Archives For Ministry Mondays

Last night for our parent-teen devotional I asked the parents to talk about what brought them to the faith or to the church.  Some of the stories I knew but some of them surprised me.  All of this was in front of the students so they could listen to other parents talk about why they came to God.  Some were “born into the church” and others came to know Jesus in their 30s.  It was an amazing moment. 

I made a quick point in that our faith is never on our own but is always dependent on someone else.  We are never on an island with our faith as there are a host of people who have fought spiritually for the blessings we now enjoy.  It is neat to see how our stories are tied to the one Story that unites us all.  The story of Jesus. 

Not much to add here…where does your faith come from?


Ministry Monday

May 3, 2010 — Leave a comment

2010 FLOODNo doubt if you live in the Middle Tennessee area you were affected in some capacity by the flooding that has gone on.  I encourage ministers all across the area to get out of the office and help someone.  One of our members was affected by the storm as 4 feet of water invaded his business.  Another member came in my office and told me to round-up some people and I got 4 youth group guys to help.  We spent most of the day getting water out and washing his tools.  He would not have asked for help but we forced the issue.  In our area the flooding is so minute compared to other places.  Ministers, pick a day and go out and help someone go through their stuff or help them rebuild some walls or help them get some groceries.  It made me rejoice when I heard Waverly and Centerville churches of Christ opening up their doors as a shelter.  Lipscomb did as well and it just makes me proud.  This could be a great opportunity for us to preach the gospel by action and helping people with their physical needs so then we can see what their spiritual needs are. 

May you find somewhere to help to make a difference.

I saw the first stages of this in the Fall of 2004 after a retreat I went to with the Main Street Youth Group.  It has happened every fall and every spring for almost 6 years now.  You want to know what it is?

Post Retreat Blah Disorder…or PRSD.  Here are the symptoms:

  • laziness
  • Incoherent statements
  • Burned forehead and scalp
  • Desire to not eat lasagna unless it is made by Vicky Lynn
  • Nasty smelling clothes
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Earache
  • Kneeache
  • Xiphoid Process Ache 

On a serious note.  I am always spiritually drained after a retreat.  I feel like it is a time where so much was invested and now we have to go back to the real world and it is difficult to transition.  The fire is lost and we have to wait until camp or retreat comes to regain the passion. 

Which leaves me with a short, probing question. 

What if the church always functioned like a camp or retreat?  Seriously…

Dear Youth Group,

I want you to know that I love you and that there is nothing in this world I would rather do than to minister to you.  I also want you to know what I do for you so that when you move off to university, the military, work or whatever you will know what others have done for you.  I want you to know that I have prayed for you since the moment you have come into the youth group.  I am a firm believer in prayer because there are times when I honestly feel like giving up on you.  I know that sounds harsh and I know that is not what a typical youth minister says but there are those times.  I don’t understand it when you skip a retreat, a bible class, a service project or a mission trip because you have this important thing or that important thing to attend.  Granted I am not in your shoes and I am not under pressure but I feel compelled to tell you that life is more than doing things it is about being things.  So discipleship is something I take seriously and I just don’t understand why you would throw an opportunity away for your terribly important thing.  That’s why I have prayed for you and that is why I always will pray for you.  God knows your heart, not me (good thing right ;)), so I pray to the God of all creation to mold you since I am unable to do it. 

I want you to also know that you are not the only one who hurts when something goes wrong in your life.  I don’t like it when you have to endure a horrible relationship or the fact that you are going to have to go to prom by yourself and nobody likes you.  It doesn’t make me feel good when everybody seems to be doing well except you.  I don’t like it when you must have that conversation with your parents telling them you are pregnant.  I ache with you.  I want you to know that I have lost count of how many nights I have spent staring at the ceiling or on my living room couch with tears in my eyes as I fumble through the Bible looking for answers.  Sometimes, to be honest with you, ministry has been physically, emotional and spiritually painful. 

I want you to also know how much my family has sacrificed as well.  On a Saturday night when I should be at home with my wife and my kids they have allowed me to go to your ball games, to your concerts, to your recitals, to your debates, to your graduations and to your house to pray with you.  My family has sacrificed so much.  The first time my first son was able to walk I was at a youth event.  When my daughter Amelia first said “daddy” I was not there.  When Madelyn first smiled I was in Mexico.  I have often asked the question at the end of the day, “Is it worth it?”  I have been in graduate school for 7 straight years to help in my ministry to young kids which has caused me to be away from home sometimes 3 nights a week.  I have often prayed, “God…what is the point?  Is it worth it?” 

I also want you to know something else.  I would never trade one nanosecond for something else or a different job.  I want you to know that it has been worth it.  To see the look on your face as you come out of the waters of baptism is worth it.  To see the look on your face when you understand something complex in God’s word it is worth it.  To see you walk down the aisle rededicating your life to God it is worth it.  I know you have sacrificed for me as well.  I know you have given up Saturdays and Sunday afternoons and weekends with your buddies to go to various events.  I appreciate it so much.  But I want you to know that it has been worth it.  I want you to know that no matter where you go or what you do you will never have a greater cheerleader than Robbie Mackenzie.  Nobody is pulling for you, praying for you preaching about you like me.  And when (not if)you get to those dark moments in your life, in this life or the next, I will be there for you no matter what.  I want you to know that I don’t care how bad you have fallen or what you have done to offend the church or God Almighty, I want you back. 

Dear youth group…I am your Captain and our voyage is not closed and done so exult O Shores and ring O bells for I am here on this earth for one purpose and that is to serve you.  Don’t you forget that. 

Your friend and servant,

Robbie Mackenzie

Just Another Day

January 4, 2010 — Leave a comment

Exhausted businessman asleep at his deskI wrote in my bulletin article that it has been one of these days and I thought that it might get better but it in fact got worse.  I consider myself to be a task-oriented type-of-guy and my major task for the day was simple: “Write the lesson for this week’s curriculum by the end of the day.”  I had 7 hours to do it so I thought I had plenty of time.  Then the phone rang: a person who just got out of jail needed me to come pick him up to give him, his wife and his newborn baby some food.  I took them to Shoney’s and then went back to the office. 

I had 6 hours…no problem…phone rang: the same person wanted me to come pick his family up from Shoney’s and take them to the Dollar Store.  No problem.  Took them to the Dollar Store and then back to where they were staying and got back to the office. 

I had 5 hours…no problem…text message: one of my former youth group students wanted to drop by the office for a few minutes which was a good thing because I wanted to catch-up anyways and needed a break.  The student left…

I had 4 hours left…no problem…phone rang.  The same person I helped needs some dinner because they were not going to get paid in time and is going to meet me at my office as he walked from where he was staying to my office.  Before I can take him back a gentleman walks in the door who was from, of all places, Haiti and was trying to get back to Miami, FL and needed some gas.  I talked with him about his story and his family and gave him some gas (or a voucher) and then took the gentleman back who I had helped earlier. 

Got back to the office…1 hour and 30 minutes left.  Finally, I am at my computer and I can at least make a dent in the curriculum…my keyboard quit working.  At this point I am tempted to chalk it up and say, “What a waste!”  However, I look at Jesus and his retreats to lonely places and how in those interrupted times great things were accomplished.  Today was a good day.  Just not what I expected.  Thank you God.

Texting Rules

December 14, 2009 — Leave a comment

Teens Hanging Out and Text Messaging

By now you know the explosion of the phenomenon known as “texting”.  Consider some of these statistics.

  • 72.2% of wireless users have paid for SMS packages.  This equates to 203 million Americans.
  • 57% of wireless users 13+ are considered regular text message users.
  • There has been a 107% increase in text message use in the USA in the past year.
  • 2.5 billion text messages are sent each day in the USA.
  • More text messages are sent per phone than phone calls.  The average text messages used per month is 357 compared to 204 cell phone calls.
  • 15 million Americans used video on their cell phones in quarter two, 2008.
  • 138 million Americans have sent a text message in the past three months.

Shocking?  I don’t think so.  There is another article I came across (click here to read it) that claimed texting is the new drunk-driving because it causes so many people get into an accident while texting.  Odds are, you either text, have a teenager that texts, or have some sort of influence on someone who texts.  One person in my youth group told me that in one month he had sent over 20,000 text messages!!!  We had a Christmas party with the youth group this past Friday at my house and while we were playing dirty Santa 3 or 4 of them were sitting there with their phones open texting one or two of their friends!  I thought to myself, “My how the times have changed for if I were to do that when I was a teenager mom and dad would honestly have killed me” (I am struggling to see if I am exaggerating or not).  I have been in conversations with teenagers and mid-conversation I hear the vibrations of the their phone and almost immediately they grab their phone and check the text message.  I am a youth minister and so on occasion (to test them) I have sent text messages to students and sure enough, like clock-work, in the middle of a sermon I see the shift of the body to one butt-cheek so they can (in stealth-mode apparently) check to see who just “texted” (is that even a verb?) them.  When they figure out it is the youth minister they call me a hypocrite because I just texted them.  I guess God is a hypocrite to allow Satan to test Job right? 

I was in a graduate class this semester and one of my professors stopped, mid-lecture, to look at a text message and then moved on.  Classmates text people (I have done it myself) while their professor is lecturing (don’t get me started on all of the students who surf the internet on their computers which are supposedly used to take notes).  I was walking today from Lipscomb’s student center to the Library and out of the 8 people I saw, 6 of them were texting!  My wife and I and another couple went to a movie a couple of weeks ago and during the movie we saw a number of people flip their phones up and text.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!  This brings me to the point…I would like to offer some texting rules since we cannot avoid the concept of texting then we should offer some guidelines. 

  • Rule #1 – Never, never, never text when you are in a vehicle.  I have done this and nearly killed myself.  It is hard to pay attention when talking and looking at the road but texting and not looking at the road?  Come on…be realistic. 
  • Rule #2 – Never, never, never text while having a conversation with someone.  It is rude!  What if I were talking to you in a conversation and then all of the sudden started talking to someone else in the room while you were still talking to me?  It would be rude right?  But you are doing the same thing on a phone!!!  EVER LEARN ABOUT NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION?  What messages are you sending someone when you text while they are talking to you?  “I don’t think you are that important because this text message is more important to grab my attention!” 
  • Rule #3 – Never, never, never text during class or worship!  See rule #2!  What are you saying to God?  Enough said!
  • Rule #4 – Never, never, never text on a date!  I was eating dinner one time and looked at a teenage couple sitting at a table in front of me.  They were not talking to each other but both were texting someone else.  Want to find a quick way to end a relationship?  Start texting someone else while they are pouring their heart out to you. 
  • Rule #5 – Ask yourself, “Why am I texting?”  Some people text only because they cannot stand to be quiet, alone and separated from communication.  “I have to talk to someone!”  When we went to Mexico and one of our teenagers (who is a text addict) could not text in Mexico it killed him.  As soon as we crossed the border (he had his phone out waiting) he started texting!  So why do you text? 
  • Rule #6 – It is never that important to answer a text!  NEVER!  If someone is dying then they will call you.  If someone is in imminent danger they will call you.  But a text is never that important.  Never, ever, ever! 

So there you have it…my rules for texting.  Next time you text while I am talking to you I will take your phone and throw it and say, “Now can I talk to you?”  People…have some decency!

Magazine Illustration of Thanksgiving Dinner at the Five Points Ladies' Home Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church

The above image is a magazine illustration of thanksgiving dinner at the Five Points Ladies’ Home Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1865.  What a feast it must have been!!!  This past Wednesday night the Main Street and 19th Avenue churches of Christ embarked on a mission to feed members of the community in an effort to provide a good meal for people who would not ordinarily have received one.  Members in our congregations offered to cook various portions of the meal and then all of the food was then brought to the Main Street fellowship hall.  We made announcements and passed out cards in the community and on that day over 500 people received a plate from our congregations.  500!!!  Many congregations have done similar acts of service with the same success but, as far as I know, this has never been done in the history of the Main Street church of Christ (I am not sure about 19th Avenue).  I think of the verse in Matthew 25 where Jesus says:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  (Matthew 25:34-36)

I was so impressed with the response by our congregation to feed those who needed it.  They did it not because they were guilted into it nor did they do it because it was a marketing campaign to get the name of Main Street or 19th Avenue out into the community.  They did it because out of the overflow of their resources the congregations decided to give back to those who needed it the most.  I was also impressed with the collaboration between the sister churches of Main Street and 19th Avenue.  I am not sure what the situation is like where you are at but it seems that in Robertson County we have not maximized our potential of working together with other sister congregations in the county.  This was an effort to combine resources (drop egos) and to give God the glory as we work to feed people and give them the basic necessities to live. 

I am honored to be associated with these churches and I am proud that you continually show me new things and new ways to reach out in service.  Our work is not done though as we have only just begun to break through this community.  I look forward to many things from Main Street and 19th Avenue to see them change lives and change hearts.  Deo Gratias!

I read a post by Rusty Pettus on “Spiritual Depression” and in that post he made the comment that for some reason in October and November he gets depressed.  The past few months I have experienced some depression and have journaled about it and shared some thing with people and I got to tell you that it seems ministers are more at risk for depression than any other occupation.  Consider these statistics from H. B. London, Jr.’s Pastors at Greater Risk when he interviewed preachers about their ministry:

80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively; 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their families; 75% report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry; 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job; 90% feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands; 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict; the clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions; 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse; 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends; 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout; 52% of pastors say they and their spouse believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health; 45.5% of pastors say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry; 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.  (20, 86, 118, 148, 172, 264)

Does this not shock you?  Ministers are at risk and part of that is the drive to be successful and when ministers fail it causes deep movements of depression and often many ministers just hang it up!  Consider the psalmist in Psalms 69: 1-3:  “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters,and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched.  My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”  I can understand that and often feel like the floods surround me.  Financial stress, chemical imbalances, pressure to excel, great loss and unresolved problems are all forces pushing on our hearts and sometimes the weight is too much.  What do we do?  Even if you are not a minister and maybe things are piling up in your life causing you to derail.  What should you do? 

Consider this story:  “In 2006, the FAA grounded all DC-10s because on one flight the engine fell off, resulting in the death of 213 passengers.  This unthinkable flaw didn’t take place overnight; it was the result of successive times of ignored maintenance” (Wayne Cordeiro, Leading on Empty, p. 72).  Translation: we need to quit ignoring the signs of depression and we need to do some hardcore maintenance.  Maybe getting away from the office, or talking with a close personal friends or maybe talking with the elders and taking a month off.  Or if you are not a minister maybe you need to, in the wake of all of the decisions and hectic things in your schedule, maintain the spiritual component of your life and then maybe the other things will fall into place.  I love you all.

I like to call it the Willow Creek mentality. 

Many of you know Willow Creek is the mega church in the Chicago, IL area that has rewritten the books on how to do church.  They have – marketing plan, evangelism plan, preaching plan, and even an amazing way at how they do education (they write their own curriculum).  This is not a post to speak against the Willow Creek Community per se but it is a post to speak against comparing ourselves with churches like that and how damaging it could be. 

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.   (James 4:1-2)

Preachers, youth ministers, family ministers, education ministers, children’s ministers, worship ministers, and minister of temperature acclimation (tongue-in-cheek) all have egos.  There is something about someone else doing something better than you that just gets under my skin.  In the world of youth ministry (and with other ministries as well) there are guys who plan better, who are more creative, who are more gifted at speaking, who are more relational, who are more this and more that than I will ever be.  At one level I can be jealous of those people and that jealousy will then turn towards resentment or even worse, anger.  Or, at another level I can celebrate that person as a vital aspect of the kingdom of God and without them our whole brotherhood would struggle.  In university I used to hear the bible majors say, “I wish I could speak like brother so-and-so,” or, “I plan on being a scholar like Dr. so-and-so.”  All that is fine but it leads to the Willow Creek mentality in which we compare ourselves to something bigger and when we never meet up to those standards we are done. 

What about elderships?  When they look to hire someone they look for someone like so-and-so at that big church down the road.  We need a man who is: energetic, gifted, dynamic, ability to relate to a broad group of ages and also has the ability to solve the energy crisis (last one is a little cynical so I apologize).  But seriously, how often do elderships compare their ministers with ministers from other congregations and then when they do not “stack up” they look for other ministers who would best fit the people who mirror the qualifications of the big churches.  “Because bigger must mean better right?” 

It is hard to resist the big church versus little church mentality.  One which compares and/or uses as THE standard for all other churches/ministers.  God has called you to be right where you are at.  I told my youth group yesterday while we were driving back from eating lunch together: “You are going to have to accept that there will ALWAYS be someone who is better than you are, smarter than you are, better looking than you are and stronger than you are!  The quicker you do that the more peaceful your life will be!”  What can we do?

  1. Accept where we are at as a gift from God!  Avoid, for the most part, looking for the bigger churches and stick with the people you have! 
  2. Humble yourself or you will be humbled (James 4:10).  It is better if you do it on a daily basis than if God does it for you!  I would say Peter’s denial of Christ was a humbling experience that gave him perspective. 
  3. Rejoice in others!  Paul made it a practice to rejoice with his brethren.  Celebrate people’s victories and help them with their defeats.  It does the Church no good if we scorn people’s victories because it was not ours and if we secretly celebrate when they struggle (I know you have done that before). 
  4. Pray for help!  You can’t do this on your own! 
  5. Teach others about your journey.   

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:16-18).

This past week I fasted from Facebook for about 4 days.  It was an uplifting experiment and one that I think many of you “addicts” should attempt to do in your own time (props to my friend Kalyn Drake for braving the fast with me…you are awesome!!!).  Fasting is one of those practices that I believe we have not discussed at length in the churches of Christ.  Rusty Pettus, on his blog, reviewed a book by Scot McKnight called Fasting in which I ordered a few minutes ago and I am looking forward to reading.  Rusty said that, “the purpose [of fasting] is to respond to something that compels us to stop and morn [sic. actually – mourn] the situation. It could be death, sin, hurt, pain, anxiety, injustice, or any number of things. Fasting helps us internalize the moment, grieve the consequences, and seek comfort from God.” (By the way…Focus Press released a series based on the Sermon on the Mount [includes fasting] written by Rusty Pettus and Joe Wells.  It’s called WORSHIP

Fasting.  A simple definition would be to do without.  Jesus said it best when he said, “no man can serve two masters [lit. ‘lords’]” so I have come up with a personal project for 2010 of which I need your creativity.  For 52 weeks I am going to fast.  This is not an effort to show my piety nor is it designed to poke fun at ancient disciplines.  This is a serious attempt to discover what consumes me and what I really value.  In my experience of fasting from Facebook I discovered that I was interested more in looking at photos, status updates and comments than I was imply staying in touch.  Facebook, for me, had become an addiction and I was consumed by checking it all the time so I decided I needed to fast from it.  I learned that I really do not need Facebook so it helped me to understand what is most important in my life: my relationship with God Almighty!!! 

So what ideas do you have?  Each week (Monday-Friday) I am going to fast from something.  What are your ideas?  I will give you the ones I have so far and I want you to add to them in the comment section.  

  • Talking
  • Caffeine
  • Saying/Thinking Negative Things
  • Candy
  • Shelter
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Internet
  • Driving a Vehicle
  • Watching Sports
  • Using a Cell-Phone
  • Eating meat
  • Eating fried foods
  • Drinking anything except water
  • Spending money

There are so much more but I want to know your ideas.  Please understand that this is not a cute, “Lessons-Learned,” blog for me to write about.  I am looking to make changes in my life and help others do the same.  A major component of fasting is to prepare oneself for mourning and difficult circumstances.  Much of next year will be for that as it will prepare me for a new phase in my ministry.  A new dedication and a new focus.  Please help me out!