April 30, 2008
Since beginning this blog, I’ve not known how many people read it and actually, I’ve had mixed feelings about putting in a counter. When I first began posting blogs, knowing the number of readers had the potential to be either inflating or deflating. I couldn’t help but remember King David’s ill-conceived idea of taking a census of the fighting men of Israel. Afterward David said to God, “…I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (1 Chronicles 21:8 NIV). Had I started counting readership two years ago it might have been for the wrong reasons. Recently however, friends have shown an interest in knowing how many readers we have, so I’ve installed a hit counter at the bottom of the blog and oh, my goodness! --Gail
April 29, 2008
For songs of worship I’m more of a hymnal fan than I am a supporter of video screens. The last two Sundays however, I’ve been grateful for the words on the wall because the start-up church I attended doesn’t yet have hymnals. At the prospect of singing traditional hymns I was prepared. I know most of these songs by heart…well at least the first, second and fourth verses of all of them. However, much to my chagrin, I discovered I’d forgotten some of the words to my favorite hymns. For me this is just another reminder of how vital it is to be consistent with reading the Word. If, over time, we can forget the words of classic hymns, then we can also forget the Word of God.--Gail
April 28, 2008
When a local preacher told his congregation that he was incorporating some of his internet reading into his sermons, his messages began leaning toward praise of men. A past member of this congregation said, “I don’t know what he was doing. I guess he was putting in some New Age stuff.” Paraphrasing, the preacher has said, “We need to bring Jesus down to our level and not hold him up so high on a pedestal. People on earth are doing all the work, and they deserve some of the credit. Why should God get all the praise? We deserve some praise.” Whoa! It’s my understanding that this once healthy congregation has now dwindled to just a few people. Please don’t get me wrong, I know this is a situation that we all grieve over. However, I’m just trying to imagine sitting through a ‘praise of men’ sermon with only a couple of families in attendance. What is he going to do when there is no one left in the audience to praise? --Gail
April 25, 2008
For many years now our women’s ministry has two study sessions annually, one in the fall and one in the spring. We’ve often tapped good teachers from other churches to present classes for some of the sessions. The staff has just decided that anyone who leaves the church and goes to one of the new start-up churches may come back and attend the women’s classes; however those who leave will no longer be allowed to teach. It’s still OK to use teachers from other churches; you just can’t invite those who’ve fled the coop to teach again. I’ve heard rumblings of insinuation that leaving the church is an evil thing. I suppose locking the teacher door after someone leaves could be considered just a new technique to protect the flock.--Gail
April 24, 2008
Last Sunday I attended the very first service of a new church plant. If I were using a preacher’s count I’d tell you we had 100 people, but the reality is there were 91. As the organizers quickly set up more chairs they wondered aloud if we might also have to fill additional communion cups. I happened to be one of the last to be served the emblems. Reminiscent of Jesus feeding the five-thousand and the disciples picking up basketfuls of leftovers, when the communion tray was handed back to the server, only one cup of grape juice remained. --Gail
April 23, 2008
Last Sunday I spoke with a well respected woman who told me she’d been reading the blog and, “…so far I’ve found nothing that I disagree with.” Her comment was a blessing to me and I value the compliment. It can be difficult to be honest about situations in the church. I learned early in life how to look the other way and make excuses for my abusive alcoholic father. When mom had a black eye she tried to cover it up with make-up and dark glasses, and we didn’t talk about it. Similarly, many of us cover-up and make excuses for situations in the church. We really do try to help the church save face. The reality is that cover-ups don’t work.--Gail
April 22, 2008
For the last 10 years my church has gone through, and continues to go through, difficulties. Just recently two churches that I’m aware of have spun off from, for lack of a better term, the mother church. No doubt mother is out of sorts with those leaving the nest, but it appears these fledglings are successfully taking flight. I’ve always maintained I’d not leave my church (of 45 years) unless God called me to do so. Holding me accountable, Leslie asked, “So tell me, if you’re thinking about going to this other church, has God told you that’s what you’re supposed to do?” Well, audibly…no. I really hadn’t expected to get ‘the call’ to leave. Wait a minute, is that the phone I hear? --Gail
April 21, 2008
I should have updated the bio information on the blog some time ago to include Leslie (my daughter) as editor and proof reader. Not only does she catch most of my grammatical errors, she also critiques my writing. Some of her helpful phrases are, “That sounds snarky. So, what’s your point? You’re sounding too much like a reporter, you need to be conversational.” As my schedule is getting some what busier, I’ve ask Leslie to write some of the blogs. So, even though I’ve been remiss in giving her credit as an editor, I’ll now give her the credit she deserves as a Co-Writer. Leslie and I will each sign the blog we’ve written so you’ll know whose post it is you’re reading. I can hardly wait to ask her, ‘So what’s your point?’ Actually, Leslie and I have a relationship that allows us to critique one another in more ways than just our writing. We’re comfortable with critiquing one another’s spiritual life, whether it’s our mistakes, our weaknesses or our strengths…without taking offense. Personally I think my relationship with the Lord grows stronger when I’m open to Christian critique – not to be confused with judging! --Gail
April 18, 2008
Whether as a wife, friend or Sunday school teacher, I take my positions in life very seriously…sometimes too seriously. I don’t want to look back at a situation with regret, or have someone blame me for not doing all I could do. Actually I think there is a little bit of Pilate in me. When the crowd insisted on crucifying Jesus, Pilate washed his hands in front of them, “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matt 27:24 NIV) If my job performance were scrutinized by friends and family I want to be able to mentally wash my hands and say, ‘I am innocent. I’ve met my responsibility’. Actually, I’d like to be able to say the same thing when I stand before the Lord at judgment. However the Lord won’t be judging just my job performance. There’s a little matter of the heart…which I find much harder to control and not always so innocent.
April 17, 2008
I once knew a popular minister who would, on occasion, threaten to resign if he didn’t get what he wanted. He threatened one too many times and finally, much to his surprise, the elders accepted his resignation. His threats were a mixture of ego, blackmail and intimidation. We can ignore this type of attitude in the world, but in the church it’s unacceptable. To me it sounds remarkably like the hand saying to the foot, ‘I don’t need you…but you need me’. It would be easy to point the finger of egotism solely at the minister. However, I think when elders and congregations are so desperate to appease their ‘popular’ ministers, they too may have an ego problem.
April 16, 2008
Since I’m new to the political scene, I’m asking those more politically mature to give me the Cliff Notes version of how to do things. Off and on in recent months I’ve met with the current council and the other councilpersons elect. We’ve been able to visit both formally and informally, however the informal meetings will come to a screeching halt as soon as were sworn in tomorrow night. Once we take our oath, if three or more of us are together it’s considered a ‘meeting’ and it must be open to the public. Picture all of us showing up at the same Christmas party playing dodge ‘em with one another because we can’t be together as a group unless it’s official. Sheesh, I just make new friends and now they’re telling me I can play with them! Actually I do understand the need to avoid even the appearance of any back room deals. Both politically and spiritually there is power and persuasion in numbers...even when it’s only two or more. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matt 18:19-20 NIV
April 15, 2008
In years past we had an invitation at the conclusion of all of our worship services. The thought was that we should not close a service without giving people an opportunity to come forward and accept Jesus. Today we can’t always recognize the invitation-time because it keeps morphing. For a time we had one of the strangest invitations I had ever come across. From the pulpit we were told if you want to make a decision for the Lord, “…just turn to the person next to you and ask him what to do.” Excuse me? Sometimes I don’t even know the person setting next to me. Jesus warns us, “…If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt 15:14 NIV) Here’s my suggestion. Before you ask the person next to you about decisions concerning your soul, ask him how familiar he is with the inside of a pit.
April 14, 2008
There are huge differences between a church split and a church plant, but let me play the role of spin doctor and say that God can make them one in the same. We’ve got a couple of new start up churches in town that, in my mind, are the remnant of my church. From a Biblical perspective, not a marketing perspective, I think their meeting locations are GREAT - both are meeting in funeral homes. Now if they only had a baptistery they could advertise they were bringing them back from the dead. The newest of these churches to rise from the ashes will start meeting April 20th, 10:30 am at the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home and it’s my understanding that they intend to have a more traditional venue. If you’re an out-of-town reader and want to join in the birth of this congregation, send me an email and I’ll give you directions.
April 11, 2008
I just learned that my adult Sunday school teacher has not only resigned from teaching, but he and his family also pulled their membership from the church. The condensed story goes like this: One of the elders called to tell my teacher that he must have a meeting with all of the elders. The teacher declined because [my paraphrase] he’s been tarred and feathered one too many times. Since he wouldn’t meet with the elders he was then told he’d no longer be allowed to teach and that “an elder will take control of the class”. I’m not surprised, nor am I upset. We’ve watched all the other adult classes get eliminated and this last remaining class of old timers has been a thorn in the side of staff. Really, it was only a matter of time, so whether it was this week or the next, it makes no difference. On a positive note, now my teacher is only under the authority of the Word…the staff and the elders have no authority over him. It’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to another death in the family.
April 10, 2008
I know of a woman who cultivated a relationship with a venerable elderly woman under the guise of taking care of her. After obtaining a Power of Attorney, being made conservator and personal representative, she changed the elderly woman’s address by putting her in the nursing home. I suppose one could argue that the elderly woman’s health deteriorated to the point that there was no other choice but the nursing home. However, I’d feel differently if it were the family making the decisions, rather than this ‘friend’. This same scenario seems to be happening in some independent churches. New leadership comes in under the pretense of breathing new life into a church. Whether the old leadership’s power and authority is willingly relinquished, or forcefully taken away, I think we’re closer to the nursing home than many of us know.
April 09, 2008
In the church it’s easy to exclude someone from serving or keep them uninvolved in ministry by simply not asking them to participate. Once, when our regular Sunday school teacher and his substitute were both ill, there was a search high and low for a warm body to fill in and teach the lesson. Only a couple hours before the class started and no one willing to take it on short notice, someone called Bill and asked him to teach. The class went well, but sitting in the back of the room a member of the staff kept watch. If he was hoping to detect some political fodder, innuendo or subversion, he must have been terribly disappointed. It should come as no surprise that Bill hasn’t been asked to fill in during any more ‘emergencies’. Uninvited, indeed.
April 08, 2008
In our recent newsletter a reference is made about some people in the older age group who, “…grumble in dark corners of the church…” Hmm…I suppose at one time or another, regardless of age, we’ve all been in that dark corner. It seems to me that many folks are now coming out of the shadows and bringing with them the same burdens and concerns they’ve been discussing in those dark corners. Personally I think if the grumblings are truly heard in the light there would be some people who wish they could stuff them back into that dark corner.
April 07, 2008
Recently a minister gave a nice tribute to his father in recognition of his dad’s Birthday. Woven in the tribute however, were some not so subtle messages of his father’s mistreatment by society. According to the son, his dad has not “become bitter and calloused” as others in the same position would have been. I’ve heard many similar first hand accounts from preacher’s kids who’ve perceived that their godly fathers were mistreated and unappreciated while in service to the Lord. In most of these testimonies the parent [preacher, elder and deacon] isn’t the one who’s bitter, calloused and holding a grudge…it’s often the children retelling the stories who are. It’s hard for us to keep quiet when we think our parent has been mistreated and abused when serving the Lord…just ask my kids.
April 05, 2008
I prefer ‘ministry opportunities’ that give me some flexibility. For instance if I’m ask to provide a vegetable for a funeral dinner, I like being able to decide what vegetable I want to fix. The Prison Ministry needs cookies for an upcoming event and they requested that they be made from scratch rather than store bought because the inmates rarely get homemade treats. Baking cookies does not top my list of favorite things to do. I’d rather make brownies where I can just stir ‘em up, pop ‘em in the oven and it’s done. When I asked the cookie coordinator if I could substitute brownies and he said, “No. We have to have cookies. Not fancy cookies, just plain cookies and lots of them.” I felt I didn’t have the time to make cookies and also write a blog…which is what I really wanted to do. Family members gently, but firmly, reminded me that the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t post a blog. Reluctantly I set aside publishing my daily blog and made my guilted-into-cookies. Sure enough, the sun came up today, the world didn’t end and although I missed Friday’s “deadline”, flexibility also needs to apply to self-imposed rules.
April 03, 2008
Our school district plans to implement the Safe-2-Tell program, which provides a safe, anonymous way to report information about a crime, potential dangerous situation or other concerns. It’s interesting that from early childhood kids are told not to be tattletales or snitch on one another and now we’re trying to get them to open up and talk freely to adults. I believe the church mirrors society in that we’ve been suppressed from talking about certain issues. Oh, we can voice our opinions about other denominations, abortion and homosexuality. We just can’t talk about divisions in the church, disorderly worship and false teachers…if it’s happening in our own congregation.
April 02, 2008
For almost three years, while I was ministry leader for Adult Education, I wrote and published The Sunnyside Journal, a newsletter for the adult Sunday school classes. Although the elders had originally given me permission to write the newsletter, I think the collective leadership was unhappy with the body building it accomplished. It wasn’t long before the chairman of the elders asked to meet with me. “People like your newsletter, but we didn’t realize you were going to publish it every week. We aren’t telling you that you can’t write it anymore, but if you’re going to continue publishing it, you’ll have to buy you own paper.” I, along with an occasional contribution from another person, bought the paper and continued publication – the cost amounted to a whopping $20.00 a month. It was maddening to watch money being allocated to the church saving account while I was denied copy paper. I wanted to cry foul, but the reality was there was no higher authority to go to. When my ministry came under additional restrictions I discontinued writing the newsletter. For two years now I’ve been writing a daily blog…I guess you could say I found my Higher Authority.
April 01, 2008
Have you ever wondered what became of Matthias? After his short introduction of being chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:23-24) we never hear from him again. Did he get busy with his career? Was he ineffective in his position? Did the other apostles fail to fully accept him? Since we really don’t know, it’s anyone’s guess. Our church has lost some elders, both past and current, and most people in the congregation don’t even know they’re gone…much less what has become of them. It’s amazing that these men are slipping out of the boat and swimming away without so much as a ripple. No doubt our current leadership is breathing a collective sigh of relief because the boat wasn’t rocked when these elders resigned. I understand one of the elders has been spotted attending another church. Since he’s a man of integrity, I assume he has resigned his position with my church…I’m just glad to know he didn’t go under.