Avoiding a Stage Only Faith Part 3

Continuing our conversation of suggestions to prevent spiritual bankruptcy, today we look at what I consider to be our greatest challenge in the ministry fast-lane, but also the most important responsibility and opportunity we have.  Spending time with our family reminds us of our own inadequacies and limitations, while challenging us to better husbands, wives, daddies, mommies, sons and daughters.  When we get an accurate look at how we relate to our family, we can’t help but seek God.

GET ALONE WITH YOUR FAMILY

If you’re not married, then your small group or community group is your family (or, if you’re living at home, your family is your family). But for those of us blessed with a wife (or husband) and children, it means turning off your communication tools (mobile phone, PDA, laptop, Blackberry – my personal lifeline) and spending alone time with them. Your day off is not an option! Your primary role as shepherd is to your family. Do not make the mistake of placing your family on the altar of ministry and sacrificing them in the same of serving God.

Avoiding a Stage Only Faith Part 2

I wrote that one of the first things you can do to avoid spiritual bankruptcy in ministry is to get alone with God.  Today I want to explore the next step, which happens to be very much the same but with the added effect of meeting God in his creation.

GET ALONE WITH THE CREATOR

It sounds like the same thing, and it is the same goal, but I have found great power in getting alone with God in creation. I live in a coastal city, so I go to a remote spot on the beach and just spend time in God’s presence. I used to live in a wooded area and would do the same in the middle of a forest. That could be desert, a park, or any other place that you have found suitable for you to meet and encounter God regularly.

Where do you find it easier to meet with God?

Where in creation can you go to feel the presence and power of God?

Avoiding a Stage-Only Faith

This is the first part of a series of posts written to other Student Pastors on how we can avoid developing a faith that only exists on stage.

A well-known pastor got candid in a book once and wrote that one Sunday, he stood on the platform, and led a prayer before speaking – but as he did so, he realized that was the first time he had prayed all week. Consequently, that realization sparked a change in him that has moved him from a full-time pastor and part-time Christ follower to one wholly devoted to Christ.

As I read the story, I struggled with the thought of all the times when I stood to speak without complete confidence in the backing of the Holy Spirit.I confessed that too often I had interpreted the text well (exegetically speaking) but had completely neglected the pursuit of God on my own time in my own life.I was the proverbial pastor that never opened my Bible unless I was preparing a message.

How did it come to this? How did I – the dude who once had such good intentions – become THAT guy – the guy that only related to God on an information basis in order to move that information to someone else, but yet expect them to take action and incorporate it in their own life?I couldn’t believe what had happened and the reading of this pastor’s struggles and confession led to my own.

I had become so busy as a pastor (doing the good work of ministry) that I had neglected the most important aspect – my relationship to God – my lifeline!Eugene Petersen once wrote, “The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears as adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker.”

It’s not that we shouldn’t be eager to accomplish the will and work of God, the issue is that we often get so caught up in the moment – in the to do list – that we neglect the one who called us in the first place.So how do we avoid the realization that we have come to this point? Over the next several days, I want to make just a few suggestions.

GET ALONE WITH GOD

I recently realized that I need a structured reading plan to help prevent me from looking for sermons each week.I chose to read through the Bible in a year on a book by book basis, but there are numerous options as how to do it.So, I now begin each morning at my kitchen table with my One Year Bible, instead of waiting until arriving at the office, getting distracted, and working on a message or answering emails.

Have you ever feared that your faith only existed on stage?

Can you relate to my story?

What are you doing to get alone with God?

Caught Him!

This evening, I was talking with Krista at the dinner table after we had eaten and something caught my ear. It was my son’s voice, but something was awry (that’s SAT-speak for odd). He was reading the story of the 10 Plagues to his little sister! Clearly, he was having to work at it, but he did it. We just sat there dumbfounded – exhausted from a long day, but incredibly proud.

Later, as I was tucking him in bed, he was still reading from Scripture!  He had read over 25 pages in one night!  He’s still in kindergarden!  Then he asked me if I would show him how to read it in the morning so he could have a quiet-time!
I haven’t done much well as a father, but this is the kind of moment I’ve been waiting on.  I’ve begged God (today even) that Micah’s heart would get gripped by a holy hand.  I can only pray now that I continue to model what he’s imitating, and encourage and lead him without pressuring him.  I want his faith to be his own, not that which I’ve imposed upon him.  So far things are looking up.

Radical Reformission

I finished reading Mark Driscoll’s Radical Reformission this week, and – similar to my observations of Driscoll’s messages – I found the book to be dead on accurate in describing the new face of ministry in the culture we live in.

I thought this book offered solid teaching, challenging insights, and a wonderful grasp on the theological basis for evangelism in today’s postmodern (how I hate that term!) generation.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book was Driscoll’s explanations of why he made some distinctive decisions that were made during the early stages of Mars Hill Church. Perhaps it’s because of late I’ve become a student of church planting methods and histories, but I found these stories endearing, heartfelt, and inspiring.

And with this review (however brief and unintelligible) I would absolutely recommend this book to someone seeking to do what the subtitle explains. Reaching Out Without Selling Out.

Q & A

A student from my last ministry asked me this question the other day, and after speaking with him, I feel compelled to answer this for any considering this venture and to strengthen those of us in it.

Q: How do I know if I’m called to a life in ministry?
A: You know deep down in the pit of your soul that you will be unfulfilled and unhappy in doing anything else.  You may be enticed by the potential to earn a better living, to leave your job at your workplace at 5pm, and you may even appreciate the values and vision of the vocational opportunity you see in front of you.  BUT, you know that you would be unfulfilled.
If you can be a coach and be content, go coach.  If it’s the medical field, or the legal field, go.  But, if you know that God has called you to serve him in vocational ministry – you can’t get excited about anything else.  It won’t “taste” right in your mouth.  Something will be missing.  So seek God, ask God, pray and pray more.  Do not get up until he gives you permission or calling.
And just as a good friend of mine once told me, “If you can leave the ministry, you’d better do it because that’s apparently not what God has called you to. But you’d better be sure. If you are called to this [ministry], then you and I know that you’re walking away from God.”

Get Ready for more TRAPPED

Last week, a student shared this with me. She told me that this was inspired by the TRAPPED series we’ve been working through. I was and am just so impressed. I can’t get over it. God is doing some amazing things through this series in our ministry and in my heart. I am ready to see what God’s going to do. I’m pumped. If you can, you’d better be there! We’re talking about being TRAPPED BY THE MIRROR this week.

An Easter Tradition


Krista’s family has always taken some sort of picture on Easter. So this year, our family decided to give it a shot since we have so little pictures of our family together (most of the time Krista or I are taking the pictures.) So, here is the 2008 version of the Corpus Christi Chapter of the Norman Clan.

Happy Easter!

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.  Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”          Matthew 28:1-7

That’s why we celebrate Easter… because the tomb was and is empty!  Because of that truth, we are offered a hope that goes beyond anything we can imagine.  So Happy Easter.  Now you can go hunt eggs.

I love community

In ministry, we talk about community so much. We refer to a community of faith. We teach the power of a believing community. The fact is that God has placed the power of synergy within community.

I noticed this while studying for my OT II test tonight. On my own, I am one of the least disciplined, most easily distracted, and laziest seminary students you’ve ever seen. I walked in Barnes & Nobles tonight absolutely clueless. As I approached, every question that was asked was met immediately by a blank stare on my part. But after learning in our study group, and listening to the input of the other students, I now can say that I know just enough.

They share the information, and I usually put some pop-culture spin on it that helps make it memorable. It’s the power of synergy in our group. The knowledge and capabilities of 6 individuals merge together to form a powerful combination.

I am so grateful for my community.