Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sabbatical Day / Year / Every 7?

Each year I try to take a Sabbatical/vacation.  For about a week I get away, sometimes alone, to breath, clear my mind and to pray.  This year is no different.  I again will be trekking a section of the Appalachian Trail for a week in September from Davenport Gap to Sam's Gap... maybe beyond (about 100 miles).  I have a few books, and plenty of prayer time slated for the time on the trail.  The word Sabbatical comes from our Lord's command to take a period of rest, a Sabbath as part of our relationship with Him.
The Sabbath Day is the seventh day of the week, a day of rest for the Hebrew people under the Mosaic Law. But the Law also spoke of a sabbatical year. Leviticus 25:1–7 provides instructions for the sabbath year that was to be observed after the Israelites moved into the Promised Land.
The Sabbath year is also instructed in Scripture.  Leviticus 25:3–5 explains what the sabbath year was: “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.” Every seventh year, then, was to be a time of no planting or pruning of crops. The Sabbath (meaning “rest”) was applied to a time of rest for farmland (this is also mentioned in Exodus 23:10–11).  Every seven years, I try to take an extended sabbatical time... maybe in the form of a focused life change, course work, biblical study, etc.  Something that would strengthen my relationship with Christ.
Jesus also clarified for us that we are to rest in Him.  This is good news... that we rest eternally in our salvation relationship with Jesus.... "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.

 Well, Moses gave warning of what might happen if the sabbath day/year were not obeyed in Leviticus 26:33-35...  and it was not a blessing.  I believe that the joy of a relationship with Christ is an every day faith based resting place.... there is nothing that we can face that we can not trust God with.  In addition, a regular weekly, yearly and every seven years is just a bonus time to enjoy that relationship with my Christ.

Regardless of the time taken, the truth can not be avoided.  God wants to be with me, and I want to take time to be with just him too...  Thanks for your prayers and hope you will enjoy a fresh sabbatical soon.. if not this Sunday.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Building Bridges of Love

On June 21, 2015 I was in Kenya speaking to the church at Masai Corner.  My message that Sunday was, "Building bridges of love that connect people to Jesus Christ and each other."  I shared how my home town (Charleston, SC) and my home church (Ashley River Baptist Church) were similar in many ways to Mombasa, Kenya. Our towns were both Coastal port cities, both separated by a river on both sides.  One difference however, Mombasa has a bridge on the north side and a ferry to the south.  Thus, the illustration of a relationship based on a bridge versus a ferry resonated with them.... 

Rewind... a little background.  Over four years ago, our ARBC missions team began to pray about developing missionary partnerships.  Chris & Lisa Moore ( were presented to us by church members who had recently visited there (2011) on a homecoming trip for her, having been raised there by missionary parents, and wanted to show her husband and daughter where she grew up....  After Chris & Lisa then visited ARBC three years ago (2012), we began to plan a mission trip there.  Two years ago (2013) that trip dwindled down for various reasons and was canceled.  My two daughters, Sierra and Sky, were still led of the Lord to go, and they did.  They became messengers of hope and possibility to ARBC, Chris & Lisa visited ARBC again last year (2014) and another trip was forged, this time 12 team members were sent out by ARBC to begin to build this bridge of relationship with the churches and ministries of Real 4 Christ... our first personal, supportive relationship with a cross-cultural missionary has begun.

The hope of the ARBC missions team, and a growing number of ARBC members, is that this relationship will be a bridge of constant hope, love, prayer, support and partnership.  Not a "ferry relationship" with barriers of complication, differences and distance that remain, but a bridge that will connect us personally with each other, on a spirit-led moments notice.

The culminating similarity of our two eastern coastal towns that resonated with the 100's of Kenyans in attendance that Sunday, was the similarity of pain felt...., caused by those who were led by Satan with the intent to "steal, kill and destroy" relationships. Still fresh on the minds of the Masai Corner church was the horrible massacre of over 180 college students (4/2/2015), many Christians, in the town of Garissa, Kenya who were killed for their faith by those with a devious hope to drive fear and division among the Kenyan people. A relationship bridge was developing before us... as I shared about the horrible tragedy and amazing forgiveness of the disastrous killing of godly people in Charleston, SC (6/17/2015).... that too, an effort by Satan to "steal, kill and destroy."  As we wept and prayed together for our Charleston home community, God was still at work building bridges in Kenya AND in Charleston!  After that Worship service (6/21/15), Masai Corner Church, Kenya, held hands, together.. along with those in Charleston who would be holding hands across Charleston when the sun rose there.... building bridges of love to connect people to Jesus Christ and each other.... we connected... a relationship is forged in so much we have in common...

Below is an audio experience that... you may just hear the voice of God in....
 The Sounds of Kenya:
Our ARBC team traveled by safari off road vans, through rivers, and herds, deep into the Kenyan hills, to visit 4 church plants. "If you are not careful, you might miss the voice of God" Chris Moore said, through tears after worshiping with the R4C Dzomba Fellowship Church Plant

a few days before, we learned of the horrible massacre back in our home town Charleston, thus this excerpt from my message that Sunday:

Kelvin Charo, is baptized.... "connecting people to Jesus Christ & each other"


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Make Me A Sanctuary

“Make me a Sanctuary”
Pastor Kent Williams

Traditionally, a sanctuary is a holy place set apart for the purpose of worship. All over the world, churches meet in schools, houses, gymnasiums, community centers, parks, an under mango trees... etc. For a few hours a week, those places become sanctuaries.  However, those places are not sanctuaries at any other time during the week. What turns an ordinary room—a gymnasium, for example—into a sanctuary?

When we think of the word church, we often think of a building. Sometimes that word reminds us of a structure with a steeple or a long aisle between pews. That’s not what God calls the church. Instead, He calls everyone who has accepted Christ “the church” (see Colossians 4:15). So, the church refers to people, not a building.

This is important to know because, when we are with other Christians, we are the church and we can make any room into a sanctuary. When Christians worship God, an ordinary space becomes a sanctuary—a place set apart for worship.  We don't go to church... we are the church.

We see this concept of a sanctuary explained well in the Old Testament.

Exodus 15:17 is the first mention of a sanctuary: “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.” The sanctuary was a place for God to dwell in the midst of His people.

Exodus 25:8 reiterates this thought. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

Psalm 68:35 says, “You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!”

The sanctuary in the Old Testament was the tabernacle and, later, the temple—a place where the Lord dwelt among His people. He appeared in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The presence of the Lord over the sanctuary was a powerful reminder to the Israelites.

Our “sanctuaries” today are much different than the original sanctuary of the Israelites. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, a special dwelling place no longer exists. The Lord dwells in us as believers (1 Corinthians 3:16). The gathering places we call sanctuaries become that when His people gather for Worship.  Identifying them as Sanctuary buildings declares holy what God did not want to be declared so.

So, make my heart a Sanctuary…, and as my life and walk become holy ground… Life becomes a worship experience every moment of every day….
Worship is Life!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Christian Parenting Tips

Jeff Strong posted this list in 2010... it is due to be redistributed.

10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.
Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.

9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.
Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.

7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.
Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).

6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.
Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.

5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.
For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.

4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.
I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.
Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.

3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)

2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.
Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.

1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.

When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”
What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?
While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not garauntee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.
You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.

Envisioning the Future Church

There are many who have sought to predict the future of the Church, and as a pastor, I too want to lead people to where they will be most effective.  Does this information help accomplish that?  Another question for the futurist....  Being a student of what might be ahead, I believe, is a healthy exercise for leaders.  Studying trends and expected environments helps make decisions in the present.  Waiting on the Lord is vital and the most important approach in looking to change and what the future will bring... for God alone knows the future.  Maybe God will give those who love and serve Him some insight along the way.  I read as much as I can find on the subject, spend time in prayer and try to apply it to where I presently lead at any given moment.... these ideas pile up.  Right now, here are some accumulated thoughts on the matter.... however, in a year or two... these may change in my mind as well.

1. Mission field among us: Millennial generation. (Church must become relevant to them or…. )
Our nation will see the emergence of the largest generational mission field in over a century. According to current research, the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will have a very low Christian representation. Estimates now are that only 15% are Christian. With a huge population of nearly 80 million, that means that nearly 70 million young people are not Christians.  The dominant attitude of this huge generation toward Christianity will be largely indifferent. Only 13 percent of the “Millennials” rank any type of spiritual matter as important to their lives. They are not angry at churches and Christians. They simply ignore us because they do not deem church/Christians as meaningful or relevant.

2. Must change the way we minister to Senior Adults.
Senior adult ministries in churches will experience steep declines. As the large Baby Boomer generation moves into their older years, they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults, no matter how senior they may be. Unfortunately, many churches are slow to adapt to new realities. If they do senior adult ministry the way they’ve always done it, it will be headed for failure.  The large Boomer generation will become more receptive to the gospel. Data is anecdotal for now, but we are seeing indications that the Boomers may actually become more interested in spiritual matters in general, and Christianity specifically. If so, this trend will be counter to other trends where adults tend to become less receptive to the gospel as they age. The Baby Boomers have tried it all and found no joy. They may likely turn to the hope of the gospel.

3. Family will be a key value for both of the large generations.
For the Millennials, family is their most important value. Nearly eight out of ten of the Millennials ranked family as the important issue in their lives. They reported that they had healthy relationships with their parents who, for the most part, are Baby Boomers. Some churches say they are family friendly, but few actually demonstrate that value. Churches that reach both of these generations will make significant changes to become the type of churches that foster healthy family relationships,

4. “Holy buildings” scare people
We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture.  To get people to “come to us” will mean that the structure must be culturally relevant.  Otherwise, we will have to “go to them” and use spaces that are familiar. The church should be in the culture and making a difference, that is a Biblical imperative and this makes it tangible!

5. Activate New Volunteers, quickly. 
If churches do not provide opportunities to quickly connect dedicated volunteers they will not consider being part of the organization a priority, regardless of membership.   Developing space that does not need volunteers to maintain it, set it up, lead in it, work in it, serve in it… will not prosper in the future. 

6. The ability to say no. One of the reasons churches don’t change is because leaders are unwilling to say no to current members who prefer things the way they were. When you learn to say no to the preferences of some current members, you learn to say yes to a community that is ready to be reached for Christ.

7. We exist primarily for the people who are not here….
Prioritizing a for you not from you culture. Andy Stanley often talks about what he wants for people, not just what he wants from them. Churches in decline often think in terms of what they can get from people – money, time, growth etc. Churches that will make an impact on the future will be passionate about what they want for people – financial balance, generosity, the joy of serving, better families, and of course, Christ at the center of everyone’s life.  For example, our parking experience is not about parking, but warmly welcoming people.  Churches that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than churches that are passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls happy. Better still, you will have a healthier church if people outside become the priority target group. We call individuals who are fixated on their wants and needs selfish and immature. Selfless and mature churches will have an impact because of their passion for people God cares about.  Growth and maturity are certainly an important foundational part of the discipling church, reaching people outside will not happen w/o growing, maturing believers who have needs and struggles that are being addressed, of course.  We just can’t get caught in the cycle of meeting that ever-growing list of selfish needs. The Church must get beyond those obstacles, with Christ help.  Instead, make decisions and choose preferences with the “people who are not here” as a priority.

8. A tailored experience, not a tailored message. 
The Christ-life is a life experience, not simply a message.  We don’t have to tailor the message to un-churched people, but churches that have an impact will tailor the experience of the message. The content is the same – the experience needs to change. Churches that decide they will hold the message sacred but tailor the experience to an ever shifting culture will be more effective.  Therefore, there should be a high value on experimentation. The more traditional we are, the less we will value experimentation. If we start to raise the value of experimentation and change, we will accelerate change and flexibility.  If our approach or method is not accomplishing our goal, then our approach needs to change. The churches that connect with their community will be the churches willing enough to try a variety of things, and who also have the courage to kill them as soon as they stop producing results.  It is important, if space is to be developed for ministry, we need to design space that is not locked into a single or even limited use.  We need to be able to change the experience as soon as it is not effective in delivering the message.

9. The importance of the church building is being renewed
The church is not a building, but a building is where the church meets. And buildings are the most expensive part of discipleship. In North America people go to buildings to do things — they go to the game in an arena, to the doctor at her office, to school in the classroom, and to the movie at the theater. Part of our culture is the expectation that things happen in buildings. This cultural expectation is true of the church — people go to church to be discipled, experience life inspiration and encouragement.  Not all churches have buildings, nor are they required.  However, buildings may be important pieces in God’s mission of building his kingdom again. Many building and design firms are becoming more intentional about creating space with the purpose of making disciples, where life inspiration may occur and encouragement is prevalent.  In the next ten years, this focus will continue to grow. Churches will begin to view their buildings as part of their disciple-life process.  Furthermore, the recent trend of video driven church venues may wane in the next 10 years. As video resources are more and more readily available on the Internet, people will be looking for a place to connect with people face to face.  In certain niches on-line church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church.  But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, on-line church will supplement the journey.

10. Churches that love their model more than the mission will die
That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model. 

11. Attendance will no longer drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance
Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.  In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain.  If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fueled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift.  In the future church, attendance won’t drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance.

12. Gatherings will be smaller and larger at the same time
While many might think the mega-church is dead, it’s not. And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness.  There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches.  We will likely see large churches get larger. Multi-site will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission. At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as millennials and others seek tighter connections and groups. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure.  We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.

Source references:  Andy Stanley, Leading Change. Carey Nieuwhof, Conexus Leadership. Rich Birch, Leadership Network. Thom Reiner, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sam Rainer, Rainer Research;  Kent Williams, Ashley River Baptist Church