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Category Archives: Church

September 2001 we met for the first time.  It was supposed to be a couple’s Bible study but it turned out we needed fellowship and prayer support more than Bible study.  Nearly every week since then (16 years at this writing) we have met in each other’s homes, eaten a whole lot of truly great dinners, enjoyed some fellowship, shared prayer requests, and prayed over each other.  We have raised each other’s children and now we’re raising grandchildren.  We have been to weddings, graduations, funerals, and retirement receptions.  We have laughed and cried together, enjoyed the best of times, and dealt with the worst of  times.  But, we have always been there for each other…always.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the other 11 people in my “Monday Night Group.”

Today all of us sat on two pews at St. John the Baptist Catholic church in Edmond and struggled through the funeral mass of Diane’s father.  We are at the age that we have begun to bury our parents and other family members all too often.  Today  all of us sat and prayed for Diane.  We were right where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing.

Everyone should have a “Monday Night Group.”  I realize, however, that most people don’t.  The average life of a small group in most churches is 13 weeks.  When whatever curriculum they are studying that quarter ends the group typically breaks up.  Sixteen years ago none of us had any idea we would still be meeting together every week.  But we are and there does not seem to be any reason for us to stop anytime real soon.  So, we’ll keep on meeting, praying, and being there for each other until God has a different idea.  I’m glad, because this group of people is what God meant for the church to be and it is the best church experience I have ever had.  Go make yourself a small group that makes a difference in your life.  Do it now!

I recently listened as a man explained what it meant to truly forgive someone who has wronged you in some way.  He defined forgiveness as a decision to release a person from the obligation that results when they injure you.

Years ago one of my closest friends betrayed me in our relationship.  He shared information from our conversation with another person.  Doing so nearly cost me my job.  I had assumed we were speaking in confidence but he obviously felt it was necessary to share the conversation with another person.  It nearly destroyed our relationship.  It impacted our families in a hurtful way.  It made things very awkward with mutual friends.  It was not a positive experience in any way…until forgiveness took place.

Eventually he called and asked to see me.  We met over lunch and he humbly asked for my forgiveness.  With some degree of reservation I forgave him.  But it was still rather awkward around him and I struggled trusting him.  But that was years ago and the decision to forgive him has nurtured a renewed and precious friendship.  Not until I released him from the hurt he caused did we move forward in our relationship.  Today we enjoy time together and I count him among a group of very special and old friends.

If you are choosing to withhold forgiveness then you are holding yourself captive along with the one who wronged you.  Forgiveness brings you freedom.  It gets you out from under the heavy burden of unforgiveness.  Forgiveness is a decision you make and can result in restored relationships.  Make a decision today to forgive!

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  Matthew 6:14

I can remember when I realized for the first time that I could count on the Bible.  I was on into my adult years, raised in the church, had a minister for a dad, and frankly, had quite a bit of Bible knowledge.  But the realization that God’s Word was true and reliable was something new to me.  It changed my life forever!

In our world today many things compete for influence in our lives.  The culture we live in promotes a “me mentality” where all of life evolves around the individual.  We learn to trust anything that tickles our ears and tells us what we want to hear.  We end up counting on only those things that benefit us at the moment.  Yet what our lives need more than anything is the reliable Word of God.

The Bible is sufficient in our lives.  In contrast to the theories of men, God’s Word is absolutely comprehensive.  The Bible does not change.  Unlike the opinions and wisdom of man, God’s Word is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

Most importantly, the Bible is true.  It is true all of the time.  Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God proves true.  He is a shield to all who come to Him for protection.  Do not add to His words or He may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.”  

I can remember when I realized for the first time that I could count on the Bible.  I was on into my adult years, raised in the church, had a minister for a dad, and frankly, had quite a bit of Bible knowledge.  But the realization that God’s Word was true and reliable was something new to me.  It changed my life forever!

In our world today many things compete for influence in our lives.  The culture we live in promotes a “me mentality” where all of life evolves around the individual.  We learn to trust anything that tickles our ears and tells us what we want to hear.  We end up counting on only those things that benefit us at the moment.  Yet what our lives need more than anything is the reliable Word of God. 

The Bible is sufficient in our lives.  In contrast to the theories of men, God’s Word is absolutely comprehensive.  The Bible does not change.  Unlike the opinions and wisdom of man, God’s Word is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. 

Most importantly, the Bible is true.  It is true all of the time.  Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God proves true.  He is a shield to all who come to Him for protection.  Do not add to His words or He may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.” 

May, 2007.  As long as I can remember I have heard preachers, evangelists, and missionaries stand before congregations and challenge them to do their part in winning the world for Christ!  Actually it always sounded like something that could be accomplished if each of us would just do our part. 

 

For the last twelve years I have tried to gain what I have called a Kingdom mentality.  I have worked at viewing God’s Kingdom as something beyond the walls of a local church, any particular denomination or other organization.  For someone like me who has grown up on the inside of church life gaining such a view has been a challenge. 

 

I have not traveled extensively, but I have traveled more than most people.  God has used time in England, Viet Nam, Thailand, India, Mexico and the Philippines to initiate in my heart and mind the beginning of a global mindset.  Without international travel I am not sure it is possible for a person to accurately view the world globally. 

 

Recently, during a two week stay in India God showed me that actually seeing the world come to Christ is something only God can accomplish.  It is ridiculously far beyond the ability of Christian mankind.  Visiting a nation of a billion people where 82 percent of the population is Hindu, 14 percent is Muslim, and only four percent is Christian, drives home the fact that winning even India is God’s project.  However, his method is to use each of us to accomplish the task.

 

To think we can accomplish such a task in our own strength is absurd.  Even trying to consider the task through God’s strength is beyond my ability to grasp.  Yet God always seems to take me back to the value of relationships.  Everywhere I go I seem to meet people who understand that Jesus is best shared through relationships.

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Christiaan Bosman is a South African businessman living in New Delhi buying, selling, and exporting fabric.  He influences Hindu and Muslim relationships by quietly reflecting the character of God and putting off that sweet fragrance of Jesus (2 Cor 2:14-16) so those around him can feel at ease beside this gentle Christian businessman.  Christiaan does what all of us should do; he reaches out gently representing Jesus to those who do not know him.  He does not judge.  He does not rant and rave.  He loves others as Jesus loves them.  I think that is how God intends to win the world!

In an article in Outreach magazine pastor/author Dan Kimball shares the results from interviews with non-Christian 20- and 30-somethings.  He discovers they are “big fans of Jesus but are less thrilled with His followers and the churches where they worship.”

Kimball said, “Something important to note is that only two of the 16 students interviewed even knew any Christians personally. So, most of those students had based their impressions of the Church on church leaders they saw in the media, or on the more aggressive street evangelists passing out tracts and holding up signs. They hadn’t been in a friendship or relationship with a Christian to know any different.

Kimball continued, “As I thought about it even more, I had another pretty horrifying revelation. I looked at my own life and schedule and realized I, too, wasn’t building friendships with those outside the church. My schedule had become consumed with church meetings, and when I wasn’t in a meeting, I was in my office or at home preparing for the Sunday sermon. Even my social time was spent only with Christians, usually key leaders in the church. Yes, I had casual acquaintances with non-Christians, like the auto mechanic I saw on occasion. And yes, I was involved in local compassion projects our church did when we went out and fed the homeless. But those weren’t actual friendships. I wasn’t hanging out with them on a regular basis. I wasn’t having them over for dinner or going to movies with them like I did in my friendships with Christians.

“And as I talked with numerous other pastors and our church staff, as well as Christians who worked outside the church, I realized that we were all doing the same thing. We were all immersed in this strange Christian Bubble.”

Frustrated Pastors

 

Tom pastors a “growing” church.  Things look pretty good.  His church has a wide variety of programs for children, youth, and adults.  The Sunday School organization does a good job presenting God’s Word to all ages.  There are specialized programs for members dealing with specific issues in their lives.  Several members even go through evangelism training each year.  Tom is encouraged…and frustrated.

Recently after a long telephone conversation with Tom I hung up the phone thinking how difficult it is today to keep the wheels rolling and all the plates spinning in a comprehensively programmed church.  Our culture is at the point where we demand a cafeteria approach to church.  There must be “something for everyone.”  But in the process of providing something for everyone we seem to have forgotten someone; the unbeliever; the man who will not walk through the doors of the church building no matter what it provides him.  He just won’t do it. 

Tom is frustrated that while his church seems to be “growing,” it is failing to reach unbelievers in significant numbers.  In the phone conversation with Tom I asked him, “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  After awkward moments of silence, Tom confessed he could not think of a single unbeliever with whom he was building a relationship.  I ask every pastor I speak with that same question: “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  Nearly every time the answer is the same: A pastor has few, if any, real relationships with unbelievers.

Why?  Should we not consider the absence of those relationships as the most negative indictment that we could possibly imagine?  Most of us excuse it by reminding ourselves that it is the pastor’s responsibility to equip the rest of us to relate to the lost.  An elderly pastor I know once said to me, “Don’t preach what you don’t model in your own life!”  How can we, as pastors, continue to excuse ourselves from not relating in a personal way to unbelievers?  How can we continue to do the work of the ministry and not build personal relationships with people who do not know Christ? 

 

A New Paradigm for Ministry

 

A new ministry paradigm has to be adopted in the church today.  We must move from seeing our work as relating primarily to church members, administering the programs of the church, and preparing three sermons or Bible studies each week, to getting out into the workplace and building relationships with unbelievers.

By now, if you are a pastor, you are screaming, “I don’t have time to do what I do now, much less find the time to get out into the workplace to build relationships with people I don’t know!”

Joe McKinney, a former pastor now working and ministering effectively in the workplace said, “The pastor who feels he doesn’t have enough time needs to meet with a bold, wise businessman and ask him to look at his schedule.  They should list all of the pastor’s activities and then decide together to strike through the activities that don’t need to be done at all and circle the activities that can be delegated to another staff member or layman.  I am convinced that if we aren’t going into the workplace and building relationships with business people because of a lack of time then we are doing things that God doesn’t intend for us to do.”

 

Evangelism with Results

 

Evangelism must be proactive.  In our culture today, evangelism is building relationships with unbelievers.  It is loving, caring, and serving.  It is investing time.  It is patience while waiting on the Holy Spirit to woo an unbeliever, through a relationship with a believer, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is proactive.  And it happens in the workplace.

The department manager in the manufacturing plant where I work every Tuesday afternoon as a corporate chaplain said, “Jon, I have a new employee whose mother died a couple of days ago.  Is that the kind of thing you need to know about?” 

Obviously it was, and I called Vincent as I drove out of the parking lot late that afternoon.  “Vincent, I’m Jon Cook, the company chaplain where you work.  I understand your mother passed away a couple of days ago.  What can I do to help?”  The only sound on the other end of the phone was sobbing and I wondered what Vincent needed most.  Finally, he said, “Mr. Cook, could you stand up for my mama at her funeral?”   In my part of the world that was a request for me to officiate the funeral service.  I told Vincent I would be happy to do so and then he said, “Well, what do you charge?”  I replied, “Vincent, the owner of the company you work for values you enough to invest in a company chaplain.  Helping with your mother’s funeral is part of what I do.  There’s no charge.  You are important to the company!”

            Two days later I was speaking at the grave of Vincent’s mother.  After visiting with family and friends the day before it was obvious the family had no church background and dealing with spiritual issues were not a regular part of their lives.  I shared a simple message of hope and the plan of salvation.  After the service Vincent hugged me as he wept and thanked me for “being so good to my family.” 

            Two weeks later, after giving Vincent a couple of simple things to read about having a relationship with Jesus, I stood in the middle of the manufacturing plant and led him in the sinner’s prayer! 

 

Go Out Pastor!

 

            Matthew 28: 19 says, “…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”   English translations of the original Greek text of this verse begin with “Go,” which is the translation of an aorist participle conveying the sense of “having gone.”  The main verb of the verse is “make disciples,” or literally “disciple” all the nations.  Hence, what the command assumes is that Christians will go out for the express purpose of making the nations disciples of Jesus Christ.*

            Biblical evangelism today means reaching out to people, that is going out to build relationships that produce new disciples for Christ.  Many pastors have fallen into the error of thinking that if unbelievers want to be saved, they need to come to church on Sunday morning.  The greatest single reason the church is declining is that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in the church—within the walls of the church building.  Effective evangelism will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is where they move from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures and into the lives of unbelievers around them.*

            Serving as a workplace chaplain gives a pastor a tremendous opportunity to “go out” and build relationships with lost men and women and make a difference in their lives, their workplace, and the lives of their family and friends.  There are business owners in every church who would love to have a chaplain’s presence in their business every week.

            Christ@Work president Kent Humphreys says, “I wish every pastor would

spend one day a week as a chaplain in the workplace!”  Here is why:

  • It would put the pastor in touch with unbelievers on a regular basis
  • It would help the pastor understand the issues his members face in their

workplace, and

  • It would help the pastor understand how to deal with those workplace

issues his members face on a weekly basis.

 

Your Plan for the Workplace

 

Adopt a plan to “go out” into the workplace of the business owners of your church. 

  • Establish a point of personal understanding where you realize the vast potential of ministry in the workplaces of your church family
  • Decide that a commitment to ministry in the workplace has to be a part of your ongoing weekly pastoral duties
  •  Pray.  Ask God to  identify business owners in your church who would welcome the presence of a chaplain in their workplace
  • Meet with those business owners and discuss how you will go about building relationships with their employees on a weekly basis
  • Plan, along with your church leadership, the commitment of time and effort each week to your chaplaincy opportunities
  • Make sure your church family understands that your weekly chaplaincy opportunity will  become a regular part of pastoral duties and has the endorsement of church leadership
  • Pray before you enter the workplace.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct every conversation and encounter with employees. 
  • Be faithful and courageous as you enter the workplace that God has provided for you.  Know that you are preceded by the Holy Spirit and everything is prepared.
  • Don’t be a pastor!  Be a friend and use your first name.  Park your “pastor personality” at the door.  Refrain from using your church language and colloquialisms. 

 

Resources That Will Help

 

There are several books and other resources that will help you prepare to enter the workplace as a corporate chaplain and build relationships:

Humphreys, Kent.  Lasting Investments, A Pastor’s Guide for Equipping  Workplace Leaders to Leave a Spiritual Legacy.  Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 2004.

Cress, Mark.  C-Change, How to Transform Any Business Through Corporate Chaplaincy.  Wake Forest:  Lanphier Press, 2005.

Beckett, John.  The Marketplace and the Church.  Viewpoints Audio Journal.  Olmsted Falls:  Worldview International, 2004.

Silvoso, Ed.  Anointed For Business.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2002.

Marshall, Rich. God@Work.  Shippensburg, PA.  Destiny Image Publishing, 2000.

Green, Mark.  Thank God It’s Monday: Ministry in The Workplace. 

Buckinghamshire, UK.  Scripture Union, 2003.

Hillman, Os.  The 9 to 5 Window.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2005.

Hillman, Os.  Faith@Work.  Fairfield, CT.  Aslan Publishing, 2004.

 

*Montoya, Alex D.  “Outreaching” (Chapter 18), Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, MacArthur,  John Jr., and Master’s Seminary Faculty, Dallas:  Word, Inc., 1995.