Snakes In The Church…

I’ve been doing pastoral ministry long enough to know that not everyone who darkens the door of a church has good and right motives fermenting in their hearts. Indeed, many who come to church are good Christians, or seekers wanting truth, or people who are simply hurting from the barrage of darkness in this evil world. Such people are welcomed, loved, and cared for in biblical, practical ways. But every now and then, a wolf appears…a Judas…a snake. They may appear charming and harmless. They may sound articulate and wise. They may be extremely likeable and charismatic. But dark, devious motives are fermenting in their hearts, ready to explode in hurtful, divisive ways. Below are the common (and not so common) snakes I’ve encountered over the years…I’ve listed these snakes from least dangerous to most venomous…Beware of the:

  • Passionate Snake – This snake comes to church ready to recruit any and all to their cause. Of course, their chief aim is to win over the pastors of the church to their pet project(s). They may be truly passionate about any number of good things: fostering/adoption, clean water, their business, etc. But these snakes go one step too far and truly believe that if everyone is not as passionate about their specific calling, then such people are “unbiblical”, “lack vision”, or are “simply stuck in an inner-focused church”. Yes, these snakes project their calling onto everyone else and demand that everyone have the same calling/passion. Such snakes rarely stay long in the church, especially when they find that few people will jump on board their bandwagon of passionate causes.
  • Political Snake – This snake usually presents himself or herself as a “lover of truth”. They may or may not be a conspiracy theorist, but boy oh boy, do they have a lot of intricate charts and graphs to prove that every political opponent/group is a threat to our democracy. Indeed, such a snake might be Democrat or Republican, but they truly believe that “standing on the truth” = standing on the right political issues. Such issues they seek to spread in a local church are many as they are either for or against…masks, vaccines, Trump, etc. These snakes usually only want a church family as cover for their real pursuit – political posturing. They’ll often read their own views into Scripture and demand that everyone else follow suit with their twisted interpretation.
  • Music Snake – This snake is usually musically talented (which is awesome), but they also only have one appetite for one genre or way of conducting music. They may be full on traditional or contemporary, but they make it their aim to stir the pot with any number of repetitive comments that are meant to demean the current music style of the church and push the church in a new (and in their minds, better) direction. Such snakes will claim that their specific brand of music is more “holy”, or “wholesome”, or “biblical”, but in the end, “they want what they want because they want it.” As Paul Tripp once said, “Good desires become dangerous desires when good desires become demanding desires.” Many a church has been severely injured in the so-called “worship wars”, led by high level Music Snakes.
  • Theology Snake – Ah! The most dangerous and venomous of all church snakes, let’s welcome into the octagon…the Theology Snake! Yes, listen closely…”Slither. Slither. Hiss. Hiss. Whispers in the dark…” This extremely charming and deceptive snake does not present themselves as the on-edge typical snake (i.e., the passionate snake, political snake, or music snake). Oh no, this snake appears to be a theologian…a wise student of God’s Word…a teacher. This snake will subtly infuse either flat-out destructive heresy into the church (i.e., prosperity gospel, charismatic teaching, etc.) or they will make their pet hobby theological issues major issues in the church. Using power/influence without major, formal responsibility in the church, they slither about spreading their specific brand of carbon monoxide – the silent killer. They may spread their divergent theological viewpoints from a public platform or in a secret Bible Study, but be aware such snakes don’t sleep long and are always on the hunt for their next prey.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid and saw my Dad get seriously hurt (many times) by these types of snakes. Following in my Dad’s footsteps, I now have my own fang wounds to show off. In the end, despite the dangers of snakes in the church, I still love pastoral ministry. I still love the church. I still love Jesus…Yes, I still love Jesus (the Serpent Crusher) and one day, I won’t have to be on the lookout for the next snake in the church, I can just focus on Jesus with unhindered safety and joy.

Joint Special Operations Command: My Time Serving With Some Of The Most Elite Planners On The Planet…

In no way do I want to come across arrogant or braggadocious, but I know how to plan – like a boss – like the elite planner I am. By planning, I’m talking about the ability to analyze complex details, organize those details into easily digestible categories, and then move those details forward in the form of strategic planning. Very few details escape my vision. I see details all – the – time. I’m constantly analyzing, organizing, and strategizing. From the outside looking in, I appear to be a nervous wreck on the brink of an OCD breakdown, but it’s just part of the monster process I call “elite planning”. Yes, I know how to plan at a distinctively higher level than most.

Where did I learn this skill set? JSOC. Joint Special Operations Command in the sands of Iraq, battle planning with some of the most elite planners on planet Earth. I loved it. I loved every part of my time serving with this special squad of death dealers and freedom fighters. As an all-source intelligence analyst, my job was to obsess over the details of our battlespace, organize those details into an easy to digest brief (given to the Combat Commander and his Command Staff), and then move that intel forward for our operators to do what they do best – shoot the enemy in the face…or capture high value targets for further intel. Again, I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. They were obsessive, excellent, and deadly.

I exited the military addicted to battle planning. I then entered Bible College where my skill set was fine-tuned with college introducing me to the secret sauce of elite planning – the paper planner. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m serious. And I’m utterly convinced that Alexander the Great himself had a paper planner of some kind as he conquered the whole known world. The paper planner changed my life and took my elite planning abilities to a whole other level. I then entered pastoral ministry at Prairie Flower Baptist Church with my JSOC experience firmly in tow, along with my handy-dandy paper planner.

As the years have rolled on, I have had the privilege of leading the church out here on the prairie, serve on various boards and councils, and participated in my fair share of high-level events. And here is where my frustration develops…Where are my fellow elite planners? Where are my fellow obsessives? Where are the ones who strive for excellence in EVERYTHING from wielding a mop to constructing a building? Where are the ones who get up day after day, drop the excuses, and get after it with a hunger and humility that is next level? Where are they?

No doubt, I have rubbed shoulders with some fine leaders over my almost 9 years in pastoral ministry, but such leaders are far and few in between. The sad reality is that most leaders I meet are apathetic and fly by the seat of their pants. They’re not dialed into details, all the while spouting off grandiose visions and dreams of the future. We need leaders who will break their backs endeavoring to be elite planners. And if you’re reading this and you are an elite planner, good. Good for you. Stay at that level. Don’t drop an inch. Keep working. Keep grinding. Keep doing ALL that you do for the good of others and the glory of the One who made you and called you into leadership. Honestly, if you’re not willing to try and be better, then step out of the way. Or to phrase it another way, “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

We need elite planners. We need more leaders who are focused on the details with their heads out of the clouds. Are you such a planner and leader? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Town Hall Meeting: Proposed New Church Constitution

This Sunday (10-16-22), we will have our first Town Hall Meeting to discuss our proposed new Church Constitution out here on the prairie. This Town Hall Meeting is for members and friends of Prairie Flower and will take place during the Sunday School hour from 9-10am. Before I take the congregation’s questions, I plan to give the following opening remarks:

“Welcome to our first Town Hall Meeting at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. The purpose of this meeting is to answer your questions about our proposed new Church Constitution. I have several things I need to say before I take your questions:

  1. Both our current Church Constitution and our proposed new Church Constitution are not the most important documents at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In order of importance, here are the most important documents out here on the prairie: 1) The Word of God, 2) The Articles of Faith, 3) The Biblical Principles of Church Membership, 4) The Church Constitution, and 5) Our Standard Operating Procedures Booklet. These are the most important church documents in order of importance…Indeed, it has been said, “If the Articles of Faith are King of the church documents, then the Queen is the Church Covenant (i.e., The Biblical Principles of Church Membership), with the Church Constitution being the Prince of the church documents.”
  2. Our proposed new Church Constitution went through a rigorous editing and accountability process that spanned the last five years. After we ratified our new Articles of Faith in 2016, we began the process of revising our Church Constitution in 2017. This process has been lengthy, at times frustrating, but in the end, so very good. This five-year process proceeded as follows: 1) Pastors make revisions of Church Constitution, 2) Deacons double check the work of the pastors and make their own suggested edits for improvement, and 3) Once the pastors and deacons are fully synched up, the document then went to the Constitution Review Team (of which Phil Parsons was the Chairman) for final analysis and feedback. This simple three-step process took place many, many times over the course of the last five years. In the end, no one (myself included) got everything they wanted in terms of wording in the proposed new Church Constitution, but what has been presented to you is good, right, and fully vetted. To be clear, the purpose of this meeting is not necessarily for you to make suggestions for additions or deletions of the proposed new Church Constitution, but to simply ask questions to gain greater clarity on the vision and direction of our church family.
  3. Some of you may wonder: “Why a total rehaul of the Church Constitution? Why not simply edit the current Church Constitution, but keep the overall structure the same?” This is a great question, and I love the illustration that Pastor Tim gave to me some years ago…Illustration = Farmhouse Addition…

So, there you have it. A little sneak-peek of what’s to come out here on the prairie this Sunday, October 16th at 9am. So, come on out and bring your questions! It will be worth attending.

Church & The Mentally Ill

Every Sunday, people flood our churches with a plethora of mental and emotional baggage. Some come into our worship services happy. They sing loud and soak in every word of the Bible message. Others come into our worship services sad. They can barely sing and when the preaching begins, they genuinely struggle to hear a single word as sad distractions plague their mind and heart. But others come into our worship service with a unique suitcase. They are neither happy nor sad per say; they are mentally ill. They might be happy for the first 15 minutes of the worship service and then incredibly depressed for the next 15 minutes. Others hear voices – tiny voices in the back of their head that beckon them to dark enchantments. Others are not quite dialed into reality as they have constructed an alternate universe with differing values and strategies than the norm. These folks are mentally ill…and loved…and appreciated…and important…and welcome at church. At least they’re welcome at the church out here on the prairie.

How do we engage with the mentally ill in a church context? How do we genuinely help them? How do we ensure that our doors and hearts are wide open to such people? The following acronym, C.H.U.R.C.H., that is not unique with me, is tremendously helpful…

  1. C Choose to Care. Make growing, capable compassion a matter of prayer.
  2. H – Help with Practical Needs. Bake a casserole or help with childcare.
  3. U – Unleash Volunteers. Ask your pastor how you can be deployable when a need arises.
  4. R – Remove the Stigma. Stop thinking that mental illness is a problem to be solved instead of a tension to balance.
  5. C – Collaborate with the Community. We are not the fountainhead of all wisdom. We need others and their insight.
  6. H – Hope – Offer It! In the end, that’s what we do as Christians. We’re hope dealers. Yes, in this dark world of sin and suffering, we offer true Gospel hope.

Those who struggle with mental illness are our family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow church members. They might be in positions of power or hold no power at all. They might be rich or desperately poor. They might be well-educated or have very little in education. They are our moms and dads, children and grandchildren. They are us. Let’s not just go to church, let’s be the church, doing the most good we can to the most people we can for the glory of God alone. Why? Because the darkness is truly thick out there, but so is Gospel hope – offer it!