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

Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

I’m Back!

After months of life-change, it’s good to sit down at the keyboard again and chill. I’ll catch you up on all the events that have transpired in my life since late July.

The most important of changes occurred in the late summer, when I resigned from Leadership Training International (LTI). After a year of wonder and awe … seeing, first hand the hunger of the world-wide Church for capable and dedicated Christian leaders … I sensed I was about to reenter pastoral ministry after a rest of 5 years!

I was invited by a dear friend to speak at a church located in Mechanicsville, Virginia – Hanover County. Just north of Richmond, M-ville has become one of the growth areas in the region. Great schools, great infrastructure, close proximity to Richmond International Airport and the city itself makes Hanover County a great place to live.

The church, Emmanuel Tabernacle Assembly of God, was dealing with the departure of its founding pastor, Dr. Walter Myers. Dr. Myers had been at ETAG since its founding … back in the late ’60s … so you can imagine the emotional drain experienced by the folks as the “church papa” bid farewell and entered retirement.

ETAG is facing a real challenge. Can it adjust to a new pastor (that’s me), a new vision (that’s being developed), and a fresh beginning? One element of change – a new name – is now on the table. It might be considered a baby-step toward a new identity in the community, and I’d appreciate your prayers. I’m thinking the new name will come out of the new vision. It should describe who we are, what we believe, and what we hope to do. Ideas? Please comment.

The people of ETAG are friendly, warm, and very generous. The building is huge, has a modern appearance and is interesting, but it needs some repairs, especially to the roof. The property is beautiful – all 14+ acres of it. The location is good … not great. I believe this church has a bright future and real possibilities! And I love the current Board members. They’re committed!

I’m extending an invitation. Come and join us in taking ETAG into God’s intended future!

Manzese Church in Dar es Salaam

This is one of the churches in Manzese that ICM helped to build. The video is of Manzese B Church. Manzese A Church was built in honor of my Dad, Poppa Qualls. He’d be so happy! I’m leaving on July 22, 2010 for Tanzania – an extended teaching trip. I plan to visit Dar July 31 through August 3 – at which time I’ll find Poppa Qualls’ Manzese A Church! I’m so excited!!

Manzese Church in Tanzania from ICM Videos on Vimeo.

The Church … as Anyone Would Love It

I ran across a blog tonight that blessed my soul and challenged my lifestyle.  On a wonderful blog site entitled Shame The Wise (Brian McDaris) he wrote an article way back in February of 2009.  It reads:

WHY DEAD THEOLOGIANS ARE COOL

Epistle to Diognetus
Chapter V.-The Manners of the Christians.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Gearing Up for 2010

Thanks to all who’ve been supporting me, in every way, since I departed Trinity for points unknown.Leadership Training International

I’m still in uncharted waters, but confident that Jesus is directing my life.

Leadership Training International (or LTI) continues to excite me beyond words.  Since August I’ve become a “certified instructor” of the curriculum.  Not long ago I finished the highest level of teacher certification LTI offers – “Mobile Advanced Trainer” (or MAT).  That allowed me to travel to Lakewood, New Jersey and Washington, DC to participate with Neal Kelley (LTI’s operations director) in two exciting teacher training events.

After the first of the year the “I” in LTI becomes part of my experience.  I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic, to meet with the leadership of a denomination that has already purposed to use our Foundations for Emerging Leaders curriculum (all 12 modules) to train DR pastors!  I don’t have to “sell” them.  They’re SOLD!  I’m going with my buddy Neal, to meet the people we’ll be working with for years to come.  Neal will then stay in the DR for another week, overseeing our super training event.  Because LTI’s materials are in Spanish (and English, Russian and Romanian), these pastors will learn to teach our curriculum in their own language.  That’s invaluable!

I mentioned that Neal and I will part ways – Neal stays and I fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Tommy Barnett “33rd Pastors and Leaders School.”  Once again they’re expecting over 7,000 pastors and church leaders at the “school” – an intense three day event (February 1-3) that challenges conventional church thinking and methodology.  It’s all about “The GREAT Commission,” isn’t it?

Well, more updates will follow.

If you’d like to be one of my partners, write me at revgolf@gmail.com.  I’m looking for people who will enthusiastically share my travel expenses.  Donations of any size are welcome, and air miles would be great!!   I’m incurring costs almost daily now, and I’m serving LTI at no salary … so … any help would be wonderful!

The Cry For Leaders in Eastern Europe – “After The Wall”

At the end of this video there is a challenge given – to raise up and train leaders.  Help me – help LIT (Leadership Training International) partner with Campus Crusade for Christ and other ministries … to bring Christ and Christian leadership principles to Eastern Europe and “to the uttermost parts of the world.”

Thanks, Rich and Barb Leary – CCC leaders in Ukraine, for sharing this video with us and the world!

Character Development is the Key to Effective Leadership

Pubu and Chen - with Everest in the background

Pubu and Chen - with Everest in the background

This was a happy day!  Standing with Pubu and Chen (my Tibetan guide and Chinese driver) at the Everest Base Camp, 18,600 feet above sea level, was a dream come true.  After 24 road hours on a track as dangerous as it was beautiful, it’s no wonder the three of us are smiling.  We were happy to be alive, and breathing the purest air on the planet.

The trip back to Lhasa was memorable, too.  (Chen had promised me on the day we left for The Mountain that he had all four … 4! … spare tires in good running order.  Good thing, because before we arrived at the Base Camp we blew two tires.  I’m tOur third flat tire ... with no spare for hundreds of mileselling you, the road was about as rough as it gets.

So why are we on the side of the the road in the next picture?

Chen had stretched the truth about all the spare tires being in good shape (and I’m being very gracious with the word “stretched”).

We were going nowhere, and I was perturbed.  We were about 850 kilometers from Lhasa, with no patch kit and no air pump.

I learned something about character that day.  No … some things.  And since then I spent hours connecting what I learned to what I love … things having to do with Leadership.

First, when it comes to a team exercise – be it constructing a building, revamping a curriculum, or getting to and from Everest – to borrow a golfing cliche, “it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive.”  (I’ve driven a golf ball 300 yards, made a decent iron shot close to the pin, and then missed a 12″ putt … so it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive.)  The start of a project is important, but people will determine the project a success or failure based on its conclusion.

Second, good character is a rare and priceless commodity in our world; leaders having good character are becoming scarce.  Today courage, integrity, wisdom, humility, and loyalty is in short supply in leadership (and followership ranks alike).  When it comes to leadership, you know and I know:  character is more important than charisma 99.9% of the time.

SIDE NOTE:  Good character is in short supply among followers as well.  Leading a team is challenging enough when everything is moving forward, toward a project goal.  But if the leader lacks confidence in his team members, it’s very difficult to reach team objectives without serious stress taking a toll on the leader’s mind and body.  When team members’ character is in question, the leader’s job becomes exponentially more burdensome.   (I’ll tell you, I was really hesitant to get back in the truck with Chen after he lied to me about the tires.)

That’s why I’m glad the leadership curriculum I’m sharing with the world focuses the first 6 of 12 modules on character development.*  (The last 6 modules teach leadership skills, and that’s where most want to start … but choosing to start with the inward workings of a leader is the best time spent.)  We must get the character thing right!  We have enough charismatic leaders working systems with zero character on this planet … in government, business, and sadly the Church.  People serving in every human institution are tired of the hypocrisy, duplicity, and outright dishonesty too many leaders exhibit shamelessly … and it’s hard to see good character increase in the ranks of followers when leaders don’t model it.

*Leadership Training International, or LTI.  Visit http://www.ltiworld.org for more information about the teaching materials I’ve alluded to above.

What I Believe About God

I attended a meeting not long ago and heard a speaker say, as the general premise of the talk, that she had figured out how to get God to heal anyone, anytime.  She wasn’t talking about coercing God or artfully manipulating Him to do whatever we would want Him to do, especially in the area of healing.  She wasn’t that dumb.  Rather, her main point was that everything we need to know about healing, and getting people healed, is in God’s Word – the Bible.  All we needed to do was pray a certain way, believe a certain way, and He’d come through.  He would have to, you see, because He “had promised us He would heal anyone who believed, and would respond favorably to anyone who prayed in faith.”

But she doesn’t know what to do, think or say when “God” doesn’t heal someone, other than to just keep praying.  (That is, until death ends the process, of course.)  Others who believe in healing today, and have the formulas that “work,” will explain that when a person isn’t healed someone is at fault – either the person praying or the person that is sick.  What they are unintentionally or intentionally saying, depending on the person, is that they’ve got God figured out.  They know how He operates.  He’s totally predictable … that He responds a certain way in a certain situation every time that situation occurs.

Well … that’s what people say who have either (a) never read the Bible, (b) have read only the “interesting” parts of the Bible, (c) [ the most likely option] have approached reading the Bible with a certain pre-judgment (or prejudice, if you will).  Oh, and there is an option (d) and it is:  people have heard and then bought into teaching from teachers who live option “c” – teachers who themselves bought into the teaching of someone … who bought into the teaching of someone … etc., etc.

Their God is only as big as their understanding of Him … and that tends to be SMALL.

Let me tell you about my God.

He’s smarter than me.  I’m limited in my understanding of Him.  I can’t figure Him out … BUT … it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I like it.  (If I could figure Him out I might think He is weak, or lacking intelligence … way too small to be worshipped as the great “I AM.”)

God tells me a lot about Himself … but again, more than I can fully understand … and He keeps me curious.  I want to know more about Him.

Put another way, His BIGNESS makes Him God … and for me, I like that.  I want a BIG God.  I want a God that can do infinitely more than I can, so much so that I wouldn’t want His job because I couldn’t do His job.  (I certainly don’t think I’m up for it.  I believe the position of GOD is filled.)

God’s Word, while totally true, is complex because it’s from Him – the One who is infinite in wisdom and knowledge.  It’s written to me and for me – the one who is finite and not all-knowing.  That means that there are parts of the Bible I won’t “get” … and there are parts that no one will get.  (If I could get it all, or if anyone else could understand it all … well, we’d have to be God’s equal, right?)  That said, there are times when children will get Him better than we do.

I believe God is the consummate, perfect LOVER.  He never holds grudges, never lies, alway understands, and is totally accepting … but … He’s not stupid.  He loves with His eyes wide open.  We can’t fool Him.  There’s not a place dark enough that we can hide our true feelings toward Him from Him.

Because God loves me He wants me to know Him better and better, and because He loves me He will reveal more and more about Himself to me in language I can understand.  (But that still means I won’t ever FULLY understand Him, or His ways.)

I believe God is beyond generous.  Because He’s so giving He always wills and wants to give me what is good for me; He said so.  He will not withhold good things from me.  At the same time, He WILL withhold what is NOT good for me.  He said so – He said don’t even ask for those things because He’s not listening.  Therefore,I should never try to lay a guilt trip on Him.  As hard as we might try, we can’t make Him feel guilty for not answering our every prayer in the way we dictate it to Him.  I also believe you and I can’t come up with formulas that make Him do anything He doesn’t want to do … even if we beg … or fast … or cut ourselves … or make promises concerning what we will do for Him in the future.  I can never force Him to do anything.  He is the greater, I am the lesser.  So if I think or believe something … ANYTHING … that doesn’t mean He has to believe it, too.

I believe God is HOLY.  That means He can never sin, just as light and darkness can’t mix.  He can’t sin against me, or against anyone in the whole world.  So … if anything bad happens to me – my stocks tank, I’m shipwreck, I am stoned (and I’m not talking about “pot” here), all my goods confiscated, I get really sick, or even die … it’s not His “fault.”  He is perfect.  Pure.  Right every time.  Good every time.  Kind every time.  Because He knows everything and I don’t, He knows when it’s time to pull the plug – my days are numbered … BY HIM.  You can’t sing, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and believe otherwise.

I believe God is more concerned about me – the real, down-deep-inside-me me – than my comfort.  That means things I may not like could be good.  Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong, or bad.  God can’t be bad.  My circumstances could be, but He is never or could ever be bad.  That also means that something bad happening in my life might ultimately bring about something good … something unanticipated.

God is tough.  He is the same God – in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  He didn’t come to His senses in the New Testament.  Jesus doesn’t represent “His good side” while Jehovah represents “His bad side.”  He does not have a split personality.  He is not a child killer in the Old Testament and a child resurrector in the New.  He is Job’s God.  He’s is Peter and John’s, too.  He hasn’t changed.  Everything He did in the Old and New Testament, whether we understand it or agree with it, was good because He is good.  In other words, He had His reasons for whatever He did … and He was HOLY while He did what He did.  Got it?

I believe God healed people in the Old and New Testaments … and He DIDN’T heal people in the Old and New Testaments – for His own reasons.  Again, some of those reasons He has never explained.  Some He has.  That said … even if I’m not healed, not protected, not always safe, not wealthy, not comfortable, not IN on His plan or plans … I try not to care.   It’s hard, but I’m better at it today than yesterday.  Because I trust Him.  I trust His judgment.

I trust Him.  And I love Him.  I can’t wrap my arms or my mind around Him, but I love Him – passionately.  During some tender moments He and I share it’s all I can do not to cry – I’m so filled with emotion.  I go ahead and cry eventually.  And He likes it, and thinks it’s masculine.  

So … that’s my God – my best attempt today to put what I believe about him down on paper, or in a blog post.  I don’t want to live without Him just because I don’t understand all of His ways.  I want Him, even if He keeps me wondering.  He is wonder-filled and wonderful.

Oh, and I do pray!  I do ask.  I ask BIG.  I have great faith.  I’ve seen miracles.  Real, honest to goodness miracles.   And when He doesn’t answer in the way I pray I just keep praying – with an open mind and an open heart.

He is God.  I am not.  And that is a good thing.

When Is A Church Too Big?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Persecuted Church in India – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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