Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘The Church’

Follow Up to “It’s Time” (October, ’11)

Just a short update. I’ve acquired a two-burner and a single burner stove and some utensils. We’re starting small … out of the back end of my pickup. Several opportunities have arisen to provide a supper meal to kids that receive school breakfasts and lunches, and we’re inviting their siblings and parents to join in. We’re serving something warm, nutritious and tasty (stew, chili, soup and bread), and we’ll be doing so between 5 and 6:30 PM (hopefully, before dark). Pray for us at The Bridge (www.thebridge2hope.org), and especially the Youth Group. Our kids are going to be the preparers and servers going forward; we’re teaching our young people that the Church has no walls, and no age limitations when it comes to ministering the love and grace of Jesus! We’ll keep you posted here.

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge - to Christ, Spiritual Maturity, and Hope to the World

The Bridge.  A new name, a new vision, a new pastor, a new approach to ministry, a new congregation.  By the way … I’m that new pastor.  I took the position in October, and it’s been great!  I love the people – “the survivors” is what I call the folks who made it through the turbulence of transition from former pastor/former church to new pastor/new vision.

Maybe you noticed the logo caption.  We, the people at The Bridge, want to be a bridge to Jesus.  We will never change the message!  It’s Jesus Christ, the Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived in Palestine, taught disciples, was crucified, dead, buried and RISEN!  And coming King!

While we’re orthodox in our beliefs we will tend to be unorthodox in our approach to reaching out to the “dechurched” and the “unchurched.”

Matt Chandler (Google Matt, and look for him on You Tube as well) describes the dechurched as people who attended church when they were younger (pre- and even post-adolescence) but, for a ton of reasons, decided church wasn’t their thing.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after years of observation myself, that the dechurched may have thought attending church was pointless, irrelevant, dead/lifeless, populated by hypocrites, and constantly wanting more and more money.  The dechurched may have been hurt in a plethora of ways while attending church, and they’ve decided, “Who needs this!?”  Unfortunately, they may have seen hypocrisy in their own home and decided, “Why go to the trouble of going to church on Sunday morning when there are better things to do?”

The dechurched, after years of wandering the planet, wondering if there is a personal God that’s as sick of “church” as they are, believing that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and investigating every spiritual nook and cranny there is have finally decided, “If I can find a group of REAL Christ-followers – authentic, transparent, loving, kind, other-centric, missional and more – I’ll check it out.  If I can find a group of Christ-followers who are honest about their imperfections and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior (they actually ask for forgiveness and want to make things right), I might check it out.  If I can find a diverse congregation that does not try to be politically correct but (instead)  tries to love each other the way Martin Luther King dreamed, I might check it out.”

It is my hope that The Bridge will be all those things!  I want to hang out with people like those I described above.  I want to build relationships with honest-to-God and authentic people who get the Gospel, believe it, and want to live in a community that looks and sounds a lot like Jesus if He were living here, and now.

Sounds idealistic?  Sounds impossible?  I don’t care what it sounds like – this is the vision I have for The Bridge.  Before my life is over I want to be with a group of people who want to do “Church” the way Jesus intended it to be.

Give me some feedback!  What did I leave out of my vision.  That’s an honest question.  I want to know.

The Signs of the Times

I don’t know for sure that I’m living in “the last days.” I suspect I am, in the biblical sense. For sure, I’m living in MY last days!

I was just telling someone today (oh, and when I did, I wasn’t thinking, “hmmm … this might make a nice post”):

“Let me tell you where I’m coming from … why I’m pastoring The Bridge. I think it’s information you’ll appreciate. When I was asked by my good friend to help out by speaking at Emmanuel Tabernacle from time to time, I saw doing so as temporary. Just for a few months. But it turned out that I really liked the people … and that “like” opened my heart to love them. The crew that was at the church at the time was beat up … bruised. The fights over petty things, and the power plays by some of the leaders, left people shellshocked. My protective instincts kicked in. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, a healing take place. It wasn’t long when they asked me to stay on. In October of last year I felt I had a green light from God to do so. I was on my face (literally on the floor of the former pastor’s office) asking Him, “What am I doing here?” and I felt I heard Him say, “Lowell, I love these people … and I WANT you hear.” It wasn’t a question of what I wanted to do – whether I felt sympathy for them or not. Didn’t matter. God was telling me, “THIS is something I want you to do for Me.”

“I’ve pastored/lead ministries since 1970, but I’ve never felt called to pastor. I have always felt called to do whatever He wanted me to do, where He wanted me to do it, and for how long. That, by no means, makes me an expert on followership. But all that time has allowed me to see and experience a lot. Also, being a preacher’s son, and seeing the ungodly underbelly of the Church from time to time from that perspective (how some in the family of God behave) has also been a part of my life experience, too.

“I haven’t always done so, but early on in my ministry life I decided/determined to be honest, and as transparent as I could be without being shameful or stupid. While I was experiencing the death of my first wife, that approach to ministry was dramatically reinforced. “Life’s too short to mess around” was the big message God gave me during her dying process.

“So … that candor that you heard last Sunday has been “purchased” – I’ve paid for it with the currency of my life. Forty years worth of life.”

I want to be candid without being harsh, and transparent for the sake of others … not because I feel this need to flush my junk out of my system.

I’m looking around me now … at my world … and I’m thinking, “How much longer can this insanity last? When will God say, ‘That’s quite enough!'” I’m watching TV like everyone else. I’m tuned into YouTube. I’m reading the blogs. It’s freaky. With all the reports of natural disasters, wars, the murder of innocents (and the killing of the ‘not innocent’), the economic uncertainty, the famines, etc., wouldn’t you think, “Yep, this is what Jesus, John (the saint/disciple), and the other prophets saw coming.”

Funny thing is, I’m not discouraged. I’m really surprised by that! I’m actually excited … and not because I’m some sicko hoping to see misery piled upon miseries, or like the rubber-neckers who slow down to see if anyone died in the accident. I’m excited because I feel I know what’s coming! And what’s coming will be tough, and will require sold-out determination, rock-solid faith, unwavering trust, and a depth of love I’ve never experienced or lived out but I’ve heard described in the stories of Jesus and His initial followers. But tough or not, it’s great! If … if you believe God’s in it all.

What are the signs of the times? Read Matthew 24, 25 and check out Luke 21. Then … you tell me. Comment. How do you interpret those biblical texts in light of what you’re reading and seeing and feeling right now. I’m interested in what you’re seeing.

The Heart of Worship

“What Do You Do?”

Recently I was contacted on my Facebook page by a young missionary.  We are now “friends” – if you know anything about Facebook.  He asked, “What are you doing in ministry right now?”  So I told him what I’m doing, and then I had a brainstorm.  I thought, “Maybe others are curious about what I’m doing right now, too.”

Lowell speaking at Trinity

Lowell speaking at Trinity

Whether you are or your aren’t … here goes.  My letter to Jerod.  I replied:

Before I answer that question let me give you some of my background.

I’m 55 years old, and have been an A/G pastor since I was 20.  Good grief!  Just writing that made me feel old … for about 2 seconds.  Anyway …

In 35 years I’ve served four churches and one parachurch organization.  Because I’ve been the following:  an Associate, Senior/Lead, parachurch assistant director, and Pioneer Pastor … I’ve been able to encourage pastors who find themselves in any one of those positions at this time.

I’ve had the good fortune of traveling the world – seeing foreign missions operations first hand, and I’ve worked with inner-city parachurch organizations everywhere I’ve lived as well.  I can safely say, I believe in the Great Commission … and I’ve lived it as well.

So … what sort of ministry am I involved in?  That’s complicated.  I formed a small ministry – it’s call E-Perspectives International Corporation … or EPIC.  It serves as the umbrella for the following “activities” – writing, conference and seminar speaking, pulpit supply, and counseling. 

Teaching in Belize

Teaching in Belize

My favorite part of what I do is counseling … but that’s a misnomer … it should read, “listening.”  By that I mean I’m a safe person to talk to about dreams and visions … before an idea is taken to a board (or a spouse).  Usually when pastors envision something the first response they get from their leadership team or the wife is, “Are you nuts?!”  So … I listen … and help a guy process – OUT LOUD – what he’s been thinking up to this moment.  I’d say I’m a better than average listener – and that makes pastors feel secure.  They know I don’t have an agenda of my own – I don’t want their church or their pulpit.  I just want to help them accomplish what God

I love pastors.  Oh, and let me add – I’m a pastor’s kid.  That’s another dynamic I bring to the table.

When I’m invited to speak my favorite messages are the ones most (if not all) pastors HATE to preach.  I’m referring to the sermons about money, giving (especially to Missions), and how a congregation should value their leadership – especially their pastor.  (Most guys I know shy away from saying things like, “You know, folks, I’m a gift from God.  Ephesians 4 says so.  How ’bout treating me better.”  You know what I mean?  Ha!)  I also take assigned topics – because Pastors know what their people need to hear, and maybe hearing it from another source will get a better response.

 

That’s me, in a nutshell – me being the nut.  If you’d like to talk, give me a call.

Oh, and the “E” in EPIC stands for “Eternal.”  I try to describe, using God’s own language, how He feels about things that do and don’t last forever.  We Christians spend way too much time and energy on temporary things.  (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

If any of you – my blogging friends – know of a pastor or missionary I can help out, minister to, speak for, etc., let me know.

When Is A Church Too Big?

I opened the Editorial Page in my local paper – The Richmond Times-Dispatch – and read the following opinion.  Since I’m attending a large (mega) church, I was fascinated with the perspective of the writer.  The title of the Op/Ed is “All Size.”  Think about it.

“A new study has documented what many parishioners at megachurches already knew: Such houses of worship are neither cold nor impersonal, and can offer as much community as many smaller churches do, if not more.

“Those findings help explain the explosive growth of megachurches, which — according to another newly released survey — shows no signs of abating. Other factors might be at work, too. Megachurches are not doctrinally narrow or rigid, but they are clear about certain points of dispute. In anage when many mainline churches have drifted toward cultural relativism and liberal theology, 92 percent of megachurch members believe hell is a real place, and four out of five believe the Rapture really is coming.

“Most megachurches work hard to create intimacy within the congregation by offering dozens, if not hundreds, of small groups that focus on everything from Christ-centered personal finances to motorcycle riding. (That might help explain why the megachurch member is more likely to have friends in the congregation than the member of a traditional church.) The churches often grow by attracting people who come for the community — and stay for the communion.

“Megachurches have their critics, who point out (often with some justification) the emphasis on worldly issues rather than otherworldly reverence. But megachurches clearly have found a formula that draws many who otherwise might spend Sunday morning on the golf course. Based on our limited understanding of the Scriptures, the Final Arbiter will be pleased if more people come to Him — no matter which route they take.”

I agree with the writer.  Large churches have some down sides, but there are a slew of ups.  I’m not suggesting anyone abandon their small(er) church for a larger one – NO, no, no.  Not for a minute.  What I am saying is, let’s stop the criticism of larger churches – and the comparing, competitive spirit in the criticisms – and let’s get on with “being the Church.”  United.  Loving.  And humble.

The Persecuted Church in India – Part 1

I found this news article at the British Broadcasting Company site:  “Arrests over India church attacks.”  Does this series of incidents send a chill up your spine?  What do you think about what is happening in India?

“Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested over 60 people in connection with attacks on churches and clergymen over the weekend.  More than a dozen churches were ransacked by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal.  The Bajrang Dal claims that Hindus are being illegally converted to Christianity in the area.

“Last month, anti-Christian violence in the eastern Orissa state led to the deaths of at least 20 people.  The police in Karnataka say that churches were attacked by mobs in the districts of Udupi and Chikmagalur on Sunday.  Over 60 people have been detained after outraged Christian groups protested and called for a shutdown in the coastal city of Mangalore, which is the worst affected by the violence.  … More than 2,000 schools run by Christian organisations in Karnataka shut down for a dayin protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

“Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties with the Bajrang Dal.  ‘The BJP is responsible for the attacks. It is creating social disharmony,’ the main opposition Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.

“Meanwhile in Orissa two more people were killed and 12 injured when police opened fire on a rioting mob in Kandhamal district on Saturday.  The district has seen large scale violence since 24 August in which at least 20 people have been killed and dozens of churches and thousands of houses torched.  Saturday evening’s incident took place at Kurtamgarh village where a mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.  When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.  The police say they were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of two people.  On Friday night, six houses and a Christian prayer house were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, the police said.

“The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence in Orissa as a ‘national disgrace’.

“Correspondents say Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.  Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.”

[Story from BBC NEWS:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7616314.stm   Published: 2008/09/15 10:17:50 GMT;   © BBC MMVIII]