bad receivers. Take time to study the messages you hear. Be a Berean. Work hard
and pray hard to make sure your life matches the messages you hear. Apply them
to your life. Close the loop and communication will really happen.
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the concept of
leadership that we begin to mystify it. It’s very easy to think that developing
leadership skills is for somebody else. But in reality, each of us uses the tools
of leadership every day. The things that make better leaders also make better
husbands, wives, parents, co-workers, students or citizens. More importantly,
the things that make better leaders also make us better Christians and church
Topping the list of leadership skills that everybody needs
to master is communication. Anybody that has been married more than five
minutes understands the importance of communication. Parents understand the
importance of communication. Leaders need to understand communication as well.
There are four keys to mastering clear communication. Today
we’re going to look at the first two, which are from the perspective of the
communicator. Later this week, we will look at it from the perspective of the
Be the right kind of sender
It’s easy to blame others when we can’t seem to get our
message across. As a leader, you can never start there. Good leaders always
need to start with a self-assessment.
Are you prayed up before you attempt to
communicate? Before we talk to others about the direction we feel that God is
leading us to go, it’s a good idea to talk to Him about it.
Are you prepared to communicate? “Winging it”
rarely engenders the confidence of a listener—and if you think they can’t tell
you’re not prepared, you’re wrong. If you don’t really know what you’re going to
say before you say it, it’s probably a good idea to keep your mouth shut. You need
to figure it out before you ask your listeners to.
Are you burdened with your message? Many of the
biblical prophets introduced their messages with, “The burden of the Lord for….”
We communicate all kinds of things with varying levels of importance. But the
crucial messages of leadership need to be communicated out of a clear sense of
calling. You can tell when a salesman cares little about the product he is
pitching. In the same way, people can see right through a leader who doesn’t
have a burden for the message he’s communicating.
Do you have credibility? There is an inherent
amount of gravitas with a person who has “been there, done that”. But understand
that personal experience doesn’t necessarily equate to credibility. Faithfulness
to Scripture builds credibility. Consistency builds credibility. Humility builds
credibility. Coming alongside those you’re communicating to and living life
with them builds credibility. Credibility is earned over the long haul.
Have the right message
To be a good communicator, your message must be worth
communicating. You can be smooth and entertaining in front of an audience, but
a good performance rarely equates to clear communication. The difference is the
Is your message clear? One of the difficulties
of leadership is remembering how far ahead of your people you are. If you are
as prepared as you should be, you have a crystal clear understanding of your
message. But in order to make it clear to your listeners, you need to remember
that they aren’t there yet. Make your message clear by starting at the
beginning. Repeat often. Use illustrations. Repeat often. Clearly define your
terms. Repeat often.
Is your message specific? Make sure you are talking
to the audience who is in front of you. Continually referring to the ubiquitous
“they” separates your listeners from the message instead of drawing them in.
This message is for you. It speaks into your life. Show them specific ways that
Is your message purposeful? Tell your listeners what
the point is. If they don’t understand what the point is, they won’t have any
need to invest in responding. Whether through the internet, books, television
or talk radio, people are inundated with words. Let them know that your words
have a purpose for their lives.
Is your message meaningful? A NASA engineer
briefing can be clear, specific and have a very important purpose. But since I’m
not involved in the space program, it wouldn’t be meaningful to me—at all. That’s
one of the wonders of communicating the Gospel to people—it is the most
meaningful message in the world.
Communication is a two-way street. In the next post we will
look at the final two keys to clear communication—from the receiver’s
It’s very easy to look at the condition of many churches and
see the need for revitalization. When attendance is down, baptisms are down, and
kingdom impact is down, revitalization is needed. Blaming society or culture is
a non-productive cop-out.
As leaders in
our local churches, God has given us a mission and it’s our job to lead our church
to accomplish it. The mission is the leader’s burden before it can ever become
the church’s burden. It is his vision from God long before it’s the church’s
But simply having a burden and a mission and a vision isn’t enough—because
by themselves, those things don’t get anything done. All they are is words
hanging in the air until something actually gets done. In order for
something to get done, a plan has to be made .
order—God burdens the heart of a leader with the mission he wants to accomplish
through his people. The leader sees the vision and casts the vision to God’s
people. Then the leader begins to work with the people to plan the work that it
will take to accomplish the mission.
But here’s the part that is often
overlooked. After God gives the burden and before the plan is made, the leader
should do three things.
Get some rest
The worst thing a leader can do is jump right in to
planning. No matter how pressing the
burden for revitalization might seem, don’t start to plan until you have a
clear head. And you can’t have a clear head when you’re exhausted. God
hardwired us with a need for rest. When we don’t rest, we’re rebelling against
the way he made us. We’re telling God that he can’t do this without us. We need
to have enough faith in God that we can rest in him even when the need for
revitalization is urgent. When it comes time to plan the work that God has
called you to do, do it with a rested mind.
Make it real
Is your burden real or is it theoretical? I know what the
statistics tell me. I know what demographics tell me. I know what Ed Stetzer
and LifeWay Research tell me. But what is my neighborhood telling me? It’s one
thing to know that demographics tell you Millennials need Jesus. Do you
actually know any? Your burden won’t really become real to you until you begin
to experience the need for yourself. If your church needs revitalized, get
outside and begin to feel the lost and dying community around you. Meet the people.
Begin to find ways to share life with them. You can’t begin to craft a good
plan until the mission is real to you.
Make it yours
Has God called you to pastor a church in need of
revitalization? If he has, then you have to own it. It has to be yours. The calling
is yours. The burden is yours. The responsibility to lead is yours. Leadership
isn’t done by consensus. Leadership isn’t done by collaboration. Leadership isn’t
done by majority rule. Good and godly leadership happens when God’s man feels
God’s burden for God’s mission and begins to lead and influence and inspire God’s
people to accomplish it. Now, I’m not talking about being a dictator. I’m talking
about leadership. Somebody has to drive the bus. One time when Adrian Rogers
was talking about headship in the home, he said that anything with no head is
dead and anything with two heads is a monster. Leadership matters. Own it. Make
it yours. And lead.
Now you’re ready to start planning for revitalization.
The only sure way to avoid opposition in life is to never do
anything worth opposing. But Jesus has called us to more than that. When he
calls us to new life in him, he also calls us to bring new life to our
neighbors and the nations. As we begin to do that, our local churches will
begin to experience revitalization. And as we do, we will face opposition.
When we begin to face opposition, we have two choices.
Either we will quit or we will overcome it. The Lord didn’t call you just so that
you would quit on him. He called you to overcome. The question is, how?
Here are four steps to help you overcome opposition:
Go back to your mission
The mission of the church is not to have great attendance. It’s
not to enjoy fun fellowship. It’s not to have pristine facilities. The mission
of the church is the Great Commission. We are called to bring new life to our neighbors and the nations by making disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ. When
opposition comes, don’t allow the opposition to make you lose focus on that
mission. Instead, let it cause you to hone and sharpen your focus. Go back to
the mission God has given you.
Go back to your prayer
When opposition comes is not the time to start praying. The time
to start praying is when you first begin to be burdened about the mission God
has given you. Think about it this way—when is the best time to repair a boat? Is
it before the storm comes or in the middle of it? At my church, we are preparing for and praying about opposition long before it comes. Hopefully, you were deep in
prayer long before you set out on your mission. If you were, then when
opposition comes, all you need to do is go back to those seasons of prayer. Claim
God’s promises. If you don’t have those seasons of prayer to go back to, then
start now. Bail water, fight the storm and pray hard—just don’t give up.
Go back to your preparation
As you set out on the mission God has called you to, it
requires preparation. You will never be able to prepare for every opposition
that might come your way, but you need to be realistic. Prepare for
contingencies. Don’t go into this thing blind. Our faith isn’t blind—it is in a
God who has proven himself faithful. Neither should we blindly step out to do
the mission he’s given us. We need to step out, knowing that we are as prayerfully
prepared as possible for what might lie ahead. That way, when opposition comes,
we have something to go back to. You might not have prepared for each specific
obstacle, but at least you have trained yourself to think through contingencies
enough that they will be easier to work through.
Go back to your faith
While going back to your mission, your prayer and your
preparation are important, the real key to facing opposition is to go back to your
faith. Nehemiah’s key to facing opposition was that he believed the good hand of his God was upon him. When you know your mission is from
the Lord... When you know the Lord has heard your prayers… When you know the Lord has guided your preparation… When you can look back and see all
of the doors the Lord has opened up along the way… When you see all of the
things the Lord has already done, what makes you think that he would leave you
now? God is faithful to keep his promises. And he has promised that he will
finish what he starts in you and your church. When you step out to accomplish
the mission he has given you, he will finish it. Do you believe him?
God hasn't called us and given us a mission just so we would quit at the first hint of opposition. He has called us and empowered us to be overcomers and persevere until the end.
In life, there’s only one way to avoid facing opposition—just
don’t do anything. Even elementary school science students understand that
every action is met with an equal but opposite reaction. Why should we expect
anything different as we revitalize our churches?
Opposition can come in many forms. I have distilled it down
to primarily three:
Opposition Can Be Territorial
Having a sense of ownership for your church’s facilities and
ministries can be a good thing. It’s okay to take pride in a ministry that’s
near and dear to your heart. When you invest your time and effort into
something, you naturally begin to have a feeling that it’s your turf. But understand
this—your church, your ministry, your facility isn’t your turf. It’s Jesus’
turf. He’s the one who died for it, so it belongs to Him. When your church
begins to have an impact in its community, things will get messy. Programs and
ministries will change. Maybe even the ones that you really like. But remember,
it’s Jesus’ territory—not yours.
Opposition Can Be Historical
You’ve heard the seven last words of a dying church: “We’ve
never done it that way before.” That’s one form historical opposition can take.
We can be so enamored by our history and tradition that it’s nearly impossible
to move forward. But historical opposition can take a much more subtle and
pervasive form. It’s sad, but true—grudges and bitterness about things in the
past will often result in opposition to revitalization. “I got hurt doing that
before, so I’m not going to allow myself to get hurt again.” It’s like the
jilted lover who swears off dating forever. Historical opposition can result in
those who have been beat up by the past refusing to step back in the ring. But there
comes a time when you have to understand that the past is in the past—leave it
there. The future is bright, but you can’t see it if you’re blinded by the
Opposition Is Always Spiritual
Regardless whether opposition presents itself as territorial
or historical, understand this—opposition to God’s work is always spiritual. Jesus
has called your church to be His witnesses to a watching world, both seen and
unseen. Satan, our adversary, will do anything in his limited power to oppose
that. The opposition to your church’s revitalization might seem like it’s
coming from certain people or circumstances, but behind it all is spiritual
opposition. The opposition you’re wrestling with is not against people,
budgets, facilities, society or circumstances—it’s against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against
spiritual wickedness in high places.
The sad thing is that when many people face opposition, they
quit. It is much easier to continue decaying with the status quo than fight the
opposition that comes with revitalization. But Jesus didn’t call our churches
to simply exist while the world around us goes to Hell. He called us to persevere
and overcome the opposition so that we will revitalize and impact our world
with the gospel.
According to recent research by LifeWay president Thom Rainer, over 90% of
evangelical churches are either in decline or failing to keep up with the
growth rate of their communities. In other words, we are rapidly losing ground.
In order to take back some of that ground, most churches are in need of some
level of revitalization.
Revitalization has become a kind of buzzword in church
circles. It simply means that most of our churches need to have new life
breathed into them. Before that can happen, I believe we need to prepare for it
to happen. My favorite line in the movie, Facing the Giants, was when one of
the characters was asked why he was carrying an umbrella when it hadn’t rained
in weeks. His response? “If you’re going to pray for rain, you had better start
to carry an umbrella.” The path to church revitalization always begins with
prayer. But that prayer has to include prayerful preparation. There are six ways your church can prepare for revitalization.
Taking Nehemiah as our example, before he ever had
permission to leave his post—even before he had mentioned his desire to go to
Jerusalem—he prayed for four solid months. But his prayer wasn’t simply a
once-a-day, mark it off the prayer list kind of prayer. The Bible says that he
mourned and prayed and fasted day and night for the revitalization of
Jerusalem. When was the last time you prayed fervently for 120 days about
anything, much less about the revitalization of your church? Revitalization has
to start with fervent prayer, but that’s not where it ends.
By its very nature, revitalization is transformation. And
transformation means change. And change is difficult—even painful. It requires
continual change to prevent mission drift and shift focus outside the church
doors instead of on personal desires and preferences. Change is not safe.
Status quo is safe—but it is also decay. And more importantly, status quo is
disobedience. Prepare for the emotions that will come from revitalization and
don’t quit when they start to happen.
Clearly See the Problem
One of the most difficult things to do in life is admit when
you have a problem. We all like to sugar coat our foibles or shift the blame on
others. “We’re in decline because people just don’t go to church like they used
to.” “If we just had better (fill in the blank), we’d have more people.”
The excuses can keep coming—but excuses won’t revitalize your church. Excuses
are like blindfolds, and people who wear blindfolds can’t go anywhere. Be
completely transparent and honest about the problem. Don’t gloss over it. See
it for what it is and boldly communicate it.
Know Who Is in Charge
When a church is in need of revitalization, it is very easy
to look to the pastor and church leadership as the savior. We only have one
Savior—and the pastor isn’t Him. Pastors are called to lead and shepherd the
church—but they aren’t in charge of revitalization. As Baptists, we cherish
various forms of Congregational polity. But no matter what your church’s
business meetings look like, church members aren’t in charge of revitalization.
Deacons aren’t. Elders aren’t. Councils and committees and boards aren’t in
charge of revitalization. God is. That’s why we start with prayer and
continually undergird everything with prayer.
Understand the Mission
What is the mission of your church? Do you know it? Does the
majority of your membership know it? Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “If you
aim at nothing, you’re guaranteed to hit it every time.” If the people of your
church can’t even tell you what your mission is, how in the world will they be able
to accomplish it? The mission of the church is the Great Commission. If your
church is going to be revitalized, you must understand the Great Commission in
your context. Communicate it in such a way that people can remember it.
Communicate it regularly and develop a laser-like focus on accomplishing it.
One of my favorite things about the early verses of Nehemiah
is when he finally had the opportunity to ask the king about going to
Jerusalem. As soon as the king gave him the opportunity, Nehemiah rattled off
all the stuff he was going to need for the trip. No hesitation. No delay. No,
“Let me think about it and get back to you.” Nehemiah immediately gave the
king a timeline, some legal requests and a list of materials. How was that
possible? Did he just come up with a list off the top of his head? Of course
not. He was able to do that because he didn’t just spend that four months praying
on his knees in a closet somewhere. He spent it praying with a notepad in hand
(only because he didn’t have an iPad of laptop available). To revitalize your
church, it will take some serious strategic planning. Understand your values.
Develop your mission. Cast the vision. The tactical planning of how and where
you’re going to lay the bricks will come later—now is the time to cast the
vision of building the wall.
Do you want to see your church brought to new life? It has
to start with prayer, but it can’t end there. Prayer has to grow into
preparation. Pray for rain—but prepare for it by bringing your umbrella.
Our God is a personal God. And as a personal God, He will
hear you when you call out to Him.
When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Master and Savior, He
opens up the lines of communication between you and your creator. When you turn
from your sins in repentance and turn to Jesus in faith—He becomes your high
priest, your mediator, your intercessor. Because of what Jesus did for you on
the cross, you can now talk to God like He’s your loving daddy—because He is.
God is the God of heaven and earth. He is great and awesome.
He is supreme and majestic and glorious and wonderful. He is the only one who
is to be hallowed because He is the only one who is worthy of our worship.
But despite that, we can talk to Him. He is our Daddy who
loves us enough that He paid the ultimate price of sacrificing His only
begotten Son that we might be adopted by Him as his children. And as His
adopted children, He will never let us go.
Think about it—the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the
universe delights in hearing us when we talk to Him!
After spending the past two and a half years as a denominational servant, this is my second week “back in the saddle” of pastoring a local church. I have to tell you, the honeymoon is wonderful! But regardless how long the honeymoon period lasts, I love being a pastor.
Being a pastor isn’t always easy. If it was, God wouldn’t have to call us. But as far as I’m concerned, the many blessings far outweigh the struggles. With that in mind, let me give you the top four reasons I’m excited to be a pastor again—alliterated, of course!
There are few things in life I enjoy more than spending time with God in His Word. The richness and depth of the Bible continually amazes me. I am a convinced believer in systematic, consecutive expository preaching. That means I preach week-to-week, verse-by-verse through books of the Bible. I could write for weeks about the benefits of that kind of preaching (and probably will in later posts), but for now, let me tell you what it does for me. During my time as a Church Planting Catalyst, I was blessed to preach nearly every week in different churches around our state—even in other states. It’s always a blessing to spend time in the Bible—but nothing compares to the in-depth, week-to-week study that comes from preaching through an entire book. I’m forced away from my pet topics and into what God is really saying to His people. I have to deal with textual difficulties and hard things. And as I struggle with those things, the Spirit shapes me and the church learns to handle their Bibles well.
For some reason, God has allowed me to be a strategic thinker. Some people are great at working out details and dealing with minutiae. I work better at 30,000 feet. For me, it is incredibly rewarding to understand and clearly teach a group of believers what our mission is. Seeing God bring alignment to His people as we begin to understand the direction we’re going and all start heading that way is exciting. Understanding our biblical mission, casting an irresistible vision and developing a strategic plan for how we’re going to get there is challenging, but amazingly rewarding to me. But even more rewarding is watching God work in the hearts of His people as they begin to accomplish great Kingdom work. In the words of the cigar-smoking Hannibal on the A-Team—I love it when a plan comes together!
An old line that preachers often use is, “Ministry would be great if it wasn’t for all the people.” As a pastor, the greatest source of joy and the greatest source of pain come from the people God has entrusted to me. I love the way Paul talked to the church at Philippi. Maybe I’m reading into things, but I think Philippi was his favorite church. It was clear he loved them dearly. Just notice the number of times he referred to them as his joy. They weren’t perfect. They struggled with unity. They tended to grumble and complain a little bit. Their giving wasn’t always consistent. They had a couple of ladies stirring some trouble. No, they were far from perfect—just like all local churches, including the one I pastor. But just like any good pastor, Paul loved them. He loved watching what God was doing in and through them. And he understood it was God who was doing it (Philippians 2:13). Most of all, he trusted that God was going to finish what He started in them (Philippians 1:6). If it wasn’t for the people, I wouldn’t experience the affliction of ministry—but the joy of seeing God work in people and watching them come together to accomplish His mission far outweighs the light, momentary affliction.
Okay, so I like to eat—and nobody cooks like Southern Baptist ladies (and men)! But aside from the fact I like to eat, I love the fellowship that comes from sharing meals together. Sometimes calling ourselves a church family can sound like Christianese.But the fact is—we are family. We are adopted sons and daughters of the King—brothers and sisters in Christ. Even secular sociologists and psychologists understand the importance of families eating together. In an article on the Huffington Post, Registered Dietitian Timi Gustafson wrote, “The dinner table can be the perfect environment where kids learn how to conduct conversations, observe good manners, serve others, listen, solve conflicts and compromise.” Eating together as a church family teaches us the same things. And besides that, the banana pudding is awesome!
Those are certainly not the only reasons I’m excited to be a pastor again. In conversations this week with pastor friends who are enduring difficult seasons of ministry, my glasses aren’t so rose-colored to think that rough times won’t come. But no matter what comes when the honeymoon is eventually over, here’s one thing I do know: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)” It’s good to be Pastor to the people of Parkview Baptist Church!
During my time in ministry, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. And every time I’ve heard it, I thought it was sound advice. In some cases, it might be the best thing a new leader can do. But is it a universal truism? More importantly, is it a biblical mandate?
To both questions, I say no. Now, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the thinking behind it. Leadership is influence and influence best happens in the context of real relationships. Real relationships can only happen when people trust you. So before any kind of leadership can take place, people have to trust the leader. That is a universal truism.
I read recently that it takes between five and seven years for a congregation to really trust their pastor (I would give you the reference if I could remember it). So, if that’s the case, then how can a pastor really lead the flock that God has given him to lead? Does he really have to wait anywhere from a year to five or seven years before he is able to lead?
Unfortunately, I believe that’s one of the reasons so many pastors don’t stick around for very long. They can’t lead their churches because they haven’t built “trust equity”. But at the same time they know they must lead the church or they are not doing what God has called them to do. Talk about a Catch-22! So the pastor leaves after five years and the church calls another guy who won’t do anything for the first year or more. And the church suffers.
So what is the solution? Transparency and trust.
The pastor must be transparent
The pastor doesn’t have to have it all figured out when he first gets there (and probably shouldn’t), but he must be clear about the direction he wants to head. If he has convictions about polity or style or substance, he needs to be up front about it—certainly with the church leadership.
Understand that transparency doesn’t necessarily mean he has to lay out a completely exhaustive plan. Good leadership requires strong communication skills and the ability to teach the plan as he goes along. Transparency simply means that the pastor cannot have ulterior motives or hidden agendas.
Nehemiah was completely transparent with the king when he told him he wanted to rebuild Jerusalem. He was also completely transparent with the leaders in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 2:17, he said, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” Talk about telling it like it is!
The church must trust him
This is a tough one. Many churches are in the shape that they’re in because they’ve been burned by a pastor or two—or at least they perceive they have. It’s a tough thing for people to trust when they have just come out of a bad relationship. But there’s a reason they called their pastor in the first place. That call needs to come with some benefit of the doubt.
Think about it—everybody has a first day. Nehemiah had a first day as the king’s cupbearer. And what did the king do? Apparently he trusted him enough to eat. Nehemiah also had a first day in front of the leaders in Jerusalem. And what did they do? They listened to his plan and said, “Let us rise up and build.” And Nehemiah 2:18 says that they “strengthened their hands for the good work.”
Does it take time to build trust? Of course it does. But it also requires opportunity. Opportunity can only come when trust is extended where none has yet been earned. Pastors—start by being vulnerable and transparent about the direction you want to lead the church. And churches, rather than always thinking pastors have to build trust equity before they are allowed to lead, how about extending a line of trust credit that will hold them over until they are able to earn it? Who knows, God might do something really amazing—without having to wait forever. He certainly did for Nehemiah and the remnant.
Well, today is my last official day as a Church Planting
Catalyst for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. A few years
ago, if you had told me that I would be a NAMB appointed missionary for our
state convention, I would have told you that you were crazy. Denominational work
was something I never aspired to, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for the
world. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the churches of the West
Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. While I am ready and excited to be
back in the pastorate, here are four things I will miss about serving as a
Church Planting Catalyst:
The Church Planters
A few years ago, the former State Director of Missions,
Delton Beale, began encouraging us to pray Luke 10:2. Since then, on the second
day of each month, several of us have intentionally prayed that the Lord of the
harvest would raise up workers into His harvest field. He has been faithful to
answer that prayer. And the quality of men that He is raising up is
mind-blowing. The church planters I had the privilege of working with
absolutely inspired me. Their energy, enthusiasm, boldness and brokenness for
the lost convicted me. They challenged me with their creativity and new ways of
thinking. God is doing a great work in and through them and I will miss the
time we spent together.
I love the local church. And because I love the local
church, I love pastors. I will miss getting to share coffee or pie with the dozens of pastors I was blessed to work with. While I’ve served them, they have regularly been in my prayers, along
with their churches. Some have changed churches. Some are no longer serving a
church. A few are no longer in ministry at all. We’ve laughed together, cried
together, strategized together, and just had fun together. Although I didn’t
get to spend as much time with each of the pastors that I would have liked, I will
miss the time we did get to spend together.
My Fellow CPCs
Nothing builds camaraderie quite like building something new
together. I was blessed to start off with the “first round” of CPCs—James Smith,
Frank Pilcher, Tony Inmon and Charlie Minney. Each one brought unique gifts and
perspectives to the table, and each one was a blessing to me. No one prays like
James, works like Frank, strategizes like Tony or loves like Charlie. Those guys
laid the right foundation, worked like dogs and inspired me to be the best CPC I
could be. Then after them came my brother Danny and my other brother Danny—Danny Cunningham
and Danny Rumple. Those guys are true friends who have a tremendous vision for
church planting in West Virginia. Danny Cunningham is the best man I know at
building relationships and Danny Rumple is the most biblically grounded, driven
denominational servant I’ve ever met. I will miss the road trips, the hotel
stays, the staff meetings (not really), the long talks and the teamwork with
It’s amazing how God takes people who really don’t know what
they’re doing and does a good work through them. That’s a perfect description
of my work as a CPC. I’m a simple pastor. I have some leadership and relational
skills, but at my core, I’m a simple small-church pastor. And as near as I can
tell, that’s what all of the CPCs have been—simple guys with a love for Jesus and
His Kingdom. The closest we ever came to working with brilliant strategists is
reading Stetzer or Malphurs’ books. But despite that, God has done some
incredible things. The thing that I will miss the most about being a Church
Planting Catalyst is sitting back and enjoying the ride when God starts doing
His thing through planters and pastors and catalysts who don’t really have a
clue. I will miss being on the ride, but can’t wait to hear about how He is
riding on without me!
With only a few more days left in this ministry role, I thought
it would be a good time to reflect on some leadership lessons I’ve learned over
the past 2+ years as a Church Planting Catalyst. Denominational work in Baptist
life is unique. Southern Baptists are not hierarchical—we are a cooperating fellowship
of fully autonomous churches. I like to say that one of the reasons we’re Baptists
is we just don’t like people telling us what to do. Add to that the fiercely
independent nature of West Virginians (our state motto is Montani Semper Liberi—Mountaineers
are Always Free), and you can see that cat herding might be an easier calling
than leading West Virginia Southern Baptists! Being a CPC has been one of the
most challenging and rewarding ministry roles I’ve ever had. It has stretched
me and developed me as a leader in ways that I could not have anticipated. That
being said, here are the top ten leadership lessons I have learned:
don’t have to have positional authority to lead
Within the hierarchy of a non-hierarchical organization, CPCs rank somewhere
between pond scum and really likeable pond scum—in other words, it isn’t a
title that automatically engenders awe and deference. But real leadership doesn’t
depend on position and titles. Real leadership is influence, and influence can
only happen in the course of developing real relationships.
matter the position—is difficult
Ministry is about dealing with people. Sometimes it’s about dealing with
hurting people and sometimes it’s about dealing with hurtful people. In my
dealings with West Virginia churches, pastors and ministry leaders, I have worked with many hurting
people and a few hurtful people. Some churches hurt pastors, some pastors hurt
churches. They all need the same thing that I do—the hope that is found in the
gospel of Jesus Christ. Viewing everybody through that lens helps.
One of my primary jobs as a CPC was to help potential church planters discern
their calling from God. As part of that process, I made a habit of asking them
if they could possibly do anything else besides plant a church. If they said
they could, I told them to do it.Because
if you can do anything else, you’re probably not called by God to plant a church. The ministry—whether
pastor, missionary, church planter or CPC—is not simply a job. It must be a calling
from God, for it is the assurance of that calling that will allow you to
persevere even in the most difficult of circumstances.
up is challenging, but necessary
Nobody worth their salt likes a yes-man. Yes-men are terribly toxic for any
organization, but it takes tact and thoughtfulness to disagree agreeably. In order
for an opinion to be valued, it has to be valuable. To be valuable, it must be
competent. And as was stated in Lesson #1, influence can only happen where
there is real relationship. Relationships are built on trust and leaders will
be influenced by competent, trustworthy followers.
Being perceived as having something somebody wants can be a precarious position. If an unscrupulous potential planter sees you as the key to “his”
funding, he can be tempted to say anything to win you over. Fortunately, God gave the discernment to immediately recognize those guys and send them on their way. The same kind of thing can happen in the local church with what I like to call "Klingons". Klingons are those folks who "cling on" to the pastor to "warn" him of what all the "other" people are saying and doing. One of my regular
prayers is for God to bless me with wisdom and discernment. The Lord answering that prayer is the filter that is required to be a good leader.
is possible to build an airplane while it is in the air
When I became a CPC, it was a brand new position. Church planting in West
Virginia was certainly not a new thing, but those positions were. With very
little guidance, our team had to figure out how we were going to relate to the
churches and the associations. We had to develop training programs for planters
and churches from the ground up. We literally started from scratch—here’s your
car and your cell phone, go forth and multiply church plants. I learned very
quickly that you can’t wait until the process is perfect before you get started
accomplishing the mission. Part of the faith aspect of ministry is stepping out
of the boat without really knowing what the next step is. Just continually look
to Jesus and keep stepping.
your harshest critics can be likeable over a piece of pie
Have you ever noticed how many times the Gospels tell us that Jesus ate with
people? I added some more extra weight as a CPC, but it has been worth it—no
matter what the doctor says. It is really difficult for people to have
adversarial attitudes toward each other when pie and ice cream is involved. It all
goes back to relationships. You may not ever agree with each other, but the
stories shared over desert somehow cut through the tension and give you
something to build on.
easy to miss blind spots.
A long ministry in one place is a wonderful ideal to strive for. I would love
to have the blessing of shepherding generations of people in the same place. But,
as with any blessing, there is a potential pitfall to being in one place for an
extended period of time. My grandparents lived by the train tracks most of
their adult life. They never even heard or felt the train when it went past. In the
same way, our senses can become numb to deterioration in our ministries. Whether
it’s poor signage in the parking lot or clutter in the hallway—or something far
more serious and detrimental—it’s easy to overlook the obvious when we’re numb to it. The only way to open your eyes to it is to look at things through
someone else’s eyes. Be open to those around you and don’t be threatened by
their new ideas and suggestions. That’s one of the reasons I love working with
millennials. They keep me fresh and open up my eyes to my blind spots.
easier to use reins than spurs
Another reason I love working with church planters is that they are
continually running wide-open. I often describe them like a fighter jet with tons of thrust
but little vector. But isn't that so much better than the alternative? I know I'm mixing metaphors here, but any
football coach knows you can’t coach speed. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible
to disciple a person out of their apathy. But when a person is energetic and
excited, he is easy and fun to disciple and train. I would rather somebody make a
mistake or two going full-throttle than miss a dozen opportunities because he refused to get out off the runway.
horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31)
I am a strategic thinker. To me, the only thing wrong with a 5-year plan is
that it isn’t a 10-year plan. I love to look at things from 30,000 feet and
strategize and develop plans and cast vision. In many ways, I think that’s what
God built me to do. But in the end, it’s not my meticulous planning or bold
visioning that will accomplish anything for the Kingdom. Because the victory
belongs to the Lord. Yes, we are called to plan and strategize—we’re just not
supposed to trust in it. No matter what happens, no matter where we go or what
we’re allowed to see accomplished, we trust in the Lord. And that’s the
greatest leadership lesson of all.
This past Sunday, my family and I had an interesting
experience. We visited an out-of-state church. As unknowns. As guests. As outsiders.
We could have been unchurched, or de-churched, or lost, or pagans, or heathen—or even angels unawares. We
could have been anybody—the point is, we were obviously not one of them. We were
the kind of people that church people always say they want to reach. There were seven of us, ranging in age from
4 to 66. Four generations of a whole family who, for all they knew, could have been looking for a
church home. Our experience was not good. Not only would we never go
back, we could not in good conscience recommend the church to anyone else. They
weren’t overtly mean or unkind. I’m sure in their minds, they were just fine—friendly
even. But let me tell you what it looked like from a guest’s perspective.Here are a dozen things that would combine to
cause us never go back to that church again.
website--I realize that not all churches have websites, but yours should. The
website is the first place a person under 50 will look for information about
your church. Have a website or at least a Facebook page, and make sure the
information is up to date and accurate! If you have changed your service time
to 10:45, don’t say it starts at 11:00 on your website.
parking lot--As a pastor who has worked with many pastors, maybe I’m overly
sensitive in some areas. But visitors to your church should not have to park in
the back of the parking lot—especially when there are reserved staff parking
spots right next to the door.
directions--Good signage should be one of the easiest things a church can get
right. But it is obviously one of the most overlooked. See your church through
the eyes of a person who has never been in church—much less your church. An
unchurched person might see an arrow pointing to “The Sanctuary”, but how do
they know that’s where they’re supposed to go? Where are the bathrooms? Where do
the kids go? Do we all go to the same place? Oh yeah, and nobody is around to
follow because we’re 15 minutes late since the time on the website was wrong.
greeters--A good greeter is more than just a here’s-a-handshake-and-a-bulletin
person. Here’s a quiz for you: When a greeter sees a family with children, what
should he do? A) Pretend to not see them, B) Offer a handshake-and-a-bulletin
to the mom who is already holding the baby, diaper bag, stroller, car seat,
snack bags and the hands of two other kids, or C) Stoop down, greet the
children, and let the parents know of any children’s programs that occur during
the service. I would hope the answer is self-evident—but it really isn’t. It’s
also a good idea to have friendly people available to escort parents to the
nursery, children’s church, etc. If you don’t have separate children’s
activities during the service, provide coloring sheets with crayons or activity
bags for them.
bulletin--I know, it’s not hip to call it a bulletin anymore. But just because
you change the name to “Worship Folder” doesn’t automatically make it worth the
life of the tree it once was. Unfamiliar experiences are uncomfortable. Use the
bulletin to take away some of the unfamiliarity. Write it for an unchurched
person (what the heck is a doxology?!?). Give the what and explain (as briefly as possible) the why. Here’s a clue—if your bulletin says nothing about Jesus,
then your guests will probably not expect to meet Him there.
bulbs--What do you think it tells a visitor if you have burned out bulbs in your
worship center? What about dirty windows? Overgrown hedges? Junk in hallways
and common spaces? Let’s be honest—when we “live” somewhere for a while, we
quit noticing neglected maintenance and increasing clutter. But visitors notice—especially
visitors with children. Do you think a protective mother wants to leave her
child in the nursery of a church with clutter out in the open and burned out
Meet and Greet--At the church we attended this past Sunday, we missed the meet
and greet time (see #1), but the vast majority of churches I have visited
include some kind of “welcome” time. The intent is honorable, but I have never seen
it work as intended. No matter how you orchestrate it (standing, sitting, some
stand while others sit, singing, walking, etc.), it is ALWAYS unpleasant for
the visitor. Even the best-hearted church members feign friendliness with
guests then immediately turn to genuinely love on fellow members. There has to
be a better way!
dishonesty--I’m all for being positive and energetic. Few things bother me more
than down-in-the-mouth commentary from people on the platform. But at the same
time, people need to be honest. Don’t talk about what a great crowd is here
when there are more empty seats than full ones. When we walked in the church on
Sunday, they were in the middle of singing Hillsong’s Church on Fire (see #1).
Great song—if the church is really on fire. If unchurched people walk into a
gathering and hear people singing, “The Holy Spirit is here and His power is
real,” what will they think when they look around and see people looking
half-dead? Somebody’s lying somewhere.
selfishness, part 1--When visitors walk into a church for the first time, do
you think they want to sit in the front or the back—especially if the service
has already started (see #1)? Yet in most churches, the back rows and aisle
seats are the first to fill up. In many churches, those seats are already “reserved”
by personal cushions or left behind Bibles. I have visited churches where
people in aisle seats actually shifted their legs to “allow” me to scrunch past
them to a middle seat, rather than simply scoot over to give the guest their
part 2--Of all the churches I’ve attended, something happened Sunday that I’ve
never experienced before. Since we were not made aware of any children’s
activities, and probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving him if there
were (see #6), my 4-year old grandson sat with us during the worship service. I
am unashamedly biased, but he really is a good boy. But even really good boys make
some noise during church. Not nearly enough that would warrant taking him
outside mind you—just some 4-year old boy noises. Apparently 4-year old boy
noises were too much for the older couple who were sitting in front of us. In the
middle of the service, after glaring back several times, they got up and moved.
How do you think that would make a visitor feel? Welcome or unwelcome?
The people--It is easy to like people who are like us. That’s not what church is supposed
to be. When the service was over, my 66-year old mother received warm greetings
from the older ladies behind us. My wife and I received a few cordial
handshakes from some others. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson were not
spoken to. Here’s a tip: love the children first. The parents, grandparents and
great-grandparents will follow.
The preaching--I know I’m really particular about preaching. I am a systematic, expositional
preacher and particularly appreciate that kind of preaching. I understand that
everyone isn’t like me, but if a message is going to be topical, it needs to at
least be biblical. And no preacher should ever stand in the pulpit (or
platform, or music stand, or whatever) and fail to present the Gospel. We must
preach the Gospel, or else we just flap our gums and waste people’s time.
I hope my bad church experience will cause us all to think
about our own churches. We say we want to reach the lost. We say we
want unchurched people to come to our churches. We say we want to see people
saved. But do we show that we really mean what we say?
Songs are powerful. Even after not hearing a song for years,
it doesn’t take much to trigger a tune and lyrics in my brain. Such was the
case today. All day, I haven’t been able to get the old David Bowie song,
Changes, out of my mind. Of course, by telling you this, I am inadvertently
confessing to either bad taste in music or a misspent youth—or both.
Changes are a fact of life in this fallen world.
Sanctification requires continual growth and change until the time we reach
complete Christ-likeness in our glorification. Until then, the only thing we
have that never changes is God’s Word. With the assurance of an immutable God
who has given us His unchangeable Word, we can welcome change in every other
area of life—even embrace it.
Having said that, I need to let you know about a significant
change that’s taking place in my life and ministry. Parkview Baptist Church in
Bluefield, VA, has extended a call for me to become their pastor. After much
prayer and wise, godly counsel from some close friends, I am confident the Lord
has led me to accept Parkview’s call. I will start my service there on August
1st, ending my time as your Church Planting Catalyst.
I am a firm believer that, as long as we don’t disqualify
ourselves, the Lord’s calling on our lives never changes. We are called to His
Gospel ministry. However, He is free to change the direction of our calling
anytime He chooses. He changed the direction of my calling when He led me to
become your CPC. He is once again changing the direction of my calling to
become the Pastor of Parkview Baptist Church.
I am thankful for the time I have spent as your NAMB/WVCSB Church
Planting Catalyst Missionary. It has been and will continue to be a valuable
ministry. It has been my pleasure to serve the Lord by coming alongside WVCSB
churches as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission by planting churches in
our great state. We have learned and grown and worked hard to develop lasting
relationships.The Lord has blessed and
is blessing by raising up some amazing men who are planting churches that are
making significant Kingdom impact on Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
I am excited for the future direction of the WVCSB and am
confident the Lord will raise up a man who will take the Eastern Region CPC
position far beyond where my limited gifting could. The West Virginia
Convention of Southern Baptists’ greatest days are in the windshield, not the
Today's time being made to look more like Jesus is in Acts 15:22-29.
Give Your church more and more gospel-based unity of direction (22,25). Help us recognize and correct false teaching (24), risk our lives for the gospel (26), and strive to help Your saints live up to the holiness of Christ that You gave us (28-29).
Today's time being reminded of Christ is in Acts 15:6-21.
Thank You for washing my heart clean by grace, through faith (9,11). Don't let me burden others with my own thoughts on how to be holiest (10). Help me to understand my current situation in light of the wisdom of mature believers as validated by Scripture (13-14).
Today's time being shaped by the Word is from Acts 15:1-5.
Don't let me ever think that there is anything I can do to be saved more than what Christ already did for me (1). Give me the joy of helping others come to know Jesus (3-4). Help me not become discouraged by those who demand more of me than You do (1,5).
Today, be reminded of our kingdom building mission from Acts 14:23-28.
Help me to equip others who will equip still others by Your enabling (23). Help me finish the work you saved me to do (26). Don't let me keep what You do through me to myself (27). Let me celebrate and enjoy life with Your people (28).
Today's time being reminded of whose we are is in Acts 14:21-22.
Help me to understand and expect that "it is necessary to go through many troubles on our way to the kingdom of God" so I will be willing to share Jesus, even in a place where I was abused for it (22).
Today's time being conformed to the image of Chist is in Acts 14:8-20.
Lord, let others marvel at Your power at work in and through me (11-13). Keep me humbly pointing to You, the one true God (14-15). Surround me with followers of Jesus when I am beat down so I can get up to keep serving You (20).
Today's time being shaped by the Word is in Acts 14:1-7.
Make me consistent in sharing Your message wherever I go (1). Help me really understand why Paul and Barnabas would stay in Iconium because they had been opposed (2-3). When opposed, help me rely on You and speak with courage (3). Don't let me stop evangelizing (7).
Today's time having our minds purified by the Word is in Acts 13:42-52.
Create a hunger in people so they beg to hear Your gospel and whole towns gather to hear Your Word (42-44). Even if I am opposed, slandered, and kicked out for sharing Jesus, fill me with Your joy and control me by Your Spirit as I go to share with those who want to hear (45-52).
Use me today to encourage Your people (15) with reminders that You chose us, You sustain and bless us, You display Your power to us (17), You are patient with us (18), You are faithful to Your promises (19, 34), and You have saved us in Jesus (23-41).
Help me to do what the Spirit "sends" me to do today and say exactly what I should as "filled" by the Spirit (4,9) so that those who are seeking You will see how blind those people are who reject Jesus, and the seekers will be saved (10-12).
Today we submit our lives to the Lord's truth in Acts 12:18-25.
Forgive me for the pride of wanting people to notice me for what I wear and say instead of the righteousness and truth You have clothed me with (21). Both have hindered the increase of Your rule in my heart and my world (24).
Today's tie being reminded of truth by God's Word is in Acts 12:11-18.
Don't let my lack of faith cause me to miss it when You answer my prayers (11-16). Make me ready to declare how You have worked in my life (17). Don't let me minimize how much You value the gospel continuing to be shared (18-19-You allowed soldiers to die so Peter could keep sharing).
Today's time being made by the Word to live more like Jesus is in Acts 12:1-10.
Even if my life be taken, no one can take the eternal life I have in You (1-2). Though I be stripped of my my earthly liberty, I am forever free to love and obey You (3-6, 8-10). Though I be in the darkest place of my life, Your light shines into and out of me (7). Help me live today by faith, not by my experience.