Call to Build the Low Side of the Wall (Nehemiah 3:1-32)

Call to Build the Low Side of the Wall (Nehemiah 3:1-32)

The beauty of a God size task is that everyone has something to do. Every person no matter how small has some value to add. When it came to rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah 3 we see this principle worked out again and again. The priests, beginning with the high priest, lead by example, grabbing their work gloves and put their hand earnestly toward the wall next to them. The daughters of Shallum work tirelessly like their father. Everyone in town is engaged rebuilding the wall right where they are, no one it left out.

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This is also how it works in the kingdom of Heaven. God puts us within proximity of other believers who will complement our weaknesses and who will need our strengths. It is often easy to look at others on a far wall and think they have it better than you or that their laborers are stronger and so you should go over there, but have you considered that your labor is needed where you are? Looking too long at another wall also proves that you have spent too much time looking and not enough time doing.

It is easy to get dissatisfied when there aren’t any stones in your hand. Often we point to where the wall is the lowest like it is a problem rather than our purpose to rebuild it. We often abandon the places that need our resources and ability in favor of the ones that have already been built by someone else. In doing so, we stand on the accomplishments of others rather than fulfill our own God-given purpose.

What Does a Pastor Do?

I came home after another long day and a friend was there. They were surprised that I was working so late since it wasn’t a “church” night. I simply shared that I work sixty hours a week most weeks and they were taken back. “I thought you worked only on Sundays and Wednesdays?” Sadly, it was a sincere question.

Most people are unaware of how demanding the pastorate can be on a family and some actually attempt to find more things for the pastor to do thinking,  “The pastor has time to take care of that, he only works on Sundays and Wednesdays.The joke is getting old, but it strikes at the heart of a question that is often out there, “What does a pastor do?” So here is a list of a few things that pastors do in general. This is not a prescription, in fact as I complied the list I found it to be an exposition in how a ministry can quickly turn into a job if the pastor isn’t careful to balance it with much needed time off and family. To be fair this is also my experience working in small to middle size churches.  I am sure there may be a few lazy pastors out there, but I don’t know many of them. Most I know work incredibly hard and still feel as if they haven’t gotten enough done.

WHat Does a Pastor Do_

Study- I guess a lot of folks just think we show up and speak, but in order to speak we have to be prepared with a message. Unlike preparing a regular speech though, we don’t start with a topic, we start with a passage or scriptural theme. It is important that we illustrate the truth of scripture. This process usually involves language study (The bible wasn’t written in English), prayer, reading the passage in the context of the book it is written in and discovering what others are saying in commentaries that help understand the passage.

The study isn’t done at that point though because a message has to be formulated. The pastor then must analyze his congregation and prepare the message in such a way that it bridges the gap between the original audience of the scripture and the contemporary audience. This is where he needs to look for key illustrations, stories, videos, all of which will illustrate the truth of the passage.

The study isn’t done at this point either, because a sermon is supposed to be persuasive not just informative. We are attempting to make you a better disciple. Disciples don’t just need information, they need compelling instruction. Here is where it gets a bit tricky though because it’s not like teaching a school grade where everyone is pretty much on the same level. Any given Sunday you are speaking to non-believers, infants in the faith, mature believers, and everything in between. So as apart of the message you need to illustrate what a clear response should be from each of those positions.

The study is not over at that point because now all you have is a bunch of notes, maybe a rough outline. To be truly proficient at your job it is best to write out a full manuscript. Writing everything out in a manuscript (or at least a full outline) helps eliminates rabbit trails, clarifies transitions, and generally sharpens the message.  Not all pastors write out full manuscripts for a multitude of reasons. I am only able to get one done when I get ahead on the preaching calendar. Most who prepare full manuscripts don’t preach from them. A manuscript is more about preparation than presentation.

Preach/teach – All that study has to lead somewhere and it’s usually the pulpit. Most pastors preach a few times on Sunday and sometimes once in the middle of the week. Some pastors preach up to three times a week. To put that in perspective… Have you ever had to give a make or break presentation at work? If you have, you know a similar feeling of what it is like to preach. Can you imagine making a new make or break presentation every week? Can you imagine making three a week? Now you are getting a picture of what it is like to preach. All that prep, all that urgency, all that emotion, wrapped up into a presentation every week.

Pray – When I say pray, I’m not referring to those public moments  of prayer in a service or gathering where it is customary to call on a pastor. I am referring to the private prayer closet of the pastor. The pastor is consistently lifting up his congregation in prayer. Too many skip this or go light here. They fail to realize that they have no true power in the pulpit apart from prayer in the closet. Prayer for a pastor is measured in hours each week not minutes. Think of it as meeting with the boss, you don’t skip those.

Meetings – Pastors attend meetings. It doesn’t matter if your church is large or small, there are meetings to attend. Because your pastor oversees a large part of what goes on at church he sits in on multiple meetings each month. And during some seasons, multiple meetings each week. (There was one season where I had meetings Monday through Friday night for a month straight and I’m just an associate pastor). Furthermore, he leads most of these meetings which means he is responsible for the agenda and usually has some sort of actionable items that he needs to bring to the group as a report.

Events – Pastors are expected to participate in church events such as Vacation Bible School, Easter Outreaches, etc. In the case of smaller churches the pastor often plays a crucial role in developing those events. In my case as an associate I’ve been the one responsible for planning these type of events and coordinating volunteers etc. Regardless of if the pastor plans or just attends and says a few words, his routine is altered and he has to find time to do all the other necessary work of ministry while still being present for these events. If he is not careful, he won’t get a break on those weeks.(I remember a season where I went for fifteen consecutive 12-18 hour days without a day off.) It’s important to remember that most pastors are paid a salary and don’t get paid overtime on days or weeks that push them beyond their normal routine.

Counsel – Pastors pray for and counsel lots of people. We deal with everything from pre-marriage counseling (prepping people for marriage) to spiritual counseling. Spiritual counseling usually takes place after a message or when God has stirred something in your heart. You reach out to your pastor and he responds. Sometimes this takes place over coffee and sometimes it’s more formal. I counsel lots of people every week usually in regards to a message or blog post. Ideally this takes place in person or over the phone, but with the younger generation there is a lot of texting involved. My phone blows up practically every Wednesday night and Saturday night to deal with questions, concerns, and biblical application. On one particular occasion I was out at a conference and my phone blew up with four different people asking me four different spiritual application questions.

Weddings – Pastor’s do weddings and we love to do them. Weddings require preparation (ask any bride). It’s important to consider that even though your pastor loves you, and wants to help you celebrate this big day that he probably attends a few more than you do each year because he is a pastor. I’m an avid college football fan and I enjoy the break of a Saturday afternoon watching football. But on more than one occasion I’ve caught part of the big game on the radio, or on my phone as we were leaving the wedding instead of TV.

Funerals – Pastor’s are there for funerals as well. It’s not just the service either. It’s spending time talking with the family, comforting folks, and maybe sticking around for a meal after. He probably should have something to say when he stands up to speak so he needs to prepare a message and that takes time as well. Sometimes he assists the family in helping make sure they know what to do.

Visits – Pastors visit a lot of folks from the home-bound to the hell-bound and everyone in between.  We visit folks in the Hospital. We visit folks at home who are unable to get out. We visit lots of folks who have questions about a message, or want more information about the church, pastor, etc. We visit with folks to pray about special needs. We visit to talk with adults and children who have prayed to receive Christ.

Sometimes we make these visits late at night. Especially as a student pastor I’ve gotten out of bed to be there for families who are suffering a crisis at the hospital when a loved one has been in a wreck, attempted suicide, and overdosed on drugs. These things typically don’t happen from 9-5 or on typical “work”days. I’ve had to cut my vacation short before and my phone is seldom turned off.

Bible Study – Many pastors also lead bible studies or small groups. As an associate I have a midweek preaching point where all of the study, etc. comes into play, but I also lead a Men’s Bible Study, a High School Guy’s Book Study, an Adult Co-ed Life Group, and a study session for High School students on a weekly basis. All of this takes time to prepare in addition to the time actually spent meeting  (that’s 7.5 hours of actual meeting time not counting the mid-week preaching point or preparation time).

Hospitality –  We try to open our house once a week to either friends from church or folks from the community. Since hospitality is a qualification for an overseer/ pastor (1 Tim. 3:2) it is one that we take seriously and strive to implement. It came down to the question, “would I rather my kids grow up in a home where folks were always invited in or in a home where we had an abundance of time to watch TV?” Generally I don’t count this as work, but merely as part of being a pastor.

Equipping Individuals for Ministry – This is perhaps one of the most tiring but rewarding aspects of being a pastor. One of my joys is placing people who God has gifted in strategic positions in order for them to exercise their spiritual gifts. In many instances it is easier for me to do the work of the ministry for them (though I may not be as gifted), but it is better for them and the body when they are discipled through the process. It’s like listening to my 6-year-old read. I know that I can read his book and get the story out in 5 minutes, but it is worth 30 minutes of hearing him read to me in order for him to become a more capable reader down the road.

When it comes to equipping people for ministry it usually involves a lot of time, attention, and coffee as you walk though a process of development with them. The beauty is that they become great disciple-makers because of your example and this is how the church is multiplied.

I’m well over my word limit now and there is still so much I do. As an associate at a smaller – medium size church I am also in charge of the website, our social media postings, Sunday morning follow ups, etc.

This list wasn’t meant to be comprehensive or to use as a guide for your pastor. Even among pastors there are different gifts. Some will excel more at counseling while others will find a way to shift this burden to someone who is more gifted. Some will visit those in the hospital more often because they have a special burden their while others will be wise to share this ministry with deacons and other leaders in the church.

Hopefully this post was helpful in sharing a little bit about what pastors do. It is a bit more consuming than 9-5 because it is more of a calling than a job. I am always amazed by men like my father who worked a 9-5 job and was also a pastor of a small church for most of my childhood.

 

 

Does God Like Our Music? (The Object, Quality, & Background)

Worship Music

God is the Object of Music Offered as Worship

There is something distinctively different about the music in the Bible and the music in our culture and the difference is mainly the content of the songs. In order for a song to be a Biblical or Christian song is should come from the scriptures or be a response to God. Every song in the scriptures teaches us who God is, pleads for him to act, or celebrates what He has done. Even in the Song of Solomon you have the celebration of marriage which is an institution created by God.

The primary issue about songs in worship isn’t the style (hymns or Choruses) or even the type of instruments used or not used, at it’s foundation a song suitable for worship must have God as it’s object. Churches that divide between  contemporary and traditional miss authentic worship because they choose style over substance and divide the body over a non-essential. When we insert preference into the mix we have to ask, are we concerned with God’s preference or our own? The issue about what music should be sung for the purpose of worship is simply this… is it a response to God? does it teach truth about God? does it ask God to move? … in essence is it Godward?

The essence of worship places the value on the one being worshiped not the worshiper. When it comes to using songs in worship, the emotional benefits of a song are secondary to the truth of the song. Is should be noted that your emotions can be wrong and misleading. Not that emotion in worship is bad, but that songs must be evaluated for more than how they make you feel. Worship in song in often very emotional, but it should be emotional because of who God is, not because of how much you like the song.

Music Offered as Worship Should be Quality

Those who lead our churches in corporate worship should be quality driven folks. Everyone from the music minister down to the smallest child in the congregation should do their best to understand the music that they are singing in worship.

Take a look at some of the introductions to the Psalms (Psalm 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1, 9:1, 51:1).  There is a note to the choirmaster about the tune of the song. He should know the song and be familiar with how it is to be played. On some occasions there are notes as to which type of instruments are to be used. Then we also see that the songs have an author and sometimes even a background. The message is clear, “here is a song to be employed for worship. Play it in a specific way, with a specific instrument, according to the design of the author… don’t mess it up.

Today we have songs that were written to be played in arena’s full of people and those written for more intimate settings. It can be quite unsettling when a praise band sets up to play an arena song to a smaller coffee house type gathering. The band may love the song, but it’s not a fit for the size of the community they are leading. It would be helpful if modern worship leaders would include some suggestions on their songs to help others who want to use them.

It is a difficult job to lead a congregation in singing praise to God. Whoever leads looks for the right songs for the moment for the community they are leading. Musicians and vocalists take music home to practice (How do you offer your best to God without practice?). Then they get together to practice, work out any issues, harmonize, etc. Don’t be fooled, they don’t do all of this in order to pull of a flawless production, they do it to exercise their God given gifts and lead you and I in songs of worship so that we can worship God TOGETHER. They do it so that when we have an awesome encounter with a holy and righteous God we have a method and a mode to offer expressions of praise back to Him. They don’t do it just to show off their talents and gifts… They do it so YOU can JOIN THE SONG! It is not about who is on stage and who isn’t. It is about God, who has gifted and called individuals to lead his people in a response to him of authentic worship through song.

Music Offered as Worship has a Background

You can’t help but notice that when you read some of the Psalms that there is a historical background to the song (see Psalm 51:1 for an example). This provides a great template for worship leaders to share relevant background information about the songs we sing in corporate worship. Some great resources for this are the three volumes “Then My Soul Sings” by Robert Morgan.

Even more contemporary songs have background stories. A simple search of the song title, author and the words “background story” will often yield results. Bellow is a video of an interview with Matt Redman who shares the background on his song, “Heart of Worship.” Though it’s not as popular as it once was, it reveals that these songs don’t arise out or mechanical song writing studios, but often arise out of real life responses to God in current situations.

A worship leader doesn’t need to share the background to every song or even share a background every time they lead, but the background does go a long way toward helping the congregation know how this song is a response to God and the appropriate emotions and sentiments that the song carries. Knowing that Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress is Our God in the midst of depression, illness and persecution can help the people in the congregation see how this song can be their response to God as well.

We’ll look more into music and song as an avenue for worshiping God as well as the benefits of singing to God together in the next post. Until then feel free to like this post, share it, comment below, and be sure to sign up to get new posts sent to you via e-mail (on the top right of this page).

 

7 Reasons I Ask Students to Evaluate My Messages

I meet with a group of young men and women on Friday’s to evaluate the previous weeks message and to help prepare the message for the coming week. It’s a tedious process in that it takes more time preparing an element of the message with this group than it would in isolation. But I’m convinced that this practice is good for the students on the team as well as for me.

seven reasons

I’ve run into a little bit of push-back on the first element of what we do, which is evaluate the previous week. Some folks in ministry are of the mindset that sermons are not to be evaluated. I disagree, but I understand the sentiment. To be clear, I do not ask the students to judge the content of the scripture, but the content of the entire message and how effective the message was at explaining the scripture. I don’t ask them to judge the movement of the Holy Spirit, but I do ask them to judge me. I ask them things like, “Was I knowledgeable about what was being presented?” “Was the message biblical?” “What was the main point of the message?” etc. This evaluation is really helpful. Here are seven reasons why.

It demonstrates to the students what to look for in a well presented biblical message. Most of the students who gather with me are there to learn how to prepare messages. By evaluating me, through a template of questions they learn what area’s of preparation are important and where they are exhibited in the delivery of a message. These questions then become a preparation guide for when they are ready to deliver their own biblical message.

It prepares the students to be evaluated. The students that evaluate me will also be sharing biblical messages at some point and will themselves be evaluated. By having a standard evaluation process in place they are prepared to be graded on the human aspect of delivery in the same way that I expect to be graded. I can truly evaluate them without having to maneuver on a scale of positives and negatives. They will stand or fall in each category according to their presentation, not my over-sensitivity to their feelings.

It keeps me accountable. I picked or allowed the questions on the weekly evaluation based on aspects of human delivery that every speaker needs to be accountable for. Who tells the pastor that his message wasn’t biblical, or that he filled 3/4 of his time with personal stories, or that he skipped application, or that he missed the gospel? If he doesn’t train his people to expect the right things and gives them a structure and freedom to approach him it will never happen. In the last few weeks I’ve heard sermons/ podcasts where the pastor labored over “extra-biblical” points and preached from word’s not really present in the passage. Those pastors would have benefited from genuine feedback earlier in their ministry to keep them on point, as it was they seemed smooth enough in their delivery that most folks didn’t notice that what they heard was just an opinion passed off as biblical knowledge.

It helps me see how my student leaders think. On the evaluations they share tons of relevant information. I find out which illustrations were clarifying and which ones were confusing. I learned through this process that my students really benefited from hearing my personal stories of struggle and victory in Jesus as I had been applying these truths to my life. Putting a greater value on these illustrations where applicable has made me a better communicator and more approachable by the entire group. I noticed after a shift in my teaching style that students began approaching me anonymously after each message about issues in their life. My ability to pastor students through the struggles they were facing dramatically increased because they saw me as someone who had flaws, but found the solution.

It Creates Better Message Hearers. When students on my team evaluate a message they begin to re-process the message over again. They think through the entirety of the message a few days after the fact and review the specific applications, challenges, etc. By this time they have had an opportunity to react to the message. This raises the bar of expectation. If the message was clear and there was a response needed, how have they responded? This creates an accountability loop for them. They now have to think about the message longer than the original 30 minutes in which they heard it and the Holy Spirit often takes what was said on a Wednesday and replays it in their hearts on a Friday so that the effect of dwelling on the message is greater than if they had not given it a thought beyond Wednesday.

It Demonstrates That I Have Room to Improve. I think it is fair to say that I want to offer God my best. If he has called me to be a communicator then I want to be the best communicator that I can possibly be. I want people to understand His Word. So I diligently study the scriptures, I diligently study those I present to, and I diligently study the effect of God’s word on their life through my preaching. The Holy Spirit can always take the worst sermon and make something great out of it, I would also like to think that He will work on me too through His word and His people.

It Teaches Students to Work. Far too many ministers rely on the Holy Spirit to bail them out of a lack of preparation. This overly mystical view of God misses the point that He calls and equips people for the work of ministry. That ministry, especially in the case of teaching and preaching requires prayer and preparation. Again, I’m not asking students to evaluate God’s Word, or the Work of the Holy Spirit, I’m asking them to evaluate my preparation and presentation. I’m modeling part of the work of ministry.

In our model students evaluate messages I teach. We work together on messages that I will teach. We work together on messages the student will teach. The students teach messages and are evaluated by the group. They get more practical hands on training on how to present a message than I ever got in any of my seminary classes on sermon preparation.

Do Tattoos Matter?

“Is God against tattoos/ body modification?” The question came to me simply enough last year when one of my students came in and shared an experience they had at another church. The youth pastor got up and started railing against tats… This particular teenager felt a little uneasy because they had several family members with tats. So I took some time and we explored what the Bible really does say about tats and body modification.

There are many reasons to not get a tattoo, but the bible doesn’t provide us with God’s explicit thoughts on the subject (It’s not the 11th commandment). The word tattoo is mentioned one time in the whole Bible. In the context it means “to write on yourself.” So if you did that in middle school with a pen then I’m pretty sure you’ve already broken this commandment … but let’s take a serious look at the verse about “tattoos” and use this as an exercise in understanding how to read the Bible in context.

“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:26-28 ESV)

It is important to understand that the book of Leviticus was written to the nation of Israel and was written with the priests especially in mind. The gist of the whole book is to not look like the pagan cultures around. It is for a specific group of people that lived at a specific time in history. We can learn a lot from it, but we do so at a distance. We are not traveling through the desert about the enter the promised land that is full of pagan people who do these things.

The command prohibits cutting your body for the dead and marking yourself like the people around them were doing. The idea is that when someone died, evil spirits would be around, so you would disfigure yourself so as not to be recognized by the evil spirit. The tattoo stuff implies that you are getting inked with the name of a false god or demon… all of these commands are in the context of how people worship idols and fake gods…. So if you were planning on getting a lotus flower tat to honor the Hindu god Shiva… then I’d say God isn’t pleased with your tat (and that’s really just common sense… based on the first and second commandments). In the book of Revelation we see something similar with the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17), to get THAT tat you are permanently marking your body saying that, “I belong to Satan.” So God’s definitely against that… but in those cases I think your bigger problem is your heart that that is living in rebellion to God, not the ink in your skin.

This command in Leviticus doesn’t forbid EVERY kind of cutting and tattoo, only those that are in service to false gods. Because this verse alone doesn’t forbid all tattoos/ body modification, etc. some people appeal to the New Testament where the Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth that their bodies are the “Temple of the Living God” (1 Cor. 3:17, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16). The logic follows that if your body is the temple of God, then you shouldn’t mark it up with tattoos (or any body-modification for that matter). The problem is that none of those passages actually say anything like that. In context they say, “God doesn’t need a temple like pagan God’s because you’re the temple.” “Don’t sleep around because if effects you more than you think.” And “Don’t worship false idols, it’s absurd to put an idol in the temple to the one true God.” … Nothing about body modification/ tattoo’s, stitches, heart surgery, stints, pacemakers, braces, fillings, etc…. “Your body is a temple” is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages of scripture. Seldom do I ever hear it quoted in context, most often it is used to beat someone up.

I actually have it on good authority that God is pro body modification. Every little Jewish boy around 8 days old got a permanent cut called circumcision. The difference was that this cut (body modification) was at the hands of someone else and it was to honor God (not an idol). The first big argument in the church was actually whether or not the church was supposed to force new converts to get this cut. In fact some people were going around saying, “you’re not a real Christian unless you have this painful body modifying cut done.” Check it out for yourself in Acts 15.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
(Acts 15:1-5 ESV)

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”(Acts 15:19-21 ESV)

So do you see what is going on here? Someone is going around saying that unless you get the permanent mark on your body, you cannot be saved! (Sounds like a twisted parallel to the message my student heard, “you can’t have a tat and be saved”).  Indeed somebody else stands up and points back to the law of Moses (the law of Moses included the first 5 books of the Old Testament, including the book of Leviticus). The council makes a distinction here and says rather than forcing them to keep all of our customs and laws (which were peculiar to them as a nation), we are going to separate the national law from the moral law… The only thing we ask of someone who converts to Christianity is that they act morally.

This is very important by the way because someone one day is going to take something obscure out of the Old Testament Jewish rituals (which I think all foreshadow Jesus and are worth understanding) and say, “Why do you eat shellfish when they are unclean, or do you wear clothes made out of two types of fabric, etc when the bible says you shouldn’t.” The answer is easy and simple… because I’m not a Jew. God doesn’t require us to do that. Acts 15 tells the story.

I think in the same freedom afforded you to eat bacon affords you the freedom to get a tattoo provided you don’t get one as an act of worship to a false god or idol. I think you would need to ask yourself the question, “Does this honor God?”

For the record. I don’t have tats. I don’t plan on getting any. I don’t want my kids to have them (until they are out on their own and they can make their own decisions)… but all for extra biblical reasons and as a point of personal preference.  Read carefully, I have not made a case for why you should get a tattoo, only that what you have on your skin does not indicate what has or has not happened in your heart. The real body modification that needs to take place for all of us is in the heart (Deut. 30:6, Romans 2:29).

Letters to Young Men: Why Accountability Groups Fail

letters to young menRemember that accountability group in college where everyone went around the room and confessed their sins? You knew what everyone’s struggles were and sometimes you suspected your buddy was lying to you, but you didn’t quite have the guts to call him out. So it all broke down and everyone was still living with the same struggles as before. When you tried accountability you thought it was the key to everything… I mean it works so well on paper, but after you tried it you realized you were still lying to your mom, looking up swimsuit models on the internet, and letting curse words slip at the same frequency as before… but now you also had to lie about it once a week.

Here is the truth. Peer based accountability groups seldom ever work. I know they never worked in my case. Do you know why?… are you ready for it?… wait… wait… ok… here it is… The guys my age (myself included) didn’t have a clue! That’s right there is no, count it, zero wisdom in a room full of idiots… so maybe that’s a bit harsh (since I was in the room and those other guys might read this blog post). How about this… “You can’t tell someone how to get to where you have never been.” Jesus put it this way when talking about the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 ESV)

The solution to this problem is actually quite simple though, you only need one person in the room who can see. Put someone in the room who isn’t an idiot and accountability might work (again I know this sounds harsh… but hang in there). Someone who has been around the corner can tell you how to get there (and doesn’t mind redirecting you when you blow it… because they actually know the next step)… That’s why there is value in having older mentors.

Do you want to be wise? Do you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord? Do you want to progress on the path of sanctification (be more holy)? Then find some godly older men to be your mentors!

When you are young you are looking for approval. It’s easy to hang with people your age because they are easier to impress. If you’re honest, part of you is a little bit threatened by hanging out with godly older men. I mean, after all… they aren’t talking theories anymore like you and your crew… they have actual battle scars (from real battles!) and war stories (from real wars!). But if you want first hand information on how to win the fight… these are the people you need to listen to (because they’ve been kicked in the teeth by the enemy and are still grinning!).

I was blessed early on to be mentored by several Godly men including my dad and my mom’s dad. I’ve served with two great pastors and sought out advice and wisdom from other great men along the way. There were times where I was intentionally the only idiot in a room full of wise guys because I needed their wisdom. My wife and I attended Sunday School Classes with older couples and intentionally befriended men and women who would invest in us. You see an idiot in a room full of idiots stays… get this… an idiot. But an idiot who will listen to wisdom from a wise guy… at least has a chance of becoming a wise guy.

Oh and one more reason you need to be mentored by someone older. You are looking for affirmation and you won’t find what you really need from your peers. But when an older guy affirms that you are on the right path, you are closer to becoming the confident young man God called you to be... so next time you feel the urge to get an accountability group together invite a godly older gentleman to the group and ask him to pour into you and ask him questions about whatever it is that causes you to struggle.

One word of caution: Not every older gentleman is wise about the same things. If you have financial goals pick a guy who seems to have his financial affairs in order. Unfortunately there are a lot of older men who spent too much time trying to impress their friends that they never picked up any wisdom along the way and they have little to share with you other than the testimony of wasted years. I pray you don’t become one of them.

Check into 1 Kings 12 to see a story about a guy who was more worried about impressing his peers than listening to the advisers his father appointed.

Why Church People Are Sometimes Messy

Proverbs 14:4 ESV Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

In many ways that’s my life verse. I should probably get Proverbs 14:4 engraved on my desk, but if I did you would never see it because I keep my work on my desk. Think about the meaning of the verse for a moment. In the case of an ox and a manger, you have to pick between productive and clean. You can have a clean manger or you can have an ox which is what a manger is for and who helps bring in the crops. You may have a clean manger AND an ox for short periods of times, but not all the time and not without someone shoveling the manure.

It’s kind of the same with small kids. They make messes. You can have a clean house or you can have kids. You may have both a clean house and kids but only for short periods of time and not without someone picking up the toys, cleaning the vomit, changing the diapers, etc… But the beautiful thing about kids is that if you train them, they grow up and eventually pick up after themselves, use the restroom by themselves and feed themselves (with a little pressure from Mom and Dad).

Church isn’t really all that different. You see with church we reach out to people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone comes to church and doesn’t know Jesus, they act like people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone commits their life to Christ, they act just like someone who just committed their life to Christ. While Jesus washes away our sin when we put our trust in him… we still may have a tangled mess of ungodly decisions that we have made in the past that have consequence in our present lives. And let’s be honest there may just be a lot of stuff we just don’t know yet. We’re kind of like new born baby’s in that regard (John 3:3, 1 Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:12).

We make messes. However, every day we are growing more and more in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-32). Our goal is to be presented as mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). But that takes time and patience from godly teachers and leaders.

Leave room for the immature to become mature at your church. It will involve a little messiness but you will help people grow! You know the barn is a place for oxen and oxen do make messes. The church is a place where both the immature and the mature gather to worship Jesus and the immature do make messes. I’d rather have a messy church that works to raise infants in Christ to maturity in Christ than a clean church without new believers. Because there are those who are weaker in the faith among us perhaps we should challenge them to grow rather than judging them for their weakness (Romans 15:1-6).