Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Church in the Gig/Global Economy

It isn't a surprise to anyone who has been watching such things, but our economy is not what it used to be. For many areas across the country, jobs are scarce. Other areas are decimated in regard to work, and the young families of the workforce are moving to cities for employment and educational opportunities. For those churches in the city-centers, the effects of this trend are not felt as harshly as is experienced by churches that are outside of the urban sprawl.

The truth is that our economy has moved to a "gig economy" in a global environment. No longer do young people expect to go to college, get a career, and work one job until retirement. The average "careers per lifetime" sits somewhere north of three. That means that you are unlikely to be still working in the same field as you are now in ten year's time.

The offset of this "gig economy" is the "global economy". No longer are the members of our church vying for a limited pool of employment in their small town. Now, they apply for and accept positions across the country, and even around the globe - and move to take those jobs.

Part of this global economy is a vast pool of "freelance" workers that gain their income working online in everything from writing and coaching to graphic design and journalism. This is where things get interesting for a church family that wants to take advantage of global trends to reach the world.

This gig/global economy combination offers the local church some significant global opportunities.

Online freelance work can:

  • Provide work and keep church members in town working from home rather than moving away.
  • Allow a small church to get secretarial, design, translation, and a multitude of other helps at a reasonable cost from Christians located in other parts of the globe without hiring full or part-time.
  • Give missionaries who need to work to supplement their missions support the opportunity to work online, from the field, without breaking the laws of the nation in which they reside. (Most missionaries cannot work where they live because their host nation sees that as taking a job from a native of that country. However, online work originating in North America is seen differently.)
  • Allow the possibility of tent-making in remote areas of the country to become a very real opportunity.
  • Give church members the opportunity to serve Christ by serving other churches in distant / remote places. 
  • Open the door to part-time and seasonal foreign missions as gig/global employees work from international locations while helping full-time missionaries.
  • Enable churches at home to give work to members of missions churches in foreign countries.
Whether the gig/global economy will last till Christ returns is hard to say, but it is certain that this is not going away anytime soon. Because of this, we should seriously consider some of the positive ramifications of this new global dynamic and the doors of opportunity that are opened up for both the local church as well as foreign missions. 

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Jason Homan

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Walking With Those Who Walk Away From Your Church

leaving church

There are few things that are more disconcerting to me as a pastor as those folks who, for whatever reason, decide that they no longer want to walk with and worship with the rest of the congregation.

Sometimes they make a big fuss about one thing or another and leave damage in their wake. At other times they leave civilly with love in their hearts and kindness toward those with whom they disagree.

My question today is this. How do we walk with those who walk away? How do we show both the truth of the written Word (Bible) AND  the love, intent, and spirit of the living Word (Jesus)?

As I have thought on these things over the past week these are the conclusions to which I have come:

1. Jesus taught us to love everyone regardless of their kindness toward us and agreement with us. 

We are even to love our enemies. Having said that, I do hope that we do not allow our relationships with those who walk away from our local congregations to become an "enemy" situation. That is what satan wants.

Luke 6:27  But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

2. We are to "do good" even to those who hate us. 

Read this verse:   If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:  For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee. Proverbs 25:21-22

So, even if the situation with those who have walked away has devolved to the point where either they see us as enemies or we see them as enemies the command of God is simple: Love and Serve (do good).

3. We are to walk together.

What about the verse that says, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3)

This verse has often been the "go to" verse for those who want to absolve themselves of responsibility for deteriorating and difficult relationships. They say, "Well, we don't agree on __________ so we cannot walk together." What they usually mean by this is that "I can't handle that they won't admit that I am right. I refuse to talk with them about anything except our disagreement. Therefore we have nothing to talk about. We don't agree and cannot walk together. I'm cutting them out of my life."

Let's look at this:

Look at the context of Amos 3:3 instead of just using it to justify cutting people out of your life. In Amos 3:3 God is speaking to the children of Israel. They had disobeyed again, and He had to punish them again (note: punishment is not our job as individuals, but God's job). In this context God gives them a list of common sense situations in which effect follows cause to show that consequences follow sin.

For example: Two people can't walk together (they will part ways) unless they agree on where they are headed and what road to take, a lion roars because it catches food, and if there is no trap, a bird does not fall to the ground. -- cause and effect scenarios

In Amos 3:3 God is not telling the children of Israel, "You don't agree with me on every little thing therefore I am ending this relationship." In fact, the opposite is true. God walked with the children of Israel, loved them, cared for them, and helped them despite their many disagreements and rebellions. He walked through the deep water and difficult times of sin and rebellion with them (without partaking in their sin) until they came to the place where they repented and were restored. So what was God telling them in Amos 3:3. It is simple. He was telling them that there is a cause and effect relationship with sin. He was telling them, "You sinned and I am going to have to punish you."

So, how does Amos 3:3 play out for us? "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" Simply this. In order to walk in Christian fellowship with someone who is walking away from the local congregation that I happen to attend we have to agree on two things.

  1. Where are we going? (destination: Heaven)
  2. How do we get there? (Jesus: by grace through faith).

We make a great mistake and lose the opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of those who walk away from our congregations when we pridefully think that they must agree with us on everything in order to "walk together" (read this, "be my friend"). Why is this attitude prideful? Simple. It assumes that we are right in everything and therefore they (those who walk away) must agree with us in every little thing in order to earn our love and friendship. Doesn't sound so "godly" when we put it that way does it?

4. We are to still walk with those that have sinned and remain in rebellion - but that walk is different. 

Yes, unfortunately there are those who leave the local church because they have sinned and do not want to make those things right before God and others. It is terribly sad, but it happens. So what then? How can we walk with those who have either left the congregation to avoid church discipline or because the congregation has rightly enacted (and "rightly enacted" is important) church discipline in an effort to help the person realize their wrong and return to a right relationship with God and with those who they have injured with their sin?

While walking with a person in sin and rebellion does not look the same as walking with someone who has simply left our congregation in favor of another, it is still a relationship that cannot be tossed away because it is tough and messy.

Look at these three verses;

Matthew 18:17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Jesus tells us to treat those who have sinned and refuse to respond properly to the correction of church discipline as "a heathen man and a publican." We take note here that our example in this is to be Jesus himself. So, how did he treat the heathen (unsaved) man? How did he treat the publican? It is apparent from the gospels that He treated them with love, respect, charity, kindness, and a hope for their reconciliation with the Father.

Colossians 4:5  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Here's a good verse for this topic. We can walk with those who are "without" (the heathen man, the publican, the unsaved, the Christian who is in rebellion). According to this verse we are to walk "in wisdom" and with speech that is tempered with grace.

Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Restoration is a process. It takes time for people to get beyond their sin, and pride and be willing to admit that they are wrong. It is disturbing to me that there are those good Christians who go for coffee just once with someone walking in sin against God, make their case for the repentance of that individual, and then cut that individual off from their lives because they didn't repent right away. I am so glad that God doesn't operate this way. Restoration is a work of God in the heart of an individual over a process of time. You can be used in that process, but only if you wisely are willing to maintain a loving and serving relationship with that individual that God loves (despite their rebellion). 

In conclusion: 

There are three groups that walk away from the local congregation:
  1. People that walk away for good reasons. (like a move to another town)
  2. People that walk away for their reasons. (like a shift in their thinking in regard to some teaching or church practice)
  3. People that walk away for sinful and rebellious reasons. They have sinned and do not want to deal with it.
Although our walk with these three situations does differ somewhat according to the situation, it is clear that civility and loving action and speech must be the guiding truth of our interaction with others as we walk with those who walk away. We cannot ourselves be carried away with any error, but we can be mature in our walk toward others.

Ephesians 4:14-15  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love...

Here's the point. In order to speak the truth in love you must be on speaking terms. Before anyone will listen to what you know they have to know that you care.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Millennials: Switching Churches & Leaving Friends

"Why aren't you my friend anymore?" This is what I so often want to ask those of the millennial generation that have chosen church hopping as their spiritual path. I tried to understand and be loving when they left the church of their childhood where we both grew up. I tried harder to understand and be loving when they abandoned the "denomination" (read this 'doctrine') that they had learned and professed since childhood. But what has hurt and puzzled me to a great extent is that in their search for the love and acceptance that they believe will be found in a different congregation and denomination they have systematically isolated themselves from those that they had once called their friends.

Yes, the answers that I have been able to pry out of my millennial church hopping friends and decipher from their cryptic social media posts range from "my old church is unloving" to "my old church was boring". Okay, so instead of waiting their turn to be in leadership and affecting the change they believe is necessary, they have chosen to walk away from the congregations (the friends) that have loved, supported, and encouraged them since birth. The truth is that their departure of protest makes little impact and is not remembered for long. While the millennial church hopper believes that "I showed them", the truth is that people have a short memory and life goes on.

So, because some of my millennial friends (though not all) have decided to cut me out of their lives because they are no longer a part of the same congregation or "denomination" that I am.  I have to ask myself some questions.

1. Did I do something to them? - I don't think so... If I have, they have never come to me and said, "Hey friend, we need to talk. You hurt me." You would think a friend would do that, right?

2. Am I "unloving and not accepting"? - Yes, at times. I admit it. I try not to be. But that knife cuts both ways, I am not the only one that can be and act in a way that is unloving and not accepting. (that's everyone)

The other truth is this: Acceptance and approval are two different things. We can accept where the other person is in life and who they are as an individual without necessarily approving of the position the other takes. In addition, acceptance of the person does not necessitate your acceptance of the other person's positions. After all, isn't your relationship bigger than the differences of opinion you may have? Take politics for example: You can accept someone that belongs to another political party - even love them - without subscribing to and approving of all of the facets of their politics.

3. Am I "no fun"? - NO! I'm a barrel of laughs! - Well maybe not, but I am not totally intolerable. :-)

Okay, assuming that I didn't run over their family's puppy with my truck what is the difference between those that have left the church/denomination of their youth and retain their friendships from their "old church/denomination" and those that turf their old friends in favor of the hopes of new, better, shinier ones?

As I have thought about it I came to the following realizations:

1. Maturity - The ones who have retained and maintained the friendships from the church/denomination of their youth show the maturity to be able to separate the individual (friend) from the institution (the church/denomination they left).

2. Wisdom - The millennials that have retained and maintained those friendships from their "old church/denomination" understand that it is not wise to burn bridges.

3. Understanding - Those millennials who have taken the time and thought to understand how culture (especially the culture of social media) affects them have opted for more permanent relationships and holding on to friends. (Even ones that differ from them and at times drive them crazy.) Those who have not thought through the huge affect that culture has had on their mindset are just as quick to "unfriend" a person in real life as they are online.

4. Appreciation - Those millennials that have a deep seated appreciation for the investment of love, time, finances, and friendship of the church family of their youth are more likely to retain and maintain those relationships - even if they leave that church/denomination.

5. Vision - Those millennials that see beyond today to a day when they will be the majority in the church and in leadership positions understand that retaining and maintaining old friendships is useful, if only for a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen.

6. Value - Those millennials that have retained and maintained the friendships of the church/denomination of their youth understand not only the value that others bring to their lives, but also they understand the value that they contribute to the lives of their friends in their "old church/denomination".

7. Humility - Humility says, "This is the direction that I believe is the right way to go, but I am open to the possibility that maybe I am wrong." The millennials that have nurtured their old friendships while making new ones in their new church setting have grasped this concept of humbly walking their path while being open to being shown something different.

Sure, it is emotionally easier to cut everyone off, compartmentalize that stage of your life (old church and old church friends) and begin fresh all over again, but the loss to you is huge and the relationship potential that will never be realized is massive. There is something about the relationships that were forged in the teamwork of Christian service and a long history of shared personal challenges that cannot be replaced by the surface interactions with "my new church friends".  History matters. New is flashy and fun, but new and novel will never truly replace faithful, tested, and invested. 

It's kind of like puppies. Everyone likes the new puppy -- until they make a mess on the floor, tear up your couch, and bite your two year old. Then you wish that faithful (and well trained) "Buddy the Dog" hadn't died. That brings me to my last thought. Grab your friends. Hold them tight. Nurture your relationships. You never know when they will be gone for good.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Where Are the Cheerleaders?

I am convinced that more can be done for God. I am convinced that more can be done for our communities. I am convinced that more can be done for our country. I am convinced that there are people who want to, are even begging to do this work.
But there is something missing -- cheerleaders!

Think about it. Whatever accomplishment you have in life is a direct result of at least one cheerleader. There was at least one person who, whether they truly believed in you or not, cheered you on. Unfortunately, today's society (and today's church) has turned away from being cheerleaders. So, I have to ask myself, why is this?

1. Isolation: The tendency of North American society is toward isolating ourselves and only caring about our own problems, challenges, dreams, and goals. If we don't care about others we cannot encourage others.

2. Jealousy: This monster gets in the way of many who could and should be cheerleaders. Their thinking seems to be that if they didn't think of the idea and if they cannot benefit from the idea then they want nothing to do with it; because they are jealous.

3. Control: Ronald Reagan said that much can be accomplished as long as "no one cares who gets the credit". This could also be said of control. If you can't be enthusiastic and encouraging without having a measure of control then there is something desperately wrong with you.

4. Laziness: To be a cheerleader takes effort. To do it effectively will take a piece of you; your time, your talents, and yes, at times your money. Being a cheerleader means being emotionally invested in the team and enthusiastically invested in the team's success: winning!

5. Professional Perfectionism: We live in a society of professionals. In fact, "Leave it to the professionals," is actually something that we say! Because of this we tend to look at someone's idea or vision with skepticism. Instead of encouragement, our first thought is all of the reasons why that individual cannot or should not pursue their passion and vision. Here's the deal. "Done is better than perfect." Yes, it is nice to have everything pretty, perfect, and professional, but sometimes good enough is good enough. Be a cheerleader of the "good enough" today and it will grow into the excellent. Do not cheer on the "good enough" and your church, community, and country won't even experience "good enough"

I am thankful for the cheerleaders in my life. My parents, my wife, teachers, and senior citizens who have taken the time to encourage and invest in my life. The other day a man  that I have looked up to all my life grabbed my arm as I passed by him in a hallway at a meeting and said, "Keep writing Brother Homan".  First, I was encouraged that he even knew that I was doing a little writing. The fact that he took the time to be a cheerleader made a difference for me.

So, what's the deal? Why aren't you a cheerleader? Has pride and the flesh so consumed you that you have the warped idea that only you can do things "right"? Do you really think  you have all the answers? Have isolation, jealousy, control, and laziness so bound you that you cannot see past yourself to catch the vision of the massive amount of work that could be accomplished if you chose to be an encouragement to others?

There is much to be accomplished in our churches, our communities, and our country. There is much that can be done. There are people that have the desire and vision to do it, but they need that one person to be a cheerleader. By being a cheerleader you are able to see much more accomplished than what you can do on you own and in the process become one of those people that others point to as a help and an encouragement in their lives. 

Cheerleading = people inspired and work multiplied

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Dream: A Progressing Reality

About three years ago I was sitting in my office at about this time of year thinking about what the year would be like, and what I should do with my time to be the most efficient and effective. From somewhere in my mind came the thought, "Your job is to communicate." I began to think through and pray about what that would mean.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that that meant using every means at my disposal to communicate the message that I have been given. Little did I know then how big of an undertaking this would become.

At first I did what I knew to do. I preached at the church, wrote a book, did some online videos and social media posts. That is what started it all. At the same time my sister Susanna began her writing career and I realized that part of communicating was publishing and promotion. So, for me, for Susanna, and now for over twenty other writers, photographers, and musicians I began putting together an e-magazine called "FORWARD". The magazine has quickly become a hub for the promotion of these writers and artists. I am glad to be a part of it.

Now we come to the next phase of development in what I now believe is a project given to me by God to help others communicate the message that has been given to them: Forward Publishing

It does no one any good if the wonderful articles, books, photos, and music put together by talented writers and artists that live among us in our churches lies dormant in their files or on their computers. Worse yet is the scenario where for lack of an avenue of publishing and promotion the writers and artists among us give up and their talents languish for lack of use.

Unfortunately for too long the authors, artists, and even some of the talented song writers of our churches have been at a loss as to how to use the talents that God had given them. With the emphasis on "up front" talents in our churches like singing and preaching those with the quieter "behind the scenes" talents have been left to wonder where the outlet for their God-given abilities was. Now we have an avenue. With the emergence of online technology, remote on-demand printing, and music production we have an opportunity that we have never had before! We finally have a way to give both publication and promotion to these writers and artists.

So, here's the deal. In this blog from time to time I will update you on the progress of this new venture. Yes, so you will be aware of what is being produced, and buy it :-) but also so you can come along the adventure together with me, with us.

Right now I am working with five different authors to get their books written, edited, formatted, and printed. The message that God has given them will be a blessing to you. I'll let you know when those books are ready to be purchased.

For now, please take a minute to pray for this project. Pray that God would use the talents He has instilled in these writers and artists. Pray that we will find the right promotional avenues to be able to get the widest audience possible for their work. Pray that churches and pastors across the country will catch the vision and support the concept of having a national magazine and an avenue to help the members of their churches be a national blessing with their talents of writing, art, and music.

Thank you for taking the time to read ALL the way down to the bottom of this blog post. YOU MADE IT! Please subscribe to the blog. I have some cool things coming down the line I want to send to you by email.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Determine to Be an Awesome Dandelion!

I can't remember if it was on television or a picture on the internet. It wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. It was a green lawn full of yellow dandelions. I thought to myself. "You know, the contrast between the green the bright yellow is beautiful." Then somewhere in the back of my mind this truth kicked into high gear. Here it is:

If there are no roses around, a dandelion is a striking beauty.

Now everyone knows that most homeowners want to rid their lawns of this flowering weed. This is mostly because of the little thorns that are in the leaves of the dandelion plant.

Now here is thought number two:

Roses have thorns too!

Funny, you don't hear people whining too much about the thorns on roses. (Mind you, most people aren't stupid enough to step on a rose bush!)

Okay, let's wrap these thoughts up with a nice little bow.

You may not think of yourself as a rose. Maybe you see yourself more like the weed no one wants around. However, you have to realize that even the yellow dandelion has beauty and gives pleasure to those who are willing to open up their eyes to its beauty. So, in the absence of a rose, the dandelion will do just fine. There aren't too many mothers whose hearts have been warmed by a child running into the house and proudly presenting them with a fistful of handpicked long-stem roses, but a fist full of dandelions has brightened up the day and put a smile on the faces of thousands of weary mothers.

Secondly: If the rose is so great, why does it have thorns too? It is simple. The rose isn't so great. It just has a better publicity department than the dandelion. It's thorns are bigger and it's flower is more fragile than the dandelion's flower. So, you see that person that you consider to be a "rose"? The one that you are afraid to stand beside in case you might look badly in comparison? They have thorns too.

In the end it is about fulfilling your role in your place. It is about making your little area a little more beautiful. After all, it is doubtful that a rose is going to move into the backyard that you occupy and do a better job of "prettifying" it than you are doing. And even if that rose does move into your yard or a yard nearby, remember: it's just another flower with thorny problems of it's own.