Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sorry, St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi is famous for having said, "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."  Now, I think I understand his intention:  be a witness in your actions, even if words are hard to come by.  I once read of a young man, who, as he was greeted by the pastor leaving church following an especially powerful message about witnessing, said in a whisper, "I believe in witnessing; I'm just in the Secret Service."

My friend Mark Wilson says, "Silence, when it comes to undercover Christianity, isn't always golden.  Sometimes, it's just plain yellow."  He goes on to write, "Too many cowardly Christians hide behind the skirts of St. Francis."  We definitely need to let our love for others show in our actions.  We need to do good things for our neighbors.  We need to display the love of Christ in all that we do.  But at some point, we have to own the responsibility to share with others the message of the gospel.  It's necessary.  We must use words.

We talk about what we cherish, what we love.  What are you going to talk about today?

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Last evening, our Vacation Bible School team gathered at the church to decorate for this year's event that starts this coming Monday evening.  While we had a lot to do, it was great seeing a couple of dozen people working and laughing together as we prepared for our upcoming children's outreach.  Energy flowed all over our campus as the team gathered to do the task before them.

As we worked together, I had the following thoughts about teams and teamwork.  These are not in any particular order.

1.  Common Goal - Teams function much better when everyone is on the same page - each team member knows the goal and is working toward making that goal a reality.

2.  Delegation of Responsibility - Everyone on the team needs to know what their responsibility is.  A good team leader points the other members of the team in the right direction.

3.  Leadership - The team responds to capable leadership.  A clear sense of who is in charge is vital.  Everything rises and falls on leadership.

4.  Affirmation - Team members accomplish more when compliments are flying around.

5.  Celebration - Teams that take time to celebrate their accomplishments tend to accomplish more than those that just work toward the goal and go home.  Applaud others.  This is similar to affirmation but is very intentional and is aimed for the entire team.

6.  Laughter - Enjoying each other and having fun is key to accomplishing great tasks.

There are many other things that make up great teams, but this is what I saw in action last night.  I was thrilled to see our team come together and get so much done, having fun all evening long!  Thanks everyone!  You are an outstanding team!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Would Our Church Look Like If..."

As we worked through specific teaching on discipleship this summer, I asked this question to the people of our church:  "What would our church look like if...?"

Here's a bit of the background to that question.  When I became the pastor of this church over 11 years ago, it had been in significant decline for many years.  In fact, the consensus of the leaders was that it would close within five years if something didn't change.  Since that time, God has been leading us into a more missional mindset and the church has grown significantly.  As I stated in a previous blog, we are adding another service to our schedule to try to facilitate additional growth.

To be honest, a great deal of our growth has been transfer growth - people who have come to us because the church they were in was not effectively ministering to the community.  Transfer growth has helped us by bringing us a number of new leaders and resources.  As a result, we've done more than we thought we could do several years ago.

However, transfer growth doesn't really increase the Kingdom of God!  All it does is "shuffle the deck."  So I've been asking our people to think about their family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and those they see as they drive down the street.  What would our church look like if we really reached out to those who need Jesus the most?  And, what would our church look like if we reached out to those who are really different from us?  What if we made ourselves really uncomfortable and reached those who are in poverty, or who have children with disabilities?  What if?

Since that time, God has been changing the hearts of some of our people.  There is a growing passion to connect with those who have the greatest needs.  It's challenging.  But it's so rewarding as we are beginning to see some previously unreached people coming through our doors!

So I ask you, what would your church look like if..."  You can fill in the rest.  But please, fill it in!

Monday, July 14, 2014

People Helping People

We have a woman in our church who has been in the hospital or rehabilitation center since November 11, 2013.  I don't mean she's been in and out of the hospital.  She's not been home since 11/11/2013!  Her battle has  been a lengthy one.  On more than one occasion her family and I have thought we lost her.

On several occasions she has been close to giving up.  I started telling her months ago, "If you don't think you have enough faith to see this through, you can borrow mine."  I firmly believe that her testimony will reach many lives once she is healed.  I don't know why God is allowing her to go through this, but He has sustained her and is growing her faith in a powerful way!  The church family has been praying daily for her healing, and we just believe that He will heal her completely!

As you can imagine, the medical bills for a situation can be staggering, even with the best insurance.  The church board has given some assistance to the family over the past few months, but we needed to go a step further.  I shared with our congregation the need to help out, and in just two weeks, the church family raised nearly $2,500.00 to put toward medical bills!  In addition, her husband's employer called when they heard what we were doing and added another $500.00 to the total!

Other acts of kindness and love have been extended.  Visits to the hospital and rehabilitation center.  Donating parts and labor for vehicle repairs so the husband could get to work and the hospital to check on his wife.  Cards and notes.  Flowers.  It's amazing to see what God has been doing to extend His love to a family in crisis.  Let's keep it up until she comes home!

Just Thinking About the Future

I have been giving consideration to not posting anymore.  Life is busy and it's been three months since my last post.  But then someone told me that my posts were missed, so I guess I'll give it a try again.

As our church continues to grow, I've been challenging our people to take it to the next step.  We've started making plans to launch a Saturday night service, starting September 20.  The service will be at 5:00 PM.  This early start will allow us to have time post-service for connections through meals, fun events, and missional activities.  I'm looking forward to what God is going to do in this service.

Why is this such a big deal?  Well, first of all, we are out of space on Sunday mornings, both in our sanctuary and our parking lot.  We could have added a second Sunday morning service, but that would not give us the maximum expansion possibilities.  We've also discovered that there a many people in our area who are unable to attend church on Sunday morning for any number of reasons.  Some of the de-churched in our area are also skeptical of the traditional church formula.

The style of worship will remain the same - contemporary / blended.  The atmosphere and dress will be very casual.  The focus will be relational.  The goal:  to bring people to relationship with Jesus by extending genuine love and acceptance to those who do not yet know Him.

It would be easy for a rural church in our area to sit back and say, "Hey, we've got a good thing going.  Let's not rock the boat."  But as long as there are unchurched, dechurched, and unsaved people in our community, we have a God-given responsibility to reach them.  We cannot allow limitations of any kind to cloud our ultimate purpose - to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.  To say we can't do more would be sinful!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Basics - 3

I think it's important to play to your strengths.  One of the most important tools that I've used over the years is called "Strength Finders."  Marcus Buckingham wrote the book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths."  In this book he lays out 30+ signature themes.  His Strength Finders test helps you identify your five signature themes.  He then makes the case that we should all play to our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses in other ways, such as delegation.

Getting the results from this test was very freeing for me.  My themes are responsibility, harmony, belief, deliberative, and arranger.  I won't describe these unless you ask.  But what I've found is that I am less stressed and more effective when I operate in these areas.  I've quit trying to be someone I'm not.

I recommend that you read the book and take the test.  You will find a great deal of freedom and purpose if you operate in your areas of strength.  God has given these strengths to you for a reason.  Find them.  Use them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Basics - 2

Over the years I've become alarmed at the lack of professionalism that exists among our ministers.  This doesn't just apply to the new young guys.  There seems to be slippage at all levels.  Let me explain.

Our culture has made it acceptable for pastors to dress more casually.  This is great!  We no longer have to wear suits and ties every day.  I enjoy the more casual style.  When I pastored in southern California, my Sunday morning "work" clothes were business suits (we were in a very professional area) but otherwise I had a lot of flexibility.  In my current ministry setting, I might wear a suit, a sweater, or when the weather is nice, polo shirts and even my fun Hawaiian shirts (much to my wife's and daughter's dismay!).

But I'm seeing a disturbing trend.  Some pastors no longer consider the setting they are walking in to.  What I mean is this.  If you are going to meet with a city or town mayor or a group of community leaders, I don't think you should be wearing camo pants, hiking boots, and your favorite Duck Dynasty t-shirt!  Trust me, this happens!  Guys, go business casual at the very least!  Look like a professional!  I've walked into meetings to see a pastor who looked like he crawled out of bed, found the most wrinkled and ripped thing he could find, unshaven and looking like death warmed over.

I know.  I'm old school in some ways.  But I will go to my grave believing that I am a professional and I need to dress appropriately for the situation I'm in.  I am glad I don't have to wear a tie all the time!  But at the same time, I think I've learned that dressing right keeps you in the game rather than turning off the very people you are trying to influence.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Basics

As a pastor of 32 years, I must say that I don't really feel like an authority on a lot of things.  I make no claim to being an expert!  I am still learning every day, and I am deeply indebted to the people I am continually learning from:  Tim, my spiritual growth partner; Matthew, my friend and young leader who thinks outside the box; Rob, an innovative church leader who I appreciate more as the years go by; and, Aron, my good friend who is my superior in ministry.  Thanks to these people, I am constantly being challenged to raise the bar and strive for more.

There are many things that I've learned about life and ministry over the years, and I am thinking that sharing them might be of some benefit.  One adage is, "You can't take people to a level where you haven't been."  By that we mean that leaders need to stay one step ahead of their people.  To raise people up you don't get behind them and push, but rather, you bend down and offer a hand to lift them up.

In order to be that kind of leader, you have to keep learning.  Read books.  Listen to cd's and other online resources.  Attend an occasional conference.  Spend time with other growing leaders.  Expose yourself to the wisdom of others - even (especially) if they are younger than you!

Let me encourage you to take it to the next level no matter what level you find yourself on.  And keep serving others.  There is no better way to lead than to serve.  But more about that next time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The rage in the sports world this week and next is the Super Bowl.  Analysts and fans alike are dissecting the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks as the teams prepare for the biggest game of the NFL season.  I heard one analyst talking about that the team wins will not do so because it has the biggest stars or the greatest players.  The team that wins will do so because it is the better team.

Teamwork.  It's the missing ingredient in many organizations including churches.  Too many pastors think that leadership is about them having to call all the shots and insisting that everyone follows them.  While everything rises and falls on leadership, I think that the leader who fails to build his team fails.  Patrick Lencioni writes, "Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.  If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time." (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, page vii). 

There are many tools available to help us in the endeavor of team building.  Tools aren't the issue.  The issue is doing it.  What stops us from developing strong teams?  Is it pride or self-sufficiency?  Is it insecurity?  Let me encourage you to lay aside the thing that stops you and build a team!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts on following Jesus

"The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one's bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing.  People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian."

These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer are a call to discipleship.  His message in these two sentences is quite simple.  One who claims to be a Christian must realize that following Jesus is an all or nothing venture.  A man cannot serve two masters.  Discipleship (following) is serious business.  Do we understand that?  Has Western culture caused an erosion in our thinking that anything goes?  What cost are we really paying to follow Jesus?