Invisible Church: Ministering From a Place of Privilege?

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.25.19 PMA BOOK REVIEW

“One thing I know from both the taxi and life, is that being invisible is hard and it is lonely and it hurts.”

Author Pat Green is my friend and I felt humbled and blessed to be at the pre-launch of his new book. I was saddened that the pub was not bursting at the seams with the scores of Christians and congregants that once followed his ministry. I’m sure that he was not surprised.

“Night Moves: An Ex-Preacher’s Journey to Hell in a Taxi” is a poignant account of Pat’s story and how rejection, divorce, brokenness and unemployment led him to driving a taxi and nightly encounters of human tragedy and loneliness.

It was just a couple of months ago that I realized that I was no longer seeing Facebook updates from Pat. I’m glad I found him and his writings once again but I am embarrassed to say that I never knew that his world had been turned upside down. To others, and myself Pat became invisible and there are many living just outside the walls of our churches who remain unknown. Pat’s introduces us to some of their stories.

“In a city that spans seven zip codes with well over 100,000 people, that boasts over 200 churches and has signs claiming all are welcome, she has to pay retail for her community.”

Pat found scores of broken people in need of community and found himself loved by his new TeleCab co-workers while at his lowest. When his father died of a heart attack, he returned to work and a card filled with warm condolences. His operations manager “did better than many ministers I know and we are trained for that stuff,” he shares. He continues, “I have almost every word in that card memorized.”

Where were we, church? Invisible.

Throughout the book there are convicting passages that exhort the church and her leaders to “stop trying to ‘minister’ from a place of privilege.” He recalls his time as a pastor thinking he was “the hero” with the answers but comes to grips with the disquieting truth that we have no solution.

11390067_1623615991243432_9128950744981564004_nI highly recommend this book – especially to my local pastor friends. These stories from the streets of Joliet are a wake-up call to those who may spend the majority of their time with planning and processes and miss what’s really going on with people. Real ministry takes place when we get involved in the real and raw everyday life of those in our communities. Pat reminds us that we “are never going to change the streets with a church. All a church can be is an oasis…” “Jesus did not go out among the people and help them find a synagogue home. He invited them to live together in the trenches.”

I am a non-fiction reader and usually have a hard time reading short stories, but Pat has a way with words and making every scene come to life. I loved every easy-to-read chapter and was astounded by Chapter 28 “We’ll Fix It.” I didn’t even use a highlighter until the end of the chapter leaving behind a brightly inscribed WOW!

If you pick up your own copy of the book – you will laugh, you will cry, and hopefully you will be changed forever. The lives of others depend on it. We cannot remain invisible!

WARNING: This book does contain language, but so do the streets.

 

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Don’t Miss the Miracles

“Our planet is speeding through space at an average velocity of 67,108 miles per hour. That’s not just faster than a speeding bullet. It’s 87 times faster than the speed of sound. If that isn’t miraculous, I don’t know what is. Yet when was the last time you thanked God for keeping our planet in orbit? I’m guessing never! My point? There are microscopic and macroscopic miracles all around us all the time, but if you aren’t looking for them you won’t see them. Every breath of air. Every second of time. Every thought that fires across your synapses. Every sunset and moonrise. Each of them is miraculous in their own way.” Mark Batterson

Christmas-MiracleThis past year was, well, different. It was the first year in many that I wasn’t working in full-time ministry. It has been a year of waiting – waiting on God to show us what He has in store for us and where our next place of ministry might be. If I have learned anything in the waiting, I have learned to slow down a little and not miss the miracles.

Sometimes we get so busy that we get bogged down with ordinary, the mundane, the projects, and the results. We wonder where God is in the midst of the craziness or the loneliness and we miss the every day miracles.

As you are preparing for a new year, make sure to not miss the miracles that are going on around you. Watch for God’s hand and pay attention to what He is doing for you, in you, and with you. Don’t miss out on all the wonderful provisions He has provided and ask Him to increase your capacity this year. Don’t miss the miracles and ask God to make the impossible possible this year! Happy New Year from istoriaville.com!

“Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” John 14:12

Waiting on Him

I love the little reminders along the way. If I were to be honest, I still have my days where I question God and His plan and why we are still waiting to see His hand in things. Don’t get me wrong. We know He’s got a plan but probably like many of you, it seems like God never works within our timetable or moves the way we think He should act. And so, I love the little reminders along the way. The reminders that He knows and that He is working and if we just WAIT, He will come through in big and amazing ways. We can try to step in to “fix things” but we might be giving up on the miraculous if we do so.

Here’s an illustration I just read this morning- another reminder along the way:

Back many years ago, a young boy accompanied his father and mother as they took the wagon into town for supplies. After the supplies had been purchased and were being loaded in the wagon, the owner of the store said to the boy, “Son, you have been such a good boy, I’m going to let you put your hand in the candy jar and get all the candy you can grab.” The little boy just stood there and made no move for the candy. The owner put his hand into the jar, grabbed a handful of candy and handed it to the boy. On the way home, the father asked the boy why he didn’t reach his own hand into the jar. He said, “It’s not like you to be shy.” The boy responded, “I wasn’t shy. I was just waiting on him. I knew his hand was bigger than mine.”
candyboy_wide-e7462d8fce86265e0250a329a8c7e2040b0df017-s1100-c15

Dear Pastor: You Have Not Been Forgotten

JFK and JFK Jr Oval Office Desk PX 65-105227Dear Pastor:

The month of October is here again and if you are a bi-vocational pastor, a church planter, a pastor’s wife, a missionary or a minister looking for a pastorate you might feel left out because it’s Pastors Appreciation Month.

I just wanted to take a moment and remind you that God knows exactly who you are, what you need, and what you are going through. It does get lonely out there and maybe (like me) at times you feel like there’s: No-one to talk to. No-one to understand. Nowhere to get away. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to be real. Nowhere to feel? We worry about the future, wonder why it had to be this way, and notice that when it rains it doesn’t just pour – it’s hurricane season.

If you read the story of David, you’ll find that he was often alone, on the run, and trying to make sense of it all. In Psalm 139, David reassures himself that “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” He learned to wait and trust. Waiting and trusting – would you agree with me that it’s sometimes the hardest thing to do!?

David reminds us that God is there with us. He never leaves us. He is planning the road before us and until then, we can rest in Him. David proclaims, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” “Your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

My family and I are waiting. On the weekends, when it burns within in me to preach the Good News of the Gospel, there is nowhere to go. When our rental home forecloses, there is nowhere to go. Until a church recognizes the resume’ and chooses us, there is nowhere to go BUT to the Lord. For many of us, there is no Pastors Appreciation Month.

I was reminded a while back about the 1960’s Life Magazine pictures that captured the hearts of Americans everywhere. President John F Kennedy in the oval office – his children safe and playing free on the floor. He was President of the United States with ultimate powers yet playing at his feet were two little kids who called him daddy. Child-like faith is what I need. Child-like faith is what we all need when we have nowhere to go – when we have no one cheering.

So celebrate. Know that you are loved by Him and you have NOT been forgotten. Play at His feet and leave the big stuff to Daddy!

By the way, thank you! You probably don’t hear it enough BUT you do matter and you are impacting lives even today. Thank you for the countless hours you give and pray and serve and care and minister.

Where could I go, where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord
ap_kennedy_children_oval_office_dm_110909_wmain

5 Things Not To Tell A Teen

o-TEENS-AND-PARENTS-facebookOne of the most troubling things I have witnessed is the absence of good adult role models involved in the lives of young people. Quite often, it is not the things we speak to them that are so messed up but rather the absence of sharing, spending time with, or speaking life into them at all.

When we do speak however, we must ask ourselves: “what are they hearing?” and “are my words being wisely chosen?” because “death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).” After much thought, I’d like to share with you the five things I would consider the worse things to say to a teen. If you are a parent, mentor, spiritual guide, youth pastor, counselor or teacher – keep these things in mind as you seek to impact these young lives and help them dream about a better tomorrow.

1) Grow up.
Teenagers are at a very unique and important time in their physical, mental, social and spiritual lives. They feel stuck between freedom and captivity, play and work, knowledge and wisdom, love and sex, questions and answers. We have the wonderful opportunity in helping them navigate through these obstacles and prepare them for the time that they will be “on their own.” It is our blessed opportunity to help them on this journey. They know they need to “grow up” and they are trying. Sometimes, it’s just hard doing it alone and the faithful guidance and support of a loving adult is what they need most.

2) I know what you’re going through.
So, maybe you were a teenager once and maybe you did go through some similar situations, tragedies, lusts, heartaches, etc.; however, every person’s story is different and significant. They do not want to hear that we “get it.” They want us to know that they are experiencing a different struggle, dreadful day, or damaged heart. They want to know that we are not afraid to listen to or enter their story of brokenness.

3) BUT . . .
Sometimes we believe we are clever when we sneak in a little positive reinforcement while delivering needed criticism; when in fact, our teenagers would love them to be two separate conversations and the good outweigh the negative.

“Wonderful! You got an A on your test!! BUT . . . now you need to bring the rest of your grades up.”

“I love you so much BUT this attitude has got to stop!”

“I am proud of you BUT you really need to work on ____________________.”

Please, please understand that the teens in your life want to hear the “wonderful,” “I love you” and “I am proud of you” statements, but these beautiful words are often negated or drowned out by the other things we attach to them. Yes, they do need to be reminded of those things they need to work on BUT what they truly need is bucketfuls of affection poured on them each day so that when a grain of criticism is tossed their way they know without a doubt that it’s coming from someone who truly cares. Don’t have your love negated by coupling those beautiful, life-giving words with ones that seem to say the opposite.

4) You’re just like _______________.
I’ll keep it simple. Each young person is a special and unique creation of God. It is our job to help make them feel that way. This doesn’t happen when we compare them to their friends or siblings.

 5) Just move on.
No matter how we say it: “It’s just a phase,” “Go to God,” “Pray about it,” or “Just move on,” they all communicate the same thing to our teens: “I don’t have time for you. Figure it out on your own.” And here’s the crazy thing, sometimes the teenagers we work or live with don’t always want a response, a word of wisdom, or an answer; quite often, they just want us to listen and to know that we are near. Our teenagers want to know that when they need us most – we will be there!

ME copySteve Hinkle has spent several years loving, teaching, mentoring, and listening to young people as a middle and high school student pastor, counselor, single adults pastor, and both a junior and senior high school teacher.

Limited Space to Fly

bird“When it comes to communicating the truth; Westerners drift more toward propositions than to artistic expression.”

The animal exhibits at the zoo do their best to emulate the scenery and sounds of wildlife. They do their best to take you to a place of discovery; however, the manufactured sets, loudspeaker rocks, panned bird songs, and painted images fall short of the true wild and untamed beauty of the wilderness.

photo 2(1)I watched the Humboldt penguins swim and stare in the Living Sea exhibit and thought: “This isn’t living. The wind has been manufactured and the cormorants have limited space to fly!” I then thought about worship. In our churches on Sunday mornings, many do their best to capture the essence of God. We try to bring a little heaven to earth through our manufactured sets, finely tuned messages, and slick presentations; however, we fall short of fully encompassing God, His glory, his wildness and grace. We do our best.

But herein lies, where I believe we fail. We want everything to be exact and so we try to “perfect” everything about God. To make Him known, we concoct our own image of a grand and glorious God and cage him into our view of Christianity or life. We leave little or no room for mystery and awe. We think the Bible must have an exact answer on every issue and so we force the Scriptures to fit into our way of thinking or cultural and societal ideals. When someone disagrees, they might be considered lost or liberal. “We read our preferences into the story.” We’ve tamed a wild and inspiring God in attempt to bring Him to man. An honest endeavor in capturing his essence and interpreting His words of wonder may lead us to a limited and caged view of God and others. I’m not saying that all of our illustrated images are false, but we should consider the possibility that we might be inhibiting the Creator’s mesmerizing artistry when we try to put God in a box.

“What can be more dangerous is that our mores (our customs, practices, conventions) are a lens through which we view and interpret the world.” Is it possible then that our Western ideals and displays of masculinity fall short? This what I’m endeavoring to examine and share on my blog MALE FAIL? Follow my new blog HERE.

All quotes come from the book “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” written by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien

Photos taken on 7/26/14 at the Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL

WaterPARKED

“Be still.” It has to be one of the most arduous things to do. In an age of instant satisfaction, google gratification, and misplaced relaxation it’s a major pain searching for peace. And that’s probably the problem . . . it’s not found in the search.

sunProbably one of the best things our family did this summer was buy a season pass to the local waterpark. This purchase challenged us to leave behind the melancholy and mundane and set forth on a weekly adventure of calm and composition.

We occasionally feel like pawns in the game of Wait. The “game” can leave you feeling helpless and stuck. If too much time is spent speculating God’s hand or fretting future ventures, one can be left feeling lonely, broken, or forgotten.

And so we’ve been waterparked. Parked by the water. Sitting still in the sun, reclining with a book, watching the children play, and thanking heaven for another God graced day. Waiting and worshipping, thanking instead of fussing, being still and knowing that He is preparing a place for us. Sometimes the best thing to do “in the wait” is relax and be captured by His wonder.

“Jesus did not suffer so that you would not suffer, but that when you suffer you will become like Him.” Tim Keller

DECEIVED?

A BOOK REVIEW
“It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”
~ Penelope movie

It’s funny how our minds can trick us. I just read a new Fast Company article (you can read it here) about hurricanes. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found that a female named “storm seems less threatening and less foreboding. And as a result of that less perceived risk and intensity, we see people less willing to take shelter, more likely to delay evacuating.” “You would think that things would be different, that people would bring to mind more severe, deadly, feminine storms, and maybe they would judge the female storms as more severe than the male storms, but they don’t,” team leader Shavitt said. “Our findings suggest that gender bias could be strong enough to overcome specific experiences with storms.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.03.32 AMOne of the best books I read this year has got to be Joseph T. Hallinan’s “Kidding Ourselves.” The book explores the ways in which we deceive ourselves and how the self-deception often allows us to adjust to the stresses of life. The author does an incredible job of sharing intriguing stories and sound statistics to present the power of the human mind to shape reality. Examples of placebos that often work better than the real thing and other “remedies of imagination” are the focus of the book. It all comes back to how we think about things.

We are influenced by others and our life experiences whether we realize it or not. “We form a narrative of sorts in our head” and these stories affect the way we observe things. Sometimes we tell ourselves lies and start to believe them. We fail to see the truth even if we’re looking directly at it!

Because I am a pastor, I found the section on superstition and religion most intriguing. The author shares that our interpretations are often controlled by our own self-interests. I have found this to be true in Christianity. I was brought up to believe certain things about the Bible, God, eternity, and life. I deceived myself to believe that I had it figured out and that the Bible was perfectly black and white in all things. These beliefs gave me a foundation of “exact truths.” I have now found freedom in embracing the complexities, questions, mysteries, and beauties of life and the Word of God. I have allowed myself to try and realize that everyone’s story matters to God and that “one man’s superstition is another man’s religion.” In many cases, I have seen Christians (and other religions) fight for their beliefs and hurt their environment and fellow man.

Robert Bolton shared that “a belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses, it is an idea that possesses the mind.” It’s sad but true. Instead of trying to figure out what we believe and why we believe it, we often settle for what we’ve been taught and deceive ourselves into believing our way is right. When we do this, we may close ourselves to loving others and finding out what really matters in life. My wife shared that it’s not the rules that we are against “it is that man has created the rules based off their interpretation of the Bible.” We “should examine them for ourselves in the Bible.” I’m guessing that the author may not be into religion because it is grouped in the superstition part of the book but he does agree that religion and the hope it offers do give its followers an edge.

Hallinan-Joseph-KIDDING-OURSELVESHave I been deceived and is it possible that my belief in God and His kingdom of love, peace, restoration and hope is just something created in my mind? I don’t believe so. I have this thing called faith. Faith is not knowing. Faith is trusting, believing, and having hope despite the doubts and struggles along the way. I also believe that we need to be careful of the deceptions that lead us to living a life of lies, trick us into following our own way, and the tragedy of being “drunk with power” “dulling our sensitivity toward others.”

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review and I highly recommend this book.

Embrace the Ugly

Ray Hennessy, the Editorial Director on Entrepreneur.com, in a recent article stated that “we just can’t accept that people are human and they will always screw up.” He went on to say that our limitations should be “owned, not orphaned.”

I agree 100%. We need to own our stories, every part. It is the messy, the mistakes, and our muck that mold us into the masterpiece we are becoming! Redemption, renewal, and restoration help us transform the broken into the beautiful.

In the past, I was taught that you “ought not hide your sin” and yet the church did not offer us a safe place to find grace on the journey. I believe (along with Mr. Hennessy) that we shouldn’t try to erase those chapters of our story but rather allow them to remind us that we are humanly flawed but can succeed despite it all. A new chapter is waiting to be written. I also believe that a true grasp of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God allows us to see how we all play an important part in helping make all things beautiful. Jesus didn’t hide from the sinners but rather spent time among them and offered them hope and a future.

Thank you Ray for reminding us that it’s okay to be defective. We all are. It’s time to embrace the ugly. You can read Ray Hennessy’s article here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234393

scar

Hurry Up Joy!

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 2.18.47 PMEver go to church and even more so then on other days find yourself saying, “Wow, that was just what I needed today”? That’s how it was for me this morning. It was one of those faith things I already knew but it was so good to hear it from someone else and be comforted and validated in my thoughts and fears.

Pastor Jason’s message today (from the sermon series “Out of Control”) came from John 16:16-24. Here are some of the great truths we were reminded of today. May you also find strength and guidance from these words:

Christ’s disciples were paralyzed in sorrow and Christ had to pull them out! They needed to see their situation from a higher level. They were called to something HUGE and so they had to snap out of the sorrow quickly.

Their sorrow was the fact that Jesus was leaving them. Sometimes in the sorrow and in my case “in the waiting”, we feel left alone and maybe even as if God has left us or is leaving us. BUT, He reminded them and reminds us that “in a little while, you will see Me!” In fact, in verse 19 we read: “Jesus KNEW they wanted to question Him.” Jesus was fully aware of their confusion and He is fully aware of ours as well!!

Pastor Jason reminded us that even Christ ENDURED the cross for the JOY that was set before Him! In fact, Christ cried out to God that if there was any other way, “please take this cup from me!” God is okay with us asking for things to change but ultimately, we must trust Him that JOY is right around the corner.

We were reminded as well that perspective here is key. To a child, “a little while” might mean “in just a minute.” For an adult speaking to a child, “a little while” might be even a few hours. We must trust Him in the sorrow and waiting and believe that he is working behind the scenes and that His “little while” is the exact amount of time it needs to be even though (from our perspective) the JOY couldn’t get here soon enough!

Everything I have
And everything I know
All the plans I made
I put You in control

Through all the sorrows
And all through the pain
You alone can save
You are the Name of Names!
“Name of Names” lyrics by on of my students Josiah Blan!