June 30, 2008
In an interesting article on leadership there is apparently a growing trend among foundation leaders to be more transparent and accountable. When they implement a program that flops, they admit it publically. One foundation executive stated, “If something didn’t work, it is incumbent upon you to make sure others don’t make the same mistake.” Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this type of moral obligation in the church. Over the years I’ve seen many ill advised programs fail, but I can’t ever recall hearing leadership publically admit failure to the congregation. The normal reaction to failures is to just cover them up with another vision or new direction for the church.
June 27, 2008
No, it doesn’t. I’ve got a lot of clothes hanging in my closet that won’t go with anything I own. When I purchased each piece I thought this will go with everything. Wrong. In trying to mix and match clothing I’ve learn that all blacks aren’t black, nor are all beiges created equal. Yesterday I picked up a dark sage colored blouse to go with my light sage colored slacks. When I held them up against each other neither one looked like sage and they certainly didn’t go together. I sometimes have the same trouble with Scripture. I’ll think of a verse that I’m positive will compliment a thought and when I put them together they don’t match. Now, I realize the world won’t end if I wear mismatched clothes or misquote Scripture, however when they’re not put together properly they don’t always have the desired affect.
June 26, 2008
Many folks want to talk about the exodus from XYZ Church, however lately the conversations have shifted. It may be a different segment of the membership, but rather than asking why people are leaving, some are now telling me why they aren’t leaving. With few exceptions these brothers and sisters say they are staying with XYZ Church because of their particular ministry, or because of their inter-generational family. I can empathize with both situations. Some folks have spent decades building up and supporting a ministry and they feel the need to protect it. Quite honestly, going to another church might well mean that their beloved ministry will suffer cuts in funding, or possible elimination all together. And no one wants to be the one to break the heritage of fellowshipping with one’s own children and grandchildren. Interestingly Jesus doesn’t distinguish between believers and non-believers when He says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matt 10:37-38 NIV
June 25, 2008
I recently returned from a conference where I campaigned for a seat on an executive board. The day before the election there was a ‘meet the candidate’ forum where I was to give a three minute speech. I had practiced my speech to the point that the timing, humor and pacing were perfect. Arriving early at the meeting I overheard staff talking to one another about each candidate having two minutes to speak. With a cranky attitude running across my face and an edge in my voice, I asked what they intended to do with those of us who had prepared for three minutes as we were told to do. “Well, you’ll just have to cut it down. Don’t worry about it. Just tell us a little bit about yourself.” I went for a short walk to collect myself before cutting the jewels out of my speech. I then went to apologize to the staff person for letting my frustration ooze onto the situation. After the speech I received a lot of positive feed back and with effort, I resisted the urge to tell people about the minute they missed. The following day during the election I garnered the most votes in my category…even beating out incumbents. Leave it to God to successfully pull off a three minute speech in less than two minutes.
June 24, 2008
Over the years as we’ve had a variety of automobiles. Similar to the urge to win a lottery, I’ve always hoped that each set of new license plates would have a number that was easy to memorize. One time we purchased an older basic-transportation car for Bill to drive back and forth to work. The price was right, but the car was a really ugly mustard yellow Maverick. Since it was Bill’s work car, I picked up the license plates at court house without giving any thought to the numbers. That evening we went to put the plates on the car and I just about choked when I saw that the plate was numbered 666. I’m sure the clerk at the court house had been trying for days to pawn the ‘number of the beast’ off on some naive and unsuspecting person. In any case, the car is now long gone, but to this day it’s the only license plate number I remember. I have a few sins in my life that are like that. Even though the sins have long since been forgiven, they made such an impression that they are still committed to memory.
June 23, 2008
I have an aunt (now deceased) who was honest, but not truthful. She’d never dream of cheating anyone out of anything, but she’d lie when it would have been just as easy to tell the truth. I have a low tolerance for people who lie, but I often overlooked my aunt’s lies because they came from a reality she created in her own mind. It was aggravating though. The minute you believed what she said, you shouldn’t have, but if you didn’t believe her you should have. At a recent conference I attended a session on ‘ethics’. The speaker said, “A liar is someone who doesn’t tell the truth when he has the opportunity.” Ouch! This shoe fits whether it’s in our personal life or in our Christian walk.
June 20, 2008
When I worked in the customer service field the phone calls I received often had one thing in common, the caller felt they had been injured or mistreated. One day a disgruntled customer on the other end of the line happened to be a fellow believer. Face to face this brother had always treated me with love and respect. However, this day he was angry, demanding and a totally different person. Once he had calmed down, I told him who I was and immediately his tone of voice and attitude changed. I find that I too am more apt to control a bad attitude when I’m around people I know I’ll be seeing again. So why do we find it acceptable to present our Christian face only to our brothers and sisters or on Sunday mornings? Paul had it right when he said, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (Rom. 7:15) --Leslie
June 19, 2008
At a week long conference in Steamboat Springs I was preparing to leave my room when the whole mountain village lost power. There are a lot of factors that kept me in the room. I was on the sixth floor, the meeting rooms down below were all windowless, as were the restrooms. Even if I took the stairs to get to the exhibit area there would be no air conditioning or Starbucks coffee. The good news was, I wasn’t stuck in an elevator and I had my battery powered laptop computer, minus use of the internet. The church today is all about being ‘plugged in’. I’ve got to tell you, every appliance in my room, from the coffee maker to the clock was plugged in…and they were all dead. It reminds me of some church programs trying to function without the Power of the Spirit.
June 18, 2008
A Colorado college professor, apparently padding his résumé, claimed to be Native American when he was not. For some people being a con-man is a means of duping others out of their belongings. I guess it should not come as a surprise that the same things happen in the church. John wrote to the church in Smyrna, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”(Rev 2:9 NIV) It’s not that believers are any more gullible than those in the world. But it seems we let down our guard when dealing with others who claim to be Christian. We just don’t want to believe, or understand how, someone who confesses Jesus Christ can be crafty. However, Jesus warns us, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8b NIV) Jesus knows our weaknesses of not being shrewd in the church and to our own kind.
June 17, 2008
I recently read an article which said that the current thought processes for church growth sees ‘traditional worship styles, theological rigor and denominational distinctives’ as obstacles. So that’s what they think of our needs…they’re only obstacles. According to Webster’s, an obstacle is defined as: something that impedes progress or achievement. If our needs are obstacles to the church, exactly what is being obstructed? Do our needs hold back the Kingdom of God? Has the Gospel been squelched? Have needs undermined the Word? No. The real issue is that man has developed his own method for church growth and he won’t allow anyone or anything to get in the way of his vision. Paul has some thoughts on the subject: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1Cor 3: 6-7 NIV) Sometimes those who focus on church growth have the appearance of holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But in reality, their key is nothing more than the same one the janitor has to the building.
June 16, 2008
Right now I have a multi-generational household and we’re all on different schedules. A couple of us may eat breakfast around the same time, however one may be finishing their meal while another is just starting. Since we don’t always sit down to the breakfast table at the same time, we also don’t pray together. A couple days ago I was multi-tasking in my head and forgot to pray until I already had a bit of warm buttery cheese omelet in my mouth. I stopped chewing and tried to thank the Lord, but it just didn’t work. The flavor in my mouth overrode the words in my head. When I finished chewing the unblessed bite, swallowed and again began to pray. I apologized to God…I really was sorry for losing my focus. I felt like I needed to repent before I ask for God’s blessing. It was awkward. Usually when I wake up in the morning I feel like I have a clean slate. I’m just not used to having to repent before 8:00 am.
June 13, 2008
June 12, 2008
In the midst California wild fires a firefighter was interviewed by a TV reporter. He was asked how they determine if it’s a Red Flag Day. He said, “Low humidity, high heat and strong wind.” The fire department wouldn’t sound a warning for just one of these conditions, but collectively there is cause for alarm. I’ve had folks ask, ‘So Gail, what is the problem at XYZ church?’ It’s impossible for me to answer because its not, what is the problem, but rather what are the problems. It would be great to be able to point to something specific and say, ‘It’s the high heat’. However, I’ve found in the church that only one issue doesn’t warrant raising a red flag.
June 11, 2008
Recently I was at a meeting with an official from a neighboring community. He told the crowd about their prairie dog problem on the floor of a prominent valley. Explaining his situation he said, “The answer is water.” As a snicker went through the audience he said, “No wait, we don’t drown them! We just have to water the grasses. Really… there are people out there that study these things. When the grasses get so high that the prairie dogs can’t see over them, they can’t communicate and then they move on.” Ah-ha, maybe that’s part of the communication problem in the church - the grass is so tall we’re cut off from one another.
June 10, 2008
I’m running in another election, but this time it’s for a position on an Executive Board for state municipalities. The annual conference is next week and each candidate will have exactly three minutes to give a speech in which to garner votes. It sort of reminds me of an arranged marriage where the bride and groom don’t meet until they are saying their ‘I do’s’…or as in this case, casting their votes. Often our testimony and witness for Christ is subtle and given over time. I’m wondering what I’d say in a speech if I had only three minutes to make a cause for Christ.
June 09, 2008
Not too long ago, I attended a trade show and met an exhibitor who had self-published a financial advice book. As I thumbed through his book and he said, “You can have the book if you promise you’ll read it.” So what could I say to that? No thanks, you can keep your book… Well, maybe I’ll read it and then again I might not… I took the freebie and walked away feeling very small. Attaching strings to things would be something I would expect from a parent. Can’t you hear a mother say, ‘you can go to the movie if you promise to take out the trash for a week’. Sometimes we believers subtly attach our own strings to Salvation. We know we’re saved but, to be really saved we need to regularly attend church, get into a Bible study and stop all our bad habits. Every once in awhile I get tangled up in my own strings. Then the Lord has to clip them and set me free again.
June 06, 2008
I think it’s safe to say that, in one fashion or another, all churches support missionaries on the field. It’s interesting to me that Paul gives us the example of the Macedonian churches supporting other churches. I don’t think we see that same grace of giving played out today. We don’t support our own denominational churches in neighboring towns, much less support the church down the street. Yes, we may join forces on a project that benefits the Christian community, but we don’t support the needs of other churches. Seriously, aside from a national disaster I can’t imagine any of our congregations contributing to the building fund of another church or helping them with the needs of their shut-ins. Paul says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality…” (2 Cor 8:13-14 NIV) I wonder what equality amongst our churches might look like.
June 05, 2008
In his book Exodus, author Dave Shiflett delves into what makes liberal churches tick. One of Dave’s interviewees is a man named Gary who says, “Any sane person would agree that you’ve got problems if you’re losing a great portion of your church population. But the liberal priests would actually say it was a good thing. They said [that] ‘what we’re losing are the peripheral believers’ and that shedding all those people would actually make the church stronger.” Certainly the Good Shepherd who goes after one lost sheep would disagree. I’m amazed that we allow it to be said that believers, peripheral or not, are expendable. Satan must be celebrating at the thought of a ‘core group of people’ getting the credit for strengthening the church.
June 04, 2008
For over seven years I’ve worshiped and fellowshipped with Ms. Clair, who is a dyed in the wool Catholic. She has faithfully attended my independent, emersion believing church, all the while lovingly and vehemently maintaining, “I’ve been sprinkled and saved. There’s no way you’re going to get me in that bathtub (baptismal).” I and many others are scraping ourselves off the floor as this senior citizen has just decided to take the plunge. Oh my goodness, just tell me the Holy Spirit doesn’t humor us! Clair is not the ‘river’ or ‘pond’ type, so she is waiting for the preacher to locate a church willing to loan out their baptistery. This will be the third baptism for one of the new start-up churches. As word spreads about Clair’s decision many of us are inviting ourselves to her baptism. I really think she could sell tickets!
June 03, 2008
I have chemical allergies (perfumes and scents) to deal with and the best seat for me is in the back of a room near a door. I always try to arrive early to an event so I can find the most comfortable place to sit that meets my needs. When I go to a movie theater I won’t give up my seat for the elderly, the handicapped or the late arriver because I figure its first come, first serve. In my former church there was plenty of seating, however in my new place of worship, the seating is limited and fills up quickly...and I have a problem. From my seat in the back row I can see all the late arrivers and I feel guilty for not wanting to give up my seat to them. For some reason the first come, first serve rule works better in the world than it does in the church.
June 02, 2008
We just had another baptism, but rather than the river, this young lady opted for a pond. At one time our denominational churches all attended a camp facility located in the mountains. Every summer attendees restacked river rocks and maintained a make-shift baptismal in the clear running river winding through the camp. Normally at a baptism you need only the dunker, the dunkee and any witnesses you can round up. At church camp however, we also had to have two or three men stationed down stream just in case the newly saved soul slipped out of the preacher’s hands. Of late we become so accustomed to not having baptisms that having two of them within a matter of a few weeks gives me a lump in my throat. I can’t even imagine how I’d react if we were like the early church where “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b NIV)