Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's About Perspective

Recently, the Celebration crew fulfilled their commitment to the Arkansas Highway Department's Adopt-A-Highway program. For those who may not be familiar with the program, CBC picks up trash for a one mile stretch of I-30 near the Haskell exit four times a year.

While picking up trash, we noticed a car pulled to the road shoulder with an apparent flat tire. There were three young men working to change the tire. They didn't need help, so we continued with our trash task.

At one point, I turned to Mr. Dale, a retire public school teacher, and commented "I am glad we are not changing a flat tire on the side of this busy interstate highway." To which he replied, "One of them is probably thinking 'I am glad I am not those guys picking up trash on the side of the road doing their mandatory community service!'"

Mr. Dale, always the teacher, reminded me yet again the importance of perspective. That caused me to begin thinking about the perspective of a Christ-follower.

1) A Christian's perspective on anything must be filtered through the Bible. The "assumptions we think and live by should be biblical ones, and we should build on these Biblical assumptions when approaching theology, politics, economic theory, medical science, emerging technologies, the arts, human behavior, literature, criminal justice, international relationships, or anything else," - Charles Colson. Everyone has a filter through which they view life and everything associated with it. A Christian's filter is the Word of God.

2) The Christian's perspective must include the universal need for Jesus in all people. According to the Bible (see bullet point #1), all people are broken by sin and can not repair themselves. All people need Jesus to resolve their sin crisis.

3) The Christian's perspective must include hope. Biblical hope is not some "think so," "wish so" , positive thinking mindset. To degrade biblical hope to those terms is tragic. Biblical hope is a confident assurance that God will do what He said he would do concerning all things, especially eternity.

The question remains, "So what?" By filtering everything through the Word of God, 2) the understanding of man's universal need for Jesus, and 3) the believer's sure hope in Jesus, the Christ-follower should be compelled to live life with focus, purpose, and assurance. We learn the what, why, and how of life. We have the perspective necessary to see REAL life-change in those around us.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

So, what's the deal with Joseph?

Recently, a friend asked me why I admire the Bible personality of Joseph? You remember his story. He was the youngest of twelve boys. He was a dreamer. He was the favored son. One day, he showed up at his brothers' work place bragging that he would one day be their boss. They did not appreciate little brother's words and conspired to get rid of him.

Joseph was left to die, but was rescued by a nomadic group of people that sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph became a servant to Potiphar and became a leader among the palace servants. He was falsely accused of a crime and sent to jail. There, he rose to leadership among the prisoners. After some time, he was restored to his governmental duties only to rise to leadership and a place of high responsibility.

I like this guy! Everywhere he went, he rose to leadership. In every case, what seemed to be mistreatment by others turned out to benefit Joseph.

So, why do I admire this guy? His repeated rise to leadership? The fact that he was a dreamer? The reality that God seemed to repeatedly take something that was meant to be detrimental to Joseph and used it for good? Nope, not even close.

I admire Joseph, because at every station in life he was successful. He seemed to understand that nothing entered his life but those things that had first passed through God's sovereign hands. At every turn in life, he accepted his role, sought to obey God, and put his head down and worked. I like that about him!

There is no record of him whining about life's injustices or circumstances. They were all  opportunities. Joseph's most profound statement was "You planned evil against me; God planned it for good . . .  (Genesis 50:22).

I'm no Joseph. But I'm striving to emulate his attitude, his work ethic, and his optimism.

Read more about Joseph in Genesis 37-46.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hi. My name is Allan. I am a bi-vocational pastor.

I enjoy watching the facial expression of people when they learn I am a bi-vocational pastor. Sometimes I sense people are thinking, "so you can't get a full-time church, huh?" Currently, I am intentionally bi-vocational. That is, I choose to work in a non-church related job, in addition to serving as pastor. Originally, the bi-vocational role was necessary. Now I have fully embraced it. I remember reading about the great church-planter, Paul the apostle. He was intentionally bi-vocational at times. Was he a second-rate church planter? Certainly not!!! Read about his intentionality in Acts 18:1-4, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.
Here are the benefits of being bi-vocational that I have experienced.
1) I stay in touch with "real" world living. Some times pastors forget that their people work 40-50 hours a week, have a family, maintain a dwelling, coach their kids football (basketball, softball, baseball or all four) and sometimes work a second job to make ends meet. They are busy. Life is busy. Right or wrong, that is the way people live. Therefore, I try to have fewer, shorter, and more efficient meetings. General busyness is reduced. Responsibilities are spread over a larger people pool.
2) I have the opportunity to live incarnationally more consistently. Jesus established an incarnational model for living. Working alongside people, the opportunity to listen, serve, demonstrate compassion, and model Jesus presents itself daily.

3) I have the opportunity to live on mission more readily. Jesus made it a point to hang around people from many different walks of life. He had meaningful, spiritual conversations with many of them. When you work with or beside people daily (and do it well), you earn the privilege of speaking Jesus into their lives because they have seen you live Jesus before them during both the good and difficult times.

4) I feel like my preaching is richer. I can say phrases like, "the other day at work. . . " or "my boss did this. . . " or "I had a conversation with a co-worker. . ."  Those experiences add credibility to your preaching. Of course the names must be changed to protect the innocent guilty.

5) I have learned to plan and lead toward more reasonable goals. Most people have been exposed to the SMART acronym when setting goals. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely to be effective. Being bi-vocational, my frame of reference is a little different. Realistic has taken on a whole new meaning.

6) I am learning to delegate more. Prior to my current ministry, I thought I delegated pretty well. Let's face it, we all think that. But as my current ministry grows, I can not take on more and more responsibility. Therefore, for the ministry to continue to grow, I must share responsibility with others that are gifted and willing to serve.

Will I finish my vocational ministry career in a bi-vocational role? I have no earthly idea. I yield to God on that one. For now, I'm still learning how to balance a ministry and a job. When I learn a couple of more lessons, I'll share them.