Dying 2 Live...!

Dying 2 Live...!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

TRENDWATCHING: "The Leading Trend"

Today, we will be embarking on a new mini-series called "trendwatching." It is not just the watching of trends that will become our observational basis, but some of the latest trends particularly in the church. Okay, with no further ado, let's jump in.

Yes, churches follow fads and trends! Some are healthy and some not so healthy. The first trend we'll be addressing is the "leading trend." One may ask, "What is the leading trend?" Well, it's quite simple. The leading trend is the trend of revamped leadership in the church. But one is not just referring to any old type of leadership; we're talking about hyperbolic leadership. I know some are thinking: "Goodness, Mark...enough with the big words." Just stay with me for a moment, I'm going somewhere with this! Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It is based on exaggerated emphasis or unrealistic expectations. 

So what's the importance of this lesson in creative literature? The importance is this: many churches are demanding unrealistic expectations as it relates to leadership. Now, it's fully understandable to want better leadership and run a smoother sailing ship, but at what cost?

Here are 3 things your church can watch out for as being wrong reasons for revamping your leadership (in order to honor God):

"We Want Immediate Growth"

"It's our growth, and we want it now!" This slogan may work with J.G. Wentworth and not fully with the local church. The local church is not a structured settlement; it's a loving community. Just like any other thing in life, growth is not always overnight. Get this, it's a process! To automatically think your church will go from 10 to 10,000 in a matter of a couple months is extremely unrealistic, no matter what gimmicks you do. I never said it couldn't be done, but unnecessary pressure would be added to a local group of people unwisely. Individuals can better plan for steps than they could for long jumps. Let God control the growth, not a local church's overzealous leadership.

"We Want Excellence"

Excellence is a good word, but recently, churches have overused it. First and foremost, there is a proper attitude that should go with excellence. Rather than having impressive results, God desires for your heart to be right. If one has to complain to ministry after ministry or want a Sunday morning to be a worship service of absolute perfection and won't be pleased unless those results are always rendered; that's just unrealistic. I refer to it as Unexcellent Excellence. People resent working or volunteering in a local church that overvalues some lofty goal of impressive results, rather than truly valuing the people themselves. Churches should value both, weighing heavier on the individual. A good motto is, "...In all things LOVE." Ministries shouldn't be so quick to rebuke their helpers for not always getting things perfectly right the first or even fifth time around. Again, let's understand most things done (even in the church) are a process and not usually learned overnight. It's not just about excellent-looking end results. But it's about having an attitude, a heart---a proper spirit of excellence in love---toward one another in reaching those eventual end results together, as a team.

"We Want to Treat our Guests like they're at the Ritz-Carlton"

Lastly, churches are just too eager to get people into seats and go after large numbers for a Sunday worship service. Sometimes churches go way too overboard with their treatment of visitors. I understand the importance of making people feel welcomed, but not at the expense of everybody else. Dont' just treat your guest well, treat everyone well. If it's ONLY about the guests, then that's no longer a church but a hotel. In a hotel you don't expect people to stay too long, so you give them 5-star treatment for a hopeful annual return visit. Churches shouldn't look to survive on annual return visits. Churches are made to be similar to a community, a family, a hospital, a building, a marriage and a body. These are all definitions the Bible gives for the church. It's about a day-by-day support system, not a once-a-year vacation plan. It's made for where you live (on this journey called life), not just where you visit. Never is the thought of a hotel, motel or inn ever applied for the concept of the church.

And for the 5-star treatment, hotels like the Ritz-Carlton only give 5-star service for a 5-star price. If you pay $500+/night; you'll get great service. But try getting that same service on a $50/night budget at the Ritz. They'll laugh you out of the hotel, sending you across town to the Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn. What happened to the great service? The great service was only partial to high-qualifying clientele. God's not like that; He's impartial. Churches should take note and be like-minded.   

Friday, January 27, 2012

Expect the BEST but Prepare for the WORST

It has to be a consistent thought-process for individuals this year to do 2 key things:

(i) Expect the BEST
(ii) Prepare for the WORST

Let's dive right into addressing both of these concepts---

Do we usually expect the best in life? Or do we resent our lives? Expecting the best for one's life has much to do with attitude and perspective. If one is filled with a motivated attitude, they will expect the best out of life. They will focus on the colorful rainbow coming in radiantly after the rain, rather than on the rain itself. Their attitude would be one of gratefulness instead of misery, even with misery all around them. These are the motivators, encouragers and gregarious individuals in life. These are the ones who have the "it" factor as it relates to enthusiam and vigor.

But many of these individuals usually end up having the right perspective in life as well. "Life is what you make of it." Life isn't a pie-in-the-sky journey that has no problems along the way. So their perspective is important to that understanding. They don't often depend on people to lift their spirits and make them joyful. In turn, they tap into the joy laying dormant with inside of themselves. They use their optimistic perspective to light the match of potential, leading to ongoing cheerfulness.

Now, these individuals seem to good to be true; they seem a bit out of touch with reality. One can see how someone can think that. But there is a remedy for that conception. This leads right into the next concept.

They must also prepare for the worst. Notice, one didn't say they should believe for the worse, only prepare for it. Some get this confused with suddenly converting to now a pessimist. No, one must stay optimistic, not just positive but actually optimistic. Positivity centers merely on thought; optimism revolves around intents and actions. One shouldn't just think great things can happen today, but one should be positioning themselves to literally walk in those great things.

In preparing for the worst, step-by-step praticality comes into play. So instead of just believing for a raise at work, one also places money away in savings or to the side. This is not done to disregard the anticipation of the raise; it is an added piece in connection with the raise. And in the end, the person has a boat load of money put away in savings that year and/still with the hopes of a raise. This could be the same for healing/healthy living, business start-ups/more professional schooling, etc. Sadly, individuals who tend to struggle on multiple occasions with this dilemma are Christians. They tend to often look to one point or the other, and not both. Both are needed for a healthy balance in trusting God as well as preparing for the realities of life. The more we implement both of these, the better off we can be. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Multiple Opportunities for Growth...

It should be no surprise that we all can GROW. Actually, we all must grow. And I mean grow a lot! Especially, in the area of spiritual growth is where much of the work is needed. We all can become better at multiple things. You can do more and be more. Here is a list of 25 opportunities that may help your spiritual growth spurts:

1.) Reaching out to the hurting, broken and rejected
2.) Using Godly wisdom
3.) Walking in love more consistently
4.) Handling our finances better
5.) Studying the Bible more frequently, instead of sometimes simply reading it like a novel
6.) Assisting those with physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs
7.) Organizing our time more efficiently
8.) Not being stressed out so easily
9.) Running after God
10.) Valuing our relationships properly
11.) Supporting our children & loved ones
12.) Aiding the poor (only the ones truly needy, not the scammers)
13.) Giving a listening ear to the elderly
14.) Being more effective in ministry
15.) Preparing more soundly for our endeavors
16.) Witnessing with more intentionality
17.) Praying more fervently
18.) Fasting more
19.) Being less self-centered, demanding my own way
20.) Being less prideful, and more humble
21.) Being less stubborn, and more flexible
22.) Checking our ugly attitude at the door
23.) Being more patient
24.) Holding onto our peace
25.) Refusing to relinquish our joy by remaining grateful 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Disappointments & Rewards

Over time, most in life will experience some type of setback or disappointment. You know, the plans don't always go quite as planned. The rejection of a marriage proposal or on a job interview, that could be a major disappointment. The failure of a business/financial risk as well as failing to get accepted into a major college, these can also be disappointing. Your family, children or friends can let you down at the time you most need them. What a disappointing experience to have to deal with any of these... Disappointment can seem like it's forever, but it's NOT. 

Unsuprisingly, this is basically a part of life. To put it bluntly, "Stuff happens!" And not always the good kind of stuff. Romans 8:28 reminds us---that it can work together for our good. And not that it will often feel, look or be good.

But there's nothing more disappointing than feeling like the local church or even God has let you down. Sometimes it may seem like you have let yourself down too many times, based on the devastating choices you chose. One can eventually get stuck in a rut of disappointment. You can start to believe "this is just the way life is for me. I get little to know breaks and I'm destined for disappointment." Believe me friend, I've BEEN there, too many times than I would care to admit. What's reassuring is the fact that I don't have to LIVE or STAY there.

Thankfully, every cloud has a silver lining, and there is sunshine after the rain.

Inspirational communicator Les Brown said it like this:

"Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead."

What was understood is that, "There are rewards up ahead..." Again, disappointment isn't always forever. Your joy can be in knowing: this will all change some day. It could be a lot sooner than later. It could even be here in 2012. Don't blame God, pray for your local church along with its leaders and refuse to get too down on yourself. Remember, rewards are on the way

Monday, January 16, 2012

Challenges & Wonders

2012, some have already seen this year immediately leading in one direction or another---challenges or wonders. Of course, we all would prefer the delightful wonders. Everything in life being just as blissful as it can possibly be. A "no worries" state of mind where days are just fine and dandy, a breeze. Like the Christmas movie---It's a Wonderful Life, angelic George Bailey comes in and saves the day. Work is a dream job, plenty of money's in the bank, bills are paid weeks-to-months in advance, relationships are lovingly intimate, children are amazingly cooperative and even the dog is tailwaggingly well-behaved. Ahhh, those are the days...! 

But is that usually the reality for most people? Or are those extremely rare days? And I do mean extremely...! Over the course of being just a little past a couple weeks in the year, I can attest with conviction, challenges have already creeped into 2012. That dream job is still placed on hold, money concerns have already arisen, relationships are tense, children are seemingly losing their minds and the dog refuses to shut-up much of the night.

Yeah, I thought I would start to get some more of your attention by now! And snap you out of the fairytale ending of your life. The second scenario could be much more of what you're experiencing early in 2012. But rest in knowing a few things:

1. You're NOT alone...!
2. Life is a journey...so when you get an opportunity, stop and smell the roses.
3. Remember, challenges are a part of life.
4. Learn to GROW in the midst of challenges.
5. The BEST you is still on the horizon.
6. While you're going through what you're going through, help somebody else in need.
7. And, last but not least, let God lead your heart, words and actions...He's still in control. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trust vs. Superstition

Again, to all, "Happy New Year!" I do realize this year will bring challenges and wonders. I do realize this year will bring disappointments and rewards. And I also realize this year will bring multiple opportunities for growth. Regardless what this year brings, one should be prepared. So it's perfectly okay to..."expect the best but prepare for the worst." Each highlighted scenario, we will be addressing throughout this month. But on this present occasion we will address the case of trust vs. superstition.

What is trust? What is trust in God? How can I operate in more trust in God? What is superstition? Why do people operate in superstition? Is it okay for Christians to be superstitious? Many of these questions may be complex in their origin and understanding. And some may not be able to be adequately answered in this blog post. But the overall concept to these questions can be quickly answered.

Here are the quick answers:

Trust, according to Merriam-Webster, is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Notice, it is not preferenced by feelings or emotions but rather character. Trust in God, it is placing full assurance in His character (what He's consistently known for doing throughout history). It's not based on guessing or wishing but guaranteed, full assurance. Trusting God more, it is based on getting to know Him more. Getting to know His character and consistency, it is not based just on knowing about God but rather knowing God, personally.

On the other hand, superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events. It is based solely on folk tales, myths, luck, guesses, feelings and emotions. But, similar to trust, a full assurance of belief is placed in those things. For example, today is Friday the 13th, a so called unlucky number. So now luck is the driving force to their belief instead of God. Many people are highly superstitious because they either don't personally know God, or have a dubious relationship and are keenly lacking in their trust in Him. As for Christians being very superstitious, in a nutshell, it's not okay. These individuals should know God. But unfortunately, many don't! Instead, some of them just only know about God. So when it comes to direction for their lives; they look to the horrorscopes, are fearful by their surroundings and hold onto doubtful superstitions as valid truth. Sadly, the power and presence of God in their lives is limited to a Sunday morning ritual or nightly prayer routine passed on by family and friends.

The point of it all is this: if one can be superstitious; one can place trust in God. Both are based on full assurance. It's just that with superstition, the full assurance is placed in the wrong thing. Loved ones, let's trust more (in God) for 2012 and be very superstitious a lot less.