If You Knew You Only Had Sixty Seconds to Live, How Would you Live them?

A few years ago, I started asking myself what I would do If I were about to enter the final minute of my life.

The first time I did so I was sitting in a Starbucks in Vero Beach, Fl. The one that is located on U.S. 1, in the Publix plaza parking lot. Starbucks was a second home when we moved to Vero and planted Pillar Community Church. It, and other local coffee houses, served as my office for the first four to five years of the ministry.

On this particular morning, Starbucks was filled with people. As I observed folks coming in and out, I found myself passing subtle judgments. You know, judgments like,

“That’s not a coffee drink . . . it’s a soft-serve ice cream sundae laced with peppermint-cocoa flavoring,” Or

“Wow, you wore that in public?” Or

“Good grief, do you really need that much space? Can’t you see that people are standing around waiting for a place to sit?”

I was clearly feeling a sense of “I am better-than-you are” as I sat hunched in a small corner, at a small table, sipping on my dark-roast black coffee for the morning.

I the midst of these thoughts, I suddenly wondered, “What would I do If Jesus showed up and said, ‘Okay son, it’s time to go. Pack it up and come with me.’?”

I found myself stumbling to explain my thoughts to Him and wondering what I would say if that did happen!?!?

So, I decided to re-enact those sixty seconds and live as if these would be the last sixty seconds of my life.

A funny thing happened. The thoughts I was having ceased. New thoughts emerged. They were powerful thoughts. I didn’t wonder why people ordered what they were ordering, sat where they were sitting, or wore what they were wearing. Rather, I began to ask myself, “What should I do with the time I have remaining?” or “How should I spend these final moments of my life?”

On that morning I began a new spiritual practice or rhythm that I call “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life.” As one who believes our practices and habits shape our behaviors, this one has been fascinating.

The time constraint of sixty seconds, while challenging, prevents the hysteria of trying to fix all I’ve broken even as it invites me to consider where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, said, and done and challenges me to spend my final seconds well! The time limitation is challenging on so many levels.

So, when I practice “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life,” I find myself going through a quick but meaningful internal catalog of my dearest loves in this life.

After thinking about them, I give thanks for them.

I am humbled every time.

There have been times when I’ve caught myself feeling a need to fix what I’ve broken, unsay what I’ve said, or un-see what I’ve seen. But I don’t have time to do any of that so I offer a simple confession to my Father and invite His son to do for me what I cannot do for myself (again).

Then, with whatever time remains, I usually try to offer a smile or word of encouragement to someone nearby and, in my own way, share some of the light that Christ has so generously shared with me.

Suddenly, my time is up.

My final sixty seconds are over.

And that’s when the real fun begins. The practice itself reminds me of what a precious gift time is and how grateful I should be for this life I live. It serves to remind me of the generous grace of our Father, the Holy love of His Son, and the empowering influence of His Spirit.

In short, the practice generates joy, gratitude, and a renewed sense of sharing the good news Gospel of the With-God-Life that Jesus preached and makes possible. It’s the news that experiencing and enjoying life with God is possible now.!

And, of course, there have been times when the practice has surfaced some things left unsaid and undone that God, in His grace, gives me the chance to address and bring into the light of His Gospel.

Most of all, the practice shines a light on how often I fail to live as if it’s the last sixty seconds of my life. It’s stunning, really. Particularly given the Bible’s thorough and consistent persistence that we take note of the time we are given and take stock of how we are living!

From beginning to end, the Bible is full of encouragement to wake up to the presence of God and the light of Christ and then live as if that matters to everyone on the planet. A favorite of mine is found in Ephesians, where the writer (I believe it’s Paul, for what it’s worth) encourages us to buy back the time we are given and use it well.

In Ephesians 5:15-16 we read, ” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5&version=NRSV

In some small way, this practice of “living as if I am in the final sixty seconds of my life,” rekindles my desire to make the most of every moment. When I am “making the most of every moment,” I discover that my walk with Christ is more robust. and my life with others is more enriching.

You may want to try this one sometime. If you do, let me know what you discover.

Hoping this blog will serve to help you awaken and be attentive to the eternal life now present and possible in Christ!

Grace and peace,

Biz

Transforming Pastoral Ministry Puts Transformation Over Success

Rhythms of Life and Ministry: Transformation Over Success

For the past few months, I’ve focused on what I call Transforming Pastoral Ministry.

In this specific series of post, I am attempting to propose a new way for pastors and leaders to serve and minister to the church.

It’s a way that’s built around a host of Pillars tethered to a particular cluster of Rhythms!

Remember, these Pillars are the what of pastoral ministry.

By that, I mean that these five areas are the principal areas of concern for any ministry. They are:

  1. Calling: I define calling as signature convictions around who we are and why we are here. This applies to both the individual minister as well as the congregational identity.
  2. Congregational Care
  3. Congregational Leadership
  4. Preaching and Worship
  5. Soul-Care, Spiritual Formation and Discipleship

I can pretty much assure you that if you demonstrate some level of competency in three or more of these areas, you will likely have what most would consider a successful ministry.

Success, however, is not the target when I aim what it means to shepherd and lead a congregation.

As a minister, I don’t aim, shoot, or strive for success, per se.  Congregationally speaking, we seek a bit deeper at Pillar!

We aim for transformation.

Continue reading “Transforming Pastoral Ministry Puts Transformation Over Success”

Arranging Sunday’s Sermon All Week Long

The past couple of weeks, I have been addressing the role of preaching within the local church.  Specifically about the how and why of preaching more than the what of preaching.

This preaching-focus is connected to one of the primary roles (or Pillars) pastors must fulfill to be effective in ministry.  In the Transforming Pastoral Ministry and Leadership model I am offering, this is Pillar #4: Preaching, Teaching, and Worship.

I am also suggesting that we learn to practice the art/craft of preaching much like a Curator practice the art/craft of creating an environment within a museum.

A Curator’s goal is to create an environment that is conducive to a transcendent experience.  If you’ve ever walked through a thoughtfully crafted art display, then you know what I am talking about.

You often find yourself lingering, caught up in the experience.  When you do leave, you feel like you’ve experienced a larger story.  A story the artist him or herself has created.

You’ve been a part of the experience in a way that has left you wanting more.

Continue reading “Arranging Sunday’s Sermon All Week Long”

Preach What Pours Forth!

I have the privilege of preaching every Sunday.

Yes.

It is a privilege!

After all, I get to present ideas on a wide range of topics lifted from the most popular book in the history of humankind.

That book, of course, is the Bible.

Two years ago, I was encouraged by a mentor to try preaching one Sunday without notes.  I still remember shuddering when he recommended it.

Continue reading “Preach What Pours Forth!”

The Good News Gospel of the Kingdom of God

**This article is one I’ve posted before.  I am re-posting it because I am going to circle back around to how a Transforming Pastoral Ministry frames and embodies the Gospel. Our understanding of and experience with the Gospel is vital if our mission is (as I contend) Spiritual Formation and Soul-Care.  I cannot think of any other conversations as important as this one.  Please let me know your thoughts**

Several years ago I attended a funeral for a dear friend who lived and ministered in our community for decades.

And, though this saint had a full life, he still – for so many – died at too young an age.  As such, his death was untimely, tragic, and a terrible reality to face for dozens, even hundreds, of family and friends.

As is often the case for funerals such as this, the church was packed.

Well into the service, a pastor took the pulpit and gave a moving message on the love of God and the hope we have in Him.

He told heart-tugging stories, one after the other, of people of faith who have gone before us and whom we are certainly hoping to see again.

He strung together soul-stirring phrase after phrase until the crescendo of the entire service, when he convincingly said, “Don’t you want to know this Jesus?”  Followed by a pulsating, “If you want to see this person again, then make a decision today!  Right here, right where you are, repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as your personal savior.”

Every Head Bowed and Every Eye Closed . . . Come Again?

Then, in the closing, he asked that with every head bowed, and eye closed, those who made a decision for Christ, to raise their hands.

I, of course, peeked and saw that dozens of hands went up.

Twenty years ago, I would have been encouraged by such a scene.  And, in fact, I’ve preached a similar message all too often.  On this occasion, just a few years ago, I felt dismayed.

I left the funeral knowing that the preacher had presented a truncated and abstract version of the Gospel!

I’ve come to refer to this truncated version of the Gospel as a two-chapter, transactional Gospel.  I knew as I drove home that day, that if that’s the only gospel those folks ever heard, then they simply never heard the Gospel.

At least not the whole Gospel!

Unintended but Catastrophic Consequences

The reason that I believe this two-chapter, transactional Gospel is not a picture of the whole Gospel is because of the outcomes that follow from our commitment to it.

A specific outcome to which I am referring is one where the person(s) who made a decision for Christ then leaves the service and effectively puts Jesus on the shelf until they die.

Why?

Because they know – at last – where they will go when they death finally comes knocking.

This place is heaven, of course.

One might argue that such a response isn’t always the case.  To that, I’d say, “Yes, you are right.”  But, I’d also respond that, though it’s not always the case, often – very often – it is the case!

Honestly, this type of shelving Jesus until the afterlife response is normative because it’s exactly the type of response the question expects!

The preacher asks:

“Want to see your friend again one day?”

“The one that you’re mourning right now?  This dear friend whom you’re not even sure you are going to be able to live without?”

“Then, you better say yes to Jesus – right now – so that you can see him/her when you die.”

If the only thing that matters is where I will go when I die, then the life I live until then is of little consequence.

As such, the Gospel asserts no real authority or influence over or in my life.  Such a Gospel not only fails to speak to the realities of my life today, but it’s a Gospel that I can intentionally refuse to listen to even when or if it does.

Sacred Versus Secular?

Further, such presentations lend themselves to an “I’m in/You’re out” way of living.  This  divides us into opposing factions and breaks the world into different categories of what’s “sacred” versus that which is “secular.”

The Bible makes no such distinctions.  That’s right.  You’ve been taught it does, but it doesn’t divide creation and creature into neat categories of the “haves and have-nots.”

The Bible does, however, speak to the reality of an enemy.  The enemy is the one who rails against the human soul at every turn.

It’s this reality to which the Four-Chapter, Relational Gospel so forcefully and invitingly speaks.  It’s this space – the space between what’s now and not-yet – that the Four-Chapter, Relational Gospel inhabits.

Putting an End to the Old by Proclaiming the Original Good News

In my last post, I began exploring four areas of life that remain untouched by the Two-Chapter, Transactional Gospel.

These four areas the very reason why the Gospel was first announced.  And, what Jesus announced was called Good News!

I am going to rewrite them and then propose we explore them together, over the course of the next few weeks.

These four are:

  1. The Good News Gospel Revitalizes the Cultural Mandate.
  2. The Good News Gospel Reframes the Great Commandment.
  3. The Good News Gospel Reinvigorates the Great Commission
  4. The Good News Gospel Reveals the Kingdom of God, present in and among us, through Christ.

The order may need to be reversed, but we will stay with it for now.

Doing so will help us come to terms with the fact the Good News Gospel begins before my sin and goes beyond my redemption.

Disrupting to Renew!