Monday Morning Manna: Should You Care What People Say About You?

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Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed:

There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;

Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.” — Daniel 5:10-12 KJV

“I really don’t care what people think about me.”

Or when frustrated, it’s: “well, they can say what they want… as long as I know the truth.” Or the defensive line: “they don’t know me anyway.” Or the sassy line: “no matter what you do, people will always have something to say. I can’t waste my time and energy worrying about that; I have things to do! They don’t pay my bills!

Most of us are taught at an early age not to worry about what people say about us, and the truth is, you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to correct misperceptions and wrong impressions. But too often, we use that as an excuse to continue poor behavior and attitudes, and while there is value in not obsessing over what unreasonable people say, we must be cautious not to disregard and dismiss the importance of maintaining a good reputation – whether in our families, at work, at school, in ministry, at church, in social networks online and offline, and everywhere else.

Why should I care?

The Bible has a lot to say about the value of a good reputation. In Acts 16, we learn that Timothy had a good reputation, which probably played a part in Paul’s decision to bring him along on his missionary journey. In I Peter 2, believers in exile are admonished to take special care to conduct themselves properly in front of the Gentiles so that even when their names were slandered, their good behavior would testify for them. He then said that their righteous conduct would “silence (muzzle, gag) the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish persons” (I Peter 2:15 AMP). In other words, Peter was saying that your behavior can change what people say about you.

Several hundred years earlier, Daniel had already proven this to be true.

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive into Babylon, they must have already had a reputation for being “skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent” (Dan. 1:4 AMP) since they were selected to be a part of the king’s special training program. Even in adverse conditions, Daniel was determined to maintain his integrity by refusing to adapt to the Babylonian cultures, traditions and norms – even when his life depended on it. But over time, by demonstrating character, competence, commitment and the courage of his convictions, Daniel strengthened his reputation even more and it earned him promotion, prestige, and perquisites. More importantly, it earned him additional opportunities to minister. (And we all know that preacher/prophet/musician/singer/workshop instructor who will never get another invitation to minister at our church because of what is attached to his/her name).

In Daniel 6, we find that King Darius named Daniel the first of three presidents, preferred him above the presidents and princes, and planned to set him over the entire realm. This promotion, and the related prestige and perqs were a result of the excellent spirit that was found in Daniel. Daniel was known for his excellence. As we saw in Chapter 5, excellence was attached to his name. It was his reputation. As I said in A Few Things I’ve Learned Along the Way, your name can take you places skills alone can’t.

At the heart of the matter is character, because you can’t really address reputation without addressing character. The longer I live, the more I realize that one of my greatest assets is my name, supported by my character. I don’t run around chasing down rumors to try to correct lies, but I will do everything I can to make sure that my character nullifies any lies or falsehoods attached to my name. After all, a good name is more desirable than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). So my final answer is yes, we should care about what people say about us.

To Vote or Not to Vote

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Today, I read a blog article titled “19 Reasons Baptists Should Stop Voting on Stuff.” I’m not sure what made the author, Brandon A. Cox, a pastor at Saddleback Church, give Pentecostals, Apostolics, Methodists, and Presbyterians a pass, but shucks, we have it bad, too – especially we Pentecostals and Apostolics!

We tend be governed by Pastoral Rule, and not by a board of deacons, elders or a presbytery. One person typically calls the shots in Pentecostal churches, so we tend not to vote on the little things like whether or not to implement casual attire for the warm summer months or whether or not to push the service time up an hour when daylight savings time ends. Shoot, many of us don’t even vote on the big things like how tithes and offerings are administered. *shrug* Okay so we definitely don’t vote as much as the Baptists – maybe that’s why Cox let us off the hook. But, we do have our share of nasty, anything-but-Godly, knock down, drag out, go-for-blood campaigns, which can easily include all the filthy elements of a typical U.S. Presidential election. We are known to get downright dirty if a pastoral position is up for grabs, and don’t let a bishop or superintendent become ill. Folks will be campaigning in the hospital waiting room before the Beloved Bishop even takes his last breath.

And I won’t even get into all the resources (money, time, and people) spent to campaign for these “ministry positions” when those resources could be spent on evangelism and outreach (which are actual Biblical mandates).

But as a friend and fellow blogger asked today, what’s the alternative? If we don’t vote in our leaders, how do we go about filling a vacant position?

I’d love to dig into what the Bible shows us about selecting (or electing) leaders, singular leadership, plural leadership, New Testament church leadership and all that good stuff. But alas, I’m on the iPad and typing on this thing is no fun… Plus, I haven’t done a great deal of research yet anyway. So how about you check out Brandon’s list (and by the way, I do NOT agree find merit with all his points), and I’ll promise to dig a little deeper soon. Fair enough?

What do you think about voting in the church? Should it be acceptable? Is it Biblical? What, if anything, do you think should be voted on? In lieu of voting, how would you propose leadership and leadership matters be decided? Let me know what you think!

  1. Voting never brings unity, it actually calls for division. Who is for and who is against?
  2. Voting is democratic – government by the people. Church should be theocratic – government by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Voting plays right to the flesh and personal preferences. We typically vote what we want or prefer, regardless of what God wants or what leaders are leading us to do.
  4. Voting gives equal weight to every member, regardless of investment in ministry.
  5. Voting leads us to believe that the majority must be right. According to some presidential elections, that obviously isn’t true (I’ll leave you to sort out which ones make my case).
  6. Voting gives the impression that a plurality of approval is the same as unity. It’s not. One deeply hurt family prevents real “unity.”
  7. Voting supersedes God’s intended order of leadership within the structure of the local church.
  8. Voting risks friendships needlessly.
  9. Voting equals leadership by polls. Since when did Jesus ever ask the audience their opinion? Even with His shepherd’s heart, Jesus never polled the sheep to find out which direction to go.
  10. Voting doesn’t work too well for Congress!
  11. Voting is man-made, there isn’t a single scriptural example. And Mattathias is not an example (Acts 1).
  12. Voting keeps us business-minded, not ministry-minded.
  13. Voting suggests the church has a political side. It’s the only time we really see power plays within God’s family.
  14. Voting is governed by rules but church is governed by relationships.
  15. Voting creates confusion and invites the opinions of 15, or 150, or 1500 viewpoints. No real problems are ever solved.
  16. Hanging chads.
  17. Democrats.
  18. Republicans.
  19. People were pretty much unanimous to crucify Jesus.

You’ve got to admit, I have at least a dozen good points, right? What’s your vote?”

The Good Friday Edition: 10 Things to Try Before You Give Up on The Church

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Happy Good Friday to all of you! I hope you’ve enjoyed a very peaceful and solemn week of reflection on the sacrifice Jesus made for you and me, over 2000 years ago. Because of His blood, we have the right to full remission of our sins, and after all these years, the cleansing, healing, saving, delivering power of the blood of Jesus STILL works! Whew… that made me want to bust out in a song!

Okay, I’m back. Whew!!! So here we go… the Good Friday Edition.

Before You Give Up on Church…

1. Spend more time “in the mirror” (figuratively, of course). One problem we have in the church is that everybody thinks everyone else is the problem. Philippians 2:3 (AMP) says “Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].”  Chances are, you either are part of the problem or you have been in the past. Don’t allow yourself to think you’re above the fray. Acknowledge your reflection. Own it. And fix it. If we could only think more highly of others than we do of ourselves…

2. Spend more time in prayer. As I mentioned in A Few Things I’ve Learned, prayer changes things. Prayer has a way of humbling you, calming you down, showing you yourself, and activating the characteristics of Christ that dwell in you. It’s hard to pray for someone who wronged you, as the Bible instructs, and not feel compassion and love for them. Prayer changes things, but more importantly, it changes people – and that change usually starts with the person praying.

3. Don’t gossip, and don’t allow anyone to gossip to you. Gossip contaminates your thoughts, your mind, and your heart. Most of our frustrations in church wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t know what we know (or what we think we know). So stop letting people use you as their trash can, and stop depositing your trash in others. Keep your mouth shut and turn your ears toward Jesus. I Peter 4:15 (KJV): “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” As said in I Thessalonians 4:11, study to be quiet and mind your own business!

4. Measure yourself against Galatians 5:22-23. I participated in this Bible Study teleconference once, and at the end of it, the instructor asked everyone to rate themselves 1-5 on each of the fruits of the Spirit. WOW. That was a life-changing experience. I realized that while I could take a 3 or 4 in some areas, and a 5 in one area, my overall rating was pretty dismal, and I had some work to do. If everyone in the church – YOU and me included – spent time working on this, things would start to look a lot better.

5. Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. James 1:19. I know that sometimes, you just have to say something. But remember, that Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, and He opened not His mouth. He was wrongfully convicted, and didn’t try to defend Himself. He let them think they had won, knowing that victory was already His.

6. Stop trying to resolve conflicts YOUR way (in the flesh). I don’t know why we act like the Bible was just written to give us good sermon material, or to sit in the back windows of our cars. There’s some good stuff in there! If we follow it, we could easily achieve order in the church. Conflict is normal, and it can even be healthy. God knew conflict would arise in the church, so He gave us the remedy. When issues arise with a sister or brother, the ONLY “right way” to resolve it (the only BIBLICAL way) is to follow the three steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17.

7. Stay focused. So often, we forget the real reason we assemble ourselves together. It’s not for auxiliaries, fashion shows, holiday services, or any other reason but Jesus Christ. When things get rough, remember the reason you’re there. The enemy (and the people he uses) would desire to frustrate us to the point that we don’t want any part of the church, but keep things in perspective and remember your role in the body. The Church cannot function properly without YOU. You are part of the body (I Cor. 12). Keep your mind renewed (Rom 12:2). Keep your thoughts in captivity to Christ (II Cor. 10:5). Think on the things that are of good report (Phil. 4:8). Look to the hills… (Psalm 121:1). When your eyes are on Him, you probably won’t even notice all the other stuff going on (unless you’re the administrator… lol).

8. Always look for God in that trouble-making person.  Look, the truth is, not everyone’s light will shine as brightly as it ought. Try to remember that no matter who you’re dealing with and what they’ve done, God loves them. And He wants them to experience His love through you. He won’t hold YOU responsible for what they do to you, but He will hold you responsible for how you respond. You never really know why people act the way they act or do the things they do, but what you do know is that everyone needs love. Isn’t it just like man to go off of what we see and not what lies in their heart, under all the muck and mire?

9. Don’t kick a sister or brother when they’re down. Galatians 6:1 says:  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Try to remember that when you’re tempted to kick someone who messed up. Whether it’s Tonex, Eddie Long, Tye Tribbett, J. Moss, Alvarado, or Sister Susie from next door, try to remember Galatians 6:1. We’re all in the same army, remember? Often, they’ve already been restored and are counted among the friends of God, and positioning yourself as an enemy by shooting at them with “friendly fire.”

10. Take personal responsibility for making sure that everyone in your congregation experiences love. Judging from the many stories I’ve heard over the years, it seems the primary reason people give for leaving the church is that they are somehow wounded, abused, or mistreated. If we all take personal responsibility for showing the love of Christ, which IS the greatest commandment and the one on which all the others depend (Matthew 22:36-40), no one would get hurt. Let us remember what Paul told the Corinthians:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” — I Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV

Remember that those who don’t show love, really don’t even know God (whew, I know that’s a tough one to digest, but it’s Bible – I John 4:8).

Call me crazy, but I think that if the pastors, bishops and apostles catch hold of the list in What is Wrong With the Church – 10 Things That Need to Stop! and the lay members catch hold of the 10 things above… shucks, we’d be on to something big! What do you think?

The Abusive Church – Exposing the Master Manipulators

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If you’ve missed parts 1 and 2 of The Abusive Church series, you can catch up here:

The Abusive Church – Introduction
The Abusive Church – The Control Factor (When the Pastor Becomes Their God)

In this third installment of The Abusive Church series, we will discuss manipulation. Manipulation is the skillful and deliberate use of external forces to get others to do what someone else wants them to do or to suit one’s purpose or advantage. In the church, it is often used by the powerless to get trusting people to submit to the leadership of the church, to bestow unearned honor on unscrupulous leaders, to increase their financial support of the ministry, to commit ungodly sexual acts or unlawful acts, or to isolate certain individuals or groups from others. Manipulative tactics can include the use of false promises, guilt, peer pressure, intimidation, and misuse of scripture to threaten divine judgment from God for disobedience. Manipulative pastors and church leaders tend to prey on those who are naive, depressed, have low self-esteem, are isolated from their families, or are brainwashed into believing false teachings that promote deifying men and women of God.

Manipulation in the Bible

In Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth reminds us that church abuse isn’t new to our generation, or even to our century. He goes back to the early 1920s and tells the story of a controlling, manipulative leader and the people he abused. But a look at III John lets us know that manipulative leaders were present in the church since its beginning.

I have written briefly to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to take the lead among them and put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority and refuses to accept my suggestions or to listen to me.

So when I arrive, I will call attention to what he is doing, his boiling over and casting malicious reflections upon us with insinuating language. And not satisfied with that, he refuses to receive and welcome the [missionary] brethren himself, and also interferes with and forbids those who would welcome them, and tries to expel (excommunicate) them from the church.” (III John v9-10)

The King James version says that Diotrephes loved to have “preeminence,” which in the original Greek is philoproteuo, meaning that he loved to be first. People who share Diotrephes’ attitude want all the attention, power and authority for themselves; they don’t want to share the spotlight or yield control of their members by allowing them to fellowship with anyone outside of the local congregation. Not only would Diotrephes resist visits from key leaders in the body of Christ, he would try to excommunicate (or kick out) any members who showed these guests any hospitality. Dude was a master manipulator.

Today’s Masters of Manipulation

In the 1900+ years since Diotrephes’ day, manipulation in the church has flourished and gone far beyond just isolating members from the freedom that comes with hearing the truth.

In today’s church, members are more likely to be manipulated into giving more than they want to or can afford to, or into having extra-marital or pre-marital sexual relations. There are few active churchgoers who don’t know of a pastor who engaged in an ungodly relationship with another woman, man, or teen. The news is filled daily with reports of pastors who impregnated their members or face criminal charges for some other sexual indiscretions. They get caught with the joint in their mouths, the prostitute in the car, the stolen cash in their gym bags, coming out of hotels, etc. and will still lie bold-faced and say it wasn’t them. And the manipulated members will believe and defend them. Many have been manipulated into stealing money to pay overdue church bills or line the pastor’s pockets. Many have been manipulated into keeping secret something that should’ve been reported. And how many of us have never been taken on the Offering Guilt Trip? I’ve even been in services where they have locked the doors, declaring “nobody is moving until we meet this goal!

How to raise a good offering

Recently, a friend shared with me some of the tips he was taught for raising a “good offering.” Included in his list were:

  1. timing,
  2. association with a theme,
  3. prophetic encouragement, and
  4. aiming high.

He explained that the key is to have good timing, even if that means stopping in the middle of a sermon while emotions are high. Sometimes, you have to tune up even when the sermon didn’t call for it, just to “take them there” emotionally, so they’ll give. He went on to explain that you can associate the amount requested with a scripture number, a date, a number from the text, or even a current event. He said that if you prophesy to people, they will give, so start the line with a high amount and begin to prophesy and watch others join the line (especially if the people in front of them are falling out). *blank stare* He also said not to be afraid to ask for an outrageous amount because you never know who is there and what they have. If the congregation is sparse or appears to be poor, you can assign each pew to raise a certain amount. His last “tactic” was to use lines like “a desperate need calls for a desperate offering” and “sow a seed into your breakthrough;” and we all know the ever-popular “NAME YOUR SEED,” where the congregation is told to name their seed after the blessing they need from God. Often promises are added like “the more you give, the faster He’ll move for you,” or “you’ve got to give until it hurts so He can see that you’re serious about this seed.” Sometimes, my friend said, people will give just because they feel bad for you standing up there so long, or they want to hurry up and get this over with so they can leave. So, take your time and don’t rush.

Those are all manipulative, unBiblical tactics. I know I just lost a lot of pastors, but that’s okay. Wrong is wrong.

What are some of the signs you’re being manipulated?

1. You’re made to feel guilty or troublesome for asking questions about teachings, doctrine, rules, or decisions. If there is no clear scriptural reference, and the rules or decisions cost you, but benefit the church, it is possible you’re being manipulated.

2. If you are a tither and you’re encouraged to give money that you don’t have or money that is designated for a bill, or you’re made to feel guilty for not giving enough, you are being manipulated. First of all, in most states, it’s illegal to write a check for an amount that is not in your account. Secondly, if you owe anyone (mother, co-worker, credit card company, landlord, bank, or any other lender), that money belongs to the person you owe, not the church – you are giving the church stolen money.

3. If you are made to feel guilty about anything other than outright sin and/or wrongdoing, you are being manipulated.

4. If there are benefits associated with giving (prophetic word, better seat, position/title, public acknowledgement), you’re being manipulated.

5. If you are underage and you are sexually involved with any one who is over 21 and is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated. If you are sexually involved with your pastor or any other leader who is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated.

6. If you are told that you shouldn’t fellowship with a certain person, group of people or a certain church, denomination, or organization, it’s possible that you’re being isolated and controlled, which is a form of manipulation.

7. If your pastor uses scripture irresponsibly to threaten you (like the pastor who once threatened his congregation saying that “God will stroke your mouth!” from Proverbs 18:6 – yeah, I rolled my eyes on that one, too), it is possible that you’re being manipulated. In fact, any intentional misuse of scripture is manipulative.

8. If you are encouraged or asked to do anything unlawful or ungodly, you are probably being manipulated.

9. If your pastor knowingly lives a lifestyle of sin, and you aren’t sure whether you should leave, you are possibly being manipulated (unless you’re living in sin yourself so you take comfort in his sin).

10. If you are being mistreated, but you are afraid to leave due to reasonable or unreasonable fears, you are probably being manipulated.

11. If your pastor is telling you one thing and telling everyone else (or anyone else) something different, it is possible that you’re being manipulated.

12. If you receive “prophetic” words that contradict what (a) the Bible says, (b) God said to you, or (c) you know to be right, you are being manipulated. The same is true if you receive “prophetic words” that don’t come to pass or come with financial strings attached. And God takes this very seriously, too. Deuteronomy 18:20 says “but the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

13. If you are frequently leaving church feeling good but never convicted or urged to change or improve your ways; if the preached Word wasn’t actually Word at all, or if you have no idea what the message was, but you know it sounded good and felt good – it’s possible you’re being emotionally manipulated.

Get out

If you are in a manipulative church, I strongly urge you to get out. I don’t advise you to pause to pray about it, because it is not the will of God for you to be manipulated by someone claiming to be His servant. You don’t need confirmation on that one; it’s just not the will of God.

God WILL take care of those who abuse His sheep. Click here to read His warning to the shepherds who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, and His promise to the sheep.

From Harmless to Hell: A Message for the Church Folks

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She was frustrated, and so she let it be known.

That was her style, I guess. She always did seem to speak up. Outspoken is her middle name. Especially when it comes to matters concerning leadership. But this time, it was okay because she wasn’t really complaining, just venting a little bit. It was harmless; a sincere, honest question. She wasn’t trying to be funny or start any mess. She just genuinely wanted to know what was up. And who ever said that we can’t question our leaders? If they can’t take criticism, then maybe they’re not fit to lead. And she would be doggoned if she was going to follow his leadership and not have a voice about the questionable decisions he was making. She wasn’t some newbie. She knew what she was doing as well as he did.

She’s not the Church Busybody, she’s the Church Prophetess, so.. I mean, obviously she had good intentions. After all, she was a prophetess. A praiser. And he was her brother, not just some random stranger. But as she would soon learn, prophets, praisers, and family are not exempt from honoring God’s elect. Like most of us, she thought she had a right to express whatever was on her mind… until she got called into the office.

Her name was Miriam.

Her brother, Moses, married an Egyptian woman, and she questioned his decision. She did what many of us do when we have issues with our leaders: she hooked up with someone else who she knew would either share her opinion, entertain her rant, or would be persuaded to complain right along with her. She and Aaron said, “What, does God only speak to Moses? Has He not spoken to us, too??” If she’s anything like most of us, there was probably a neck roll/eye roll combo, some twisted up lips and a hand on a hip, I’m sure. The Bible says that the Lord came to where they were and called them to Him. He said, “listen here, if there are prophets around here, I will reveal myself to them in visions and in dreams. But Moses? He’s so faithful that I speak to him directly (mouth to mouth) and clearly. He sees the form of the Lord. And you weren’t afraid to speak against him??” God was angry. REALLY angry. So angry, in fact, that when He left, Miriam was afflicted with leprosy (Numbers 12).

How is it that we, “the holy and upright people of God,” manage to overlook that lesson and continue to mistreat, badmouth, criticize, dishonor, and question our leaders and their calling and anointing and gifts so FEARLESSLY? How do we show such brazen insubordination to the sent man or woman of God? And why is it that we who know the Word of God still think we have a “right” to say whatever is on our minds, however, whenever, to whomever? Sure there are those wolves in sheep’s clothing, men and women claiming to be “of God” but are really of flesh. Sadly, there are many who occupy the office of a pastor or leader, and are unworthy of honor. But when God sends one out to do His work, He will guard that one viciously. Today, I admonish you, the Christian Church, to fear God, honor His sent leaders, and grow up.

No one is exempt.

Miriam’s story makes it obvious that no one is exempt. Even prophets, apparently, will get frustrated (or envious, or be threatened by someone’s authority, jealous of their anointing or popularity) and run off at the mouth, fearlessly. But the Bible makes it clear that God will not stand for that. Don’t allow the venting and criticizing that you think is harmless and justified to land you a place in hell. Don’t stand so vehemently for holiness and righteousness and morality and cleanliness, and still end up in hell because you ran your mouth one too many times. Don’t be one of the ones to whom God says:

Yes, you prophesied in My name, yes you cast out devils in My name and did all these wonderful things in My name… but I never knew you. Now depart from Me, you worker of iniquity!”

I can hear the defense now, “but God… I’m ordained! Licensed!! I never missed Bible Study. Was on time every Sunday. Spoke in tongues seven times a day. Sis. Mary was healed when I laid hands on her! And, and, remember Bro. Ben whose cancer dried up? Remember that one I ministered to when everyone else got tired and went home? I stayed with her all night on that altar until she got her breakthrough! It’s me, Lord!!!” And He says, “I never knew you.”

How devastating.

We simply cannot continue to focus on the “big sins” and ignore the character issues. Jesus is love. Love is not gossip. Love is not bitter. Love is not hateful or hypocritical. Love is not short-tempered. Love has self-control. It doesn’t get excited and pick up the phone when sisters and brothers err. Love covers. And if you don’t show love, you don’t even KNOW God (even if you speak with tongues). Let us remember integrity. Self-control. Respect. Honor. Compassion. Let’s not perfect the appearance of Godliness (the huck, the buck, the quickening, the falling out, the crying, shouting, running, dancing, speaking in tongues) and fail to embrace the CHARACTER of Christ.

The one you attack may save your life.

One other principle from the story found in Numbers 12. Often times, the very one you attack will be the one who saves your life. After Miriam became leprous and was banished from the camp, it was Moses who interceded fervently on her behalf for God’s mercy and healing.

Let us grow in grace. Let us grow in love. Let us journey to heaven together.

Note: Sound familiar? I originally published this on my Facebook page on June 15, 2010. I’m sharing it here with minor edits.

Part II: What is Wrong With the Church – 10 Things That Need to Stop! (#6-10)

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On yesterday’s OITC, I got a little long-winded (hey, I’m a church girl, what do you expect?) so I had to extend this into a two-part series. If you haven’t read the first part of the 10 Things That Need to Stop!, you can click here to read #1-5. Thank you all so much for your feedback. It is really so encouraging to know that I’m not as “out there” as I was beginning to think I was.

Let us continue…

6. Stop it with this title foolishness. PLEASE. For the love of God. STOP!!! (I had to laugh at this point a friend made yesterday: we can call the Savior by His first name, but everyone else has to have a title. LOL!) Look, I respect any true prophet, bishop, apostle, pastor, evangelist, overseer, deacon, minister, or elder. I really do. But your title does not define who you are, nor is it necessary to identify you in the body of Christ. Let your work speak for you. When the miracles, signs and wonders follow you, the people will know exactly who you are. The Black church tends to use titles to separate the two classes – clergy and lay members, but that tradition has caused a lot of foolishness: for example, people using titles they haven’t rightfully earned, people striving for titles instead of striving for GOD, people becoming arrogant about their titles, bragging about their titles, lying about their titles, flaunting their titles, and worst of all, using titles that don’t represent their true calling. Not to mention all the “new” titles we’ve created that can’t even be found in the Bible!!!! (<— now THAT is a hot mess! Man-made titles? We should be embarrassed, not proud!)  How can we defend that to an unbeliever?  This is, unfortunately, more common in the Black charismatic church than in any other. And this is part of the reason the church as an institution has lost its credibility with unbelievers. We should be embarrassed, but again, we’re not. It’s just part of our culture. But for Bible believers, the precedent set in the Word of God should trump culture. In the Bible, Paul was just Paul. Timothy was just Timothy. Peter was just Peter. Philip (the evangelist) was just Philip. For crying out loud, just be happy being John or Sally. Let’s try that. God’s way is still the best way.

And before I move on to #7, let me add this: stop relying on politics to bestow titles, licenses, ordinations, consecration and installation. It’s ridiculous, and again: EMBARRASSING! I’ve never seen so many 19 year old apostles in all my life… ain’t even pastored a group of your baby sister’s teddy bears, and you’re an apostle? And how many pastors join these home-made organizations because they are promised the title of bishop? I remember the day when you had to prove yourself; work your way through the ranks… start out as a junior missionary, serve there faithfully for years and years before becoming a missionary… then serve there faithfully for more years before becoming an evangelist. Nowadays, you hoop one good time and somebody will give you a collar and call you Assistant Pastor. SMH!

7. Stop tolerating character flaws and unholy lifestyles in leadership! (I Timothy 3) Nobody is perfect. But doggonit, church leaders need to be above reproach, and if they can’t, they need to sit down until they are ready to serve with clean hands. Unbelievers don’t trust the church (and neither do many churchgoers) not just because church leaders aren’t living holy lives, but because we try to cover it up, deny it, lie about it, and won’t confess it (which is a Biblical principle). That’s what makes a hypocrite. Falling into error doesn’t make a hypocrite; trying to pretend you’re holy when you’re not is what makes a hypocrite. Apostles, Bishops, and Pastors (or Overseers) need to hold each other and their subordinates accountable! Enough of this “fake it till you make it” foolishness. Enough “struggling” and waiting on deliverance and breakthrough. As I said recently, some things don’t require deliverance, they just require a DECISION. And if you wear a title, you should’ve made that decision before you accepted the title. You can decide to live holy. I don’t care what you struggle with; either you’re going to live holy or you’re not, and if you’re not – take a seat next to Sis. Jane in the 3rd row.

8. Stop abusing the pulpit! I think sometimes we forget that God is watching. When pastors take the mic and use that time to advance their own agendas, boost their own egos, ramble for hours about absolutely nothing of substance, or verbally assault the people of God, they will be held accountable. The worship service is not the time to be throwing off because the leaders aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. Too many pastors are guilty of gossiping over the pulpit, which causes the saints to (a) try to figure out who pastor is talking about, (b) discuss it with other saints after church, and (c) judge the accused member based on what they heard from the pulpit. Paul said in I Corinthians 2 “when I came to you to preach, I was determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, declaring only the testimony of God. I didn’t want you to have faith in me, but in God” (paraphrased). The pulpit is for the declaration of the gospel. Save the extra stuff for a meeting. We need to be re-trained to keep our minds on Jesus from the time we enter the sanctuary until the time we leave. All these announcements and rebukes and storytelling and jokes and things are just distractions.

9. Stop raising up people who don’t know the Word for themselves. We got so caught up in building the enterprise we call church, that somehow we stopped teaching apologetics. Too few churchgoers can defend their faith and tell you why they believe what they believe. They can quote the scriptures they memorized, but if you challenge their interpretation in context, they are lost. They simply parrot what they’ve heard, and believe what they’re told because everyone around them believes it. Then when they get eaten up by an atheist or Jehovah’s Witness, the only thing they can do is plead the blood and walk away. It’s a lost opportunity to win a soul for Christ. We’ve got to teach the troops to articulate why they believe what they believe, and how to counter the arguments that contradict their beliefs.

10. Stop opening up all these doggone churches! *sigh* I’m going to tell you something you already know, but probably prefer to ignore. From the first century until recent decades, churches were built and established based on community needs. The people of a particular town came together to worship, and the local church was established. Today, as you know, that’s not so much the case. I could rant, but I’m going to keep it simple: if there aren’t a group of people in the community that need a place to come together to worship, you may need to reconsider your motives. Not wanting to submit to your pastor’s leadership is NOT a valid reason to start a church. Wanting to beef up your “pastoral resume” by having “one church in seven locations” is NOT a valid reason to start a church. Wanting to increase your “footprint” is NOT a valid reason to start a church. Even receiving a prophetic word is NOT a valid reason… Sit down somewhere and serve. And get clarity on the pastoral call before you go shopping for a location. Not every pastor is called to pastor a church. (You’ll get that when you get home… lol). <— hey, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw a cliché at least once! 🙂

BONUS: I had to throw this one in there… stop failing to teach love. Those who don’t show love don’t even know God… our tongues are sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Their gifts and deeds mean NOTHING if we don’t show love. It’s the commandment on which all the laws and prophetic words depend. It’s our ID card as Christians. I would like to see the body of Christ love each other – and unbelievers – better. I really hate this thing we do when we expose one another, discuss one another, judge, etc. I know some people can find scriptures to say that that’s okay, but I can find some to say that it’s not – so it comes down to motive and intention… and I think that nine times out of ten, the motive is to be messy, condescending, and busy… not to be helpful and loving.

To be honest, this list could end at 20 things… or maybe even 30. Not to mention the 20 or 30 things that a pastor would say the lay members need to do to make the church better. But no matter where it ends, it isn’t anything more than words on a website if we, the body of Christ, don’t step up to the challenge and commit to effect change for the Kingdom (the true Kingdom, not the clichéd fad word we like to use today).

As always, I welcome your feedback. What do you think? Do you see things getting better in the church? Or do you think they’ll get worse?

What is Wrong With the Church? – 10 Things That Need to Stop!

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If you’re a regular reader of OITC, you know that I mentioned the other day in the Preface to the 10 Things that a few people have asked me recently what I would change about the church, if I could change anything. I’ve made it no secret that I’m pretty disheartened by this institution we call church today. Quite a few leaders – pastors, bishops and apostles that I have a tremendous amount of respect for – have suggested that instead of complaining about it, those who are disgruntled should do something about it. I’ve asked in response, what are the lay members to do? I have yet to come up with an answer, nor has anyone else provided me with one. But what I did come up with is a few things that church leaders can do.

  1. Stop preaching fluff! (I Corinthians 2:1-5) Today’s churchgoers have become so accustomed to foolishness that many of us can no longer discern between nonsense and sound teaching. Sermons are full of clichés, lyrics and false assumptions masked as revelation, and we’ve accepted it for so long that we actually developed a taste for it, and think that’s what makes good preaching. Preachers are trained (formally or through observation) to appeal to the emotions, and we are trained to want our emotions to be satisfied. So we respond to the fluff, and in return, preachers give us more. They modulate because it makes us jump higher, they climb pews because it makes us scream louder, they offer clichés because it makes us take off running… it’s a vicious cycle, and someone has got to make it stop! The gospel of Jesus Christ stands on its own and does not need any marketing tricks, rhymes or fillers. Preach the gospel, and then sit down.
  2. Quit having these 3 hour services full of fluff!! (Acts 2) Don’t get me wrong; I’m not the type to get bored in church or want the 1-hour Catholic express service. I don’t care if the service lasts four or five hours if you can give me all service, no fluff. It’s not the length I hate, it’s the fluff… it’s the 20 minute greeting from the pastor, who is then going to preach for another hour, lay hands for 30 minutes, and then give closing remarks for another 20 minutes. Or the 10 minute standing ovation for the first family’s entrance. Or the 45-minute praise break (which would be great if someone actually got up from the floor CHANGED). Most of these lengthy services are only lengthy because someone loves the mic and wants to be in the spotlight, or want to trick the people into believing they had “good church” by letting them run and cry and shout for an hour, and tickling their emotions with general “prophecies” that could apply to any random person anywhere. That’s the part I don’t like. And none of this stuff we do today was a part of the first church’s worship gatherings anyway. They testified, exhorted, preached the word, prayed, worshiped,broke bread, and went home. That was the order of service. Let’s try that. God’s way is still the best way.
  3. Stop with the gimmicks, tricks, and manipulation!! (II Corinthians 9:7) I declare I believe there is a special section in hell for people who LIE (and yes, some of those appeals are full of lies) or manipulate the people to get more offering. I’ve heard preachers talk about a “gift” of raising money or share tips on how to raise money. How many times have you heard “grab your checkbooks quickly, don’t think about it, just do it.” (<— not Biblical).  Or “while the spirit is moving, I want you to grab a 2011 seed to sow into this anointing. If you don’t have $2011, bring $211. This is the seed that’s going to change your financial status in this year. You’ve got to sow into this move of God.” (<— not Biblical).  And we wonder why the unbelievers have no confidence in the church. If your members tithe and give liberally, and what they bring still isn’t enough, then you’re probably churchin above your means. The Bible says “you must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” Enough with the fundraisers and chicken sales and building funds and special services and “revivals” (just to raise money – ain’t nobody stupid). Enough of that. In the New Testament churches, the people brought gifts, and that was enough. Let’s try that. God’s way is still the best way.
  4. Stop teaching emotionalism in exchange for the Holy Ghost! (II Timothy 3:5) As I said, we have accepted this replica of the Holy Ghost for so long, that I fear the current generation and those to come won’t even know what it means to be touched by the Holy Ghost. Our churches are full of manufactured tongues, dancing on cue, rolling around on the floor in angst, and all kinds of other emotional displays that people mistake for “the glory of God.” I’m a praiser and a worshiper, and I’m fine with any form of praise or worship. But for too long, pastors have allowed members to think that the “good feeling” you get is the Holy Ghost, when it’s just an ineffective substitute. This is why people go home after 4 hour services and are still mean, still hateful, still gossipping, still sneaking around with gay lovers, still fornicating, still smoking, still getting drunk, still wounded from the same hurt that had them on the altar 5 years ago… because they didn’t have an experience with God, they had an experience with their inner selves.
  5. Shift the focus back to Jesus. I could be wrong, but I tend to think this is more of a problem in the Black church (or maybe it’s just the charismatic church?) than in other churches, but I’ve had enough of it. If the purpose of the worship service is to worship Jesus, why do we spend so much time worshiping the pastor? Don’t get me wrong, I love my own pastor, and I have many pastor-friends whom I also love. I honor and respect the calling, and having worked so closely with pastors, I know how difficult their labor is and how many sacrifices they have to make for the call. HOWEVER… Sunday at 11:00 is not about Pastor John Doe, it’s about Jesus. If you have to honor and celebrate the pastor, do it on your own time, not on God’s time. How crazy is it to be in GOD’S HOUSE at an hour designated specifically for worship to him – and have to beg people to stand up during Praise & Worship, but those same people pop up like Orville Redenbacher when the pastor and his entourage enter the sanctuary (fashionably late, of course). The P&W leader tells you to stand to your feet and lift your hands in worship, and you stare at him like he’s crazy. The exhorter gives honor to the pastor and the “crowd” goes wild! Jumping, screaming, whistling, clapping hysterically… God is a jealous God and He wants ALL the glory, not most of it. ALL of it. In fact, his NAME is Jealous. It is the black tradition that causes us to vehemently defend this practice. Don’t let tradition cause you to offend God.

Okay, this is longer than I thought it would be, so I’m going to stop here. Click here to read Part II with #6-10.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Do you have something to add to the list, or a comment on something on my list? Feel free to comment below; I’d love to hear it.

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