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Must All Hear?

This summer at Open Door we are doing a series called “You Asked For It”. People have been submitting questions they had for use to answer from the Bible. The questions have been great and I plan to follow up on some of them here in my blog. This past Sunday, the following question was submitted (quite lengthy):

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). In my view, all people born on to this earth are creations of God. He created us, and since God is love, he loves His creation. We are fortunate to have been born into a society that has the religious liberty associated with freely hearing and accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If, however, I had been born in Pyongyang, North Korea, and my society dictated that I must follow Kim Jong-un, I wouldn’t likely be exposed to the gospel at all. Does God reject those people (even though they may lead lives that abide in love and compassion) who simply by being born into a Godless society do not accept Him as their Savior? If he does reject those who never have a choice, how can we say God is love?”

This is a complicated question and people have spent large portions of their life attempting to answer these questions. I did my best to give a summary Sunday of what I found. Feel free to listen to the full sermon at www.visitopendoor.com. I have had a couple of days to process “post-sermon” and I want to share a few thoughts. As I told you Sunday, there are some things the Bible is not clear on. As I have thought more on this, what I think is best is for us to concentrate on the things that we know and can address. So let me remind us of those things.

Jesus is the answer
As Christians, we believe Jesus Christ is the hope for this lost world. No matter where you may live and what situation you find yourself in, Jesus Christ is our only salvation. All of our efforts and work must center around Him.

We must share

As Jesus left this earth, He charged all of us to spread the gospel throughout the world. We call it the “Great Commission”. Though we are not responsible for where people are born, we have an obligation to make sure they hear the gospel. Sharing the gospel in our relationships. Sacrificing our time for short term missions trips. Answering the call to be a missionary ourself. Giving to support missionaries that are spending their lives spreading the gospel. We have an obligation to spread the gospel.

Sure hope

Though we may debate what may happen to those who do not hear, there is a sure way to solve the question. When you accept Christ as your Savior, the argument is moot. We can have the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ. Our heart as Christians must be committed to making sure the entire world has that hope.

I encourage you to join me doing our part in offering Jesus Christ to the world, and leave the things we cannot answer to God. He is holy, righteous, faithful and full of mercy. We know He will do His part. Have a blessed week!!

Why Not Travel?

I love to travel. I like seeing new places and experiencing new things. It broadens my life and opens my mind to many new ideas and helps me realize there are so many different ways to live and things to do. The places I have seen, along with the people I have met while traveling, have enriched my life in ways that are unexplainable. But in order to travel, you must move from one location to another.

As leaders and Christians, we should always be traveling. We should continue to grow and expand everyday. We should not be at the place we were last month or last year. Growing is an ongoing “traveling” process that lasts your entire life. Not growing is dangerous. We cannot become stale and stagnant, but many Christians and leaders do. They become satisfied and complacent in their journey and do not grow or develop.

I have spent that last 10 days traveling and began to think about some of the reasons people do not grow in their personal journey. When you see people traveling around the world, we often think of this glamorous lifestyle that must be wonderful. There are many perks to traveling, but there are some reasons why people do not travel. Some of the same reasons people do not travel physically are the same reasons people do not “travel” or grow as a person, as a leader or as a Christian. Here are some things I experienced these past few days that I think apply to both.

The Cost It Too High

Travel is rarely free. Gas or airline tickets, hotels and food are all part of the costs of travel. I often get free flights or free rooms from rewards programs that I am a part of, but there is still a cost to travel. We have to take time off from work, be away from family or give up other things that we may want to be doing. We do not want to make sacrifices in other areas to allow us to travel.

The same is true of our growth “travel”. Often the price is too high. Sometimes it is a financial cost. We may need to buy a book or attend a conference. Often it is we do not want to give up what we are currently doing or comfortable with to become a better leader, person or Christian. Growing may require us to give up something or take a new responsibility so we would rather stay where we are. There is always a cost to grow. Sometimes you have to leave people behind that do not want to grow with you so it costs us relationships. However, if we intend to reach our full potential, we must always be willing to pay the cost to “travel” and grow.

It Is Inconvenient

I was scheduled to speak at two conferences on back to back weekends in Venezuela. We had 3 days free we could relax in between, so we decided to take 3 days in Aruba, which is a 25 minute flight from Caracas. We bought the tickets and were ready to travel. We arrived at the airport early, checked in at 6 AM and they told us our 8 AM flight had been delayed until 2 PM. That was inconvenient, but sometimes those things happen. They gave us food vouchers and we opted to stay at the airport. As the day went along, it became apparent that there was a bigger problem than a delay. There were people waiting for this flight for 3 days in the airport and they were irate. The plane did not leave at 2. They finally got clearance from the government to fly the plane at 4 PM and they told us we would board in 15 minutes. That did not happen. We finally boarded the plane at 8:30 PM. We had to stop in Curacao and wait on another flight. We finally arrived in Aruba after midnight almost 17 hours late. We lost one whole day and replaced it with a day full of stress. Now the wait was worth it, but it was terribly inconvenient. We would much rather have left promptly.

Sometimes as we “travel” and grow, we experience delays and inconveniences. Things do not go as we planned or expected. We think we should be further along than we are. Sometimes situations out of our control slow us down or hinder us. So instead of reaping the rewards that come after the delays, we prefer to avoid the inconvenience and stay where we are. Growing and learning is not easy and is often very difficult, but the rewards always outweigh the inconveniences. Someone else may slow you down. Circumstances may alter your plans. But do not succomb to staying because there might be an inconvenience. Grow. Travel! The rewards far outweigh the trouble.

It Is Not What You Thought It Would Be

Several years ago we were traveling to Europe. Two of our stops included Barcelona and Croatia. Everyone told me how much I would love Barcelona and it was a place I always wanted to go. My only introduction to Croatia was through the news, and there had been many problems in that part of the world at that time. I had huge expectations for Spain and low expectations for Croatia. After visiting both places, I left extremely disappointed in Barcelona and overwhelmed at the beauty of Croatia. Neither of them were what I thought they would be. One surprised and the other disappointed.

The same is true of our growth as a leader and a Christian. We often have preconceived ideas that if we can get to this place or arrive at this point it will be great. Or we do not look forward to other things because we do not think they will be great. We often are disappointed at some things and surprised at others. A specific example in my life happened in 2007. I had previously served as a senior pastor and had the opportunity to become the senior pastor of a church that was fairly new and an exciting place to be. The church I was attending asked me at the same time to stay and serve as an associate pastor there. My choice was to serve as a senior pastor somewhere else or stay and serve as an associate pastor at my current church. Based on my personality and gifts, I knew for sure the place I needed to be was to take the church as a senior pastor and move on. As I began to talk with wise people and pray diligently about it, I came to the conclusion that the place for me to serve was as an assocaite pastor at that time. I had very low expectations of what my experience would be. Five years in hindsight, I would not trade that experience for anything. It was a place of extreme growth in my life and it led me directly to the place God has for me now as lead pastor. Sometimes we are disappointed and other times we are surprised. Neither should keep us from moving forward.

What is stopping you today. Has complacency set in? Are you traveling? Are you growing? Are there reasons why you are not? There is a cost. It is often inconvenient. You may be disappointed at times. But “traveling” is always worth it. Do not stay where you are as a leader. Grow. Travel. You will be glad you did!

Learning How To Serve From Others

For the last three years I have made two trips per year to Venezuela to teach leadership for EQUIP. I have had the privilege of spending time with hundreds of leaders from this country that are making a difference in churches, businesses and many local organizations. With EQUIP, we are teaching John Maxwell’s material from books he has written. There are four separate conference locations here in Venezuela and I have had the privilege to speak at three of those. I have visited with churches, met with pastors and business leaders, eaten with families and had the opportunity to build many relationships that will last my life time. Though I am the one that comes here to teach, I always leave having learned something and I am always inspired to be a better leader where I serve. There are several things I have noticed that I want to share with you that I hope will inspire you as well.

I have spent the most time in four churches here in Venezuela. Two of them are relatively new church plants and the other two churches have been established for many years. All four of them are thriving and growing and affecting their community. The insights I will share here do not just apply to the newer churches or just to the older churches. It is a culture that these successful churches have cultivated in their community of believers.

Serving without complaining

Each of these churches have high capacity volunteers, in large numbers, that serve gladly without complaining. The spirit they serve with is infectious. These people work other jobs during the week, but they tirelessly work to build the kingdom. Each of these churches have multiple services. The smallest of the 4 has about 300 people and the largest has over 6,000 people. Their volunteers serve multiple services, stay on Sunday afternoon for training meetings to build their area of service, work diligently to make the church the best place in town, do community service activities and they do it all without complaining. In all of my visits, I have never heard a single person complain about being tired, or having too much to do, or being “burned out”. I watched yesterday in all 3 services volunteers work like ants to present the church and Christ in the best method possible. I arrived at 7:30 AM and left around 5:30 PM and most of the volunteers that were there at 7:30 AM were still there at 5:30 PM with the same smile and energy they had when I arrived. This church had about 600 people in attendance yesterday and at 5:30 PM there were still about 150 volunteers there in a class learning how to be better leaders and how to make their church a better place.

All of us fall prey to complaining from time to time. My experience and my observations are that our organizations (churches, businesses, families, etc) are better when we serve without complaining. As we are inspired, we inspire others. As we serve others with energy, others want to serve with energy. Let us be infectious with a serving attitude that does not complain.

Serving with few resources

The cost of living in Venezuela is more than in the US. Things are not cheap (other than gas). They do not have access easily to affordable technology or buildings. I have been amazed at the cost of real estate or construction here. That being said, I am also amazed at what they can accomplish with much less resources than we have. The church I was at yesterday in El Hatilla, CCE, has moved to a new building they have purchased so the church can grow. They cannot use the building permanently yet because it needs a lot of work. They are setting up each week to have services. As best I can I will give you a picture. There is a large hole in the middle of the roof, maybe 20 x 20. The roof leaks in certain spots. But such volunteer effort has been put into the services that you almost do not even notice. Their music was awesome, videos excellent, greeters and ushers wonderful, children’s ministry great (since I preached it was probably just OK). They were innovative, creative and resourceful.

With all of our blessings and resources we have at our disposal, we need to use more innovation, creativity and resourcefullness to accomplish more. Instead of always looking for money to pay for more, let’s work to make more of what we have.

Serving to lead and leading to serve

My final observation is this: they serve to lead and they lead to serve. These churches are serving so diligently because they have such a focus to lead their communities to Christ. Everything they do is focused like a laser to reach people for the kingdom. Not only do they serve to lead, but they lead to serve. What I mean by that is they are hungry to become better leaders so they can serve better. I see pastors who are already doing more than me and pastoring churches many times larger than mine or running businesses much larger than mine, sit and listen and take notes so they can grow as a leader. They are not satisfied to stay where they, no matter how much they have achieved. They desire to grow and be better leaders so they can be better servants.

I want to learn everyday. I want to become a better leader so I can become a better servant. I want to serve to lead and lead to serve. My challenge to you is to always be growing as a leader. As you grow as a leader, you become a better servant.

My prayer is that all of us will learn to serve without complaining, make more with what we already have and we learn to always grow as a leader so we become better servants!

First Service

At Open Door, we are in the middle of a series that covers the last part of our purpose statement, “Leading the world to God through service”. We are discovering what it looks like to serve others. Why is serving the most effective way to lead others to Christ? This week we are going to examine what it looks like to serve at home. Often people only see the good deeds that we do for others, but they do not know our faults and our failures. Sometimes that can obscure our own view of ourselves and we think we are better or worse than we really are. The issue I am wrestling with this week is what does it look like to serve at home where good deeds cannot mask or hide our failings.

In Genesis 2 it is recorded that God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so God created for Adam a “helpmate”. Someone who would come along beside Adam and help him and he would help her. The intent was that they would serve one another. As I read these verses this week, I pondered what serving one another in our marital relationships should look like. Three things were stated that I want to help us apply.

INSIDE
Adam said this is bone from my bone. Bones are necessary things, but we prefer not to see them. When the inside stuff gets on the outside, we have real problems. In marriage, we all have inside needs. Things that can’t be seen, but still where we need to serve each other. This area is usually more important to women. There are so many unseen things in relationships that require attention. Our emotions. Our thoughts. Our attitudes. Our desires. Our dreams, hopes and plans. For our relationships to prosper it will require us to pay attention to these needs. It is often difficult to serve things that you cannot see, but we all have “inside” needs that we should focus on serving.

OUTSIDE
Adam then said that woman was flesh from his flesh. The things everyone can see. All of us have external needs. Often in relationships the woman will say that her needs are not being met. The response of many men is, “what do you mean?”. You have a house, car, clothes, food, anything you want. The reason that is often our response is men tend to master the “flesh” needs. Physical needs that need to be served. Our marriage relationships require that we serve the physical or “fleshly” needs of our spouse. This is not the entirety of service, but it is part of the way we serve each other.

BOTH SIDES
Genesis 2:24 (NLT) then says “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Men tend to be “outside” focused and women often are “inside” focused, but for us to serve well at home, it takes both sides being committed to serving each other. “Leaving and cleaving” as it has been called, is a commitment to your spouse that says I will serve your needs to the best of my ability. I may not always get it right, but it will not be for lack of effort. If two become one, then for the one to be healthy, the inside and outside needs must be served.

Take time this week to practice serving at home. When we serve well at home, we will be better equipped to serve the world!

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.