We live in an age of offense and disagreement. Some will probably disagree with that statement, and be offended by it. The rise of social media platforms has given us a broader platform in which to voice our opinions, and to respond to the opinions of others. These exchanges lead us down an endless road of responses that have about as much effect on changing a person's ideology as painting a house changes the neighborhood in which it was constructed. There was a time I enjoyed the rigorous debate that was brought on by a “friend’s” outlandish Facebook post that needed desperately to be corrected by my insight on the subject. To be honest I’ve since grown tired of the endless back and forth that produces nothing more than frustration, and deletions from a friend list. Lets face it, people’s minds will never be changed through a Facebook post, a tweet, or any other social media post.
There are several universities that have recently come under fire for what some see as an attack on free speech. These same universities that, just a few decades ago, were demanding all voices be heard, have now been accused of silencing voices that are either too offensive or that disagree with the general population of the student body. There have been calls for the dismissal of faculty and staff, cancellations of guest speakers, and “safe spaces” created on campuses all in the name of protecting students from offensive rhetoric. This can only lead to isolationism, the extermination of free speech and the loss of open exchange of ideas. I’d like to propose a question for us; even though we may disagree with the actions of these universities, are we guilty of the same thing?
Let’s be honest for a minute. We don’t know everything. We have opinions, thoughts on a subject, and inclinations. But if we are brutally honest, much of the time that’s all they are. I would never suggest that it’s impossible to become an authority on a subject. After all we are hoping that our surgeon certainly knows what he or she is doing when they pick up the scalpel. Even in Christianity there are certainly those who have given themselves to the study of theology and have become scholars. Still, this creates a vacuum in the area of personal knowledge because if I give myself to one area of study for eight years there is still an enormous amount of information in other fields of study that I will be ignorant of. You may trust your surgeon with fixing you, but chances are they wouldn’t be able to fix your automobile.
We tend to isolate ourselves based on what we know. Perhaps this is one reason the Christian faith has tens of thousands of denominations. We really don’t seem to like the free exchange of ideas within the church. Even though we are Christians, there is a plethora of topics we disagree on. Do you know for instance that the book of Revelation alone has at least four different views of interpretation? I was only ever taught one. There are different views on the Trinity, hell, baptism, healing, grace, prayer, the wrath of God, and an endless list of other topics, yet we are all still Christians. We still read the same Bible, yet we separate into camps desperately trying to create a space where everyone agrees. Allow me to burst your bubble: the people sitting around you on Sunday morning that you think agree with you, don’t. They do not in fact agree with everything you believe, and you do not agree with everything they believe. It simply doesn’t work that way.
The real exchange of ideas doesn’t come through social media, it comes from real relationship. It’s difficult to understand a person’s Facebook post without understanding them. Without knowing their history, the culture in which they were brought up in, and how they came to develop the ideas that form their way of thinking. Certainly not everything they believe is true, but you’ll have a difficult time changing anyone’s mind outside of real relationship. Perhaps instead of a reply full of facts, opinions, and scripture on a post we disagree with, we should first discover the why of what they believe and perhaps look for an opportunity outside of social media to explain the why of what you believe. You could even do it over a bold cup of coffee.
Ken Boone currently serves as a co-host on Bold Cup of Coffee's The Brew Podcast and founding pastor at Alabaster House as well as a public speaker, travelling equipper and writer.
Ken and his wife Christa are the proud parents of four children. They have been married for more than 15 years. And have been in the ministry for more than 17 years, They have dedicated their lives to preaching the "Gospel of the Kingdom", and to living a life in partnership with Holy Spirit. Their desire is to see believers equipped to live a lifestyle that brings the realities of Heaven to the world that we live in, to see the culture of the Kingdom of God replace the cultures around us. And to fulfill the mandate from Jesus to: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, freely you have received freely give."
Is it possible that the dream team we wished we had was right in front of us? Part of our calling, as leaders, is not simply to call people to do, or worse, do it all ourselves. Instead, we need to recruit, empower, and release people.
This is a huge topic, so for the sake of brevity, here are some ideas to hopefully spur on some inspiration for you. To hear a deeper conversation on this very topic, check out this podcast I did with ProChurchTools.com and my previous article on the topic.
We, much too often, never find the team we wish we had because we don’t ask. This means going up and ‘giving the ask’ to the people who are passionate, willing, and able to start walking on mission with us.
Maybe you feel guilty to ask people to help. Let me let you in on a little secret: people are waiting to be asked and many have the gifts and passions to fill the dream team you wish to create. Even the things we hate to do, someone is wired to love it. We simply need to ask and connect those dots. For some of us, it isn’t that we are not asking, but we need to ask better questions. People need to know they are needed, that they are gifted, and that you value their time. Start with them as a person, their dreams, their passion and dig deep. I know this is possible because I recruited 60 volunteers in 4 months by getting out there and asking people.
For some of us, it is the fear of sharing. Let me ask a hard question: What would happen if you found people who could surpass you in your role? Would you be willing to take the risk to build that kind of team? A big step in all this is we cannot view ourselves to be the expert, solo person who does everything. We need to move towards the idea of being the leader who gathers the experts and empower them to excel in their passions and giftings and in many of ways become a slingshot for people to succeed.
Secondly, we need to empower the people we have recruited by both matching their passion with what we are calling them to and also equipping them with the tools to accomplish the role and be successful in it.
It is in this stage that we find ourselves investing into people and building them up. This involves modelling for them what it looks like, equipping them with the tools to succeed, and empowering them by drawing out of them their abilities, gifts, and strengths. This of course looks different for each person and every role we are calling them into, but ultimately our role should be focused on growing the person over and above the role we are calling them to. If our main focus is filling a need instead of the person who is filling that need, we will not only fall short but miss the opportunity to do the greater work of mentoring and discipling someone and moving towards the mission together.
This stage is such a crucial step, because it is the bridge point of going from simply finding people to being able to resource and release those people to do what they are passionate and gifted for. In turn, we become free to do what no one else can do. Too often when we have recruited enough people we stop short as though we feel our job as leaders is done, this couldn’t be further from the truth! People need to be empowered! This involves developing their gifts while also equipping them with the tools to accomplish the vision and mission you are inviting them into.
Maybe you think you don’t have the time to invest in people or a team for that matter. The reality is if you want to see your ministry or mission grow and you don’t want to be doing this solo forever, you don’t have the time not to. If you hope that your dream team will simply happen, you may find yourself becoming very disappointed.
But let’s address this concern more closely. Maybe you are in a season where you don’t have a lot of free time and adding more to your plate means taking away from things like your family. This can be a very hard place to be in. Let’s say for argument sake that this isn’t due to a time management issue, then it could be possible your next step is to find some team members who understand your situation and wish to carry the burden with you. Some people don’t need a lot of maintenance and being on mission with you could be the major investment they need. Many times, the problem we face is we are waiting for the ideal time to invite people into the mission and that time never comes.
Ultimately, if we never get to this stage and work through it, we will never find ourselves in the place we truly wish to be; having a team we can rely on and release them to do what they do best. Investing in people takes time and effort, but from my experience, that time and effort is never a wasted investment.
This leads us to releasing people to do what they are gifted to do and what you ultimately hope they can do. Of course, this last step is the biggest step of trust and requires letting go. Letting go of control, letting go of people, and letting go of jobs you love to do.
In a lot of ways, this whole process is about working yourself out of a job. What I mean by that is that as you slowly give things away for others to take on and you have equipped and empowered them to do so, you will find yourself slowly not being as needed as you once were in the tasks you had before. Sometimes this means giving away the stuff we were once good at or even love so we can focus on leading a team.
This can be extremely hard to do, because this means sharing the enjoyment of the vision and mission, giving away the things we once loved to do and sharing the glory. This involves a lot of self-awareness and being willing to shift into the background, being the cheerleader of the people you are building up and realizing you don’t always need to be the expert in the room, but your role is gathering a team of experts into one room and getting them to march together in a unified direction.
This will only happen if we have recruited the right people, empowered them to succeed, but also release them to do what the mission and vision called them to. If all we do is give people tasks and not also responsibility and authority, we will rarely see investment from those people.
Lather, wash, rinse, repeat! This is the beauty of this whole process; it is repeatable. We see a pattern and cycle in all things. This might look like you starting with another wave of leaders, building into them to build up your team further. Or possibly you have worked yourself out of a position and now you are building another area of your department or even a whole new area of the organization. Or something that is even cooler is when you find yourself watching the leaders you have recruited, empowered, and released doing the same thing with other people. This is the process of raising up leaders who raise up leaders who raise up leaders. This is the core of what we see in mentorship, discipleship, and apprenticeship, (or whatever else you wish to call it). It is building into people, multiplying yourself, and seeing others grow into the leaders they are meant to be.
Recruiting, empowering and releasing is a delicate balance of allowing people autonomy with the support of empowerment and equipping. It is all about finding a balance between creative freedom and quality control. This is what it means to empower people through equipping them with the tools, confidence, and maturity to become the people we can release.This involves both trust and competence. You need the right people on your team—both chemistry and gifting—and this also involves trusting people to accomplish what is asked of them and assuming they can succeed. If you are worried that people will take the role off the rails, then the answer to this is equipping. Give clear instructions on the overall vision of the ministry (or task at hand) with the end goal in mind and intentionally build into them, but give loads of freedom in how they get there.
The biggest challenge in this is just to get yourself started on the path of recruiting, empowering, and releasing. Don’t let this just stay as a theory, put it into practice. Start by making a list of people who you could take on this journey. Make the ask and begin the process of empowering until they can be released.
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac as well as an avid speaker, writer and leadership coach/consultant. Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor. You can also connect with him at your personal page at drakedelongfarmer.com. To read more articles by Drake, simply click here.
In the first part of my story, I talked about my quest of inner peace, despite the season of life I was in. It has been directly influenced by my closeness with God and my sense of identity in Christ. To be honest, a sense of belonging and fellowship and defining the term “church family” is something I still struggle with and pray for. I still feel nervous before and after church, that uncomfortable feeling of going into a building not sure if you or where you belong and feeling alone in a crowded room. And although there is a sense of connectedness with worshiping beside other believers, my quest for where I belong in a church family is just beginning, with new eyes and an insightful more open perception. As Psalm 130: 5-6 says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord”. There is a lot more for me to understand and learn but hey, if I got this far into this journey than I can only imagine how much more I will learn and grow with my persistence, eagerness and time. Proverbs 3:5 urges us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and as Beth Moore points out, “if you love the Lord with all your heart, it’s only natural to trust him with all your heart”. I had no idea how much growing my faith had to do until my tough season. It took just that to open my eyes to the difference in believing in my head and truly living it out in my heart within the trenches of raw life.
I had to put my baby under surgery and it was one of the scariest things I’ve done. The baby I almost lost multiple times during pregnancy, who was so fragile that any time he cried for more than two minutes, had a temperature or spit up more than a tablespoon would require a page to the surgeon and priority trip to the Stollery. Going through the risks and benefits and letting go and giving it - my son's outcome - to the Lord was one of the toughest things I’ve done. Through this process, I wrote down every promise God had made to stick with us through the hardest of seasons, to never abandon us and prayed over these promises with intense agony wrestling with my lack of control over life and the real raw faith (which is a lot different to feel when life takes worrisome twists). While the operating room was getting him prepped and under general anaesthetic, I sang his favourite song to him - Jesus loves me - and the peace and strength from God flowed through me as he fell asleep so sweetly in my arms. Total surrender, fearlessness and faith in the rawest of seasons was my only hope, the only thing that I knew would get us by. My mom’s encouraging words, “this too shall pass” were something I told myself sometimes every day.
Feeling utterly alone, no one to help (or at least that I had the ability to see and accept), I learnt to look to the one and only hope I truly had, Jesus. I had definitely skipped too many daily bible readings to count and the fear of not deserving his love and grace after neglecting to foster a closer relationship with him, to expect his love and grace to actually extend to me despite all of this was a fearful and almost hopeless thought. But through this fear of not being good enough I learnt he is just and he is always faithful, despite my weaknesses or undeservingness. Sandra Wilson wrote “that as we increasingly experience God’s mighty power at work within us, we will understand that the issue is not our inadequacy. The real issue is His adequacy. And as we continue to draw closer to Christ, we will have an ever-deepening assurance that the answer to the question of our identity is this: I am the beloved child of my Abba God”.
Just over a year ago, a tragedy put me at the ICU with extended family requesting me to pray for a dying loved one. They didn’t want a pastor, their deep heartbreak made it almost impossible for them to think of words to pray. I have been on the streets, meeting, helping, and praying for people - and I never felt the fire of God more so than at that time. But this was different, I felt completely empty still, felt unable, underqualified and asked God to give me the words as I wasn’t sure how useful I could be to him in this situation. He gave me the peace, love, words and strength to be there for that family that day but it took me a while to process it all. Shortly after that, it occurred to me that just as a caterpillar goes into its cocoon before transforming into a butterfly, God wanted me to be fulfilled in him first, be brought from my rock bottom, wrapped in his love and strengthened my identity in him first and then my paths would be set straight. To focus on my foundations inside myself first. To my surprise, this journey has propelled me back to my childhood and present, with a greater insight into my identity in Christ as influenced by my family of origin, past relational experiences, my perceptions of God as a father, the Holy Spirit as a powerful inner edifying force and as a loved daughter who is accepted just as she is and where she is and loved, who is more precious than rubies. It seemed like every week, the church sermons I would here would contain the same words I’d been speaking and praying in my heart. To me, it felt like God was winking at me, but it also filled me with emotion and confirmed that I am accepted and loved and with Jesus as my saviour, and no one can snatch me out of my fathers hands.
Throughout that season, as I took my time reflecting on my own relationship with God and healing from some old deep wounds, I did have a long absence from church and church-related activities. I know that sounds really bad, an oxymoron in itself. But I felt that it was a healthy decision to take time and really reflect on growing a healthy and real perspective on my own relationship with God and why I felt so uncomfortable at church.
I prayed so much about that and when I decided that I was strong enough to embrace my unsettled confusion on the topic, the first sermon was about just that. In fact, the very direct and courageously honest pastor who was very passionate about his church and his flock, spoke bluntly about a healthy church. He outlined what Jesus’ church should look like and related to people not feeling like they could offer anything but should be accepted nonetheless. He encouraged the people of the church to take a stand and also be willing to have grace with another and be vulnerable enough to reflect on their own accountability to the body of Christ; to be brave enough to keep trying to connect and get involved. His determination and vision of what the bride of Christ should be in accordance to the bible was so inspirational; I decided to start trusting God’s will and his timing for my place and sense of belonging in the church, Jesus’ church, my church. I started praying for the leaders of my church, for the congregation of my church, and for the strength, willingness, trust and patience to wait upon the Lord for that sense of belonging. Ephesians 3:17, 19-20 says, “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love… may you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life”. This has been a powerful raw first hand lesson for me and although God hasn’t caused these trials for me, he has brought good out from them. As Romans 8:28 says, in all these things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We all have a purpose and in the darkest of times when we feel alone, when we know we are alone in this world, know you are not truly alone with Jesus.
With a new season of my life, now free from postpartum, medical stressors, and more profoundly with a courageously honest inventory of how my perception of God, others and myself have been influenced by past or external experiences; I am excited to reach a new season of my life. With a fresh deep foundation in my own identity and the strength and confidence I have gained through the relational impact of my experiences; I feel patient to trust the Lord and be still in Him (although I’m still learning this). I think this is something that will take time to get better at, but realizing the power in it is a pretty empowering start. Sandra Wilson urges us to “continue to draw closer to Christ, we will have an ever-deepening assurance that the answer to the question of our identity is this: I am the beloved child of my Abba God. I am good enough, my worth is precious to Him and perhaps the joy in connectedness will come as I wait on Him. I’m approaching church with a willingness to be vulnerable and put myself out there when it feels awkward to be in a room full of strangers. I write this not as someone who has it all together but as someone who is humble of my journey, of stumbling in amidst a tough season who is just starting to scratch the surface of some big deep-rooted questions. I feel the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart and getting excited for this new season of our lives.
In my first few years of ministry I was constantly told that I needed to be aware that there would always be more work and things to do than what I had time for. Usually this came with a lesson about how to recognize when I was approaching burnout, or a reminder of the need to recruit and equip other people to be involved in ministry. I don’t believe this is unique to my role in pastoral ministry. Anyone who is in a work environment where they carry the primary responsibility for a non-profit, a business or an organization will be in the situation where the work required is greater than the time available at some point.
When this situation hits, there’s lots of advice and recommendations that will get thrown at you; delegate more, recruit more, hire more, equip more, prioritize more, go on vacation more, streamline more, balance more, or maybe even the unhealthiest advice that says work more hours. But sometimes there will be times in life where none of these seem like valid options, but the truth is every one of those is a valid option! You can choose to do any one of those options, and chances are you’ve tried each one of them at least once. But remember that just because it is a valid option that you can choose, it doesn’t describe if they are good options or bad options to take. So the question still remains, how will you pick the good option when everything piles up?
First let me say this to you: I don’t know the exact situation that you’re in as you’re reading this, I don’t know your mental state or how many things have piled up on your to-do list. But what I can tell you is that you’re not alone in feeling the pressures of everything piling up on your shoulders. Other leaders have been there before, and other leaders will be there afterwards. One of the best things you can do is find ways to connect with other leaders who have been where you are, or have been in similar situations. Having a real person you can call up and talk through a decision with and be there for each other is a complete game changer when it comes to leadership.
One step you can take right now is to give yourself a break. That’s right, take 10 minutes to just step back from your desk or whatever the task is at hand and walk away for 10 minutes. Listen to some music, call that old friend or a family member you haven’t spoken to in a long time, go walk around the block or something. Maybe try a mindfulness exercise where you only focus on your breathing for a couple of minutes. Trust me, nothing is going to completely fall apart in ten minutes. Taking a couple minutes to clear your mind and then come back at the situation you were working on will help you see things with a new perspective.
So after you’ve given yourself a physical break, take some time and give yourself a break on your to-do list. Just over a year ago, one of my mentors told me that I needed to intentionally create a “to fail” list. That’s right, he told me to create a list of the things that I would intentionally choose to fail over the next week. Pick the low priority things and decide now that you’re going to fail those until a future date. If you use a to-do list app or project management tool, make a list called “To Fail” and shunt a bunch of things from your main list over to that one. Set a weekly reminder for the start of your work week to go back and review that list and pick a few (and I mean less than 3) items to bring back to your main to-do list. If something is on the to fail list don’t let yourself feel guilty when they don’t get completed because that’s why that list exists in the first place.
After your short physical break and the break on the to-do list, then it’s time to start planning for a larger break. Hopefully your role has some type of ebb and flow to your yearly routine, and start scheduling longer times to take breaks during the slower seasons or in advance of your busier season. Maybe this starts off as just being a day or two where you can disconnect from the office and focus on the things that help you to relax and be energized, or maybe you have the ability to use up some vacation time and spread it out throughout the year.
The need to have a routine to your breaks is especially true for those of us who are in salaried positions where you are largely in control of your own schedule. Remember that taking vacation time and resting is part of your responsibility to keep yourself at a place of health and remaining sustainable for the long run. It’s your responsibility to rest and recharge during your vacation time and breaks, so try not to fill them right up with other projects and responsibilities.
Here’s the bottom line to all of this: If you’re constantly running with only 10-20% of energy in your reserves, sooner or later you’re going to burn out, and it takes a lot more work to recover from a burn out or blow out, than it does to avert one before it happens. Don’t buy into the lie that you haven’t done enough to deserve a break, and simply take a break. It might be one of the best things you can do for your long term health.
Brian's whole understanding of faith and Christianity changed when he started to encounter what it means to live life with God instead of for God. One thing that Brian is passionate about is walking with people as they explore their faith in Christ and learning how to honestly seek God in the midst of our doubts and fears. Brian is the Pastor of Grand Valley Community Church in Brandon Manitoba. He is married to Nikki and they have one daughter named Olivia. When Brian isn't working on a sermon at a Starbucks or at home with his family, you can usually find him fly fishing or building model air planes. To read more of Brian's articles, click here.
“I meet God in every gift I wrap.” I was buying a bridal shower gift from the bookstore in the office where I work and the Christian sister working there asked me if I wanted it wrapped. I agreed, and as she went about her process with the red heart paper she had selected, she shared some very beautiful thoughts with me:
She told me she takes pleasure in making things beautiful, and certainly feels gratified when she is complimented for a job well done. But even more rewarding for her is the power of the blessing she bestows as she folds lines and tapes patterns. She knows the power of a gift, and even though many would argue that there’s no point in spending so much time wrapping something that’s just going to be torn off in 5 seconds, there’s a chance that the receiver might pause to feel the care of the one giving the gift. If they can experience and see all of that, the work is worth it. My colleague’s voice was filled with emotion as she shared these thoughts with me, and I was struck by the pure joy she has in doing her job.
It reminded me of Jesus’ words; it is more blessed to give than to receive. And this concept is certainly not limited to gifts and material things. This girl was giving her all in her job, a job that others might look down on, and she was blessed. When we do things to bless others, when we work to the best of our ability, even at a task we may find distasteful or repetitive, God is there. It’s a great mystery that we can experience Christ in all of these things, but I am reminded that He is the ultimate example of giving. God gave his son to the people of this world, even though in a few short years, the gift would be ruthlessly spit on, brutally disfigured, and utterly rejected. Knowing this, He still gave. And through Him, all nations were blessed.
When I connect to the reality of God’s generosity, I am able to give too. Giving actually tends to come more naturally to me than receiving. I hate owing others money, try to avoid asking for help as much as possible, and would mostly prefer any charitable donations I make to remain unseen.
In a conversation about yoga and spirituality with a friend of another faith, we ended up talking about giving. She was telling me about breathing practices. I told her that I am able to exhale for much longer than I can inhale. She said there’s a teaching that says those for whom that is true tend to be givers rather than takers. It may sound a bit superstitious to you, but it resonated with me.
When I do yoga or breathing practices, I like to meditate on a bible verse or some words about God rather than just trying to go blank. After these two conversations, I was trying this to start my morning, and the words that came into my mind were “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” I tried saying the words in my head as I breathed, and quickly found it was too long for a single breath, but if I broke it up:
Inhale – Christ in me
Exhale – the hope of glory
I found that the rhythm seemed just right. It also corresponded to my natural breath pattern, of a shorter inhale and longer exhale. So here’s the deep thought surrounding all of this:
Taking in Christ's love always leaves me with more to give.
That’s how I want to live my life. That’s how I want to practice my faith. That’s how I want to relate to others. And somewhere along the way, I hope I can learn to be a receiver too. I want to learn how to accept God’s love not based on my performance, but on my identity as his child. I want to draw others to him not because I’m winsome, but because they can experience the love of God in me. The hope of glory (breathe in), Christ in me (breathe out).
Charlotte is on the Editorial team at boldcupofcoffee.com and currently works with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where she teaches, leads English Bible studies, writes educational materials, trains teachers, poses for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. She is originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces and the idea of home has become quite fluid. She has learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure.
*The following post contains coarse language, reader discretion is advised*
Christianity is a funny thing sometimes isn't it? We're a religion that preaches unmerited grace, undeserved mercy, and the freedom that comes—or ought to at least—with it. Instead of living in joy within the freedom that being in Christ brings, we instead love to come up with our little lists of dos and don'ts that only gives us the appearance of righteousness while we really are just slowly turning into Pharisees.
Take language for example, when is the last time you heard your pastor cuss (on purpose) from the pulpit? Never, right? And if you ever have, I doubt they're still your pastor. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for a free flow of "shits" and "fucks" on Sunday mornings, but I am absolutely saying that those words can have their place in civil conversations.
Christians have a long list of analogous "pseudo-swears" that we use instead of the real thing. Tim Hawkins has made a career out of rapid firing them into a microphone. If you haven't heard his "Alternative Christian Cuss Words" comedy bit, you need to, it's hysterical. These "fake swears" are probably familiar to many of us, but I'll share a few below, just for fun:
Shut the front door
Son of a biscuit
Son of a motherless goat
The list could go on, and I'm certain that many of you know which words these words are stand-ins for, and that's kind of my point. We ALL know what you're saying when you tell that "Mother father" to "Shut the front door!" and it has nothing to do with the position of the opening to your house.
Are euphemisms really any better than the real thing? Is the real thing all that bad after all? We talk a lot about "the heart" in the church. Sin is not based on the act alone, rather it is the position of the heart. For example, eating and drinking aren't sins, but gluttony and drunkenness are. Overeating at a wedding because it's a party and you're celebrating a loved one's joy is not a sin, but overeating because you're seeking solace from your problems in comfort food rather than in the Lord certainly is.
Most of us treat our lives with this kind of mindset, why not our language too? I maintain that calling someone an "idiot" or even "a fool" in anger is actually a sin (and I think Matthew 5:22 backs me up on that one) whereas saying that it is a fucking tragedy that malnutrition is the cause of 45% of the deaths of children under five isn't a sin. Yet, I'm certain many of you cringed when you read that. Not the factoid about childhood hunger and mortality, but rather the word I used to emphasize how much of a tragedy it is. (I’ll give Tony Campolo credit for this line of thinking, you can find his quote here.)
I'm not advocating for language patterns that would make a sailor blush, nor am I confusing what we call "swear words" with blasphemy or taking the Lord's name in vain, that's a separate post. I am saying that occasionally "frig" just doesn't cut it.
I'm a dad with three young kids, so when this topic comes up, inevitably I'm asked about how I deal with "bad words" at home. Well, it's simple. I don't believe in banning words. I do, of course, try and limit some of the more colourful phrases in my lexicon around the kids, but I keep the dialogue open and I have asked my daughter frequently what the "bad words" are that she knows. (Of course, I then had to explain the concept of bad words since it's not a phrase we use). She told me that the only words she knows that she can't say in school is "poop". She explained that in her class, the children don't need to go poop, they "have to go to the washroom". That'll change quickly; her vernacular will grow leaps and bounds when she enters grade one next year and is released from the safe confines of "Kindergarten Court" for recess and joins the ranks of the “Big Kids" in the schoolyard. As she learns new words, our dialogue will remain open and I'll want to know what she knows. I'll explain to her that there is a time and a place for the words she learns and that if she's in doubt, she should avoid them. Is it more difficult to teach a 6-year-old the idea of context? Perhaps, but it'll be less work later.
My oldest (she's 3) dropped something a couple weeks ago and said "shit." There were no consequences. We laughed, she laughed. However, if, someday she calls me, her mother, or one of his siblings a "piece of shit" then there will be a reckoning. See the difference?
Telling someone to "Flock off" might tick the "Christian" box of avoiding bad words, but where is the speaker's heart in that moment? Is it really any different than just saying the word? You can use all the stand-in words you want, but at the end of the day, the things I say to my close friends when we’re all laughing and fooling around aren’t sinful, they’re a great example of what fellowship can be whereas those things coming out of your heart might just be condemning you regardless of your vocabulary. Banning words is a lazy solution to something that shouldn't even be an issue. Ultimately, it’s about your heart, not your word choice.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
Part 1: A Mom’s Story About Finding Church Family
One of the more uncomfortable experiences I’ve had in life was when I started to attend church as a young mom. I thought that to increase my chances of being accepted and I had to ensure that I “did my part”. However, I often felt discouraged instead, wondering why I felt so alone in a crowded room on Sunday mornings with a very strong feeling of emptiness and longing for fellowship. If every member makes up the Body of Christ and I had nowhere to fit in or belong; then maybe I was like a defective part of an assembly line. Maybe I wasn’t good enough.
My church often invites us to “come as we are”, which at first sounded like an obligatory welcome with hidden expectations. Through some powerful sermons, I learnt that my church was indeed sincere. I clearly have struggled with trust issues in thinking there are always hidden motives, that perhaps just as I am, wasn’t and isn’t enough. I mean, what could I possibly offer to this “church family”? I was a mess. I have been through a lot in my life, but those two to three years around the time we started attending church, were by far the hardest years of our lives. From almost losing our son multiple times during pregnancy, to having over a hundred medical appointments, three surgeons, two major surgeries, and a few medical emergencies (and two doctor cited miracles!) in our little guy’s first two years of life, these struggles brought us to our knees. During that time my husband had an emergency surgery, my daughter was diagnosed with conductive hearing loss (which brought multiple challenges on different levels for her), and I had a skin cancer scare. I developed severe post partum depression, which my optimistic enthusiastic self had an incredibly tough time accepting and dealing with. I was a big hot mess. So what did I do? I kept trying; boy did I try.
So in a desperate attempt to feel a sense of belonging, connectedness, assurance that we weren’t alone in this crazy season of life, I threw myself into church groups. I must have looked like “the crazy mom”, that hyper vigilant mom who had two active babies. Believing that I just needed a little more persistence and positive thinking, I actually stuck it out for longer than I had the energy to, though I sometimes attended the groups without actually saying more than one word the entire time. I remember one time before mom’s group, in the middle of a parking lot. My two year old threw herself down in a temper tantrum and my baby was screaming in sync from the stroller. I explained to the other ladies that we were just going to head back home. I had to put my two year old over my shoulders in the middle of the parking lot as she refused to get off the cement in her temper tantrum and attempted to also push the stroller to my vehicle. Well don’t you know it, the frugal mom I am got a fantastic deal on a little stroller, and as you sometimes get what you pay for, the wheels locked up. So I started gently rocking the stroller to unlock the wheels only to do it again two minutes later. I very calmly got the kids in the car seats then called my poor husband. And cried. And cried. I think I actually cried for about half an hour in the vehicle before driving home while the kids happily ate the snack I had packed for them.
My poor husband had no clue how to help me as a young mom with young kids who had health issues or as a husband whose wife had postpartum depression and huge anxiety in general from such a crazy season of life. He encouraged me to try the church group one last time. So I did. Spray park, summer time, two young children, and one mom. Yup. The hypervigilant mom I am had done what I thought was the impossible - I lost my child, she was there one second, I turned to help my youngest get his towel, turned around and she was gone. Longest five minutes of my life. I think the only words I was able to say to the other moms were not until an hour after I arrived when I asked them if they could help me find my toddler and within minutes someone found her hiding in a locker in the girls washroom. Thank goodness. For the first time I couldn’t help crying in public, completely broke down in a death grip hug with my found child and explained that I could no longer attend the group. I apologized profusely as I felt so guilty of not being in a position or season of life to feel adequate to have the time, energy and possibility of meeting others or building on relationships. After that I felt frustrated and angry that I would have to go through this season of life feeling alone.
To be completely honest, I felt uninvited. I felt a sense of not being good enough, a feeling that had deep old roots. I felt defeated in my attempts to connect amidst a season where I didn’t have the ability. I resentfully accepted the notion that the village I desperately longed for was empty. I felt utterly alone in one of the hardest times of my life. This caused me to question my own worth, spiritual journey, church and my purpose. My quest for inner peace and connectedness could not be found in seeking it from other people. It was a very deep inward struggle that I would have to trench through on my own before I would be able to see the world as it really was and not what the distorted reality I had based around my perception and experiences. I began to pray and search for peace and joy, a feeling that hadn’t been felt in a long time and to survive this season of postpartum depression. A quote from Lysa TerKeurst stuck with me, “Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting and dwelling - all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace”. Lysa encouraged her readers to “live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love” and urged “the more fully we invite God in, the less we will feel uninvited by others”. She argued that no matter how different our struggles are, that negative and distorted thought patterns and perceptions “have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours”.
That was the focus of my journey: to find connectedness and belonging in the only thing that could provide it to me. As Psalm 107:9 says, “for he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”. Beth Moore hit the nail on the head when she wrote “in certain stages of life, we need to be reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of God”. Beth goes on to explain “as we spend time with God, dialoguing with Him in prayer and reading his word, we begin to change. And the way we view ourselves also begins to change. The reason this makes sense is that our self-concepts were formed originally within a relationship as we dialogued with a loved and trusted authority figure. And they will be transformed the same way….yes, there is a true hope for Christian women to have a satisfying self-concept, a secure identify, and genuine fulfillment”.
For a long time, my amazing husband who refused to give up on striving for connectedness to our church family, encouraged me to join groups with him so we could do this together. There was an encouraging member of the church who just wouldn’t give up on us and kept reaching out along our journey. We attended some of the events we were invited to and although it strengthened my relationship with God, I knew it wasn’t my season to give, to lead or to bless; it was my season to walk alone with my God in a long journey of inner healing . We joined groups and although my husband tried his best, I still wasn’t connecting. I had either been changed by my postpartum, beaten up by it or perhaps had become more introverted. More than likely because I was beaten up from the tough season of life we were in. Perhaps I was burned out from trying so hard and wasn’t prepared to handle another failure in attempts to find my belonging in the body of Christ. Maybe I felt guilty and selfish for pulling the kids through different attempts so that I could feel connected to a village. Since that time, my son has recovered from his surgeries and my daughter's hearing has been restored. I realize now, looking back with fresh eyes, that it wasn't my failure but God's provision
Church family, church as a family, is a concept I have prayed for years to understand its definition, and feel its meaning. For me, it is a sense of inner peace, fellowship, connectedness and a closer relationship with God - my identity in Christ: things I have gained valuable insights into but still eagerly strive for.
“Church family” could have many different meanings, expectations, and prerequisites depending on what your perception or experiences have been. Your family of origin, culture, your relationship with your father and how you perceive God as your father etc. Every past experience can have a significant impact on how you perceive a present or future situation. In this technological day in age where a sermon could be quickly downloaded from a podcast, one may ask the question why physically going to church is so important, perhaps it develops a healthy environment and routine for children, perhaps it’s to get connected, but it’s easier said than done for some including myself. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus”; we all have different experiences, hurts and journeys set before us that require different paces. There have been times in my life where it has been level ground and easy to increase my speed; other times it has been uphill and the pace has been slow and painful.
I wrote this poem after having a real conversation with a dear young lady who attends high school in my town. After listening to her struggles and the hopelessness which seems to cover the youth of our town, I felt pulled into despair. I fear this type of desolation is not only isolated to our community, but stretches across our nations and schools.
Still my hope arises! For, how much brighter shines the light in such darkness! How much more visible the truth must be through all the blatant lies of the enemy! How much more ready could a harvest of desperate souls, clinging to any sort of false hope be! Let not the workers be few! And dear church! Let us not look down on anyone because of their youth. Let us no longer accept for our youth, in church, the burden of rebellion and immorality that the world would have them bear. Instead, let us in faith, equip and minister to them, and encourage them in the royal priesthood which they are called to and established in.
Our expectation must not be that our youth would fail and falter, though of course if they do, there is divine grace and forgiveness. Rather let us expect that their desire would be for God, and that they would soar beneath His wings as more than conquerors. As those not overcome by the world, but as those who would overcome the world by the blood of Christ! And youth! Dear, beloved, chosen youth of Christ Jesus. Stand firm. Stand fast. Read your Bible. Pray. And may the things that you do echo through eternity! May your lips be anointed for his purpose. May you have eyes to see and witness the blessed redemption of your generation! May your faith surpass that of my generation! May you rise!
In the darkness deep,
The apathetic sleep.
Unaware of what they miss,
Not caring to resist.
Seeking yet another dose
The weak and hollow ghost.
The drug they consume consumes;
Their life is left in ruins.
They do not seek escape,
Imprisoned they feel safe.
Unaware they’re all enslaved
In digging their own graves.
Through the dawn is breaking,
Light so bright, so breathtaking!
Ripping apart their notions
Of simply going through the motions.
Showing them so much more,
Then the walking death before!
Echoing through the valley pained;
Dead embers now enflamed!
A rising generation turns their face,
To the one enthroned who offers grace!
I am a stay at home mother of 5, wife of 1, who loves writing poetry and writing in general. I basically have no qualifications, but am allowed and blessed to help lead women's ministries in our Drayton Valley Alliance Church. If you want an example of God using the most unlikely of people to further his Glory I'm your girl. I offer nothing except a deep love of God and passion for his word. Which, actually if you think about it, is a lot!
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