Marriage & Ministry: The Do's & The Blues

Ministry and relationships can be a good thing. Like chocoflan, seems like a great idea!  Chocolate with anything usually equals A+ in my book. In both, you're either left with a perfect blend of both flavors or a hot gooey mess. Execution is key. 

So the question then becomes, how does a couple live out their happily ever after while leading a healthy ministry? Here’s a Jesus-juke for you; is the answer always... do them Biblically? Yes and no.  Let’s dig in.

 

Who’s who.

The Bible. The inerrant word of God. It’s been called life’s manual book, cliffs notes and Wikipedia all wrapped into one. Yet in His infinite wisdom, God chose flawed humans to extol his perfect divinity. 

Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Moses & Zipporah; the who’s who of marriages in the Bible. Men and women of character, valor, faith and destiny. Their marriages and ministries impacted the world and left a lasting legacy…however they didn’t always get it right as husbands and wives, while being spiritual leaders.

 

Honest Abe.

As humans, we learn equally from observing correct behavior as we do from the opposite. We do see prime examples of what may not be the wisest things to do in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah.  1Laughing in the face of God, 2lying that they weren’t married. In Genesis 20, Abraham crafted a lie so King Abimelech wouldn’t hit on his beautiful bride. It happened anyways and now he’s caught in a deceitful situation with a foreign King.

Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. Gen 20:2

God ultimately uses a Pagan Ruler to bring a lesson from ministerial ethics 101 to the man of God. What’s interesting is Isaac, Abe’s son, does the exact same thing later in Genesis 26. 

Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’” Gen 26:9

Moral of the story, beauty will always attract, deception always detracts... don’t get caught in a pretty lie.  Parents, your children are always watching. They will do what you do more often than what you say.  The way you preach as well as the way you correct a church member. The way you teach and seeing how you live out your teachings. Heavenly and physical eyes are always watching.

 

Generations.

Isaac was the first natural son to Abraham and Sarah, but not to Abraham. 3Ishmael, born of Sarah‘s handmaiden Hagar, was Abraham’s true first born. We still see the enmity between those two lineages to this day. What Isaac saw his parents model, it ended up being a pattern for his life as well. Yes he was a man of great faith, but in the process he and his wife Rebekah made similar mistakes. Where Abraham lied about his spouse, so did Isaac. Where as Abraham preferred Isaac, Rebekah preferred Jacob.

And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28

Moral of the story, Parent’s it is never wise to have a preferred child. We must never value one more because he helps in ministry than others who do not. God is the one that calls us into ministry, not us as parents or pastors.  Love them for who they are. Invest in their gifting for their sake, not your ministerial goals. 

Also the issues that we fail to address in our lives, many times end up as a responsibility for the next generation. We see it with Isaac, we also see it in David’s narrative. 4David faced the Philistine Goliath, because Samson didn’t finish the job. 5David also couldn’t build the Temple, but his son Solomon did. 

 

Plagued Parenthood

Another example is Moses and Zipporah. Scholars debate exactly why, but when Moses was out doing God’s work in Egypt, Zipporah was at home with the kids. We last read of her in Exodus 4:24-26 and then again in chapter 18:2-3 after the plagues, parting of the Red Sea, essentially most of God’s miraculous work through Moses' ministry.

He could have been upset she intervened in the circumcision of his son6. We can postulate that he was sheltering her and the kids from the weightiness of ministry. However in the process he robbed them of the opportunity of a lifetime to witness God’s hand moving in the most powerful ways. Possibly in an effort to protect them, he hindered the growth in them.

Moral of the story, God’s calling over your life equates to God’s calling over your family’s life. One is not separate from the other, and to separate them shows a lack of trust on your behalf.  That does not mean they are called to ministry as pastors or leaders, but they are called to be pastors kids. The dynamic is different in a pastors home, speaking from experience. Bring them up with the fear of the Lord in their lives as if you were an insurance salesmen or a minister. 

Also never sacrifice your marriage on the altar of ministry. Your first ministry is to your spouse and children, not the church. The church belongs to Jesus, not to you. Do not be an absent spouse or parent and expect them to readily understand because your doing God’s work. 

 

Putting the pieces together.

Now after reading this article, you may think hey you’re not putting our forefathers of the faith in the best light. Let us not forget that God included these stories in the Scriptures for a reason. Yes they accomplished many miraculous deeds for God. Yes we can never replicate what they accomplished despite their shortcomings. But the fact that they are included is for us to draw lessons from and learn what not to do, as much as what to do in our marriages and ministries.

It seems all three have a common denominator, issues of trust. We need to trust God with our children and our future. We do not need to act like mini-gods with our families. We need to learn to trust God wholly.  Trust that He will work things for our good. That He will build his church, so we can administer it.

The only perfect marriage exists between Jesus and the Church. Our job is to love our spouses like Jesus loves the church. Out of the abundance of love we have towards God, our relationships will flourish. We will lead our marriages and ministries to great heights trusting an unknown future to a known God.

1. Gen. 17:16-17; 18:13, 2. Gen 20:2-18 3. Gen 16:15 4. 1 Sam. 17 5. 1 Kings 6:12 6. Exodus 4:24-26

5 Steps for Achieving Goals

It’s a brand new year!   Happy New Year!

And by now, one month has almost passed for 2018.

You’ve had time to work on some goals, and opportunities to do something different this year over these past few weeks.  Hopefully, you have taken steps in the right direction towards the changes you want to see!

But if you haven’t, it’s okay.  We have all been there. But, we don’t have to stay there!

I have learned a secret:  if nothing changes, nothing changes.

In other words, if we do not intentionally change something we do daily or weekly, the results we are receiving will not change.  If we do not change our routines or habits that could aid in accomplishing our goals, we will be standing at the end of the year wondering where did the time go?

Here are some things to ponder:

·      Time is going to continue to press forward.

·      Being busy is not an excuse.

·      It is not going to happen overnight.

I have learned from my own personal experience that if I want to achieve my goals for the year, then I need to create actionable steps and habits in my weekly schedule to give me the results I want to see!

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

Here are 5 steps for you to accomplish your goals:

1.  Decide what you want.

I know it may sound simple, but this practice is to help bring some clarity to your own soul.  What is it that you want to accomplish this year?

·      Do you want to go back to school?

·      Do you want to buy a home?

·      Do you want to try a new career?

·      Do you want to read more books?

·      Do you want to get into the best physical shape of your life?

·      Do you want more of God in your life?

Give yourself a fair chance to win.  You cannot hit a target that has not been identified.

2.  Write it down.

Right?  Again, another simple practice, but lots of people never take the time down to write down what they want to accomplish.

Did you know that people who write down their goals on paper (or digital format) are more than likely to accomplish their goals?  It’s true!  Great men and women have practiced writing down thoughts and ideas for hundreds of years.

Even the books and letters of the Bible are here today because the authors WROTE IT DOWN!

“When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn’t planned.” – Melanie Benjamin

Pull out a sheet of paper.  Buy a journal.  Open your laptop.  Use the notes feature on your iPhone.  

3.  Share it with someone.

Okay, I know this makes you a bit vulnerable to others.  You are sharing things with someone that might be a bit personal.  But, I would encourage you to share your goals with someone you trust and someone that believes in you.  Also, if it’s really private, then use discretion.

The goal here is not to spread TMI (too much information), but to create a healthy accountability for you.  When others know what we desire to do or should be doing, it helps us to strive for the prize.

As long as you keep it private, you may not feel the healthy “pressure” to make it happen.  And here’s the bonus:  it’s not for them, but it’s for YOU!

4.  Schedule it into your calendar.

Let’s say you desire to read more books this year.  Okay, what books specifically?  And when you have selected your books, which book will you read first?  And once you have your first book, what part of the day or which days will you schedule some reading time?

I know – not all are scheduled people.  But the point here is to say that if it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t exist.  If we don’t create space to achieve the habit required to meet the goal, we will not reach the goal.  Plain and simple.

You are worth it.  

You may not feel like those small changes in your daily routine are making a difference, but trust me, they do!  Small changes daily are magnified over time.

5.  Review periodically.

Now, here is where discipline really comes in – at the end of the month or every quarter, review your progress.

Personally, I check my personal and professional goals every month.  I want to know how I am doing.

Just like we check the scoreboard at football games to know who is winning, your year needs a scoreboard to know if you are down or up.  If you are down, make adjustments.  If you are up, keep doing what you are doing.  

You can either make progress or make excuses, but you cannot do both.

Now, get out there and go win!

Define Your Vision with Values

In recent decades, we have seen the emergence of books, seminars and conferences that bring secular leadership principles to the church setting.  Additionally, more and more civic and business leaders are becoming active in their local churches, exerting a corporate influence on church leadership.  This has undoubtedly been a blessing to the kingdom of God.  It has fostered a spirit of excellence and professionalism in the body of Christ that represents the kingdom well.

While secular leadership and church leadership share many sound ideas, they flow out of starkly different visions.  The jargon of each idea highlights opposite purposes: “gains” vs. “grace”, “success” vs. “salvations”, “profits” vs. “praise”, “losses” vs. “longsuffering” – you get the idea.  So, before we talk about vision, we need to talk about values.  Vision is what we do.  Values are who we are.  No matter how great the vision is or how clear we can communicate it, if we don’t embrace the correct values, then we cannot expect God to prosper our work. Here are a few virtues that should define your vision. 

Obedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  Obedience is not solely our duty to Him, it is also our expression of love for Him.  We must be people of God before doing the work of God.  Google “obedience” and you’ll find this definition: submission to another’s authority. Don't ever forget that!  We are under His command.  “Dreaming is free” is a catchy phrase, but we are not free to dream our own dream.  Our vision should center on God’s – “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9)”.  Our pursuit is obedience, before results. 

Compassion.  In ministry, passion alone is not enough.  Visionaries see needs – and it compels them.  God pointed Moses to the captivity of Israel.  David came to an army overpowered by fear.  Esther saw a nation in exile.  Jesus paid the sins of a helpless humanity.  None of them were concerned with success or fame, it was compassion that drove them. 

Relationships.  Spiritual leadership requires more than solely responsibilities.  It requires relationships.  Jesus called the twelve, “disciples”, but eventually he called them “friends”.  In other words, you must love on the people you lead.  And those relationships should deepen over time.  Ministry doesn’t serve clients.  It serves God’s children.  

Authority.  Authority is not the same as power.  The Pharisees were inferior to Christ in power, yet they abused the little power they had.  Jesus on the other hand, had all the power in the world.  He could have demanded that people follow.  In fact, He could have forced them.  But what had people in awe of Christ was His authority.  “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.” Power usually gets results through fear.  Authority gets results through love.  In business, employees fear losing their jobs if they don’t submit to leadership.  In ministry, people love the benefits of following a godly leader.

How do you want to produce results?  Love overcomes fear.  The greatest commandment is love.  God is love.  Let your vision be defined by love.  Entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, Robert Clancy puts it this way, “Great leaders may be found at the top of the mountain looking back upon their challenges, but the greatest leaders are often found at the foot of the mountain still helping others reach the summit.”

- Pastor Chali 

Chali Martinez is passionate about spreading the transformational gospel of Jesus Christ.  His unique speaking style blends passion, humor, and clarity and has made Pastor Chali a highly solicited international speaker.  Having accepted the call to ministry at age 16, Chali now has over 20 years of ministerial experience having served as a singer, songwriter, evangelist, and youth pastor.  In 2013 Chali and his lovely wife Carla founded Vital Church in McAllen, Texas, now one of the fastest growing churches in South Texas and where they currently serve as lead pastors.  Chali and Carla are the proud parents of two young boys, Dante and Luca. 

What’s Your One?

I love the topics on self development & personal growth. When I say love them, it’s not just like an occasional hobby but a daily habit. Not ONE day goes by that I don't watch, listen, or read something that betters, teaches, or inspires me in some way. But it wasn’t always like that.

I was blessed to have parents and a mentor instruct me and model a life of self development and personal growth. At a very young age they taught me Dr. John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid: Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. They taught me that learning was not just in a classroom. They taught me not to depend solely on anyone else for MY growth, but to go after it on my own and I am forever be grateful to them for that.

This blog is not necessarily for the person who already has their five year growth plan outlined or list of the next 20 books they want to read, but rather the person who knows they should be growing, wants to grow but doesn't know where to start. Honestly, it can be overwhelming with all the resources available today. I did some quick searches and here is what I found:

-There are 260,251 book titles on Amazon when I searched ‘self development’.

-There are 2,930,000 videos on YouTube when I search ‘personal growth’.

That’s not including podcasts, life coaches, conferences, leadership programs, etc…

I don’t want you to misinterpret what I’m about to say. I’m all about having vision and goals for your life. When starting something new, it’s ok to start small and with one thing at a time. It’s like a person who never goes to the gym, all of a sudden they show up on January 1st expecting to lift a crazy heavy amount. It doesn't work like that. You grow into it.

If your the type of person that gets easily overwhelmed, I would like for you to consider the following: just focusing on one. That’s either one podcast, one chapter, one class, one goal, one hour, one day, one step forward.

When I started picking up the habit of reading books, honestly I set myself up to win. How? I picked books about my favorite subjects, by my favorite authors, and the shortest books I could find. Why? Just so I could finish one book. And then I would begin another and another.

Similarly, when I began keeping my personal planner, I did not plan out months in advance but often times one week or even one day. I was young, it was new, other than school and church, I didn’t have much going on. But I knew it wouldn't always be like that. So I would write down what I was going to do tomorrow or when I had an upcoming test. I included events we had coming up at church and then services I was invited to speak at. Next thing you know I’m planning and reading more and more.

What’s your one? What’s one thing you can start doing right now that will move you forward in the right direction?

I have always found it interesting how some people say, “I just don't have enough time.” As if some people get more hours in a day than others. Equally interesting, it’s funny how people have time for NETFLIX but not for their NEXT STEP. Nothing against Netflix, I enjoy a good tv show as well, but can you imagine what would happen if we took the time we spent on lesser important things and focused them on things that really did matter? Imagine how many books, courses, or videos we could have completed? Imagine how much further you would be in accomplishing your goal. Time management and productivity is another passion of mine. But here is the summary: Don’t be so focused on two or three years from now that you miss out on TODAY.

When I skim through the Bible I see the the theme of TODAY throughout the scriptures beginning from page one. Two examples: Creation happened day by day and in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread. Could God have created everything in one moment? Of course. Could He provide for our weekly, monthly, or yearly bread? Yes! I really believe that He is trying to teach us something, which is: Today matters. It’s ok to start with one. You can break this into smaller pieces. Things that last often were made or built over time.

Psalm 119:105 includes the statement: "...Your word is a LAMP to my feet," not a spotlight. The difference? The spotlight reaches and shows you the end and long distance. A lamp doesn’t. A lamp shows you only your next step.

Again if you already have a rhythm for self development and personal growth then keep at it. If you don’t and are ready to take responsibility for it, what’s your one? What one goal do you want to work on? What’s one podcast you can start listening to? What’s one speaker you would like to learn more from? What’s one subject that you would like to grow in? Start with one but don't stay there.

What happens as you make these small (one) wins? They begin to add up. One win plus another win plus another win is how momentum and forward movement is produced.

Don’t fear learning or attempting new things, fear being the same person you are today exactly one year from now. A long time ago, I committed to not allowing that to happen to me. I refuse to stay the same person when it comes to my knowledge and skill. To this day, although I love reading and taking in more information than ever before, I still catch myself at times focusing on my one. I read one chapter a day, I watch one video from youtube, I sign up for one webinar, etc…

So now it’s up to you. What’s your one?

 

Joey Salazar is a passionate and fervent minister of the Gospel. Called into ministry at a very young age, he has committed his life to passionately delivering God’s word to both youth and adults from various walks of life. With his ability to communicate in both English and Spanish, Joey challenges hearers with a creative, upfront, and anointed message. Joey has graduated from multiple ministry internships including: Impact Now and Ignite. He studied Bible Institute at Southeastern Spanish District, and has served in different roles in ministry including: Assistant Pastor, Media Director, Internship Assistant Director, Graphic Artist, Musician, Youth Pastor, and Evangelist. He currently serves as Executive Pastor at Journey Church under the leadership of Pastors JJ and Liz Vasquez. Journey's mission is simple: Jesus should be accessible to anyone. He also serves as Executive Director with Next Gen, a movement designed to mentor and coach the next generation of church leaders. Joey is currently writing his first book, which will be available in the Fall of 2017. Joey, along with his beautiful wife, Zerelys, and both children, Joely and Joziah, reside in Orlando, FL.

CREATIVITY: GOD'S GIFT

So what is creativity and where does it come from? When God created the world, he created man and woman in his own image. He told them to be fruitful and multiply and to rule over all that he had created. As part of that rule God had Adam name the animals. This was one of the first recorded creative acts of man. He also placed Adam and Eve in the garden and gave them work to do. That work involved thinking, planning and decision making, all of which are aspects of the creative process.

After the fall we find that mankind’s creativity continued, although it was now stained by sin. In the early chapters of Genesis we see the rise of agriculture, the building of cities, the forging of tools and even the beginning of music. We read in Genesis 4:21 that “Jubal … was the father of all who played the harp and flute.” In short, we find the beginnings of human culture, as man began to put into practice the creative gifts that God had given him to fulfill his task of ruling over creation

And so God, the creator, is the source of all creativity, and in creating man in his own image, He gave man gifts of creativity also. 

Exodus 31:1-6 -Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.”

In Exodus 31:1-6 God is telling Moses who will be in charge of building the tabernacle. But the text also contains four very important principles for us as we consider Gods "GIFT OF CREATIVITY"

1. God chooses to whom he gives gifts. (1-2)

The first thing we learn from the text is that God chooses to whom He gives gifts. Look at verses 1-2: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.’” The word translated “chosen” in this verse is a word that means “called or commissioned.” You have heard of people commissioning art work to be done before. Well, here God commissions Bezalel son of Uri for the work of overseeing the building of the tabernacle. God had gifted Bezalel for this task. God chooses to whom he gives gifts.

We find this principle throughout Scripture. It is true of spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul lists a number of the gifts and then he says, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor.12:11). Hebrews 2:4 also speaks of “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” 

But spiritual gifts are only one example of this. God is the giver of all gifts, and He chooses which gifts to give to whom. God did not create everyone the same. To some he gives artistic ability, to others musical ability, to others the ability to make things with their hands. God in his wisdom gave you exactly the creative gifts that he wanted you to have. Your gifts are part of who you are. They are part of the person that God created you to be. We should receive those gifts with thanksgiving and use them to the best of our ability. 

2. God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship. 

The second thing we learn from our text is that God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship. Look at Exodus 31 again: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” (Ex. 31:2-3)

Apparently this man, Bezalel, was a master craftsman. He was filled with the Spirit of God in knowledge, skill and ability to do the work of building the tabernacle. God had clearly chosen Bezalel for this task long before he revealed it to Moses. Moses didn’t just walk down the mountain and find that Bezalel could suddenly do all these things. God doesn’t work that way. God had been preparing Bezalel all along. And Bezalel would have had to work hard to develop those gifts as well. Still, God chose him for this task, and with that in mind, He “filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”

Now we are not all going to be like a Bezalel. It seems that Bezalel was an extraordinarily gifted man. You and I will probably not attain to the same level of skill and mastery that Bezalel obviously had. And that’s okay. God not only chooses to whom He gives gifts; He also chooses how much of any gift he gives to each person. But the point is this. Whatever knowledge, skill and ability you have comes from God.  James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” 

Do you have knowledge in a certain area? Do you have special abilities? Do you have skills that you have been able to develop beyond what the average person can do in that area? God gave that to you. It comes from Him. God gave you your creative abilities, and you need to honor him with the gifts He has given you. God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship.

3. God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. (4-5)

The third thing we learn from our text is that God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. Going back to Exodus 31, look at verses 4-5. When God gifted Bezalel, he gave him knowledge, skill and ability “to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” 

Bezalel wasn’t just given one gift, say, the ability to work with gold. Bezalel was skilled in many mediums – gold, silver and bronze. He knew how to cut stones and place them in beautiful settings. He understood carpentry and how to work with wood. Apparently he knew much more, because verse five finally stops listing all his different skills and just says he was able to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. 

God gave Bezalel a wide variety of gifts. And that was all just one person!  Rom. 12:6 says, “We [all] have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” God in His grace gives a wide variety of gifts to all people everywhere. 

And so when we think of creative gifts, we should not limit ourselves to just thinking about the creative arts – painting, sculpture, writing, music, dance, design, photography, and so on. All of human endeavor involves creative gifts and abilities, from a simple setting of the table for dinner to the building of a vast cathedral. 

Every person is a creative person. It’s true. Anytime you put part of yourself into a task or project you are being creative. Anytime you organize or decorate something you are being creative. Anytime you solve a problem you are being creative. Anytime you inject humor into a situation you are being creative. Anytime you apply the knowledge, ability and skill that God has given you to the task at hand, you are being creative.

So when you think about creativity, don’t just think about the arts! God gives a wide variety of creative gifts, and He has given creative gifts to you, too. And there is a reason God gave you the specific gifts that make you who you are.

4. God’s gifts have a purpose. (6)

And that leads us to our fourth and final point. God’s gifts have a purpose. Look at verse 6 where God expands the creative task for building the tabernacle beyond just Bezalel: “Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.” (Ex. 31:6)

Why did God give Bezalel and Oholiab and all the other craftsmen their specific skills? I am sure they used those skills for many other things as well, but God also had a specific purpose in mind for them. God had given them all the particular skills they needed in order to build the tabernacle, and not just to build it, but to build it according to God’s exact specifications, as God told Moses, “to make everything I have commanded you.”

God gives creative gifts for a purpose. Part of that purpose is simply for us to fulfill our role as human beings made in the image of God.  

Too often we think of Christianity only in terms of the Bible, prayer, and church on Sunday mornings. But as important as all those things are, the Christian life is so much bigger than that. Christianity is all about being human to the glory of God. And so that means taking all that God has created in this world and all of human culture and creativity and then returning it to God in praise. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:4 “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 

The church (believers) lost its influence in the world, because it lost interest in the world that God created. How sad! As Christians we should not only be interested in Christianity. 

Beyond the general overall purpose of reflecting the image of God in society by exercising your creative gifts, God also has some specific purposes for the gifts he has given you. Going back to the tabernacle in Exodus 31, God had a very specific purpose for the creative gifts he gave to Bezalel and Oholiab. How about for New Testament believers today? 

Eph. 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Isn’t that awesome? Just as Bezalel and Oholiab produced quality workmanship for the tabernacle, you are the workmanship of Almighty God. And God has not only prepared specific works for you to do, but he also created you with the specific gifts necessary to do those good works. Make no mistake about it. God’s gifts have a purpose, and God has a purpose for the creative gifts he has given you.

CONCLUSION: In summary: 1) God chooses to whom He gives gifts; 2) God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship; 3) God gives a wide variety of creative gifts; and 4) God’s gifts have a purpose.

What should our response be to all this?

1) Always thank God for the creative gifts He has given you. Do not put down your gifts. Do not envy the gifts of others. Do not boast in your gifts. Rather, thank God for the specific gifts he has given you, and do so with a spirit of humility and wonder.

2) Develop and Use your creative gifts.Remember the parable of the talents? God does not want you to bury your gifts in the ground. If you have a sharp mind, develop it! If you have the ability to produce beautiful things with your hands, produce them! Work hard, and develop the gifts God has given you. The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Take the gifts that God has given you, develop them to the best of your ability, and then use them in loving service to God and others.

3) Engage in all the life God has given you for His glory. Remember, “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Tim. 4:4)  No matter where your gifts or interests lie, God can use you to bring him glory in this world. 

 

Mike Ramirez/ThroneStudio

Born in a single parent home, Mike' s mother raised 4 children ( Mike being the youngest) and they all serve in their own ministry. Mike started his ministry as a youth pastor since 1994, through life's journey his ministry ThroneStudio was birth on Easter of 2015. He took a step of faith and has been full time ministry since October of 2015. Along with his beautiful wife Lori they serve and are members of Cross Church in San Benito Tx. ThroneStudio is a ministry expressing the WORD through paint (live painting). His passion is to PAINT and PREACH the WORD! 

5 Things I've Learned Being A Pastor

1. Your work is never done

2. You can't do it alone

3. Build a strong team around you

4. You can say no

5. Never stop learning.
 

The more you learn, the better your team gets. Being a Pastor is totally different then being a leader in a ministry. As a leader you oversee one ministry. As a pastor you oversee the whole ministry. I have been a Pastor for two years and it been an amazing and difficult journey.

No one ever explains how difficult it was going to be or that there were going to be days that you feel you can't do it. Perhaps there are days that you just want to give up. But God always reminds me "I chose you and I didn't make a mistake." I wouldn't change anything I have gone through as a Pastor. Everything I have gone through has only made me stronger.

Before joining tribe a year ago, I felt like I was in a boat and I did not know which direction to go. When my wife and I joined tribe we didn't know what we were getting into but we knew God had a plan. We learned a lot. Not only did we try to figure out which direction God was leading, but also how to lead and mentor other people. There were ways that the Tribe helped to guide us and communicate with us and I started using those ways and resources with our church.

The most important thing I've learned is that you are never alone. There are other pastors and leaders that feel the same way I did. I didn't just get help but I was able to make new friends and mentors. More importantly, my wife and I continue to be part of a family that continues to grow. We ain't Tribe, We are family.

 

Hello my name is George Zapata Jr. Two years ago I became the Senior Pastor at New Wine Church in La Feria, Texas. I was previously served as Music Pastor. Education 2005-2006 Dallas Baptist University 2001 San Antonio College CNS. 

5 Ways to Reach Millennials

Recently, I’ve heard people coining this word, “millennial.” It’s a word that hasn’t been used unless you are in the classes of social studies, but I’m not here to give a detailed explanation of what a millennial is. To make a long definition short, I believe a millennial is someone living in today’s generation. Not just someone, but a youth, young person. You would think that everyone talks so highly of millennials, however everywhere I step, they talk so down about this generation. I feel like a lot of people today have lost hope for our future and destiny.

Believe it or not, the generation of today, are the world changers for tomorrow. We cannot disown the youth of today. We cannot do away with who God created.  If He hasn’t called you, He’s called them! As a youth director, part of a local church, and a tutor that is part of a public school I’d like to share with you 5 practical ways to help reach today’s generation.

1.     You have to believe for their future and not their past.

If you were to put yourself in the mind of a teenager, you’d always have someone remind you of your struggles and flaws, and never remind you of where your going. Often times I hear young people in the secular world who have people that they trust in their lives always look down on them. They say that they will never amount to anything because of what they’ve done or did. Where is the hope we have for them? If you work in the school system and or your local church and you’re heavily involved with youth, you need to be able to believe the best for them, not the worst. Students need to hear where they are going, not where they’ve been. That’s a mistake our world has. They remind them of their past, but as a leader you need to be able to remind them of their glorious future. Speak life for their future, and speak death to their past.

2.     You have to relate, not resist.  

Being involved in both youth ministry and education is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. I once heard one of my professors quote during school, “in order for you to teach middle school or high school, you have to be able to relate to the students.” A lot of time we don’t understand what students go through because we don’t have the time to relate to them. In order for you to reach the next generation you have to relate to them. Don’t resist them just because they don’t meet your expectation for your leadership group. Don’t resist them just because they don’t know God’s word yet. Until you relate to them about what they go through, where they’ve come from, where they’ve been, you’ll then understand who they were, and who they will become. Don’t ever neglect them because you cant relate. Once you spend enough time with them, you’ll understand the potential they carry for your life and theirs.

3.     You have to have compassion, and not curse.  

It amazes me how many people will try to curse this generation. When nobody else is looking, people will speak death to someone they don’t even know, someone they can’t even understand. or someone who never did wrong. Where is the compassion this generation needs? We need to have compassion for those who are hurting, those who are wounded, those who are coming from broken families and broken pasts. If we are the hands and feet of Jesus, then compassion needs to be in our actions for this generation. Instead of cursing them, start being more compassionate for them.

4.     You have to build relationships, not rituals.

A lot of times we develop rituals to avoid the students that God has put in our life. What do I mean by rituals? We start doing things over and over again to avoid our relationship with those that God has called us to mentor and steward. I’m not saying to throw everything away and avoid your family. What I’m saying is you need to be able to balance your students and others into your life. If you are the youth pastor, youth leader, youth director for your church, please be there for them! They need you and they want to learn from you! One thing I love to do with my girlfriend, when we get the opportunity to, is to spend time with some students and invest in what we believe will be the hope of our future. We've learned to balance them into our lives. We've learned to treat them like family. We've learned to love them unconditionally just like Jesus would and did. That’s one method that I use that was taught to me by my former youth pastor. He always took the time to spend time with me, invest in me, and speak into my ministry. That’s what our students and this generation need. They want a great relationship with you. They want to be loved by you. Don’t ignore what God has called you to care for.

5.     You have to have faith for them, not fear.  

The bible clearly states that “God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear, but love, power and a sound mind.”  I know sometimes reaching out towards the generation of today comes with great fear. Fear can be the who, what, where, when and why. Who are we going to reach, what are we going to do, where can we do this, and why are we doing this? Don’t ever allow the enemy to put fear in your life, when God has called you to have faith for the millennials of today. Believe in them and have faith in them like God is does. We are the only way they can see Jesus. You be the light for them. You be the hope for them. It doesn’t matter how much faith you have, as long as you have faith God will use what you have and turn it into plenty.

I pray and hope that these 5 points bless you and your ministry. Our generation needs us. They want to be more like Jesus. What better way than to be in their life! Be blessed. 

 

Ryan De La Rosa serves under the ministry of Pastors Bill & Anne Moore at Livingway Family Church. Ryan oversees the youth ministry of Livingway Family Church in the Harlingen Campus as the youth director.  He is also a tutor with IDEA public schools in Brownsville, Texas. Ryan's goal is to see a generation filled with the Holy Spirit and know who Jesus is.

Harvest

This year we experienced a GREAT EASTER WEEKEND! One thing I have learned about ministry around here, is that EASTER Weekend is a HUGE deal for us!  It is an opportunity for us to REACH PEOPLE we have never reached and tell them about Jesus.

However, with that grace of reaching people and seeing hundreds attend our services and ministry comes the high price of stewardship and responsibility.  The Bible teaches:

·      To whom much has been given, much is required - Luke 12:48

·      God gives the amount of the talent - it is our job to multiply the talent - Matthew 25:15

The Bible states that “he gave to each according to his own ability” - meaning if God has given us this type of influence, favor, and grace, He is affirming our ability.

I have learned that after Easter Weekend - comes the WORK!

I want to share with you some quotes I read recently from a sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick.  I don't think it was by coincidence that I thought on these things. He preached a message on John 4:34-38, where Jesus is talking about the HARVEST.  He is telling His disciples that the HARVEST is ready.

Here are some notes I gathered:

·      The HARVEST is hard.

·      Sometimes you have to go through things that other people will walk around.

·      If God gives you what you are praying for, you might lose a few friends.

·      Reaping ain't easy.

·      You can't reap what you don't recognize.  Harvest is a problem if you're not ready to reap.

·      Harvest is a problem if you're not willing to increase your capacity.

·      The harvest is often hidden in the things you hate.

I grew up in Itasca Texas and I remember when the corn fields or the cotton fields were ready, you would see the combines and workers working all day and night to pull in the harvest. There is a season to pull in the harvest because if you don't, you could lose your crop! I know the excitement of Easter Weekend has passed, but now comes the true test of commitment and stewardship - HARVESTING what God sent us.

So how does that look like for us?

·      Get to the know the people attending our services

·      Making phone calls to first time guests

·      Following up with saved people

·      Assimilating new people into the Serve Team

·      Stepping up our personal spiritual game to meet the demands of the season

HARVEST is a blessing, but it is also hard work. Don't be fooled into thinking we can stop now. WE CAN'T STOP. Eternity depends on it.  Families are in need of it. People are looking for it. A city is waiting for it.

Let's go get the HARVEST!

"Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest?' Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for HARVEST!" - John 4:35

Abram Gomez is the Executive Pastor of Cross Church, formerly known as Valley International Christian Center, in San Benito, TX. He serves under the leadership of Bishop Jaime Loya and helps in leading the 2,500-member congregation. Abram is a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Ministries. He recently earned  his Master’s Degree in Human Services Counseling with a specialization in Executive Leadership from Liberty University. Abram is the founder and director of Next Gen, a movement designed to mentor Next Generation Church Leaders. Abram recently received approval as a team member and representative for Nation 2 Nation University, a video-based ministerial school offering two and four year degrees.  His teaching is a part of the curriculum including Youth Ministry, Church Administration and Church Growth. Occasionally, Abram writes for Valley Christian Magazine, a regional periodical that covers the entire valley.  He and his wife, Rebecca, reside in Harlingen along with their precious daughter Isabella and son Jude.

Among the Sirens

Take a step with me. Close your eyes it's Monday morning. You're sitting in traffic sipping your coffee and already begin to have the wheels in your head start to spin of what you need to do today. What you will eat, and how much sleep you'll get all while the radio plays and the phone rings? We develop that cycle of tunnel vision of what the week will bring without seeing what’s around us and the blessings of what is to come with every morning we wake of the week. All of a sudden, you hear in the distance the muffled sound of an ambulance coming towards you and the lights and sirens fly by as you swerve out of the way. In an instant you forget all those thoughts crowding your head of what is to come and be done on your schedule.

This is how I see God’s need to calm our storms. Leaders, in Zechariah 2:5 it states, "And I myself will be a fire around it and I declares the lord will be its glory within"

No matter how packed our schedules can be or the worries weighing down our shoulders, there is a God who will be a wall around you and protect you in whatever battles we face even when our mind is crowded.  We forget this sometimes, and that is when He will come and be the glory within. He will protect you like sirens that warn you of what is approaching your way.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed or unable to handle the tasks we face in “you name it” ministry, our careers, college, etc. and we need a reminder of the protection, we have of our lord we can look to. No matter the aches or routines of everyone around, just like the sirens that symbolize a fast approaching comfort to someone in need we have a God who is with us everyday and through every "To Do List." He will be the force of glory always approaching to bring comfort for you. Sometimes we need to look in that rear view mirror and hear the sounds God sends to say He is with us and is by our side.

Things that stick out to me from each level:

1. Your job title - this is when you initially get the promotion. You don't have the skills yet to lead. Your co-workers follow because they feel they have to.

This leads to you not getting the best of people.

2. You will see the switch of them following because they want too.

Relationships are made and formed. This is the foundation of the bond you make with your co-workers. If you antagonize your co-workers, you can't influence them. You need to LISTEN WELL, OBSERVE, and LEARN THE ATTIUDES OF SERVANTHOOD. Start to grow beyond your title.

3. You will be an effective leader because you produce by example and show creditability. Always model what you want to see.

We will always attract workers who reflect who we are.

*Momentum is a leaders best friend.

4. This is a people development level. When you increase their capacity you increase yours.

A. Recruitment is the key

B. Bring the right people to the right spot. Successful leaders put people in the right spot

C. Equip well

5. They will follow you.

You earn respect for what you have accomplished. It takes time and will always be an on going process.

My name is Morgan Putbrese and I am twenty years old. I attend Cross Church (Mcallen campus). I have experience serving in the youth ministry. I am an EMT here in the Rio Grande Valley and I am currently going to school for my Paramedic certification. 

You Aren't Called to Be Average

When I look at society at large and those who lead it, there is one blaring question: Where are the Christians in places of prominence who are leading our society? Yes, there are certainly Christians in some positions of leadership in various arenas—but when it comes to leading, creating, and influencing culture, we are lagging behind the world. Which leads us to ask the question: why?

As Christians we are empowered by the grace of God, and God’s very Spirit resides inside of us—so why are we as a church often found imitating the world’s methods rather than leading?

Consider this account of Daniel:

Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3 NIV

First things first—notice this is in the Old Testament, meaning Jesus had not yet made us clean and paved the way for the Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. That means Daniel did this under an inferior covenant! That is astounding.

Next, notice it doesn’t say, “God distinguished Daniel.” Every major Bible translation says that it was Daniel who “distinguished himself.” The Message Bible states it this way:

But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3 MSG

How did Daniel do it? He had exceptional qualities because he was a man who was connected with God. It should be no different for anyone who has the Spirit of God living inside them. In fact, it should be better. He did all this under the old covenant, which we are no longer under. Hebrews 8:6 tells us that because of Jesus, “the new covenant is established on better promises.”

The New American Standard Bible says, “Daniel began distinguishing himself…because he possessed an extraordinary spirit.” The word extraordinary means “to go beyond the norm, to break out of the status quo, to exceed the common measure.”

As a people filled with God’s Spirit and empowered by His grace, under a new and better covenant than even Daniel had, we are called to rule in life. But don’t take my word for it. Look at Paul’s words to the Roman church. He says:

“All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.” —Romans 5:17 TEV

As a believer, you are not called to just get by. You are not called to blend into the crowd. Nothing of the sort. You are called to rule in life. God made you to be extraordinary—and He’s placed His Spirit inside you to set you apart!

If you are a teacher, empowered by God’s grace, you should inspire students in a way that makes others marvel and ask you what you are doing differently. If you are in business, you should be ahead of the market, at the cutting edge of innovation. If you are an artist, others should look to you for creative ideas, wanting to replicate the originality of your work. The same principle applies if you’re a musician, researcher, athlete, scientist, politician, police officer, flight attendant, or stay-at-home mom, or if you’re in the media, the military, or any other arena of life.

Again, remember the words of Paul in Romans—our mandate as Christians is to rule. Like Daniel, we are to distinguish ourselves by God’s empowering presence on our lives.

It’s time the world looked to the church for inspiration and not the other way around. It’s time we begin living our lives with such a degree of excellence that we move into positions of influence in every arena of society. Not only do I believe this is possible—I believe it is a part of our calling—it’s God’s mandate on us as His followers. May we recognize our God-given identity as sons and daughters, rely on His empowering grace, and in a world of average, begin to distinguish ourselves for God’s glory.

 

John Bevere and his wife Lisa are the founders of Messenger International. A minister and best-selling author, John delivers messages of uncompromising truth with boldness and passion. His desire is to support the local church and resource leaders regardless of location, language, or financial position. To this end, his resources have been translated into over 90 languages, and millions of copies have been given away to pastors and leaders worldwide. When he’s home, John tries to convince Lisa to take up golf and spends time with his four sons, daughter-in-law, and grandbabies.

Keys for an Effective Ministry Leadership Team

It was said best by John C. Maxwell, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team”. The importance of that quote dug deep into my mindset as I sat at my computer for days on end trying to think of original and genuine words to speak about. I realized shortly after seeing that quote just how important it is to have a good team that is in sync with the goal. What is the ultimate goal by the way? All our goals may be worded differently but they should all ultimately lead to serving God. Why? Why should they? Because we must be sure that our goals align with God’s will for us. If they contradict the Word and character of God, they will not bring us happiness. Moving towards a focused group of leadership, our ministry should reflect the Word of God. The following keys will help you to have an effective leadership team:

1.     Creating a Team

We must pick out a solid group of individuals who understand the importance of their role in the church. Individuals who have a consistent and growing relationship with God, and are willing to be servants. John 13:12-15 states, “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you”.

2.     Staying Organized

Having an organized system is extremely important. Mostly because once we start digging into the next couple of keys for an effective team we need to have our vision clear as opposed to chaotic. In addition, the roles everyone oversees should be very simple to remember in order to refrain from mistakes. The best way to do this is to be patient with new leaders. Train them by setting an example, and by always being organized and prompt. There are methods such as keeping a planner, google calendar, and other applications that are helpful tools when it comes to staying organized. 1 Corinthians 14:10 states, “But all things should be done decently and in order.”

3.     Staying Focused

Writing down what the team values within the church, what is not working, and what they wish to see changed and done differently are very important steps. Everybody sees things with a different perspective, so being open minded allows room for improvement. Whatever your team’s goal may be, examine it carefully and be sure that the main purpose is leading back to Christ. We must be still and consult the Lord before we move forward. Seeking His guidance in any decision that needs to be made in our lives will allow us to make wise choices wile submitting to his will as opposed to being impulsive. Not only will we be fascinated by reaching our destination but we will also enjoy the journey. Habakkuk 2:2 states, “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it”.

4.     Staying Faithful                       

It is known that “faith can move mountains”. Well I come to you as a living testimony that it sure can. We as a team need to have enough faith for our entire church. If we don’t, how could we expect anybody else to? We are leading. We are setting an example. Not only through our words, but our actions as well. We need to show our church members and youth that we serve a mighty God! A God who accomplishes the impossible. A God who is never-failing, trustworthy, faithful, loving, and always has our best interest in mind. If we truly believe that we weren’t made to live mediocre lives, then we can be an inspiration to those around us as well, and with that comes humility. The Lord’s will always exceeds our own, and we need to be sure that we have humble hearts that are ready to receive all the blessings God has in store for us. Times will get difficult and trials will come our way, but we must remain faithful because there may be a single moment that we live on faith alone, and someone is watching and learning how to do the same. That is a true Christ-seeking leader that has the ability to change someone’s life simply through their character. 2 Chronicles 15:7 states, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded”.

5.     Staying Committed, Diligent and Motivated

Before we even agree to be a leader, we need to make sure that we will commit. Regardless of how busy our lives can become; we cannot give up. If anything, we need to say no to things we may want to do but take us away from our duties of being a leader. This is the sacrifice of being committed to a task. If we want to see our church grow and accomplish our mission for that year, then we need to commit ourselves to the Lord. He will provide all our needs. We must not worry about anything but have faith that everything will work out for His glory. We must be diligent in our efforts. Any goal requires hard work for it to be achieved. Finally, we must stay motivated. We must ask ourselves why we are working so hard for our goal, and if our motives are selfish. We need to operate with healthy and selfless, hearts. Matthew 17:20 states. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

My name is Krista Isabel Cruz and I am twenty-two years old. I currently minister at Trinity Baptist Church, as the worship leader, children's minister and youth service assistant. I am a graduate of Texas A&M International University and will be attending Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California in the fall of 2017.

 

How to Lead an Effective Meeting

Over the years, I have coordinated LOTS of meetings.  Both small and great.  

I have learned that there is a skill behind a good, effective meeting.  Being able to coordinate and host a good meeting creates upscale potential for you to get recognized in your organization for your effectiveness.

If you are an administrative assistant, ministry director, or even a Pastor, here are a few thoughts on what is required for a good meeting:

· Plan ahead.  Do not wait until the day of.  Planning helps to prevent failure.  "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

· Have an agenda.  Take people's time seriously.  An agenda makes sure that you talk about the essential items, and that you remember.

· Create a set time.  Start on time, and end on time.  Don't let the meeting go on and on. Tell the people what time you want to end.  People will respect that.  You give them an outlet.  

· Decide on whether food is an option or not.  Think this ahead.  Some rooms or places may not allow food.  Are people going to be getting off of work to attend the meeting?  Is it during lunch?  Is food really necessary?  Again - ask the right questions.

· Media needs.  Decide whether or not you are going to need PowerPoint, graphics, or show a video.  Does the room have the technology for this (televisions, projector, screens)?  If they do, then I would conduct a test before the meeting.  It never fails - something may go wrong.  Loading takes time.  What's the wifi passcode?  Again, investigate to find answers.

· Music.  I would suggest to have a speaker or songs ready to fill in "awkward" quiet space if necessary.  Not all meetings require this, but it helps in certain settings.  Music helps to create energy, and lack of music can hinder the energy in the room.

· Send reminders leading up to the meeting.  People are busy.  People forget.  A friendly reminder takes nothing away from you, and people will be grateful.  Don't overdo it, but keep it cordial and gentle.

· Check the room.  If you are hosting the meeting outside of your typical sphere, I would recommend to go check it out in advance.  Notice the setting.  Where are the restrooms? Do you have access to control the air?  What is limited?  Any other potential distractions you should be aware of?

· Keep the conversation moving forward.  If you are the facilitator of the meeting, do your best to keep the focus of the meeting.  Remember why the meeting was called in the first place.  Don't allow sidebar conversations to highjack the meeting.  If people want to connect over other types of topics, they can do so after the meeting.

· Action points.  Meetings are meant to discuss a topic and go from there.  Action is generally required.  If there were action points discussed in the meeting, go over it in the summary at the end of the meeting.  What was decided upon?  Who is doing what? I would recommend to  send a follow up email to include a thank you, a summary, and the written action points.  I have done this repeatedly in the past, and it helps to document.

Meetings are often a part of work and business.  However, they do not have to be ineffective, nor do they need to be a waste of time and space.  

In whatever you do, do it well.

 

Abram Gomez is the Executive Pastor of Cross Church, formerly known as Valley International Christian Center, in San Benito, TX. He serves under the leadership of Bishop Jaime Loya and helps in leading the 2,500-member congregation. Abram is a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Ministries. He recently earned  his Master’s Degree in Human Services Counseling with a specialization in Executive Leadership from Liberty University. Abram is the founder and director of Next Gen, a movement designed to mentor Next Generation Church Leaders. Abram recently received approval as a team member and representative for Nation 2 Nation University, a video-based ministerial school offering two and four year degrees.  His teaching is a part of the curriculum including Youth Ministry, Church Administration and Church Growth. Occasionally, Abram writes for Valley Christian Magazine, a regional periodical that covers the entire valley.  He and his wife, Rebecca, reside in Harlingen along with their precious daughter Isabella and son Jude.

Developing Small Group Leaders

A lot of churches have now joined in the strategy of using small groups to help disciple and create community within their congregations. 

If you are part of your church leadership that is helping to navigate small groups, or you are thinking of doing small groups for your ministry department, here are some tips for developing small group leaders:

1.  Determine a timeline and rhythm.

Decide what type of timeline you are going to have for small groups at your church.  Do you plan to do semesters?  How many weeks will groups last each semester?  Will they have a break in between semesters?  Do you plan to go 52 weeks?

The reason this is important is because it let's people interested in leading a group figure out if it works for their schedule.  Also, it provides a start date and an end date.  

2.  Be clear on expectations. 

Sometimes, we make the mistake of assuming that people know what we know. Being clear up front removes the confusion in the middle.

Be sure to give potential small group leaders clear guidelines and expectations.  Even if you are just starting the small group "system" in your church, setting the tone early will give them better clarity of what they are allowed to do.

3.  Offer continued support.

Once the groups begin, leaders will need some type of support throughout the semester or schedule.  It is almost certain that they will run into some type of small dilemmas where they may need direction and counsel.

For example, their small group may be lowly attended.  Or, they have a unique situation arise in the life of a member. Maybe, they are just excited about what God is doing in their group and want to share with someone!  

As a leader or director, provide some type of way to connect with leaders, and keep communication open.  Encouragement and support go a long way!

4.  Create healthy accountability.

If you are afraid that groups may go in a wrong direction, it's ok.

We all deal with certain fears when it comes to new things or fresh strategies.  But, if you feel small groups is for your church, then proceed with intentionality.

You would be wise in keeping some type of healthy accountability on group leaders such as weekly reports, metrics, end of semester evaluations, and other strategic devices to keep a pulse on groups.  It is not micromanagement - it is healthy accountability.  

Small groups are a great way to develop leaders and disciples in your church.  They create strong relationships and a community for believers to find refuge and strength from others.

By: Next Gen Staff

Sharpen Your Ax

Nowadays, life is so busy. At times, I envy the days I was younger and didn’t have the responsibilities that I have today. It was just simpler back then. No bills, no responsibility, no worries. But now life is different---great, but different. There’s so many things that fill up our day. In no particular order: family, school, work, friends, social media, ministry, and Designated Survivor (if you haven’t checked it out, do yourself a favor. It airs on ABC). All of these things are good, but often times what ends up happening is that we prioritize these things over our personal relationship with God. If you go back to the list I mentioned, I noted family, school, work, friends, social media, ministry, and Designated Survivor. The thing is this; there is one very important aspect to the life of a Christ follower that I left out: our relationship with God. Often times we substitute our relationship with God with ministry, when in reality, those are two separate things. We trick ourselves into believing that because we are doing ministry that we are growing and strengthening our relationship Him, but the truth is our relationship with God might be suffering. And when we allow ourselves to get to that point we lose our edge; we lose our effectiveness. 

To better illustrate this, I am reminded of a story: 

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” “But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.” (Source unknown).

This man was able to win the competition because he would PAUSE to SHARPEN his ax. Translation: he never let his blade go dull. You can’t be effective with a dull blade. You’ll only grow tired because you are trying to do it with your own strength rather than relying on a sharpened blade to cut through the wood. The same thing applies to our lives. In order to be effective in ministry, have a successful marriage or whatever task we are working at, we need to continually be sharpening our relationship with God. If we do not, we will go through life without being able to be effective because we are relying on our own strength, chopping away with a dull blade. I have to wonder, is it possible that you are not being as effective as you can be in your life because your ax, your prayer life, is dull? I encourage you to PAUSE from the demands of life and SHARPEN/STRENGTHEN your relationship with God. 

By: Josue Holguin

The Success of Failure

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to give teaching a try. I always loved school when I was growing up. I was the student who reminded the teachers when they forgot to pickup the homework, the kid that volunteered to go to summer school, the little girl who broke down in tears at the prospect of having a substitute teacher, for fear of the entire class being rebellious.

When I was offered a teaching position at a Christian private school, I was quick to say yes. I could not wait to return to my first love: school. With visions of perfect students who were eager to please the teacher and ready to learn, I carefully picked out a plain black dress, teal coat and black flats. I perfected a powerpoint of the first chapter of the Biology book, complete with a couple of (in my opinion) funny “first day back” jokes and put on my best “welcome to my classroom” smile.

This was the memory that came to mind three and a half years later, when I found myself now teaching at an inner city public school, in front of a classroom of 32 seventh graders whose last mission in life was to learn pre-algebra. I started my teaching career thinking I was the next Ron Clark, who managed to run a classroom of failing elementary school students from the inner city in New York into the top achievers in their state. I was now wondering why they were still letting me teach. In spite of countless hours spent planning lessons, purchasing resources with my own money and watching youtube videos on how to manage a classroom; I was simply not being successful. I could not keep my student’s attention or keep my room quiet for more than one minute. It did not help that the teacher next door was a veteran classroom manager who could quiet a class down with a simple glare. Walking past her classroom was a like a walk in a peaceful library. Walking past mine was like being in a mosh pit at a rock concert.

Multiple times throughout the year, I contemplated quitting my job. Some days I simply did not have the motivation to get up and face the one hundred and twenty students who wanted nothing to do with finding the area of triangular prisms. To my surprise, my principal offered to renew my contract to teach the following year and I gratefully, but firmly, declined. My mind was made up; teaching had turned me into a failure and I was not about to take another year of that. For whatever reason, my principal encouraged me to return to the school in a different position, one that did not involve direct teaching, and I did. I came back the next year, hoping with all my heart I had not made a terrible decision.

Going back to the school had to be one of the best decisions I have made, both personally and professionally. In my current role, I still see the same students I saw last year, but my interaction with them is very different now. I now realize what I could not see last year. I was so blinded by my failure that I could not see that my failure had resulted in a few “side effects” that I dare to even call successes. This is the frustration of failure: it is hard to take notice of the wins, when you feel like you are constantly losing. As Christians, it is also hard to reconcile the fact that we are “more than conquerors” with the reality that we are simply not always going to win at the task at hand. Yes, we are victorious and yes, nothing is impossible for God. But sometimes God, in his infinite sovereignty, will not give us the win. I remember praying for wisdom and understanding and that God would show me how to win my students over so that they would love me and respect me and listen to me. Yet I would show up at work and be cursed at, ignored and even ridiculed.

It did not make sense then, but I see now what I could not see then; even in my failures God grants me success. God does not measure success the way that I measure success. It took a whole school year of daily failures, but here are three specific lessons I learned about how God grants us the most success right in the middle of our greatest failures:

1. It’s not always about what is happening in the moment, but what will happen in the future. 

No, not all my students passed their state boards. I did not come up with a witty rap for them that caused them all to fall in love with me. But this year both of the math teachers who teach the students I had last year have repeatedly expressed how much their students learned last year and what a solid foundation in pre-algebra they have. There I was thinking that nothing had stuck, but apparently they actually learned a lot more than I gave myself credit for. They were not outwardly expressing it, but inwardly they were learning. We may not see it outwardly, but we are impacting people even when we don’t realize it. When we work with people, we may not see immediate results, but that does not mean a harvest is not coming. Moses never saw the Israelites make it to the Promised Land, but eventually they did, or their descendants did to be more correct. Either way, it happened even though he did not see it.

2. It’s not always about what God wants to do through you, as much as what he wants to do to you.

Because my classroom was so challenging last year, I literally had to pray myself into getting up every morning. Then I had to talk to God the entire 25 minute drive to school to make sure he was with me as I stood in front of the students and taught that day. Then I had to repeatedly ask for wisdom throughout the day to handle stressful situations. I didn’t see it then, but that created a large dependency on God that I know sustained me and gave me grace with my supervisors. When David was anointed to be king he did not immediately take the throne. In fact, he spent a good amount of time, already having been anointed, fleeing for his life. It was during this time that he wrote some of the most beautiful Psalms as expressions that would live forever as anthems and templates for believers to look to for guidance.

3. Success is more about doing what God asks me to do than it is about seeing the results I want.

When Moses went before Pharaoh to ask him to release the Israelites, he did not get the result he was seeking. Not once, not twice, not three times but nine times Pharaoh refused to let the people go. And yet Moses kept going before him. He kept trucking along, doing what God asked of him. Though he did not get the result he was seeking (the release of his people), God was using Moses to build up His street credit so that all glory would be brought to the Lord. I did not leave the school because I knew that was the place God was calling me to be. So I made it my mission that even if I felt like I was a failure at my job, I wanted to be certain that I was a success at obeying God.

A parent who literally tried to get me fired last year sent me a text message this week stating how grateful she was for everything I do for her four kids. Three students who I constantly sent to the Vice-Principal last year for discipline were sent to me last week so I could disciple to them. A student who I was convinced absolutely hated me pulled me aside in the hallway to show me a certificate he received for passing his state exam. I still don’t have it all figured out (far from it) and I am certainly by no means the best employee at my job. But as it turns out, all of the failure I carried with me last year has given me a degree of success that I am more than convinced was given to me only because of God’s grace. After all, isn’t that the sweetest success of all?

By: Benita Holguin

Good-bye RadioShack

For Sale…all around my city of Amarillo, TX you see these signs; where nationwide chains, such as RadioShack, are closing their doors. If you've heard of or perhaps are a subscriber to Hulu and Netflix, you are a contributor without knowing of the cards dealt to RadioShack. Uber is removing cabs, Netflix is removing cable and HBO, Amazon is removing RadioShack. The new trends are catching fire with the new generation and if a company is not willing to make changes or innovate, it seals its fate to the same of Blockbuster. The church of America needs to see these trends and learn from the “For Sale” signs being posted. Innovation must play a key role to continue to grow and expand. The church is not exempt from these patterns. As a leader I’d love to spend these next moments asking you a few questions that every leader needs to ask themselves often to continue to be a leader worth following.

Can you change? Throughout life we can be guaranteed one thing, we will go through life-changing experiences. However, only a few allow the experience to change their lives. As leaders, we were assigned because someone saw a quality in us that could be used to lead a following. Leaders are born with a spark inside that can be fanned into a flame, and with the right mentorship into a forest fire. The real challenge comes for some leaders when it’s time to transition from a spark to a flame. Can you accept the change when it comes? For years, yellow cabs would drive around and look for someone to pick up. If it was movie night, you would get into your car and drive to a Blockbuster. Or perhaps, you need a new cable to connect your new streaming device, you would drive to the RadioShack and pay 4x the amount of Amazon. Today from your mobile device you can summon a cab to your exact location, give the directions, and pay with a push of a button with the UBER app. The change came and now those that evolved are still in the game, others needed to close the doors.

Can you be around other leaders? A great leader is one who won’t be insecure when other great leaders come around. In fact, they invite and surround themselves with leaders who are on higher levels than they are. So much can be learned from being around someone who has been in the game longer. If you want to sit at the King’s table one day, surround yourself with those who frequent that table.

Can you lead without your title? The latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man, has a certain line that Spider-Man says to Iron Man after he messes up and Iron Man asks for the suit he made for him back, “But I’m nothing without the suit”. A real leader doesn't rely on his title to carry him to where he needs to go. A real leader is always seeking how to grow. How to innovate. How to make change for the better. Becoming complacent or even lazy because we have earned a title is a road to certain demise. I love the saying “Stay Hungry.” It's a saying I apply to my life in every area. Always growing keeps the water flowing, not flowing will result in dirty stagnant waters. If your title is the only thing you've learn to use, I’ll say what Iron Man says to Spider-Man, “If you are nothing without the suit, you don't deserve it”

The fate of the church is in the hands of a leader. How can we keep our church growing and moving forward? We must innovate to keep the doors open in our church. Let’s not become satisfied with how our church has done things, and be on the lookout for how to reach our next generation. 

By: Angel Mendoza

Defining Moments

Inside each and everyone of us, God has placed a unique and specific purpose to fulfill, but it is up to us to be intentional in making it come to pass.

It’s not uncommon that while serving God and pursuing our dreams we face opposition and difficult trials arise.

But as I once heard Michael Fernandez say, “God never calls us to do easy things but great things that scare us to the point that we wonder if what is being asked of us can really be done. This is why we have this thing called faith.”

Faith allows us to stand firm in the middle of the storm, remain full of joy while we suffer, and move forward confidently knowing God goes before us.

In my life personally, I’ve had to overcome numerous events and situations where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. But thankfully I’ve been able to rely on my faith in God and the support of those nearest me to continue ahead. And as I look back at different experiences I’ve encountered, I now understand that those difficult moments, although they felt unpleasant, I believe were actual key defining moments in my life.

And today, I simply want to share with you 3 thoughts/lessons that I’ve learned while passing through various defining moments.

1.     Defining Moments remind us of our need to daily depend on God.

Like any other relationship that we have whether it is with a family member or friend, our relationship with God must be fed daily and consistently in order to mature and remain strong. Imagine if we connected with God, through prayer or His Word, as often as we connected our cell phone to charge. I truly believe our relationship with Him would be on another level. The truth is like we needed Him yesterday, we also need him today, and tomorrow isn’t any different.  To persevere and make any type of positive impact in this world, we need His help daily.

2.     Defining Moments reveal us for who we really are.

Just like until when an orange is squeezed can we enjoy its fresh juice; or when we push down on a pen, does the ink flow out leaving a mark on the paper; when we are passing through defining moments that’s when it truly show what’s in the inside of us and allows us to leave our mark. We can say one thing when everything is good, but when certain things don’t go your way, are we the same person? Lets be authentic, lets be transparent, lets display to those around us Godly characteristics that catch their attention and makes them say, “There’s something different about him/her.”

3.     Defining Moments teach us another aspect of who God is and lets us get to know Him in a new way.

We can’t experience His healing power if we are never sick. Nor can we feel what it feels to be comforted if we never have a broken heart. If you and I are honest with ourselves and think back for specific moments of when we have felt and seen God perform the greatest miracles in our lives, it probably would have to be while we were passing through difficult moments.  I used to run from problems, I used to think they were the end of me, but we when I realized that they are opportunities for me to get to know God in a way I haven’t before, I now run to them. For where trouble is, God is there (Psalm 46:1). And if it wasn’t for those difficult moments I would have never said new prayers, and seen God in numerous facets.

Maybe you’re passing through a tough moment in your life right now and you have lost hope in others, your dreams, or even God. Remember that God says to you in Isaiah 41:10...

Dear (your name here) ,

       Fear not, for I am with you;

       Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

       I will strengthen you,

       Yes, I will help you,

       I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Mark it on your calendar today, that you will no longer avoid, hide, or see difficult moments as negative opposition but as a defining moment, a purposeful opportunity to depend on God, define who God is in your life, and tell this world He is faithful.

By: Joey Salazar

www.joeysalazar.org

Loving Tigers

They didn't prepare me for this. I learned how to preach, how to create a budget, how to lay hands on students and pray for them. But nowhere in my ministry preparation was I taught how to love a tiger, it just never happened. But now I had one coming to Church every Wednesday and causing chaos. What do you do when you have a tiger coming to your youth group?

Every summer our Church puts on a six week summer program for young people who desire to get closer to God. On the second week of the program as students are walking to their class, a father walks in asking if we could take his son. Registration had closed; we had no more space, and were already understaffed. What student ministry do you know that is OVER-staffed? I want to know their secret. Anyway, he began to explain how no one else would take him because of his issues and conditions. Nothing major: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and epileptic seizures. No big deal right? After much negotiation, we decided to accept him. After all, what would Jesus do? Maybe I shouldn't have asked that question. I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

I asked to meet him. This five foot nothing twelve year old walked in with his iPad and big head phones on, and like any good youth pastor I asked, “Hey man, what’s your name?” He looks me in the eye and says, “My name is Roberto”, he then points his finger to my face and says, “But you’re going to call me Tiger,” and our relationship began.

Here’s what I believe about you and every youth pastor or youth leader. You already have or will soon come in contact with YOUR Tiger. Mine was suicidal, always went missing, never ate the food we gave him, and one time preached the most heretical and biblically incorrect message I've ever witnessed. He then managed to run away from the team because someone told him that in the Old Testament false prophets were stoned. Those were fun times. Gotta love student ministry.

Sometimes as youth workers we actually run away from the “tigers”. We ask parents, volunteers, or interns to deal with them. We try to avoid them and focus on our “good” students, or on the students we like to be around because they listen to us. Not because we don't care, but because tigers have claws and we already go through enough, we didn't even sign up for this! THEY TOLD US TO HELP FOR A FEW MONTHS! And now on top of trying to get kids to youth group, we have to run away from Tigers.

But what if? What if...the Tigers that we run away from are actually the people God brought us to love?

As a Youth Worker I know that YOU KNOW that we should love every student, including the difficult ones. But I want to give you a reason that I don't think we think about enough.

There’s no doubt that God put us where we are to love students, particularly difficult Students, and there’s no doubt that these students need us. But as I begin to finish I want to submit an idea to you: Maybe we need the tigers we love more than they need us.

I believe God brought me into student ministry to change students, but I don't think I've thought enough about how God wants to use student ministry to change ME.

Many times I made student ministry about what God could do through me but not IN ME. I don’t think it’s one or the other, but rather both.

Here are three things God has done in me through my Tigers:

1. God has taught me that I have a lot to learn about love.

2. God has taught that I can’t change anybody, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

3. God has taught me, that I’m a “Tiger”, and he still loves me.

By the way, I'm still loving Tiger. Pray for him, he needs it, and pray for me because I still need him too.

I am praying for you as you go into the world and love tigers. I think God is going to do amazing things THROUGH you, but really hoping that you allow Him to do something IN YOU too...

By: Jonathan Rivera

Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson wrote a very famous song called “Man in the Mirror,” and it concentrated on making change. We live in a world that is constantly changing, and in leadership this applies as well. In leadership our ministries win when we win. The most important win is the one that comes from within.

Psalms 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

King David was the perfect example of a leader who allowed God to lead him. He was famous and won many wars, but he also understood that the war within him needed some reconstructing. As leaders it is easy to get caught up in the hype and flow of our services, but it means nothing if we are losing the battle within our lives. So many times we see leaders fall because they could not handle privately what was going on within them. Who we are is more important than what we do. When we allow God to work and change us, then God will work the rest out on our behalf. So the question we need to ask is not how God is going to take our ministry to the next level, but rather what is it in our lives that needs to change in order for God to raise us up? Just like the everyday routine of looking in the mirror before we go out, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and make the necessary changes before we ever step on the platform of leadership.

Practical Tips:

1. Evaluate who you are

2. Connect with someone that can keep you accountable (tell you like it is)

3. Make the change

By: Sam Velez

Sam serves as the newly appointed Next Generation Director with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world's largest Hispanic Christian organization. He is also a former Next Gen Tribe graduate and an Associate Pastor, overseeing youth and young adult ministries at Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia in Laredo, Texas along with his wife.

The Cadence of Leadership

That was a wild finish to Super Bowl 51. There were brutal hits, acrobatic catches, fumbles, interceptions, highs and lows and an improbable victory. I’ve always been inspired and motivated when watching great football quarterbacks lead their teams out of the clutches of defeat and into the arms of victory. They seem cool, calm, and collected as they break their team out of the huddle and make their way to the line of scrimmage to start yelling their cadence. If you aren’t sure what that is, it sounds a little something like this:

“Omaha!” “Omaha!” “Blue 80!” “Blue 80!” “Down! Set! Hut-Hut!”

The cadence is a skill that has been developed from the ranks of pee-wee football and all the way up to the pros. So what’s the purpose of the cadence? Well, to sum it up, they are positioning their team for success. The play has been called by the coaches and now the quarterback is tasked with communicating and implementing the play. So as they walk up to the line of scrimmage they are reading the defense, they are making sure their team is in position, they audible when needed, and then they run the play.

Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.

Joshua finds himself with a monumental task of leading the Israelites into the promised land, or in our case, to the “championship.” The uncertainty of tomorrow coupled with the pressure of “filling” the shoes of Moses had to weigh heavy on him. The spotlight was on and the pressure was being felt. But as the assistant to Moses, this is what he had been groomed for. It was time time for Joshua to put the “helmet” and “clipboard” down, strap that helmet on and lead this team to victory.

The Coach calls the Play:

God called the next play. Joshua, get up and lead my team into their inheritance. God not only called the play, but He also challenged Joshua to be strong and courageous. Great coaches have the innate ability to bring out the best in their players. God also gives a strong reminder to Joshua that He is the one calling the plays, and that his success would be directly linked to his ability to keep his eyes on the “playbook.”

Joshua communicates the play:

Joshua huddles up with his team in Chapter 1:10 and with boldness and great certainty commands his team to “Prepare provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.”

The Cadence begins:

* Read the defense:

“Omaha!” “Omaha!” Chapter 2:1 tells us that Joshua sent two men to spy out the land. Guess what? He’s reading the defense. What are their strengths and what are their weaknesses. What are we facing?

* Position the offense:

“Blue 80!” “Blue 80!” Joshua has led his team to the doorstep of Jericho. And it is at this moment in Chapter 6:1-7 that the details of the play are revealed. Joshua now knows how to position the team. He knows where the priests and the men of war need to line up. He can position them for success!

* Call the audible:

Every now and then the quarterback has to call an audible, which is a change to the play. We see this in Joshua 7 when Joshua and his team lose the battle at Ai. The called play was to take over the promised land, the audible was saying, “there’s sin in the camp that’s infecting the team! Stop and get it fixed.”

Vision, wisdom, insight, and the quarterback's ability to communicate such are usually developed in practice; but they are forged in the trenches of the “gridiron battlefield.” As leaders, we will taste the sweetness of victory and bitterness of defeat. Let’s learn from both. Let’s rise up and lead! Let’s get in the game because this is what we’ve been called for! The game is on….the clock is ticking…..run the play!

By: Daniel Ramirez