Three Modern Obstacles to Pastoring and Caring for the Flock

Three Obstacles to Pastoring and Caring for the Flock[1]

Pastoral Care

  1. The Individualistic Nature of the Culture.

            Example:         An attitude that basically says, “It’s none of your business.”

            Analysis:          The result is that people are islands of festering wounds. They are
   .                                 isolated, diseased, and malnourished spiritually. Thus, most pastoral
.                                    care is crisis oriented. Pastors and elders are not called in to help until
.                                    the crisis is well developed.

            Solutions:       

  • Get off the crisis/counseling treadmill. 
  • Get “upstream”. I.e. do more preventative Counseling combined with 6 months check ups.
  • Take a spiritual inventory of the brother/sister’s spiritual disciplines.
  1. Cultural Egalitarianism

            Example:         “Nobody can tell me.”

            Analysis:          The self as the sovereign over the universe. This can be in the
.                                    form of unresponsiveness to counsel from any source; the young
.                                    not wanting to receive counsel from the old, old not wanting to
.                                    receive counsel from the young, experience to inexperienced.
.                                    “I will be sovereign,” mindset.

            Solutions:       

  • Pray for their humiliation.
  • Patient instruction (2 Tim. 4:2b).
  • Consistent loving confrontation.
  1. Therapeutic Culture

.          Examples:        “My therapist says;” or “Doctor Dobson says”; “M/M say”; or
 .                                     “Steve Arterburn, says” or “Promise Keeper’s” or “codependency
.                                      theory says” or “My AA sponsor says” or “The Big Book says” or
.                                      “Henry says I need to set up Boundaries in my life,” etc.

.           Analysis:          People who are bound up in this problem are living from within
.                                     a worldview and language that seems plausible to them but is
.                                     rarely grounded thoroughly in the word of God. They use a kind
.                                     of code language that justifies bad behavior in light of their past,
.                                     their experience, their pain, their genes, their parents, etc.

.           Solutions:       

  • Pray for seeing eyes and trusting hearts.
  • A theology of suffering.

__________________________

  • Remember, all their lives people have been told by their culture, their schools and their own sinful hearts that “the problem” is “out there” rather than within their own hearts. This has led them to the mistaken notion that a change of situation or association is going to solve their problem. They are quick to run. Love them and be patient.
  • The reality is that, “Not every problem admits to an engineering solution.” (Ken Meyers)

[1] Stimulated by the 2000 and 2001 Bethlehem Conferences for Pastors.

© Marty Schoenleber, 2012.

Why Paris and Not Nigeria?

Nigeria Violence

I mentioned this in Sunday’s message.

Why is Paris all over the news and Nigeria isn’t? Don’t get me wrong. The tragedy and what is behind it going on in Paris and the lives lost and the issues at stake are important for the entire world. The lives lost there are important. And the losses and terror foisted upon the nation of France and all of Europe is not to be minimized. 

But proportion is important too. All people matter. Americans matter. French people matter. Black people matter. White people matter. Asians matter. All people, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, or religious convictions matter. All people are image bearers of God. All people are to be respected and valued.

But the reports out of Nigeria have documented that while 12 people where being brutally murdered at a newspaper and 4 others in a Jewish market in Paris by a pair of jihadist terrorists, over 2,000 people (almost as many as where killed at the Twin Towers on 9/11), whole villages were being wiped out and burned to the ground. Boko Haram burned and ravaged 16 villages and one account said that the number of bodies were “too many to count.”

Baga Victims of Boco HaramA friend asked the question:
“Why are none of the major media outlets saying anything about what is happening in Nigeria?”

My answer is simple if a bit sarcastic.

“Because rich people are worth more than poor people. Because the northern hemisphere is considered more important and relevant to news media than the southern hemisphere. Because the West has turned its back on Kingdom ethics and put pragmatism on the throne. Because people in the West vacation in Paris but not in Nigeria. Because the world still needs Jesus and continues to reject both Him and His message.”

And where is the voice of the church and where is the passion of the church for the poor? 

Jesus offered to the disciples of John the Baptist, seven proofs of his Messiahship when they came to him with the question: “Are you the one to come, or should we look for another?” (Luke 7:20-21). One of those proofs was “the poor have good news preached to them.” It does not surprise me that the West has turned its back on its Judeo-Christian heritage or that in an increasingly secular age, pragmatism reigns as an ethical system.

What does mildly surprise me is that the Church itself has largely abandoned its heritage. We are not known for our saving acts, our redemptive acts, our sacrificial service of the poor, and lonely, and outcasts. We are far more likely to be known for our judgment, our lack of love for others outside our camp, our selfish hoarding of resources. We don’t look like people who are living passionately for and like Jesus. And that is more than surprising. That is tragically sad.

Lord, help us to find the beams in our own eyes. Help us to resist the temptation to live for our own security, comfort and convenience. Deliver us from the evil of living for ourselves rather than your greater glory. In Christ’s name, amen.

You are now in a very small minority that knows anything about the Nigerian tragedy. Please pray for the suffering of people there and ask God what else He might have you do on their behalf.

How Did People find the BLOG in 2014?

According to WordPress …

This is how people found my BLOG  last year. Thank you for all of you who referred people to the posts by sharing them on Facebook, favoriting on Twitter, searched in Stumbledupon, wandered in from MyTrinity.tv, or posted on Pinterest. Keep it up in 2015 and have a great year serving the King of Kings.  

In addition, visitors came to the BLOG from 155 countries!

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2014 were:

  1. facebook.com
  2. twitter.com
  3. stumbleupon.com
  4. mytrinity.tv
  5. pinterest.com

To My Liberal and Conservative Friends

Monday is for Discussion

I won't fit in your predetermined spot for me.

I won’t fit in your predetermined spot for me.

I posted a version of this on my FaceBook™ page and thought I would bring it over here for good measure. Part of my motivation is fueled by frustration. Some of my conservative friends think that conservatism is always right. They don’t listen to anyone who isn’t “conservative.” Some of my liberal friends think that if it doesn’t come from a liberal voice they recognize, nothing can be trusted. Among some, and I see this more common among my younger friends (anyone under 40 qualifies as ‘younger’), there seems to be a willingness to insulate themselves from any contact with anyone who is not of “their tribe.” That goes for both my liberal friends and my conservative friends.

How is that an expression of tolerance and love for one another and the diversity of God’s creation?

Trapped in a BoxSo here’s a note to my friends both liberal and conservative, both democrat and republican (and everybody between and beyond):

  1. I can’t be classified in your little boxes.
  2. I will sometimes post things that will upset you. It’s not intentional.
  3. I sometimes read your posts and get upset (this applies equally to both liberal and conservative friends). I get over it quickly.
  4. I am NOT going to defriend you because I disagree with you. You are more important to me than your posts.
  5. I am hoping to learn much from you.
  6. I love having a diverse group of friends.
  7. A continued relationship with the people I cross paths with in life is a high value to me.
  8. If I went to school with you anywhere (HS, College, or Graduate School) you are always welcome in my home. (I mean it. Consider my house a cheap [i.e. FREE] B&B if you are passing through the midwest.)
  9. I will always try to be like Jesus to you personally.
  10. I will fail, but I will not give up trying.

I really only have one interest: Living passionately for and like Jesus as best I can according to my understanding of the gospel.

My understanding of the gospel is a continually growing thing. I will likely discard certain things I believe now as I mature in Christ. I don’t expect to be the same person I am today a year from now. I hope to be more like Jesus. If I’m not more like Jesus a year from now it would be tragic. But I will still be, your friend.

God is Not Your Pal

Monday Musings 

Knowing God 2Sometimes we get too familiar with things. Sometimes we get too familiar with one another. And when we do, we begin to take them for granted. We don’t treat them with the respect that they deserve as image-bearers of God. 

Sometimes, the same thing happens in relationship to God. We get too ‘familiar’ with God. And the result is that we don’t show Him the respect and honor He deserves.

If we were invited to the White House, or the Governor’s mansion of our state, or if we didn’t go so high as the the President or the Governor and we were invited just to the mayor’s office of our local town, we would approach such an invitation with a certain gravity with a certain weight. And yet, that is precisely what modern day Christians seem to be lacking in their approach to God.

I’ve written about this before (here). But recently I was reminded again by a number of incidents in my own church as well as this quote from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

“Is it possible to cultivate a sense of God’s presence, particularly during prayer? There is a Hebrew word that deals with the question: kavanah, which means ‘intention’ or ‘direction.’ The word conveys the idea of being profoundly aware of the One to whom you are speaking as you direct your heart toward heaven. ‘A prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul,’ says the rabbis. It’s a lifeless, dead corpse. Because so many Jewish prayers are repeated, the rabbis emphasized the need for kavanah, so that each time a person prays, the words are fresh and full of passion, with a sense of reverence for the awesome God who is their focus.”

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, 87.

Let’s give real kavanah to our prayer. Let’s give God the attention and intention of our heart. Let’s give Him the reverence and respect that His holiness and love demands.  

Using Our Homes Like Jesus Used His

Monday is for Discussion

House of Peter in Capernaum

House thought to be that of Peter in Capernaum [Map credit: BiblePlaces.com]

Mark 2:1–3 (ESV)

2 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.

Interior of Modern Church built over the site thought to be the home of Peter the Apostle

Interior of Modern Church built over the site thought to be the home of Peter the Apostle

Some simple observations:

  1. Jesus had a place known as “home” in Capernaum.
  2. People knew where it was.
  3. Jesus welcomed people into that place even to the point of the house having no more room.
  4. In His home, Jesus was preaching the word to his guests.
  5. And He was healing those who came who had need.

Conjecture:

This house, was most likely Peter’s house in Capernaum that Jesus and the disciples used as a base of operations for the Galilean area.

Questions:

  1. If we are followers of Jesus, why don’t we use our homes more like He used this one?
  2. If we are followers of Jesus, is there anyone in our community that knows they can come to our home at any time and hear the word of God like those in Capernaum knew they could go to Jesus? 

Ten Lines of Evidence that Christians Have Pickled Themselves in the American Dream

An excerpt:

2.  Their lives would be more disrupted by taking away their cell phone (or ipod, ipad, or computer) than if you took away their Bible.

3.  They more likely prayed more often and more fervently for the demise of Obamacare than they prayed for President Obama himself.

4.  Like their non-Christian neighbors, they don’t know the names of their five closest neighbors despite the fact that their Master sent them to reach the lost.

5.  They aren’t tormented by sin.

For more see:   Christians Have Pickled Themselves in the American Dream.

“No-one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank

Monday After Thoughts

Benevolence Giving (Anne Frank)Last week I posted a great quote by Ann Voskamp on giving. This week I have another great quote from the same article in which I found last week’s quote. The article was written by Kristen Welch and was provocatively titled “Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor.”  I’ve provided the link if you want to check out the whole article. Here’s the quote:

Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

It’s that last sentence that I think we all need to think about. “Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?”

I think Kristen nails it. 

Try this experiment:

  • Spend nothing for a month without first asking, “do I need this or want this?”
  • Take every dollar you would have spent on a want and give it to your local church’s benevolence fund to help the poor.

Wouldn’t it be great to see every church in your town receive a huge influx of dollars to care for the poor in the community in a way that expresses the love of Christ?

The Art of Giving : : Ann Voskamp

Monday is for Discussion 

Deeds of GivingBelievers should out love, out give, out patient, out forgive, out die, everyone else in the culture.

We should live better, think better, love better and die better than all who don’t know the joy of the gospel. Whether we have much or little, whether we have health or cancer, whether we are alone or surrounded by friends, this is how it should be. We ought to be the most grace-giving people in the world. 

The reality is, we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

And it also doesn’t mean that the marvelous, merciful grace of God doesn’t cover our weaknesses and gross failures.

Years ago a young woman asked me for a definition of the Christian life. I thought for a moment as I looked at the twinkling lights of San Bernardino from a cliff-hanging restaurant high in the mountains and then said.

“The Christian life is a joyful confession that I am not today what I will be tomorrow by the grace of God.”

“Why ‘a joyful confession,'” she asked.

“Joyful because I know that God’s grace is covering what I confess in the moment that I confess it and that God’s grace will be with me tomorrow to help me grow beyond the idiocies and sins of today. He is cleansing his child and he will not stop until what he has begun is made perfect in the day of Christ Jesus.”

The definition has stood me well for more than 30 years but it is missing a vital ingredient.

Part of the grace that moves us forward in our quest for Christlikeness is lament, real sorrow and grief, over our sin. Our laments never eclipse our joy, because we are after all resurrection-people. We live and move and have our being in the afterglow of the resurrection of Christ and the promise of the resurrection to come. Nevertheless, sorrow and grief over sin is part of what the Spirit of God produces in our hearts so that we will joyfully choose righteousness when the next temptation comes.

One the hardest things for us to learn seems to be the art of giving. That is not a sentence about money. At least not only about money. The affluent culture of America has pickled us. We are slow learners that the life we are called to is a giving-life. A life that is shaped by and modeled after the cross of the One we follow. He gave his life a ransom for many and that ought to shape the way we give our lives and our stuff to others.

We haven’t learned to give until our giving (of time, stuff, dollars) becomes a sacrifice. Ann Voskamp has said it nearly perfectly:

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.”

—Ann Voskamp

Our giving reflects our heart. It reflects our progress in faith. It reflects a heart that trusts God with tomorrow and uses today to bless the lives of others who need us to reflect the face of Christ to them.  Ann Voskamp has it exactly right. 

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give,
unless that giving affects how we live.”

Yes. Our Savior gave his life on a cross so that we might present love to the world in the cross-shape of our lives.

  • I lament that I have so far to go, after 40 years of traveling with Christ.
  • I praise him for the grace that covers me still
  • And I rejoice that tomorrow you and I will have traveled further as we abide in his word by the power of his Spirit.

What Counsel Do You Give When You are Asked the Wrong Question?

Monday is for Discussion

Book of Acts (Sent)A pastor asks:  “How can I help my church increase their membership? It’s a small country Presbyterian church with mostly older members. Looking for ideas…”

First thing about this question: It’s the wrong question. Here’s a better one, “How can we make more disciples of Jesus?”

That said, once you have given some serious thought and prayer to that question, these might be some of the things you could begin to consider.

  1. Don’t worry about marketing and advertising.
  2. Be the church; don’t try to “portray the church.”
  3. Train everyone to proclaim the gospel clearly. Train them to talk to friends, neighbors and family.
  4. Get your people working life on life in applying the Scripture.
  5. Ask of your service: Are we doing anything that has nothing to do with the gospel and makes unbelievers and seekers of truth uncomfortable? Stop doing those things.
  6. Are we doing anything that makes unbelievers and seekers of truth feel comfortable and does not involve a compromise of the gospel? Keep doing that.
  7. Get more ‘knees on the ground” for the spiritual battle of reaching your community. A praying church is usually a growing church.
  8. Missionally, get the church on task in loving and serving their community.
  9. Consider partnering with another church in the community to reach the community. God blesses unity in the Church.
  10. Remove any spiritual impediments to growth starting with the sins of pride, disunity and unbelief in leadership.
  11. Remove structural impediments to growth (google Ed Stetzer on the topic.)

More could be said, but that’s all I have time for now.