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Easter 2016

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Monday, October 17th 2016

7:05 PM

Dare to Dream Part 3

The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that Tiggers are wonderful things…

In my last post, I wrote about the Eeyore effect and how it holds back the dreamers in the church.  Those who have faced negative situations in the past are in danger of embracing the Eeyore perspective because they just don’t seem to be able to catch the vision of the dreamers.

Now it is time to look at the other side of the fence.  The cartoon character Tigger is the direct opposite of Eeyore.  While Eeyore is depressed and just can’t seem to shake his negative outlook, Tigger is always playing around and he often crashes into Eeyore’s house.  Dreamers are very much like Tigger when they don’t keep their feet planted in reality.

Just like Tigger crashing into Eeyore’s house, dreamers can end up “crashing” into the church and causing chaos by carelessly carrying on like everything is just one big celebration.

Although we need dreamers to keep us moving forward, we need realists to maintain the balance between the “Nay-sayers” and the “Yes” people.  And those realists are the ones who will ask the tough questions in order to keep us from moving to either extreme.  What kind of questions should we ask?  Here are some questions that might help:

1. Have we done this before?

2. What caused it to succeed or fail?

3. Is the church in the same place as it was when we did this before?

4. If we have not done this before, why should we do it now?

5. What would happen if we did not do it?

6. Will the church improve or will it be damaged if we do or do not do it?

7. Why is this important to you?

Although these questions are similar, they do cause us to look at the situation in different ways.  By the way, did you notice that I did not start with question number 7?  Way too often, we begin with question number 7 because we want to make sure our voices are heard.  By pushing our opinions to the back of the line, we can objectively look at the situation and decide if we should either move forward with whatever we want to do or go in a different direction.

Remember that the quickest way to turn up the heat and start a fight is to keep pushing our own opinions instead of looking at both sides of the situation.

Eeyore and Tigger can get along if they can embrace the realists and work towards staying away from the extremes.

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Thursday, October 13th 2016

11:22 PM

Dare to Dream Part 2

As I am writing this post, the San Diego Chargers are entering the 4th Quarter against the Denver Broncos with a 19-3 lead.  At first glance, this is not really newsworthy because they are playing in San Diego, and those games usually go to the home team when they play.  However, the San Diego Chargers are 1 and 4 this year with those 4 losses coming from 2nd half leads that were blown because of the team breaking down.

The Chargers have been struggling with maintaining momentum after halftime but they are playing really well tonight.  What made the difference?  Their coach refuses to allow them to dwell on the games they lost.  In fact, when the reporter interviewed him at the half, she asked if he would remind them about those games and he replied with an emphatic NO because he did not want them to dwell on the past.  He approached the 2nd half of the game as if they were going to win and so far, they are looking like they might make it.

The biggest struggle for struggling teams is the battle against the Eeyore effect.

I am sure that most of you know about that poor, pitiful donkey on the Disney cartoon, Winnie the Pooh.  This poor guy can’t seem to catch a break.  He always loses his tail, his roof leaks when it rains, and it’s always raining on his birthday!  When looking at the life of Eeyore, I can understand why he never seems to be optimistic about anything.

After having bad stuff happen over and over again, the Eeyore effect takes over and it is hard to get excited about anything.

This is why so many dreamers end up getting discouraged and their dreams never become reality.  The Eeyore effect takes over when the people who have been there before become critical of the dreamers who believe that the church can turn around and start growing again.  Haunted by a past filled with disappointment, the people can’t seem to shake the negative feelings that come with pessimism especially when the dreamers propose something that was tried before and it failed.

How can the church guard against the Eeyore effect?

The church needs to be careful to avoid developing a critical attitude.  The San Diego Chargers could have let those lost leads get them down, but their coach would not allow it.  They kept a positive attitude during the week and now they are looking at a possible win against the Denver Broncos.  In the same way, the leaders of the church need to keep a positive attitude and refuse to allow the struggles of the past to hold them back today.

As the leaders go, so goes the church.  Stay positive, dream big, work hard, and you will have fun watching the church grow beyond the self-imposed limits of the Eeyore effect!

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Tuesday, September 27th 2016

2:24 AM

Dare to Dream

After building up momentum over the last couple of months, I ended up missing last week for blog posts because of the busy week I had.  Well, now that I am a little less busy this week, I hope to get back on track with posting.  I just hope that you noticed that I missed last week and you want me to post this week!  Ha-Ha!

Once again, I was watching an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, and I was inspired to write this post.  In this particular episode, David Silver was practicing his music in his parent’s cabana at the beach club.  At this point, he has transitioned to cool guy because of being Kelly’s stepbrother and Donna’s boyfriend, but he was just beginning his career with music.

He was playing the keyboard, singing and dancing to the beat when Steve showed up.  Steve really liked the music but he did not want to admit it, so he played it off and said that it was rough around the edges.  He was listening to the demo tape in the car when Kelly pulled up and told Steve to turn it off.  She said that she was tired of hearing it because David keeps playing around all day long.

Nobody took David seriously at first, and it took a few years before he finally made progress as a professional musician.  The reaction of his friends and family during the episode I was watching reminded me of the typical reaction people give to dreamers.

Some people don’t want a dreamer to get his hopes up, so they try to bring that person back to reality.  They say things like “It is hard to make it in the music business” or “Playing for the NFL is like winning the lottery” so the dreamer is left with a choice to make.

When faced with a critic, you can either fall back and quit or push forward and win.

Unfortunately, many dreamers end up quitting because they allowed the critics to discourage them to the point where they end up doubting themselves.  Of course, some dreamers need a dose of reality, and that is why honesty is the best policy.  Just remember that an honest dose of reality should include the fact that hard work can pay off and sometimes, dreams really do come true if you set your mind to becoming the best you can be!

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting down with my wife, a high school friend and his wife.  We were reminiscing about the “Good ole days” and the old high school band “One Nation” came up.  We had a blast talking about our concerts and joked about having a reunion tour so we could go back to those 5 churches in Fairburn GA.  Good times!

We joked about our band, but the reality is that we did become successful in our own way.

My friend is now a music minister, and another friend/member is a worship leader in Florida.  Although I am a preacher, I am using my musical skill to help with the worship service here in Greenwood.  We did not make it big as “One Nation” but we grew from those experiences and became great musicians for the Lord.

We had supporters who did not crush our dreams and that made it easier to come back down to earth when we were ready to grow up.

As much as we need to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, we do need to have the freedom to dream big so we can stretch ourselves beyond our perceived boundaries.  This can also apply to the church.

A church that is not allowed to dream big will never be able to grow beyond their 4 walls of mediocrity.

What if a man never wondered what it would be like to travel without a horse?  It would take much longer to travel from Greenwood to Atlanta because there would be no car to drive.  What would happen if nobody bothered to look up in the sky and watch the birds?  One of the announcers for a college football game on the West Coast last Saturday night was in Knoxville TN that morning.  He was able to make it to the game on time because the Wright Brothers were allowed to dream about flying.

Can you imagine what would have happened if our kids were not allowed to play “Church” during the week using the bulletins from the previous Sunday?  We see empty pews while they play “Church” but if they are like me when I was their age, they were preaching to a packed house in their minds.  At this point in their lives, it is ok if they are not thinking realistically because they are stretching their minds beyond their perceived limits.  For this reason, I say dream on!  We need dreamers to move us forward so we can reach levels we never thought were possible.

Sometimes it takes a dreamer to open up our minds to the fact that there is no limit to what God can do.

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Thursday, September 15th 2016

11:57 PM

Friendships that last forever

As the proud owner of the Beverly Hills 90210 DVD collection, I am not ashamed to admit that I am presently going through my third viewing of the episodes.  In this particular episode titled “The Next Fifty Years,” Scott Scanlon had a birthday coming up, and his mom was trying to get his best friend David Silver to help her plan a surprise party.  Unfortunately, what she did not realize was that David and Scott were not best friends anymore.

Their friendship did not survive the transition into high school because they were in 2 completely different worlds.

When they entered high school during the first season, Scott and David were the Freshmen who looked like fish out of the water because they were no longer at the top like they were in middle school.  Now they were starting over and they had to make a name for themselves if they wanted people to accept them.

High school has a way of destroying friendships that are not grounded in the reality of the here and now.

For David, he was ready to grow up and find a new group of friends to hang out with.  He tried his best to fit in and eventually ended up inside the cool circle because of his dad dating the mother of the popular Kelly Taylor.  He was now in the place where he wanted to be, but his best friend Scott was left behind.  Unfortunately, Scott did not develop socially and remained an outcast in high school.

When their Freshman year was over and summer break began, Scott went to visit family in Oklahoma while David hung out at the beach club with the gang.  The next school year began, and Scott returned with Country and Western CDs, some guns, fireworks, and a big Stetson hat that David despised.  David became a cool kid while Scott embraced his country roots and became an even bigger outcast than he was as a Freshman.

The next few episodes presented the contrast between David and Scott that drove home the point that David grew up while Scott remained in middle school mode.  Scott wanted to hang out at all the old spots, play the old pranks and games, but David was ready for something new.  The point where the friendship entered the awkward stage was when David moved on while Scott never accepted the changes that came with high school.

Just like high school, life has a way of destroying friendships that are not grounded in the reality of the here and now.

I lost contact with most of my friends from high school for many different reasons.  Some of them moved away from the area, attended different colleges, basically went down different paths that have never led them back to me.  Others did not agree with choices I made so they severed the ties in an attempt to “shake the dust” off their sandals.  Looking back at the way I acted during those years after high school, I can see why they never made an attempt to stay close.  I had friends come and go, but there is a small circle of close friends who are still here.

        “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV)

That small circle of close friends is like family to me because they have seen me at my worst, and they still allow me to be part of their lives.  Well, I guess you could say that my small circle of close friends is smaller than a small circle, since it is really a circle of one.  I have one friend who has been here since our Junior year of high school, and I consider him to be my brother from another mother.

Does this mean he was the only friend in my life?

I used to think that he was my only friend from high school, but over the past couple of years, Facebook brought me to some other friends who would have been there for me if they were not in different states.  I also reconnected with friends through sad circumstances like the funeral for the Godly woman we all called mom during high school.  Those friends were on different paths, but they still want to stay close, so we are rebuilding those relationships today.

Now that I am reconnecting with friends, how can I make sure it lasts?

The best way to make sure a friendship lasts forever is to keep it grounded in the reality of the here and now.  What I mean by this is that we need to be realistic about our circumstances, flexible about the time we spend together, and respect the paths that we are traveling through life.

If we cannot accept the fact that we have grown up, there is no way our friendships can mature beyond what we had in high school.  We have to be realistic and understand that the days of the midnight runs to Waffle House are over, but we can still have dinner with our families when we are near each other.  And that brings up the flexibility point.

Since most of my friends live in different states, I cannot expect them to drop everything to visit me, and I cannot drop everything to visit them either.  However, there are road trips, vacations, and other events that can bring us together, and those are the moments when we can laugh at ourselves and enjoy the time we have before going our separate ways.  And when we go our separate ways, we need to respect those paths because we cannot manipulate geography especially when we are living exactly where God is using us for His purpose.

If we want to remain friends forever, we have to make sure that God is still in charge of our lives.

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Wednesday, September 7th 2016

11:34 PM

Is the church acting like the IRS? (Part 2)

One of the most annoying parts about my communication with the IRS was the fact that I was clueless while they had all the answers, and they were not giving them to me.  I was often given the standard, scripted answers which were just as useful as a screen door would be on a submarine, as a purple jersey would be at Lambeau Field, or an air pump for the footballs Tom Brady used for the game against Indianapolis.

Would it hurt the IRS to just give me an honest answer?  After all, it wasn’t like I was trying to get them to disclose the location of the troops overseas.

When a Christian is faced with a friend who needs Jesus, what is the response?  More often than not, the response is something learned in Sunday School or whatever evangelism class that was given.  It would be a list of Scripture passages that end with a plea for a decision.  For those who may not have been at a church with these kinds of classes, you may not be familiar with this, but most church folk are clueless when witnessing because the classes they attended did nothing more than hand out scripted answers that may or may not work.

The church needs to get better at equipping the people, and it begins with a custom approach to evangelism.

When somebody has questions about God, the church, and salvation, they don’t need to hear scripted answers that lead to more confusion.  What they need is somebody who can sit down beside them and study the Bible so they can learn about this beautiful gift of grace we have been given.  They need a friend who will study the Scriptures instead of a salesman who will fake his way through a friendly chat.

When equipping the people for works of service, the best approach is to teach them how to fish.

Like the old Chinese Proverb said, “Give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day.  Teach a man how to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.”  What our people need above all else is to learn how to study the Scriptures so they can be ready to answer questions.  How many Christians understand what context is all about?  How many know about the Gospel narrative, the history of the Early Church, the purpose of the letters, or the difference between the old and new covenants?  Do they know why we have an old and new testament?  Do they know why Jesus had to be a human while remaining fully God?  Do they even know the significance of the resurrection?

When witnessing to a person, the most common questions usually have nothing to do with the plan of salvation.

We have all the answers to the questions people ask.  The problem is that we are not trying to answer those questions.  Instead, we have provided scripted answers for the questions we want them to ask, and that leads to the same kind of frustration I experienced with the IRS.  Do they need to know the plan of salvation?  Of course they do!  However, the plan of salvation will not do any good until a person is ready to listen.  How do you make sure a person is ready to listen?  Answer their questions first, then ask them your questions next.

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