Tag Archives: Ministry

Churches Shaped By Mission

NT Wright on “Church Shaped by Mission” from Fuller Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

If you lead or serve in a local church, than this post is for you. Hold off on watching the video above for a second.

Last week I was in a meeting of a group of ministers and seminary professors who were trying to figure out how churches and seminaries can work better together for training future ministers.

It was an incredible meeting, and kudos to our seminaries for caring enough to ask the question, “How can we do better?” One of the more interesting parts of the conversation came when one of the ministers was talking about the tension between the ideal and the real. The way he said it was that he was, “I learned in seminary to be suspicious of anything that worked. Because pragmatic or practical ministry involves compromise and using methods that are less than ideal.”

And immediately we all knew what he meant.

I mean can we really say that the Cross “worked?” Isn’t Christianity a faith about dying to ourselves? Should we really compromise in order to be more effective?

But the problem is that in order to lead a local church you have to compromise and learn to work pragmatically. You are dealing with real people with problems that don’t come in textbook formats. And you learn quickly in ministry that for all your preparations and theories that the local church isn’t a laboratory. And that what works in theory doesn’t always work in practice.

So back to this video. This video is from the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright teaching at Fuller Seminary a few years ago. They were asking him about this exact thing, he was talking to preachers from churches from a hundred different traditions, who were basically wanting to know how to do we hold this tension between the ideal and the real?

I love his answer.

Keep the ideal in mind. Remember that there is a new Heaven and a New Earth coming, and remember what that vision for the future looks like, because that’s more than just the Christian hope. That’s the Christian mission.

It is the mission that should inform every church.

Let’s just hopefully and pragmatically stumble toward that.

Inspi(re)ality: A Ministry that Keeps on Building

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During the month of March, we’ve dedicated Thursdays to talking about mentoring, why it’s important and practical tips about how to go about doing it. Today’s post is by a man who’s worked hard to mentor younger ministers, as well as get mentoring. Jim is the preacher at the Crestview Church of Christ, and is one of the best ministers and encouragers I know. Jim consistently writes great content for leadership/ministry at his blog over at www.godhungry.org.  You can follow him on Twitter here. And I highly recommend checking out his blog here.

Meet Jim:

For much of my adult life I have desired to be mentored. As a young minister, it was very clear to me that I had much to learn. Consequently, I was very intentional about seeking out people from whom I could learn. Over the years I have gained from the following:

  • Several trusted ministers who were very patient as I came to them again and again with my questions and difficult situations. Some of these people have been a very important part of my life for many years.
  • Relationships that I had for a particular season of ministry. That is, for a season I learned from these people and stayed in contact.
  • Occasional coffees and lunches with particular people. These were more than conversations. I often came to these moments with numerous questions I needed to ask.
  • Individuals through their biographies and autobiographies. At other times, I saturated myself with the writings of Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Gordon MacDonald, John R.W. Stott, C. S. Lewis, etc.For many years I wouldn’t have used the word “mentor” to describe what I needed from these people. I just knew that I had much to learn from others.As you read this note, I want to ask you:

Are you being mentored by anyone?

As you think about this question, know that I continue to be mentored by others. I am still intentional about learning from others. I look for people from whom I can learn.

Are you willing to be mentored?

The following are a few questions that might be helpful in reflecting on this:

  • Who am I learning from right now?
  • Am I serious about growing and changing?
  • Do I really listen to trusted people?
  • Is there anyone in my life with whom I talk and then actually follow through on something that person suggested?
  • Am I serious about moving from “What shall I do?” to “What kind of person wilI I be?”Look for someone from whom you can learn. Ask to spend some time with that person. Go prepared. Ask good questions. Listen. Write down what you wish to remember. Listen to this person’s words and watch this person’s manner. Be fully present when you are with this person.

Are you investing in anyone else’s life?

First, I am not talking about someone who might be presumptuous and think someone would be blessed just to spend time with him. Blessing someone through a mentoring relationship works best when that person is living out of the soul, not the ego.

Mentoring is more than dispensing information or trying to get someone to recognize one’s wisdom. It is the willingness to make oneself vulnerable
and available to another. It is the willingness to be fully present with another. It is a willingness to step into another’s life (if invited) to add value. It can occur one-to-one or in a small mentoring group.

This kind of investment can be helpful in the following ways:

• Mentoring can help shape another’s life.
• Mentoring can help a person as he travels through life.
• Mentoring can put various problems and struggles in perspective. • Mentoring can encourage and help another see the future.

Most of all, you can bless another by simply paying attention to him. Before you conclude that you have very little to offer, let me remind you that there is only one you and you may be used uniquely by God to make a difference in another’s life.

Finally, three suggestions:

(These are simply places to begin.)

  1. Begin by praying that God would lead you to a person from whom you can learn.
  2. Attempt to schedule a time (perhaps coffee or lunch) to be with someone from whom you would like to learn. Simply tell that person you would like to ask questions about ministry and life. Come prepared with questions.
  3. Consider inviting a person to coffee or lunch who might have less experience in life and ministry than you. Be fully present and listen to that person’s words and heart. Affirm whatever you see that is good, right, and godly. In other words, don’t try to do anything or fix anything. Simply be present and see what might develop from that relationship.

Inspi(re)ality: Josh Ross on a Restoration Vision (Video Interview)

All this month on Inspi(re)ality we’ve been talking about the importance of churches having vision, and practical ways to help get there. Last week, I sat down with Josh Ross, the preaching minister at the Sycamore View Church of Christ. They’ve just rolled out a new vision for their church,  and so I was asking him about what this process had looked like for them.

In the Interview I asked Josh 6 questions:

1. What led you and your church leadership to casting a vision at your church?

2. How did you and the church leadership go about forming and casting the vision?

3. How did you communicate to the church at large about the vision?

4. Your vision is called “Restore” Why that language?

5. Have you seen any differences in your church since launching a new vision?

6. What about the preacher of 100 member church? What suggestions do you have for them to help cast a vision in their context?

What I love about Josh and Sycamore View is the way that they love their city, and have communicated an externally focused vision. For examples on the testimonies Josh was talking about in the video, here are some links to the videos they’ve used to communicate their vision repeatedly. 

You can follow Josh on Twitter, and look for his upcoming book (that I highly recommend) called Scarred Faith.

Inspi(re)ality: Being a Grown-Up in Ministry

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“When I was a child I thought as a I child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” -Paul

When I first started working at a church, I was pretty set on wearing jeans to the office. And I didn’t want anyone to ever use the word “professional” to describe me. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

And I understand the reasoning for not wanting to be a “professional” in ministry, but too often what we really mean is not being mature. So I’ve asked my friend Steven Hovater to talk about what it looks like to serve a church “professionally.”

Steven lives in Tullahoma Tennessee with his wife Kelly and three rowdy daughters. He values community, discipleship, and the creative work of God, so these things tend to show up in his preaching at the Church of Christ at Cedar Lane

Here’s Steven:

I get it. You didn’t go into ministry for the regular hours, tidy dress code, and opportunities to be an amateur accountant. You don’t see your primary work as being done at a desk, and you hate going to meetings.

Further, I get that there are good reasons for not wanting to let the secular world dictate what ministry looks like. There are good reasons that ministry should look differently than jobs molded by the pragmatic production cultures of twentieth century America. Those cultures don’t have a place for wasting time by lavishing care on widows and orphans. Nor do they honor prophets who speak truth, even when it brings the house down, nor time for stewing over a text, or listening to a problem that will remain unsolved. We cannot allow ministry to become about acquiring respect on the terms of the world. We’re not simply “employees”, and the church is never simply our “employer”. Ministers should always come to work dressed in a little camel hair, with a packed lunch of locusts. We should always be at least weird enough to remind the church that the normal world is broken. I get that, and so I want you to know that I’m with you in your struggle against The Man. Fight on, Brother/Sister. Fight on.

But…

We still need to have a little talk about what it means to be a professional in ministry. We don’t talk about it enough. Maybe it’s because of our desire to avoid being too secular for reasons like those outlined above. Or maybe we have bought into a set of old assumptions. For instance, in some corners of the church, ministers still try to maintain the impenetrable holy facades and suicidal workloads from a set of unquestioned professional expectations inherited from the last century.

For whatever reason, we often fail to engage in balanced discussions of our professional expectations. And yet, failing to describe our professional expectations and ethics never prevents those expectations from existing. Instead, it leaves those expectations to grow wild in all their conflict-generating splendor. Or, having successfully hidden ourselves in unquestionable priestly garments, we fail to meet reasonable, baseline obligations. When we do that, we foster frustrations that can eventually undo our partnerships with God’s people. Worse, we may abuse the church’s willingness to support us, thus wasting decades of holy time and thousands of consecrated dollars doing bad work in the name of God. A healthy professionalism honors our calling from God and our partnership with the church by translating the concept of being good stewards into concrete expectations and behaviors.

And so, the big question is: “What marks a healthy professionalism among ministers?” This deserves a much broader discussion, but let me suggest four commitments that can begin to form the core:

1. The commitment to doing your job with excellence, and improving over time. God has gifted you with raw talents and skills that can be used in your ministry. You are absolutely ethically responsible for making use of those gifts as well as you can. Beyond that, it is important to continually refine your capacities so that you’re not only giving God your best right now, but making sure that your entire body of work will demonstrate intentional growth. Part of ministry is encouraging people to be intentional about growing. Model that. Don’t just be a steward of the gift you already have, but what that gift could turn into.

2. A commitment to impartial service, regardless of what people can or cannot do for you, how much power they have, or how much you like them. I’m not saying you have to be the one that addresses every pastoral crises—the work has to be spread around and shouldn’t all depend on you. But, if you want to be a professional in ministry, your pastoral ministry has to be broader than your social group, influential leaders, and people who make it easy for you. This is an incredibly important professional ethic because it places a check on why you do the things you do, making your work more intentional and less dependent on your whims.

3. A commitment to a healthy work ethic that takes seriously your obligation to be a good steward of your ministry, as well as of your own health and family. By now we all know the dangers of burnout, even though some continue to recklessly ignore them. However, what I see among many peers in my generation is far, far on the other side of the spectrum, and a mix of bad work habits and laziness keeps them from doing consistent hard work. Don’t ignore your own need for rest: keep Sabbath. Don’t rob your family by taking what they need from you and giving it to the Church. But don’t rob the Church either, wasting time and calling it work. Work hard, and learn to work well.

4. A commitment to doing the little things that come with your job which are unimportant to you but not to others. I want to be careful here—all work is not created equal, and you can spend so much energy doing busy-work tasks that you leave important things undone. You can’t let people pull your priorities out of alignment. But understand: doing little things communicates big values. Showing up on time tells people that you respect them. Responding to people shows that you’re listening to them. Keeping your receipts and meeting your budget tells the accountants you respect their work and take stewardship seriously. Blowing those things off sends the opposite messages.

I’m reasonably confident that at least half of what I’ve written is completely misguided, that there are a dozen commitments that might be more important than the ones I’ve listed, and that the whole premise of this article is theologically dangerous. But Storment asked me to write to rookies, and I’m reasonably confident of one last thing: If I could have heard (and I mean really heard) something like this fifteen years ago, my work in the church would have been healthier. I hope it’s helpful to you.

God at Work: The Priesthood of Burger-Flippers

“Christian people, specifically Christian clergy must get it firmly planted in their heads that when someone is is called to a particular job of “secular” work, that is as true a vocation as if they were called to specifically religious work.” -Dorothy Sayers

“I wish I could do what you do.” -Cletis Storment (my dad)

Jesus at the office

Her name was Katherine and she was trapped in a convent, secretly writing letters to her future Romeo. She no longer wanted to be a Nun, but she couldn’t escape, so she wrote letters asking for help. Eventually Romeo rolls into town and packs up all the nuns into some empty wine barrels (like you do). He loads them up on his wagon, and takes off hauling the sisters as fast as his horses go. His name was Martin Luther, the original Protestant. He went on to marry Katherine, not for love, but in his words, “To spite the Pope.”

Nicolas Sparks eat your heart out.

But Luther did this because he was not just picking up a wagon-order bride, he did this to fight for a different idea of work.

Churches tend to overestimate their importance, and by doing so minimize their impact in the world. And history is no different than today. The Church at the time had bought into the ideas that there were some jobs that were more important than others. These were the Spiritual jobs, the ones that involved praying and studying Scripture or preaching. And then there was everything else.

But that isn’t anywhere near the story the Bible is telling.

The Fingers of God

When Genesis 1 tells us that God made humans in His Own Image, that’s royalty language of the surrounding culture. God is in effect, saying that everyone has divine blood pulsing through their veins. In fact, the Bible starts off with God shaping dirt and making it a person. It’s manual labor. And if that doesn’t convince you, think about the way Philip Jenson talks about the difference between the Judeo-Christian view of labor:

“If God came into the world, what would he be like? For the ancient Greeks, he might have been a philosopher-king. The ancient Romans might have looked for a just and noble statesman. But how does the God of the Hebrews come into the world?… As a Carpenter.”

On average, most of us will work 100,000 hours in our lives, the majority of our lives will be spent doing our job. And if the only thing you ever hear from church is about how you should work/serve/volunteer more inside the building, there’s a chance that you might miss out on how important God thinks your job is.

All through the Bible, we hear about how God does stuff like “strengthen the bars of the city gates” or how he “feeds every living thing” But one of Luther’s greatest contribution to the world was by asking the question…How exactly does God do that?

He uses blacksmiths and farmers and maids to serve the people around them. They are the “fingers of God” working in every section of the world, and they are not working secondary callings, they are the means by which God is blessing others.

They are priests.

Human Flourishing

God’s dream for the world is human flourishing. It is for us to create cultures that serve our neighbors, and helps each person live and flourish.

This is the calling of all Christians from the the banker who gives loans to the manager who flips burgers. It is the calling of the journalist who tells the story of one neighbor to another, and the teacher who helps a student understand what kind of world they live in.

The only difference between wilderness and culture, is work. And God’s call for our work isn’t to just one institution (the Church), but to serve the world in the way we’ve been called.

So When I was a kid, my dad was an assistant manager at Wendy’s. And he was great at his job. We visited him every day (explaining my pear-shaped body) and I loved watching him work. He was good with people, and his employees loved him. He was respectful and kind and he cared about the quality of food that he was serving customers.

When someone he worked with was sick, our whole family would visit them, and when someone died, we went to their funeral. He would give employees that screwed up second chances a dozen times. To this day, people still talk about the joy of working for him.

But about 2 or 3 times a year, normally after a sermon, my dad will come up to me, put his arm around me and say something like, “I wish I could do what you do.”

It breaks my heart every time.

Because I know what’s behind that. Somewhere along the way my dad heard a message that implied that his work was not serving God. That if he really wanted to please God he should work at a church, or be a missionary, but that his calling really didn’t matter.

And that’s why Martin Luther smuggled nuns out of a convent like he was James Bond. He did it for my dad and people like him all over the world.

Because God isn’t creating a community of second class citizens. He’s creating a community of priests.

My dad is a part of the priesthood of burger-flippers. God is feeding all living things, in part, through him.

He is the Fingers of God serving the world through his work.

I wish I could do that.

Inspi(re)ality: Before You Go

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One of the conversations I have at least once a week, is with a minister thinking about leaving their church to go to a new church. I always refer them to Wade Hodges ebooks. Wade is the preaching minster at the Preston Road Church of Christ and for this blog series he adapted the following from his ebook: Before You Go: A Few Sneaky-Good Questions Every Minister Should Answer Before Moving to a New Church.

Last week he talked about when the right time to leave a church is, adapted from his book When to Leave. If you’re interested in purchasing both. You can  download both When To Leave and Before You Go as one ebook here.

Here’s Wade:

How Do You Know When You’ve Found The Right One?

“Every time I fall in love I feel a little sick to my stomach.  I’m going to marry the one who makes me the sickest.”-Someone Funny

“You’ll know when you know.”-A Four-Time Divorcee

In Before You Go, I spend quite a bit of time coaching readers on to how to tell if a church isn’t a good fit, rather than helping them figure out which one is the right fit. My goal in writing it was to help ministers avoid making unwise decisions, due either to lack of information about the church or lack of personal insight.

Still, the question remains: How do you know when you’ve found the right church and can celebrate saying “yes” to a great new opportunity?

It depends on what we mean by the “right” church. “Right” doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t mean trouble-free. It doesn’t mean you won’t be in for a few unpleasant surprises a couple of weeks after you’ve unpacked the moving van.

However . . .

If they have a vision based on an honest assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, and history and you can’t help but feel attracted to their vision because of your strengths, weaknesses, and history, then it may be the right church for you.

If it’s obvious they’re not looking for you to be the solution to their problems, but rather are looking for someone like you to come strengthen their team with your specific gifts, then it may be the right church for you.

If after hearing about their past mistakes, current problems, and potential difficulties, you still feel drawn to them, and maybe even worried that you would forever regret passing on the opportunity to join them on their journey, then it may be the right church for you.

If you sense that you will be loved and accepted as a broken human being who is still trying to figure out how to follow Jesus even though it’s your job to stand up and tell others about him, then it may be the right church for you.

If they are diligent in listening to and addressing the concerns of your spouse during the interview process, and if your spouse feels like they “get it,” then it may be the right church for you.

If you sense that the members of the leadership team are the kind of people you would want to be friends with even if you weren’t their pastor, then it may be the right church for you.

If you would attend the church even if you didn’t work there, then it may be the right church for you. (This one is huge. I’m amazed at how many ministers wouldn’t attend their church if they weren’t paid to be there.)

None of this guarantees you won’t end up scratching your head a few years later at the mess you’ve chosen to join. But if you ask enough of the right questions throughout the interview process, you can take comfort in knowing you’ve reduced the chances of being blindsided by something you should have seen coming.

Well Done Dr. Neller

Dr. Ken NellerThe most influential people in my life have been more humble than they should have been.

Last night, one of the people who has shaped me the most passed away of a sudden heart attack. Ken Neller was a Bible professor at Harding University. He was one of the most academically accomplished people I’d met. Everyone knew he was brilliant, but not because he let you know that.

I remember how I was preaching in Chapel on Galatians, and I took him to lunch to talk about it. I remember him talking about the Grace of God in that book, and feeling like I was hearing something that was true in the deepest sense of the word. I remember taking my Greek final and him telling me that my translation reminded him an awful lot of the NIV. I remember him talking about never cheating your family to serve the church. I remember taking his preparations for ministry class (what he called the Marry and Bury class) and him telling us that the Kingdom of God was alive and well today, and we could serve it by these practical ways of serving the local church.

He taught me how to do ministerial finances, how to do weddings and funerals and how to read the Bible. He taught me how to use redaction criticism to write a sermon, but to never say redaction criticism in one. But the greatest lesson he taught me was one that only really makes sense now.

He was teaching us about how each of us have a canon within a canon. That is, everyone who reads the Bible, privileges certain verses over others, and it’s important to acknowledge which passages we lean into. Because, he said, this will affect the way you do ministry and the way you view God.

And that’s when he told us something that has blessed me every since.

He told our class that his hermeneutical center, the verse that meant the most to him was Matthew 25:21. When Jesus tells his people Well done, my good and faithful servant.

And then Dr. Neller teared up.

Which was not what any of us in class saw coming. He wasn’t the crying type, but you could tell that this was embedded deep in his idea of what it meant to serve God and to teach.

And then Dr. Neller went on to tell us that we each had no idea what we were about to step into, the amount of criticism we would face, and the temptation that we would have to be people-pleasers, but that this was not a big enough dream to give our lives for. And then Dr. Neller said this, “When I realized that God was the only one I really wanted to please, I realized what it meant to serve a church.”  Continue reading Well Done Dr. Neller

Inspi(re)ality #13: When To Leave Your Church

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One of the questions I get asked often is by young ministers who are thinking of leaving their current church for greener pastures. I always refer them to Wade Hodges ebooks. Wade is the preaching minster at the Preston Road Church of Christ and for this blog series he adapted the following from his ebook When To Leave: How To Know It’s Time To Move On (Before You Stay Way Too Long) 

Meet Wade:

How I Stayed Way Too Long (Twice)

Once upon a time there was a pastor who moved to a small church when he was 25 years old and stayed there for 40 years until he retired.

No, this isn’t the beginning of a pastoral fairy tale. I can think of several pastors, like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Bob Russell, who have served only one church throughout their distinguished careers. Warren and Hybels started the churches they currently serve. Russell moved to his church as a young preacher and during his forty year tenure helped it grow from 120 members into one of the largest churches in America.

I admire those guys.

For the longest time, I aspired to be one of them.

When I signed on to work with my first church at the tender age of 23, I had Bob Russell in mind as I dreamed of helping a struggling church of 75 people become one of the largest churches in the world during my 40 year  career.

Six years later I still had Russell in mind when I accepted a call to work with a church of 750 in need of a “turnaround.” Her glory days were well in the rear-view mirror, but there were reasons to believe in a hopeful future. I moved there at the still naive age of 30 and figured I had the next 35 years to make a name for myself.

Six years later, at the seasoned age of 36, I had Warren and Hybels in mind when I embarked on an adventure to plant a church I could pastor for the next thirty years.

At age 38, I was writing books and counseling pastors on how to have a more realistic appraisal of their gifts and vision for ministry, while also trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. (Six months ago, I was graciously given an opportunity to return to a full-time preaching ministry with a great church. I hope I took my own advice about ministry transitions!)

I stayed at my first two churches longer than I should have. Maybe a couple of years too long in both cases.

As I was staying too long at both churches, I would have told you that I was trying to be faithful. Faithful to God, to the church, to my conviction that one shouldn’t run away from a difficult ministry assignment, and faithful to good ole conventional wisdom.

One of my guiding principles was a proverb I picked up from one of my favorite college professors: A lot of hard work is wasted for lack of a little more.

I couldn’t stomach the possibility of quitting only a couple of months before a major breakthrough. It would be like bailing out of a marathon at the 25 mile marker. One reason I stayed way too long was because I didn’t want to waste a lot of hard work for lack of a little more.

I was also fearful that whoever followed me would step in, take advantage of all the hard work I had done, and be wildly successful. This was a terrible, immature attitude, and it got me forever barred from the John-the-Baptist-Prepare-the-Way-for-Someone-Else-Club, but I didn’t want another minister enjoying the fruit of my labor because I quit too soon.

Faithfulness can be a great disguise for darker motives. Continue reading Inspi(re)ality #13: When To Leave Your Church

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Invitation to the Highland Church

The average person visits a church website 5 or 6 times before they actually attend the church. Maybe they want to make sure there won’t be snakes or kool-aid, but more likely, they want to know if this church has them in mind at all. They want to know if this church is welcoming to guests.

Last month, we made this promo video for the Highland Church sermon series that is starting this week. If you are a member at Highland, feel free to share this video online or email it to invite your friends. If you live in Abilene, we’d love to invite you to join us as we study through Jesus’ teachings on how to live the best life. Here’s our invitation to you:

This is the time of year when a lot of us are trying to change. It’s when we go after the latest fad diet or the most recent personal development book. Now is when we think about change. This year as you are thinking about your future, join us as we look at what Jesus says the best life really looks like.

For the next few months at the Highland Church of Christ, we are going to be looking at Jesus’ most famous sermon. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s changed the course of human history! It is Jesus telling us what it looks like to live fully human. It’s filled with practical wisdom on what it looks like to live the good life. Jesus talks about everything from our relationships and how to deal with anger, to the danger of religion and how to not let the things that we own become things that own us.

Jesus words are as old as the New Testament but are as relevant and powerful as ever. He turned the world upside down with this sermon.

It has changed the world, let 2013 be the year that it changes you.

Names #6: Changing Names

CT PreachingThis is the last post in this short series about names in the book of Genesis. I know that whole idea might sound strange, but it’s something I’ve been rolling around in my mind for a while, because I’m convinced that our names matter more than we think they do. I think our language to describe the world and ourselves matter a lot to God.

That why Genesis talks a lot about names. Because a name is a story, and if we don’t name well, we might not tell the story we are wanting to tell.

For example…

Did you ever wonder why God changes people’s names?  Does this strike anybody else as bizarre? And it happens all the time in the Bible, especially in Genesis. Like when God comes to Abram and Sarai, these people who’ve had their names for 70 years, and he’s like “Let’s add an H” in there.

Or what about Jacob? God comes to this guy who is one of the worst heroes in ancient literature (He’s kind of a jerk, he’s selfish and he’s always trying to get ahead) and God tells him that he’s going to change his name to Israel.

To which I would say, can’t we go with something that sounds more normal like…Gary or Robert?

But I’ll come back to this.

One of my very good preaching friends is a guy named Charlton. Charlton is a young preacher and one of the best ministers I know. He and his family are some dear friends of ours, and I trust him implicitly. A year and a half ago, Charlton was serving at a large church that we both care about, when he had a moral failure that hurt him, his family, and the church that he was serving.

It’s something that we all know we are very capable of, but Charlton had the misfortune of being a very public figure when his life imploded. Meet my friend Charlton:

My name is Charlton. I spent most of my life investing in, upgrading, and polishing my name. In high school, my efforts were awarded with the title, “Mr. Integrity.” I continued to build on my reputation in college with the “Mr. LCU” crown. A few years later, my alma mater invited me back for the cherry on top: the “Young Alumni Award.” The constant attention I paid to my name was paying off, so no one was surprised when I devoted my life to full-time ministry. I was the “type” of person you would expect to do ministry. I could hear them in my head, “Charlton is perfect for ministry!” I had worked hard to be.

As my years in ministry increased, people became more aware of the cracks in my name, so I worked harder to seal them – an exhausting and futile exercise. Eventually I gave up and let all the secret dark places of my heart rise to the surface. I made a series of sinful choices with a blast radius that affected hundreds of good people. The explosion left those closest to me emotionally dismembered. In that moment the “Charlton brand” went bankrupt.  All the effort, energy, time…meaningless. This launched me on a three-month journey to utter brokenness. I had shattered my life and was helpless to put the pieces back together. Continue reading Names #6: Changing Names