Don’t be Chicken!

Chicken

This is a picture of one of my chickens…

(former chickens God rest her little soul). I’m sorry for the graphic nature of the image but it serves to make a point.

My nephew moved 8 chickens onto his new property adjacent to mine a few weeks back, and I have become a sort of Shepherd to the “flock”. Every time they see me or hear me whistle they come waddling to me as fast as they can, hoping to receive some edible token of my affection.

It’s funny how animals of all sorts can work their way into your heart without you even noticing when it actually happened. The other day I walked outside and did my routine “counting chicken heads” and noticed one missing.

Two of the flock often wander off alone. They have a tenancy to be a little “bitty” and get easily irritated at each other for silly things which causes them to separate themselves for periods of time. It is a tendency which has concerned me a little, though I never thought I’d loose one.

My nephew was working on his property at the time and joined me in looking for the lone bird. Not long into the search, he called me and the tone in his voice told me all I needed to know.

I found myself sad at first, feeling a little guilty next (as if it were possible to be with them 24/7) and finally a little angry. “Why did it have to go wandering off all by itself? Didn’t it realize there is relative safety in the flock?”

These thoughts churned in my heart piecemeal over the next few days and I realized that the Lord was speaking to me through this unfortunate event.

Many…MANY Christian’s are just like these birds. People get easily offended, angry, hurt, irritated and self-interested and in a foolish stab at independence they separate themselves. Sometimes for a few days…sometimes for a lifetime!

I guess I’ve probably heard every “justification” out there for separating from a congregation in my 45 years of being a Christian. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched this happen and hear the excuses for “neglecting the company of the assembly (local church)”. From “the pastor hurt my feelings” to “I can’t believe we are starting another building project” and everything in between. I want to tell them, how dangerous it is to separate from a local assembly of believers where they can know and be known. “Don’t they know there is relative safety in the flock?”

In today’s world, Christians believe they can substitute attending church with watching a message on TV at home. Substitute the assembly of believers in a local congregation with “Christian friends” and substitute the spiritual leadership and oversight of a loving Pastor with books and the counsel of peers. These are monstrous substitutions which reveal a poor grasp of the nature and purpose for the local assembly and the sacred relationship between sheep and their shepherds.

Committing yourself to a local community of believers is as much about giving as it is about receiving…and it is FILLED with flawed people for 2 primary reasons:

  1. Because humans (including you) are there…
  2. Because it is in an environment of flawed…yet loving Christians were we can grow and mature into Christ’s image THROUGH the suffering we sometimes go through. To avoid this is to avoid maturity.

Jesus…the Lord and only TRUE Shepherd of the sheep felt it necessary to appoint Shepherds over assemblies to lead and feed, care and guide IN THE SAME WAY as He appointed each believer TO a local church for commitment, connectedness, investing in others and regular encouragement.

There is no substitute for this communal relationship of knowing and trusting. Will you get hurt? Of course you will, but the answer is not to avoid, maintain bitterness in your heart or become your own heart’s protector – it is to commit yourself to God in doing good as to a Faithful Creator Who will both heal your heart and mend your Christian relationships with others.

Jesus Himself told us that if we think we have closeness with God while maintaining distance from ANY Christian we are fooling ourselves.

I walked outside this morning and counted only 7 little chicken heads and so took a sad walk to the place where the one lost it’s life by wandering off alone. I snapped this photo as a reminder to never protect my own heart from hurts or disappointments. To remain kind, loving & connected…even when it hurts and makes me vulnerable…perhaps especially when it hurts and makes me vulnerable.

A protected heart is a lonely heart – cut off from love and life and all the good it’s Creator wants to bestow upon it.

Lord teach me the wisdom to live with my heart wide open, to never separate myself nor protect in my own strength what only You can truly keep safe.

Hi I am Pastor Mark...

I have been a pastor for nearly 30 years now (2018), though never quite like I am today. (more on that in a moment)

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As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my best friend, greatest personal support and most valued critic.
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As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught. I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled). Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then,

"If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling."

~ Fredrick Buechner

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As I said, as of 2009 I’ve been a Pastor for nearly 20 years. Earlier in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our church was not in keeping with the New Testament. This was a shock to me and it is was a revelation that did not come all at once but over the course of a few weeks.

We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until about 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We believe the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly and though we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me. I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!