About the Author: I am Joshuah Ellis and I have been working, full time, with the Hub City church of Christ since June 1, 2016. I have never considered myself much of a writer. Perhaps that is why I like the blog format so much. For me, it feels like there is less pressure to be perfect with a blog as opposed to a more formal article In this blog, you will find personal stories, anecdotes, humor and maybe a bit of sarcasm, but the aim of each post will be the same: to encourage, inspire, and challenge the readers to dig deeper and work harder in their service to God. If you would like to offer feedback, leave a comment or contact me here.
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A Letter from the Preacher to Parents of Small ChildrenTuesday, October 04, 2016
Dear parents of small children in church (you know who you are),
When I was a kid, the church I went to was fairly small. One Sunday, we were at services and during the sermon, a baby started crying. It wasn’t terribly loud although it was noticeable. Then the preacher very calmly stated that he would wait a moment while [mom’s name] took [baby’s name] out of the auditorium to the nursery. Whoah! I mean, I guess this guy was nice about it, but at the same time, he sort of kicked this mom out because the baby was making noise. While part of me understands, especially as a preacher, that it can be difficult to preach (and listen to a lesson) with a baby on the front row trying to nail down his air raid siren impression, it seemed a bit harsh to me that this poor mom was banished from the auditorium because her baby was being vocal.
Now, I am the preacher, and we are blessed to have several babies/toddlers in our congregation. While I will still maintain that they are perfect and can do no wrong, it is possible that some of you parents might disagree and suggest that they can be disruptive in worship from time to time. However, this is what I love about this congregation. When the little ones start to get noisy, you don’t run, panicked from the auditorium to some dungeon that’s decorated with animal wallpaper. You. Stand. Up. You stand up and walk to the back of the auditorium so you can administer that patented parent bouncy-sway maneuver and sooth your unruly critters without having to isolate until the child is quieter. I love this! I love looking to the back of the auditorium and seeing parents, with their kids, still engaging in worship. In all fairness, there are those times when it is appropriate to take your child out of worship and if a parent feels that is best, then so be it. You should know, however, I hope you never feel pressured to take your child out of worship by me and here’s why:
1. Worship should be done together. On the first day of the week Christians gather together (Acts 20:7) to worship God. We do this because the Bible tells us to, but there is also something that is very encouraging about being together, in the same room, and worshiping God collectively (Colossians 3:16). We should take advantage of that as much as we possibly can and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t participate with the rest of the congregation because your baby makes noise.
2. Kids learn by doing. Years back, I heard someone say that a child can’t be expected to sit through worship, they just don’t know how. Ya think? Of course they don’t know how. That is why we teach them. Do you have any idea how many MMA style submission holds my wife has done on my boys to keep them from carrying on in worship? Granted, it doesn’t always work, but it is important to give them a chance to learn to be in the worship service without immediately defaulting to the seclusion of the nursery. Part of raising these little monsters is preparing them for their work in God’s kingdom one day (Ephesians 6:4).
3. Parents need to worship too. I know I know. We have the sermon piped into the nursery via a $40 set of baby monitors, but there is no way you can tell me that experience is the same as being with your brothers and sisters, in the same room, worshiping God together. If you taking your baby to the back and holding them through the whole sermon is what you need to do in order to make sure you get to participate, then so be it. I know our children demand a lot of our attention and I understand that some Sunday’s you spend more time making sure the Cheerio supply doesn’t deplete too quickly than actually listening to the sermon, and that’s ok. I just want you to know that your worship is important to me and I want to do whatever I can to make sure you are able to honor God the way He expects us to (John 4:24).
This post might seem silly to some, but as a parent I know how difficult it can be on Sundays. It is a big day for families and there is never anything simple about it. For those of you who struggle every week, please know it will get easier…someday. For those of you standing in the back swaying with a sleeping toddler for 40 minutes so you don’t have to leave. You’re awesome! Keep it up, and thanks for sticking around.
A Christian's Response to BullyingTuesday, September 20, 2016
If you follow my personal Facebook account, then you know that my middle son (Age 5) came home from school last week very upset. Apparently, one of his classmates had called him a name earlier that day, and it hurt his feelings. When my wife questioned him about it, she found out that this other kid had called our son “Little old fry from Sonic.” (What?) At this point, most parents might be upset that their kid was being called names. Our response? We laughed (quietly and out of sight), made a video and put it on Facebook.
Now, some of you might be tempted, at this point, to comment on our parenting. You will be relieved to know that my wife and I have yet to put a suggestion box on the front porch, so you’re off the hook for the time being. Anyway, the point is that our later conversation with our son was aimed at empowering him to handle adversity with strength and honor, but we did not pity him. We did not allow him to become a victim. Why? Because there will always be people who criticize and try to belittle us. Unless we develop a plan for dealing with this, we are doomed to always be a victim. This got me thinking about Christians, and our responses to the taunts and criticism we will inevitably receive. So the following are some tips for Christians intended to help us deal with those pesky bullies in our own lives.
1. Consider the source. In my son’s case, the source of his trouble was a 5-year-old and his weirdly specific version of “small fry.” It was not a parent, teacher, doctor or anyone else of any significance. Simply put, not everyone’s opinion matters. We get decide who is valuable enough (in the context of our lives) to speak into our lives. This kid has not yet earned that spot, so his opinion is regarded accordingly. The same goes for you, Christians. Those who give you a hard time, whoever they are, most likely do not occupy a space in your life, which validates their opinion. So, treat it accordingly. Remember that you are expected to earn God’s approval, and not man’s (Matthew 10:28). Then, brush it off and MOVE ON!
2. Don’t be passive aggressive. This is not the way of God people. For Christians, if there is a problem in your life that is important enough to discuss, deal with it directly (Matthew 5:24; 18:15). If an issue with another person is not significant enough to deal with directly, then let it go let and love take over (1 Peter 4:8). Don’t give the silent treatment. Don’t talk ugly about the person. Don’t put a vague post on Facebook. Brush it off and move on.
3. Don’t act surprised. Sometimes people won’t like you. Jesus said this would happen simply because we follow Him (1 John 3:13). However, sometimes people won’t like you because of the way you look or the way you talk. Some people won’t like you because of your personality. Some people won’t like you for no reason at all and here is a little secret: it is unlikely that you are going to change their mind, and that is ok. You do not have to be liked by everyone. So stop trying to change people’s minds about you and instead, focus on preaching Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). Brush it off and move on.
4. Watch how you speak. Most of us have very loyal friends/family. If they find out we’ve been mistreated in some way, they will want to rally to our defense. This puts them at odds with the one who mistreated us. It also encourages hateful words and attitudes, which are to be avoided (Ephesians 4:29). It’s really bad if this occurs between brethren. Then, it is called discord, which, God hates (Proverbs 16:19). Don’t talk ugly about people, not even mean people. When you do this, you foster negativity in your life and in the lives of those who love you. Instead, brush it off and move on.
5. Remember who you are. You are not some pitiful, defenseless, scared weakling. You are a child of the living God! Act like it! I am not asking you to be haughty, arrogant or superior, but don’t be a victim. You are a warrior, and should act accordingly (2 Timothy 2:4). Think about it. Your Father has overcome death and given you the opportunity to do the same (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Some folks might think you are weird, ugly, or stupid. Who cares? God loves you and that is not about to change (Romans 8:37-39). Brush it off and move on.
Listen, I know this could come off as reductive and that is not my intention. There are always exceptions. However, for the most part, as Christians, the “bullying” we experience isn’t that big of a deal. My son is fine. He’s over his struggle. Let’s start choosing to see ourselves through God’s eyes, instead of the world’s, and do the same.
A Letter From the New PreacherThursday, September 15, 2016
Let it be known, that every congregation I have ever worked with has been wonderful about doing all of the things mentioned in this post. In fact, their example inspired me to write this and it is my hope that others can learn from the example they have set in welcoming a new preacher.
So here we are, at the beginning of a new relationship with one another. I am the guy who just moved into town and you are the congregation who just hired a new preacher. Without a doubt, at this point, there are a lot of uncertainties floating around, and it will take some time for us to get to know each other and get used to each other. I can imagine that getting used to a new preacher is difficult. After all, you’re more accustomed to another voice in the pulpit and another man’s way of doing things. Keep in mind also, that it can be difficult on my end too. In order for us to work together successfully to the glory of God, here are a few things I would appreciate if you would consider.
1. Communicate your expectations. Maybe you want a guy to keep regular office hours at the building. Maybe you want him to do 5 sermon series/year. Maybe you want him to organize group evangelism efforts once a month. Trust me. These are things I need to know. If I do not know what your expectations are, then I am doomed to disappoint you and that serves no one. Until we get to know each other better, where I can anticipate the needs of the congregation, please do not be afraid to approach me with these things. To make it easier, I will make an effort to approach you as well and ask you about your expectations.
2. Keep criticism constructive. I want to learn. I want to get better. I want to provide teaching and preaching that moves you to serve God better. Therefore, I appreciate your feedback. However, a constant barrage of criticism can be discouraging in the beginning. If I stand in the pulpit each week with the intention of seeking your approval, it is doubtful you will get the best of what I have to offer. Now, I know that this is mostly my responsibility to make sure that I seek to please God and not man (Galatians 1:10). However, it would really help if, at least at first, you would show me some grace in this area.
3. Be patient with my name learning. Confession: I am not the greatest at remembering people’s names. This is especially inconvenient in my particular profession. Remember though, there are 100 of you and one of me. If I forget your name or call you by the wrong one, just know that it is in no way an indication of disrespect of indifference. The last thing I want to do is not remember your name when I am talking to you and offend or embarrass you in any way. I promise, I’ll get there. Just give me some time.
4. Please. Please. Please. Love my kids. Remember, we just moved here. We took our kids out of their school and away from their friends. We did this knowing that it was the right thing, but they don’t understand that yet. Many of you have family here or have grown up here, but my babies are new too. They may be standoffish. They may say that they want to go home. They may even misbehave at times (gasp!). But, they are good kids and they are trying to find their place in this new situation too. Please, be good to them because that means everything to me.
5. Give me room to be me. I don’t believe for a second that you wanted a preacher with no personality of his own. Sure, I might not be what you’re used to, but given the chance, you might even like me. After all, my mom does. I will never be the man who preceded me in the pulpit. I will never be the preacher you grew up hearing. However, I do have a set of skills and a style unique to me. I mean, you did hire me, remember. Give me the chance to be me. It might turn out better than you anticipated.
I understand that beginning a relationship together is a two-way responsibility. In no way do I expect you to make all the effort. Believe me, I will be working as hard as I can to make sure that we bring out the best in each other and most importantly, that we honor God in our work together. I just thought that these tips might help you gain some perspective.
5 Back-to-School Lessons for My Kids and MeTuesday, August 23, 2016
School started back up this week and I have to say that the beginning of this school year was one that my whole family has been a bit anxious about. We are in a new town and my boys (ages 5 and 8) are attending a different, and much larger, school than last year. Also, my youngest (age 4), though he went to pre-k last year (and LOVED it), will not be able to go this year and has to wait one more year to start kindergarten. So as a dad, what was I supposed to do with all of this? I knew on some level that everything would work out, but I was also terrified for my babies (Yes, they are my babies). After all, they don’t know anyone yet. They don’t know the school. It is enormous compared to their last school, and what if some kid tells my 8 year-old that he has creepy ears? I mean…it’s happened before! (True story).
Then it hit me. The school, teachers, city, mascot, etc., are just circumstances. God has given us His word and by knowing it, we can be prepared for anything (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Here are the 5 lessons from the Bible that I taught my kids to prepare them, and me, for their first day of school
1. You work for God. Sure you have parents and teachers who expect certain things from you and while you should respect their authority, God is the one you have to please (Colossians 3:23). So whether you are taking a test, listening to instructions, waiting in line for the bathroom, or learning how to sit “crisscross-applesauce,” honor God with your behavior and performance.
2. Be kind, even to the mean kids. Kindness is not to be shown only to those who are kind to you. We treat others the way we want to be treated because that is what Jesus taught us (Matthew 7:12). Sure, it is great when people are nice to you; and I am so thankful for the kid who offered my oldest, who was looking a bit lost, a place to sit this morning in the cafeteria before school. However, the kindness of others is not your standard. The example of Jesus is.
3. God cares about your school experience. Mom and dad pray about family stuff, church stuff, money stuff and we’re also going to pray about your school stuff. Why? Because God has given us the avenue of prayer and He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So we are going to pray for you. We’re going to pray for your teachers and we are going to ask God to help you rest so you can do well on your spelling test on Friday. It is never too early to learn how to rely on God.
4. Remember who you are. When you leave this house, you represent your whole family, but more importantly, you represent God. Don’t embarrass your family and don’t dishonor God. I know this might not make sense to you yet, but every choice you make can either establish or destroy your influence and your influence could be what directs someone to Jesus one day (1 Peter 2:12).
5. You are awesome! You’re a great kid. You are smart. You are fun. You have no reason to hang your head low when you walk. You have the support of a wonderful mama, and a dad who would claw through concrete to get to you if he had to. Most of all, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you and who is powerful and understanding (Psalm 147:5). You got this, kid…and we’ve got you.