Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Re: Balancing Family and Ministry

Anyone in ministry is constantly dealing with the struggle of balancing family and ministry time. Now that I am serving in ministry alongside a full-time job, I am finding that this an even more difficult challenge. I have 3 very important aspects of my life and I want to be excellent and extremely successful in all of these.

From my observations, I have seen men who have had similar situations but it always seems that they end up failing in at least one of these areas. And, most often, the area where they fail is their family. Because of this, I have decided to set up my life in such a way that my family has as little chance as possible of suffering at all.

My priorities work like this:
First - Family
After that - Job and Ministry

These priorities play out in my life like this:

1. My family is my highest priority - If I am a leader in the church, I must be a leader not just by word, but by example. So, I will orient my life in such a way that my family gets the time and attention they need and deserve. That may make me sound all holy and awesome and stuff, but the reality is it's pretty selfish. My favorite person to spend time with is my wife. After her, it's my babies, I love hangin' with Wyatt and Avery, I really love it!!

2. I will love the church and serve the Lord, but I will not worship the church - The church is the method God gave us to communicate the gospel to the world. But, I will not worship the church, I will not let the activities of the church dominate my life. This is a whole 'nutha post, but I think too often that the church derives its success from activity instead of results. So, I won't wear myself out trying to attend every event for every ministry. I will be selective and do the ones that I am most passionate about.

3. I will pursue excellence everywhere - I will pursue excellence at home, at church, and at work. I think one of the best ways I can reflect Christ at my work is by being excellent and excelling at my job. If I am a slacker and fail to do my best at work, it will negate any testimony of Christ that I attempt to have. I really love my job! I don't want to jeopardize my job and I actually want to get really good at it. If the Lord allows me to continue and have a lengthy career in education, I want to be someone who improved and became a master of his trade, not someone who did the bare minimum for years and years, counting down the days until retirement.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Re: What happens in church doesn't have to stay in church

I read a bunch of blogs, articles and books about leadership, both by pastors and business leaders. I have noticed, though, that a lot of the points of effective leadership really do work both in the church and in the business world.
Most recently, I listened to a sermon by Perry Noble, here, in which he discusses 5 things to get your vision right. The list looks like this:

1. We must make Jesus the end goal of all that we do
2. We must be more concerned with the outsider than with the insider
3. We must help people establish a new identity
4. We must be patient with people as they develop and mature spiritually
5. We must make it our mission to proclaim freedom in Christ

I have preached for a long time that we shouldn’t compartmentalize our Christianity. Jesus shouldn’t be something that we save for Sundays, but our God 7 days a week, at work, at school, at home, at church, everywhere.

We can take what we learn at church and apply it to our work life, our school life, etc. I found these 5 points to be really effective in helping me to evaluate my pursuit of Christ, but also effective in helping me to evaluate how I am reflecting Christ at work. I am a public school teacher, not a place where Jesus is exactly glorified every day. But!!! These 5 truths can be very insightful for me as I think through my work. Like this:

1. Make Jesus end goal of all we do – when I work, am I working to glorify Jesus? Does my work ethic bring glory to Jesus? Do I follow rules, respect my boss, avoid gossip…something to think about.

2. Be concerned with outsider over insider – We are focused on the students, not the comfort of the teachers. It is our goal to see students succeed, even the ones who don’t want to succeed or don’t think they have any future. We are focused on enjoying work, sure, but the real victories come when that kid says “thank you” because they succeeded despite everyone around them saying they couldn’t.

3. Help people establish a new identity – We strive to help students become winners, to see them develop a vision for themselves that includes future success.

4. Be patient as they develop – My students aren’t perfect, and I have to learn to be patient with them sometimes as they make mistakes on the way to becoming an adult who actually contributes to society.

5. Make it our mission to proclaim freedom in Christ – I take every opportunity I can get to point out the amazing love of Christ in my life and the love that He has prepared for them. It’s just got to be a part of who I am every day!

We don’t have to separate the Bible and good sense. This stuff is just good sense AND it’s from the Bible! I may teach this stuff one day to a group of teachers and principals and that’s great. It’s practical, useful and it comes from the greatest source of truth on the planet. Dang right!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We gon rock this club!

Friday was a work day at school, some of my personal favorite days!! A few teachers and myself led about 40 kids in filming the "Lipdub" for school. We will be submitting the video for a contest that could win $10,000 for our school. When the final video is posted on the Fox50 site, I will post that here. But, in the meantime, I had the song on my mind, so I played it at home that night and Wyatt really got into it. Here's what it looks like when an 18 month old white boy tries to throw down!



And here's another one, just for fun:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forgotten God - Week 2

On Wednesday nights in youth group, we are reading through a book called "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan. It's an interesting look at the member of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, that many of us in the American church so often leave out of the discussion.

As we were talking through it last night, we read Romans 8:26-27:

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

As we were discussing this verse, I was reminded of an encounter with someone who walked daily with the Holy Spirit. I have forgotten the exact names, but I will use some names that I think are pretty close.

We were in Jamaica on a missions trip, not the luxurious Jamaica that you might see on the commercials, but the incredibly poor Jamaica, deep within the mountains. There was one church in particular that we visited that was at the top of a mountain, accessible only by a dirt road, unless it was raining, then it was not accessible at all because the road served as a huge gutter for the rain.

At the church, we met one lady in particular, I'll call her Ms. Betty. She was a large woman with a little bit of a moustache and a lot of sweating!! She loved giving hugs and kisses and displayed a relationship with Jesus that I could not comprehend at the age of 16. The missionaries who were previously in Jamaica with her had returned to the States for the wife (Mrs. Story, I believe) to receive treatments for her cancer.

One day on arriving at this mountaintop church, the current missionary wife (Kim) was approaching the church and Ms. Betty came huffin' and puffin' up to her with a huge grin on her face and began to offer praises to the Lord for the healing of Mrs. Story. She continued to tell Kim that the night before as she was interceding with the Spirit for the healing of Mrs. Story, the Spirit released her from the need to pray for Mrs. Story anymore.

Ms. Betty had been praying for Mrs. Story for a long time and was only able to hear news about her once a month when Kim and her husband were able to visit the church. When Ms. Betty told Kim she was instructed by the Lord that there was no longer any need to pray for Mrs. Story, she was floored. Kim was then able to share that just a few nights earlier, Mrs. Story had gone to be with Jesus, and it was for that reason that she was no longer in need of prayer!

Prayer is not just about us communicating with God, but (as the verse says above) it's a time where the Spirit will lead us in what to pray for. The Spirit told Ms. Betty that Mrs. Story was no longer in need of intercession because she was healed, and eternal healing, and she was hangin' out with Jesus!

THAT is communion with Jesus, THAT is hearing from the Holy Spirit, THAT is what I want people to be able to say of me!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Re: What is a church?

One of the most significant differences I have noticed about my generation as compared with my parents is our willingness, or even our desire, to question everything. For some, this can be a negative characteristic, while for others this may be something that is good.

For me, it's just the way I am! I love asking questions, I love challenging status quo, I can't stand just doing stuff because "that's the way it's always been done". Maybe our generation is more willing to change because we are used to it. In my lifetime, we have gone from not having computers to them being a part of our lives in multiple formats, we have seen the revolution of media, communication, even a major shift in the way we make friends and form relationships.

So, I ask questions, I like to see change. I ask stuff like what is a church? What characteristics do a group of people need to display to be a church? Do we have to go to church to be a Christian?

I have been exploring this issue for a long time in my head, in my heart and in my relationships with other believers around me. And, I have made some conclusions that will be a good starting point for future discussions:

1. Be the church - I have heard and said this a million times, but I think it's increasingly more important that, as believers, we display the characteristics of the church of Jesus in our attitudes and relationships instead of just treating church as something we attend weekly.

2. Communicate the Bible (for people who are alive today) - There are many sides to the argument of entertainment vs. education or the pros and cons of making the Bible relevant to today's culture. One thing is for sure, the world spends an inordinate amount of time and money marketing their message to children, to teenagers and to adults. Disney, MTV, Apple, Nike have all done an amazing job of communicating their message to their target audience. One of the most common arguments I hear is "I'm gonna preach the Word and let the Bible speak for itself". I am confident that the Holy Spirit can use any moron to communicate the Bible, but shouldn't we also put as much effort as Disney into HOW we communicate the most important message of all time!!!!??!?!?!?!? I think the church (big C church) needs to invest in designers, writers, actors, artists and other talented believers who can help communicate the message to the citizens of earth in 2011, instead of using 1970's material and calling it a dependency on the Spirit. That's just lazy to me!

3. Let pastors be about the ministry of the Word and prayer - I have mentioned this before, but I think that too many pastors and church staff are "event planners". I think it's time that we as the body of Christ begin to take responsibility for the social activities in a church and do our best to create an atmosphere reflective of the church in Acts 2. The pastors need to lead with this example, but we shouldn't be constantly relying on them to schedule events, plan outings and develop the calendar. They should be (reference back to #2) developing tools to communicate the gospel, setting and advancing the vision the God gives them for the church and praying (communicating) with God about the next steps in all of these areas.

4. Communicate real stuff with each other - I think all too often the relationships that are developed at church are unbelievably fake and the world sees it! We have Bible studies, book studies, Sunday School, VBS, youth group, music ministry, drama ministry and a trillion other things that are hosted at the church. But, what ends up happening is we walk the halls with these people and even talk about a book or a Bible study with them, but we never really open up with them, we never really discuss the reality of life, the ups and downs, our struggles and our victories. I am someone who loves programming and structure. But, sometimes I feel like we need to be more structured and planned out in times like Sunday morning, but less structured and almost unplanned in times like Bible studies or small group get togethers. Why can't we just hang out? With no agenda, except that people who love Jesus are spending time together. We might begin to really know someone, how to pray for them, things we can do to encourage them and what they really want to see God do in their lives.

Sadly, the great majority of believers will walk through life in a church model that was developed a hundred years ago, having a pastor "work for them" while never giving them an opportunity to lead, using ideas and materials that are more outdated than a Trapper Keeper and never really developing any deep meaningful relationships with anyone in the church.

And, we wonder why the younger generation doesn't want anything to do with the church?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Re: A Christian Teacher

I have been teaching in the public school system now for about a year and a half, and I have loved every moment of it. For the better part of my adult life, I have been working in full-time ministry and I felt like I had been in the "bubble" of the Christian world for too long. It has been amazing being exposed to people who don't know Christ and learning about how they approach the world and their life. I have had some awesome opportunities to share the gospel to other teachers and to students and it has been amazing how it can really flow naturally when you have already developed a relationship with someone.

Up to this point, I have only shared the gospel with someone who is a "stranger". I've knocked on doors, handed out tracts, done VBS, etc. But, unfortunately, this is the first time in my life I have developed relationships with a number of people who are lost and then had the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

I have also been in the process of developing what a Christian teacher should act like. How should I approach the teaching profession, how outspoken should I be about my beliefs. Here are a few ideas that I have developed so far.

1. Humility - I must lead with humility and not with arrogance
2. Passion - I need to display passion about the subject matter I am teaching as well as about my life, my family, my faith, etc.
3. Excellence - I am committed to being the best teacher I can be. I want to stand out in the crowd not only for my beliefs, but because I am a distinguished teacher. I believe that the Lord is honored and glorified when we do our work with excellence!
4. Discernment - I need to develop discernment about the right times to share my faith. If I share my faith when I am supposed to be teaching or doing other work, then I am being a slacker, I am avoiding work and that is not something that is glorifying to God. I need to find times in the margins of the work day to share my faith with those around me.
5. Love - Many of my students and my coworkers come from broken homes and bad relationships. I need to be a person who cares for them and their future, who displays a concern for their well being, while still maintaining the professionalism that my work deserves.
6. Discipline - I need to be disciplined, to stay current with my work, to keep up with assignments, to display an ability to accomplish the tasks to which I have been assigned.
7. Leadership - I believe it is important to be a leader in the workplace, to lead by example, to support your bosses and to encourage those around you. This isn't being a "yes man", this is simply doing what is asked of you. It also goes a step beyond in making an effort to excel at a particular part of your job so that you can be a leader, a trainer or a mentor to others in the organization. This will not only provide opportunities for promotion, but will help others to see that you are someone who takes your work very seriously and always works to the best of your ability!

I believe God cannot be glorified in us if we have a poor work ethic, if we are lazy or if we display an attitude of slothfulness in our work. I want to be excellent in my work, at church and in my home. These characteristics will be universally useful in any job, any position at the church or in any role in the home, they will help us in our efforts to communicate to the world their need for a Savior!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Re: Amazing Wife

Keeping up with my blogging is something that helps me think more clearly, practice my writing, process through some of the stuff that I've been tossing around in my head, it's one of those activities that just helps out in a lot of areas. Plus, it helps me work on my really fast typing!

Today, I wanted to write a post to brag on Tracy, my amazing wife (now of almost 7 years). Writing this post, though, is not an "exercise" or something difficult, the hard part is limiting all that I could or want to say. So, I wanted to share a few of the many reasons why my wife is amazing and why I'm way more blessed than she is!

I also have a passion for lists (is it me, or are they just awesome!), so I am going to make a list of things that make Tracy the most amazing wife ever:

1. She loves our kids way more than I can even comprehend - I love my kids a ton, more than I ever thought I would love a little being. But, she loves them in a way I can't even begin to understand. She is with them all day, and when she is away from them for just a few hours, she misses them like crazy!

2. She is staying home with our kids - I love that Tracy was willing to put her career goals and work life on the back burner so that she could stay home with our kids. She will be successful at whatever she does, but for now she is focused on being a mom! Wow!

3. She is willing to homeschool our kids - I used to thinking homeschooling was really weird. And, maybe I still do, but we are pretty excited about possibly homeschooling our kids. The best part is, Tracy really wants to! She's a math teacher, so it comes natural, but it's going to be a HUGE commitment. But, she will be amazing. And, our kids are gonna be crazy smart! Of course, they will come by this incredible intelligence naturally based on their fraternal genetics (aka baby daddy), but I know she's going to make sure our kids reach to their full potential!

4. She wants to study the Bible and she wants to teach it to our kids - I love that she loves the Bible and has an awesome passion to teach it to our kids, to hide it in their hearts, to lay the foundation for the rest of their lives. I love to hear Wyatt say "Amen" at the end of our nightly prayers. I love that us praying and reading the Bible together is something that will be a normal thing in the Benfield family.

I could keep going for a long time, but I'll stop there! I'm blessed! God brought Tracy and I together in an unlikely way, but I know that He has had His hand all over our family, and He will for a long time to come!

That's it for now!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Re: Bringin' up old stuff - Ecclesiastes 1 & 2

On Fridays for a while, I'm going to re-publish some of my old posts. I'm going to start with the posts that I wrote as I worked through Ecclesiastes. Here goes:


I'm going to work through sections of Scripture here, both for my personal growth and for anyone who's bored enough to find and read this.

These first 2 chapters of Ecclesiastes are pretty frustrating to me. Bascially, they say that everything we do in this life is meaningless, it's all a chasing after the sun.

1:8-9 - Especially stands out, the eye never has enough of seeing, the ear never enough of hearing, what has been done will be done again.

For me, I tend to waste my time filling my eyes with TV, internet, movies, etc. and no matter how many hours of that I watch, I always want to see the new episodes, the new movies, because it never fully satisifies. Same thing with the ear - music, radio, etc.

It takes a long time to get there, but eventually at the end of chapter 2 we see that God did give us these things for enjoyment (2:24). God wants us to enjoy life, to eat, drink and find satisfaction in his work.

Here's the kicker, though:
At the end of it all, it's meaningless, UNLESS.... we live life in an effort to please God, to bring praises to His name, then He returns to us wisdom, knowledge and happiness (notice is does not say riches, safety, etc.)

But, for the one who ignores God, that person will work all his life for something that he'll have to give away at death...MEANINGLESS!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Re: Forgotten God

Last night was our first night discussing the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan in youth group. I think it is going to be an amazing discussion and it has already pushed me to process my lack of reliance on the Holy Spirit.

The premise of the book is that, in church, we discuss God the Father and His Son, Jesus all the time. We do a good job of teaching through the characteristics and importance of both of them. However, we seem to have done a poor job of discussing the Holy Spirit in the common language of the church.

Moreover, we seem to have failed miserably in relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, both in our personal lives and in the church.

Last night, I discussed a few times in my life where I literally sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit. While that may sound pretty mystical, it should be more of a reality for those of us who are followers of Jesus and who have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I am looking forward to the continued discussions of the Holy Spirit and the potential of unlocking a whole untapped part of the God we serve.

Do you have any thoughts about the Holy Spirit? Any personal experiences? Have you read Forgotten God or any other Francis Chan books?

That's it for now!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Re: Ministry

From the time I finished college, I have been involved in ministry, mostly full-time. At this point in my life, I am not working full-time for a ministry, but I am still serving as a youth pastor among other responsibilities at my church. Through the last few years, I have begun to develop a philosophy of ministry that is probably very different from the picture of ministry that many of us currently have.

So, here goes, my ministry manifesto:
1. I will not let "doing ministry" cost me my family - Too many people "do ministry" and are at the church 3 or 4 nights a week, and end up ignoring their spouse or children because they are "serving the Lord". This is crap! Serving the Lord means being a Godly spouse and parent first. If you can't be effective at that, then we don't need to be in ministry!

2. I will not let "doing ministry" be the biggest drain on my life - As I talk with church leaders, pastors, people "in ministry", too many of them share the same sentiment - "I'm worn out". Why is ministry so draining? Perhaps we are misguided in our efforts, maybe we are aiming at the wrong goal or worse still, maybe those of us in ministry have failed to walk daily with the Holy Spirit and are in turn completely reliant on ourselves to accomplish the work of the ministry.

3. I will not let "doing ministry" be "event planning" - I think a lot of the people who are leaders in the church, overseeing ministries, etc. are really just glorified event planners. When did it become more important to schedule over nighters, cookouts, softball games and fish fries than to be about doing the Great Commission. The Bible says that they were dedicated to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. I don't think any of the activities we do are wrong, but should we be placing that much emphasis on them? We need to stop measuring the success of the church by activity and start measuring success based on results! And by results, I am saying we need to determine how many people are experiencing life change as a result of a relationship with Jesus. How many marriages are being healed, how many teenagers are walking away from the world towards Jesus, how present is the Holy Spirit in the life of the church? It should not be this - how full is the calendar and how much fun stuff is going on at church?

4. I will not let "doing ministry" rob me of having real friendships - I have noticed that pastors and ministry leaders are often some of the loneliest people in the world. Sure, everyone wants to talk to them, but they need something from them. And, for people who are on staff, there is often a tension between the staff pastor and the people because the people pay the salary of the pastor. I have noticed this in my own life - I have very few friends that I can REALLY be open and honest with and can just hang out with and enjoy a true friendship. I have one close friend, in particular, who I long to spend time with. But, because we are so busy in ministry, we pass each other in the hallway or sit in a meeting together but rarely get time to function as friends. I just don't want to grow old and be lonely with no friends because I was so freakin' busy in the ministry.

5. I will not let "doing ministry" destroy my wife - I could make a list of 50 pastors wives who HATE ministry and probably even hate most of the people in the church. Why? Because, some pastors become workaholics, sometimes because it's their personality, other times out of guilt or pressure from the deacons, other staff or the church body. And, they choose instead to give all of their quality time and hours to the church instead of honoring their wife. We are the bride of Jesus, and He certainly does not treat us like that. I want to honor my wife with my life (nice little rhyme, I like it!). I want to lavish her with love, quality time, gifts (Dave Ramsey approved, of course). And, that's going to mean that I have to say 'NO' at church sometimes. That is a word that many pastors and ministry leaders need to work into their vocabulary.

I could go on for a long time about this, but it's something I'm working through in my own life right now. I love ministry and I love seeing people's lives changed. But, I will never be effective in ministry if my family life isn't right at home and my walk with the Lord isn't fresh every day.

I have some other ideas about ministry I will post in the future. That's it for now!