Worth the fight (First in a two-part blog inspired by the movie, Creed)

boxer and fist dramatic ighting

Do you ever have those weeks when you’re short-fused, and you pick fights too readily with your spouse, your brother, or someone at work who just bugs the heck out of you? Can you feel the frustration, annoyance, and anger bubbling up and coming out of your mouth, while, even as it’s happening, you know you should be exercising more self-restraint, more love, and more patience?

But what about those fights worth fighting? What if we could channel all of our energy into life’s bigger and better fights?creed and rocky

“Hey, yo, Adrian!” My Italian roots come out in my love for the Rocky series. Six Rocky movies provide us a chance to root for the underdog in the fight(s) of a lifetime. And now we have a new underdog to cheer for in Creed. We watch as Donny/Adonis Creed, an unknown in the boxing world, fights his way to respect in the ring while Rocky fights for his life against cancer.

In boxing movies, there’s always a big fight to gear up for, the deck is always hopelessly stacked against our protagonist, and sacrifice is a requirement. But often more important than the matchups in the ring are the characters’ figurative battles. What do they let go of, and what is worth fighting for? Donnie Creed, who didn’t want to be associated with his heavyweight champion father, eventually decided he could give up the internal struggle about his identity and his name in order to go forward as a boxer. When priorities are decided and determination is set, fighters can channel their strength, courage, and perseverance toward the big fights.

What are some things worth fighting for? These are some that come up for me. How about for you?

  • A closer walk with God
  • A great marriage
  • Strong kids in my church and my community
  • Authenticity

What are some things worth fighting against? How about these?

  • Prejudice
  • Injustice
  • Apathy
  • Guilt and self-condemnation
  • Greed

Good fights can appear unachievable and too drawn-out for normal life. They are meant for other people, not us. They don’t belong in our daily planners. (Monday, June 5th: clean the garage, finish presentation for boss, get groceries, take dog to vet at 4 p.m. … oh yeah, and don’t forget to fight for a better marriage and attack apathy in my community.) But there are ways we can identify and fight the worthy fights in our lives.

  • Ask God to show us how we’re “winning battles but losing the war.” In other words, where are we spending too much of our energy, time, emotion, and work? And where would God redirect our energy instead? This can be done on a daily basis to counteract the common tendencies of either exerting too much control (“I have a schedule; I have a task list; I know best exactly what I need to do today.”) or the tendency to allow our routines to control us without a second thought (“Hmm, well, it’s Tuesday, so I guess I’ll do all my normal Tuesday stuff.”). God has specific plans and instructions for us to complete at specific times. God’s fights are typically not the things we would think to put on a daily to-do list. But God will alert us if we seek to do His will. Ask God the following questions each morning, expecting and waiting for specific responses: “God, how can I connect with you today? What specifically can I do today for renewal and strength? What can I do today for the missions you have given me? How can I fight worthy fights today, and let the rest go?”
  • Ask God to equip us for the fight. A good fight involves self-sacrifice, dedication, self-acceptance and forgiveness when we fail, perseverance, transformation, discernment, conviction, strength, and more self-confidence than we are capable of mustering on our own. A good fight also involves having the right people in our corner (more on this in Part II: Who’s in Your Corner?). God will give us the strength and the tools we need to fight the good fights. “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” Psalm 18:32

Fight the good fight of the faith!

What Is Rooted?

green tree with a massive root system

The first-ever ROOTED Church Planting Networkers Conference on April 19/20 will pull together ministry leaders interested in planting churches as well as those who have successfully done so. At this conference, many different models will be discussed, including plants in suburban settings as well as urban and rural ones. Restart models will be presented along with plants and multi-sites.

“My hope for this event is that people interested in church planting will leave encouraged and equipped,” shares Rosario (Roz) Picardo, Executive Pastor of New Church Development at Ginghamsburg Church who is leading Ginghamsburg’s church planting network efforts.

12193570_832708480172166_2161915082658238784_nPrior to joining Ginghamsburg in 2014, Pastor Roz founded Embrace Church, an urban church plant in Lexington, Kentucky, with no money, no people and no building. An insightful retelling of his own personal story can be found in his book, Embrace: A Church Plant That Broke All The Rules.

Pastor Roz’s insights on transforming the church in a post-Christendom world context uses Embrace Church as a case study to show what can happen in a true bi-vocational, church-plant context.

“Church planting is not for the faint of heart,” continues Pastor Roz who had his car stolen and sold for 20 bucks, his tires slashed, his house vandalized and his life threatened because of his dedication to carrying out the call God placed on his heart.

Pastor Roz is also the author of Ministry Makeover, in which he builds a compelling case as to why embracing bi-vocational missionary methods to implement new congregations is the most viable way forward for reaching the least and the lost.
“We need each other. We need connections and resources; and that is exactly what will come from this networking conference.” To begin connecting, be sure to check out the ROOTED Conference page on Facebook. You can also register online.

Church planters and future church planters are encouraged to bring their teams. “After leaders leave the conference, we want them to have their team around them to dream,” continues Roz, an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church holding a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry from United Theological Seminary.

Meet Pastor Jacob Armstrong73429_10200383331176285_408561503_n

Rooted presenter & practitioner

Jacob is the founding pastor of Providence Church, a United Methodist church plant in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Jacob is passionate about what he calls “Worship Without Walls”- taking God’s love beyond the walls of a building to places of need in the community and world. Providence hosts about 1,200 of its neighbors for worship each Sunday in a middle schoo
l but has also met in a city park, a local hotel, a movie theater and an elementary school. The church is currently constructing a new home.

“My heart is for church planting and church planters,” shares Pastor Jacob. “Not everyone is called to this work. I find a great energy and spirit when gathered with those who unashamedly want to see new people connect with Jesus.”

“My hope for those who attend this networking conference is for them to be encouraged to see themselves as the experts in their community,” shares Pastor Jacob. “There is no cookie cutter for how to do ministry in your context. You are the one who will have to listen and learn. You are the missionary.”

During Jacob’s talk on Adaptive Ministry in Different Contexts, he will share some tools to help folks do the work. “At ROOTED, I hope you think deeply, pray hard and listen attentively to give you renewed energy for where God has called you and a new network of people with whom you can do this work.”

Having been in the work of church planting for several years, Jacob will bring an honesty about the struggles of church planting as well as the beautiful things that can seen in this kind of work. He will share about the bumps and bruises he has encountered as a way of
encouraging this who are also in this difficult work. “I know for me that I will be encouraged in the mutual sharing of God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness,” he shares. “Jesus Christ’s church is very much alive!”

Jacob is the author of six books; his book The New Adapters: Shaping Ideas to Fit Your Congregation was written in partnership with Ginghamsburg Lead Pastor Mike Slaughter and Reverend Adam Hamilton from The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

The One Sin Pastors Get Away With (and Why They Shouldn’t)

While the church debates what is sin and what is holy, there is one sin that has largely been ignored over the past few decades. It’s subtle and starts out small, but can become uncontrollable. I’m talking about the sin of pride resulting from success.

One of the most dangerous things a person can experience is success. Much is written about overcoming failure and setbacks, but we disregard their opposite. With a glance at what has been written on the topic, we might conclude that success, especially success in ministry, has no pitfalls. It is the goal, after all. We don’t set out in ministry to be unsuccessful. The metrics the institutional church uses are butts and bucks. Butts in seats when measuring attendance, and bucks that go toward the annual budget. The churches and clergy that make the top twenty-five lists and whom are considered the most influential are those with the most butts and bucks. They receive the awards and the accolades. If you haven’t yet discovered what I’m talking about, just go to a pastors’ conference if you feel so blessed to do so 🙂pride_teaserThe constant comparisons and questions center on attendance numbers and trends, annual budget, and size of staff and salaries.

Success itself is not the sin. The greatest danger of success is thinking you achieved it on your own. If we are not careful, pride can come before a fall. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism believed that the root of all evil was pride. It was pride that caused Satan’s fall from heaven because he thought he knew better than God. It was pride that Adam and Eve thought God was holding out on them in the Garden of Eden that caused their fall. It was pride that caused the Tower of Babel to crash and burn. And it is pride that tempts us to think we have arrived on our own and leads us to sin.

In the Christian classic, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says:

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…
… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.

As a pastor, truth be told, I have experienced a ton of failures and a few “successes.” When I have failed I have turned to mentors and colleagues for counsel. They’re the ones who have encouraged me not to give up, talking me off the proverbial ledge. But nobody ever told me how to handle success, especially in ministry. The need to be grounded with a Christ-like humility is what the world needs more than anything else. So how do I stay grounded, even in times of success? Here’s what I’m learning.

Give Thanks to God: Thank God when a prayer is answered and give glory to Him. There are so many times when God has answered a prayer, and I get so excited I forget to say thank you. My parents used to hound me about giving thanks all the time when I was growing up, always “please” and “thank you.” We are typically pretty good at saying please, but when a prayer is answered, we thanklessly move to the next item on our grocery list. If we recognize that God has created us with a specific set of capabilities, that He has gifted us with specific ways we can bless others, that He has allowed us to work with Him on Kingdom work and has given us specific missions and instructions to follow … If we recognize all of this, we have to begin to admit that there were some pretty essential things that, though they may look like they were done by our own power to others, really had nothing to do with our “own” work and strengths to begin with! Thank God for allowing and enabling us to take part in His work!

Give Thanks to others: Whenever we experience a victory on my campus, I have learned to thank my paid and unpaid servants and staff. Without them, I would be lost and couldn’t do what I do. Every team member is valuable no matter what the role or scope of responsibility. Again, we know that God brings people together at various times and in various settings, for His specific purposes that we could not fully comprehend or achieve on our own. Although we may find ourselves with the title that says, “I’m the leader of this group,” and while, sometimes, if we’re completely honest, we may not even understand the contributions someone else is there to make, we must acknowledge and give thanks that God is the project manager and the casting director. Recognize those who work hard behind the scenes. I believe that as leaders, we can’t say “thank you” enough to our teams, our support people, and even to the people who allow us to serve them.

Give thanks to those who will tell you the truth: When an individual, organization, or church experiences success, the resulting pride can make it harder to ask the tough questions, for others to be willing to tell us the truth, and for us to hear the truth, no matter how much we might not want to. I know the people in my life who love me the most are willing to be honest with me. Of course, trust has to be at the foundation. If you trust where someone is coming from and know they care about you, the truth in what they are saying will still sting in the short term, but it will soothe your soul in the long run. There are many voices in the Church that want to be “prophetic” and speak the truth, but don’t bring their truth with an ounce of love. Truth tellers come in the context of relationship.

God knows the plans He has for us. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to bring us hope and a future. God wants our success, especially in those areas where He has gifted us, where He has placed us, and where He has directed and commissioned us. But God also wants others to see that—even as successful leaders—He is doing His work through us; we are not doing it alone! Even as the best of the best in whatever ministry we may do, there’s no miracle in doing merely human-sized tasks separate from God. When others see God working, God’s work is accomplished. We can help other see God’s work by remaining humble and thankful—for God and for the work of others—in our moments of success.

Betrayal

betrayalBetrayal happens in many different ways. Have you ever loved someone who cheated on you and broke you heart? Unfortunately, this is all too common. If you think about it, country music and Taylor Swift wouldn’t exist without betrayal. How about a parent who walked out on you or broke a promise? Have you ever been betrayed by an employer who laid you off or promised you a promotion you didn’t get? Have you been betrayed by a well-meaning Christian you confided in, but who told others what you had shared in confidence? The feeling of betrayal is a mix of being punched in the stomach, gasping for air because you can’t breathe, having your heart sliced open and your identity and security ripped away from you.

Why does betrayal hurt so darn much? It makes sense when we realize that an enemy cannot betray you.

Betrayal comes from someone close. Click To Tweet Author John Le Carré once said, “Betrayal can only happen if you love.”

Jesus endured the intense pain of loving and being betrayed by his friend, Judas; this betrayal cut deeper than any whip could. Judas was not a random stranger to Jesus or even just one of Jesus’ many fans (when you turn water into wine, feed 5,000 of your closest friends, and raise the dead, you create a sizeable fanbase). No, Judas was a friend, then a follower, someone Jesus prayed all night about when discerning who should be his disciples. The betrayal stung for Jesus because of the time he spent with Judas, the meals shared, the lessons Jesus taught with Judas by his side, and the common vision between them (even if Jesus’ vision was perfect and Judas’ incomplete).

How do we get over betrayal?

It’s not a walk in the park. It’s easier said than done. But here are some starting points:

  1. Identify the person who has betrayed you. This could be an ex, a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a boss, a spouse, a close friend, or anybody else whom you trusted.
  2. Honestly address your feelings about the situation. Many times we sweep things under the rug and pretend like nothing is wrong.
  3. Do the work of forgiveness. I say “work” because forgiveness is hard work. Forgiveness is process. Forgiveness sometimes needs to be undertaken again and again for the same betrayal. Often, even when a betrayal is healed, it leaves a scar.

 

When we talk about betrayal, our minds may automatically jump to the times we’ve been on the receiving end. But what about those times we’ve betrayed the trust of someone close to us? If we’re truthful, we’ll admit that, at one point or another, we’ve played the role of Judas to someone in our life at one point or another.

I have been Judas to a person…

  • If I ever cheated on someone
  • If I ever stolen from someone
  • If I ever gossiped about something a friend told me in confidence
  • If people were slandering my friend in public and I remained silent
  • If I have cancelled on meeting a friend because I got a “better offer” to hang out with somebody cooler

 

So what do we do if we’ve played the role of Judas?

  • Pray for those we have betrayed.
  • Consider writing a letter to someone you have betrayed asking for forgiveness.
  • Apologize and seek the forgiveness of someone you’ve betrayed, as long as it does no harm to you or others.
  • If you prayerfully discern that it is in the other person’s best interest or your own not to seek forgiveness directly, ask God to forgive you and to grant the other person peace.

 

We have all been betrayed and we have all done our own share of betraying, whether we admit it or not. We have been hurt and we have hurt others. The good news is we don’t have to stay a victim or a betrayer. We can experience the pain of a Good Friday death but also the healing of the glorious Resurrection.

 

Don’t Throw In The Towel

There are times in life when it becomes easy to give up and throw in the towel. As a kid, if you ever played a sport or an instrument what we’ve heard often times ringing in our ears is “practice makes perfect.” How often are we perfect at something? We may be good, but perfect? It seems like no matter how hard we try at things, we can’t ever be quite perfect because, despite being able to control ourselves, wdontthrowtowele can’t control the outside variables or the outcome. What happens when you try something over and over again and feel like a failure?

The marriage that is in constant turmoil…

The never-ending search for Mr. or Mrs. Right…

The business start up that never took off…

Getting passed over for a promotion at work…

The seemingly endless struggle to get out of debt…

Working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle…

When we experience continual failures in any area of our lives, the temptation to give up grows stronger. No matter how hard we work or try, the results never seem to come quickly enough for us. Even when we work a plan or strategy, prepare harder than anybody else, the results can still disappoint us. So what’s the answer? It’s the gift of stubbornness. When I was discouraged early on in my ministry, a pastor friend of mine told me only half in jest that it’s actually a spiritual gift I should pray for. When we have done all we can do, the greatest gift we can give ourselves, others and most of all God is to stand tall and not back down. Click To Tweet

The famous tennis star, Andre Agassi once said, “Success and failure are so often the result of outside factors, things beyond our control, so you need to keep your mind on the few things you can control. Learn to love the process, the work, and disconnect your ego from the results. The earlier you learn this, the more peaceful you’ll be, and peace, not success, is the goal.”

The truth is I know many people who have given up right before they experienced a breakthrough. The question we have to ask ourselves is how do we define success or failure? Failure doesn’t have to define our lives; it’s a moment and doesn’t have to be a state of being. 90 % of the battle we fight is simply getting out of bed, giving our best efforts to what God has called us to do and leaving the results to God.

The Land Between

Life is composed of seasons and transitions, especially spiritually. We often experience Lent as a “land between,” a desert we cross before reaching the mountaintop or the Promised Land. This recently hit home for me when a mentor pointed me to a book by Jeff Manion, and this sermon on the same topic.

Often we reach The Land Between unexpectedly, like an explosion or a natural disaster. This type of experience doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, or race. It affects all of humanity. It can happen in a second, with a single sentence.

“We are downsizing and your position is being eliminated.”

“There’s been an accident… How soon can you get to the hospital?”

“I don’t love you anymore and want a divorce.”

“I’m sorry … but your daughter has leukemia.”

“The only way forward is going to be through bankruptcy.”

Other times we enter The Land Between by way of a seemingly never-ending series of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Though the circumstances may not be catastrophic taken individually, we find ourselves exhausted and discouraged at the end.

Whether it happens suddenly or gradually, our faith is tested during these times when our life takes a different course than expected. The Land Between can be discouraging, frustrating, and draining as we struggle with the temptation to give up hope. However, The Land Between doesn’t have to be a black hole. It can be an opportunity for experiencing God’s blessings and provisions. Here are some things to remember if you find yourself in The Land Between:
God will provide for you: The children of Israel were taken care with manna that fell from the sky to feed their physical bodies, and water from a rock to quench their thirst. It happened not when they wanted it, but when they were about to give up. God will provide for you in the dark and desert times. Don’t be surprised when you sense an extra measure of his power and grace.

God’s presence will minister to you: When we are going through The Land Between, the first temptation is to give up reading scripture, give up prayer, and withdraw from God. When our physical circumstances go south, we q
uickly throw in the towel on our spiritual practices. But it’s during the dry seasons that God will make us stronger. When Jesus went through his temptation is the desert, he practiced being in his Father’s presence by quoting scripture.

God is preparing you: Jesus went through the desert as a precursor to his season of public ministry—and he sought and found God’s presence in both seasons. The Land Between is preparation and a training ground for a new season filled with opportunities, growth, and challenges around the corner. It’s not something you are going through for the heck of it. It’s something you will share with others. There is no message without a mess. There is no testimony without a test. God’s preparation is not a useless holding pattern. Click To Tweet It brings God’s strength into our own human weakness, healing and wholeness where we have been empty and broken.

As we continue to journey in the season of Lent, be encouraged that even Jesus went through The Land Between and you will be made new by God’s spirit.

 

Hate To Wait?

Waiting

Waiting is one thing our culture detests. We have become a culture of microwave popcorn and drive-thrus. We want to microwave all our situations, including our spirituality. The reality is that the latest book by a megachurch pastor or conference isn’t automatically going to draw you closer to God or grow your church if you’re a pastor.

Still … Don’t we hate to wait? Why won’t our house sell? How long do I have to wait for __________ to change? When will I hear back from the doctor? When will I meet Mr./Ms. Right? Why is this line so long? When will it all end!? One of the worst kinds of waiting is done at the doctor’s office.

What do you do when you’re in life’s waiting room?

Waiting doesn’t mean sitting on your hands while the uncertainty sucks the life out of you. Here are a few practices to try the next time you’re on hold:

Active waiting: Waiting doesn’t mean giving up, clocking out, or distracting ourselves from the things we’re waiting for. Click To Tweet While you wait, you don’t have to sit still with your hands on your lap. Keep knocking on doors; just don’t bust doors open out of impatience. Live your life, check in with God about the direction you’re going in, but don’t forge ahead without him.

Waiting as a spiritual discipline: This is a great reminder, especially in the season of Lent as Christians practice self-denial and repentance in anticipation of Easter. We live in hope for what is to come while taking in the presence of God in the moment. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” Don’t fight the waiting. Live in the waiting and embrace it as a way to draw closer to God.

Expectant waiting: The word “wait” means “to expect” or “to look for.” God will show up when you least expect him. Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection when they least expected him. Paul and Silas were rescued from their prison cell with an earthquake when they least expected it. Live in anticipation of what will happen. It matters what we do in the waiting. It matters what God teaches us and shows us while we’re waiting. But we have to look for it and expect it in order to learn and see.

What are some things you do while you wait?

Why I’m a Quitter and Proud of It by Callie Picardo

Why I’m a Quitter and Proud of It

By Callie Picardo

Over the past three weeks, I’ve quit three big times. Each of these have been significant commitments, and in some cases, I enjoyed doing them. Others, I did because I’d been doing them for a while, and I didn’t know who else would do them if I stopped. The problem was when it all added up, I was doing too much. I was stressed, getting depressed, and I just kept trying to organize and plan my life better to fit everything in.

Praise God for friends and family and ministries like Equipping Lydia (Equipping Lydia) that offer spiritual direction! They encouraged me to pray and seek what God was really calling me to do. If you are worn out and doing too much, maybe you should be a quitter too.

Quit-Your-Job1Here are some practical steps to quitting well:

  1. Make a List – I needed to write it all down and name it out loud to some close friends to truly realize how much I was doing.
  2. Look at God’s Call – Next I put a star next to the things I felt called to do in this season. The season part is important. Just like Solomon recognized in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a season for everything, some of God’s callings on our lives are only for a season. I was still doing things from the last season of my life, and that was a big part of the problem.
  3. Pass the Torch – Looking at the things I don’t feel called to in this season, I started praying for God to raise up others to step into those roles. While some things can be dropped easily, others need to be passed on gracefully. In Exodus 18, Moses’s father-in-law Jethro comes to visit and notices Moses is not only leading the Israelites but also serving as their judge from morning until night and getting exhausted. Jethro encouraged Moses to appoint wise people who loved the Lord to serve as judges over smaller groups to handle all the simple cases, and Moses only handled the difficult ones. I love how when God calls me to step aside, others are blessed and grow as God calls them to step into those roles.
  4. Lean in Where You Are Called – I’m not suggesting you quit because things get hard or because you give up.
    Healthy quitting is so that you have space and energy for the things God is calling you to do. Lean in and follow God wherever He is leading you. Click To Tweet

What I learned About Ashes To Go

Today, Christians around the world are celebrating the ancient tradition of Ash Wednesday. As a pastor, I have had the opportunity to participate in many of these services, but today was a first, we took the service to the streets and did “Ashes To Go.” For more about what “Ashes To Go” is check out my last blog post (http://rosariopicardo.com/outreach/ashes-to-go/)

As I found myself in downtown Dayton on a cold, snowy and windy day, I learned a few things:Ashes to go

  • Some people that work and live downtown who would not be able to make it to a church service appreciate receiving ashes.

 

  • Many people asked me what we were doing. They had never heard of Ash Wednesday, so it was a teaching moment in many cases.

 

  • It’s easy to freeze when you are outside in February for multiple hours! I was lucky there was CVS were I could buy some hand warmers.

 

  • Finally, there are others eager to spread Christ’s message of hope, love and forgiveness. I was grateful to have other passionate brothers and sisters willing to share prayer, ashes, hugs, and a warm lunch.

 

Don’t be afraid to risk and try something new to reach others for Christ.

Check out the news story: Ashes To Go News Story

Ashes To Go

This year my church and I are taking a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition known as Ash Wednesday by offering “Ashes to Go.” We are joining a nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.easel

In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, which is a time of preparation with reflection and self-denial for Easter. As a centuries old tradition, Christ-followers have received a cross of ashes from palm leaves on the face at the beginning of The Lenten season as a reminder that we are all mortals in need of God’s grace. “Ashes to Go” provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before.

“Ashes to Go” is about bringing spirit, past a physical church building, and into the places where we go every day.As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways. We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working lives. The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and “Ashes to Go” helps them feel that connection.”

In addition to offering ashes and prayers, we are also offering free food from a local food truck vendor, which will be on location at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton from 11am-1:30pm.