Do You Understand The Words Coming Out of My Mouth?

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As Christians, we throw out “faith jargon,” assuming everyone knows what we mean by them. Truth is I think we sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to many… wa wa wa wa wa. The words either don’t compute or they mean something completely different to them than we intended. We are flippant in our words, not thinking about the harm we might be doing if misunderstood. I hope you have come to realize the power of words and their ability to both help and harm:

Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day. -Unknown

We need to think through very carefully how we speak our faith. People who are not of the faith won’t get what we are trying to say unless we are careful and patient to explain it well. Of course this means we must understand our own words enough to explain them. If I use words I don’t really comprehend then I probably cannot explain their meaning to others! We tend to use doctrinal terms (sanctification, saved, lost) in our conversations with those outside our faith that can be misunderstood or even offensive. Before you say the gospel offends, realize the problem is not when the gospel offends but when you do! Yes the truth can be confrontational but we often don’t present the truth clearly, but rather a mixture of words and cliches that leave people wondering what we are really trying to say. Some things we say sound plain weird to one who is not in the know (eat my body). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is to understand that in a postmodern world our words can be taken several different ways.

Let me give an example: Ask someone if they believe in God and most will say yes. Not everyone will but a high percentage of people still believe in some higher power. If they say yes does that really tell you anything? My professor used to say, “the worst distance between two people is miscommunication.” Someone says they believe in “God,” they might mean that tree is god, or maybe they have a generic understanding of god as some transcendent other that has no connection with his creation, or he might even believe that he is, in fact, a god. “God” can mean so many things and that has never been more true than it it today. When I say I believe in God is it a monotheistic (one god) understanding or is it a polytheistic (many gods) understanding? Do I believe God is personal or distant? Do I see him as sovereign or limited? You see, asking if someone believes in God tells you very little about what they really believe.

We need to learn to speak differently if we want to engage others in our faith. This starts first with us not speaking at all but rather being willing to listen to what they have to say. Too many times we are guilty of wanting to be heard but not showing the slightest interest in listening to them. The Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are often the opposite,  If we want to engage others in our beliefs we should be open to hearing first what they believe.

When you think about it, it is truly arrogant to come at someone using jargon they probably will not understand and to do so in a way that gives the impression what they have to say doesn’t matter; they just need to listen to the truth and buy into it!

My friends, that was not the way of Jesus. He met people where they were and instead of telling them a bunch of obscure doctrine he listened and spoke to where they were. He could only do this by observing and knowing who they were and what they were about. This meant he had to listen and care enough to find out. We could learn a lot from Jesus on how to talk to people about our faith.

Jesus listened and he cared. When he saw the people of Israel it says he had compassion. That word means to “hurt in the gut.” His care was so deep it pained Him to see their travail. If all we want is to hammer them with words, while failing to listen and to care, then we should be shunned and ignored as heartless bullies.

Jesus listened; he cared; he was also bold. I don’t think we lose our boldness to call out sin or to speak challenge to others by being sensitive to them. Jesus definitely did not hold back! He called the Samaritan woman out; he laid into the Pharisees; he showed the adulteress woman grace but told her to sin no more. Jesus did not mince words. If we are willing to listen and to care, we will find others more open to letting us speak into their lives. We need to earn the right.

Flip that around. You would be same way. If someone came at you with words you didn’t know and made it clear they didn’t want to hear what you had to say but wanted you to just listen and then they spoke strong challenges to you, you would close your ears and have none of it! How dare they!?

We need to dialogue with others about our faith but this means thinking through the jargon we use, listening better, caring more, and speaking boldly for their good and not out of frustration or judgment.

Peter said it best: “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Seeing Guests as God-Sent Gifts


My wife and I were newlyweds and had just moved to a new city. We were looking for a church to call home. We wanted a church where we could get connected. We had already visited a few churches, but we just didn’t have the “warm fuzzies” about any of them. We decided to give one more church a chance. That Sunday, the music was probably good. The sermon the pastor gave probably kept our attention. But what we remember the most is how they treated this pair of newcomers to their church. We were treated as their welcomed guests rather than their unwanted visitors.
Every Sunday, God sends guests to churches to be welcomed. It is unfortunate that so often we do not prepare to welcome and receive these God-sent gifts. Pastors and church members, the guests God will send your way this Sunday are gifts and they deserve to be treated as such.

Often churches feel that guests will be welcomed because they are friendly and welcoming to the people that they know. Often a church’s approach to welcome guests is summed up in a set time for greeting in the worship service. While nothing is wrong with these things, these things alone will most likely leave a guest feeling like an isolated outsider.

Here are three things every church can focus on in order to treat newcomers as welcomed guests:

The Pre-Service

Invest in adequate signage, keep your property looking maintained and inviting, and have friendly and informative greeters at the doors.

The Service

In the worship service genuinely greet your guests. Without calling our your guests by name, greet them from the stage. Also, in the worship service you will want to make it easy for your guests to give you their contact information. A guest might feel welcomed by a small gift of appreciation for visiting the church. This could include information about your church, as well as future connection opportunities.

The Post-Service

You hope a first time guest becomes a second time guest. If your attitude of hope does not translate into action this may never happen. The time between the end of the worship service one Sunday and the start of the worship service the next Sunday is time that must be used to continue to connect with your guests. I would recommend making contact with your guests during the week in two ways: Send a personal note to each guest in the mail and call/email each guest.

Welcoming our guests this, and every, Sunday with the love of Christ we will be connecting people to Him. This is our greatest priority.

Written By: Nate Williams, Pastor of Discipleship and Connection, Heartland Church

Top 5 Arguments Skeptics Give Against the Christian Faith

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Whenever you find someone who believes strongly in something, there will be those who also doubt it. As Christians, healthy questioning of what we believe is needed,  as holding to a set of beliefs only because they were passed down to us makes our faith shallow and weak. I have no respect for untested faith, where someone is unwilling to let their faith be questioned out of fear or laziness.

Now that doesn’t mean everyone who questions your faith deserves a voice. Apostates lurk the blog world, looking for Christians they can attack. Jesus spoke about these kinds of people. He told the disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” if the apostles encountered someone not willing to listen. It is not my responsibility to convince a bitter and angry skeptic to believe in the faith. Because they want you to enter their arena of attack, they will guilt you with words like “the burden of proof is on you” or “if you are a Christian then you will stay loving and humble,” while they have the freedom to curse, demean and berate you. They lure Christians to enter dialogue where their fellow antagonists wait to attack. They are not our targets to evangelize. We should heed Jesus’ words and feel no guilt for their faithlessness. The Lord will be their judge.

With that said, we should still be aware of what skeptics are saying, especially in the questions they raise. Not all skeptics are close-minded and antagonistic to the faith. Here are five questions I see skeptics raising:

If God is a good God, how can He allow so much suffering and evil in the world?

shutterstock_492404062.jpg    One thing we cannot deny is evil exists in our world. Atrocious things happen to people that are seemingly undeserved. Yet, God is working in suffering; some of the most powerful testimonies have come from those who have endured great tragedy. God often raises beauty from ashes. It is God that gives us the hope that things can be better. We also need to remember that sin entered the world through disobedience and tainted all of humanity and the world. Disease, pestilence, drought, natural disasters, murders, bigotry, and all other catalyst of suffering are the result of sin. Some shake their fists at God, but it is we who brought this upon ourselves.

How could I come to church or believe in what you say when the church is full of hypocrites?

shutterstock_388569646.jpg   This is not totally false. Many hypocrites come to church every Sunday. I would argue it comes with the way a church is set up. Church welcomes all to come, including hypocrites. I wonder if anyone has been a part of any gathering, social club, or civic group where some didn’t poorly represent the greater identity? Poor examples don’t necessarily undermine the core as being strong and faithful. While the church should preach against hypocrisy and hold those accountable who practice it, people choose how they will live. There will always be those who confess Christ and live opposite of Him. The problem with this argument against the faith is it fails to acknowledge those who do live out their faith well. Not all live hypocritically, and as long as there are faithful servants of Christ, then the church is not lost. This argument is simply an excuse to justify their own unwillingness to set foot in church and to deny the faith. God transcends His followers as He is perfect and they are flawed and broken. Every Christian will make mistakes and be hypocritical in some manner.

Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people to avoid facing the realities of this world?

shutterstock_327126659.jpg    Karl Marx claimed that religion is “an opiate of society.” Skeptics argue in the same vein that faith is “pie in the sky” thinking, an unwillingness to deal with injustices in the world honestly. For a Christian, hope is found in Christ. It is not wishful thinking but the only reality that we can cling to that is consistent, loving, and pure. It is not a crutch or an escape; rather it is hope. Claiming that Christians are weak because they cannot face the harsh realities is a skeptic’s way of denying hope. What is life without hope? Faith is believing there is hope beyond what you can see. Some the most courageous people who have ever lived have been so because they clung to there faith. They faced incredible obstacles because God gave them strength to do so. They were not in denial of their sufferings but found hope in them through Christ.

How can you claim that Jesus is the only way to God?

shutterstock_218152.jpg     This is a big one. If God exists, why do Christians see their way as the only true way to God. Truth is, we don’t claim it. We do not exclude other faiths or deny their access to the true God. Jesus did. He said that He was “the way, the truth,and the life, and that no person comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). Jesus made Christianity exclusive, and, as His followers, we do the same. It is through Jesus that one can be saved. It is not a popular belief, but it is the Gospel. Popularity has never been our goal. Narrow is the way and few who find it, says our sacred text. Many get tripped up by this, but we trust in the word of our Lord that says He alone is the way to God.

If God is real and Jesus is alive, then why doesn’t He do a public broadcast across the globe telling who He is and His intentions for us?

shutterstock_559280869       Silence is deafening for skeptics. They can’t get past the fact that God would be so “aloof” with His creation. At one time, God did walk among us. But through man’s disobedience, humanity was banned from His garden and presence. Now through Christ, we are reunited with Him by faith to one day see Him “face to face” again. When Thomas touched the scars after the resurrection, Jesus told him that he believed because He saw with his own eyes but “blessed are those who have not yet seen and still believe.” Skeptics are unwilling to acknowledge faith, but it is faith that saves us and brings us into right relationship with God. One day, God’s presence will be overwhelmingly evident to all. There will be no more skeptics on that day. “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”—from the most faithful to the vilest to the most bitter atheist.

This list is far from exhaustive, but these are questions I encounter often as I talk with those who doubt our faith. We will never be able to “talk” anyone into salvation, but that should not stop us from sharing our faith and doing all we can to answer their questions. Not to do so shows a lack of care and willingness to help them see. Yet, many skeptics have one agenda: to ridicule and belittle the faith. They do this because they must. They need to justify their doubt lest they are proved wrong and condemned. Show them grace, but do not waste your time. Instead, find those willing to listen and spread the Gospel!

I Want Friends of Many Colors

“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10

“I’ve never hugged a white man in my church before.” The sweet lady had been a member of her church for decades and she had the biggest smile as she released me after a vigorous hug. She was physically feeble but her spirit was overflowing with passion and wisdom. She had tears in her eyes and I was immediately confronted with the potential impact of this night.

As I prepared to go up and speak I looked around at the crowd of black and white faces intermixed. It was packed and it was a beautiful picture of diversity and unity. It made my heart smile.

It was a start. A start of something much greater than a movement, more like a transformation. For way too long whites and blacks have segregated in their churches to worship the same Jesus. We have segregated to worship the one who calls all men and women equal. It’s not as ironic as it is sad. How can we ever feel ok with this? It’s nothing like what our Savior would do.

To make things more shameful, there is deep seated prejudice among many white “Christians” and bitterness and hatred among many black “Christians.” This cannot be the will of the Lord. This has to be called out and eradicated. There is no room for it among those of faith.

It infuriates me to see the prejudices until I look at myself more closely. Am I really much different in my actions? How many friends hat don’t look like me? Do my children hang out with kids not their color? Do I make any effort to get to know those of a different race? How can I claim Jesus as Lord over all His church and I only make effort to associate with one color of it?

It is a great thing when events like the other night happened, when two churches of different races come together to demonstrate unity. I preached my guts out that night. I proclaimed how it must go past the walls of that church or it was only smoke and mirrors. I preached it with great passion and intensity. Many made comment to me about my fervency that night. They assumed I got caught up in the moment and understandably so as it was pretty exciting. But that was not the reason behind my earnestness. No, that was because I was preaching to someone in particular who really needed to hear what God had given me… myself. I needed to be reminded that until I really cared enough to befriend those who were black in that service then I was just another part of the problem I preached against.

Christians will you take up this challenge with me? Will you make the first move and connect with believers of another color not to make a stand or statement but because you find them worthy of your friendship? I want friends of many colors. I think I am missing out on good friends who I can love and who can love me. I think my kids are missing out on good friends too.

I am sick of the divide and want to be part of the solution. I am sick of talking about it and doing little to remedy it. Join me. Jesus desires it. The church needs it. We need it.

Special thanks to my church and churches like Washington Street Baptist who have the courage to walk across the unseen line of separation and join together.

Ten Things Every Church Member Likes To Hear From His or Her Pastor

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I am super blessed to serve at Heartland Worship Center. Like all churches, it is made up of infected saints, but it truly is a family. They love their pastors well and trust them to lead. Not only that, they are a joy to lead.

Most pastors feel like I do, but are they saying it? Here are ten things every church member would like to hear from his or her pastor:

  1. “I love you.” Whether the budget is in excess or deficit, attendance is high or low, or whatever good or challenging times are about, the church needs to hear their pastor say the words. It cannot be assumed. It needs to be said and said often. The people need to know pastors care for them.
  2. “I want to be here for a long time.” It is so common today for pastors to have a short tenure. The average is less than five years. With such a short stay, it is hard for churches to fully follow their pastors as they wonder when they will leave. Churches need to hear from pastors that they desire to stay long-term. If you cannot say this as a pastor, then you need to find somewhere you can for the good of the church.
  3. “I will provide a vision that is biblical and obtainable.” People without vision perish, the Scriptures tell us. The people of God need to know what they are called to do. They need a compelling vision to unite them. A pastor needs to inspire them to follow a vision that makes the name of Christ famous and glorifies the Father.
  4. “I will say the hard things even if it offends you.” Pastors should not set out to offend their people as some kind of spiritual marker, but there are things that need to be said that will not always sit well with sinners. Pastors have to stand against abortion, abuse, sexual sin, immodesty, immorality, homosexuality, and anything else that is offensive to God. It matters not if it is popular to say or not. A pastor’s standard is not the will of the people but the will of God.
  5. “I will put my heart and soul into my preaching and teaching.” The people of God are desperate to hear God’s Word. Every week, they need to be confronted by its truth in their lives. The pastor must use every opportunity to bring it with passion and clarity, depending on the Holy Spirit to take the Word and penetrate the hearts of the people.
  6. “I will not cater to a few.” Pastors cannot give preference to their buddies in church. They serve all the people, even the ones they disagree with or whom annoy them. It hinders the church if pastors cater to the powerful, wealthy, or popular of the church.
  7. “I will pray for you daily.” How can a pastor be effective for his people if he does not pray for them daily? They need to hear often that he is interceding for them. A praying pastor is an effective one.
  8. “I will share my faith with the lost.” Pastors must lead in evangelism. It is crucial we share the faith outside the walls of the church. Pastors must be on the front lines of this. This means developing relationships with lost people and not just Christians.
  9. “I fail often in my walk with Christ.” Pastors need to be vulnerable with their people about their failures. We are all infected saints. It is crucial the people don’t feel preached down to but preached in to. This will only happen when the pastor shares his own convictions brought on by the Word of God. Good shepherds are honest about their struggles with their people.
  10. “I will communicate with you what is going on in the church.” Church members desire to know what is going on in the church. This means clear and consistent communication. There is no way to get the word out on everything perfectly, but the people should feel the pastors take the time to let them know what is going on.

Pastors are called to people, and those people need to hear the above from their pastors. It is an honor to serve the Lord and our people. Let them hear it.

Top Ten Church Bloopers


These are funny. Talk about misprints or bad wording! There are hundreds but these 10 are my personal favorites! Please add your favorite in the comments.

My comments are in parenthesis.

1) Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30p.m. Please use the back door (talk about kicking them when their down)

2) Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community. (Jesus does say pray for your enemies)

3) The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir (choirs are always where the church rebels can be found)

4) Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. Please use large double door at the side entrance (uh… no comment)

5) Ushers will eat latecomers (Baptist churches would shrink a lot!!)

6) A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow (gas masks provided??)

7) Next Sunday is the family hayride and bonfire at the Fowlers. Bring your own hot dogs and guns. Friends are welcome! Everyone come for a fun time (not sure fun is right word!)

8) The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus (oh me. What were they thinking)

9) A new loudspeaker system has been installed in the church. It was given by one of our members in honor of his wife (this man is a genius!)

10) This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar (talented lady)

Dax

A Great Friend Is Priceless


One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,  but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

A great friend is priceless. How can you put a value on a relationship that adds so much to your life? That friend you do life with… that friend who you know has your back and you have his or hers. You cannot put a high enough price on that.

I have been blessed with good friends. Friends I can trust. Friends that are safe. Like all things priceless, these types of friends are rare. To get one you have to be one.

With a good friend of mine leaving our church to go to another opportunity, I am reminded of the value of friendship. I have many, many friends. I only have very few that I can be completely real with. It is those friendships I treasure the most.  Those rare friends help shape me into the person I am.

Are you a good friend? An invaluable friend to someone else? Here are qualities I see in this kind of friend.

  1. They go the extra mile when you need help.
  2. They always make you feel wanted.
  3. They tell you they have your back and mean it.
  4. They don’t project their negativity on you.
  5. They listen to you and don’t just share their own thoughts and passions.
  6. They accept you as you are, faults and all.
  7. They don’t try to one up you.
  8. They find humor in things and make you laugh.
  9. They really do pray for you.
  10. They are safe in that you can trust them with your deepest pains and feelings.

I pray you have at least one of these friends. I pray you are this friend to someone else.