John 21:15 (ESV)
15  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

My first base every day is LOVING JESUS more than I love anything he lets me do or be a part of accomplishing.

In verse 22 Peter wants Jesus to tell him what will happen to John and Jesus assures him it is NOT to be his focus.  I can tell when Jesus is not my first love because I am looking around comparing myself to others.  A leader is wasting precious energy when we are caught up in measuring so we can compare, compete or judge.  Focus on loving Jesus and walking our your journey with Him.

To examine my focus and my love will take me to uncomfortable exposing places, like it did with Peter.  If you hear Jesus say to you  “What is that to you?” — relax — he is speaking in love.

I have had many fine teachers in my life.  I know… I am blessed.  One of the best was James “Buck” Hatch.  Alumni of Columbia International University ( consider his teaching classic and a foundation for their ministry.  There are many free resources in the Buck Hatch Library but let me recommend a great message on DEPRESSION (click here)

Let me know what you think

Theologians have a range of perspectives on this question.  Here is my take.

1) The church and the kingdom are not the same but are closely related.

2) Think of  a timeline.  On one end you have Abraham, in the middle you have Jesus on earth, and on the right hand end you have the return of Christ.

I see God’s goal — launched with Abraham was to have a people who would declare, “You are our God!” and over whom He could say, “You are my people!”  As God adopts his family he goes from a tribal network to a nation to a church (people scattered among every nation) to the kingdom.

BUT — Jesus declared that with his coming as redeemer and the indwelling Spirit now in every one of God’s people we were to be living out kingdom lifestyle and values.

The lives of Christians should make people want to be in Jesus’ kingdom family.  The power, peace, love etc., should all be evidence that the message of salvation in Christ is true and available.

What are your thoughts on churches with 10,000+ members in your personal experiences and connections, are these people being discipled?

These two questions were asked by students at Columbia international University.

1) God must like congregations of all sizes since churches ranging from less than 10 to over 100,000 do exist.

2) All of the largest congregations in the world are outside the United States and yet most congregations around the world are quite small (less than 50).

3) I am not convinced that size is the critical factor in effectiveness of community or disciple making.  I have observed some very unhealthy small congregations and some very fruitful large congregations.  The focus of the leadership, the values guiding how the church invests its time, money and communication, the quality of the personal and group prayer life, the level of joy in the group life — and I am sure there are other elements — these have more to do with impact and community than the number of people.

This question comes from a student at Columbia international University

It can be challenging to define terms these days.  Check out this doctrinal statement as one I often use when asked what I believe.  THE LAUSANNE COVENANT .

Words tend to be colored by how we see them being used.  Several of my African American friends struggle with being identified as “evangelical”.  They have told me it brings up many distasteful images.  These Christian brothers affirm all of the essentials of the faith that I do but we have difficulty finding a term that has not polluted by its usage by certain groups or the media.  The church we attend has been using terms like: “progressive multi-ethnic church” and a “Christ centered Acts 1:8 family”.  These are both very long and still carry some baggage or may not be understood by some groups.

I think maybe I will just go back to “Christian” or “Follower of Jesus Christ” and try to live in such a way that others get a good definition from my life.

This question is from a student at Columbia International University

1) Our world is changing and that includes how people respond and become disciples of Jesus.  Once churches are over 20 years old many begin to lose their flexibility to make necessary changes.  They have diminished desire to be risk takers — often a necessary ingredient to be able to reach people.

2) Leadership tends to be expressed in a generation.  As a new generation emerges the leadership for that generation needs ways to carry out the leadership mantle.

3) There is a false assumption in the question.  Resources to reach the least reached and unreached on the planet is not exhausted by planting new churches where the church is already established.  The problem is a lack of focus, commitment and generosity by the established church to reach those outside their circles of influence.

4) Often new churches are more invested in local, regional and global witness than older churches.

Focus on God’s perspective on relational pain?  In what we call the Lord’s prayer Jesus makes one of the three requests in this prayer he taught his disciples to be about forgiving and asking forgiveness.  He is acknowledging that relational pain is a very common experience in a broken world.  But Jesus also gives hope.  God has an antidote to our hurt and his grace is stronger than the wounds we incur or inflict.

Who “burned you”?

An unhealthy leader — The Biblical response is to take at least two witnesses with you and confront privately and if reconciliation is not achieved, go with the witnesses to the leadership.

A fellow Christian — The Biblical response adds a first step to the above — going privately as a first level way to seek reconciliation.

Is it an old wound and the specific parties are not within contact?  Talk with a trusted friend AFTER honestly praying it out with God.  Make sure you are balancing both grace and truth and consider a long distance contact to seek reconciliation.  Start with praying for anyone you consider an “enemy”.

Were you wounded more by the values and structure?  You failed to maintain sound margins or boundaries and the way Christ’s work was being carried out was destroying Christ’s work in you.  In this case the structure supported or encouraged you to make choices that were self-inflicted wounds.  Forgive yourself.  Learn the lessons.  Get some close friends to help you maintain good margins and boundaries.  Rest and then restart sanely.

What are your thoughts?

What is dying?

The man-made structures we wrap around Christians follow a life cycle similar to our biological cycle from birth to death.  The Bible does not support the idea of any man-made organization living forever.  Only people have eternal spirits.

What is YOUR responsibility?

As long as you a member of this community, pray, give, and sow seeds that contribute to life and growth.  Do not excuse gossip or create disunity because of your perspective on the decline.

You may also be used to help care for some senior members or assist people in transferring to more vital congregations.

You may also be given an assignment to leave peacefully and in tears to be a part of or give birth to a new community of Christ followers.

The guiding rule for ministry is — invest in people, Christ died for people.  That includes the pastor .  How can you encourage and build him up?

What thoughts do you have on this question?

YES!  But in a broken world where people fail to love as God designed it takes a powerful Gospel unleashed in the hearts of humble people by the power of the Spirit to develop and protect a fragile unity.

What steps of faith and obedience can we take that grow ethnically diverse congregations?

Be convinced a church as diverse as the geographic area where it resides is God’s will.  Notice there was NOT ONE INSTANCE OF a church started in the New Testament that separated people ethnically or socioeconomically although the culture was segregated and stratified.  Many of the conflicts in the letters of the New Testament are dealing with the challenges of diversity.

Pray with, be in homes with, and serve with people who are not like you.  Listen to their music, eat their food, and understand their language.

See setting aside your preferences in order to build a bridge of love with someone different as a joyous way to grow, be enriched, and give of yourself.

Be ready to make mistakes and say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing.  SO be ready to ask for and give forgiveness.

Love by giving the benefit of the doubt.  Ask questions to clarify before engaging your capacity to form a judgement.  Say, “That is different.” Instead of, “That is wrong or weird.”


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