Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sunday Reflections: Church Conference Season and other things

We had a great day of worship at the Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Karry D. Wesley, was away from the pulpit today. So at our 7:30 a.m. service Rev. Branden Walker, one of our Associate Ministers, preached on “The Powerful Prayer of a Sincere Servant” from Nehemiah 1. And then at our 10:00 a.m. service Pastor Robert Purvey, our Assoc. Pastor of Youth and Young Adults, preached on “The Power of a Believing Parent” from Mark 9:23-24. They both did a solid job of laboring in the Word this morning.

We were also blessed to have our children and youth lead us in worship during the 10 a.m. service. They did an exceptional job.

I’m excited about the next two months. We are gearing up to celebrate our 26th church anniversary. In August, we have a Greek Step Show, Antioch’s Got Talent, and Church Picnic planned. There is going to be plenty of fun, laughter, and fellowship as we get together as a church family.

I am especially looking forward to September because that is our conference month. We kick things off with our Impact Student Conference on September 1.

The next Saturday (September 8th) will be our HALFTIME Men’s Conference. We have a great lineup of speakers again this year; Pastor Bryan Carter, Pastor Stephen Brown, and Pastor Maurice Pugh, just to name a few. Our main speaker will be Coach Carter (yes, THE Coach Carter, who was played by Samuel Jackson in “Coach Carter” the movie).

And then the following Saturday (September 15th) we will host our Sisters Summit. They too have a slate of great speakers who will be teaching the Word of God. Our Senior Pastor’s wife, Cheryl Wesley, will be the main speaker. She loves Jesus and is an great speaker. I am confident that women will be blessed by her teaching of the Scriptures.

With the exception of our Impact Student Conference (cost: Free), all of our conferences are just $10 (includes lunch). If you are not a member of Antioch but would like more information and/or to register, please contact Billie Wiseman-Burden at (972) 228-2420.

I have enjoyed watching the Olympics so far. I love watching top athletes from around the world compete. I am personally looking forward to the Track and Field events. Both the wife and I are curious to see how the US fares against Jamaica. It will be interesting to say the least.

I am prayerfully getting myself back into a writing mindframe. I have another book to write! Did I tell you that writing is WORK? I did? Okay. 🙂 I will be doing some studying to that end this week. Please pray for me in this regard. Thanks.

I will also be sharing the Word with our EDGE Young Adult Ministry this Friday, August 3rd at 7:00 p.m. at the Antioch Church.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended the funeral of a 27 year old young lady that we knew from our days in Waco, TX. Tragically, she took her own life. My heart sunk when I received the news and grieved as we sat in a funeral home, hearing the cries of her mother, sister, and two children as they mourned the loss of their daughter/mother and struggled to accept the reality of her death. Yet I am comforted to know that she had a relationship with Jesus. I pray that is or becomes true of all who were in attendance.

To end on a lighter note, we are about to turn off “Dora, the Explorer”(most parents of toddlers know about this Nick Jr. cartoon) and head to a water playground. I pray you had a wonderful weekend and that you have a productive and fruitful week!

The Church Is More Than Just Preaching

I have been pondering over this thought for years now: The church is more than just preaching (i.e., a local church gathering together to hear the Word preached in a worship service).

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a pastor, and faithfully preaching/teaching the Scriptures is one of our primary responsibilities (2 Timothy 4:1-2; cf. also 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9). So, I love to preach! I believe in preaching. It is absolutely necessary to our spiritual growth and I do not wish to lessen its importance in the life of the church, especially given the rampant unhealthy (i.e., unbiblical, bad hermeneutics, unsound, etc.) preaching that is going on in our day.  We absolutely need to elevate the sound preaching-teaching of God’s Word in our services (and beyond).

But the church is more than just preaching.

Jesus commands us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), which we are enabled to do by our prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, and gives us a laundry list of “one another” commands in the New Testament that is supposed to characterize how we live with each other as a church. These commands are to be obeyed both on an individual and collective or corporate level (through a church-wide discipleship mechanism, program, or environment – i.e., Small Groups, Bible Fellowships, Community Groups, Life Groups, Growth Groups, even some Sunday School programs that have been reworked to be more group-focused rather than teacher-led, etc.).

The point I am trying to make is simple. Our job as pastors is not only to preach the Scriptures/Gospel to the congregations we have been called to, but to also encourage them (as well as ourselves) to participate in those discipleship-oriented ministry environments that are designed to help facilitate their spiritual growth.

I would also encourage you, my fellow pastors, to prayerfully plan how you can work this vital, biblical apsect of church into your preaching.

Here is an example from John Piper (Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN):

And from Gaylon Clark (Lead Pastor at Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church in Austin, TX):

If some of you think this is a bit much, consider this. Many of us actually do this type of promoting or highlighting of biblical values or corporate initiatives (e.g., building campaigns) in our preaching or over the pulpit/podium. We preach on stewardship, not forsaking the assembling ourselves together (by that we usually mean people should not habitually skip out on attending the worship services at the church of which they are members), and so on. Shouldn’t a ministry/program/initiative that is primarily designed to aid believers in making disciples be included in your message, be the focus of a stand-alone sermon, or even a series?

By all means, preach. But let us also be sure to promote and participate in the body life of the church.  Remember, the BODY of Christ is not just made up of a mouth. It has many parts that when working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Thoughts or comments?

Lecrae on Culture (via

I ran across this post as I perused the internet this morning. Lecrae expresses some of my convictions about Christians engaging culture, particularly as it relates to the urban or hip-hop [sub]culture.

One of the great misconceptions is that, if you’re engaging cultural forms of music, TV, film, etc. that somehow you’re being worldly, and that is antithetical to being Christian. Missionaries walk into a culture and try to figure out what that culture’s functional gospel is. “Peering into a different cultural world, that you don’t fully agree with as a Christian,” Pastor Mark Driscoll asks the Grammy-nominated artist Lecrae in this excerpted interview, “how do you maintain discernment, how do you interpret, how do you study, how do you make sure you’re going in [to culture], not just to be entertained, but to be informed?”

Here’s how Lecrae responded:

The top rappers are not just artists people enjoy listening to—they’re role models, they’re father figures.

Music doesn’t have a soul, gets saved, and becomes a believer, by any means, and by listening to secular music, you won’t exactly find yourself in Hellafornia. However, in the urban context, specifically hip-hop culture, music does have an influence. Hip-hop was a culture that sprung up out of the Bronx in the late ’60s, early ’70s, when some disenfranchised, disadvantaged kids said, “Man, we lost our jobs, we don’t have anything to do this summer, let’s start spray-painting, let’s start DJing and breakdancing,” things along those lines. Then it sprawled out into a culture. 

Unlike rock and R&B or any other type or genre of music, I think the urban culture heavily identifies with hip-hop. They find their identity in it, they find their purpose in it, and realistically, it’s where their modern-day philosophers and their modern-day leaders come from. Some of the top rappers today [in 2007], are Lil Wayne, Jay-Z. They’re not just artists people enjoy listening to—they’re role models, they’re father figures. People take their cues from them.

Paul familiarized himself with the sayings, the teachers, the poets, the authors, the gods, and the idols of the day. That’s a necessary thing to do.

I didn’t know what a bottle of Cristal was until I heard Jay-Z say it—I didn’t know I needed Cristal. Oh, they have 26-inch rims now? Oh, that’s the new thing. I didn’t know I needed those until my modern-day philosophers told me I needed that. So at the time, I think for my church to say, “Hey, you need to chill on your music,” for a lot us in the urban context, it was probably necessary, because we were taking so many of our cues from our music. So for a period I needed to put hip-hop on the shelf.

Now, being someone who feels like I’m an indigenous minister to the hip-hop culture, an indigenous missionary, I do peer in. I do listen to what’s going on out there, for the purpose of being educated on what’s going on the culture. Not to take cues from them or champion them or say, “I believe them!” but to understand the messages that are being filtered into the culture.

I live in the inner city, not because I have to, but because I desire to see those around me come to the Lord.

Maintaining discernment in this is a multitude of things, number one being, taking cues from Scripture. Looking at Acts 17 and definitely looking at Paul’s model- seeing what he did on [the Areopagus,] Mars Hill, how he familiarized himself with the sayings, the teachers, the poets, the authors, the gods, and the idols of the day. That’s a necessary thing to do. Also using the Bible as filter and saying, “What does the Bible advocate? What does it not advocate? What does it speak against? What doesn’t it speak against?” So if I say, “Oh, rap, making words rhyme, essentially, is that wrong?” I don’t see anything wrong with that scripturally. But the exaltation of self, the exaltation of self-glorification and money and fame and things along those lines, yeah, the Bible speaks out against those, so in those areas I say, “OK, these are red flags, these are issues that are contradictory to Scripture.” But then clearly having close accountability, having brothers who say, “Man, you’re making much of yourself as of late,” guys who know me, who love me, and can pick up on those things.

On top of that, keeping my mission constantly in front of me, and immersing myself in that helps a lot. I live in the inner city of Memphis, Tennessee [he now lives in Atlanta], not because I have to, but because I desire to see those around me come to the Lord, I desire to be around the culture that I know I have influence in. So they’re constantly before me, in the deadness, the sin, the depravity—it’s constantly in front of my face, so I’m almost forced to know what’s going on, what are their values, ideals, and bring Christ to them.

This post is an adapted excerpt from an interview that Pastor Mark conducted with Lecrae, a couple years ago. You can download his latest mixtape, Church Clothes, for free here.

Jesus – The One All-Sufficient Sacrifice for Our Sin (Hebrews 9:24-28)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The 10 Commandments for Writers (Jared C. Wilson)

Thanks, Jared, for writing this piece. A great reminder for us Christian writers.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before God. Neither publication nor fame nor even writing itself shall be your god, but God alone.

2. Thou shalt not make of your writing an idol, serving it as if it is sovereign. Nor shall you look to your gift or craft for the fulfillment and satisfaction and joy only Christ can give in himself.

3. Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, but shall write ultimately for the fame of his name, not for your own.

4. Thou shalt take a day off every week.

5. Honor your father and your mother. Even if you’re writing about your troubled childhood, don’t do so in ways that shame your parents or throw them under the bus for cheap laughs or tears.

6. Thou shalt not murder, not even in your heart when another writer writes well or when a critic savages your work or when you think somebody stole your idea.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. If writing is your mistress, it’s still cheating on your spouse. And you’re not fooling everybody by trying to “keep it real” with the sexuality in your book.

8. Thou shalt not steal anybody’s joy or time. Nor shall you steal anybody’s work and pass it off as your own.

9. Thou shalt not tell lies. Even when writing fiction, tell the truth.

10. Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s gifts, praise, success, or livelihood.

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it: Love your reader as yourself.

The Words of Theodore Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Cultivating a Culture of Trust in Your Ministry

Relationships, for the most part, are surface level.

Tribalism (“It’s us four and no more. Anybody who is not a part of this circle I could care less about.”) and terroritorialism (“This is my area, ministry, or department and you’re not welcome.”) is running rampant.

Communication is stifled. Motives are questioned. Morale is low. Productivity as a whole is average.

Does any of this ring a bell? If it does, then more than likely you are in a culture of suspicion. No one likes to work or serve in, or be over a culture like this. If we are honest, it is draining and does not inspire the best. It is quite frankly unhealthy.

Dr. Samuel R. Chand writes in his book, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, regarding trust, “Mutual trust among team members is the glue that makes everything good possible. Without it, a team quickly disintegrates into a gang of people protecting their turf and forming angry alliances. Trust is important up, down, and across the organizational structure…When people trust each other, they make a strong connection between the vision, their own roles, the input of others, strategic planning, and the steps of implementation.” (pg. 51).

So how can we as leaders, with God’s help, cultivate a culture of trust rather than suspicion? Being in ministry in various churches and non-profit organizations and leading in a number of capacities for over 12 years, I would like to share with you some six practical ways to help in this endeavor. These are in no particular order of importance.

1. Spend time with those under your leadership (staff, ministry leaders, etc.)

As a leader, I know that your To-Do list is long. There is much to get done. But relationship building is an area that you and I cannot afford to neglect. We need to spend time together, listening to each other, praying for one another, studying the Scriptures, pouring into each other, and enjoying each other’s company.

I remember at one of the ministry jobs that I had my supervisor would ask us to accompany him to lunch at least once a week. That time, although small in the scope of a 40-hour work week, was invaluable. It helped to build a sense of cohesiveness and unity in our department.  We also took time to go on a weekend staff retreat for the purpose of evaluating the ministry and to further solidify our relationships.

Whether you meet with your people once a week, twice a month, or quarterly, the point is segment out some time to spend with them. Doing this will communicate to your staff and leaders that you value them for who they are and not just for what they can do for you,  your church, department, or ministry. It also gives us time to reinforce the leadership values to all the staff and/or leaders.

If Jesus intentionally spent time with the Twelve, we can do no less (Mark 3:14).

2. Give credit to whom credit is due

If your leader or staff member comes up with a great idea, give her credit for it.

If your leader or staff member helped to shape your idea, give him credit for it.

If you don’t, it will scream that you are either insecure or that you love the applause of people.

Side note: You don’t always have to be the originator of an idea or vision in order to be seen as a leader. Acknowledging that someone else came up with an idea doesn’t take away from your leadership. Sometimes being a leader calls for you to be an endorser rather than a creator.

3. Encourage honest feedback concerning yourself, your ideas, and your ministry, department, or church

What I am about to say might come as a surprise, but you and I are not perfect! We have blindspots. We have weaknesses. Shocking, right? We know better. Since we know that is the case, then we need to encourage and be open to honest feedback…and not just from those who are above us (boss, supervisor, pastor, etc.) or around us (family, friends, co-workers).  We need to listen to the people who are under us as well (employees, volunteers, ministry leaders, etc.).

When people see that you value them enough to hear what they have to say about you, your ideas, and the ministry/department/church, they tend to return the favor and will more than likely follow your example and do the same with their ministry leadership teams and volunteers.

Let me be honest here. This can be a tough step to take, especially when your leadership or your brainchild comes under scrutiny. It can feel like you are or your vision or idea is being attacked. Feelings and opinions will surface and conflict will ensue. But this can be a healthy thing. Bill Hybels once said, in essence, that it is better to keep conflict above ground rather than have it go underground – i.e., where your staff and leaders don’t express what they truly feel or think to you, but rather take it and vent out their frustrations to others.

Side note: Staff and leaders more than likely do the latter when there is, you guessed it, a lack of trust (often times fear accompanies this, and that fear can either be perceived or real). They don’t trust that repercussions will not follow.

I want to share with you a few tidbits that I have learned along the way that I hope will help you navigate your feedback session with your staff and leaders.

a. Realize that your value and acceptance ultimately comes from your relationship with God through Jesus.

b. See legitimate feedback from others as evidence of the grace of God in your life and leadership.

c. Assure them of your willingness to hear from them and that you value their opinion.

d. Pray for the humility to see things from their perspective and to accept what are true and valid criticisms.

e. Consider the source.

f. Correct inaccurate statements or evaluations with gentleness, patience, wisdom, and forthrightness.

g. Express appreciation for their honesty and respect.

h. Reiterate your desire to cultivate a culture of trust.

4. Honor confidentiality

Little else erodes trust like a breach of confidence. Unless you are required by law to report it, somebody’s life is in danger, or something of an egregious nature has occurred or is occurring and requires involving others in resolving or correcting the issue, keep what is shared confidential.

Simply put, don’t gossip.

5. Model humility

Acknowledge your mistakes. If you made a bad decision or if you didn’t handle a situation appropriately, humbly own up to it.

Don’t make yourself the epitome of godliness. Jesus is the standard, not us. Confess your sins and weaknesses to those you lead (Pray for discretion here. You don’t necessarily have to give the details regarding your sin or weakness.).

Submit to procedures and processes.

Accept correction and wise counsel from others. Yes, even from those who you lead.

6. Address any infractions of trust

If you are like me, I don’t necessarily like confrontation. But in ministry it is inevitable. We need to pray for courage and wisdom to address attitudes, comments, and behaviors that are antithetical to the culture of trust that we are trying to cultivate.

What else would you add?

Welcome to!

Welcome to the blogging site of Ed Johnson III!

First things first. Why did I choose the domain name The short of it is a couple of friends of mine began to affectionately call me “Christian Ed.” Why? Three reasons: 1. I am a Christian, a believer in and follower of Jesus the Christ, 2. My first name is Ed, and 3. It is shorthand for my current staff position as the Associate Pastor of Christian Education at Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Dallas, TX – So over time this lighthearted, friendly moniker just stuck.

Why am I blogging? Well, for one, I hope that it serves as a source of encouragement and education to my readers. Additionally, I think it will help to sharpen my writing skills as an author. Lastly, I desire to use any technological means that I can to share the Good News of Jesus and to support Christian churches, pastors, and leaders.

For the fame of Jesus,

Ed Johnson III

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