What’s In a Name – or Title?

3d4b8ea666b3c0dfe8cf0329f4459882Titles.  I typically do not care for them, but it has become an issue as to how I should address myself in ministry work.  I have seen many in church leadership become so obsessed with titles that they add four or five before their names:  “Apostle-Bishop-Doctor-Prophetess-Pastor So-And-So”.  Jesus Himself addressed the “title” issue:

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.   (Matthew 23:8-10)

When I became an ordained minister, I grappled with what to call myself, if anything.  Leaning on the above scripture, I simply went by “Sister Robin”, which quickly became “Sista-Robin”.  But that sounded vaguely like a Catholic Nun, which I am not, and it caused a bit of confusion.  So what do we call the lady minister?

It seems proper etiquette to address those who hold certain church offices as such, deserving of the respect each commands (Pastor, Evangelist, etc.)  I believe titles should be used as more of a job description or calling, rather than accumulating them to boost one’s ego or clout.  I have no problem addressing church pastors as “Pastor So-and-So”, as that is the office they hold.  Likewise, true evangelists should be addressed as such.  And generically the term “Reverend” is used for any ordained minister, whether they are currently pastoring a church or not.  My grandfather, a pastor and church-planter, formally went by “Reverend Thomas Flynn” but was more affectionately known as “Preacher Tommy” or “Brother Flynn”.  A bit formal, “Reverend Robin” IS kind of catchy, while “Rocking Reverend Robin”, invoking the old song from the 70’s, is a bit too much.  LOL

I have never been very “formal” and have never fit the mold, nor will I.  Although a free-spirit, I AM a former pastor, Sunday School teacher, radio preacher, and evangelist. I have worn many hats in my 20 years of ministry.  But I cringed when recently referred to as “Pastor” – I feared it was inappropriate as I currently do not pastor a particular church body.  If anything, I should never wish to be disrespectful of the office or title.  I questioned my own pastor at the time about this, and he responded:

“Pastor is not relevant to church, it is for a group of people.  I think if you lead people and they follow you, it is absolutely appropriate to wear the title.”

The Lord also reminded me that church is not necessarily a building or meeting place, but rather the world-wide body of Christ.  The born-again believers are the church, wherever they find themselves on Sunday morning or Wednesday night.  I do have an on-line following and I still practice what is considered “pastoral counseling”.  My former congregation and others still reach out to me and I pray for them daily.  I suppose that still counts as “Pastor”.  The bible says that the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Romans 11:29)

So, you may call me Pastor; or Reverend; or Preacha – or simply call me by my name.  I am just a Jesus-loving, hippie-gypsy free spirit called to preach the Gospel of Christ, and set the captives free.

Freed Birds and Butterflies

butterfly 2I’ve been seeing  a lot of butterflies lately, noticeably the large, black and yellow ones.  My husband Ed reminded me that it IS “butterfly season”, but I know when the Lord is speaking to me through signs of nature.  It always coincides with my current prayers and the issues He has placed in and upon my heart.  Yes, there are butterflies everywhere this time of year, but they rarely approach, hover and dance around my feet.  The significant brilliance of the black and yellow butterfly would have been known only to me and my sister.  You see, God sent the two of us a dancing, black and yellow butterfly as we sat quietly at our mother’s graveside the day after she was laid to rest 12 years ago.  With the colorful array of flowers still spread over the ground, sweet fragrance filling the sticky, July air of the Carolina’s, Peggy’s girls sat in silence.  

Words would not come forth as the flood of memories invaded our restless minds.  The five-year nightmare of our mother’s violent attack and subsequent traumatic head injuries had ended.  (Mamma was a fatal victim of criminal domestic violence.)  The terror of her bruises, her fear, her hospital visits, her frequent panicky phone calls, her mental and emotional anguish and physical decline… all permeated the non-stop movie screen playing in one continuous loop.  Yet a strange and quiet peace washed over us as we knew her suffering was over and she was finally home with Jesus.  She was FREE.  

Suddenly our butterfly appeared out of nowhere.  She came up over the hill, and gracefully danced across the flowers before us.  She gently lit atop a rose, looking each one of us in the eye.  She stayed long enough to ensure our attention, then she fluttered around our heads, then happily danced away as if to say “Don’t cry for me – I am finally FREE!”  My sister nor I could contain the joy from deep within as we grinned at each other, simultaneously whispering the word “Mamma”.  Now we know that that butterfly was not actually our mother, but we also knew the Lord had sent her to represent Mamma’s spirit that was now at rest – free from the abuse and pain she had endured for so long. 

Once during my mother’s brief stay at a nursing facility in our home town, we had been discussing the giant bird cage in the front lobby filled with colorful, singing parakeets, canaries and finches.  I had asked if she’d like to be put in charge of feeding them because she had always enjoyed feeding the birds in her back yard.  She leaned in to me and said in a top-secret but determined whisper, “I’d just set them all free.”  That was my free-spirited mother.  And now we could rest easy knowing that she was flying high with freed birds and butterflies!

The butterfly is also an amazing representation of death and resurrection.  The caterpillar trudges around for months before wrapping himself in a cocoon, a “tomb” if you will.  He will sleep there indefinitely and by all appearances seems to have died.  Yet that cocoon will split open and the most beautiful winged creature emerges with unparalleled strength, joy, and freedom!  This represents our true spirits being released into the heavenly realm where, if we are saved and covered by the Blood of Jesus, we will dwell with Him in Glory forever.  

The transformation of the caterpillar-to-butterfly is a beautiful mystery in nature.  It can also represent transformation during our EARTHLY lives as we lay down or “bury” old dead things that have bound us up and caused us pain.  As we “die to self” daily (Romans 6:4), laying those dead, terrifying things at the foot of the Cross, we can be delivered from them, emerging healed and FREE in Jesus’ Name! 

So why all the butterflies now, these 12 years later?  I have sensed for some time that a “transformation” is in store for my own life and ministry.  Are the butterflies a symbol of the women I’ll help to set free?  Or are they a reminder of the freedom I’ve received myself through my faith in Christ?  (Old mindsets do often creep in and bind us up again if we let them, causing us to worry too much about what we’re “supposed” to be doing.)  

Transformation is coming.  I’m a butterfly, and butterflies are free to fly… as are robins.  

“Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.”  (Isaiah 43:19)

Don’t Forget the Refreshments!

As I sLiving waterat outside on the back patio with my bible and my coffee (my two staples), I breathed in the cool air and thought, “what a refreshing morning!”  My bare feet were covered in a light blanket as the birds fluttered and chirped, welcoming the light of a new day.  The sun sparkled brightly across the dew-covered grass, and I smiled in disbelief at the thermometer which read a mere 62 degrees!  No, I am not on a mountain retreat in October.  This is the 9th day of July, the height of summer, in the South.  This is South Carolina, to be exact, where the temperatures have been in the mid-90’s for weeks; and the humidity keeps your skin damp and your hair frizzed.  I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against my chair, thanking God for this unexpected break in the heat wave; this sweet “time of refreshing”.

I thought about the woman who journeyed to the well hoping for a cool, refreshing drink of water in John, Chapter 4.  Yet there she met Jesus who told her of the “living water” that He offered, with which she would never thirst again.  He was of course referring to the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside of us when we give our lives to Christ.  That Holy Spirit literally flows throughout our entire being as a cool, refreshing river that never ends.  Just as our bodies crave that cool drink of water on a hot day, so should our souls crave that “refreshing” drink of the Holy Spirit.  

In Acts 3:19, Peter speaks of a time of spiritual refreshment that took place on the Day of Pentecost.   He exhorts his audience to repent and give their lives to Jesus so that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

The words “cool” and “July” are oxymoron’s around these parts, and I am not likely to receive another miraculous refreshing as I did today anytime soon.  I can reenact my entire routine every day, but the heat and humidity will be back with a vengeance.  However, that spiritual refreshing comes from being in the “presence of the Lord”, and that is a place I can be every single day no matter what month is displayed on the calendar, or what temperature the thermometer climbs to.  His Holy Spirit dwells within me, and all I have to do is turn off the electronics and the noise, read His Holy Word, speak to Him in prayer or just lift His Name in praise and adoration.  There I shall bask in the refreshing “presence of the Lord”, more refreshing than a cool drink of water on the hottest day.  There is truly no place I would rather be.  “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.”  (Psalm 42:1)

You too may have these “times of refreshing” frequently!  If you confess your sins and ask the Lord to forgive you, believe on Jesus Christ as your Savior and make Him Lord of your life, He WILL forgive you and send His Holy Spirit to dwell within you.  Seek to be in His presence every single day.  He is always available and ready to wrap you in His unfailing love, and saturate you with His perfect peace.  No matter how busy our schedules become, we must always make time to be in the Lord’s presence, for that’s where the “times of refreshing” come.

So let’s be about the Father’s business, shining the light and love of Jesus everywhere we go.  But take that time to get alone with Him.  Whatever you do, don’t forget the refreshments!

 

What Am I Doing Here?

HOMEI am amazed at the timing and am thankful for Facebook “memories”! I’ve been feeling incredibly homesick these last few weeks for both Stokes County (NC) and Myrtle Beach (SC).  I consider both places “home” as I grew up in both, and have lived in those two places longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.  I am on the patio this morning outside the beautiful home the Lord has most recently placed us in, enjoying a quiet morning with just me, the singing birds, and Jesus. It is so peaceful, and yet I sit here contemplating the one-year anniversary of our move to Anderson. (Ed has been here one year this month, and next month will be one year since I joined him.)  I miss my friends and the beautiful places of my former home towns, and sometimes wonder what we are doing here. Then THIS came up in my memories… something I wrote myself three years ago but needed to read again today.  And just like that, all is right with the world again.

I love my husband, my home, my job and my Lord. He is using us daily in our jobs, and with pastors and evangelists who He continues to bring across our path. Will we pastor a church here one day? Online or in a building? Will we finally launch that mobile ministry from here? I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future, and I know who holds my hand.   What I wrote three years ago:

I am feeling so grateful but also overwhelmed at the goodness of God, and the people he has placed in my life. When God led me to move away and start over two and one-half years ago, it was bitter-sweet. It was sad to leave everything comfortable and familiar, including some very dear friends and the small church that I pastored. But I also knew it was to time to move on, and God has placed not only an amazing husband in my life, but also many wonderful NEW friends, and an awesome new church home. I was blessed to spend the last two weekends with close friends and members of my old church in North Carolina, and also new neighbors and friends in South Carolina as well. In the past few weeks I’ve received Facebook messages from friends as far back as grade school! It reminds me of a song I learned in Girl Scouts, probably in 2nd or 3rd grade: “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” Perhaps MORE appropriately is the scripture from Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Will I ever pastor again?  I have no idea – if the Lord so directs, I will let you know. But no matter what HIS plan is for my life, my life is in HIS hands. And all is right with the world.

 

What’s Really Growing in Your Church?

churchgrowth“Church growth” is the current buzzword in the Christian community.  It has generated a billion-dollar industry from the Purpose Driven best sellers to the multi-campus models, and everything in between. If you Google “church growth”, you will get pages and pages of books and videos, careful 3-step and 10-step strategies and instructions on how to “grow your church.”  The Bible has a lot to say about “church growth”.  It is called “evangelism”, “soul-winning”, and “discipleship.”  But are we getting it right?

I fully understand and agree that we need to keep up with the century that we are living in.  We cannot allow our traditions, no matter how dear, to remain so old-fashioned that we are unable to relate to or communicate with the generation we are trying to reach for Christ.  I love a contemporary praise and worship service, and personally take no issue if the pastor is wearing jeans and tennis shoes.  (Jesus never told anyone they had to change their clothes before coming to church, and neither should we.  We are only instructed to dress “modestly”, as we should!)

However, we’ve recently watched pastors frantically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in attempts to allure the masses.  They have built enormous buildings, trendy pulpits and stage sets, complete with strobe lights and fog machines.  Some of these mimic the very night clubs the Lord has delivered so many of us out of (myself included).  Again, I love some powerful, contemporary praise songs, as most of them are pulled straight from scripture.  I even love seeing the joy of Lord expressed in dancing before Him, in worship.  But I come to bask in the presence of Almighty God and be fed His holy Word; I do not need to be entertained.  It breaks my heart to see crosses removed from today’s houses of worship so as not to “offend” anyone.  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER of GOD.”  (1 Corinthians 1:18)  Sin is rarely addressed, and in some denominations, even promoted!  But the Bible says, “… let it not be named among you, as is fitting for saints.”  (Ephesians 5:3)

A precious pastor-friend of ours recently got caught up himself in the game of adding and removing chairs from Sunday to Sunday, trying to make the auditorium (we no longer call them sanctuaries) look full enough, yet not over-crowded.   He said, “Well the statistics show…”  Say what?  Is this what “preparing for the service” has become?

Yes, the large mega-churches are bursting at the seams, but are people getting saved, delivered and set free?  Are lives being changed?  Are we growing/maturing in our Christian walk and faith? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)  Are we growing in grace and knowledge?  (2 Peter 3:18)  Are we winning souls for the kingdom (evangelizing our communities), and discipling them?  (Matthew 28:19)  Are we feeding the hungry and clothing the poor?  (Matthew 25:35-40)

Evangelism is my first love, and my first call to ministry.  I am overjoyed with true “church growth”.  We should be praying earnestly for the real thing.  The Bible has much to say about it!  In fact, on the day of Pentacost they saw 3,000 people added to the church in one day!  Again, “And the Lord added to the church DAILY those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:47)  Despite the phenomenal number of mega-churches popping up all over, we have yet to witness these numbers that the early church accomplished.  So, what was their secret?  What was their “strategy”?  They did not have fancy buildings – they met in people’s homes.  They did not have elaborate stage sets, nor extravagant sound systems.  And I can assure you, they did not use flashing lights nor fog machines.  

The answer is simple.  They preached the life-changing message of the Gospel that Jesus preached.  The same message that Peter preached at Pentacost where 3,000 were saved:  “Repent, believe, receive.”   The Holy Spirit flowed freely, and miracles happened.

“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were MULTIPLIED.”  (Acts 9:31)

“And He said to them, `Go in to all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.'”  (Mark 16:15)

Shall we?