There’s a Story Behind Every Tragedy

5.21.14The ladies I get to work with at a local in-treatment facility are nothing but statistics (at least in the world’s eyes). They’re the broken ones, the addicts, the relapsers, the drains on society. Early in ministry it was too easy for me to smugly judge them for messing up their life while on my way to my next Bible study (Good Samaritan, anyone?). And then I got to know them. The outcasts, the broken ones, the failures. I got to know their names. More importantly, I got to know their stories.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after working with recovering addicts for over a year now: there’s a story behind every tragedy. One of the girls that came through was a smart one. She grew up in a good home. She had a solid upbringing. She was raised in church. But now she’s trying kick her meth habit and get life back on track. If you saw her now, you’d be tempted to shake your head at a life of potential gone to waste. Shame on her. But you wouldn’t know her story.

I do, because I asked her. She had mentioned to me that life went south at the age of 19. So what happened when she was 19? She got pregnant out of wedlock, and her parents were more concerned with her losing her sports scholarship at college than the unborn life inside of her, so they forced her to get an abortion. She obeyed her parents, and her world came crashing down around her. Fast forward fourteen years, and she’s sitting in rehab after spending the last decade trying to escape (through drugs) the shame and guilt that she can’t seem to shake for a decision she intensely regrets. Years after the abortion she got married and got pregnant several times but always miscarried. She had to have surgeries and now has lost the ability to carry a child. She feels like God is punishing her.

On the outside she’s just another drug addict. Just another screw up. On the inside she’s a broken woman unable to move past a devastating choice forced on her by her parents. And now she has the shame of a decade lost and even more regrets piled on. She doesn’t know if she’s worthy to be on this planet. The next time your tempted to simply shake your head at a tragedy, realize there’s probably a story behind it.

10 Practical Ways to See Southern Baptists Flourish Again (part 2)

6.12.13In honor of the recently held Southern Baptist Convention, yesterday I began to share ten practical ways that Southern Baptists can flourish again. Our convention has done a tremendous job fighting for the sanctity of the Bible and for robust evangelistic theology. And yet we’re still losing my generation (Generation X) and the next generation (Millenials). The ten suggestions I share come from working on the front lines of ministry in Baptist churches for the past dozen years.

6. Engage millenials with their cultural language. There’s no way to exaggerate the size of the millenial generation. The largest since the Boomers, this generation of young people will decide the course of our country for the next century. We must engage them with their cultural language. Simply put, we need to modernize our services. Our current services reach senior adults so well because they’re custom designed for senior adults. If we want any shot at engaging millenials, then we need to customize our services to reach them in the same way our services have been custom designed for boomers the past 50 years.

7. Walk towards the mess. What sins are acceptable to bring into the church, and which are not? Are divorced people welcome? How about alcoholics? What about homosexuals? How about those that support abortion? The first two are easy, the second two not so much. As long as we draw lines about who is and is not welcome in the church, then we miss the thrust of Jesus’ ministry. If Jesus could hang around tax collectors and prostitutes, then is there any group of people that we should preemptively cut off from the gospel? We need to walk the path of welcoming skeptics and outrageous sinners without compromising our biblical beliefs. Jesus did it; so can we.

8. Create environments that are evangelistically-oriented and teaching that is discipleship-oriented. The seeker-sensitive movement started as a reaction against the closed-door, inside-focused services of evangelical churches that didn’t reach outsiders. So they created environments that were evangelistically-oriented. The great pushback against them was that too often they watered-down the gospel. When people come to church, there’s something already inside of them yearning for deep spiritual truths. We don’t have to water down the gospel for them.

Here’s the perfect combination: Don’t water down the gospel. Lighten up the environment. Teach the deep truths of God. Teach discipleship. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff. But create environments (with greeters, physical space, members attitudes, style of dress and music) that is outreach oriented. Newcomers will stay because of the warm, welcoming environment. They don’t mind the deep stuff. They want that. They just want to be in a safe environment where they can explore their faith. Churches must be intentional about creating a Sunday morning experience that is welcoming to outsiders.

9. Tackle racial diversity head on. Our churches are too white. My church is too white. Electing an African-American pastor as our convention is an incredible first step. Having minority churches within the SBC is another step. Racially integrating our churches is the final step. There’s no easy way to do this, but it must be done.

10. Stay humble and stay hungry. We’re not entitled to anything. Our “glory days” are behind us. We’re not God’s chosen denomination. We’re one small speck in a wide array of Christ-followers scattered throughout the world. Seeing our convention flourish again will take incredibly hard work. We always have been and always will be outsiders in this world. Jesus never said that growing the Kingdom was easy, so why should we expect to merely plan services and have the lost beat down our doors? Stay hungry. Work. Sacrifice.

*I’m incredibly privileged to be a part of a church that is implementing most of these practices. Under the leadership of the previous pastor (Jeff James), Mt Vernon transitioned from a plateaued church to a flourishing church. We’re seeing lives changed every week. It’s incredibly hard work, but it’s incredibly worth it.

10 Practical Ways to See Southern Baptists Flourish Again (part 2)

6.12.13In honor of the recently held Southern Baptist Convention, yesterday I began to share ten practical ways that Southern Baptists can flourish again. Our convention has done a tremendous job fighting for the sanctity of the Bible and for robust evangelistic theology. And yet we’re still losing my generation (Generation X) and the next generation (Millenials). The ten suggestions I share come from working on the front lines of ministry in Baptist churches for the past dozen years.

6. Engage millenials with their cultural language. There’s no way to exaggerate the size of the millenial generation. The largest since the Boomers, this generation of young people will decide the course of our country for the next century. We must engage them with their cultural language. Simply put, we need to modernize our services. Our current services reach senior adults so well because they’re custom designed for senior adults. If we want any shot at engaging millenials, then we need to customize our services to reach them in the same way our services have been custom designed for boomers the past 50 years.

7. Walk towards the mess. What sins are acceptable to bring into the church, and which are not? Are divorced people welcome? How about alcoholics? What about homosexuals? How about those that support abortion? The first two are easy, the second two not so much. As long as we draw lines about who is and is not welcome in the church, then we miss the thrust of Jesus’ ministry. If Jesus could hang around tax collectors and prostitutes, then is there any group of people that we should preemptively cut off from the gospel? We need to walk the path of welcoming skeptics and outrageous sinners without compromising our biblical beliefs. Jesus did it; so can we.

8. Create environments that are evangelistically-oriented and teaching that is discipleship-oriented. The seeker-sensitive movement started as a reaction against the closed-door, inside-focused services of evangelical churches that didn’t reach outsiders. So they created environments that were evangelistically-oriented. The great pushback against them was that too often they watered-down the gospel. When people come to church, there’s something already inside of them yearning for deep spiritual truths. We don’t have to water down the gospel for them.

Here’s the perfect combination: Don’t water down the gospel. Lighten up the environment. Teach the deep truths of God. Teach discipleship. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff. But create environments (with greeters, physical space, members attitudes, style of dress and music) that is outreach oriented. Newcomers will stay because of the warm, welcoming environment. They don’t mind the deep stuff. They want that. They just want to be in a safe environment where they can explore their faith. Churches must be intentional about creating a Sunday morning experience that is welcoming to outsiders.

9. Tackle racial diversity head on. Our churches are too white. My church is too white. Electing an African-American pastor as our convention is an incredible first step. Having minority churches within the SBC is another step. Racially integrating our churches is the final step. There’s no easy way to do this, but it must be done.

10. Stay humble and stay hungry. We’re not entitled to anything. Our “glory days” are behind us. We’re not God’s chosen denomination. We’re one small speck in a wide array of Christ-followers scattered throughout the world. Seeing our convention flourish again will take incredibly hard work. We always have been and always will be outsiders in this world. Jesus never said that growing the Kingdom was easy, so why should we expect to merely plan services and have the lost beat down our doors? Stay hungry. Work. Sacrifice.

*I’m incredibly privileged to be a part of a church that is implementing most of these practices. Under the leadership of the previous pastor (Jeff James), Mt Vernon transitioned from a plateaued church to a flourishing church. We’re seeing lives changed every week. It’s incredibly hard work, but it’s incredibly worth it.

Five for (Friday)

Five for Friday on a Thursday? Why not? Actually, there’s a good reason why I’m sending out my links today. Friday I have the privilege of guest posting on Stuff Christians Like (ranked #11 on Church Relevance’s Top 200 Christian blogs). So, I’ll post something of a welcome/splash page for folks checking out mtvpastor.com for the first time. Today, here are some great articles to consider:

How To Let a Dream Die – Perry Noble shares some great insight on how to settle for average in your life.

The 3 Components of Job Satisfaction – What does it look like to have a job that fulfills you?

Marriage With a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Incredible series from a Christian counselor. If this applies to you, read it!

Christianity Isn’t Dying, Cultural Christianity Is – Great research and insight into the ever changing demographics of “Christian” America.

The Three Deadliest Words in the World: “It’s a Girl” – My heart breaks for this reality. Shining the light on this deplorable practice.

A Letter To Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Although I did not vote for you, I will support you as my president. I understand that you bear a greater and deeper burden then most Americans could ever fathom. In and of itself, the presidency is a responsibility too great for any one man. The time for politicking and posturing is now over. The people have spoken. It is time to put away what divides us and come together around what unites us.

As a follower of Christ, I am commanded repeatedly throughout the New Testament to honor those in positions of authority (1 Pet. 2:13-14, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Acts 23:26, Acts 24:2, 1 Pet. 2:17, Rom. 13:7). While ‘honoring’ does not mean blanket endorsement, it does mean I am to honor and show proper respect for those God has put in places of authority. While we’ll never agree on contentious issues such as abortion (you support a woman’s right to choose, I support a child’s right to live), that does not give me license to dishonor you. To do so would be to dishonor the God who is Sovereign over all things.

My vote was not determined by geography, race, political party, or religious affiliation. My overriding concern in the election was economic. I fear that the entitlements we are enjoying now are crippling the economic future for my three young boys. We cannot sustain the levels of spending and debt that we are currently employing. If we cannot get our economic house in order, then our future is grim.

Please don’t get sucked into the partisan nature of politics that have polarized Washington and poisoned our faith in the governmental system. The toxic nature of Washington politics have paralyzed the political process and made it nearly impossible for any worthwhile to be accomplished. Rather than using your moment in power to score political points, please use your position of influence to show both Democrats and Republicans how to rise above petty politics and serve the greater (long-term) interests of this nation.

Although I don’t agree with the idea of higher taxes to enable a lifestyle that erodes a strong work ethic, I will gladly pay my taxes, whatever they are. Thankfully, I learned a long time ago that ‘my’ money isn’t really my money. It’s God’s. He just lets me play with it for awhile. Take what you want; my God has and will continue to provide for me.

I will commit to pray for you as a husband, father, and leader of our country. I will pray that your marriage to Michelle will stay strong and that you will love and honor her as your wife. I will pray that you will continue to be a strong and involved parent to Sasha and Malia, knowing how important it is for girls to have a loving father in their lives. And I’ll pray that God will continue to  grant you wisdom, discernment, and courage to be a great leader for our country.

Sincerely,

Josh Daffern

(Image Credit)

Five for Friday

Here’s a Five for Friday: political edition. I know everyone’s a little tense with the election. Let’s feed the dog that’s barking the loudest this week:

The Politics of Trust – why don’t we trust our politicians anymore?

The Church & Politics = A Mess – great words from a guy (Perry Noble) who tells you how it is.

The Inconsistent Logic of Abortion Rights Advocates – want to get politically touchy? Let’s talk abortion. Great dissection of the flaws behind the abortion rights advocates.

Why is Billy Graham So Involved in the 2012 Elections? – good article. What’s bringing Billy Graham out of retirement?

What am I Doing When I Vote? - what principles should guide you when you enter the voting booth?

Five for Friday

Another great week. A few of these links have been out for awhile, but they’re guaranteed to make you think, give you hope, and probably make you a little mad as well. Have a great weekend!

Couple Sues in “Wrongful Birth” Lawsuit – read only if you have a strong stomach. I feel so sorry for this precious child.

Why I am Grammar Obsessed – Is it importent to write good when u right emails and stuff?

Prominent Atheist Converts to Christianity – If she can convert, there’s hope for everyone.

What is Biblical Justice? – Great article describing biblical justice. May this define us as Christians.

Rural Ministry is Not Second Rate — with so many stories highlighting big churches in large cities, here’s a shout out to the little guys.

Five for Friday

Fall is in the air! As you get ready for another round of college football, make sure to check these five links for stories guaranteed to make you think. If you’re in Columbus this weekend, we’d love to have you come worship with us at Mt Vernon Church. Here’s your Five:

 

 

Freed From the Prison of Why – Insightful article for those who are struggle with the deeper meaning behind suffering.

Tiny Texas Church Makes a Big Difference – I want Mt Vernon Church to be like this church.

5 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in School – Leadership junkies will love this one.

Worldview and the 2012 Presidential Election – Stark choices we face with our two candidates.

Leadership Matters, but so Does Preaching – Why I work so hard to be a better communicator.

Five for Friday

Hey everyone, I hope you’ve had a great week! Here are links to five articles guaranteed to keep you thinking through the weekend. If you’re in Columbus, MS this weekend, come visit us at Mt Vernon!

1. This is the Longest Sermon at Your Church – great article by Jon Acuff. And great reason why you need to go to the 9:00 am service!

2. Have Our Children Forgotten How to Play Outdoors? – great book review and great reason why you should play with your kids outside this weekend.

3. What Rep. Todd Akin Should Have Said About Abortion and Rape – Trevin Wax writes the words Rep. Todd Akin should have said. Solid read.

4. 10 Reasons Why We Need to Get Off Our “Ask” and Invite People to Church – Very true article by Pastor Perry Noble.

5. School Under Fire for Allowing Churches to Feed Football Program – follow up from Wednesday night Conversation. How should we respond?