Monday, March 6, 2017

Our Enemy- Complacency!

One of the biggest temptations leaders of successful organizations and ministries face is to stop thinking with big vision. Here is what happens to us: After a taste of success, even the best and brightest leaders become complacent. They suddenly start to think complacently. We see this in the church with momentum. When a church gets on a roll and the momentum is building, they see God move in a mighty way. The church can begin to see new people join, baptisms increase, giving go up, lots of new Sunday guests, and higher participation. Unfortunately, what often happens without warning is a general sense of complacency and satisfaction overtakes the momentum and growth. What we do is we relax, take a breath, and slow our efforts. Why? Where in the Bible do we ever see this? Jesus told us His mission in Luke 19:10, when He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” Jesus did not add, “for a short time” or “until I got bored.” 

We see this sense of complacency take place after church revivals, attendance or giving campaigns, or mission endeavors. It could even be said that some church leaders get overwhelmed by the changes and the growth, so they tighten up and start playing it safe. They were inspired weeks early to think big thoughts, implement a big vision, make sacrifices, and to participate at a higher level. Leaders who follow a great vision and who think big thoughts have people who follow them. This is when the momentum starts to build and things get really exciting, but too often the leaders shrink back just on the edge of major breakthroughs.

This temptation is a reality with a lot of sports teams. How many times have we seen teams lose their momentum and then lose the game because instead of playing to win, they began to play not to lose? They get ahead, but then they pull back and stop playing with the intensity that earned them the lead. This is also why in sports it is rare to see teams repeat a championship because they relax, become complacent the next year, and the stop working as hard as they once did.

In the 2013 National Championship game the Auburn Tigers were administering a pretty sound beating of the Florida State Seminoles. At the half, Auburn was winning 21-10, but the score did not indicate the dominance the Auburn team had in the first half. In the second half, it all changed. The Auburn coaching staff made a critical leadership mistake. Rather than playing to win, they started playing not to lose. The big, risk-taking, visionary game plan that had built a dominant half-time lead was scrapped for a more conservative, small minded, incremental second half game plan. What happened? The momentum shifted, and with only 13 seconds left, Florida State beat Auburn to win the national championship.

The leadership lesson for all of us, including churches, is this: When things are on a roll, don't sit on the ball—run up the score! In other words, when you've got momentum going for you, put the pedal to the metal. Take off! Ignite your momentum and build on it. Ride the wave of momentum and continue to cast the vision. In church and in the work of God’s Kingdom, there is never a time to be complacent or to slow up.

Right now, at the church where I am pastor (First Baptist Church, Lexington, TN), God is moving in a mighty way. We have seen many people give their life to Jesus. We have been overwhelmed with Sunday guests and new people. Giving is growing each month so that new ministries can be started. The mindset and the attitude of God’s people are turning to an outward focus on the community and the world. We have adopted a new mission statement to “take the gospel of Jesus Christ across the street, across the states, and across the seas.”  The BIG MO is on our side right now and my greatest fear as pastor is the complacency of people. Complacency is an unwelcome attitude at FBC Lexington, TN. We need to continue moving forward. We are not going to take our foot of the pedal. We are going to continue to challenge ourselves, make changes, and move forward!

When leaders stop thinking big and dwell upon protecting past successes, the progress will slow and then stop. New ground will not be taken. Opportunities of a lifetime will be lost. God will not be honored and complacency will invade like an enemy streaming over the walls of the city. We must not forget that if we are not careful, the big thoughts and the big vision that gave us a big year can be replaced by complacency, boredom, and conservative thoughts which will give us a mediocre year or bad year. Let’s be challenged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It is time for "MORE" in 2017!!!

“MORE”…This is the word I challenged the FBC Lexington, TN congregation with this past Sunday. We celebrated our 175th Anniversary as a church. It is truly amazing to think that the church where I pastor every Sunday has ministered to and been an influence in its city and community for 175 years. This is quite an accomplishment. This church was leading people to faith in Jesus during the Civil War even though the Union army had taken over the then meager facilities. During the Great Depression, God’s people at FBC still gave their tithes and offerings, did ministry, fed people, and met needs. During both World Wars, men from FBC went to battle and many never came home, but all the while the church continued to do ministry. Through the turbulent 1960s, the affluence of the 1980s, and through the housing market crash in 2008-2009, FBC members showed the love of Jesus to a lost city and community. The same God who was present in 1842 is the same God who is present to day. Much has happened, both good things and bad things, in the church’s 175 year history. Still, FBC is alive, active and growing in 2017! 

Back to the word “MORE.” What I know is this fact: If FBC is to be effective in the future and if we are to fulfill our mission of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ “across the street, across the states, and across the seas,” then what we are going to need from the church members at FBC is “MORE!” The Biblical principle is found in the words of Jesus from Luke 12:48, when Jesus says, Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” 

The principle of “MORE” is a principle that most believers had rather avoid. Far too many “followers of Jesus” come into the church not seeking to do “more” or give “more” or minister “more” or love “more.” Many come into the church seeking to do all of these things “less” and not “more.” On average across our nation and denomination, people are giving the Lord less money, less time, less ministry, and sharing our faith is at an all-time low. As Southern Baptists we are winning “less” people to faith in Jesus, baptizing, and discipling them. How can it be that we are winning less people to Jesus, baptizing less people, and how can our discipleship ministries impact less people each year? Our impact and influence in the life of our cities, families, and country are less. My good friend and former Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist Convention always said that the purpose of the church and church people is to make sure “More people go to heaven and less people go to hell.” I am afraid this is not the focus of the average Baptist church member in America.

What is the answer? Well not to simplify this too much, but the answer is quite simple “MORE.” We need to spend “more” time in prayer seeking God’s face, sharing with Him the names of the lost, and discerning His will. We need “more” effort and energy spent to sharing the gospel with the lost, teaching them the truth of God’s Word, and teaching them how to live out their faith in Jesus. We need “more” people who will faithfully give of their resources so that needs might be met, ministries might be expanded, and the gospel might go forth. We need “more” people involved in ministry and meeting the needs of their neighbors, friends, associates, co-workers, and family members in an intentional, relevant way. We need “more” people who will start telling the Lord “yes” and start telling the world “no.”

“MORE”…I need to offer “more” to the Lord in 2017! You need to offer the Lord “more” in 2017! Jesus asks us this very pointed question in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” At the end of the day, real obedience to Jesus calls for “MORE!”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Stress or the Savior? Your choice!!!

Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store purchasing last minute gifts with her son before the stores closed. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her 3-year-old son was no longer clutched to hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found the little guy standing with his nose pressed flatly against a store front window. He was looking at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s frantic calls, he turned and with great enthusiasm shouted to his mother, “Look mommy! Come quick! It's Jesus…baby Jesus is laying there in they hay!” With obvious indifference to her little boy’s wonder and joy over Jesus, she impatiently jerked him away from the window and started dragging him down the hall of the mall saying, “What were you thinking! We don’t have time for that! Don’t you know it is Christmas and there are lots of more important things to do today!”
I am afraid that this story relates to many people at Christmas. Do you realize that it is easy to get so caught up in shopping for gifts, preparing for food or travel, going to parties, feeling the pressure to make a memory, putting up decorations and lights, and rushing around that you can completely miss Jesus at Christmas? We can become so stressed out with Christmas that we miss the Savior. The Christmas season is all about preparing for the coming to Jesus into this world to save us from our sins! How can you choose the Savior over holiday stress this year?
In Luke 10:38-42, we read the story of Martha preparing for the arrival of Jesus.  When you read the story you will see that Martha was busy getting everything ready for Jesus’ arrival. Her actions speak volumes to our rushing around preparing for Christmas. I can just imagine what she was thinking and doing when Jesus arrived. She was thinking, “Doesn’t anyone care how busy I am? How can Mary just sit at Jesus’ feet like that when there is so much to do. She is wasting precious time when she could be helping me make preparations for Jesus!” Martha was so busy making preparations for the arrival of Jesus that she forgot to enjoy being in His presence. Are we not the same way ourselves?
What can we do about the stresses of Christmas so we can enjoy the Savior this year? Let me mention two practical suggestions for you. First, you should choose the “needed thing” this Christmas! Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:42, “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…”.  Mary understood that spending time with Jesus was much more important that the preparations for His arrival. Martha’s preparations were good, but they were not what was best. She had substituted spending time in the presence of Jesus to prepare for Jesus’ arrival. Many of the things we do at Christmas are good, but only one thing is needed…We must spend time with Jesus!  Second, cross out the unnecessary this Christmas! Make a list of all you think you must do or need to do to make Christmas special in your life and in your home this year. Once you have the list completed, cross out EVERYTHING that takes away from the real meaning of Christmas! For example, do you really have to spend all afternoon making those “special” cookies when you could spend time with your family? Do you have to go to every party, spend that much money on meaningless gifts, or put up all the lights?
On the night Jesus was born, angels from heaven announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests (Lk. 2:14).” Don’t let the celebration of the most peace filled event in history (Christ’s birth) turn into the most stressful time of the year for you! Remember the words of the Christmas carol:
Silent night, Holy Night; All is calm, All is bright!
Round yon virgin, mother and child;
Holy Infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.