The Impact Of Godly Men

lecraeLecrae is one of Christian Hip Hop’s leading voices. He is also an author, theologian, speaker, and cultural architect. I appreciate the impact that Lecrae is making is making on this generation.

PBS recently interviewed Lecrae for their Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly program.

Check out this interview and ask yourself how you are influencing those around you.

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Some Reads for the Weekend

Looking for something good to read this weekend?

Here are a few suggestions.

Randy-headshotFirst, take a few minutes to read this article about my friend, Randy Mortensen, who runs World Wide Village, the organization that I recently traveled to Haiti with. Randy was a corporate executive, whose search for meaning eventually led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ and a new calling in Haiti. This is a great story.

 

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards - ArrivalsLouie Giglio has had a busy couple of weeks. Just ten days or so ago he was leading 65,000 college students in a four day conference, in Atlanta, called Passion 2013. The Passion conference was a major success, where major strides were made to free people from modern day slavery. President Obama took notice and Giglio was asked to deliver the inaugural prayer. Giglio was dis-invited when his belief that homosexuality is a sin was discovered by a watchdog group that alerted the President’s inaugural committee. You can read a great piece about the entire debacle here. Giglio wrote an incredibly gracious reply to his church here.

i am notI’ve been blessed by Louie’s ministry for several years and found some of his writing to be some of the most encouraging in my Christian life. One of my all time favorite books is I am not but I know I AM. If you are looking for a quick read this weekend you can download it here. The book is a reminder that we are only here for a little while. History is God’s story. We need to live our lives for His glory and His renown. What part are you playing in God’s story?

Indescribable-Giglio-Louie-5099967949991

Another great Giglio book is Indescribable: Encountering the Beauty of God in the Beauty of the Universe. The book is the result of Louie’s famous sermon in which he encourages us to consider the vastness of outer space and the depth of the soul, and the God who created it all. Giglio’s sermon Indescribable was the inspiration behind the worship song Indescribable that he wrote with Matt Redman. You can download the book here.

You can download the song, as preformed by Chris Tomlin, here.

the-air-i-breatheOne final Giglio book that I highly recommend is The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life. Almost every worship pastor that I have met has used this book with a worship team at some point in time over the past three years. Giglio is passionate about worship. It’s one of the reasons that he founded the Passion Conferences. He writes as a man in love with Jesus, calling us to not miss out on living our lives as an act of worship to the God of the universe. You can download the book here.

IDENTITY_ebook_cover_MCLooking for something fiction? New York Times best-selling author, Ted Dekker has released the first three of four novellas in his new Eyes Wide Open series of books. The final novella will be release this coming Tuesday. You can download book one in the series, Identity, for free by clicking here.

Here is a brief description of the series from Amazon –

Who am I?
My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen and I’m about to die.I’m buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I’m lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won’t stop shaking.

Some will say that I m not really here. Some will say I’m delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I’m the one buried in a grave.

My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen. I’m about to die.

So who are you? 

In a return to the kind of storytelling that made BlackShowdown and Three unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern day parable about how we see ourselves.

Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally.

Books two and three are available for just $2.99 each.
dekker-mirrorsBook two is called Mirrors and can be downloaded here.
dekker-unseenBook three is called Unseen and can be downloaded here.
Happy Reading!
******* ADDITION
SeerBook four came out early! Here is the link to purchase Seer.

Promises Every Pastor Should Make

I-Promise (1)When a church calls a pastor, the expectations that are made upon that person can sometimes be unrealistic. In a few instances, the expectations of a pastor can border on abuse. When counseling pastors who are considering a call to a church, I often times tell the pastor to take a  long look at the job description. After looking at that, I tell the pastor to ask about any expectations that are not listed in the job description. Sometimes the assumed expectations that a congregation has about what a pastor will or will not do are even more important than the job description itself. In my years of ministry I have heard nightmare stories from pastors and churches about misunderstood expectations that have led to incredible pain on the part of the pastor or congregation.

So, what are some of the promises that every pastor should make to the Lord, their family, and to the church that they serve?

Here are some things that I think the Lord, my family, and my congregation should expect from me. These are areas that every pastor struggles with. Every pastor will fail on these from time to time. We are, after all, human. But, that should not stop us from striving to do our best to keep these promises. These promises should motivate us to get back up and try again whenever we fail.

In my relationship with God:

I promise to make Jesus Christ the greatest Love of my life. I will pursue a growing relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I will make God my top priority. I will seek the approval of the Lord over the approval any human being. I will strive to live my life in such a way that those around me will see Christ reflected in me; following in the servant way of Jesus. I will seek to make much of Jesus and little of me. I will strive to do the work of ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that anything I accomplish of eternal significance will be because of His power at work within me. I will make my prayer life a priority, seeking God’s face continually throughout each day. I will seek to understand God’s preferred future for my life, my family and the church that He has called me to serve. Then, I will follow His path no matter the cost. I will recognize my spiritual poverty and need of God’s grace, and forgive as God has forgiven me. I will confess my sin, daily, to the Lord; and seek to join Him, daily, in His mission of making more disciples. .

In my relationship with my family:

I promise to love my family more than the church that I serve, the work that I do, and the personal dreams that I have. I will seek to be the shepherd of my family more than being the shepherd of the church God has called me to serve. My spouse will be my greatest love after the Lord. My spouse should know that she is more important to me than the church that I serve. I will model to my family that loving God and loving the church isn’t the same thing. I am called to love God first, my family second, and then others.

To my children, I will strive to love your Mom as Christ loved the Church; laying down my life and my dreams, for our life and our dreams. I will love you for all of my life. I will recognize that you are the greatest gift that God has ever given me, next to Himself and your Mom. I will not let the busyness of ministry crowd out the life that God has planned for our family. You are my greatest priority – after God and after your Mom. I will disciple you at home, and be a volunteer in some of the ministries that you are a part of. I will do my best to not embarrass you, and will ask your permission before using you as an illustration in a sermon I preach or a lesson that I teach. I will take an interest in the things that you are interested in; because if it is important to you, it is important to me too. I will not expect of you the perfection that belongs to God and God alone. I will love you when you make mistakes and not allow the unrealistic expectations of those in our church to be expectations that I place upon you. I will pray for your future spouse and when the time comes to let go, I will give you back to God, recognizing that you were never really mine to begin with.

In my relationship with my church family: 

I promise to remember that the church that I pastor is God’s church. It doesn’t belong to me. I will seek His direction, in tandem with the leaders that God has placed around me, for this church body. I promise to love you, with the hopes that the community around us will know that we are Christians because we love one another. I promise to work hard. I will study God’s Word and do my best to accurately teach what Scripture teaches. I won’t be perfect. When I make a mistake, and realize it, I will own up to it and do my best to correct the problem. I will be an advocate for the pastoral and support staff that you have entrusted me with. I will pursue integrity in all areas of my life, seeking to be someone that you can trust, surrounding myself with people who will hold me accountable to God’s standards. I will do my best to not embarrass you, or the cause of Christ, by bringing shame upon His name. I will do my best to treat each attender of our church with honor, respect, fairness and confidentiality. I will speak the truth in love, even when it may not be what you want to hear, and I will welcome the same from you. I will welcome all, but not affirm the sin in any – including myself. I will recognize that there will be some people at our church who will be difficult for me to love, and try to remember that I am many people’s  person who is difficult to love. I will recognize that I am not the Savior, and therefore won’t have the solution to every struggle that our church has. God does. I am not ultimate authority. God is. I am not going to be competent in every area that our church will face; so I will work together with the beautiful body that Christ has built here to accomplish His purposes. I will recognize that the church that I serve does not have the “corner on the market” on God. I will live a life of inter-dependency with other pastors and church leaders across denominational lines.

We will pray as a body. We will serve as a body. We will learn as a body. We will worship as a body. I will seek to make sure that the vision that we pursue as a body comes from Christ speaking to the church and not just to me. I will do my best to help you discover your gifts so that you can honor God in the unique way that He has made you. I will recognize you as a gift to the body of Christ. That said, I will not reward dysfunction or those whose motives prove to be detrimental to the overall body. I will hang out with people who don’t know Jesus so that you can see modeled in me someone who is actively living out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Okay, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

For further ideas, check out the National Association of Evangelical’s recent Code of Ethics for Pastors.

Talking Church Trends

John 8 - The Rest of the SermonEarlier this week I posted two articles about Thom Ranier’s 13 Issues for the Church in 2013. It seems like just about everyone is talking about trends in the church right now. New York Times reporter Amy O’Leary wrote an article for the December 29, 2012 issue of the Times entitled, Building Congregations Around Art Galleries and Cafes as Spirituality Wanes.

In the article O’Leary writes,

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with any religion is on the rise, including a third of Americans under 30. Even so, nearly 80 percent of unaffiliated Americans say they believe in God, and close to half say they pray at least once a month.

The “spiritual but not religious” category is an important audience that evangelical leaders hope to reach in a culture that many believers call “post-Christian.”

So they arrange meetings in movie theaters, schools, warehouses and downtown entertainment districts. They house exercise studios and coffee shops to draw more traffic. Many have even cast aside the words “church” and “church service” in favor of terms like “spiritual communities” and “gatherings,” with services that do not stick to any script.

Read the entire article here. 

Slate  published a story on November 27, 2012, by Ruth Graham entitled, Re-evangelizing New England, about the “quiet revival” (an ironic term, I know) that is happening in New England.  The story talks about how church planting and music festivals are helping to spur this revival. In the article Graham states,

The Northeast is the historic cradle of American Christianity, and just about every postcard-ready town here boasts a white church with a steeple. But sometime between the Second Great Awakening and today, the region evolved into the most secular part of the country. In the words of one regional missions group, “pulpits that once boasted gospel preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield now proclaim universalism, liberalism, and postmodernism.” A Gallup poll this year found that the four least-religious states in America are in New England. For evangelicals, the issue is more pointed: Evangelical researcher J.D. Payne has found that of the five U.S. metro areas with the lowest percentage of evangelicals, New England cities are beat only by Mormon-dominated Provo, Utah. New England is relatively wealthy and educated, and overall, its population is shrinking and aging. That’s why some Christians see New England as “hard soil”—and desperate for re-evangelizing. There’s a palpable sense of momentum growing among evangelicals in New England, who say this hard soil may soon bear fruit thanks to institutional efforts, individual leaders, and an intangible sense of energy often credited to the Holy Spirit. But do they have any hope of success in the most proudly and profoundly secular region in America?

The movement to convert New Englanders looks something like the recent evangelical focus on Western Europe, another traditionally Christian region that is now broadly unchurched. One popular approach is “church planting,” in which a pastor moves to a new location to found a new church that he hopes will eventually spawn several others, and so on. Because the method eventually produces indigenous churches, it’s considered a more reliable and organic path to growth than traditional “outsider” evangelism. To generalize broadly, church-planters tend to be young and Web-savvy, are almost always male (with a supportive wife), and often share a conviction that orthodox theology needn’t be burdened by the trappings of traditional worship. Think overhead projectors, not organs.

Many of New England’s church-planters are sent by denominations based in (or at least biggest in) the South.

Read the entire article here.

Rose French, a columnist with the Star Tribune of Minneapolis wrote a piece about retiring pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper, that appeared in the paper on December 29, 2012. French’s column is more than a profile piece on a retiring pastor, it is a look at the influence that Calvinism has had in Piper’s life, church, and the millions that he has inspired throughout the years. The article states:

A slightly built man, gray-haired and bespectacled, Piper is soft-spoken and self-effacing when he’s not preaching. But once he steps to the pulpit, his presence fills the room.

A 2010 survey of U.S. pastors ranked Piper among the 10 most influential living preachers — alongside Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Max Lucado.

“John Piper is sort of the anti-slick preacher,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a Christian firm that conducted the survey. “I would say he’s very unconcerned with people’s perception of his brand. And I think that’s driven by his theology. He’d be very comfortable not being heard from as long as the message went forth. And I think that’s endearing to a lot people. It’s not all about him.”

Tony Jones, a theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch church in Minneapolis, is one of Piper’s frequent critics.

“I don’t think the fundamental nature of God is wrath at human sin,” Jones said. “I’m not going to say God isn’t disappointed by human sin … but at the very core of Piper’s theological vision is that God’s wrath burns white-hot at your sin and my sin. When I read the Bible, that’s not the God I find.”

Piper offers no apologies for his theology.

“If you try to throw away a wrathful God, nothing in Christianity makes sense. The cross certainly doesn’t make sense anymore, where [Jesus] died for sinners.” His views of the tornado and bridge collapse, he said, “are rooted in the sovereignty of God. Even though people see them as harsh, negative, wrathful, whatever, they are good news.”

He said he considers himself a “happy Calvinist — which is an oxymoron. I’m on a crusade to make that not an oxymoron.”

Read the entire article here. 

Piper’s influence will not wane any time soon. His impact on a generation of pastors and young adults is unquestioned. Just this week, Piper is speaking at Passion 2013, a gathering of thousands of young adults meeting in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

What excites you about the current trends in the Body of Christ? What disturbs you? And, what role are you playing to live as Christ in this generation?

A Gift From My Grandpa Ray

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Grandpa Ray Schulenburg dressed in my Dad’s army uniform.

My son Jeremy had a school assignment that he was required to work on over Christmas vacation. His job was to write a paper about when his ancestors came to the United States. It was a joy to work with Jeremy and watch as he discovered his family history come alive.

By the time that Jeremy’s assignment was done, I found myself missing my Grandpa Schulenburg. Many of you know that my Grandpa was a pastor for many years, and one of my life’s heroes. Since it was New Year’s Day, I had some extra time on my hands. I remembered an interview that my Grandpa had done for Quad Cities Area Youth for Christ many years ago. I know I have that video somewhere, so I looked for it. I couldn’t find it. Instead I found a videotape that my mother gave me a year or so ago. It was in a box of items from my childhood and some things that she thought I might like to have. The videotape was a 50 year anniversary tape of Youth for Christ International. I watched the video, thinking maybe I’d see my Grandpa in the tape since he was one of the founders of Youth for Christ. He wasn’t on the tape. Until the 50th Anniversary video was over. I almost turned off the tape when I saw Grandpa’s face, bigger than life. There at the end of that YFC video was a 37 minute interview with Grandpa that one of our relatives conducted.

In the video Granada shares the history of Youth for Christ. He shares stories about Billy Graham, Torrey Johnson, George Beverly Shea, Paul Rader, and even the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow. He talks about what it was like to be a pastor during the Great Depression and World War II. And, he about his love for his sons and his grandchildren. He shares his passion for Jesus, prayer, and telling the story of Jesus to as many people as he could. He even talked about the state of the modern church and the importance of prayer in the life of the church.

I missed Grandpa yesterday. I haven’t heard his voice since his death in 2003. Yesterday, almost ten years since the time of his death, God allowed me to have a visit (albeit via video) with my Grandpa. He was always famous for his advice. I relished the advice that he gave to me as a pastor. I put his video on Vimeo today. Here it is. I hope it is a blessing to you too!

Interview with Rev. Ray Schulenburg, Youth for Christ Pioneer from Brian Schulenburg on Vimeo.

Passion 2013 Conference is Live Streaming for Free

registration

The Passion Conference, founded by Louie Giglio, has always been something that I’ve admired from afar. God has used this conference in the lives of millions of young adults to help them cultivate a passion for Jesus Christ.

This year’s conference is happening right now at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The conference began on New Year’s Day and runs through January 4. One of the things that I love about Passion is that they are Live Streaming the event for free. That means anyone can watch the main sessions through this coming Thursday. If you’d like to watch, simply click this link. If there is a live session going, you will be taken there. If not, you can watch previous sessions.

So far, Louie Giglio, Beth Moore and Gary Haugen have spoken. You can watch those sessions by clicking on the speaker’s name in the sentence before this.

That means that you still have time to catch five main sessions with speakers and artists including: John Piper, Judah Smith, Francis Chan, Lecrae, Jesus Culture and others still to come.

The major emphasis of this year’s Passion Conference is putting an end to modern day slavery. We live in a day and age when there are more slaves than at any other point in the history of the world. Gary Haugen said earlier today, “The question isn’t where is God, when this type of injustice strikes. The question is where are God’s people?”

Let’s dream . . . no let’s act . . . and make modern day slavery a thing of the past in this generation!

passion2013schedule1

Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013 Continued

13-issuesThom Ranier finished his blog postings entitled Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013, with issues 7-13 today.

Here are the trends in churches that he is noticing.

  1. Innovative use of space. More and more churches are not letting the lack of space keep them from ministering to great numbers of people. It used to be that a church sitting on 3-5 acres could expect to grow to about 500 people maximum on that property. Ranier states that the younger leaders that he is working with say that they can see a church growing to 2,000 in such a space, because they are using the space creatively, offering services at multiple times and in multiple ways. Millennial pastors are not as tied to traditional service times and this opens up opportunities to use space in new and innovative ways.
  2. Heightened conflict. As younger leaders continue to assume leadership roles in more and more churches, the conflict between the needs of generations emerges. Ranier attributes this in part to those in the Millennial Generation asking tough questions that people in the the Boomer and Builder generations did not want to address. I am challenged and inspired by some of the difficult questions that folks coming into our church ask on a regular basis.
  3. Adversarial government. Ranier believes that churches will have less access to public schools and other public facilities. He has noticed that some local governments around the country are governments are “resisting approval of non-tax paying congregations expanding their facilities. New churches and existing churches that are expanding their venues will be forced to become more creative as they look for new locations.”
  4. Community focus. Ranier feels that one of the most positive changes in the younger generation of church leaders is a focus on community needs. Churches are increasingly getting away from programs tied to the church building to engage the community where they are at.
  5. Cultural discomfort. Ranier speaks of the growing divide between the value of culture and the traditional values of the church. This is a divide that will continue to grow in the 21st Century. I view this as a great opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to shine bright in our day and age. The early church was radically counter-cultural. Somewhere along the line we became so culturally sensitive that we began to look a lot less like the “aliens and strangers” of Scripture and a lot more like the Joneses.
  6. Organizational distrust. Ranier speaks of the growing distrust in our culture towards the institution. We live in a day and age when distrust in government, business, and the church is very high. My prayer is that we as the church won’t give people a reason to distrust us. We ought to be the model for what it means to conduct ourselves with the utmost of ethics.
  7. Reductions in church staff. In a difficult economy, more and more churches are not hiring new staff when a position becomes vacant. On a positive note, Ranier writes of the fact that “in many congregations there is a greater emphasis on laypersons handling roles once led by paid staff.”  That sounds a whole lot like Ephesians 4:11-16 to me. In other words, “It sounds biblical, and that is good!”

    11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Ranier’s trends and see if you have any more that you would add.

You can read Ranier’s entire post here.