In reading about Capernaum I noticed an interesting thing about Jesus – he began his ministry without any followers. The message of the gospel was primary. He began to share it first before calling the disciples. In Matthew it says:
When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea… From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! ” As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people! ” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:12-13, 17-20 HCSB)
I think sometimes we hesitate to move because we don’t have a team, support, or help. Make no mistake, Jesus knew he was going to call the disciples to give everything up to follow him. But he didn’t hold his primary message back until that point. He was in the business of accomplishing his mission when he called the disciples. He didn’t wait. He was doing as he asked them join him in what he was doing.
As leaders the important lesson here is that people want to join you in what you are a part of; they want to join you in what you are doing. As you build teams you give ministry away. But the idea is that you have ministry TO give away. The joke with people who can’t get a job is that they are holding out for a management position. When in actuality they are stalling. Instead they should do and work their way up. Same in leadership. Don’t hold out. Start. Then lead.
The thing that encourages me the most from traveling to Israel is the extraordinary in the ordinary. Israel is a small country. It’s beautiful, but so is California. The Jewish people, well lets face it, they messed up a lot. The sea of Galilee is a small area in a small country. The disciples were a motley crew. They were mostly fishermen plus a tax-collector. An unimpressive collection of hot-heads, thieves, rednecks, self-promoters, religious radicals, and barely believers. And in this small region, in this small country, with a shaky cast, Jesus changed the world and forever changed our destinies. The extraordinary out of the ordinary. And it gives me hope, as it should you. No matter how meaningless you think your life is, no matter how small your town may be, no matter how tucked away your cubicle might seem, God sees you, just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, Zaccheus in the tree, and Matthew at the tax booth. He sees you and He wants to use you and He can use you. What we see from each of those 12 men were a willingness. Oswald Chambers calls it a “reckless abandon.” The story of God’s historical tapestry is not woven with fine golden thread and silk. Rather, it is entwined with those of us made of ordinary cotton, burlap, and wool. But in God’s hands, those ordinary ingredients can form something so beautiful, so powerful, it can change thousands of years and millions of people.
I’ve gotten into the habit of fasting at the beginning of the year using Pastor Stoval Weems’ book “Awakening.” My wife hates it when I fast simply because she has to cook two meals. I believe she’d think it easier if I just did a water or juice fast instead of my normal Daniel Fast. And fasting around a 5 and 7 year old is quite comical. They think I’m on a diet. And it is hard to explain why I am fasting or what it is.
But isn’t that the case for adults too? When you explain fasting to someone who doesn’t understand it, you begin to sound like you are from another planet – dare I say another culture. That brings up a totally different subject. As Christ-followers, why don’t we sound like we are from a different culture on a regular basis? But I digress…
I used to be really bad at fasting. I’m still not the best, to be honest. I can starve myself with the best of them. But devoting myself to prayer is difficult with a busy mind and a busier cell phone. Information comes too quickly and my mind wonders. But this time around I really dared myself to concentrate on the reading and prayer portion of the fast.
So what is fasting? It is a time where you give up something to focus on drawing closer to God. How does it do that? For me, every time I have a desire to eat, or to partake in something I give up, I pray. Its that simple. I did a Daniel fast this last time. That is where I eat only whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and water. If it sound horrible it really isn’t. My wife makes incredible bean salads and I like hummus. Still, I want a cheeseburger or Krispy Kreme doughnut. When I had the desire, it reminded me to pray – which was quite often.
If you’ve never fasted, I encourage you to try it. Start by fasting 1 or 2 days. Fast from sugar, or social media, or meat. Just try it and stick with it. And don’t forget to pray. What should you pray for? Whatever is on your heart. But I would stick with a theme for the duration. Maybe your theme is finances, or health, or spiritual growth, or your children. It can be anything, but it should be something that is near to your heart. You’ll be amazed at how God will honor the time and begin making things clear to you.
Pastor Daniel, this past weekend, emphasized the need to date your spouse. I can’t stress how important this is to a married couple. We date on the front end…. we date a lot! But when we get married we tend to coast. We tend to let life get in the way. And we too easily fall into a mode of just existing with a roommate.
Dating allows you to stay connected outside of your responsibilities. It gives you a platform to share your thoughts, your dreams, what you are excited about, what scares you, and it simply gives you an opportunity to laugh and enjoy each other. Dating also gives you a glimpse into your past and reminds you of why and how you fell in love. It serves as a reminder of why you got married.
But I’m a cheapskate. And this was a hard concept for both Jennifer and I to embrace. Why? Because there was always something ‘more important’ to spend our money on. But I was challenged on that and I want to challenge you as well. You can date. And you can date on a dime. Here are some ideas we have used in our 12 years of marriage:
- Reallocate funds to things that are truly important.
- Cancel trash service and take it yourself. Use the money to go on a date.
- Cancel cable and spend it on dating. Who knows…. without TV to watch you might find yourself doing other things at night.
- Mow your own lawn and use the money to go on a date.
- Eat out less at lunch and eat out with your spouse on date nights.
- Coffee and a book. Grab a cup of your favorite coffee and head to your local bookstore to peruse.
- Just go out for dessert. Dating doesn’t have to be a dinner and a movie.
- Picnic lunch. When we first got married Jennifer would meet me at my job and we’d go on a driving picnic. When we moved to the area I would meet her downtown and we’d have a picnic in the park.
- Road trip. Just drive! Go look at your favorite neighborhoods, or houses, or country roads.
- Grocery shop together. Now I know this may cause more problems than it solves, but we like grocery stores. We are going to buy groceries anyway. Why not do it together.
- Go on a walk. Some of our favorite times have been walking the local battlefields.
- Lastly, if you have kids, find another couple with kids and swap out babysitting. Its a free way to get a date night all alone!
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom every familyin heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I once went to dinner hosting a guest speaker. He began to disparage a Pastor that we think of very highly and has invested in the ministry of Lifepoint considerably. Having understood Honor as a church and living in that culture, I immediately shut him down and began to praise that particular Pastor and what he had done for us.
Fast forward a few years. I’m at a conference and find myself looking at Pastors and labeling them. That one is brash. That one is prideful. Who does he think he is wearing that outfit?
Fast forward a few years. I’m sitting at a table with someone who is very influential in the church world who gets criticized. 1. He is EXTREMELY humble and down to earth. 2. I find myself saying ‘how did I get here?’ ‘What am I doing here?’ ‘I don’t deserve this!’
What is the point of these 3 stories?
- Story 1 – The criticizer knew nothing of the one he was criticizing. He only… get this… perceived something.
- Story 2 – I, the criticizer, knew NOTHING of the ones I was criticizing. And, being the criticizer, I knew I had an issue with insecurity. So much easier to feel good about yourself when you are criticizing others.
- Story 3 – Usually people’s perception of others is wrong – including mine. AND, I recognized my insecurity.
And that is when I felt God say – you look and think you see a bunch of overconfident, brash, and bragadocious people. But I see people who are dealing with insecurity just as you are.
What’s the lesson? If you are a criticizer, most likely you just need to deal with your own insecurities. Quit worrying about everyone else. Worry about yourself. Also, encourage your leaders. I think most of them are saying to themselves – ‘how did I get here?’ ‘What am I doing here?’ ‘I don’t deserve this!’
Hold your tongue. You probably have no business being a critic.
Next post – Monday February 20th – The art of going to bed
Personnel dollars is one of the most difficult decisions you will make when your church is growing. Who do I hire? How do I hire? When do I hire? How much do I pay them? Are we being fair? These are all very difficult questions and I doubt any church leader thinks they have this figured out to a ‘T’. But there are ways to appear larger than you are as you grow and that is through Outsourcing.
How do you know when to outsource? There are several reasons I choose to outsource:
- To Learn – If we are doing something and can outsource it and LEARN in the process, we are getting more bang for our buck. We are getting the job done AND we are getting an education. Bookkeeping has been a recent venture in this area. We have very clean books. We do either a yearly review or audit by an external CPA firm. But we knew we could learn some ‘best practices’ and hired an outside firm to do our bookkeeping. It was a great decision and it did exactly what we needed it to do – teach us how we could be better. This is usually MID-TERM to LONG-TERM.
- Expand Capacity – Growth is great and growth is chaotic. Sometimes you just need a pressure release to get you through a season. If you see your staff starting to look frazzled explore what you can outsource. It is a great way to buy time and make a wise and prudent decision. This is usually SHORT TERM.
- Need Expertise – You don’t know everything so just admit it. We have saved thousands of dollars by paying someone who knows better than we do. Can I talk to bankers? Sure! But there are others who live and breathe loans, rates, libor (whatever that means), etc. And they can hang with the most intimidating banker negotiating a loan. If it’s an important decision, look at bringing in bigger guns. This is usually PROJECT SPECIFIC.
- Special Skill Set – This may be a regular occurrence that simply needs a specific, specialized, hard-to-find skill. This is usually REOCCURRING.
- Need Wisdom – No this is not the same as ‘Need Expertise’ or ‘To Learn’. Both of those the person is doing the work for you. Here I’m talking consultants. They come in with a ‘here’s what I think you should do’ or ‘here are the questions you need to be answering’ mindset. BE CAREFUL in this realm. We’ve hired consultants that didn’t have the DNA or understand our culture. For instance we had someone tell us to wait to do something till next year. We’re instead going to do it this quarter. We knew our situation better than they did. Good for us the advice was free. This is usually PROJECT SPECIFIC.
Some of the areas we have either considered using or have used contract labor:
- Graphic design
- Video design
- Audio Mixing
- Financial Consulting
- Church Growth Consulting
- Church Health and Structure
- Loan Placement
- Database management
- Database reporting
- Web Design
- Worship leading
Just a few more tips:
- Network. Find off the grid talent. It’s a good way to ‘try out’ people that are interested in a long term relationship with your organization. They are usually more flexible as well.
- Free yourself. Realize that outsourcing is not long term. You don’t like something? Make a switch. It’s perfect for those of you who have commitment issues.
Next Post – Friday February 17th – Hold Your To Tongue
“You get what you pay for.” Oh how I’ve learned that lesson.
Several years ago we took the staff to Catalyst in Atlanta, GA. In the spirit of saving money, I booked us at a sub-par hotel. Pastor and I were at a meeting when we got the call from the rest of the group. This sub-par hotel was 1. not safe 2. not clean 3. not safe and 4. not clean. One staffer said they’d sleep on the bed with their clothes on. We went downstairs to check out and relocate to another hotel. And, this is not a joke, a lady was asking if they rented the hotel by the hour. If that wasn’t enough to get us to move I don’t know what would be. So I learned my lesson. Cheaper isn’t always better. Here is how I decide to spend money:
- Price. Yes price always plays a part. We just initiated a policy that all capital expense requests (tangible assets over $500) must be accompanied by 3 quotes. We want to do our homework and make sure we aren’t getting hosed.
- Quality. I will gladly pay 30% more for a product if I get double the life span. In my home finances I always research the mess out of a major purchase. But we do have a history in my house of purchasing quality items that last a long time. I’m still using my TV from 1998. Still have the same washer and dryer from 2003. Mower is 6 years old. Vacuum is 6 years old. You get the point. I carry that philosophy over into the church world. Quality over price. You have a good chance of maximizing your dollar.
- Relationship. We have some things I just won’t think about changing vendors. Why? Because we’ve built a trust relationship with them. I am comfortable with them. I know they will talk straight with me. I know they will own up to their word. I know they will make things right. Do I push them on price? Yup! But they know my philosophy and what we are trying to accomplish at Lifepoint. I’m more apt to spend more with a vendor if I know the quality of the relationship will be worth it. You can usually get things done faster with a quality relationship. And, we all know, time is money. So in essence you are saving money in the long run! Again, it’s about maximizing your dollar.
Hope this helps those of you in the church world. If you are thinking strictly in dollars when it comes to purchases, there’s a chance your limiting your view and only looking at the short-term. Look more to the long-term health of your ministry. Remember, as church staff we have the responsibility to wisely steward every dollar that people have sacrificed and given. Don’t EVER take that responsibility lightly.
Next Post: Wednesday February 15th – When To Outsource
Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.”
I think it is no coincidence that Jesus used that analogy. Do you know someone who is really into fishing? They have the boat, the hat, the rods, the reals, the tackle, the technique, their favorite fishing hole, they know the mind of a fish, and they’ll get up at 3 AM when the fishing is good. Let’s look at the lessons learned from those fishing nuts:
- They know know when and where the fish are biting.
- They’ll continue trying different baits & lures. In fact, they have an arsenal of options!
- They are willing to get out when no one else is and go where no one else is going to catch the big one.
- They are eternal optimists. Even if they aren’t catching anything, they always have the attitude of ‘just one more cast; this cast could be the one.’
How does this apply to being fishers of men? As a church I know that:
- We have to know our community better than anyone.
- We can’t be afraid to try different things. The church world is always shifting. Methods are always changing. If something doesn’t work try something new.
- Be willing to go where no one else is going and do what no one else is doing.
- You always have to be optimistic. Even if you aren’t catching anything, keep casting, keep trying. You never know when Jesus will have you cast your net on the other side and you end up catching a boatload.