Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This Blog Has Moved...

This blog has moved to the Perrin Ministries website.  

We will leave it active for a season for those that are still linking to posts on this site.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't be so weird!

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I saw a video from an online Washington Post article tonight that saddened me.  A comic named John Oliver bludgeoned televangelists and "faith preachers" with his sarcasm and a dose of reality.  This "faith message" he mocks is one I grew up with, but on some of his points I actually agree with him.  He genuinely portrays the way our message appears to "outsiders."

Full disclosure: I do believe in God's ability and willingness to heal and bless us.  But I don't think we've done a very good job of sharing God's heart.  While there is much truth to what some ministers are teaching, their message often gets lost in the bizarre (and sometimes manipulative) ways they choose to share it.

I'm attaching the link for those that wish to watch it.  BE WARNED: This video contains very strong language and brutal sarcasm.  If you are easily offended, please don't watch it!!!!!  And don't hold me accountable for wrecking your perfect little Christian world.  I believe we need to understand what the world around us truly thinks about Christianity in order to engage it.  If you choose to watch the video, please read the rest of this article first...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Wizard of Oz

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We fear failure.  And although we may feel as if failure is the end of the road, it can be the beginning of a new path.  Or at least it can help us continue our journey in a smarter way.  We mistakenly believe today's failure determines tomorrow's destiny.  This is categorically false.

Tweet This: We mistakenly believe today's failure determines tomorrow's destiny. This is categorically false!

Some of history's greatest men and women have overcome failure to create great things.  Take, for instance:

  • Socrates - Labeled "an immoral corrupter of youth."
  • Sir Isaac Newton - Failed miserably at running the family farm.
  • Winston Churchill - Struggled in school and failed 6th grade.
  • Abraham Lincoln - Went to war as a captain and returned a private, failed at numerous business ventures and was defeated numerous times while running for public office.
  • Walt Disney - Fired by a newspaper editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas."  He also failed at a number of business ventures and went bankrupt.
  • Thomas Edison - Told by his grade school teacher that he was "too stupid to learn anything." 
  • Albert Einstein - Because he didn't speak until age 4 and didn't read until age 7, his teachers and parents considered him mentally handicapped.  He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic.
  • Vincent Van Gogh - During his lifetime, he sold only one painting... and that was to a friend (and only for a small amount of money).
  • Michael Jordan - Cut from his high school basketball team.

What's the worst that can happen if you fail?  So you have to start over... so you have to admit you aren't perfect... so you are disappointed... so what?!?!  A failure is not a life sentence.  It's just a normal part of the growth process.

Failure doesn't have the ability to control our destiny unless we allow it to do so.  It is not all-powerful.  Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy first discovers the true identity of the Wizard?  They find out he's really nothing but smoke and mirrors (and a deep, booming, scary voice) behind a large curtain.  The reality is an entirely different thing.

We have to remember that as long as Jesus is alive there is hope!  Most failures are neither final nor fatal.  And if we choose to learn from them, they aren't futile either.  Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

How do we learn from failures?  By analyzing them.  We have to train ourselves to become more self-aware.  We have to ask ourselves some hard questions:

  1. What really happened? (Try to separate the emotion/drama from the event and analyze what actually occurred.)
  2. Why did it happen? (Look for causes, both the obvious ones and the ones that may be harder to discover... prayer will help with this one.)
  3. What was my part in the failure? (Many of the failures we experience aren't entirely our fault, although, for the most part they are self-inflicted.)
  4. What did I do to make the problem worse? (How did my actions/reactions escalate the emotion/intensity of the situation.)
  5. What could/should I have done differently? (This one may take some time to process.  You may need to ask someone else that knows you well to help with this.)
  6. What principles can I learn from this? (If we fail to learn from the past we're doomed to repeat it.  When all is said and done, this is the step that is the difference maker.)

Now that you've analyzed everything, take a moment to pray and ask God to help you apply what you've learned through this introspection process.  You may find, like I often do, that the answers are revealed over time.  I was telling my son how I discovered a new principle about an event that happened three years ago.  He said I should let it all go.  I explained that I'm always wanting to learn from the past, so I'm thankful when God shows me something.  I'm not living in the past, just making sure I learn from it!

For further study on this subject Failing Forward by John Maxwell is an exceptional book!

What questions would you add to this list?  Join the discussion below.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


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Today I was thinking back to something I wrote 17 years ago.  It's just as true today.  God is a good Father... and He loves His children.  

Last week my wife gave birth to our 2nd child… a little girl we named Ashton.  It didn’t come soon enough!  Nine months… it doesn’t seem too long.  Unless you’re in school awaiting summer break, or away from your loved ones, or pregnant.   Then nine months can seem like an eternity.

I remember the first time I held her… she was wrinkly and cried a lot.   She was incapable of showing love and affection or appreciation.  She didn’t ask to be born and certainly didn’t seem to like the experience much.  She brought nothing to the table.  She had nothing to offer me… well, nothing I needed anyway.

But I had this incredible, overwhelming emotional experience.  I was so excited and so in awe all at the same time.  I was filled with such pride… this was MY little girl!  I would do anything to make her happy.  Nothing was too good for her.  I would give my life to keep anyone from ever hurting her.  Here she was, not even 15 minutes old yet, and my life was forever changed!  I would never be the same.

Driving home a few days later, I began to think of how God, our Heavenly Father, must feel.  We have absolutely nothing to offer Him.  He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush experience as “I AM THAT I AM.”  He is totally self-sufficient!  He doesn’t need humans to make Him feel important.  He doesn’t keep us around for self-esteem purposes.  He chooses to use us for the fulfillment of His plan, but He could easily invented with another way.

I’m convinced that He created us because He wanted someone to share His love with.

But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:4-5

The Apostle Paul wrote that it is not because of good works that we have done, but because of God's great mercy that He has chosen us (Titus 3:5).  We could never be good enough, or good-looking enough, or do enough or be loveable enough to earn a relationship or favor with Him.  He loves us because He has decided to love us.  HE LOVES US BECAUSE WE ARE HIS CHILDREN!  How His heart must beam with pride over us, even when we mess our pants or spit up or cry (spiritually speaking).  No matter what we do - even if we choose a life without Him - He claims us as His children and loves us unconditionally.   How incredible!  And how totally unlike us!  His mercy never wears out or comes to an end (Lamentations 3:21-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:8).

You are completely loved by your Heavenly Father.  He could never love you any more or any less.  And He invites you to live in a deeply connected relationship with him.  It's up to you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What if things don't work out like you planned? (a leadership thought)

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"Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”- Jesus in Luke 7:23

As you'll recall, John the Baptist's God-given mission was to introduce Jesus to the masses. (see John 1:29-34)  And he had proven himself to be a healthy leader by leveraging his influence to help someone else (Jesus) succeed.  People began to follow Jesus instead of John, which was all a part of the plan. (see John 3:30)

But at this point in the story John the Baptist had been left to rot in Herod's dungeon.  He had fallen from being the famous "prophetic voice in the desert" into obscurity.  Now he was languishing in prison because of his fiery rhetoric. (see Luke 3:19-20)  And aside from a few disciples, no one seemed to care.  I can definitely understand the fact that John felt a bit abandoned and forgotten... and probably even disappointed and disillusioned.

So He sent His disciples to confirm that Jesus was who he (John) had claimed.  After all, this wasn't the way a man of God should end his days.  Maybe he thought he and Jesus would be able to hang out together.  Maybe he expected a little more respect as the first one to truly affirm who Jesus really was. It could be that he thought he would die in peace since he had fulfilled his purpose. Whatever the case may be, we find him questioning whether he had missed God's will or not. 

Notice that Jesus wasn't offended by John's question.  Isn't it encouraging to know that God's not afraid of your questions?  In fact, Jesus gave demonstrative proof (according to Isaiah 61:1-2) that He was exactly who John initially claimed He was.  Now John would be able to die in peace, knowing he'd had a part in God's Master Plan.

Pastors: Are you questioning your call?  Have things not worked out like you planned, or as you prayed they would?  Have you not seen the growth or influence you expected to have?  Does it seem that God has forgotten you?  You need to know that God is not finished with you until you are dead.

After John's disciples left Jesus spoke to the crowd about him. (Luke 7:24-28)  Here we can see Jesus' high degree of respect for him.  He tells the crowd that John is the greatest man to live up to that time.  Why is this?  It's because John had completed the work that God had called him to do.  He'd had a part in turning a nation to repentance and connecting them to their Messiah.  I don't believe it was the scope of God's call upon John the Baptist that got Jesus' attention.  It was his absolute obedience to it, even though it meant he would fade into obscurity after his time in the spotlight was finished.  John must have felt like a failure.  But Jesus said he was a great man of God.

Let me encourage you today: Don't throw in the towel.  Keep moving forward.  God has a HUGE plan for you.  And as long as you're breathing He's not finished with you yet.  Unfortunately here on this earth we can't see from God's eternal perspective.  But when we get to heaven it will have all been worth it - every moment of sacrifice, every sleepless night of prayer, every time we kept going when we wanted to quit.  God revealed Himself to a runaway slave as "the God who sees." (see Genesis 16:13)  He hasn't changed!

What words would you have to spiritual leaders that are thinking of quitting?  Join the discussion below.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bait and Switch

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One of the things that churches have become famous for is the old fashioned "bait and switch."  It's a marketing ploy where a business lures someone into their store by offering an incredible deal on something the person really wants.  But when the person arrives that item is "unfortunately" sold out.  The store does, however, offer the person something that is "actually a better product," but it comes with a higher price tag.  You took the bait (the incredible deal) to come into their store, but they switched it with the product they actually want you to buy.

As I said, churches often do this under the guise of "evangelism."  They offer a HUGE party with free food, a concert or a giveaway, only to use this opportunity to "share the Gospel" with the unsuspecting visitors.  The visitors came for the free food, or the giveaway, or just to have a good time, but they were tricked into a heavily evangelistic event.  It's a classic bait and switch.

What churches are up against

Let's examine it through the filter of today's cynical church visitor.  Millennials (today's young adults) display a large degree of cynicism toward institutions - especially toward churches, which are the face of organized Christianity.  This is why the Barna Research Group recently discovered that the number of those that self-identify as "religiously unaffiliated" is rising rapidly.  According to the latest research, among this demographic the percentage of "nones" (those with no religious background) and "dones" (those that are done with church) make up almost 50% of the population.  And it's over 30% for the general population.

In short, Americans simply aren't looking to the Church for answers anymore.  They may indeed be spiritual, but they often choose other ways of meeting their spiritual needs.

Robin and I saw where this road leads during our 13 years of church planting and church leader training in Europe.  According to the 2006 European Spiritual Estimate less than 2% of Europeans have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Christianity is considered a historical relic - a lot like the beautiful, but empty, cathedrals that dot the landscape.    And because of this the European Church and its leaders have absolutely NO VOICE in society.  Being a Christ-follower is counter-cultural.  We knew people that were openly mocked for their faith in Germany.  This is the future of the American Church, unless we can adjust to engage the prevailing culture.

What the bait and switch looks like in a church setting

Let's examine how the bait and switch event plays out in a typical church scenario.  A church member invites their cynical friend to a typical church event.  This person comes with their friend, meets a few people, has some fun... and then he/she is preached to.  He/she came expecting to have fun, but instead got suckered into a pseudo church service (complete with all the weird traditions that churches are famous for).

They've been tricked!  Now how much credibility do you think the church member will have the next time they try to invite this person (or anyone this person talks to about their experience) to a church event?  More than likely, none.

We have to rethink our strategy!  The bait and switch may have worked a couple of generations ago, but it's not very effective anymore.  People today - especially Millennials - have too many other options.  What if we, instead, offered a party where the entire goal was to hang out with our church people?  What if we offered an event where people just came together for a meal to enjoy each others' company?  We should at least teach our people to share what to expect when inviting someone to one of our events.  And we should also train our people to not heavily proselytize the visitors.  Jesus will probably come up in a conversation.  We are, after all, Christ-followers.  But we don't need to force it.

Going back to the beginning

In my daily devotional times I've been reading through the Gospels.  One of the things I've noticed is that Jesus NEVER offered a bait and switch.  When you came to Him, you could always expect to receive "grace and truth." (John 1:14)  The only ones to face His wrath and His rebuke were those that believed they were somehow better than others, and that they were capable of pleasing God entirely on their own merits.

Tweet This: Jesus never offered a bait and switch. He offered grace and truth.

We have to get back to representing the true heart of Jesus.  One of the church planters I mentor asked his people to invite their friends to "a church service with a baseball game afterwards."  After the short service they grilled hotdogs, then headed over to a pro baseball game to have some fun together.  No one was under any illusion as to what it was all about.  It was a chance for people to visit the church and then watch a ballgame afterwards.  And they DID have visitors because this church was up front about what to expect.

Let's rethink how we do ministry.  American culture is FULL of marketing ploys.  As a result, people have become cynical and choosy about with whom they do business.  Let's be authentic and actually EXCEED peoples' expectations.  If we do, word of mouth will be our best friend!

How does your church avoid the bait and switch?  Join the conversation below.  Your comments help others process how to do ministry in today's society.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Immunization from problems?

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During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both very old. - Luke 1:5-7 

Some people believe that living a life that is pleasing to God will somehow immunize them from problems - as if serving Jesus is some sort of spiritual vaccination. Unfortunately this is not the case. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both faithfully serving God, but still were unable to conceive. They would have had to deal daily with the stigma of having no children (which in their day was considered a curse).  And now they were "very old."

Thankfully God gave them a miracle child. (You can read more about that in Luke 1:8-17 and the rest of the chapter) We know him as John the Baptist. He still does miracles and answers prayers today. You may feel abandoned by God - forgotten and alone. But God sees you, and the totality of your situation. Don't give up hope. Keep trusting. Keep serving. Who knows... your miracle may be right around the corner. Zechariah and Elizabeth kept their hearts in the game and were eventually able to hold the answer to their prayers in their hands.