Sunday, December 12, 2010

Confused, Not GLEEful at Christmas.

I enjoy GLEE a lot. Loretta and I have watched every episode.

But for some reason I am torqued about last week's show.  Now, don't get me wrong...it was funny & sentimental and some good Christmas music.  (But can't Lea Michele come up with ANY new arrangements of her own?  Totally mimicking the late Karen Carpenter's version of "Merry Christmas, Darling" note for note was kind of creepy).

And I am used (I thought) to secular TV gutting the meaning out of Christmas. 

But while GLEE has been pretty negative about religion, at leastimage they have allowed several of the GLEE members to have and express a sincere Christian faith.

But could you have learned what Christmas was about from last week's episode?  What is Christmas according to GLEE?

  • Mr Schuster: Christmas is all about being grateful for all the things that DID [turn out well this past year].
  • Finn:  It's a time of miracles. (They won't be killed when singing before other students")
  • Finn: Christmas is supposed to be all about forgiveness.
  • Rachel: "The Christmas tree is the foundation of Christmas."

And so we are going to celebrate Christmas...why?

"The Christmas tree is the FOUNDATION of Christmas"? Come on....  That one kind of set me off. I know...you can't expect secular TV to celebrate Christ's birth.  I get it. But to not even have one character acknowledge Christ's birth or that Christmas has ANYTHING to do with the Christian faith? 

I'll still watch GLEE.  I enjoy it.  And Sue Sylvester is too deliciously evil to stop watching.  But come on...GLEE...give Christmas a break.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Church of the Pumping Heart

One of my huge problems with aspects (or representations) of missionalimage church is its denigration of the local church.   I have been in conversation with a church leader in recent days who continually calls the gathered church “a failed model.” 

When I responded that “it seems to have worked well for 2000 years, he rejected that notion. 

That conversation (several with the same individual actually) were on my mind when I read the following paragraphs by Phillip Fletcher:

A local church is to be the heart of the community in which it resides. The streets are the veins and arteries. We the believers are the blood that carries the oxygen of the Gospel.

Imagine believers simultaneously gathering to worship and send believers throughout their community. It would be a strange thing, a deadly thing to the body not to have a properly functioning heart.

I for one have not seen the church ever settle for “keeping the message within the four walls”.   The church has DONE that at times, but it has always been recognized by healthier members as abnormal and non-biblical.   On the other hand, a “sent” church that has no times of contracting into “body time” is not identifiable as the church. 

Maybe I am tilting at windmills (not improbable, given my history) and it is only a problem in my head.  But the quote, coming on the heels of several conversations with this para-church leader set me off a little. It’s a picture I like and one I will probably use again.

 

I don’t know anything about Phillip Fletcher, but you can read the entire article that the quote came from here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Truth Telling

So much of my work in coaching has strong parallels in located ministry.image

I was reading an Australian blog today about “Truth Telling” in coaching.  Now, (caveat) the writer does NOT come from a perspective of objective truth.  “What is my truth may not be yours,” she says.

But even in that context she makes an important point.  She (Bronwyn Bowery-Ireland) is quoting another author when she says:

He said that ‘In coaching telling the truth is used to build up the coachee not to pull them down.” This is a very important statement. When we outline the truth to our client and it pulls them down then we need to ask ourselves what is the motivation for telling this truth. Telling the truth to pull a person down implies that there is judgement in the truth telling, which is the point I raise above. Telling the truth is very much based on the perspective of the truth teller.

The same is true in ministry.  We in the church are to be about truth telling.  But what is out motivation? Is it to “put them in their place?”  Is it to “correct the error of their ways”?  Or is it (even when we are correcting) intended to build them up, not tear them down?

I will end this brief post with the same question that bron.bi asks her coaching readers:  What role does truth telling play in your inter-personal ministry?

You can find the original coaching post here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Is Preaching Against Homosexuality a Hate Crime?

image If you are not familiar with it, you should check out Richard Hammer’s article on “Preaching About Homosexuality.”  The article is from Your Church magazine and was posted in July. 

When Pres. Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act into law, all sorts of claims were made about how the law would affect churches, particularly preachers who spoke out against homosexual practice.

The article was written by Richard Hammer who “is an attorney, CPA, and best-selling author specializing in legal and tax issues for church and clergy. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report, a bimonthly newsletter.”

When I was at my last church, we subscribed to the Church Law and Tax Report, and it almost always had helpful information about changes in laws or cases concerning churches and ministers. 

Again, you can find the article here

Monday, August 2, 2010

New York Times on Clergy Burnout

This is why I coach.

image Sunday’s New York Times featured an article on clergy Burnout: “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work.” It begins:

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.

Those who study such things say that such simple things as taking time off work wonders.

But ministers don’t do it. 

Having “an outsider” come alongside them and help THEM evaluate their own balance and effectiveness is incredibly helpful.

That’s why I coach.

Find the article here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Determination…an Asset?

We as Christians, particularly as Christian leaders are (generally) known as people of conviction.

And that’s good.

But I fear that often we confuse conviction with bull-headedness (see illustration). I”m not talking about obnoxious Christians who make us all shake our heads at the foolishness of their stubbornness over the smallest things.

I’m talking about holy, sanctified, good intentioned stubbornness.

“Changing game plans does not make a quitter. It makes you smart.”

--Dave Buck, Coachville

image We need to leverage our successes, but let go of the methods that aren’t working. So we can open up our energy, our eyes, our time to see the things that are right before us, but we can’t see them because we are too busy.

But sometimes we (I) are either to meek (bad meek, not good meek) to stand up to those who are just bullheaded, but are directly standing in the progress of the church. Other times WE are the ones who are bull-headed. We confuse every human design with divine Scipt.

What have you found helpful in deciding when it is time to stand your ground and when it is time to try Plan B?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Economy: Foxhole Religion or New Tractors?

Earlier this summer I was talking with my friend Kevin Ingram, the president of Manhattan Christian College (my alma mater).

I was asking how the economy was affecting donor income, particularly among the predominantly rural farming constituency that support the school. He made an interesting comment. (I’m paraphrasing). “You imagewould think that when the economy is good that our income would be good and when the economy is bad, our income would be bad.

“That’s not the case,” Pres. Ingram went on. “When the economy is good, the farmers pay off debts incurred from the bad times and invest in farm equipment.

“When the economy is bad, many of them remember where the true imagesource of their security lies and they increase their giving to the work of the Lord.”

Maybe that is unique to midwest farmers.

An article in this week’s Newsweek by columnist Lisa Miller suggests that it certainly is a much fuzzier picture than that for the rest of us.

The article focuses on a Notre Dame University economist David Hungerman and an (unrelated) Gallup survey on church attendance and economic decline and recovery.

The conventional wisdom is that when the economy tanks, religiosity, prayers and church attendance go up. No one seems to be wanting to gauge prayer, so they are measuring church attendance.

And what they are finding is surprising (at least to me).

While there is some correlation between lack of economic health and church attendance, what the researchers are noting is that when men & women are unemployed, they attend church LESS. There seems to be little “If I pray more, maybe God will give me a job.” (I hate to see that as a good thing or a bad thing—for different reasons—so I’ll just note it.) Depression sets in and the unemployed stay away from church. Embarrassment or fear or ridicule? Who knows. (Ministry opportunity there for some entrepreneurial-type).

image And instead of the poor being “more religious” than the wealthy, the poor actually attend church less than the more financially stable. Miller quotes Larry Iannoconne in his “Introduction to the Economics of Religion”: “Religion is not the province of the poor or uninformed.” As individual financial prosperity increases, so does church attendance.

So what correlation is there between the economy and church attendance? While you should really read the article to get the full sense, the article concludes with a good quote from Hungerman:

“Maybe when the economy turns sour, no matter how much money you make, you get nervous and decide to go to church and talk with your buddies and get a sense of what’s going on in your community. Or maybe people’s desire for spiritual guidance is influenced by their perception of how the world’s doing outside of themselves. Church attendance may not reflect our own circumstances but our own idea of how the world is doing beyond us.”

And that’s not an altogether bad thing. Again, you can find the article here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Church & Controversy: How One Church is Handling It

Anytime a church takes a position against the “conventional wisdom” they take heat for it. 

image With all of the media press over the past few months about laws to "kill gays in Uganda", I found Kevin Odor's explanation of their church’s support for Martin Ssepma helpful. It made me feel better about the Ugandan church & about Canyon Ridge Christian Church.

You can find a video of a statement that Odor made to his congregation here

Monday, July 26, 2010

When Delay Allows Us to Review Our Priorities

(If you don’t receive my Cal Habig Coaching newsletter, this was the featured article in the April 2010 issue.  If you want to subscribe, go here.  My next newsletter will be coming out within a week.)

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"  ~ Robert Browning, 'Andrea del Sarto'

One of the most common frustrations of ministry is our desire for things to happen faster than they usually do.  We may think they should go faster (and perhaps according to some standards, they should), but they don’t. 

How do we react?  Do we redouble our efforts?  Do we work to motivate staff to do more?  Do we take projects away from volunteers and staff and drive them forward ourselves?

It is hard for us to recognize and cope with the fact that the delays may be of God.  “God’s timing” truly “may not be our timing” as much as we hate to hear it.

Ted Engstrom has a good reminder in the old classic  “Renewing Your image Church Through Vision and Planning” from the Christianity Today “Library of Leadership Development” series.

Engstrom notes that when he became frustrated with “the gap between what we think should be done first and what we can actually do, it usually arises from the pull between priorities and our ability to move the resources needed to attack the priorities.”

He talks about his three foundational priorities in his life. 

  1. Bedrock for Engstrom is his relationship with Jesus Christ. (as I hope it is for all of us).
  2. Second is his commitment to the Church.
  3. Third is the work that God has given to him.  That work “rises directly from my commitment to Christ and his church.”

Engstrom notes “Usually, if I appear to have a conflict, a clash between what I think I should do first and what I’m actually able to do because of the people involved, I need to examine these levels to see if my priorities are in the right order. This forces me to put people before programs. If I find myself frustrated in driving toward a goal, I need to check and see if I have put level three before level two. Have I put the work of Christ ahead of the body of Christ? That’s very easy for any of us to do, especially in light of the fact that our families are part of the body.” (p. 160)

Here are four red flags Engstrom uses to keep us out of the ditch of misplaced priorities.

1. Are my motives pure? Why do I want to accomplish a particular task or promote a program? Will it make me look good? Will it move me up a rung or give me a little more leverage?

We may frown at the idea that we could be less than sincere, but motivations are complex. We all struggle daily against the desire for recognition and power. The same program, for example, that will comfort the sick may also score points for the pastor. This is where our human reasoning often fails us, and we need to ask the Spirit of God to search our hearts. This is a time to pray as David did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart … and see if there be any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24, nasb).

2. Do the goals of the program fit my theology? Time magazine told about a church in Florida that runs a bar in its parish hall. The pastor believes it brings people together in a good setting and contributes to the life of the church. That’s an extreme example, and most of us would fault the practice. But the issues are often more subtle, and while we’ll always have well-meaning people who will think up off-the-wall programs, we must test all proposals through the grid of our theology. If we don’t—and find ourselves stymied along the way to implementation—perhaps we have skipped this important question.

3. Will the program enhance the lives of the participants? A ministry to the medical complex might change the lives of many patients, but it may also jeopardize the workers. We have to ask whether this or that program will put novice Christians in leadership roles, tempt the weak with celebrity status, or pull mothers and fathers away from their children one more night of the week.

These are tough questions, but they provide the checks we need to avoid putting level three before level two.

4. Have we been seduced by our culture? Do we have a numbers orientation? Are we prone to think bigger is automatically better? Has society’s worship of size, success, speed, production, promotion, and glamour crept into our evaluation of church programs?

I don’t like to think along such lines.  I LIKE to think that my priorities are always upfront and known to me.  But, they’re not. Sometimes God has to slow me down IN ORDER to make me reevaluate.  Or simply to have think time. 

Or simply to be reminded that He is God…and I am not.

What do you think?  Drop me a line & let me know. 

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Internal Judge

This week I was coaching with a ministry leader who highlighted a problem that many of us have.  I had asked him to list 101 goals for his life (one of my early exercises I use with most of my clients.)  The goal is not perfection.  The goal is not even that you will actually accomplish all of them. (Although by listing them out, you will almost certainly accomplish more of them than if you hadn’t listed them out!)

My client suffered from what lots of us suffer from: an over active editor.  He wants to do right.  It has been inbred spiritually in him to do right.  Our culture is incredibly performance based.  And so every word has to be exactly right.  Every word means something (which IS true.  But it doesn’t have the eternal consequences that many of us feel that it does). 

image He wanted to put down “Climb Mt. Everest” on his list of 101 goals.  “Great!” But he wouldn’t do it.  “I’ll never accomplish that.”  he said.  “I don’t know why I want to put it down…it’s not something I really even want to do!” 

“What were you thinking when you thought of it?” I asked.

“I wanted to do one big adventure before I die.  That’s what I really want.”

“OK, you could put that down on your list, “I want to have a really big adventure.”  That would be OK. But I think you should leave it as “Climb Mt. Everest.”  THAT is what came to mind when you thought of a big adventure.  Even if you realize you don’t want to do it, now is not the time to make that decision.  That’s not the purpose of this exercise.  This is to brainstorm.  It is to write down what comes to mind. 

And I liked leaving it at “Climb Mt. Everest” because it was bold, rash and outlandish!  When it came time to edit that one, he wouldn’t already be hindered by “Do one big adventure before I die.”  (That is a little more ho-hum than “Climb Mt. Everest”.  And if you begin with ho-hum, it will only go down from there. 

We will go back later and do the “editor’s job”.  We will look at the list and ask, “Which ones do I immediately want/need to jump into.”  Which ones need to be adjusted.  Which ones are really an expression of wanting to do something else?  (Like Mt. Everest) 

Which ones does something else have to happen first before you can do it.  On my personal 101 goal list was to pay off the debt of my alma mater, Manhattan Christian College.  (I think it is like $2-3 million).  Is it realistic?  Well, no, not now.  I’m not even sure how we will; be able to afford health insurance this fall.  But it is a goal, that I WANT to accomplish if some other situations come into place (i.e. I get rich). 

But my friend (and me, if I can admit it) is plagued with the overactive editor.  It is a spirit of judging ideas as soon as they come out. 

  • That’s too expensive!
  • What would other people think?
  • That’s irresponsible!

What happened with my friend in his 101 goal list happens way too often in church.   “I have an idea,” someone says. 

  • That’s too expensive!
  • What would other people think?
  • That’s irresponsible!

come the replies. 

In what ways have you found to combat “over-active editor?”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Methodists and Healthy Churches

image

The United Methodist Church has released a study for which they  paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to find out what makes vital churches. 

Beliefnet reports:

The church recently concluded a study of more than 32,000 Methodist congregations across North America, seeking the "key factors impacting vital congregations." The study surveyed everybody from bishops to district superintendents to people in the pews.

They identified four factors that “fuel vitality”:

  1. Small groups and programs;
  2. Worship services that mix traditional and contemporary styles with an emphasis on relevant sermons;
  3. Pastors who work hard on mentorship and cultivation of the laity;
  4. An emphasis on effective lay leadership.

I find it interesting that they discovered four of the eight characteristics that Christian Schwartz identified in his monumental Natural Church Development study of a few years back:

  1. Empowering leadership
  2. Gift-oriented ministry
  3. Passionate spirituality
  4. Functional structures
  5. Inspiring worship service
  6. Holistic small groups
  7. Need-oriented evangelism
  8. Loving relationships

While there is a not a direct correlation between “Pastors who work hard on mentorship and cultivation of the laity” and NCD, that characteristic could manifest itself under either Gift oriented ministry and/or loving relationships.

Whatever you think of the survey, the article is at least worth being aware of.  Find it here

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quote on Open Doors

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.

--Alexander Graham Bell

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June Newsletter Going Out

The June issue of my newsletter The Ministry Encourager is going out tomorrow morning.  It contains material that I don’t put here on my blog.

If you are interested in subscribing, click here

newsletter

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Survey on Summer Preaching Plans

  image

With the coming of summer, how do you plan your preaching topics during the next three months?

Please go to this link and share your plans:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TWYFXK3

I’ll share the results after it seems like enough time has gone by for people to answer the question.

Thanks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tell Them What You Want!

Yesterday, Pastor Adam McMurray (the associate minister at River West Church, where Loretta and I attend) preached and he reminded me of a principle that is often used in evangelistic preaching, but is useful in all sorts of preaching where you have a specific action you want people to take at the end of the service. 

Guy (and Adam) are preaching through Galatians.  Adam preached on image Paul’s confrontation of Peter as recorded in Gal. 2:11-21.  (Not what I would think of when I think of a rich evangelistic text!!)  And evangelism was not the main purpose of either the text or the sermon.  But Adam worked the sermon into a strong evangelistic ending.   But about 1/3 of the way through the sermon he “pre-warmed” people (at an appropriate place) that he was going to give them an opportunity to make a statement of commitment to Christ toward the end of the sermon.

Twenty years ago I remember hearing Billy Graham say that he mentioned several times in each crusade sermon that he was going to ask people to get out of their seats and come down to the front.  And in the sermons I listened to specifically for that part, he did.  Two or three times he would pre-warm them (yes I chose that word over pre-warn) that he was going to ask them to come forward. 

Why did he do that?

To get people used to the idea.   You might think that one would NOT want to do that because people would be able to begin to throw up objections to why they should NOT come forward (or whatever) since they know that is what you are going to ask.  That is generally not the case.  Those who do that probably won’t come forward anyway, pre-warmed or not. 

In fact people are actually able to think through what would happen if they DID go forward.  (I could take my purse.  Grandpa could stay here with the kids).

When it comes time for the preacher to ask them to do that, it’s not a surprise.  “Oh, here it is!” is more the response.  “It’s time.” 

I have used this technique in several ways.  I have used it numerous times in evangelistic sermons. I have often used it in financial commitment sermons when I was going to ask people to fill out a financial commitment card at the end of the sermon.   I have asked them when I was going to move them into prayer groups at the end of the sermon. 

I know that lots of us can have problems with “techniques.”  It smacks of manipulation.  In this case, I don’t think that is the case.  It is honoring people by not taking them by surprise or relying only on a rousing call or a tear jerking story.  You have placed the seed of what you want them to do in their minds for both they (and the Holy Spirit) to work on as the sermon progresses. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mobbing

I had a great conversation today with Steve Vensel the executive director of PastorServe-South Florida. (Find it here.)

But in the conversation he introduced me to the concept of “mobbing”.image   That is not something that happens at a Jonas Brothers concert or the “Battle in Seattle” at the 1999 WTO meeting. 

It happens in churches. 

Here is how Steve defines “mobbing” in a post on his website “Pooped Pastors”:

Mobbing is related to workplace bullying, organizational power factions, forced resignations, and forced terminations. Mobbing is defined as the prolonged malicious harassment of a coworker by a group of other members of an organization to secure the removal from the organization of the one who is targeted. Mobbing involves a small group of people and results in the humiliation, devaluation, discrediting, degradation, loss of reputation and the removal of the target through termination, extended medical leave or quitting. It is a traumatizing experience that often results in significant financial, career, health, emotional and social loss. Mobbing is unjust, unfair and undeserved. In a church setting the organization includes staff members, elders, deacons, and congregation members.

I would suggest checking out his full essay on it. You’ll find it here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sage from Leadership Network

Yesterday I learned of a new online conference entitled Sage.  Leadership Network has gathered 40 experience leaders & asked them, “What Would You do Differently?”

It seems worth checking out.  Find more info at http://sage.leadnet.org/

image

Monday, May 10, 2010

Discipleship Bibliography pt. 2

Yesterday I gave the first part of a discipleship bibliography that I had compiled for a Presbyterian brother here in Portland.  Here is the rest of the list. 

imageAs I said yesterday, if you have recommendations from this list or ones to add to it, please put them in the comments section. I will forward them on to him.

 

Krallmann, G√ľnter Mentoring for Mission: A Handbook on Leadership Principles Exemplified by Jesus Christ, ( Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2002)

Kuhne, Gary W.,  The Dynamics of Discipleship Training, “Being and Producing Spiritual Leaders.” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.  1978.

Longenecker, Richard. Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996)

Malloy, Rocky J., G-12 Groups of Twelve, Impact Productions, Texas City, TX, 2002.

Moore, Waylon B. Multiplying Disciples: The New Testament Method for Church Growth. Tampa: Missions Unlimited, 1981.

Neighbor, Ralph. Where Do We Go From Here? Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 1990.

Nysewander, Mark.  No More Spectators: The 8 Life-Changing Values of Disciple Makers.  Kent, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 2005

Ogden, Greg,  Discipleship Essentials, A Gude to Buildling Your Life in Christ.  Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. , 1998, 2007.

Ogden, Greg,  Transforming Discipleship, Making Disciples a Few at a Time, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.   2003.

Perkins, Hal.  If Jesus Were a Parent. “Coaching Your Child to Follow Jesus”, Hal Perkins, Grandview, Oregon,  2006

Perkins, Hal.  Leadership Multiplication.  Kansas City:  Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1983.

Perkins, Hal. Meeting with Jesus.  Kansas City:Beacon Hill Press of Kanss City, 1978.

Peterson, Eugene. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.

**Peterson, Eugene. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1980.

Petersen, Jim. Lifestyle Discipleship: The Challenge of Following Jesus in Today's World. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1993. \

Platt, David Radical (Colorado Spgs: Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2010).

Rabey, Lois and Steve. Side by Side: A Handbook. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2000.

Rainer, Thom S., and Eric Geiger. Simple Church : Returning to God’s Process for Making   Disciples. New York: B&H Group, 2006.

Robinson, Martin, and Dwight Smith. Invading Secular Space: Strategies for Tomorrow's Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003.

Sanders, Oswald J. Spiritual Discipleship. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1990.

Schwanz, Floyd L. Growing Small Groups, ‘Everything You Need to Start and Lead a Small Ministry that Makes a Big Difference”. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1995

Shaver, Charles “Chic”, Basic Bible Studies in Everyday English. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO.  2003.

Shaver, Charles, ‘Chic”,  Conserve the Converts. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO, 1976, 1998.

Simon, Wolfgang, Houses that Change the World, OM Publishing, Waynesboro, GA, 2001.

Slamp, David, Care Rings, Sunday School and Small Groups, Side by Side., Vessel Press, Medford, OR., 2007.

Stanley, Andy, and Bill Willits. Creating Community : Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture. Sisters: Multnomah, 2004.

**Stanley, Paul D. and J. Robert Clinton. Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1992.

Stewart, Teena M., Successful Small Groups- from concept to practice, Beacon Hill Press, 2007.

Stevens, Woodie,  Beyond Sunday, Everyday Conversations in Disciple Making, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008.

Stevens, Woodie, Pursuing The Mission,  “Making Christlike Disciples”, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008

Toler, Stan, & Bustle, Louie E. Each One Disciple One, “A complete strategy for effective discipleship”.  Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008.

Toler, Stan, Casey, Dan, Walters, Dan, Growing Disciples, Equipping Christians for Worship, Fellowship, and Ministry  Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO.   2000.

Transforming Life Series. 4 vol. (Identity, Community, Integrity, Ministry). Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2004.

Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible. Grand Rapids, InterVarsity, 2002.

**Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Watson, David. Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation Through Mutual Accountability, Wipf & Stock Publishers 2002.

Wellman, W. Donald. Today’s Disciple, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, ed. Felter, David, 4th edition, Kansas City, MO.  1996.

Wilkins, Michael J.  Following The Master, Discipleship in the steps of Jesus. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,   1992.

Willard, Dallas, The Great Omission, “Reclaiming Jesus’s essential teachings on Discipleship. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY. 2006.

Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

**Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1998.

Wright, N. T. Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Discipleship Bibliography, pt. 1

Yesterday at our Tigard Pastors Prayer Group one of our members ask for suggestions on the best book(s) on discipleship and disciplemaking. 

I sent him a bibliography and also sent it to the group asking for their additions or recommendations from the list.  image

Here is the first part of the list.  I will conclude the list tomorrow. (The ones marked in bold are the ones I have read. The ones marked with asterisks are ones I would recommend that he start with).

This comes from a particularly American evangelical perspective because that is who I am and what my background has been.  None of them are perfect & none of them are complete. 

You can help with this…are there ones you would highlight for Bob on this list, or ones you would add?  Put them in the comments section

Adsit, Christopher. Personal Disciple Making: A Step by Step Guide for Leading a Christian from New Birth to Maturity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988.

**Arn, Win & Arn, Charles,   The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples,  Church Growth Press, 1982,  Nazarene Version, printed by Nazarene Publishing House, 1984.

Barna, George.  Growing True Disciples. WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co.   2001.

Craig G. Barthlomew and Michael Goheen, Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

Bly, Stephen A. Radical Discipleship: Tough Standards for Spiritual Greatness. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981.

**Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York, Eberhard Bethge, editor.  11th Printing, 1965.       

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Spiritual Care. Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1985

Briscoe, Stuart. Discipleship for Ordinary People. Wheaton, Ill. Harold Shaw Publishers, 1988.

Bruce, A.B.  The Training of the Twelve,

Camp, Lee C.   Mere Discipleship, Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, Brazos Press, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI   2nd Ed., 2008

Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled From the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990.

Cole, Neil.  Organic Church, Growing Faith Where Life Happens,  Jossey-Boss, San Francisco, 2005.

Cole, Neil.  Search & Rescue, Becoming a Disciple Who Makes A Difference  Baker Books, Grand Rapdis, Michigan, 2008.

Coleman, Robert E., The Great Commission Lifestyle. Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, 1992.

**Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Discipleship. Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, 12th, printing, Jan. 2005.

**Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Evangelism.  Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, 91st printing, Dec. 2004.

Coleman, Robert E. Nothing to Do but to Save Souls” Francis Asbury Press, Grand Rapids, 1990

Comiskey, Joel. Home Cell Group Explosion: How Your Small Group Can Grow and Multiply.

Comiskey, Joel. Cell Church Solutions: Transforming the Church in North America. Morneo Valley, CA: CCS Publishing, 2005.

Coppedge, Allan. The Biblical Principles of Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press, 1989.

Donahue, Bill and Robinson, Russ.  Building A Church of Small Groups, Willow Creek Association,        Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2001.

Donahue, Bill. Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Willow Creek Association, Zondervan, Grand        Rapids, 2002.

**Eims, LeRoy, The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.

Easum, Bill. Go Big with Small Groups, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2007.

Forman, Rowland, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller. The Leadership Baton: An Intentional Strategy For Developing Leaders In Your Church. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2004.

**Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993.

**Frazee, Randy.  The Connecting Church, beyond small groups to authentic community, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001.

Foss, Michael W. Power Surge: 6 Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.

**Foster, Richard. The Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978.

Fryling, Alice, ed. Disciplemakers' Handbook: Helping People Grow in Christ. Downers Grove Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

Galloway, Dale E. 20/20 Vision: How to Create a Successful Church. Portland, OR: Scott Publishing Co., 1986.

Goodwin, Debbie Salter, Raising Kids to Extraordinary Faith, helping parents & teachers disciple the next generation.  Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008.

Gorman, Julie A., Community That is Christian, 2d. Ed., Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mi., 2002.

Gospel Transformation. 2nd Ed. Jenkintown, PA: World Harvest Mission, 2006.

Hanks, Billie Jr. and William A. Shell. Discipleship: The Best Writings from the Most Experienced Disciple Makers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981.

Hartman, Doug & Sutherland, Doug.  Guidebook to Discipleship.  Harvest House Publishers, Irvine, CA,1976.

Hadidian, Allen,  Successful Discipling. Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1979.

Henderson, D. Michael, A Model for Making Disciples: John Wesley’s Class Meeting Evangel Publishing House, Nappanee, Indiana, 2005.

Henderson, D. Michael, One Conversation at a Time, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2007.

Hendrichsen, Walter A. How to Disciple Your Children. Wheaton: Victor Books, a division of SP Publications, Inc., 1981.

Hull, Bill, Choose The Life, “Exploring a Faith that Embraces Discipleship”, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI., 2004.

Hull, Bill, The Complete Book of Discipleship, “On Being and Making Followers of Christ”.   Navpress, Colorado Springs, 2006.

Hull, Bill, The Disciple-Making Church Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, MI.,   7th printing, 2005.

**Hull, Bill, and Robert E. Coleman. The Disciple-Making Pastor : Leading Others on the Journey of Faith. New York: Baker Books, 2007.

** Hull, Bill. Jesus Christ Disciplemaker. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1984, 2004 (20th Anniversary Edition).

Hunt, Gladys. You Can Start a Bible Study Group, Waterbrook Press, Random House Inc, Colorado Springs, Co., 1994.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Wearisomeness of Easter

This past Thursday I met with a group of pastor friends that I meet with regularly for encouragement, planning of mutual activities and prayer.  They are good men (and one woman).  It is a loose group of about a dozen, although there is a core that has been a part of the group for several (some for many) years.

We often don’t meet the Thursday before Easter.  But we have grown closer over the past year because of a series of events and this year not only was there no talk of not meeting the week before Easter, but almost everyone was there. 

And it was good. In fact they planned to go together as a group to a Good Friday “Stations of the Cross” put on by Ethnos Church in Beaverton in order to water their own spiritual lives.

image I noticed, however, one over-riding emotion:  weariness.  For some of the pastors the Lenten season is a hubub of activities. Regular Lenten services, and then during “Holy Week” the activity kicks into high gear.  For others, who are perhaps not so liturgically oriented spring break has ended and there have been special projects and missions trips over spring break.   And now…here comes Easter.

Wherever they had come from, my pastor friends were tired.  One beloved brother brought an article on “The Benefits of Rest and Relaxation” by Brian Rice of the Leadership ConneXtions Intl.  And while the article was excellent, I could sense an irony in the eyes of many around the circle:  “there’ll be no rest or relaxation for this group today.”

And that affected their conversations about Easter.  While I have learned to separate the “dumping” that happens at ministers gatherings from how those same ministers feel when they get away from those collegial times, there was not just a wearisomeness, but a wariness about this coming Sunday. 

  • There may be extra services
  • The Sunday may begin with a pre-dawn Easter Sunrise service.
  • There will likely be parking nightmares
  • There will be people who expect you to know their name and their children’s names even though they only come once a year (if they don’t have anything better to do).
  • There is pressure on the preacher to do “extra well” today since there are (usually) so many guests.
  • Offerings will almost certainly be down (a universal phenomenon of churches –on special high attendance Sundays, the offerings plummet)
  • Special programs like special musical presentations, dramas, videos all come with the ever-present threat of glitches and temperamental participants.
  • Or there may be unmet expectations:  attendance may NOT be up, the service may NOT be all that great, there will NOT be special baptisms.  And people will begin to wonder silently, if not out loud, “What is wrong with OUR church?  What is wrong with OUR pastor?”

I don’t know if I would say that they dreaded Easter, but the sense around the room was definitely “We’ll sure be glad when THIS is over.”

And I’ve been there enough years to be able to identify with that.

I suspect that many who read these words either are in the thick of last minute Easter prep or have just completed Easter activities and Easter Sunday.

You do not minimize the incredible importance and agony endured on our behalf by Christ on the cross.  You deeply value the great mysteries of atonement and forgiveness that happened there on Calvary.  You do not misunderstand the incredible power demonstrated by God in raising Jesus up from the dead and the ability of that same power to transform our lives into something far different and far more alive that anything which we can imagine. 

But there is still a weariness that can come with the hubub of institutional activities (whether that institution is a megachurch or a house church). 

There are those ever present voices of condemnation that would tell us that we OUGHT NOT feel like that:  how dare we be weary on what is the churches “high day” of the year (or as my own pastor—Pastor Guy-- put it last night in his wrap up of our Good Friday service, the “power day of the church.”)  They are the voices (sometimes internal voices) that judge us as inadequate and not quite holy enough for feeling that way.

And yet, I think those early players on that first Easter were more like us than they were like the hollow heralds of hyper-happiness.

  • Soldiers attentively, but cynically guarding the tomb of a dead man, not fearing that anyone would come out of the tomb, but making sure that no one could get in to steal the body and upset the status quo…their superiors.
  • Women who came bleary-eyed in the wee hours of the morning to anoint the body of the dead friend they loved.
  • Mary forlornly weeping in the garden after discovering that the body of her beloved Jesus was gone from the tomb.
  • Disciples who hid in the upper room, fearful that the soldiers who had come and dragged Jesus away, were now out looking for them.
  • Two men, giving up on the dream of “what might have been” and heading home (like sensible people) back to their lives in Emmaus. 

But Jesus interrupted each of those lives. He surprised them.  Even in the face of their apathy, weariness, cynicism, grief, and fear He stepped in and brought transformation.  When it was least expected, suddenly Jesus was there and everything was changed. 

I don’t worry for my dear brothers and sister.  They are good leaders.  They are committed men and women. They are people of noble souls.  But my prayer for them (and for you) is that you will see God interrupting you this Easter. In the midst of the preparation and the execution of services, and the demands and high expectations, that you will be able to see the risen Lord.

A Lord who is not judging you for how you feel today; but not leaving you where you feel today.   Bringing to you, as He did that first Easter, fear for the cynical, wonder for the weary, light for those caught in the dark of grief, joy for the fearful, hope for the hopeless.

May you see the Christ…the risen Christ…today and in the days to come. And may it bring you joy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top 25 Preaching Books of the Past 25 Years

image In its March issue, Preaching Journal has listed the top 25 Preaching books of the past 25 years.

Which of these have you read (I have heard of most of them, own less of them (10) and have read even less of them! (7).

25. Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching (ed: William Willamon & Richard Lischer)
24. Doctrine That Dance (William Smith)
23. The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narratives (Steven Matthewson)
22. Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition (Calvin Miller)
21. The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching (Haddon Robinson)
20. Scripture Sculpture (Ramesh Richard)
19. Preaching & Teaching with Imagination(Warren Wiersbe)
18. 360 Degree Preaching (Michael Quicke)
17. In the Company of Preachers (David L. Larsen)
16. The Burdensome Joy of Preaching (James  Earl Massey)
15. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian  Scripture (Graeme Goldsworthy)
14. The Preaching Life (Barbara Brown Taylor)
13. Communicating for a Change (Andy Stanley)
12. Preaching & Preachers (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
11. Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Michael Diduit)
10. Rediscovering Expository Preaching (MacArthur)
9. The Witness of Preaching (Thomas G. Long)
8. The Supremacy of God in Preaching (John Piper)
7. The Homiletical Plot--The Sermon as Narrative Art Form (Eugene L. Lowry)
6. Christ-Centered Preaching (Bryan Chappel)
5. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text (Sidney Greidanus)
4. Preaching (Fred Craddock)
3. Between Two World (John R.W. Stott)
2. Homiletic: Moves and Structures (David Buttrick)
1. Biblical Preaching (Haddon Robinson)

Are there ones that you would add to this list?  Put them in the comments section.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Alternatives to Spiritual Leadership

image

Many times the heads of churches, synagogues, etc. are called  the “spiritual leadership” of a community.  And yet most of us know that there is a huge difference between leading a church and spiritual leadership. 

In what ways can leaders of churches (I am not totally sure how to label this for this particular discussion) lead instead of leading spiritually?

Instead of leading spiritually, we can easily lead:

1. Intellectually-most pastors love to study.  If we are going to preach regularly, it is vital that we spend time in study, particularly of God’s Word.  We are looked to as one of (if not the) Bible & theological expert in our congregation. 

But because of that, it is possible to be a Bible scholar extraordinaire, but not lead spiritually.   We know the Bible and theology incredibly well, we do not know how to lead spiritually. 

2. Religiously-not everyone agrees that there is a difference between spiritual leadership and religious leadership, but I believe that it is vital to know the difference.  Religious leadership (in my definition at least) is focused on rules and traditions and institutions.  We are charged with keeping “religion” before people.

There can be a very fine line between spiritual leadership and religious leadership. It may be more attitude than anything else, but it comes down to are we keeping and leading people to keep religious rules and being defenders of the institution of the visible church on earth?  Or does my leadership encourage others to pursue God and be more in tune with God?

3. Functionally-Again, this can be a fine line that is differentiated mostly by attitude. I believe that this can be the bane and blessing of multiple staff churches. There are functional things that need to be done: children’s work needs to be organized and supervised; administrative work needs to be done effectively and using “best practices”, small group leaders need to be trained and a structure put in place for growth and accountability of small Bible study groups.  While I may raise the ire of some staff people by saying this, most of these jobs CAN be done without much spiritual emphasis at all.  (They SHOULDN’T be, but they can be). They are functional tasks, or have as a part of their job description largely functional tasks.  That is not the same as spiritual leadership.  The same thing can be said, of course, of preaching ministers or senior pastors.  They can speak well in public, organize the church very well, lead the church to phenomenal growth,  administer the day-by-day activities and yet provide little or no SPIRITUAL leadership.  

4. Organizationally-I may have slopped this category into the previous two. But in an age where growth is king is my primary emphasis the growth and promotion of an institution or of the spiritual conversion and growth of men and women.  THE TWO DO NOT HAVE TO BE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.  But we must be clear that organizational leadership is not the same as spiritual leadership.  This statement is obviously too general, but I wonder if the emphasis on organizational success at the expense of an emphasis on spiritual leadership is the reason so many ministers have fallen into immorality.  They have nurtured the skills necessary for organizational leadership, but have not guarded their souls.

5. Logically-We need to lead churches in line with “best practices.”  Our Christian faith is logical and does not generally run counter to reason.  But if that is all our leadership is, it is not spiritual leadership.  God is so much bigger than our ability to reason.  And at times he asks us to do things that don’t make sense. Like feed 5,000 people with two loaves of bread and five small fishes.   Or wash the feet of those whom you lead.  There have been many instances where the leadership of a church was swayed to make a decision because “it made sense” or was “the rational thing to do”  when in fact, it was the wrong thing to do spiritually. 

6. Positionally-this is kind of where I began in my introduction.  Simply because a man or woman bears the title of minister, pastor, priest, rabbi, whatever, does not mean that they are spiritually oriented. Ministers can be like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time who loved “the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matt 23:6-7)  Jesus warned, “Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matt 23:3b)

Our world is positionally oriented. We want to know who is up and who is down. And so our world believes it should honor those who have positions of religious leadership in our communities.  They confuse positional leadership with spiritual leadership.  Whether or not the world confuses them is not as important as whether or not WE confuse the two.

But to describe what something IS NOT is not really to fully describe something. (A giraffe is not a horse even though it has four legs and is a herbivore; a giraffe is not a snake although it has a long thin neck,  a giraffe is not a leopard, although it can be reticulated.)  Next time I want to ask the question, then, “What IS spiritual leadership?”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Seven Deadly Siphons

image I was working on creating a worksheet for one of my coaching clients on evaluating the breadth & depth of one’s spiritual life and I came across a great list on the loss of spiritual passion.

It appeared first in Leadership Journal (Winter 1998) and is by Gordon MacDonald.

Loss of spiritual passion seems to be the inevitable result of:

  1. Words without action. Speaking/teaching/preaching (whatever you want to call it) is a huge part of what we do as pastors. But there is the danger of thinking that speaking is doing or diagnosing is solving. MacDonald says “We have a momentary feeling of spirituality when we talk about wanting to pray more or "have more time in the Word."
  2. Busyness without purpose. Behind my house is a river called the Tualatin River. It is a Native-American name meaning “slow or lazy”. There is a good deal of water in  the Tualatin.  But it is a slow and meandering river.  That means several things: it gets stagnant, scum & moss develop on it easily and pollution that was dumped there decades ago doesn’t get washed away. (Want to go jump in for a swim with me, yet?)  In ministry, we can have a lot of activities , programs and conversations.  We can be DOING a great deal.  But unless it is going somewhere; unless it is focused; or in MacDonald’s words “if our choices of time-use are not disciplined by call and purpose” we dissipate our energy and can become as stagnant and as filled with spiritual PCBs as the Tualatin.
  3. Calendars without a Sabbath.  I am not talking simply about rest here.  A Sabbath is not simply plopping in front of the TV to watch the Olympics or football. MacDonald says: “A datebook filled with appointments but absent of significant hours (days) of quiet and reflection—written in first—is an abomination (an old and harsh word) to the God of the Bible.”  We emphasize the “rest” aspects of Sabbath, but we forget that “rest” was not the only purpose.  God declared: Six days you shall labor…but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. (Exod. 20:9-10a)  It is not just rest.  It is rest with a purpose.
  4. Relationships without mutual nourishment.  Most of us are familiar with the stat from a 1991 study: 70% of pastors have no close friendships.  They know and are friendly with a LOT of people.  But as for close friendships: they are few and far between.  I once followed a pastor in ministry where everyone in the church felt like they were close to the pastor.  But when I delved into what they knew about him: they knew next to nothing about him personally other than the bare facts (family members, ministry history, favorite jokes, etc.)  He is no longer in ministry.  MacDonald: “The spiritual masters have told us for centuries that without soul-friends, we won't gain spiritual momentum.”
  5. Pastoral personality without self-examination. MacDonald says it better than I can: “Too much ministry is built on unresolved anger, unhealthy needs for approval, and the instinct to control. Failing to explore our soul for unwholeness ultimately takes its toll.”
  6. Natural giftedness without spiritual power. After 30 years in ministry, I can say unequivocally: some of the most talented and gifted people I have known have been in ministry.  But human giftedness and human effort can only get what humans can do.  Spiritual power only comes from a “filled-up soul.”
  7. An enormous theology without an adequate spirituality. Many, many young pastors I meet are very equipped theologically.  While I am not Reformed in theology, I seem to run into a good deal of New Calvinists in ministry.  And many of them are theologically very well grounded.  But it is possible to have a well developed theology and a “spiritual-exercise regimen that is pea-size in contrast. A great theology demands a great spirituality.”

I appreciated MacDonald’s words.  While the spiritual life evaluation instrument for my client will take a bit of a different slant, it will be informed by this challenging information from MacDonald.  Again, you can find it here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Amen Corner

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Last week when I was listening to Jim Wallis of Sojourners speak, he  told a wonderful story.  In the 80s when Martin Luther King Day was first celebrated as a holiday, Wallis was asked to come speak at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Wallis tells of getting into the pulpit there on that January morning and being overwhelmed that he was standing in the same pulpit that Martin Luther King, Jr. and “Daddy” King has preached.  Wallis  began to preach, but he stuttered and stammered, repeating himself over and over.

Suddenly from the front pew on the left came a strong voice, “Help him, Lord!”

Wallis later learned that it was Deacon Jones.  Deacon Jones was the church’s unofficial “Amen Corner.” 

“Tell us the way it is!”

“Halleluiah!”

“He…..ep him, Jesus!”

“Preach it.”

“Amen!”

It was the traditional cadence and “dialogue” of an African American preacher and his/her congregation.  Wallis says “With Deacon Jones help, I was dancing before I was done.”

After the service, Wallis went over to Deacon Jones to thank him for his help and encouragement.

Deacon Jones simply smiled and replied, “I’ve helped make a good preacher out of many a preacher in that pulpit.”  He included in that group, Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is fairly unusual for any of the congregations I serve to “talk back” to me, but when they do, oh the encouragement it gives. I don’t think that the average Caucasian congregation understands the huge help it can be to a preacher when he gets positive verbal feedback from the pews.

In my last church, there was one man, a former elder (who has since moved to Salt Lake City) who was occasionally verbal.  While Dave’s “talkback” was mostly limited to “Amen”s it was always a big help. I truly believe that I preached better when I got that verbal feedback.

For what it’s worth, the word “Amen” is one of those words that the bible doesn’t translate, but just transliterates from the Hebrew & has made it into most languages.  It comes from the Hebrew root “aman” which means to be firm or solid in the sense of permanency. Thus by implication, it means to be sure, true or faithful. So whenever we see this word Amen used in scripture, it is affirming truth, or illustrating something is said that is of absolute certainty.

The word is found throughout the Bible, all the way to the very last word of the Bible (Rev. 22:21)

In the Old Testament the people were even commanded to respond with “Amen”, although in a bit of a different context. 

On the same day Moses commanded the people:

When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali.

The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice:

“Cursed is anyone who makes an idol—a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of skilled hands—and sets it up in secret.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his father’s wife, for he dishonors his father’s bed.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who has sexual relations with any animal.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his mother-in-law.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who kills their neighbor secretly.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  (Deut 27:11-26)

HOWEVER…having sat in the pew for a year now, I can understand how intimidating that can be. 

Loretta and I love to sing.  And so during the praise time, we sing & both harmonize & really may get swept away.  I would bet that more than once a month, the people in front of us turn after service & say how much they enjoyed sitting in front of us and listening to us sing.  I am humiliated when they do that.  I don’t want do be a distraction to anyone else’s worship.  (But it doesn’t stop me from singly sincerely & in harmony!!)

There have been several Sundays when I wanted to shout out a solid “Amen!” to Pastor Guy.  His preaching is really solid. But I attend a solidly white church in a fairly affluent community.  It is a place where “people know their place.”  And that place includes being quiet while Pastor Guy is preaching.  You don’t draw attention to yourself. 

But one of these days, the Spirit is just going to make me do it.  Guy is going to hit one of his great points and it’s just going to come out. 

If you are not a preacher, but appreciate what your preacher is saying, I hope you will do the same!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Peter Mead>Movie Illustrations: A Risky Business

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I have for many years used movie illustrations as a part of my pool of  illustrations from which I can draw.  I have usually (not always) had good luck with them. 

I recognize that there are two extremes: I have been in services where a movie clip is required somewhere in the service every Sunday.

The other extreme is John Piper who forbids them:

"I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it's going to backfire.... It's going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, but entertainment does."  (here).

Somewhere in the middle, I believe is Peter Mead, over at his blog, Biblical Preaching.  Peter uses them and recommends using them, but only judiciously.  You can find his post here. You really should check it out, but in short, he gives four caveats to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to use a specific movie clip:

  1. Not everyone will have seen it.
  2. Not everything in it [the rest of the movie] may be appropriate.
  3. Will it take too much explaining
  4. Will it overwhelm the text and the message?

It has been interesting for me to sit under the preaching of Pastor Guy Gray for the past nine months.  One the one hand, Guy is about as anti-tech as it gets.  He almost using nothing visual in his sermons.  He has the scriptures put upon on the screen (white text on black background) as he reads them.  That is all.  But either because of that, or in spite of that or irrelevant to that, his preaching is very deep and powerful.  It has made me think through a number of things about visual supplements. 

Again, Peter's explanations of each of these points is really worth checking out.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cross is All We Have

Quote of the Day:

image "The cross is and will forever be the sign of the church. This is the symbol that we have together, the symbol of what we have together, the symbol of what the churches have to give to the world. From the beginning to the end.”

    --Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, (pictured) in his installation as new general  secretary of the World Council of Churches. (Christian Post)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jim Wallis>Rediscovering Values

imageTonight I went to Powell’s Books here in Portland (actually it at was the Beaverton store) to hear Jim Wallis talk about his new book “Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street (A Moral Compass for the New Economy)”

I have heard Wallis before and knew that I was in for a treat.  I first heard him at an intimate pastors gathering at a bookstore in Wichita, KS and then heard him again in May 2007 at the Festival of Homiletics (the same event that launched this blog).

Wallis is always riveting, challenging..and funny.    He is, of course, the founder and president of Sojourners community in Washington D.C.: an organization that also publishes Sojourners magazine.  

Wallis is known for his hard hitting critiques of both right wing and left wing politics and his biblical calls for a return of the church as a voice for social justice and the poor.   He describes himself as an evangelical Christian who is pro-life in all the dimensions that that entails: against abortion, but also FOR justice and mercy.

He dropped names like Rona Barrett, but it is obvious that he is who world leaders look to when they want a Christian perspective on values.  He spoke at both of the past two World Economic Forums in Davos, Switzerland and teaches occasionally at Harvard.  This past Monday night before speaking at Portland, he had been featured at Stanford Univ.

His book is really a reaction to the economic crisis we have been in for the past 2-3 years.  He spoke of the roots of the crisis and its lasting legacy.  The “tagline” for his presentation (and for his book) is:

While most of us wonder, "When will the financial crisis be over?," Wallis will present the more challenging question, "How will the financial crisis change us?"

We are really at a point where America chooses whether we will return to the pre-1980 values of economics, morality and the concept of common good or continue to allow the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.  Even more so, will we return to the concepts that our parents and grandparents learned from the Great Depression?

(One side note: I sat on the second row and there were a couple of older ladies sitting right in front of me who were almost comical.  They were overly dramatic in their reaction to every statistic that Wallis presented or suggestion he made. They gasped loudly at his stats and clucked their tongues like old schoolmarms and used stage whispers to say such things as “That’s terrible!” or “How can they?”  Although from my conversations with them beforehand I know that they were big Wallis supporters, they almost came across as mocking him by their exaggerated reactions to his every statement.  It takes all kinds to make a world….)

Some misc. notes:

  • CEO’s need to (and some are beginning to) recognize that they have a responsibility not just to shareholders, but rather to STAKEholders (including shareholders, workers, consumers, the environment and future generations).
  • Wallis has said for several years that a budget is a moral document (whether it be a family budget, a state’s budget, or a nations budget) but in recent years as a father (he has two sons, aged 11 & 6) he has come to realize that a calendar is a moral document as well.  Both express what is and what isn’t important to us, who is and who isn’t important to us and what we really think about the things we talk about.
  • Thirty years ago high level executives were (on average) paid 30x what the average worker in their company was paid.  Today that average is 450:1. 
  • Even though the “poverty line” in America is outdated & is unrealistically low, still 1 out of every 4 children in America lives under the “poverty line.”
  • The poor in our world are the “canaries in the mine” for our world economy.  When the poor begin to become even more profoundly affected it spells deep trouble for the rest of us.
  • Majorities never change anything. Change only comes when you have a critical mass among the minority.  Many people say they voted for change in the 2008 election, but change hasn’t happened because there has not been a critical mass among the minority.
  • Both Obama and his supports misunderstood the forces against significant change present in Washington D.C.  [You may see that as a bad thing or a good thing depending on your views of Obama, but it still is never good for the country over the long haul.-cph]. 
  • Wallis spoke of bonuses paid to executives of investment companies: While Wallis spoke to fast with figures, he said that investment companies paid something like $50 billion in bonuses to their executives last year. (This after the taxpayers bailed them out for their misdeeds).  That seemed a bit high to me and so I did a quick Google search. I never found that specific number, but found that investment companies located in New York City alone paid $20 billion in bonuses to their executives last year.  Wallis went through a long list of how that money could be used to make our country a stronger and more healthy place if it were applied to such things as health care, helping homeowners with mortgages in foreclosure (no foreclosures through the end of 2012), the fact that just a PORTION of that could pay off the debt of all of the individual states in the nation combined.  image
  • 45% of Harvard students said that they wanted to be investment  bankers. 
  • As Paul Harvey used to say: “Wash your mind out with this”: At the same time a teaching organization that trains teachers to go into the inner city and teach in the worst of the worst schools (I think it is Teach for America) has so many people applying that their application criteria are more strict than those to be admitted to Harvard University. 

In all of this, Wallis had a consistent Christian testimony.  He spoke several times of his Christian faith…not in a way that belittled or minimized the faith (or non-faith) of others, but he made it clear that his commitment to these things arose out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Skimming for the Vision?

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As I continue to read on coaching and the opportunities it provides, I found an intriguing concept in a book entitled, “Coaching for Christian Leaders” by Linda J. Miller and Chad W. Hall (Chalice Press, 2007).

I have mentioned here before that coming up with “the big vision” was always hard for me. For me, it reeked too much of egoism and presumption.  And yet, I recognized that a vision for a body of believers has an important place. Additionally, people had the expectation that there needed to be a vision for a church.  “What is the vision for your (or “our”) church?” was a phrase that I heard over and over through the years.  In my last church there was a continuing battle over who was to provide that vision:  the pastor or the board of elders.  But the presumption either way was that the official leadership of the church was to be the source of that vision.

Miller and Hall introduce an intriguing concept: “skimming for vision”.  Let me quote a couple of paragraphs and then comment on it:

Where is vision and how does the leader get it?  Three common responses are that God gives vision to the leader, or that the leader “goes to the mountain” and sees the vision in isolation, or that the vision comes to the leader in a dream.  Certainly each of these options is a possibility.  But the vision caster who takes a coach approach has one more option: the vision may reside with the followers.

Ministry leaders, especially those in faith families who value the priesthood of all believers, possess a theological impetus for believing that vision resides with the community.  In such cases, the vision caster is charged, not with coming up with the vision in solitude, but with discerning the vision from amidst the community.  This could be termed “skimming for the vision.”  The picture is that various members of a church (or any organization) have a piece of the vision. Through experience, intellect, relationships and capability, each of these members carries God-given hopes, dreams, concerns, and suggestions for the church.  The vision caster who dialogues with members uses the skills of a coach to draw out the vision from each person.  The vision caster asks question, listens intently, suspends judgment, and even encourages forward movement in an effort to support the “persons being coached” while simultaneously picking up one more aspect of God’s intent for the church. 

Skimming for the vision is not an abdication of the leaders duty to discern vision.  This is not “vision by committee.”  Instead, skimming for the vision is a way to discern.  The leader must have eyes to see and ears to hear the vision as it is revealed piece by piece.  Talk about active listening!  The leader must distinguish what is and what is not a piece of the vision, hold onto each piece as it is revealed, prayerfully recognize patterns and themes that emerge, and then put these pieces together with God’s help.  Skimming for the vision is not a shortcut to discerning the vision for a church, but it is a way of tapping into the genius of the community.  A leader’s decision  to take an initiative or recommend an action comes from that leader’s intuition, experience, and intelligence.  A coach approach enables the leader to tap into the intuition, experience and intelligence of many people.”  (p. 88)

I am not ready to buy into the concept that this is the only way in which vision should be determined for a congregation.  Even Miller and Hall don’t state it that way.  But they add it as one more way in which God may bring his vision to a congregation. 

I think that in my church in Garden City, KS that concept really worked well.  We had “Listening Posts” on two difference occasions where the people shared their hopes and dreams for that church and what they believed that God was saying to our church.  And then a very small group (with me at the helm) sorted through that and came up with a plan of action that we believe came from God. It wasn’t perfectly executed, but I still believe it came from God and he richly blessed it. And I could buy into it because I knew it wasn’t me imposing my hopes and dreams onto a congregation.

Now, in the church I served after that, the same concept didn’t work and that was partly due to the emphasis of the local elder board on doing everything by committee and de-emphasizing the role of the senior pastor.  That, combined with lobbying by a very vocal group pushing their one agenda really destroyed the process. 

As Miller and Hall say, this is not an easier way to do vision creation.  It is (IMHO) much harder.  It takes wisdom and strength on the part of the leader to set boundaries and to be able to see patterns.  It also takes a group of people who are willing, even after their hopes and dreams are shared, are willing for those not to be adopted.

But I think the concept has enough merit to consider.  What do you think?  Have you heard of this concept elsewhere.  What was your reaction to it then?  Share you feedback with all of us….

Monday, February 22, 2010

Expository Thoughts: How to Recognize Symbolic Language

Matt Waymeyer has a basic, but helpful reminder on how to differentiate between literal language and figurative language in the Bible. Basic Bible interpretation, but something that seems to trip up a number of people.  Find it here.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Quick Schedule/Time Management Tip

image Maybe what I am about to say is known to every minister on the planet except me.  But it adversely affected my last ministry and continues to catch my attention.

We as ministers want to be of assistance to people and we want to be available/accessible.  Both of those are good traits as long as we have strong boundaries.

I haven’t always had good boundaries but I am continuing to define and strengthen them.  My online university teaching as well as trying to get my coaching business up and running has highlighted the need for this trait. 

Part of issue is in the fact that ministers don’t punch a clock and much of what they do is not time-determined.  For example.  I need to go to the hospital to visit.  It doesn’t really matter (unless the hospital has policies or something is going on with the patient) if I go at 11:00 a.m. or at 3:30 p.m.  Likewise, we have administrative tasks that must be done.  But whether I do them this morning or this afternoon (or tomorrow) is not (usually) of vital consequence.  

I always told people: “I have a lot to do, but most of it is flexible in terms of when it has to be done.”

And so, when someone would call wanting to schedule a meeting or a counseling appointment, or whatever, I would be more than willing to bend MY schedule around theirs.  And if I already had two meetings today and someone wanted to meet today, I kind of made a face but went ahead and scheduled them today. 

The sermon prep or the administrative task, or the pastoral phone call could wait until tomorrow.  Or the next day.

“I have a lot to do, but most of it is flexible in terms of when it has to be done.” meant that the things that were high priorities usually got pushed into whatever time (if any) remained.

And that lack of boundaries resulted in two consequences:

  1. A lack of productivity on my part; or at least peak productivity, because when I did those things they were usually at times when I was tired or rushed;
  2. Heightened stress, because I knew those things still needed to be but were not getting done.

So who paid the price? I and my family did. I did in terms of my physical and mental health and my family did in terms of quality time with me.

In the past year I have been teaching for four different online universities, and at times up to seven different classes at the same time.  And I really enjoy it—most of the time.  HOWEVER…each of the schools has very strict rules about what has to be done on which days.  There are time limits on returning e-mails and minimum number of discussion posts (and requirements of what has to be IN the discussion posts) for each day.  There are guidelines about how long I have to grade and return students’ assignments.  On an average, my online classes take me, oh 6 hours per day.  (My educated guesstimate).

But I am still in community groups.  I am seeking to network. I am seeking to make appointments with ministers about coaching. I am still taking my coaching training. I have practicum coaching sessions that have to be done each week. Plus I am learning an entirely new skill set in terms of setting up and running a business.  Our financial picture demands that I get my coaching business up and make it profitable ASAP.  I am presenting two workshops this weekend for a group of churches in southern Oregon. I am in a Men’s Bible Study and meeting with another guy about starting a second one.

I have friends who want to have coffee (and with whom I want to have coffee). And Jim Wallis is coming to town this week and I really would like to go hear him speak at Powells City of Books.

What does that mean? It means that I HAVE to say no when people want to meet quickly.  Twice this week guys have called & wanted to have coffee.  They were not high priority meetings, but would be good to do and potentially have some business advantages.  In the old days I would have let them set a time & worked my schedule around it.  In both cases, I asked for a couple of times they could meet in two weeks.  I didn’t say “No, I won’t meet.”  But I did fit it into MY schedule.  And I am also aware that those weeks I may have to do the same with others who call. 

I simply CANNOT fill my schedule with meetings that other people want to have on their schedules.  Emergencies happen.  But a small percentage of the calls I got as a minister were the absolute “drop everything and run” type of emergencies.

God has given us all the same amount of time.  Some of us just do more with it than others do.  I want, and need, to do more with it.

Visits Since Dec. 11, 2007