Stay the Course

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  

Hebrews 2:1(ESV)

In October 2019, 15 of the top marathon runners who were competing in the 2019 Portland Marathon got off course and became disqualified. It was heartbreaking for the accomplished runners and marathon organizers.  

The runners said they thought they were following an official volunteer on a bicycle and didn’t see the cones that directed the correct way.  Rather than going left, they went right at a crucial junction.  The results were the runners went the wrong direction for more than two miles and were disqualified for not staying on course. The celebrated marathoners caused other runners to go off course as well. One runner said, “It’s really easy to lose motivation when this kind of thing happens.”  

There are many things that can distract, divert, or derail Christ-followers today.  We as leaders must stay alert and follow the Lord’s guidance in these turbulent times.  With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing civil unrest, the economic instability, and ever-changing gathering restrictions, we as pastors must stay on course.   

In the middle of the biblical declaration of the superiority of Jesus Christ, the writer pauses with this clear admonition, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention…”   These days call all of us to be more alert and awake than ever.  We must remember the fact that Jesus is still our only hope and He is still the answer for the world today.    

You might consider Jimmy Evans newest book, “Tipping Point – The End Is Here.” It is an excellent resource for understanding the days we are currently facing. This timely book reminds us that Jesus is coming soon. Knowing this, keeps us focused on the truth and not the fake narratives that are spewed out 24/7 on cable news, Facebook, and Twitter. 

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.

Psalm 119:1-2 (The Message) 

I admonish you today, OMN pastors and ministers, “Stay the course.” 

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:3-6

Observations

  1. The more you know about God, the more delight you will have in your life.
  2. Turn your circumstances over to God and see miracles happen.
  3. God cares more for you than you can care for yourself.

Today's Prayer

Heavenly Father, I know you have a tremendous plan for my life. I will face today with confidence and assurance. I will not shrink back but stand up and use my gifts and talents. I thank you for my parents and others who have sown good things in my life. I now will shine and fulfill my destiny. I will become all you have intended me to become. In Jesus’ wonderful name, amen!

My Light and Salvation

The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Observations

1.  Face your fears with the awareness of God’s awesome presence in your life.
2.  Dispel the darkness in life with the light of God's Word.
3.  You can be more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.

Prayer

Father, today I will exchange my fears with the confidence you are with me. Help me to be a victor over rejection, misunderstanding and uncertainty. I refuse to give into fear of the future, knowing that, LORD, you hold my future. I look forward to dwelling in your house all the days of my life. Amen! Amen! Amen!

Stick to the Word

"Just give them the Word of God. They can argue with your opinion, but they cannot argue with the Word of God. The Word of God will speak for itself."

Dr. Beth Grant

I have a word for the Oregon Ministry Network pastors and churches in these unusual times. It’s simply this, stick to the Word. These are the words that I heard through the night and early this morning, "stick to the Word." All of us are being inundated with questions regarding various social issues of the day. It may feel a little overwhelming. People are asking you to take a position or to make a statement on this group or that party or a current social issue. There are all kinds of pressure to respond to every social media prediction or prophecy made by a minister or a politician, advocate, or commentator. And frankly, it's exhausting. I feel that exhaustion.

I've got a simple word for you: stick to the Word. You know, when Paul wrote his second letter to young Timothy known as Second Timothy, he gave him this charge: preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season. Then he went on to say, correct, rebuke, encourage with great patience and careful instruction. So why did he do all of that? He was there to help. He stuck to the word. He said, Timothy, you're going to be pulled in all kinds of directions but stick to the Word.

A friend of mine, who grew up in another time, told me that in his home church as a young boy, it was the custom for all the elders of the church to sit on the front row of the church during services. When a guest preacher, or a young preacher like himself would speak, if the elders thought that you deviated from biblical truth or scriptural theology; or even if the presenter or the preacher got caught up in a personal illustration, the elders would shout out, "Stick to the Word, stick to the Word!"

Can you imagine that happening today? Well, in this current climate of cancel culture and people declaring what is to be embraced and who is really important in life, I want to encourage you to not get caught up in all of that, but to simply stick to the Word. Nehemiah 8:8 says, “They read from the book of God, making it clear and giving the meaning.” Why? “So that the people understood what was being read.” That's our assignment. That's our calling. And although you have personal opinions and I do about a variety of things that are happening socially in our communities, I want to encourage you, stick to the Word.

It's the Word of God. That amazing book called the Bible that you and I have been teaching and preaching from that is alive and active and sharper than any double-edged sword. It judges the very thought and the intent of the heart. It's the Word of God that brings comfort to those that are grieving. And we have a lot of people grieving. So, stick to the Word.

It's the Word of God that provides direction for those that are uncertain. And there are a lot of people who are uncertain about their future, stick to the Word. It's the Word of God that brings correction to the arrogant and to the prideful. And there are a lot of people who live that way this day. A generation that feels entitled. Stick to the Word.

There are many people who are struggling with physical health and issues. It's the Word of God that provides healing for the afflicted, stick to the Word. And for those that are hopeless, there's hope from God's Word. So, stick to the Word. Don't try to answer everybody's questions or persuade them to your political position. I want to encourage you to stick to the Word. Let's see what the Bible says about life. Let's stick to the Word.

My dear friend, Dr. Beth Grant, in a recent meeting that I was in speaking to national leaders, discussing the precious present issues and our response to them said, "just give them the Word of God. They can argue with your opinion, but they cannot argue with the Word of God. The Word of God will speak for itself."

So, I encourage you, in these troubled times declare the Word of God. Stick to the Word.

Our Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.

Psalm 23:1

Observations

1. Making God your shepherd assures you of his care.
2. When you make God your shepherd, make sure you follow his lead.
3. You can depend on God for provision, guidance and protection.

Today's Prayer

Father, I am aware of my dependence on you. I pray that you will lead me and guide me through this day. I will face the day with the assurance that you will provide me with everything I need. I will listen to your voice and follow your directions. I will not fear, but follow you in faith. Thank you, Lord, for being the Great and Good Shepherd. Amen! Amen!

My Rock

I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 18:1-3

Observations

1.  Practice praising the Lord for his faithfulness and blessings.
2.  Remember that God is your rock, fortress, deliverer, shield and stronghold.
3.  God’s protection for you is limitless and immeasurable.

Prayer

Almighty God, I praise you today for your continued strength and help. Save me from those who attempt to ruin my reputation or defame my character. Protect me from the wiles and deceits of the enemy. I will live for you and live under your almighty shadow. I will continue to rest in your protection and provision. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Responding to Racial Tension

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Ephesians 2:14

I am grateful that I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and had parents that instilled in me the importance of respect and honor for all ethnicities. Many times, I recall having guests in our home whose skin color or cultural background were unlike mine. Actually, it was a highlight to discover God’s family is diverse and that every person is important to God and should be treated with respect and love.

I admit that I was shocked when I discovered in my teen years that there were systemic racial tensions that existed in our culture. I struggled to believe that some people resented and even detested others from a different race or culture. Sadly, I discovered that this underlining sinful attitude was even prevalent in some churches.

One of the most moving moments in my adult life was attending a Promise Keepers event in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 43 thousand ministers of all backgrounds and persuasions came to gather under the banner of “racial reconciliation.”  The healing steps that were taken to build bridges and breakdown walls of systemic racism in the church and culture were powerful. I never forgot it. Over the last few weeks, I have continued to check my own heart regarding the current division and detestation that has consumed so many in our nation. I honestly believe this is a huge opportunity for God’s people to provide genuine expression of healing, hope, and help. We must continue to pray for the healing of our land. 

Here are five actions we can take:

  1. Love
    Genuine Christ-like love must be in our tone and response. Showing love to people who have been disenfranchised or demoralized by sinful and selfish behavior will open the door for healing conversations.
  2. Listen
    James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Listening to people’s stories is one of the most important steps one can take. It has been said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Listening will help bring progress and healing. 
  3. Lament
    In the 2 Chronicles 7:14 prayer, there is the directive to ask for forgiveness. Lamenting is grieving for the injustice and discrimination that has been in the hearts and actions of our nation. Nehemiah wept over the sins of God’s people and asked God to help him restore the city. Let us weep over our nation and ask for restoration. 
  4. Learn
    Recently I heard Pastor T. D. Jakes encourage us to learn during this time. Learn about others and most importantly learn the heart of God. 
  5. Lead
    Each of us have been called by God to live our lives in such a way that people will not only be inspired but give glory to God. Lead by having an attitude of redemption and by taking actions of reconciliation. We have been called by God to be reconcilers.  

We have seen the ugly work of the enemy in the hearts of people. It is time for us to see the glorious work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people. Join me in asking God to turn the hearts of our nation to Him.  

Reconstruction Plan for Mission Oregon Churches

[Bill Wilson]

Hey, Bill Wilson here from the Oregon Ministry Network. I'm so excited about having Lee McCloud, who also serves the Network, alongside me. We're going to talk today about Network affiliated churches. We've been on this journey together for going into your 14th year. That's hard to believe, but it's a real thrill to serve the Oregon Ministry Network together. Good friend.

In April 2020, Lee, we had the Presbytery give us direction on Network affiliated churches. Maybe you could explain to us a little bit what a Network affiliated church is, and what are some of the new directives that we're going to pursue.


[Lee McCloud]

Okay, in 1914, we all know the Assemblies of God was formed. They basically formed with two categories of churches. They had General Council affiliated churches, which oftentimes we would refer to a Sovereign church. They had District affiliated churches, which in Oregon we have called oftentimes Mission Oregon or Home Missions churches historically. More recently we call them Mission Oregon churches. Then in 2010, a third category was created officially, and that was the PAC, parent affiliated churches. All of them function a little bit different. The General Council, they govern themselves. The PAC church is governed by the parent church. But the Network affiliated church, or the Mission Oregon Church, is meant to be governed by the Network, and by a group of people within the Network.

One of the unique characteristics is that in a Network affiliated church, the Oregon Ministry Network is 100% liable for all of their actions. For a number of years, we have been encouraged by General Council, by legal counsel and others to say, "If you're going to have Network affiliated churches, you have to follow your governing documents." We've discovered that we haven't always done that. We haven't always done that. In fact, right now on our list we have 41 churches that are Network affiliated churches, but less than 30 really have functioned in that category, and some don't even know they're on the list. They don't even realize that.

We also think that a lot of the churches on the list are very healthy. We think it's a time for them to launch out on their own. Coming out of this strange time we've been in with this pandemic, and following your advice to reset, we think here's a great opportunity for them to, as a healthy church, relaunch looking different moving forward. So, in April 2020, the Presbytery adopted a reconstruction plan for a Network affiliated church. And so moving forward, there's a new set of bylaws, there is a new policy manual, there is a new agreement between the pastor and the Oregon Ministry Network. We have formed a Church Health Team that's going to help with the governance piece of that.

Now, we're going to try to inform people as we go throughout the state. Then hopefully, give them some options.

[Bill Wilson]

Of the 191 churches, the National Office said there were about 40+ churches that fit in this category. Your investigation says, "No, I don't think so," but some churches don't know. Tell us a little bit about what you actually have found.

[Lee McCloud]

What we've found is first of all, we've discovered that some people don't realize they're on that list because it happened decades ago, and it was just never changed. From our perspective, we hadn't been enforcing the governance piece. So, a lot of people are surprised to find they're on the list. In reality, they have been governing themselves for decades. We feel like that it's time to just officially place them in another category, which requires a step or two. There's a form that needs to be filled out, and that can be handled through our office, and through my assistant, Valerie.

We've also discovered that some people don't think they can govern themselves, but we think they can. Pastor Bill, you've taught us for all these years that our mission, our mandate is to develop effective leaders, that we want to have healthy churches and healthy ministries. We think the healthy move, for many churches, is to take a step towards becoming a General Council church. So, our very first option would be if you are healthy enough, or if you're accidentally, or you're in a wrong category, we want to make sure that you become General Council.

Our second option would be that if you had a parent church, and you'd like to enter into a PAC relationship, or you'd like us to explore possibilities and options for you, we'll try to find somebody to where you can be tethered to maybe a little larger work, or a more solid work. Not always healthier, but just has some stability there. We're willing to do that. There might be some that the church cycle, the church life cycle, has come to an end. That's not always because of the pastor or the current congregation, our towns have died in Oregon. The logging is gone. The lumber is gone. The schools have closed. We have a few of those cases.

For the fourth category that would remain a Network affiliated church, we have drafted new documents, and that's what the Presbytery approved, that would include a Church Health Team. We have a team that will be appointed for a couple of years. It's made of very reputable ministers within our state that will work alongside the local pastor to help provide the governance for a healthy church.

[Bill Wilson]

That's, as you mentioned, our mission, is to be healthy. Thank you for all the hard work you've done. I know this brilliant effort to organization and restructure has been very much a part of your heart, and you've worked diligently on that. Moving forward, as a pastor of a local church, as leaders in a local church, if we are currently in the Network affiliated category, and we want to move forward, what… You've mentioned some guidelines. What will be the next step for us?

[Lee McCloud]

First of all, if you are on that list you can expect a call from me and our Church Health Team Leader, which right is Brian Stellar for this first two years. Some of us will be contacting you, just as I said, you may not even realize you're on the list. What you can anticipate is, if you're going to move forward you need to have around 20 active members. You need to have an approved set of bylaws, and Boyd Powers, our Secretary and Treasurer here for the state can help with that. Then there is a process. There is a document that has to be filled out. We're going to help you with that. You can contact us in advance. You have to have the ability to govern yourself, which really means that you have enough qualified leaders to meet your own bylaw requirements. That's really what that means.

We're going to be going through the state in the rest of '20, and even into '21, and we're going to be setting up meetings so that we can explain everything possible to change that status. We just want the healthiest opportunity for our church that we can possibly provide. If there are any questions, of course they can contact me or my assistant, Valerie, here at the office. We'll have the information for them.

[Bill Wilson]

Well, thanks, Lee, for all you're doing in the network. Thanks to all of you who serve on the front lines of our churches in this most unusual time. This is an opportunity, and we're grateful to be able to serve you all. We'll look forward to seeing how this develops, and most of our churches will become healthier and stronger than ever before. God bless you.

Safety

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:7-8

Observations

1.  Inward joy comes from knowing and trusting God.
2.  Happiness is temporary, joy is lasting.
3.  You can sleep better when you rest in the Lord.

Prayer

Father, I thank you for giving me peace that passes my understanding. I thank you for making me safe and secure. I pray that you will help me face the day with strength and safety. Guard my thoughts from negative thinking. Today, I will reject those things that lead me away from the truth. Today, I will dwell on the good things of God. Amen! Amen! Amen!

Blessed

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night

Psalm 1:1-2

Observations

1. Choose godly people to influence your life.
2. True friends will help you draw nearer to God.
3. Those who diligently and intentionally obey God will be blessed.

Today's Prayer

Father, thank you for blessing my life in so many ways. Thank you for relationships, opportunities and provisions. I pray that you will give me godly friends. I will choose to delight in your Word and to meditate on its truth. I will live according your will and your ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.

2020 State of the Network

Hope in Him

“Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! 

Job 13:13-16

Observations

1. Don’t allow earthly advisers to dampen your desire to know God better.
2. No matter what you are facing, remain confident that God will see you through.
3. In the midst of your difficulties, look for God's redemptive deliverance

Prayer

Almighty God, I thank you that you have your hand on my life. Help me to listen to the gainers and not the drainers. Help me to remain full of faith and expectation. Today, I will face the challenges with hope in you, O Lord. You are my Savior and Deliverer! My hope is in you Lord. Amen! Amen! Amen!