I wanted to say thank you for all the readers who read, comment, email, facebook, smoke signal, yell out of a moving car, or whatever form of communication you have with me through this blog site. I enjoy writing my thoughts, as rambling as it is sometimes, and will be continuing this year with more writings. I know a lot of my friends are either shutting down their blogs or at least not posting very often because they are unplugging a little. I think this is a wise move for them, and they are to be commended for it. To me, I enjoy writing and through that vehicle, challenging you the reader to think, laugh, cry, and maybe see God in a new way.
So with that in mind I want to introduce you to benliles.org! It is my new blog site that is done a little better than what I use to do and you will also notice that it is a part of the brand new baypointechurch.tv site as well! It just went live today so be sure to change your RSS feeds and be sure to check often. I will be posting more this year than I did last.
So happy new year to you and your family. May God bless you in ways you never imagined.
Last night I had a conversation with someone and it revolved around heaven. He believed that all Christians had heaven as a destination as their number one goal, and when I explained that it wasn’t for me, you would have thought I just slipped a live hand grenade down his pants. He was terrified that a PASTOR of all people didn’t believe that Heaven was my main goal. Is Heaven your main goal? Let me explain.
I believe that Heaven is going to happen for me. I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and what little strength I seem to have recently. I’m just a little tired, don’t panic. I believe that I will live a life worthy of that “reward.” Reward is something you get for accomplishing a task. Does that mean I get to enter into a place so amazing that words really can’t describe it, a place where joy reigns, a place of being in the tangible presence of Christ at all times, and all I have to do is say a prayer? Just believe and the reward is yours? Now, before all you theologians blast off, yes I fully believe that a prayer in Jesus grants to access to Heaven, but I believe there is more to the life of a Christ Follower. Not more things to do to “earn” anything, but rather things that will naturally flow out of our relationship with Him.
For me, heaven is not my primary goal. My primary goal is to live out the teachings of Christ in a way that will lead others to a relationship with Him. I will try to love God and love people with everything inside me. I will try to give to the places that God leads me to give. I will try to spend time alone with God for reflection, strengthening, and worship. I will work to make the lives of the marginalized of society better. I will work to make our city, county, state, country, and world a better place than before I was born. I will try to use the power of The Spirit which lives in me, to do things that are beyond my capabilities. I will thank God when I succeed, and I will repent when I fail. I will love God, and love people…recklessly. These are my goals.
Each relationship with Jesus is different, and with different dynamics come different goals, values, and results. Yes, there will be some people in Heaven that did just enough to get by. So. So what. I will be glad they are there rejoicing with me. Christ died a torturous death on the cross for those who believe just enough, and for guys that live a dedicated, crazy life of faith. I will challenge those I lead to live a deeper life, and then they will make that decision.
In the end, all that believe will enter into Heaven, but for me, that is not my goal. I have only been given a certain amount of years, and my goal is to make them count…for Him.
Do you ever look at the people around you and just appreciate your friends? Not all the people in your life are friends, and you need to be able to recognize the difference. Some people are in your life because they have the same interests as you, some are in your life because you work with them, others just want something from you (yes I said that), and others are real friends. What do I consider a real friend? No, do not look at your Facebook page and answer with that number, you don’t even know half of those people really! Oh, you do, you say? Go through every single one of your “friends” and name their kids, what would make them uniquely happy, or something else that few know about them. I love having all the connections on Facebook, but that number is not even close to the genuine friendships I have. I think, outside of my wife, I have probably 4 or 5. I love each of them more than they will ever know, and know that love is returned.
Most people have only about 3-5 really close friends. Why so low? Because having real friendships requires lots of time, work, and effort. Great friendships don’t happen by accident. They are many times God-ordained relationships for the benefit of each party. When people tell me they have a one-sided friendship, I usually tell them, “No, you don’t. You have a one-sided relationship, but not a friendship.” Here is part of my criteria for a genuine relationship:
- They love you regardless of what you do for a living.
- They could care less about your money. They don’t fluctuate as your income does.
- You can call them, rant, rave, scream, and cry, and they will listen through ears of love.
- When you are wrong, they will tell you, and while it might hurt a little, you will accept it.
- You can share your deepest sin, and it will stay with them. They will help you through it, not call the Pastor with a “prayer request” for you. Man, I hate that kind of gossip. Side note, if you would like to be a part of Baypointe Church, don’t ever do that crapus maximus. (That’s Latin for stupid, stinkin, pile of selfish, crapola.)
- If it’s 3AM and you need them, they will be there and you know it. Physically if they need to be.
- They celebrate your wins with you and mourn your losses with equal passion.
There are plenty more because each friendship brings with it unique dynamics. These are a few of what I consider the basics.
Are you a friend to someone? Are you allowing someone to be your friend? It’s a two way street my…friend.
So for the past few weeks, I have been documenting most of my church experiences. If you have read the past posts you know that they have not been good, at least by my standards. Let me be honest, I believe that the primary purpose of a church service, experience, meeting, gathering, or whatever other term you want you use is for worship. But I also believe and know that Sundays are the main vehicle used by God to draw the unchurched to Himself. I know it can be done anytime, but statistics show this is the most common day. With that being said, I went to a church today that did a lot of things really well.
We went to a church called Northstar Church, and it was a refreshing time. From the very get-go they had great signage in the lobby, very helpful people checking in the kids, a lady that did not just point to where to go with the kids but walked us there. The kids department was obviously using a methodology called “Orange,” which is a brainchild of Reggie Joiner the former Families Pastor for Andy Stanley at Northpoint Church near Atlanta, Georgia. This in my opinion is the best method of kids ministry which combines the power of the family and church. You can look it up to see how amazing it is.
The worship experience for adults was well put together as well. A first time visitor, an unsaved person, or a mature believer would all be able to not only feel comfortable in this service but to gain something from it. It was obvious to me, that this church values the conversion of the unsaved into a relationship with Christ. I was moved many times as they spoke of the importance of beginning of a relationship with Christ.
I can’t tell you how refreshing this church experience was. Not just because the last few weeks have been less than desirable, but because I found a church that values what I believe God values. They are in the middle of Panama City, and our church will be out on the beach so we will be lots of miles apart, but I genuinely hope that Northstar and Baypointe will be able to work together to bring Christ to a community that needs to be affected by His love.
A good friend of mine, Jason Stock, asked me yesterday what I thought a bad church experience was. We began a brief discussion that ended up talking about good and bad being subjective terms and what I though of as a horrible church experience could be a good one for someone else. He’s right! We are all wired certain ways and will have different stylistic tastes. I can get past those, but there are certain things I can’t get past. So here is my checklist to ensure you have a bad church experience (at least in my opinion…)
- Have no parking attendants and bad signage. This will ensure your first time guests are nervous, clueless, and confused from the beginning. As if it’s not hard enough to be in a church for the first time, make them ask where to go and how to get there, it will really make them uncomfortable.
- Assume everyone is in a relationship with Jesus.
- Make sure greeters hand someone a bulletin and pass them on.
- Have all the regulars stand right in front of the coffee station so even if the guest was brave enough to try to get one, they wouldn’t be able to get there.
- Do not have kids church. I mean parents who have worked all week and need some peace can’t wait to wrestle their kids during the whole service. And the kids will definitely be able to follow and learn from your amazing exegesis of Romans 8. But be sure to mask it as your belief in “intergenerational worship,” so no one thinks you really just don’t want to put the countless hours into training and developing leaders who will pour into the lives of children.
- Assume everyone is in a relationship with Jesus.
- Assume all the smiles you see are real. No one would ever put on a church face and pretend life is fine. Just listen to the news and you will hear how great our world is…
- Use lots of church language. Be sure to mention words like regeneration and sanctification, but under no circumstances define them so that the 80 percent of your congregation that pretend to know what these words mean will never really know.
- Every time you read a bible passage, make sure you start with the phrase, “I know you all know this passage,” or even better, “You know the story of…” Remember everyone is saved and has the whole bible memorized.
- Assume everyone is in a relationship with Jesus.
These are the basics. I could go into many more details but if you follow these instructions, you will be sure to make every visitor feel completely alienated, isolated, and out of place. They will leave just knowing this is a place they can find hope, healing, and belonging.
And if anyone questions your disregard for the importance of first time visitors and guests, just be sure to say, “We are a church that is going deeper,” and that will get you off the hook.
Ok, my rant is done. Please go change a life today, in a way that will make God smile.
I have made a decision that many people will not agree with, but what’s new? I am going to work part time until Baypointe gets off the ground. Now before all my “full-time” pastor friends blast off on me and tell me how I should be focusing solely on the church let me give you a few reasons.
- I do not want to take a full salary from the church yet. I could, but I would rather take only half and use the other half to make Baypointe’s launch better. I will be able to market more fully, make our website better, and a host of other things I can do with half of my salary. (Make no mistake, a church planter’s salary is small, but the sacrifice now will pay off later…I’ll expound on that thought on a later date.) FYI, I am working on Baypointe stuff from 8AM to 1:30 PM, go to my second job from 2:30-7:30 and then go home to spend time with the family.
- I need a release. I love the restaurant business, and working 5 hours a day 3-4 days a week will be a great mental break from the everyday grind.
- This is one of the most important. I want to meet and connect with people. After working just one shift I have learned a lot about the community God has placed me in. I don’t want to just meet them for the purpose of building my launch team, but also to hear their stories. Let me expound…
Pastors and leaders, I want to ask you an important question: Have we become unintentionally disconnected from the “working, family guy?” Do you truly understand what they go through? How many of us (myself included) have even questioned a person’s commitment to Christ due to their lack of “serving.” We schedule “serving” opportunities based solely on when the church is open on Sundays, or once a month events, or some other thing we think is important. Please hear me, these are vital things! But there has to be more.
I met a guy last night that is a full time real estate broker by day, but because of the economy has to wait tables at night. He is married, has three kids, his wife works, and they attend church on Sundays. This guys works roughly 65-70 hours per week to support his family. If we don’t know his story, we would quickly ask “Where are you serving in the church?” Serving? This guy is barely able to keep going. He is fulfilling his GOD ORDAINED calling to take care of his family. He gets up every morning early to pray because he told me it was the only time he has. If we didn’t know his story would we quietly question, “Why isn’t this guy serving in the church?”
I repented last night for my false view of serving. I have seen “serving” all wrong. Hard question: how many of us leaders use the term “serving” really to encompass “things we want to see happen on Sundays so our church functions smoothly,” yep that hurt, and yes I am talking to me. Please don’t get me wrong, these things on Sunday are done by tremendous volunteers who for the most part have an amazing heart for God and His church. What I want to raise our awareness to is that “serving” the church can look different. Maybe we need to create new opportunities for guys like this, he can’t be the only one.
I have no clue how to do it, so I ask: How do we shift the paradigm of serving? Maybe it doesn’t need shifting, but expanding? Serving is vital to the life of a Christ-Follower, so we must find a way to help. Shoot me your thoughts and ideas.