Living in the Moment

I am two classes away from finishing my course load with Indiana Wesleyan University, which is a great place for adults to finish their degrees remotely.  I have been working on this degree program for almost two years and it has been very enjoyable but at the same time challenging.  I’ve learned and am learning a lot about Business Management but it seems even more about myself.  My current class is Marriage and Family, which is one of the electives I chose to take.  This class has really caused me to look inside and reprioritize some things in my life and in the life of my family. 

I’ve been blessed over the past three years to spend a massive amount of time with my boys.  I don’t have a normal 9 to 5 job so I’m free to bring them to school in the morning and I pick them up as well.  It seems that they are always with me.  But I got to thinking, I know that they are with me but am I truly with them?  Am I there only in body but I’m preoccupied with something else? 

I’ve heard it said many times that they aren’t going to be at this age forever, that you need to spend as much time with them as possible.  My response to that is that I’m always with them.  I found myself getting a little proud while thinking, I’m not like those other dads that are busy climbing the ladder, or have left their families all together, those that never see their kids. 

But time doesn’t equal moments.

I’ve become convinced that it’s not the amount of time you spend with someone but it’s whether or not you are truly there during that time.  My wife is so much better at this than me, she creates moments almost every single day with the boys, I’m lucky if I get one a week.  Moments are created when all parties are fully engaged and aware of each other.

Caleb and I had a huge moment last night as I was tucking him in, It was a moment we will both remember forever.  But most of the time we don’t realize at the time how powerful the moment was until later on down the road. 

Moments aren’t just reserved for parents with kids but they can be shared between spouses, best friends, even God.  There’s no way I could put a number to how many hours I’ve spent in prayer but I’m positive that the amount I’ve been fully engaged and aware is quite a bit smaller.

It’s those moments with God that count.  Moments lead to encounter which create relationship and it’s through relationship that we are changed.  Moments are priceless. 

Redeem the time, Create Moments.

Progress is a process

I have this gift that sometimes I feel is a curse.  I dream big!!  I have these grandiose ideas of what the future should hold. 

When I was around 14 or 15 I truly believed that I was going to be the next Michael Jordan.  Every time I saw the Sam Houston High Basketball coach I just knew that he was going to stop me and say, “Will, I’ve been hearing a lot about you from some of my other students, Why don’t you come and practice with us?”  Then I would go on to impress the coaches, make the starting lineup and set myself up for college scholarships.  That never happened.  I ended up transferring to a small Christian School where I did star on their basketball team but there were no college recruiters waiting for me.

So many times we have huge dreams and ambitions that we believe or hope will come true.  We believe that we have received these promises or dreams by Divine inspiration, so we wait for them to come to pass.  We may even try to put action with our faith but inevitably our first few attempts are never what we imagined them to be.  I remember my first few times speaking in front of a congregation, they definitely didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned them.  I had dreams of winning the world, seeing thousands receive the Holy Spirit, that I would be at the center of a world wide revival, but the reality was I couldn’t put a few words together in an logical, entertaining or anointed fashion.

After living frustrated with myself and with things around me for many years I came to this conclusion:

I don’t have to be great, I just have to get better.

I believe it’s critical that we have the drive to get better one day at a time.  If you are anything like me, there are many areas of your life that could use some improvement, your probably not going to get great overnight but you can get better.  I’m not the best leader but I can be a better leader.  I’m not the best husband, but I can be a better husband.  That is a list that could go on and on and on.

So many young leaders like me, want to reach thousands, want to pastor a mega church but we are missing a key ingredient.

How are you bettering yourself today?

What steps are you taking to improve yourself.  Greatness is a process that takes a lifetime to achieve.  All we can do is look back and analyze our past mistakes and do better.  It’s not glamorous but it is progress. Don’t give up, remember God’s plans depend on God’s timing.  When God sees that you can handle the dreams he’s given you, they will come to pass.

 

Thoughts from the weekend

Just a couple of thoughts from the weekend.

1.  The Kingdom is bigger and more important than me and my ego.  Get over yourself.

2.  You can never go wrong by doing what is right.  Honor those that are deserving of honor.

3.  The most important thing I will ever do in my life will be to be the best husband I can be to Rebekah and raise my two boys in the ways of God.  Pastoring is important and it’s my calling but the greatest responsibility I have is to be there for my family.

4.  God can take a messed up situation that is hopeless and redeem it for the good.  Case in point, Isaiah Nelson.

5.  Jesus is the center of the Church.  Love God and Love People.

6.  Do your best to remember the good and forget the bad.

7.  We are all going somewhere, be intentional about where you are headed.

8.  Godly proud of Abundant Life!!  Great crowds all weekend, altars full Sunday am and pm!!  There is nothing like new families buying into what we are doing!!

Psalms 133, Student Pastors and Toby Keith

I was reading Psalms 133 and I thought of Toby Keith(No that doesn’t happen often).

Have you ever been around someone that couldn’t stop talking about themselves or their family, or their problems.  I believe that Toby Keith wrote that dumb country song with them in mind.  It’s like I know your awesome and you are the most important person in the room but could you just act like someone or some thing else matters a little bit.

I think Toby Keith wrote his little song about youth pastors.  Ouch I know that burns but I was one so I can talk about us for a moment.  We don’t do it consciously or maybe we do but it’s not for selfish reasons it’s just that we are very passionate about the calling God has placed on our life.  We also tend to have small chips on our shoulders, because we feel overlook and underpaid.

We love our students and staff so much that we run the risk of forgetting about the church as a whole.  We have what we feel like is a God-Ordained Vision, purpose and plan.  But let me ask you a simple question, What is your Pastor’s Vision for the Church, Community and even what’s his vision for your student ministry?  Does your vision fit within your Pastors.

Have you bought into your Pastors Vision?  Don’t answer this but Are you guilty of questioning his vision or direction?  Pastors don’t need Superstar youth pastors they need loyal and passionate youth pastors.  We need a fresh baptism of submission, submission to God and to the spiritual authority in our life.  

Having two visions in a church is called Di-Vision.  

I was asked by Pastors and Student Pastors alike from all over the country, What was the secret to all of your success in student ministry.  I think they wanted to hear 3 events they could pull off or that it was great music and preaching but it was because I was determined to get in the flow.  I consciously made sure my spirit and heart were totally committed to the Man of God that I was following.  Sell out to his vision and then the anointing that is upon him and upon his office will be able to flow to you.

Thriving youth ministries are vital in order for a church to thrive, but it’s not the most important ministry.  Every ministry is vital, it’s not all about you, it’s about the Kingdom, it’s about communities being reached, it’s about entire families being evangelized.  

Get under the flow, make it a point to serve your pastor and other staff members.  Then watch the blessings of God flow down into your life and ministry.

Student Pastors, I love you and I believe in you.  You have a tremendous call and burden to carry, you can’t do it alone so yoke up with your Pastor, support him and watch God send revival.

The grass is greener on the other side

I know it’s been a while but inspiration comes in spurts with me.

The grass always looks greener on the other side.  We quote this saying to friends and family when they are about to jump ship, change churches, backslide or simply do something that we don’t want them to do.  We say that the grass always looks greener on the other side with the subtle insinuation that it really isn’t.  That once you get to the other side you will realize that the grass wasn’t greener it just looks greener. Well I have a little different take on why the grass looks greener, it’s because it usually is.

When I lived in Lake Charles, we had a pretty large piece of land but snuggled up to the side of the house and the driveway was the sewage system.  When we first moved in to the house we had a couple of teenagers help us paint(big mistake) and as they were leaving they somehow backed off the driveway through the grass up and over the sewage system.  Then the put the cement blocks back in place and neglected to tell me about the little incident.  A couple of months later I began to notice that the grass around the sewage system grew very rapidly and it never quite dried out all the way.  As you probably have pieced together, my lawn was getting fertilized the natural way.

The grass was greener there than it was on the other side, but you probably didn’t want to have a picnic on that patch of green grass.  Some of you may be contemplating a move, a decision, a change in some way and I want you to understand that your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  The grass really is that green, but you don’t know why the grass is that green until you step off into it.  There are reasons that certain plants grow well in certain areas and there is a reason that God has planted you where you are.  He intends on you to grow where you are planted.

The next opportunity always looks enticing, if you are looking for something chances are you’ll find it.  But we have to realize that God has us positioned and He will make his plans obvious to those that are seeking after Him.  We look at the lifestyle of the rich and the famous, the megachurches, the Jones and we immediately see that the grass looks greener.  Well it probably is but you can’t see the inside, you can’t see beneath the surface and in reality they could be looking at you in your current situation and seeing that your grass is greener.

It’s sort of like when you are looking for your cell phone, you’ve looked under every couch cushion, in the Boy’s toy box, and in the dog house, then you finally realize the it has been in your hand the entire time.  Things or even people can’t fulfill you, that only through your relationship with God can you be fulfilled.  Until we realize that simple concept we will forever be looking for the thing that we’ve had in our grasp the entire time.

Be content, trust God, because there is a reason why the grass is greener on the other side.

Effectiveness leads to fulfillment

A couple days ago I was reading through Genesis and I came to the story of Jacob and Esau.  A thought came back to me that a good friend told me about this story.

Genesis 25 27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a [s]peaceful man, [t]living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because [u]he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was [v]famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of [w]that red stuff there, for I am [x]famished.” Therefore his name was called [y]Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “[z]First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33And Jacob said, “[aa]First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

I always took this story at face value, but there are a couple things that we should consider.

1. That Esau considered a bowl of stew more valuable than the birthright that God had given him.  Esau understood and knew that as long as his father blessed him in the end that He would be okay.

2. He allowed his temporary discomfort rob him of a eternal blessing.

3.  The entire reason why he exchanged his birthright was that he was ineffective in the field.  He went out to hunt game to eat but he returned empty handed.

My prayer is that I would be effective, effective as a husband and a father.  Effective as a pastor and a communicator, effective in every area of my life.  When you are being effective, you are fulfilled, when you are fulfilled you will not exchange the eternal for the temporary.

We need to be effective with the time that we have been given, we’ve only been allotted 72 years and we know that we aren’t guaranteed that.  In order to be effective we have to be diligent with the small things like practice, daily disciplines.  We need to not only be great thinker but great doers.

I’ve been looking at my personal life lately, making sure I’m being effective, trying to weed out things that cause me to be ineffective.  I’ve been looking at our church schedule and asking myself, what are we doing that isn’t effective and what can we do to become effective in that area?

I don’t want to exchange the eternal for the temporary, I want to be effective.

It’s really not that hard.

 

 

 

I grew up with the mindset that the Will of God was an extremely elusive, almost abstract concept that we had to diligently search for.  While the searching part can be beneficial, all it did for me was create a culture of fear in my life.  I lived in this continual state of worry that my actions were going to short circuit God ultimate plan for my life.  We even had terms for the will of God, the permissible will of God and the PERFECT Will of God.  If this is what you believe then forgive me, but I can’t find Bible for that.

I just don’t think it’s that difficult.

I can’t count how many students, young men and young ladies that have come to me agonizing over the next step.  They are so worried that what they feel is their calling or destiny will be lost if they don’t make the next move correctly. I applaud their concern and their desire to be in the Will of God but we are trying to make something easy very hard.

My response is to do everything you can where you are and God will make it very plain where your next step will be.

Matthew 25:19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them.20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

A lot of times we have big dreams and so we concentrate on the dream and we forget about the place that we are currently in.  Allow God to worry about your dreams, since He placed it in your heart in the first place.  It’s our responsibility to handle the things that we can do right now.

We then fear that because we are so consumed with what we are involved in we won’t even recognize the open door that God has open for us.  God doesn’t do little doors, God is not trying to trick or deceive you.  If you are busy doing the work of the Lord in the place where He has positioned you then trust that He will make it obvious what the next step will be.

It’s in our spiritual DNA to dream, but trust that God knows what He is doing and He wants you to fulfill the dream more than you want to yourself.

In order to get to the Big Leagues you have to perform well in the minors.  Be diligent in the small things and God will make you a ruler of big things.

The most important thing on your journey is to enjoy the ride.  If you only focus on your destination, you will miss all or most of what God is trying to teach you to prepare you for your destiny.

I heard T.D. Jakes say that, “Being rich doesn’t feel like you think it should.” If you don’t enjoy the ride, you will never be able to enjoy the destination or the dream, because the dream has problems as well.  We are still apart of the human existence, life still exists.  The promise land had fenced cities and Giants, Roses still have thorns, new levels still have devils, more money just means more problems.

Enjoy the path that God is leading you on and you will enjoy the fulfillment of the dream.

It’s really not that hard.

3 essential principles of a Successful Student Ministry

I’m not qualified to speak on many subjects including being a pastor. But I do feel I am qualified, to a certain extent, on building successful youth ministries. I have been a student pastor at three different churches that were extremely different, all three great churches but varied in culture and style.

I read countless books on student ministry and leadership, each one was helpful in their own way but none of them for me translated into sustainable growth. I have done youth ministry in a church of 400 in a large city, in a church of 200 in a town of 1500 and a church of 800 in a small city, but in each ministry God enabled us to use three principles to have dramatic growth.

A successful student ministry is built upon 3 principles

1. Worship- your ministry cannot be built upon programs or activities but there has to be a spiritual foundation. We can use the excuse we just don’t have spiritual kids all you want but young people are moldable. If you emphasize spiritual things, if you model it, build around it, your students grow to become more and more spiritual.

Learn to be radical to worship, I’ve never had the cool youth groups, but we have been crazy!! I’m talking about in the same service crowd surfing, running aisles, full out shouting fits w/ bobby pins flying. You can build a rocking, radical crazy student ministry, you may not be the cool youth group but you will have a powerful youth group!!

2. Relationships- your ministry will rise or fall to the level of the relationships that you have with your students. If you have ten students you can invest in each of them, spend time with each of them. Time spent at church events don’t count, your supposed to be with them then but you need to pick out a few and spend TIME with them. Take them with you when you wash your car, let them help you build something at your house. They don’t care what it is as long as it’s with you.

There has to be boundaries, never spend time alone with the opposite gender, and you cannot spend time with all. But there will be those that gravitate toward you so invest in them and then turn them toward the others in your group. So that everyone is investing in someone.

We began small groups and it revolutionized our student ministry in Lake Charles. Find some way, I may not be my way but find a way to build relationships in your student ministry.

3. Hype- I know we don’t like this word but hype with substance to back it up works. Hype is just another way to say marketing. You can have the greatest youth room in the world, with a fantastic band but if no one is excited about it or knows about it, no one will ever come. Use whatever means you have to promote your events, get students excited about what is going on. It’s easier now that ever before to hype a ministry or event. Postcards are expensive but facebook and twitter are free.

Don’t be afraid to cast vision, cast outrageous vision and believe God for the results.

When you cast vision and mix it with action you will reap a harvest. Get into the schools, FCA, FCA and whatever else you can at the local schools and watch God work.

Students will be the avenue that ignites your entire church.

At ALWC we are building our future upon these 3 principles: Reach UP, Reach Out and Reach IN(Worship, Hype and Relationships)

Hope that helps!!

Noticed by God pt. 3

I remember one thanksgiving at my inlaws, when the boys were about 5 and 3.  Caleb had got into one of those wrestling matches with one of his uncles who was about 6 foot 2 and 240 lbs.  The wrestling match wasn’t going his way when Alex came running to his rescue.  Just when Alex was about to pounce on Uncle Jay’s back an arm swallowed him up.  If you could have only seen Alex’s face, it was a mix of panic and rage, he realized it was hopeless but he wasn’t back down.  That was his brother and if his brother was going down he was going down with him.

 

Loyalty cannot be demanded it must be earned.  You earn a person’s loyalty by being loyal.

 

Whether it’s in a marriage, ministry team, in the workforce, Loyalty is the most important ingredient of a successful team. I had a person that I did ministry with one time tell me that he was behind me 100 percent and that he had my back, I cringed because it was right after he had thrown me under the bus. Some people you don’t want behind your back because you are afraid that in their hand is a knife.

 

I hear people using that phrase all the time and I understand the sentiment behind the words but sometimes we need people walking alongside and in front of us ready to take the bullet.

 

That is what loyalty is really all about, taking bullets for one another.  Making sure that when one is down the other is covering, helping the fallen.

 

Loyalty is a easy concept to master as long as your teammates, your spouse, your co workers agree with you or you agree with them.  But life will provide opportunities for you to be disloyal and feel justified in your behavior.  The true test of loyalty will come when you don’t agree with the decisions of the leader your following, when everyone else is taking them down a notch.

 

How will you respond, how have you responded?

 

God has positioned you where you are for a purpose, he desires you to be loyal to the leadership he has placed you under.

 

If you are loyal then you will receive loyalty from those that surround you.

 

God notices people who are loyal.


Noticed by God pt. 2

As we walk this road called Life, there will be serious temptations and distractions that will try to lure you to walk it’s path.  Now every individual faces different tests and temptations that are literally tailor made for you, but the question of, Who are you trying to impress, will be a temptation for all of us.

I’ve had to seriously ask myself this question, because we all want to be noticed, we all tell ourselves if only they knew what I was capable of, if only I had a bigger platform, if only that record label would listen to my single. We desire to be noticed and that is not wrong, God placed ambition and desires in each of us.  But when we seek man’s eye instead of God’s eye, we begin to travel the wrong road.

I want God’s eye, I know He sees us all, but I want his Attention, I want to be noticed by God.

In a previous post, we talked about how a person that learns how to praise will attract the eye of God.  If you can add servanthood to praise, you will have gotten God’s full attention.  A few years ago, there was a big trend in ministries called the armor bearers.  I understand the concept and I believe that it did alot of good, but in my opinion we got it a little mixed up.  It turned into the young guys serving the elders, and I believe that my generation should respect and serve our elders in every way possible, but that’s not the servanthood that Jesus taught and portrayed.

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. – John 13

Servanthood is not all about the bottom serving the top or the top serving the bottom, but rather each of us having a heart to serve and us serving one another.  Jesus exemplified Servant Leadership, if we want to lead we first need to learn to follow.  But if we can’t follow well we will never lead well.

I’ve battled with the temptation to let someone else mop the gym floor or wash the dishes after a sunday dinner.  My reason is I have more important things to do like shepherding the flock or preparing a message and sometimes that is the case.  But I’ve tried(not successfully at time) to make this a mainstay in my ministry.  If I ask anyone to do anything, I need to be willing to do it.

I worked w/ Bishop Nugent and Pastor Massey for a few years and both were epic examples of Servant Leadership.  I never want to get puffed up in mind and get to the place where anything is beneath me.  I haven’t got there yet but I desire to be a Servant Leader.

Today find something that needs to be done and just do it, don’t wait until someone’s around or your Pastor asks you to do it.

JUST DO IT.

 

Will Hall Ministries

We are better together!!