Monday, November 17, 2014

When Done is Done

This past Sunday I preached on my favorite topic, Jesus. I am a huge fan.

It was the final sermon in a series. And even though it isn’t Easter, I preached on what happened on the cross. I thought my topic was well worn and would not be new information to many of the veteran church members I was preaching to. I was shocked at the response. Over a dozen long time church members took the time to speak to me about how what I said was news to them and shared about how much that information impacted them. Some suggested I share the sermon in a blog. So here it is.

In John 19:28-30 (NIV) we pick up the narrative of Jesus at the very end of his life during the crucifixion. “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

When Jesus said “It is finished,” he said a mouthful. It has always been my observation that God sent Jesus to earth at the time He did because his story would be recorded in Greek. As all Biblical scholars know, Greek is a very exact language; much more exact than English. The definition of words in Greek are much clearer than in English. The word used to record Jesus’ final phrase is, in Greek, Tetelestai. It can be translated as: It is finished; it has been finished; it has been accomplished; as used in the market place – it has been paid for; written on a bill of sale it said, paid in full; at the end of a task – it has been accomplished; written across a court document of sentencing after the prisoner has done his time and paid the price – paid in full.

As we look at the scene of the crucifixion it would seem that the Romans government is in charge. Because of that, it seems strange that Jesus would be the one to declare that “It is finished.” Though it looked like his life (and death) was out of his control, he remained in control. Jesus was not killed on the cross. The scripture tells the reader that Jesus gave up his life. It was his choice. It was a sacrifice on his part for us.

When Jesus made this sacrifice we must investigate to understand what has really happened here. What has been accomplished on the cross? What has been finished? I believe several very important things happened. The Old Testament law and prophecy of the coming Messiah have been fulfilled. The power of evil on this earth has been broken. We no longer have to live under the control of sin. We don’t have to be controlled by: Others; By the fear of failure; Set free from our past and past mistakes; We are completely forgiven; It is paid in full – It is finished – It is done. Peter wrote to the early church and said, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18 (NIV) Jesus did all of this so that he could bring us to God.

That is what Christ has done for us – Done for you. A question that begs answering is, “How does that impact your life?” It does in many ways. You can stop holding on to your failures. You can stop beating yourself up. You can stop being defensive. You can stop letting the past control the present and your future.

It is our human nature that causes us to struggle to understand and embrace God’s mercy and grace. We, somehow, want to earn and deserve what Christ has done for us. If that were possible, Jesus’ death on the cross would have been avoidable and a horrible insult to God and humankind. When we attempt to earn God’s gift of forgiveness I believe Jesus would say to us, “How dare you. I paid for your mistakes. It is finished.”

In Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) the writer gave some wonderful advice, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

It is finished. Your relationship with God is not dependent on what we do; it is dependent on what Jesus has done. What is done is done. It is finished.

Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @bill45053.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Off the Deep End

The following is taken from my latest book, Developing a Significant Church.
As a child, I remember going to church every Sunday. My father had a policy. The only valid reason for missing Sunday school and church was a death in the family… yours. Since I survived childhood, I attended church a lot.

Some adults who were forced to attend church as children resent that and refuse to
attend as adults. That wasn’t my response. Attending church was a generally good experience for me. The church I grew up in was a positive, loving place. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a place where I experienced the reality of God. Nice… but more like a club than a church. I sense that my home church wasn’t all that different than most other mainline denominational churches of the time.

At our church we practiced religion. A nice, comfortable, socially acceptable, not terribly spiritual, let’s not get carried away with being Christian style of religion. It was understood that if one got too religious, too excited about God, he or she was to be viewed with suspicion and some degree of disdain. Getting too religious could immediately call one’s credibility into question. Such a person was said to have “Gone off the deep end.” God forbid that I, or anyone I know, should go off the deep end.

This concept made absolutely complete sense to me. It is my natural inclination to be cautious, to live life close to the vest, and to stay in the shallow end. Perhaps that inclination comes from my introverted, shy nature. Perhaps it comes from an incident from my early childhood. My family was on an outing to Cox’s Lake for a day of fun in the sun and water. Our good time was interrupted when I, at the time a preschooler, decided to follow my older brother out into the deep water. This idea would have had a more successful outcome if I had either been using a flotation device like he was or had known how to swim. Since I did neither, I casually strolled in over my head… and drowned. You know, like suck in a bunch of water and stop breathing drown. Fortunately someone noticed. A lifeguard dragged me out of the lake, pumped the water out and replaced it with some air. Needless to say, since that day I haven’t really enjoyed being in the deep end.

After my jaunt to the deep waters at Cox’s Lake, I spent most of my growing up years in the shallow end of any pool I entered. I was a shallow end person when it came to swimming and when it came to practicing my religion. I felt safe and comfortable in the shallow end. Unfortunately, as I got older and my contemporaries moved on to deeper waters, it also became lonely and boring in the shallow end. As I entered young adulthood, neither swimming nor practicing my religion was much fun. So I quit doing both. Most of us can stand anything except boring.

Then one day I was challenged to get into the deep end. For swimming it came when I took a job as a program director at a Boy Scout camp. Like every other Scout camp in America, ours had an aquatics area. The Camp Director, Don Craig, expected me, like every other staff member, to take and pass a swimming test. That test required me to swim several laps in the pool. A friend coaxed me into the deep end and off I went. I passed the test. I could now enjoy going into the deep end.

It was my older brother who challenged me to enter the spiritual deep end of Christianity. He was the one who explained the difference between being religious and having a relationship with the Living God. And that made all the difference in the world. As I grew in this new found relationship, Christianity became exciting and fulfilling… anything but boring. Occasionally it has been a little frightening. I am constantly aware that I am in over my head, just a little out of control. Instead of experiencing my faith as soothing and safe, it is now challenging and unsettling.

Before I could get into the deep end I was forced to answer an important question. Why was I confining myself to the shallow end of life? What kept me in the places I considered safe? Fear, mainly. I was afraid. I was afraid and too lazy to learn how to swim. I sense that my motivation or lack of it is not unusual. Those are probably the same reasons most people doom themselves to lives lived in the shallows of life.

May I encourage you to consider, as I did, the differences between living in the shallow and deep ends. What happens in the shallow end? Not much. People wade around and splash around and play silly little repetitious games. In the shallow end one is surrounded by the immature – children. And we all know what children are known for doing in the pool. Is that where we want to be? I think not. In the shallows I perceive myself to be totally in control. But not much of any consequence is happening. It is safe but boring.

What happens in the deep end? The deep end is for those serious about swimming and diving. It is where the purposes of being in the pool really happen. One is surrounded by others who are going for it and one can be challenged to grow and develop. Being in over one’s head tends to give opportunities for one to grow and develop new skills and competencies. Spiritually speaking, the deep end is where God is. So, if you want to hang out with God, you have to get into the deep end. That’s where I want to be.

I really don’t see how any adult Christian could take being accused of splashing around in the shallow end as a compliment. So, if anyone ever accuses me of being off the deep end, and unfortunately no one, as yet, has, I will certainly take it as a compliment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Organic or Not

A few weeks ago a new grocery store opened up down the street. As is par for the course, the parking lot was packed for several days as the locals checked out what this particular store has that makes it unique. Its big selling point is that it has a wide choice of organic food.
Organic food – I just love that new and popular designation of special foods that are supposed to be raised properly and thus be good for us, the consumers. Ever since I first heard the term, my question has always been; what is inorganic food? I thought all food was organic. Sure, my mom had some wax fruit on permanent display on the dining room. We didn’t eat it because we knew it was inorganic fruit. As in, not real fruit.
Oh, sure, I get it that organic food is supposed to be better for the consumer. I will also admit that I doubt that it is. In my short lifetime little that has been promised has been delivered. Some people would say I am a cynic but I believe I am just a realist. After a lifetime of hearing the latest truth being uncovered through the newest and best research and then later having those scientific facts debunked by the some newer and better research which was, in turn, proven to be wrong and then going back to the original premise as correct, I am done with that crap. In my lifetime milk was good for you; bad for you; good for you; now it is again bad for you. Really?
But why the use the term organic for a certain type of food? That is like calling some beef organic beef or some humans organic humans. We are all organic. You know, made out of carbon atoms. The dictionary definition is: “of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds: relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds: having the characteristics of an organism : developing in the manner of a living plant or animal.”
It seems the definition for “Organic” is already taken. How about trying something else? Couldn’t those excited about “organic” think of a more appropriate term. According to my research (I Goggled it.) the term organic in meaning a type of farming has been around a while. “In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (1940), out of his conception of "the farm as organism," to describe a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming—in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on "imported fertility" and "cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole."
Over the past sixty plus years I have tended many a garden. I have done the “holistic” all natural approach and I have been reduced to using chemicals. And I must be candid with you: when concerned with what effect what I spread on my vegetables has on my body, I am more comfortable with a white powder than I am with cow crap. I have seen the cows. I have scooped the manure – which means I have seen it close up and smelled it in a confined space – and I am less inclined to put the green beans that have been fertilized with cow dung in my mouth than beans that have been dusted with some white powder.
I realize I am not of the genre of people who are attracted to “Organic foods.” I have butchered chickens, cows and pigs so I realize they don’t come from the farm clean and wrapped in clear plastic. I have personally raised corn, beans, lettuce, radishes, potatoes and tomatoes and know how challenging it can be to nurture them and keep the insects and diseases off of them. I also have been around long enough to know that everything that is labeled “organic” is not necessarily really organic. Look for the USDA seal.
Are organic foods better for you? That is still up for discussion. In an article from the Mayo Clinic that is pro organic food the authors write: “Organic food: Is it more nutritious? Probably not, but the answer isn't yet clear. A recent study examined the past 50 years' worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content.”
The other question is: Is organic farming better for the environment? One would think so but the jury is still out on this, too. One of the differences between those who farm organically and those who don’t is the types of pesticides they use. Both do use pesticides. There is an interesting article on the subject here.
But may I suggest a better label for “organic foods.” Since they are produced with natural fertilizers, how about the label “Poopie foods.” It may not attract as many health conscious middle class Americans, but it sounds a bit more honest.

Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @bill45053.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Ghost Story

My father was a story teller. He grew up in a time that just about the only entertainment was story telling. So good story tellers were in high demand.

When dad spoke of his growing up days in the 1920’s and 30’s it sounded to me like he lived centuries ago. Much like my stories must sound to my children and grandchildren when I talk of party line telephones; listening to the radio at night; 45 records and black and white televisions with ten inch screens. When dad was a child they didn’t have indoor plumbing, electricity, (no electric lights or machinery) central heat or cars. In his early childhood they didn’t even have roads. He told of quarrying limestone on their farm, hauling it to the proposed road site and watching as the county came by with a rock crusher and there was their first road. The roads weren’t paved for several more decades. His mother cooked huge meals on a wood burning stove. He often woke up on cold winter mornings to find that a sheet of ice had formed on his wash basin. They farmed with mules pulling their equipment instead of tractors. They didn’t listen to the radio because they had no electricity to power one. It sounded like another century to me.

With little else for entertainment, storytelling was a well-practiced art in rural Kentucky. Robertson County was and is a very hilly part of the state. Farming was difficult with little tillable land. Most of it was in the bottoms. So the county was sparsely populated. It was not unusual to know everyone in the county. This was especially true for my father’s family because my grandfather McConnell was the County High Sherriff. So my father hung out with story tellers of all ages and thus perfected the art. When my father told a story you could see they people he was talking about; hear the surrounding sounds; smell the scents in the air; hear the accents of those speaking. In my mind’s eye I can still “see” the stories dad told.

He loved to tell of, as a boy of about 13, going with his girlfriend and a couple of other couples to visit Mide (Like wide with an m.) Fogg. (You just gotta love that name.) Mide was an old “widder” lady who lived back in a hollow in a tiny log cabin. When the kids came on a Sunday evening to visit, Mide dressed up in her good black dress and pulled out her best pipe for smoking. Her eyes were a bright sparkly blue that stood out in her thin wrinkled face. She was thin on the verge of being scrawny and had not a tooth in her head. She had a high, almost squeaky voice and, of course, gummed her words.

The young people would arrive in the very late afternoon. On this particular occasion it was late fall – around Halloween. There was wood smoke in the air and rustling leaves underfoot. The couples gathered on Mide’s porch to share the local news and gossip for a while. As darkness closed in someone would always ask her to tell a true ghost story. Ghost stories abounded in the hills of Kentucky and Mide claimed to have witnessed several of them. She would lean back in her creaky old rocking chair; take a deep drag off her pipe and as a faraway look settled into her eyes she would begin.

“As was the custom in those days, when a farmer had a big job to do that required more help than the family could supply, neighbors gathered for a work day. The task of the day was to clear a field of trees and prepare it for cultivation. The women had gathered in the house to prepare a huge dinner for the many hands gathered. The children were in the side yard play games and the men were down the hill clearing the land. It was almost dinner time (The noon meal.) when one of the men appeared at the kitchen door and looked in the screen. One of the ladies noticed him and called to his wife that Clarence was at the door. When she went to the door he looked a little strange to her. He just stood there and looked at her, then waved goodbye and walked away. She thought that was a little odd, but then, Clarence was a little odd. She thought little more about it as went back to patting out the biscuits she was famous for in Robertson County. Within a minute a ruckus arose down the hill and several men sprinted to the house. They brought the news that the tree Clarence had been cutting down had fallen on him and killed him. A strange silence fell over the women in that kitchen. It seemed obvious to his wife and to all to whom she told her story that Clarence had stopped by on his way out of this life to say goodbye.”

That may have not been exactly the way Mide told it, but that was pretty close. She told that story and several others. She claimed they were all “true”, first person ghost stories. She had those youngsters on the edges of their seats and managed to scare the waddin’ out of them. And then she sent the kids home.

It was fall so the sun set earlier each evening and nighttime was amazingly dark back in those unlit Kentucky hollows. Nobody in those hills had even heard of a flashlight. The trails in those pitch black nights were difficult to see and basically impossible to follow after dark unless one had his way home memorized. Dad said he wished he hadn’t brought a date that he felt obligated to walk home. Without her in tow, he would have taken the most direct route and run all the way home.

Happy Halloween. May God gift you with a Mide Fogg to enrich your life and scare the bejesus out of you.

Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @bill45053.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can a Church Be Unfixable

In conversation with a clergy colleague whom I used to coach in leading a church in transformation (Her church ran out of money to pay me but that hasn’t stopped us from talking.) she asked the somewhat rhetorical question, “Are some churches unfixable?” That really got me thinking.

Theoretically and theologically (According to my theology which believes God can do anything.) no church is unfixable. When I consult with churches, I am often asked by church pastors and lay leaders if I believe their church is going to make it. Honestly, sometimes I have my doubts. It is not unusual for a church to not realize their need for revitalization and transformation until things have become grim. Many of our churches are not just unhealthy, they are on life support and it is time to pull the plug. But if you suggest that to the church leadership they want to give you a sound beating. If church leaders would direct their passion toward transformation instead of denial, more churches would be transformed and flourish.

Most leaders are unaware that a normal church loses an average of 10% of its membership on a good year. If there is change in the church or if there is conflict, the decline will often be much more dramatic. That means that most churches need to bring in a minimum of 10% of their present membership to stay even. Honestly, it is an unusual church that experiences that much “Growth.” Thus, most are consistently losing ground on a regular basis. Often the decline is very slow, incremental and hard to detect. Unless, of course we have one of our good old fashioned church fights that poisons the atmosphere in the church and speaks volumes to the surrounding unchurched about all that is wrong with the church. No doubt the unchurched look at the church in open warfare over issues that seem inconsequential to them (And are usually inconsequential to the church, really.) and think, “See, I knew there were good reasons to not go to church.” Every preconceived negative notion they have about the church is proven when we just have to have a fight. One of the best things we could do for evangelism and church growth is to think about how our fight will affect others before we have one. And then not have it.

But the question of the day is, are some churches unfixable? To answer that, allow me to share a story from early in my ministry journey. I was a student minister the Christian Church in Waddy, Kentucky. The Christian Church in Waddy is one of those wonderful churches that are willing to put up with the ineptness of student ministers to have a sermon every Sunday and help kids like me gain some experience and hone some skills. I still think fondly of those wonderful people. One summer day a car pulled up in front of the parsonage and a lovely young woman, who was a stranger to me, emerged. She introduced herself and told me that her mother was a member of the church. Her mother, Nellie, had not attended for a long time because of a chronic illness. In fact, she had stopped by to let me know her mother was in the hospital in Shelbyville and ask me to go visit her. I was happy to and left almost immediately for the hospital.

When I entered Nellie’s room I was struck by how small she was. A better word would be emaciated. She could not have weighed more than 100 pounds. As we conversed she shared that she had come to the hospital because she could not hold down any food. I asked her how long she had been ill. She said, “About 20 years.” I thought, but didn’t say, Wow! Later in the conversation I mentioned that I had met her daughter and we talked about her for a while. Having a child, I assumed she was married so I asked about her husband. At that question an amazing change came over her. Within seconds Nellie’s demeanor totally changed. No longer warm and engaging, she became hostile and surly. It was as if a storm had suddenly internally overtaken her. Her voice even changed. It took on an edge. She told me she was no longer married. That she and her daughter’s father had divorced. From her profoundly negative response I thought the divorce must have been recent. Divorces take some time to get over – to get past. There is a grieving period.

Again I was completely floored when she said they had been divorced for several years. My mind started clicking and I asked her exactly how long they had been divorced. She replied, “About 20 years.” In my head the lights flashed and the warning sirens went off: Twenty years sick and twenty years literally hating her ex-husband’s guts. Sounded like a significant connection to me.

Being young and stupid I asked her, “Nellie, have you ever considered that your illness and your obvious hatred for your ex-husband could be connected? Could it be that your hatred and unforgiveness are causing you to be ill?” She looked me directly in the eye for what seemed to be a very long time and then said, with the light coming on behind her eyes, “Yes. I believe there is a connection.”

“Would you like for me to pray with you so you can forgive your ex and seek God’s healing?” I will never forget her reply. She simply said, “I’d rather die.” And she did.

So, can a church be unfixable. Yes, but only if it chooses to be. When a church is confronted with the need to change; with the need for transformation and refuses, it is saying the same thing Nellie said to me all those years ago in that Shelbyville, Kentucky, hospital. I’d rather die.

And that is, to me, the surprising answer I hear from many churches. They don’t say they would rather die. But they do refuse to change and that is basically declaring a death wish. And that is Unfixable.

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ or on Twitter @bill45053.
Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 13, 2014

9 Reasons Unsociable People Like Social Media

There is a lot of chatter around the subject of the sociability of social media. Many questions are being asked. And many of them are good questions. Is social media good for our society or are there too many negatives to the large amount of time many people spend on social media? Do we spend so much time and energy connecting with people in the cyber world that we are failing to fully live a non-cyber life?
If you are observant you have seen a table full of teens or young adults in a restaurant with their faces buried in their smart phones texting other people about what they are doing. Which seems strange to me because all they are doing is sitting in a restaurant not talking to the people they have chosen to spend the evening with while texting people they have chosen to not be with. (Yes I know about prepositions.) The question is asked, “Are we missing the moments of life as we attempt to record the moments of life?” We have all seen the people who, during a child’s performance in a play or at a recital, are busy scurrying around the room attempting to get the best shot or camera angle. Will they have to go home and watch the video to really see the performance?

It is not unusual for me to forget my smart phone and go a day without it. Even so, I have been a bit concerned that I am too tethered to it. Yesterday I downloaded an app that registers how many times a day I check my phone. Of course, I have to check my phone to check the app that tells me how many times I check my phone. Somehow, that just seems wrong.

Often I go to lunch and leave it sitting on my desk. The only thing that motivates me to carry it is that if my wife calls me more than twice and I fail to pick up she assumes something horrible has happened to me. I hate to cause her that heartache and concern, so I try to remember to carry my phone. But I will admit that eating lunch without my phone works for me. Unlike some of colleagues who seem to spend a majority of the lunch hour texting and chatting on their phones. No doubt these conversations are of great importance but they leave me, the person sitting with them, feeling rather unimportant and out of the loop. I occasionally think about texting them just so I can have their attention. Since when did the people calling or texting us take priority over the people we are with physically? It is like the old days when I found myself in the check out at a department store and the clerk would stop checking me out to answer a phone call. Why does the phone take precedence? For years I have had the policy: If I am busy, my phone is busy. If I am with someone I will not pick up a call. (Unless it is my wife. Reason already stated.)

Here is the other side of that coin. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting and all the other forms it come in, works best for people like me. I am an introvert. Those who don’t understand introverts assume we are unsociable or antisocial. Not true. We introverts love people and we love conversations: Only we like you in small doses and are only interested in talking about meaningful matters. We love to talk but we abhor small talk. And even though most might not think it is designed for us, the “unsociable”, social media is a gift from God.

Unsociable people love social media because:
  1. We can engage with you when and as often as we want to – or not.
  2. We can end the conversations with the click of a button.
  3. If you get on our nerves, we can unfriend you.
  4. You can send us long texts and we don’t have to read them and you still got to say all you wanted to say.
  5. We can answer you with an emoticon. Like this.
  6. We can mark your email as spam and never see it or feel a need to read or respond to it.
  7. If we don’t want to check Facebook we don’t have to look at it. For days at a time.
  8. We save time because we think: Why spend three minutes texting you when we could just call you. And then we think: If I call you I have to talk to you – forget it. Thus we save all that time.
  9. Twitter allows the user a message of no more than 140 characters. That is pretty much our maximum message anyway.
So, if you are looking for me, check out social media. And if I fail to respond to you try not to take it personally.

 Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter @bill45053.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Faith and Trust

Something that is probably obvious to others has only recently become clear in my mind. Faith and trust are different. One is built on the other but they are not the same thing.

If I go to the dictionary for help I usually don’t find much help. Looking at Faith I found:

  1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing:
  2. Belief that is not based on proof:
  3. Belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion:
  4. Belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.:
  5. A system of religious belief.”

Faith can’t be proved by the scientific method. Many things can’t but because it can’t be “proven” it is easily dismissed by many in the scientific community. For some odd reasons, some people of faith want to debate the issue with those who dismiss belief in God because it can’t be proven. That is a real waste of time because the two sides can’t be debated because there is not common ground or a set of shared values. Thus, in the end, each side is sure they won the debate because the opposition’s argument made no sense to them. Correctness and victory are in the eyes of the beholder. The victory of the “science guy” is widely held because science has become our modern religious faith system. Most educated within the humanist educational system just assume the scientific method is not to be denied.

Faith believes in things unseen and the un-seeable. The author of Hebrews put it like this. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV) A person of faith believes in something one doesn’t see but we can often see the results of the existence of that which is unseen. The Bible mentions the wind. It moves about and we can’t see it but we can feel it on our faces and see the leaves on the trees being stirred. Another example of an unseen force is love. I can’t see love as a force but I have seen love at work and have felt the impact of love on my life.

To know God and have a relationship with God, one must have faith in God. God is not seen. When I share with non-believers that I have never seen God but have seen God at work, they tend to dismiss such talk as silly because their belief system has no room for God – no room for the unseen and unprovable. They can’t believe me because to do so would call for a complete recalibration of their core values. And that is way too difficult and too much work.

Much of what we read in scripture is about faith. We talk about faith. We seek to have more faith. But Hebrews tells us that faith is a part of the Christian’s Elementary education. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV) Faith is basic to all that Believers understand about God and the things of the Kingdom of God. It is one of the foundation blocks upon which we build. Faith is necessary to coming to know God and for growing spiritually.

Faith, practiced, is powerful. We see that in a couple of stories of faith recorded by Matthew. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region. As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” Matthew 9:20-31 (NIV)

Without trust, faith is fragile. Trust is built when faith is put to work and produces results. When one starts to experience the results of putting one’s faith in God one begins to trust God. For the mature Christian, faith is no longer an issue because, by living a life of faith, we have come to trust God.

When I think of faith and trust I think of my relationship with my wife, Nancy. Before I met her I had faith in love and that I would someday meet the love of my life. I couldn’t see love. I had not yet experienced loving someone in that way. I wasn’t sure I had ever seen that kind of relationship in action. But I had faith it could happen. All I had was that precarious faith in an unseen possibility. And then I met Nancy. And our relationship grew as we experienced each other and life together. As our relationship grew my trust grew. Do I have faith in Nancy? Sure. But more than that, I trust Nancy.

As long as we seek to prove or disprove God according to the scientific method we will fail. Instead I encourage you to experience God. God is not to be proven; the Living God is to be experienced through a vital and growing daily relationship. Trust me on this. J

Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. He can be contacted @ Connect with him on Facebook @ or on Twitter @bill45053.