Local Church

Where is God on Monday?

Where is God on Monday?

(Insert dramatic typography to transition to a flashback)

2011

As my eyes slowly open, the once joyfully received LSU Fight Song quickly turns into my worst enemy. I fling my arm toward my dresser to stop my alarm to no avail.

Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh – repeatedly blares until I reluctantly get out of bed.

Eyes still drowsy, I find my way to the coffee pot. Then the casual check of social media follows before I jump in the shower to get ready and conquer the day.

After all its Monday and Mondays just – sometimes – aren’t fun. I get in my car for my long three minute commute to campus. After a full day of classes, I quickly hustle back to my car. You know that person who walks awkwardly fast without running? Yes. That was me.

I get in my car and quickly jolt over to my job. Before you know it, I’m home. I eat, hang out with Kayla, watch some Monday Night Football and call it a night.

It was a normal Monday. As a matter of fact, this was a normal routine for six days of the week. However this particular Monday was a sharp contrast to the previous day.

See, the day before my routine was different. After sleeping in I drank a full cup of coffee while watching ESPN’s NFL Countdown. I even had time to iron a shirt. I got in my car and drove 25-minutes (not the normal three-minute commute) to our church.

At church, I saw faces I didn’t see throughout the week. I drank fancy coffee I didn’t normally drink. I sang songs I didn’t know that well. I encountered a God I didn’t know any other day of the week.

But, it wasn’t just me. My wife (girlfriend at the time) Kayla – who grew up in church – felt the same way.

At this point, I openly called myself a Christian. I experienced Jesus before. I even got over some of my bad habits and changed for the better. We honestly loved Jesus, but we didn’t see him – or care to know him deeper – on any day that wasn’t Sunday.

There wasn’t one moment that led to this apathy toward God. It was behaviors and patterns that ultimately led to a disconnect. Have you ever bought something new – let’s say a phone, or even car – and in the beginning, you’re captivated by it?

It has all our attention. We check out every feature and use it an exorbitant amount. After a while though it just becomes another phone or car. You still use it, but it’s not what it once was to you.

That’s pretty much how you could have defined our relationship with God. As we all get 2018 started, I’m willing to bet that God is a high priority in your life. If we all want to pursue God deeper in the new year, it requires reflection and self-awareness.

We’re going to re-live some behaviors we demonstrated in our lives that led us to ask the question – where is God on Monday? As you begin to revitalize or take a next step in your relationship with God, let’s identify together if there’s any of these behaviors in our lives.

What You Won't Learn at the Big Church Conference

What You Won't Learn at the Big Church Conference

I can vividly remember sitting at my office desk one year ago beyond frustrated.

This wasn’t a normal “this is tough” moment that comes with ministry. I literally was beside myself. Every end of the year season, I review steps taken in the past 12 months to identify the positives and also areas to improve.

The only problem was my inability to see through my frustration. Everything looked like an area to improve. No rose colored glasses here. Call it what it was (a pity party), but I couldn’t see any wins for the year.

My main area of focus at our church is small groups. When we arrived at the church, there were three groups in total. My mandate handed to me by my pastor at the time? “Build me a small group system that holds 1,000 people.”

Ok. Yes, sir.  Will do. (Because don’t we all start at a “I’m going to act like I know what I’m doing until I figure it out” position at some point or another?)

So I studied. I prayed. I found systems at other churches. My podcasts were on repeat, and most importantly – I attended classes and conferences. Over a six month span my notebook was full… and so was my brain.

Soaking up all I could, it was time to move to practical application. Following what we felt was best for the church culture and community, my team implemented the steps we heard for more than a year.

Dedicated and meticulous, we embodied the values that were taught. No suggestion went unimplemented. We did everything we were told and our small groups still weren’t consistently growing, neither in number of leaders nor attendance.

The Unwritten Rule of Ministry Advancement

The Unwritten Rule of Ministry Advancement

A few days ago, as we were reflecting on previous church ministry experiences, I looked at Kayla and immediately started laughing.

“Why was I ever a youth pastor. Teenagers and I don't mesh well – then or now!”

As a young 20-something I had the desire to serve the local church, and I was confident that it was God’s plan for my life. In a conversation with our former lead pastor, I told him I would “do anything” because I just wanted to serve.

Shortly after a youth pastor position opened at the church -- so naturally I was a good fit. I was eager to serve, I was young, and if I took it ... I could be paid.

Done, done and done.

What transpired over the next couple of years was a result of a person serving out of need and not passion.

This car ride of reflection got me thinking of the unwritten stages of ministry advancement. In the church world, we’ve created a path of advancement, "or rule," without even knowing it.

The Weight of Leading Only Your Lead Pastor Can Understand

The Weight of Leading Only Your Lead Pastor Can Understand

You ever have that feeling where your stomach is in a knot?

For some of us it’s an all too real feeling. For me, it happens on specific occasions. After becoming an LSU fan, I felt it in the fourth quarter of every football game with Les Miles on the sidelines.

I feel it in every close New England Patriots game, which only intensifies in January. In some cases, I can’t even eat before or during games. I feel it every time I communicate in a large setting. I even feel it sometimes when I call people back on the phone (no judging).

Early last month the feeling arrived but this time in a different scenario than normal. Our lead pastors took their vacation – and for the first time – they were out for three consecutive weeks.

They’ve left in the past, but it was never this long. The moment they left – the feeling came. It was the first time we ever felt the weight and pressure of a lead pastor.

It made me think about Moses and Joshua and the ‘knot in the stomach feeling’ they must’ve felt. Moses literally felt the weight of leading – he saw it in the thousands of eyes constantly watching him. He felt it with the numerous complaints he handled.

The weight was so strong; Moses in frustration told God: “The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!” (Numbers 11:14)

Joshua, who was Moses’ predecessor, grew up watching how people treated Moses. He grew up seeing Moses fail to deliver on the promise and how that was received by the people.

In Joshua 1, God spoke the words “be strong and courageous” three different times to Joshua. The tribes and leaders looked at Joshua moments later and – you guessed it – told Joshua to be “strong and courageous.”

You know what that tells me? Joshua was most likely worried about the task at hand. I’m sure at this point he had the weight and pressure of being the head leader for the first-time. He needed God and others to affirm him and speak over him that he would be strong and courageous.

The weight and pressure of leading is very real.

You wouldn’t typically read a blog where a lead pastor wrote about this topic because it’s almost self-serving – it’s like saying, “hey, come look at all the pressure on my shoulders.”

But, we can talk about it from the other side with some real-time experience that will help all staff members and church attendees gain a fresh perspective. Here’s three experiences we encountered when our leads pastors were gone.

The Church Down The Street

The Church Down The Street

It was a normal Friday evening youth service. We were playing games while eating cheap pizza in a room so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think.

As the regular students arrived, there was a rare sight for a Friday night. There was a new student. At a smaller church, this is one of the greatest sights in the world. As the new student entered he was immediately rushed by other students welcoming him, along with a few who recognized him for school.

I quickly made my way over to him. While engaged in small talk I discovered that he attended a church down the street. It wasn’t “a” church down the street, it was “the” church down the street. He attended the “big” church that I often watched from a distance.

Instead of getting to know this student, I became self-obsessed with finding out information about his church. Every statement he made was quickly followed by an arrogant hyper-spiritual answer:

Student: Our youth services are normally an hour and a half.

Me: WHAT! We have our three-hour services.

Student: Yeah, we have PS4’s and a coffee café in our lobby, which is fun!

Me: That’s crazy gimmicks. Those teenagers just need an encounter with Jesus.

Student: On Sunday, we have two services. Each service is a little over an hour.

Me: Psst. They obviously don’t let the Holy Spirit move.

What this student didn’t realize was this short conversation was some festered up ill-feelings I had toward his church down the street. In my three years at my church, I never stepped foot in his church or even talked with a leader. Instead, I developed a negative perspective of how they operated.