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Posts tagged ‘Shepherd’

Christmas Fields of Faith: When God Calls You Leave What You Know.


Bonnie Gray

It’s the day before Christmas Eve. But, it’s just another day on the job for the shepherds watching flocks by night.

They have no idea what’s waiting for them on the other side of 24 hours.

— They will be the only ones personally invited to see the Messiah, right in the delivery room.

— Angels are actually going to light up the sky and blast a singing telegram from God in surround sound.

— Then, just as quickly, the sky will drop back into dead silence, darkness and stars standing in their places, just as they’ve always hung in panoramic view.

The shepherds will wonder. Was that for real? Did I actually see and hear what I think just happened?

When God sends us a message — just to us and no one else — we stagger into that fearful and wonderful place the shepherds found themselves 2,000 years ago.

We will find ourselves in the Fields of Faith.

Fields of Faith

God does that. He drops by to give us some exciting joyful news.

ChangeNew beginnings.

He tells us about His plans with a simple announcement. No explanations.

His timing is peculiar too.

God hits us with an inspiration, when we’re feeling the most ordinary.

Like the shepherds, we encounter God as we’re sitting on the outside, on the fringes of what we think is our best.

Just as we get excited — just as we begin daring to believe what we we’re hearing or seeing about God and His invitation — Whoosh! Everything returns back to everyday sameness.

Darkness. Circumstances and people around all circling and in holding patterns, just as they’ve always been.

This is when we must hold onto faith and gather our courage.

Wild Eyes & Open Hearts

C’mon. Let’s do it. Let’s say to ourselves — and to each other — just as the shepherds blurted, bright eyed and open hearted to each other:

“Let us go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15 GWT)

In an instant, God can call out to us in the field of faith and invite us to leave where we are, to go and see. We may not believe it, but God is calling us out into the open, wooing us to radically leave the routines we’ve established behind. We will have to say good bye to some old ways and even some familiar expectations.

But when it’s time to point our steps to go and discover what God’s told us, it’s time for us to act. As you think and savor these last days of Christmas, remember what God has told you.

No matter how brief the encounter or how few the words.

He said it. And you heard it.

Let’s go and discover what the Lord has for us this Christmas, into the new year.

~~~~~

Have you wondered about your “field of faith” encounter?

How is God calling you to leave, go or see?

Pull up a chair. It would be great to have you share. Click to share a comment.

~~~~~

 

Join Bonnie on her blog at http://www.FaithBarista.com, on Facebook or Twitter.

Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder ofFaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring‘s (in)Courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.

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Recovering From Church Burns: Advice for the Wounded.


woman in church
(iStockphoto.com)
Here’s my advice for those burned by the church. It’s simple, yet profound. Here goes:
Trust the church.
I need to qualify that, right? How do you trust the same entity that wounded you deeply? It’s fundamentally helpful to distinguish between the church local and the church global.
The global church is made up of local churches, some with organized denominational structures and some without. When you’ve been burned by a local congregation or even the larger denominational system with which they are affiliated, it’s helpful to zoom out in your own head and remember that the “big C” church is way bigger than the particular group that hurt you.
The group that wounded you is really just a very small subset of the larger body of Christ. And the worst thing you can do after being burned by a local congregation is to allow your beliefs on the larger body to fall apart.
Here are my core convictions on the body of Christ, which I think are well supported by Scripture: We will never reach a point of Christian maturity in which we no longer need community. And we will never reach a point in Christian maturity in which we no longer need shepherds. Furthermore, you will probably never need a community with a shepherd quite as much as you need one after you’ve been burned by a previous community with a shepherd.
I was burned by a church years ago, but praise God He convinced me that I still needed the church. So I crawled in to a new church, wounded and weary. I had listened to their pastor’s sermons on podcasts for months, and I knew that, at least according to the sermons, this church valued the Bible and grace.
For a long time, our family was the last one in to sit down and the first one out when the service was over. I observed, and I listened. And over time, I got the courage to reach out.
Five years later, I have never once regretted opening myself up to that body. Now, this is not to say they are perfect or the pastors never make a mistake. It’s not to say that one day I won’t be burned by this congregation (or that I won’t hurt others). But the bottom line of the Christian life is that we need community, and we need pastors.
Though I may be hurt again by my community or my pastors, I still need them. The possibility of being hurt in the future is there, but it is only a possibility. However, my need for them is not a possibility. It is an actual, factual, present need.
About a year into my time at my current church, my pastor preached this sermon from Philippians 2. He made two particularly important points. First, God’s good undershepherds are recognized by their humility, not their giftedness. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, and He is the model for His under shepherds.
Beware the shepherd whose personal burdens and needs drive the church’s agenda or eclipse the needs of the sheep. When the needs of the sheep must submit to the needs of the shepherd, this is not leadership like Christ (or Paul, Timothy or Epaphroditis).
Second, when God has brought the humble undershepherd into your life, like Paul’s exhortation concerning Epaphroditus in Philippians 2, welcome them with joy and receive them with honor.
The imperfect but humble undershepherd still exists! God didn’t abandon us to only poor leaders after Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus passed on. It is to our benefit, not detriment, to receive them and honor them in the name of Christ.
My son pulled a hot curling iron down on his hand when he was 1 year old. I picked him up before he even started crying and ran to the sink to run cold water over his hand, followed by an ice pack I held periodically on the burned area. Later, in the emergency room, a nurse told me that was absolutely the best thing to do for his burned hand.
Sure, we got the heat away from his hand first, but then we needed to apply the opposite, a cold ice pack, to really undo the damage the heat—even removed from his hand—was still doing to his skin.
I am growing a firm conviction that this is the remedy for those burned by the church. If you were wounded by a self-serving, proud, authoritarian pastor, the answer is not to never allow yourself to sit under another pastor. The answer is to find a humble, sacrificial pastor who is willing to lay down his interests for those of his sheep.
Sitting under humble leadership is the antidote to the sting of the burn from the proud. Like my son, you may still have a scar when it’s all said and done, but the scar of distrusting all Christian community and leadership for all time is so much worse than the one you may have when you allow yourself to re-enter community and sit under Christlike leadership.

If you’ve been burned by a pastor, you need a pastor.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet. 5:1-5, ESV).
Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.
Adapted from Wendy Alsup‘s blog, theologyforwomen.org. Wendy has authored three books, includingBy His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity. She is also a wife, mom and college math teacher who loves ministering to women. 

Whole and strong…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
– Romans 12:5

The way I see the now-broken temples of yesteryear in the Holy Land today is that they are now only scattered, broken pieces everywhere. Is that what God sees when we, who make up the Christian Church, are divided? We’re meant to be a temple, whole and strong. Does God’s heart break when he sees that we argue over doctrine, music, buildings? We fight, bicker, and say, “I am a Christian, but I’ll have nothing to do with that group of people. I’m just going to follow Jesus. He’s my personal Lord and Savior and I want nothing to do with those other guys.”

There is something about that statement that is not Christian. I’m saying this with love and with passion: I think God wants us as stones united to form a building. He wants us, his people, to be living stones in his building, the Church.

So if you’re picking up on my subtext, I’m also talking about our recent move from the Crystal Cathedral. That building was built because people were united behind a cause and a vision.

We have a vision still. There are millions of people out there, in the houses surrounding Shepherd’s Grove and all over the world that have not ever heard that God loves them. They think God is an evil, angry man on a cloud. There are people who are suffering loss, death, pain, and illness. All they need to know is that God is on their side. They need to hear the gospel. That’s what we’re all here to do.

Prayer: Dear Lord, when people let me down or I experience a loss that breaks my heart, help me not to withdraw from others but help me to become united with others for the cause of Christ. Amen.

Reflection: Describe a time when disappointment has caused you to withdraw from others. How have you resolved your negative feelings to become a part of God’s vision for your life and relationships?

{ Day 189 }.


The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. John 10:3-5

As individual believers, we stand in two positions in regard to God‘s invitation to us. We first must feed our own spirits on the truths of this Bridegroom God’s heart and personality, and then we will arise as shepherds in the body of Christ to feed others. Therefore we must become people with a clear focus on personally discovering who Jesus is in all of these dimensions of His Bridegroom heart. At some point in this process we will be equipped to lead other believers who are entrenched in compromise. We’ll take them by the hand and show them into the freeing and empowering encounter of what our God is like. It’s not enough to tell people that God is a Bridegroom and we are His bride. It must come from our hearts. It is transformation by personal revelation. Shepherds will train people and feed them on specific parts of God’s emotions and personality, and then, little by little, like a flower in spring, the listeners’ spirits will open up and be transformed.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Feed my spirit, Father, that I may be counted worthy of feeding Your flock. Help me to bring Your message of transformation to the lost around me.

We can’t feed others if we don’t feed
ourselves first.

By MIKE BICKLE.

{ Day 188 }.


“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord—Jeremiah 23:3-4

The Holy Spirit is raising up shepherds to teach God‘s people to live after His own heart. They will feed others from the reality they encounter through their own unyielding personal pursuit of God. They will only be able to shepherd others because they have given themselves wholly to the great Shepherd. Some of these shepherds will lead through preaching and some through writing, singing, or other skills and talents. Some will do it through one-on-one discipleship and spending time nurturing younger believers’ faith in a spiritual relationship. Some will do it in the context of their business or workplace. I encourage you to pray specifically about this. You can’t afford to miss your appointment in these end times.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Allow me to become one of Your shepherds, Father. Let me lead Your little lambs to a personal encounter with the God who loves them unconditionally.

Perhaps you are called to be a shepherd,
to aggressively pursue the knowledge of His
personality in your own life so you can feed
others with the truths you discover.

By MIKE BICKLE.

{ Day 187 }.


I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. —Jeremiah 3:15, NKJV

After God gives a beckoning call to return to Him because He is married to us, inviting us to come near to Him in confident love and wholeheartedness, He then, in effect, says, “I am going to raise up men and women who will experience the spiritual reality of God’s heart as a Bridegroom God. That revelation will flow like a river on the inside of those shepherds, and they will live in the mighty power of this revelation. Then they will feed the church from it.” The Lord is now raising up men and women after His heart, like David, and He will give them as a gift to the backslidden church to win her back to wholeheartedness. They will speak it with deep, undeniable revelation and feed the people with the knowledge of God’s heart. Their mandate will be to equip the people of God to understand what it means to be married to God.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Let me be a person who captures Your heart, dear God. Raise me up to be a part of the army who is winning back Your church to wholehearted devotion to You.

The Holy Spirit is raising up shepherds to teach
God’s people to live after His own heart.

By MIKE BICKLE.

Rick Warren: 8 Steps to Grow Your Church.


 

Do you realize that if your weekend attendance totals about 90 people, you’re an above average church (at least in the United States and when measuring by such numbers)?

 

If you’re wondering what you need to do to grow, here are eight steps that can help you break an attendance barrier:

1) Decide you really, really want to grow. Believe it or not, the primary barrier to church growth is desire. Do you really want to grow? If the answer is yes, then you must commit to this goal and be willing to accept changes.

And the people in your congregation must also be willing to accept changes.

The Bible says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV). In order for a church to grow, some things have to die. Those who had intimacy with the pastor have to learn to share him with new people. They have to be willing to let go of the control they have in certain decisions and in certain areas.

It takes an incredible unselfishness. They must be willing to die to some traditions, to some feelings, to some relationships in order for the kingdom of God to be advanced. That takes a lot of maturity.

2) Your role as pastor must change. Once you decide you want to grow, you’ll need to analyze your role as pastor. You must be willing to change from minister to leader. If everything depends on you—if you have to personally minister to every person in your church—then the church cannot grow beyond your own energy level. And that is a barrier! You become a bottleneck, an obstacle to growth.

This is called the Shepherd-Rancher Conflict. As the pastor of a little church you know everybody, you do all the praying, all the baptizing, all the teaching, you know every family, every kid, every dog and cat and you shepherd everybody personally. But there’s a limit to how many people you can personally shepherd.

As the church grows you must change roles from Shepherd to Rancher. The Rancher helps oversee the under-Shepherds. Practically everybody on my staff does more weddings and counseling than I do (in fact, I do very few now because I don’t want to show favoritism among our 20,000 members).

You must be willing to let other people share the ministry. Ask yourself, “Would I be happy being a Rancher?” If you answer no, then I suggest you take on a goal that your church will sponsor new churches — so you’re still growing, but in a different way.

3) Mobilize members for ministry. Be willing to give up some leadership and entrust ministry to the people in the pews. After the congregation has decided it wants to grow, then start teaching about “the ministry of the laity” and talking about the importance of every believer using their unique gift to minister to the body.

Let your people know, “If you don’t do your part in ministry by sharing your unique gifts, then the rest of us get cheated. If I don’t do my part in ministry, then you get cheated.” Help your people understand this concept and mobilize them to begin ministering.

4) Begin having multiple services. If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you to seriously start planning for it. By offering people a choice of services, you’re effectively putting another hook in the water.

5) Multiply your staff. In order to grow past that 200 barrier, you must begin moving to multiple staff. You must begin to specialize the staff under your leadership.

6) Plan big days. The best way I know to break through barriers is to break a few all at one time. Plan a big day—an event—and your numbers go up. Yes, they go back down afterwards, but not as far as they were before the event. Keep doing this and you grow. Big holidays are an obvious time to concentrate on events — Easter, Christmas. Plan outreaches to the community.

7) Have multiple cells. People will often complain about not being cared for when the real issue is that they’re losing control. “There are so many people here I don’t feel like anybody cares for me anymore” is a common complaint. Another is: “The pastor is too busy for me now.” Caring is a legitimate issue, but you can respond through the multiplication of cells—groups of 8-12 people. Cells become tools for caring for the body.

8) Expand your facility. At Saddleback, we had over 10,000 members before we ever built our first building, so I’m not advocating rushing out to build a facility. In fact, many churches build too small, too fast. What I’m saying is you need to plan for growth and project out what your needs will be.

May God bless you and anoint you as you begin to implement these changes.

Written by Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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