Contrasting Styles

There are no two leaders in the Bible who provide a greater contrast in leadership styles than the first Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 7.25.10 PMtwo kings of Israel: Saul and David. I have often said that David learned more about leadership from Saul than he did anyone else: Saul taught him how not to lead. For the most part, David learned his lessons well and today, 3,100 years after he reigned, the nation of Israel still calls itself the people of David. I would say that indicates David did a pretty good job!

I was reflecting once on the differences between Saul and David to identify lessons for my own leadership growth and understanding. Here are some contrasts I found. There are probably more, but these are the ones I discovered.

  1. Leaders raise up other good leaders. Saul had one mighty man (David), while David attracted, developed, and released many mighty men. 
  2. Leaders learn to serve others. Saul never learned to serve anyone; David served others, even Saul when he was pursuing David to kill him.
  3. Leaders must draw on multiple skills to be effective. Saul was one-dimensional (he was a great warrior); David was multi-dimensional (warrior, musician, poet, administrator, prophet). 
  4. Leaders do not rely on their gifts or God's presence alone. Saul was anointed but then did nothing to develop himself. David was anointed but spent the rest of his life developing himself.
  5. Leaders must have courage. Saul was fearful from the time he was anointed, but David learned to recognize and function in the midst of fear.
  6. Leaders have a relationship with God's Word. Saul was never a spiritual man, but David loved God's word and helped write it! Saul's anointing had no roots in God's word; David's did.
  7. Leaders allow suffering to play a role in their development. Saul spent his career trying to avoid or alleviate his suffering, while David learned from his ordeals—and even wrote poems about them.
  8. Leaders seek guidance from others. Saul sought no one's input until when he sought illicit wisdom from a witch at the end of his life. David constantly sought God's face and direction.
  9. Leaders deal with their anger and are self-controlled. Saul ruled and controlled others through temper tantrums and intimidation; David ruled through compassion and love.
  10. Leaders know themselves and how they work best. Saul used a sword and armor to protect himself, and assumed David would do the same. David rejected Sauls armor and used a sling with no body protection to get the job done.
  11. Leaders do not serve themselves. Saul never understood this but David served others even when Saul was seeking to destroy him.

There are more lessons such as David learned from history ("I have killed the bear and lion"), Saul did not. Saul was vindictive, but David was forgiving and gracious. David was a worshiper, but Saul had no such mindset. If you are a leader, go over these lessons and spend some additional time studying to see what you can learn from David's leadership example as well as Saul's—keeping in mind that Saul's lessons are mostly on how not to lead.


Defunding the Church

I am taking a chance borrowing an inflammatory statement summarizing a controversial movement in Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 6.16.36 PMthe U.S. as I write and apply it to the Church. No, I am not suggesting or praying that God will harm the church or cut off her resources in retaliation for perceived or actual shortcomings. I am using this phrase because I think this is what God is doing right now, and it is consistent with how I have seen Him work in my lifetime. I can also come up with a few biblical examples to show that God uses finances to direct His people into new ventures and then restores their "fortunes" when they are properly placed.

I am on record declaring with confidence that God is using this pandemic season to teach the church new things and strip and scrape away some of the cultural baggage and barnacles it has accumulated. I have used the phrase 'addicted to face-to-face ministry' to describe our penchant for public gatherings while ignoring the power of technology and social media—utilizing it reluctantly or as an afterthought, if at all.

Whenever I say this, some well-meaning soul will write me, sometimes in a frenzy, to say the church must meet, that anything else is not the church. They are insinuating I am suggesting that technology can replace the church. At no point have I said that technological presentations can replace the church, but I have said it can be the next best thing to being there if we cannot meet. I have also said that we can and should use technology to reach more with the message of the gospel and to disciple others. With reduced attendance, I know the finances of many churches have taken a hit and God is using this not to punish the church, but to redirect its efforts. In that sense, God is defunding or getting the church's attention through financial leanness.

                                                        A BIBLICAL EXAMPLE

To give you an example of this phenomenon from the Bible, I am going to use a story that isn't about financial lack, but it is about change that came to the early church that led to new, fruitful ministry. The story is found in Acts 8 and involves the story of Philip the Evangelist:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:4-8).

Let's flesh out this story a bit more. Jesus had told the disciples to go to Samaria and the ends of the earth, but no one seemed motivated to go. They were all staying in Jerusalem and its environs where everyone knew everyone else, having daily meetings in the Temple and from house to house. Then Stephen was martyred in Acts 7 and suddenly, the church could not meet as it had. The authorities persecuted believers, and we read how bad it got when we learn the ends to which Saut later to become Paul was willing to go to pursue and imprison followers of Christ. I liken this persecution to what the Church is encountering now in that its normal operations have been interrupted by forces beyond its control.

In response to this, Philip and others decided to venture out to Samaria, that land where the hated Samaritans lived. When Philip got there and preached, all heaven broke loose. Signs and wonders flowed and the residents "all paid close attention"—every preacher's dream! This is similar to what some are doing today. When the church cannot meet, they are venturing out to a technological Samaria and finding good results—no money, but good results. Other churches are not using technology but still finding new ways to deliver ministry, such as increased use of the telephone, mobile apps, drive through prayer lines, food distribution, and house-to-house visits (hopefully practicing social distancing).

Of course, eventually things settled down in Jerusalem for the believers or as much as it was going to as the days before the fall of Judea played out. Yet once Philip went to Samaria, others went there and beyond and eventually Paul and a host of others swarmed all over the Roman world to preach, teach, and establish churches. My sense is that once we start using social media as we should and could, we will have new success in ministry that will open many more doors we cannot even imagine or think about today.

Let's keep in mind that the Church belongs to Jesus. He bought it with HIs blood. If He wants us to change the way we "do" ministry, then it's our job to make the changes—not resist them in a theological frenzy of end-time paranoia. If you still aren't convinced, then all I ask is that you at least listen and learn from those who are embracing new methods of ministry that will produce different results than those to which you have become accustomed. If you are convinced that God is defunding only to redirect our efforts, then I encourage you to keep on keeping on. You are a pioneer for the Lord and one day you will share what you've learned with a grateful church that made the jump to new ministry modes that will enhance our public gatherings when the all clear signal is given.


Your Starting Points

I heard someone say once that humans are rational beings who do irrational things. After 45 years as a pastor and hearing people tell me all kinds of strange behavior (and seeing some of it firsthand), I am Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 4.03.35 PMinclined to agree with that statement. I have reflected on it often, and would like to share some conclusions with you this week—and continue our discussion next week.

IRRATIONALITY

Our irrationality manifests mostly with where we begin in our thought process, not with the process itself. In this short space, I think it best to give you an example and go from there. In Mark 3:1-5, we read

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

How often have you said, "Lord, if I had a sign to confirm Your will, I would know and obey!" In this story, the Pharisees witnessed a magnificent and startling sign: A man's withered hand was un-withered right before their very eyes. What was their response? We read in Mark 3:6: "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."

They saw Jesus perform a miracle and what was their response? They determined He had to die! That's irrational, but the problem was not in their conclusion but in their starting point. They assumed they knew all there was to know about the Sabbath and further believed it was their job to protect that day from violators on God's behalf. When they saw the miracle, they evaluated it from an irrational starting point. You might even say they had a stronghold in their mind for the thought that no creature could do what Jesus did on the Sabbath and get it away with it had a strong hold on their mind. From then on, they acted perfectly rational, for if they were correct (which of course, they were not), then the rational thing to do was punish Jesus for His offense.

STARTING POINT EXAMPLES

What's my point? The point is that you have starting points and they impact how you rationally carry out your life and ministry. Here are some examples:

Starting point: "The earth is flat." Result: Early explorers refused to go so far and no farther, otherwise they would eventually fall off the end of the earth.

Starting point: I don't have time to write a book." Result: You don't even try. Truth: You have all the time in the world (24 hours every day) but are probably using the lack of time as a front for your fear.

Starting point: "I don't have money to give." Result: You don't give, God doesn't bless you, so you have less to give. Truth: Even a small "widow's mite" can have an affect on God and the situation into which you are giving.

Where are you rationally living in a pattern that began with an irrational, incomplete, or flawed starting point? The only way to find out is to continually challenge your thinking where starting points are concerned. You don't have time to write a book? How is it then that I have written as many as i have?. You don't have money to give? How is it that you have $200 for cable television service or $75 to have your nails done or $89 for the latest doo-dad you need for your hobby? Because you have never challenged your "need" for so much television or the fact that your hobby or beauty needs are expensive and out of control, you don't give. You are correct (rationally) that you don't have money to give—because you are wasting it on something to satisfy your own desires. Your starting point is "I need this" or "I deserve this," and thus you follow through rationally on your flawed premise.

This week, challenge some of your starting points and check them out to see if they are passing as rational and consistent with the values you espouse. If they aren't, then if you change your "starting point," you can change your life! Next week, we will examine how to change your starting points. Until then, have a blessed week.


Ecstasy

I have mentioned during some broadcasts during the pandemic (and before) that I have at times Screen Shot 2020-07-17 at 6.36.07 PMexperienced a strange sensation that is difficult to explain. John Wesley described a spiritual encounter he had once when his heart was "strangely warmed." That would begin to describe what I am writing about. This sense is an overwhelming peace and confidence that I am doing what God wants me to do, where He wants me to do it, in a way that pleases Himand His pleasure overflows into my being. It may be similar to what Eric Lyddell, the Olympic runner said in the movie, Chariots of Fire, "But God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

I have been reflecting on this experience more and more, mostly because it happens to me more and more. It made me think of stories I read about certain saints who were known as mystics because they had strange, mysterious encounters with the Lord that were labeled "ecstasy." The picture with this post is one of St. Theresa who was famous for her ecstatic encounters with the Lord. Of course, the artist's version of her experience is replete with angels and a beatific look on St. Theresa's face. I am not convinced that the ecstasy I am referring to is that supernatural or bizarre.

I found a description online of this ecstatic experience I am trying to describe: 

Total involvement with an object of interest is not an ordinary experience because of being aware of other objects, thus ecstasy is an example of an altered state of consciousness characterized by diminished awareness of other objects or the total lack of the awareness of surroundings and everything around the object.
 
I can't say my consciousness is altered, but it is definitely enhanced to the extent that I lose track of time and could lose myself in what I am doing for any amount of hours. Why am I telling you this?
 
I tell you this because I have come to the conclusion that this is actually to be a normal incident for anyone involved in purposeful activity. Since purpose is motivated by joy, then joy can so flood our beings that we, like Jesus, say we have "food to eat that others know not of." And what's more, isn't this extreme joy or ecstatic experience what many seek through things other than God, things like sex, drugs, work, leisure, or other "things"? Is it so unusual since God created us to have intense emotional expressions and events? And could this ecstasy actually be a foretaste of eternity where we will "enjoy" God's presence forever?
 
I don't know the answers to those questions, but I will tell you this: I am not about to renounce or avoid or rationalize my random joyful tsunamis, for they are about as close to pure worship as I have ever had. If nothing else, they serve as fuel for my work, which has taken on new meaning during this world crisis. I invite you to pursue your own purpose to the extent that you too can be aware of God's approval as you express it, perhaps in overwhelming portions. And if you don't know or aren't sure about what I have just written, then just pray for me that I won't drown in a sea of my own ecstatic, purposeful work. 

Update from Kenya

IMG-20200705-WA0010Here is a report from our most recent sanitary product distribution in Kenya:

This is to give you a brief report on the June distribution. We managed to reach as many girls as possible. The total number of girls we reached is 422 and 69 of them were not present on the distribution day, but were around, so we left them the 69 pieces in their various schools. Once they pick them, we will have their photos. We also had talks with the girls and they really enjoyed and learned from the sessions. We hope to facilitate more learning sessions during distributions in future, as they help us identify the challenges the girls have with regards to menstruation. Otherwise, they are healthy, and we all appreciate the amazing support. Attached IMG-20200705-WA0007
are some of the photos randomly selected from June’s distribution (click on them to enlarge).
 
Of course, the pandemic has caused a disruption in our normal distribution system and procedure, but I am confident the team on the ground is adapting as best they can--as we are all doing no matter where we live.
 
IMG-20200705-WA0008Thank you for your support that allows me to send $700 per month to equip these young ladies with what they need to attend school and live normal lives. We have been able to maintain this level of support throughout the months of the pandemic because of you. If you would like to give toward this program which we call WEEP, Women's Equal Education Project, you can do so through my PurposeQuest International mobile app, through PayPal, through my website, or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA, 15221-0882. Thanks again and God bless you and our WEEP workers on the ground in Kenya.

Walking Down a Different Row

I just returned from a visit to my grandchildren and took time to go to a local farm to pick some Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 3.17.04 PMberries. It is hard work for this farm is on a hill, it was hot, and while the berry bushes had plenty of fruit, it was spread out among many bushes. I find it fascinating that I could walk down one row with bushes on both sides of me and see plenty of fruit, but then when I went to the next row and looked back on the row I came from, I saw fruit I missed. I tried to see all there was to see when I went down the first row, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not see it all. What I needed was a change of perspective to see all there was to see.

When I have led cognitive and social learning seminars, I include a phrase, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Of course, the things I am looking at don't change, but my perspective is changed according to my approach and angle for viewing. I have used the same concept when I have taught preaching classes, for I tell students that they must suspend what they think they know about a verse or passage for even a short moment as they prepare to speak, for as soon as they are convinced they know what a passage says, they will miss what else it may be saying. This is called the lock-on, lock-out phenomenon. As soon as we lock on to what we think we know or see, certain we have seen all the berries or the meanings there are, we lock out the possibility of seeing more.

When I was a pastor and did some marriage counseling, I would surprise couples when we began by asking them to tell me what their partner was about to tell me about them. "What is your wife/husband going to tell me about you?" Many would make an effort to answer my question, but quickly switched gears to report what was wrong with their spouse. They had locked on to the problem with the other person and had often locked out their contribution to the need for counseling. 

What's my point in all this? It is a valuable exercise to put yourself in someone else's place or to shift your perspective from time to time in order to see what you cannot see from where you have been. For example, today in the mail I received a copy of a book The Best Short Stories by Black Writers (1899-1967). Why would I order and read this? I do so because I am not black and I want to read something written by people who don't look like me and probably don't think like me. Since I work with many African Americans, it will help me walk down a different row to see what I could not previously see.

When we don't walk down a different row, it may be because we are not as secure in our position as we would like others to believe and thus need to read or be exposed only to things that will reinforce our current position. That's not wrong unless it is what we always do and thus cut ourselves off from the "fruit" that is right in front of us but we can't see, not because we aren't physically capable or don't want to, but simply because we cannot see it from where we are standing—mentally or physically. Do you have the courage to walk down a different road and see something new? Or will you keep walking up and down the same old row and limit yourself to what you are convinced is all there is to see? While you are answering those questions, I will be reading the book I just got in the mail.


The Acts of Jesus

I have begun G. Campbell Morgan's devotional from the Acts of the Apostles and already in the first Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 6.10.06 PMchapter, I have learned so much from Morgan who was known as the "Prince of Expositors" in England through World War II. He confirmed many things I have felt about Acts that i have never seen in print anywhere else. 

First is the name of the book: the Acts of the Apostles. There are so many other titles I can think of, like the Acts of the Spirit, the Acts of Purpose, or the Acts of Believers. The book of Acts barely mentions the twelve apostles and then focuses on the ministry of Peter (a little) and Paul (a lot). The book is more like a collection of stories told about people who found their purpose and achieved it through the power of the Spirit—people like Barnabas, Dorcas, Phillip, Cornelius, Lydia, and John Mark. John had to terminate his missions trip with Barnabas and Saul, probably because of tension between him and Saul. I am sure Saul was not an easy man with whom to work.

Luke began Acts with these words: "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach . . ." (Acts 1:1). Notice that he said his gospel focused on what Jesus had begun to do and teach, which means Acts is an account of what Jesus continued to do and teach through His followers in the power of the Spirit. Therefore, I supposed another good title would have been the Acts of Jesus through the Spirit. I have often considered Acts a fifth gospel, which when coupled with the other four, would produce the special number five that would parallel the five books of the Pentateuch. The Old begins with five books as does the New. Only the Spirit could arrange something like that.

The book of Acts takes us on a breathtaking overview of what the disciples accomplished after Pentecost, which should be viewed as Jesus's work. What energy and purpose He displayed! Whereas He was constrained during His earthly ministry, in Acts Jesus was released to do what He wanted to do all along: touch the lives of people everywhere with the love and power of God—introduced through His message, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."

When Acts ends in chapter 28, there is no conclusion, no words that say "and they all lived happily ever after." It just sort of fizzles out, just like Mark's gospel does. As Acts concludes, Paul is under house arrest but nevertheless ministers to all who come to see him. It's almost like Luke ended the book through the Spirit's inspiration to say, "This book has no ending. It is still being written, for Jesus is still doing magnificent and plenteous work and good deeds in the power of the Spirit through His people." When I have taught Acts 6 where the deacons were selected, I pointed out that this was not to institute the office of deacons. Rather, it represented a creative solution to a never-before-encountered problem, leaving us a model to follow for our own encounters with the challenges of our day and culture. We are to add our names to the book by finding and fulfilling our purpose in partnership with the Holy Spirit of Jesus. Is that what you are doing?

Needless to say, I am looking forward to this 58-chapter book, which will take me through the rest of the summer for my devotional reading and study. Stay tuned, for I am sure there will be other things i will share as I make my way through G. Campbell Morgan's latest posthumous gift to my understanding of God's word.


Online Purpose Classes

ANNOUNCING ONLINE FOUR-WEEK PURPOSE CLASSES

TAUGHT BY DR. JOHN STANKO

  1. Held on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11:30 and Wednesday nights from 7 to 8:30, Eastern New IMG_6102 York time. Classes start Saturday, July 25, and Wednesday, July 29, and will go for four weeks. (Picture to the right is from a classroom purpose session. Online classes will have similar content.) I have now added a Sunday class starting July 26 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. New York time (add 5 hours for Nigeria, 6 hours for Zimbabwe, 7 hours for Kenya).
  2. You must be able to access each of the four classes via Zoom.
  3. You will have assigned readings from my book Unlocking the Power of Your Purpose along with videos to watch.
  4. The class will consist of discussing the material and giving you a chance to develop your purpose statement with my help and that of the class.
  5. The tuition is $125 for the course. Send me an email at johnstanko@gmail.com telling me you want to enroll and which session you would like (Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday) and I will invoice you via PayPal. You can pay in installments if you wish. We can work out payment other than PayPal as you require.
  6. A limited number of scholarships are available. Email me with your request along with your background, where you live, and why you are enrolling at this time. Scholarships will be awarded no later than July 20 and depend on funds donated for this reason.
  7. Tuition also covers the two books we will use in class, which I will send you when you have registered.
  8. In the meantime, download the free PurposeQuest International mobile app and get started watching the class videos.

TIME TO BE ABOUT YOUR PURPOSE SO YOU CAN SAY, 'PUT ME IN, COACH!'


Reclaiming Revelation

I have been asked many times during this pandemic if this is the end, if the return of the Lord is imminent as proved by the signs of the times. Some have referred to the book of Revelation, which Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 7.49.59 PMcertainly seems to describe cataclysmic global events such as we are witnessing now. My answer is always the same, "I don't know if this is the end, but I am closer to my end than I have ever been." The truth is I don't know and no one else does either. All we can do is be faithful to this day and trust the Lord for tomorrow.

Years ago, I wrote a commentary on Revelation called The Revelation Project: A Fresh Look at the Last Book and my perspective flew in the face of most commonly held interpretations. I later turned that book into volume twelve of my Live the Word commentary series, but I thought of the introduction to both of those books this week and want to share it with you here. My purpose is to continue my work to reclaim the last book of the Bible from the zany and bizarre interpretations many hold that cause them to mistakenly examine current affairs under the light of Revelation's message. Here is what I had to say in my introduction.

*****

I suppose it is natural for us to think about the end of time and speculate concerning what will happen leading up to the end and beyond. Due to the popularity of fiction books that focus on the end times, along with the commonly held and taught positions on the meaning of the rapture, the millenium, and the antichrist, people study Revelation, along with Daniel, Ezekiel, and some parts of the gospel accounts, a majority are looking for the beast, the dragon, and the meaning of the number 666, among other things mentioned in Revelation.

Yet as you start this commentary, I am asking you to do something completely counterintuitive. I ask that you suspend any and all preconceived notions you have accumulated about Revelation, just for as long as you read this book. I don’t want you to think as a pre- or post-millenialist. If you tend more to be a preterist, futurist, historicist, or even an idealist (and if you aren't familiar with those four labels, please don't spend much time researching them), I want you to approach this book like you know nothing at all. If you don’t do that, then you will approach my book or a reading of Revelation looking for the familiar, consequently not seeing what else may be there. If you go looking for the antichrist, that is all you will see. If you can go looking for the Christ, you may notice things you have not seen before.

That brings me to my main objective for writing this commentary and that is I want you to read  Revelation, approaching it as a devotional book. My reason for this is that is your approach, at least in part, to the other 65 books of the Bible. You usually read those books asking, “What can I learn from this that will help me in my daily walk? What can I learn about God’s will for my life? What can I learn about the Lord Jesus that will enhance my worship and walk with Him?” 

Once you suspend your preconceived notions of what Revelation is or how you have interpreted it, here are some other guidelines I have set up as you work through the material, just so you know how I am approaching this work:

    1. Revelation is not a book primarily about the future. It is a book about the past. This does not mean that there are no future aspects to Revelation. There most certainly are. Yet the other 65 books of the Bible primarily explain how God has worked among His people, culminating in the work of Christ on the cross. The Old Testament basically tells us that Christ is coming. The New Testament explains the implications for His finished work and Ascension to heaven. Revelation has much to tell us about Christ’s work just like the other books do.
    2. Revelation is a book about Christ, not the Antichrist. Yes, Revelation does depict the work of forces that align themselves against the Lord and His Anointed One, but their actions are shown to be futile in light of God’s superior power and authority. Focusing on the enemies of God has tended to magnify their power and actions. We are never to magnify the enemy, only God.
    3. Revelation had to mean something to the churches that initially received it. The New Testament was written to the Church in all ages, and Revelation is no exception. The gospel of Matthew has meaning for us today, but it also meant something to those for whom it was first writtenthe Jews of the first century. If we can grasp and recapture some of what Revelation could have meant to the early church, then we will have a clearer understanding of what it says to us today. 
    4. Revelation is called the Apocalypse because it is a book that utilizes apocalyptic language and images. The word apocalypse literally means unveiling. It was a genre of literature that was well-known to the early church, but almost a complete mystery to us today. There were specific rules of interpretation for apocalyptic literature then, just like there are for satire and science fiction today. You approach those latter types of literature with certain expectations and rules for interpretation. You must do the same as you read Revelation. Much of Revelation employs graphic and exaggerated symbols and metaphors, intended to give a general “bird’s eye view” of the work of Christ as He rules until all His enemies are His footstool. Those metaphors are not to be taken as literally as some have imagined. When Revelation wants you to know what something represents, it tells you. When it doesn't, be careful not to assign specific meanings that may even make some sense, but are not supported by biblical evidence.
    5. Revelation was not intended to generate fear, but trust and confidence in God. If the other 65 books of the Bible were intended to teach reverence for God and confidence in His ability to protect his people, then why would Revelation be any different? Yet the Bible and Revelation do tell the sinnerthose who are apart from God, those who are in open rebellionto fear. He will not remain silent forever and He will eventually judge His enemies, both in this Age and at the Final Judgment. If anyone should fear when reading Revelation, it is not God’s people but those who do not know Him.

*****

There you have my basic approach to the reading, study, and interpretation of Revelation. It is a book of victory, not of defeat, and I resent just a little those who have made it be something else. It matters what you believe about the end for that will direct how you live. I want to live as one who lives daily in the truth that Jesus has taken on, and will continue to do so, all comers and He is still winner and champion. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


The Online Pastor

My revision and expansion of my 2009 book Changing the Way We Do Church is coming along. The expanded version will include an entire section on technology and social media, which was hardly Screen Shot 2020-06-12 at 7.14.28 PM
mentioned in the first edition. I won't go into all I will have to say there, but in light of my posts the last two weeks about creativity and innovation in the church, here is an excerpt from the new section I want to show you this week.

*****

In the earlier part of this book, I recommended that each church appoint a purpose pastor, someone who can help people recognize and then engage their life purpose through appropriate actions like publishing, starting a business or non-profit organization, or entering into full-time church or missions work. To go along with the purpose pastor, I also recommend that every church identify and empower a pastor of social media and technology. I will not get too specific as to their job duties, but in general, they will be to

take who we are as a people—what we teach, how we worship, what we believe, how we apply what we believe—and make it accessible not only to those in our closest proximity but also to those who live in other regions or countries.

This position will not allow a church’s presence online to be an afterthought or something that is done when the church gets around to it but will make it a top priority. They will have the full cooperation of all the staff and in a sense will co-pastor the church with the lead pastor, mutually submitting to one another. Due to the resistance and priority that lead pastors tend to give to the face-to-face church presence, this online pastor and his or her team must have unprecedented power to make decisions in the best interests of the online work, sometimes at the expense of the live worship experience. The online pastor will have the authority to involve any and all church staff and members in this endeavor.

For example, let’s say that the senior pastor shares a message that is well received by the people. The online pastor can decide to turn that series into a book, an online series with a study guide, or put it in any other format necessary to fulfill his or her mandate and the senior pastor cannot refuse. The online pastor can assign any staff member online duties and they cannot refuse or claim it’s not their strength or gift, or resort to the “I am too busy” excuse. As an example, the online pastor can decide the church is going to live broadcast the youth or children’s ministry and that’s that. There can be no protests from either department that they don’t want to do this.

My assumption is that all the resources any church needs to fulfill its mission are already sitting right in its midst. The church only needs new eyes to see who is present and utilize those people in a more effective way. This is also where the purpose pastor can help the online pastor, for the purpose pastor should be close to who knows and does what in the church, and also whom God is speaking to about more involvement in the church’s ministry work.

The online pastor will be tasked with identifying a team that will provide an online presence during the live worship services. The members of that team will use their own social media presence, or the church’s, to publish and broadcast portions of the live service. That will include quotes from the sermon, perhaps a line from a song sung that impressed them, or their own insight as the service progresses: “Pastor Sam is preaching from 1 Samuel 1. I have never thought of Hannah as he is presenting her. Good stuff!”

Finally, the online pastor will then help each staff member with their own social media philosophy, helping them spell out exactly how and when they will personally engage social media, which media they will use, and what they will include in their online presence, which may be a weekly blog, a regular video update, a devotional, or a podcast. Where the technical savvy is lacking, the online pastor will provide training.

Then the online pastor will do the same for any in the church who are interested in doing the same. He or she will start by imparting a theology of social media, reinforced from the live pulpit, to help people overcome any latent bias. Then the online pastor will help people understand how to use technology in a way that is consistent with their personal ministry or purpose.

That's just a portion of my thinking where the online pastor is concerned. One more point I did not include is that this online pastor cannot report to who I am calling the Sunday meeting pastor, for the latter will always prioritize the face-to-face meetings, often at the expense of an online presence—just as they have done since social media came on the scene. It is time for the Church to be innovative and an online pastor is one position that is needed and relevant, as the recent pandemic has shown. It is no longer acceptable to use social media as a church bulletin in cyberspace but instead to make it an important part of ministry, equal in energy and commitment to the on site services.