Your Spouse Is Not a Commodity

As time goes by, I see a dangerous trend in relationships – the other person is used strictly for what he/she can give while the other is always on the receiving end. Relationships are not about taking. Someone once told me that relationships are not 50-50. Both people give 100%. Let me explain this a little.

Your spouse was not designed to be your cook or maid. It’s nice that one may perform those duties, but I have seen in my personal experience that together works better than solo. I know this goes against southern American traditional spousal roles, but that is man made culture. You don’t lose man points for washing dishes or doing laundry. Men just might be amazed at how their wives would respond if they did these kinds of things.

Your spouse is not designed for your personal pleasure. I’m not saying that sex isn’t a part of marriage, but you won’t get anywhere by demanding you receive pleasure and you’re not willing to reciprocate. I’m not being crude here. I see too many couples that have one party that is selfish. If you want to ruin your marriage, treat your spouse like a sex object and not a person. 

Your spouse is not a paycheck. He/she is a person. Don’t let him/her bring in all the money and you spend it and some. Don’t rack up credit card bills while the other person is working hard to make ends meet. You don’t need fancy clothes, a nice car, or certain material possessions. The bare necessities are just fine.

These are just a few things that I have seen ruin marriages. These principles do not just apply to a young generation. Older people are selfish too. If you are going to function selfishly, become selfless or stay out of a relationship until you grow up.

What the De-Churched Are Looking For

As many of you know, I have spent the last nine months searching for a place to plant my roots since I resigned the last church I served. When people find out I was once a worship leader and senior pastor, they look at me like I have sinned against God and something must be wrong with me. Because of my pursuit to find something more than a place to plant my rear end for an hour, my desires for a church have been very high. Because of the criticism that is prevalent within the denomination that ordained me, I have found some great pastors whose congregations possess the same religious spirit I (and God) abhor. Had I not prayed and seen that some churches exist that are healthy, I would have just settled into one of the churches that contacted me about employment or one pastored by a friend. The bottom line is that I must obey the Lord.

I have discovered that some of my friends who are de-churched are looking for the same things this ordained minister desires. Forget the stereotypes about these people going to hell in a hand basket. Here are some characteristics:

1. They tried the megachurch and long for authentic church. I had someone say to me this week that she’s not looking for lights and smoke machines. She tried that and wants the days when church was a genuine community of believers trying to please God. 

2. They want something real. Forget the religious jargon that preachers use to impress people who aren’t impressed by it. 

3. While they want programs for the family, they want simple church. Forget the frills. When it comes down to it, they want an Acts 2 experience with people they can share life with – brothers and sisters in Christ who are there for them at their worst. 

It’s time to quit condemning these people. Jesus doesn’t hate them, and neither should we. That love just might help them find the church community for which they long.

Wanted: Young Pastor

Almost four years ago, I was contacted by the first and only church I pastored. I’m not exactly sure why they chose me. The spiritual answer is that God led them. The committee members were good people, but most churches conduct a survey and want a certain type of guy. The committee has the daunting task to try to find him. I honestly thought the church would vote no. I want to share some thoughts on why many churches choose young pastors and then share some characteristics about young pastors in case any search committee members read this.

Reasons (I believe) churches pick young pastors:

1. Churches can pay them less. I must admit I was well taken care of, so that didn’t apply to me. However, I know churches that pick young guys so they can starve them and “spiritually” justify it.

2. Churches can train them the way they want them. At 32, I wasn’t so trainable. I had my philosophy set before I got there, so I wasn’t budging. I had a higher Boss than the church.

3. Older members (or members with “power”) can intimidate them. I had quite a few people try to intimidate me. I knew that they were praying for me to leave after I didn’t give in. I was not for sale. 

Qualities in young pastors:

1. They care more about leading people to Christ than appeasing the existing members. That may sound horrible to you, but you should care about the same thing. If you as a church unify around the same purpose, you’ll see that glue bond the church.

2. They care more about obeying God than bowing down to the denominational gods and playing denominational politics. Some do aspire to be leaders within the association, state convention, and national convention. However, many see a bigger picture than following the denominational calendar and doing all the churches a traditional, long-standing member of a particular denomination would do.

3. They care more about God’s kingdom than their own. I’m not saying that some young pastors aren’t trying to build a résumé, but many see a bigger picture than just trying to grow their church. They put jealousy aside, cooperate with other churches, and celebrate the growth of other churches. 

4. They want less government in churches. Churches have become much like our country and are slaves to the governmental system. Fifteen committees have to pray about something, then the deacons have to discuss it for a few months, then the congregation has a 45-minute meeting to get everyone’s opinion on it, followed by the cold-water committee who ruins the excitement while quenching the Spirit of God. In essence, the great idea God put within the pastor got shot down because people wanted control and got their way. This extreme church governmental system is found NOWHERE in the Bible! 

Why some young pastors won’t work out:

1. They are treated as outsiders. They may be brought from another state and aren’t accepted as locals. They are the hired hands who will be called when they think he needs to put marriages back together or restore their children back to God. If you aren’t going to accept the out of town pastor and family, leave him alone and call a local boy.

2. Their philosophy of ministry is different, and the church will not consider changing. I discovered that my idea of congregational government and the church’s idea were extremely opposite. I was fighting a losing battle. Had my marriage not disintegrated, I was going to resign anyway. 

What I would suggest to young pastors:

1. Know you have a calling to that particular church. Although I experienced turbulence, I knew I had a mission for that 11-month period. I felt like a failure for a long time, but I see now that God paved the way for a new pastor to do what I couldn’t.

2. Ask the committee the hard questions. It doesn’t hurt. You do not have to go to that church. It’s better to hash that out before than to become a ministry casualty.

3. Find out the church’s history. I contacted 3 people who all told me the same thing. I would recommend calling the ones who had the bad experiences also. If God wants you somewhere, His voice will be louder.

A person is not the answer to the church. The presence and power of God are the answers. We need strong Bible preaching, Christ-centered worship, and selfless people who want God’s will above their own. We need people who will obey God’s will, even if it makes them unpopular with other church members (which could include family). 

I Am Replaceable

I think we have all had someone say to us, “What would I do without you?” That statement can so easily make negative pride swell within us. The truth is that God will use someone else if he doesn’t use me. 

There is a negative trend in Christianity where churches are built upon pastors than on Christ. I placed my identity in my job as a pastor or worship leader and my “success”. When I knew that the enemy had devoured my family and I would no longer pastor the church, I prepared the church in my preaching that they could easily do without me and that if I lost everything, I would still have Jesus. I didn’t understand how deeply I would need to cling to this truth.

The bottom line is that God delights when you are humble. Your arrogance might impress some people, but some event will come along and knock the wind out of your sails. 

If you think that the world can’t do without you, remember the truth. It is an honor and joy that God would use you. Enjoy every day with the knowledge of that truth!

“Friends” (A Lunch Break Meditation)

For many years, I didn’t let people get very close to me. I didn’t trust many people. Some people had betrayed me, so I had a wall up. Eventually, I realized that I had to let the wall down in order to minister effectively. My greatest “friends” were pastors and church leaders who said they would stand by me “come hell or high water”. Where are they now? I learned that if I couldn’t do anything for them or they didn’t have to contact me, I was no longer of value. 

My circle of friends has changed now. There are those who have stuck with me for severa years. I don’t see them frequently, but we always pick up where we left off. Some are new. Some are people I least expected. The possibility is that anything could happen to sever those ties, but God gives grace to move forward and new people to fill those gaps.

I am constantly reminded that Jesus is the greatest Friend I have. He has never failed me nor will he ever. Focus on Him. People will disappoint you and stab you in the back. Don’t become a hermit! Just realize that people are people and move on.

I want to leave you with a song. The lyrics will minister to you.

I Don’t (Part 3) – Toxic Environments

When my previous marriage was coming to a point of separation, I sought the advice of a pastor. This pastor told me that if I were to potentially reconcile my marriage, I needed to leave the church I pastored because it was a toxic environment. The word “toxic” never crossed my mind, but a minority was beginning to make it impossible to move forward. I had several encouragers, but the voices of the naysayers were louder. My children would hear church members say mean things about me when no one knew they were around. It took about 2 years to heal from an 11-month period.

Someone who is reading this today may be in a toxic environment. I am not saying take the easy route and leave immediately. I am saying that if you have done everything possible, it may be best for your health (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) to remove yourself. This may be a workplace, church, abusive situation, etc. I don’t know, but pray it through. 

Many never get the help they need because they accept their toxic environment as normal. Get out and find a healthy place where you can become the person God wants you to be. Whatever you do, make sure God has led you to that point.

Nine Months

Nine months ago today, I resigned my previous church ministry. I had no idea what I was going to do, but God made it clear that I must go. The funny thing about it was the rumors that followed. You may even develop some of your own as I share the journey.

When I resigned the church, my wife and I were courting but had not set a date. We knew it would be close, but not just a few days away. The pastor with whom we consulted was ready to perform the wedding on the spot because he had counseled my wife through her previous divorce. I resign on Sunday, get married on Friday…sounds fishy, doesn’t it? My boss jokingly said she was tracking down the days if we announced a baby anytime soon. A little over two months later, we found out we were five weeks along. Just got better, right? 

The title would have never given anyone the idea that I would take a minute to talk about rumors and slander. God hates it! But I have discovered one thing – people believe what they want to believe no matter what. The important thing is that you can go to sleep with a pure conscience because your heart is clean. 

I knew that people would talk when these things happened, but I knew I obeyed God every step of the way. Forget what others are saying (easier said than done)! God knows the truth, and He will reveal everything one day. Rest assured in that truth today!

What Is a Lie?

I know this sounds like a stupid question, but the answers vary widely in this day when anything goes. Here is how Wikipedia defines it: 

“A lie is a statement that the stating party believes to be false and that is made with the intention to deceive.”

What I want to examine is why people lie.

1. People lie because they have something to hide. It might be an affair, financial fraud, or anything that is viewed negatively. Nevertheless, the liar wants to hide the facts.

2. People lie because they’re too cowardly to face the consequences. They don’t mind doing the crime, but don’t you dare mention doing the time. Everything has consequences, and they will come back to bite you.

3. People lie to make themselves look good. It may be about their education, “character”, or some way to make themselves look nice so people will like them. If I see through your lie, you have lost my respect. I will tolerate you, but I will have a hard time trusting you.

4. People lie to keep from hurting your feelings (and keep themselves from looking mean in the process). You may be a horrible singer, but a liar will tell you how great you are and tell the first person who will listen about how your singing damaged their hearing. 

5. People will lie to get things done. I’ve had bosses manipulate me into thinking one thing so they could get what they want.

Lying is NEVER justified!!! It violates God’s character. God is truth! When we deceive, we are doing the same exact thing the devil did in the Garden of Eden. So what if you might hurt someone’s feelings? Speak the truth in love and for their benefit! Tell the truth about yourself. If you were the nastiest hooker in the county, admit it! If the truth will get you in trouble, have the guts to admit it and take the consequences like a big boy or girl! Leave the truth out in the open so you won’t have to hide one thing after the other. Lies are like snowballs going downhill. They will get bigger, and you won’t be able to keep up with the damage control. Bottom line: tell the truth at all times and go to bed with a clean conscience.

I Don’t (Part 2) – Saying No to Toxic People

It seems like everywhere we turn, we encounter toxic people. What are toxic people? Note what this article has to say about it: “According to Gale, it’s common for people with toxic behavior to: create drama in their lives or be surrounded by it; try to manipulate or control others; be needy (“it is all about them all the time”); use others to meet their needs (such as “narcissistic parents”); be extremely critical of themselves and others; be jealous and envious of others, bemoaning their bad fortune and others’ good fortune; abuse substances or harm themselves in other ways, and be unwilling (or unable) to seek help from loved ones, a therapist or a recovery program.”

I saw a trend in my own life when I wanted to fix people. The problem was that they didn’t want to be fixed. They knew their lives were dysfunctional, but they did not want to take the steps to get out of their mess. There comes a time when you have to say “NO!” to these toxic, narcissistic, self-absorbed people. Let them suck the life out of someone else.

For those spiritual folks, I know you feel like toxic people might be your calling. If you know God has strategically placed you in someone’s life and vice versa, set boundaries! Also, don’t enable them! Give them the tools they need to function by themselves. 

I can’t tell you how many people I deal with in ministry settings that want me to make everything better. I can’t! Jesus can, but you and I have our part too. God doesn’t bless laziness!

The truth is that some folks cannot emotionally handle toxic people. They are not strong enough. The Bible says in I Corinthians 15:33 that “evil company corrupts good habits”. In other words, toxic people will pull you down. 

Am I saying to avoid toxic people like the plague? No! But know yourself and your boundaries. If you are the superhero type, you may want to back off. Pray for them, but they must take the initiative to detox. Remember that Jesus is the Savior, not you!