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Presence

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

I’m going to be honest…I have no idea where I am going to go with this post. I think you will see why. I do have a point but getting there might be like “going ’round Robin Hood’s barn” as we used to say (back in them old days). 🙂

I’ve been reading Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable about the soul of Church, Inc. I’ve written two other posts which have flowed out of it. You can read them here and here. But something I read just today really stuck with me and I don’t know what the solution is. Let me explain.

When I was a young pastor I was told visit, visit, visit. I often found myself out every afternoon and many evenings visiting with people from the church. So much so I often neglected my office time and even my family (at night especially).  It wasn’t unusual to be driving by someone’s house and saying, “Oh, I haven’t seen them in a while. I’ll swing in for a few moments.” So I would…whether the spouse was there or not. But as Bob Dylan sang so eloquently: “the times they are a changin’.”  It was no longer kosher (translated: acceptable or safe) to just drop by to see someone, especially if they were a member of the opposite sex. So I found myself tied more and more to my office. Studying. Napping. Reading. Napping. “Counseling” (Can an untrained pastor really do this? But that’s another topic for another time). But even the latter had to be done a certain way. Ryan and I have set a policy that we will not be in the church building; at a meal; in a car; or any setting with a female who is not our wife without someone else in the building or with us.

Then I read this in Skye’s book: “The antidote to popularity-based authority is the quiet power of pastoral presence.” (p.138)  His point in the chapter is many people will listen to someone who is popular (i.e. TV/radio hucksters and some legitimate speakers) before they will listen to their own pastor. It is called platform. And their platform is bigger than most local pastors. Definitely mine. But that raises a huge question: how do I/any pastor do the pastoral presence thing and still be cognizant of the moral perception of others?

What do you think?

Flashback2

Monday, August 13th, 2018

In a previous post I wrote about having a flashback. I’m not going to recap it. You can go here and read it for yourself. To continue my thoughts:

Skye’s definition/description of “Church, Inc.” is this:

It is shorthand for ministry devoid of mystery, for pastors who assume that the exercise of their calling is a matter of skill more than the gravity of their soul. It represents the exchange of the transcendent calling of Christian ministry with mere management of religious institutions and services. If ministry is encountering the heat and light of an uncontrollable sun, Church, Inc is the tanning salon in the local strip mall.

Skye goes on to ask a very complex question: the attraction to religious consumers is easy enough to grasp, but what is the appeal for pastors? The answer is not an easy one and I suspect he will spend the book dissecting it.  I’m only in chapter 6 and I think I’ve gone through a pen while highlighting!! To top it off he includes this quote by Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate:

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and woman centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.

BINGO!

Jesus didn’t set up an enterprise. He established his church. He didn’t tell the disciples to “Go, learn the business principles of the world, then take the message to others, and I will be with you to the end of the age.” I think it high time pastors get back to being pastors (shepherds), and churches get back to being churches not small businesses.

There is so much more to say but…

So…

OFF SOAPBOX (for now).

More to come.

Flashback

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Flashbacks are bad…usually. I guess it depends on what you flash back to.

Several years ago I was the pastor of a church when there was a major shift in a pastor’s responsibility. I was always used to seeing myself as a shepherd, as one responsible for the care and feeding of the sheep. Then along came a shift. The shift involved the pastor taking on more of a CEO position and the church being run like more of a business model. I attended John Maxwell’s seminars. Bought his and others’ books. Tried to implement the whole paradigm shift to the church.

I. FAILED…BIG. TIME.

Yep. I failed. Miserably. I knew when that happened that my time was limited in that current pastorate. I couldn’t make the shift to the CEO/business model.

MY. TIME. WAS. INDEED. LIMITED.

I moved on to another church…one that didn’t have or want that model. Good thing. I would have failed there too. My tenure there was not as long as the previous one, and definitely not as long as this one. But that was for other reasons completely.  In the meantime, I read several books which helped me tremendously. Two books by E. Glenn Wagner: The Church You’ve Always Wanted and Escape from Church, Inc cemented my decision.  Another was Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barb Hughes. Two books on preaching which helped were Famine in the Land by Steve Lawson and The Passion-Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix. They helped convince me of my purpose: preach the Word and quit worrying about modeling the business world.

FLASHBACK TIME

Why? I started reading a new book today: Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. It is subtitled Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. Sounds like it would be right up my alley. Two quotes hit me hard  The prelude to the Introduction:

There are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah…If we cannot measure we can marvel. Charles Spurgeon

The wrong approach put a premium on numbers and results.  You measure success by numbers. They were the qualifiers. When I was entertaining the whole idea of Church, Inc I was losing my focus on people as people and seeing them as numbers to be counted. Chairs to be filled (we didn’t have pews).  🙂

This post is getting long-much longer than I like to go- so I will continue it with another.

TheRoad

Friday, July 27th, 2018

For anyone who knows me there is one movie I have a real problem with. No, it is not immoral. No, it is not (that I know of) terribly unbiblical. I’m pretty sure the PC police will find something wrong with it somewhere, if they haven’t already done so.  I. just. don’t. like. it. I suppose that makes me unAmerican. But that’s the facts. What movie? Here’s my illustration…and your hint:

When Dorothy’s house landed in Munchkin Land, killing the Wicked Witch of the North and throwing all the Munchkins into a tizzy of a celebration, all Dorothy wanted to know was, “How do I get home?” The Munchkins didn’t know. They told her she would need to go to Oz and ask the wizard. She was told to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

There was only one road to Oz. It began right there in Munchkin Land, where Dorothy’s house had landed, and looked like a spiral until it ended up in Oz. To stay on that road would take her to her destination, the Wizard of Oz, fake though he was. To get off that road led everywhere but Oz.

The question of choice has always been a discussion point in religious circles. I won’t be talking about that Sunday morning. What I will be preaching about is that life is a series of choices-some we make are wise and some we make are rather foolish. The choice we make determines our path; the path we choose influences our choices. My Scripture this Sunday is Proverbs 1:8-30. Which path will you choose to trek on?

Your prayers would be appreciated.

Blind

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

I was just listening to a song by Styx called “Snowblind,” about the dangers of cocaine. One of the refrains says, “Mirror, mirror on the wall/The face you show me scares me so…” That describes my morning look into the mirror!

Reality has set in for me. Well, it has for quite awhile but there are some things I cannot deny. Long hair to no hair. Dark beard/goatee to gray. Joints which creak. 🙂 Joints that don’t want to work anymore, or at least very crankily. There is other visible evidence which I cannot deny. The mirror just does not lie.

While reading Caleb’s new book (I talk about it here) I ran across a great story! It comes from the movie Creed, where Rocky is training Adonis, Apollo Creed’s son. (Watch the first 100 Rocky’s to know who he is. Actually the first 4).

During one scene, Rocky and Adonis are standing in front of a mirror in the gym during their training session. Rocky teaches Adonis a brilliant lesson about self-perception. Pointing at Adonis in the mirror,  Rocky says, “You see this guy here staring back at you?”

“Yeah,” Adonis answers.

“That’s your toughest opponent. Every time you get into the ring, that’s who you’re going against. I believe that in boxing, and I do believe that in life.”

Who knew? Rocky the boxing philosopher! I agree with him actually.  I have tough times, seemingly on a daily basis (although that would be an exaggeration), but no battle I face is bigger than the one I have with the dude looking back at me in the mirror.  It is not a physical battle (although it is looking like 65), but an inside job. Who am I? Do I have what it takes to serve Jesus? Am I His or just playing a game? Am I ready for today’s battle?

P.S. My heart breaks as I watch pictures of the video and know there are thousands prisoner to a “false paradise.”

Unfinished

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Have you ever noticed there hardly seems to be a time when we are totally satisfied?

How many times have you finished a project, maybe one that has taken longer than you thought- and after a “small break” you tell yourself- you are back at it. You see something else which needs done.

When we (OVCF) bought this building in 2010 we knew it was small for us. However,  we made due in various ways. Sometime in 2011 we knew we had to do something. After much prayer and planning, we renovated our current facility in 2012. No need to tell you how we did that. Least not now.  By 2013 we knew we needed more room so we went to two services and started plans for an expansion. But after a late night “dream,” I woke up and asked myself a question: “What about the kids? Where will we put them if we expand?” So we put our expansion for a worship area on hold while we raised funds for our youth addition. After 4 years of raising money and paying cash for everything, that addition is ready to be used.  (Hands are clapping big time)

Just a couple of weeks ago I was asked when we are going to start on the adult worship area.  My answer? “When we raise the money.”

Sometimes there is just some unfinished business. I’ve talked to tons of older folks (which I am fast becoming) and have often heard the phrase “If I had to do things over again.” The second most common would probably be “There is still so much I want to do.”

Sunday’s sermon is about unfinished business in two ways. One, is unfinished business Joshua needed to take care of with the surrounding nations and hie people; and two, a man called Caleb had some unfinished business to take care of. Two old men, Joshua and Caleb, will serve as our inspiration Sunday. Thanks for praying. 🙂

PonderThis

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea.  Jonah 1:4

The lot fell on Jonah.  Jonah 1:7

The Lord appointed a great fish.  Jonah 1:17

The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.  Jonah 3:1

The Lord God appointed a plant.  Jonah 4:6

God appointed a worm.  Jonah 4:7

God appointed a scorching east wind.  Jonah 4:8

The Lord has more ways of confronting us than we have ways of evading him.

Courtesy of Ray Ortlund as part of The Gospel Coalition.  June 25, 2018

Refreshment

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

My idea of refreshment and your idea of refreshment could be is probably different. For some it is a sit down in front of the TV. Or maybe it is a lawn chair or hammock and a good book. For others it may be yard sales (can you say gag?). Or maybe it is a quiet evening with your spouse or children or someone you love.

Mine? Well can you spell B.I.C.Y.C.L.E? Yeah…I know. How can that be a refreshment? “That just makes me tired thinking of it.” I respect your wacky haywire feelings.  I really do. I live with someone who shares your thoughts. She would just as soon my bike would turn to be covered in mothballs as to be able to be ridden.

Of course, she and I disagree. Good thing love overcomes HER crazy thinking. You know? I have tried to get her sane but no-o-o-o-o-o-o. I think I am getting an award for being the most patient person when it comes to listening to others’ thoughts about me riding a bike. 🙂

I rode this morning (Tuesday). It has been sweltering…like in the 90s with humidity in the stratosphere. I went to the Y yesterday because I knew I planned to ride today. I rode early this morning because I was heading to our church camp where we had 18 campers and faculty involved in camp and wilderness camp. I left at 6:15 as soon as it was light enough to safely ride so I could back to the office by 8:00 then head home for a shower. About 7 miles into the ride (about 6:45) I took these pictures. I took them while riding so they aren’t the best. And yes, I was on a back road where I saw no traffic. There are some simple pleasures an early morning ride gives. Some refreshment one can miss. I saw this and thought of Lamentations 3:22: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your way of refreshment? What time of the day is your favorite?

Cowardice

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

A coward is defined as “a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.”

Cowardice manifests itself in a variety of ways, as you know. I’m not going to list them. Fear is huge in many peoples’ lives but I don’t necessarily want to lump all fear in the same dump as being a coward.

I despise the use of “anonymous.” Letters to the editor are not printed if they are not signed by name. No blog I know of allows anonymous comments. I have received my fair share of anonymous letters and notes and until I learned that it was a coward who wrote them, they bothered me. Greatly. I mean, I would spend waste hours trying to figure out who wrote it dependent on the subject matter.  I would lose sleep over it, wondering who didn’t like me? (That was one of my great big weaknesses…always wanting to be liked by everyone).

I have already told you what I think of people who write anonymous letters (see highlighted words above). I received an anonymous text from someone recently. It came from someone not in my contacts and when I texted back and asked, “This is who?” I received no response. Yeah…cowardice. The text was not about me (for once). It was sent to me about someone else at the urging of a third party. Talk about being complicit to unbiblical actions!! How do I know? I went to the person whom it was about and that person was able to tell me. Frankly, I deleted it as unwanted junk.

So I say this to all my readers: please, if you must pass along something take ownership. Cowards send anonymous tips, emails, texts, letters, or voice mail. If it important enough for you to pass on, it is important enough for you to put your John Henry to it. And oh yeah…try the Biblical approach. Go to the person of whom something is being said. I do believe the Bible speaks about gossip and passing along information, be it true or false. Try considering reading Ephesians 4: 25, 29, and 31.

There. I’ve said my piece. And I sign my name to it.

Words

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

In case you didn’t read my other blog for today (May 9) …yes that’s a hint…I used a quote I had read in another source I use for my Quiet Time in the morning.

When words become weapons, our relationships soon become casualties. (May 9-Our Daily Bread)

We will often use phrases like “He likes to open mouth and insert foot” or “The mouth gets involved before the brain gets engaged.” How about this one: “The mouth often speaks before the brain is consulted”? (I know that’s bad. I just made it up).

But do consider the import of that statement. Maybe there is something to the idea that James 1:19 lists “Be quick to hear” first before “slow to speak and slow to anger.”

I seriously doubt any of us would just outright murder someone. But the Bible says if we hate our brother we are a murderer. Don’t you think the same thing can be said about the one who plays war games with his words? Slash. Slash. Dice. Mince. Cut. Chop. We are capable of doing all those with our words. Even sarcasm is dangerous when used with regularity or used when someone perceives we are serious.

Maybe it is time to STOP! Time to WEIGH OUR WORDS MORE CAREFULLY! And then really do what the Bible says to do: SPEAK ENCOURAGING WORDS.

Those are my thoughts this Wednesday afternoon. What are yours?