Sky Links, 12-22-18

  1. Pray about it as much as you prepare for it. I’ve seen too many churches prepare much, and then only briefly ask God to bless their work. 
  2. Challenge your church members to invite a minimum of five people each. Give them a goal, and you might find that they’re much more willing to invite others. Most members can find at least five people to invite.
  3. Enlist a “follow up” team to contact guests and returning church members who attend. If you secure contact information but never follow up, you’ll have missed an open door.
  4. Have greeters everywhere from the parking lot to the parking lot—that is, from the time folks enter the lot to the time they leave. Be friendly.
  5. Consider asking everyone to wear a nametag. Knowing names facilitates conversations and makes the evening more personal (and, if you assume that everybody will already know everybody else, you’re probably not using the evening evangelistically).
  6. Ask everyone to complete a registration card. When everyone does it, guests are typically less reticent to provide information you need for follow up.
  7. Don’t forget about the kids when you preach or tell the Christmas story. Intentionally draw in the children, and you’ll draw the adults in, too. The opposite is not always true.
  8. Don’t try to impress people with your message–just communicate the simple, beautiful, childlike gospel story. If your community leaves talking only about what a good speaker you are, the devil may have hijacked your message.
  9. Don’t use the service to introduce new choruses or hymns. Christmas is often a time of familiarity and tradition. Use the music portion of your service wisely.
  10. Use older adults in the program, too. If your church is a multi-generational church, let the community see that reality on the platform.
  11. Spend a few minutes praying for a nation or a people group that will not be celebrating the birth of Christ next week. While we celebrate, much of the world will have no idea what Christmas is all about. December 25 will be only another day to survive.
  12. Be clear, and be clear again, about how folks may contact you if they have questions about the church or the gospel. Many may not respond to the gospel that evening, but still have questions in the days to come.
  13. If you take an offering, think about a benevolence offering for the needy in your community. This is a season of giving, so do something that will help your church give to others when Christmas is over.
  14. Enlist some prayer warriors to pray for one month for guests who attend your Christmas Eve service. That is, pray intentionally before the service, during the service, and after the service. Don’t carry out this special service or its follow up in your own power.
  15. Evaluate the service as soon as possible. If the Lord doesn’t return in the next year, Christmas Eve will come again. Celebrate it better next year because you’ve evaluated it this year.

Church Hurt: Occupational Hazards of the Pastorate

Thom S. Rainer's article of the week was about when the pastor's friend leaves the church
I’ve asked the question dozens of times. In one way or another, I simply ask pastors: “What has been one of your most painful moments in ministry?”
Obviously, the responses are diverse, but one response seems pretty consistent. Let me summarize it with this quote from a pastor who spoke to me just two weeks ago.
“Critics and bullies bother me,” he said. “But at least you know where you stand with them. The greatest pain for me took place when one of my good friends and his family decided to leave the church. At least I thought he was a good friend. I felt like I had been stabbed in the back.
I am not surprised at the pain. I am, however, surprised how common the experience is with so many pastors.
There were over 100 comments.  Here are a few:

When my husband and I were engaged one of my co-workers, whose husband was a retired pastor, offered one piece of advice. She said, “Just remember, the people at church are not your friends.” As a 22 year old I thought that was a sad and bitter statement. After 14 years of marriage/ministry life, I totally get it.

I’m a pastor of 32 years, 16 in my present church. What is described in this article is expected for those in ministry. We don’t expect to be betrayed, but perhaps we should. Even Jesus was betrayed. I found an interesting verse that may apply to this discussion, John 2:24, “But Jesus didn’t entrust himself to them, for he knew what was in their hearts.” Yup! My response: First, there are different levels of friendship. It’s not “be friends” or “don’t be friends.” It’s choose your LEVEL of friendship wisely. Have I been hurt and betrayed by close friends in the church? Of course I have! The pain of those betrayals is awful! And yet, slowly and cautiously, I continue to develop friends within the church–some (not a majority) end up being close friends. Why I don’t completely seal off my heart: Because opening my heart to people, to me, is a part of deep ministry. How do I NOT love people on a deep level? Will I be hurt again? For sure. Par for the course. Goes with the territory. But slowly, discerningly, I will continue to open my heart in various measures to my people.

I’m a PK and now a pastor’s wife. When my dad was a pastor my parents were hurt by friends in the church so they ended up keeping their members at a distance. When we planted our church 12 years ago we decided we wanted to have close friends in the church.
Well, the ones that we would have over for dinner and games and go to movies with, the ones we invested in more than any other members are the ones who have hurt us the most and have left us.
I laughed at the feeling of wanting to punch them in the face but praying instead. I’ve never wanted to actually punch someone but my husband has.
And it has taken a TON of prayer to move past the hurt.
But now I just can’t bring myself to open up to those close friendships in the church anymore. I’ve tried to be different than my parents but now I see why they built the wall.
As for the comment on pastors being approachable, we still take members to dinner and spend time getting to know them at church events. I just can’t have real friends in church anymore.

Thom this has been one of the most painful things in my 33 years of pastoral ministry. Its happened more than once, where people I really liked and felt kinship with left. Several were best friends. One guy was so weak after surgery at one point I helped him get to the bathroom. And, then months later he left for something else, in a moment of my greatest weakness. It hurt. A lot. I love him and bless him now many years later, but wow!
I affirm the value of cultivating friendship with other pastors outside your church and denomination. Nobody understands like they do. They have helped me through some real trials. But I also have some of my closest friends that are on our elder board. They have stood with me through the worst of it. They are standing with me now as I leave this church of 21 years to pursue a missions ministry. Develop prayerful discernment, invest wisely, and go deeply. After all, we are asking our members to do the same thing when we encourage them to join a small group. In the same breath, are we unconsciously telling them, “but know you can’t really trust people here-I dont’t! “. Ministry is painful! Suffering and glory are always linked together (Philippians 3:7-11). Some of Our Lord’s disciples walked away (end of John 6). But many of them ended up giving their lives for him. I think there are some deep friendships out there waiting to be enjoyed.

I was betrayed in a previous pastorate by a man, who I mistakenly thought, was my friend. He was a deacon: one of six. He treated my family and me decently the first 2-3 years. Later on in my tenure, he turned on me and was critical. I did nothing to him to warrant it. There was a situation, which occurred, in which he got a little mad and he caused me problems the last year or so of my time. He would never admit it. Hot-tempered, easily mad, and not self-reflective at all. The emotional pain was hard. A veteran pastor later told me, “Those, who try to get close to you early, often will turn on you later. Be wary of any (or even 2-3) who attempt to cozy up to you very quickly as you get settled in a new place.” He was right. A pastor is better off not to forge close friendships with those in his congregation. People are fickle (Vast majority) and will turn on you on a dime. The pastors, who form close friendships with 2-3 or 4-5 in their congregations, are rare. They’re at wonderful churches. Best to form 2-3 close friendships outside the congregation. You will get burned. Trust me on this. Not cynical here, just truthful.

My situation is very scary: I am a 57 y/o rookie pastor who was called in March of 2018. The other candidate was from the church I was called to. His wife was a deacon there and he served as an associate Minister. Although he was not ordained, his name went into the hat. We were both invited to the vote and God spoke and I was called with 2/3 majority. Now, I did not know this man, but I embraced him and asked if he would stay and help me navigate through the transition. Even though him and his wife was very, very upset, he said he would.
I had an official licencing service for him and began to prepare him for the 2019 ordination within our local convention. I gave him preaching engagements and set him up with three vacant churches. This is where it gets weird:
One day, out of the blue, he calls me and ask for a meeting; we had one and he told me that he did not like me and did not want to be under the covering of the church. He also told me since I did not support him or click the like button on his “Facebook” page, that I was not supporting him and he was taking his family and leaving the church. He told me I was a “showboat” because I go to all of the community events, and I thought I was better than him since I had my degrees.
Needless to say, I was devastated, The hate he had been holding in for seven months all came out in a 20 minute meeting.
How did I deal with it? I cried: Yes, like I baby, I cried to my wife, and I cried to God. I began to re-read the Bible, and God put scriptures in my path to sooth the pain. I realized that I can no longer be gullible, rather wise in my pastorate. Some members of the church heard so many false rumors I begin to question the spirit within the church. I continue to pray for this minister and his family, which is making me a stronger and more confident pastor.


 Heresy Clarified Simply -Scot McKnight

What's Up With Judge Roberts?

When Trump criticized the San Francisco judge as being an “Obama judge,” Roberts—in a public statement unusual for a sitting SCOTUS justice—criticized Trump and stated that there’s no such thing as “Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” and that judges are “an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
Translation: don’t you dare imply that judges are political; we are above all that!
Then yesterday, by refusing to stop the San Francisco judge’s injunction, Roberts became the swing vote when the same issue came to the Supreme Court. He voted with the liberals in allowing the previous injunction to remain in effect.
This was not any sort of decision on the merits; it was merely a decision not to reverse the San Francisco judge’s decision, pending a later ruling on the merits of the asylum question. It was also a defense of that judge as being a member of that “group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right.” Perhaps, to Roberts’ way of thinking, had Roberts voted to reverse the decision of that San Francisco judge, it would have lent support to the idea that the San Francisco judge had been motivated by “Obama judge” partisanship to make an incorrect ruling.
It may be that, when the asylum question is heard on the merits, Roberts will end up voting with the conservatives and uphold Trump’s position. Perhaps. But I believe that in the meantime Roberts was deeply offended by Trump’s criticism of the judiciary, even though I think Trump was absolutely correct in that criticism.
I believe that there are at least three more things operating with Roberts in handing down this decision. The first is that most people, especially ambitious people—and that includes SCOTUS justices—are attracted to power. Power is enticing, and increasing one’s own power is always tempting. So what could be more powerful for Roberts than becoming a swing justice? It would mean that a great many huge and important cases would turn on what Roberts thinks.
Secondly, Roberts was nominated by George Bush. What better way for Roberts to prove that he’s no “Bush judge” than to vote with the liberals? So that’s another motivation to do what he did yesterday.
Thirdly, I’ve noticed a tendency in Roberts—long before Trump became president—to vote in the way that is least likely to upset the status quo apple cart. For example, in the case of Obamacare, Roberts found a “creative” way to avoid a bold overturning of a bill that had been passed by Congress. In yesterday’s injunction case, the path of least resistance was to let the injunction stand rather than to overrule it. But when the case about asylum actually reaches SCOTUS, Roberts could go either way—he might rule with Trump in order to uphold an executive order already issued, or he might rule against Trump in order to support the implementation of the pre-existing (pre-Trump) policy on how asylum is handled.
Is John Roberts the new Anthony Kennedy and if so, why? -Neo

What about that 60 vote rule and the so called nuclear option, in The Senate?
Senators don’t need unanimous consent to bring up a bill. The lack of unanimous consent or 60 votes doesn’t table a bill. It’s just that opposing senators in the minority can request to be recognized and continuously hold the floor. In recent years, majority parties have never made the minority do that. Sometimes it makes sense to pre-emptively achieve an agreement because the majority just can’t afford to chew up endless days on debate of a single issue. But sometimes there are issues worth fighting for. Either way, this is the end of the line for the 115th Congress. 
How do you get Democrats to stop talking? This is where Senate Rule XIX, “the two-speech rule,” comes into play. The rule explicitly prohibits individual senators from speaking “more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day.” Given that Republicans preside over the chair and control the floor, they can refuse to officially adjourn, opting only to recess temporarily, and keep the Senate in the same legislative day indefinitely. This will ensure that even the Democrats who are willing and able to speak for a long time will eventually be forced to relent.
 This never happens and is never enforced, because Republicans never force Democrats to hold the floor in the first place and McConnell simply won’t bring up legislation without a unanimous consent agreement or without 60 votes to ultimately shut off debate. But if he forced the minority to hold the floor and enforced Rule XIX, Democrats would exhaust themselves very quickly. This is a strategy laid out by James Wallner, an expert on Senate procedure who is currently completing a manuscript on the history of the Senate.
Wallner points out that Democrats do have the ability to challenge rulings of the chair and bring up points of order or call for quorum calls as means of prolonging their floor time, but Republicans can dispense with their motions with 51 votes. Eventually, Democrats would run out of steam and exhaust their two speeches per member. This would theoretically take several days or weeks, but it all depends on the determination of each side. If Republicans keep them in session day and night and over the weekends and make them hold the floor, Democrats would eventually run out of options to block a majority vote to proceed with the border wall funding continuing resolution.
Trump doesn't need 60 Senate votes  to fix the border and short-circuit a shutdown -Daniel Horowitz

The growing attacks on free speech in Europe

An Austrian appellate court has upheld the conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife and anti-Jihad activist, for "denigrating religious beliefs" after giving a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam.
The December 20 ruling (2011) shows that while Judaism and Christianity can be disparaged with impunity in postmodern multicultural Austria, speaking the truth about Islam is subject to swift and hefty legal penalties.
Although the case has major implications for freedom of speech in Austria, as well as in Europe as a whole, it has received virtually no press coverage in the American mainstream media.
A Black Day in Austria  -Soeren Kern

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff on the Eric Metaxas show

65-year-old Swedish woman sentenced to prison for criticizing Islam