Author Archives: Mike Gold

SQL Function – Get Current Person ID

The platform our church uses to help us manage information and relationships has a great feature to merge duplicate records. Unfortunately, this feature causes a new ID to be generated for a person. That can make is difficult to integrate with other custom features, systems, etc. I wrote this simple function to keep person links between integrated systems no matter what.

How To USE. 

Add [dbo].[cust_fn_getcurrent_person_id](YourPersonIDInCustTable) in your join clause.  Comment if you would like more explanation on how to use.

Function Code

USE [YourDataBase]
GO
/****** Object: UserDefinedFunction [dbo].[cust_fn_getcurrent_person_id] Script Date: 11/1/2014 9:21:12 AM ******/
SET ANSI_NULLS ON
GO
SET QUOTED_IDENTIFIER ON
GO

CREATE function [dbo].[cust_fn_getcurrent_person_id](@CCPID int)
RETURNS varchar(50)
AS
BEGIN

DECLARE @PersonID as int
SET @PersonID =

(Select Top 1 lt.current_person_id From
(SELECT cpm.new_person_id AS current_person_id, cpm.old_person_id AS old_person_id
FROM core_person_merged cpm INNER JOIN
core_person cp ON cpm.new_person_id = cp.person_id
UNION
SELECT cp2.person_id AS current_person_id, cp2.person_id AS old_person_id
FROM core_person cp2) LT
Where lt.old_person_id = @CCPID)

RETURN @PersonID
END

 

Technology and the Heart

Listen to or Download this message.
 

Download

I had a great opportunity recently to speak to the young adult community at Hope Church.

In this message I unpack two paths…

One is an example of utter Self Centeredness…Rebellion against God that leads to a life of futility, isolation and misguided fear. The other is a picture of what a God Centered life can look like. One that can lead to true purpose, community and love.

As I think about the Self Centered Path, is the world really any different than that is was back in the time of Babel? Now the whole world can connect more easily than ever…we can “make a name for ourselves” more easily than than ever….technology gives us more access to information, comfort and convenience than ever before.  With all that we have at the touch of a finger or the sound of our voice, do we feel any less futile…less isolated …less fearful? Do we long any less for Purpose, Community and Love than we did thousands of years ago?

If your want to find purpose, community and love then I urge you to ruthlessly pursue and practice inefficiency, inconvenience, and even discomfort when it comes to seeking purpose, community and love…First with God then with People.

There was nothing efficient, convenient or even comfortable about God’s love for us. In Fact….Throughout history we have turned our backs on God consistently. Yet he continues to reach out to us persistently…Roman’s 5:8 reads… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. You would think that with all that humanity has been through…we would learn that we can’t find purpose, community and love without God…Even so…It seems that each generation tries to build it’s own new and improved version of the tower of Babel.

…Nevertheless…Jesus still died for us so that we could have a relationship with him…a relationship with God is not always convenient. It is not always efficient and it is not always comfortable but it always brings purpose…community…and love…

Let’s apply this principle to our relationships with people that we care about.

I am not talking about the hundreds or thousands of friends and followers that you have on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When you really care about someone, true relationships are rarely efficient, caring for someone is rarely convenient and I can’t think of one time when I have ever heard anyone say that they were comfortable going through difficult times like conflict, loss or illness with a close friend or a loved one.

So What is our voice activated…connected world of social media and technical convenience incapable of affecting when it comes to our Heart? It can’t give us purpose…It can’t deliver community and it can’t give us true love. Only God can bring about these things through Christ…

Listen to or Download this message.
 

Download

 

Test Your Knowledge of Black History

In honor of Black History month my dear pastor friend in Chicago posted a short quiz in the church Bulletin last weekend.   I decided to post some of the questions here…  It is inspiring to learn the amazing things that Black Americans have done to make this country great. Test your knowledge of Black History in the U.S.

Black History Quiz

Black History Quiz

 

 

There’s No Fear In Love

As I take a few moments to pause with God at the start of my day, today’s “verse of the day” at BibleGateway.com really caught me this morning.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 NIV

 

In the context of this verse we find John, the disciple of Jesus, talking about how God’s love is complete in us so we don’t have to fear judgement in eternity. He goes on to explain that if we live in fear, we are not complete in Christ. Christ first loved us, even in the midst of our fear so if we claim to love Christ but hate our brother we are living out a lie. You can read it for yourself in 1 John 4:7-21.

I know that the “judgement of God” feels like it is a long way off and that most of us feel that we have a great deal to fear right now. Perhaps we are missing John’s point…and please don’t miss it…If Christ’s love is strong enough for things as huge as “the judgement of God” and “eternity” then it must be strong enough to teach us how to live without fear right now.

I used to think that apathy is the opposite of love. Now I believe that the opposite of love is fear. We cannot love if we are controlled by fear…and many of us live in fear.

Many reading this will think to themselves, “I don’t live in fear, bring it on.” I have a side arm with at least six reasons why I am not afraid.” If you believe that you don’t live in fear then try this little test. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, examine how you feel toward that person at the moment. If your first inclination is to pray for that person then you are beginning to understand what it means to live without fear.

I know…It seems naive and maybe even a little silly to think that way. The world can be a dark and ugly place…and after all…”the guy made me angry.” “What does me being angry at a person who cut me off in traffic have to do with me living in fear?!”  It is in these little things like praying for the people who annoy us where we find the very radical ways that Christ calls us to love others. If we can’t do the little things, how can we be trusted with things that really matter? Furthermore, I believe that if we dig at the core of even the little things that frustrate us and make us angry we will find fear. I, therefore, believe that if we examined the core of much of the evil hatred in our world, we would find fear.

So what do we do to conquer fear and live in love? The answer for the Christ follower is to practice. Paul writes in Galatians 5:25, “if we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” Many of is think that living by the spirit is only a mystical idea. It is actually a very practical idea that requires will and physical effort. So lets bring this home as and make practicing love over fear very practical.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic force yourself to pray for that person. Now I  don’t mean that you should pray for that person the way that Jaron and his long road to love suggests. I challenge you to force yourself to really pray for God to bless that person’s day. Everyone has a story. You will not lock eyes with anyone who hasn’t, is, and/or is about to deal with some sort of drama or tragedy on their lives. So pray for those people who cut you off in traffic. You don’t have to be weird and try to say “God Bless You” to everyone and you don’t have to be friends with everyone. However, you might be surprised. God may bless them through your prayers, but God just may change you in the process. You may just take one step away from fear toward love. To live without fear, is to live in and practice the radical love of Christ.

 

 

 

Workplace Ministry

I often here people say that the church is really a business and should be run like a business. I must admit they have a point. Some of the basic principles of a business plan or even the accountability of a P & L are just good practices. Churches would do well to apply them appropriately to ministry.

However, I wonder if we have this whole church/business thing turned around. I wonder what would happen if instead of asking how we can run our churches more like a business, we started asking how we could treat our work places more like a ministry?

I am not talking only to bosses and business owners. Every person who believes in Christ has the power to be a minister of Christ right where they are.

So this question is for all of us who call Christ Lord. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, How can we make our work places be more like ministries?

I you are wondering how to answer this question, you could start by learning about your main purpose on Earth.

A Legacy of Love and Justice

When I think of the heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from our past who have paid so much for the freedoms that we take for granted, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Why is Martin Luther King Jr. such a hero to me?

 

I can tell you that it is not because he walked on water, because he didn’t.
I can tell you that it is not because he was a savior, because he wasn’t.
I can tell you the it is not because he was perfect, because he wasn’t.

Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine precisely because he was merely human. A mere human who from the basement office of a humble church started a revolution. A mere human who let nothing stand in his path of faithfulness for the cause of justice and for a dream of equality and reconciliation.

Dr. King is a hero of mine not just because he died for a dream that was bigger than all of us. The life he lived is also a symbol to me of the lives of so many others from his generation who paid in blood for many freedoms we take for granted.

Yes, we have such a long way to go. Perhaps it will take generations for us to realize how absolutely foolish and pathetic it is for us to allow something like melanin and money to incite such injustice and division that continues to scar the legacy of humanity.

Today I pray that we don’t pause to grieve about the distance we have yet to travel for the cause of justice and righteous. The road to justice will be there tomorrow. Today, just for a moment, I pray that we pause to thank God for the distance we have traveled, and for the faithful souls who, like Martin Luther King Jr., paid for the freedoms we do have, in blood.

To all my elder brothers and sisters who gave the best days of your lives for the cause of freedom and equality of all human beings regardless of nationality or color of skin, we thank you. To think, it was only one generation ago that you paid so much.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but I hope we can all acknowledge that your sacrifice was not in vain. I pray that my generation can be faithful enough to honor your legacy of love and justice by carrying the dream forward to our children.

I.T. vs Users – Part 1
(…it doesn’t have to be this way)

In this corner…The I.T. Pro…

When I start to talk about using Information Technology “best practices” for churches and non-profits, professionals who work in such organizations day-to-day shutter. Let’s face it, I.T. has  a bit of a reputation for applying a heavy draconian hand when it comes to setting I.T. policies and standards. In many cases there exists an ongoing war between I.T. staff and the rest of the general user population. I.T. pros love to polk fun at end users with jokes like:


Phone Support Tech: “Will you please hold a moment sir, I believe you are experiencing an I. D. 10 T. Error.

User: Oh no… an I-D-1-0-T error sounds serious.

Phone Support Tech: It is very serious.  However, hopefully the error you are experiencing is not caused by a PEBKAC. If we do discover that your I-D-10-T error has been cause by a PEBKAC, I am afraid that we will not be able to help you.


Yes, I.T. techs can be obnoxious and condescending. But lets not be too hard on them. Most of the I.T. professionals I have worked with over the years, even the pompous scary smart geniuses I have worked with, have good intentions about helping people. Most of them kill themselves on a daily basis to add value. Most of them start out strong with a vision to “use their powers” for good…and they do a great deal of good. After a while, though, they realize that users are never satisfied, technology is never good enough, customers rarely listen to their recommendations,  and they rarely ever get to cross a finish line where they feel like they actually accomplished something significant. In many situations, I.T. pros build a kind of a savior complex around them. They become addicted to the feelings they get when they can swoop in and save the day. Some I.T. pros even go as far as to get a serious martyr complex. They feel like they beat their head against a wall of futility every day and no one ever notices their efforts. After a while I.T. pros who live in this trench long enough lose their proactive edge. They start to build defensive walls around them. All of their decisions and responses become polluted by cynicism, exhaustion and, I dear say, even fear. How do I know this? I have been there. Everything I have written above describes me at some point in my technology career.

And in this corner…The end user…

End Users and/or technology consumers are not blameless either. They have their own jokes about I.T. Pros. The old Nick Burns Computer Guy character from Saturday Night Live is a good portrayal of how obnoxious I.T. pros can be. The truth about technology consumers is that they can be clueless, demanding, ungrateful and self centered. They are also human after all.

Let’s face it, we live in an on-demand world where comfort is king and technology is increasingly becoming democratized and ubiquitous. The mobilization of technology coupled with the “pay as you go” mobile plan has opened access to more people from wider socio-economic backgrounds than ever. I have worked with people around the world who by all standards live in poverty but they still have a mobile phone and a Facebook account.

It has gotten to the point where access to technology is required for everything from healthcare to high school to household management. I hesitate to label the future of computer technology as mobile or stationary, global or microscopic. I have come to simply describe it as inescapable. The reality is that we have become reliant on technology for everyday life.

Just yesterday, a dear friend who runs an outreach ministry in Memphis called me asking for help restoring his network. Without his internet connection he lost access to key government websites that require time sensitive responses. He lost access to other professional services that he relies on to run the community development portion of his ministry. He lost access to the educational resources he uses to support his reading program. He even lost access to the cloud based services that he uses to help write his sermons. I know, one could make an argument that he shouldn’t rely so heavily on technology to run his ministry. The fact is, his ministry doesn’t have access to a great deal of financial resources. The simple network that connects him to the internet gives him access to countless resources that would cost him thousands of dollars to bring in house. Dollars that can now be used to provide more tangible resources to the neighborhood like affordable housing, food, education, mentoring and discipleship.

Why do I mention this example? As technologists working in today’s technology driven world we need to keep in mind that users don’t call us because they have a personal agenda to drive us crazy. They call us because they genuinely need our help.

Yes, it is true people can be selfish and demanding. However, it is also true that people have good intentions to help others and to do meaningful things with their lives. As technologists we need to keep in mind that by the time a computer user calls us for help, they have already tried to work through or around the problem themselves.   The fact that they are coming to us for help means that their forward motion has been blocked enough to where they have nowhere else to turn. This can often bring out the worst behavior in an individual. We don’t have to relegate ourselves to the role of doormat or punching bag. However, even in the face of intense user drama we must discipline ourselves to believe the best in people who call on us to solve problems.

Before the fight bell rings…

There you have it…a description of I.T. in one corner and a description of computer technology users in the other. That’s all the time I have for writing today. However, in my next post, I will offer some practical tips for end users and technology pros to hopefully gain a better understanding of each other. I acknowledge that there will always be a healthy tension that exists in the process of leveraging technology to solve problems and help people. Computer technology users don’t always know what they want. Technology often fails to meet our expectations and technology professionals aren’t always effective at adding value.  Perhaps these tips will help organizations avoid unnecessary drama and tension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Will We Think of Her As One Body?

I was thinking recently about all the challenges that churches face when it comes to growth and organization.  I must confess that I really grieve inside at the tensions in place today. It is one of those situations where if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. We need all churches with all of our different nuances to serve with mutual respect and support for the sake of the gospel. However, to this date, we still seem to believe that our individual expressions of the body of Christ are superior.

Gut Check:

  • Isn’t God’s mission for the church to promote Godly justice?
  • Isn’t God’s mission for the church to make disciples?
  • Isn’t God’s mission for the church to reach the “unchurched”?

Sometimes I wonder if churches get so caught up in creating their own conferences, curriculum and intellectual property that they lose sight of God’s primary purpose for their existence.

I know…this all sounds so harsh. After all, who am I to speak so critically about the church. Actually, I love the church. Since I am no less of a fool and an idiot when it comes to life than anyone else, I will not claim to love the church more than anyone else. However, after over 25 years of ministry life, a person can’t help but notice a few things. Things that frankly drive me a little crazy.

  • Why is it wrong to be a big church?
  • Why is it wrong to be a small church?
  • Why is it wrong to prioritize on discipleship?
  • Why is it wrong to emphasize evangelism?
  • Why is it better to have a campus large or small?
  • Why is it better not to have a campus?
  • Why is it better not to have less programs?
  • Why is it better to have more programs?

Do we really understand that the church is God’s plan to share the love and justice of Christ with this world. Do we really understand that he doesn’t have a plan B. This is the point isn’t it? It’s all about God and if its all about God, it is all about Christ. If it is all about Christ then really everything else: ethnicity, social status even culture itself is irrelevant and meaningless.

I know, many make the case that the church can and must interact relevantly with the culture the day for the sake of clarity and understanding.

However, rather than argue a point for my own benefit let me ask some more questions:

  • Will our desire for  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control, ever be irrelevant?
  • Will the amazing concept that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus ever be irrelevant?
  • Have people living in darkness stopped yearning for light?
  • Is it suddenly irrelevant to reach out to those living in the land of the shadow of death with the light and love of Christ?
  • Has it become meaningless to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and praise our Father in heaven?
  • Have we suddenly run out of “the least of these” to love and to draw near to Christ?

God loves his creation, God paid a great price of justice to be united with his creation. Unfortunately not all will accept God’s way. Make no mistake, the hope of our world is God’s way. God’s way is Christ and Christ’s way is the church.

We will bring about no reconciliation, unity or lasting peace without Christ. As long as the earth exists, sin will not be far behind.  As long as sin exists, the work of Christ is relevant. As long as the work of Christ is relevant, the faithfulness of his church to his great commission is critical.

With this this in mind, I believe that there is freedom in Christ’s great commission to baptize and make disciples. I believe that there are many manifestations of Christ’s bride, the church, on earth. As long as they are centered on Christ and God’s word, I love them all. Really! Worship dancers in a neighborhood African American church,  a group of people singing hymns to God in a nursing home chapel, a mega-church Christmas service that introduced Christ to someone who would never come to church or listen to the gospel, a Baptist Church Sunday School. She is flawed but she is beautiful. She has a complicated personality but she has sound mind. She is passionate but her heart is pure. Many have tried to divide her into pieces but she remains whole. I just love the church.

Why? Because God created her. When she is healthy she is the picture of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Who can argue with that. She is the ambassador of Christ who has can bring together people from all creeds, colors and cultures. There is no injustice that is beyond her reach and there is no darkness that she cannot illuminate.

When will we think of her as one body?

Furthermore, let’s bring this home a little more…

  • If your are a prominent church leader and God called you to serve in obscurity for the sake of unity of the church and effectiveness of her mission, could you do it?
  • If you are a talented and knowledgable Bible teacher who is experienced at teaching millions and God call you to teach 6 people for the rest of your life, could you do it?
  • If you are a faithful church member and you are used to popular worship music but God called you to a church in the city that sings nothing but old Gospel music, could you go?

If God called you to learn another language and worship in that language for the sake of the Gospel could you do it?

Don’t answer these questions too quickly.

Further Reading

Galatians 3:28

Matthew 4:12-17

Matthew 25:31-41

Matthew 5:15-17

Galatians 5:22

 

Matthew 28:19-20

 

Lessons I learned from Dr. John Perkins
– Part 2 (Jesus Is The Way)

Humanity longs for justice. Humanity longs for Righteousness and Goodness. Humanity longs for reconciliation. Only Christ’s death on the cross offers enough to pay humanities insurmountable debt of injustice. Only Christ can give us a mutual foundation to stand on. Only Christ can transform our hearts toward each other.

As believers in Christ, we can’t transform the human heart, we can’t afford the debt that justice is entitled to fulfill. We don’t even have the power or the right to truly be reconciled with each other. A stark reality of human existence is that sometimes an apology is not good enough to make things right. Only God and His choice to work through Christ has the power to make things right.

So what can we as followers of Christ do then…If I understood Dr. Perkins correctly, our first role in fulfilling Godly justice is to fullfil our role as ambassadors of Christ. As ambassadors of Christ, we are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. There is no higher calling than to help people in their journey toward reconciliation with God. (2 Corinthians 5).

The most amazing thing about learning this from Dr. Perkins was that if there is anyone who is entitled to justice, he is. Beaten and tortured within an inch of his life several times, experiencing the death of his brother, experiencing the death of his son. Through all that he has gone through, Dr. Perkins chose to believe in the transforming power of Christ. His faithfulness to Christ has allowed God to bear a tremendous amount of fruit through him. People who were once in brutal opposition to Dr. Perkins like Thomas A. Tarrants III, later formed deep bonds though Christ. Communities have been transformed through his passionate commitment to bring credibility to the love of Christ through holistic, “on-location” ministry where he physically lived out God’s great commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

Many of us have heard the message of holistic ministry. Many of us have heard the gospel preached as the hope of the world. Here’s the deal. Dr. John Perkins does not walk on water. I don’t want to build him up into something he is not. He is just a sinner with flaws like the rest of us. However, after knowing his story and looking into his eyes and listening to him proclaim the love of Christ for all people, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the thought, this is how God wants all of us to be. What a legacy. What an example of Christ for the world to emulate. What a life, well lived.

I am sure that Dr. Perkins doesn’t remember me or our brief time together several years ago. I only mention this because I don’t want anyone to think I have any special connection to this great man. May this post simply be a testimony to how the faithfulness of one man can rock the world for Christ.

Additional Reading.

The Amazing Journey of John Perkins – A great post on the life of Dr. Perkins –

Book – He’s my Brother – Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation
John Perkins (Author), Thomas A. Tarrants (Author), David Wimbish (Author)

Epilogue

While Dr. Perkins centered on the transforming power of Christ and God word through  the Bible and through Discipleship  He also knows that caring for the physical needs of people is required for ministry to be fully effective. I’ll be writing about what I have learned from Dr. Perkins regarding his views on “Godly Justice” in my next post…