Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I've Been Reading - Boundaries with Kids, Henry Cloud and John Townsend

A couple of good quotes on parenting from Henry Cloud and John Townsend's Boundaries with Kids:

Training moments occur when both parents and children do their jobs. The parent's job is to make the rule. The child's job is to break the rule. The parent then corrects and disciplines. The child breaks the rule again, and the parent manages the consequences and empathy that then turn the rule into reality and internal structure for the child.
Don't go overboard in praising required behavior: 'We have only done our duty' (Luke 17:10). But do go overboard when your child confesses the truth, repents honestly, takes chances, and loves openly. Praise the developing character in your child as it emerges in active, loving, responsible behavior.

We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I've Been Reading - Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

I have been reading a really good book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled Outliers. This book can address so many different issues a person is facing: their spiritual lives, their work, their role as a parent. You could apply this stuff in so many different areas of your life. A fairly simple read, but chock full of wisdom -- here are some highlights:

Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.

For almost a generation, psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some do – the innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger role preparation seems to play.

In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.

Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing that makes you good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Update on the Congregational Care Department

In the last 3-6 months in respect to caring for our congregation, we are now creating momentum and I am personally excited by what the Lord is going to do through our entire congregation to care for our congregation and beyond to our community.
I am nearing my second year on staff at Ada Bible Church and since that time, we have done a thorough job of restructuring how care occurs here at the church and multitudes of individuals and married couples have stood up to serve with us in making this a reality. Here are some highlights of this “momentum” God is creating with us:
The Care Department
The restructuring of the care system is complete and for the most part, there is no place where a person who could slip through and not find some kind of care while here at Ada Bible Church. Perhaps the one thing I am personally most proud of is that in some many different circumstances our staff, board and leaders are working as a team in providing help to others.  Moving forward, we want to continue to pursue this ideal: to create a team environment in which all ministries—ranging from the Board, Administrations & Operations, the Teaching Team, Family Ministries, Adult Ministries, Worship Arts, Facilities, Missions; all areas of our church are in some way caring for those who call Ada Bible Church home. We are definitely moving in the right direction.
The Care Team
The Care Team (Deacons-Benevolence, Mentors, Budget Counselor, and Care Elders) is an amazing group of individuals who simply get what it means to care for our congregation. So many different folks have jumped on board and are serving with a passion. Countless stories are occurring on a weekly basis about what God is doing in respect to restoring a person’s finances, a marriage, a broken individual, a wayward soul. As one story: I won’t mention him by name here, but one of our mentors recently came up to me earlier this summer and said that he has been serving in the church for over 40 years. In this last year and a half he has been serving as a mentor, leading many different men in a variety of difficult situations. With this, he said being a mentor has easily been the most rewarding service he has ever done in church. As he said, not only has he been able to pour himself into these other men, but in doing so, God has been pouring himself back into him in a greater way than what has happened in a long time. It is a privilege for me to serve with this team.
Pastoral Staff and Volunteers
Prior to coming to Ada Bible Church, I had a lot of experience in working with all of the larger churches in the area as well as many smaller ones. I had the privilege of working closely with staff of many of these churches and in some cases, got to know these organizations intimately. I have to say this:  we have the most professional, dedicated and spiritually mature staff I have ever worked with in all these years. I love working here with our staff and on a daily basis have interactions with most everyone on staff here. There isn’t a single department that is not looking to care for and serve their leaders and volunteers in a way. When a care situation arises in one of these circumstances, in each instance, they jump in and fill that void and if more resources are needed, look in the right direction for that extra help.
In conclusion, as a comparison to last year: “by the numbers,” we have cared for considerably more individuals and families at Ada Bible Church. There are countless stories I could share with you in which I have witnessed our staff or our leaders moving into a difficult situation and then God slowly restoring an individual, a teenager, a marriage or a family. As one comparison to this growth, six months into my position, we had four mentors; today that number is over forty and we will most likely double that number in this next year. It is purely mathematical—when you have more people willing to serve, you can do more. When you have those who are willing to step up and try to make even the smallest of impact in the mess of a person’s life (Matthew 10:42), God does the unthinkable.  By continuing to grow our leaders and Care ministries, I expect the Lord to do even more amazing things for us in this next year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Necessity to Grow

I know of someone who recently has walked away from their faith. This was a person who some years back was serving and living a life that was exemplary when it came to being a Christian. However, over the last couple of years, I began to see that this life began to wane and he did not take his relationship with God very seriously over these last years. Slowly over time, it began to show, and not only with the obvious outward signs. Sadly, with this and since that time, he has made many poor decisions which has not only impacted him negatively, but his family as well. It's been a little bit like watching a train wreck.

With that, I have been thinking about how dangerous it can be not to grow as a Christian, which essentially means to not have Jesus at the center of your life on a daily basis. And yet, this happens all the time. Sadly, in general, the church today places such emphasis on evangelism, "getting people saved and into heaven," but too often focus too little on discipleship—learning how to live a life with Jesus. The Barna Group has some staggering statistics, confirming the fact that the church is good at “making converts, but not disciples:”
  • When Christian adults were asked to identify their most important goal for their life, not a single person said it was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ, or to make disciples of Christ. 
  • Less than one out of every five born again adults had any specific and measurable goals related to their personal spiritual development. 
  • Less than 1% of all believers perceived a connection between their efforts to worship God and their development as a disciple of Jesus.
  • The most widely-known Bible verse among adult and teen believers is "God helps those who help themselves"—which is not actually in the Bible, and actually conflicts with the basic message of Scripture.
But as each of us knows--living for Jesus every day--this is really where life begins, not when you say the sinner’s prayer. Life is always continuing and we need to move with it. Often in Christian circles, over time, being reflective and deliberate about our relationship with God is put to the side. For whatever reason, people tend to stagnate rather than thrive after making a commitment of faith. The questions don’t get asked. Masks begin to be worn. We play the part, but don’t really know the role we should be playing as it relates to being a Christian.

Living like a Christian is easy, being in relationship with God is a whole different matter. This is what Jesus was talking about when you build something on sand. I learned quickly in my own life, that if you have any amount of biblical knowledge, watch out. You eventually will become the expert, the guru. People will perceive that you have it all together, everything is in place, and you and God must be best buds. But all of this can be perilous, because it allows or forces ourselves to not be who really are. In the end, we paint ourselves into a corner to which there is no escape. Because we have played the role of the well-behaved churchgoer, we don't know how to play any other. Sadly, I know this from first-hand experience from years past.

But knowledge is never the standard for relationship and too often in the church, this is what we emphasize. It’s easy to know a lot about someone; it’s a whole new thing to know someone. This makes sense—it’s much more easy and comfortable to just know about someone, simply knowing the facts (e.g., "she works at a hospital, likes to eat salads at lunch, has three kids, and drives a Black Toyota Sienna."). There’s distance and safety and very little mess. Knowing just the facts about someone does not mean you know them. Lots of us know a lot about a whole bunch of people, but it goes about as far as that. It's the idea of the a mile wide, but an inch deep. For some, it can be a rarity that we have genuinely deep and strong friendships. We keep people at bay, at a safe distance and we don’t go too deep.

But we need to move beyond just knowledge—we need to know. John Wesley once wrote, “Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.” In that statement, Wesley was saying that it was disgraceful if he hadn’t grown beyond where he once stood in terms of knowing God. We need to keep moving on as well, being restless and asking for more. This should be the end goal. I think C.S. Lewis said it in the most direct way possible:

Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature -- either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

Those are strong and difficult words, but they are so true. Yogi Berra said it in a similar way, but in a way only he could: If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else. As Christians, we need to continually change and grow and move beyond just knowing about God and genuinely encounter him. At the end of the day, we need to know where we are headed.