Feb 232012
 

Charles Swindoll in his biography of the Apostle Paul he asserts that “our theology gets fuzzy here in the United States because of our addiction to the creature comforts” to which we have become so accustomed.

Here is the general idea that many American Christians have, “Pain and suffering come from the devil.  Since God wants His servants well and free of pain, healing and happiness are of the Lord.” (pg. 91 Swindoll)

As a result of our addictions to creature comforts and some faulty theology, many followers of Jesus do not know how to “suffer well”.  Here is a simple truth that we often don’t want to admit.  God uses suffering and difficulties in our lives to accomplish His will in us and through us.  There can be joy, fulfillment and the “shalom” of God as we journey through less than desirable circumstances in our life.

Paul was an authority on suffering.  Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Simply read the entire 2nd letter to the Corinthians and you will discover much of the suffering Paul experienced in his life.  I do not consider myself an authority on suffering.  I have lost a brother and a father and I have experienced some difficult times in life but I don’t know that I can say that I have experienced true suffering.  My wife has some ongoing health issues that causes her quite a bit of pain.  I have a friend, Terry Ivy who I consider a godly man who has encountered a great bit of suffering.  I love how he writes about God’s purpose in suffering and you can find it at TerryIvy.com and click on his category of “suffering”.

Paul teaches us that God does accomplish His will through our suffering.  Here are a few of the ways that God uses our suffering and difficulties to accomplish his will:

  • God uses our pain to allow us to comfort others in pain. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Paul experience pain to the point of not wanting to live. Check our 2 Corinthians 1:8
  • God uses suffering to keep us from boasting in ourselves.

Paul boasted not in his ability to endure but in his weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:30 Paul writes about having a “thorn in his flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7 that ensured him having a humble spirit.  Have you ever thought that God may use “thorns” in our lives to keep us from becoming proud people.

“Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.”

  • God uses pain and suffering to compel us to rely on God’s “sufficient grace” that He provides through Jesus!

We often want relief from pain and sometimes God grants it, but when he doesn’t grant relief, He will give us something even better, His Grace!  Paul pleaded three times for God to remove the thorn and Jesus replied that his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in our weakness. See 2 Corinthians 12:9

“His grace supplies more than we ned to endure whatever it is that threatens to undo us.” (Swindoll pg. 101)  It is not always God’s will that we are healed.

  • Pain also awaken us to our simple need for Jesus.  

My father was one of the most independent, prideful people I have ever known and his self-sufficiency is what kept him from turning to Jesus.  He suffered with illness in his later years to the point that he could not do anything for himself.  In his realization that he was no longer independent and strong, he turned to trust Christ.  He realized that he needed something outside of himself and it led him to salvation.

C.S. Lewis said,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let’s learn to suffer well in a way to bring glory to God and make Him known to people around us. 

What are your thoughts on suffering?

 

 

 Posted by at 12:37 pm
Feb 172012
 

Assuming a churchplanter or pastor wants to share the gospel and impact a local community, there are some ways that a planter can connect quickly and over time in his community to began making inroads that lead to building bridges over which the good news can travel.

Here are some ways I/we began to connect when we planted just over 5 years ago.

Start in your own neighborhood and homeowners association
For a planter/pastor/leader to lead others, he or she must model what he wants others to put into practice.  Start with your own neighborhood or relationship circles closest to home.  There is nothing more powerful than a pastor sharing personal stories about how God has worked through his personal relationships to see people connect to God through Jesus.  I started getting to know neighbors through neighborhood events, homeowner association meetings and my wife and started a discussion group for couples on marriage and family issues.  As a result, we have seen multiple families and people from our neighborhood trust Jesus and get connected at Church at the Grove.

Local Schools
Our church’s two campuses both meet in public schools.  We began building relationships with the principles and staff through feeding them and loving on them in a variety of ways.  We told them we want to be their first call if they need something.  It has worked and they love us and have become “raving fans” of our church.  Here’s the deal:  If you tell them to call you, you better be ready to follow up and meet their request.  You must maintain a healthy credibility with the community.

Police Department
The Police Department knows as well as anyone what is going on in the community.  I went to the local police department and asked them if they had a chaplain.  They didn’t and I volunteered.  Within a year or so, we baptized the Chief and he now plays in our worship band.  We partner with the department on a number of things but the partnership with the greatest fruit has been our “Shop with a Hero” Christmas project that touches over a hundred children through the public schools.

Funeral Homes
One of my mentors told me that when he planted a church years ago he went to the local funeral home and volunteered to do funerals for people without a church. WOW!  I do over a dozen funerals a year for unchurched families.  It is a great way to connect with unchurched people and meet a practical need.  More and more people navigate death and loss without the security and hope that eternity offers us through Christ.  Several families have given our church a try through these connections and countless people have heard the gospel.

Counselors
We try to maintain relationships with what we call the “365 people” that deal with community needs everyday of the year. These are the police, firefighters and school counselors that deal with the basic needs of people on an ongoing basis.  We go to the school counselors and tell them that our church wants to be at the top of their list when it comes to helping meet needs.  They love us.  Here’s the deal: You better be ready if you make yourself available.

Social Workers
You will be able to meet practical needs if you make your church available to help with DFACS, county or city social workers or any leadership that is connected to everyday needs in the community.

Coach or volunteer in a local sports league
This is one of the best ways to connect with people in the community.  If you love what people love, they will listen to what you have to say.  If you pour your life into their children through coaching a sports team, it will be the easiest way to connect people to your church.  This may be the most productive means by which I have personally connected people into our church!  People are hungry for leadership with character and integrity and it is hard to find on the youth sports field unfortunately.  You can’t go wrong with volunteering to coach kids in the community!  Be ready, because people will be watching how you handle yourself on the field!

Prayer walk
There is nothing better than simply walking a neighborhood or town and praying over everything going on in a local community.  Prayer walking does not provide instant reward or feedback and it doesn’t seem like a glorified activity but God promises to reward prayer.  It is one of the best things a leader can do and it should be a regular part of a leader’s routine!

What have you done to successfully connect in the community?  I would love to hear one of your ideas that has worked!

 

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Oct 272011
 

Here is the question for the day:

If our church were to disappear, would Church at the Grove’s influence be missed?

Our role as a church is to be a bridge.  As we serve and love those in our community we form a bridge through our actions over which the good news of Jesus can travel!  I heard it said recently, “Influence is when you (church) become part of the fabric of the community.” My desire as a pastor is that Church at the Grove become a part of the fabric of the community. My former pastor Mike Linch spoke about this at a recent meeting of pastors and church leaders and it was a good reminder of the need for us to focus as a church on serving and loving our community.

Our community needs our church.  Our church needs our community.  True, lasting influence is gained over the long haul and leads to credibility with the community.

How do we “win” over the community….?

  • We have to learn to love the things they love and get involved in the things that are important to them.
  • My heart as a pastor is for God to raise up some leaders that will become the “flag waivers” (leaders) for our community ministry needs.
  • We want to serve our community with “no strings attached” just like Jesus love on people He came into contact with.
  • Popular author and blogger Seth Godin states, “If you are not remarkable, you are invisible.”

Church at the Grove, let’s dig in over the long haul, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s serve our community in a remarkable way!

Check out my friend Brian Dodd’s thoughts on serving the community as a church:  http://briandoddonleadership.com/2011/10/25/13-tips-on-how-churches-can-best-serve-their-communities/

 

 Posted by at 12:42 pm