Friday, June 17, 2022

Leadership Thought: How You Can Live Longer by Connecting with Ohers in Church.

Dear Friends,

Just yesterday I was in Walgreens when and I came across a person in a military uniform. I walked up to him as I often do when I see members of the military, and looking him in the eye, I said, “Thanks for your service.”  And he responded saying, “Thanks, I appreciate your words,” and both of us quickly moved on.” 

Just a few words spoken between two people who never met before, but I experienced an immediate sense of connection between the two of us. I felt good, and I had a sense he did also.

That is what happens when true connection takes place between people, even people who don’t know each other.

As Jean and I were leaving the store, I saw a disabled woman pushing a walker, and I took a few extra seconds to wait and hold the door for her, and she began profusely thanking me for my action. I don’t remember what we said to each other after that-not much of anything-but as we both walked away, I do remember having the sense in helping her we both connected with one another and that felt good to me and suspect she felt the same.

I don’t share these two examples to draw attention to myself, but only to point out that it doesn’t take much effort-just a few seconds- to connect with people and experience the good feelings associated with it.

How important it is in life for all of us to look for opportunities to connect with each other

John Maxwell is fond of saying “Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for his hand,” and that is good advice for all of us who are interested in building relationships with others.

As Connections Pastor in our church, I am intent on looking for ways to connect with people and encouraging them to connect with others.

I encourage our members to come to church with the purpose of connecting with someone they don’t know. When every member does that, a large church becomes small and intimate and a warmth of fellowship develops that possesses magnetic power to attract and retain visitors. Visitors may quickly forget the message they heard from the pulpit, but they will never forget the warmth of fellowship they experienced as people reached out and connected with them.

Churches plan and promote “Make a Friend Sundays,” but why does making friends only happen on special Sundays? Shouldn’t we want to make a friend(s) every Sunday?

Making friends will not happen automatically.  As my mother used to say, “to have friends, you must always seek to be a friend.”

Connection with people doesn’t happen without some degree of intentionality, so I encourage our church members not to leave church until they have spoken and connected with at least one person they don’t know.

Connectors “know the way, go the way and show the way for others.” They are connecting examples because they make connecting a priority.

And by the way connecting is good for your health. It can even help you live longer.

A large-scale research review found that low social connection has as much of an effect on our mortality rate as not exercising and is twice as harmful as being overweight. That review also found loneliness effects morbidity as much as a smoking or alcohol. Connecting with People- What It Is and Isn’t. Andrea Darcy, March 21, 2017-taken from the internet.

Let’s make Romans 12:10 our church motto: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

So, if you want to live longer, and make your church more attractive while doing so, just make it your goal to make every Sunday, “Make a Friend Sunday.” 

Yours in faith,

Tom

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Leadership Thought: The Day Jean Asked Me to Walk Away from My Best Friends.

Dear Friends, 

Tucked away in the Apostle Paul’s closing remarks to Timothy is a verse that is easy to miss. Paul writes, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).

Scholars suggest that the parchments may have been part of the Old Testament. In any event, this got me to thinking about the importance of good books and what friends they have been to me over the years of my ministry.

Some of my friends have been sitting on my shelves for over 50 years, but like the Word, there some things that never grow old.

I still remember that note that Jean left on top of an old cardboard box in my office when we were leaving Fort Lauderdale to come north. It said, “Sort out the most important 100 books and put them in the box and give the rest away.” Those words struck terror in my heart. Get rid of my friends. Send them packing. “No, no, no, I can’t do it,” I cried.

The retirement part didn’t work out any better than her efforts to ditch my friends. Most all of them traveled north with me and found residence on a new set of shelves that take up most of my office space in Middletown, N.J.

Only a lover of books can understand and appreciate how difficult it is to give your books away. Maybe I am just selfish, for I know my library takes up considerable room in my office, and now in our apartment, but you can’t just walk away from your friends.

Long ago I copied a quote from Mark Twain who said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read at all.” That caught my attention the first time I read it, and it still resonates with me today.

It is true that leaders are readers and the more you read the better leader you will become.

A.W. Tozer was wise when he wrote, “The things you read will fashion you by slowly conditioning your mind.” And how true were his words.  

I confess that if there is any wisdom that ever comes from my mouth, it has probably come from someone I have read, and while I may not remember his or her name, their wisdom has permeated my mind and left its imprint on my thinking.

And the late Chuck Colson writes “Next to acquiring good friends, the best acquisition is that of a good book.” He was right.

If you are ever looking for a good small group question that will spark some good discussion, try this one: “If the notes and files of your reading were to be turned over to a detective-psychologist for character analysis, what would they conclude about you?”

In closing I have a quick question. Do any of you know any good 12 step programs for book hoarders like me?

Just asking.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Leadership Thought: Recovery and Evangelism Takes Time: Are You Prepared to Take the Time?

Dear Friends,

Last night I attended Recovery Life, our church's ministry to those seeking recovery from addiction. Like AA, we always have a speaker who shares a testimony of how he or she found recovery through the power of Christ. As I listened to our speaker share her story, I was intrigued to note the number of times she had relapsed in her recovery process. For her, it was one start after another, and each start ended the same-a return to her addictive behavior.

Throughout her many failures, the speaker testified that there were always people in her life who supported her and encouraged her on her journey to recovery.  They didn't give up on her, and they kept reminding her that the power of Christ could break the bondage of her addiction.

Like finding Christ, finding the road to recovery is not always a one-time event. Recovery can be a process that takes place over a lengthy period of time.  

Seeds that are planted don't sprout up overnight. You can't rush the process. Each seed has a certain timetable before its flower is produced. Think about your own life. How many people did God send into your life before you received Jesus and experienced life change? If you were lucky, you had people around you who were persistent in loving and praying for you, and it was their persistence that strengthened you, especially during those times when you were discouraged by your lack of progress.

Fortunately, our speaker had friends who were committed to her recovery and who were with her for the long haul. Even when they failed to see the changes in her life for which they had hoped, they never gave up on her. Because of their patient love and constant and continued encouragement amidst her many failures, she now enjoys seven years of sobriety, and like last night, she is now sharing the story of her faith-based recovery journey to help others find hope.

Often in our efforts to see someone saved, we feel we must give them the whole gospel, and when they don't immediately pray the sinner's prayer, we feel like we have failed, and we might choose to give up on them. However, if we assume responsibility for the success of our evangelistic efforts, we assume something that is not ours's to assume. 

The same is true for the recovering addict. They may need to fail a number of times before they experience and embrace the change in their lives we hope to see, and they need people to continue to love and encourage them as they seek their sobriety. 

As believers we are called to be witnesses. Those were our Savior's marching orders. We are reminded in 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to always be prepared to give an account to everyone who asks us for the hope that we have within us, but we are never responsible for the person's decision. 

Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) has a wonderful definition for evangelism: "Evangelism is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God." We are not the ones responsible for the person's salvation. We may deliver the message, but it is God who opens the door to a person's heart. When we understand this, we will never feel a sense of failure, regardless of a person's response to our message.

Whether you are witnessing to someone about Christ, or patiently witnessing to them about recovery, we need to be patient but persistent in offering our love and encouragement. Don't ever give up on them and continue to let them know that you will always be there for them, even when they fail to demonstrate the change you desire to see in them.

Remember "The righteous falls seven times and rises again".........(Prov.24:6), and it just may be that it is the seventh time that he/she chooses to never to fall again.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

P.S. "Perseverance is the rope that ties the soul to the doorpost of heaven". Frances J. Roberts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Leadership Thought: What Is the Right Way to Worship God?

Dear Friends

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals. Psalm 150:1-6

Our worship looks a little different than how the Psalmist describes his worship.

Last Sunday we had a couple of members of a Vineyard Fellowship from Phoenix join us for worship. The Vineyard churches place a strong emphasis on freedom in the midst of their worship. If you attend a Vineyard church, you may see a number of different forms and expressions of worship, and one of those forms of expression you might note would be people dancing during the time of praise and worship.

Now you might be thinking raising your hands in worship is acceptable, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable for me, but dancing-that’s where I draw the line.

This past Sunday I watched this couple during our praise and worship time as they sang and danced in front of their chairs. With hands lifted high, they were spontaneously expressing the joy that was in their hearts. It was a different way of worshipping then I was accustomed to, but for them, their spontaneous worship was a real and natural way of expressing their love for Jesus.

As I watched them, my mind drifted back to my first worship experience while on a mission trip to Haiti where I beheld the freedom and exuberance of the Haitian people as they worshipped God.

There is no formula for true worship, any more than there is one formula for true prayer. Praying and worshipping are a matter of the individual heart and as such they will be expressed in different ways by different people.

The word worship comes from a Greek word which means to turn and kiss. When you turn to kiss your wife, you don’t follow a ten-step formula for kissing, you just kiss her as your heart moves you to do. There is no set way, or right procedure, you just let your feelings dictate your expression and you don’t worry about how or where you do it.

There is no set way we should worship God. Some worshipers are more staid, some are more expressive, some raise hands and some keep them in their pockets. Some sit quietly and some get up waving worship flags as they dance throughout the sanctuary. Now, I don’t know if New Monmouth is quite ready for the flag waving dancing kind, but for some churches this is how people express their worship.

When David brought the ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David, he did so with great joy, and we read, “David danced before the Lord with all his might, and he was girded with a linen ephod” (short for boxer trunks). David danced as trumpets played and people shouted forth their praise. And we are told that when Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked out and saw David dancing in his boxers as he leaped and danced before the Lord, “she despised him in her heart (2 Samuel 6:16).

Now somewhere during that service, I too might have drawn the line of impropriety, but David didn’t care. He was so excited, so filled with a heart of worship he didn’t worry about what people might say or think.

However, we worship, may it be an enthusiastic, and uninhibited expression of our love for Jesus, always remembering with A.W. Tozer who said, “worship means to feel in the heart.”

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Monday, June 13, 2022

Leadership Thought: Are You Better at Set Up or Closing?

Dear Friend,

In John Courson’s Application Commentary of the New Testament, he addresses Paul's question to the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8: He asks. "Why are you splintering?  Apollos and I are in this together. We both have a part to play. We simply plant and water. It’s God who works the miracles of germination.” 

Courson goes on to write, "Some people are sensitive and tender, and others are strong and expressive. And because the Lord uses all kinds of different people to accomplish his purposes, I can be who I am and appreciate the brothers or churches that may be a different flavor than I am as we both labor together with God” (p. 1025).

As I reflected on John’s comments, I thought about the process of evangelism. Some may be better at sowing than reaping and vice versa, but both are needed in the evangelism process.  If people don’t see a changed behavior in your life, why would they be interested in knowing how Jesus will change their life?”

In the evangelism process it is important that there be a congruence between the witness of our lives and our lips, our faith and our works, our belief and our behavior.

Life stye evangelism is very important as it cultivates the ground and prepares the soil for the seed when it is sown. But if there is no one to sow the seed, the cultivation process is useless.

Paul writes to Timothy and says, every believer should “Be prepared to give a reason for the hope is within us” (1 Peter 3:15) 

Yes, we are all called to share our faith, but some of us are much better at the pre-evangelism part, what might be called the cultivating of the soil, than we are at sowing the seed.

Both sower and reaper have significant parts to play in the evangelism process.

We evangelize with both our lips and our lives and there must always be a congruence between the two if people are to take us seriously.

In a wonderful book I have been reading by Randy Newman called Mere Evangelism, 10 Insights from CS Lewis to Help You Share Your Faith, Newman compares the two different roles in evangelism to the different roles of major league pitchers.

He writes, “Today, very few starting pitchers finish games they begin. But that was not always the case. Records for complete games will probably never be broken because of how the game has changed. Today, we hope a starting pitcher makes it to the 6th or 7th inning, when a setup man comes in for one or two innings and then the game is completed by a closer. They each play their role. They each pitch differently. They have different expertise. Together they win games” (p. 27).

When we think about our role in the evangelism process some of us might be better as starters, ‘preparing the soil.’   And some of us may be more adept at sowing the seed and closing the game.

Both roles are important in the success of a team; and both roles are important in the process of evangelism.

So whether you are the set up specialist, cultivating the soil for the planting of the seed, or you are the closer who sows the seed, you are a critical part of the evangelistic process.

Both cultivator and planter, set up specialist and closer can enjoy the results of your efforts: a person born into the kingdom of God.

So which person is more important? Only God knows, for He is the One who gives the increase. We simply cultivate, plant and water. It’s God who works the miracle of germination.

Yours in faith,

Tom

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Leadership Thoughts: How Would Your Church Be Different If You Were the Minister?

Dear Friends,

I heard about a woman who was visiting church one Sunday. The sermon seemed to go on forever, and many in the congregation fell asleep. She liked to meet new people, so after the service she walked up to a very sleepy looking gentleman, extended her hand in greeting, and said, “Hello, I'm Gladys Dunn.” To which the man replied, you’re not the only one ma'am, I'm glad he's done too!”

When you and I walk out of the service on Sunday morning our service is not done. In fact, our service has only just begun as we walk through those doors.

We are fond of reminding people at our church that every member is a minister, and every saint is a servant. You and I are called to serve, to be contributors not just consumers. Your job is the same as mine: we are called to connect with people and share Christ’s love in word and deed.

We often distinguish between clergy and laity, but in the early church there was no such distinguishing difference. In the Book of Acts, the story of the early church, everyone saw themselves as ministers. It was during the Dark Ages that the difference between clergy and laity crept in.

One of the rallying cries of the Reformation was that every member of the Body of Christ is a minister. Peter wonderfully describes our role as believers when he writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

How many ministers do we have at our church? We have around 250 ministers and 3 equippers. We are all in this together.

As pastors we are called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). The word equip is the same word used to described what James and John were doing when they were preparing their nets in Matthew 4:21. They regularly repaired their nets, in order to make them effectively useable. Their nets were being prepared for future service; not just stored away to be forgotten.

Every member in the family of God is a minister and every servant is called to serve. Every Sunday service should be a meeting of the Ministerial Association.

What would your church look like if every member served the way you serve? How would your church be different if everyone was eagerly seeking to be equipped for ministry and was looking for opportunities to serve?

Servants serve, members minister, and when this happens the church becomes the New Testament Church with a sanctuary filled with sold out servants looking and longing for ways to fulfill their calling as His ministers.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Leadership Thought: Does BUSY mean B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

Dear Friends,

Does BUSY means B-eing U-nder S-atan’s Y-oke? That’s the question I ask myself this morning as I sit in front of my computer pondering what to write.

Yesterday was a blur. It started early in the morning at my computer hammering out a daily “Leadership Thought”-can’t even remember the topic. Then on to our weekly staff meeting, then to our U Turn for Christ weekly luncheon to meet with some guys struggling with addiction during which I shared a message on the importance of friendships in battling addiction. Then, it was on to a funeral home to visit one of our church family members who had lost his dad, followed by a trip back to church for “Recovery Life,” our weekly addiction ministry, only to leave early from the meeting because I had volunteered to umpire an annual “Rally Cap” baseball game where participants were special needs children. In between all of this activity. I found some time to send out a few e-mails and call some senior saints whom I had not talked within for too long. I fell into bed at 9:30 pm thinking, “Wow, it was just another jam packed and productive day in the life of a busy pastor. It may have been jam packed, but was it really productive?

This morning I woke up and in reflecting on yesterday’s busy and “productive” day, I realized in all my frenetic activity, I had missed the most important meeting of all-my time with the Lord.

Yes, it is easy to become so busy doing church work that we miss the most important work of the church-time spent in the Word. Yes, for me “the good had become the enemy of the best,” and yes, I confess I was BUSY, B-eing U-nder S-atan’s C-ontrol for in all my “productive” busyness I had neglected my most important work, spending time alone at His feet.”

The great man of God, George Mueller, after having read the Bible through 100 times with increasing delight, made this statement: “I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, ‘I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for scripture study.’”

“Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I. For more than half a century, I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 4 years I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of them have passed through my own hands. Then, as pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been my care. Besides, I have had charge of five immense orphanages; also, at my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts, books, and bibles; but I have always made it the rule never to begin day until I've had a good season with God in his Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful.”

Ouch! I read those words and thought of Paul’s words to his good friend in the faith, Timothy: “Work hard so God can say to you, well done. Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means” (2 Timothy 2: 15).

Because God will examine what kind of workers we have been, we must always be careful to build our lives on the foundation of the Word, so that we can build his Word into our lives. It is in the Word that we find revealed the lessons of life that God desires us to learn if we are to faithfully serve him. If we ignore the regular reading of his Word, and we avoid any diligent study of the Word, we are told that we will be ashamed at the judgment.

What believer would want that to happen? Consistent and conscientious study of the word is vital, lest we be lulled into neglecting God and our true purpose for living.

And not only will the reading of his Word save you from being ashamed on that day when you stand before Him, but it will provide you the resources to live life victoriously in this world of “here and now,” for as Christian Johnson once wrote, “A Bible that is falling apart probably belong to someone who isn't.”

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

P.S. "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near." Isaiah 55:6 Don't be a Martha, always fussing over dishes while Mary sits at his feet and does the better service!