Month: August 2016

When Leaders Gather

In just a few weeks, we will host our annual New Life Leader’s Conference. Our entire team looks forward to this time every year because it is a chance to have conversations and learn from some of the best pastors, leaders and volunteers on the planet. When I attend a gathering of local church practitioners like this one,  I pray for several things to happen for all of us.

1. Fresh perspective

There is nothing like getting away to a new setting to bring new perspectives. We sometimes cannot see the forest for all the congregational trees engulfing us every day. Coming away to a gathering of leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences can give us a fresh set of eyes. Many times, I have come to these gatherings wrestling with decisions that need to be made and the answer comes from one sentence from a speaker or during a random worship song or sideline conversation. Also, I know I am biased, but there is not a more beautiful spot on our planet than Colorado in late September. Trust me on this one.

2. New friends

Some of my best friends were introduced to me at leader’s conferences. All of us need more friends in the ministry and settings like a conference provide space for conversations and relationships that can last a lifetime. In fact, we are limiting registrations to only 500 to make sure that no one gets lost in the crowd and everyone has a chance to engage in a real learning environment.

3. Personal renewal

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places, away from his primary assignment, to pray, reflect, refuel and to reengage. The same is true with pastors today. We need to retreat, to take off our “pastor” hats and simply become a follower again. Sitting still and listening intently can mean the difference between burnout and finishing strong. Every day, we will take our time in worship and tune into what God is saying to us. We will make sure there is plenty of space for reflection, rest and renewal.

 

You need to be here, so stop what you are doing and register right now!!

Share this:

The Immigrants I Know

“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”

Psalm 146:9

I gathered with hundreds of people to worship and pray on a Wednesday night not long ago. Only a handful of us spoke fluent English and about the same number were legal US citizens. I spoke to them while a young woman stood next to me in the pulpit, interpreting my words into Spanish. Moments earlier, she had led us as we sang “The Revelation Song” in the same language. I was only 20 minutes from my home and my church.

That night, I again realized my city was more diverse than the mostly white, middle-class suburbia where I spend most of my time. That night, in my own city, I suddenly felt like the outsider, invited into a gathering where culture and language divided us. Our only common denominators were the scriptures we studied, the Christ we followed and the communal prayers that echoed upward into the cold night air.

These were not hardened criminals on the run, but families who had worked all day and studied in classrooms since early morning. They were grandparents, high school students, and married couples. I did not hear all their stories that night, but I heard a few. I met men who had built a successful landscaping firm with hundreds of clients and there was a woman who went from cleaning a few homes to running her own business with multiple employees. Her pastor had told her that America rewards honest, hard work. She believed him.

I found new friends that night and a new viewpoint. God knew I needed a new frame of reference in order to get a new perspective on the plight of immigrants in our country. I know many of my friends and those in my congregation will argue that “our laws need to be followed” and “we need those jobs for our own citizens”. I understand the anger and frustration caused by the broken promises from politicians and fanned by the fearmongering from pundits on TV. I just wish you had been with me that night.

Everyone does not fit neatly into my story. There are bad people who have come to our country illegally and have committed atrocities. They need to be deported and sentenced. Those are the few, though, and do not represent the remaining 11-million living here peaceably and quietly.

When I am caught in this tension, I sit still and listen to Jesus speaking to me in the scriptures. I know for certain he loves them as much as me. He wants them to thrive and not be subjected to threats and pain. He has watched them die from dehydration in the deserts. He hears their prayers and knows them by name. He speaks their language and understands their dilemma. He knows they miss their families and they feel unwanted and rejected in the only place they can go for help. Jesus also had to flee his country once and live in a distant Egypt. I am sure he and his teenage parents broke some immigration laws along the way. I am also certain someone in Egypt helped them because no one survives long in a distant land without some new friends.

I wish the immigration system was less expensive and easier to navigate. It is neither. I know this is a political land mine and I’m already bracing myself for the onslaught of comments meant to enlighten and correct me. I confess, I do not have all the answers to a very complicated social crisis, but I was there that night and I worshipped with them. I felt the same Holy Spirit at work that I sense every Sunday with my own congregation. I believe if we would gather with our brothers and sisters, hold hands and pray for one another, we could be a catalyst for hope in each other’s lives. We can help solve this. Jesus will not be offended, I promise.

 

Share this:

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑