Sunday, February 19, 2006


The Word:

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Additional Reading: 1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 2:15

"McChurch" By Randolph Koch

When you go to any of the local "fast food" restaurants you expect things to be fast, fresh, hot, and right now. After all, you want things the way you ordered and paid for them and nothing less, right?

It seems that many are taking this approach to the operation of the church and the weekly services. Sadly in the western church culture, "church" for many has become more about convenience with a "what can you do for me attitude." In some cases watered down truths are being communicated from the pulpit in order to appeal to the unchurched or to simply be popular with those who show up to listen. Then there's also a real emphasis in some churches or denominations on marketing for the sake of growing the numbers that fill the pews when the emphasis should be on filling God's kingdom and helping believer's grow in the faith and knowledge of God. We might call all of this and more the "McChurch syndrome". McChurch is a shallow imitation of the real thing where we typically want everything to be quick, right now and on our terms only. Or as one fast food chains slogan says it, "Have it your way!"

Another side effect of this syndrome is that the believer's typically do not function as the church or grow in relationship as God intended. The believer's tend to stay at a superficial level with one another when they should grow as the family of God. The more we allow this to happen the more we move away from Biblical Christianity and away from how God's church should operate.

As more western churches strive to have McChurch, it's evident that there's a simply a desire to be entertained. For example, some churches, although not all of them that focus on the "seeker sensitivity" movement, instead of having instruction in the Word they put on a production each week full of drama and music and that's what they call their worship or church service. It may be very emotionally moving and entertaining but unfortunately the Word and Worship are missing and not a priority of their "production" at all. This focus tends to aim on the experience of the individual in place of a genuine encounter with the Living God.

To clarify, drama can be an effective tool when used effectively to help illustrate a point in the sermon or the overall theme. However, If it's not used in this way it distracts from the preaching and instruction of the Word and can fall into the simply entertainment category Why? Because there's no focus or spiritual emphasis to it as it doesn't connect to the message from the Word.

Others in the new McChurch make it their task to make everything convenient to everyone. You may have heard of churches catering to people's schedules or need to spend as little time in church as possible by guaranteeing that the service will be 45 minutes or less. Wouldn't want anyone to miss their tee time or coffee run, now would we?! Now let's think for a moment, how much time do people spend doing other things like watching TV, working out, or doing nothing? We start to look at our watches and wonder when the service will be over if it goes a few minutes over an hour! Some of this may come across as condescending to some but let me state clearly, this is not the intention at all. Rather, it's to sadly state that the one-day we go to worship is the only day most believers spend doing anything for their relationship with God and with others in His family.

Another observation of the new McChurch is that you better not talk about things that have the potential to convict but only such things that make us feel good. Now don't get me wrong, we need to be encouraged but it has to be balanced. If you simply encourage and never challenge believers through the strong and tough things the Bible says as well, it doesn't profit the hearers, as they are never challenged to grow and be better followers and people for Him. The same goes to the other because if all someone hears is the strong and tough things - the perceived negatives, they will potentially feel oppressed or down but they should also be encouraged. Again, it's a balance that we need - a healthy balance of encouragement and challenge.

When McChurch takes place, church ends up being packaged in such a way that we end up glossing over the truths so no one is offended by what God's Word teaches. Furthermore, what's also happening more regularly is that some churches from small to the mega are feeding their flock junk food instead of the true regimen or full balanced meal, if you will, of God's Word. God's Word said this would happen and sadly we now know it is. This is perpetuated largely as many just settle for the cheap imitation that appeals to their own desire, feelings, comfort, and entertainment.

Don't trade the real thing for the wrong thing and if you're in a church today that simply entertains you, I pray that you hunger for more of God's Word and find a church that will provide this as the essential part of your growth and walk with God. Let me encourage you to find a Bible centered and Christ centered church. Don't settle for anything else. Let me also encourage you to establish and keep a personal study time in God's Word. Spend time with God regularly and make it a real priority.

Remember, Church has more to do with worshipping and meeting God and meeting the People of God, and simply actively being the church, than it has to do with being entertained or meeting in a specific building they meet in. There is absolutely no true church devoid of God, His Word or the people of God. We need to pray for the leadership in churches today and then hold them scripturally accountable to leading and directing God's flock under His authority and for His purpose and Glory.

Do you want fries with that? No thanks, lets take the real thing the way God instructs His Church in His Holy Word. Let's strive to resist the McChurch syndrome and instead be the Church and have Church the way God designed it.

Questions to Get Started With:

-How would you categorize the church you're currently a part of? Are they having genuine Church or McChurch?
-How do you think God sees the church you attend?
-What's the problem with the "McChurch Syndrome"?
-Is God's Word important to you?
-What motivates you to attend and be a part of church?
-What should motivate you?
-Do you go to weekly services to be entertained?
-Do you find yourself wanting to be only encouraged and never challenged?
-Do you go to weekly services to be fed and to be an active part of His Church?
-Do you uphold God's Word?
-Whose responsibility is it to uphold God's Word and sound doctrine?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dealing With Change

About a week ago it was announced that two of our Pastor’s at the church my family and I attend have resigned. They both are seperately being led on to other opportunities and will leave by the end of June. Two years prior to this the Senior – Founding Pastor was led to do other ministry for God after 18 years. In June, we will be without 3 positions until God and the various search committees find and call a Senior/Teaching Pastor, Worship Pastor, and Youth Pastor while other leaders, elders, etc. fill in the huge gaps that will be left.

Obviously, during these past two years and now on the heels of the news regarding more change, there have and will be a lot of growth opportunities or as I like to refer to them as, “Here we Grow again”, times.

During these times it seems a natural response for people to get anxious, nervous, possibly upset, or in some cases unfortunately they just give up and leave - none of which is healthy because God has a better way.

At times like these, I’m reminded again of the passage in Philippians where Paul encourages and instructs us with the following:

"Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:5-7(NASB)

Hang in there friend, pray, be thankful, make your requests known through prayer, and know that God will give you His peace! What an awesome lesson for us!

Through every circumstance God is at work. Through recent challenges whether through changes at church or trials in other areas of my life, I’m moved to pray more and more because God is at work and fretting over things doesn’t do me any good rather, it can make one down or depressed.

My prayer for those in this situation at our church or maybe you’ve stopped by to visit and you’re in the midst of a trial of life as well, I pray that you hang on and get on your knees and pray because God’s way is the better way.

Whether in the midst of what seems like a personal or other crisis, take it to God.

Then, get excited that God is moving and working things out in a way that you just can’t see yet. He allows change to happen for a reason and He’s bound to have bigger plans for you, your church, etc., with a result that will have a greater impact on you, the church, and the community He’s called you to live and serve in.

Don’t ever try to just “deal” with change on your own, rather, take it to God through Jesus Christ. He wants to hear from you and be the strength you need to help you through everything that life brings your way.

May His peace be with you now as you seek Him with everything that is within you. AMEN?!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When the Worship is Over the Service Begins

The Word:

Read: James 1:21-23, Romans 12:3-10
Additional Reading: Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 3:23-25

“When the Worship is Over the Service Begins” By Randolph Koch

Many a week goes by as we arrive at “church” to worship God, be exhorted from His Word and possibly serve in some capacity in ministry. Unfortunately some statistics state that there are a very small percentage of congregants that do serve at the church they regularly attend not to mention those who serve Him when they leave the building and go to school, work, or wherever they go.

Some come to church to be served and then leave the “worship service” to begin another week of, “It’s all about me.” It may be that some consider service someone else’s job and when we hear there’s a need we think, someone else will take care of it. Unfortunately if we have this attitude we forsake the fact that God may have wanted us or wants us to serve and that He has something for each of us to do as His workmanship. (See Ephesians 2:10)

On the other hand, there are those who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and actively serve selflessly instead of those who seem self-absorbed. If you are actively serving God and see pretty much everything in your life as an opportunity or act of service to Him, keep up the excellent work!

As a part of His creation you were created because it was God’s will that were born and you were created to live for God’s purpose and plan for your life. No matter your testimony, no matter your past, He has a distinct purpose for you! Furthermore, He’s given you gifts and talents you’ll discover by serving Him. It’s very clear that He wants you to use the gifts He’s blessed you with. Don’t cheat God, the Body of Christ, or others by withholding your gifts rather, invest your time in service to Him for His glory.

The purpose and service He has for you to fulfill is not just limited to church either! You can glorify Him through your work ethic, your character and your integrity. As we leave the church service we either go out into the mission field of our home, neighborhood, work to serve God and seek Him each day in the week ahead or we go to merely serve our interests and ourselves only.

Let’s be clear, you can merely attend church or you can actively be a part of The Church! Also, you can simply be a hearer of the Word and do nothing with what you hear, or you can be a hearer of His Word and then because of what you’ve heard, you can be a true doer of His Word by acting upon it with the help of the Holy Spirit! In either case hopefully you see that there’s a big difference in the conduct and end result.

As you enter each new week, you have a real privilege and opportunity to serve God with your life. You are to be a light to the world and use the gifts and talents He’s blessed you with to bring glory to Him through service to others and God Himself. Your life, your work, everything about you and every moment you’re awake is an opportunity to serve and worship Him. How you live your life, do your work, and much more can and should be done as an act of service and worship unto Him. Honestly, you’re not sacrificing anything by serving Him rather; you’re gaining much more by giving back to Him no matter what others may say. You’ll find that you’ll learn and grow in His wisdom and knowledge more as you put His Word into practice by being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. You will not see this by being one who sits back and lives just for themselves while others actively listen to Him and seek and serve Him all for His glory.

When you go to church, worship Him with everything you have and then remember that the real service begins when you leave the pew and go out and really be The Church and let the real service begin! Don’t let your service end when you leave the church service.

May you be found serving God as you leave the church building because, “When the Worship is Over the Service Begins!”

Questions to Get Started With:-Do you see your life as an act of worship and an act of service?
-Do you believe serving God with your life is important?
-What does being “His workmanship” tell you about service and His purpose for your life? (Eph. 2:10)
-How can you better serve God with the gifts and talents you’ve been given?
-If everyone has different gifts, how are those in the body of Christ to use their gifts? (Romans
-How are we to think of others? (Romans 12:3-10)
-What does it mean to be a doer of the Word?
(James 1:21-23)
-How are we to do our work and service?
(Colossians 3:23-25)


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Drinking from The Well

The Word:

Read: John 4:1-14 
Additional Reading:John 7:37-39, Philippians 4:13 Revelation 21:6-7, Revelation 22:17

“Drinking from The Well” By Randolph Koch
In today’s culture and climate, some would say that relying on someone else or dependence on anyone or anything is a crutch or a weakness. Whether you may agree or disagree with this statement I’d submit that it all depends on what or who you’re dependent on. As a Christian, dependence on God is not a crutch or weakness; rather, it’s that which makes us stronger as Christ is our strength and He continually strengthens us each day as we draw near to Him.

So many times in life we try to go through circumstances or deal with things all alone, or in our own strength. Society would teach that you’re only to rely on yourself and no one else. Some Christians may buy into that faulty thinking, however, we cannot nor are we designed to be totally alone. When will we learn this and stop fumbling through life and its many trials all-alone when God is always right there to strengthen and sustain us!? In addition, He's also placed the Body of Christ around us to support, build up, and care for us in every circumstance. The Body is also designed to be there for each other through, “the thick and the thin”, as the old saying goes. Most of all, God is always there.

At one point in my life I recall a specific day when things seemed as though everything was about to unravel. I was stressed and depressed and trying to do it all on my own. At that moment, I was prompted to get up from my desk at work and go for a quick "prayer walk" which I’m in the habit of doing. As I walked I began to pray, seeking God about all that I was going through. Then I paused for a moment and I remember to this day, His clear answer and response to my prayers.

"How much are you drinking from My well?" In other words, “How much are you drawing from my strength”? “Or are you just drawing from your own strength”?

I knew immediately why my life seemed so chaotic that week. I had hardly spent any time with Him. I wasn't in His Word seeking His direction and even my prayers weren't all together balanced. It was if I was only seeking what He could do for me rather than just seeking Him, sitting at His feet, learning, and listening to and for His guidance and strength.

His well represents salvation to those who haven't come to know Him yet and for the believer it represents life and constant strength in and through Him. Whichever place you are in today, you will never thirst again once you drink from His well, His Living water.

With this in mind, remember dear one that in the days when you feel down, depressed, or like your life is unraveling, these are the times when you need to all the more, pause and drink from His well, draw from His strength that He so freely gives as you seek Him. Of course, in the good and the bad days we need to seek Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes it would seem that it's in the times of trial, or hot water if you will, that we remember to seek Him. We need to remember to seek Him and draw from His well daily no matter the circumstance. It doesn't mean life will always be what we deem as “great”, but it does mean you will be drawing from Him, which is what you’re supposed to do.

He is all-powerful and His strength is limitless! On the other hand, If you try to do it all on your own, you’ll come up empty every time because, to be very honest, your own strength is very limited. Let us stop trying to go it alone, instead, let us seek Him more and know Him more.
At the beginning and the end of each day, may He find us drinking from The Well, His Well, His Living Water.

Questions to Get Started With:

-Have you read the main passage and additional passages yet?-Have you received Salvation/Drank from His well for the first time?
-If so, do you rejoice because of this?
-Do you realize that you have eternal life and nothing can ever separate from Him now that you’ve received salvation?
-As a Christian, do you draw deeply from His Well?
-Do you realize that you’ll never go thirsty again once you have drawn from His well?
-What do the passages of scripture teach you about Living Water, Eternal Life, Strength, etc.?
-Do you tend to rely solely on yourself, your own strength?
-If so, what changes will you start to implement immediately so you don’t keep doing so?-How might you help others draw more from His limitless well, rather than their own limited self?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! God’s has recently laid some things on my heart and I wanted to share some of it with you at the beginning of the New Year and as the first post of the A Shepherd’s Heart BLOG.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD”…
~Jeremiah 29:11-14b

God gives a promise through Jeremiah that although originally for Israel, I believe still holds true today. He does have a plan for you, He does want to protect/not harm you, He has a future for you and He is most definitely found when you seek Him with all of your heart! We often utilize this verse to encourage those who are making a transition such as graduating from School, moving into a new career, or other reasons. As we begin 2006, I’d like us to consider for a moment the flip side of this promise.

Let me explain, often times we sort-of line up before God with our Hands open ready to receive things from Him, and many preachers teach that we are to seek the things according to a prosperity theology/teaching. What I’d like to recommend is that we do the opposite in that we need to consider what we can do in service to God and His kingdom first and then consider His generosity and provision for us second.
(See Matthew 6:25-34 for further instruction)

Yes, He has a plan for you, but what will you do with that Plan? Or will you be willing to do His will according to His Plan? Will you be obedient? Secondly, yes, He does have a future for you, what will you do with that future? Will you simply seek out wealth, riches or the fountain of youth? Or will you seek His Kingdom and righteousness first and then He’ll add what He wants to your life? We’ll either use what He’s given us wisely, or we’ll squander it away like the prodigal son.

Let me encourage you this year and always to seek after Him first with all of your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. Seek to do His will and make Him known. Seek to love him with everything within you. Seek to serve Him and others first with your time, talents, and finances then consider yourself second. This may be tough at times but if you’re living your life just for yourself, your career, retirement, etc., then you’re really not living. Seek His kingdom first not just what He can give you. It’s time for a change right now and today is a Good day to begin changing and re-evaluating things. Let us pray for each other that we’d be obedient to His will and calling for our lives. You are His hands and feet, and you are His light to the world so live His will out in your life and seek to be right in the center of His will for your life!

May God richly bless you as you seek Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength in 2006 and beyond!