05 October, 2017

It's Not a Laughing Matter!

For those who do not know my church and I are doing "drive-thru prayer" in varying places in town where we set up and are there praying over our city and the people driving by. We also have people pull in for prayer and have seen several people led to Christ through this effort. Well, last night as we were doing this, one car was stopped at a traffic light and was within about 10 feet of me. I was holding a sign which read: "Praying for You!"  I do not mean this to sound judgmental, but is the reality of the situation. Both the man and the woman in this car had all the tell-tale signs of extensive alcohol and drug abuse in their physical appearance. She was driving and he was on the passenger side and he leaned out of his window and yelled out, "You are going to have to pray extra hard for me, you son of a bitch cause I'm on my way to Hell and enjoying the trip!" They were laughing as I said, "You don't have to go tell Hell, all you need is Jesus!" He replied, "I want to go to Hell!"  As they drove off, my heart was breaking. These people have no possible grasp of the reality of what they were saying. The thought of the prospect of this man spending eternity in Hell with the memory of those words running over and over in his mind is simply beyond what I care to imagine. It's not a laughing matter. Hell is real and people do go there. I pray for these two and so many others who have bought into the lie that Hell is going to be a big party with all of their friends.

03 October, 2017

It's Heartbreaking

Today I ran into someone who I have not seen in a few years. This person and their family used to attend the church where I pastor. So after catching up just a bit I asked if they were attending church now and the response was "we don't go every week but we do go now and then." I asked where they were going and then I said, "If you don't mind my asking, what made you stop coming to our church and what do you like better where you are now." The response I got was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever heard as a pastor. They said to me, "when we went to Harvest (the old name for The Oasis) we always felt a heavy feeling when we left the church like we needed to change or something. But at (X,Y,Z) church, we don't. We can just be us and live our lives and when we go, no one cares how we live our lives or how often we attend. We always feel good about ourselves and we like that." Then they added, "and if we don't go for a month, no one pesters us like you guys always did. They allow us to be who we are and that's ok." 
I was floored.
This person was raised in church and had a real relationship with God but was now saying they did not want a message that spoke the truth, but made them feel good about living their lives just as they are. That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is heartbreaking to see people who have fallen into deception like this.

02 October, 2017

I'm Deeply Concerned

I find it truly sad that we have a generation of "preachers" coming up that find pleasure in criticizing other ministers. They mock the fact that men and women pastor in small churches in small towns. They don't understand that not everyone desires to be in a megachurch, nor do they understand that the vast majority of those attending church today attend a church of under 100 people. They criticize and mock pastors for not having a cross-cultural ministry and even call them "racists" without even considering all the facts. For example, I pastor in a town where the demographics are 97.62% white, so if I happen to have a few people of non-white ethnicity, it is an amazing statistic. They criticize their sermons and accuse them of trying to imitate someone else. They criticize the music because it's too "old fashioned" or the musicians are not good enough. They criticize the methods of other pastors and mock them. They call them derogatory names, criticize their buildings, and so many other things. And many of those doing the criticizing have yet to ever pastor their first church. The Bible is clear that we reap what we sow and these young preachers are sowing for a harvest that they do not desire. God, awaken this generation before it is too late. 

01 October, 2017

Go On And Hate Me If You Must

I am often attacked by people who say, "he always wants to tell people how they are living wrong." Truth is, it's not me telling them, it's the Word of God, and the sad reality is that many people will awaken one day to the fact that the never KNEW Jesus, but only knew about him. 

Am I judging people with that statement?
Let's see what Jesus said about it:

Mathew 7:21-23
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
And then in Matthew 25:21-46 we read:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
So YES, I'm going to warn people who have a case of religion but do not KNOW Jesus.  I'm going to warn people who claim to be Christian but do not live the life of someone who is a Christ follower.  Go on and hate me if you want... but I'm doing my best to rescue people from a Devil's Hell.

21 September, 2017

Words Are Funny Things

Let me first say that I'm sure I will be judged for the blog entry which I'm about to write. Go ahead... I'm ready for it and I'm used to it. The thing is, I get so stinking tired of Christian people who seem to get a spiritual rush out of the act of criticizing and judging other Christians (especially pastors!) because of the verbiage they use. Specifically, I'm referring to those who accuse others of using "curse words" and find pleasure in trying to heap shame and guilt on others for using words that they believe to be shameful. Let me first be very clear that I am not meaning to imply that Christians should use curse words and declare "liberty in the spirit" as many have done in this present time. But I must confess that for years now, I've sat back in amazement as I've watched people judge other people's use of words when they, in fact, have "replacement words" that they use in the exact same manner. I contend that those "replacement words" carry the same connotation as the words which they have replaced. One Christian comedian calls them "Christian curse words."  For example, rather than dropping the "f-bomb" a person will say "friggin" or some other similar word instead of that word we consider to be so vulgar.  Isn't that really trying to get as close to the word as you can while hiding behind a false sense of religious piety? Think on that one for awhile.

Now to the point. In the past week, I was soundly chastened by another minister because a picture I posted had the word "pissed" attached to it by Facebook. Now, mind you... Facebook did it, not me... but that is neither here nor there. It was that according to this man (and others who also jumped in on the attack) this word "piss" is a curse word. I asked him if he knew the meaning of the word, and he said he did, but it was still considered a curse word. And here is the question I would ask.... "Just who decides what is a curse word and what is acceptable?" About 20 years ago I was in Germany and I have to admit that I was stunned, yet had my eyes opened because people there commonly used words that I had always been taught were taboo... but in their culture, it was perfectly acceptable, even from the pulpit. Let's look at that word "pissed".  In England, the word means to be drunk. It also means to be very angry or agitated.  The word is used in the Bible to mean urinating. But someone somewhere decided to label this word "taboo" and now the word police are quick to judge someone else as a lesser Christian if they use the word in their vocabulary.  But somehow, it would be acceptable to say, "I'm mad as heck" when we all know that what they were imply is that they are "mad as Hell."  Funny how that works. 

Anyway... on to what prompted me to write this today.
Yesterday I was talking with someone and I said to them that there was a "buttload of people joining the new Planet Fitness in town. Their face looked as if I'd just told them that I was a serial rapist. I mean, absolute horror came across her face as she literally backed away from me and turned three shades of pale. Finally, she said, "I cannot believe that a "pastor" (spoken very snidely and with guile) would use such a word! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"  I could not help it... I laughed out loud and said, "You have NO idea what "buttload" means, do you?"  She said, "I don't know how to explain it, but it is absolutely profane!"  I explained it to her... although she did not believe me... but that's OK, she can think what she wants. Now... let me explain it to those of you who also think this is some vulgar expression involving a bodily function of some sort. 

A "butt" is an actual unit of measurement. In fairness, it is an antiquated term and is not really used any longer, but this is where the term "buttload" comes from. In Imperialist times, when measuring wine (or whiskey), it was measured in "butts" and when you filled an entire barrel or cask, you had a "buttload" of wine, or sometimes it would be said you had "a full butt."  Somewhere, some do-gooding person decided that this word or phrase meant something vulgar and profane... but they were simply showing their ignorance... just as so many do-gooders do today when they go around passing judgment on others use of language. Before I close this out, let me illustrate this another way. 

When I first came to Galesburg to to try out as pastor, I met with the elders of the church the night before in one of their homes. We talked and Libby and I fielded questions of them. One of the questions I was asked was "what do you want to be called if you come here?"  My response to them was that I really did not care. I told them that you can call me pastor, Darrell, Pastor Garrett, Brother Garrett, pretty much whatever you want. One of them responded that he would always call be Pastor Garrett out of respect. My response was that was fine, and I appreciated that respect, but then said that in my experience, one person could call me "Darrell" with the utmost respect and another call me "Pastor" with vile contempt in their voice. I said, "It's not WHAT you call me, it is HOW you call me." I contend that the use of words is very much the same. I've heard people use words that many of us would consider vile or filthy, but the manner in which they used them meant nothing to them because this was their common speech and they did not mean anything vile or profane at all. On the other hand, I've had church members chew me up onside and down the other using words like "flipping" or "friggin" and "danged" and I knew that in their heart, they had just cussed me out with all the vileness they could muster.

Just something to think about today.

20 September, 2017

Enough of This

Last night I tossed and turned, not able to sleep as my mind was just racing and I could not seem to slow it down for hours. I found myself thinking about and going over that craziness that we've allowed to creep into the church (corporately) since the time I pastored my first church in 1986 until now. We've had so many fads and trends and buzz words and catch phrases that it makes my mind spin. This morning, I find myself again sitting here wondering when it stopped being enough to preach the Word of God and how we started with all the gimmicks and "door buster" approach to getting people in our church doors? I believe it has a lot to do with the atmosphere of competition that has been created between churches. With our mouths, we claim, "we are all one body" but our actions on display prove otherwise as pastors and members work harder at stealing sheep from other folds than we do at making converts and disciples of Christ. This spirit of competition has caused churches to constantly be trying to "one-up" one another and come up with a better dog and pony show than what the church across town has. When one remodels, the other has to hurry up and put together a remodel or expansion project to make sure they are "keeping up with the Jones".  One church has a singing, revival or special service and rather than join in, we make sure to create something in our own church to keep the folks interested in and attending our own church. This competition is evident in the fact that across America, churches are not really growing, but simply swapping members from one church to the other and our numbers are in a steady decline across denominational lines. Let's be brutally honest...we pushed God right out of the equation as we plotted and schemed to become the latest, greatest happening church in town with the newest lights and sound and gizmos and gadgets. 

I'm tired of all this. I just want an old-fashioned move of God with the power of the Holy Ghost being the only thing on display. That is what it is going to take to transform lives, churches, and communities. No more searching for something new. Just give me that which is tried and true... Give me that old-time religion.

06 September, 2017

Learning From Setbacks

David Jeremiah wrote:

British inventor James Dyson spent 15 years making 5,126 prototypes of a revolutionary kind of vacuum cleaner—all of them failures. The 5,127th version was a success. James Dyson learned about the mechanics of design from each failure, but "learn" is the key word. That is the benefit of disappointment or failure in life... the opportunity to learn. There are many things to learn, of course. Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8), which is another way of saying He learned about trusting His Father God. We have the opportunity to learn about God as well, with every disappointment. The psalmist wrote that his afflictions reminded him of the faithfulness of God. There is an infinite number of ways to learn about God from life’s disappointments.

If you are disappointed today, use it as an opportunity to learn more about God and His love for you. Don’t view disappointments as obstacles, but rather as gateways to learning.

05 September, 2017

A Truthful Look at Our Smaller Churches

The following is part of a conversation that took place on Facebook a year ago. It came up today and I thought this needed to be shared again... especially the second part, which was a comment made by my friend and fellow pastor, Jon Prain. There were many other comments in the discussion, but I chose only to share my original post followed by Jon's post. 

I spent some time chatting with one of my former members tonight who was very upset because her pastor had announced his resignation yesterday and is moving to a new church. In talking with her she was telling me how the church had been in a bit of a decline for the past year, but as we talked about the situation it turns out that no one has actually left the church at all. In fact, there are new people attending. The issue is that a good number of people from the church are gone every week, so even though the same people are there, the average attendance and giving is down by about 20%. I asked her if she had considered how the fluctuating attendance and giving makes a pastor feel. I asked if she had considered that it might really hurt the pastor when people feel no responsibility to be there every week or to pay tithe regularly? She said she'd never really thought of it. I told her that I could tell her first hand that if feels like a punch in the gut and leaves the pastor feeling very unappreciated. Then, I asked her if she had considered how a pastor might feel his church is showing little appreciation, respect or concern, and then another church begins wooing them, telling them that they want them to come be their pastor? She thought that was selfish of a pastor to feel that way. As I told her... "Don't you think we pastor's have feelings too?"  The truth is that when people stay away and cut their giving, we tend to take that very personally and it hurts. People wonder why pastors leave. The answer is not always that God has spoken to them... but the people sure did!

(Jon's comment)
Pastors typically get blamed for declines in church membership, attendance, and giving---even though the pastor is often times NOT the source of such declines. 
1) Many towns (especially in Illinois) are shrinking in population. 
2) Schools are consolidating due to small enrollments (i.e. there are less families with children in the community). 
3) In general, in our country, church attendance and church membership are down in most denominations. Thus, as older church members die, younger people are not coming to ANY denominational church in order to replace the dying members. 
4) Average household incomes have dropped by close to $5,000 during the Obama years. At the same time, expenses--especially healthcare costs--have gone through the roof. 
5) Percentage wise, less people are in the U.S. workforce now than at any prior time in our nation's history.

Yet, church members (and denominational leaders!) will hold THE PASTOR accountable for drops in attendance and membership. THE PASTOR will be blamed for a lack of young families and children in the church. The PASTOR will be blamed for a drop in giving--or be blamed when church expenses are higher than church giving (even if giving is increasing). Even if the primary cause of a church's numerical and financial decline is the death of older members---THE PASTOR will be blamed. For some reason, national trends, declining populations, fewer young families in the community, the world economy and the death of elderly people are THE CURRENT PASTOR'S FAULT.

What makes matters worse, is that church people (erroneously) think that changing their pastor will create a long term solution to the problems that their church is experiencing. (As if rearranging the deck chairs could have stopped the Titanic from sinking!). 
NEWSFLASH: The next pastor won't be able to change the economy and population any better than the previous pastor!).

Experience (and research) show that people tend to come to a church, stay at a church, and LEAVE a church more due to the actions of their fellow LAY PEOPLE than due to the actions of THE PASTOR. Yet, churches will get rid of their pastors LONG before they get rid of problematic lay people and long before church members change THEIR OWN behaviors (in an attempt to attract and retain members). When a church is experiencing financial issues, a church is more likely to change PASTORS (and/or reduce the pastor's salary and benefits) before the members will increase their own financial giving.

Church members are quick to want a change in pastoral leadership. However, that is becoming more and more of a risky pathway for churches to pursue. In most U.S. denominations, there are more churches that NEED pastors than there are people who want to be pastors of those churches. Many churches are having trouble attracting QUALITY pastors. However, many quality pastors have many churches to choose from--IF they wish to continue in the ministry AND if they wish to serve the struggling, contentious, low paying, and pastor chewing churches that are seeking new pastoral leadership. 
If you get rid of your current pastor, the chances are pretty good that you might get an even WORSE (and less qualified) pastor the next time. (While your pastor is probably going to step up to a somewhat better position). So, churches would be well advised to work with the pastor that they currently have--than to think that a pastoral change will make things better.

01 September, 2017

Rewind and Reset

I had one of "those" dreams last night. It was really weird, yet I knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. In my dream, I was sitting in my office at the church and on my computer screen, I saw things rewinding... you know, how on a DVD you can run it backwards a bit and you are watching everything happen in reverse. It was so strange, because at various points of the rewinding, there were events that jumped out at me and stuck with me, even after I awakened from the dream. I won't go into all of that, but will focus back to where the dream took me. In the dream, I saw myself sitting in my home office eleven years ago. I knew when I saw myself exactly what it was, because on that day, I received a vision from the Lord, and as I saw it, I got out of my chair and laid face-down in the floor weeping for hours. It was the day the Lord gave me what I have termed, "the river vision." In my dream I heard clearly these words, "I have rewound the days and resetting the vision. Walk in this."  And I woke up at that point. I jumped up out of bed, literally and looked at the clock. The time was 4:22 AM. I did not know why, but that time stuck in my mind. 

I tried to sleep after this, but could not rest and finally got up, got myself a cup of coffee and checked my email. In my email was a link to an article in Charisma Magazine. The title of the article just jumped out at me as is read:  Prophetic Word: God Is Resurrecting Your Former Dreams and Visions (You can read that here, if you like) 
When I had read this article, I began thinking about the dream and I went to my blog and searched for the day I had written about the River Vision. I found it and as I re-read it, things I'd seen during the rewind began to come to mind and things were beginning to make perfect sense, in light of what I'd written in April of 2006. I thought of the time and looked at the date of the article thinking there had to be a correlation to the time I had awakened. Nope. I wrote the blog entry on April 24, so that did not make any sense.  Then it hit me. At the beginning of that article I mentioned that in my last blog entry prior to this one, that I'd mentioned a vision the Lord gave me. So I went back and looked for it... You guessed it, the date I had received the vision was April 22 (4-22). That was cool, but I knew there had to be more. I began to pray about it and was drawn to Mark 4:22 which says: "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." When I read those words, I knew that I was supposed to share this. 

Some will laugh it off. Others will doubt. But I know this was from God to myself and to this church. "He who has ears, let him hear."

* I've had a couple of requests to link to the original blog containing the vision I was referring to. Click here and it will take you to it. 

30 August, 2017

Watch And Learn!

Finding Someone to Blame

This week I had someone who was once involved in my church tell me that it was my fault that their family no longer went to church. I asked this person to explain how it was my fault and they said to me that I "gave up" on them. I reminded this person how many times I'd been to their home, visited in the hospital, sat over lunch with them and in many other ways tried to pour into their lives and to help them all. I was told that when they needed me most, I was not there. I asked when this was and I was informed of events that took place long after they had left the church where I pastor that I knew nothing about. I was told that if I cared, I would have known and been there. I reminded this person that they had not only left this church but also trashed the church, me and my family verbally as well as on social media and informed others that they had left and advised others to have nothing to do with me or my church and then posted numerous photos and stories about their new church, that was a "real" church and they had found their new home . The person's response was that if I was any kind of pastor that I would have pursued them, even if they did push me away. I told this person that if it somehow helped them feel better about the condition of their life, to go on and blame me, but that was not going to "fix" anything in their lives or marriage, that what really needed to happen was they, as a family, turn their hearts back to God. That did not seem to be what this person wanted to hear either. This seems to be a real problem in America today. People do not want to be responsible for themselves and someone else always has to be at fault. It may work on social media, but that is not going to hold water when we all stand before the judgment seat of God.

17 August, 2017

It's Really This Easy

One thing that irritates me to no end is when people start spreading gossip and/or talking smack about a person or a church. I've noticed that, especially on Facebook, that once this starts, people, like cockroaches, start coming out of the woodwork and joining in on the bashing party and smear campaign. Just yesterday a woman started trashing a church, and in her bashing that church basically trashed every church for "not having a caring heart" if they did not do what she thought should be done. In this case, she said that the church she had been attending had "refused" to minister to the deaf when she requested it. Then she added that any church who did not have a deaf ministry did not have the heart of Christ. I confronted this and said that many, if not most, smaller churches did not have anyone in the church who could interpret to the deaf but would if they had the ability. She back-peddled then, saying she did not mean it that way, but again went on a rant about the church where she had attended. I finally decided to contact the pastor of this church and ask him if he had in fact "refused" to minister to the deaf.  The pastor was shocked beyond belief. I told me that most people did not know it, but he, in fact, was partially deaf and was dependent upon hearing aids. He further told me that he had never spoken to anyone about this and most certainly would not "refuse" such a ministry. Then he said that he currently had two people in his church taking a course in sign language and interpretation and that as soon as they were able, they were, in fact, launching this ministry in the church where he pastors. Funny what happens when you simply check out the story...

My point of this post is that rather than simply hearing accusations and running with them, it is really easy to do a little fact checking put a stop to malicious gossip and attacks. The sad truth is, most people are not interested in the truth... they just want to join in on the attack and further damage reputations and especially if it is the reputation of a minister of the gospel.