Category Archives: outreach
There is this pretty cool verse over in James 4:2. It says this…
…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
Could life really be that simple? Could it be that so much of our struggle in life is because we simply try to do it on our own and we don’t ask God to intervene?
I was thinking about this in the context of ministry and church life. Instead of complaining that I don’t have enough volunteers, I’m starting to ask people to volunteer. It’s an amazing concept, I know. As a staff at New Life, we are asking God to change people’s lives and that He would lead people to baptism. I know, crazy huh? Ask God to intervene in “our” work. The best part, seeing so many changes in people’s lives the minute we start asking for it. We have seen God do some very cool things. I’ll save some of those stories for another post.
I love how simple this concept really is. My oldest son, Grant, was at a friend’s to hang out. He is nine years old and started a very interesting conversation with the mother of his friend. He simply said, “What religion are you?” She said, “I was raised Buddhist, but my parents never pushed it on me.” So Grant said, “Then what are you?” She replied, “Well, my husband was raised Christian, so I guess we’re just floating right now.” Grant simply said, “Oh, well you should come to my church sometime.”
I don’t know if she will take him up on the offer, but I think sometimes we don’t have, because we simply don’t ask. Are you as a minister taking time to ask God to intervene in people’s lives? Are you as a minister taking time to ask people to get more involved? Are you simply asking the question?
I am striving harder to ask both of these questions. I am asking God to change people’s hearts because I know I can’t. I am also starting to simply ask people to get more involved. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with a simple ask.
So who do you need to ask?
Do you need to ask God to do the hard work of changing people’s lives?
Do you need to ask a neighbor to come to church?
Do you need to ask someone in your ministry to step it up?
It is God who is able to do more than we can possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). But, at the very least…
It’s time to ask!
So, you might be thinking to yourself, “Where has Stan been?” Well, I’m still alive. That’s a good start (at least for some of you I guess).
The real question is, why haven’t you blogged in 3 months (or however long it has been)? The answer is a good one. You’re never going to believe this. I…have…been…freaking…busy!!!
That’s right folks, my answer to my weird absence is, I’m busy.
However, in the midst of my crazy, busy start to a summer, I have found a few minutes to touch base with you about something that has absolutely been annoying me for quite some time. That’s right, you don’t hear from me for months, and the first thing I say is, “I’m annoyed.” Sorry for the negativity, it’s just where I am.
Over the last few weeks I have been flipping through radio stations where I live in Northern Virginia. Let me just say, there’s nothing good on. I want to make sure you understand my sentiment, that even includes “positive” radio. Yeah, you know them. The “Christianese” guys on the radio who don’t say they’re Christian, but they’re just so “positive.” In other words, there isn’t much on.
Here’s where I think God is trying to tell me something. I turned on the radio (yes, I hear you. I need an iPad to listen to Pandora while cruising the highway. I totally agree with you.) when I got in the car and started flipping through stations. One of the first stations I landed on had a caller on the line. It was a lady. I missed the context, but didn’t take me long to pick up where they were. Not a quote, but this was her story…
Yeah, I do that all the time. One time, I asked my boyfriend if he minded if I flashed an attendant so we could get free parking.
Of course, I changed that station, only to find another talking about this…
Well, I just think you should do whatever makes you feel good and happy. Maybe you shouldn’t be with your husband if he doesn’t make you happy. You need to follow your heart girl, and do what feels right.
And still another…
The only way to be happy is to find it within yourself. You’ve just got to look inside of you.
At this point, I had all but given up on humanity. And radio in the DMV. Here’s what God is telling me in my search for something decent to listen to on the radio…
- Humanity is broken and we desperately need to be
- The worldview that many people are living by is leading them to heartbreaking decisions and a painful existence.
- When it comes to Northern Virginia, I need to help people develop a biblical worldview.
Here’s where you come in. I would love to hear what you are doing in your ministry, para-church or other organization, to help people develop a worldview that will actually make an eternal difference in their lives.
Everyone lives by some worldview. How are you helping connect people to a biblical one?
It was the final session at Exponential Conference 2011. Matt Chandler was the main speaker (I’ll have more to say about him in a later post). Exponential ends with a bang each year. This year was no different. The plan was to have a prayer and anointing time with church planters and teams that wanted to be prayed with before leaving the conference. The New Life staff team was asked to help with the prayer and anointing.
I stood backstage awaiting instruction. Our team listened as the session was talked through and how everything would go. I left with a small tube of oil as did the rest of our team. As we sat through the service, something began to nag at me. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. Who was I to pray with and anoint these people, these church planters and leaders. The more I thought about it, the more inadequate I began to feel. In fact, I sent a text message to one of our guys who was sitting behind me. It said…
I don’t feel qualified to anoint. God has much work to do on me still.
His reply was fantastic and really helped me to make one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Up to you. Question isn’t whether you have it all figured out, but whether you can be God’s agent in blessing these pastors. If you decide to pass, no worries.
I decided that I would go for it. I wanted to be up there with our team, praying for all these men and women who were getting ready to start a new church or had just gotten underway.
When the time came, I went to my spot with the rest of the people set aside for this role. People began to flow forward by the hundreds. I heard stories from church planters who were tired and worn out. I heard stories from those who were afraid and anxious about what was coming their way. I met teams of people who were working together to make an impact in places like Los Angeles, Denver and Orlando. I met one woman who was on a team trying to plant churches in Canada. I was able to pray with them and put some oil on their forehead.
I don’t know how everyone else felt. I can only speak for myself. What we did for those people, praying with and for them, maybe accomplished as much, if not more, for me than it did for them. I was blown away by the stories and by what God is up to in our world. I was given a fresh sense of the fact that, it’s not about me. It’s all about God and what He is doing.
I am so thankful that I went for it. I’m so thankful that the man I sent my text to, didn’t just give me an excuse to get out of it. Instead, he challenged me to bless others. God worked in my heart and soul through praying for others. It was an unbelievable experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything (except having my wife beside me when all this happened).
If you’re out there, working in ministry, church plants, leadership team, etc, I want to hear from you. I want to hear your story. I want to know how I can pray for and encourage you.
God is doing big things my friends. Sometimes it feels like we’re losing the battle, but I assure you, God is winning the war!
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!
Keep it up, church!
Keep it up!
I can’t even begin to comprehend how the people of Japan are feeling. I won’t even begin to pretend I understand. Because I don’t. I don’t understand or comprehend what it must feel like to lose thousands (possibility of that number going up into the tens of thousands) of your countrymen in a matter of hours while nuclear reactors leak radiation into the air which will ultimately lead to a sad and painful death for some of the workers. I don’t understand it, but I know it bothers me. And I hurt for them.
One thing I do know, what’s happening there reaffirms for me that we were designed for so much more. We weren’t created for this. We were created for more. For better. For perfection. For eternity.
I know that I’m not the only Christian hurting for the people of Japan or thinking about them constantly. I also know that some people are waiting on the Pat Robertson’s of the world to say something ridiculous. Well, they got it, but it didn’t come from Pat. It came from this man…Reverend David Cho.
The Reverend David Cho leads an Assembly of God church in Korea with more than one million members. Before Pat Robertson could get his speech together, Pastor Cho had this to say…
Because the Japanese people shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes me wonder if this was not God’s warning to them.
If you can stomach it, the rest of the article is here.
Let’s assume for sake of argument that Pastor Cho is right. Let’s say that this awful tragedy in Japan, was done by the very hand of God and it is His judgment on their country for their idol worship, etc. Let’s say that God appeared in the sky and spoke in all languages simultaneously to tell us all that the tragedy in Japan was His idea, His plan and that He would take all the credit (blame). Let’s just say that everything I just wrote is accurate. With that in mind, how do Pastor Cho’s comments help this situation in any way? Even if we could say with 100% accuracy that this was an act of God’s judgment, do his comments help any of the dying and hurting in Japan? Wouldn’t he be of better use if he mobilized his one million members to get to Japan immediately and make a difference for Christ in the lives of the Japanese?
Let me be perfectly clear, I, 100% do not agree with this man’s comments. They are uncalled for and out of place. They only add to the hurt and make Christians around the world look like self-righteous jerks.
Pastor Cho, from me to you, please don’t talk about this anymore. Get down from your million-member pedestal. Get involved in a messy world, as Jesus did. Use your influence to share a message of hope, grace & forgiveness with the people of Japan as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery. Love those who are without hope the way Jesus did. Don’t speak. Act on the grace that has been given you. You have that platform for a reason. Please, don’t use it to add pain to the people of Japan or to hurt the cause of Christ.
What do you think about Pastor Cho’s comments?
If I told you that risk was greater than failure (r>f), would you believe me?
Some of you would. More of you wouldn’t. For many of us out there, risk is equally associated with the possibility of failure. And most of us out there want no part of failure. We are taught and trained to believe that we must succeed and that failure is not an option.
But what if I told you that failure was a great option? What if you began to believe that your failures were simply steps forward and that they were necessary for you to be successful?
Seth Godin says it this way in his new book, “Poke The Box,”
Risk, to some, is a bad thing, because risk brings with it the possibility of failure. It might be only a temporary failure, but that doesn’t matter so much if the very thought of it shuts you down. So, for some, risk comes to equal failure (take enough risks and sooner or later, you will fail). Risk is avoided because we’ve been trained to avoid failure. I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance…and if you have anxiety about initiating a project, then of course you will associate risk with failure.
Honestly, sometimes I get stuck. I am afraid to fail. There are probably many reasons for this. Some linking back to how I was raised. My beliefs growing up were that when I made mistakes (sinned), that somehow God was then against me and all of the work was on me to make things right with God. I grew afraid to mess up, paralyzed, afraid to move for fear of getting out of line with my God or my family. As a result, I fell in line (for the most part) like a good soldier.
My story has lead me to where I am today. I have been in full-time ministry for 9 years. The first 8 years of ministry, I took a lot of risks. I made poor decisions and many of them did not pay off. Those failures have fed into my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. My thoughts go something like this, “How could God use such a failure? How can God use someone who has made so many mistakes? Surely God will just find a more talented, qualified person to do amazing things.”
Sometimes, my thoughts win. I fail to risk everything for God.
Other times, my heart for risk wins. I succeed and risk all I have for God.
Does that make me bi-winning?
I want to risk everything for God. I hate the status quo. I despise common. I abhor same old.
What if Jesus was afraid of movement and collisions in life? What if Rosa Parks allowed a fear of failure to keep her from sitting right where she belonged? What if failure prevented Martin Luther King Jr. from having a dream? What if fear paralyzed our Presidents in times of crisis when we need them to be our fearless leaders the most?
Mr. Godin has nailed me on this point. I’m tired of being afraid of failure. It’s not a good feeling. I want to do more. I want to risk more. Why? Because God created me for risk.
When I “push the envelope”…God sends another box of envelopes.
When I stand on the edge of the cliff…God sees a bigger cliff around the corner.
When I turn over a new leaf…God sends fall.
When I shift a paradigm…God says that’s just the beginning.
Even when I think I have risked as much and gone as far as I can go, God can do more and wants me to accomplish more. He wants the same for you.
Ephesians 3:20 – Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Are you risking everything to make your marriage a success?
Are you risking everything to bring your children up in the right way?
Are you risking everything to make sure you are a good steward of your finances?
Are you risking everything to tell your friend, neighbors, co-workers and family about Jesus?
Are you risking everything to make sure God has your entire heart?
Are you risking everything to love the unlovable?
Are you risking everything to make sure that God’s name is made great?
Are you risking everything for the mission of God and His Kingdom?
I would like to start this post by admitting something. It’s confession time.
I’m not perfect.
I know, some of you are shocked. I’m sorry for ruining your worldview. I guess what we have to do is this; when we make mistakes, we must learn from them. If we don’t learn from them, that is when there is a significant problem. Alright, enough preliminary mumbo, jumbo. On to the story.
Today was a big day. It was “Meet The Teacher” for Grant (8) and Ashton (5). Ashton’s kindergarten age group was up first at one o’clock this afternoon. So we hopped in the van and headed to the school. This is big time stuff. I mean, Ashton is going to “big school” for the first time. On the way we encounter heavier than usual, traffic. There had been an accident on the road and the clean up was blocking the road to the school. Two semis waited somewhat patiently for their opportunity to turn. I pull up beside one and put on my blinker. Multiple cars, truck and semis all wait their turn with their blinkers on as well.
The first semi goes past me. I feel at this point it is my turn to make the turn into the right lane. I happen to glance into my rear view mirror and the car behind me has decided that looking at the end of my Mazda MPV is below her pay grade. She accelerates and swerves around me, nearly hitting the semi in the process. I had already begun my lane shift and only happened to catch her make this move, fortunately for us. I slam on the brakes and look to the right. I lay on my horn, not because I am generally a road rage person, but because she has endangered my family, complete with our little man of the hour. At this point I would like to go ahead and make my second mistake of the day. Ready? Please read an emphasis on the she driver.
At this point, I take my spot behind her. In her haste around the corner, she nearly rear ends the 18 wheeler. I can’t figure her out at this point. I patiently and in a very Christ like way, tailgate her a little bit while throwing my arms in the air to try and prove my point. My wife begins to calm me down and I try to get myself in check. Both of our vehicles shift into the right lane after passing the semi and turn our blinkers on. She is turning where we are turning. Uh-oh! I hope she’s not going to the school. One right and left turn later, sure enough, she pulls into the same school parking lot we do. I sure hope she doesn’t have a kid going into kindergarten.
We get out of the van after parking. We walk to the door and I of course notice that this lady is walking behind us. She has a son with her. Oh boy! She was far enough behind us that when we got to the door, certain things would be obvious. If I let the door shut, she was close enough to know that I would have been shutting it on her. She was also just far enough back to know that if I held the door, I was doing her a favor. I had cooled off just enough, I opted to hold the door for her. At this kind gesture of mine, I made sure my wife noticed how good I was. Possibly mistake #3.
We sit down and go through the introductions of the teachers, principal and other staff. It’s a fun little event. Then it’s time to go see Ashton’s classroom and meet his teacher. At this point I begin to internally hope that this lady and her son aren’t in Ashton’s class. And off we go. We walk in the room and look around. So many toys. So much wonder. Ashton might as well have been in heaven. He’s going to love school. We locate his name at the table. There he is with his packet of new stuff, name tag and all. Oh look, he’s going to be sitting next to Samuel. How nice. We can’t wait to meet Samuel. I can see his awesome family now. A cute couple, new to town, looking for a church home. And God has put me in their path. He knows just how to work His world you know. But mostly I’m sure that his family has to be better than the crazy lady who almost killed us all on the way to the school.
I look at the door to watch the other parents and children come in to Ashton’s class. And to my uber excitement, in walks the lady who got her driver’s license yesterday. I look at Misty and we share one of those married couple, mental conversations for a second or two. She points at me as if to blame me for this awkwardness. I have yet to put myself in that position. Yet, surely we are still in the clear. I mean, what are the chances that she will even make her way over to us? After all, we are on the far side of the class room. Slow but sure, she makes her way toward us, scanning the names on the tables. And as if Christmas had come early for me, her son’s name…Samuel.
Yep, you guessed it. She nearly ran my family out of our lane. I honked and raised my arms in disgust. She almost ran into the back of an 18-wheeler. And now, her son is sitting right next to mine in class.
It is at this point that God begins to have a conversation with me. Maybe less a conversation and more of a, “keeled over laughing, smacking his knee,” sense of humor, moment (I have no idea if that last sentence is grammatically correct). I begin to listen to God and I realize something. I realized I have been put in this position for a reason. There are still things that I have to learn, but even more, there may be something that this family needs. God had done it again. He had my complete attention.
In this upcoming school year, that lady and her family will be getting better from me than a honk and hand waving. To me, this is no coincidence. It is an opportunity.
God used this to humble me. He also used it to remind me that His followers are always on display. And at any given moment our lives can draw people to Jesus or they can turn them away from Him. And I personally want to be one that uses my life to draw people toward God. I guess even pastors need to be re-taught this lesson.
Can you think of a humbling moment like this that God has used to teach you something?
What about your life?
Do you stop and wonder if how you live pushes people away from God or draws them toward Him?