Posts tagged: Church

Grim, Iron Determination

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By Paula Marolewski, February 12, 2012 2:58 pm

When we think about God’s call on our life, we tend to think of it in terms of inspiration, joy, fulfillment, and purpose. And it is all those things. But we should not forget one other important thing: 

God’s call and our ministry will require grim, iron determination.

This is a word both of warning and of encouragement. If you follow God’s call and immerse yourself in ministry (as all of us must – this is not just for pastors and missionaries!), you will experience suffering. Obstacles. Persecution. Disappointment. Conflict. 

There will be times when your soul seems barren and your ministry pointless. When the world is loud and God is silent. When hope seems a phantom and the future appears bleak.

Consider Paul’s words in II Corinthians 4:7-12:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

There is the encouragement. We have this treasure – the treasure of the gospel, of ministry, of calling – and no matter what Satan throws our way, we will not be crushed, have no cause for despair, will never be forsaken, cannot be destroyed.

It will take everything you have, given sometimes with grim, iron determination. But the result will be the life of Jesus – manifested in and through you to a dying world.


© 2012 Paula Marolewski,

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Intelligent Risk

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By Paula Marolewski, March 3, 2010 10:50 am

Much of the Christian life is about maintaining a healthy balance. One area where this applies is when the question arises as to whether to move forward with a new venture in the church or in our life.

Here are the two extreme ends of the see-saw:

  • “Safety at all costs.” We don’t want to move forward unless and until God has spelled out complete success for us. And so we wait, and wait, and wait … and nothing ever gets done
  • “Foolhardy risk.” We go forward full of faith, but without thinking things through carefully. And so we fall on our face and our adventure ends in ignominy.  

Where is the balance point, then? I believe it is in “intelligent risk.”

Faith does indeed call us to take risks. Just ask David, Gideon, Nehemiah, Paul, and others through the ages.

But faith also calls us to be intelligent. None of these people leaped before they looked – they knew what they were getting into, they had counted the costs, and they had taken appropriate precautions.

Don’t idolize either safety or risk. Live a life of real faith – a faith that embraces “intelligent risk.”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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SWOT Analysis in the Church

By Paula Marolewski, February 10, 2010 6:00 pm

SWOT: it stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats. It’s a great way to engage in strategic planning to ensure that you’ve examined the big picture before deciding whether or how to move forward on a project.

But in the church, I’m afraid I’m afraid we don’t always follow this sound strategy. You see, people who bring out the Ss and Os – the Strengths and Opportunities – are looked at as faith-filled, visionary leaders.

And those of us who bring out the Ws and Ts – those annoying Weaknesses and Threats? Well, all too often, we’re looked at as faith-lacking nay-sayers standing in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God.

Now, do we serve a God who is sovereign over all creation? Does Jesus still work miracles? Is not God also named Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides?

Yes, absolutely to all three. But we also live in a fallen world, we are in a serious battle against the enemy, and God gave us the gift of reason … and he expects us to use it.

Therefore, I think it is not just important but essential to perform SWOT analyses whenever we are exploring new ventures within the church. We need to be aware not only of the potential we have to do good, but the possibilities that may bring our efforts tumbling down around our ears.

Don’t look down on us WTs. We don’t lack faith, and we’re not trying to be negative. God has simply given us a very practical view of life that allows us to pinpoint trouble before it arises. We help the church take a hard look at things like:

  • Where will the money come from for this project?
  • Do we have the personnel to make it happen, or will we be putting one more job on already over-burdened people? Or, worse, get half-hearted involvement?
  • Will we get the prayer support we need on a consistent and long-term basis?
  • Do we have parties in the church that will stand in the way? Do they have valid concerns?
  • Is there any area of sin that we are not addressing that could hinder our progress?

Then comes the decision itself: actually weighing whether or not to move forward, and, if the decision is made to move forward – how to do so effectively.

Because here’s the truth, folk: not every idea should become a reality, even if the end goal is good. Why? Because the goal will never be reached if the idea on how to get there isn’t sound. Some ideas aren’t well thought out. Some ideas don’t have the support they need at the present time. Some ideas need a little or a lot of modification before they can be actualized. A prayer-filled SWOT analysis can help determine which path God is calling you on.

Remember, we’re supposed to act as a body within the church. Typically, SO-type people provide the “go juice” – the momentum. WT-type people put the brakes on so that the “go” is controlled.

Working together, we can really make things work!


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Flagrant Sin

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By Paula Marolewski, January 27, 2010 7:15 am

I recently encountered the question: How should we respond to people who come to the church with flagrant sins in their background (i.e., sodomy, sexual crimes, murder, etc.)?

Here are three recommendations:

  • First, don’t sugarcoat sin. Don’t pass off what people did lightly and say “Oh, it’s okay!” Don’t make excuses for it. Call it for what it is and look at it in the revealing light of the Word of God.
  • Second, emphasize, encourage, and expect transformation of character through the grace of God. It’s not enough to preach it – the church needs to put accountability and discipleship relationships in place to help people grow and change.
  • Third, let the past be the past. Don’t deny the past (that is why accountability relationships are important), but don’t focus on it either. The past is a done deal, and the old man is in the grave. Focus on who people are now – not what they were – and who they can become through God’s grace. Give people a fresh start.

Oh … and one more thing, just as a reminder: we all come to the church with flagrant sins in our background. They might be the sins of envy, greed, or gossip rather than abuse, adultery, or theft, but they are still sins that separate us from God, fester as a cancer in our soul, and destroy the vitality of our life.

So the fact is, all of us need to put into practice the above recommendations. When we realize that – and practice that – the humility of our hearts and the grace of our God will so shine in our lives that the world will be drawn to the saving Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Putting God on a Time Clock

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By Paula Marolewski, December 3, 2009 9:45 am

I’m concerned about a situation I’ve come across multiple times in the past, and recently came across again. It is this: members of a congregation complain because the pastor’s sermon is “running too long.”

Now, this is not a case where the service usually lets out at 12:00 and the pastor is expounding in the pulpit until 2:30. I mean cases where the pastor may be preaching for 30 minutes when he is allotted 20.

My concern here is not with the pastor.

It’s with the complaining members of the congregation.

Is 10 minutes of your time really so important that it is worth disrupting church life, causing a division in the church, or embarrassing or hurting the pastor?

Is 10 minutes of your time really better spent watching football than learning the Word of God?

Is 10 minutes of your time really a make-or-break reason to stay or leave a church?

Are you putting the pastor on a time clock?

Or are you putting God on a time clock?

Think carefully before you answer.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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How Should the Church Respond to Mental and Emotional Problems?

By Paula Marolewski, November 2, 2009 5:51 pm

As the Church, it is imperative that we do not take a simple view toward mental and emotional illness. We cannot label it an exclusively spiritual problem (“You must have sin in your life or you wouldn’t be having this problem.”) and expect that confession and repentance will take care of the issue. Neither can we take an exclusively clinical approach and say that all mental or emotional illness is the result of a physiological imbalance in the brain. Instead, hard as it is, it is vital to understand that we are integrated as people: mind, emotions, spirit, body, etc. and that mental and emotional issues are frequently the result of some combination of those elements, and very often touch every aspect of our lives.

For instance, take the case of severe anxiety, which I discuss in my book Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights and Practical Help for Severe Anxiety. My own anxiety was triggered by a long-term high-stress situation. No sin involved. Just the stress of starting my own business. It was then exacerbated by the fact that, over time, my body and brain chemistry shifted due to the overload of adrenaline, resulting in anxious feelings regardless of the circumstances I found myself in. (I recommend Dr. Archibald Hart’s book The Anxiety Cure for a very complete discussion of the physiology of anxiety.) This then led very naturally to emotional depression and to spiritual doubt, as I was fighting constantly against something I didn’t understand and therefore couldn’t overcome.

It was only through qualified cognitive behavioral counseling that I was able to unravel all these various threads and address the behavioral, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that by then were all involved.

From my personal experience and talking extensively with others, I would therefore sum up the approach that the Church needs to take as follows: Love with knowledge.

Love itself isn’t enough … I have had people who love me very much say some very damaging things to me because they simply didn’t understand severe anxiety and didn’t know any better. They were trying to help, but they harmed instead.

Likewise, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Clinical knowledge keeps people at arm’s length and studies them like a bug under a microscope. Knowledge needs to be tempered by the warmth, caring, support, and encouragement of God’s love.

Love with knowledge is an irresistible combination that will draw many hurting people into the arms of the Church and the Kingdom of God.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Training the Next Generation

By Paula Marolewski, October 1, 2009 8:12 am

Sometimes I wonder if we are failing to give the next generation – particularly our teens and young adults – all they need in order to accomplish God’s calling in their life. Here are some of the lessons I fear that we aren’t passing down:

  • How to recognize God’s purpose and calling.
  • How to hold even God-given dreams and aspirations and goals with an open hand, allowing those dreams and aspirations and goals to mature and change over time. 
  • How to distinguish between their identity (who they are) and their gift or purpose or calling (what they do).
  • How to trust God entirely, even if he calls them to “give up their Isaac.”
  • How to persevere when God seems silent and everything in life comes crashing down around them.
  • How to endure rejection, scorn, and persecution.
  • How to sacrifice for a greater good.
  • How to get up one more time than you fall down.

If we want to raise a generation of men and women who will stand firm in their faith and accomplish great things for the kingdom of God, these lessons aren’t optional – they’re essential.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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What If You Knew You Were Going To Fail?

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By Paula Marolewski, September 24, 2009 8:59 am

A popular question today in goal-setting seminars is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” And while that is an incredibly useful question, I have a harder one … and one that may be even more telling:

What would you do if you knew you were going to fail?

Or, put another way, what is so important to you that failure is no obstacle? What is the one thing you will seek to accomplish no matter how many times you fall down? What would still be worth the attempt, even if you knew beforehand you would never see the results you want?

Do you think those questions farfetched? Unreasonable? Consider for a moment …

… the prophets of God, who became laughingstocks, outcasts, and even prisoners because they dared to speak the Word of the Lord.

… the missionaries spending their lives on the field and never seeing the conversions they earnestly pray for, little knowing that they are sowing the seed and the next generation of missionaries will reap the harvest.

… the parents who pray nightly for their prodigal child, year after year after year.

I’m not saying that your dearest desires and deepest calling will end in failure. Far from it. In fact, if it is God’s calling, you actually cannot fail, regardless of the outcome here on earth. God brings an eternal perspective to the word “success.”

But the fact is, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want on this side of heaven. Therefore, it’s important to ask yourself the question: Would I do this, even if it never turns out? Even if I never see any “success”? Would it still be worth it? If the answer is “Yes,” then that, more than anything else, is your purpose, your calling, your mission, your vision.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Should Church Membership Ever Be Denied?

By Paula Marolewski, August 28, 2009 9:08 pm

I wonder if we sometimes err on the side of being too nice. Too trusting.

Too gullible.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Suppose that an individual, we’ll call him Bob, applies for membership at a local church. But a current member in good standing at that church, we’ll call her Susan, knows Bob personally, and is an eyewitness to the fact that Bob is a trouble-monger who delights in tearing down church leadership.

Susan, in genuine concern, lays the facts of her personal experience with Bob before the pastor of the church. The question is: what should the pastor and church leadership do?

Now, I am fully convinced that people can change, and that Bob may have turned over a new leaf. After all, that is the core of Christianity! However, that being said, I don’t necessarily think the pastor should just accept Bob’s application for membership without discussing the issue with him.

What if Bob claims he has confessed and repented of his sin? Even then, discretion would be wise. For instance, the church leadership could require a probationary period before membership could be accepted – but it would have to be a long enough period where Bob’s true character traits would have ample opportunity to manifest themselves … for better or for worse. I believe that a truly repentant Christian brother or sister will honor and respect any conditions placed upon acceptance of membership.

Matthew 7:17-18 remind us that “Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” When the health of the church is at stake, I believe that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If there is a reasonable cause for concern, use discretion. Wait to see what fruit is produced.

© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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