May 31, 2006
George Washington felt the sting of defeat when the British captured Philadelphia, then the capitol and largest city in America. Defeat was against Washington’s nature, but he came to realize that the British ‘had’ to win, whereas he just had to keep from losing. As long as Washington’s army was in tact, he hadn’t lost. What a great example for Christian warfare. Jesus has already defeated Satan, so winning is not the issue. That’s a relief…I don’t have to ‘win’ my battles with the devil, I just have to keep from losing!
May 30, 2006
Reading a copy of our church summer schedule I noticed many of the normal programs offered have the following disclaimer: “Taking a break for the summer.” With a quick inventory of the cancellations it seems the church is going on a three month ‘sabbatical rest’. For instance, there’s no Sunday morning educational classes (Sunday school) offered unless you’re an adult or a child in nursery through 3rd grade. With 14 of the 23 Bible studies joining in the summer vacation, it appears that the Sunday morning worship service is all that remains of the weekly programs. September is just around the corner, so “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”
May 29, 2006
Memorial Day doesn’t have the same meaning for all of us. For some it represents the beginning of weekend summer outings and camping. For marathon shoppers it’s a great day for saving 50% to 70% on a purchase. Actually, Memorial Day is intended as a day of remembrance for Americans killed on active service, and during this time of war it is especially meaningful. Within the church, Communion is also a time that doesn’t have the same meaning for all of us. A previous minister of mine would give the weekly Communion meditation flippantly as though his audience were un-churched 3rd graders. In the middle of explaining emblems he’d say, “…were not doing anything strange or weird. When the trays are passed to you, you’re going to find a ‘cracker’ and a little glass of juice…” I suppose he thought he was being relevant to ‘seekers’, but I find the instructions for the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:17-34 to be anything but flippant. Today, I struggle with the singing and entertainment that goes on while the emblems are being served. Scripture tells us, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (vs. 28). I can’t learn the words of a new song, tap my foot to the beat of the music and confess my sins at the same time. I’m just not mentally ambidextrous when it comes to examining the attitude of my heart!
May 26, 2006
At some point all of us will be faced with (or forced into) downsizing. One of our Sunday school classes comprised of older adults is the victim of downsizing in the church. Their classroom began in the large chapel. When room was needed for the children’s department they were moved to a classroom which was fairly large, but smaller than the chapel. When their large classroom was needed to make more office space, they were moved to a yet another smaller classroom. When their smaller classroom was turned into the library, they were shuffled off to a small conference area…and now the class has disbanded. Is it any wonder that our older church population is feeling disenfranchised?
May 25, 2006
In the May 22 edition of USA Today reporter Matt Krantz writes, “Investors will notice big changes to some annual reports that are now arriving in the mail: They’re missing the financial statements.” Over the last few years I’ve seen this trend in the church. No longer are our financial reports posted on the bulletin board for all to see. I can request a report and receive ‘summarized financials’, but not the complete breakdown of financial information. For instance, staff salaries are lumped together and never reveal individual salaries. In light of the collapse of some churches who didn’t fully disclose financial expenditures to its members, it’s not unreasonable for us to expect and get a full financial accounting. Actually, the financial software we use is so confusing that even if I had the report, I couldn’t read it. All is not lost though; some of our members are bankers, accountants and investors who can understand it. Now if they just had a copy of it!
May 24, 2006
David Wilson recently sent a photo of a young girl with her horse that included a hand written caption, “I feel closer to God with my horse…than at church.” Many in Colorado express the same sentiments, only they are looking up at the breathtaking San Juan Mountains! In my experience, those who say they can worship in the woods as effectively as they worship in the church are in reality looking for a plausible excuse to avoid church. Not that we can’t find warm God-given fuzzies in nature, but mountains don’t convict me of sin and a waterfall doesn’t help me grow as a Christian. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb 10:25 NIV Now, if the girl in the picture were reading her Bible …that might be a horse of a different color!
May 23, 2006
Many of today’s ministers prefer preparing their sermons and lessons at home rather than at the church office. I‘ve had it explained to me that they need quiet study time and there is too much activity and interruption at the church. The take-away I get is, members of the church are ‘interruptions’, but at home, his wife and children aren’t a distraction. It’s strange that we have secretaries to answer phones, make appointments, and screen visitors, yet the church office is deemed an unacceptable place for sermon preparation. I understand the need for quiet study time, but even a maid for a hotel understands the meaning of a Do Not Disturb sign.
May 22, 2006
As I listen to comments on sermons, I hear, “Even if it doesn’t apply to me, I can sit through the sermon if it helps the younger people.” Or, “That would have been a good sermon for my kids (or grandkids) to have heard.” Realistically, not all sermons are ‘a home run’ and there are instances when a particular sermon doesn’t impact us as much as another. However, I’m concerned when I see a pattern developing where people, especially our older folks, think that the sermon is more applicable to someone else (family, friends, or neighbors) than it is to them. The Spirit convicts through the Word of God, and regardless of our age, we should be seeing ‘red flags’ if sermons aren’t touching us personally. Although we need to examine ourselves for a willing heart to hear, it’s also appropriate to critique sermons to ensure they are applicable to the whole family of God and not directed to just one segment of the congregation.
May 19, 2006
I’ve heard it said, ‘Your tithe is not a vote’, meaning that I shouldn’t withhold my tithe just because things in the church aren’t running the way I think they should. I’d agree that withholding a tithe from God is inappropriate. However, Scripture gives me the responsibility of being a discerning steward of what God has entrusted to me. Likewise, the church is also under obligation to be a good steward of the financial resources they receive. When we see poor stewardship, whether in individuals or in the church, it should be questioned. Even though the tithe is often portrayed as something due to the local congregation, in reality it belongs to God. Personally, I find nothing scripturally against redirecting my tithe when it becomes obvious the offerings are being used toward man’s personal agenda rather than God’s kingdom.
May 18, 2006
As I read the Apostle Paul’s letters, words of appreciation stand out. Such statements as, “I give thanks for you,” “my confidence in you,” “your labor of love,” “praying always for you,” and so on. Even his statements of reprimand contain an ‘I appreciate you’ section. The saints mentioned in Romans 16 must have been thrilled by Paul’s personal recognition of them. I doubt that these Christian sought recognition, but certainly they, their church and we are edified by Paul’s kind words of acknowledgment. Today the focus of the church is on programs and activities rather than on individuals. When was the last time you heard anyone say to you, “I give thanks for you,” or “my confidence in you,”?
May 17, 2006
There are times when a young child’s temper tantrum calls for a swat on the behind. I can remember thinking that when I grew up I’d be too old to be spanked, but I was wrong. If you have an ear for church politics you can pick out sermons that include a ‘verbal spanking’ for someone in the congregation. In many cases it’s easy to identify the target, but other times you look at one another and ask, “Who do you think that was intended for?” Over the last few years we’ve had repeated verbal spankings directed toward our older members. They’ve dared to ask for the music volume to be turned down, or for hymns and praise music to be balanced during congregational singing. It’s sad when church politics are woven into the message, but I guess the one holding the microphone also holds the paddle.
May 16, 2006
A relatively new part-time staff position at my church is ‘Facilities Director’. The newsletter just informed us, “… (The) primary role with us will be to build teams of people within the church who will work together to maintain and enhance the facilities. For the time being, we will continue to have a cleaning company come in three times a week to keep up with the heavy demand in that area…” As I read between the lines this quote says: We’re looking for additional ways to cut expenses. We will keep our present cleaning service just until the Facilities Director finds volunteers to work as janitors. With well over $600,000.00 in tithes and offerings in 2005, wouldn’t you think we could afford to pay a full-time janitor?
May 15, 2006
We’ve all known preachers from ‘the old school’ who were workaholics, often neglecting their own families for the sake of the flock. Today, as the pendulum swings the other way, we now see some young preachers coming out of Bible College who want to work 9 to 5, with comp time for anything outside a 40 hour work week. For the man in the pew who contributes volunteer hours in the church in addition to his full time job, this new ‘work ethic’ is difficult to come to terms with. The church is always searching for volunteers, and I hate to admit that my volunteerism is done begrudgingly when I can’t see the church staff volunteering beyond their job descriptions.
May 12, 2006
I recently returned from a historical tour of the Washington DC area where my veteran’s blood (Navy and ARNG) received an infusion of patriotism. Until the last few years the American flag and the Christian flag have held prominent positions on our church platform. When they were removed, I found them leaning against the gym wall and dragging on the floor. My offer to take them home and properly store them was rejected and they’re now displayed unceremoniously in a corner of the Fellowship Hall. Without the shed blood of Christ there would be no salvation…without the shed blood of Americans there would be no freedom to worship.
May 11, 2006
As Jesus cleared the temple courts he said, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’.” (Matt. 21:13) The sheep and the doves are now missing, but the market place can still be seen in the church today. I see it when business folks use the church membership list as their personal prospect list. It can be seen when an invitation to a home candle party appears in the church bulletin. And there are even children bringing school fund raising sign-up sheets to church in order to fill their quota quickly. Just as Jesus saw a house of prayer and people of like faith, the money changers saw a house of opportunity and possible consumers.
May 10, 2006
I remember a time when the minutes of the elder’s meetings were posted and members were able to stay apprised of decisions made for the congregation. Today when policies and procedures change we’re left scratching our heads and asking, “When did they do that?” Lack of communication is one of our biggest struggles within the church…at least that’s the case in my church. Have you ever noticed that volunteers don’t play well with leaders who come across as dictators?
May 09, 2006
It seems a current trend today is having a ‘vision’ for the church or having leaders who are visionary. A good concept, unless you’re getting a different vision every time a new staff person is hired or new elders take office. Not that a leader shouldn’t have plans and goals, but the way many leaders use of the word ‘vision’ implies that it’s God’s idea or is God endorsed. When the churches’ vision changes with the leadership I’ve got to ask, ‘Who’s vision are we talking about here?’ I’m hesitant in accepting a new direction for a church if it requires dismantling the character of a healthy God-grown congregation. Rather than remodeling an established congregation, wouldn’t it be just easier to plant a new church?
May 08, 2006
Our church staff eliminated Vacation Bible School (VBS) even though at one time the participation and attendance was well over 500. Their justification to discontinue VBS was the cost in man hours, organizing, training and recruiting teachers, financial expense, and last but not least, that some people in the community used VBS as a babysitting service. There is no doubt that VBS is a huge investment, however, the return on that investment far outweighs the inconvenience to the church staff. We have volunteers willing and available to hold a VBS, yet our church has opted to function only as a resource for parents who want to have a small independent neighborhood VBS in their backyard. As a mission field unto themselves, our children deserve more from the church.
May 05, 2006
Each church (or denomination) has their set of bylaws for governing the election of leadership positions and those bylaws can be changed. Biblical qualifications for elders and deacons don’t change, but I’m seeing more and more how they can be manipulated. Our elder nomination procedures now include completing a large packet of personality profile-type papers to fill out, not only for the candidate, but also for his wife. Next, the interview process which includes the wife, is held with currently setting elders and staff to determine if a candidate is qualified. If the candidate is acceptable, his name is then submitted for the congregation’s ‘endorsement’. The current elders and staff have the power to disqualify candidates even though the congregation, if given the opportunity, would deem the candidate Biblically qualified. I question whether our process is more about electing elders or removing obstacles.
May 04, 2006
Have you noticed how the world not only creeps into the church, but sometimes we invite it in? Because of child sexual abuse in some churches, our leaders chose to adopt Colorado’s state guidelines for child care situations. Windows were put in all the classroom doors, all teachers and aids over 18 must have a professional background check, there must be a minimum of two teachers in each classroom and a husband and wife team is counted as only one person. I’m not saying these guidelines are wrong, but I can’t believe 70 year-old Mrs. Smith who has taught Sunday school for 30 years needs a background check. Nor should she be required to have another teacher in her class unless she needs one. Who wants to be a volunteer when we require them to jump through hoops and over man-made obstacles in order to serve in the church? In the past, personally knowing our volunteers and common sense served us well. Do we really need government rules applied in the church for babysitters, nursery attendants, and Sunday school teachers?
May 03, 2006
When I think of ‘targeting’ a specific group of people, the 1976 movie Logan’s Run comes to mind. Set in the year 2274, computers run the city and to maintain the population balance, all people must die at age 30. I’ve got to laugh as I imagine how a futuristic church comprised of a specific target group of people would maintain their population balance. I suppose when members no longer fit the parameters of the target audience they could be sent to the mission field, put in the nursery as an attendant, or sent to another church. Along with publishing a mission statement I’d like to see a target audience statement to help me know when it’s my time to head out to the nursery.
May 02, 2006
During my early teens I lived with my Grandma in rural southeastern Colorado. Our Sunday church services were held in a one room school house. We had matching his and hers outhouses, no running water, and a piano, but no piano player. Grandma was the teacher/preacher out of necessity. There were a few men in the congregation, but either they couldn’t or wouldn’t teach. God called Grandma to teach, but He also called her to relinquish her ‘podium’ when there was a visiting circuit preacher or missionary. God puts people in leadership roles, but we are mistaken if we let ourselves consider it a permanent position. Stepping aside from a leadership role isn’t all bad...just think of it as a long, well deserved Sabbatical rest.
May 01, 2006
Have you ever thought of your grandparents as fuddy-duddies (old fashioned)? You may have thought it, but you probably didn’t call them a fuddy-duddy to their face! In the church we don’t come right out and call our seniors fuddy-duddies, but it’s implied in subtle ways. Seniors are labeled as the group that doesn’t want ‘change’ to take place in the church. Actually, I believe those in leadership are responsible for giving the seniors the reputation for not wanting change because they (leaders) don’t want to be held accountable or answerable for their decisions. Telling a group they are stubborn and unwilling to make changes is a great way to suppress their voice.