Pulpit Politics and Social Media: A Pledge

One of the core beliefs of my future church plant is that we will not preach politics from the pulpit. What that means of course, is that the church will not have any official position on political matters because we (my team and I) believe that politics can create obstacles to the gospel.

What a hypocrite I have been. I have repeatedly posted political memes and news articles on social media because “my friends know me” and “this needs to be said” completely disregarding the potential divide that I have created. If a “no politics” position is my stance for my future church, then it should be my stance at my current one.

I personally have sat in church while a pastor has preached a political position that I disagreed with and it was a challenging experience to say that least. Likewise, I have heard messages telling congregants how to vote, celebrating or denouncing a proposed law, praising (or admonishing) particular politicians or candidates, and much more. I hated it, and yet, on social media, I am doing exactly that.

I am passionate about politics, social justice, and equal rights, and I absolutely LOVE a good debate. However, if any of this impedes the message of Jesus Christ and/or my role in spreading that message, then I have done myself and the Kingdom a disservice.

So, I am pledging now to stop posting anything political. I recognize that I may fail in this endeavor and so I will need you to remind me of this pledge. However, to be properly held accountable, I feel like I need to address the difference (in my opinion) between politics and social justice.

IS SOCIAL JUSTICE POLITICAL?

Social justice as defined by BusinessDictionary.com is: “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.”

As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and when we do not love every gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. then we are not operating as we are called to.

Dr. King said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and I agree. So when I see or read about injustice, I feel the need to pass it along to either be part of the solution or simply to raise awareness. For example, in July I posted something about the killing of unarmed black men by police. To me, that’s a social justice issue. Shortly thereafter I reacted to a post about Trump’s Christian beliefs. To me, that is political (relating to politics or a particular politician). Both posts caused an issue at my church last year, but in my opinion only one was political.

So, I will continue to post things that I feel are relevant to the cause of social justice and equality. I will do my best to represent them in a way that is not political or divisive and if something I post leans too far in either direction, I welcome a loving reprimand.

Lionheart Comics

IamChrisDickens.com was a one-stop shop for all of my writing, thoughts, and ramblings. However, in recent weeks this site has been taken over by comic book news and promotion with The Ronin on Kickstarter and everything.

So, I have separated my creative endeavors from my personal blogs and thoughts. I have created a NEW page strictly for my comic books and creative writing endeavors under my company name Lionheart Comics. Please head over there if you’re looking for comic book news and updates.

 

Breadcrumbs

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Far too often in my life, I have wondered what God was calling me to and spent hours trying to read into what I thought were signs and possibilities. More often than not, this resulted in paralysis by analysis, and I didn’t move.

Last night one of my youth group students asked about hearing God’s will for His life and how one can be sure not to miss God’s call. I hope I answered his question well, but in thinking about it again this morning I realize that it all comes down to movement. Don’t be like I have been in the past and stand still trying to analyze everything and read between the lines. Instead, move forward and God will guide you.

As it says in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

If you move forward, God will guide your steps. In fact, He is already guiding them, which brings me to the picture at the top of this post. At some point(s) in your life, if you are indeed moving forward, God’s will and plan for you will be perfectly, crystal clear. It is at those points that you look back at the path you’ve walked and you see what I call breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs are anchor moments. In creative writing we call them plot points because these happenings are major turning points or clues that influence the overall arch of the story and characters. A breadcrumb moment could be when you met someone for the first time, broke up with someone, took a class, experienced a painful tragedy or truth, started a new hobby, or reconnected with someone from your past. You’ll realize that all of these incidents were major turning points in your own story. And when you look back these breadcrumbs, more often than not you’ll see where God was leading you all along, telling you to go left or go right, guiding you in the direction of His will in order to fulfill His call on your life.

So move forward, trusting that God will guide you, and every so often look back at how far you’ve come, and the turning points that brought you to where you are.

Pride and Humility

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As I mentioned before I am bivocational. I work a full-time day job and I work part-time at my church, then, in my spare time, I work on church planting. There is an interesting balance between secular work and church work, especially when it comes to the type of work that I do.

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My new day job is in sales. I have worked in sales for a very long time and after being away for a few months and working full-time at my church, it’s weird being back. In some ways being back in sales for me is like a duck being back in the water, but with old skills come old habits and byproducts.

PRIDE

I think that to work in sales one has to be a little cocky. After all, you’re the guy with all of the answers and to play that “role” you have to be in a mindset of success. As much as we must act as if we have it all figured out, most salespeople know that they don’t. However, we continue to act like we know it all so that the customer is confident in our ability, and so that we can get the sale.

I’m not lying or providing false information, but it’s odd to check into this mindset of being “the man” when in other areas of my life, I clearly am not.  I have to remind myself that “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18) and that “humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33)

COMPETITIVENESS

If you work in a competitive sales environment and you don’t want to be the best, quit now! Seriously. Sales is a numbers game and aside from the reward of commissions and bonuses, another motivation to grind through the numbers is to be number 1 in your office. The quest for dominance is real, and when dealing with this competitiveness, I have to remind myself who I work for. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”.

GREED

With every potential (or even hypothetical) sale I know how much money is on the table (every salesperson does), so I want to make that and more. I’m the new guy at work, so when I see my coworkers putting up big numbers I can’t help but do a little math in my head to see what their next paycheck might look like. This mental math motivates me to push that much harder so that I can make that same kind of dough. The next thing you know, I’m checking emails and taking calls at night and on my day off to try and make it happen.

This is dangerous territory because it can fall into the realm of coveting my neighbor’s (deals?) money, and Exodus 20:17 tells not to covet our neighbor’s anything. It’s important to remember Luke 12:15 when Jesus warned us to, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

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CONCLUSION

When I am in sales mode there’s a lot of temptation toward pride, competitiveness, and greed, but when I am working at the church I operate in humility. How am I supposed to switch hats back and forth?

I’m not. I must wear the humility hat at all times, in both jobs, and in every situation. That may sound like sales suicide, but it’s the truth. Consider Colossians 3:17 which says, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I must remember that and live according to it at all times.

My Brand is His Brand

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I have given a lot of thought to my personal brand lately. I am a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and his words of wisdom when it comes to building a brand and a business through social media. This type of advice would have been great back when I was making comics or running my wedding officiant business, but I am planning to plant a church so a lot of these rules don’t apply. You see, it’s not about me or my brand. My focus is on Jesus. My brand is His brand, and that is what I want to represent.

 

Sure I am using some Gary Vee strategies to increase my visibility, but I am not trying to promote Chris Dickens or to monetize my brand. I simply want to spread the Gospel. If writing these blogs and documenting my journey helps bring people to Wednesday nights at The Cove, or bring students to our church’s youth group, or eventually brings people to my church plant that would be great. But that’s still not for my benefit. It’s all for Him! My mission in this whole church planting endeavor is to help people find their way back to Jesus. We’ve all walked away at one point or another, some of us for longer periods of time than others, but whether it’s 5 years, 5 minutes, or a whole lifetime, my goal is to create an environment where people can encounter God and be changed. Why? So that we can help other people find their way back to Jesus, and the cycle continues.

 

I’m going to take a little detour here. This is a longer post and I hope that you will stick with me, but have you ever come across a song that describes exactly how you feel? That’s this song for me right now. When you’re done reading, I implore you to watch this video and listen to the lyrics. Watch and listen to it a few times. It is so powerful and so timely for me.

 

 

As I listen to this song for probably the 10th time today, these lyrics resonate as they speak to my heart’s desire. This is my brand strategy:

“The change I want to see must first begin in me. I surrender, so Your world can be changed.”

“If they’re looking for you Jesus, let them find you in me.”

“I may be the only Jesus, the only joy, the only peace, the only courage, strength, love, healing, or mouthpiece that this generation will ever see. And I want to be used.”

“I want to carry Your glory, Your power, Your Spirit, Your anointing, and Your Message Father.

“Fill me up. I want to say what You say.”

 

If you’re still reading this, thank you for your support, but so far this blog has been a one-way conversation. I would love to hear some feedback. Go back to Facebook, Twitter, or my Instagram page, wherever you found this and share your thoughts. What’s your mission? Your brand? Have you walked away from Jesus? Why? Your feedback helps me in my mission and I would appreciate it.

 

Take care and God bless.

Bivocational

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What does it mean to be a bivocational pastor? Well, in a nutshell, a bivocational pastor is a pastor with a second job or secondary source of income. Bivocational pastors perform their church duties, and they work another job as well. Bivocational is me. Actually, I’d be tri-vocational or possibly even quad-vocational but that’s for another post.

 

Being a pastor is a full-time job IF the attendance and the demands of the congregation demand full-time attention. Right now, the demands of my specific congregation do not. My youth group is small and our young adult’s group is small as well, but as I look to the future and church planting I wonder what the future holds.

 

You see, when I was going through a church-planting program at a previous church I was introduced to the idea of “fundraising” my (or any church planter’s) salary. What this means is that I would have been responsible for raising money to support myself while I prepared to plant my church. This involves connecting with people in the community where I planned to plant, and asking them for support (money) to help get the church off the ground. A large part of that support would have gone to my salary.

 

I don’t mean to criticize those who have done it this way, but I wondered then and I wonder now, why do we need to pay you a full-time salary for a church that doesn’t exist yet? If your church plant has zero members, why do you need to pay yourself $40,000 per year?

 

As I look to the future, I don’t see my bi-vocational status changing anytime soon, and why should it? The apostle Paul was bi-vocational. Jesus was bi-vocational! My goal is to change the way that we look at church, and one of the greatest fears of the unchurched (never been) and the de-churched (used to go to church but don’t now) is that the church just wants their money. So how do we change that? By being bivocational.

 

Let me ask you this. How would you feel knowing that your pastor is punching a clock just like you are? Bivocational pastors have the advantage of being active (living and working) side-by-side with their congregation in the community rather than being only in the church. The relational benefits are astounding.

 

Bivocational pastors also have the advantage of making a salary away from the church which means less stress on the people to provide for his or her salary. What would you think about your tithes and offering going to local charities or people in need rather than to a pastor’s salary?

 

Likewise, Bivocational pastors are forced to rely on other pastors and staff to get their work done. This sharing of vision and responsibilities can only make a church stronger. The church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30, Acts 13:1-3)  is a great example of shared responsibilities and backgrounds contributing to the church in amazing ways. Bivocational pastors would need to have a similar approach to how they run their church because they have to. It couldn’t all fall on one guy.

 

Jesus was a carpenter first and a rabbi second. Paul was a tentmaker (leather-worker) and would often go back to his trade when entering a new location to avoid relying on the people to make his living (Acts 18:3). The demands of their respective ministries forced them into full-time status. I can’t say that I would be bivocational forever, but until the attendance and/or the demands of the congregation required it, I will keep making tents.

The Cove

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RSVP here

One of my jobs at the church is to lead our Young Adults Ministry called The Cove. The Cove as we have done it thus far is changing. We have been operating as a small group focused on Bible Study and discussion, but the people have spoken and we’re shifting gears to a more fun, more energetic, full worship experience.

The majority of The Cove’s members do NOT attend our church. Therefore, operating simply as a small group hasn’t worked. What’s more is that for many members, our meeting is the ONLY type of church that they attend. So rather than focusing on one aspect of church life (Bible Study), we want to explore and experience the other aspects as well.

We’ll still study the Bible and hang out, but we are also going to have a time of worship, some teaching, prayer, and yes, Bible study and small group discussion. However, the emphasis will be on more energy, more fun, and a more complete experience. I hope that you’ll be a part of it. Join us at our next meeting on September 28th and see the changes for yourself.

I’ll see you there!

Personal Mission Statement

Tonight in my church leadership class we were asked to craft a personal mission statement. I’d done this before when reading The Path, but tonight’s exercise was good too. Though this version is wordier, but I like it. Here it is:

I am a flawed but forgiven person called to serve the Lord and lead people to Jesus. I have a creative and passionate heart that is manifest through hard work and indomitable spirit. I am called to love God and to love, support, and defend my neighbors so that we may grow closer to God. My life is best when focused on honesty and integrity, but lived in vulnerability.