It’s definitely not (Basic. Instructions. Before. Leaving. Earth.) That’s laughable and falls way short. Remember… “The Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us.” The Word is the Creator in tangible form.
The Creator of all, engaged 40 ‘writers’ who did not know each other, who were spread out on 3 continents, over a 1500 year time span, all sharing details that validate each other’s message received. Even if some got added, or some got lost over the centuries…the person of Jesus and it’s main message did not.
At its minimum The Bible is a library loaded with tragedy and triumph, hero’s and horrors of mankind that will capture your intrigue and capture better than a movie.
I have read it, studied it, prayed through it, and critical-eyed it. At its fullness, It is alive and relevant. Cutting. Life changing. The Scripture, in its completeness, is Jesus prompting you to rise and shine and live life to its full. It’s your wisest friend of hope, and your greatest rebuke of correction.
Have you just read it? Don’t just read it. Listen deeply to it. Slow down. Clothe yourself in it and with it. Take it in…Slow down in this short life! What’s your hurry? What are you working so hard towards? Where you going? How fast did your last 20 years go by? Your next 20 will go faster and then what?
Absorb The Word with the faith of a child…Daily, for the rest of your life. Don’t doctrinize it, systematize it, or theologize it like some foolish worldly education standard.
Then you will fully be as you were created to be. It will be the greatest challenge of your entire life and you will celebrate its accomplishment in you for eternity with the others who did the same.
Maturity in Jesus is best described as a joyful friendship with Him.
I am mature in Jesus. It’s my job to make others want to become mature in Jesus. It is my job to remain mature in Jesus.
I must never stop continually maturing in Jesus.
It’s my job to keep the attitude that I am not the owner of anything, and simply a faithful steward of all things owned by God.
It’s my job to look after the church family and be the standard for obeying Jesus’s teachings and commands. I pray others will see my example and be inspired to replicate it.
It’s my job to keep my act together.
It’s my job to keep my faith like a child’s.
It’s my job to keep finding new ways of looking at the world, getting in the world, and helping others of the world want to experience the remarkable forgiveness of Jesus.
Even if all my friends believe they’ve arrived and it’s time for someone else to sacrifice. Even if all my friends have quit and left me. I will keep my job, my focus, my determination.
I must never settle. I will never retire from the work of changing the populations of heaven and hell.
There are so many who will be separated from Jesus for eternity if I choose to ignore the above standard.
This is my Job. It is my choice.
I am a Follower of Jesus.
This writing is a modification of segments of Dave Grossman’s book titled, “On Killing.”
I hope my bringing attention to his book, helps him sell a few more. If you’d like to buy his book, “On Killing” just click this link, or click the picture to the right. Anything in “italicized quotes” below will be direct quotes from the book.
If you’d prefer to simply watch me preach this exact post…just click on this link. Advance the video to the 7 minute mark to get right to this material.
This post is meant for the Church, aka… followers of Jesus. Its a direct look at the roles that are played under the umbrella of christendom.
Its important to start by saying…Holiness never grows old. Holiness makes the heart, soul, mind, and strength of a human…Whole. There is nothing quite like the created, living as the Creator intended. To be a follower of Jesus sometimes means social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or, in many parts of the world, the ultimate sacrifice of a martyrs death.
With a quarter century of Church leadership in my rearview mirror…I have learned to identify 4 types of people in and outside of the church body.
Most of the people in christendom are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive people who mostly only hurt one another by accident. What this means is that the vast majority of Church-goers are not inclined to hurt one another. I suppose, if you’ve listened to enough stories, one might think that Churches are full of hypocrites, hucksters, and hurtful people. Its simply not true. Those stories are just more fun to tell, because our human-ness, oddly, is magnetically attentive to the gore stories.
The stories of christian hypocrisy would have us believe that we may well be in the most dysfunctional times of Church history, but the facts are… Church harm is still remarkably rare. This is because most christians are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. The title is fitting…sheep. I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. The Bible calls them sheep, too. Sheep, after all, are wonderful creatures.
The other spectrum beholds the wolves. Wolves feed on the sheep mercilessly. There are evil people in the Church, and in the world, and they are capable of evil deeds. Lucifer is undoubtably the leader of wolves. The moment you forget there are wolves or pretend they don’t affect you, you become a sheep.
Jesus, while on earth as a man, was the Great Shepherd. There are some in the Church that are shepherds as well. These shepherds are wonderful people. The shepherd is a protector-gatherer. The shepherd uses voice to protect and gather, shepherds are willing to lay down their life for the sheep. The shepherd is absolutely a wonderful person.
If you have no capacity for violence and are a healthy contributing Church goer, then you are remarkably a sheep or a shepherd.
If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for people, then you are an aggressive or even a passive aggressive sociopath, a wolf.
But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for those inside and outside the body of Christ? What are you then? You are a sheepdog. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal realm of human dread, stare the wolf in the eyes and not look away, and end up walking out with scars of glory as evidence of being a sheepdog…you probably even walk with a limp, and some sheep, confuse it to be a strut. It is no strut…it is a limp. The greatest sheepdogs walk with a limp.
The sheep, shepherd, and the wolves are always alert as to the sheepdog’s location. The shepherd needs the sheepdog and the sheepdog needs the Great Shepherd.
We know that the sheep live in an innocent form of denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to face, or for some sheep, acknowledge, that there is real evil in the world. They can accept the fact that sin causes problems, which is why they want recovery groups for those people, youth Groups to save their kids, and secure Church buildings to gather as the flock, so they can be fed by a good shepherd.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. A sheepdog looks kinda like a wolf. The sheepdog has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The Church cannot work any other way and it is clear in 1 Corinthians 5. It can be very easy for a sheepdog to turn into a wolf. This is why the sheepdog needs The Great Shepherd in close proximity as all times.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep and makes the shepherd nervous. The sheepdog is a constant reminder that there are wolves nearby. The sheep would prefer that the sheepdog didn’t tell them where to go, or warn them of impending dangers, here, or in eternity. The sheep would prefer the sheepdog didn’t direct them towards obedience to the commands of The Great Shepherd. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog grind down his fangs, purchase a sheep costume at the local Goodwill, zip himself up in it, and make sounds of, “Baa,” and fit into the flock a little more submissively.
Until the wolf shows up.
Then the entire mob of sheep tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The local shepherds, typically are impactful at feeding the sheep. The sheep under ordinary circumstances stay in the middle of the pasture and do their job as sheep. They are good sheep that feed the hungry, cloth the naked, love the orphan and widow, pay what is necessary to do more of such. In their sheep-ness, they don’t have the time of day for the sheepdog. Until the wolf pack comes within sight. The sheepdog nearly gets dog piled by the sheep as they seek to be safe. This is how the sheep and the shepherd act towards the sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.
Please understand…there is nothing superior about the sheepdog; it is just what someone chooses to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a carefully distant creature. The sheepdog is always looking at the edge of the woods, the horizon, just over the hill, out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, looking into the dark, staying on the edges, and always prepared for a righteous battle.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, they don’t plan for it, talk about it, or even like to think about it. The sheepdog knows the wolf is close and has been prepared for an attack every since the day it decided to become a sheepdog. For a different perspective… “After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep and shepherds, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.”
Once you choose to become a sheepdog, you make a decision to truly invest yourself in all that a sheepdog is about. You want to be there when the wolf shows up. You want to be able to make a difference. After all, eternity is at stake, and heaven and hell are in the balance.
I repeat…there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, but it does have one real advantage. Only one. The sheepdog is never attacked by the wolf. Wolves target victims by their body language. slumped walk, passive nature, lack of awareness to surroundings…Sheep. Sheepdogs stand tall, head up, shoulders back, aware, keen, sharp, armored up like Ephesians 6:10-18 demands! Truly living under the shield of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
On a side note…some might think they remember seeing a sheepdog getting attacked by a wolf. Nope! If you think this, you just didn’t notice the wolf was actually just a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Oh yes, you heard that right. Wolves don’t attack the sheepdog. Only sheep who pretending to be a wolf are dumb enough to attack a sheepdog. However… There’s really no such thing as a sheep in wolf’s clothing…there’s only wolves.
Some people may be naturally lured to be sheep and others might be environmentally conditioned to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m encouraged to say that more and more followers of Jesus are choosing to become sheepdogs like the forefathers of the faith…the ones referenced in the Hall of Faith found in Hebrews chapter 11 of the Holy Bible.
“Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.”
A critical point to make is this… “In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you choose to be a sheep, shepherd, sheepdog, or a wolf. It is a conscious, moral decision.”
“If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to resist you and make you continually flee with your tail tucked between your legs, you will have no safety, no trust and you will eternally hunger for love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip, and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door…you are always preparing for that moment!
And so the sheepdog must strive to confront denial in all aspects of life, and prepare themselves for the day when evil comes. If you are sheepdog who is immersed in the Double Edged Sword called the Holy Bible, and you, for even a short moment, forget, ignore, and reject your weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the wolf will not come today. In this spiritual world we live in, there is no down time when it comes to carrying your weapon with you. Even when you rest, you must rest on, in, and with, the Word of God, within your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you disagree with me about this, all I ask of you is tip your head back and say this…
This business of being a sheep, a shepherd, or a sheepdog is not a yes-no ultimatum. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice.
It is a matter of degrees, a pendulum swinging. On one end is the head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate sheepdog. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. For instance…Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial.
Followers of Jesus have recently taken a step up too. When the US government became so bold as to redefine what marriage is and redefine what your biological sex is, it woke the Church. It woke even some sleeping sheepdogs.
These shifts in time caused the sheep to take a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their sheepdog warriors, and the sheepdogs started taking their job more seriously. The direction to which you swing in this pendulum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will thrive, spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, in your marriage, your parenting, and your finances.
What is it for you? It is your choice.
It is a choice with huge ramifications. Choose wisely…I remind us all….our choice on this influences the populations of heaven and hell for eternity.
It has been around 365 days since I moved into Fountain Hills AZ, and began my new ministry venture at the Church called Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills.
I am grateful for the large numbers of people that have been watching, praying, and cheering for the Renner family from a distance.
I want to compare my experience to previous ones. I have been in some kind of professional ministry for the past 27 years. The different titles I have been given through those 27 years within the local church have been; Preaching Pastor, Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, Singles Pastor, First Impressions Pastor, Evangelism Pastor, Church Planter, Merging pastor, Senior Minister, Lead Minister, President of Mission Org, Bible Teacher, and a few titles that I have heard whispered behind closed doors about me. LOL!
All is good. I write this blog to the professional pastor out there and I have one purpose and point in this post. For those who are not a professional pastor, I hope you will read and be challenged to encourage your pastor, who may not always show it in ways you think you need, but he/she loves you and wants to protect you, and prepare you to meet Jesus someday, like nobody else in your life.
Out of all the titles I’ve held over the past 27 years, the current title I hold has been the most challenging and difficult thing I’ve done. The title is best described in its simplest form as Lead Pastor. But that title is not the best description of my title. The real title, in the eyes of those my position has affected the most, is …”Our Next Pastor.”
It is a legitimate title, because I have been called it too many times to count in just the last year. Its not a bad title and in all honesty it really is the most fitting title for the situation. I’m good with the title.
After 26 years of very successful ministry endeavors, this year 27 has had me feeling like I didn’t have a clue in what I was doing. In the past 27 years, I have been more of a church planter type lead pastor than anything else. So when I transitioned into the role of “our next pastor” to replace a retiring founding pastor who had tenure for 33 years, I really had no idea what I was getting into. And I got into it thick! From what I’ve been told or have read about other pastors who have transitioned into the role of “our next pastor”… I’ve had it pretty good. In fact this isn’t my first rodeo with trying to be the “our next pastor.” I tried it once in a church in FL and literally quit 7 weeks into it. It just wouldn’t be right to share the gory details of that hardship my family encountered…but… all that to say, becoming “our next pastor” is not for the faint of heart. It is not fun, but it is good. It literally is the hardest thing I’ve done in professional ministry. So…what’s my main point here? Keep reading…
Many USA resources are stating that around 10,000 baby boomers, people born between 1946-1964, are retiring everyday right here in the good ol USA… and will continue to do so until 2036. Google it, its crazily true. Calculate that and it equals more than 80 million people retiring in the next 19 years.
I believe it is fair for me to guess, then, that there will be a multitude of founding pastors in that mix of retirees. Which means there will be multitudes of “our next pastors” stepping into their shoes, picking up their torches, or taking their batons. For those who are about to step into the shoes of those retiring founding pastors, please heed my words of warning.
There is nothing more leadership intensively difficult, nothing more hazardous to orchestrate, nothing more uncertain in its success, that will leave you feeling isolated and abandoned, than to fill the shoes of a retiring-founding pastor, and be the one who introduces a new era of influence. You, serving as ‘Our Next Pastor’ will have enemies in all those who love the old form, and at best, lukewarm support in all those who will benefit by the new. So, for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake, for the lost’s sake, for a troubled world’s sake, look forward, move forward, dig deep, for the very reason this situation is happening, is because the current status quo isn’t working anymore. Lead on, O’ leader, lead on! You only need the solid rock on which you stand, to be your inspiration…Jesus…to remind you that He can do immeasurably more than you dare to ask or hope for! So persist, press on, endure! Let Jesus be your only audience you desire to please, and He alone must be your faith, your hope, and your love. You are the, ‘our next Pastor’! You got this!
If I can personally visit with you over the phone, email, or at a table, with a hot cup of coffee or Dr. Pepper with a wedge of lime squeezed in it, please just ask. I’ve been taking extremely thorough notes through this adventure. I am seeing success. More time will tell the truth in how I’m doing. It has become vividly clear to me why churches struggle to produce fruit beyond the 100, 200, & 400 growth barriers. I can help you! I know I will pump you up!! 🙂 And even more, I know I would also learn from you. I’d be grateful to swap stories with you, compare scars, celebrate our victories, cry through the heart wrenching experiences our families face as we lead people to experience God, and most of all, I simply want to encourage you, and have you walk away with shining eyes!
This is really, really good work we do. Of course it is hard. It reminds us how alive we really are.