7 Ways We Make People Feel Unwelcome At Our Church

By | Christians, Church, Church Revitalization | 2 Comments

Over the years, I have seen signs like the one in this post and the first word that pops in my head is “Closed”. Anything which seems exclusive to the people already on the inside makes me as an outsider feel unwelcome to the church.

I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. It’s hopefully a very welcoming church. I also know there are circumstances which make some churches have to limit their parking. Again, probably not the intent, but signs like this seem harsh to me as someone unfamiliar with a specific church.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church to attend. I’ve spoken at and consulted with many churches in all types and sizes. We had the opportunity in Dallas to “shop” churches. It was my first time to ever seek out a church. Honestly, it wasn’t a wonderful experience.

So, from very personal experience –

Ways we make people feel unwelcome at our church:

Only do “church” on Sunday.

When we make no effort to build community with people who visit we let people know by our actions – or lack of actions – that we are comfortable with the people in the church now. And that there is little room for new friendships. (This could include not reaching out to people we haven’t seen in a while.) From our experience in Dallas, Cheryl and I visited several churches, filled out a visitor card, and never heard from anyone.

BTW, this may include only valuing the programs and activities that happen “in the church building” and not valuing people’s “ministries” outside the building.

Don’t act like you’re happy to see people.

When a church has no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors it feels very unwelcoming to visitors who have never been there. Sometimes we have greeters, but they are only talking to people they already know. (In fairness, Sunday is their “catch up” day with friends, but again, it is very unwelcoming to visitors.)

I was once the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to me. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

Confuse people who don’t know your building.

Display confusing signage or, perhaps even worse, have none at all and visitors will feel unwelcome. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker – as an introvert especially – I might have left. (Just being honest.)

In fairness, that could have easily been said of churches where I have pastored. But it was something we paid a lot of attention to – including adding people as “hosts”. You can’t always move walls in a confusing building layout, but you can mitigate part of the problem with good signage and friendly people.

Make it obvious and awkward to be a “visitor”.

This happens when people only talk to the only people they already know. Another way is to make visitors feel very conspicuous. I can’t believe it, but some churches we’ve visited still have visitors stand up maybe or raise their hands – and keep them up until an usher comes by to hand a visitor card.

We once attended a church which made visitors stand up, introduce themselves, and tell why they came that day. Talk about awkward. Again, that’s extreme, but it certainly caused me to review how we make visitors feel unwelcome in our church.

Have your own language.

Some churches – and denominations – notoriously develop acronyms for everything. When we pretend everyone already knows what we are talking about – such as differentiating between VBS and Vacation Bible School – we make outsiders feel left out of the conversation. (Even with the name of it can be confusing as to what it really is without some description being given.)

Another thing which can be very unwelcoming is to use personal names during the announcements. No one knows who John is except the regulars – even if John is the youth pastor. (“We’ll meet at Sally’s for the ice cream social. See Joe if you want more information.” – makes a visitor feel unwelcome at a church.)

Have only “closed” groups within the church.

It could be any group – Bible studies, service groups, but when any small group has been together more than a few years – with no new people entering the group – it’s likely a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children. They will feel very left out when personal conversation begins.

The best solution, in my experience, is to continually be starting new groups. (I realize the challenge here for small churches. I’ve pastored those too. You have to get creative. You’ll probably have to have hard conversations. And you certainly have to cast vision for why this is important.)

Beat people up without giving them hope.

When we are clearer about how bad people are than how great the Gospel is we can make outsiders – who may not yet be living the life we would suggest for them – like they don’t belong and have no chance of getting there. We should teach on sin – and not just certain sins, but all sin, including what I call the 3 G’s – gossip, gluttony and greed.

My goal is to always let people leave with the hope of the Gospel. It’s actually the only hope we all have. And visitors can’t find that kind of hope anywhere else in the world.

Those are a few of my observations that make people feel unwelcome at a church. Again, none of us would purposively make people feel unwelcome at a church. But we must be careful we haven’t done so by our unintentional actions.

7 Questions I Consider Before I Post on Social Media

By | Christians, Church, Encouragement, Leadership | No Comments

A few years ago, I developed some questions to consider before I post on social media. While I don’t ask them every time I post, (probably should) my hope is that with this paradigm in my mind it will keep me from regretting as many posts later.

It seemed strange the first time I heard a news story refer to a Twitter feed as a “source” of information. Now it’s commonplace. Employers often review a person’s social media prior to hiring them. Friendships are made and lost through what’s posted online. Who would have thought that just a few years ago?

We now “follow” those we are most interested in and “unfollow” those we aren’t — yet we remain “friends”. The number of “likes” and “favorites” determines some people’s sense of well-being or worth for a day. Crazy.

It’s the culture in which we live.

With so much activity it seems harder to know what to post and when. One thing I do frequently in my profession is help people think through making the right decisions in life. Many times I use questions to help people process on their own. So, here are some of my questions to help you think through your social media posts. (If you choose to use them.)

7 questions I consider before I post on social media:

Who is going to read this?

Think through future employees, friends of friends, family members, etc. It’s amazing how many times I didn’t know someone was even keeping up with my comments on something I have posted.

How will it impact the reader?

How would it impact you if you were to read something like this? Would it hurt your feelings, make you angry, or would it motivate or encourage you? There’s nothing wrong with simply being funny or sharing something of interest — even helping to shape public opinion. But a mature person (certainly a believer) thinks through how others will be impacted by what we say – and therefore what we post.

Two other good questions to consider here. Will it be helpful? Or, will it only cause more division or harm? 

Will they understand my intent?

It’s more difficult to communicate intent in a written format. In person you would have more opportunity to explain yourself, use hand and facial gestures to help clarify, etc. Read it back to yourself and think like someone else who may be reading it — maybe someone who doesn’t know you well.

Can it easily be misconstrued or taken out of context?

Remember, you only have what’s written. There’s no “background” to the story or supplemental information. Will they “get” what you’re intending to be “got”?

Do I want this around for a very long time?

Because once it’s posted — it’s forever. (This one alone has caused me to delete a few posts before they went live.)

Am I acting in anger, frustration, or vengeance?

We seldom communicate most effectively when we act out of emotions. Instead, we say things we wouldn’t say under more “normal” circumstances. Do you need to hold the post until your emotions have calmed and see if you still feel the same way? (This works before you press send on the email also.)

Is this the wisest way to express myself?

Or, is there a better way to accomplish what you hope to accomplish? For example, if it’s really aimed at only one person, would it be better to make a phone call? If it’s addressing a larger concern, is your post going to make things better — or further add negativity to an already tense situation? Again, the “is it helpful” question works here too.

Obviously, my audience is mostly followers of Christ. I would think we would want to guard our influence and reputations online as much as we would in person. How can we best communicate love to people? But I also think these question may be helpful for all of us – as mature members of our communities – even our online communities.

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5 Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

By | Change, Christians, Culture, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

Sometimes I call them challenges, because people resist the phrase resolutions, but I believe you can make resolutions and actually keep them.

Here’s the thing. I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

Then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort, file and trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. And I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep?

Because resolutions – even the strongest ones – aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through with them. In fact, they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them. Who needs more frustration?

So, what can you do? Let me try to help. 

First, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind.

Second, try not to have too many. You will be overwhelmed and give up before you start.

And, then, here are some ways to make the type of resolutions which you can keep. This help me.

5 ways to make resolutions you can actually keep:

Reasonable

Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal.

Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable

To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress.

Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable

This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book.

And we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions.

In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable

This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress.

If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able

This may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line.

If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. Running a marathon is your goal? If this is a reasonable resolution for you this year it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year.

The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution. This often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me.

I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

12 Suggestions to Challenge the New Year And Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | One Comment

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And I understand. Many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”. But I believe we should all think of ways we can challenge ourselves to improve in each new year.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable and sustainable? Do you have accountability in place?

Plus, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

However, I strongly believe we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I like to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

12 ways to challenge the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell.

If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It is healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. When guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation?

Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. The reality is it is hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it from them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life.

Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which challenge for the new year are you willing to accept?

10 Ways to Deal with the Emotions of Loss at Christmas

By | Christians, Encouragement, Family, Jesus | No Comments

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“. But Christmas can be a time of loss – where people face the reality of what they do not have – or have any more. Losing a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or even a loss of income or health, can be another reminder of what someone no longer has.

If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

Several years ago, I consulted two professional Christian counselors in our church. With the help of Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis I put together some practical ways to deal with a sense of Christmas loss and shared them in a sermon.

Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of truth, but to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

10 ways to deal with the emotions of Christmas loss:

List your losses.

Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. It can be therapeutic to admit where you are hurting.

Share your pain with others.

Certainly you should share with God, but maybe also with a close friend or with people who have experience dealing with your specific loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss. 

Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some people falsely believe they can just pick up the pieces and move on without really grieving. It’s okay to be human. (I share some tips on grieving HERE.)

Resist falling into a sense of total despair.

This is where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring the hurts.

Take care of yourself physically.

Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It is more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking.

Catch negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else. 

There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.

Force yourself to participate in social activities. 

Obviously, that is more difficult in 2020 – and you may not even feel like it. But social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. Be safe and wise, but find ways to interact with others. Even a phone call to a friend is better than falling further into despair.

Avoid the comparison game. 

Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And it’s dangerous.

Honor your losses with new traditions. 

Begin new rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced prior to your loss or will help you remember happier days to come.

In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion –

I believe this might be the most powerful of all.

We have to learn to worship in tears.

We must learn to worship even in pain. Many Psalms were written during someone’s painful story. When we realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem that life is good – we are better equipped to face uncertainty and loss.

Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

5 Suggestions for Experiencing Great Joy at Christmas

By | Christians, Church, Encouragement, Jesus | No Comments

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been left out when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Christmas?

Here are five suggestions to great joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or think we would. It could be the way they do not react the way we expect of them to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. Or, we sent a card – they didn’t. Maybe we worked hard to to be nice – and still they weren’t so nice.

We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them.

People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. Instead, we are only responsible for our actions. We’ve been called to love others – and, that call doesn’t come with a list of stipulations for others to meet before we love them.

Increase your investment in others

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others.

Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way.

By the way, I believe this includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us.

Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times. And Jesus said we give with one hand without the other hand knowing we gave. (paraphrase). So, we give expecting nothing in return. We give simply to be a blessing – and in turn we receive the blessing.

Examine your life and address known sin

We can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if we are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life?

Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate our life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in pity or resentment and we will see the world in bitterness and disappointment. But stand in faith and we will see the world from a more positive viewpoint. We will see hope and possibilities.

The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8)

The fact is – joy is a gift – not based on what we have done or could do, but on God’s amazing grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment.

Because of who God is and our relationship with Him we can choose joy, even in the midst of life’s struggles. And then choose joy again. Then gain. And then again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:18)

God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

3 Biblical Steps to Being a More Thankful Person

By | Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, God | No Comments

Ever wonder the secret to being a more thankful person?

I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.

We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude. When we are content with where God has allowed us to be our heart will be more thankful.

How do we do that?

The Apostle Paul told us he had learned the secret to being content.

I think Paul gave us some clues earlier in his letter to the Philippians.

Here was Paul’s remedy:

(He says he’s going to tell us one thing — then he gives us three — typical Paul.)

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13-14‬)

Here is Paul’s remedy to being more content – and ultimately more thankful:

1. Forgetting what is behind.

Have you made some mistakes? That day is gone. It’s over. The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to live in the past? Hold on to guilt? Refuse the grace of God in your life? Refuse to forgive? Hold a grudge?

One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

The reality is you can let what has happened – the tree fell. It may have been your fault or beyond your control. But you can let it control you or you can move forward. But you cannot do both. Which will you choose?

2. Remembering what is ahead.

Life moves forward. This too shall pass. And the best days are ahead if you’re a child of God. He’s writing a story with a happy ending, where all things work for an ultimate good.

Right now we have more questions than answers. Some day God will provide for His children a Sabbath rest. Have you ever seen a sunset which took your breath away or marveled at the beauty of a mountain reaching into a clouded sky? Well, just wait. “No eye has seen” what God has prepared. If Christ is in you – you have a present Helper and a future reward. It’s all working for His glory.

3. Pursue worthy goals.

In the middle of leaving our past behind and anticipating a glorious future, we are to pursue Christ. We are to honor Him with our life. That means we obey His commands – to love God and love one another.

It means we pray for our enemies. And we do good expecting nothing in return. As we do, He will fill our heart with more joy, more contentment — and ultimately more thanksgiving.

Later in Philippians, Paul shares that the “peace of God” will guard our hearts. We will be filled with contentment.

And, we will find ourselves being a more thankful person.

How We Can Be More Thankful People

By | Christians, Church, Culture, Leadership | 2 Comments

What would it take for you and me to be more thankful people?

I find at times I am thankful, and at other times, I’m like everyone else. So, I can be a grumbler. Certainly this year could have produced some grumbling tendencies in all of us.

What would it take to learn the secret of contentment – to really be thankful all the time? (Or maybe we should set our goal as “most of the time” to start.)

Here are some ways to be more thankful people:

Consider what we could NOT have that we have now – Make a list of some things we often take for granted, like a toothbrush, socks, flushable toilets and clean drinking water. I have been places and witnessed people get so excited about receiving such things.

Stop comparing ourselves to those who have more than we have – Actually, it might help if we were to compare ourselves to those who have less than we have. That gives us a proper perspective. (Need help? Go to THIS LIST and enter your income. You might be surprised.)

Count our blessings and name them one by one – Make a list of things you are thankful for – your family, your friends, your health, your church, your shelter, your clothes, keep it going as long as you can.

We used to do this as an annual tradition in our home during Thanksgiving weekend. Each of us wrote down our own.

Review God’s promises – There are many and they are good!

(With a simple Google search I found this list from Compassion International.) If you’re a follower of Christ, it looks pretty good, huh?

Keep thankful reminders near– I can easily get distracted by the demands and burdens of this world and lose my thankful heart. So, one way I do this is to place things in my path to remind me of what (often who) I have for which to be thankful.

(It’s why I keep pictures of family members on my desk and why I save encouraging emails.)

Practice giving – It’s amazing what joy can come from being sacrificial. We have less, but the emotions of giving make us feel like we have more. So, give until it feels good.

Think small – Look for the smallest moments of grace. A smile, a lady bug, a gentle breeze, or the beating of your own heart. (Little things are actually big if you look for and value them.)

I know these will work if we practice them.

You can start now. Leave a comment and tell me 5 things you are thankful for today.

7 Questions To Help Process Fear

By | Christians, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Fear, Leadership | One Comment

I’ve watched fear keep many people from achieving all God would have them achieve. Rather than assume the risk required to pursue their dreams; fear will keep people from moving forward. Pastors refuse to address needed change in their church – not because it is challenging – but because they are afraid.

Fear is the enemy of progress. It is the antagonist of pursuit. Fear can be the deadly foe to keep people from fulfillment in life. And fear can be a leader’s worst enemy.

How can we overcome the fear all of us face?

I don’t know if we can completely get rid of fear – or if we even want to completely – but I do think we should and need to learn to manage the fear in our life.

I believe questions can be our friend, so let me provide some questions to process your fear.

Ask/share these 7 questions to process fear that keeps people from moving forward:

Is it a God-given or a man-made fear?

Fear is an emotion and God can use fear to keep you from harm. Is what you would be doing against God’s will for you or others? If it’s wrong to do, no wonder you are afraid. God may be trying to protect you. If you are continually making bad decisions in your life, you’ll likely live in fear.

You may not be able to understand the emotion, but in my experience, it’s one way God draws His children to Himself. Failure to walk by faith can also bring upon the emotion of fear.

If you’re fear is from God – obey God! This is your answer – every time.

Is it a rational or an irrational fear?

Consider whether you are basing your fears on fact or fiction. Are you making up the scenario of what could go wrong or is the fear based on real information you have? Our minds can be our worst excuse – if we need one, we will find it.

Be honest with yourself here. If you’ve been making up the excuses, it’s time to dismiss them and proceed.

Is it probable or improbable?

The truth is most of what we fear never comes true. Again, our mind is capable of all kinds of worst-case scenarios which keep us from moving forward. We shouldn’t allow fear in things which will probably never even happen stop what God may want to bring in our life. God may have a miracle for you – and, you’re allowing a made-up scenario hold you from it.

The fact is you may fail. But remember, failure is a part of building life experience. Unless you know you’re going to fail (which is highly unlikely you would know this in advance), if it’s not sinful, and you feel you’re supposed to – I suggest you move forward.

Can anything be done to diminish the risk?

We should attempt to diminish fear through planning and preparation as much as possible. There is nothing wrong and everything right about being prepared. I’m not motivated by fear, but I have an alarm system at my house. (And, one of my father’s pistols he left me when he died!)

If your fear is based on a lack of preparation, get busy developing the systems and strategies to help you succeed. Ask for help if you need it.

Is what I’m fearing necessary or unnecessary?

Is this something you must address? If it’s a conflict you’ve been avoiding, for example, the fear will only get stronger the longer you wait. The earlier you face the fear the more likely you’ll get positive results. Sooner or later, the fear must be faced. What better time than now?

If it’s not really necessary, and there is no pressure upon you, you may not have to face this fear. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. But if you don’t have the desire – don’t do it.

Is the fear personal or impersonal?

Are you afraid of your abilities or the reaction of others? Do you wonder if you have what it takes? It’s only natural a challenge would create an amount of fear – even a captivation with fear.

Every act of courage means you ignore an aspect of fear. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from achieving your dreams.

Are you satisfied with the status quo?

I know it’s a hard question, but if fear is keeping you from moving forward, and you’ve answered the other questions, this may be the one. You need to strongly consider the repercussions of giving into your fear.

It may mean you stand still. Even worse, it could mean you go backwards. Worst of all, it may mean you never realize the dreams you have for your life or the calling God has placed upon you.

Are you willing to live with this reality?

Check out my new leadership podcast where my son Nate and I discuss practical leadership issues.

Four Ways to Practice a Love that Stays

By | Christians, Church | No Comments

(This is a guest post by my friend Pastor Adam Weber. Read his bio at the end of this post and check out his new book Love Has a Name.)

I never cease to be amazed by how many Facebook friends we can have and yet many of us feel like we don’t have one friend we can call when we’re struggling. Not one person we can sit with when we’re hurting. Not one person to keep us on the right path when we’re being tempted. 

Not one person who stays when we make a mistake.         

We’re so “connected,” yet we don’t have one other person who will show up when we need someone to be there the most? One person to show up when no one else does?

There are few greater blessings in this life than having dear friends. The people who answer the phone and just listen. The people who come over when they say they’re coming over. The people who help you out when you need someone. The people who are just there. You don’t need to impress them. You can just be with them.

Do you have anyone in your life like this? People who will show up? Sometimes we don’t realize our deep need until we’re faced with frustrating circumstances, a huge crowd, an unexpected trial, an extremely hard season. Until we’re face-to-face with the unimaginable. We all need people like this, but we also need to be people like this.

Do you have people like that? Are you that person to others?

If you don’t have people like this right now, don’t get discouraged, or think this lesson doesn’t apply to you. Be the kind of person who has a love that stays despite the circumstances. Ever heard the phrase “you have to be a friend to have a friend?” It might sound cheesy but it’s so true in this case. Just because you don’t have people in your life like this yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be that person in someone else’s life. Taking the initiative to stay instead of leave is a sure way to build that kind of community around you, trust me.

When others leave, love stays.

It stays with people when it is uncomfortable.

It’s easy to love others when life is easy. But it’s much more difficult when you don’t know what to say or how to help another person through their situation. Staying can look different in each relationship, but I’ve found that a love that stays requires a few things from us:

  • Staying with people means having the hard conversations. We typically run from anything that’s difficult. But staying with someone and loving them in a difficult season will require a lot of difficult conversations. Ask the hard questions. Have the awkward conversations. And don’t leave!
  • Pray. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do for someone, particularly in a hard season. All you can do is pray and get through it. Pray for the person regularly. Pray for them in person. Pray for them when they come to mind. Pray, pray, and pray some more.

Stand with them. Privately and publicly. Stick your neck out for them.

  • Encourage. One of the greatest gifts we can offer another person is encouragement. Help the person see beyond today. Today might suck but it will get better. When others have no hope, give them hope. Side note: with Jesus, we always have hope! Look to him. Point others to him. There is always hope with Jesus. Tomorrow, the sun will come up!
  • Finally, if at all possible, help the other person take their next step. We might not be able to solve everything, but we can help someone take the next step. Show up and help them through that difficult season, see what the next step is, and help them take it!

These aren’t easy things to do (far from it!), but each is a key ingredient to practicing a love that stays with people no matter what they’re going through. Staying is hard. Leaving is way easier, and we all know it. But speaking from experience, there’s nothing like having people in your life who stay, who love with that kind of love. And really, there’s nothing like loving other people like that, too.

I personally walked through a really tough season a few summers ago. It was a time of pruning, and honestly, it was really painful. But one of the biggest things I learned was that you can make it through anything if you have a few good friends around you. When you’re hurting, when you’re scared, when you can’t make it to Jesus, people who will pick you up and get you there—right where you needed to be all along—are who you need to surround yourself with. 

Real love is just there. It doesn’t back away when things get hard. In fact, it works harder, doing whatever it takes, dragging us no matter how thick the crowd, how hard the decision.

Love stays.

Adam is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace, a multi-site church based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Author of Talking With God and Love Has A Name, he also hosts a podcast called The Conversation. Adam still cheers for the Cincinnati Bengals but no longer drives a Rambler. He’s married to his wife, Becky, and has four kids: Hudson, Wilson, Grayson, & Anderson. He also has seven chickens, two dogs, & three fish, but what he really wants is a sheep. You can find out more at adamweber.com.