"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Redefining Success

"Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, 'Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7 And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.'" Deuteronomy 20:5-7 ESV

Verse 5: It is more important to be successful on the home front, than it is on the battlefront.
Verse 6: It is more important to be successful in harvest field, than on the battlefield.
Verse 7: It is more important to be successful in consummating covenants, than conquering with comrades.

There are many more valuable endeavors than being a war hero. Our time will come to fight, but when it does let us make sure our home is in order. Let our sense OF fulfillment come from our finished homes, our fruitful fields and our finalized covenants, and not our bloodshed.

Gentlemen, let's go back to our houses.

(Inspiration from today's Scripture reading.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“Okay, I’m a Home Missionary, What Now?” - By Rob McKee

“Okay, I’m a Home Missionary, What Now?” - By Rob McKee

25 Things Home Missionaries Should Do

It was September 10th of 2001 when I walked out of the Texas District Offices as a Home Missionary to Katy, Texas. The Next Day, September 11th a small group of evil nuts turned four American planes into weapons of senseless destruction. The Next Day September 12th, I became a father for the first time. Since those three very different eventful days there have been countless more highs and lows. I’ve faced many disappointments and failures, but thank God there’s also been some victories. There have been days when I felt like our church was on fire...yet other days I wanted to set it on fire myself. I remember clearly the days when our largest crowd was 30...and vividly remember the hysterical joy I felt when we had over 60 in attendance on Sunday. God has been with us and we have seen a harvest in the city. In the past 11 years God has helped us to start two daughter works and another POK campus church. Now that our weekly attendance is over 400 I find myself more introspective about how we got here. I don’t claim to know the answers for every church situation, however I do feel like God has revealed some things concerning our church growth.

In prayer this morning the Lord prompted me to write down some of the lessons I’d learned in the 11 years of being pastor of The Pentecostals of Katy. I hope that something in this list will bless you and the church you are launching.

1. Dream Big & Promote Big - Develop A Brand of Church
* Write the vision make it clear
* Create a church identity. People need to start thinking of themselves as “a church” not a group of individuals.
* Referencing picnic or event as “our annual ______” (even if it’s your first time) builds the long-term idea that you aren’t going anywhere.
* Make the most of what you have and don’t highlight (talk about) what you “don’t have”.

2. Don’t Be Stupid, Lazy or a Quitter
* Your character will support or destroy your ministry
* Being reckless will destroy everything.
* Work the church like a job...don’t quit when things get difficult.
* When you are tempted to explode and do something rash - Don’t. You know when you are not in your “right mind”, learn to accept that your thinking is probably clouded by frustration, negativity or lack of sleep and avoid “doing what you feel”.

3. Win Every Week
* There can be no throw away services.
* Build an expectation of revival. It will take time but eventually people will come to expect a move of the Holy Ghost every service.
* Someone recently told me “You can’t have a grand-slam every Sunday”. They were wrong. As long as Jesus is in the batting line-up it CAN happen! Load the bases and let Jesus take over.

4. Be a Risk Junkie
* Jesus indicated that fear of risk is sin (parable of servants with the talents)
* Trust God, it’s His church
* Don’t be foolish but you must trust that God will make a way
* You cannot outrun God. “Waiting to see what will happen” is useless. You are a God-Called Preacher...make something happen!
* James said “...faith without works is dead.” Give God a “little action” (works) that he can honor with a miracle.

5. Design Your Services For Soul Winners...not guests
* Not everyone in your church will bring guests...get over it. Most churches have a few key individuals that bring a majority of the guests who visit.
* Identify and brag on those who bring guests. Make them them heroes. It will inspire others to get involved and those who “are already doing it” to become “super-soul winners.
* Develop a team of people who “know” how to pray guests through to the Holy Ghost. I believe it is un-biblical to “seek” for the Holy Ghost. God wants everyone to receive. If praying people through is a hit & miss experience reach out to someone who knows how to do it and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to change “how” you have always prayed with people. Pray for wisdom and boldness in the altar. If you do not have a large prayer team it will be up to you. Work the altars and pray them through to the Holy Ghost.
* Soul winners need only a few things to be motivated:
* Preach Acts 2:38 and Acts 19 at some point in your sermon
* Get their loved ones into the altar
* Pray them through to the Holy Ghost
* Get them baptized in Jesus Name
* Explain any confusing religious practices (shouting, speaking in tongues)

6. Put People To Work
* When people come to your house for dinner and ask to help, the worst thing you can do is tell them “no, go sit down and relax”. They are telling you they feel ridiculous. If you want them to relax, give them a job to do.
* Never give an assignment without asking for some commitment. Don’t make all job description commitments the same. Create shallow ends of the ministry pool.
* Make them sign their name. After giving them a simple job description with a few specific requirements, get them to sign their name at the bottom. This way, they’ve agreed to the above requirements. People tend to take the requirements more seriously. They may actually read them carefully. If there’s a need for correction, you are simply asking them to keep the commitment they’ve already agreed to.

7. Keep Your Family as the Church’s VIPs
* Don’t apologize to anyone for taking time for your family. Let everyone know they are priority.
* Include your children in the benefits of being “in charge” of ministry. They will experience many negatives of being the pastor’s kid, let them experience a few benefits.
* Don’t feel guilty about asking saints to babysit so that you and your wife can have a date night.
* Let the church honor you. It may be uncomfortable, but when your church blesses you on special days it helps the congregation. God will honor the church that honors leadership. Teach them what is right. If you do not feel comfortable doing this bring in a seasoned evangelist or minister to teach on honoring leadership. Understand that it is not about you, it’s about the office.
* Take time occasionally to rehearse what you want your kids to remember. Say things like:
* “Isn’t great it is being the pastor’s kid?”
* “Isn’t it awesome working for God?”
* “We are making a difference in so many people’s lives. Isn’t that an wonderful?”
* “I’m so glad God sent us to this city, aren’t you?”
* “Isn’t it cool having a dad who is a pastor?”

8. Embrace Technology but Don’t Have an Affair With It
* 84% of guests that visit your church have already looked for you on the internet.
* The internet is the new “church lawn”. It will tell guests to “come for a visit” or “stay away”.
* Try not to make your web presence so cool that it becomes confusing or send the wrong message. I have seen very traditional churches with websites that look like a skateboarder created them. They were sending false information. Your website ought to have the same “feel” and “experience” as your best service.
* Be careful not to spend so much time on tech that you have no time for prayer and studying. A cool powerpoint slide or transition will never be anointed...but you will IF you prepare.

9. Preach Exactly What You Want
* If you want people to be baptized, preach baptism...if you want people to tithe...preach tithing...if you want them all to come to the altar...preach a message on why they ought to..etc
* If you are afraid of preaching a certain subject, preach it anyway with extra boldness. Use wisdom and be prepared but preach it so strong that you’d be scared not to obey.
* Take an occasional “off service” when it’s just membership and teach “church strategy”. Why we do what we do, what we do when guests visit, how should we introduce ourselves to guests, why everyone needs to shake hands..etc. Don’t get upset with folks about something you’ve never taken the time to explain. Just because doing or not doing something is “common sense to most people” doesn’t mean you have “most people” attending your church. Teach them “why”...even the basics.

10. Talk About Yourself Regularly (...but don’t be arrogant)
* Information implies relationship. The more they know about you the more they think they “know” you. Every day people run up an hug celebrities because they “think” they know them. They falsely assume relationship based on their knowledge of their lives. As pastor you can use the same principle to connect with people in a very subtle way. Look for opportunities to use personal examples in your sermons. They will never forget them. The next time they hear a similar story on their job they might respond, “Y’know my pastor had something similar happen to him one time...”. If you’ve used your example to make a spiritual application they might repeat the same lesson to their co-worker.
* When you share personal miracles, heartbreaks or tragedies

11. Keep Good Records

* How will you know if you are succeeding if you don’t keep track.
* Regular yearly Attendance trends could make the difference on you giving up or staying until the next up-swing. There have been many times that I’ve been encouraged by seeing we had an attendance drop around this same time last year...however...that year’s low was higher than the previous year.

12. Figure Out How To Join Your Church Then Tell Everyone Else
* If you cannot simply explain how to “join” the church, how will anyone else know?
* People need some type of “graduation” into church membership otherwise they may always feel like an outsider.
* Giving a regular “2nd altar call” for “Bible Studies” and or “Membership Experience” is a great way to respond to the day’s sermon even if they did not come to the altar to pray. You might be surprised what an impact your message had even if they showed no signs of emotional connection.

13. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
* If a policy, job description or program is too complicated it will probably not be repeatable.
* There’s a better chance of someone keeping 5 Specific Rules than remembering 20 vague ones

14. Focus On 2nd Time Guests
* Anyone can be a first time guest. Focus on people who didn’t hate it so much they were willing to try again.
* Develop a 2nd followup program for 2nd timers.
* First-timers can eat up all your time and energy - especially if they don’t like what you are doing.

15. Confront or Quit
* If someone is violating a rule listed on an agreed Job Description, it is your responsibility to confront kindly but quickly
* If you are afraid to confront, you have lost them already.
* Remember, negative people in leadership positions are “appalling” not “appealing” new people.
* If you aren’t willing to enforce a requirement for ministry...then it’s not a real requirement. There are only two options: Erase it off the Job Description or Enforce it.
* If you are scared of people (or losing people) then you aren’t working for God. You must remember that you do not work for people, you work for God.

16. Give Up Politics For Pastoring
* While it is good to help with sectional or district work, the day you make politics primary over your pastorate you are hurting your congregation.
* Be a servant to help other churches but remember your saints are the ones God has called you to. Get your ministry affirmation from growing your church not from sectional or district offices.

17. Develop a Preacher Club
* Start a young minister’s class early - if you do not mentor them someone else will.
* Make it easy to join class but to stay in you MUST be committed.
* Develop a strong minister’s covenant that you are willing to enforce
* Find ways to use them in service.
* This group of men (and women) will be your greatest support in times of trouble.

18. Celebrate What You Want To Duplicate
* Need more Sunday School teachers? Start bragging on the ones you have.
* Does everyone one in the church know what you get excited about?
* Does everyone know what a “awesome service” is? Tell them...then tell them again.
* Talk about good things that happen and you will see them happen more.

19. Force Your People To Be Friendly
* Have an extended time of hand-shaking during the service (DO NOT GET IN A HURRY)...be a leader...let the musicians keep playing but keep everyone off the platform until every hand has been shaken.
* It may take some time, but you must create a climate where established saints are comfortable talking to sinners.
* If someone resists because of fear of germs...buy them some hand sanitizer.

20. Practice Your Elevator Gospel
* Regularly repeating the gospel will not only build expectation with your soul winners but it will teach everyone how to explain clearly what they believe.
* In the time that it takes to ride up two floors in an elevator, you ought to be able to explain what you believe and how someone “get’s saved or into covenant”.

21. Continue The Flow of the Mighty Mo
* Momentum can be manufactured.
* any sense of something unexpected or new (even something negative) can be the substance of positive momentum for the short term
* Create something unexpected EVERY weekend.
* Substantially Improving on something (Facility, materials, program or quality of leadership) keeps the Mighty Mo...moving forward

22. Be Strategic About Your...well..everything

* Think about the benefit of every program, every event...think in terms of strategy.
* Never stop thinking through processes and programs. Is there a better way?
* Think in steps not programs. Sometimes you have to learn the methodical process of walking with the intent of running eventually. Ask yourself, where are we headed long term?
* Early on we discovered that most churches in our area dismissed around the holidays so we started planning big events around the holidays. Sure, had regulars out of town but we would compensate with many guests. It turned into one of the key methods of getting "religious" church attendees of another faith to "finally" attend our services.

23. Recast a Clear Vision And Kill Committees
* If you don’t keep a clear detailed accurate vision in front of the people, they will come up with one of their own. If you happen to disagree, you have the potential for trouble. Dream in vivid color.
* Committees create losers. Get unofficial opinions, but never vote.
* If you need help in an area of weakness, give guidelines to someone with that strength...then release the task. If you want the final approval option tell them to bring 3 options when you first assign the task.

24. Develop Strong Daily Habits
* A regular time with God will become more difficult as the church grows. Establish a set time and practice for private time with God. Try not to make too many exceptions.

25. Stay Apostolic
* Too often we have lost good revival-minded men due to the glamor of success by non-apostolic churches. They may have thousands gathering every Sunday, but if their multitude has not obeyed the gospel then you’ve got more people “in the church” than they do.
* The greatest asset you have is the Apostolic Gospel and message of separation. Don’t run from it, hide it or be ashamed. Preach it. Practice it. The world is fascinated by it. Some will walk away over one issue of holiness. Be okay with that...Jesus was (the rich man who had kept all the commandments)
* Your greatest and most visible strength (especially when you are starting) is a manifestation of the glory of God. Don’t downplay a move of God...it’s the best thing you’ve got going for you.
* Read their books and digest the information, just make sure you've "chewed" on them a bit before you swallow everything they say.

Finally...Be encouraged....you CAN build a church if you refuse to quit! Home Missionaries, your name may not be illuminated on a marquee but you are being applauded by the Father of lights.

Rob McKee
The Pentecostals of Katy

Friday, July 8, 2011

Biblical Bad Guys Unearthed

TEL EL-SAFI, Israel (AP) — At the remains of an ancient metropolis in southern Israel, archaeologists are piecing together the history of a people remembered chiefly as the bad guys of the Hebrew Bible.

The city of Gath, where the annual digging season began this week, is helping scholars paint a more nuanced portrait of the Philistines, who appear in the biblical story as the perennial enemies of the Israelites.

Close to three millennia ago, Gath was on the frontier between the Philistines, who occupied the Mediterranean coastal plain, and the Israelites, who controlled the inland hills. The city's most famous resident, according to the Book of Samuel, was Goliath — the giant warrior improbably felled by the young shepherd David and his sling.

The Philistines "are the ultimate other, almost, in the biblical story," said Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation.

The latest summer excavation season began this past week, with 100 diggers from Canada, South Korea, the United States and elsewhere, adding to the wealth of relics found at the site since Maier's project began in 1996.

In a square hole, several Philistine jugs nearly 3,000 years old were emerging from the soil. One painted shard just unearthed had a rust-red frame and a black spiral: a decoration common in ancient Greek art and a hint to the Philistines' origins in the Aegean.

The Philistines arrived by sea from the area of modern-day Greece around 1200 B.C. They went on to rule major ports at Ashkelon and Ashdod, now cities in Israel, and at Gaza, now part of the Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip.

At Gath, they settled on a site that had been inhabited since prehistoric times. Digs like this one have shown that though they adopted aspects of local culture, they did not forget their roots. Even five centuries after their arrival, for example, they were still worshipping gods with Greek names.

Archaeologists have found that the Philistine diet leaned heavily on grass pea lentils, an Aegean staple. Ancient bones discarded at the site show that they also ate pigs and dogs, unlike the neighboring Israelites, who deemed those animals unclean — restrictions that still exist in Jewish dietary law.

Diggers at Gath have also uncovered traces of a destruction of the city in the 9th century B.C., including a ditch and embankment built around the city by a besieging army — still visible as a dark line running across the surrounding hills.

The razing of Gath at that time appears to have been the work of the Aramean king Hazael in 830 B.C., an incident mentioned in the Book of Kings.

Gath's importance is that the "wonderful assemblage of material culture" uncovered there sheds light on how the Philistines lived in the 10th and 9th centuries B.C., said Seymour Gitin, director of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and an expert on the Philistines.

That would include the era of the kingdom ruled from Jerusalem by David and Solomon, if such a kingdom existed as described in the Bible. Other Philistine sites have provided archaeologists with information about earlier and later times but not much from that key period.

"Gath fills a very important gap in our understanding of Philistine history," Gitin said.

In 604 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and put the Philistines' cities to the sword. There is no remnant of them after that.

Crusaders arriving from Europe in 1099 built a fortress on the remains of Gath, and later the site became home to an Arab village, Tel el-Safi, which emptied during the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948. Today Gath is in a national park.

An Israeli town founded in 1955 several miles to the south, Kiryat Gat, was named after Gath based on a misidentification of a different ruin as the Philistine city.

The memory of the Philistines — or a somewhat one-sided version — was preserved in the Hebrew Bible.

The hero Samson, who married a Philistine woman, skirmished with them repeatedly before being betrayed and taken, blinded and bound, to their temple at Gaza. There, the story goes, he broke free and shattered two support pillars, bringing the temple down and killing everyone inside, including himself.

One intriguing find at Gath is the remains of a large structure, possibly a temple, with two pillars. Maeir has suggested that this might have been a known design element in Philistine temple architecture when it was written into the Samson story.

Diggers at Gath have also found shards preserving names similar to Goliath — an Indo-European name, not a Semitic one of the kind that would have been used by the local Canaanites or Israelites. These finds show the Philistines indeed used such names and suggest that this detail, too, might be drawn from an accurate picture of their society.

The findings at the site support the idea that the Goliath story faithfully reflects something of the geopolitical reality of the period, Maeir said — the often violent interaction of the powerful Philistines of Gath with the kings of Jerusalem in the frontier zone between them.

"It doesn't mean that we're one day going to find a skull with a hole in its head from the stone that David slung at him, but it nevertheless tells that this reflects a cultural milieu that was actually there at the time," Maeir said.


Slavery: Sermon Notes By Pat Donahue

Pat Donahue is a Church of Christ friend of mine. He and I have debate a few times. However, racism is an issue that we agree on and I wanted to post sermon notes that he sent me after reading my last blog.


Two types of slavery in Bible – physical and spiritual

Physical slavery – two types – forced and indentured:

· Genesis 40:15 Joseph forced into slavery

· this also was allowed as the spoils of war - Deuteronomy 20:10-11 When you approach a city to wage war against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms and submits to you, all the people found in it will become your slaves.

· indentured slavery was not necessarily forced (except possibly by a court of law to pay off debts) - Leviticus 25:39-43 If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service. He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; he must serve with you until the year of jubilee, but then he may go free, he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors. Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale. You must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God.

· I Tim 1:10 forced slavery is wrong under the New Testament - “slave traders” in a newer translation.

· Matthew 5:43-44 New Testament does not allow Christians to fight in war (and take slaves).

· Even under the Old Testament, kidnapping a fellow Israelite for slavery was wrong – Deuteronomy 24:7 If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. (NIV)

Spiritual slavery – switch from Satan to Jesus:

Romans 6:16-18, Galatians 2:20

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I am not a Racist Because...

black people come to my church. While this is miles ahead of some congregations, it is not proof that one is not a racist. I have been amazed, even in the last couple of years, at pastors who have stated their discomfort with the idea of black people attending their churches. I had one pastor in particular admit that his church would not accept black members. He expressed that someone would need to start a separate church for the blacks of his community, and if they did he would support it, but did not want them coming to his congregation. I sincerely pray that he and his congregation repents of its racism.

It seems absurd to me that a bible believing Christian could sympathize with this kind of racist sentiment, much less accept it. Racism is a blatant denial of the Genesis account of creation. Modern racism is inherently rooted in Darwinian Evolution. Racism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. The scriptures clearly teach: we all have the same ancestral parents (Gen 3:20), the same blood (Acts 17:26) and the same kind of flesh (1 Cor 15:39). I will expound further on this idea in later posts.

I am wearied with hearing Apostolics making excuses for racism. As Apostolics we should have been past this a long time ago. Instead of following culture on this issue, we should be leading the way and changing culture. Historically the fight against slavery in North America was founded and fueled by Christianity. At some point the church silently withdrew from the battle. This will be picked up in a later blog as well.

Seeing that I digressed, let me continue my original point. Claiming you are not a racist because black people attend your church proves nothing. That would be like saying Lincoln's or King's America was not racist because black people lived in America. Or like the plantation owner denying that he is a racist because he has black people living and working on his plantation. Or like the modern NAACP claiming they are not racist because they have white members.

You see, it is not the presence of black people in your world/nation/culture/church that determines whether or not you are a racist, it is the equality of treatment once they are present that is the determining factor. I could begin a list of "you might be a racist if" criteria here, but I choose not to. I simply wanted to make the point that just because you have black people in your church does not mean you are not a racist.

I will make one brief observation here. If you use the N-Word in reference to black members, and especially to their faces as I have see done many times, you are a racist in need of repentance. This offensive word has been used from Apostolic pulpits by men who claim not to be racist. My question is, what definition of racist are you using? And what exactly would one have to do or say to be considered a racist?