Monthly Archives: September 2012

Inspi(re)ality #5: Hospitals Visits

This is another post in a year long series on practical ministry tips and tools. The following is a guest post by Ben Siburt. Ben served several years as a hospital chaplain and over a decade in full time church work, and is currently the Executive minister (think Old Testament High Priest) at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. He’s also a good friend and one of the more gifted people I know at entering into spaces where people are hurting:

I think it is impossible to ever carry the label of expert in the arena of hospital visitation. If you ever are in need of some humility, then spend time visiting people in the hospital. I remember several times that I would label as less than pastorally sensitive. Like the time I walked into a room of someone who was in a tragic car wreck that cost them the life of a family member and broke both of their legs and pelvis. The first phrase out of my mouth was a question and it was, “How are you doing?”

That is high quality pastoral presence and ministry, or simply a really dumb question. The look on the patient’s face told me clearly it was option B. My list of blunders and times of picking the wrong thing to say could fill weeks and weeks of this blog. I spent a summer working as a chaplain intern in Houston’s Medical Center and 5 years as an intern and part-time chaplain at Abilene’s Hendrick Hospital. My ten years in full-time church ministry has seen many hospital rooms. Most recently I speak as a family member who just completed a three-year journey of watching my dad die of cancer.

Jonathan has already provided great truth about this poignant aspect of ministry, and so I will add a few additional truths that hopefully are helpful. Continue reading Inspi(re)ality #5: Hospitals Visits

A Generous Confrontation

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about how and why Christians are called to judge and be judged by one another. Not in the condemning, self-righteous way that we all tend to have in our mind, but in a gentle loving way that is concerned for the restoration of the person involved. And while that sounds all good in theory, in my experience it almost never goes like that. Maybe because we rarely are able to confront each other well.

Now I know that there are plenty of stories about Christians coming to other Christians with a spirit of condemnation and smug self-rigteousness. I’ve had it happen to me, and I bet you have too. But we shouldn’t use the abuse of something good to write off it’s use in healthy ways. And I think that’s why Jesus gives some of his most practical straight forward teaching on how to do this.

In Matthew 18, the same book that Jesus says his famous “Do not Judge” line, Jesus tells his followers how to approach someone who has sinned against us. Here’s exactly what he says:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Notice how practical Jesus is here. He’s not going to talk about mustard seeds or the birds of the air here, he’s going to be as direct as possible because he knows what a cancer sin and gossip can be on a community. So he tells us very specifically what to do, and even the order to do it in. But today, I just want to talk about the first sentence that Jesus says:

If your brother or sister has sinned against you.

If.

Because maybe they didn’t. What if they didn’t mean that the way you took it? What if they were actually going to pay you that back? Or what if they hadn’t actually told that person that thing about you? There is a big leap between If a person sinned against you, and When a person sins against you. And one of the reasons that I think Jesus wants  us to go to the person is so that we can know what is actually happening, Maybe that gesture didn’t mean what you thought, or maybe they really didn’t get the email. Continue reading A Generous Confrontation

Inspi(re)ality #4: Hospital Visits

So just a few days ago I walked into a Hospice room of a Highland Church member . It was someone who had made a dent in their little area of the world, he had lived well, and  was dearly loved by his family and friends, and now they were gathered around saying goodbye as best as they could.

And as soon as I walked in the room I knew I was in a holy place. As in, It was set apart, unlike the rest of the hectic world right waiting right outside that hallway.

So this is the 3rd post in a year long blog series on practical ministry ideas for other preachers and ministers and local church volunteers. Over the next several months, expect to see many guests posts from other ministers and teachers and preachers about how they’ve learned to do certain aspects of ministry, starting next week. Ben Siburt, Highland’s Executive minister and former hospital chaplain will give some tips from what he’s learned.

I believe this is one of the most important aspects of ministry, but it’s also one of the more delicate ones too.

Because people are more vulnerable in the hospital than they are at almost any time in their lives.

They probably aren’t wearing makeup, they don’t have their suit or skinny jeans on (they’ve been given a reverse apron) and they have little control over their environment or what the doctors are doing to their body. They are sick. And for a follower of Jesus, you know he loved to hang around with that demographic.

Because there is something about the hospital that takes all the pretense out of life isn’t there? When Leslie and I had our miscarriage last year, we had to spend two days in the hospital, and while I had visited hundreds of people there, and had been there for two previous births, this was different. Because no one really says they’re fine in a hospital do they? You’re probably worried and scared , you’re tired and people keep coming in to check on you, and chances are you’re dealing with quite a bit of physical pain as well. And then your preacher walks in.

So that is their shoes. And in order to do this, we’ve got to realize that who you are going to visit might not be their normal, pleasant self.

So a couple of tips that I’ve gotten that have served me well: Continue reading Inspi(re)ality #4: Hospital Visits

The Symphony of Grace

So there is this one time where Jesus is talking with some religious leaders about their view of God. They have taken offense at Jesus for the way he is ministering, and more specifically the kinds of people he is ministering to. They are criticizing him for spending time with the “sinners” of their day. And so Jesus tells them a story.

Unless you live under a rock somewhere,  you’ve heard this story before.  It’s the one about two sons and their dad. And the younger of the two sons goes off and blows his inheritance on the same things that most young men blow their inheritance on. And eventually, after he hits rock bottom, this young man decides to finally come home. And the entire way back he’s working on his apology speech. Because when you’ve blown it as bad as he has, you need to have a pretty impressive apology.

Now you know this story, the Dad runs as soon as he sees him a long way off. Which means the Dad never stopped looking. He doesn’t let him even finish the apology speech before he starts going into party planning mode. They throw a party with music and dancing and roasted calf. And then dad notices that another son has gone prodigal on him.

So, like before, the dad who is always watching out for his boys, goes to him and tries to get him to join the party.

And If we just knew this about God, we would understand how He feels about the Human Condition.

He’s trying to get us all to join the party.

I’ve been writing the past few weeks about the deep need for Christians to live in community with each other. It seems like Christians in the West have such an allergy to all things related to judging, and maybe rightfully so, but we still have this deep need to be able to hold each other accountable and speak the redemptive and hard words into each others lives.  And last week, I wrote about one passage in Galatians that seems to be get at the heart of our objections to judging others, but hold on to the heart of what it means to live in God’s community. Here’s what Paul wrote:  Continue reading The Symphony of Grace

Inspi(re)ality #3: The Wedding Rehearsal

It’s interesting that at the end of the Gospel of John, John writes that he’s not telling us everything. He only writes what will help people have faith in Jesus, because if he were to write everything there wouldn’t be enough books in the world to hold it in. And so it’s really significant that John is the only Gospel that tells us about Jesus at a Wedding.

All the other gospels open with stories about Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation, but not John. Instead John opens up his book by telling us about Jesus at a wedding. And He calls it a sign.

Which is what I think all weddings are.

Think about it, Weddings are the only time a lot of people will ever step in a church or hear a minister talk about God. And to be fair, if you have to pick between them coming to a wedding or a church service, weddings shouldn’t be a bad first step for anyone. At least the Gospel of John thought so.

But I’ll get back to that.

So last week was about how I’ve learned to do weddings, but this week is the most important part for pulling one off successfully. This is about how to do the Rehearsal. Continue reading Inspi(re)ality #3: The Wedding Rehearsal

Everyday Restoration Movements

So I’ve been doing a blog series on Judging and Judgmental Christians for the past few weeks, and why we need them…kind of. I know this seems kind of counter-intuitive. At least it is for me. It’s so much easier to talk about stories of Prodigal Sons and grace and compassion than it is to try and talk about this. But I’ve been thinking about this for some time now, and I’ve realized that what we call Grace can be  just a cheap cop-out for not wanting to live life deeply rooted in community and appropriate accountability.

So last week I talked about ways that have been helpful for me to receive correction from a brother or sister, and the next couple of weeks I want to talk about those moments when we feel called to approach another and initiate these difficult conversations ourselves. We’ve seen something in their life that we think they may be blind to, and we want to make sure they are aware of the danger, so we approach them.

Last week, I wrote about one of the great pastoral case studies of this. It’s where Paul corrects a Corinthian church for tolerating a man sleeping with his step-mother. He actually tells them to kick the guy out of church. He wants them to disfellowship this guy. Now, I’ve seen this happen a handful of times in my life, and it almost always goes badly. The person being disfellowshipped is hurt and filled with righteous indignation. And almost always, the church leaders who had to do it are too.

But go back and read 1st Corinthians 5. This isn’t Paul giving them a permanent solution, this is rooted in Paul’s hope for both the church as well as the guy who’s sleeping with his step-mom. Paul is asking the church to let the guy feel the full weight of his decisions, and then as soon as he has, Paul asks them to accept him right back into the community. Paul’s hope isn’t for condemnation for this person. Paul’s hope is for his restoration.

There’s another time where Paul is writing another church in Galatia. And toward the end of the letter Paul tells them this:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Gently restore them. I like that phrase. The word gently is actually a word for meekness, it means the way we approach the person should be as non-threatening as possible. This is the part I think we miss the most. We approach these difficult conversations with ultimatums and power plays and, all too often, quite a bit of self-righteousness. This is especially true when we are confronting someone with a sin that we don’t struggle with ourselves. So of course it gets messy quite quickly. Continue reading Everyday Restoration Movements

Inspi(re)ality #2: Writing a Wedding

Today is the first of a series that is going to go about a year that I introduced a little last week. I’m excited about this series, but it’s going to be a bit different than what I normally write. Most of the time people who are just entering into ministry, or a different season of ministry have these great ideas about what the future holds. We’ve got dreams and ideals, we’ve gone to school, we’ve read our Bible and we’ve been inspired. And then we run into the reality of day-to-day ministry. And a lot of times churches, because of this, take in young preachers and spit out insurance agents.

But I’d like to help that if I can.

So I’m calling this longer series Inspire(ality). Because I think one of the great blessings of ministering in a church is that people often invite us into difficult places in their live, or that we get to help shape a group of people toward God’s purposes in the world. It’s all very inspiring. But then we hit reality. And it can be daunting for those of us who are just being thrown in without any help.

So this series is going to be for other preachers and ministers and local church volunteers who are just learning the ropes of day-to-day ministry, as well as those who have done it for a while and want to share and learn other tools people are using in different places.  I want to write about some of the things that I’ve learned and am learning. And I want to kick this off by talking about how to write a wedding. I was a Young Singles Minister for several years. I’ve done a ton of weddings, and it’s one of my favorite parts of ministry.

There is nothing quite like doing a wedding. It seems like every time I do a wedding, hundreds of verses in the Bible start to make more sense. All the time God talks about covenants in the Old Testament,  or all the wedding stories in the New Testament begins to come into focus when we perform these kinds of ceremonies.

The truth is we live in a pretty superficial culture that doesn’t often like to step back and think about things that deeply matter.

But when it comes to a wedding, people who never pause to think about God, stop and watch a modern day parable. Weddings are different than most any other part of your ministry,

So how do we do weddings?

The Interview

The first step, hopefully, is to do or make sure that the couple has had pre-marital counseling done. I’ll write more in a few months about this part, and I’m going to try to video interview a great counselor for some tips, but for now, just make sure that some preliminary work is done before the wedding. With a divorce rate of about 50/50, it’s scary to think that couples spend 10x the amount of time on the wedding that they do on preparation for actually being married.

So I start writing a Wedding with a list of questions. I’m attaching the document of questions I ask each couple to this blog, but the big idea here is to find out two things: 1) Their story, and 2)the format and tone of the service. Do they want special things, like a sand ceremony/communion? Do they have the music picked out yet, if so what is it? How many Groosmen and Bridesmaids? When do these people come in, and to what song?  Continue reading Inspi(re)ality #2: Writing a Wedding

A People of Maybe

Have you ever seen that show Intervention? It’s an incredibly heartbreaking show about people who have gotten caught up with an addiction that has completely taken over their lives. And so their friends and family all gather together and surprise them with an intervention asking them to get help. It’s gut-wrenching. These people who love this person beg and cry and plead for them to turn their lives around.

And the person almost always says no.

So there is this one time in 1st Corinthians, where Paul is writing a church that he had helped to plant, and Paul is having to address one of the earliest church scandals. The Corinthian church is situated right in the middle of the ancient world’s version of Las Vegas or Amsterdam. Which by the way, I think is really cool. Not even 30 years after Jesus Resurrection, there are churches sprouting up in some of the darkest parts of the world.

Now God wasn’t calling His people out of Sodom and Gomorrah, He was sending them into it.

But the problem that Paul is addressing isn’t the sin around the Corinthian Church, it was the sin inside of it. Specifically, there was this one guy who had recently started sleeping with his step-mother.  I know it all sounds so Jerry Springerish, but this is one of the earliest examples of a pastoral church case study we have. The Corinthians have this gnostic idea of Spirituality, and so they think that the flesh doesn’t matter, and that because they are so “spiritual” they are acting like nothing is wrong with whole incredibly dysfunctional situation. But Paul thinks otherwise. Look at what Paul says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourningand have put out of your fellowship  the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.

 I’ve already passed judgment in the name of Jesus. 

Obviously Paul didn’t read Jesus. We like it when Paul talks about Love being patient and kind, but this just sounds so judgmental. And I think Paul would say to us,”Yeah, it kind of is being judgmental.” Continue reading A People of Maybe