Thursday, October 21, 2004

When a Revival is Needed

In my reading this week, I came across this quote from Charles Finney in his classic work, Revival Lectures:

1) When there are dissensions and jealousies and evil speakings among professors of religion, then there is a great need for revival.

2) When there is a worldly spirit in the church. . .

3) When the church finds its members (and leaders?) falling into gross and scandalous sin, then it is time for the church to awake and cry to God for a Revival of True Religion. When such things are taking place, as give the enemies of religion an occasion for reproach, it is time for the church to ask of God, "What will become of thy great Name?". . .

4) When sinners are careless and stupid, and sinking into hell unconcerned, it is time the church should bestir themselves. It is as much the duty of the church to awake, as it is of the firemen to awake when a fire breaks out in the night in a great city. The church ought to put out the fires of hell which are laying hold of the wicked. . .


Although written around 150 years ago, his message rings true today, doesn't it?

What Are You Seeking?

What are you seeking today?

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

What do you seek first?

· The approval of people or the smile of God?
· Your will or God’s will?
· To be understood, or to understand?
· To be loved, or to love?
· To fulfill your desires or to fulfill God’s desire?
· To be blessed, or to be a blessing?
· Receiving attention from others, or giving attention to God?
· A good name, or to honor God’s name?
· Control or to give God the control?
· Your plan or God’s plan?

I have discovered that we too often wait for the greater things to seek us, while we go out seeking the lesser things.

If we seek the Kingdom of God first, the other things will be added. If we seek the other things first, we will fall short on all accounts.

Whatever you seek first – that is your greatest treasure.
“Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:21)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"Thar She Blows!"

Mt. St. Helen's has been steaming lately, and the pundits are venturing guesses as to when she's going blow.

That reminds me of human relationships -- steam, steam, steam -- and "Thar She Blows!"

Some people have a low frustration tolerance. At the slightest annoyance, they over-react with a tantrum.

I saw a sticker on a box a while ago which made me smile. It said, "Warning: contents may explode under pressure."

Wouldn't it be great if people wore stickers like that?

"Warning: if you bother me right now, I'm going to snap your head off!"

Sometimes, we're tempted to stuff our stress and pressures down into our souls. Instead of resolving issues, we shove them down and try to ignore them.

Unfortunately, an unresolved issue is like a dead skunk. You won't get rid of it by shoving it under the bed. Ignoring it just makes everything smell worse!

For the times you are all stressed out and "likely to explode at any moment" - -consider the following:

1. When things are going wrong, ask yourself, "What is going right?"

One bad situation can siphon off all of our positive energy, making us forget that there are 1000 good things happening too.

2. Remind yourself, "This, too. shall pass."

Even the worst situation is not forever. It's going to get better.

3. Do something "de-stressing."

Prayer, reading the Bible, visiting with a good friend, a hike in the woods, listening to your favorite music, going on a drive, or vigorous exercise are all ways to lower your emotional stress level.

4. Pause before you speak.

Is this really what you want to say? Is this the way you want to say it?

It's better to bite your tongue than to say hurtful things you'll regret later.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Live for the Long Haul

You were designed to live for the long haul!

With that in mind, it's vital to keep the big picture in mind. Most of us get so caught up in the minutia of the moment, that we forget to look beyond our current circumstance.

Most of today's pressure points aren't really that important in light of the bigger scheme of things.

The next time you're worked up about something, ask this question, "Will it really matter ten years from now?"

That question will put things in perspective for you.

A long haul life requires some long range thinking.

What are you willing to sacrifice today for a greater gain tomorrow?

What habits today will destroy your health and/or relationships tomorrow?

If you continue in the same direction and at the same pace as you are going today, where will that lead you tomorrow?

If your money management patterns today continue, what will your financial picture be tomorrow?

What does your spiritual condition today say about your spiritual direction tomorrow?

Are you content with where you are heading in your life?

If not, what are you going to do to change things?

Here's a wild idea: Think of something you really should be doing -- but you've just not gotten around to it.

Do it now! Start this week! Today!

Right now is the first moment of the rest of your life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Ministerial Etiquette

From my years of ministry, and also being raised in the home of a very good pastor, I have developed the following rules of ministerial etiquette:

Phone:
Return all phone messages. (The only exception may be an out of town salesperson from a mega-corporation – but even then you have to be careful.)

Return all phone messages within 24 hours.


Mail:
Answer all letters within a week.
Be sure to send a thank you card for every gift. (vocal thanks is not enough)


E-Mail:

Reply to all personal e-mails within 24 hours.
No need to reply to forwards – but it might still be good, if you know the person sent it to you specifically.
Never correct or rebuke via e-mail. If it CAN be taken wrong, it WILL!
If it is a group e-mail which is a means of communication about something coming up, or something that needs to be addressed (ie. Staff memo) it is best to reply – so the sender knows you have received the info.

Appointments:

Always keep your appointments with people. It is a major violation to miss it.
If you miss an appointment by accident, go immediately and rectify it.
Be on time for every appointment you have – do not keep people waiting for you.
A good idea is to space appointments out with enough margin that you will not run behind and make others wait.
Heavy duty confrontation should always be done face to face – and never by letter, e-mail, or phone.
It is better to call somebody before you drop in at their home.

Communication and Planning:

a. When making a change of something (i.e. schedule) make sure everybody it affects receives the communication.

The 5-P Principle: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

It is much better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

If you have a task for the office staff, plan ahead according to the size and scope of the task – bigger tasks require greater advance notice.

Counseling:

Never ride in an automobile of a member of the opposite sex unless that person is old enough to be your grandparent or young enough to be your grandchild.

Never meet a member of the opposite sex alone in their home, your home, or any other home.
Plan your counseling sessions with members of the opposite sex when other people are in the building.

Do not go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner alone with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse, your child, or your relative.

Do not talk to members of the opposite sex about the intimate details of your marriage relationship.

Keep every counseling appointment and be on time for it.

As a general rule, do not spend more than an hour in a counseling session with someone.
Beyond that, usually, you’re just “re-hashing”.

Take every suicide threat and domestic abuse allegation seriously, but it's probably good to talk to another spiritual leader before you call the cops.

Do not get roped into extended counseling sessions with people. If they need more than three sessions regarding a particular issue, they need to see a therapist, not more of you.

Visitation:
When visiting in the hospital, keep you visit short (10 to 15 minutes).
There will be times of crisis, where you need to stay longer. If you are in a crisis at the hospital and the family asks you not to leave – don’t leave.

Never sit on the hospital bed.

Don’t eat the patient's food.

ALWAYS ask the patient if you can pray for him/her.

ALWAYS read an encouraging passage of Scipture – but ask for permission before you read it.

Don’t go early in the morning, or after visiting hours unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Dealing with Conflict:
If you have an issue with somebody, follow Matthew 18 – go directly to the person, before you talk with anybody else about it.

NEVER, NEVER engage in gossip, or making fun of others.

Never put people down.

Speak well of everybody.

If you have do deal with a delicate issue, do it in as privately as possible. Praise in public and reprimand in private.

Expect that anything you say will be repeated.

Always take the high road in controvsery – don’t get sucked into petty disputes.

Keep loving everybody – even if they are not being very loving towards you.

Don’t use hand grenades to kill mosquitoes. – or be sure you aren’t over-reacting.

Dealing with Committees and Boards:

Do what you say you’re going to do at the meeting.

As much as possible, follow the agenda and the minutes.

If business is being done, make sure somebody is taking notes.

Don’t monkey with the minutes – ever!

If a course of action taken by a board or committee needs to be changed, it must be changed by the board or committee.

Make sure the boards and committees are on purpose and on task.


Friday, September 10, 2004

Facing the Storm

A Wyoming cowboy was once asked what was the greatest lesson he learned from his experiences of ranching.

"The Herefords taught me one of life's most important lessons," he replied. "We used to breed cattle for a living, but the winter storms would come and kill 'em off. It would take a terrible toll on the herd.

"Time and time again, after a cold winter storm, we'd find most of our cattle piled up against the fences, dead as doornails!

"They would turn their backs to the icy wind, and slowly drift downward until the fences stopped them. There, they just piled up and died."

"But the Herefords were different than that," he continued. "They would head straight into the wind and slowly walk the other way until they came to the upper boundary fence where they stood, facing the storm.

"We always found our Herefords alive and well. They saved their hides by facing the storm!"

When the storms of life are raging, our natural inclination is to duck and hide. It is easier to turn our backs on reality than to face the brutal facts.

The path of least resistance, however, is a deadly course.

Instead, we must face the storm head-on!

When a problem arises in your life, you have to face it before you can fix it.

Facing life's storms brings renewed strength, hope, and power for living:

1. Facing the storm strengthens character.

"Softies" who have never experienced any hardship tend to go all to pieces whenever troubles arise. "On no! The sky is falling!"
If the sky falls on you a few times, and you're still kicking, you realize that you can make it! You are too big of a person to let the little problems get you.

One day, when I was in a jam, a good friend remarked, "Not to worry -- Your ship was made to sail in seas like these!"

2. Facing the storm sweetens the spirit.

The sweetest people I've ever met are those who have endured much hardship. Somehow, they figured out how to come through it all rejoicing. Of course, negative processing can leave a person sour and bitter -- I've met plenty of those. But if you're determined to stay sweet, the problems will make you sweeter.


3. Facing the storm deepens compassion.

When we suffer, we are more able to identify with others who are hurting. My friend, Tim Young, is a good example of that. An accident on the job, left him with chronic stabbing pain in his back and legs. He has had to bear an unusually heavy cross. Instead of using this as an excuse to stay bottled up in himself, however, he has transformed this pain into a deep compassion for others. Tim is one of the most caring people I've ever met.

4. Facing the storm broadens the horizon.

Hardship helps us to look forward to better days. It makes us realize that our current situation isn't forever, this world is not our home, and the best is yet to come.

The Mega-Watt Church

The Megachurch has received a lot of attention in recent years -- and that's not bad. Huge, growing congregations such as Willow Creek, Saddleback, Fellowship Church and Mars Hill serve as an inspiration to the rest of us.

However, Willow Creek has more attendees on a weekend than the entire population of Sawyer County. Sometimes, it's difficult to translate what's happening in the larger context into rural/small town communities.

Considering where we live, Hayward Wesleyan is a large and thriving congregation (percentage-wise, we're much bigger than Willow Creek!)-- but, demographically, it is difficut to imagine ever becoming a "mega-church" (Megachurches are defined as having more than 2000 in worship attendance.)

I'm not really interested in developing a "megachurch" but I am absolutely dedicated to developing a Mega-Watt Church!

"Mega-Wattage" is not determined by the size of congregation or community. (In fact, some megachurches are "mega-dead" and there are plenty of comatose congregations in huge urban areas. On the other hand, in countless smaller communities around the world, you will find vibrant congregations.)

It's not about WHERE you are, but WHO you are (in Christ) that counts!!

A "Mega-Watt Church" depends on "Mega-Watt Power" from on high.

"But you shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

A "Mega-Watt Church" is:

* A Holy Spirit powered church
* A prayed-up church
* A Christ centered church
* A love-permeated church
* A joyful church
* A "what if" thinking church
* A faith and possibility oriented church
* An outreach focused church
* A "touch the world" church
* A celebrative church.


I thank God for the megachurches -- but it is not God's desire for every church to become one. It is His desire, however, that every community of believers that bears his name be a Mega-Watt Church!

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." Matt. 5:14

Simply put, an ordinary church becomes a "Mega-Watt Church" when God shows up.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Small Town Chuch

From time to time, I run into a pastor who feels isolated in a small community. The complaint runs along these lines: "If I was in a bigger place I'd have a better ministry."

Ah, but is a bigger place a better place?

Being in a small community myself, I've pondered this question and here's my conclusion:

God specializes in small communities! Don't believe me? Look at the Bible!

Bethlehem was a small place -- and it was selected to welcome the King of Kings.

Nazareth was a small place -- and this is the very place the Father selected for the growth, nurture and shaping of Jesus during his childhood.

Capernaum was a small place -- and it served as headquarters for Jesus' ministry.

Are you in a small place? Be glad and praise the Lord! He has chosen you to share in his own heritage.

Your Ministry Matters to God

Perhaps you feel like you are slogging away in the remote backwaters of obscurity and you're wondering if you're making a difference at all.

Well, I have some good news for you! Yes, You Are Making a World of Difference!

As long as you are obedient to the Lord, trusting Him with all your heart, and loving the people, then the difference making is automatic.

Does your work matter? Of Course It Matters!

God would never call you to something that didn't matter. Even if it didn't matter to any other soul on the face of this planet -- It matters to the Lord, and that's good enough to serve for a lifetime!

Jesus Christ gave his life-blood for you, and He calls you to give it all for him.

The "return on investment" may not be exactly what you had anticipated. You may not be as "successful" in the world's eyes as you had dreamed in earlier years. But, who cares about being successful in the world's eyes?

John Knox did not pray, "Give me success!" He prayed, "Give me Scotland, or I die!" That's the sacrificial attitude God honors.

Over-concern about success will lead you away from your calling. Do not fall into that trap! The ONLY thing that counts is the applause of Heaven -- and that comes to those who are faithful.

Someday, when you get to the end of your journey, you will stand before the King's Great Throne. On that day, He will not ask you about your Sunday morning average attendance. He will not discuss your church budget. He will not ask what you think about hymns vs praise choruses. He will not be concerned about the padding on the pews, the color of the carpet, or the paving of the parking lot.

Instead, he will ask, "Did you do your best to honor me? Were you faithful to your call?"

Then, He will smile warmly as the gate swings open. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Introduction

I'm Mark O. Wilson, the Senior Pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church in northwestern Wisconsin.

Hayward, Wisconsin is a small town of about 2000 people, but is also a world class community, hosting large scale events such as the World Lumberjack Championships, the American Birkebeiner (North America's largest cross country ski race), and some of the best fishing in the U.S. The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is in Hayward.

I have pastored this congregation since August of 1991, and it has been a wonderful adventure.

Our church has grown from 65 to 650 in worship attendance, and there are still many "unchurched fish" in the lake. As long as one person in our community does not know Jesus, then our outreach efforts are not complete.

Our aim is to reach lost people, build them into fully devoted and fully developing followers of Christ, and deploy them into the world to make a difference.

We want to touch the world from Hayward!

I've learned a lot about ministry in a small community, mostly from trial and error. God has placed a calling on my heart to encourage other pastors in small places.

My prayer is that "Revitalize Your Church" will be a source of hope, faith and joy to you as you serve the Lord.

Whatever your lot in life -- plant a garden!