Archive for December, 2009

Dangers to Ministry Leaders

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Danger1 Dangers to Ministry Leaders

I have been in ministry a number of years, serving in small, midsize, and large churches. There are ministry mine fields all over, and one misstep can ruin your family, ministry and influence that God has allowed you to develop. Here are some DANGERS to ministry leaders that I have observed over the years. Our ministries are in danger when:

1. We love ministry more than we love Jesus and the people to whom we minister.

2. We are busy with busyness than busy enjoying the joy of our salvation.

3. Our spouses and families get our leftover energy instead of our best selves.

4. Our spouses and children see more joy in our faces for ministry than for them.

5. We begin to believe and embrace our own press clippings.

6. Our primary motives for ministry are applause, recognition, and idolization from our peers.

7. We allow our accomplishments to cause us to accept and live with “reasonable” sins in our lives.

8. We allow our abilities and gifting to cause us to become less dependent on God.

9. We allow our addiction to success to cut our appetite for our desire for Jesus.

10 We allow work to replace solitude and activity to replace prayer.

11. We let the addiction to the praises of people to keep us from living the truth and convictions of God.

What other dangers to ministry leaders can you add to this list? With which danger(s) do you most identify? How can you guard yourself against these dangers in ministry?

Popularity: 13% [?]

Pray For Us

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

DSC025814 300x225 Pray For Us

As many of you are aware, I have accepted the call to be the Senior Teaching Pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing, Michigan. For those of you who prayed with and for us, we are thankful to God for you, your prayers and encouragement while we went through the lengthy and productive process. Although the process is over, the work is just beginning. We are excited about the adventure, but we know we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Here are some areas for which we ask you to pray:

1. Transition grace and wisdom
2. That we find the right school for our children
3. That our family builds a strong web of relationships
4. That God would increase my Cultural Intelligence Quotient
5. That I would practice good and wise exegesis of Trinity Church
6. That my Life Accounts (Faith, Priorities, Health, Family, Finance, Friends, and Service) will remain full and healthy
7. That we would remain connected to Jesus in the midst of the transition
8. That I would have a strong implementation of my Ideal Work Week
9. That God would lead us to the right house
10. That God would use us to bring many people to Jesus, for his glory
11.  That we would laugh a lot and have lots of fun

What transitions are you going through in this season of your life? How can my family and I pray for you during this transition time?

Popularity: 33% [?]

Save Me from Me

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Lord, do not leave me to myself, but save me from myself, and help me to daily depend on your divine power.

This prayer expresses a healthy distrust in my own ability to resist temptation or stand up under trial. It acknowledges my inclination to sin and to run away from trouble and adversity. This is a prayer of humility and total dependence on God to preserve me under heavy trials and seductive temptations. When I trust myself to always make good and godly choices in the face of trials, temptations, and distractions, I live a delusional existence and typically fail miserably.

This is a prayer that recognizes and exposes my spiritual weaknesses, flaws in character, a desperate need for God’s daily deliverance from the power of sin. Moreover, it is a prayer for guidance and strength to live close to Jesus through the Word of God, community and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I hope you will join me in praying this prayer.

What is your take on this prayer? What part of it is most relevant to you?

Popularity: 32% [?]

“83 Things”

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

83 Things 1 83 Things

Every now and then God raises up someone with a courageous voice to say some things that many people are whispering about in the pews, but will not say publicly for fear of being spiritually black-listed. Well, I believe God has raised up such a person in Milan Ford. In writing this book, he had the courage to tackle the “sacred traditions” of the Black Church which may prevent people from entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus. Here is my brief review of an insightful book.

The Title is clever and is a superb attention-grabber. It aroused my curiosity and begged me to say: “I wonder if the thing I wish the Black Church would stop doing, made the cut.” Holding up your index finger when you’re leaving worship service didn’t make the cut. I was pretty salty for a minute about that. Lol!

83 Things I Wish the Black Church Would Stop Doing is an easy read. I believe this is the case because Milan, a man who knows culture, composed short, yet insightful chapters with culturally relevant and chapter appropriate images. I still can’t get “Heel Fear” out of my mind. Moreover, Milan flat out knows how to write. His choice of words, conversational and humorous style and tone, engaged my mind and ear. I read it in one sitting, but will return to it to gain further insight. Though all of the aforementioned reasons made it easy to read, don’t mistake easy reading for a pedestrian critique of the Black Church. Here is the thought that kept churning in my mind: “Milan is attempting to remove obstacles of tradition so the Black Church can continue to accomplish Jesus’ mission.”  Therefore, this book is missional in nature. Any time your church or organization becomes serious about and razor, laser-focused on accomplishing its mission, it will have to deconstruct sacred cows, traditions and cultural mores. In a non-judgmental but encouraging manner, Milan gently attempted to deconstruct many Black Church traditions and even the phrase itself, and point us in the direction of reaching unreached, disillusioned people for Jesus.

Whether or not you agree with all of the 83 things he named (I had a few questions on a few), you will close the book with a new resolve to remove obstacles which prevent people from seeing Jesus. You will close the book asking: “What do we need to do to re-image our church, Sunday School, and youth ministry, so that lost people will not be distracted from seeing the real Jesus and the real church.

In no particular order, my favorite chapters include, but are not limited to these:

Heel Fear
The Color Purple
Hello . . . Visitor Identification
Mission Paragraphs
Generation P
Christmas Worship Service
Watch Night
Devil Love
Athletic Ministry
The “Black Church” Phrase (This chapter points us back to the title and drives home the point of the book. In my opinion, the chapter is worth the purchase of the book)

I enjoyed reading 83 Things I Wish the Black Church Would Stop Doing, and I am fairly certain you will enjoy it and learn something as well. It will challenge you tear down religious and even cultural walls, and encourage you to define the church as Jesus defined it.

I only wish the chapters were printed in color. I believe that would have given more richness to the images Milan chose to use. This probably had more to do with resources than the actual plan for the book.

Popularity: 14% [?]

It’s Official!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Here is a portion of the letter the elders of Trinity Church sent me yesterday, extending a call to be their next Senior Teaching Pastor:

Dear Marvin,

This is an important holy moment in the history of Trinity Church. The deacons have completed the counting of the ballots and the members of Trinity Church have overwhelmingly approved you as the next Senior Teaching Pastor of Trinity Church as recommended by the Elders.

Therefore, Trinity Church extends the call to you to become our Senior Teaching Pastor. We expect you to lead our Teaching Team and preach twenty-five to thirty times a year in our weekend services. You will also become one of our Governing Elders.  The Church is eager to see how God will use your teaching and leadership gifts in transforming lives into His image and equipping us for the work of the ministry. In addition there will be many opportunities besides the weekend services for you to advance the work of the Kingdom both inside and outside the walls of our Church. We are excited about what God will do in our midst through your ministry among us.

We ask that you would acknowledge the acceptance of the call to be the Senior Teaching Pastor of Trinity Church. As soon as we receive your response, we will inform our Church.

In Christ,

Here is my response to the call that the elders of Trinity Church extended to me:

Dear Elders of Trinity Church:

I greet you in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ.

I am writing you in response to your letter extending the call to me to be Trinity’s new Senior Teaching Pastor.  As we have inquired of God before and throughout this process, we strongly sense God leading us to serve God among and with the people of Trinity Church. Therefore, it is with great joy and excitement that I, along with my family, accept the call extended to me to be the Senior Teaching Pastor of Trinity Church. We are excited about how God will use us among you and you in our lives. Here is a verse that I desire to live out among you:

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.  And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. 1 Peter 5:1-4

Because the Tomb is Empty
Marvin L. Williams, Teaching Pastor
Tabernacle Community Church

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Saying YES to His NO!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

We find it relatively easy to thankGod for saying yes to prayers we have prayed – healing from sickness, promotion on job, admission into college of your choice, spiritual growth, financial freedom, healing of marriage, and so many more amazing blessings. But, when was the last time we genuinely thanked God for saying NO to our requests? I shudder to think of the possible smears and cumulative blots on, and dead-ends and culde-sacs in my life, had he not said NO.

When I look back over my life and see all the times God said NO, and how he saved me from ship wrecking my life against the icebergs of unwise choices, I rejoice and thank him for his amazing preserving grace. In short, I am learning how to say YES to God’s NO.

When was the last time you genuinely thanked God for telling you NO? In what areas has God said NO to you, and when you see the big picture, you were glad that he did? How are you doing saying YES to God’s NO?

Popularity: 26% [?]

Write a Letter

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Write a Letter Write a Letter

Sometimes I can forget to show appreciation to people who have impacted my life and my ministry. I don’t have a lot of money to buy nice, extravagant, and individual gifts for everyone, though I wish I did. I suspect you don’t either, but you wish you could.

However, we do possess the art of expression – words, cards, cds (old skool cassettes), meaningful Bible verses, applause and ovations, dedicating a blog post, highlighting their influence in your life, and so many other creative ideas. One simple but powerful expression I use often is writing letters to the people that have spoken powerful words into my life. It is a powerful medium to help others understand how much you love and appreciate them.

Here is an exercise: Think about several people who have had a personal and positive impact in your life, and sit down and write them a letter, expressing your appreciation for their powerful influence in your life. If the person is deceased, it would still be healthy and therapeutic to write him/her a letter expressing your profound gratitude to God for them.

What do you think of this exercise? What other creative expressions have you used to express appreciation and gratitude to people who have impacted you for good?

Popularity: 7% [?]

Seizing Your Moment

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Over the next couple days I would like to discuss what it means to seize the divine moments God brings our way. God presents us with divine moments and opportunities each day. He longs to touch reality with eternity, and he wants to use us to do it. What does it take to seize the vision that God has given you? What does it take to embrace God’s vision as our own and impact the world for his glory?

I believe it begins with a divine encounter with God himself. Seizing our divine moment seems to always begin with being seized by the Holy. His love and grace arrest our attention and call us from a life of sin, bottom-feeding living, and selfish quests, to a higher purpose of living – living in covenant relationship with Him and pursuing his mission and vision.

Has his grace seized you? Melted your heart?

Read and ponder these verses: Acts 9:1-6; Philippians 3:12

Popularity: 14% [?]

My Vows

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

dsc02102 300x225 My Vows

I wanted to share this with you on our 15th year anniversary, but I did not have a copy with me in Aruba, plus the server was down at the resort. When Tonia and I were married 15 years ago, on the 10th day of July, 1994 @ 3:25 p.m., this is what I said to my bride:

To the beautiful one I stand before
It is you and you alone
I promise to love, cherish and adore

I make a solemn but joyful pledge this day,
before God and men
to love you in every way

It’s a love that is not wrapped in empty words,
but one that is seen
and not just heard

My vow this day is to provide and give
And a godly life before God, you and our children,
I will strive to live

I promise to wrap your delicate frame
in my arms when you are confused and afraid
and constantly remind you that His grace
is greater than our need.

I vow to look to and depend on the Lord of Hosts
and when an army of troubles come
in His power I will boast.

My love is tainted and incomplete
But in our most difficult times, when it will be hard to love,
I promise his love and grace we will seek.

I promise to trust Christ to guide the vessel of our marriage safely to port
Because never a mission have I known him to fail or abort

In the mind of God, from the very start,
Man and wife should become one flesh and never part.

So, to you and you only I will now cleave
and vow this day, except for death, to never leave

So when eyes are dimming and hair is graying
May I be found ever saying
I’m committed, to thee alone, I’m committed

When steps are shortened and beauty fading,
May I be found ever saying
I’m committed, to thee alone, I’m committed.

When these eyes are forever closed and my life’s breath cease,
May the testimony of my life be:
He was committed. To her alone, he was committed.

Over the last fifteen years, I have attempted to be faithful to live out these vows. But, I know I have failed, many times, (more than I care to recall), in living up to these lofty words. Today, I am working harder and harder to live in obedience to God’s role for me as a husband and embody these words that I spoke over 15 years ago.

What vows – marital or otherwise – have you made? Are you living up to the vows you made? What’s been the most difficult and the most rewarding part in living up to the vows you made?

Popularity: 46% [?]

Why I Don’t Have a “Jump Off”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

hands2 Why I Dont Have a Jump Off

By the grace and power of God, I have been married and faithful to my beautiful, funny and very smart wife for fifteen years. By his grace and power, I plan to remain married and faithful to her until death separates us. Now, please hear me. I don’t say this with pride, overconfidence, self-sufficiency or sitting in the judgment seat; I know I can fall and fail like so many others have. But, I say it with humility and gratitude to God. I think I have some compelling reasons why I have not had and don’t plan to have a “jump off.”

1. I made a covenant/commitment to love and honor my wife. When I said I do before God and those 300 witnesses, I meant what I said. I promised to love, honor, cherish and to forsake all others. To have a “jump off” would dishonor Tonia, break the covenant I made, and render my vows as empty words.

2. God has allowed me, over the years, to build a good reputation and to have a modicum of positive influence. To have a “jump off” would topple and ruin, in a minute, all that God has allowed me to build over a long period of time. It’s just not worth disappointing so many people and losing my voice of influence.

3. I enjoy living and keeping all my body parts. A twitter friend of mine (David Turner) said, ‘A “jump off will get you “jumped on.”‘ Lol! So, there are some physically compelling reasons for me not to have a “jump off.”

4. I have three beautiful children, who look up to their father and think that he is some sort of hero to them. I really try to live up to their expectations, but I know I fall short often. But, in this area, I don’t want to have to sit them down, take off the cape, and try to explain to them why my actions were less than heroic, why I hurt their mother in such a deep way, and why I broke their trust. That’s a conversation I would prefer not to have with them.

5. It is just too physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially draining to keep up with lies I’m supposed to tell, two or three sets of places I’m supposed to be, gifts I’m supposed to buy, lines I’m supposed to have down, and important dates I’m supposed to remember. I’m just becoming proficient in all of this with Tonia. To try and do this for more than one, I’m just not that good, and neither do I want to be.

6. For me to have a “jump off” would sully the sacredness of marriage and break the heart of my heavenly Father. I still believe that marriage is a sacred and holy relationship designed by God, and I want mine to be a true and clear picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. As for breaking the heart of my heavenly Father, I am trying to do that less and less.

It is time for us to take the energy and creativity we put into maintaining “jump offs” and redirect and reposition it toward working on, protecting and saving our marriages.

What are some other compelling reasons to remain faithful to your spouse? What practical things would you suggest or do you have in place to guard yourself from having an affair or committing adultery?

BTW, if you see me doing something, saying something, writing something or relating to someone in a way that is deemed inappropriate, you have the freedom to check me.

Popularity: 41% [?]