Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I See A Light...

Hello All,

Long time, no blog!! I know, I know! I have been phenomenally busy and apologize for so few blogs as of late. I have 4 more pillars to write about, the next of which is coming soon. For now, I wanted to make you aware of a great slide show that Pastor Carlos Casco has on his site, along with an update on his recent trip to Bolivia and the Pastor's training that he did there with my Father-In-Law, Dan Finfrock. Please check it out here.

We'll be right back!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You Might Call This A "P.S."

Hello All,

This was sent to me by a fellow blog hunter, Ms. Carrie Allen, (Thank you Carrie!) and it's sort of an interesting aside to my last blog entry about programs and people. I'm not sure that it totally fits, but this is truly interesting. It is here if you want to read the whole thing, but this part really stuck out to me:

"Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for." Bill Hybels

I know nothing about Willow Creek or Mr. Hybels, as I have never attended their church service. This is not intended as a slur or insult. I just thought it was a good post-script to my last blog entry.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

#5 I Stopped Putting Presentation & Program Over People

Hello All,

I had this funny conversation with Jonathan Knepper, the Youth Pastor at Kingsfield Church, yesterday about a funny concept in the church. He and I were swapping stories about how we can miss the ministry for the sake of ministry! An example will clear things up. Once upon a time, a minister was on his way to a conference on world missions and evangelism, when he was stopped by a man seeking salvation. The minister refused to stop, realizing that he would be late for the first session "Identifying Open Doors To Ministry" if he stopped and helped this man!!

You might be thinking that you know where I'm going with this one and you might be right! But let me share how I got there. Jesus told the Pharisees, a religious group of people who proverbially missed the forest for the trees, that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This intrigued me, as I realized that something that God had mandated for man's enjoyment, had been twisted and turned into a burden that man was now a slave to bear. The connection soon followed as I looked at how I thought about people and the programs that I was involved in.

Did they want to come? If not, they were spiritually lazy! When they came to said event, were they enthusiastic and "into it?" If not, they were not spiritually in tune! The programs had been made for them, but now, in a sense, how I thought about them made them for the program!

Whether it was a youth group camp or outing or fellowship, I almost always honored my event, and judged whoever was there by their love and acceptance of the given event. Soon, I saw how this was sapping my love for the ministry and more importantly, the people that God had given me charge over.

The meeting is for the congregation. The outing is meant to benefit them. The fellowship is so that they might be blessed. I had made each of these measuring rods of my own success, something that every minister seems prone to deal with.

You see this all the time at Pastor's conferences. "So, how many people are coming to your services?" "How big is your building?" God bless these men, and nothing is wrong with the questions intrinsically, but I want to be asked "Are you enjoying the people that God has given you?" "Have you enjoyed asking them about their lives and concerns?"

I stopped thinking in those terms and looked for the events and the gatherings to be blessings to the kids or adults. The program, for lack of a better word, took a back seat to the needs of the congregation, who often needed more than the program. They required attention, the love of the Lord, and the gentle hand of correction, leading them back to the Lord. Most of this happened in spite or instead of my messages or clever events.

Don't misunderstand: events, programs, et all, are required parts of the ministry. You can't have a youth group without a youth group meeting. You can't have a healthy group unless they have an opportunity to fellowship and serve, which means events on the calendar that challenge and attract people to work together. Now, this all being said, I will say that ministry is not about the calendar or the program. It's about us as ministers being poured out and spent on hurting people who may not respond to the programs per se, but will respond to a loving gesture, and an interested heart.

This drastically altered the way I thought about ministry. I stopped waiting for people to come to my event. I went to them and took interest in their lives. I stopped asking Christian cliche questions, and truly desired to care about their welfare and how their lives were going!

I just wanted to be genuine! There I said it! I was sick of looking at people as statistics and measurements for my own "attestation of authenticity!" I wanted to love and minister the love of God to the people who came looking to be touched by Him!

And let me say, it's hard to do, perhaps more so than any of my other personal philosophies, because I work in a professional clergy environment, where we often mark our success in the numbers, which by the way is not necessarily wrong in and of itself! One might wonder, if you start with a large number of people and then, they slowly whittle away to nothingness, that maybe your gifting lay elsewhere! So numbers can be good indicators, but I don't want to live and die by them! I want to live and die and base my ministry on genuine concern and godly love for all that I come into regular contact with.

This makes the ministry a source of joy, especially since it is about the success stories of God through His people! And while He's at it, it's cool when there are lots of stories to reference!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Sunday, October 14, 2007

#6 I Stopped Thinking That I Could Mine Every Truth From Every Scripture, Every Time

Hello All,

I remember this moment in my life very profoundly. It was a Friday afternoon, later in the day. I was in my small office, getting myself prepared for Sunday morning, where I was responsible to teach the Junior High group during 3rd service. I was landing in Matthew 17, a chapter that I had taught a few times before, and was a testimony chapter for me at that time of my life. (That sounds like a future post! :)) I felt pretty confident that I would just repeat my previous message and take the weekend "off" with regard to my studies.

I took a moment and opened the Bible and immediately noticed something that I had not taken into account before. It made me pause and think about the implications. Then, I noticed a few more things. Before I knew it, I had an entirely different message before me! I have to say that this moment brought both a sense of wonder and exhaustion, as I not only did not take the weekend off, but I worked twice as hard to make up the time!

I remember coming out of my office that day with a deep understanding in my soul that I will never be finished studying God's Word. There is more there than I can ever hope to mine through.

Oh, but I tried! I would exhaust anyone who would listen to me whenever I taught because I was trying to write a commentary every week! Greek words and phrases, cross references, historical background, filled every message, and well it should, but not for the extreme notion that one can cover it all in one setting!

I had some wonderful Junior High Kids who loved to study God's Word, but even they had to mock me about how little I would cover in a Sunday morning session! The joke became that we would finish Matthew somewhere after the first millenium in eternity!

Then I noticed something else: I was sounding like what I spent all my time with! I began to sound like a commentary! I was passing on information, without any inspiration. I admired men who spoke with conviction and were passionate about their passage. And all of those men that I listened to shared in the same practice of selecting what details they might share. None of them caught every single detail and their messages were great!

So from there, I studied the same, but I started to really heavily edit my information intake. Soon, I felt that I could take bite size pieces and enjoy the flavor more.

I guess I share this because at one time, the Bible became so weighty for me to consume. Every time I opened it, I knew I was in for a long fight. My spirit was willing, but my flesh was weak. Gradually, over time, I had to ask myself what my point was as a minister of the gospel. Was it to be impressive to my hearers? Was the information I was passing on so vital? Was it challenging any of them to be better Christians or just informing them with Christian trivia?

For a while, as a Calvary boy, I felt that I was cheating them and God if my messages were not so long, and so deep. After a while, this becomes a cumbersome issue.

Thankfully, the Lord showed me that I could be faithful to His Word and His people at the same time and not have to mine every truth from the scripture that I possibly could! I began to take smaller sections and look for what God was communicating without my help. I stopped reading multiple commentaries and narrowed it down to one, maybe two at most. Then, I started to put my message through the test that truly began to refine what would eventually come out. The test was to see whether each thing that I said would be helpful to the listeners in their endeavor to live a life after the heart of God. Before I knew it, I was enjoying the process and finding that the kids and people were taking more away from the Word, and were hungry for more!

Plus, I always had some other knowledge to use in other sermons if the occassion arose. If someone had a question afterward about certain elements, at least I would have a semblance of an answer, even though I did not feel that I needed to present everything to the congregation.

In the end, to anyone who has the charge of teaching God's Word, I would tell you to study with great diligence, as though you were presenting before the Lord Himself! But remember that Jesus Himself taught more with less words, than we can ever hope to speak about with a million! The art of presenting a teaching will still require work, but there will be a lot more joy in the process when you free yourself from having to be a veritable encyclopedia each week!

And may I add that your people will thank you as well!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Saturday, October 06, 2007

#7 I Stopped Waiting For Something To Happen To Me!

Editors Note: I have been going through my personal pillars of freedom over the last month. You can read the previous three in detail over the last few posts, but for sake of continuity, here is what was covered:

#10 I Stopped Comparing Myself With Others

#9 I Stopped Worrying About Who Is Absent

#8 I Stopped Measuring Myself By Singular Activities

Now for number 7...

Hello All,

I have been surrounded by many men who I would consider successful in life. Some men have attempted to share with me their secrets and ways, but most have simply said that they were in the right place at the right time, with the right idea. Casual observation and the remarks of certain people caused me to think that one should just wait around, and God would begin to change and put you on a path in life that would bring you fulfillment and Him glory. For quite some time, this helped to shape my activity or inactivity.

More than that, I had heard about how God had moved in the past in great ways, and had come to believe that such things were miraculous interventions into time and space, without the aid of any man. Hearing about the days of the Tent and the various other great periods of revival, made me wish and wonder for God to do such things again.

It was not until a famous day in a meeting with a close observer of the Jesus Movement that I was informed quite otherwise. He shared with me that a great deal of money had gone into advertising and invitation. The result was the Jesus Movement. God had moved, but so had man! Man had begun to walk after something that was in God's heart to produce. Certain men took calculated, costly steps toward a goal, and God met their faith in the middle.

This was a spriritual crisis point for me. For what I felt was a long time, I had waited for others to promote me, or notice me and invite me into spiritual posts of responsibility. I figured that if God wanted me, He could supercede any human government and work out His purpose in my life.

Can God do this? Sure. Has He done this with other men? Definitely. Is that the way He works with all of us? To a degree, yes. Is it easier to move a moving vehicle or to move a parked vehicle? Definitively the former!

I needed to chase after something. It began easily enough, with me asking the Lord what it is that I might chase after! So I asked. The answer took some time, but it came in the form of Spain nonetheless. Then, I investigated. What is happening in Spain now? Who is already there and what works could I come alongside of? My investigation led me to a very dear family, the Cascos, that Lela and I eventually came alongside of for a season. Then, after asking the Lord, investigating His call, I purposed to go and be spent on the mission field for as long as He wanted me and my family to serve. He answered that we would only be serving for 9 months in country, and another year or so, in consecrated waiting!

The Lord wants to have victories in my life and in yours. We have a choice to walk in those victories, being confident in His ability to lead as we move toward whatever goal He puts in front of us. The success is not in how long one does any one thing. The success is not in what gets accomplished through you. The success is the heart of endurance IN YOU!

The same was true with Abraham. His greatest test of faith had little to do with what He actually did, but was rather tied to what he was willing to do! And when God initially called him, you will find that where He was going was less important than who he was going with! This is the lesson that radically altered my spiritual perception. God wants me to walk with him...this we all know, but He wants me to walk with Him SOMEWHERE!! He has a goal and we can waste time waiting for Him to move us, which He certainly can, or we can stand up and prepare ourselves to move into a purpose that is His from before the foundation of time, when He chose us to be His!

You might object at this point with the typical statement that sounds like this: But you need to wait on the Lord! I would be a liar and the worst Bible teacher ever, if I led anyone to think that waiting on the Lord was not a necessary part of following the Lord's lead. Many will point to such verses and perhaps the most popular of these verses will be Isaiah 40:31, which says, "But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength;" But most have either never read the rest or just plain ignored their significance. Isaiah 40:31b says, "They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint." They wait, linger for, hopefully anticipate, the Lord's presence, so that they will be empowered to fly, to run and to walk!!

We do wait. We do test the waters. We do seek godly counsel. But my point, from my experience, is that we can wait when God is calling us to march! The prayer of your heart and mine, should always be: God give me wisdom to know the difference and the courage to follow OR wait! Either takes wisdom and courage you know!

What I have found has surprised me in wonderful ways. I don't know where I'm going or where I will end up in ministry, but the ride has been such a joy. All the trials and troubles have been worth it because I feel that true spiritual progress is being made. True spiritual muscle is being developed and I feel that I am moving toward a destiny that only lay in the heart and intention of God the Father.

I pray that you might take the heart of what I have just communicated. There is no need to make your own road or get a vision for your life. God has a vision for your life. Ask Him what it is or more clearly, ask Him what step you need to take right now. Between now and then, you wait!! But when the answer comes, start moving! Either way, the answer is initiate and count the cost that your work will be just as necessary as His!

That means, if you are going to reach a person, know that every person will require your concentrated attention. If you are going to learn to play that instrument, know that that instrument will need a passionate set of hands (and feet for that matter!). If you are going to get through the difficult Bible passages, then you might consider your library and study habits! God will meet you...all we need to do is move toward Him!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez