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Posts tagged with: Hope

Cut it out!

Have you ever been to someone’s yard and right there in the middle is a sickly tree?  Or been in a beautiful town and discover business’s dying?  Or in a beautiful town full of Churches that are on death’s edge because they are not seeking and saving the lost? Something needs cut, pruned, compeltely worked over! 

My experience is in Church-world. Pruning during stagnation is the most needed Christ-like practice for a church that is stuck in a rut.  (A rut and a grave are the same thing…just 6 feet apart.)

Think about it…when is the last time you saw a Church going through 40 days of pruning?  We have 40 days of prayer, fasting, evangelism, worship, Bible reading…but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Church have 40 days of pruning, when needed.  Jesus is a pruner!

All through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…(the 4 most critical chapters of the bible)…when Jesus saw the crowd, around Him, begin to lose His focus…He pruned the crowd.  He went so far, one time, to say to the huge crowd that had misunderstood His Mission,…“If you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can’t be my disciple.” (John 6:53) The whole crowd, of what had to be more than a thousand people, left Him.  There were only the 12 disciples left.  That’s pruning!

Jesus pruned the pharisees and religious leaders that only wanted to control the people and keep things the way they had always done it…Jesus called them, “White-Washed Tombs (Matthew 23:17), Blind Guides (Matthew 23:16) Hypocrites (Matthew 23:15), Children of Hell (Matthew 23:15), fools (Matthew 23:17), generation of serpents (Matthew 23:34), and murderers (Matthew 23:34).

So Jesus pruned regularly.  To be clear…when pruning, we can never react in anger out of control, or be evil in anyway. We cannot ever justify unholy behavior by saying Jesus did it.  He was perfect in His pruning.  However we can prune with holiness just like Jesus did.  It won’t make you popular, but it will make you like Jesus.

Why don’t more leaders prune when it is desperately obvious it is needed? I can only resort to a Bible verse to explain…

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Pruning results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the future, and pruning is to be used to achieve the full growth that is necessary…especially in the Church.   More money thrown at the problem, or stored in the savings account won’t cause the Church to be healthy again. Just letting it continue as is, will not cause the Church to be fruitful again.  I can’t think of anything more tragic than a Church that is stuck and dying.  Pruning is what is needed.  Its not fun.  Its not easy, but it’s essential.  Pruning, in Church world, will remove the unfruitful and the spiritually dead.  The death that is about to overtake the whole “tree,” could be something as simple as the comfortable…but it’s especially the fakers, the slackers, hypocrites, the control mongers, or the powers that exist that actually have been lulled into the sleepy deception of thinking their tree is beautiful.  They are the blockers and death dealers.

The “tree” may “bleed” when the removal begins. It may look like…after the pruning…that the tree won’t survive…that is has been ruined.  But it’s exactly what it needed…it’ll survive because Jesus will know the motives of the pruning and bless it.  It only seems harmful at the cutting, and until it grows again..it’ll be a bit scary.  Those being pruned will not be cut quietly. They will gossip and spread false rumors and only verify the reality of the necessity of the pruning in the first place.  Prune anyway! And it will leaf out when its God’s time! It will grow into a full grown, strong, thriving life once again. Beautiful!  Jesus and any leadership that has the guts and perseverance to do the pruning will reap the rewards and once again see the Church be healthy and productive in the most important fruit production area…seeking and saving the lost.

The Kingdom of Jesus cannot and will not stop at anything that tries to prevent it’s growth. It cannot and should not ever be stunted.  Jesus did say about the Church…“I will build my Church and the gates of hades will not prevail!” (MT16:18) So…if the Church is dying…something is seriously wrong. Right!?  So, Jesus said it best…with crystal clarity…

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭

So, courageous people of God…prune away.  In Church world, the only thing that is preventing the pruning from happening is leadership.  Courageous leadership.  I love the local Church so much that I will prune anytime, anywhere, any way.  It is what Jesus demands of holy leadership.  If I don’t prune…I will stand in front of Jesus someday and be pruned for eternity.  I don’t want to go to hell. You don’t either.  Prune or Be Pruned!

We are mandated to produce fruit. It is a salvation issue and eternity is in the balance.

Don’t screw with Jesus’s mission.  There is no mercy in pruning…Just judgement.  The only way to avoid eternal judgement and pruning is to make sure you are producing fruit.  The most important fruit in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is seeking and saving the lost.  Every single member in the Church must be producing fruit.  It is Jesus’s mandate.

When is the last time you personally led somebody into Jesus’s forgiveness?

It is why you were born, and it is your life’s purpose… to be productive in the Kingdom of Jesus.

Last thing…what is the best strategy to begin pruning in a Church that has been in status quo mode…aka…death mode?  Cast a vision that leads the Church to get back into the mandates of Jesus.  Cast a vision to risk for Jesus in evangelism.  The pruning will happen naturally.

Strong Spiritual Leadership rarely has to strategically prune, because a fruitful-risk-taking-vision, cast with holy leadership strength, will naturally and steadily get rid of the wrong people.  Yes…I said it…get rid of the wrong people.  Hold on…You didn’t think pruning in the Church was about gardening did you?  Its about people.


Church and the learning Tower of Pisa

SethGodin.com just wrote a blog asking…”What’s inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa?”

The answer is Nothing. It’s a hollow tube.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world is empty.  But people do not care. It is an iconic building and wows people from all over the world.

I love that this is opposite of the reality of the Church.  The Church’s building sits empty most of the week…but it’s old news that the Church is not a building.

You are the Church. The bride of Jesus. The body of Christ.  Get a couple of people like you together, and God is there with you!  Grasp that!

The big question is, why aren’t people wowed by the Church all over the world?

There are negative and positive answers.

We know the negative reasons.  Do you know the positive ones?  Here’s one to remember…

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-26

That Scripture asks a very pertinent question in its last verse.  Who is adequate for such a task?

The answer: YOU!  You are adequate just as you are.  Oh, you might have to pick up your cross of sacrifice and live differently than you currently are…but that doesn’t make you inadequate.  It just makes you leaning…limping…wounded.  But that is what makes you remarkable.

I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t walk with some sort of limp…or lean. The Bible is loaded with  historical records of people that limp and lean.  I’m grateful for my wounds that cause me to now limp.  Your limp tells a story of victory and conquering.  Or it should.  If you’ll allow it, that thing, that wound, which caused the scarring that makes you limp, will make you even more remarkable…yes, your leaning can make you incredible.  There are millions of beautiful buildings around the world…but the ones that lean…they have looooong lines of curious gazers and photographers.

You are adequate.  You are never empty, if you are the Church.  You are worthy.  You can live your life in such a way that some people will go crazy wanting what you have.

Its not easy.  You’ll have to lean into Jesus more than you think is even possible.

 

 

 


Major Transition reality for the Renner Family…

 

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.

 

 

 

 


You mad at the Church, bro?

You mad bro?  

You mad at the imperfect Church?  Mad at the crowd that makes her up?  Mad at how they follow that leader who is imperfect too?  You think to yourself, and verbalize to others around you, “How could they!?…Can’t they see how imperfect it all is!!?”

Most can’t tell how angry you are, but I do. I see you. I hear you. I know you. More importantly…your Creator notices, hears, and whispers into your angry deaf ears. Your anger makes you think you are hearing God’s voice, but your internal screaming is so loud, you miss His gentle whisper. You’re not hearing God’s will, you are hearing your own shrill.

So you have an angry plan. And you love it when a plan comes together!

Your anger drives you to be on your A game.  You feel good!  You are motivated like never before.  You feel so alive, confident, and empowered!  You are good! Your anger hypnotizes you to fall in love with your idea. Your anger cements in your expectations, and your anger has you on a passionate high, assured of your success.

My friend…You aren’t mad at the Church.

You’re just mad.

Unhappy. In actuality, your anger, originated in hurt.

Your hurt isn’t working for you. Forgive. Whoever-Whatever…forgive! I know you don’t feel like forgiving.  Do it anyway.  Be free.  Be smarter because of your hurt, not dumber.  Being dumber will only hurt you more and then you’ll get more angry.  If you’re not careful, you’ll be so hurt, your anger will lead you to find a theology that proves how wrong the Church is, and that downward spiral of death, will have you actually believing someday that Jesus didn’t really raise from the dead, you’ll convince yourself He’s not the Messiah…you end up in hell.

If you’re mad, bro…You’re already in a hell. Don’t force it into eternity.

Stop it!

Repent. Ask God for forgiveness…for being mad at the crowd for following that leader. That leader who hurt you. That Christian who sinned.  That crowd that sheepishly and blindly follows. Ask for forgiveness for thinking you can do it better. Ask for forgiveness for being angry at The Church for her imperfections.

Let it go.

Let joy return.

Jesus is the Hope of the world, NOT the Church.

The local Church is just an imperfect conduit to Jesus.  Love the Church again. Jesus died for her. There’s no greater love than that. Love the…

Imperfect.

Messy.

Beautiful mess!

Church.

You.

 

 

 


PERKS OF AGING…answering mom’s challenge…

Yesterday was my birthday. 46.

Facebook proved to be an amazing tool on my birthday.  I posted today that I received “Happy Birthday!” wishes from Indonesia, Peru, Uganda, Liberia, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, Florida, California, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, New Mexico, and good ol AZ…someone commented quickly and said, “and now from Idaho too!”  The world has definitely gotten smaller…its pretty easy to contact people all over the world!

I ended my Facebook post today with,… “BTW, getting older has its perks!”… My mom responded with,

“What perks does getting older have? List them for all of us.“– Mom

Alright mom…here are many…but not all.

A perk to getting older…agingwine

…is it becomes clearer each day that Heaven is real, the Bible is true and God loves us more than we’ll ever know.

…is we appreciate the laughter of child a bit more than when we were young.

…is we have a deeper appreciation for when somebody experiences positive life change.

…is we now understand that life isn’t going to serve us like we wish it would. In fact we realize that life doesn’t think about us, fulfill us, or give us success…it must be earned and is never guaranteed.

…is we have a better understanding that if we do earn success, it can be gone tomorrow, so we appreciate success a little deeper. A side perk of getting older…we have learned that success doesn’t guarantee happiness.

…is that we realize happiness is never an entitlement.

…is we know for a fact that stuff will never make us happy, but we understand that we will be tempted to think so.

…is, Every year we live, we realize it will go by faster.  The perk…is we are better at slowing down and enjoying each moment a little longer.

…is we know we will never be free from temptation and we have learned to not pray for protection as much as for strength to resist it.

…is we have learned the hard truth that most people in our life will hurt us, but we know we don’t have to hurt back…and no matter what happens, we have learned that bitterness and un-forgiveness are actually worse for us than what the people did to us.

…is the knowledge that forgiveness is mostly for my personal benefit.

…is we have learned that it’s good to care about what people think, but we know better than to allow it to influence our self esteem.

cheese-shelf4…is we have learned that God uses pain to refine us. If we don’t like that fact, we have learned that it won’t do any good to get mad at God about it.

 

…is we have learned that we are going to hurt people. But we don’t ever want to do it on purpose, ever.

 

 

…is we have learned that“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”… is true, they really are just words.

…is we have learned that Hurt people….hurt people. So…when someone hurts us, we have learned to think about what has hurt them that causes them to now hurt us, and it helps us have more compassion and ability to forgive.

…is we have learned that promoting the progress and purpose of others…is truly the good life.

…is we have learned that a majority of people will never win the lottery, or have 15 minutes of fame…and we know for a fact that anything worth having, never come easy.

…is we have learned that If something is worth doing, it is worth doing…even poorly.

…is we know our spouse knows us better than everybody, except God. Listen to them unless they tell us something different than God tells us.

…is we have learned that a secret is the beginning of sin taking over our lives.cropped-happy-old-people

…is we know it is good to Speak the truth even if it makes our voice shake.

…is we know that we will never feel like forgiving someone who hurt us, but we should forgive anyway and often if necessary.

…is we have learned that it is a mental health requirement to have a sense of humor about ourselves because the more we laugh at ourselves, the lighter life can be.

…is we have learned that we all are idiots, just in different areas, se we are getting better at not pointing fingers.

…is we know with confidence that we can’t control anything.

…is our knees/ankles/hips/whole body….hurts because we have lived a full and adventurous life that has worn us down.

…is we know…there’s not much we’d change if we could do it all over again…but the things we would change…would make all the difference!

…is we fully understand that just because someone has aged, it doesn’t mean they have these perks.

…is we fully agree that youth is wasted on the young. 🙂

There are so many more…go ahead, add some in the comments section.

I love growing older and I pray that I am fortunate enough that I will have lived my life to a ripe old age, in such a way, that people will want to care for me when I can’t care for myself.

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