Category: Generosity (page 1 of 2)

The Gift of a Sabbatical

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

This is one of my favorite Scriptures describing the leadership rhythms of Jesus. In the middle of a busy and hectic season of healing the sick, preaching to the multitudes and mentoring his core leaders, Jesus would simply disappear. His followers would frantically search for him, only to find him alone, praying, and restoring his own soul. He was putting on his own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

It’s important we pay careful attention to the lifestyle Jesus modeled, and that is why sabbaticals are a part of our ethos here at New Life. Every full-time employee receives this gift every seven years and we encourage them to take advantage. We believe these times are critical for the health of our team and for our congregation.

This Summer, it’s my turn for a much needed sabbatical. I will be gone for several weeks, but the congregation will be led during my time away by the strong team God has given us. I truly believe this will be the most fruitful Summer in our church’s history.

The elders and I have been planning for this extended time away for months now, with three primary goals.

1. Rest

I’m grateful that I am not wrestling with burnout as I enter this sabbatical. In fact, I am more energized and encouraged than ever. My family and I have strived to follow the principles of rest, solitude, and Sabbath for many years now. In fact, I talk about these life-giving principles in my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases when I return later this Summer. However, I’m sure I have underestimated the physical, emotional and mental toll these past seven years have taken on my family. I know I need to rest, and so I will.

2. Reflect

A lot has happened in the past seven years, both in the church and within my family. I do not want to miss anything God is showing me, so I need to pause, reflect, and journal all my thoughts from these amazing and challenging years. I want to have unhurried conversations with Pam, my wife of almost 25 years, and with my two teenagers, who are racing toward adulthood. I will also spend some much needed time with our church Overseers, mentors and close friends to get their wise perspectives.

3. Recharge

The last goal is to simply recharge my batteries for the days, years and decades ahead. New Life is growing and healthy. Our team is amazing and the best days for our congregation are still in front of us. I want to be re-energized to serve alongside all of you with a renewed spiritual vitality. I want to sharpen my spiritual disciplines, lose some middle-aged weight, eat better and exercise regularly so I can finish this race as strong as I started.

Thank you for giving me this gift of a sabbatical and I promise to steward this time well. You are a great tribe of people and we love you very much. Have a blessed Summer and may God be present in your rest, too.

 

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Building Strong Internships in Your Local Church

Recently, I sat down with Pastor David Perkins and talked at length about building a student leadership ministry in every local church or what a lot of people call internships. Pastor David leads our student ministry here at New Life, which includes the Desperation Leadership Academy. We talked about lots of issues, including the use of volunteers, empowering student leaders and keeping people engaged. I think this will be really helpful to your church if you are serious about building relationships and discipling high school, college and 20-somethings. Let me know what is working in your congregation in the comments section below.

 

Click here to watch the video.

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The Immovable Ladder

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6

I just returned from a trip to Isreal with some friends and one of the sites we visited was the  Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. Under the front facade of this beautiful building is a wooden ladder that has been in the same place since the 18th century. It is not a part of the decor, but it is a stark reminder of how petty we can be as church leaders.

The story of the ladder dates back to 1757 when some work had to be done on the building, which is operated jointly by six different Christian denominations. That is when the trouble started, because due to an understanding,  no cleric of the six ecumenical Christian orders may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of all six orders. So, the ladder was readied for the repairs, but the leaders could not agree about who was really responsible for the work.

After a heated dispute that almost ended in violence, the ladder was abandoned by the mason who just wanted to repair the building and go home. The arguments became so intense in the years ahead that even Pope Paul VI tried to intervene. He became so disgusted with the petty squabbling that he appointed two different Muslim families to open and close the church each morning and afternoon. But even taking the keys to the church away did not bring peace. Today, each of the six denominations has someone sleep inside the church while it is locked to make sure someone from one of the other sects does not rearrange or change anything in their areas.

The irony of this entire story is the church is built over the traditional site where many church scholars believe Jesus was crucified, buried and was resurrected.  Millions of pilgrims journey here each year to see this sacred place, which should represent ultimate joy and celebration, but his followers are still fighting over a ladder.

I left there this week with a new understanding of how to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but I also realized we aren’t much better here in the US. We, too, have a lot to learn as leaders in the local church about competition and cooperation. We can do better than we are doing. If none of us cared who got the credit, we could work alongside one another and get some great things done.

May the peace of our Christ move mightily in the leaders of  our churches and denominations, so that humility can define us. May we forgive those who have spoken or acted against us. May we leave the petty for the beautiful and abandon ambition for the sake of only His renown. May we learn to move ladders together in peace, so we can eventually move mountains.

 

 

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The Ministry of Generosity

“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” 2 Corinthians 8:2-4

The local church is at its best when it is generous to others in tough times. Paul was bragging in the above text about the Macedonians, who even though poor, were excited about an opportunity to be generous to another congregation that was in peril.

Recently, the most destructive wildfire in the history of Colorado swept through the Black Forest area of our community, leveling over 500 homes and killing two people. Over 20 families in our congregation lost almost everything in the blazes, many left with only a few belongings and the clothes they were wearing.

Immediately our community rallied with food, shelter, and boarding for the displaced. This past week, our ministry team visited those affected in the congregation and hand delivered some monies that had been given. The stories that came from these meetings reminded me of this scripture. No one expected the gift that was given but they sure were thankful. For some, the money will help them get back home quicker and for others it will help ease the pain of recovery.

For centuries, Christ followers have been generous givers, both with their money and their time. This scripture also gives us a better definition of generosity. Often we think only large gifts are generous, when that is not the case. Generosity is the grace to give sacrificially no matter the amount. Generosity is an attitude that compels us to help, to bless others with whatever is in our hands at the moment.

Generous people are a reflection of our God, who is a generous giver, bountiful with all that He has. I am grateful to lead a generous congregation that has discovered once again the joy of giving as much as we are able in times of very real trials.

Because of the size and scope of the wildfires, the needs in our community will continue for some time. If you want to participate in giving to those in need, click on the “Black Forest” banner at the top of our our website.

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Does Jesus Need Us to “Take a Stand for Him”?

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

It occurred to me today while speaking about Christ on the cross, that he never once asked his followers to defend him or attempt some rescue. I’m guessing if he did not need defending that fateful Friday, he probably does not need our defense today. I am certain Jesus would much rather us follow him than defend him.

Heaven and its advancing kingdom are not under threat of siege or hostile takeover. Each generation has moments when it seems the world is about to suffocate the teachings of Jesus, but the light of truth always overcomes darkness. We are not the first Christ-following generation that has faced tough and complex questions about sexuality, marriage and violence. We will not be the last.

Yes, we should preach and teach the Scriptures and proclaim the coming kingdom of Christ. We should repent and teach others to live lives that are honoring to God, but the reality of Jesus, the fully human and fully Divine savior of the world, will survive and thrive despite any secular debate or scrutiny.

Historically, the church that humbly follows Jesus by loving each other and serving others has flourished and multiplied, while those who felt the need to perpetually protest were swept away by public cynicism. We have the same choice today. I choose love and serving. It was the radical new way of living that Jesus showed us on that bloody cross. He could have called for an angelic rescue and maybe a few generations would have retold that story.

Instead, Jesus joined us in our sufferings, gave up his life, and allowed the same Holy Spirit that is at work in us today to bring him from the grave. This story will be told for all time. When Jesus ascended a short time later, he went to an established kingdom that has no end and left behind a church that was built on an immovable rock. He needs no defense but he sure needs believing followers who will live as he did, maybe die as he did, but most certainly will be resurrected as he was.

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Dream Centers Colorado Springs – One Year Later

Today we are celebrating the one-year anniversary of our women’s medical clinic here in Colorado Springs. The clinic is the first Dream Center to open which was in response to a tremendous need in our city for primary medical care for women 18-64. The free clinic is run by a dedicated team of medical professionals and over 100 volunteers who have cared for over 1000 patients, many of them multiple times.

The stories we hear every week are remarkable. Women who are caught in the nasty cycle of poverty are finding hope once again because they can get the care they need to continue working and providing for their children. Almost all of the women who come to our clinic ask us to pray for them and many of them are deciding to follow Jesus. This past Sunday, we baptized an entire family at New Life because the mom found Jesus through the ministry of our clinic.

More Dream Centers are scheduled to open soon, including Mary’s Home, which is an apartment complex we are purchasing this Fall to provide housing and hope for homeless single mom’s in our city and county.  Stay tuned for more details on this and other Dream Center projects in the months ahead.

All of these ministries are big steps of faith for us. We believe the promises of Proverbs 19:17 and are praying and trusting for the funds to move forward. If you would like to donate toward either of these ministries, click here. I am so grateful for all the volunteers and staff who have labored with such love this past year. This is not easy work, but it is certainly rewarding to see lives changed and families restored.

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What I Learned from a Fire

The most destructive fire in the history of Colorado is still burning as I write this post. Thankfully, our valiant fire fighters have most of it contained and many homes that were once threatened with devastation are now safe.

Last week, I watched in awe as gale force winds drove the flames over a ridge, through a canyon and into several neighborhoods across the freeway from our church. Lives were lost, over 350 homes were consumed, and people’s live were spun into chaos. As we scrambled as a church to meet the needs in our city, I learned some important truths.

1. People had already made up their minds to serve

Before I made any appeals, the church community in our city had already mobilized on numerous fronts. People immediately opened their homes to evacuees, taking the pressure off the local shelters. Food banks recieved record donations, animals were transferred to safer pastures, and the fire fighters were inundated with supplies to make their monumental task more bearable. People were not waiting around for me, they were already in action as soon as the needs were known.

2. The big church can be a big family

One of the first things we did as a church staff was to contact people and families in the affected areas. To our surprise, almost all of them had found homes with family or friends, many of them New Lifers taking in other New Lifers. The big church had become a big, welcoming family. Later in the week, we received tractor-trailer loads of food and much needed supplies from Thomas Road Baptist Church and Gleaning for the World. They sent it to us because that is what church families do for one another.

3. Joy can come out of the ashes

This past Sunday, a CNN reporter asked me before the morning services what I expected the mood to be in the New Life gatherings that day. I told them there would many people mourning the loss of their homes and there would be widespread concern for the fire fighters safety. But, I told the reporter there would also be a lot of joy as we worshipped together. I was right. There were those mourning and all of us were concerned, but there was joy amidst it all because we have overcome so much in the past and we were convinced of God’s faithfulness in the days ahead. Joy can come from ashes, and it did.

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Paying Off Debt While Not Standing Still

A New Lifer recently asked why we were hiring staff and opening Dream Centers when we had so much debt to pay off at the church. It is a good question that deserves a candid response.

I explained to them that our church could not stand still and ignore the needs of our church family and the city in which we live while waiting to pay off the debt. In fact, that is the very dark nature of debt. It paralyzes it’s victims, disabling them from their primary purpose. I ‘m not going to let that happen at New Life. I do believe the mountain of debt will be removed from our church, but in the meantime, we can begin to fulfill at least part of the minstry call to our city and world. I am convinced God will reward us for taking faith steps now, instead of waiting on the sidelines until we are debt free.

It is a delicate balancing act for sure. We always want to be wise when expanding ministry, careful not to add to the burden of debt by over-expansion of staff or ministry properties. In our case, we have taken a low risk or debt free approach when opening the women’s medical clinic last July and with the recent pursuit of an apartment complex for homeless single moms. We are applying for some promising grants and have been blessed with some private donations so that we can not only pay cash for the projects but can operate them with excellence. Even the new downtown campus that opens Easter Sunday was acquired with a low risk, very affordable lease that made perfect sense to me and the elders.

At the same time, the challenge for all of us at New Life is to give above our tithes to the Move the Mountain campaign so that we can do more in our city in the years ahead. We are taking small steps today so that we can take giant leaps later.

As for the number of staff, we are basically at the same level we were three years ago. The recent hires were all replacements for staff that left for various reasons, which is normal attrition for a team our size.  I am very thankful God has sent us super capable reinforcements because the future growth of ministry is bigger than any of us can possibly imagine.

We will move the mountain of debt and we will pray for wisdom as we venture cautiously but courageously into the new places. This I know for sure – God wants us to do both, trusting Him to provide every step of the way.

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Four Levels of Generosity

I believe most Christ followers want to be givers, not just consumers. Most want to be free from the love of money and to be seen as generous with their time, their abilities and their monies. Becoming this type of person takes time and intentionality, plus lots of obedience and some measure of faith. In my experience, I believe there are four phases of giving and generosity.

1. Tippers

These are people who give the leftovers of their money. This level requires hardly any faith and is motivated primarily by guilt or duty. They are typically inconsistent, giving only when prompted by a pastor at a church, or by an appeal on TV. If they have money, they will give a portion, but the amount never stretches them out of their comfort zone and always makes “sense”. Almost 90% of people in most local churches are in this group.

2. Tithers

These are people who set aside the first 10% of their income to give to the local church. This is a huge step up from the first level, because some faith now enters the equation. These people believe that God can do more with the remaining 90% if they are willing give the first. Tithers typically give consistently and seldom have to be prompted or “motivated” to give. They give even when it seems risky or when not giving would ease another temporary financial burden.

3. Givers

These people have discovered the joy of giving and are now on the lookout for opportunities to bless other people. While still tithing, they give even more to ministries, single parents, missionaries, and struggling neighbors. These people are super budget conscious, intentionally living below their means and setting aside money now, to give later. They love to hear about dreams and ideas to build the Kingdom. They’re never offended at being asked to give because they see it as a privilege and as worship.

4. Extravagant Givers

These people are radical about their giving. This is an elite group that is willing to give everything. They carry the same faith as the widow seen by Jesus in the temple giving all she had to live on. They completely believe that God owns it all and they are just stewards. They are prayerful and wise about their giving, but will not hesitate to give large percentages if God speaks. This group prefers anonymity and will ask a lot of really good questions because they need details. They take their time getting to know ministry leaders and only give when they see high levels of accountability and integrity.

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Move the Mountain

New Life Church has $23 million of debt, meaning each month, we spend more on debt than we send to missionaries overseas or to support the Dream Centers here in our city. The elders (our Super Committee) and I believe 2012 will be the year the mountain is moved.

In our weekend gatherings, I announced that we will receive a special offering on Sunday night, January 8th at the Dream Team party. This team is the core leadership of our church, including staff, elders and all of our wonderful volunteers and group leaders. We want to lead the way with a first fruit sacrificial offering.

Later in the spring, on Sunday, March 11th, the remainder of the church will have the opportunity to give in all three weekend services. I am so excited to see what God will do through the generosity of New Lifers.

The elders and I believe we are to set aside 10% of the offering for “right now” opportunities that may include Dream Center projects and other strategic ministries to our city. More details will come later, but there are some huge possibilities on the horizon, including the apartment complex for homeless single moms that I mentioned a few weeks ago.

The remaining 90% will go straight to debt retirement, allowing us, in time, to lower our payments and release more money into ministry. We have been told that if we could retire $3million, we could refinance at a better interest rate and a lower monthly payment. Of course, I do believe we can pay it all off, but sometimes the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Thanks for your prayers on this matter. I am so thankful for all the encouragement from New Lifers who have told me they have the same mandate and burden from God to see this mountain of debt moved. I am hopeful for what is ahead and grateful to be on the journey with each of you.

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