The Value of A Soul

I have to start this blog on the value of a soul with a story Pastor Rick Bezet told the staff at New Life Church in Conway, AR during a staff meeting. He said he would think so much about reaching the “next one”, looking for the “next one” that he prays for God to show him the “one” that he was speaking to in every service. No matter what the venue, the size of the audience or the location, he is always looking for the “one” that God has brought to that service for him to speak to.

We have an example in the Gospels in the form of a parable that Jesus told. It is the story of the lost sheep. It appears in Luke 15:4-7. In the Message version it says, “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

In this parable we have an example of the importance of the lost “one” to Jesus. And if it mattered that much to Jesus, it must matter to us. That is why this value is “The Value of A Soul” and not “The Value of Souls”. In the church we know instinctively that people matter to God. We say we exist to “seek and save the lost”, and we know we are called to “see souls saved”. But I am afraid that we have allowed the usage of the plural descriptive noun that we have generalized it to the point that we can easily excuse away our lack of action.

It is easy to value souls, the big picture, and not reach the homeless living behind the dumpster on our church parking lots. But when you value every single “ONE”, now you are looking at the world differently.

The Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, “Go into all the world and make disciples…” That is our mission on earth, but I want to challenge you to not make it so generic trying to reach everyone that we miss the ONE sitting in our services that need to have a friend, or the ONE serving us at our favorite restaurant that needs a prayer.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in his will not die, but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16) I love the fact that God could love the world so much to make the ultimate sacrifice of sending Jesus to die on the cross. I have heard the argument many times, “If he loved us that much, why did not send another?” Because, as a father, the ultimate act of sacrifice is not to throw yourself in front of the bullet, it’s to let your child take it. God loved us more than anything else. But don’t get lost in the text theologically. He loved the whole world, yes, but he also loves you and I, individually.

I believe that every person matters to God, that he knows the number of hair on your head. That he dies for every-ONE, so that no-ONE would have to die, but would have everlasting life.

People matter to God, therefore they MUST matter to us. We will do everything within our power to reach ONE more person. Because there is ONE more person that needs to know this life-giving message. ONE more person that is searching for something real.

Am I going to continue to grow a large church? Yes! As long as ONE more is out there we are going to do everything we can to reach them. We are going to, in the words of Pastor Greg Surrat of Seacoast Church, “Cast a wide net.” But we are never going to allow the numbers to be more important that the ONE.

It’s time for some people to stop huddling around the 99 and run after the ONE! We believe the Value of a Soul is the most important value that every church, ministry, and life should be built on. Who is the ONE Jesus has placed into your life? As Rick does when he speaks, let us walk into every situation, every venue, every environment and every gathering we find ourselves looking for the ONE. Then let’s have the courage and the drive to go after them, pulling them in with the love of Jesus Christ, who, by the way, loves THEM so much he put YOU in their path today…

Run After the One! 

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Vision VS Values

I have spent a good deal of time in the church world.  My wife, Deidre and I have been in full-time pastoral ministry since 1998.  It started when we moved everything we had from Elkton, MD, where we were youth pastors, to Port St. Lucie, FL to assume the pastorate of a church in South Florida.  We were young, energetic, and in some ways, very naive.  But what we lacked in experience we made up for in passion for the vision God had given us.

It didn’t take long to realize that vision was just not enough.  We learned this the hard way, over almost ten years of pastoral ministry in Florida.  We watched as pastors across the country fell into dark places or financial  indiscretions, moral issues, and even things that were just plain illegal.  We struggled personally with the desire to grow a church, and fell into the trap of following the newest ministry fad.  We tried to be all the “successful” preachers we knew.  I would even stand in front of the mirror on Saturday nights and “practice” the right walk, cadence and timber.  None of this seemed to make any difference.  We still struggled in developing a healthy, growing congregation.

I became a church junky.  I read all the newest trends, could tell you the numbers and the stats of growing churches.  I knew the newest language, culture and trends.  I dressed in my Buckle shirts, Aldo shoes, and cool jeans.  We had the look, the vibe, and the groove… yet we were still struggling.  What else could we possible do?  We prayed and fasted – we were told to pray more, so we did.  We went to conferences and listened to every podcast and read every resource we could find, still nothing…

Then one day it hit me.  What we, and many other pastors, were lacking was not training – I had been to a great college.  It was not passion or spirituality – I spent many nights on my face crying out to God for direction and help.  What I lacked were the values in ministry that would allow us to grow a successful, solid, and healthy ministry that would stand the tests of time and storms of life.  I was like a ship being tossed by the winds, one style and strategy followed by another depending on the crowd I was being influenced by.  What I had to determine was what I was going to build my life and ministry on.

I began to see that there are three things you can build your ministry or organization on.  You may be saying, yes but the most important is Jesus.  I would say you are right – conceptually.  But Jesus is not the foundation, he is the Chief Cornerstone from which the foundation is built.  You still have to go though the process of building your own foundation.  Trust me, I was not lacking Jesus as my cornerstone.  He was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega of everything I was.  What I was not grasping was what came after that.

So the three things you can choose to build on are:

          1. Personality
          2. Vision
          3. Values

The first, Personality, is the most shallow and volatile of the three.  It is so because it is built on the ability and performance of a person.  If the person is doing good, at the top of his/her game, everything is going good.  The moment the person begins to stumble the entire system begins to unravel.

We have all seen this at one time or another.  We have watched as businesses, churches, ministries and even politics seemed to rise over night just to fall just as fast.  They were built on the charismatic personality traits of an individual.  

The second, Vision, is the place where most organizations stop.  This is where I stopped, and it ultimately hindered my success.  Vision, while deeper and more stable than personality, is still not the most solid of the three.  When you build on Vision you can come to the end and still not have answers to some very important questions.  What happens when the vision is fulfilled?  What happens when life steps in and the vision is no longer applicable?  Where do you go then?  In order to become a healthy organization you have to move to the third, deepest and most stable of the three possible foundations – Values.

Values are like the strong support under a skyscraper.  They will keep you rooted and planted, even in the stormy times.  They will give you substance to build on.  They are deeper than personality in that they are not built on performance.  They outlast vision because they never change.  Situations, culture, time and space do not effect them.  They are not based on what is cool or trendy, they are just the right thing to do – always.

So, armed with this new information, we set out to develop a ministry that had sustainability and would be effective.  We set out to determine who we were, who God was calling us to be, and to lead from that platform instead of performance, or even inspiration.

We prayed and studied, and then did it again, until we developed the 10 Core Values that we now live by.  They are:

1. The Value of a Soul.
2. The Value of the Local Church.
3. The Value of Excellence.
4. The Value of Innocence.
5. The Value of Relationships.
6. The Value of Balance.
7. The Value of Integrity.
8. The Value of Community.
9. The Value of Generosity.
10. The Value of Faith.

Over the next few blogs I am going to dive into each of these values and show you why they are pillars, foundations, in our family and ministry.  Why they make up the footers in my life – personally, and why you need to define your own values.  I want to encourage you to not just clip and paste these. You are welcome to use them, but put in the time necessary to develop your own set of Values.  Then right them down, enlist others to hold you accountable to them, and watch as God helps you build something great on this firm foundation.

Remember this tweetable phrase, “Your personality will open doors for you, your vision will propel you, but only your values will sustain you!”

God Bless,

JT

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Should Christians Drink?

 
The Elephant in the Room
There is a lot of controversy and debate over the acceptance of, or abstinence from, the use of alcohol. It has been a topic of debate but I believe the Bible is very clear on the subject, and does not leave room for personal interpretation.

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