Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Your life is being broadcast

Published by October 22nd, 2008 in Character, Church, Community, Future, Internet, Life's Lessons, My Big Mouth, Technology  2 Comments »  

Wow! It’s been a long time since I made a post, and a lot has happened. Actually, I have like 20 posts in me, but because in the past my being open and honest was not allowed – I was scared – so I kept silent!

I wanted to write about my new job and my new boss, yet, because I knew when I posted a link to Brad’s blog he would find this blog, I kept procrastinating, and now it’s a mute point. Interesting enough, I did not actually realize how toxic some of my last situations were until I tried to function normally in a healthy environment. I mean, who else would have the coolest workplace, and be open to blogging, and open to voicing a difference of opinion than the guy behind churchmarketingsucks.com – yet I was conditioned for the last several years to not be myself – and it showed, because I was still too scared to be open and honest even though I was in a safe place.

I also wanted to write about control. As I went into this new job I worked extra hard to allow things to evolve around me without any interference by me. We either become control freaks, or become passive, in an attempt to avoid legitimate suffering, yet it is by going through legitimate suffering head on that we grow spiritually and emotionally. It was a great experience going into an organization and not as the boss. Nothing happened “my way”, and I loved every growth-packed minute of it. I actually believe that every mega church leader should go find a small church and work for two weeks each year as a lay person, and not be allowed to influence any decision. Basically seeing life from the other side. Not being the boss for a change was one of the best things that could have happened to me, but that is not the topic of this post.

There is so much that I want to write, and I wish my written communication skills were better so I could effectively communicate all that is my heart. I do regret allowing the oppression of my past situations to continue on into my new life. It’s not their fault, it’s mine! I made the choice to keep quiet, and that was the wrong choice!

What I feel compelled to write about is a change I see as our society becomes more voyeuristic and technology becomes more mobile. Like I said in the last post, I’m sure someone has already touched this topic so I may be behind, but it is very, very important. Now, it has actually come to life for me!

A few weeks back ICFG had to lay off 25 people, and I was one of them. For the record I want to say that although there is no easy way to let people go, ICFG had to make a hard decision, and they took very good care of us. You can tell if an organization has Jesus or not just by how they treat employees that are exiting, and former employees that for whatever reason moved on. Even though my time was short with Foursquare I am extremely impressed with their compassion and forward thinking.

The interesting part to all this is “Black Tuesday”, the day the layoffs took place, was broadcast over the internet via Twitter and Facebook. Some I have selected as a favorite on my Twitter page, which you can read here . Brad was twittering as it went down, and so were a few others in the office. It was weird, yet it is the future of how things are going to be – all of our lives will be broadcast over the internet – like it or not!

I believe the idea of a “big brother” watching us started with George Orwell’s movie 1984, but it’s not the government that is the soon-to-be big participator in broadcasting EVERYTHING, it’s little sister, Aunt Ruby, Johnny down the street, and Yilmaz over in Turkey. As we become more of a mobile technology world, more of OUR world will be broadcast to the Internet – AND NOT BY CHOICE!

As with anything there is good and bad. The good is people who do not have integrity will no longer be able to hide. The new world is all about transparency and vulnerability – everything will be exposed. The bad is there is no privacy anymore – none at all!

No matter if you like this or not, as in the case of “Black Tuesday” being broadcast over the internet, I didn’t have a choice, and neither do you. This train has left the station, and if you are not being real with people, LOTS of people will find out – and sooner than a you can click on a send button!

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My new gay friend

Published by September 16th, 2008 in Change, Character, Church, Life's Lessons  6 Comments »  

For the last two months I have been visiting a local store several times a week and made friends with the kid at the front counter. We have openly talked about church, Jesus, his family, my family and life in LA! The first time I walked into the store I felt like I should share my testimony, which I did. I did so as conversation and was not confrontational. We talk about church and ministry every time I am there.

Here is the interesting part. The store is frequented by lots of beautiful women and last week I commented that it must drive him crazy. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “it does not bother me a bit, I’m gay” WHAT? For almost two months now I have been talking about church and he never once judged me. I was shocked. Not that he is gay, but that he was so cool.

We still talk about church, ministry, marketing and life in LA. He is a good kid and fun to talk to. He is also a great salesperson and besides genuinely befriending everyone he does an amazing job of upselling. Just because he is gay I didn’t start treating him any different and just because I am a Christian he never once treated me any different.

I don’t agree with his lifestyle yet I don’t have an agenda to “convert” him either. In fact, that is what is wrong with most Christians today. We point our finger condemning people as “sinners” which only continues to reinforce the tainted view people have of us, or we separate ourselves because we feel uncomfortable around people not exactly like us. Not just gays but homeless, handicapped, gutter punk kids and others.

In reality my new friend taught me a few very important lessons. Mainly to not judge people and allow them to be themselves. Although this sounds simple to most of us, me included, we have to fight past stereotypes and negative predispositions to truly love everyone. Too me, if Christians just started to be friendly instead of weird it would be a huge step in the right direction.

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Real faith is…

Published by August 18th, 2008 in Change, Character, Church, My Big Mouth  9 Comments »  

Again I need to give you a disclaimer. I am not a bible scholar and I am not a theologian. Agree or disagree these are my views on a subject matter that I feel has been greatly abused.

Writing down the make and model of the new car you want to receive and then placing the piece of paper in the center of a room for people to circle around and pray over is not faith – it is magic! For a few years now I have been really confused and frustrated because I see people being taught rituals and not truth. Tithe, pray facing west, fast, make a collage of all the material junk you want, add some scripture, and presto chango God will honor your WORKS.

This type of teaching gives people false hope. For one, if we don’t receive the miracle we are praying for we blame ourselves thinking we did the ritual wrong. We then try and correct our wrong searching for a new ritual instead of resting in Him. People also get hurt because their neighbor was blessed doing the ritual, why not them? Yes, there are testimonies of the “miracle check in the mailbox” that basically result from the law of averages. But the majority of these type “miracle” testimonies are exaggerated, evangelistically speaking that is, to prove to us the rituals work.

I also find it interesting the people that teach these “faith” rituals that borderline on magic are the first to speak out against Harry Potter, or have a medicine cabinet filled with drugs quickly prescribing meds to people for any ailment, or are overly scared of legal action to the point of paranoia. Behind the scenes most demonstrate little faith as if their teachings are all a charade.

When I was homeless I didn’t tithe nor did I pray yet I was delivered from living in a park and homeless shelters to a good paying job and new car. From April 07 to early 08 I had crisis after crisis in my life that made homelessness seem like Disneyland. I not only tithed my offerings were another 10% making my total giving a little more than 20%. I fasted, I prayed, I believed with EXTREME faith, I wrote my needs on paper for others to pray over, I even had the collage on the wall with scriptures just like I was taught, I spoke the right words and believed for the very best. More importantly I became passive, I started to work harder and harder, I did my best to keep my mouth shut yet my circumstances kept getting worse. I was doing everything right yet wrong kept on happening. I became more confused. Why was the magic faith not working? I tried it both ways and life keeps coming at me! Could it be rain falls on the just and the unjust?

My eyes opened this spring while I was dining with a friend at a Chinese buffet in Columbus Ohio. Another opportunity had just fallen through and for the most part I was beat down hard. No money, no food, and it looked like things were going to get worse, which they did! In that moment of clarity I knew God loved me and that as long as I persevered He would take care of me. I might not get the car I wanted, but He had something better, which he did as I type this from Los Angeles, my home, the place where I belong! I never prayed to move back here nor did I sow a seed. The more I surrendered giving up my WANTS and desires the more He gave me just what I needed. That simple and no magic! Just rest in Him!

Please know I am all about positive thinking. Positive thinking, especially changing my self-talk, is what made all the difference in my recovery. Positive thinking is great and needs to be encouraged yet we can go too far and remove reality. We are also not healed by works. Miracles don’t happen because we prayed a certain way or claimed our seed on the offering envelope. All this crap does is mess people up, alienate unbelievers and sell warehouses full of product.

Let’s be honest here. All this faith ritual magic is selfish. People don’t sow a seed for that drug addict or prostitute; they give money in the hopes of receiving a new house, car or other material possession – selfish! I believe that the church will continue to be without any real power and continue to lose people as long as the church focuses on receiving and not genuinely helping others.

Real faith is not magic. Real faith is knowing that God truly loves you no matter how bad your circumstances seem.

 

 

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If church was accepting and loving would we need outreach?

Published by August 10th, 2008 in Change, Church, My Big Mouth, Outreach  1 Comment  

“As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evangelism in terms such as outreach, which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm’s length away.” “… the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples … (this evangelism) considers it vital that lost people be brought close enough to witness the natural and practical outworking of the gospel in people’s lives.”

– Mark Driscoll

I found this quote on one of my new favorite blogs

http://www.vinceantonucci.com/

This really hit me today as I walked into the Angelus Temple/Dream Center’s bathroom this morning and saw a few homeless men take benefit from a sink and running water in a place that won’t kick them out. In fact, they were welcomed. One was washing up and another was shaving. Trust me, finding a place that will allow that is rare. What would your security do? Come on keep it real now!

The thought that hit my spirit, though, is why do we even do outreach? And let’s be real, the majority of outreaches I have seen and or heard about didn’t change anyone. Not really. Some I even organized and managed so I am also speaking to myself here. From my first hand experience over the last 5 years outreaches were more of a preprogrammed thing churches do. Even though many of the people have right hearts they are blind to the infectiveness of their actions. It is like we are programmed to go to where we think the poor and needy are and give handouts, have a mini sermon, get people to raise their hands – AND THEN LEAVE. Rarely did I ever see these people in church. God is not magic. People need more than a sinner’s prayer – they need to feel real and unconditional love found through commitment.

And please, if you are going to bus people in commit to it. If a few kids get unruly, maybe even throwing some pizza out the window and mouthing back to staff members, DON”T STOP busing them it. You won’t be teaching them a lesson only reinforcing the abandonment they get at home. Buy more pizza and some cleaner. If you have a bad apple remove it BUT KIDS NEED LOVE and they don’t get it at home. The best place for them is church.

I know I am squirrel chasing here but one of the many stories Pastor Tommy tells comes to mind. They bus thousands of kids into Phoenix First for service. One of the deacons came to Pastor Tommy saying “we have to stop busing these kids in. They are writing swear words on the bathroom walls”, Pastor Tommy responded “it’s not required reading”. What is more important the kids or the building? Some of you will say we have to respect God’s house. But God himself would much rather have you take care of His people than YOUR building – guaranteed! You will teach hurting kids far more by continuing to get them out of their horrible environments into a loving place a few hours every week than you will by the disciplinarian tactic of stopping the route completely.

Please don’t get mad at me for telling the truth here. And there are some churches that do great works and we need to support them. Yet most churches are simply as lost as the people they are trying to reach!

The whole point I am trying to make here is if we took all the energy and money used for an outreach and simply made our church experiences more loving and ACCEPTING, than church itself would be where it ALL happens.

To repeat something I heard this morning, you cannot build a great church until you build great people. Love on people. Not just at the trailer park, the mall, or the place in your town where the homeless gather, but at your church. Before you plan your next outreach take a good look in the mirror and see if you really are a loving church for that demographic. If so, than the seats will already be filled with people from the areas you minster in! They will be attracted to you and your outreach ministry is effective. If you are only welcoming to a certain kind of people, let’s say upper-middle class, than love on them because all people hurt and have needs. Not everyone is called to reach the poor, and not everyone is called to reach people with money. Just stop trying to be something you are not.

Rich or poor, the key to reaching people, all people, is to sincerely welcome them inside and outside of your building – and without exception.

Why do we separate outreach? What would happen if we ALWAYS gave the love we show in a park in our church experiences?

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Non-compete in ministry

Published by August 5th, 2008 in Change, Church, Leadership, Managment, My Big Mouth  2 Comments »  

First I have to come right out and say I only have myself to blame for being bit by a non- compete since I was the one who suggested to the church leadership were I was employed that it should be implemented.

I WAS WRONG!

If ministry is truly about building the Body of Christ it should not matter if an employee’s talents are used at the church down the road. A church leadership that implements a non-compete is 100% thinking about their own growth and not God’s people. It is a selfish action based on fear.

I have also seen church leadership carefully select who in the organization is asked to sign a non-compete agreement. If your co-workers are being asked to sign a non-compete and you are not asked it is an indication that leadership wants you to leave. This should be common sense. Leadership values the people it is concerned will leave and/or leave to help a nearby church grow and therefore requires a non-compete. One purposes of such an agreement is a scare tactic to get a valued employee to stick around. For those employees leadership does not value and actually wants to leave a non-compete may prolong their exit.

Employers rely on fear to get you to sign, and ignorance that you won’t check the laws in your state to see if a non-compete is enforceable. Some employers know, but don’t care, that their non-compete agreements are not enforceable. Each state has different labor laws and you need to do a little research before you sign anything! A non-compete is binding only if it’s reasonable in scope and necessary to protect the company’s interests. For example, it might be enforceable if it restricts you from working for a competitor for six months within a 25-mile radius, but not beyond that scope or if you can prove it will seriously impact your right to make a living. Remember – that state you live in wants you to be employed!

You should also be compensated for signing a non-compete. If you’re a new-hire at the time your employer asks you to sign, then employment alone might be compensation enough, at least for a court. But if you’ve already worked there for awhile and your employer doesn’t offer you an incentive to sign it, other than termination if you don’t, then a court might be on your side if you refused to sign and your employer retaliated.

The bottom line is this. Even though an employer gives a healthy Christmas bonus it still does not mean they don’t abuse employees with covert employment policies such as shunning. It is not right for any company or organization to abuse their workers and the church must elevate above all this mess and lead by example. This week I had several conversations with people who were deeply hurt by the ministry they worked for. These people are not victims because they worked through the hurt and continue to work for God. Telling the truth does not make you a victim, staying down does and without the truth people will continue to abuse people.

A preacher will stand behind the pulpit and claim we are not of the world, yet have their HR department implement a non-compete agreement. Please take a long hard honest look at yourself. Are the actions you are taking today motivated to help people, truly help ALL people, or just to keep you in control of the kingdom you created?

Please forgive the duplicate but I felt the following statement needed to be repeated:

If ministry is truly about building the Body of Christ it should not matter if an employee’s talents are used at the church down the road. A church leadership that implements a non-compete is 100% thinking about their own growth and not God’s people. It is a selfish action based on fear.

 

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Belonging before believing

Published by August 3rd, 2008 in Church, Leadership, My Big Mouth  3 Comments »  

I hate Home Depot. I squirm every time I have to go there because I feel uncomfortable. I am not a handyman, and even though I do enjoy hard manual labor, I don’t have a clue about drywall, tools, paint, nails, hardware, or any of that home improvement stuff. Even if the sales person is nice I avoid them because I don’t speak the language.

I am going to be point blank honest here. If I was new to Christianity and walked into either of the last two churches I worked for I would not feel comfortable enough to want to “join the club”. Oh, I may have raised my hand near the end, filled out a salvation card because of peer pressure, I may even go down front and have an emotional release with tears running down my face. But my life would not have changed. I bet this is the case for most people although there are a small few that get “saved” and stick around a month, maybe more, which leadership uses as validation. A few people actually win the lottery every week , too.

Pastor Tommy and Matthew Barnett and all the staff at the Dream Center have loved me just the way I was, or am! They NEVER tried to change me or to have me conform to their way, they just loved me. Seriously, when I had 10 pieces of metal in my face, a mohawk and a 6′ iguana around my neck they loved me. When I wear a suit they love me. When I smoked cigarettes they loved me. Once, Pastor Matthew caught me off guard as I inhaled a cigarette. He put his arms around me and started to pray for me. I held my breath as long as I could and I eventually exhaled smoke right into his face as he was praying. He never said a word about it.

Today I didn’t carry a bible to church. Last Thursday I did. Same church and I felt comfortable either way. One church made me not only carry a bible but it had to be a certain kind of bible. Another church when I started to use my PDA as a bible I was chastised (the future is coming people, print bibles will be a thing of the past before you know it). What does it matter if you have a bible or not? Come on wake up! As an unchurched person I didn’t carry a bible. Walking into a church where having a bible is MANDITORY it would make me feel uncomfortable. It would make ANYONE who does not have a relationship with Jesus feel uncomfortable. Tell me, does holding a bible make me a better Christian? Please know I agree with carrying a bible but I don’t agree with making people feel uncomfortable if they don’t, or trying to control people to your ways!

I got on the subject about Windsor Crossing with a few friends who I love and respect. Windsor Crossing is a gorgeous church that has a sincere outreach focus and is one of the fastest growing ministries in the St Louis area. My friends said they went but the reason they didn’t like it is because people didn’t carry their bibles. HUH? I went there several times and I carried a bible. Some people did, and some didn’t, and that was not a big deal. The big deal was how Windsor effectively created community. I felt very comfortable there and that is probably the reason for their growth. As an unbeliever it would be easy for me to find friends and more importantly spiritual and emotional healing at Windsor. I felt welcomed and loved just the way I was.

A few months back I happened to witness one of the most horrifying situations I have ever seen in my 15 years of fulltime ministry. A homeless man went to the altar, but he was followed by armed police with handcuffs drawn. Street people by nature are very aware of everything that happens around them. I guarantee you this homeless man on his knees at the altar did not feel comfortable with police poised ready to pounce on him. As horrific as what that man must have been feeling it is not as bad as the impression that was given to the church, and especially people visiting. You may give toothpaste and water to homeless on the weekends but in your own” living room” clearly they are not welcomed. Ironically it is not the homeless population that presents a security risk. All the shootings that have happened in recent years the people looked like normal folk. Having security show such force over one homeless man at an altar is ignorant and shows the real heart of the church. Maybe not the pastor’s but the church he created and maintains. Sadly even though members of the church and many staff were very disturbed by police showing such an unnecessary show of force no one would voice their concerns to leadership. Nothing changed and the next person who looks a little unkempt most likely will be “greeted” the same way.

Is your church environment REALLY welcoming to the unbeliever? As Pastor Tommy and Matthew Barnett often say “if you don’t have a few beer cans and cigarette butts in front of your church you have a country club”. Of course, not all unchurched smoke and drink, the point is unless you allow people to be themselves chances are they won’t stick around long enough to have Jesus stick to their spirit.

Pastor Tommy is my hero. He loves everyone and loves them right where they are at. Because he and everyone else at the Dream Center has never tried to change me, or control me in anyway, I was made to feel like I belong, and now I believe.

Services at Angelus Temple/Dream Center are not for everyone meaning you may not like the music or the lights, but everyone no matter who you are or where you came from is made to feel welcome – and that makes all the difference.

People pay me to help their churches grow. I can tell you what a first time visitor thinks on the first visit and what questions they ask after 6 months. I can tell you when to call, what to write and how to train your greeters to go deeper. But the key to church growth is really none of that crap. Love on people with a sincere heart, don’t try and change anyone allowing everyone to be themselves, and create a healthy environment where people can feel like they belong. Then step back and let God do the rest!

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The Lord said “I didn’t say that”

Published by August 1st, 2008 in Blogs, Change, Church, Leadership, Ministry, My Big Mouth  1 Comment  

This week I happened to have one of the most amazing experiences of my Christian walk. So amazing it might be considered a miracle. It was to me!

My boss held a “debrief” meeting to openly and honestly address a few concerns employees had about an all staff meeting held a few weeks earlier. In ministry, that alone was amazing because open and honest communication is often suppressed. As the meeting started we all got on the subject of saying “The Lord said…” and my boss, who was leading this meeting, said something like “we won’t have any, ‘and God said’, because when you say, ‘and God said’, how can you argue? God said it and that is that. We want truth and not manipulation.”

WHAT! No lightening? No locust? No one was fired for saying something that was straightforward and real?

As a team we then went on to discuss how the older generation of Christian leaders use “and the Lord said” as a form of manipulation. These are not bad people, they just don’t know any better. It is how they were taught because their leaders did the same thing. Chances are, God didn’t say anything and they are simply speaking their own personal wants. By adding “God said” it has to be God since he/she is a pastor, right? So you do it, believe it, swallow it, and the only thing God said is, “I didn’t say that”.

Too me, that is using the Lords name in vain. Yupper our grandmothers all used that scripture to keep us from swearing, but let’s be real. God’s name is used far too often for stuff He had nothing to do with, and mostly by pastors and their wives!

We also talked about how voicing a difference of option is NOT a rebellious spirit. And if anyone tells you it is a rebellious spirit they are trying to manipulate you. WHAT! Are you kidding me? How can that be? Question the man of God? That is what we are taught so we keep quiet and the church remains sick.

Many of you who are regular readers of hn.com (I can recommend a good clinical physiologist) know I have been writing about how the “old school” style of authoritarian leadership in the church MUST change, and is changing because of the internet. In posts like It’s too late for Jerry but is it too late for the church? I write about the lack of self-awareness and in A marketplace flop – how do you deal with failure? I write about what happens when organizations are not honest. Pretty much you can find that theme evolving throughout this blog, but for the most part it was my gut.

This last week I had a conversation with one of the most brilliant leaders nowadays who is literally influencing positive change throughout the Body of Christ. We were on the topic of how toxic leaders in the church world suppress honesty because they would have to face the false reality they have created. A reality that keeps them in an “ivory tower”, and keeps their church from truly being effective. Worse yet, these church leaders have a horrible effect on the views of the unchurched.

As we talked further and I continued to get more and more thrilled, without any prior communication my gut feelings were being echoed. We touched on the subject of change and how the internet finally gave suppressed believers a vehicle to speak open and honestly. Church leaders could no longer manipulate us into silence, and that not only is a good thing – it is a God thing!

I have to honestly say I am once again in awe of what God has done for me. I believe in the church yet after working the last 5 years in fulltime ministries that suppress the truth and refuse to see realty I was starting to give up hope. God has placed me in an organization that allows open communication and is on the forefront of change for thousands of churches, and a local church where loving people is not a pretense and much more than a tagline.

Leaders, if you don’t allow your people to speak openly and honestly you are closing yourself off to reality. If you only allow your opinion chances are you are a toxic leader and you hinder your own personal growth, and your own minsitries growth. You cannot control people’s thoughts so you might as well know what they are thinking. Open communication is healthy and it will lead to healthy change. Yes, there may be conflict but by running from conflict you are causing more harm than good. Only by working through conflit can we find real love.

If you are an employee or volunteer in an organization that does not allow open communication, and you have respectfully tried to influence change in a positive way to no avail – leave! The organization is not growing in a healthy direction and in time you too will become unhealthy. It is ok the leave. It is not a sin no matter what you are taught. You will be better off in a ministry where God can use your gifts and talents than remaining with a supressive leadership that is more concerned about control than doing what is right and truly being effective.

How can we encourage healthy change and healthy communication in everything we do?

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