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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let's Celebrate!

I’m getting ready for our quarterly church conference meeting and I’ve been praying as to how to communicate our goals coupled with the reality of challenges yet with an understanding of the power of faith. In a small church, it’s easy to find the negatives and many of them are obvious without us looking hard to find them. However, I do recognize that many of our members are truly praying and hoping the best for our church.

During one of our women’s fellowship meetings, a member of our church expressed her discouragement and concern due to the negative comments of family members and friends that, in their opinion, something must be wrong because the church is not growing. A young man came to our church because it was communicated to him that our membership was small with a big building and he wanted to see what was going on and how it was we could afford such a beautiful building with a small congregation. Not to mention all the other negative comments circulating that have a way of finding itself back to me even when I’m not looking for them.

Who said growing a church in any city would be easy? I have friends who pastor in other states with the same struggles, challenges, and concerns. So, the challenge of growing a church is global not local.

As I’ve been spending time with God in prayer, I have (somewhat) become a loner during the process these past couple of weeks wanting to do all I can to hear the voice of God, clearly. I believe, how I communicate our goals right now is vital to the spiritual well-being and vitality of our church. And if not careful, I can communicate what I think is positive and the members feel I’m being negative and/or beating them up for what I think they should be doing. So, it’s my prayer, hope, and conscience effort to be careful with words.

I subscribe to Christianity Today Building Church Leaders Newsletter and each week I receive case studies, training material, and articles relating to church administration, ministry goal/objectives, leadership, Sunday School development, ministry programs of all types, and a host of others. As I prepare for our meeting I found an interesting article on vision sharing. In this article by church leader Max De Pree, chairman of the board of Herman Miller, Inc., and author of Leadership Is an Art and Leadership Jazz, reflects on what vision can—and can't—accomplish within the church.

In his interview he was asked; “What are some myths about vision?” His response opened my eyes to understand much of the frustration that many pastors and leaders feel when the “vision” doesn’t come to pass. Here’s his response:

“That vision makes it possible to do anything. Believing such things can lead to serious consequences. One immediate consequence is feeling frustrated when you can't achieve your dream. You don't have the talent, the budget, or the time to do everything.”

I’ve found myself frustrated over the months because I have big dreams and high hopes for our church and at times I get frustrated when I look at our budget, talent, time, and membership. I guess frustration is a good thing because it shows that I want the best for God’s church. I could be like most guys who pastor for prestige and paper (money). I’m looking for neither. I want to build the kingdom of God with our local assembly.

Another question asked of Mr. De Pree is “Can too much vision tire a church out?” His response: “When a church is worn out, it may be that it's not being renewed. When people work in second gear all the time, never getting into overdrive, doing a lot of piddly stuff year in and year out, they get tired. But usually we're not worn out by tackling meaningful challenges. As a matter of fact, a leader ought to give high-performing people tougher challenges. Keep stretching them toward their potential. What makes us weary is a lack of renewal that comes from the satisfaction of work well done and well rewarded, followed by new challenges.”

I teach our church that a church of promise stretches us to the limit in our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial capacities. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve raise the bar in ministry commitment and efforts. It was amazing watching the members of FGMBC this weekend work so hard to make our “Church On The Lot” a success. Many were tired on Sunday afternoon. However, some were energized to the point where we had to kick them off the parking lot and make them go home. There is excitement when we see fruit from our labor. It may not come overnight but it’s on the way keep working in the fields.

At the end of the interview another question was asked that prompted me to reflect on the life and ministry of our church; “Does our church celebrate enough?” My honest answer is No! In church and/or life, in general, we allow our challenges to overshadow our celebration. But when we stop to really think about it, we have much to be thankful for.

A follow-up question was posed; “What are some recent successes we should celebrate?” First Goodwill Church has rich history and no matter what struggles, challenges, strains, or whatever happened in time past the church is still standing. That in itself is more than enough reason for us to celebrate. There are other reasons for celebration in our church:

A new worship facility – I don’t have time to go through the story of why we did what did and how God opened doors to make it happen. I will say that one of deacons was having major breathing problems in since I arrived at the church. He and his wife remodeled their home to remove dust that they thought was causing his bronchitis to flare almost everyday it seemed. Just about every weekend he was rushed to emergency or he was up all night coughing or coughing uncontrollably during our worship service. At one point, he would lose breathe after a few steps of carrying something in the church or in his house. I’ve watched him since we’ve entered into our sanctuary, let’s celebrate, no uncontrollable coughing during worship and no more rushing to emergency. Our building was filled with pollution from mold and asbestos. All of that has been removed now. And, his breathing is much better. Praise God!

The return of former members – Mother Mary Richardson, Keith and Vita Johnson, and Marie and Alyssa Jackson. The return of these members has encouraged me in ways unexplainable. After a terrible split in the church years ago, they’ve returned to the place they call home. It’s even more special to see Mary Richardson, Keith, and Vita return because they are relatives of the late Pastor Larry D Richardson who passed some 15 years ago. Sis Mary and Keith would stop by every now and then but Vita would not attend. Once the church was completed and the Sunday after resurrection Sunday, she has made FGMBC her home again. Praise God! Marie and Alyssa has made FGMBC their home again and at least every other week they have brought someone, if not an entire family, with them. Let’s celebrate!

Christian Prospects, Yesenia and baby T. Yesenia works with Cheyanne and based on Cheyanne’s evangelistic effort, Yesenia and baby T has been attending our church. This is special because Yesenia is Mexican/American from a Catholic background. From my conversations with her, she enjoys being at our church while she struggles to understand Christianity. This speaks volumes for our church that the Word of God is powerful and changing lives regardless of any background. I have a running visionary joke with the members of our church to be the first black pastor (that I know of) with a Mexican church. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE MY AFRICAN/AMERICAN PEOPLE. But the Great commission says; “Make disciples of all nations” meaning racial diversity is the vision of the church.

As well, the brother-in-law of Marie Jackson has been attending our church since Father’s Day. After talking with him Sunday during our event, he is eager to get to church this coming Sunday. This is an additional reason for celebrating because he’s not saved and praying God uses our church lead him into a personal relationship with God. Let’s celebrate!

Outcome of Church on the Lot – Two (2) young Hispanic men received Christ

The sustaining of First Goodwill Church – Financially, it has been a struggle for our church to maintain our obligations. But, God has made away out of no way so many times. Our lights, gas, and phone are still on (never turned off). Monthly mortgage is getting paid. Ministry is taking place for what we’re able to do right now. We’re making it through these tough economic times by the generosity of our members. Let’s celebrate.

An evangelistic surge – Our church has made the main thing, the main thing, saving souls. I taught on “Becoming a Contagious Christian” during our Wednesday night bible study time and those in attendance has put those principles learned to practice and it’s evident.

We have a long way to go. Some maybe thinking; “That’s not a reason to celebrate”. Yes, it is! Vance Havner says; “Obstacles are stepping stones!” and I say; “Challenges are opportunities for God to blow our minds!” I’m in ministry for the long. Most successful ministries (whatever you deem success to be) didn’t start successful. There were growing pains along the way. It’s through these moments of pain that God will bring growth. A mother feels the pain of birth before experiencing the beauty of their child. Keep pushing church our baby is on the way!

Bottom-line, God is at work in our church more than we know. The Word of God is preached. Our worship service is wonderful. People are learning in bible study. The Lord is using our small lunch to make a big difference in the world.

Church, we can’t stop now, God is at work in our church.

Commercial: For those of you without a church home or a personal relationship with God come try God at First Goodwill Church located at 6900 South Compton Ave in Los Angeles, Ca 90001. The Word of God is being preached with power and conviction with the ultimate goal of saving the sinner and strengthening the saint. Worship times: Sunday @ 10 am and Wednesday Nights @ 7 pm.

For additional information about our ministry please check out our website at www.fgmbc.org.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 6/28/09

What a wonderful experience on yesterday during our “Church on the Lot – Taking Church to the Streets”. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had a set plan for the whole day but God changed all of that. We networked with Pastor Robert Calvary and Praise Chapel Church. Praise Chapel rents our small building and from time to time we combine services so this was one of the times that seemed befitting to do so. We settled on Pastor Calvary preaching the service instead of having two messages. His wife, Christina and Tracy did our praise/worship. Wonderful job!

My prayer for this day was to sound the alarm that Jesus saves. When we got going people were coming in off the streets, out of their houses listening on the porch, in the alley, a deaf man came into the service and one of pastor Calvary’s members knew sign language and started ministering to him. During the service, members were on Compton Ave witnessing inviting people to come to the service. Some came in and others kept going.

The entire service was awesome and the message was on time out 1st Chron 29:10-13!

After service, we set up for a mini-carnival with hot dogs, hot links (gotta have these at every BBQ), snow cone machine, popcorn, jumper, face painting, dominoes, water balloons, and so much more. The members of First Goodwill and Praise Chapel really worked hard to make this a success. Thank you so much! God is not unjust to forget your labor of love!

My plan was to have a water balloon toss, sack races, and stuff like that but God said NO! We had 2 bands come minister. They started playing and testifying and people were listening so intently I got out of the way. The testimonies were powerful as people shared their deliverance from gang violence, drugs, alcohol, rape, divorce, being shot, homelessness, imprisonment…

What I loved most about these testimonies was that they were honest about their deliverance and they didn’t mind sharing it with strangers. God Side motorcycle club came and at first appearance, I thought, “Lord, now wait, I’m not mentally, physically, nor armed for this to jump off”. I admit my judgment was totally uncalled for. They love God with all their heart, mind, and soul. One played the saxophone for a band that ministered, the other song in the praise team, and the rest was on the streets witnessing. Awesome!

I’ve been teaching our church for the last six weeks on “Becoming a Contagious Christian” and we put those lessons into action yesterday with others. Sadie was passing out cards and witnessing. Tracy and Kari was sharing with people while face painting. My mother and Sis Loud was sharing while serving food. I was sharing with a family who’s been visiting our church for the past 2 weeks as well as with another family who came in off the street. When I was introduced as pastor they were shocked to see me on the grill and working. Their response; “You’re the pastor!” I said, “Yes!” Their response; “This is different to see a pastor working and talking to people!” We laughed together and I pray that a seed was planted into their lives seeing my service to God’s people.

But most of the time, I just stood back watching, praying, grilling, and shouting, thank You, Jesus! Awesome!

The final outcome was two (2) young men came to Christ. They were Hispanic and will more than likely attend Praise Chapel. I’m cool with that. Two lives were saved from our efforts yesterday and that’s worth it for me. God be praised! Pastor Calvary and I will minister to them and baptize them in a couple weeks.

For me, this is what it’s all about, coming together for God and saving souls. The last two (2) weeks, I’ve become a little isolated to spend time with God in prayer to insure I’m hearing from God on a number of issues that require my immediate attention in prayer. Being a working pastor doesn’t afford me the opportunity of a set time of prayer. I’ve found my only outlet is to isolate myself any way I can to hear from God. So, my friends please don’t think I’m neglecting our friendship, sometimes I need to have isolated moments of prayer time. I do my best to try and follow God in everything I do.

What a wonderful day! I’ll post pictures on Facebook later this morning. Please keep praying for me, my family, and the church. We need it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where Are They Now?

It was 1978 when Vendon, Sylvester (Sly), Russell (Preach), James (Howard) Brown, and myself formed “The Sons of God” under the leadership of Barnett “Brother B” Williams. I’ll never forget our first rehearsal, truly a big mess. None of us (and I mean) none of us could hold a note. We rehearsed for months before our debut at our home church, The Household of God Bibleway Church in Lynwood, Ca. We practiced two songs everyday.

Then it finally arrived, our debut during the 9 am worship service. I’ll never forget our names being called and the members cheering us on with “Amen!” “Sing, babies!” “Alright!” We stood at the microphones with shaking knees. The music started, we opened our mouths, and did our dance routines. Our first songs were “Cast All Your Cares (An Original)” and the Clark Sisters, “Is My Living In Vain”. Wow, what a rush! I sang soprano with Russell, James (Alto), Vendon and Sylvester (Tenors). We had no idea what to expect. The church received us well and after church our pastor took us out for pancakes.

We rehearsed every day of the week after school and after 6 months of rehearsing, we jelled together into one voice. Bro. B was hard on us in rehearsals. We were just little kids who wanted to play outside. But for him, he was a perfectionist and didn’t accept just anything. He believed in giving our best for God in everything we did and anything less was unacceptable.

We sang all over the city of Los Angeles with other groups like: The Spiritualettes, O’Neal Twins, Clara Ward Singers, Keith Pringle, The Bailey Family, and so many others. Every Saturday and Sunday we traveled somewhere to sing in this big long silver 8 door station wagon with tinted windows that we called “The Silver Bullet”. Believe it or not, we had a driver. We really enjoyed singing every week.

My mother Brenda and Aunt Betty were our managers. They were just as hard as Bro B. Combing our hair before singing, selecting our wardrobes with these huge bow ties, making sure our shirts were tucked into our pants, and we had on clean socks, T-shirts, and underwear. We’re boys, we could less about all of that stuff just let us sing.

I remember one concert we did at New Congregational Baptist Church on Vermont and Imperial (I wonder if that church is still there). We drove into the parking lot and all these girls ran to the silver bullet as if we were celebrities. We got out of the car went into the church to change our clothes and the concert started. For me it was like being in another world when I started sing. As a matter of fact I still do it sometimes, close my eyes and sing like I’m the only one in the building. When the concert concluded, we changed our clothes and when we walked out of the church to get into the silver bullet, people were asking us for autographs, pulling on our clothes, and stuff. And yes, we soaked it all up too! When we got to my cousin’s house we were so energized that we couldn’t sleep, so we started singing and wrote our first song together, “The Love Song”. Bro B loved it when we shared it with him at rehearsal the next day.

We never made an 8-track, 45, album, or cassette of our own material but we did sing background on other projects.

We entered a talent contest at the Maverick Flats on Crenshaw. First place prize was a recording contract with a record producer out of Boston, Maurice Starr. We won the talent show and made an appointment to meet with Mr. Starr. During that meeting he explained that he was looking for another Jackson 5 group. My mother, aunt, and Bro B weren’t having it. They explained to him that our boys is a gospel group and will not be an R&B group. The fellas and I wanted to have a quick meeting to discuss it without Mr. Starr to try and convince our parent managers to let it happen. Needless to say, we lost the argument. They decline and Mr. Starr continued his search and found New Edition. I was angry at them for not letting us take advantage of the opportunity. But after watching VH1’s Behind the Scene on New Edition, I’m glad we didn’t jump on that opportunity.

We continued singing gospel music and enjoyed every minute. We turned the corner and wrote a gospel rap song entitled “God Save America”. The first time we performed this song in church they looked at us like we were crazy because of our dance routine, “The Gigolo”. Our pastor did not like it as well as some of the members. So we never did that song in a church service again but we did sing it at youth rallies and park concerts.

In 1982, I left the group to move back to Texas with my mother and siblings. It was hard because I didn’t want to leave the group. We weren’t just a singing group, we are family. We did everything together. When you saw one, you also saw the others. If you fought one, you fought all of us. We fought each other but that was longed live because when we got in rehearsal, we were family again. Inseparable is a good word to describe it. They continued until Bro B disappeared. I returned for the summer in 1983 and started singing with the group again. This time James Howard Brown was playing the organ for us. We tried everything we could to keep the group going but with no leadership it fell apart and we started being teenage boys.

Today, I’m a husband with a beautiful wife and kids and grandson. I pastor First Goodwill Church that I love and enjoy minister at each week. I oftentimes wonder how things would have turned out but I’m glad how my life has become. I won’t trade it for anything.

My cousin Vendon is married with kids and is a minister of music at a church in Palmdale, Ca. He, along with two partners, has a record producing company named 3 Kings. Their first R&B CD has been released, “The Soulmance” and the material is great. Look for it in stores nearest you. I’m proud of him.

James Howard Brown is a beast on the keyboards. I have not seen nor spoke to him in years but the last I heard He was playing at a church in Denver, Colorado. I’m sure rocking the house.

Sylvester “Sly” Williams is married and lives in Rialto, Ca. He started a record label company producing rap artist but not sure how that’s going.

Russell “Preach” Williams lives in Long Beach, Ca with his wife and kids. I have not seen him in over 10 years.

Vendon and I talk on a regular basis. We, also, do our best to support one another’s efforts. We talk about the group thinking of good times and we miss the fellas dearly.

Life moves on after the show and praise God for where I am now in life. I’m having a blast!
This is my version of Behind the Scenes – The Sons of God – Where are they now?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Healthy Conversations

Every Sunday a well-known radio station in our city airs 24 hours of Christian radio. As much as I love the stations effort to spread the Word through music and conversation, there is one segment I’m not too fond of. Every evening around 7 pm there are topics for discussion like: Is pre-marital sex a sin? Should pastors date? Should Christians go to Las Vegas? Is smoking a sin? The question(s) is asked and the discussion (or I should say the debate) begins.

It’s interesting listening to some responses as people try their best to articulate their theological position on the discussion for the evening. On the other hand, it’s disheartening listening to those who use philosophy, opinions, old wise fables, slang, and false teaching to express their belief and practice.

Paul warns Pastor Timothy of such an era of our day when he says:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions – 1 Timothy 1:3-7.

And then in chapter 4, he says;

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth – 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

To keep from being lengthy, here’s the warning from both passages of scripture:

- There’s a warning against false teaching
- There’s a warning against devotion to myths and genealogies
- There’s a warning of promotion of speculations
- There’s a warning of wandering away into vain discussion
- There’s a warning of a desire to be teachers without understanding

The above list is identifiers of bad teaching leading to bad living. Here’s what bad teaching produces:

- Lying
- Forbidding to marry
- Abstaining from food that God created and should be received with thanksgiving

Teaching dictates our faith and practice. Practice should not dictate our faith and message. Here’s what I mean, we’re living in a time now where people are more apt to defend their practice rather than the message of Jesus Christ. And therefore, we justify our wrong in an effort to make what we’ve done and/or doing seem right. The tolerance level for many Christians is extremely high and we, just about, accept everything which leads to a compromise of the Gospel and a total disdain of God’s glory.

Many people will argue that conversations on spiritual issues are healthy. Maybe is my response. How do we define healthy conversations? What is the end result of healthy conversations? Who benefits from healthy conversations, the initiator, who wants to show off their biblical understanding of scripture? Or do we initiate these conversations to show how ignorant people are to biblical truths?

Whatever the case, I believe healthy conversations can only be healthy in the following principles:

I. Biblical Support: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I believe that a conversation can’t be healthy without biblical support. As a Christ-follower, the Word of God guides my life in every area without exception. We may declare this to be true but our tendencies are to pick and choose which part of God’s Word to believe and live by. The Word of God is clear on it’s teaching for pre-marital relations (sex), homosexuality/lesbianism, alcoholism, gambling, dating (pastor or not), finances, debt, and so many more. However, to discover scriptures teaching on these topics require a biblical literacy that is lacking in our day and time.

For comedians, there are subjects that are almost too easy -- sure things that guarantee a laugh. For Jay Leno one late night, it was the Bible. During the taping of one of his television shows, Leno moved through his audience asking people what they knew about the Bible. "Name one of the Ten Commandments," he said.
"God helps those who help themselves?" someone ventured.
"Name one of the apostles," Leno told them. No one could.
Finally, he asked them to name the Beatles. Without hesitation, the answer came ringing from throughout the crowd: George, Paul, John and Ringo.
Leno wasn't spoofing the Bible that evening. He was spoofing our society, which claims a grounding in Judeo-Christian principles and yet -- according to a number of surveys -- is increasingly losing touch with the Scriptures of those faiths.
Only two of 10 people participating in a recent Gallup survey correctly identified who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, said David Eikenberry, youth pastor at Orchard View Congregational Church in Muskegon, Michigan. "Typically, people could name only three or four of the Ten Commandments," Eikenberry said. Even that, however, did place Gallup's respondents ahead of Leno's "Tonight Show" audience.
Rev. Willie Burrel, pastor of Christ Temple Church in Muskegon Heights and a teacher with Western Michigan Bible Institute, also noted a decline in biblical literacy. "In order to be a Bible reader, you have to be a practicing Christian," he said. "There are a lot of un-practicing Christians (Taken from Clayton Hardiman of Religion News Service)."

Healthy conversations are supported by scripture which leads to healthy living.

II. Accurate Interpretation: As biblical support is important in healthy conversations, accurate interpretation is equally important. A study principle should always be on the front lines to properly understand biblical truths: CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING! We cannot have healthy conversations without looking at a particular topic in light of what all scripture as to say about the topic of discussion. Often times, we strip scripture from it’s context and develop our doctrinal positions. Big mistake! Misinterpreting the Bible has created much confusion and problems over the years. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to avoid misinterpreting scripture:

Don’t

- Don’t approach scripture with your point of view
- Don’t build an understanding until you’ve thoroughly investigated scripture on the topic
- Don’t suppose you know it all
- Don’t take scripture out of it’s context
- Avoid superficial interpretation
- Don’t use your experiences to validate the truth of Scripture
- Don’t spiritualize Scripture – Be careful to not make the Bible say more than what’s already there
- Don’t symbolize Scripture – This is seen more in OT passages of scripture.

Do’s

- Pray first before you study
- Read
- Write
- Meditate- Listen for the voice of God
- Approach your study with humility
- Study for your growth not for judgment of others
- Take your time
- Ask questions when you don’t understand (ask God, your pastor, mature believers)

Accurate interpretation of Scripture makes for a healthy conversation.

III. Christ-Centered: A healthy conversation is pointing people to Christ for the answers. One of my favorite stories in Scripture is found in John 4, Jesus having a conversation with the Samaritan women at the well. I like this story because after hear conversation with Christ she ran into the city to tell others about Christ. In Mark 11 we read that when John heard about the works of Christ, he sent two of disciples. In Mark 5, we read that the woman with an issue of blood heard of Jesus and pressed through the crowd to touch the Him of His garment. Zacchaeus must have heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho in Luke 19 because it says that he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Him. I think you get the point, healthy conversations point people to Christ.

IV. Decision-making. A healthy conversation leads people to make a decision about their walk with God. I’ve listened to the conversations on Sunday evenings and they seem too indecisive. There was no clear line as to what to believe leading to how we should live for God. Often times it ends with the idea: “If that’s what you believe…” That’s a cop out and people will continue to do the same thing they’ve always done. I remember as a teenager, a friend of mine was having a party down the street from the house and I wanted to go. At the time I was ministering throughout the city of Los Angeles singing and preaching. My mentor, Bro B, told me I shouldn’t go to the party. I’m a teenager and wanted to hang out with my friends at the party. I like dancing and as far as I was concerned it’s cool to dance. In his mind it was not cool to dance or even be at the party because many of the people who were going to be there went to our church and know I’m a preacher as well as look up to me. He said; “Going to the party may taint their image of you and your voice will be silenced the next time you stand to minister through preaching or singing, don’t go!” My rebellion said I’m going to the party, like it or not. I didn’t see a problem with dancing. Nightfall came and off to the party I went. Man, I was having a ball until the music stopped…Clint, come to the DJs both, you’re Dad is here to pick you up! My… what….who…how! When I got the front there stood, Bro B. I got in the car and when we pulled into the driveway he laid into me with the longest lecture that seemed to last a lifetime. When finished he asked, “Do you understand and what is your decision now?” I didn’t understand all of that then but now I do. My grandfather would say to me; “Boy, make your mind up!” Healthy conversations should lead people to make their minds up to follow Christ in total devotion.

Let’s not lose sight of what a healthy conversation about Christ can do in the lives of others. In your next healthy conversation make sure you have biblical support, interpret Scripture accurately, point people to Christ, and then ask them, “Make your mind up!”

Remember it’s about kingdom building!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 6/21/09

I woke up Sunday ready to do what I do, minister the word of God until I got to church. When I walked through the door I noticed hand and foot prints on the walls, some one broke into our church AGAIN!!!!! GGGGGGGRRRRRRRRGGGGRRRGGRRRR!!!!!

This is the second time in a month that our church has been broken into. I ran upstairs to the sound room, praise God everything was there. The first time these idiots broke into our church they stole my stereo, VHS/DVD combo, air compressor, gospel CD’s, and 1-3 sessions of Becoming A Contagious Christian DVD. I hope they watched it so they can find Jesus in the process.

This messed up the start of my day and it took me a long time to settle down to preach. I struggled to stay focused on the message. It did help that the women of our church ran the service to give the men a break for Father’s Day.

I continued my series; “The God of Our Trust” with a message on Jehovah-Mekeddeshem – The Lord Who Sanctifies.

Topic: Trusting God Who Can Make You Better
Text: Exodus 31:12-18

Theme: Sanctification, holiness
Thesis Statement: Only God can make you better!

I. He Sanctified Us (Positional Sanctification) – v. 12-13

II. He’s Sanctifying Us (Progressive Sanctification) – v. 14-15

III. He completes our Sanctification (Perfect Sanctification) – v. 16-18

While my content was good, I did not do a good job communicating.

After church Tracy and the kids took me to Shakeys for a pizza buffet and then we went to Venice beach to walk around for Father’s Day. Good time with family.

This week is going to be extremely busy, stressful, and tiring. At work we call our end of the month week “Hell Week” as well as this being the end of the 2nd Qtr it’s really going to be trouble in paradise. There’s a financial goal to reach and we’re nowhere near our $ goal. I’m not complaining just stating reality.

This coming Sunday, we’re having church on the parking lot. We’ll be setting up our sanctuary on Saturday with tents, chairs, sound system, etc. After service is BBQ, jumper, popcorn machine, snow cone machine, face painting, games, dominoes, etc. This is our evangelistic strategy to take church out of the four walls and into the streets. We’ll start small then work our way into Samaria, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Benefits of Insecurity

I left Mt Sinai in 2000 to what I believed to be another ministerial assignment. My father in the ministry had been discussing with me for some time to come help him as he was getting old and wanted to retire. I preached for him on a number of occasions on Sunday mornings, taught Wednesday Night Bible Study, and surprisingly enough, conducted a sermon preparation class for the ministerial staff.

The members of the church received me well. Yes, this was the church where I grew up, received my calling, preached me first sermon, sung my first song, play the drums, had my kiss, and so on. Many of the people that were members as a little boy were still members with new members too.

When my family and I arrived at the church things were going extremely well even while we missed being at Mt Sinai. The preaching, teaching, and worship atmosphere was totally different than what we were used to. Yet, I believed that this was my new assignment and realized that the adjustment was going to take some time.

After a couple of months, things took change for the worse. It had been announced that I was going to preach in a couple of weeks. I prepared myself to preach and when we pulled into the church parking lot for worship it was packed. The church had always possessed a strong membership but attendance started to dwindle because pastor couldn’t carry the preaching assignment due to sickness and age. When I entered into his office I was hit with a bombshell, he said: “I feel the Lord leading me to preach this morning!” I didn’t argue with him, he’s the pastor. I said; “Ok!”

It was time to preach and he stood. The people in the audience didn’t think anything of it until they noticed that his conversational tune changed to preaching. When he finished, he opened the doors of the church, we gave our tithes/offering, benediction, and we went home. Before dismissing, he explained to the church that he felt that God wanted him to preach but that I would preach next Sunday.

Well that didn’t happen, A packed church and another; “God is leading me to preach!” I didn’t argue, fuss, or anything. I gave my support and moved on as if it never happened. But this time the members weren’t so receptive. When he stood, I heard some the members say (supposedly whispering); “Wait, he said Clint was preaching. Why is he doing this to him?” But this time, he let me give the invitation, conduct the offering, and give the benediction. I didn’t preach I did exactly what he asked me to do.

When we got into the parking lot the conversation continued outside that started inside during the worship; “Why pastor didn’t let Clint preach?” I didn’t want my family to get caught up in parking lot confusion so we quickly got in the car and went home.

Needless to say, this experience hurt me pretty bad. Many broken promises and I really believed that God was calling me to a new assignment. He and I talked one afternoon over lunch. For me I thought things had been resolved but they weren’t. Again the announcement, “Clint will preach next week!” When we pulled into the parking lot, a packed church and another bombshell. But this time I was….yes, you got it. I wanted to leave but didn’t want to show any discord in front of the membership. I sat in the pulpit and trie my best to support the preaching. When the members saw him stand to preach they started walking out one by one. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life.

We didn’t stay long as members so my family and I left!

This was not the first time something like this has happened to me. I was invited to preach at a church for an annual day and one of the committee members made a comment in front of their pastor and members; “Pastor Smith, preaches better than our pastor!” I looked at the pastor and he was angry about the comment and I felt weird sitting there. I have not been invited back.

I have questions, are there personal insecurities? Are we insecure about our ministry? Are we threatened by the ministry of another pastor/preacher? Do we have an inferiority complex because of the size of our church? Or, are we afraid that some of our members may leave because of the ministry of a visiting pastor? Have we held onto pastoral ministry for so long that the church has become our prized possession rather than a place for ministry?

Pastoral insecurity is an enemy to ministry progress and success.

Gary Emery in his article entitled “Pastoral Insecurity” says:

“Pastoral ministry wasn’t designed to be easy but I have to wonder if our Western-brand needlessly and unnecessarily pushes us into that insecurity mode all too often. I mean where else do you get to hang your old face out in front of a crowd of people each week and try to say something coherent (let alone cogent)? Where else, except perhaps in politics, does your entire constituency feel the freedom (if not the responsibility to scrutinize your every decision, habit, or nose hairs? Maybe that’s what Paul was talking about when he said “I die daily”. I think it’s much more healthy (and honest!) to simply acknowledge that leadership has a way of drawing out all our insecurities rapidly and continuously. As each insecurity comes to the surface we have a choice whether to allow it to dominate our decisions or mindset. I have a choice to grow in grace or justify my smallness of character”.

However, I believe our insecurities can be a good thing. Why?

First, it keeps us focused. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (I Timothy 4:16). One way to avoid insecurity is to insure you’re doctrinally sound. Before a funeral, I sat in my office with one of the sons First Goodwill. He expressed to me that he was having trouble with his assistant pastor’s teaching on God’s permissive will. His assistant pastor does not believe in God’s permissive will but believes that bad things happen outside of the realm of God’s control and Satan is the initiator of all bad things. He wasn’t sure if the bible discussed God’s permissive will and from all indications he was shooting from the hip to defend his convictions. His membership was leaning towards the teaching of the assisting pastor resulting in disharmony amongst leadership and membership. I had just preached a sermon a week earlier on God’s Sovereignty and gave him a pamphlet on God’s sovereignty help him defend his convictions. I believe when you’re doctrinally unstable you leave yourself wide open for feelings of insecurity. I appreciate the fact that he had enough confidence in me to ask the question and I thank God for what I was able to do to help him.

Second, it keeps us humble. I think sometimes we should become insecure in ministry to keep our egos to a minimum. I don’t know one person who doesn’t experience ego tripping. My grandfather would say to me when I started my ego trips, “Boy, don’t get too big for your britches!” It helps sometimes to experience feelings of inadequacy to remind us that we’re fallible humans.

Third, it shows our maturity. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). People that are insecure can really act childish. People are watching every area of our lives and before they acknowledge the good, they’ll pay more attention to our childish actions.

Fourth, be thankful for your gift. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you (1 Timothy 4:14). God’s has placed within us special gifts that no one can exactly like we can do it for the season He wants us to do it in. I’m learning to thank God each day for my gift. I might not be the voice of the day as a world-wide evangelist but God has given me a voice for my church. I may not be able sing like Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Winans, Marvin Sapp, or any well-known gospel artist but I do have the gift of song. You get the point! Thank God for your giftedness and develop it.

Fifth, acknowledge your limitations. I will say that it’s not always a good thing to tell people, “I don’t know but I’ll get back to you” and in the same way it’s not good to think you know everything, either. We all have limitations, weaknesses, and faults that need improvement. I requested some help on Facebook in regards to my need for pastoral covering. The feedback was great and challenged me to keep praying and seeking God about the issue. One response suggested that I develop friendship with pastors to help me in areas of my weakness. I know my weaknesses and I’m not as smart as it seems, God knows how to make up the difference.

I was inspired to write this article after a conversation I had with an out-of-town pastor last night. I think our potential for church networking suffers because of our insecurities and hang-ups. There are pastors, churches, and members who can benefit from one another in an effort to build the kingdom of God.

Don’t let the negative response to insecurities keep you from being a blessing to someone else. God has greatest on the inside of you! Let it out!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trusting God Who Can Heal

Text: Exodus 15:22-27

Does God will heal today?

This has been a debatable question down through the years among theologians and religious teachers. Some say “YES” and others say “NO”. But my follow-up question is simple, what guides our understanding of healing to lead us to believe that God is still healing today? Is it experience? Is it biblical study, personal or public? Is it trust in faith healers? What is it that guides our understanding of healing today and/or all other questions surrounding this topic?

Questions like:

- Is it God’s will to heal everyone?
- Is sickness, disabilities, and deformities a result of some un-confessed sin?
- Does a human possess the ability to heal?
- How does God choose to heal people?
- Why isn’t everybody healed?
- Is it a sign of a lack of faith to acknowledge sickness?
- What’s more important physical or spiritual healing?
- Is physical healing a temporary blessing or permanent blessing?
- If men (and women) possess the power to heal, why is the hospital filled with sick people and cemeteries full of dead people?
- How do you handle the death of someone who was not healed after you’ve prayed for their healing?
- Does God allow people to get sick because He’s mad at them for being disobedient?

Questions, questions, questions! I believe this text, Exodus 15 of God’s revelation to Israel as the Lord that heals you, begins to shape our understanding of healing. The longer Israel journeyed with God, the more He revealed to them His character and ways. What this means is that as believers, we cannot allow one experience to guide our faith and practice in any area of Christian living. Experience(s) of faith is not a good measuring stick in proving our faith. Ok, you received healing this time but what about the next time? Ok, you were brought back to life this time but what about the next time? Ok, you received an unexpected financial blessing in the mail this time, but what about next time? Ok, you were delivered out of a terrible situation this time, but what about next time?

Each day we walk with God, God reveals more and more of Himself to us to help us face tomorrow while living in faith today.

So, as we’ve been studying the names of God, God has revealed Himself to us in the following ways thus far:

In Genesis 1 as Elohim - Creator, He created all things for His glory including you and me.

In Genesis 14 as El Elyon- God Most High meaning God is in control. He is actively participating in our lives daily, good and bad.

In Genesis 15 we see God as Adonai – Master, Owner meaning God owns everything including you.

In Genesis 16 we see God as El Roi – God who sees what you’re going through.

In Genesis 17 we see God as El Shaddai – God Almighty and sufficient meaning our God is powerful to never run dry of resources.

In Genesis 22 we see God as Jehovah-Jireh – God will provide.
In Exodus 3, we see God as Jehovah, the Great I Am that I Am meaning He is anything and everything you will ever need Him to be in life.

God has shown us enough of Himself so that we may trust Him to handle all things, anytime, and anywhere. Therefore, God’s next revelation is as Jehovah-Raphe, the Lord who heals. This revelation of God should not be in question. God has created all things, knows all things, sees all things, and provides all things. Surely, He can heal all things.

The focus of this text is on God’s revelation as the Great Physician. And here’s the point of my sermon:

God Can Heal You!

God is the source of all healing and He chooses how divine healing takes place.

Let’s look into this text to see what truths we can learn about how God chooses to heal. This text provides four (4) principles to help guide our understanding of healing.

i. God heals by Revealing to Us the Reality of Life – v. 22-25

To fully understand God’s revelation in Exodus 15 we need to read chapters 13-14. In summary, Moses decrees that in remembrance of God sparring Israel’s firstborn, all firstborn persons and animals are to be considered his. The Israelites avoid the shorter but fortified route to Canaan along the Mediterranean coast and instead travel toward Sinai. God’s guides them by a cloudy-fiery pillar a visible sign of God’s presence and Moses is told that Pharaoh has sent a chariot army to recapture the children of Israel. The approach of the Egyptian army creates panic until God parts the Red Sea so they can cross. The pursuing Egyptian army pursues after them but when they get into the middle of the Sea God clothes the mouth of the water and the army drowns.

Moses leads a worship service after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. But just three days later they find themselves in a desperate, dry, and depressed situation. There’s no water to drink. And the water they did find was bitter and undrinkable.

Here they are just got through worshipping God for their deliverance but now finds themselves in a bitter situation.

Have found yourself in situations that you can’t seem to get yourself out of? God just lead them out of bondage by parting the Red Sea and killing Pharaoh’s army with the mouth of the Red Sea. Now they approach another desperate situation where they begin to complain about not having nothing to drink. How soon do we forget the presence, power, and participation of God during hard times?

Here’s what we need to understand about God’s healing, God can heal you emotionally. They panicked at the Red Sea as the army approached and now they panic again because there’s no water. There’s no quenching of their thirst. There are two (2) realities of life that affect us emotionally:

1. Life’s Suffering – Reality: Life will be hard sometimes.

There is a unique cross-reference to Exodus 15:22-27 found in James 5:13-18. Verses 13 and 14 starts with a series of questions, the first being in verse 13; “Is anyone among you suffering?”

Hard times is a part of life and just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we won’t experience trouble.

2. Bodily Sickness - The third question is found in verse 14; “Is anyone among you sick?” You will get sick in life, be it life threatening or non-life threatening.

Suffering and sickness has a way of toying with our emotions. Nobody likes being sick and nobody likes to suffer. Yet, the reality of life is that we will have hard times and we will get sick. But the question is how do you respond to these two (2) realities?

The text offers two (2) responses, where do you fall in your response to suffering and sickness:

a. Complain – v. 24 says; “And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”

b. Pray – v. 25 says; “And he (Moses) cried out to the Lord…”

What we need to understand about the reality of life is that sickness and suffering will come to try us in the area of our trust in God. Do you trust God in sickness and health, for richer or poorer? Do you trust Him on the mountaintop or the valley low?

Do you trust God when the reality of life hits your door? If you trust God there’s only one true and accurate response, go to God in prayer.

God can heal you emotionally!
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ii. God heals by Redeeming Life – v. 25

These verses in Exodus 15:22-27 speaks of two (2) healings, spiritual and physical. Verse 25 speaks of spiritual healing and verse 26 speaks of physical healing. Let’s deal with spiritual healing.

Moses cries out to God in response to the children of Israel’s complaint of not having anything to drink. God answers Moses prayer by showing him a log (tree). Moses takes the tree and throws it in the bitter water. Here’s the miracle, the water was made sweet.

The purpose of bitter waters is to test us, I believe, spiritually.

1 Peter 1:6-7 says: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.

Tests and trial in life will do one of two (2) things; draw you closer to God or push you further away from God. We need to understand that trials, test, and tribulations come to show us how much we need God. While I believe God is able to heal us physical, I believe our spiritual healing is much more important than physical healing. When you and I trust God for life eternal it provides for us hopeful living beyond the suffering and sickness we face in this life.

There is little doubt that the healing of bitter waters by a tree is a foreshadowing of another tree, the tree of Calvary. 1 Peter 2:24 says; “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed”.

Here Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5-6;

“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
[6] All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

This passage of scripture is so misquoted and misused by so many in the church. These verses are often quoted as a defense for physical healing when in fact it refers to spiritual healing through salvation.

What good is pursuing physical healing when your soul is destined for eternal damnation?

When you’ve been healed spiritually through the receiving of Christ, you have victory over sin, death, and the grave. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:56-57; “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God heals us by saving us!
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iii. God heals with the Requirements of Life – v. 26

Verse 26 poses some issues for me due to the fact that the verse seems to imply, “If we disobey God’s word we will receive a disease as punishment?” Hmmmm, is this really true?

Read the text again:

"If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you."

The word “If” suggest that maybe you will or may be you won’t. But, if you do, I will preserve and if you don’t, I will poison you.

Is our God vengeful like that? Of course not! In this text, I believe, God is setting boundaries for the Israelite people to insure that they don’t get out of hand. Let me remind us that while God loves the sinner, sin has consequences that can include sickness, disease, and ultimately death. Here’s what I mean, having sex is in direct violation to God’s standard for marriage relationship. The sexual act is sin. The consequence is STD (A Sexual Transmitted Disease), HIV/AIDS, etc. What about drinking, smoking, and eating? Are they sinful acts of sin that cause sickness, disease, and death in the body? The Bible speaks of drinking and eating in moderation. It doesn’t speak of smoking? However, how much is too much, I don’t know? However, when moderation becomes excessive then you have a problem. Too much drinking can cause liver problems, smoking can cause lung cancer, eating can cause diabetes. God calls us to be holy for our body is His temple. All impurities that affect our ability to be holy is in violation of God’s expectation and is sin.

The point of focus is that God has set boundaries for us in His Word to help assist us in a spiritually healthy balanced life that ultimately protects us from bodily sickness and disease.

God is not a vengeful God. Instead, God is a gracious God. That’s why many of have been kept from a number of sicknesses in life. Not because you were so good and moderate (in your mind). God was gracious to you and kept some serious sicknesses from you.

This text teaches us that God heals us with His Word. Three (3) principles are given:

- The Perseverance of God’s Word In healing – v. 26a

Many Christians have been healed not by some laying on the hands, oil placed on the forehead, healing clothe, someone blowing on them or whatever scam we can come up these days. We’ve been healed because of our endurance in the Word of God before, after, and during our sickness. I don’t need a prayer healing service to be healed, give me His Word. God can speak healing from His Word and I can be healed right in the morning worship service during the preaching moment. Genuine healing is found in the Word of God which extends far beyond physical healing. The Word provides spiritual healing. I can rejoice in God in my sickness, healed or not, because “It is well with my soul!”


- The Priority of God’s In Healing v. 26b

We’re not only to persevere in the Word of God but we should also make the Word of God a priority in everything we do. The text says; “…do what is right in His sight.” One of the major issues I see as believers (and with non-believers) is that we love talking about the blessings of God but we ignore our responsibility in receiving blessings. There are some blessings that I like to call inadvertent blessings. It’s called grace! Blessings come because God is good like that. Then there are intentional blessings. These are blessings that come because we’ve lined ourselves up with God’s expectations to be blessed. Deuteronomy 28:1-5 says: "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God: "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Here’s my point; make the Word of God a priority in your life and your blessing is sure to come.


- The Promise of God’s Word For Healing – v. 26c

God says in the “C” clause of verse 26: “I will put none of these diseases on you…” Praise God! Here’s my point and I’m moving on: God never runs out of healing power!
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iv. God’s healing is Refreshing – v. 27

Then they came to Elim, where there [were] twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

This final verse encourages us in a tremendous way in regards to God’s healing power.

When God heals it's SATISFYING. Notice something extremely important as I close this message, verse 22-23 shows that the children of Israel had not water. But in verse 27 they have 12 wells of water. Verses 22-23 show their disappointment but verse 27 shows their delight. God moves them from a dry, thirsty, frustrating, stressful place of panic to place of satisfaction. That’s what God’s healing will do for you, satisfy you.

When God heals it’s STABLIZING. There are twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees. The palm trees at Elim was a source for more water. They didn’t have one tree but seventy palm trees. Isa 12:3 says: “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”. Psalms 23 says; “He leads me beside still waters.” Here’s my point; when God heals you, your faith is strengthened so that the next time you face the realities of life, suffering and sickness, you won’t panic because you source of spiritual water to draw from that will hold you together during hard times.

When God heals it’s SECURED! Read the text, verse 27, “…they camped by the river.” Here is the final analysis on healing; “Stay with God, you can’t go wrong!”

Sunday Thoughts - 6/14/09

Sunday was a real good day of worship and I’m not just saying that to make things look good for the sake of impressing those who read this blog. The presence of the Lord was in the house.

I preached “Trusting God Who Can Heal You” from Exodus 15:22-27.

While this sermon is part of a series of sermons: “The God of Our Trust”, I believe the message on healing was for our church. I will post full manuscript as a part of my online blog book “Understanding Healing”, hopefully today, after I tighten up some things.

I didn’t know what impact this message would have in the life of our church until the invitation. As a normal practice, I make three (3) appeals during the invitation:

Appeal 1: To the Un-saved – This is an appeal for those in our audience who does not have a personal relationship with God.

Appeal 2: To the Un-Committed – This is an appeal for those in our audience who is not committed to a local fellowship of believers for whatever reason.

Appeal 3: To Believers – This is an appeal to believers to respond to the Word of God as to how the Holy Spirit revealed the Word and application to their personal walk with God.

The response was tremendous!

I closed with a personal testimony has to my anger with God, blaming Him for taking my son, Ryan Maurice Smith. I explained that for years I suppressed my anger with God and yet, I was still preaching, teaching, singing, and ministering all in the name of the Lord. It wasn’t until my encounter with God a few months ago that I released that anger with God and I’ve been able to preach/teach with much more power than ever as of late.

My appeal to the church was that true healing can’t take place until we face our anger, disappointments, and realities with God for things that happened in our lives that we can’t explain as well as don’t understand.

Let me ask, are you angry with God for some unpleasant event in your life that you don’t understand? Are you harboring un-forgiveness in your heart that needs to be rectified? If so, you will not be able to live or minister for God until you face your realities and allow the Great Physician to heal you. Let it go and start living in fullness for Christ. Victory is our name as Christians! Don’t live defeated any longer!

Praise God for His Word!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Pastor in Need of a Pastor

I’m stuck in a peculiar position that I’ve been praying about since September of 2008 when my pastor H.B Charles moved to Jacksonville, Florida on another assignment at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. My father in the ministry, Bishop James H Mims passed away in 2006. So, when Pastor Charles moved I thought I could make it without having a “pastor” but I’m finding everyday, I need pastoral leadership.

This is my first church and I still have a lot to learn as well as I’m treading on thin water that requires advice from pastoral leadership. I have friends that I share my struggles with and ask for advice but the missing element for me is the godly council of a pastor.

My belief is every pastor needs a pastor. I teach our church the importance of pastoral leadership and believe I need to follow by example of my own teaching. I feel like Robin without Batman in my life. Some would think it’s not a big deal but to me it is. There is a since of ministry security having a pastor in the since that pastoral leadership in ministry keeps me sane at times and helps me work through some tough terrain that friends are not able to help me through because of our friendship. They listen and the advice is pretty vague and indecisive.

I have friends in ministry who’s been in ministry much longer than I have. I respect them and admire their work. But, I’m not sure how the relationship would crossover from friendship to pastor or if I would be seen as a friend, flunky, or a notch under the pastoral belt. My apprehension is due to my experiences in time past with such a crossover. From what I’ve witnessed directly and indirectly, it doesn’t work. Friendships end in a disagreement due to an attitude of “we’re on the same level” so no one wants to listen to the other. People’s demeanors change from relationship to dictatorship because some people can’t handle the crossover resulting in broken fellowship. The relationship becomes a position of power over the other and/or self-glory, a notch under my pastoral leadership belt so to speak. So, while I have friends I respect and admire their work, I am little apprehensive of asking them to be my pastor. I enjoy the friendship and don’t want anything to ruin it, not even pastoral leadership. Of course, all that I just mentioned is a result of both parties bending and/or not bending to make it work. Whether I consider a friend and/or develop a new relationship it’s going to require that I give more than I take.

So, I’m stuck with several concerns:

Relationship. I’m looking for a pastoral relationship much like the relationship between Paul and Timothy or even the unique relationship between Jesus and Peter. These were relationships of meaning, purpose, and ministry partnerships. Men in ministry headed in the same direction and showed much respect for each other. I need a relationship in my life and ministry not a position.

Preaching Ability. This may sound selfish but oh well, I want a pastor that can say it and models the discipline of sound doctrine.

Family Oriented. I want a pastor who loves his family and preferably married. I love my family (Tracy, Aysia, Myles, Kari, baby Jimmy, my mother, siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, and grandparents). And, I love spending time with them. I need a pastor with a solid family life as an example for me and my family. I recognize that my wife needs a relationship to help her with being a pastor’s wife. So, I’m not leaning towards asking a single pastor to be my pastor. My teenagers need relationship as PKs to help them through ministry struggles of being a PK. I’m not trying to push off my responsibility on to someone else. I am the pastor of my family. However, I need to be sensitive to their needs as well. I think that makes for being a good pastor to my family. I don’t know it all and every little bit helps.

Integrity. I want a pastor of integrity. I should make a list but I won’t. 1 Timothy 3 is good enough.

Partnership. I want a pastor who shares the same passion for ministry that I do.

Honest. As much as I didn’t like it, I can say Pastor Charles was honest in his dealings with me. He told me when I was wrong and he told me when I did it right. I never had to guess where he stood on any issue, it was obvious. But, I must also remember that his and I relationship was unique because he is my brother-in-law. But I think the principle remains the same. It’s simple: Be honest with me. I’m a man and I can take it. I may not like it but I’ll suck it, learn, and move on.

Transparent. I want a pastor who’s transparent. I’m not expecting for him to tell me all his business but don’t make it seem like there’s no struggles either.

The person reading this may say; “Geeeeeeeesh, he’s asking a lot of a person!” In reality, I’m not. There’s a lot expected of me as a pastor, so why should I accept anything less than what’s expected of me. Actually, I think my expectations are relatively simple.

There are some seasoned pastors in our city that God has placed on my heart to consider as my pastor. I’m praying for clear (and I mean clear direction). Please join me in praying for clear direction in this area.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Did He Say?

My wife gets on me when I go out to preach because often times that’s when I let my hair down, metaphorically, to sing my sermon. Whooping is what we call it in the African American church. I guess the concern and/or complaint is warranted because I don’t do it often at the church. When I first started to pastor at First Goodwill, I would go at it every week, whooping that is. But Pastor Willie Woods who was my associate at that time, would say to me; “Pastor, stop preaching so hard you have a long way go!” Or he would say, “Be careful not to kill yourself in this pulpit. They’ll get another pastor in a couple of weeks.” I listened but I still would preach like a maniac, whooping at the conclusion of every sermon.

Now, I can, literally, count on one hand how many times I’ve sung my sermon in the past three (3) years or so. I started thinking, why do I whoop? Is my message less powerful or effective because I don’t whoop? Why do I whoop when I go out? Do my members care if I or don't whoop?

One of the reasons why I know I don’t whoop as much is because of the SINGING PREACHER SYNDROME. Whooping comes natural for me because I sing with musical knowledge of chord transitions. I'll love singing and everything that goes with it. However, when I stand before God I want to hear Him say servant well done, that was some good preaching down there. I think sometimes for the preacher singing can be a handicap to our ministries. I’ve been invited to preach at churches and some of the congregants were disappointed because I didn’t sing before I preached. I’ve been invited to services specifically to sing a selection not preach but sing. On one instance, a member of a church I preached at came to me and said; “Good message but I wanted to hear you sing.” To me that makes singing a disability. I long for a choir, praise team, ensemble, or something to keep me from singing on Sunday mornings all the time. I thank God for the gift of singing because it does help tremendously in our worship service. But, if I have to wear the label as a “singing preacher”, I want it to be none that I’m a singing preacher who can preach, with or without the whoop.

I also notice that many people post their close (whoop) on YouTube more so than a lecture that would draw people to Christ and I often wondered why that is? I think YouTube, church websites, or the web in general is a good vehicle to reach lost people for Christ. Is posting our whoop reaching people for Christ? Or do we use the whoop to hide behind a lack luster lecture (say that five times).

Sometime ago a preacher came to Los Angeles that I heard on YouTube (his close). He killed me with his whoop. My God this cat knows how to shut-it-down. But when I heard the lecture (or the meat of his sermon) I thought to myself, what a waste. I think many preachers polish their art of whooping but not the art of communicating the gospel. We must remember that people listen to us communicate the gospel for 30 to 40 minutes before we get to the whoop. What are we saying before the whoop? Does our close compliment the message? What’s more important, our close or the gospel message? Have we given the audience something to think about? Have they been challenged to change their lives for the better?

This is not coming from a person who cannot whoop. I can! But, I wonder sometimes about it's effectiveness.

Understand that the whoop, if not used effectively, can be a hindrance to the message just preached. People can ride through the entire message but then you’re close turns them off because of the frog. What people don’t know is that the frog is the result of taking deep breathes while holding the microphone close to the mouth. However, on the other hand, some of us do it intentionally. Bottom-line people think its nasty and will turn on a deaf ear. Whatever the case it can hinder the message and all people will remember is what was that in his throat? For me I have a problem with mucous build up that clogs my throat passage causing me to choke. It’s not a good idea to clear your throat in the microphone, that’s nasty. So, I've learned to take my time to prevent mucous build up and I my sure I swallow after every sentence.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the art of African American preaching. I love our uniqueness, excitement, and the joy it brings. I just think we should give the people more than a whoop.

I think if you’re going to be a whooping preacher:

Let the Spirit lead you. Here’s another way of saying it; “If it doesn’t fit don’t force it! Just relax and let it go!” I want to say that there are sermons that warrant the whoop but that’s not always true. I’ve written sermons that in my mind was a good candidate for the whoop. But when I got the pulpit the Holy Spirit did something totally different and it wasn’t whooping. In the same context, the sermons I thought were not a candidate for the whoop turned to out to be a good candidate. When it’s right you’ll know but when it’s wrong you’ll know also. Remember, our power comes not from the whoop but from the Holy Spirit.

Be clear. What good is the whoop if nobody understands a word you’re saying? I’ve listened to guys whoop and found myself asking; ‘What did he say?” I sometimes become hard to understand in the heat of the moment when playback the tape. I think the close should be a smooth ride to a final conclusion. Tell the story with music, like an opera. Take your time. Speak clear. Drink a little water before you start. Know where you’re going. Pull back the microphone from your mouth to prevent the frog and/or muffled sound. Stay within your element. There are some who can whoop without yanking it but when they try to yank it, it sounds like a wounded dog after being hit by a car. Learn to squall, if possible. It’s safe and easy on your throat. The squall is nothing more than a real heavy vibrato.

Watch the theatrics. I know sometimes we get excited about preaching and we tend to walk on people’s furnishings. Be careful! You could hurt somebody and you can hurt yourself. I remember years ago, I went to hear a friend of mine and he got happy and decided to walk on the pews. Two problems: He was 350 lbs and the third pew was broke and he didn’t know it. When he started his pew walking adventure and stepped on the third pew it broke and down he went. His whoop went from thanking God to crying out for help. As a younger preacher, I was preaching the Seven Last Sayings of Christ. I decided to lie down on a pew as if it was Jesus lying in tomb. Big mistake! When I got up off that pew, I tripped and twisted my ankle. I was hurt and the some of the church was laughing. Theatrical preaching can work if planned out properly but always remain reverent. It really isn't necessary to walk on people's furnishings. I know the Holy Spirit can get a hold of us but I don't think He wants us to hurt ourselves or others as well as tear up a church's furnishings either. We’re worshipping God even during our whoop.

Preaching is not a competition. I think sometimes we whoop to show off, especially, if a lot of preachers are around. I’ve had the opportunity to preach in a number of prayer bowls over the years and I remember my first. The lineup was of 8 and I was #5. The place was packed with preachers in the pulpit and in audience. For many it was their first time hearing me preach. I sat through 4 hours of whooping (literally) and it was obvious that one was trying to out shine the other. When my turn came, many of them walked out during my introduction. When I saw that my competitive edge started to reveal itself during the sermon. I worked my way through the sermon and when I got the whoop, mini me of Leroy Elliot with my twist began to shine that day. “Oh boy, I killed them was my self praise has I sat down!” When I got in the car with Tracy, she says; “You know you were just showing out”. I thought to myself if she felt that way how many others felt the same. From that point on I promised God that I would never do that again. The next couple of years I preached in the prayer bowl with same preachers and I allowed God to dictate the outcome of my close. My prayer before I preach in those settings is “Lord, keep my ego in check so I don’t stand to impress people!” The sermonic spotlight is not to shine on us but on God. Save the competition for another time not the pulpit.

Be prepared for criticism. Criticism will come from the pulpit and/or the pew but I bank most of the criticism coming from the pulpit of Rogers and Eberts. I was told on one occasion by a fellow preacher: “Clint, you weren’t on it today!” My response: “What do you mean my look at the text was good?” After a moment of debate, I narrowed it down to his judgment of my sermonic presentation was not based on the meat of my sermon but on the whoop (or lack thereof) of my sermon. At that point, I wrote him off as being ignorant to our true calling as preachers to spread the gospel message with or without a whoop. Yes, we are to spread glad tidings of great joy but that doesn’t mean it has to be with a whoop. I’m learning more and more each day as a person, preacher, and pastor, you can’t please everybody. Our ultimate goal is glorifying God in everythings that we do.

I love the unique delivery of black pulpiteers. I just wander about some of our true intentions. Are we serving for God's glory alone? Are we serving man for self glory? As the young people say; “Do you!” But make sure that while you’re doing you, God is at center of everything that “You do!”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How Much Time Is Enough Time?

The question that tends to haunt me in sermon preparation is how much time is enough time? It has been said that anything less than 40 hours is insufficient sermon preparation. Who says?! I think the person who can say that is a person who everything in order in ministry administratively, evangelistically, personally, financially, relationally, and spiritually. Realistically, does anyone have 40 hours of sermon preparation time, be it a full-time or bi-vocational pastor?

Life demands a lot of us every day and consumes much our time with priorities and often times sermon preparation falls prey to neglect. Let’s be honest here, any person who’s been in ministry long enough knows how to stir a person’s emotions with any text. People are hurting in more ways than we can imagine and they need more from us than cute jokes and pulpit slang.

I have a DVD by Bishop Noel Jones on preaching that starts with these words; “Take time to study!” No further explanations, illustrations, ministry experiences, or anything were needed to be said after that. “Take time to study” said it all in a nutshell.

I think many preachers (not just pastors) get caught in the trap of:

- Time spent in the study: 40 hours vs less or more hours
- How many pages a sermon manuscript should be: 6 or 12 pages
- Am I original?
- Can I shout a congregation with what I’m saying?

And actually I believe that all these things and many more affects or sermon preparation because we approach the word with wrong expectations.

I have found, as a preacher that hearing from God during sermon preparation is more important than how much time you spend in the study. We can get so caught up in time spent that we miss hearing from God.

There have been times when I did my homework including writing a manuscript and my sermon was powerful and effective on Sunday morning in 10 hours of sermon preparation. However, there have been other times, my sermon preparation took longer than 10 hours and in those times I had to learn more faster as Dr Ray Pritchford has stated so eloquently in time past. However, learning more faster required that I place my butt in a seat to learn.

Chuck Swindoll emphasizes that sermon preparation is hard work and we are workers.

I admit, I love preaching but I hate studying. However, I realize that there can be no effective preaching without good effective studying. Studying and preaching go together like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese you can’t have one without the other. The power of sermon presentation comes from the fruit of our labor in our study. No exceptions and no matter how long it takes! Sunday's come quick and Jesus is coming soon. We must make sure that we glorify God in our sermon preparation time as well as sermon presentation. Think about this, what would God say to us if He returned during our message on Sunday after we wasted time all week long and didn't study? I'm not sure what He would say but I'm sure He wouldn't be pleased.

In addition, we don’t give our audience enough credit during the preaching moment. We think our members and invited guest are ignorant to biblical truth. While, this maybe true in some cases, they know when you’re prepared and when we’ve goofed off all week.

Let’s be honest, full-time preacher or not, we’re all guilty of goofing off and neglecting our study from time to time. We’re human. We love to have fun. We get lazy, tired, hungry, and irritated. But, we’re still obligated to study.

I resist the temptation to give tips, suggestions, advice, or anything of that nature on sermon preparation because we’ve heard it all before. However, I do believe in challenging us to make our study a priority. Do whatever you need to do to study the text to hear from God. The amount of time you spend is determined by how well you hear from God during the process (whatever your process maybe).

“Study to show yourself approved to God a workman who’s not ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth”. – 2 Timothy 2:15

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 6/7/09

My day started a little weird. I'm extremely tired and wish I had preaching help to call on for days like this. I did not preach Jehovah-Raphe: God Our Healer because I still have more work to do but got up too late this morning and I was pressed for time. So, I preached a portion of the armour from Ephesians 6:14a- "...having gird your waist with truth..." entitled "What's holding you up?" I didn't know how the message was going to turn out but the Lord really blessed our efforts today. I was tired when I stood to preach but the more I preached the more strength God continued to give, now I'm totally exhausted. We shared the Lord's Supper today and our song was "He's Sweet I know". Man, what a hymn!

Overall, good day!

We ate ourselves crazy today. Tracy and I tagged teamed on cooking and made white beans w/smoked neckbones, collard greens, corn bread, and Lousiana fried chicken. HMMMM, Hmmmm, good! 31 Flavors ice cream for dessert. Kari and baby Jimmy came over as well. Good time with the family.

Now my analysis of the game. Casper the Friendly ref was present at Staples Center today. The first half of the game was extremely boring. Too many turnovers by the Magic, bad shot selection by both teams, and refs really.....well let's keep it clean...they were terrible calling invisible fouls on the Magic. The second half of the game came to life. I just knew the Magic would take it at the Staples Center but to Orlando they go. My prediction 3-0 to the Magic at home. Stay tuned for breaking news on Tuesday after my game. I'm baby Jordan respect my name.

I have my third day of forced vacation on tomorrow (Monday), or today. My goal is to rest and spend time praying and tkinking. I need to get ready for our quarterly church conference at the end of this month and I'm really trying to pick my battles carefully. I need to encourage and build but sometimes communicating reality can be mis-interpreted as complaining, fussing, and/or being un-grateful. None of which is my goal of communicating vision. We do have glimmers of hope and God is blessing us so I need to build on the blessings as a means of progressive movement for the Kingdom.

So much work and so little time to do it all.

I'm going to bed, good-bye family!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

THAT'S MINE!

I grew up in a family of four (4) boys and I was the oldest. You can well imagine the chaos that was present on a regular basis in our household. Fighting, fussing, cussing, and picking at each other happened on a daily basis. One of the root causes for the chaos was the attitude of possession. We did not like nor did we want to share anything with each other. Our video game back in the days was an Atari. This was to be a family game that everyone could play in the house but as 4 boys would have it, it became a possession when we’re playing it. One of my brothers had a habit of starting games but never finishing. He would start playing and then leave to play outside for hours with the game on pause. Our immediate response in most cases: “He’s finished, let’s play!” He would come back in the house after a while to see us playing the family Atari and go crazy with these words: “It’s my game, give it back!”

I watched my children grow up with the same attitude of possession; “That’s mine!” As teenagers, our children love to wear our clothes, shoes, use IPods, and/or whatever they could get their hands on. Now, Tracy and I say: “That’s mine, take it off!”

In many ways, we treat God the same way with our time, gifts, money, careers, education, houses, cars, church positions and church building: “That’s mine, give it back!” or “That’s mine, take it off!” or “It’s my game!”

Whatever the case, we have an attitude of possession with many things in life.

Reality is you can have possessions without being possessed.

The character of God in Adonai teaches us that God is Lord, owner for you are not your own but bought with a price. As simple as I can put it, “You’re not yours, you belong to God”.

Adonai is a sacred name. As with YHWH, the Hebrews felt that God’s name was too sacred to pronounce so they eliminated the vowels. They had to be clear about who they were speaking of so they often times they used Adonai – the Lord who is God.

Adonai is prophetic name in that it speaks of our redemption to be brought through the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Psalms 110:1 says: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’”

Adonai is a sufficient name. God made a covenant promise to Abraham to give him a son. In Genesis 12: 1-3 God says; “Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." And the discourse in Genesis 15 between Abraham and Adonai (God), Abraham is wondering when the covenant is going to come to pass. In verse 5 & 6 God says; "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

While this name is rich in meaning, it really has only one purpose: REDEMPTION and a person’s RESPONSE. Abraham believed!

It has taken me months to draw a conclusion of the name Adonai and how we, as God’s creation, should respond. With all the various cross references, Hebrew meaning, and Greek Septuagint meaning, there is only one way to respond to our Lord (Adonai) as believers, TOTAL SURRENDER.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” -
(1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

“…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)

There are two reasons why we should respond to God in total surrender:

- To glorify God

- For good works

What decision will you make today? Will you continue to live life with an attitude of possession; “That’s Mine, give it back!” or will you surrender to God to bring glory to His name for good works?

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my bless├Ęd Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunday Thoughts 5/31/09

Yesterday was a good day in both services. Our attendance was a little off but a good worship experience. Our women's ministry was in charge yesterday and they did an excellent job ushering us into the presence of God. We went back to our sermon series The God of our Trust.

Topic: Trusting the "I AM" of God
Text: Exodus 3

Thesis: Trusting the "I AM" of God is believing God never fails

1. "I AM" the Answer To Your Affliction - v. 1-8
2. "I AM" Aware of Your Adversity - v. 9
3. "I AM" the Authority in Your Assignment - v 10-14
4. "I AM" the Assurance of Your Autonomy (Freedom) - v. 15-22

The Lord really blessed the message. I had tooooo much information again. The names of God are so rich that I need to learn how to condense my explanation of the name. This has been my challenge with this study but it's been a good study for me. I didn't deal with Jesus as "I AM" as recorded in the Gospel of John because it's desire to preach a series at the beginning of 2010 on Jesus' "I AM" statements. Can't wait! And I ran out of time and chopped it up. If anybody knows of any material on Jesus' I AM statements please let me know. I don't want to wait to start buying research material. Plus, a brotha is broke these days. I have a budget to live by.

After church our women's ministry made dinner with swedish meatballs, potatoe salad, pasta salad, fried chicken, butter rolls, and First Goodwill swamp juice (red). Oh, soooo good. We sat around for about an hour though waiting for the chicken to arrive from Albertson's. But it was good fellowship between services.

Every 5th Sunday, we have our "WE" Ministry Fellowship service and it was awesome. This service is designed to minister to the women of our church. My Aunt Betty spoke yesterday and did an outstanding job ministering. My cousin, Vendon, brought their praise team, a poet, and mime ministry. What a blessing! I met their pastor for the first time yesterday (I can't remember is name, not good), good humble spirit. This was their first outting as a church and they showed up in a great way. Thank you pastor. Tracy is doing a wonderful job giving leadership to this ministry. Keep it up. God is not unjust to forget your labor of love.

Footnote: I need to do better about at remembering people's names. I apologize pastor and church members.

After church I came home to rest. I was beat down. Today, starts the first day of forced vacation on the job due to the economy. I thank God for a forced vacation and not a lay-off. So I'm off today and tomorrow. It's cool because I really have a lot to do at home and church. Today, I will complete my list of house duties before playing B-Ball tonite. Baby Jordan is my name respect my game.

I do request your prayers for one of my members, Deacon Charles Loud. He's been having some health challenges lately and I asked that you pray for him during your quiet time with the Lord. I also ask that you pray for Pastor Keith Green and Family. His mother-in-law went to the hospital last week for what was to be a minor surgery but passed away during the operation. Her service is this coming Saturday. Please keep this family in your prayers as well.

"The prayers of the righteous avails much. When we pray, God goes to work.

I will continue my online book of "Understanding Healing" with part 2 of chapter 2 "Healing in My Hand" later this week. Stay tuned.....

Oh, by the way, do you believe in Magic? Magic in 6 and superman is going to crush the black Simba...lol