Friday, September 30, 2011

3 thoughts for a pastor

Thoughts for the pastor -

~ when someone is mad at you, ask them:   “How can I do a better job?” 

~ The Bishop can give me an appointment.  The congregation can paint my name on a sign.   I only become your pastor when I win your trust.

~ Give credit, take responsibility . . . Let others shine, leave my name out of it.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

essentials of faith

John Wesley, the unintentional founder of the United Methodist Church, taught that we should agree on the essentials of faith, and in other, peripheral matters we should “think and let think.”
As I consider the essentials of the Christian faith, this is my list:

1. God exists.
2. God created man, woman, and all things.
3. Man and woman fell away from God due to sin.
4. People have tried many times and in many ways to restore the relationship with God but they were unable to do so.
5. God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to do what we could not do ourselves.
6. Jesus taught the people, loved them, and suffered and died on the cross and rose again.

7. His death on the cross is atonement for our sins.
8. When a person chooses to accept the person of Jesus Christ and the power of his acts on the cross, their sin is forgiven and they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
9. A new life begins for that person in that we are conformed to the image of Christ . . . a little bit at a time.

If Christians can stay focused on the essential parts of the Christian faith, then we stay on mission. Churches struggle when they focus on the non-essentials.

Examples of peripheral, non-essential beliefs, non-heaven or hell beliefs would include:
1. Opinions on baptism.
2. Opinions on the book of Revelation and how the world may or may not end.
3. Opinions on particular social or political issues.
4. Etc.

I think we can tell when our topics of discussion are not longer helpful in our pursuit of Christ. Many non-essential issues are important issues, but we have to remember that they are secondary. People are going to have opinions that differ from ours. We should not break fellowship because of such differences. We will all spend eternity together, so why not start tolerating one another now?

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

why we don't rebaptize people

Why we don’t rebaptize people.
Among the many practices in the Christian church, one of the most troubling is the act of rebaptizing someone. 

If you believe as Methodists do, that baptism initiates you into God’s kingdom, it only needs to be done once.  If you believe that baptism is something that you do when you need to turn from sin and confess your faith, then you better be ready to be baptized 100 times in your life.  I know of a 26 year old man who has been baptized five times!  At some point, it is insulting to God.  At some point we have to start understanding that the power in baptism is not our decision, but the grace of God that descends upon the person being baptized.

In the scriptures, there is evidence of adults being baptized.  There is also evidence that children were baptized.  The Philippian jailer and his house were baptized.  There is no scriptural evidence that children were excluded.  There is no evidence of children waiting and being baptized later in life.  There is no scriptural evidence of rebaptism.

Baptism is the sign of God’s promise to us.  Received as an adult or as a child, it need only be done once.  You may not remember your baptism, or the memory of it may have faded, but I promise you that God has not forgotten.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

God's moon

Did you see the moon the other morning?  How does God do that?  It is like he hung a ping pong ball in front of it.  I am sure that there is some scientific  explanation, but I don't remember what it is. 

A really clear night.  The shadow of the earth against it maybe?  I don't know, but is sure was beautiful.  I hope you got to see it. 

What will you see today that is spectacularly beautiful?

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 26, 2011

freeing the canaries

One of my favorite old movies is from 1971 - "Harold and Maude."  Have you seen it?  I was watching it again the other night.  Bud Cort stars as 18 year old Harold, who is trying to find his way in life.  Ruth Gordon stars as a 79 year old concentration camp survivor who has lived a full life.  They become friends. 

It is a funny, and a strange movie.  One line that I caught the other day when I was watching.  Maude [Ruth Gordon] is talking about how she wants people to really live.  She even likes to go to pet stores and free the canaries.  That experience never goes very well.  Freeing canaries is an idea that is ahead of its time.  Then she says, "O my, how the world still dearly loves a cage."

O my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.  How true it is.  So many ways to enslave people.  So many people asleep to the glory and good of this life.  Living this wonderful life from inside a cage of fear and selfishness.  Some people miss the chance to be free.  It is too difficult. O my how the world still dearly loves a cage.

"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."  Ephesians 5:14

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

end of the world, part 3

In a post last week, I expressed disappointment with those who claim that America's troubles are a sign of Jesus' return.  In reply to my posts last week, someone asked, and rightfully so, what our response would be to such teaching.

In other words, if there are churches that are drawing folks by pointing them to the end of time, what would we tell them instead of that?  If there are churches that are telling folks that God wants you to escape the suffering of difficult times, what do we teach instead of this?

Let me begin by reiterating "no one knows the hour or the day."  Let me also say that all great people of faith in the Bible faced suffering.  The overwhelming evidence in Scripture is that following God is not the easy way, but it is the way that leads us to hope and meaning.  There always has been, and always will be a cross for Christ followers to bear.

If you want a church and a pastor that will give you the easy answers and the formula's for life, well, those churches are out there.  Good luck with that.  If you want a church that will point you toward the mystery of God and invite you to learn to rest in him, come see us.

In difficult times, this is what I want to say to folks- "Trust in the Lord.  Paul and Silas sang in prison.  Jesus forgave people from the cross.  It is shallow to believe in a God that solves all of our problems.  Instead, God asks us to rest in him, in spite of our problems.  The answer to difficult times is not some magic potion that makes them all go away.  The answer is the God who holds us in the palm of his hand.  Trust means nothing if there is no difficulty.  Trust means everything when times are tough.  We can trust in the God who walks with us through the dark valleys."

It is not the end of the world.  However, we just might be facing the world as millions of others have had to do in less  prosperous countries have for centuries.  Trust in the Lord.  Maybe hard times will finally teach us what it really means to love God and put our faith in Jesus in stead of circumstances.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

what song?

Baseball is over for another year.  At least for teams like the Royals that did not make the playoffs.  I attended a game this week.  The weather was great, and I sure do enjoy baseball.

One of the things that I have learned is that the music that is played in the stadium when a batter comes to the plate is chosen by the batter.  Consequently, when Billy Butler comes to the plate, you always hear country music.  When some of the Hispanic players come to the plate, you often hear Latino tunes.  The really young players choose songs that I do not recognize.

So the thought occurred to me.  Let's say that you and I were actually good hitters and we were coming to the plate for our turn to bat.  What song would you pick?  I am thinking........... how about:

Centerfield by John Fogerty or
We will rock you by Queen or
Tonight's gonna be a good night by the Black Eyed Peas.

It sure would be a fun moment.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the end of the world, part 2

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Mt 25:13

I am sorry but I cannot let this go by.  I heard a noted religious figure say on TV the other night that since all of these bad things are happening to America, the end is near.  We are living in the last generation.

So, let me get this right- America has debt problems, we have financial problems, unemployment problems, hungry people problems, and fearful for the future problems, so those are signs of the end of time.

Really?  Is America the only country that God cares about?  Why were not the financial problems in Greece a sign of the end?  Why were not hundreds of thousands murdered in  the Sudan a sign of the end.  Why wasn't the fall of Rome a sign of the end [I am sure that someone in Rome was saying so at the time.]  Hungry people in Ethiopia for years, but that was not a sign of the end.  But bring a little heart ache to the streets of America and it must be a sign of the end.  [it's all about me.]

Jesus will come back some day, but his signs are not centered on America.  He has the Whole World in his hands.  America has problems, but our problems are not a sign of the second coming.  Our problems are a sign of selfishness, consumerism, and bad management by politicians on both sides of the isle.

Faithful and mature Christians do not run here and there with every wind of doctrine, trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back.  Love God and love every one you come into contact with.  If you do this, you will be ready, whenever Jesus returns. 

As far as America's problems go, I hope that we can bite the bullet and get them fixed.  But either way, good times or difficult, we Christ followers are called to love God and love one another.  It's not necessarily the end of time, anymore than it was before.  Nothing has changed.  Keep trusting Christ.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the end of the world

It's all about me.  It's all about us.  It's all about the Big 12.  Can you believe it?  Nebraska is leaving the Big 12 for the Big 10.  Then Colorado leaves for the Pac 10.  How frightening.  But it gets worse.

Texas, Texas AM and Oklahoma are all talking about leaving.  The big 12 might become the little 5.  Who will Missouri play?  What will happen to our TV revenues?  Who will we have left to hate?

There is only one answer to this.  It must be the end of the world.  There is nothing  in the world worse than this.  It is a sign of the end.

Somebody moved my cheese.  Surely life cannot go on.  It's the end of the world.  No Big 12 - lets go out and stand on the mountain and wait.  Or..........

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

other places - part two

Last night I thumbed through a book I had read a few years back. I glanced at what I had underlined and read the notes I had written. It was like reading a journal and it brought back some thoughts I hadn't had in a while. It took me to an old place but also a new place. Before I knew it the thoughts and concerns that had filled my day had been replaced by new thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it is just a simple thing that can trigger a bigger and better thing... a new day a new view a fresh outlook.

Lion's Den Man

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

other places

I've been other places as of late so I'm a little out of touch with the things that I let surround me each day. That's not a bad thing. It was almost like a vacation... only better. Vacations, for me, always seem to take a few days to settle in and then a day or so before they are over I start thinking about the stuff that lies ahead again. So this was better...a quick exit for a few days to spend some time doing other things with and for people I care about. My mind...went off to a different place in time. I'm not one to live in the past, but I do value what the past has brought into my life. I thoroughly enjoy hearing stories from the past, especially ones that I either have never heard before or ones that are shared from another persons vantage point. So it was good and it has me thinking and seeing life in a different least for now.

Sometimes we just need a little shake up in the routine to get us out of the rut, so life can show us a different picture.

Lion's Den Man

Monday, September 19, 2011

a break

My dear wife has been on the road every single week except for one, this year.  But there is good news.  She is home this week and next!  :-)  It's like a homecoming, like someone returning from the service.  What great joy!

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An Old Farmer's Advice

I received this from a friend -  it all reminds me of the kind of things that my father told me over and over while I was growing up:

Old Farmer's Advice
  • Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
  • Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  • A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered…...not yelled.
  • Meanness don't just happen overnight.
  • Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
  • Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
  • It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.
  • You cannot unsay a cruel word.
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Most of the stuff people worry about, ain't never gonna happen anyway.
  • Don 't judge folks by their relatives.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don 't interfere with somethin' that ain't bothering you none.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
  • Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
  • The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
  • Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.
  • If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

another song in my head

The last few days a Bob Marley song has been stuck in my head.  "Don't worry, about a thing.  Cause every little things- gonna be alright."  Most of the songs that pop into my head, I spend the rest of the day trying to get out.  This one, I am trying to keep in.

Rise up this mornin',

Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', This is my message to you-

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 16, 2011

adult children

This week has been a good week for my adult children.  Do you ever stop worrying about them?  My oldest is so dog gone independent, I often don't hear form her for weeks at a time.  I have to text her and ask if she is still alive.  Daughter #2 sold her car, bought a car, took care of all the paperwork, and survived the DMV.  Son in Kentucky is now gainfully employed in two jobs.

I have always believed in work.  It sounds a little boring, but if you can get a job and hold a job, you can solve your other life problems on the nights and weekends.  Today, for the first time in a long time, all three of my kids are in the saddle, 40 hours per week.  For some reason, as a father, that makes me very happy.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

enjoying it

Where ever you live - do you enjoy it?  Do you make time and  take time to sit in a chair and enjoy your home or apartment?  Or are we so busy doing something that we never take time to rest.

Some spend their free time with the tv or playing video games.  Again, we have missed a chance to rest and enjoy life.

A friend was looking for silence - he was looking to find the place where his heart would find God.  He could not do it.  His mind was so full of the things that he had to  do.

Don't be so busy with life that you forget to live.  Don't be so busy with things that don't matter that the things that do matter just pass you by.

Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy is about more than Sundays. It is a reminder from the good Lord that we all need rest.

Take a break.  Sit in a chair.  Put your feet up.  Give thanks for whatever God has given you.  Relax.  Breathe deep.  See it.  Sense it.  Appreciate it.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Manipulate, manipulation.  Ugh - one of my least favorite words.  Having grown up around the church I have seen it all.  People taught to praise God in certain ways.  People taught certain things to keep them passive and in submission to the church.  Guilt.  Shame.  Guilt. Yeuch.

When people are being manipulative they don't take questions.  In fact, questions are not allowed by manipulators.  Behavioral expectations are made clear and anyone that chooses to live outside of those expectations is severely punished or shunned.

The church should not be a place of manipulation.  The church should be a place where our differences are celebrated.  Where disagreement is welcomed.  After all, we only learn from people who are different than we are.

Please feel free to ask any questions that you have, anytime.  If you expect people to trust you, you must live by a policy of full disclosure.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

more on the hard parts and the good parts

What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.”               
 —  Rainer Maria Rilke

Given the choice, would you rather turn the cheek or strike back?  Given the choice would you rather work for what you have, or have it all given to you?  Take someone else’s flat screen TV, or work for your own?  Would you rather take up a cross, or wear a crown? 

Can we wear the crown without taking up our cross?  The two a day practices for the football team is what makes game night so rewarding.  The studying and working to fix a car yourself makes the driving of it all the more joyful.   The rehab after surgery makes me appreciate that shoulder in ways that I never did before.  The sacrifices that one makes for their family sets the stage for great moments later.

Life.  It is good.  All of it.  The hard parts and the good parts.  It is all one big beautiful canvas that God gives us to paint on.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the hard part

Yesterday I wrote about the good part.  I think I inadvertently shortchanged the hard part.  Think about it – life is a journey, not a destination.  The good parts are good, but the hard parts are good too.  Sure, it was hard to save the money, but doesn’t it feel good to engage yourself in something that matters?  Sure it was hard to dig the hole for that tree, but doesn’t if feel good to sweat?  And the long drive to the vacation spot – isn’t there some beautiful scenery along the way?

We will always enjoy the good parts of life.  I hope that we get better at enjoying the hard parts of life, because they are part of life too.  Who would want to lay on their death bed and not know what it was like to put in 50 hours a week for forty years?  In some ways, in many ways yet undiscovered, the hard parts too, are the good parts of life.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the good part

I know that today is the ten year anniversary of 9-11.  I am intentionally not writing about it, because I do not want the rest of our lives to be dominated by an act of hatred.  With that said, I offer today's post:

Sometimes in life there is the hard part, and then there is the good part.  The good part is what comes as a result of your hard work.  We have to remember during the hard times, that the good part is coming.  I always tried to teach my kids – work first, play second.

And so, we go on a long drive to arrive somewhere.  We save money to make a purchase, and then we enjoy it, debt free.  We struggle through college, and get a degree.  We dig a hole to plant a tree, and then sit in the shade.

Almost every good part has a hard part that comes with it.  You can’t have one without the other.  That is what makes the good part the good part.  The moment of rest that you come to when you know your labor is done,  and it was worth it.  Savor the good moments, they are the fruit of your labor.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I want a smaller church

I hear it a lot from folks at Woods Chapel.  I want a smaller church.  Some of them that tell me this, never even attended the old church!  Well, just for the record, I want a smaller church too.

The church was the most comfortable to me when we had about 300 people.  I still knew everyone and still delivered all the mugs.  I did all the hospital visits.  I knew everyone’s name.  Heck I knew their dog’s names.

But, Jesus has other ideas about our church.  We are called to invite. To care for those who are here, but to continue inviting others.  That means that if we are serious about following his purpose, we might get uncomfortable. 

So, it’s a toss up.  Do I want to keep it how I like it, or do I want to keep trying to do what Jesus asks me to do.  I guess since he died on the cross for me, I can suffer with some of the discomfort that I feel in a church that is a little different that what I would personally prefer.  How about you?

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 9, 2011

blind to the beauty

I recently sat at a restaurant overlooking the ocean.  The view was spectacular.  Spellbinding.  Awesome.  I asked the server what it was like to have such a view every day when you come to work.  She replied apologetically that she doesn’t even see it anymore.  Wow.  I am around the beauty so much, that I don’t even see it anymore. 

We both agreed that this was sad.

What beauty are you around every day that you no longer see?  A tree?  A flower?  A home?  A spouse?  How sad. 

Let’s agree to open our eyes.  To see what is.  To see the gifts of today.  The gifts that God has given to us.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

nothing stays the same

When you are young, everything seems to stay the same.  Then you are out of high school.  New places, new friends, new stuff.  You start to make your life.  You go through some stable times.

 Then all of a sudden you wake up, and everything is different.  The old boss is gone.  Your parents are gone.  Your softball team is gone.  You family moves to different places. 

Such changes give me a sense of instability, of fear, of discomfort.  I wish for the old days.  I remember how it used to be.  I tell the stories of yesterday.  I even organize reunions.  I drive past the old house.

Sad.  The old house isn’t the same anymore.  The softball guys have moved on.  My old boss doesn’t connect with me the way that I connected with them.  There is a new reality for me.  Nothing stays the same.

And so you are left with a choice.  To pout, to struggle, to talk of the glory days, or to look at today and believe that today is good.  And today is good.  New, different, not the same as yesterday, but good in its own right.  May we always see the good in today.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a little ditty

I heard a bit of a John Cougar song the other day.  Let's forget about some of the racy lyrics for a few minutes.  The song is Jack and Diane.  For all the times that I have heard this song, something stuck in my head for the first time the other day.

The chorus says, "Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone."

I stopped.  This is what is being said - there is a time when you are young when life is thrilling.  When you look forward to it all.  But then you get disappointed.  After that, life just goes on.  On and on, with no more joy, no more thrill.

I will never hear that song in the same way again, because I don't believe that the thrill of life is ever over.  Life is amazing.  Life is wonderful.  Even the bad parts, the hard parts are good.  It is joyful and opportunistic. 

Our chance as humans is to get our eyes off of our comfort and find the thrill of life, no matter what the circumstances.  And so I say once again -

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.  When we do, it is simply thrilling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


We like to talk about how much change we have seen in our life times.  When I was a kid, phones had rotary dials, now people are dropping their home phones and carrying personal cell phones.  I saw my first microwave when I was 15 years old.

There are many things that we grew up on, that don't exist anymore.  Do you remember having snow tires?  That special pair that sat in the garage all summer and you put them on the back in the winter?  Everything changes.

Well, not everything.  The other day, I picked up an ironing board to fold it up and put it away.  I had not done this for a long time, so I wondered how it would work.  Amazingly, this brand new ironing board in a brand new hotel room is exactly the same technology that existed when I was a kid.

So, the moral of the story is, the younger generations can feel smug about a lot of improvements, but my generation still holds the only patent for ironing boards.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 5, 2011

noble things to do

There are some things that are just good to do.  Noble things.  Opening the door for someone.  Mowing your neighbor's grass.  Welcoming someone to join you at your table when the restaurant is packed.  Fixing the  shared fence without being asked.  Capturing a run away dog and returning it to the owner.  Picking up someones things that they have dropped.  Cleaning up a mess that you did not create.

And of course when we do such things, we want to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible.  The nobleness of an adventure disappears when we turn it into something about ourselves.

I have found that kind actions are a sure cure for the doldrums.  Next time you are feeling malaise, step out and do something kind, something noble.  Go the second mile.  You will be glad that you did.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

love, part 4

I mentioned in church last week, one of my favorite sayings of Anthony Demello.  Demello was a Catholic priest who died in 1986 at the age of 56.  His ideas challenge me to be a more faithful Christian.

One of the things that he said was, “if I want something from you, it’s not love.”  I have been stuck on this idea for years.  It runs so contrary to everything we were taught, but it also explains so much.

It explains why selfish “love” only ends up hurting people.  I love you because you do something for me.  I love you because you fill the aching gap in my heart.  I love you because I don’t want to be alone.  I love you because you make me feel good.  All of this is selfish love.

Do you hear the “me” in all of htat?  How can love be like that?  All centered around me?  It isn’t.  True love is selfgiving.  True love invests in others.  True love is more interested in your joy that in my own.  True love finds its joy in your joy.  True love hugs you because you matter, not because I need the hug.  True love gives people room to grow.  It does not push them too hard.  It does not force them into a square hole.  True love wants to bless others.  It divests itself of it’s stuff for the benefit of others.  Those who love are in love with love, not in love with stuff.

Gosh, talking about love is so cool.  Why is that?  Why is it that when I write or think about love, I am happy?  I am full.  Why?  Because God is love. 

If you find yourself loving people in ways that wants to take from them, try a different approach.  See yourself as full, able and caring.  Receive the gift of the spirit of love.  Then just go and care about others.  Anyone, anywhere, anytime. 

That’s why we are here.  God is love, and we really are the happiest when we are about his business.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Random Question -
do any of you have any friends or relatives in Morehead Kentucky?  If so, please email me at


the life cycle of First Church

Once upon a time a group felt called to start a church.  They were passionate about their desire to create a fellowship where they could find Christian friends, raise their children in the faith, and win others to Christ.  They worked tirelessly to provide programs and invite others to join them.  After struggling for a few years, they finally built a building and settled in. 

After a while, they had reached enough people to pay the bills and run the programs so the folks began to take a Sabbath from their mission.  Sure there were spurts of mission activity or passion around some program or cause, but for the most part, their view of their church had changed from a passionate desire to win others for Christ to an attitude of rest.  They became consumers.  For most of the next thirty years things went well.  Year after year, Lent and Advent came and went.  Children grew up and were confirmed.  Some moved away.  Some were buried.  As time went on, baptisms became fewer and further between.  The church starting hosting more and more funerals. 

One day someone noticed that the church no longer had any young people.  The very group that they were when they started, the passionate 20 and 30 year olds, were no longer present at First Church.  In fact, as they looked around, they began to realize that the core of the congregation was now having grandchildren. 

This problem was discussed at board meetings over the next 10 years.  Some suggested that the church hire some younger staff.  Some suggested that worship styles be changed to reach younger people.  Ultimately the suggestions were all rejected because the status quo had set in and no one wanted to disrupt their community, which had become quite comfortable for the original visionaries, now in their sixties and seventys.

All of us know churches that this happens to.  If you look closely at Woods Chapel, you can already see a bit of it at work.  This is the fate of every church that puts its own comfort before the mission of reaching others.  Churches that continue to thrive need a healthy focus on winning the next generation, even if it means creating an atmosphere that younger folks prefer, and I tolerate for the sake of reaching them.

I have heard folks my age ask "so does that mean that people my age don't matter?"  Of course not.  Everyone matters.  But if we do not work to take steps to reach the next generation, we will simply ride the wave of our comfort, as many churches have, to their demise. 

Effective decisions require that the congregation never rest for very long.  Our brand can never be consigned to one generation.  We must continue to morph.  We cannot simply invite young folks to join our church – we must allow them to shape the church.  Without new visions, without new passion, the handwriting is on the wall.

May you, may I, may we as Christ followers, always be willing to take the steps needed to reach others for Christ.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rev. Goodpastor

Everything has a life cycle.  We think things will live forever.  We think that nothing will ever change, but everything has a lifecycle.  My dog Lou is now ten years old.  That is 70 in dog years.  The handwriting is on the wall for him.  My grade school was built in the 50’s and torn down in the 90’s.  That is a sad moment when your grade school is gone.  Some of you come from small towns that are dying.  Some of you grew up in churches in small towns that are now closed.

Churches have life cycles.  Lets visit about this for a moment.  First lets talk about what happens when the church lands Rev. Goodpastor as it’s minister.  Rev. Goodpastor is loved by many and under his leadership the church thrives.  Rev. Goodpastor is seen as the only one that could ever be there for the people.  Many cannot imagine their church without him.  [Maybe there is a picture of him in the foyer.]  Everyone enjoys the ride, but then one day Rev. Goodpastor retires.  Then there is a huge vaccume in the church.  In their grief, people get unhappy. The next pastor can never replace Rev. Goodpastor and many leave the church.  The church goes through a downturn. 

Sometimes churches find a new Rev. Goodpastor and things pick back up after a while, but often, no replacement is found and the church continues to decline until it finally closes.  Such churches tend to talk a lot about the good old days – "remember when", opens almost every story about the church.  Their best days are in the past.

Now, no one wants this to happen to their church, but without an alternative way of looking at the church and church leadership, this is hard to avoid.  To keep this from happening we first have to understand that the church is more than Rev. Goodpastor.  Second, the church needs to find strong associate pastors that can develop a healthy following, and everyone needs to allow and encourage this.  That way when Rev. Goodpastor goes out to pasture, the church may miss him, but they will also be able to say, “thank God we have our other pastors still here.”

 The church also needs to get used to the preaching styles of other pastors.  Different from Rev. Goodpastor, but good in their own right, healthy large churches have several pastors that deliver the message.

 Such practices set up the church for continued cycles of health.  Good planning and big picture thinking helps the church thrive from generation to generation.

 [I hope this little parable helps you to understand what I am trying to do as your Pastor.]

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

building in these times

Some have asked, why should we build in a bad economy and when we are constricting our budget?  The answer is very simple.  Our building is directed by our need to fulfill our mission.  The funds have been raised and the building addition will be paid for in cash. 

Do you remember when we built on the highway in 1999?  We did not do that because we had lots of money – we did not.  We had little cash on hand.  We had pledges for 1/3 of the project, and we borrowed the rest of the money – around 2.7 million.  No we did not build because we had lots of money, we built because we believed that by doing so we could win others to Jesus Christ and his church.  Because of those actions, today our worship attendance is up over 800 people from those days. 

This addition will be paid for in cash.  We are inviting new people to come join us in space that is paid for.  They will want to join us in our mission, and their gifts will surely cover the extra cost of keeping the new space heated and cooled.

Change is always difficult, and it is scary, especially in scary times.  In a few years when this project is completed, we will have a time when we ask those to stand who started attending Woods Chapel after the new worship center was built.  We will look around at their faces and we will love them.  They will have become our friends.  At that moment we will understand that the process of travail was more than worth it.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.