Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Kind of Day Will You Make?

In his book, Coach Wooden, Pat Williams lays out the great coach John Wooden's 7 Life Principles.  One of those life principles that Coach Wooden lived by was "make each day your masterpiece."  Former basketball great Swen Nater played for Coach at UCLA.  He said, "John Wooden's philosophy was that you have never lived a perfect day until you have helped someone who can never repay you in any way.  John Wooden's goal was to live a perfect day - not once, but every single day." (page 94)

While there are a number of thing that we can do to become more efficient in our lives, the most important thing we can do is to invest ourselves in others.  Who is it that you could help today - someone who could never repay you for your act of kindness?  What can you do to make a difference, even a small one, in someone's day?  How many opportunities do we miss simply because we are so focused on what we can get out of life? 

Today our church will have a distribution, giving away non-food items to people from the community.  Some of those people will sit in our parking lot for up to 4 hours before they go through the line to get roughly $50-$60 worth of paper products, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, etc.  Most of them are so grateful for the chance to stretch their limited funds with this free service provided through the generosity of our congregation.  Those who are working and those who have given will be making a masterpiece of their day today.  What about you?

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Throughout history we have seen faith play a significant role in secular life.  In ancient times, kings were often appointed because they were men of faith.  This was practiced by many people groups but was especially true in Jewish culture.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of how when the people obeyed God, the nation was blessed.  When they turned from Him, there was trouble in paradise.  The place faith played in culture was the leading indicator of the nation’s success or failure. 

During the 1700’s, Europe and Great Britain were suffering from moral and economic decay.  The Great Awakening, led by men like John and Charles Wesley, brought a revival to the whole of society.  That awakening spilled over into the American colonies where powerful preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards continued to fan into the flame a spirituality that impacted culture and brought about positive change.  One such change was the human rights movement which, in the early 1800’s, fueled the eventual freedom of slaves, brought an end to child slavery, and gave women a rightful place in society.  The revivalist movement of the early 1900’s continued these emphases as well as providing people with faith in the midst of two world wars and the Great Depression.

But a major shift has taken place.  Secularism has reared its head and demanded that faith take a back seat to humanism – a system of thought that is centered on man’s interests.  The defining moment for our country was in 1948 when the Supreme Court used the “Separation of Church and State” argument to outlaw a time for school prayer.  In 1962, the Supreme Court again ruled that prayer in school was unconstitutional.  Then in 1963, the Warren Court stopped schools from allowing Bible reading in classes.  The Supreme Court declared in 1980 that posting the Ten Commandments in a school classroom violated the constitution of The United States. 

What has essentially happened is that our culture has determined that the Church has no right to political or social influence.  According to those in authority, the only place for Christian faith is within the confines of a religious institution.  Christians who attempt to use their convictions to guide their moral and social commitments are assailed as being out-of-touch with the mainstream and are ridiculed for taking stands that are synchronous with historic Judeo-Christian principles.

This should not really surprise us.  The earliest Christians found themselves in the same position.  Palestine was ruled by Rome.  Thanks to Alexander the Great’s philosophy of world rule through cultural saturation, Christ-followers found themselves out-of-step with a society that was anything but spiritual.  One example of this is found in the life of the apostle Peter.  As Roman persecution of the Christians increased, Peter found himself in the crosshairs of Nero’s aim to exterminate people of faith.  In his reflections on this matter, the Apostle Peter wrote how believers live as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). 

It would appear that from the beginning of time, people of faith have found themselves (for the most part) to be a part of a counterculture – one that had the potential to bring about wholeness, but that stood in opposition to the mainstream of their society.  We find ourselves in that same place today.  In their book, Resident Aliens:  Life in the Christian Colony, authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon state that the church should in all times assert “that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.” 

If this is indeed the position that we are to take (I believe it is), how then do we take back territory we have surrendered to the forces of evil?  How do we take the battle to the Enemy?  What are the possibilities that our normal daily lives can have supernatural eternal influence?  
The foundation for making a difference in our culture lays in our ability to build relationships that have a redemptive quality - to make friendships that literally change our world.  Take a look at Colossians 4:2-6 and see what the apostle Paul challenged the people of his time to do. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Struggling with Social Media

Ok, my younger pastor friends are all over me about my refusal to dive completely into social media.  They give me grief for not having a Facebook page or a Twitter account.  Oh, they also hassle me for still carrying a flip phone that doesn't have internet on it.  They tell me that to reach 20-somethings I have to become more involved in these other things.

Here's my problem.  I simply don't want to add another thing to my life and schedule.  It's really that simple.  And I'm just OCD enough that if I do take on one of these forms of social media that I'm going to feel obligated to follow along and that takes time!  I'm simply not sure I want to dedicate significant time to social media matters.  But on the other hand, I can see how you can use these tools for ministry.

So I'm going to give it some thought.  Not sure what I'm going to do...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Leadership is Influence

It is time for my local church to vote on whether or not to retain my services as pastor.  I am completing the fourth year of a four-year call, and my tenth year in full-time service to this congregation.  I have actually been associated with this church for over 10 1/2 years.  The church has grown from an average in the low 50's when I arrived to an average attendance last month of 115.  That's not too bad for a church out in the middle of rural Indiana!  God has been good and the church is healthier than it has been in many years.

Votes for pastors can be nerve-wracking.  I do not worry about this upcoming vote.  The worse thing that can happen is for people to say it is time for a change and ask me to leave.  My church board has unanimously recommended me for an extension.  That's cool, and I am appreciative!

But my main thought today is that of leadership.  A position is the weakest and least effective level of leadership.  True leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less.  I love the old leadership proverb:  "He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him only taketh a walk."

With that in mind, I'm asking myself the following questions.  You might find them helpful.

Top Five Project:
1.  Who are the five people I most want to influence this next year?
2.  What am I currently doing to influence them?
3.  What will I have to do to increase my influence with them?
4.  How will I measure the successfulness of my influence?

Lead on!