Select Page

Thicken Your Skin

“The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretence, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries.” – Martin Luther, “Concerning Christian Liberty”

The church world is ripe with people who have very thin skin.  Ironically most of these people tend to be what I’d call “Bullies in Sheep’s Clothing”.

You know the type.  They play games with others in an attempt to manipulate a situation.  They want to keep everything secretive in order to avoid having to defend their actions publicly.  Logic and reason are abandoned in favor of emotional ploys. Playing one person against another or relying on a system’s rules in order to achieve their ends.  With bullies in sheep’s clothing the problem is that if you ever confront them in a public venue they cry foul.  They accuse you of being impolite or even worse in Christian circles “angry”.

The quote above written by Martin Luther was not written in 2010 but rather 1520.  Nearly 500 years ago Luther saw the problem of thin skin among those within a religious power structure.  In order to isolate a person in a controlled religous environment the goal is to avoid the merit of the argument by highlighting things like tone, word choice and facial expression.  While certainly none of us should spend a lot of our time upset (especially those of us who are blessed to have received the grace of God in Christ) but there are times when anger is more of a righteous indignation.

Getting upset isn’t a sin.  There are always motives behind the emotion.

When a reasonable person gets upset, direct, and yes angry it may not be a sign that that person is somehow off the deep end as much as that person has now been pushed to the point where passive observance is no longer an option.  This is most true in a case when a person is angry in protection of those who have less of a voice, less of an understand and less of a way to directly affect change.

If you come across a bully in sheep’s clothing you are going to have two options:  stand up to the bully and affect change to protect those who are being damaged by the bullies arrogance or 2. Ignore the bully and consider yourself an accomplice to the damage he/she inflicts on the lives of others.  I’ve decided in life that bullies in sheep’s clothing will be confronted as often as I see them and feel convicted to protect the innocent.

Thoughts on Economy and Church

Thoughts on Economy and Church

At around midnight last night, the House of Representatives passed a bill that keeps the “Bush Tax Cuts” for two years and then extends unemployment benefits for those who have already had 99 weeks of benefits.  The extension will allow for another 13 months of benefits.  Two million Americans fall into this category.
I’ve heard comments from some friends who are concerned to the unintended consequences.
1.  Does it help a person in the long run to be unemployed for 3 years?
2. Does giving people money (about $300/wk) provide incentive to avoid working?
With regard to the true benefits in the long-run for a few million people who have not had a job in 3 years… I see that point.  The second question about incentive I also see as a concern.  Some people believe those out of work are lazy.  That would be a very ignorant minority.
Assuming that no one is being called lazy, let’s talk about the unintended consequence.  If you get a tax-free $300 check per week as a consequence of being unemployed, how much would you have to make in order to justify taking a new job?
To answer this question you have to factor in the cost of working vs. staying home.  For most people the two basic costs are transportation to work and lunch while at work as opposed to lunch at home.  Then we all need to be honest about opportunity cost (is the benefit difference worth working?)
Lets say a person would make $8 and hour at their job.  That’s rougly $320 pre-tax earnings which make the $300/wk look good.  At $9/hr it’s $360.  At $10/hr its $400/wk.  So even at a job making $10 and hour, the $300 a person gets from unemployment looks good as compared for waking up early, putting in 40 hours a week and doing it again every day for the entire week.
This has become blog post… but if free market principles win out… what happens to America’s hurting and homeless?
I believe faith-based groups would be forced to re-define their mission.  If all of a sudden unemployment shoots up and the government can’t pay for it, you’d see thousands of churches rally to care for the downtrodden.  Our religious institutions would be forced to re-evaluate everything.

I have mixed feelings.  On one hand the entire economy is hurting so there are very real effects out there- especially for those at the bottom of the proverbial ladder.  Those jobs with low barriers to entry are the ones that are hit the hardest as the higher paying jobs shrink and force people to take lesser jobs.  So skill sets pushing downward force people with high level skills into lesser jobs just to pay the bills, it causes a domino effect.
Eventually someone gets pushed out of the workforce.
So I know its real and I have no desire for anyone to be hurting.
The concern comes when you’re making $300/wk for not working… it creates a new barrier to re-entry into the workforce.  Any logical person is going to ask “How much do I have to make for it to be worth the stress of working 40 hours a week and spending extra money on gas, bus fare, lunch, etc?
At some point the government’s $300/wk becomes more appealing than going to work making $10/hr.  At $10/hr you’d make $400/wk but get taxed and have to pay gas/lunch, etc.
So you’d pretty much say “I’m not getting out of bed for less than $11 an hour.”  Then we have to ask “How many $11+/hr jobs are out there right now?
At the end of the day I am torn because while I don’t want anyone to be homeless or hurting… dependancy makes one a servant to the government.  Unfortunately in some minds it becomes a choice between freedom in the cold or servitude in a warm house.
This has become blog post… but if free market principles win out… what happens to America’s hurting and homeless?
I believe faith-based groups would be forced to re-define their mission.  If all of a sudden unemployment shoots up and the government can’t pay for it, you’d see thousands of churches rally to care for the downtrodden.  Our religious institutions would be forced to re-evaluate everything.

170 Christmas Gifts

A few months ago I got a call from one of our partners.  They offered to bring a team up to Baltimore the week before Christmas.  I knew just the project they could make happen.

Within a few days I sat with the principal of a local school near our East Baltimore Church location.  This school has more recently been called a 90/90 school.  This means that 90% of the students live below the poverty line but also 90% of the students are proficient in their studies.  Effectively they are at grade-level while living in a very impoverished environment.

In my conversation with the principal we talked about ways that our church could partner with this great school to benefit the students and the teachers who serve them.

The plan was set.  We decided we were going to give two grade levels worth of students a Christmas present.  Additionally we were going to bless the teachers with a great appreciation dinner in their honor!

On Monday, December 20th we were able to see the payoff!

In partnership with Sherwood Church and their Christian Academy we brought a lot of joy to nearly 300 lives!  With additional partnership help from FBC Concord we were able

Self Preservation or Gospel Advancement?

Recently my heart has been burdened by an observation I’ve made that exists with the individual Christian who seems to lack vibrancy in their faith.  The same observation can be made about stagnent or dying churches and ineffective denominational entities.

Many people operate for self preservation rather than Gospel advancement.


We can all become self preservationists if we’re not careful.  We start off pursuing Jesus and His mission for our lives.  Our white hot passion is to see His name lifted up among the nations.  We storm hell with a squirt gun.  Along the way reality hits us.  The words of scripture seem to pack less punch, we’re around the naysayers and do-nothings who nudge us not to be so idealistic and ultimately we lose our sense of purpose.  In an attempt to regain this purpose (universally w/o seeking revival) we end up pursuing self-preservation.  In order to avoid blowing our cover we couch our new preservationist strategy in language of the church world.  We say we’re about one thing but we live an entirely different way.

Local Churches:

Church Plants- If it’s a church plant you may observe the most gospel-centered document ever produced is often the vision or strategy before launch.  The planter is alone with God and burdened by what ‘must be’.  The sense of losteness is palpable and the burden is heavy.  Fast forward a few months or a few hardships and you find that the focus has turned to buildings, butts and budgets.  The preaching is less about our response to the call of Jesus to advance the gospel and more about how to ‘shape up’, give more money or serve in a ministry.  Again, these things aren’t inherantly evil but they often are without focus, power and impact because they are disconnected from the main mission.  Nevermind what Jesus said about not being connected to ‘the Vine’… we’re “trying to grow the church”.

Established Churches- Established churches aren’t immune at all.  In many cases the need for the church plants are due to the dry bones of the established churches in the same town.  Long ago they lost their focus, took their proverbial “eye off the ball” and now sit as modern museums to a bygone era when the building was a tool and not a monument.  Walking into these churches feels like walking into a meat locker.  There is no warmth, no love, no Jesus being preached.  Again you’ll find humanistic thoughts wrapped in Christian vernacular but you won’t find a burden for the gospel to advance in the city.

Local Associations & State Conventions:

Recently in our world the GCR was passed to address some of this institutional apathy. My prayers remain that we do not simply shuffle around the staff who have overseen this drought.I’m praying God gives us fresh annointing and passion coming from men and women who are burning with a genuine passion for the Gospel.  I’m encouraged by the national changes but I’m praying that these changes make their way down to the mission field.

As it stands from my perspective in Baltimore, MD I have found the local association to be very anemic and our state convetntion to be focused on many things that do not produce new believers in Jesus. In both of these cases I do not call into question the motives for the origins or the faithful men and women of the past who led these efforts for gospel advancement.  My broken heart for these agencies comes from encounter after encounter that demonstrate the priorities of the leadership. Leaders who have moved from Gospel advancement to self preservation. The bar is not “How many people are hearing and receiving the gospel?”  The focus is more on “How are the reports looking and who is showing up to my meetings?”  People work diligently to justify their jobs and celebrate inherently deceiving milestones in an effort to cross the finish line of retirement.  If I had not observed this on many levels over the course of the last 3 years I would personally be offended to even hear someone say these things out loud. But silence is precicely what self-preservationists count on.  Instead of humbly repenting and being broken over the lack of genuine Gospel-advancement there are many who have settled for far less worthy and less biblical celebrations, namely power and a paycheck.

All Of Us:

In all of these situations our enemies are silence, apathy and ambivalence. Like a baby, we are rocked into a sense of security about our situations.  Whether it be personal or organizational preservation we must not allow the Gospel of Jesus to be reduced and then eliminated as a focus to the point where preservation is a viable goal.

The Bottom Line:

So where is the bottom line?  In my case the bottom line is with the man typing these words. In your case the bottom line is with you.  At any point where we’re concerned about our preservation over the advancement of the Gospel, we must stop and repent. We have insulted a holy and loving God who we doubt by trying to manipulate our own standing among others.  We have also insulted Him by our willingness to hijack His mission for our own.

I’m praying that my soul would remain stirred to advance the Gospel of Jesus above the name Tally Wilgis, Captivate Church or any other name. My prayer for us is that we never allow something other than the Gospel drive our decisions.  In spite of my concern for our local association and state convention I am committed to be part of the solution.  The solution ultimately rests in every decision being focused on how the Gospel will be advanced.

How To Host A Mission Team

I’ve learned something.  We can be greatly encouraged and charged up by hosting  a great mission team and conversely we can be distracted and discouraged by hosting a bad mission team.  I’ve also learned that much of what can make a week feel good or bad stems from how well we prepare.  To have a good experience requires a lot of work for the host.

Fortunately for us in the last few years we’ve had great mission teams.

I’d like to share with you from my perspective what makes a great mission team experience… from both sides.

1.  Screen The Team.

This sounds harsh but you’ll thank me later.  Should you accept every team that offers to come?  No.  The stakes are too high.  If a team comes in with good intentions but bad leadership, I don’t want them.  If a team comes with good leadership but misguided intentions, I don’t want them.  If a team demands a certain type of project that doesn’t fit at the moment, I don’t want them – yet.

Think of church planting like building a home.  If you bring in the roofers when you really needed the plumbers, you’re going to have a lot of good people upset.  For instance… we’re not at a place right now where I can handle a bell choir.  I’m not sure we’ll ever be at a place to host a bell choir but definately not right now.

I’ve had team leaders get upset with me because I said “No, I can’t use the type of team you have at this time in our development.”  or “No, the people in the inner city will not respond well to your team so I don’t want them performing that particular (skit/musical/dance/etc).”  Clearly articulating what you need may offend the team leaders who want to show off their talent but it does not offend the leader who truly wants to simply help however he/she can. When I serve as a missionary I check my expectations and preferences at the door.  I spent 3 months in inner city Houston as a 17 year-old.  Cleaning toilets was as important to me on that trip as playing with the kids at the mission center.  Why?  Because that’s what the host needed out of me.  It’s vital that you as a leader can weed out bad teams and bad leaders.  That’s about 90% of the battle. Once you have great leaders at the table, you’re pretty much going to have a great experience.

2. Be Organized.

The team leader working with you is trying to answer 1,000 questions to his/her boss, team members and possibly cooks and bus drivers.  Do your best to pretend you are the one taking the trip. What would you need to know “Food, Housing, Schedule, Supplies, Free Time, etc.).  In our case, if we have teams who will work on multiple projects during the course of a week we will make a spreadsheet in 15 minute increments for their entire time with us.  Each day we also build in a “leadership chat” time just to touch base on the days activities and how to improve the next day.  For teams that are working on one project we do not do this.  For instance the team we had last week was almost hands-off and turn-key.  This isn’t normal.  The team was also all grown men doing construction so they were fairly self contained.  Finally this team had been here before so they knew the lay of the land.

2(b).  Be Really Organized.

For many of our teams we work to provide them with all of the information they need in the form of a welcome packet.  We only give the schedules to the leaders of the group and whomever they want to have one.  Why?  Things change.  We usually provide maps of their work areas, important phone numbers, local grocery stores and pharmacies, etc.

3. Communicate Often.

Different churches have different calendars and internal policies.  Communicate to their needs.  Typically 3-6 months out you’ll need some parameters and you’ll want things nailed down 4-6 weeks before arrival.  Sometimes the communication from your end needs to be “We’re too far out for me to know specific jobs, but I know you’ll be doing ____ (type of work [ex: block parties, canvassing, construction, etc.).”  As you get closer, you will be able to get more specific.  Once the team is on site be sure to have someone either with the team at all times (recommended) or checking in with the team often.  Ideally having people on site is the way to go.  When you’re short-staffed, I’ll speak to that in the second-half.  You want to help them help you.

4.  Meet The Team Upon Arrival.

Even if you’re not going to run point, it’s great for the team who flew or drove to your town to be able to see your face.  Do your best to greet the team when they arrive.  Usually I schedule a few minutes to ‘connect the dots’ between what the team will be doing and what God is doing in our city.  I want them to know that scraping paint in an old bathroom actually will help us reach people with the gospel.  They will need this reminder later in the week.  Give them this gift now.  By the time a mission team member is frustrated at their task it may be too late.  It’s hard to be spiritual after a 12 hour bus ride, lack of sleep, cold showers and 30 hours of manual labor.  Give them the bigger picture.

5.  Follow Up.

Do your best to send “Thank You” cards to their Pastor, Executive Pastor, Mission’s Pastor and whomever else may have had a hand in the trip.  This may be a youth minister or other lay people.  Be very generous in your praise for the team and make certain they know how thankful you are for their investment.  There are a million places they could put their time, talent and treasure… they chose your work.  Thank them.  Also in the follow up process I want to encourage you to ask how you can improve.  For the most part we’ve had great reviews but I had one review come back with some concerns.  By and large I think there were some expectation issues and lack of communication but it was great to hear the feedback.  For every group since I have been able to make certain to ask questions I didn’t know I needed to ask.  I found that I assume things (culturally, comfort, etc.) and it’s important that I make sure our team has the opportunity to know what’s ahead and it’s important for me as a host to know how I can improve their situation.

In a future post I’ll share with you how you can lead a great team.  I’ve dropped some indication in this post but I’ll clarify further in the future.