Permission to be a Regular Preacher

As you might guess I have a lot of preacher friends and contacts. I know this bunch. I’ve been preaching almost every Sunday for 29 years. Today I say to my younger preacher brothers, you have permission to be a regular preacher.

I know you’ve been watching other young preachers ascend the pulpits of their gigantic churches. You’ve studied their sermons, dress style, worship elements, websites and books. We praise God for those who can reach the masses. They are needed! But most preachers will not be that kind. You know this already, don’t you? You have tried to incorporate all their ideas into your ministry, but without the same results. It has occurred to you that you can preach as good as these guys. And you’ve wondered why your church hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds. It’s time to stop trying to be someone else.

There is something mysteriously grand about a regular preacher. In all the ways that count, the regular preacher has incredible influence that can only be attributed to God’s handiwork.

A regular preacher doesn’t mind the people in his church having his cell phone number in their contact list. He hopes they will call if they need him.

A regular preacher is known by sight at the funeral homes and hospitals. Not because he has a TV show or is on a billboard. He is known because he has been there so often serving hurting families.

A regular preacher has time to stop his studies and talk to parishioners for a few minutes. Well, he really doesn’t have much time, but what he has is theirs.

A regular preacher won’t be gone 25 weeks a year speaking at other churches. They mostly do not know about him.

A regular preacher can spot a trend a mile away, and chooses not to put his church through the rigors of temporary change for no reason.

A regular preacher stays with his church for a long time because they are not just a step up the ladder to a bigger church. He works through the hard times. If he can’t get along with them ultimately he leaves for their good, and his.

A regular preacher is never going to make a fortune. If he wanted to make a lot of money, he would have chosen another line of work.

A regular preacher does his best to study, be creative, and present the word of God imaginatively without causing a disruption in the church family he loves.

A regular preacher is content where he is, always on the lookout for someone to teach the Gospel to, and devoted to the ministry of study.

A regular preacher is often found serving alongside members of his congregation and community, without fanfare.

A regular preacher is a frail creature. Humble to a fault, failing to do all he would love to do for God, often overburdened with jobs somebody else should do, and sometimes feeling helpless. Thus he is captured by grace and flooded by mercy.

By far the vast majority of preachers are of the regular sort. They are hammering away at their ministry. They are the real heroes. So, my young brothers … try to find the balance between working with a vision that excites you … and keeping your eyes on the people in front of you. One of those is where you will really make a difference.

A regular preacher made a difference in my life as a young person. Don’t feel bad if some hip trendster tries to act like your ministry isn’t all that great. It’s ok to be a regular preacher.

Thanks for reading!

John

 

 

What Do Homeless Dogs Eat?

This story was in the most recent DRY BONES DENVER newsletter. jd

Ten-year-old Noah has been coming to Dry Bones’ Thursday night meal with his dad, Michael, for almost a year now.

When Noah first came to the meal, he was bothered that there were so many young people that were living on the streets. His soft heart was clearly moved and he committed to get his homework done early from that day on in order to be a part of the Thursday night meal. While Michael wandered through the meal making sure that all the trash was collected, Noah was particularly drawn to each person who had a dog ( a lot of our friends have dogs as companions on the streets).

One night, Noah went home and asked his mom if she would assign a few more chores to him and let him make a little more in allowance. Wondering what was wrong with her son, she asked, “Wy?

” He then told her about his experience on Thursday nights. He was so happy that the young people got to eat really good food, but he could hardly stand to see all of the dogs not eating. He wondered, “What do homeless dogs eat?” He decided that he would buy dog food on his own and bring it every Thursday night to pass out to dog owners.

And that is exactly what Noah has been doing for nearly a year now. He comes with Michael every Thursday night with small, individually prepared bags of dog food.

While it’s easy for some of us to question whether or not a young person who is living on the streets should have a dog, Noah, with his ten-year-old view of our world, focuses on the need. He blesses the kids by caring for what they care for the most in this world. Noah’s dream is to become a veterinarian some day. We think he will make an excellent one.

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Consider finding out more about the Dry Bones Denver ministry. They can use your support.

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Books dealing with homelessness:

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

The Dead End Kids of St. Louis: Homeless Boys and the People Who Tried to Save Them

My 30 Days Under the Overpass: Not Your Ordinary Devotional

The Berenstain Bears Help the Homeless

Thoughts From the Right Now Conference (1)

Last week I spent three days at the RightNow Conference. I have never been to this conference and I was unsure about the tone and content, if it would be relevant to me in the context in which I serve. I didn’t need to worry, it was filled with great ideas. In looking back over my notes I realize that I probably didn’t grasp most of it … guess that’s why they sell the dvds. Below is a mixture of some of the notes I took that are thought provoking. Feel free to comment on any of them!

Bill Search had an interesting class on using both Sunday Schools and Small Groups in churches while embracing the potential in each. They can co-exist! He gave seven myths and countered each one. One statistic he offered was that 60% of those attending small groups say that their spiritual needs are being met.

JD Greear suggested that all ministries and small groups mus be centered in the gospel. The gospel changes us in a way that religion cannot do. The gospel has the power to produce a love for God in our hearts. We grow more spiritual as we get deeper into the gospel. He gave a great four part prayer perspective: (1) In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make you love me more; nothing I have done that makes you love me less. (2) You are all I need today for everlasting joy. (3) As you have been to me, so I will be to others. (4) As I pray, I’ll measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection. No new strategy is going to change things, only the glory of the gospel will change lives. (JD Greear’s new book click here)

Matt Chandler reflected on Philippians 3. He had so many good things to say. One thing he said was that nobody has a hard time believing that on their worst day they reek; but Christians have to realize that on their best day they reek … our deeds are as filthy rags. What we have in common is not our goodness, but that we are all sinners. Our confidence has to be in Christ, not ourselves. (Matt Chandler’s upcoming book click here)

Will Mancini had two very enlightening sessions on sharing vision with the congregation. He talked about “vision dripping” rather than sharing vision at one big event. Vision dripping is a daily team event where everyone who buys into the vision drips it into conversations and writings throughout each day. He talked about strategy being how you accomplish your mission on the broadest level. Good question: How many times do you expect to show up at your church each week? He pointed us to a simple church model where we are free to design ministries that are not centered inside the church building. For some of the resources he referenced in his classes, click on his name above and go to his excellent website.

I’ll share some more thoughts in another post.

John

 

Four Young Hearts Touched By The Gospel

The Gregg Family

Our small group has six youngsters that are full of energy and who have wide open hearts for God’s Word. Like many children raised in Christian homes, they began asking about being baptized at an early age. We decided that our group studies for the first few months this year would be about the gospel story as found in the Scriptures.

For a resource study we used James Nored’s wonderful set of booklets called THE STORY OF REDEMPTION. Each week the kids eagerly read the Scriptures aloud in the group. With great interest they talked about the stories covered in this excellent series. We talked about the paradise God created, how sin brought about so much misery but God had a merciful plan for the humanity He loved. We traced the story of faith through Abraham into the New Testament. The lessons on the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus were reaching all of our hearts.

When we got through with lesson 8 (the last one), none of them expressed a desire to be baptized at that time. A few weekends later, however, at the Gregg household the children were asking questions. No doubt this is because of the influence of their parents, family, Sunday School teachers, and other godly people in their lives. Matt and Barbara taught them further from the Scriptures and using TSOR as a study guide.

I was very happy Saturday night to receive a message that all four of them wanted to be baptized the next morning. Our church rejoices to see the young faith of these wonderful children – two sets of twins! It was a beautiful sight to see Matt baptizing their children. After services we gathered together and shared communion with these four new babes in Christ for the first time.

Our first thanks is to God for His amazing mercy and grace. Thanks also to the Greggs for walking the path that has led to this place in their family history. I also want to thank James for his work in putting THE STORY within easy reach.

You can get in touch with James Nored or learn more about THE STORY OF REDEMPTION study at the Missional Outreach Network. You can connect with James on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE.

~John

MBWA

Although it is commonly known in business leadership circles, I learned about MBWA from an employer of mine many years ago. Manage By Walking Around is a reminder for executives to get out of the office, to listen to employees, understand the organization at a deeper level. It’s not just a break from work … nor is it just an excuse to snoop around and make sure everyone’s working. It is conceived as a way for relationship building to enhance the performance of the company.

As I see it, lots of Christians feel a tug in their hearts to make a difference in the world. They know that there are homeless, hurting, unemployed, struggling people all around them. They hear (from those pesky preachers) about the lost people of the community who would follow Christ if someone would love and befriend them and share with them the life, not just the sermons and judgment. But it’s like we have blinders on … we see them, but we don’t.

I propose we do some Ministry By Wandering Around.

First, intentionally wander someplace where people are. I don’t know what you do from there, that’s God’s business. But keep your eyes open. Someone nearby needs an encouraging word. You don’t have to know them. You don’t even have to know what’s wrong. You can just see it on their face. Maggy is so sweet to strangers. Occasionally she’ll start up a conversation with someone while they are looking at the same thing in a store. My brain seems to shut down when I try to do that … but I need to relax. Maybe I need to be more like my friend’s wife, Rhonda. She once had a two hour conversation with someone who called a wrong number. Maybe one reason we do not know WHO to help or HOW to help is because we’ve never kept our eyes open while we’ve been among them.

Second, intentionally minister where you already wander. Even if you do not go someplace different, you already wander familiar places. Wherever you go, there you are! You are a missionary in your world. Where do you find yourself in the course of the week? The grocery store? The coffee shop? Lunch at a crowded diner? With other parents watching your kids play ball? Walking around your neighborhood? Never forget that you are a missionary in your world and that you are bringing Christ along with you into all of these settings.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)

So tomorrow… where will you be doing some ministry by walking around?

Thanks for reading,

John

Lighting the Way

Sean Rogers and Joel Jordan

You know how you sometimes have people in your life that are connected in several different ways…but you’ve never actually met them? In today’s social networking world that happens a lot. Today I was privileged to meet Sean Rogers, affectionately known by many as “brother Sean”.

Sean is one of those guys that is hard to describe… he is part monk … part cheerleader for the downtrodden … part lifeline for the desperate. He is a bigtime dreamer who puts hands and feet to his desire to lift up the fallen.

I guess my first connection with Sean was through Joel. Now I’ve known Joel since he was a teen at Gulf Coast Bible Camp way back when. In May of 2008 Joel had organized some of the teens and college students at Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula to make peanut butter and jelly sammiches (my favorite spelling, please forgive). They were going to Mobile to meet up with Sean and pass these lunches out to the homeless. On the Wednesday morning before they were to go, John Robert died. That weekend the teens still went because they knew that John would have wanted them to go. And he would have really been excited about going himself.

Over the past few years I’ve had phone calls, emails, Facebook chats and other contacts with Sean. Sean’s story? I am sure I barely know the half of it. A year and a half ago he moved into an extended stay motel in downtown Atlanta that was populated by druggies and prostitutes. He felt called by God to move there, he wasn’t exactly excited about it though. His first inkling of what a difference he could make was when he helped a young prostitute make her way home to Nebraska. Sean was shining the light of Christ in that dark place, and Christ made the difference. Nowadays it is a clean and decent place to live.

But across the street the darkness still reigns: massage parlors, head shops, strip joints, and whatever else you can imagine.  So Sean is moving ahead with his light, having an outdoor worship on Sunday afternoons right in the middle of it all. His first Sunday was last week. 25 gathered there.

Sean does a lot of other things. He has an ongoing interest in Skid Row in California. Like I said, I doubt I know the half of it. Sean’s passion is the value of life. He doesn’t talk long before he begins talking about abortion and the death penalty – two issues he feels strongly about. His hero is Sister Helen Prejean. Her ministry is known popularly for it’s portrayal in the movie DEAD MAN WALKING. Sean has an appointment to meet and talk to her tomorrow in New Orleans. He and Joel will go to the 9th ward to show love to the hurting there, and then meet with sister Prejean.

Here is a video of Sean talking about his trip.

It’s always a joy to see Joel. He is currently living in the Shreveport area and leading worship for the Airline Drive Church of Christ along with a great team of singers. He is a talented musician and songwriter and performs often at the Naked Bean in Shreveport. It is no surprise to me to see Joel and Sean hanging out and working together. They both have a big heart for those who cannot escape the bondage of poverty and all the issues that go along with that.

Sean and Joel and others like them are lighting the way. Finding ways to join them and reach out to God’s broken children is something that belongs in our prayers.

You can befriend Sean on Facebook HERE.

You can follow Sean on Twitter HERE.

Sean’s Deep Waters Ministry website.

You can befriend Joel on Facebook HERE.

You can follow Joel on Twitter HERE.

You can hear some of Joel’s music on MySpace HERE.

Would you say a prayer for the people that Sean and Joel will talk to this week? I look forward to the developing ministry of light that Sean is shining into dark places.

Thanks for reading,

JD