March 30, 2007
As well as the logo and motto, new leadership often changes the personality and direction of a church. For the last few years the focus of my church has been on the family unit. In promoting intergenerational activities, adult family members are now expected to accompany their children to Sunday school and youth group. Imagine the uproar if this scenario were reversed and children were required to attend adult classes with their parents. I’m not sure what criteria are used in determining success, but it’s ironic that in many cases, something purported to unify families is in fact causing separation. We are witnessing third and fourth generation church families splintering as some go window shopping at other churches. In my experience leaders rarely discontinue a program admitting that it isn’t working. In the mean time I guess we’ll just have to wait for their next vision.
March 29, 2007
One of our past church staff started to walk past a lady struggling to roll a piano to another location in the Fellowship Hall. When she asked him for help, he continued walking and replied, “That’s not in my job description.” Say what? I’m so glad his sister in Christ didn’t ask him to wash her feet.
March 28, 2007
I found this interesting trivia in The Facts on File: Dictionary of Clichés. “In 1801 Lord Horatio Nelson, second in command of the English fleet, was besieging Copenhagen. The flagship had sent up signals for the fleet to withdraw, but Nelson wanted badly to attack. He had lost the sight of one eye at Calvi, so he put the glass to the blind eye and told his lieutenant he could see no signals to withdraw. His attack forced the French to surrender, a major victory.” There are instances in our lives, and in the life of the church, when we want something so badly, we turn a blind eye. We ignore the Spirit, refuse wise counsel and look past red flags. I doubt God is impressed with the blind eye excuse from His children.
March 27, 2007
The scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center continues to be in the news. I appreciate the media exposure of shabby medical treatment, living conditions and ridiculous red tape that our military personnel have dealt with. However, I can’t imagine anyone wishing this scandal had remained unexposed - unless of course you were one of the heads that rolled. Sometimes Christianity is no different than Walter Reed. Whether it’s our personal life, or the life of the church, exposure of a spiritually neglected house forces us to make improvements.
March 26, 2007
With ever increasing wickedness in the world, what parent doesn’t worry about the spiritual fight lying ahead for their children and grandchildren? Actually, if I let myself dwell on it, my tendency is to say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus - tomorrow.’ Luke puts things in perspective when he tells us, “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.” (Acts 13:36 NIV) I’m realizing the parental desire to spare my grandchildren from spiritual battles in the future would in reality deprive them of their opportunity to serve God in their own generation.
March 23, 2007
How do you tell someone they talk too much about their family? More and more preachers and TV evangelists alike are using their family members as sermon illustrations and anecdotes. Trying not to sound critical, one woman told me, “I come to church to hear the Word preached. I’m tired of hearing the preacher’s self-indulgent boasting about his family.” Understandably a speaker connects better with his audience by telling them something on a personal level. Certainly preachers are proud of their children, as are those of us in the congregation, but then no one’s offering us a microphone.
March 22, 2007
My Sunday school teacher noted the church at Ephesus was small in comparison to the population. “People could go all day without meeting another Christian. In order to keep from feeling alone, they had to have unity in Christ.” In today’s church the call for unity is geared more toward issues, than toward Christ. For instance we’ve all heard the unity trumpet sound a call in areas of women priests, same sex marriage and the latest trend in visions. Jesus told the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mark 7:9 NIV) Not unlike the Pharisees, we seem to be setting aside unity in Christ in order to give priority to unity in issues
March 21, 2007
Two struggling churches in rural Kansas combine forces and formed one congregation. The group agreed to have worship services in the newest and largest of their buildings, which happened to be seven miles from town. As time went on however, the pastor concluded that in order to grow the church needed to be located closer to town. Putting the property on the market, they abandoned their new building and rented a school in town for the worship services. Attendance dropped and tensions flared as parishioners questioned spending money to rent a school while their new church building seven miles away sat empty. Growing friction was played out in the local newspaper when the pastor was quoted as saying, “The real Christians are sticking through this [rough time].” So that's how real Christians are measured.
March 20, 2007
Sometime back I scheduled Bob (name changed) to teach a Sunday school class. A week before the class an elder phoned to say that Bob would not be allowed to teach. According to the caller, Bob had to address a situation in his past and properly repent before he could teach in the church. I phoned Bob for verification and clarification. Without sharing specific details Bob said the situation had been dealt with - albeit not entirely to the satisfaction of the member of leadership who called. I find this a fascinating dilemma. It seems to me that judging another’s repentance might well fall in the same category as judging someone else’s salvation. Without malice Bob, a past elder himself, submitted to the restrictions placed on him as a teacher. We should all be so mature and forgiving…
March 19, 2007
I tuned into a TV evangelist whose topic for the day was Bible prophesy. The speaker began his presentation by saying the Christian community neglects prophesy. “We hear so little about it and no one preaches on it.” I thought he might be on point as he sprinkled his message with a few verses from Revelation, but he just kept returning to the churches lack of prophetic study. After a half hour I wanted to say, ‘You’ve just wasted my time. Rather than opening the Biblical text, you chose to lament what slackers we are in the study of prophesy.’ Too bad this preacher isn’t convicted by his own words, “We hear so little about it and no one preaches on it.”
March 16, 2007
On Colorado’s Front Range a youth pastor at a mega church felt God directing him to make long range plans for planting a church. When the senior pastor got wind of the idea formulating in the mind of the youth minister he moved quickly. Imagine the surprise of the youth pastor upon hearing the public announcement that he’d no longer be working with the youth because he was leaving the congregation. My source for this incident indicates the senior pastor has total control of this church. He cautioned, “Don’t give the location of this church. If the pastor thinks you’re talking about him and his church [in the blog], he’ll come after both of us!” I had to laugh at the truthfulness of the statement, but at the same time it’s embarrassing that we allow church leaders to strike fear in the hearts of believers.
March 15, 2007
Few possessions, eating out of trash cans and poor hygiene are often indicators of homelessness. I think those who saw the prodigal son during his pig-feeding days might well have thought him to be homeless. The young man wanting to “fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating” (Luke 15) sounds like New Testament dumpster diving to me. Local bystanders would never have guessed this young man had a home and a family waiting patiently for his return. Certainly there are many reasons for being homeless, but I believe some people are homeless by choice. I wonder how many people wandering the streets of the US are in reality just modern day prodigals who have yet to 'come to their senses'.
March 14, 2007
For three years my friend spent 5 to 10 hours a week volunteering in the youth program at her mega church in Denver. While explaining that the senior pastor was good at delegating and running the church like a business, she went on to say, “You want to know what’s really interesting though? During all that time I never once met the head pastor. I suppose had I attended the banquet for volunteers I might have been introduced to him. But no, I’ve never met the man.” Wow. Biggie sizing the church gives a whole new meaning to shepherds knowing their sheep.
March 13, 2007
The topic of my recent leadership class was diversity in our community. In a politically correct manner we addressed tolerance and inclusion. The panel discussion touched on everything from race, to handicaps, to sexual orientation. In sharing our thoughts a young male classmate said, “The problem [with diversity] in this area are all the Christian conservatives.” During a break the instructor approached our small group and wanted to know how the session was being received and understood. Personally, the homosexual issue is a door I’d rather not open – but she started it, so what were we to do? I’m always amazed at the notion that Christians are free to set aside Biblical instructions for the sake of the secular agenda. The instructor ended the side bar by saying to a couple of us, “So what you’re saying is that you’re really not flexible. I’m surprised.” So much for diversity.
March 12, 2007
A small church on Colorado’s Eastern Slope struggled through a split in the congregation and the hiring of another pastor. With waning attendance the new pastor decided membership would be determined by tithing records and attendance records. Members could not miss more than one Sunday a month or their names would be removed from membership. One woman, a member of the congregation for over 40 years, was devastated when her membership was pulled because she’d gone on a trip to visit her children and grandchildren. Adding insult to injury, her husband retained his membership because he stayed home rather than going with her for the family visit. Apparently there was no provision to save up and bank decades of past attendance. Developing a Badge of Comradeship, people soon began to laugh with one another over their non-member status. It’s not surprising that the non-members found strength in one another, or that the pastor and his innovative ideas have moved on.
March 09, 2007
Recently I saw a truck with the company name ‘Great Services, Ltd.’ printed on the side. I think that’s a fitting motto for some of us in our ministries. We get so busy serving that we fail to recognize there is a limit to our great service. On more than one occasion I’ve had to plead with the Lord, ‘Please just get me through this one event. I’ll try hard to never again volunteer for something where I have to ask You to come and bail me out.” The truth be known, the Lord probably enjoys those times when I’m forced to cry out, ‘save me’. What a perfect opportunity to remind me He’s the one who’s Unlimited.
March 08, 2007
The pulpit committee for a church in south eastern Colorado had a difficult time finding a qualified Pastor. They finally hired a Teacher with the hope that in time he would develop into a Preacher. According to one member, “The worship service turned into a weekly Bible study and the congregation eventually showed their lack of acceptance by not coming to services.” The Apostle Paul tells us, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” 1 Cor 12:28 (NIV) I believe one of the biggest mistakes made in the church today is thinking leaders are appointed to wear multiple hats.
March 07, 2007
Standing in front of a magazine display at a bookstore it seems there are fewer magazines for the general audience than there are for the niche audience. Although I could probably learn something from reading magazines on body building, motorcycles and romance, I’m more likely to read something that pertains to a general audience. It’s my sense that many of today’s leaders are attempting to carve out a niche market on the religious landscape. In developing a narrow focus and vision they may be serving a bountiful buffet to one group, when all the while they are offering scraps and leftovers to others. The Gospel is meant for the general audience and it seems to me that religious institutions would benefit by broadening their focus.
March 06, 2007
As my husband nears retirement we’ve discussed income, savings and survivor benefits. In looking at survivor benefits, it doesn’t take a CPA to know that he is worth more to me alive than he is dead. In good natured fun I told Bill that if the need ever arose, I might seriously consider keeping him hooked up to a machine in order to maintain my same standard of living. All joking aside, I’m now wondering how God feels about the dead or alive scenario and my question is, “Am I worth more to God dead or alive?”
March 05, 2007
One Bible Study meets Sunday evenings in the church auditorium and is made up mostly of older folks. We used to put out an offering plate and the money collected allowed us to purchase materials, help out a missionary and even splurge on an occasional ice cream social. Disapproving of the way we spent the funds, church authorities ruled that our collections had to be put in the church’s general fund. Although I have no way of knowing, I’ve wondered if other small group Bible studies were placed under the same restrictions. The offering plate is now collecting dust. That’s one way to wipe the smile off the face of a cheerful giver.
March 02, 2007
Years ago I picked up an old Bible that someone left in a pew. There was no name in the Bible, but the owner’s handwritten note on the inside cover said, “Whatever you accept, you teach.” I was so taken with this little ditty that I wrote it in my Bible as well, and I continue to use it as a standard in my personal life. I believe speaking up on issues in the church is one of the most difficult things we are called to do. The Apostle Paul is a good example of one who boldly spoke out about situations that were askew in the church. Whether it was a personal observation or a hearsay report, Paul confronted the issues. He certainly didn’t look the other way when Peter tried to separate himself from Gentiles believers, nor when Alexander the metalworker opposed the message. What are we teaching in today’s church by the things we’ve accepted?
March 01, 2007
I recently heard a television evangelist say, “We’re able to come to you because of your tithes and offerings. We want to thank you for your support.” I thought this was a bold statement and I can almost hear the church screaming foul. We’re taught that the local church has dibs on the tithe and that donations to other missions are to be over and above the tithe. Normally organizations outside the local church who seek financial support are careful to avoid the word tithe and prefer to use words like gift, offering or support. To my recollection the New Testament doesn’t make a clear distinction between a tithe, an offering or a sacrificial gift. Nor does is it define or restrict to whom our gifts are to be given. I can tithe to a missionary or a TV evangelist just as cheerfully as I can to the local church