Kingdom Living

When Church Becomes a Brand

September 20th, 2022 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

When a church becomes a brand it no longer operates or identifies as a church.

Churches aren’t brands…but some haven’t gotten the memo. Brands are divisive by design. They want to stand out…to demonstrate that they have better quality than the next brand. Brands are defended by lawsuits with great care that no one copies your secret sauce. Brands are territorial…they care that you come here rather than go there. They care that you wear these clothes rather than those clothes. Brands grow by outdoing the other guy…in this case the other guy are other churches.

It is very tempting in church land to create a better system than the other guy and capitalize on the margin of difference between your church and the other churches. In ever other area of our lives we would call this success…but not in the kingdom.

Churches shouldn’t operate like a brand. Churches should embrace unity and an open handedness about what is working. Churches exist to give themselves away, not build a personal empire. Churches aren’t defended by lawsuits…in fact, we want others to succeed!

Some churches have a brand and they are calling people to be loyal to the brand rather than loyal to Jesus. They would never say that directly but it happens. When this move is made the focus is placed firmly on ourselves rather than on God. When you focus on yourself long enough you lose your identity in Christ and do what Adam and Eve did in the garden – try to be like God instead of honoring God over yourself.

We don’t need more brands in Christianity. What we need instead are open handed people who share what they have learned and their resources for the benefit and betterment of others. We need churches where you know the person/people who are speaking on Sunday. Where the leadership cannot get away with being secretly abusive because they are in serious, committed and accountable relationships with others in the congregation.

I can hear you say – “But my church is small and if we are a brand, we aren’t doing it very well!” Even if you aren’t a mega church, you might well benefit from the concept that churches are a brand. If you rely on “kingdom growth” by people moving to your community who went to a church like yours in another town to come to your church when they get there…you are hoping that your church has brand recognition and will receive the benefit and growth from that connection. This expectation often hinders churches from being evangelistic because the church sees growth even though it is the shuffling of Christians from one congregation to another rather than new kingdom growth. The only thing keeping some churches afloat are the hope that people will move into town who agree with them. Where is that in the Bible? And we end up giving up on our biblical instruction to make disciples. We are hoping the brand will do the work for us.

Let us have a “business model” that is set to fail…to give ourselves away. To be so generous that we aren’t around in ten years because we gave all of our leaders away. I would be willing to bet that if you embraced that idea and ideal that you wouldn’t lack for leaders…that you wouldn’t lack for resources…that you wouldn’t lack for purpose. It might just be a Christ-like formula for maximum kingdom impact rather than making sure your congregation grows.

Even Churches of Christ have a brand presence and loyalty. We have selling points that are used to appeal to certain kinds of people. Really no one is immune to the temptation to see things grow and make ourselves look good…we have to be discerning of our motives in wanting to see growth and always keep the focus on God rather than on ourselves.

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Ten Quick Lessons I Have Learned About Discipleship

August 27th, 2022 · 3 Comments · Discipleship, Uncategorized

After having been blessed to sit at the feet of some amazing disciple makers over the last several years, here is a quick list of some things that I have learned that I would like to pass on to you.

1 – Your approach must be simple. Complicated won’t stick.

2 – Your approach should be influenced by Jesus. He did it best.

3 – You must get people in the Word to understand the Word, live the Word, and share the Word.

4 – Paul said it aptly in 1 Cor 11:1 – “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” People will watch you to see what you do. Make sure you are following Jesus and modeling what it looks like when you mess up and reconcile things.

5 – Reproducibility is important. We know this because it was important to Jesus and the early church. If those you disciple aren’t making disciples, you will want to examine that.

6 – People won’t go beyond where you are at in your walk. So keep growing. Your growth can limit the growth of others.

7 – They aren’t your disciples, they are Jesus’ disciples…you are just pointing people to Him (much like John the Baptist).

8 – It requires community. Life-on-life relational discipleship. Disciples aren’t made in isolation.

9 – The Holy Spirit’s role is crucial.

10 – You really cannot pray enough.

What would you add to the list if you were writing it?

Bonus – any level of accountability you implement must be mutual/reciprocal rather than hierarchical/uni-directional.

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John The Baptist Would Have Made A Horrible Social Media Influencer!

August 18th, 2022 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Jesus called John the greatest man ever born of woman (Matt 11:11). That is quite the compliment! John called himself the most humble man who ever lived…just kidding, that was Moses (Num 12:3)!

As we read through the narratives about John, 2 things stand out to me.

First, John knew his purpose. He had a single purpose – to prepare the way for the Lord. Preparing the “way” meant preparing “people.” He did that through teaching people the kingdom was near and that they needed to repent of their sins and be baptized. John was focused. He fixated on that role and he pulled it off well.

John was alive at a time before Jesus came. We are alive at a time before Jesus comes again…it might be wise of us to help prepare people for that second coming! We need to help people confess Jesus now before they do then (Phil 2:9-11).

Second, John knew that his entire life was about Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less. John would have made a horrible social media influencer. When Jesus showed up, John did such a good job pointing them to Jesus that his followers left to be Jesus’ followers. They hit unsubscribe on John’s channel in order to pay full attention to Jesus’ channel – and John was happy about it!

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.”

John 1:35-37

We can learn a lot from John’s example on this. Our world screams it is all about us because our world has rejected God! Once you think there is no good then the next best thing is self. Self becomes God and everything do, then, has to serve the god of self. Not so with John. Two chapters later John said this,

“To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:27-30

John knew his role. John knew his place.

What a world we would live in if people determined to make God more and themselves less. It goes against everything we are told in the age in which we live and that is exactly why we need to pay close attention to John and how he saw himself in light of Jesus!

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A New Way To Receive This Content In Your Inbox (without getting spammed)

August 13th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

First, thank you for reading. Some of you have been with the site for over 10 years! That is incredibly humbling.

We have a few thousand email subscribers here on the site and that means a lot to me. If you are receiving this in your inbox, thank you!

I wanted to let you know about a new way to receive all of our related content in one email per week and that is through an easy to fill out form with mailchimp.

Here is our simple offering
We send out 1 email per week and that email offers you all of our blogs, youtube videos and podcasts from the past week. I also write one thought per email that you will only find in these weekly emails. We won’t share your info.

That’s it.

Try it out for a month…get those four emails…and if you don’t care for it, please just unsubscribe.

Here is the link to subscribe!

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My New Approach to Social Media

August 11th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I am trying something new in August. I am posting scripture to Facebook.

I keep thinking about how much we need to be in the Word right now and instead I find myself scrolling past a zillion posts on who knows what.

The thought hit me earlier this month – what if I put scripture out on facebook, one chapter at a time…relevant chapters…so that people scrolling facebook might take a moment and read a chapter of the Bible today? I am pretty sure God has more important things to say than I do! Better you hear from Him than me!

And guess what? It is getting just a bit of traction.

You might want to try it yourself!

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Thor: Love and Thunder Addresses Theodicy

August 2nd, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Spoiler alert – if you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read this article.

Theodicy is the idea of finding a way to vindicate God in the midst of horrendous pain and suffering in His creation.

The movie opens up to a scene of suffering. Gorr’s daughter is dying in the desert. Upon her death Gorr finds himself entering into an oasis where he finds the god he has devoted his life to. Gorr finds out that this God cares nothing for him or his daughter. He finds out that his prayers have been meaningless…that the god(s) never intended on helping anyone but themselves.

He finds himself on a mission to slay the gods…to punish them for their misdeeds. This would be justice for gods who behave like this.

As silly as parts of the movie are, it is actually a very serious movie on the nature of God and the problem of suffering. If God is a good God then why does he allow so much pain and suffering?

Thor comes to the point of having to make a decision…either continue giving his time and attention to the “god butcher” Gorr or give his time and attention to dying Jane. Thorr (who is a god in the story) chooses love. Thor goes first in giving up on defending himself in order to show love to Jane. In doing so he unravels Gorr’s plan. In a poignant scene at the end of the movie Gorr asks why he would want (with his one wish) to bring his daughter back into a world like this…where the gods are malevolent and vindictive.

Through the experience of seeing Thor (a god) put himself last and put others first, Gorr makes a similar decision and ends his mission to kill the gods…bringing back his daughter instead even though it cost Gorr his life.

We know our God is not malevolent. Our God has also chosen love. In doing so God has allowed choice which means we can choose to cause a great deal of suffering. Love is not love unless there are competing options that can be freely chosen. The amazing thing about our God is that he has led the way when it comes to self-sacrifice and humility in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Our God hears our prayers. Our God cares about the outcome. And our God is not afraid to die…because he did and came back again!

The problem with Gorr’s god is not a problem with the real God…our God is faithful even when it costs him everything.

It’s hard to live a life of greater character than the vision you have of who God is.

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Have We Forgotten How to Encourage?

July 26th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

With all the negativity out there, never lose your ability to be an encouragement to others. It is very hard to pour out from an empty tank. Our inability to encourage may come from the emptiness we face in our own lives.

It is also hard to encourage in a culture of outrage. There are so many things to be mad about (and that we are expected to be mad about) that it can be hard to look at the positive. The courageous thing to do is en-courage others even when things seem discouraging.

The truth of the matter is, there are still many positive things going on out there if we have eyes to see it.

Paul wrote four of his letters from prison…a Roman prison. That was one of the last places on earth you would ever want to find yourself. And yet he found it within him to encourage those he wrote to with verses like,

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Phil 1:3-6

And…

“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Phil 1:18-21

Paul had every right to be bitter…to be consumed by critique of the injustice that had come his way. But instead of choosing to be consumed by that he choose to encourage those he care about the most.

If you feel empty, take some time with God. Slow down. Rest. Spend time in quiet…listening for God’s voice above the noise. God can remind you that He alone is enough. God can encourage you in spite of your difficult circumstances. God can enlarge our hearts to make room for both trouble and the courage to encourage.

Last, try. Just try…and what you will find is that the more you offer encouragement to others (even when you don’t feel like it) the better you will feel about it. The reward of a smile in return…to see someone else’s spirit uplifted…all reminders that a simple word of encouragement can go a long way.

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Do You Know the Context of “The Truth Will Set You Free”?

July 22nd, 2022 · 2 Comments · Discipleship

For several chapters of the gospel of John, Jesus is dealing with his opponents. They accuse him of many things and don’t believe his teaching. Jesus continues to try to point them to the truth by talking about how even Moses (who they value) points to Jesus (John 7:21-24).

Jesus continues to claim that He is only doing the will of His Father…which makes them even angrier.

After several chapters of making his point (John 7-8) Jesus finally sees some of the people start to believe in him. He turns to them in John 8:31-32 and says this,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The truth sets us free only when we know it. How do we truly know it? To hold to the truth of Jesus’ teachings as his followers. Knowing is best done in action. To live the truth is to know the truth. Truth is not best known in the hypothetical.

The truth of Jesus’ teachings is not abstract. It is concrete, lived out in reality as disciples of Jesus. The truth of Jesus’ teaching is not hypothetical. It is real and it is practical and it has a real result in the lives of real people – being set free by truth.

There are just as many opponents to the truth of Jesus’ message today as there were then…and like Jesus’ day many of his opponents come from the inside rather than the outside. Those Jesus is rebuking in John are Jewish…they are the insiders. We see the same thing happening today. Many of those who have the hardest time with the truth of Jesus are those inside the church not those outside the church.

Last, there is one more effect of knowing and living the truth of Jesus and that is growing in love for Christ. He goes on to say this, “If God were your Father you would love me, for I came from God and now am here (John 8:42).”

If you want to know the truth to be set free by the truth you will follow Jesus, learn his truth to live his truth and see that it produces a deeper and wider love for Christ in your life. If your walk with Christ isn’t producing freedom or a deeper love then we need to double down on following Jesus as his disciples.

True freedom is found in the love of Christ that is developed from a life devoted to following Christ. As long as we try to have it our way we will never find freedom. So let us let go of our desire to be in charge and let us follow Jesus to find true freedom!

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Many Church Divisions Are Caused By the Same Thing

July 20th, 2022 · 8 Comments · Christianity, Leadership

We tend to think churches split over disagreements on issues but typically churches split over personalities rather than issues. The issues are the symptom. The personality problems are the underlying cause.

Most church divisions could be avoided if we could get the personalities out of the ways…the factions and subgroups…those who follow Paul vs Apollos vs Jesus.

Some strong personalities cannot imagine being in a church where they don’t get their way. The reality is, it didn’t matter what the issue being discussed really was. Eventually it would have been something because personalities rarely change. People with these personalities can take a church captive and cause a tremendous amount of damage, undermining years of work.

The “doctrinal issue” is often a smoke screen or a scare tactic used to get people in line…to demonstrate this person’s ability to influence and control others.

They may not even be in leadership, often times they aren’t in leadership. Why? Because they want the power without the responsibility. That’s why they don’t mind dividing a church because they get to wield their power and influence without bearing the cost of the responsibility for the fallout and hurt that follow.

It takes strong leadership to resist people like this and often our leaders are volunteers who aren’t prepared to weather a battle like this or prevent the split from taking place. We need strong leaders with a strong relationship with both God and the flock and those two relationships must be formed far before the problems arise. This allows the congregation to trust their leaders through these difficult moments and determine the divisive people for who they are so that the whole church doesn’t have to suffer from the division…rather you can weed out the people who are causing the problems and handle it there.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” – Titus 3:9-11

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Legalism Kills the Fruit of the Spirit

July 9th, 2022 · 3 Comments · Galatians, New Testament

If you think you can work your way to salvation there is no need for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26). When I was younger I really believed that if I got it all right that I was in the right camp and therefore, God would save me. On the flip side I believe that there were hundreds of things that if I got wrong would send me straight to hell…that God’s grace wasn’t able even to deal with a simple misunderstanding.

It really had a lot more to do with my performance than with God’s grace.

As I went down that trail for some time what I saw over and over in myself and those who were a bit further down that trail than I was was that the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) were not only lacking…they were absent.

When you hinge salvation on your own ability and performance, the attitude and disposition of the heart go neglected. They go neglected because we are filled with pride rather than humility. We focus on the outward acts rather than the inward man because in doing so we “win” the day. To look inward would only result in defeat…so we avoid that self-examination at all costs.

The heart full of pride will struggle to produce the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is best produced in a heart that is contrite and dependent on God in all things.

If you look around and you notice your peers lack the fruit of the Spirit, you might ask yourself why that is the case. You might take a good look at your life and ask why the very qualities the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of the followers of Jesus are lacking. It might just be that you aren’t following Jesus but you are following your own pride instead.

Look at your mentors…do they have the fruit of the Spirit or are they lacking? Are they angry, hate-filled, arrogant? Or are they filled with love, joy, peace, patience, etc…

The legalist will always struggle in the fruit of the Spirit department and that should raise alarm! At least it did for me (still working on it and even moreso still relying on God for it!). I hope this helps someone else out there who was raised in the extreme conservative side of things but just can’t quite put your finger on what isn’t adding up!

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