January 31, 2008
Before going to bed, my grandma always turned off the lights and knelt beside the bed to say her prayers. At his first sleepover, one young cousin didn’t know about Grandma’s ritual. She turned off the light and he waited and waited in the dark for her to crawl into bed. Finally he reached across the bed and touching the hair on the top of her head said, “Grandma, is that a skunk?” Last Sunday Dr. Charles Stanley’s televised message included thoughts about praying on your knees. He reminded the audience, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…” (Phil 2:10 NIV) He confirmed you can pray standing and you can pray lying down, but if you don’t ever pray while kneeling, why don’t you? Is pride holding you back? Dr. Stanley’s advice, “Start practicing.”
January 30, 2008
Years ago my church had a pastor who was not only successful in the pulpit, but also very popular in the community. Over the years he gradually fazed his wife out of the worship scene and when they later divorced it wasn’t too startling. More recently, a pastor candidate made his wife’s position perfectly clear by saying, “When you hire me you are not hiring my wife.” Today’s church leaders seem intent on separating their ministry career from that of their personal family life. I suppose from the world’s point of view this seems logical and understandable. However, the Bible has specific directions for selecting and electing church leaders and some of those qualifiers fall squarely on the candidate’s wife and children. It’s as though a prospective leader ‘needs’ their family in order to meet the qualifications for a position, but once hired or elected, it’s a one-man-ministry. I’m not convinced that’s what Scripture intended.
January 29, 2008
At one time our congregation functioned under a church board which was made up of both elders and deacons. Years ago there was some division in the church so I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth – the board – and ask what was going on. Taking charge of the meeting, the pastor stood up and ridiculed me in front of the group saying, “How dare you accuse these fine men of not being compassionate?” Even though I felt thoroughly tarred and feathered, I was able to tell the pastor not to put words in my mouth, or in the board’s ears. My questions were answered by the chairman and as I left the meeting the pastor followed me into a side room where others were waiting their turn to speak to the board. Coming up to me he planted a kiss on my lips as if to say, ‘All is forgiven. We won’t hold this against each other, now will we?’ I don’t know if the kiss was meant to embarrass me or if he wanted to show others in the room that he greeted me with a holy kiss (Ro16:16). On second thought, let’s rule out the idea of a holy kiss. If it were his practice to kiss everyone with whom he’d had a confrontation, I’m sure I would have heard about it before it happened to me.
January 28, 2008
Since opening the door to allow homosexual clergy and lay officers, the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues to lose churches from the denomination. The Associated Press reports, “Members of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbyterian district have voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a more biblically conservative denomination.” Excuse me…more biblically conservative. What exactly does that mean? I’d say this church is leaving because they recognize the need to be biblically truthful and doctrinally sound. Paul tells Timothy that people who reject sound doctrine have shipwrecked their faith. (1 Timothy 1:18-20) Is it any wonder that churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination are jumping ship?
January 25, 2008
To let me know they’ve completed their function, beeping timers go off on my coffee pot, microwave and washing machine. With so many buzzers going off it’s easy to turn a deaf ear. The timer on the clothes dryer however, is the one that gets on my nerves. It just nags. It continues to beep and fluff the clothes intermittently until someone takes action. I could disable the beeper, but I know if I don’t respond in a timely manner the clothes will be wrinkled and I’ll find myself standing at the ironing board. For me, the Holy Spirit occasionally functions like that timer. He tries to get my attention and sometimes has to resort to nagging.
January 24, 2008
The last few years I’ve been pre-paying my tithe. I think I began this quirk when I started sending my tithe to places other than my local congregation. Now, because I don’t see evidence of the tithe at work on a weekly basis, I find I’m not quite as personally invested as I once was. My offerings are still acceptable in the Lord’s eyes, but my pleasure in giving now mingles with feelings of having completed an obligation. At times I’ve written a check for a bi-annual tithe and simply crossed it off a ‘to-do-list’ without having much of an emotional attachment. I’m not too worried however, an older lady at church once told me, “God loves a cheerful giver…but He’ll accept money from a grouch too.”
January 23, 2008
Looking through the church pictorial directory, the monthly newsletter or the weekly bulletin, the job titles and descriptions for the staff are constantly changing. Currently our mid-size congregation has five staff positions. The recent bulletin gives us the individual’s name followed by latest job description. 1) Music & Worship Minister. 2) Director of discipleship for parents of newborns-kindergarten. 3) Pastor of discipleship through small groups, ministry teams and serves as a teaching pastor. 4) Lead pastor whose focus is teaching, discipleship for parents of elementary-high school age children, and discipleship in marriage. 5) Facilities Manager. So what ever happened to Worship Minister, Children’s Director, Associate Minister, Senior Minister and Custodian? I think someone’s read one too many self-help books on how to re-invent yourself.
January 22, 2008
It’s amazing how easily job descriptions can be re-written. For instance the Membership Development Minister morphs into Pastor of Involvement, the Discipleship Minister become the Associate Minister, and the Children’s Minister becomes the Director of Discipleship for Parents. Personally I have a problem with this titling slight of hand. Our congregation, convinced of the needs of our youth, hired a Youth Minister. Abracadabra…a stroke of the keyboard and the Youth Minister is transformed into a Family Development Minister. There was a time we hired staff based on the needs of the congregation and he was expected to fulfill his contract. Today we hire a person and if he doesn’t fulfill the job description, we simply customize to fit what he can do or what he wants to do.
January 21, 2008
Failing to speak the truth should not to be confused with telling a lie. For whatever political reason, there are times in the church when, by omission or suppression, we don’t speak the truth. By allowing ourselves to be muzzled, we do more than fall victim to those who would lord their authority over us. Peter and John showed courage when they were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. They responded, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 NIV) It’s probably not accurate to portray believers in America today as cowardly, but when was the last time you heard someone describe a fellow believer as speaking with courage?
January 18, 2008
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Just because people say you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you’. In my church it seems the senior saints program gets more confined, restricted and under funded all the time. For years our seniors have taken trips in the church vans and they always pay their own way, including gasoline expenses. We have seniors who are qualified van drivers, some with commercial driver’s licenses. However, now when a driver turns 70 years old they’re no longer allowed to drive the church van. The staff tells us this restriction is a requirement placed on the church by our insurance policy. Certainly the church could change insurance carriers, but the cost would be higher. Perish the thought of dipping into the offering nest egg that’s being nurtured. Personally I think the seniors are worth the investment.
January 17, 2008
With all the snow we’ve lately had I’m jealous of those who live in the county…they don’t have to shovel sidewalks. As far back as I can remember volunteers hooked up their tractors or trucks and cleaned off the church parking lot when there was measurable snow. There was no official Snow Removal Ministry, it was just whoever had a blade on their truck and got there got there first. If the lot wasn’t cleaned as soon as it stopped snowing, it was certainly cleaned off before Sunday morning services. Not today. The church parking lot is rutted with layer upon layer of ice and snow. Rather than being cleaned off, the back entrance to the kitchen and fellowship hall has been roped off because of the build-up of ice. Maybe it’s time to think about hiring someone for snow removal.
January 16, 2008
Oh the drama! Who can be distraught by the TV writer’s strike when you can watch reality church politics? Right before our election to confirm elder candidates, one candidate was disqualified and his name removed from the ballot. Last Sunday I learned two currently serving elders resigned, although one later reconsidered and within a matter of days returned to his position. I’m sure we’ll never fully understand what’s happening. The leadership has long since abandoned publishing the minutes of the elder’s meetings and quite honestly, I’d be surprised if anyone even takes minutes any more. It’s as though the leadership has sworn each other to secrecy and will give us only what they think we need to know. Oh…did I mention that the elder who quit and did not return to his position actually resigned a few weeks ago? I wonder if, or when, they were going to tell us.
January 15, 2008
Published in my local newspaper an AP report headline reads, Judge dismisses lawsuit against Baptist megachurch pastor. Church members accused Rev. Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, of misappropriating funds and are asking for access to church records. Rev. Sutton says, “…the church members had no right to sue just because they didn’t like the way the church spent their offerings.” I can’t help but contrast this situation with Paul sending Titus and a trusted brother to Corinth. “… as we carry the offering, …. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” 2 (Cor 8:19-21 NIV). Where Paul took pains to do what is right, it appears Rev. Sutton doesn’t to want to expend such effort.
January 14, 2008
I don’t doubt the authenticity of Hillary Clinton’s little emotional moment, the woman must be exhausted. What I question are the words accompanying her emotions. Ms. Clinton tells us that she’s worried for the country. “This is very personal for me. It’s not just political or it’s not just public. I ‘see’ what’s happening and we have to reverse it.” To me Hillary’s voice inflection on ‘see’ implied that her political opponents and the voting public really don’t understand what’s happening in America. It’s as though she is the only one with insight. I don’t like this sort of rhetoric, whether in politics or in the church. I don’t need someone loaning me their visionary glasses just so I’ll agree with their version of reality. In the case of believers, it’s the Spirit who opens our eyes.
January 11, 2008
John Doe was an elder in the church in another town when he had an affair with a married woman. After divorcing his wife he remarried and moved to our community where he became active in my church. It became evident that this new marriage was not the picture of happily-ever-after. One day, knowing I needed to be compassionate, I ask John how he was doing and he said, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I know most of this is my fault. God warned me, but I didn’t listen and now I’m paying the price. I can’t help it…I just like women. I need to have a woman.” Well, oookay now. Is he expecting a listening ear, making excuses for his behavior or is he just a guy on the prowl? Maybe this is confession and repentance. I don’t know what reaction he expected me to have, but if I were Catholic I’d recommend he find a priest and hit the confessional ASAP.
January 10, 2008
On December 11, 2007 the Rocky Ford Daily Gazette (Rocky Ford, Colorado) published a letter from David L. Goebel, an Elder at 1st Christian Church. Mr. Goebel wrote that their church attendance at the beginning of Advent was sadly less than 40 people. “My heart was broken for Christ Jesus and Pastor John.” His letter goes on to mention Demas, who according to the Apostle Paul was a fellow laborer turned deserter and Judas Iscariot, a disciple turned deserter. I can think of many descriptions for people with a sporadic religious life: lukewarm, immature, weak faith, worldly, liberal, selfish, uncommitted, lazy, etc. I must say ‘deserter’ had never crossed my mind…but it should have.
January 09, 2008
If it were possible to take the pulse of a church’s servanthood, I think my church would need to call for the EMT’s to start CPR. Don’t get me wrong we have people willing to serve, it’s just that the places of service have been reassigned, restructured or eliminated all together. A couple months ago I called a ministry team leader for help with moving furniture and he said, “We don’t do that any more. Call the staff…they’ve taken over all the ministries.” I could hear the hurt in his voice. I think if you suppress a servant long enough he’ll start loosing his desire to serve and he just might quit serving all together. If I were this ex-ministry team leader I’d be struggling to follow Paul’s advice to, ‘serve as though we were serving the Lord’.
January 08, 2008
One of the Presbyterian churches in my town are losing members en masse. While my church is also experiencing loss, ours seems to be a slow trickle of only a few members at a time. A friend who attends this particular Presbyterian Church told me this morning that they did have some new people in their worship service last Sunday. We both tried to stifle a chuckle. In truth, there is a huge probability the visitors at her church are transients from my church. If people are going to leave a church, I’d rather see a mass exodus than to see members slowly slipping out a side door. I think an exodus just might send a wake up call to the leadership… at least it made Pharaoh sit up and take notice.
January 07, 2008
Historically (100 years) my church has been an elder led church. The last ten years however we’ve had a change of direction and we’re now a staff led church. In full disclosure, let me say the spin of the current leadership would disagree with my observations. Our elder elections are coming up in a week or so and we’ve been given three candidates to approve as elders. It’s just coming to light that one of the three candidates believes in the biblical example of an elder led church, rather than a staff led church. What a quandary for the leadership. This poor man has been accepted as a qualified candidate and now he’s being re-interviewed for the third time…because the staff just doesn’t know if they can work with him.
January 04, 2008
While many people are already tiring from all the political coverage, I have to say I really like it. I’m always hoping for a David and Goliath story to immerge. I admit I love it when pollsters and reporters fail in their attempt to sway the voter or fail to accurately take America’s pulse. Right now I’m especially intrigued by Governor Huckabee’s supporters. The media just doesn’t know what to think of this seemingly unorganized group of people. The question that’s being asked is, ‘Can these loosely organized evangelicals come together on short notice’. Oh please…we Christians can throw together an all church pot-luck dinner in one hour and with only a few phone calls.
January 03, 2008
When Jesus healed a blind man the Pharisees didn’t believe the miracle and wanted confirmation from the parents that their son had in fact been born blind. This should have been a time of rejoicing for the family, but no. Rather than celebrating the gift of sight given to their son, the parents were in fear of the Jews, who had the power to put them out of the synagogue. It would be convenient for us to just write these parents off as being paranoid. However, it seems logical to say if they were in fear, others were sure to have the same fear. In today’s church, leaders can’t flex their ‘power’ quite as boldly as did the Jews of John’s day, but they can get the same results. It can be as simple as saying, “Maybe there’s another church where you’d be happier.” (John 9:18-23)
January 02, 2008
Lately the Lord has me praying for strength and peace to get through each day as it comes. My personality is to look forward, be organized, have my ducks in a row and be prepared for whatever might be around the corner. I don’t like this one-day-at-a-time stuff. Realistically I know I have no control over this day or the next, but I feel at loose ends without a direction of some sort, and the Lord isn’t letting me in on ‘the plan’. It just seems like I ought to be doing something while I’m trying to, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Ps 46:10 NIV)