Krispy Kreme Flavored Sarcasm = Trouble: Pastoral Redemptions

Krispy Kreme doughnuts are delicious! They also make for a great youth ministry sermon illustration. The trick is, knowing where to find the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

In 2004 I was a Summer Youth Minister for a church just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was an exciting time, and I wanted to make a good impression with my first sermon for the youth. In other words, it was time to borrow my friend Jeff Prosser’s Krispy Kreme doughnut sermon.

The gist of the message is that you use Krispy Kreme’s mission statement and illustrate the importance of intentional living for Christ. Furthermore, you can use the doughnuts themselves as an illustration to “Taste and see that God is good” as stated in Psalm 34:8.  It is a fun sermon and at the close of it, everyone gets to celebrate with a delicious doughnut. My problem was finding the store’s location.

Not being from North Carolina I had to use MapQuest to print-off directions. Yes, during this time I also used dial-up for the internet and would print off my directions. The iPhone and other smartphones would not be released for another three years.

Finally, with my directions literally in hand, I headed off to the next town where the nearest Krispy Kreme was located. I figured this trip will make for a great adventure. Indeed it did.

Trusting my paper made directions they humorously led me to the 18th hole of a golf course with no Krispy Kreme in-sight. Thankfully there was a nearby drugstore that I thought could help.

Once inside I asked the store associates for directions to the Krispy Kreme. As they provided their assistance it was clear that the doughnut shop was on the other end of town. MapQuest was way off, and the employees struggled to provide clear directions too. After a few attempts, they differed to a customer for better assistance.

The customer – who was in street clothes – was introduced to me when the store associate said, “She can help, she knows these streets well as she is a police officer.” She was in street clothes indicating she was off duty.

Once our introduction concluded my sarcastic mouth spoke before I could stop it. I said, “Oh you’re a police officer. Then you MUST know where the Krispy Kreme is located!” Continue reading “Krispy Kreme Flavored Sarcasm = Trouble: Pastoral Redemptions”

Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions

Discernment of the Holy Spirit is essential. This skill is one that we never master because there is always room for improvement. Still, it is important for Christians to have a baseline understanding on how the Holy Spirit speaks. If anything, to know how the Spirit does not speak. Otherwise, we may just make important spiritual decisions on our own, which we are sure to get wrong from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, it took two difficult pastorates for me to grow in the area of discernment. In fact, as I look back at one set of church interviews, it was clear that God was shouting to me, “DO NOT GO HERE!” Sadly, like many others, I had to learn through the hard path of experience. Continue reading “Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions”

Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions

You have met the person of your dreams, and after knowing them a month, you are ready to marry them. Most people on hearing the last sentence would raise prudent caution. Friends would ask you to slow the relationship. They might even try to talk you out of the hasty engagement. It is not because they want you to ruin your happiness. No, like many in our culture they believe a rushed engagement is unhealthy and will lead to future unhappiness.

Similarly, many congregational churches use this “speed date” method to hire their next pastor. To be fair, not all congregational churches use this approach, but many churches and pastors reflect this “speed date experience.” It goes something like this: Continue reading “Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions”

Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions

Once upon a time, it was thought that I lied to a church about moving into their parsonage. That is not exactly correct. While I failed to communicate my change of mind, I did not lie. These points and more I accept responsibility. More importantly, I am glad for God’s redemption ability despite challenging church leadership and my poor judgment.

As stated in a previous post, “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit,” but many churches believe it is an excellent tool to recruit ministers. In some cases, it still is a significant advantage. More and more pastors though are declining to live in them. Like many in their congregation, they want to build equity for their family’s future, which a provided house does not give. As a result, many churches are choosing to sell their parsonages. However, where I once pastored the expectation was still for the pastor to live in the parsonage.

The conflict over me and their parsonage began when a deacon on the Pulpit Search Committee asked

“Brother Mike, I got a question for you! Are you going to live in our pastorium?!”

On asking his question, there was at least one committee member who interjected against this deacon’s question. His objection centered on the previous pastor who experienced problems when he lived in the home owned by the church. Despite this committee member’s concern, the deacon reiterated with,

“Hey, our former pastor needed to get out. When you resign as the pastor, you need to exit the pastorium sooner than later. Besides, we are better than some churches. I know one church who had the water cut off the next day. We gave the former pastor more time than a day!” 

This scenario was a shock to my senses. Not only did I doubt the long-term benefit of living in any parsonage; the committee was admitting their checkered history with their building. Still, I had to give a response, so I said, Continue reading “Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions”

7 & Ways to End Isolation and Loneliness: Part 2

Connection

Today I want to close the post I began on Wednesday on how to end isolation and loneliness. If you did not get the chance to read the first part of this two-part blog post then feel free to read the post before reading the tips below. In my earlier post I mentioned that I believe connecting with others is important. This is because when we know how to connect with others we can also share Christ with those we love and meet. Learning how to connect with others also helps us diminish our loneliness and isolation, which can result in great sadness. Therefore, with these outcomes possible I want to give you my last tips.

5. Continue to Ask Questions

In my last post, I mentioned an interpersonal relationship skill I learned from my Father-in-law. Another tactic I believe he uses is that he asks questions about the others. For years, I have noticed that he attempts to connect with people by showing a genuine interest in them. As a result, when people know he cares they open up and have long conversations with him. They even love answering questions about themselves and when they do my Father-in-law is able to connect with them in multiple ways because he knows more about them. The more he knows the better he is able to connect with them because he is continually learning about them. Over time, he impresses me with how many people love to approach him simply because he connected with them by showing interest in them.

6. You Will Not Always Connect

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Batman Begins when Thomas Wayne tells his son Bruce Wayne, “Why do we learn to fall? So that we can pick ourselves back up.” Face it, you and I are going to fail and its alright. No one is perfect in anything and connecting with people is no different. So, go ahead and admit that you will fail at times, but rejoice when you do succeed. In fact, the only way you are going to get better at connecting with others for the future, is to practice in the present. Remember when we fail its a great opportunity to learn from out mistakes so we can better succeed in the future. You are going to fail and it is all right.

7. Connecting Improves Our Faith

Practically, my advice is to help you reduce any loneliness you may face. Spiritually, this post can also help you become a better evangelist. Often Christians will tell me they don’t know whom they can share Christ with and my response is “THE WORLD!” Christ tells us in Matthew 28:19 that each person who claims Him as Lord and Savior is to

“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”

His command is not optional, but I believe Christians often fail to share Christ with anyone because we do not know how to connect with strangers, or even loved ones. Connecting with people is not difficult and I think we make it tougher than needed. Therefore, let me urge you to use these tips to improve your social skills and any loneliness you may feel. Also, use these tips to connect with people so that you can share Christ with anyone you meet. Should you not know how to share your faith then inform your pastor that you want to know how to share Christ and I am sure they will train you.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, loneliness is a real issue, but we do not have to remain isolated from the world. We can remedy our loneliness and isolation by applying some simple tips in our lives. The tips may seem scary at first, even if you are an introvert, but over time they will become easier. You will become more successful. Let me urge you to start applying just one tip and grow from there. Remember, the goal is to become connected and sometimes people are waiting on you just as much as you are waiting on them. This is because connection with others has spiritual connections as we share Christ with people. As you share your faith you will feel like you have made a difference in another’s life by making a difference in your own life. Therefore let us embrace these tips so we can feel connected, so we can share our faith, and bless others.

 

7 & Ways to End Isolation and Loneliness: Part 1

Connection

There are times when we can feel really isolated and lonely. We can feel like that no one cares or listens. This could be because we may not know how to connect with others. Life should not be this way because we were not meant to spend our lives alone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (HCSB) tells us,

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Connection with others is important, so by knowing how to connect with others we can share Christ with those we love and meet. Therefore, I want to share with you some simple ways to connect with others. Since there are seven points in this blog I have split this post into a two-part entry, which I will end on Friday.

1. Be Observant

You must know the opportunities available to you. Awareness can begin by watching the behavior of other people and seeing how you might fit in. It could also mean doing some research on community events that you might be interested in. You cannot connect with other people if you do not know what is available. So start by being observant and by paying attention.

2. Introduce Yourself

I have learned a lot from my Father-in-law about interpersonal communication. One of the first tips he intentionally shared with me was that when he meets someone whose name he does not remember, he simply introduces himself to each person. He believes this breaks down barriers and allows him to connect with others. I have used this technique and it is a very effective icebreaker, but this is not my only conversation starter.

3. Find Some Common Ground

Another icebreaker is to find something you have in common with others. This can work for strangers and those you are close with. For example, the other day I was in a gas station and noticed a gentleman with a “K” on his gym shorts. Promptly, I asked him if the “K” represented Kentucky or Kansas. He replied by saying it stood for Kentucky. This allowed me to mention how I was from Kentucky and we drummed up a lengthy conversation. It turned out we had both lived in the same town, we both enjoyed the same local restaurants, and it was a joyous connection between two strangers who shared a lot in common. All I needed was to ask him about something I observed to create our common ground.

4. Know Yourself

So what if the gentleman would have said his shorts stood for Kansas, what would I had done? I simply would have mentioned how I go to school in Kansas City. From there we would have let the conversation progress about Kansas. By being self-aware I was ready to answer Kansas over Kentucky. In other words, I kept in mind aspects of my life related to both places, which prepared me to connect with him. So be aware of whom you are, your background, and your interests because it will help you be able to think on your feet as you try to connect with others.

I will finish this blog post on Friday, but in the meantime I urge you to try these tips today. They have worked with for me and I pray they will benefit you.

God CAN & MAY Put More On You Than You Can Handle

God CAN & MAY Put More On You Than You Can Handle

Many of us have heard the phrase “God will never put more on us than we can handle.” A friend of mine asked me about this phrase this morning. His concerns were, “Can someone please give me a solid biblical understanding of the statement?” My friends question was very appropriate. The answer I provided him I have updated and provided below because I think it is time we start facing the fact that in our churches we believe a lot of things that really have little to do with scripture.

The phrase “God will not put more on you than you can handle” is one of those instances and is not anywhere in the Bible. Rather it is an inaccurate rephrasing of I Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB). Often people latch onto the part of I Corinthians 10:13, which says “But with the temptation will provide the way of escape.” This is true, but it does not mean the escape consists of a means based on our own strength.Stress

Therefore, I believe the phrase “God will never put more on me than I can bear” is an unbiblical interpretation and application of I Corinthians 10:13. This is because it misrepresents the Lord of scripture by making Him a get out of jail card genie for our life. Faith in Christ is NEVER about what we can do. In fact in 10:22 Paul also writes, “We are not stronger than He, are we?” It should always be about the power of God and what He can do first, not after our own efforts have been depleted. Without Him we can do nothing. If we were able to save ourselves even from temptation then Christ’s death on the cross was in vain.

Rather in I Corinthians 10:13 “the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” is dependence on faith in Christ Jesus. It is resting in His power, the same power that brought victory over the grave. In fact in chapter ten Paul refers to how ancient Israel did not depend on God. Rather they turned to idols, which God continually became frustrated with them over. We must then be careful that we do not repeat the same mistake. This mistake is that we should not make ourselves idols believing that we have the power to overcome things that were meant for us to depend on Christ to perform. So the next time you hear someone say, “God won’t put more on you than you can handle” inform him or her that the Lord may actually put more on us then we can handle. This way we will have to depend on the strength of Christ and not boast in ourselves.

In closing, as Christians we may believe things we have learned in church, but that are not truly represented in the Bible. This provides a whole host of problems. The greatest is that it turns the Gospel into something that is man-centered and not God-centered. The point of the Gospel hope is about everything the Lord does and only what we receive. Let’s know our Bibles and what God teaches so we can give others the hope of the Lord and not the continual fall of man.