This last week at Eastlake Community Church has been incredible. We saw five people come to faith in Christ and it has really made me overwhelmingly grateful for what we have. Some of you have wondered, what makes ELCC tick? Why does God seem to be working? What is the "magic" formula? Hey, I would be the first to say we do NOT have all the answers. We have so many areas to improve in how we wish we could know God and serve others better! And so this list I offer you is not a "look what we are doing right" boast. It is simply 30 observations I have made that I believe help make ELCC into the church it is today. I know...thirty is a long list! Maybe you might want to read half and then take your afternoon nap before reading the second half. But if only one of these is of help to you, I count this post a success! Enjoy.
1 - Talent does not keep true believers
When I first got out of Bible School, I was praying God would send me talented people for my church planting team in Toronto. People who could sing well and lead ministries well. But I have come to believe that talent is largely overrated. Don't get me wrong, we have some serious talent at ELCC! We have people who can really sing, preach, and lead ministries. But I am convinced through observation that Spirit-led ministries stay for the long haul while talented ministries in the flesh will fail. I will take a Spirit-filled person over a talented person any day of the week. (It's kind of fun when you get both in one package though!)
2 - Big things matter
As our youth pastor, Lincoln Bryan says, "Our church attempts to be pretty and not petty." (I have to pay him a royalty every time I use this quote) Petty churches talk about petty things. We all have our definition of what we think is petty and what we think is important. But our standard for what we believe is important is set by the standard Jesus set. (Seriously!) Things like Loving God and others are critical to us. Fulfilling the Great Commission is important to big. Living a Holy life is monumental. Giving glory to God and enjoying life to the fullest (shout out to the Christian Hedonist crowd) is awesome! We do our best not to let small things squelch the big things.
3 - Silent killers are big killers
Very few people complain if they have had a bad experience in church. They just don't come back! We ask ourselves these questions all the time: How friendly are our greeters? What is the lighting like? Was the sound too loud? Are Nathan Gumbiner's ridiculous pointy Texan shoes an eyesore to the stage set? (Sorry bro) Is one style of dress assumed for everyone?
You might think, well if visitors have a problem, they should let us know! But my observation says that not many new people will complain about these problems. And so it is our responsibility as a staff to identify these before they turn into a problem. If every week people are leaving our church and no one knows why, maybe thats a problem...okay, it IS a problem!
4 - Be the First to Acknowledge an Elephant
My default mode used to be to ignore problems. By not dealing with them, maybe they will go away or magically grow smaller. But one of the reasons I admire the culture at Eastlake is we deal with problems very quickly and directly. We do not let things build. Troy likes to say, "Lack of communication causes confusion, confusion breeds doubt, and doubt causes disunity." (Or something like that. Read his book, "Seven Secrets to Having Great Associate Pastors" to get the exact quote) When I have an issue with a person, I can't let it build a week before I talk to them. If I do, the blame lies with me.
5 - Birds in the cages and lions tamed (since we're on the animal kick)
We do our best not to let one person dominate a service or a ministry. Some churches have an open testimony policy. This might not be all bad and we do this on occasion. But it never happens on a Sunday morning and often does not happen on a Wednesday night. The reason for this is an open testimony format often lends itself to people who want to testify about the same struggles. Before long, the service becomes chaotic like a bird out of a cage. So instead, Pastor Ben will often have people from the choir share a PREPARED uplifting verse of Scripture or testimony. You might call this squelching the Spirit. I tend to think it is smart. (And I tend to think 98% of the congregation agrees)
Along with this, ELCC does their best not to let one person monopolize a ministry. Leadership does not come with a title. It comes through influencing people. (John Maxwell actually got this thought from me) Everyone can view their ministry as the most important thing. But in reality, every ministry is just a part of a bigger picture. A lion leader is great because they are a self-starter. They just can't hi-jack the ship. (Okay, enough animal references)
6 - People grow fastest when they serve others
I believe churches that make it difficult for people to serve are not only unbiblical but they are also self-defeating. The quickest way to grow a person is not to place them in a year long Sunday School class. The quickest way is to mentor and disciple them WHILE they have a level of responsibility. People want to belong. If the only way a new person can have a sense of ownership in your church is by acting and looking directly like the leaders, growth will be minimal. Besides, this is just not Biblical. What restrictions does it take for a new person to lead a ministry in your church? Are all of these restrictions really necessary?
7 - Numbers matter to us because they matter to God
Numbers matter to us because numbers mattered to Jesus. The reason the good shepherd realized one of his sheep was missing was because he counted the other ninety-nine. Yes, it is harmful to obsess about numbers. But keeping close track on who is present, who is not, and whether we are losing/gaining people is so important. Hey, if counting the offering is a requirement, I believe counting people is that much more important.
8 - The Jeremiah argument just doesn't always fly
The prophet Jeremiah preached for many years and had what we might consider discouraging results. So this begs the question: Is my church just destined to be a Jeremiah church? Maybe no one in our community really wants to accept Jesus. Too often, I believe pastors use this type of thinking as a free pass. Here is my simple thought: Before calling yourself a "Jeremiah" perhaps you should ask if you are as active as Jeremiah was in his day. (And he was VERY active!) Are you really willing to be as bold as he was and get thrown into prison and ridiculed for what you believe? This might be crazy but I believe if we as pastors grabbed half of the passion Jeremiah had for reaching people, we might see some different results in our churches and in our nation!
9 - It's a battle!
When Satan is not fighting you, perhaps you are no longer relevant to him. At ELCC we are reminded often that the devil is alive and well. But we are also comforted that we serve a Jesus who is much stronger! He has already defeated Satan and is our great intercessor before the Father. I thank God for the battle that I sense raging at ELCC. Real souls are being claimed for Jesus Christ and Satan hates this with everything in him.
10 - Do not be afraid to cut and change
We run two services on Sunday morning. It is not uncommon for the second service to be noticeably different from the first. Maybe a video didn't fly so well with the people in the first. Perhaps a song needed to be cut out. There is a risk when we cut something. Someone might be offended. But we believe there is a greater risk through not making a change. We would rather risk offending one person than turning off an entire congregation. That is a difficult decision to make as a leader but I believe it is a critical one!
11 - It is hard to do ministry while wearing handcuffs
I term a handcuff as any unnecessary binding we place on people. In Matthew 23:4, Jesus spoke out against religious leaders who placed burdens that were too heavy for people to bear. (This passage is really very fascinating) What kind of restrictions does your church place on people? Are these really necessary or does the leader have them in place because THEY want to maintain a level of control over others? Hm...that hurt...and I'm the one writing this! As the saying goes, micromanaged people always leads to macro sized problems! (Totally just made that quote up. Not sure if it really makes too much sense but it felt too catchy not to include!)
12 - Step boldly and then God steps
This sounds backwards to me. Doesn't God move and then we move? Doesn't God lead us through "open doors?" Honestly, I agree with one of my seminary profs (It's fun to say profs) from WBS that "Open Door Theology" has been deadly for many in the church. Yes I believe in going where God leads and yes I pray for God to open and shut doors daily. But what happens when God calls you to do a work and it is difficult? Did the door just shut? Did God really call me to Toronto when three years in we are still struggling? Or, is God allowing you and I to persevere so that he can do something incredible through our lives? Walking by faith often requires us to take steps that are unknown to us.
13 - People must always be first
When I first came out of Bible College, I am ashamed to admit I enjoyed spending more time studying God and people than I did spending time with them. Why? It's easier! People make so much more sense on paper than they do when we interact with them in person. Today, I can honestly say that this mindset has changed. At ELCC, people always trump actives and programs. Besides, I've learned so much from the people in our church! I'm totally convinced I am the one who is the most blessed when I talk to them. How do you know if you really value people? A good place to start is by asking yourself: What eats up the most of my time each week?
14 - There are levels of priority in Scripture
I have developed a threefold filter that I use to help me prioritize Scripture and what God reveals to me. (Hopefully it is not heretical) There are: 1) Primary Beliefs 2) Principled Ideals and 3) Personal Convictions. Primary beliefs are essential to knowing God and growing in him. Without accepting these areas, we cannot continue to be Christ's disciple. Principled beliefs are those areas that require some homework and require piecing together various Scriptures. These are not always cut in stone. And then Personal Convictions are what God specifically reveals to me as a person. (E.g. No media entertainment on the Lord's day) In my opinion, the problem with a lot of churches is they do one of two things: A) They throw all three levels at a person when they walk in the door or B) They only emphasize level 1. At ELCC, we believe it is important to start people with the basics of who God is and be intentional about growing them to levels 2-3.
15 - Self-centeredness comes in different forms
Moving down to ELCC a few years ago was difficult in some ways. I had numerous friends strongly encourage me not to in fact. Because we at ELCC differ slightly in areas from my personal upbringing, I realized that through coming down here this might damage some of those relationships I had worked hard to establish. Honestly, in my mind I feared that it might keep me from speaking at places I wanted to speak at in the future. Maybe it would cause my mentors to look down on me. Would classmates think less of me? But do you notice a common denominator in all of these fears? They are all man-centered. I believe in order for God to do his greatest work in our lives, we will have to die out to the fear of men. It grieves me when I hear someone say, "I want to break out and do ------ for God but I am worried what ---- will say." What they just said is their fear of man is higher than their fear of God. Don't misunderstand, I believe Godly counsel is critical! But at the end of the day we are held accountable to God and not men. I believe with all my heart that if you are in a rut, a death to self may be in order before you break out and do something radical for God!
16 - The Best Lessons are Caught and Not Taught
When I first moved down, I remember asking Pastor Troy to be sure to tell me if I was doing anything wrong. This was the "college kid" in me coming out again. I wanted to learn all I could to grow a successful church. But he has taught me that sometimes the only way to learn a lesson is not through hearing someone teach about it but to see it lived out. This is why I decided to move down here for three years. Through being here, God has really taught me about what it means to be a part of a winning environment. By winning, I mean a change in expectations. If you are always around a culture that does not expect to lead people to Jesus, that is likely what you will accept. (although this need not be!) We expect to hear from Jesus in our service. We expect to lead someone to Christ this week. We expect that people are going to grow in new and exciting ways this coming year.
17 - Have fun...seriously!
Call this trivial but I believe it is foundational to our culture at ELCC. Honestly, when I first came I got a little frustrated at how fun our staff meetings would get. (Single graduated college students have very busy schedules after all) We commonly spend fifteen minutes in a staff meeting just joking around. (some of you are getting worried I know!) Throughout the day we will often play pranks or show each other a funny video clip we came across. (Always on lunch hours...or when Pastor Troy is not around!) Why is this important? It creates bonding. Ideas become much more fresh and innovative when people actually enjoy showing up for work. This translates into our culture on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. If the leaders are joyful, everyone is happy happy happy!
18 - Corporate prayer is powerful
Every year at ELCC we start with a corporate 21 days of prayer and fasting. In my book, this is the most meaningful season of the year. Yes, we get hungry for food. But we grow even hungrier for God. But through it God unites us in ways unimaginable and numbers of people have come to Christ through this time. (Including our current Men's Ministry Leader) I've found that extended times of prayer and fasting as a church body get you focused on the battles in life that matter most. On Monday nights, we have a couple who lead a corporate prayer meeting at church. Pretty awesome! On Sunday mornings, Pastor Troy is intentional about having times of corporate prayer at the close of services and having people come forward to pray. This can be awkward for new people and so we try to make it easier by having prayer partners in place to immediately pray with people who come forward.
19 - Unity versus uniformity
You can smell within five minutes of walking into a church if the church walks in unity. By unity, this does not mean uniformity. We are a very diverse congregation with all types of believers. We worship with Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Mormons. (Okay, I threw that last one in there just to make you a little nervous) We do not have membership but we ask that people agree to the core tenants of the Christian faith and submit in areas where they may disagree theologically. We have yearly business meetings instead of monthly ones and this keeps us from getting caught up in issues that are not important. On Wednesday nights we have 150-200 people in the sanctuary sharing a meal and studying the Bible together. (In the middle of the week!) I can't really explain this but people in our church just generally really enjoy being with each other!
20 - Organization beats smorganization every time
Every week we meet at least twice as a staff. On Tuesday morning, several of us get together and we rehash the Sunday morning service. We ask ourselves how we won and lost over the weekend. On Wednesday we have an all staff meeting. I could not imagine doing church every week without these. They are incredibly valuable! We do staff retreats quarterly. We plan in advance what our sermon series will be. In fact, every single role of toilet paper in our restrooms is symmetrically aligned before every service (Okay, so maybe our organization has it's limits and this being one of them) And no, I have never watched our worship pastor run in five minutes before service to find what he is going to lead in singing this week.
21 - Worship service goals
If we shoot for nothing, we will hit it every single time. (I think that is in Leviticus) One of the reasons I believe pastors feel that they have failed on a Sunday morning is they do not know what their goal of Sunday is in the first place. At ELCC, we have three objectives to every Sunday morning service: 1) Create Community 2) Create Experience 3) Create Transformation. Everything we do falls under these three categories. Did our announcements help to create community? Could people really worship in the song service? Was our pastoral prayer meaningful? (Obviously...Darnell Wilson was leading it after all!)
22 - Follow well and let your dream die
One of the best lines that Pastor Troy said to me after moving down was, "You are cut out to be a general...but now you are not." Some of you reading this can probably relate. You are generals in the making. You're really waiting for your chance to break out and do something. It is a "put me now coach" mindset. But have you really learned to follow well? Do you completely support the person leading you now? Let's take that a step further. Do you not only support, but do you search for ways to help your leader accomplish what they want to accomplish? God spoke this message very clearly when I first moved down. (Him and a John Maxwell as well) He said, "How well you follow down here will be how well people will follow you in Toronto." Ouch...that changed my perspective! With the best of my ability, I now try to answer assignments with a "SURE!" attitude rather than a "K" attitude. (All you emotional texters out there can relate to this!) I am a dreamer. Since I was 15, I have had huge dreams for Toronto. But I have found that in order for a dream to really thrive, it must first die. Until our dream has died to self, God cannot raise us up. But when it has died, God will raise up this dream he has placed in our heart in ways we could not have even dreamed possible! Are you a general with a dream? Question: How well have you learned to follow and has your dream died to self?
23 - We expect new people to show up!
You can tell very quickly if a church expects new people to attend their service. Are the announcements all geared towards "church people?" Does the pastor talk as though everyone heard his message the week before? Do the leaders in the church use theological language that only "devout saints" would understand? These subtle messages are subtle but they are significant. Since we expect and know new people will show up, our greeting, our ushering, and our planning all has to change! Telling someone, "The nursery is three doors down on the right" is unacceptable. A new person is to be treated, well, as you would want to be treated when you go to a place you don't know.
24 - No second class Christians
This thought is close to my heart. I've worked closely with fellow believers who have felt like second class christians in their church. Maybe they are divorced but want to serve God. Maybe they came out of a homosexual relationship but still feel no one accepts them even though they have changed. Maybe they struggle with X-Y-Z. Maybe they act a little eccentric. At ELCC, I have learned that there really are no second class Christians. Hey, every church might make this claim but here is a thought provoking question to ask yourself: How many hurting people are in my church? By hurting, I mean seriously broken individuals. If there are not many, why is this the case? Maybe the actions of people in your church convey they are not wanted.
25 - We preach a different gospel
Without going too deep into theological terms, I believe ELCC preaches a gospel that is very different from many churches in our day and age. We teach sanctification is an ongoing process in the life of a believer. Salvation is just the starting point. The Holy Spirit wants to fill every person with His presence and equip them with new power and purity. (Often people like to emphasize only one side of that coin when both are so important) We believe a true Spirit-filled person loves people in such a way that it motivates them to serve others in a way they had not previously imagined. (NOTE: This is why most of our congregational growth comes through members of the congregation bringing other non-Christian friends) If your church only emphasizes a front heavy salvation, I'd say long term sustainability and corporate unity in evangelism is going to be very difficult.
26 - Christian education is the route for saving our kids
We take heat for being so passionate about having our children grow up to receive a Christian Worldview education. (We must be crazy!) But we take the heat willingly. It has been noted that Jesus spent roughly 16,000 hours with his disciples. Do the math and this comes out to almost the same amount of hours a kid spend in K-12 grade education. Renewanation is an organization that has been very influential and through it I am convinced many lives in our church have been saved. Our church strongly supports Christian education because we believe forty hours with a kid in a week are more effective than 45 minutes in Sunday School. Besides, the future of our church will not survive without it.
27 - Community involvement is more than door to door calling
We believe the church should not beg the world to pay our bills. This means we don't go out into the community begging for money. Instead, we have given away thousands of dollars into our community through gas giveaways, water giveaways, and volunteer projects. (Granted we did sneak "Turn or Burn" tracks underneath the wiper blades of every car - kidding!) Unfortunately, the only time the community often sees the church is when they are begging them to come to church or begging for money. Enough said.
28 - Poor people were close to Jesus
Jesus loved poor people and spent a lot of time with them. Poverty comes in different forms. It comes through poor finances but it also comes through a poverty spirit. ELCC partners with a ministry called the Agape Center and it has been a win win all around. Agape, as the name might suggest, is an organization that spreads unconditional love to people. They do this through providing food, clothing, furniture, and counseling to roughly 1,500 people a month. Here is what I love. Agape partners with other churches in the community. They found an area where churches can have common ground and it has actually been probably the single greatest unifier of church people in our community. I believe failing to minister to poor people causes something within you to well up an die. Ministering to poor people reminds us to serve as Jesus served.
29 - If you are wrong, admit it
My respect has not been higher for a leader at ELCC than when they acknowledge they are wrong. I have worked to gain this trait and I hope it is true of my life. I cannot think of a more lonely road to be on than one that says "I am always right." Nothing brings apart a church quicker. I have watched repeatedly as our leaders at ELCC have apologized for things - even when they maybe did not think they were entirely wrong. Without the guts to apologize, I am convinced a church cannot last.
30 - The God of Daniel is still the God of today!
I was not a fan of missionary services growing up. One reason was because I thought they were unrealistic. I heard talk of thousands getting saved and hundreds of churches getting started. And in time I just started writing them off. But why was this the case? It was because I could not imagine that reality being true in my situation. God could not really save a thousand people in my neighborhood, could he? I started to become cynical and mentally I checked out when I saw churches speak of leading ten, twenty, or hundreds of people to Jesus in a year. After all, "They were probably just a bunch of liberal churches with non-genuine conversions anyway." God forgive me for my horrible unbelief. Through ELCC I am more confident than ever that the God of the Bible is still very much alive today. And...He wants to do incredible things through your life!
Closing thought - As I said in the opening, we DO NOT do things perfectly. Right now you might be discouraged reading this. You might be thinking, man I sure wish God would allow me to be part of a church like this. Hey, I'm probably going to be right with you in a year when I have moved to Toronto and things are tight! But my encouragement is to start where you are at. Are you really doing all you can do right now or have you settled to plateau with other lukewarm Christians around you? Are you sarcastic about your pastor and look down on other Christians as lazy.....while you yourself do very little? Or, will you back the church God has placed you in with all of your strength because you serve a cause that is higher than your personal ego? My challenge is don't settle! The God of the Bible is still exciting and eager to do what you couldn't begin to imagine through your life! Serve him alone and HE will raise you up out of any situation you are in on his time schedule!
In and all for Jesus - Ezra
Ryan Watters - Newlywed; Counselor; Student of Jesus; Coffee Connoisseur
Many times when you think of a “counselor”, you think of an older gentleman with legs neatly crossed asking you, “How does that make you feel?” as you lay, arms folded and eyes closed, on a leather couch. Let me offer a bit more modern view of what counseling looks like today, and some principles on whether it may be helpful for you.
First, counseling sessions are conducted by trained professionals whose primary goal is to see you succeed. In other words, the counselor is knowledgeable and on your side. Usually sessions are around 50 minutes long, and occur once every week or two.
Second, there is a belief that people who go to counseling are “crazy” or “weak”. Frankly, that’s just not true. People that I have seen in the counseling room are neither. They are good, honest, everyday people who are facing some challenges in life, many times not of their making, that are just very tough to tackle alone. Maybe they’re struggling with stress from school, or family conflict. Maybe there is uncertainty about a career path. Maybe there is confusion over gender identity. These are all areas a counselor has been especially equipped to help with.
Third, counseling may be helpful if a person has a struggle that is hindering his or her daily life (can’t function well at school, work or home), or is at a crucial point in life and would like someone to help them sort through it all. Counseling can be helpful no matter where you’re at, and shouldn’t been feared, or seen as ‘extreme’.
Fourth, some believe that counseling is anti-biblical, and Christian counselors have ditched Scripture for psychology. Again, that’s just not true. The Christian counselor is still guided by, and held to, the authority of Scripture. Just as a Christian medical doctor uses the resources available to him in a God-honoring way, so a Christian counselor helps people make sense of their world from a Christian world-view.
Finally, I would encourage you to pray about it. I know life can be overwhelming at times, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Perhaps God has prepared a Christian counselor to walk with you right now. Healing is possible; don’t let fear keep you from receiving it.
Dave Keep - Husband; Basketball Dad; Pastor; Blogger (davekeep.me)
Lately I’ve been reading an insightful work by Watchman Nee, called The Spiritual Man, that throws considerable light on key realities of the spiritual life. This synopsis, I think, will help us get to an answer for Why Devotions?
We are made of three parts, the body, soul and spirt (1 Thess. 5:53). The body is the seat of our senses (taste, touch, see, etc), the soul of self, and the spirit, the dwelling place of God. The soul is the prime factor of the three in that it is where we think (intellect), feel (emotions), and most importantly choose, (will).
From the outside we are influenced through the body by all the things our senses take in. We read the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch television, engage a friend in conversation, browse the internet. Those influences are brought to bear upon the soul, and decisions are made in response. If those happen to be the strongest influences, our soul - how we think and feel and choose - begins to be shaped by them. Before long our attitudes and behavior reflect them. Since God dwells in our spirit, He does not speak to us through our body, but rather through our spirit. The spirit of a man is the place of conscience, intuition and communion. It is in our spirit that we commune with God. It is through our spirit that God, if we allow Him, will shape our soul so that more and more we reflect the image of His Son. (2 Corinthians 3:8)
This is where devotions come in. Psalm 19:7 says, “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving (lit. restoring) the soul.” And Paul said in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We spend quality time with God, in His word, so that we can know and understand His thoughts. We commune with Him in our spirit through prayer. These in turn inform and direct the soul to choose, and orders are issued and carried out in the body throughout the day that reflect those primary influences!
A bit heavy? Perhaps. But I hope you’ll meditate on these thoughts, and allow God to teach you that devotions are NOT about the motions. They are an opportunity for God to change you from the inside out! If you’d like to check out my blog, or sign up for an eDevotional I send about 5 times a week, I’d love to engage with you further.
For those of you who may have watched tonight, I believe Ken Ham lost the debate between him and Bill Nye. (If you are a Ken Ham supporter, hang with me!) In many ways, I thought Nye’s answers, while a little rambling at times, were complex and detailed.
On the other hand, I thought Ham’s answers were short of extraordinary. I thought he hit it out of the park in his opening 30-minute monologue but was a little more challenged in the one on one time. I thought he failed to answer many of Nye’s questions convincingly. On debate skills alone, I would give the edge to Bill Nye.
But here is why I believe Ken Ham won by losing. His objective was not to debate! In all reality this debate probably did not change many hard core atheists to becoming instant Christians and vice versa. But I believe Ken Ham accomplished three things:
1. He raised huge awareness about Biblical Creationism on a mammoth scale. Over 500,000 computers logged in? Not bad! He planted seeds of hope that the Bible is true and seeds of doubt that evolution is our only model.
2. He connected with Christians who did not think the age of the earth was a big deal. Very important! I believe he articulated very well the inconsistencies of believing in an old earth model while still trusting Jesus as Savior.
3. But most importantly, he preached the gospel over four times to hundreds of thousands of people!
I believe this debate teaches us something very valuable about the way we engage those who deny God’s existence – such as Bill Nye. Yes we provide answers to their questions. Yes we present evidence for what we believe the Bible teaches. But we do not play the game on their terms; we play on God’s terms. At the end of the day, we are not called to win debates or humiliate the wicked. We are responsible to present people with this simple question, What will you do with Jesus?
As Christians, we love to get caught up in debates! I’ll admit it, I find them probably too enjoyable at times. But what Ken Ham showed us tonight is that sometimes the best way of winning a debate is not through burying your opponent. The best way to win is through doing what God has called you to do. And this is to prepare, present, and then step back and make much of Jesus and allow HIM to cause the true transformation. His message is always greater than ours anyways!
As I watched Mr. Ham’s mannerisms, you could sense a tremendous Spirit about him. He was gracious and the power of God showed through his life. There were multiple times I believed he could have hammered Nye on some of his inconsistencies but in my opinion chose not to. Was this a sign of weakness? On the contrary, I believe this showed incredible strength. Anyone can badger or ridicule an opponent (as I believe Mr. Nye attempted to do through referencing “Ken Ham’s Model of Creation” when roughly 60% of Americans accept it!). There are times in our ministry when we will be tempted to hammer someone. We know the facts and they do not. We always want to "get the last word" and kick ourselves for "not saying the right thing." But it is in these times I believe God is not looking for our words. He is looking for our obedience to his will. He wants us to step back and allow him to work in ways we cannot!
I know you may challenge me on my idea that “Ken Ham lost.” Totally fine – I thought he did very well! But the simple point and prayer I take away is this: God, help me to care less about winning debates with others. Help me to make more of you and less of me. Help me always to remember it is your power, not my words that change someone else’s life!
Thank you Ken Ham for making much of Jesus!
- Ezra Byer
First off, thanks to so many of you who have viewed this article! I am encouraged by the number of non-creation viewers. In response to some of your comments below, let me answer and clarify some objections.
Thanks again for your interaction and hope this is helpful in answering some of your objections. God Bless!
David Speas - Husband; Pastor; Clinton Wesleyan;
Joseph Hough - God First; Music; Evart Michigan; Coffee!
Step 1 - Confession: Confess that pornography is a sin. It hurts me and it hurts others. Studies show that it is as addicting as heroin or cocaine. I must confess that I have a problem and need help.
Step 2 - Repentance: Turn 180 degrees from pornography and to God. I must beg God for real sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation. (II Cor. 7:10-11) Many people struggle here because sex addictions cause experiences that we are likely to enjoy remembering. It’s easy to feel guilty for our sin, yet still inwardly cherish it.
Step 3 - Accountability: One of porn’s strengths is secrecy. This power is broken through exposure. (Eph. 5:11) We expose it by confessing it to a trusted pastor, counselor, spouse, or friend and having them ask us specific questions on a weekly (or even daily) basis.
Step 4 - Radical Removal: Purity precedes power! Get rid of your source or porn. (Matt. 5:29-30) Destroy magazines, movies, books, etc. Get rid of your computer, TV, iPod, phone, game consoles, etc. If you absolutely can’t get rid of these things, try accountability software, filters, and blockers on these devices. Check out www.covenanteyes.com and www.xxxchurch.com. They have some great resources in these areas.
Step 5 - Radical Replacement: (Read Luke 11:24-26) Don’t just try to cast out the “evil spirit” of pornography and fail to replace it with God, His Word, His Spirit, and daily time in worship and prayer! Enjoying God continuously is the answer! “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”(Matt. 5:6)
Step 6 - Plan: Have a battle strategy. Be prepared! The enemy loves to attack when we’re tired, lonely, depressed, and vulnerable. You’ve programmed yourself to just give in at these times. That’s what you’ll do again, if you don’t have a concrete, workable plan ready to use at a moment’s notice, and USE IT!
For more resources, check out:
Amy Weddle - Missionary; Santa Barbara, Honduras; Loves kids!
Why should I take a mission trip? I believe the better question would be, why shouldn’t I take a mission trip? Though your reasons may be numerous, I am sure I could refute them all! Why should you take a mission trip? Let’s look at the reasons…
Taking a missions trip allows you to experience the difficulties and blessings of the life of a missionary firsthand so you know how to better pray for them. Not only can you be a help to missionaries by monetary support, you can also support them in prayer! Experiencing their life gives you a better idea of what to pray for.
Even just a short time doing mission work in another country will help to broaden your perspectives and experiences in several ways. I remember my aunt, who served as a missionary in Rwanda, telling me once that missionary life helps you to see how vast God’s kingdom really is. Being in another culture and worshipping their way will truly open your eyes to a broader perspective of worship and fellowship in God’s kingdom.
Many times, missionaries can be overwhelmed by the everyday and the mundane, because of the amount of mission work they do. Even if you are not a pastor, singer, or up-front sort of person, I daresay that a missionary would just as well love your help on a more practical level!
You may not feel called to foreign missions. I encourage you – don’t let that stop you! It can truly be a life-changing experience! I never actually felt called to foreign missions, myself, but I made a promise to God that I would go wherever He led me. That has allowed me to be involved in different ministries in the States as well as foreign countries, and to currently be serving as a homeschool teacher to the three sons of a missionary couple. Though I still feel no direct call, I am in the center of God’s will, and where is a better place to be?
Joel Chopp – Husband, Theology Student, Canadian, Banjo Enthusiast
Theology does not typically enjoy scoring very high on our “important things to do today” list. This can even be true of pastors and church leaders: often the “more practical” aspects of ministry, the activities where we “get our hands dirty” crowd out the time in our day for deep, serious reflection. For some, theology doesn’t even register as an activity to be crowded out—it’s boring and divisive, and the last thing our churches need is more of it.
Though these tendencies likely stem from good motives, they’re also working with a poor definition of theology. Theology is nothing less than the exercise of holy reason in thinking and speaking well about the Triune God, and I submit that there are few activities more important than this for the life of a church, or for an individual believer. A.W. Tozer said “What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us,” in part because what we think and how we speak determines how we order our lives. A church that does not slow down to think and speak rightly about God—that is, to think and speak in accordance with his Word spoken to us—is a church that may be outwardly growing, but inwardly wasting away.
Theology is not for the academy, it is for the church. Theology is not first the professor’s job, it is the task of every disciple of Jesus. Every Christian is a student of theology because every Christian thinks and speaks about God. Today, we students have an embarrassing amount of riches at our fingertips—the works of the fathers and the scholastics, of Augustine and Anselm, of Aquinas and Arminius and Wesley and Whitfield—all at our fingertips. Take them. Read them. Drink deep and search the Scriptures: think and speak well of the Triune God.
Andrew Dahler - Engaged; Associate Pastor; OKC Tornado Relief Worker; Service Minded
1. Make time with God #1 priority – Isaiah 26:3, Joshua 1:8
Being a follower of Christ is based on a relationship. We cannot expect to grow and mature spiritually when we put our relationship with God second to ANYTHING.
2. Remember Jesus’ Sacrifice Daily – Rom 8:3-4
Why do we only get defensive when people say “Happy Holidays” during Christmas, but completely disregard the other 11 months of the year where Jesus life is ignored?
3. Give more of our lives in service – 1 Pet 4:8; Acts 20:35
For every 40hrs of work that we spend meeting our needs, spend 1hr meeting the needs of others.
4. Remember what we have is not ours – 1 Peter 5:2-3; Matthew 25:36-40
What if we truly loved our neighbors, the drug addicts, the homeless, that dirty guy in Arby’s, the way we loved ourselves?
5. Remember: “Happiness is a Choice” – Jn 14:27
What if we lived everyday choosing to be happy, and wear a smile, no matter the circumstances?
6. Plan ahead to spend more time “away” – Psalm 23:2-3
Your work will never be “complete.” Jesus got away from the crowd; even when it wasn’t convenient, and even when he was still needed.
7. Make our lives more beautiful – Psalm 19:1
We all love beauty. What if we decided to add beauty and enjoyment to our everyday lives?
8. Spend time with our families – 1 Tim 5:8
What difference would it make if we decided to make family time a priority?
9. Fill our minds with uplifting media – Phil 4:8
How different would our attitudes be if we chose to ONLY listen to uplifting, encouraging things?
10. Choose to grow daily – 1 Peter 2:2
Chose to grow one new way every day! Decide to not go to bed the same person you woke up as!
Titus Byer - Family man; Pastor; Outdoor guy; Canadian; Snowmobiling
Having two boys ages three and one, I doubt there will be much about this season that will be remembered 20 years from now. Furthermore, I cannot give to you a narrated account of my own Christmas 20 years ago at the age of nine. However, when I think back to my own childhood, there are some things that I do remember. Things that I feel are important to shape. I use the word “shape” because unless I am intentional, by default I handle the stress and business of the season with an attitude that demonstrates neither peace on earth nor good will towards man!
First off, I want the Christmas season for my boys to be filled with very unique memories of the things we only do at Christmas time. This is what makes the season special! I want them to remember setting up our little nativity, hearing the story of Jesus, and sleeping around the tree the night we set it up. I want them to remember sleigh rides pulled by a snowmobile. Yes this is what Christmas looks like – at least in Michigan!
Secondly, I want my sons’ Christmases to be marked by what they don’t remember. I hope they don’t remember this as a stressful time where dad was only focused on getting the church Christmas program “just right”. I hope my boys don’t remember a tearful Mamma who was under pressure to not spend too much money on gifts because their parents failed to have a planned budget for Christmas. I hope they don’t remember a dad who grumbled every year he put up the lights on the outside of the house. In short, I hope they remember joy. While I do not remember every event of my childhood Christmas, I keenly remember the spirit of those around me – whether it was joy or frustration.
In summary, I pray that God would make me intentional. Beautiful Christmas traditions do not just “happen.” They are planned. As I write this, two little fists just handed me a blanket, a book, and then begged to be picked up. Once again I am faced with a decision. Spread the yuletide joy to my one-year-old, or stress out about an article I have due! God grant me the grace to demonstrate the Christ of “Christmas” to my children.