5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Handsome smiling young man standing with open denim shirt

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul — and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened — I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

Easter Reminder: Don’t Look for the Living Among the Dead

empty garden tomb

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you.

Luke 24:5-6

Easter reminds me that I often make the mistake of those who were seeking the crucified — now risen — Christ.

I look for the living among the dead.

I look at my past mistakes and think I can’t recover.

I look at my failures and think I’m defeated.

I look at those who cast doubt upon me and think they speak truth.

I look at my inadequacies and think I’m limited.

I look at my problems and forget that His mercies are new every morning.

I look at my struggles and think I’m limited to my own abilities.

I look at the circumstances of the world and feel all hope is gone.

I look for the living among the dead.

Let Easter remind us that we serve a RISEN Savior!

He’s on His throne. He has a plan. He has not forgotten us!

The tomb is empty!

Still.

Let’s live that way!

It is Truly A Good Friday

cross

And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!

You and I, the children of God, will never be forsaken by our Father God.

That’s why Jesus went to the cross!

Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!

Nothing!

While Jesus breathed His last breath all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.

At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death — and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. (I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been — since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.)

Perhaps worst of all, God the Father — perfectly Holy, as was the Son — had to forsake His Son.

Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father had to forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin. Wow!

As a dad, I can’t imagine.

God foresook His Son, so that He would never have to forsake you and me.

Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing in Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment.

Permanent commitment.

He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!

No matter what you are going through — no matter how tough life seems right now — no matter what your circumstances — no matter what you have done — if you are a follower of Christ — God will never forsake you!

That’s good news today! And, that’s truly a Good Friday!

Every Life On Mission Matters – By Aaron Coe

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

Here’s a truth you can count on: God is on a mission to reconcile people to Himself, and this mission sweeps both history and the globe. More importantly, it includes regular, ordinary people like you and me.

But, if we’re honest, we might say we don’t feel much like we’re a part of God’s grand mission.

Right now you may be navigating a busy airport wondering if you’ll make your next flight because of a late connection.

Or perhaps you’re focused on getting the kids ready for school and just realized you forgot to make their lunches last night. Now you’re trying to hastily make peanut butter sandwiches and figure out what you’re going to tell your boss because you’re going to be late for your meeting!

By the time you get settled in your hotel room or have the kids in bed, you’re ready to kick back and watch some television. Your role as a missionary bearing the hope of the world is not exactly what you’re thinking about or how you’d describe yourself. Maybe in theory, but in practice, your mind is far from it.

WHY DON’T WE EMBRACE GOD’S MISSION?

Frankly, it’s because we have our own mission. We have our own way of calling the shots. We decide what’s meaningful or worthwhile and order our lives accordingly. Some people’s life mission is to pursue entertainment and comfort. For others it might be security and wealth. Still, for others, it is rising up the corporate ladder or being the most respected mom in the neighborhood.

We like to be the boss of our own lives.

In 21st century North America, we don’t exactly use the kingdom language we find throughout the Bible. Nor do we like to think of ourselves as living in someone’s kingdom and being subject to his rule. This is because we know the history of injustices at the hands of human kings.

In fact, when you think about earthly kings and queens, odds are you may think about some faraway, inaccessible royalty who is not even able to relate to the everyday needs and feelings of his subjects.

But what if we lived under a perfectly good and wise king whose every decision was for our benefit and eternal good?

Jesus is an altogether different kind of king. He took on the very plight of His subjects to provide a way out of the mess they had made for themselves. He is far from aloof, uncaring or inaccessible. Jesus is a king who got down into the mess of humanity and went to ultimate lengths to seek and save the lost and restore people back into His kingdom.

Jesus is the best king imaginable, because He is that perfectly wise and good king who always works everything for the best for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

TRUE FREEDOM IS FOUND ON GOD’S MISSION

As believers, this is our reality. We live not only as the subjects of the King, but also as His adopted children. Every decision He makes—from our salvation to our call to His mission—is for our own good and for the good of the world.

There is nothing more freeing than abandoning your own mission and joining the everyday mission of God.

EVERY LIFE ON MISSION REALLY DOES MATTER

Recently I was reading Urban Apologetics by Christopher W. Brooks and came across this paragraph:

“The gospel should meet people at the point of their deepest confusion
and at the height of their loftiest ideals. What matters most is that we
bring Christ into every moment of human history and every point of
human concern.”

It stood out to me as describing the Great Commission at its most essential. As believers we are called into the unreached places of the world and into the deepest struggles and needs of people’s lives. Each and every one of us is called to this most noble of ambitions of making Christ and His gospel known.

Unfortunately there is a tendency for most Christians to see this as a job for church professionals and to see their 9-to-5 job, their circle of friends or their work as a stay-at-home parent as somehow outside the realm of where God seeks to make disciples of all nations.

Christians seeing themselves and their daily lives as integral to God’s mission is really the only way the Church in this generation can faithfully proclaim the gospel at the point of people’s “deepest confusion” and within “every point of human concern.”

When we choose to to join God on His mission through His church, we dare to be the everyday missionaries we are called to be. Your life has a mission. Your life on mission matters!

This is a guest post by my friend Aaron B. Coe. Aaron is a strategy and mobilization consultant and co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Moody Publishers, 2014), available at Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronbcoe.

My Top 7 Goals to Accomplish on Easter Sunday

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Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.

We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.

I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.

I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.

Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.

People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!

Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.

The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.

Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.

Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church. And, this shouldn’t mean children don’t learn. Obviously, they need the Gospel as much as adults, but I believe truth can be shared in an inviting setting.

People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!

Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.

Having a Gut-Honest Talk with Jesus

Jesus asleep

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38 NIV

I have been told that the stern is the strongest part of the boat. The Creator of the universe was asleep there.

The One who made the waters and was there when the waters were parted; who led Moses as Moses led the people through on dry ground — that same One had His head on a cushion — sleeping soundly.

The One who walked with three guys in the fiery furnace — in all of His current humanity — had decided He needed some rest.

The disciples, however, had apparently lost sight of the fact that, Jesus was not only human — not only needing rest — He was also God. Creator. Master.

The One who was asleep was never out of control. He was never without a plan. (It was His idea to get in the boat.)

I am reminded that I forget the same thing at times. I accuse Jesus of not caring. Of not being aware of my current situation.

No, I don’t say that — at least not very loud. I have too much respect for the Creator to do that. So, I just mumble it under my breath — or think it loudly — as if He who reads the heart doesn’t already know.

Have you ever felt like the disciples felt?

Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared?

Has the thought crossed your mind that Jesus might not even be aware of your current situation?

Have you thought, “Jesus, I see my problems, don’t you?”

Or maybe, if you are completely honest, have you ever felt something like, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

Wow!

Of course, our spiritual piety would never allow us to admit our weakness in this area fully. Could I as a pastor really admit that I doubted His love?

Could you?

Yet if I am honest, sometimes from my perspective, it appears that Jesus is nowhere to be found when I need Him most and I am left all alone to wallow in my sorrows.

Did I just say that?

I think the best thing we can possibly do in those situations is to be like the disciples and admit our frailty to God.

And, here’s the truth we may know but not always live.

When we get gut honest with Jesus about our insufficiency — is often when He is most willing to do what only He can do.

Do you need to have an honest talk with Jesus today?

7 Life-Changing Questions of Jesus

Person Praying

Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus.

It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one.

In fact, depending on our response, they could be life-changing questions.

I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. He didn’t need to ask them. He IS the answer. What does He need to know?

His questions were to cause His listeners to think. And, they do.

Consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

To which of these do you most need to consider your answer?

25 Life-Giving Statements Jesus Made

Woman Reading the Bible.

I only read one statement of Jesus, but I couldn’t go any further in my reading.

It was a statement I had read hundreds of times before, but this time it hit me differently. Deeper. More impacting.

I love when that happens.

I realized I often take a statement like that from Jesus for granted.

Jesus — the Son of God — said something. Something so profound, so life-giving, and yet it has become so familiar to me that I almost gloss over it when I read.

This time I stopped.

I stopped and  thought about the many other truths Jesus shared — often in a single sentence — which are life-changing.

Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.

Read through the list — memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them.) But, don’t read them as familiar quotes that are usually written in red. Let them soak deep into your heart and mind. Let them add life to you. Be better with truth.

25 life-giving statements Jesus made:

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)

“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13)

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)

“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 6:14)

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, so feel free to read the context of each of them. But, the fact is these are things Jesus said.

The Son of God — who is God — said them. Spoke them. Revealed truth to us.

And, every word He said has life-changing value.

I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them — if they would change the way we lived our life? The confidence we have? The assurance in which we find hope?

Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?