Should Ministers Have A Secular Job?

As a full time minister, Michael Brooks article, Can The Church Afford Full Time Ministers is both scary and very challenging!! Here are some snipets…

The efficiency of allowing ministers to focus solely on ministry tasks is a valuable asset for churches. Yet, a minister’s sole reliance on the church’s financial resources creates issues. For instance, the minister lives under the reality of needing to retain and/or grow membership to retain and/or grow the amount of fiscal resources needed by the church. The majority in many situations goes toward salary and benefits. While numeric growth is desired, its necessity to meet salary obligations is a less than optimal motivation…..Paul speaks to these questions in 1 Corinthians. His take on the subject is that a worker is worth their wage, but Paul, at least, was not obligated or motivated to follow this advice, especially with the Corinthians. While on occasion Paul did accept monetary gifts it was not his normal practice. Instead, he employed a supplementary method of providing for his needs; namely tent-making. More importantly, he believed his entrance into such a financial relationship would hinder the Gospel.

Paul’s self-severance from the purse strings of the church stands in stark contrast to the majority of ministers today…..

Paul’s reason for not taking funds from the Corinthians was the Gospel. He was able to accept his financial reality without accepting financial culpability with a church that resembles many today. Paul would rather do without than handicap the soul-piercing possibility of a thoroughly gospel centered ministry.

In contemporary Christianity this reason comes across as old-fashion if not misguided. Has it become more fashionable or important to draw a salary that pays for the privileges of contemporary society, than to have the freedom to stand for the Gospel in all its permutations?

The motivation here is not belligerence, but to expose a flaw in how ministers think about their finances vis-à-vis the gospel. No doubt, many if given the option to stand for the Gospel, or be paid better and/or retain their job would insist on the former. However, many think they can have both. The truth is maybe they cannot.

 

 

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God In A Brothel: An Undercover Journey Into Sex Trafficking And Rescue by Daniel Walker

Daniel Walker’s account of his undercover journey into the world of sex trafficking is very powerful. Here is a man committed to trying to make an impact into this incredibly degrading and harmful industry. His story is moving on so many levels – the stories he tells of the young women; the struggles and conflicts he faced while undercover and trying to free them; the burden he carried for those he could not help; and the temptations which he faced and the boundaries he crossed.

You will cry, and you will be moved. You will feel anger and frustration as you read. You will feel immense sadness at the cost Daniel pays at the end of the book. But for me, the feeling i came away with is one of confusion and some shame. With a global church consisting of billions of Christians and resources in the trillions, why are people like Daniel Walker fighting this fight, and battling this battle seemingly on their own. I know there are many involved with the fight – but there should be more. Sex trafficking is lucrative because there are people who want to pay for the sex. The whole Church needs to be aware of what is going on and the whole Church needs to be involved, in varying levels, in fighting this fight and ending this practice.

Highly recommended!

Notes On A Recent Sermon Based On: Ezekiel 18; Phil 2 & Matt 21 – Part 2

The reality and incredible power of the Cross and of the wonder of the salvation which God offers humanity is because Jesus acted.

He gave up an intimate, face to face relationship with his Father, he gave up independent authority, submitting himself entirely under God while he lived as a human being. He set aside his divine attributes and came under the spirit’s direction. He left behind eternal riches, living as a poor man. He even gave up his favorable relationship with God, being willing to face the anger of God for our sins.

He acted in a selfless manner, humbling himself.

And he did that for you and he did that me.

And Paul calls us – the Church, throughout the ages, to be of the same mind.

Why? Because is this lies the true and incredible power of the Church. Here is how the church begins to change a community. Here is how the church begins to change a culture. Here is how the church begins to change a nation.

When we live out the radical nature of the gospel, when we follow in the foot steps of our Lord in how we live and how we act with one another, then there is a powerful testimony released into the world:

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

Can you imagine what would happen if we begin to live this out in our daily lives, if these truths became a part of our very DNA. Can you imagine what would happen inside the church, and within the community if we lived this out? We would, I believe, begin to see God work and move in a remarkable way.

As we start to have the same mind of Christ, and that starts to manifest itself in our actions, our witness will be a powerful one because we will truly start to be the representatives of Christ, in body mind and spirit, not living in the past, but ministering in the present.

As we gather each week to worship and honor God, and to encourage, comfort and build each other up in fellowship, we should be doing so with the cry of ‘Lord, take what I know in my mind, and make it real in my life, helping me to live it out each day for your glory.”

As the Psalm says Show me your ways O Lord and TEACH me your paths. LEAD me in your truth and TEACH me.

The issue is not that we believe – but what we do out of that belief. Will we act in the name of Jesus? Will we be the people, the church, the blessing, the message that God wants us to be here in this area. Will we step out and do the things God is calling us to do for his Kingdom? Will we be a church that is of one mind, united by love and humility and looking out for the interests of each other and those whom we encounter on a daily basis?

This is not about effort. This is not about trying harder. This is not about being more enthusiastic. Our Psalm this morning says:

SHOW me your ways O Lord and TEACH me your paths. LEAD me in your truth and TEACH me.

All this must come from the Spirit of God that is within us. If we try and act our faith out of our own strength we will become tired, burnt out and disillusioned. If we try and live out of our own strength we will soon lose the joy of our salvation.

All that we are and all that we are to be must come from the desire for the Lord to show us HIS ways, to be taught HIS paths, to be lead in HIS truths. It’s not our ways, it’s not our paths, it’s not our ways that matter, but his.

In order to have the same mind as Christ we need to have Christ in us. We need to be engaging with him personally on a daily basis. We need to be spending time with him, opening our hearts, minds and ears to be willing to hear from him. We need to know his character, his love, his passion, his compassion if we are to have the mind of Christ. We need to start with each of us and our relationship with God – and then it flows over into our fellowship, exercising our faith, encouraging, building up and supporting each other. And then that over flows into our work, our neighborhoods, into our community.

It begins with us. Let us now go into the vineyard to work, with the same mind as Christ.

It begins here. It begins now.

Notes From A Recent Sermon Based On: Ezekiel 18; Phil 2 & Matt 21 – Part 1

How would you describe the Church in the west today? Vibrant? Powerful? Weak? Disappointing?

Some people look at the church in the west today and see a mess. The church does not seem to represent Jesus’ words to Peter “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” In some parts of the western today it seems that the gates of hell are making good inroads into the church.

In England, church attendance is below 6% of the population and dropping. If you rely on statistics, you will be told that the Methodist Church will cease to be a viable denomination by 2015 if current levels of decline remain.

Some theologians have used the words ‘anemic’ to refer to the church in the West

Is the church today what the apostles envisioned when they began to spread the gospel across the Mediterranean world? Is the church what it should be?

It is too easy to get into self pity or even the blame game about the state of the church today, whether in the UK, or the USA, be it The Church of England, Episcopal, Baptist or Presbyterian.

Why are we in the mess we are in? Why is the Church seemingly weak? What happened? Are we paying the price for a previous generations errors?

The Israelite exiles were asking the same questions. They were blaming their forefathers for the mess they found themselves in. They were even angry with God that he continued to judge them, for something they claimed was not their fault.

Yet Ezekiel challenges them and tells them that the issue is not what happened in the past but what is happening in the present. The Israelites may well complain about their forefathers mistakes, but the real issue is what about THEIR relationship with God – Are THEY following his ways and being the people of God they are meant to be?

Ezekiel tells them they are not.

The past cannot be changed. However the prophets do teach us that the past is not irrevocable. The issue is never what has happened – but what will we do now, today. The past does not need to hold us in it’s grip. The consequences of the past need not be the norm of the present.

Ezekiel tells the exiles to forget their forefathers – focus on YOUR own relationship with God. How are YOU and God doing..

A similar problem was rife with the Pharisees. Their obsession with their own status and position, as opposed to those whom they regarded as sinners, blinded them to the fact that while they thought themselves to be righteous, they were not. Jesus tells them that mental ascent to belief, or even verbal agreement with the truth does not mean they will act on the truth, or even recognize it when it appears to them. Just like the exiles who believed in God, but were not living in that belief, Jesus challenges the Pharisees that unless they do the things that God has asked to be done then they are not in God’s favor. The fact they do not love their neighbor, or help the poor, or support the widow shows clearly their true heart.

And those whom the Pharisees despised, Jesus says, the sinners, the religious impure, these people, who are doing the work of God are saved.

If we kept everything we believed purely internally – if all our ethics, morality, loves, hates, passions, likes dislikes, if we kept them purely in our heads – if we only accented to them mentally and maybe at times verbally expressed then but NEVER acted on them what would the world be like?

We might all mentally agree that the disaster in the Sudan is tragic. But what would happen if that thought stayed in our heads? There would be no relief, no action, no compassion.

What about justice and truth? What would the world be like if we simply agreed that something was unjust in our mind and never said anything or did anything?

What would happen to marriages if we just mentally agreed we loved our spouse but never said it or acted like it?

Mental accent alone is almost always meaningless.

To only think something is true will have no bearing on anyone, or anything.

To agree with, or believe in something in mind only is meaningless because it has no action and therefore it does not become real.

(Part 2 tomorrow)

Another Great Devotional…

President Reagan said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.” Yet in our eagerness to please God we take on responsibilities that are “too heavy… to handle… by [ourselves]” (Ex 18:18 NLT). Moses was spending every waking minute listening to complaints from long lines of people. Finally his father-in-law said “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people too” and advised him to appoint capable leaders to help carry the load (v22). It was a win win situation; the people got help faster and Moses became a better leader. One Bible teacher writes” “One of our greatest challenges…is determining what God doesn’t want us to do! We love God, we love His people, and we see many needs. But sometimes good intentions cause more harm than good…When you become aware of a need, don’t automatically assume God wants you to meet it. The only reason to perform ministry is when God clearly tells you it’s his will. If you’re overwhelmed…you’re probably doing more than God asked. Pray about the assignments you take on, so you don’t rob yourself and others of God’s best.” Jon Walker adds, “imagine if God created you to be the Michelangelo of this age, but you stayed so busy doing all kinds of things – good things – that you never got round to painting and sculpting. You’d end up missing the best because you got distracted chasing the good. What a disappointment…for God…and for all the people who would have been blessed if you’d stayed focused on your original purpose.” Learn to delegate. Release the burdens God never meant you to carry, and focus on what He called you to do.

Change Can Happen For You – A Devotional

The devotionals I am sharing on this blog come from The Word For You Today .

Here are two life changing principles: 1. You must be willing to change unconditionally. In the early stages of therapy counselors bump into the ‘change – if’ syndrome. The client sees change as a strategy of give-to-get” “I’ll change if they are willing to do… if not, I won’t.” With God, your reward for changing is intrinsic. You get the joy of his approval, plus all the benefits that follow from being a changed person. This includes God’s gift of ‘slave to put on your eyes, so you can see.’ (Rev 3:18). The ability to see things clearly will enable you to understand the problem and deal with it effectively, regardless of what someone else does or doesn’t do. 2. You must accept the truth that change means letting go of the past. Whatever you cling to ultimately controls you. If the offense resulted from your actions, or the loss from your poor judgment, confess it to God, receive forgiveness and leave it at the cross. If it was the other person’s fault but you’ve held onto it because you think you’re the innocent party and ‘deserve your pound of flesh’ the freedom you forfeit and the options you miss are too high a price for the false comfort of being right. ‘Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Eph 4:32) will release you from the chains of resentment and give you back your future. If you’re bound by chains of regret over ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ God stands ready to make your future better than your past could ever have been (Joel 2:25).

Seeing Is Believing: Experience Jesus through Imaginative Prayer by Gregory A. Boyd

To the consternation of many of my friends, I really like Greg Boyd. He is a smart, thoughtful and passionate for Jesus.

This book is a defence of imaginative prayer, or cataphatic prayer.

Why don’t Christians live in the freedom and joy of the gospel? Boyd argues it is because information about the gospel does not transform you. You can believe in your mind that 2 Cor 5:17 is true – you are a new creation, but that will not enable you to become a new creation.

Boyd argues:

We tend to have a naive conviction that if only we read

another book or get involved in another Bible study,

our lives will be significantly changed. As a matter of

fact, this is not the case at all. Indeed, contemporary Western Christians are as a whole arguably

the most informed generation of Christians in all of church history.Yet no one would be so foolish as to

suggest that we are the most transformed.To the contrary, research suggests that the faith of American

evangelicals generally has very little effect on our day-to-day lives.

Boyd also says:

The most fundamental reason why believers do not experience who they are in Christ, and thus don’t 
experience the peace they can have in Christ, is that their experienced self-identity is rooted in the 
flesh.Their experienced self-identity is not in line with their true identity as believers in Christ. 
The way they see and experience themselves, and thus the way they see and experience God and the world, 
is not in conformity with the way things actually are. They are to some degree caught in the web of deception 
that is the flesh.They intellectually believe the truth, but they do not experience the truth as real and thus 
do not consistently live according to truth.
 

The book is about how to experience the truth of KNOWING who you are in Christ. I confess that I found the book a blessing and very helpful as I read it. And I think there is much in this book which can be helpful, even for those who do not like Boyd’s theological position. He firmly states that there is NOTHING we can do to achieve our status in Christ and the Church and Western Christianity has preached for too long, and with damaging consequences a “try harder” message.

What the “try harder” solution does is confuse the effect with the cause. It puts the caboose before the engine. It implicitly assumes that what the believer does determines who the believer is, rather than vice versa. It makes behavior the means to acquiring a new identity rather than making a new identity the means of acquiring new behavior.

This book challenges us to quit trying harder, and to enter into the reality of what Christ HAS done and is doing in us. Let me finish with a final quote from Boyd which I think summarizes his position well:

The key to experiencing the peace of God as an ongoing reality in our lives, then, is not in trying hard to achieve it. This can only make us more anxious! The key, rather, is to cease from our own striving and let the Holy Spirit do his work in pointing us to Jesus. The key is in allowing the Holy Spirit to make Christ real to us and to rest, just as we are, in this reality. In doing this we allow the Holy Spirit to overcome deception in our lives with truth, performance in our lives with grace, hiddenness in our lives with openness, and thus destruction in our lives with wholeness. As we through the power of the Spirit experience the peace Jesus offers us as we are, in the midst of all our anxiety, the peace that characterizes his life becomes ours by grace. As we behold the glory of his peace, we are transformed into this peace from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).