Serving

When is being selfish in the church okay...

(This post has not been edited for errors. These are my raw, honest thoughts.) Okay here you go...

One of the hardest things for me to hear and something that is really bugging me is hearing people talk about the church as if it is something that is consumed rather than something to be actively living out in our lives and community. I hear from ministry friends from all over the country that share in this frustration.

I get sad when I hear people church hop because the church community/family they have been a part of is no longer meeting their needs or no longer is the cool flashy place they can invite friends to. I guess in reality they really don't see church as a community or family, instead it is place to meet personal needs and desires... We people abandon a church for these reasons they show their true colors, they were only seeking to be a part of God's kingdom for selfish reasons i.e. "what can I get out of church." They are like the kid in high school who only hangout with certain people because it will benefit them socially, but once that person(s) can no longer benefit them they move on to a different friend or group...

I also get frustrated when people leave churches because of conflict they have with a pastor, church staff, or another believer. How can we expect to rule and judge alongside Jesus if we can't even settle hurt feelings, disagreements, character clashes, disputes, and the like amongst ourselves, the body, house, bride of Jesus? I think the Apostle Paul said something to this affect in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. When someone abandons the church they were a part of for these reasons, they are like the kid who doesn't like it that the pickup game of football isn't going their way so they get their football and go home...

The problem is that our North American culture allows for this kind of flippant Christianity, and our churches do as well... I dont judge a person's desire to keep from going to hell, but I do judge their selfish and consumeristic motivations for being a part of the body, the house, and the bride of Jesus.

DON'T get me wrong! Sometimes the only solution to a problem is to leave and find another church to be a part of, that is not what I'm talking about here. I am referencing people who for selfish-consumeristic motives leave churches.

The solution (Your are correct to assume that I have already premised the former is incorrect, unhealthy, and not what God wants His Church to demonstrate to a world that needs His grace and mercy)... Well there are many things that can be done to help the situation, but lets just take a glimpse of three ideas for this blog post... Abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11 ESV), Love one another (John 15:12-17 ESV), and do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV). If we do these things then it becomes hard to be selfish and have selfish-consumeristic motivations, and people might actually stay at their church and BE the church. To answer the question in my title of this blog post - I'm not sure it is ever okay to be selfish if it blemishes the church...

Okay and done...

Why Do I Have to Serve Communion...

art-communion_handsThis past weekend I found myself standing amongst a group of people who were getting ready to serve communion at one of our worship gatherings. I was asked to help because they thought they needed more help with serving the communion trays and the offering baskets. So like the humble servant that I am, I agreed to help. This is the part where I become very transparent with you... As I was getting the communion trays and walked to my assigned section, I noticed that a few of the people who came to help were heading back to their seats. Apparently they had more than enough people to help with serving communion. A surge of selfishness entered into my heart and I complained to myself as to why I had to serve communion and not join the other "lucky" people who get to head back to their seats. There was a brief moment where I was feeling a little indignant about the situation. Before you get appauled that I would feel this way about serving communion to people at church; trust me I already was appauled at myself... Anyways, as I was getting this ugly feeling inside of me, it hit me that I was about to help out in something ancient and honorable - I was given the opportunity to helped administer a sacred gift that God gave to bless the Church as reminder of who and what Jesus means to us and the world. Those who serve the Lord's Supper are part of a legacy of people who have helped serve the church in this way; beginning with the Apostles, the seven from Acts 6 (we could make a case for this), the early Church Fathers, Christian Martyrs throughout history, the older couple I see at our Saturday night gathering, and ultimately when we serve communion we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who was the first to serve communion and bless His people with the command to participate in communion until he comes again for His people.

I thought to myself, Lord what the heck is wrong with me! How did I get so prideful and selfish that I would have an issue with serving communion... Needless to say I felt like a tool and passed the communion trays with with a better understanding of what I was helping with, and with a thankful and humble heart.

How often do we tend to see the work that we are doing for God as a burden and chore rather than having the privilege of participating in things that are ancient and sacred?

Serious Rant...

LoveGodLovePeopleDoSomething1I read this quote yesterday regarding a message someone heard this past weekend..." a great way to show your love for Jesus; is to spend time with him."

Really? Is this what we've come to in our Christianity?!? The best we can do to show we love the person who sacrificed everything for our filth is to spend some time with him throughout the day. Of course when it is convenient for us.... Is this just an American church issue or does the Church worldwide struggle with "spending time" with Jesus?

PLEASE hear me... I am not belittling the need to walk with Jesus daily. We are called to do that, but it is not culmination of our Christianity it is the genesis. When I read the New Testament, I fail to see how this is one of the options we can show Jesus we love him. This isn't a great "way," it's assumed that we'd spend time with Jesus.

Why do we always have to remind ourselves to love Jesus? Are we not listening to the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us, because He tells us to do more than just spend time with Jesus? I get the need for reminders and instructions on how to love God and stuff. Life has a way of taking its toll on our priorities and such... Hey even the author of Hebrews (A book in the Bible) reminds us to not take our eyes off Jesus. I just feel that our commitment needs to be deeper and move us beyond the stagnation of "needing reminders" to spend time with Jesus.

thegospel

The gospel beckons us to permit God's radical and life-altering grace to transform us. If we fail allow it to happen then we have missed it. Jesus wants so much more for us than to just hangout. He wants us to live a vibrant and exciting life that challenges us and stretches us through seeing God's heart for humanity and all creation.

I just wonder if we are not realizing the depths of what Jesus has done for us. Maybe we aren't realizing the situation we are in because of the consequences of our rebellion and sin. We are in a desperate need to be rescued and God provided one for us in His Son Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection transforms us to be different and act differently. We become the healers, restorers, peacemakers, love-givers, and the truth revealers, empowered by Jesus to carry the redemptive qualities that come from the grace of God to a hurting and broken world (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Jesus gives us purpose, passion, authority, and dignity.

Homeless DinnerHere's the skinny - Jesus wants more from us than to just spend time with him; he wants us to live sacrificially by loving our enemies, serving the poor to the point that it costs us something personally. He wants us to forgo some special event or after work-hours activity and stay home and hangout with our neighbors. He might even ask us to die for him physically, and most definitely he wants us to die to ourselves daily...

The best way to show Jesus we love him is go find the person we least like or have nothing in common with and wash their fungus infected feet (literally and metaphorically) with love.

Do I sound too judgmental? Come on son! You know I was writing this to myself; I needed to here it. Thankfully we are a people of a second chance. Oh how I need grace daily in my life.

Transition...

Now this might news to some of the readers of this blog, but I recently resigned my position as Lead Youth Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church. Fortunately I am not leaving the church. I am transitioning out of the student ministry and into a new role at LifeBridge. Our church is moving towards a neighborhood emphasis and I will be one of the Neighborhood Pastors. I started this transition back in January, which will come to complete closure in mid-May. We have hired a new Lead Youth Pastor and I will assist in his transition as much as need be... I will write more about this transition later and about our journey of being a Neighborhood Pastor and our church's emphasis in the neighborhoods of Longmont as we go... Below is the resignation letter we sent to the staff, parents, and students. I did not add the portion that contained the bio of our new Lead Youth Pastor... Please pray for me, my family, our students, their families, Luke Pinder and his family (New Youth Pastor), our youth staff, and our church during this transition...

A note from Joe Puentes, Director of Student Ministries:

Over the past nineteen years, I have been blessed to serve and lead students in helping them discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully. These past five years, I have had the privilege of leading the student ministry at LifeBridge, which have been some of the most exciting and fruitful years of ministry for my family and me. We have been blessed with rich relationships with both students and their families. Without hesitation, I can say these have been some of the best ministry years I have experienced.

A little while ago, I went to Rick telling him that I felt God was stirring in my heart a passion to be more involved in the neighborhood focus of our church, and that I was feeling a sense that it might be time for me to move out of student ministry and begin a new ministry journey, exploring other ways to serve in God’s kingdom. After sharing our thoughts and concerns about me moving out of the student ministry, Rick asked me to pray about the opportunity of becoming a Neighborhood Pastor. After praying for a period of time and having conversations with my wife, I have decided to resign my position as youth pastor and accept the neighborhood pastor position.  I’m able to do this in part because I have a peace that our students and the ministry will be cared for and led well by the other associate student pastors and our volunteer youth coaches.  This is one of the best student ministry teams I have had the good pleasure of serving alongside.

I want to thank the leaders of LifeBridge, our students, and their families for allowing me to serve and lead them these past five years. I have been tremendously blessed by all our past and present students. We can trust that our students will continue to discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully during this transition (I currently have two of my own kids in the high school ministry). We can also be sure that the leaders of LifeBridge have done everything humanly possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find my replacement to lead our students. I am excited about the future of the student ministry being led by our next youth pastor. Once again, thank you for the honor and privilege of being a part of your family’s journey of growing in your relationship with Jesus.

Grace & Peace,

Joe

A note from Kevin King, Administrator:

We are thankful for Joe’s leadership provided to the Student Ministry here at LifeBridge over the last five years.  He has built a solid team of staff and coaches that will help carry us forward to the next phase of Student Ministry and will provide our new director a great foundation on which to continue building.  Please be praying for Joe and his family as he transitions from Students to Neighborhoods.

Second Chances

Barnabas and Leadership

In his writings, Greenleaf discusses the need for a better approach to leadership, one that puts first, serving others. Additionally, Greenleaf stated, the difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served (Spears, 2005, p. 2). Moreover, Stone et al. (2003) stated that the Servant-Leadership theory emphasizes the importance of appreciating and valuing people, listening, mentoring or teaching, and empowering followers (p. 4). Along with this, Anderson (2008) stated Greenleaf’s mantra for what a servant-leader “The servant-leader is servant first.... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first…” (p. 8).

Through Greenleaf’s words on Servant-Leadership, we see the living manifestation of them in biblical characters. In his book on the biblical theology of leadership, Howell (2003) defines for the readera the genesis for servant-leadership as defined in the Old Testament and New Testament definition of servant and slave. Accordingly, Howell shapes this leadership theory on several Old Testament figures, as well as on several New Testament personalities. While there are many figures in both the Old and New Testaments who demonstrate servant-leadership elements and dynamics, Joseph the Levite, also known as Barnabas “son of encouragement” encapsulates servant-leadership to the core of his being.

Son of Encouragement

When Jesus addressed the two brothers James and John as they sought to obtain authority and leadership in Jesus kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28, New International Version), Jesus told them in essence, that seeking authority and leadership positions in His kingdom have no place. Instead, Jesus told the two brothers that the standard or the culture of kingdom living is that of a servant. From its inception, early church leaders were instructed and lived out this cultural modus operandi and form of leadership ascendancy.

Esteem vs Generosity

In addition to this, Read-Heimerdinger (1998) with regards to Barnabas, stated how Acts demonstrated the high esteem with which Barnabas was regarded by the early church in both Jerusalem and Antioch, and how he played a leading role among the first Christians (p. 40). However, Barnabas did not seek out or intend to carry such esteem for himself, as seen in his example of the spirit of generosity in the sacrificial gift of the proceeds from the sale of a field he owned, and in stark contrast to the pretentious actions of Ananias and Sapphira (Howell, 2003, p. 230). Additionally, Read-Heimerdinger (1998) suggested that Barnabas’ role in the community of the disciples as that of comforter or encourager, and who had already gained the reputation for being righteous (p. 51). The biblical text clearly shows that Barnabas demonstrated some key servant-leadership elements such of appreciating and valuing people, listening, mentoring or teaching, and empowering followers.

Character of Second Chances

Consequently, Howell (2003) describes two incidences that capture the very essence of Barnabas the servant-leader. He shows how Barnabas demonstrates his selfless character by leaving his promising work in Antioch, where he was the recognized leader, to undertake a difficult pioneering work in Cyprus and Galatia (p. 233). This is also seen in the restoration of the failed brother John Mark. In the end, Barnabas’ policy of giving a young man a second chance produced salutary results both in his life and in the churches, a legacy that Paul acknowledges (p. 236).

References

Anderson, J., (2008). The Writings of Robert Greenleaf: An interpretive analysis and the future of servant-leadership. Servant          Leadership Research Roundtable, NA, 8.

Howell, D., (2003). Servants of the servant. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Read-Heimerdinger, J., (1998). Barnabas in Acts: A study of his role in the text of codex Bezae. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 72, 22-66.

Spears, L., (2005). The understanding and practice of servant- leadership. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. NA, 2.

Stone, A., Russell, R., & Patterson, K., (2003). Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable, NA, 1-10.

2009 Outstanding School Volunteer Nomination

lbcc_logo_horizontal As a church, we never want to brag or boast about what we do for our community, but I am excitement about the church that I am on staff and serve. Recently, we were nominated for the 2009 Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year Award.

LifeBridge is an externally focused church, meaning - we want to connect passionate people with practical resources, tools and relationships that will help them engage their communities with good deeds and good news resulting in transformed communities and changed lives.

There are several ways we live this out in the public school district here in our area - we serve our public schools through ShareFest, teacher appreciation, etc... Many of our Lifegroups serve the public schools by being volunteers, tutors, and by just having a presences at the schools. Many of our student ministry small groups (Student attended & adult lead) also do service projects at the schools throughout the school year by cleaning the schools ground, painting, and etc.

I know our staff and church members do not do these things because they want recognition, honor, or this award. I know our motivation is that we love God and people, and we want to engage our community with good deeds and good news! Our hope is that this will result in a transformed community and changed lives.