Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas blues

For years I have heard about the large number of people who struggle with feeling blue and depressed during the Christmas holidays. I never understood how anyone could feel sad during such a joyous time...until now. Losing my father a couple of months ago and some other things that have been going on seems to have taken a lot of the joy out of this time of the year. For the first time in my nearly 60 years I am struggling to enjoy this season. Now that we are only one day away from Christmas I am happy that some of the joy is starting to return.

My wife and I attended a Christmas program at one of the churches I serve yesterday, and it was very well done. Two years ago this was a church that was struggling, and yesterday the sanctuary was packed. The program was uplifting and told the story of Christmas in a powerful way.

After church my brothers and sisters got together for Christmas at Dad's old house. He left the house to our youngest sister, and she invited all of us there for Christmas dinner. Even though Dad couldn't be there it was good to have our family together in the house we grew up in. Our daughter and her family surprised us by showing up as well. We had no idea they were coming, and they were as excited about surprising us as we were about them being there.

My wife has to work today, and then we will spend a quiet Christmas Eve together. Tomorrow we will drive down to our daughter's house about two hours away and spend the afternoon with them. Our grandkids will show us all the gifts they received, and I'm sure I'll have to learn some new video games. It should be a fun time, and a noisy one as well! Our son and his family are entertaining his in-laws this Christmas season and won't be able to come home. We'll talk on the phone and wish one another a merry Christmas.

This will be the first time since our children were born that no one has been in our house for Christmas day. Since our daughter has three children and two foster children it just made sense for my wife and I to go there for the holiday than for them to have to get five children ready for travel. We insisted that we would go to their house, but holiday traditions are still hard to give up.

Holiday traditions and circumstances change. Family members pass away leaving huge holes in our lives. But, it's all part of life, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes that occur. Fortunately, the one thing that does not change is Jesus Christ and His love for us. That is why we celebrate His birth. His coming brings the only firm foundation in our lives that will never change and is capable of supporting us in all the changes that come into our lives. I woke up this morning praising Him and thanking Him for His steadfast love and presence in my life. It is my prayer for each of my readers that no matter what you may be facing in your life or in the year to come that you remember that God will never leave you nor forsake you and that His love for you is unconditional. Let each of us praise Him for that today.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Speaking engagements in 2008

I currently have several speaking engagements set up for 2008, and I hope to meet some of you. At each site I will be speaking on the healthy small church except for the chapel address at Campbellsville University. My current schedule is:

  • February 1,2 - Kentucky Baptist Convention Pastor/Deacon/Spouse retreat at Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • February 20 - Chapel service at Campbellsville University
  • April 7 -11 - The American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains
  • April 7 - Bethany Baptist Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • April 9 - First Baptist Church of Palisade, Colorado
  • April 11 - First Baptist Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • April 22-25 - National Clergy Conference for the American Baptist Churches of USA, Green Lake, Wisconsin
  • May 20-23 - Convention of Atlantic Baptist Church, New Brunswick, Canada (Tentative - Sites TBD)
  • October 23-25 - Salvation Army Officers Council meeting, Muskegon, Michigan

In addition to the conference on healthy small churches I speak on bivocational ministry for the 21st century and on how to lead a small church to change from being maintenance-minded to becoming more missional in its ministry. If your organization would like to schedule me for any of these please contact me as soon as possible for scheduling.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Integrity in sports and ministry

This has not been a good week for sports. Baseball released their long-awaited report on steroid use in their sport, and the report shocked many due to the players named as steroid users. Some of the biggest names in modern-day baseball were listed as abusers including some who were considered a lock into the Hall of Fame. Some players are already insisting on their innocence but the author of the report, George Mitchell, has said that these players were given an opportunity to meet with his group and dispute the allegations that had been made against them. None accepted his offer. These players were looking for an advantage, and it appears they found one even though they knew it was against the rules. Like it or not, professional sports figures are role models to many young people, and they once again have failed their fans and the sport they claim to love. I guess the millions they earned will help ease any feelings of guilt they may have.

Bobby Petrino once again made the headlines with yet another coaching change while under a long-term contract. He has mastered the art of insisting he is staying put while he is negotiating with other teams. He can win football games; he proved that at Louisville, but I still do not understand why any university or professional team would want him as coach. Every team he has signed with in recent years he did while under a long-term contract with his former team. Should any of these teams be surprised when he treats them the same way? It reminds me of a person who marries someone they met in a bar and then is surprised to learn the person has a drinking problem.

Integrity is an essential element for long-term success, and this is true also for ministry. The people in our churches need to know that their ministers are persons of integrity. Every time a minister fails, the trust level people have for ministers drops a little bit more. We all pay a price when one of us fails to live a life of integrity.

It's important to remember that the majority of professional baseball players were not named as abusers. They play the game with integrity. The vast majority of coaches are also people of integrity. Many of them have remained with their teams for years working with young people and helping them improve not only their sport skills but also teaching them the essentials they will need throughout their lives. They model integrity to their players and fans.

Fortunately, the vast majority of ministers are also persons of integrity. While we may make mistakes at times, we try very hard to model the Christian life to anyone who may be watching. Let us constantly pray that we not give in to the temptations that are common to all people so that our testimony will never be compromised. Unless our people trust us they will not follow us, and they will not trust us unless they believe that we are persons of integrity.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Achieve more in 2008

What are your goals for 2008? When you reach this time next year what do you hope to have accomplished? Studies show that people who set goals and work to achieve them accomplish more than those who just drift through life hoping good things will happen. Chances are that if you don't set goals you will come to December 2008 and be disappointed at your achievements for the year.

Goal setting is vital if a person is serious about wanting to achieve more in life, but it is also important to have someone work with you to achieve those goals. We all need persons in our lives who can hold us accountable, help us see things we may overlook on our own, and help us sort through the many things that demand our time so that we can focus on the doing the most important things first. Many people today find that a life coach helps them achieve those things.

A life coach can help keep you on track by asking the hard questions you might not ask yourself. He or she can help you decide on the most important things that you need to focus on to enjoy the greatest success in your family life, your ministry, your relationship with God, and all the others aspects of your life. A coach can help you get unstuck when you don't know the best direction in which you should go, and your life coach can help you keep your life in balance so that there is more time for the most important things.

For the past couple of years I have been a coach to a number of people, many of them bivocational ministers. It has been enjoyable to see them find solutions to the issues that were creating the most problems for them. Some experienced signficant breakthroughs in areas that had kept them stuck and confused for a long time.

I now have some openings for people who would like a coach to help them achieve more in 2008. The cost is very reasonable and is a great investment in yourself. You will probably spend a lot of money to buy gifts for people this Christmas season, but what will you give yourself? Investing in a life coach so you can achieve more in the coming year could be the greatest gift you could give yourself.

Please contact me today if you are interested. If you want more information about what a coach can do for you, please go to my web site,, and click on the coaching tab.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons from the megachurches

Despite the vast difference in size bivocational churches can learn a lot from megachurches. Cynthia Woolever recently wrote an article for The Parish Paper in which she listed seven lessons churches can learn from megachurches.

  • Invite your friends.
  • Welcome new people and be clear about the church's expectations for new members.
  • Invest in stewardship education.
  • Focus on mission.
  • Offer inspiring and dynamic worship experiences each week.
  • Be open to change even if it is risky.
  • Find a niche ministry and do it with excellence.

There is nothing earth shattering in these suggestions, but how is your church doing in each of these categories? What could you change to improve even one of the areas of church life in 2008? Even improving just one area could bring substantial changes to your church.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ministry pressure points

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday season. As usual, we are way too much good food and watched too many football games through half-opened eyes. Still, it was a fun day with our daughter and her family here, and we were able to talk to our son at his in-laws house in Virginia. Even though this has been a very challenging year in many ways, we all agreed that God has continued to bless us and we have much for which to be thankful.

I am currently writing a new book that will address how to ease some of the pressures associated with ministry, and I need your help. What are some things that create the most ministry-related stress in your life that I need to include in this book? I want to make sure this book will help the majority of ministers so I don't want to overlook some item that generates a lot of stress for you. I hope to hear from everyone who reads this post.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


It's early Thanksgiving Day. My wife has already left for work so she can come home early and get dinner together for the family. Our daughter and her family spent the night with us and are still asleep. The poor dog is whining in her cage because she wants to play with our grandkids. Our son and his family are with her folks this year for Thanksgiving. We'll talk later on the phone.

In many ways this has been one of the most difficult years in my life, and there are still challenges to be met. However, I got up this morning truly thankful for the blessings our family has known, not just for the past year but for all our years. God has been faithful to us in so many ways. I've spent some time this morning thinking about some of the things He has brought us through. It hardly seems like saying "Thank you" is enough, but God is probably satisfied with that. In fact, He would probably like to hear it more often from many of us.

I'm also thankful for the readers of this blog, the readers of my e-newsletter, and all those who serve in bivocational ministry. I respect the ministry you provide your churches, and I admire you and your families for the sacrifices you are willing to make to engage in bivocational ministry. At times it can get hard to keep going, but when you enter those times I encourage you to remember back to the calling God put on your life and remember the many times He has sustained you in difficult times. As He was with you then so will He be with you in your future struggles as well. My prayer for you this Thanksgiving Day is that you and your family will be richly blessed as we approach a new year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Missional book for smaller churches

This past week I signed an agreement with Beacon Hill Press to publish my next book that has a working title of Transforming the Small Church: From Maintenance-Minded to Missional. Despite what many people believe, smaller churches can change. Although many seem locked in a survival mode and very resistent to change, some of them are willing to move out of that maintenance mindset and become more missional once they see the need to do so. It will probably not be a quick process in most smaller churches, so the leaders will have to take a long-term approach to the transformation process, but it can be done.

Beacon Hill Press is the publishing arm of the Church of the Nazarene, and they have been very gracious to publish two of my previous books that addressed bivocational ministry and small church health. They understand the need for resources for our smaller churches and bivocational ministries. The folks there have been great to work with, and I'm sure this project will be no exception. I have no details of expected release dates, but I will keep you posted on this blog of the process of this project. This can be an important book in helping our smaller churches begin to look at a new way of doing ministry, so I ask that you keep it in your prayers as it is being prepared for publication.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Passionate lay people

After preaching at a church yesterday I enjoyed lunch with a few lay people from the church. This congregation is currently seeking a new pastor. These lay people were passionate about wanting to see their church explore new ways of doing ministry in the community. They had numerous questions about how their church could become more missional in their efforts. It was exciting to see the passion of these folks because it suggests that their church is about to enter into a new period of growth and service to their community.

It seems that so much of church work drains the passion from people. Many pastors can remember the enthusiasm they felt when they first graduated from seminary or began a ministry at a new church, but some of them have not felt that passion for many years as the day-to-day demands of ministry slowly robbed them of their passion. Committed lay people can testify to that same loss of passion. After years of faithfully serving their church, the frustration of seeing little happen can begin to eat away at our passion. Our efforts can soon become mechanical producing few results which only takes away even more of the joy and passion of serving Christ.

From time to time it is important that each of us take a good survey of our various ministries regardless of whether we are clergy or lay leaders. We need to examine our motivation for serving and take a passion check to see if we still feel the excitement we once knew. If not, we need to stop and begin praying that God would restore that passion to us and try to determine what took it away from us in the first place. Maintaining the passion for our ministries is one of the keys to enjoying a long, fruitful ministry.

Friday, November 9, 2007


I spoke to two pastors yesterday who are feeling trapped in their current places of ministry. Declining attendance, reduced giving, strife, and apathy are taking their tolls. Both would like to find new places to serve, but nothing has opened up yet. One has been looking for several years, but for a variety of reasons no church has felt called to ask him to come as their minister. The frustration in their voices is easy to hear. Both love the Lord and love His people and just want to be able to serve Him with joy and gladness, but the joy is long gone, and now they feel trapped.

Chances are we've all been there at one time or another. It may have been in a ministry position or in our other careers as bivocational ministers. There is nothing but drudgery as we go from day to day fulfilling our responsibilities. The work gets done, but we feel no sense of accomplishment, no joy, and we feel that no one appreciates the fact that it was done.

I tried to encourage both pastors yesterday, but I doubt that my words penetrated their feelings of frustration. I assured them that God would open doors in His time, but I also remembered the times when those words did little to encourage me when I was feeling trapped. They are true, and we in the ministry know they are true, but when we are feeling trapped they do not seem to bring much comfort.

A layperson recently told me that she is seeing a great attack on spiritual leaders that she believes is an indication that God is about to do something great in His church. She believes the enemy knows this and is attacking ministers and their families to try to stop the blessing God is about to pour out upon the church. Certainly, I have seen what appears to be an increased attack on Christian leaders during the past year, and these attacks have included me, and I pray that her belief that God is about to do something great is correct.

In the meantime, we need to pray for one another. Many of our colleagues are hurting. They feel trapped in their responsibilities and see no way out. Their families are hurting as they see the pain this is causing their loved ones. They also feel frightened and uncertain of what the future holds.

We also need to keep our eyes upon Christ. If we only focus on the negative circumstances we may be in we stand a much greater chance of being defeated. It is when we focus on Christ that we able to endure the attacks and frustrations that we will experience.

I encourage you this morning to pray for one another and keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. Encourage one another. Be the blessing you would want someone to be for you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New things to learn

I am about to finish re-reading a great book by Reggie McNeal titled The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church published by Jossey-Bass. It had been a couple of years since I first read it and just felt it was time to read it again. The author challenges much of what we think about the church, what its mission should be, and the leadership that is required to effectively lead the church in the twenty-first century.

One of the challenges I continually give to bivocational ministers is to never stop learning. McNeal supports this in his book by writing:

Church leaders must go to "school" all the time. Their course of study will depend on the challenges they face. I have already identified some key areas. A beginning list includes post-modernism, generational cultures, visioning, communication, organizational behavior and development, leadership development, team building, apologetics, and futuring, just to get started.

These may not be what we normally think of when we think of training for ministers, but these are the skills that are needed in today's church and today's society. Notice that McNeal states that these are not exclusive, he writes that these will just get you started. They assume that the minister already has sound theological beliefs and some Bible knowledge. He also suggests that the strategies for learning will include more than just classroom or workshop training. He encourages ministers to
  1. Go where it's happening - Bookstores, movies, coffee shops, etc.
  2. Get outside the box - Don't limit your learning to what other churches are doing.
  3. Create a learning community versus trying to learn everything yourself.
  4. Develop a chief learning officer in your congregation to be on the lookout for learning opportunities.
  5. Get a learning coach who can help you keep on track.

This book is a great read for the minister who wants to help lead his or her church to become more missional. You probably won't agree with everything McNeal writes (I didn't), but he will force you to think, and he will give you some great insight into how churches can more effectively reach their communities for Christ.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Events vs relationships

In his book, Organic Churches, Neil Cole mentions that one of the questions he often asks groups when he is speaking is how many of them were brought to a relationship with Christ because of some event in a church. Usually, very few hands go up. His follow-up question is how many became a Christian because of a friend, family member, or someone else they knew led them to Christ. He reports that most hands in the audience goes up. He then asks why do we spend so much time planning events when most people are saved through relationships?

Studies consistently show that most people are brought to a personal relationship with Christ because of one or more of their friends ministering to them. It is through relationships that the most effective evangelism occurs. This is great news for all churches but especially for bivocational churches. Too often our bivocational churches feel they can do little to fulfill the Great Commission because they don't have the resources to develop and maintain exciting programs that will reach out to people. The fact is that we don't. But, we can effectively reach people with the Gospel simply by developing relationships with people we want to reach, allowing them to see our faith in action, and sharing the Gospel with them at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

This is an evangelism strategy that a church of any size can use, and it is a biblical model. Every person in our churches have unsaved family members and friends. They work around people who have not yet turned their lives over to Christ. They attend schools and shop in markets with unsaved people. In the rare event that a person doesn't know someone who doesn't know Christ, that person needs to begin developing relationships with some new people.

I encourage you to write out a list of persons you would like to see become a Christian. Commit yourself to pray for those persons each day. Be aware that they are watching you and act accordingly. Allow your life to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to others so they will be drawn to Him. The time will come when you will feel an inner prompting to share with them the reason for "the hope that is within you." As you share Christ with them ask if they would like to receive Him into their lives. We can do no more than faithfully share our testimony and invite them to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. The choice is theirs to make. We cannot make it for them, and God will not force Himself upon them. The Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and their need for Christ, but the final decision is theirs to make.

Once you begin doing this, encourage your congregation to begin doing the same thing. Reaching out to persons with whom we already have a relationsip doesn't cost the church anything. If we have faithfully lived our faith so others could see it, we will have great credibility with family members and friends and should gain a quicker audience. We might be surprised to see our churches begin to grow through this approach to outreach.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Willow Creek repents for producing shallow Christians

Few churches have had the impact on American church life than Willow Creek. Thousands of church leaders flock to their conferences each year to learn how to do church like Willow Creek. Their pastor, Bill Hybels, has written a number of books on church ministry and Christian living that have been popular. I have a number of them on my shelves and enjoyed reading them and learned from each of them. It certainly came as a surprise to many on the Willow Creek staff when a survey they took showed that their efforts have not been effective in producing mature believers.

Their approach was to develop numerous programs for people to attend believing that their participation in these programs would lead to spiritual maturity. Hybels now admits they should have encouraged their members to take more personal responsibility for their spiritual development by reading the Scriptures and practicing spiritual disciplines at home.

A number of web sites and blogs seem to enjoy this admission by Hybels. I've never understood the oppostion to Willow Creek that has existed by many groups. Personally, it sounds like jealousy to me. Willow Creek has successfully reached out to thousands of people to bring them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Multitudes of people will spend eternity in heaven because of the ministry of Willow Creek.

I'm thankful that Hybels and the church are willing to admit what their studies discovered. Some church leaders would have tried to cover that up, but the leaders at Willow Creek reported honestly what their studies learned, admitted they had make mistakes in the area of discipleship, and are looking at the changes they need to make to improve this area of their ministry.

One of my questions in this is how are they different than many of our churches? We only have to take a look at the condition of our nation, the decline in many areas of church life, the wide-spread ignorance of the Bible, the controversies that plague many of our denominations, the moral failures of many of our ministry leaders, the decline in baptisms, and the little impact that the church is having on our society to recognize that this is not a problem limited to Willow Creek. Many of our churches are failing to develop disciples. What makes Willow Creek different is that they now admit their failures and are looking to correct them. Many of our other churches won't even admit they are not effectively producing disciples, and they certainly are not interested in finding new ways of doing ministry that might be more effective.

This may well be the most important challenge facing our churches as we approach a new year. Pastors and other church leaders need to step back and evaluate the effectiveness of their discipling programs. The Great Commission calls us to not only reach out and lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ but to also help them develop as His disciples.

I would encourage the readers of this blog to call together the leaders of your church and begin evaluating the ministry of the church in the area of disciple-making. What is the level of spiritual maturity of the members of your church? Is this growing? What church programs have been effective in helping your congregation grow more mature spiritually? Which ones are not effective? What does your church need to do in 2008 to help the spiritual development of your congregation? These seem to be good starting questions to address a wide-spread problem in many of our churches.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Asking for your prayers

Back in May of this year I had surgery to remove a kidney stone that was passing down my left side. At the time they told me I had a smaller stone in the right kidney. Well...I don't have it anymore. Yesterday afternoon I passed that stone. I'm very thankful it was small enough to pass on its own because I was not looking forward to having that surgery again! Although it passed fairly easily I'm still a little tired and uncomfortable from it.

As I said in an earlier post, this is a very difficult time for me in several ways. Several deadlines are coming up fast. I continue to ask for your prayers, and I thank you for them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A changing church

When I resigned as pastor of the church I had served for two decades many of the members insisted I remain a member of the church. Normally, that is not a good idea. But, as an Area Minister with 80 churches, and whose area included that church, I would seldom be able to attend my home church anyway. My wife and I kept our membership in that church and continue to support it with our tithes. I am able to attend services there a couple of times a year. Yesterday was one of those times.

A couple of years after I resigned the church it began to have some problems leading several people to leave. The church lost nearly half of the people who attended there during my pastorate. It was very hard to see the church I had devoted so many years to go through such times. When I attended the church during those times there was a tension in the air so thick you could almost cut it with a knife.

A year or so ago the church called a new pastor who is rebuilding the church. Although he reached out to those who had left, most of them had already found other churches, and he rightly started reaching out to new people. When I attended services there yesterday the attendance was about what it was when I resigned, but I didn't recognize at least half the people. In the past when I attended there it was like a homecoming; yesterday many of the people assumed I was a visitor. The service is different, and new music has been added. A praise team with four guitars and three singers have started bringing part of the music. We didn't have any musicians except for our pianist when I was pastor there.

It felt odd as I was driving home to see how the church has changed in the six years since I left as their pastor. I had made a mark on the church and it resembled me in a lot of ways. The church is now changing in ways that reflect their new pastor. The good news is that it is still focused on Jesus Christ and His challenge to reflect His light in everything we do. It felt odd; but it felt good. I'm excited about the future of our church.

The only problem I had yesterday was that one of the long-time members introduced me to someone as their old pastor! I asked him to please clarify that remark.:)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Doing ministry together

Yesterday at Campbellsville University I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Coffey speak at a chapel service and later at a luncheon. Dr. Coffey is the President of the Baptist World Alliance. He spoke of the ministry that the BWA is doing in many different parts of the world and emphasized the importance of Christians working together to advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world. He also spoke of the divisisons that sometimes exist between Baptists and how that negatively impacts our witness to the world.

I realize that not all my readers are Baptists, but his words should challenge each of us. Jesus also spoke of the dangers of division within His body. He said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. A powerful statement is sent throughout a community when the churches in that community work together in the name of Jesus Christ to make a difference. At the same time, when churches and denominations fight among themselves a negative message is sent that brings great harm to the cause of Christ.

I know of an association of churches who have worked together to minister to people in difficult economic circumstances nearly 200 miles away from their community. Most of these are bivocational churches. The ministry of these churches to the people of that region has had a great impact on those who have been served. In another community, several churches of different denominations join together each year to host a joint Vacation Bible School that serves about 200 children each summer. These churches don't agree on every point of doctrine and church government, but they do agree that children are important to God, and they realize that those things that bind them together are much greater than their minor points of disagreement.

It has been my joy to work with different denominations as they serve their bivocational ministers, and my schedule for 2008 includes some new denominations I have not worked with before. It is exciting to learn how different denominations are working to encourage their bivocational ministers and meet their needs. A few years ago a denominational leader invited me to be involved in a gathering of their bivocational leaders. I jokingly asked if he was sure that his group could handle having someone from my denomination in their meeting. He laughed and then said, "Bivocational ministry is too important to worry about denominational differences. We have enough issues as bivocational ministers without worrying about minor denominational differences." He is right, and that is true of most of the things that divide us.

Let's find ways to work together to take the glorious message of Jesus Christ into all the world.

Golf cart for sale

I have decided to sell my golf cart. For the past 2-3 years I haven't used it enough to justify owning one. Although I live only about 5 mintues from the golf course, I have not played much golf, and when I have played it has been with other people at other courses. The cart will have to be picked up so this post will only interest people who live near my home in Indiana.

The cart is a 1996 Yamaha gas golf cart. It is in excellent condition and runs great. It has a fold down windshield and a rain cover. The price is $2400.00. If you are interested you can respond to this post, and I will contact you. Thank you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pastors and their personal prayer lives

One of our staff persons enjoyed a three month sabbatical this summer. His project was to study the devotional life of ministers. He sent surveys out to a number of clergy and conducted some individual interviews with several others. Out of a total of 55 ministers he contacted, 13 of them were bivocational. At our staff meeting this week he share his findings.

Each of the pastors claimed a time of devotions that includes prayer. Interestingly enough, only one admitted that part of his prayer time included confession of sin. Maybe these individuals are much more spiritual than I am, but that seems to be an important part of my prayer time each day. Another interesting finding was that only half reported that they turn to God in times of crisis. If the crisis was associated with their ministries, only four pastors said they turn to God for assistance. Ten reported they turn to a judicatory leader.

Much of his study was very encouraging, but these two aspects are not. Do these pastors who do not make confession of sin part of their regular prayer time believe they do not sin? Or do they believe they do not need forgiveness for their sins? The Bible is clear that all of us sin, and when we sin we have an advocate with God who will forgive us of our sins. I am certainly aware of my need to seek God's forgiveness daily, and I think that will be true of most ministers if they are honest with themselves.

I was also troubled that more pastors look to their judicatory leaders than to God during times of crisis. I am a judicatory leader, and the pastors I serve know that I am available to them at any time for any assistance I can provide, but I am not God. He must be our first contact when we encounter a crisis in our lives. It is often helpful to have judicatory leaders and other godly people walk with us through a crisis, but only God has the power to bring healing to the situation and the ability to provide the grace we need until that healing comes.

How is your prayer life? Do you have regular times each day set aside for prayer? What do you pray about? Is confession of sin a regular part of your prayer time? Who do call upon first when difficulties come into your life? I would be interested in hearing some of your responses.

Monday, October 15, 2007


My wife and I are celebrating our 41st anniversary today! We've spent some time the past few days reflecting on how far God has brought us in 41 years. The first ten years we were married we were not Christians, and we had a lot of hard times. We've also had our share of difficult times in the last 31 years, but we found them much easier to handle because of the strength we drew from our relationship with Jesus Christ.

People often tell me that I married a great woman, and they will not get any argument from me. She has consistently supported me in every thing I have ever wanted to do. A bivocational minister better have the support of his or her spouse, and Faye has given me that support. Every mistake I have made has been against her advice, but never once has she ever said, "I told you so." We've been through a lot together, and I can truthfully say that I love her even more now than I did when we first married.

Because we both have to work today we enjoyed an anniversary dinner Friday evening. It gave us some time to just sit and talk about our lives together and how blessed we feel being married to one another. So many people today are not happy in their relationships which makes us even more thankful that God brought us together so many years ago. This morning I lay in bed before getting up and thanked God for Faye and for our years together and asked Him to allow us to enjoy many more years as husband and wife.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our calling

My wife and I have spent the past few days visiting our son and his family. We had a great time with them before returning home yesterday evening. While there we attended their church on Sunday morning. Their pastor, who is a very good Bible teacher, had invited a guest speaker to talk about his 14 year ministry in Russia.

He talked about how difficult it had been for him at times. He has pastored two churches in Russia and has found it to be a very difficult ministry for a number of reasons, but it was also obvious that he loves the Russian people very much. His message focused on why he had stayed there despite the many difficulties and frustrations. Simply put, the reason is that he feels he has been called to that ministry and does not intend to leave it unless the Lord changes his calling.

As I have thought about his message in the days since Sunday I have filtered it through the bivocational experience. Bivocational ministry is often very difficult and frustrating. There were times during my pastoral ministry that I considered quitting or moving on to another ministry, but I could never get beyond the idea of being called to do what I was doing. There was absolutely no question in my mind that God had called me to pastor the church I was serving, and until I believed He was calling me to something else I felt compelled to stay there. There was one period of about 18 months when I averaged a call a week from other churches asking me to meet with their pastor search committees. I think I agreed to meet with 2-3 of them, and that was primarily to explore if God was opening new doors of ministry for me. I did strongly consider one church during that time, but as much as I felt God might be leading me to that church I never felt He was leading me from the church I was currently serving. I finally told the search committee that I would not become a candidate for their position for that reason.

Calling is something we sometimes talk about, but I fear we don't always consider its true importance. Pastors sometimes are "called to another church" so often I wonder why God can't make up His mind where he wants that person to serve. I have been told that 50% of seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years after graduating from seminary. If that is true I wonder who called them to the ministry in the first place.

The only reason I have not left the ministry during times of greatest trials is because I am convinced God has called me to the ministry. The only reason I did not leave the church I served for 20 years is because I believed He had called me to serve that church. It wasn't until I felt a sense of release that I began to consider other places of ministry, and God opened up the door to my current ministry. That sense of calling can sustain us in times of great difficulty and help us keep our focus on God and not on the circumstances that are creating such problems.

Have you spent much time thinking about your calling? How long has it been since you've thanked God for calling you to your place of service? Does your sense of calling help sustain you in difficult times? I pray that your sense of calling is as strong now as it was when you began your ministry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Share your calling

Last night I received a phone call from an individual who is considering accepting the call to a bivocational church. His pastor has encouraged him to pray about it, but like many of us he is struggling with whether or not he is capable of doing bivocational ministry and if God is calling him to this ministry. He had a number of questions about bivocational ministry that I hope I was able to answer.

I described to him my call to the church I served for many years and how I struggled with that call just as he is doing. What was your call like, and how did you know that God was calling you to a place of ministry? I believe many people are like my caller last night and struggle with this idea of calling. Your responses might help answer some of the questions of those who might be struggling.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Connecting guests to your church

I'm currently reading a book that addresses the issue of how to make people who visit a church feel welcome. Gary McIntosh has written Beyond the First Visit which is the best book I have ever read on this subject. One of the reasons this book is so good is that the author clearly understands the differences between different size churches and how those differences will impact how they welcome their guests. He presents a simple approach for each size church to use so the bivocational pastor of a small church isn't trying to use a model that would be more appropriate for a mega-church.

As I visit different churches nearly every week I have found that many need to improve their hospitality towards their guests. From the church's perspective, they probably think they are doing a good job, but from the guest's perspective they really are not. There are some churches I visit that make me feel very uncomfortable and create a poor impression within the first few moments I'm there. If I was seeking a church to attend it is unlikely I would return, and that impression is formed long before the worship service ever starts. The old cliche is true, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

This book will help these churches take a fresh look at how they interact with the people who visit so the first impression they have of the church is a positive one. It is easy to read with plenty of practical advice. It could be used to train your greeters, and even your entire congregation, how to welcome people and help them connect to the church. Check out the book and let me know if you found it helpful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A date with judgment

As part of my daily devotional time I am reading through the Bible this year. I usually read through the NT each year and the entire Bible every 3-4 years. As I am reading through the Minor Prophets I am again reminded of how their comments about Israel sound like they are being said against the United States. Like ancient Israel, we as a nation have largely turned our backs against God, found new gods to worship, and engage in sin that the Bible clearly condemns. We are on a collision course with God's judgment unless a true spiritual renewal occurs in this land.

That renewal will not come out of Washington DC. As important as it is to elect godly men and women to political office, I always reminded my congregation that God does not fly on Air Force One. Nor will revival come from Wall Street or from the media. If this nation is to experience true spiritual renewal it will have to come from our churches, and before renewal can occur in our churches it must first occur within the church leaders.

I believe it was Dwight L. Moody who once knelt on a floor, drew a circle around himself, and prayed, "Lord, send revival and let it begin with me." That was part of my prayer this morning. As leaders of churches we must first seek spiritual renewal in our own lives before we can expect it to occur in our churches, and unless it occurs in our churches it will certainly not occur in our nation.

Many bivocational ministers serve in smaller churches who do not believe they can really make much of an impact on all the needs that exist in our world, but every church, regardless of their size, can pray and seek God. Every church can seek a spiritual renewal that can sweep through their congregation and begin to flow out into their communities. Such renewal will impact those communities in ways that we may not imagine. Do not despair, my bivo friend, but seek God and His righteousness for your life and for the life of your congregation. Seek holiness and pray for renewal, and then let your life be a testimony to a world that desperately needs God.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Today is a time to rant a little. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a pastor's conference in Kentucky. I had been asked to lead a workshop for bivocational ministers as part of this conference. Each participant had the opportunity to attend two workshops during the two day event. I had a total of one participant in the two workshops I offered. One bivocational minister attended this pastor's conference on preaching.

Unfortunately, I am no longer surprised at such a poor turnout. During my twenty year bivocational pastorate I was often frustrated at the lack of resources and training opportunities especially created for bivocational ministers. As a denominational leader I have tried to address this problem with judicatory leaders from many different denominations. The response I normally get is that when they do offer something for their bivocational people, they still don't attend. In a time of limited resources of time and money, these organizations are going to invest those resources in those activities that provide the greatest benefit. If we who are in bivocational ministry do not begin to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us we will soon find those opportunities no longer existing.

I know the responses I'm apt to get to this post. "It's hard enough to balance the many different demands on my time without having to attend another conference or workshop." "If they would have these events on the weekends I might be able to attend, but I can't go during the week because I have to work." Does anyone think fully-funded pastors have nothing to do except go to workshops? Most I know work 50-60 and more hours a week and also have families and other demands on their time. The weekend excuse also doesn't impress me as much as it used to because I've been to many weekend workshops that still had little or no bivocational minister participation. When I've asked bivocational ministers why they didn't attend those weekend events they offered other excuses why they didn't attend.

I've been doing bivocational ministry since 1981. I know how difficult it is to schedule everything and maintain some sense of balance in your life and ministry. I also know that if God has called us to this ministry He expects us to continue to grow as believers and as ministers. He expects us to find ways to improve our skills. As a bivocational pastor I would take one or two days of vacation time each year to attend a conference or workshop that I thought might help me improve as a minister. That seemed like a small investment to learn new tools that would help me be more effective as a minister.

You are probably already receiving promotions for conferences and workshops for 2008. I encourage you to commit to attending at least one next year. Find one among the myriad of choices that you believe will help you become more effective as a minister and plan now to attend. Invest in yourself and in your calling.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Virtual assistant

I recently discovered a possible solution for one of the problems faced by many bivocational ministers. When I served as a bivocational pastor I often regretted the fact that our church did not have an assistant who could handle many of the office tasks such as printing newsletters, bulletins, handling mailings, and answering the telephone. Those tasks took up a great deal of my time which lessened the time I had available to be with people.

Earlier this week I met a woman who has started a ministry called Deirdre's Virtual Office. She will do all the things mentioned above and more which will take much of the administrative load off the bivocational minister enabling him or her to have more time for ministry. Her fees seem very reasonable, and the church saves money by not having to purchase office equipment and pay taxes or vacation time for an employee. She is married to a minister and has worked as a church secretary in several churches.

You can find out more about this service on her website at

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boyd's Bear collectors

My wife has a large collection of over 400 pieces of Boyd's Bearstones, Waterglobes, and Picture Frames that she would like to sell. Many of these are 1st edition pieces. The original boxes are available for all but one piece. These items have been displayed in glass cases since their purchase and are in top condition. This would be an excellent opportunity for someone to start their collection or add to their existing collection. If you are interested, please respond to this posting with your e-mail address, and we will contact you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Doing ministry together

Yesterday I spoke at a gathering of associational churches. My message to them was that we need to find ways for our churches to work together to do ministry. The needs of the world are too great for any church to be able to meet them alone. I recently read that no county in the US has more than 50% of its people actively involved in a church. That means that half of every country is a mission field. If that mission field is to be effectively reached it will require our churches working together. We are not in competition with one another, or at least we shouldn't be. If we are more interested in advancing the Kingdom of God than in adding bodies to our churches we must find ways to work together to impact our communities. I believe that if we do that God will take care of bringing people into our churches.

Many bivocational churches believe they are too small to have any kind of significant impact, and many of them believe that they have nothing to contribute when working with other churches. I disagree. I believe that God has people in every size church with gifts, abilities, and passions that are needed in all our churches and that can contribute much to the work of the church in the world today.

I encourage you to find other churches with whom you can work together and explore ways you can do so in your community. Are there some needs that may be too big for one church to tackle but could be served by several churches working together? Would such unity send a powerful message to our world? I think so.

If your church is already involved in ministering with other churches, please respond to this posting and let others know what you are doing. It might encourage others to explore similar ministries.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Challenge for our churches

Last night we had a mixed bag at the National Quartet Convention. There were some excellent groups and songs along with a lot of average groups with songs to match. But, the Talleys really touched me with their set. One song in particular summed up the challenge our churches face today if they are serious about having an effective ministry. The title is "The Broken Ones," and the message in the song is that we believers in Jesus Christ need to be seeking and loving the broken ones as Christ does. We need to find ways to help them experience the healing they need and to introduce them to Christ who is often the only one who can bring healing to their broken lives. Lauren Talley is a great talent with a powerful voice that really brought out the message of that song. It touched me so much that when their set was finished I went to their booth and bought the new CD that had that song on it.

So much of our time, our energy, and our finances are spent on ministering to the people who are already in the church. We offer one Bible study after another and challenge people to sit on numerous committees that accomplish very little. We wrap ourselves up in our Christian bubbles to help ensure that we won't be contaminated by the evil that exists in the world. Yet, when we read the stories of Jesus in the Gospels we find him walking among the hurting sinners of his time and ministering to their brokenness. Should this not be the example his church should now follow? Don't misunderstand me here, I believe that attending church for corporate worship and the opportunity to learn more about God is important, but did Jesus ever once invite people to attend a church? Did the Great Commission say anything about "Go out into the world and invite people to your church?" I don't think so. Yes, church is important, even vital for one's spiritual growth, but the challenge was that as we are going throughout our activities we need to be inviting people to trust in Jesus Christ and become a disciple of his. And the way that Christ himself demonstrated how to do this was to develop relationships with the people we encounter.

How many non-Christian friends do you have? If you have been a Christian for more than a few years the answer is that you probably have very few, maybe none. How can we be salt and light to a world if we never enter that world? How can we fulfill the Great Commission if we never go into the world that Christ died for?

We in church leadership need to challenge our churches to engage their communities, developing relationships with people outside our walls, and begin to make a difference in people's lives. We will also have to model that so they can see what that should like like. I'll admit that it may be a little risky, but I believe that it is a risk we must be willing to take if we are going to be serious about impacting the 21st century for Christ.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NQC midweek update

We've attended the first three nights of the National Quartet Convention, and it has been a mixed bag. Monday night was one of the stronger programs I have seen there for 5-6 years, but on Tuesday and Wednesday nights the programs were very average. The crowds seem smaller as the trend has been for the past few years, and many of the people seemed rather bored. There has not been a lot of energy from many of the music groups either. There are exceptions. The Dove Brothers, the Booth Brothers, the Hoppers, the Kingdom Heirs, and the Florida Boys have all had good sets. Brian Free and Assurance had an exceptional program Wednesday night. The McKamey's have been solid as well. Gold City has sounded better this year than they have since Tim Riley retired, and it would be great to see them get back on top again. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver provided good sets their two nights. I have to say that most of the other groups have provided people with a good opportunity to get something to eat and drink, and a few simply should not be allowed on center stage period.

It has been sad to see this great venue for Southern Gospel music go downhill as it has the past few years. Some of the older groups that provided us with such great music have retired. Many of the greats have passed away. The on-going dispute between the NQC and Bill Gaither is not only sad but keeps some of the groups who have signed with Gaither from the NQC.

We're going to take tonight off. The first 2 1/2 hours of Thursday night's program is an awards presentation, so the music doesn't even begin until 8:30 if the awards program ends on time, and that's a mighty big IF. I attended a couple of the awards presentations and decided I would be much better off coming in later for the music. The problem is that we live close enough to Louisville that we drive back and forth each night, and on Thursday night it is just too late to come home and hope to feel like doing anything on Friday. We'll get some good sleep and be ready for the Friday and Saturday programs.

I love Southern Gospel music, and the NQC has been on our calendars every year for several years. For at least the past 7-8 years we've had permanent seats for the NQC. Normally, we have bought them for the next year on the first night of the current year's program, but we did not do that this year. We're just not sure we will continue to have permanent seats for all six nights because we're not sure that the quality is there for us to come back every night again. I do believe the NQC board has made some improvements in this year's program, but it is still not the quality it was a few years ago. We have until February to renew our tickets, so we'll wait and see what reports are made about the future of the NQC. We may save our money and go to a couple of Gaither concerts next year.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coaching bivocational ministers for greater ministry effectiveness

One of the things I have enjoyed doing for the past year and a half is the opportunity to coach bivocational ministers. Each of the bivocational ministers I've worked with during this time have expressed how helpful coaching has been to their ministries. They had the opportunity to talk with someone who had been where they are and had experienced many of the challenges they were facing. They were able to share their ideas with me for their ministries and know that I would discuss possible ways to introduce those ideas to their churches. Most also wanted some help in better managing their time so they could spend more time with their families. We covered a wide range of topics that are common to most bivocational ministers, and the persons being coached felt that our time together was helpful to their ministry success.

If it is approved my DMin dissertation will focus on how coaching can improve the ministry effectiveness of bivocational ministers. I am still waiting for that approval by the DMin director.

If you would like to have a coach to help you address ministry and life issues I would enjoy working with you. If you feel stuck in some aspect of your ministry, coaching is a great way to help you get unstuck. If you feel frustrated with the difficulty in balancing your family life with your church life and other career while trying to find ways to have time for yourself, a coach can help you overcome that frustration. If you feel that now is the time for your church to go to the next level of ministry to your community but you are not sure how to lead that, having a coach to walk you through that might be very helpful.

I have coached bivocational ministers from across the nation. Coaching sessions occur over the telephone at pre-arranged times. We work from your agenda so we are always focusing on the issues that you want to address. My coaching fees are very low and are discounted even more for bivocational ministers. Because of all my other responsbilities I can only accept five persons being coached at one time, but I do have some openings right now. Contact me today if you believe having a coach would benefit you, your family, and your church.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

National Quartet Convention

Next week the National Quartet Convention will be in Louisville, KY. It is a week of great Southern Gospel music that my wife and I really enjoy. For the past few years we have been permanent seat holders for all six nights. Because we live an hour away from Louisville and the program runs from 6:00 pm to around midnight each night we don't always attend all six nights, but we know we have excellent seats for any night we do want to attend.

As much as we enjoy it, I do have to admit that we feel the past few years we have seen a decline in the convention. Singers move around from one group to another which impacts their sound. Older groups are retiring. The ongoing conflict between Bill Gaither and the NQC board continues to have a negative impact on the convention. More groups are saving money by replacing their bands with recorded music causing many of them to sound very much alike. We see a decline in both attendance and quality each year, and we wonder how long the NQC will continue if it doesn't start changing some things.

Still, it's a great week of worship. If you are in the area stop in one evening. I think you'll like it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The new apostolic age

George Hunter III wrote a great book in 1992 that I am currently re-reading. The title is How to Reach Secular People. I didn't fully understand the book when I first read it because I wasn't as aware of postmodernism and its impact on the church as I am now. Fifteen years ago Hunter was explaining to those who could understand that the church had entered a time that closely resembled the first century, and if the church was going to successfully proclaim the gospel to our generation we needed to go back to the techniques the first century church used. Read these insightful words from Hunter:

For the christian movement's first three centuries, the communicators of Christianity had to achieve four objectives: (1) Facing a population with no knowledge of the gospel, the christian movement had to inform people of the story of Jesus, the good news, its claims, and its offer. (2) Facing hostile populations and the persecution of the state, the Church had to "win friends and influence people" to a positive attitude toward the movement. (3) Facing an Empire with several entrenched religions, the Christians had to convince people of Christianity's truth, or at least its plausibility. (4) Since entry into the faith is by an act of the will, Christians had to invite people to adopt this faith and join the messianic community and follow Jesus as Lord...

The early Church was intentional about achieving each of these four objectives. They informed people by creatively communicating and interpreting their gospel in conversations, synagogue presentations, and open-air speaking. They influenced people's attitudes by their changed lives, their ministries of service, their love for one another, and by their love for nonchristians and even their enemies, even in martyrdom. They convinced people by reasoning from the Scriptures and by their common-sense apologetics. They invited responsive people to confess faith and be baptized unto the messianic community. (pp. 35-36)

We often get so caught up in programs and looking for the latest and greatest techniques that I believe we overlook a simple truth. If we are ministering in a time that closely resembles the first century then perhaps we need to simply minister as the early church did. We need to focus on the basics of informing, influencing, convincing, and inviting. We need to model changed lives if we truly want others to believe that a relationship with Jesus Christ changes lives. We need to love others and find ways to minister to them even when they are sometimes hostile to our efforts.

The good news about this for bivocational churches is that such ministry doesn't require a lot of resources or special programs. It only requires that God's people be committed to serving the communities in which God has placed them. It requires that we become missional churches, i.e. churches that are on mission with God reaching out to a world that does not know Him. When we do that we will begin to impact our world in ways we could never have imagined.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ministry passion

I visited a church yesterday that recently started a food ministry to its community. People can order food at a much reduced price and two weeks later pick up their food at the church. This ministry has only existed at the church for five months, and they are already serving approximately 150 families. It was rather quiet when I was there to watch people place their orders, but the organizer told me I should come back in two weeks when the food is delivered. That's when it gets exciting around there!

What a great ministry this church had started, and it really began as a passion of a few folks in the church who felt the church needed to be more involved in ministry in its community. This church is currently seeking a pastor, so this ministry is not pastor-driven. Lay people in the church saw a need and felt passionate about meeting that need. They found a company that makes this ministry possible, and they brought it to their church as an outreach opportunity to the community.

Great ministry occurs when people who have gifts and a passion meet a need. It does not usually happen when a denomination decides to create a new program that it thinks its churches need, nor does it often happen when a pastor comes back from a conference on the latest and greatest ministry techniques. It happens as needs are identified and met.

Isn't that what Jesus did? In the gospels we find Him moving about the countryside and meeting various needs of people He encountered. In the process He offered them not only a ministry to their physical needs, but he also introduced them to the Kingdom of God and offered them a personal relationship with Him. His church needs to do no less today.

I was impressed with the passion of the people I spoke with yesterday who were taking food orders. Each of us needs to have the same passion about the ministries God has given us, and when enough of God's people feel passionate about using their God-given gifts to serve one another we will see amazing things begin to happen in people's lives.

What gifts has God given you? What do you feel most passionate about? What needs exist in your community that you most want to see addressed? It is there you will find your greatest ministry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The funeral

We had Dad's funeral service yesterday. It was a difficult time for each of us, but we were surrounded by friends and family who brought us a great deal of comfort and support. My children kept reminding me to remember all the things I've told others who had lost loved ones. Today, everyone has returned to their homes so it's a little quiet. I have some time to reflect on Dad and his impact on my life and the lives of so many people. Over 700 people came to the viewing on Saturday evening which I think shows some of his impact on others.

I want to thank each of you for keeping us in your prayers these past few days. Without God's support I do not know how we would have survived the ups and downs of the previous week and a half. Once again, He has proven Himself to be faithful to His children, and we praise Him for that.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dad's passing

Early this morning around 2:00 am we made the decision to remove the machines that was keeping Dad alive. Thursday he went into multi-organ system failure and did not respond to any of the treatments the doctors attempted. As his condition worsened we determined that further attempts would also not be successful, so the decision was made to allow him to go home to be with his Lord.

It had been a difficult week. His hospital was about an hour's drive from my house, and we were there every day. The week was made more difficult as we could not see him making any progress following his surgery on Monday. It is never easy to make the decisions we had to make, but it would have been more difficult to allow him to continue to suffer.

We just left the funeral home where we made his final arrangements. Please keep our family in your prayers during the next few days. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Update on Dad

We expected Dad to have one artery by-passed and a heart valve repaired yesterday, but the doctors by-passed two arteries and repaired two valves. Due to his previous by-pass surgery 25 years ago he had a lot of scarring which created additional problems. There was more than a normal amount of bleeding which caused the surgery to take much longer than anticipated. He was resting comfortably when we left him yesterday evening.

At 4:15 this morning my sister called saying she had just received a phone call from the hospital saying Dad was having problems and was being taken back into surgery. By 6:00 I was back at the hospital, and an hour later the surgeon came to talk to us. Some medicine Dad had been taking caused his blood to not clot as it needed to, and a pool of blood had formed around his heart. This was all cleaned out, and this gave the surgeon an opportunity to look at the previous day's work as well. He assured us everything looked good. My sister had a talk with Dad's nurse this evening who told her his vital signs continues to improve. We are praying this continues.

Thank all of you for your prayers. I've had a number of e-mails from our readers telling me they had read the previous posting about his surgery and had been praying for him, and our family certainly appreciates every prayer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prayer request

At noon today my 81 year old father will have a heart cath. Around 20 years ago he had a triple by-pass. A few years ago he began having problems with his heart and had a cath performed and did not get real good news, but the doctors did not try to do anything about it. Lately, he has been having problems again and recently ended up in the ER one night with chest pains. He is having another cath today to find out exactly what he is dealing with and possible options. Please keep him in your prayers today. Thank you.

Monday, August 13, 2007


A pastor called this morning heartbroken because his lay leadership told him yesterday that the church will no longer be able to afford to keep him as pastor after the first of the year. This fully-funded pastor has faithfully served this congregation for over a decade, and even though the church has grown numerically it has not grown financially. When I asked him about the church's finances he could not tell me because the church leadership refuses to give him that information. I know the salary package of this pastor, and very few fully-funded ministers would, or could, serve a church for the small salary this pastor is paid. In fact, I know bivocational ministers who are paid larger salaries.

The lay leadership gave this pastor a number of reasons why the finances were down, but the bottom line is that there is a huge failure of many within this congregation to be faithful stewards. The expenses of this church cannot be too great, especially when the pastor is told that his salary package is the largest expense the church has. This church does not have money problems; it has a stewardship problem. Every Sunday people in this church are robbing God by not paying their tithes.

Have they been taught to be responsible stewards? I can't answer that question. Some people do not tithe because they've never been taught to do so. Others are simply being disobedient to what they have been taught.

Every pastor needs to teach responsible stewardship to his or her congregation. If we are to teach the whole counsel of God then we must teach about finances which is one part of stewardship. If we fail to teach our churches then we should not be surprised if the finances of the church do not allow for a decent salary, proper upkeep on the property, and ministries to the community that will introduce people to Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pressures from all sides

One of the interesting things about bivocational ministry is that there is always something going on in your life. Things are going pretty well right now in my ministry world, but there are a ton of pressures happening in my business. One of my primary service vehicles broke down yesterday and today we learn that it needs a new engine. Do we spend the money to replace the engine in an old van or do we replace the van? Do we want to invest in a new one or try to find a good used van? There are other issues that complicate this one that I will not go into right now, but like Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something!"

This is why I stress the importance of maintaining balance in our lives. It is too easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with all the demands and stresses our lives face. If we don't have some built in time to unwind we'll soon find that we can encounter problems we don't want.

I begin each morning with a time of devotions. This year I am reading through the Bible in The Message. I follow that with some prayer and perhaps other readings. I try to pray the Lord's Prayer at different times during the day and focus on some aspect of that prayer for a few minutes.

Many of my neighbors hire a lawn mowing service, but I still mow my own lawn. It's not because I especially like cutting grass, but it is about an hour when I can be alone with my thoughts. I can pray or sing or just think. Regardless of what I do it helps me relax and helps me experience some balance.

You experience pressures from many different sources as well, and I hope you have a mechanism that helps you maintain balance in your life.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Church conflict

I met with the pastor of a smaller church this afternoon. After only a few months in his new church he is already frustrated with how a church split that happened over 20 years ago continues to impact the church and community. He shared how a group left the church over some allegations that were later proven to be false. The departing group formed a new church and joined a different denomination. The pastor stated very clearly that unless the two churches can get over their differences and come back together he did not believe either church would ever do as well as they could.

How sad. Why is it that people are so quick to believe every allegation that is made in a church? They can't even stick around long enough to determine if the allegations are true or not. In that small town I'm sure the unchurched folk heard enough from both sides of the argument to justify in their own minds their determination to stay away from church and from a religion that causes people to act ugly towards one another. What is even worse is that this scene is played out in communities all over the world. How can we ever impact the world for Jesus Christ when we can't even treat one another decently? How can we preach grace and love for all mankind when we continue to fight with our brothers and sisters?

This doesn't mean that we accept everything that is said and done. There are times when we must stand up for what is right, but that doesn't require that we are mean about it.

This new pastor already understands that the brokenness experienced by his congregation two decades earlier continues to limit their ministry effectiveness today. Is there brokenness in your church that hinders your ministry? How can that brokenness be healed? Are there ways to resolve the issues of the past that will make your church stronger now and in the future?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mark your calendars

I am scheduled to lead a number of workshops for bivocational ministers in 2008. If you are in the area I hope you will make plans now to attend. Current workshop topics include:

  • "Bivocational Ministry for the 21st Century" - This workshop looks at the direction bivocational ministry is taking and how to enjoy a successful ministry as a bivocational leader or church. It also examines the unique challenges that exist for the bivocational minister and the church being served.
  • "The Healthy Small Church" - In this workshop we explore various aspects of church health specifically as they relate to the smaller church. We also examine helpful diagnostic tools and suggest ways to help return a church to a healthier ministry.
  • "Maintaining Balance in the Bivocational Minister's Life" - This workshop looks at the various demands that are on a bivocational minister and how he or she can balance those demands and enjoy a healthier and more fulfilling life.
  • "Congregational Care vs Pastoral Care" - Because of the many demands that exist on a bivocational minister it is important to shift the congregation's expectations that the pastor will always be available to minister during times of stress. A more biblical approach is that the church will minister to one another. This workshop explains how to help the congregation change its expections and how to train the church to minister to one another and to their community.

These workshops are structured for either an hour's presentation, a half day, or a full day's presentation. Currently I am scheduled to present one of these workshops at the following locations:

On February 1-2, 2008 I will lead two workshops at a Deacon/Pastor/Spouse retreat in Bowling Green, KY for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The details for this retreat have not been finalized and will be posted on this site when they become available.

I will be speaking at three events from April 6-12, 2008 for the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains. Each of these will be day long conferences in different cities in Colorado and Wyoming.

I will lead two workshops from April 22-25 at the National Clergy Conference led by the American Baptist Churches at Green Lake, WI.

I am scheduled to lead workshops in October in New Brunswick, Canada. Dates and locations have not been finalized.

If you would like me to come to your area and speak to your bivocational ministers and churches, please contact me as soon as possible with your dates. Due to my other responsibilities I must limit my speaking engagements and can only accept a few more.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Coaching for bivocational ministers

When ministers finish their seminary education and begin their pastoral ministry they are often encouraged to find a mentor to help them get started. While seminary training provides the minister with many needed tools for ministry it can be lacking in adequately preparing the minister for what he or she will encounter in the real church world. I heard an experienced minister say one time that he had four degrees and none of them prepared him for a church business meeting! The problem for the bivocational minister is finding a mentor who understands the unique challenges of bivocational ministry and who would have the time to meet with the minister. It is often difficult for a bivocational minister to meet with a fully-funded minister due to their very different work schedules. This is one reason why I encourage bivocational ministers to find a coach who can work with them to find the answers to the issues that they face.

Coaching works from the agenda of the person being coached, not the agenda of the coach. In a typical coaching session one of the first questions the coach will ask is, "How would you like to spend our time today? What would you like to address?" The person being coached (PBC) always determines the agenda of the coaching session, and that ensures that the time spent together is addressing the things that are of the most interest to the PBC.

It is not always necessary that the coach have similar experiences as the PBC, but it is often helpful to have a coach who has walked the same road that you are walking. That is why I enjoy coaching bivocational ministers. For 20 years I served as a bivocational pastor, and for the past 6 years I have been a bivocational judicatory minister. I have four books published, and all are about bivocational ministers or small churches. I know the stresses bivocational ministers experience because I have known all of them. I also know some of the obstacles that you face and how to avoid them or overcome them. If you believe that having a coach who has been where you are could be a benefit to your ministry, I would love to work with you.

I am not only an Area Resource Minister in my denomination, I am also the president of a small business, a speaker, an author, and a doctoral student. In addition I enjoy spending as much time with my family as I possibly can. My schedule is very full and therefore I cannot accept more than five PBC's at one time. Each person will receive two hours a month of coaching by telephone, and I recommend a minimum of three months as it takes time for us to know one another. My fees are very reasonable and are reduced for bivocational ministers simply because I believe so much in the importance of the work they do, and I want to add value to their ministeries.

You may feel that you cannot afford to hire a coach, but I encourage you to look at it as an investment. Much of the money you spend is gone forever, but any money you invest in yourself can never be taken away from you. I believe I can help you resolve some of the issues that you struggle with, and I believe I can help you become a more effective bivocational minister. I know I can help you resolve some of the time issues that most bivocational ministers say is their biggest problem. Contact me today and at least explore if having a coach makes sense for you and your ministry. Contact me by e-mail, and let's see if coaching is a good option for you.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Certificate program postponed

In an earlier blog I mentioned Campbellsville University would offer an on-line program for bivocational ministers that would start in the fall of 2007. Unfortunately, they have not received approval from their accreditation agency and have postponed that start date to the spring of 2008. I'll keep you informed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Preaching conference at Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University will host their 6th annual Pastors and Church Leaders Conference on September 20-21, 2007. This year's theme will be "Effective Biblical Preaching in the 21st Century." Featured preachers will be Dr. Michael Duduit, founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine, and Dr. Robert Smith, Associate Professor of Divinity at Samford University. In addition to the featured preachers there will be a number of workshops including one led by me that participants can choose to attend.

Preaching is vital to any church, but it may be even more important to the success of the bivocational minister. Sunday mornings is the best time to connect with your congregation and share with them the Word of God and your own passion and heart. Yet, I fear that preaching has been relegated to the sidelines in many churches. As one who visits in many churches each year I hear too many poorly prepared and delivered sermons. More than once I have left a church and wondered if the people there ever heard a word from God, a word of hope, or anything that could make a difference in their lives.

I would love to meet a number of readers of this blog at this conference. The cost is very reasonable, only $30.00 per minister and $20.00 per spouse if you register before September 1, 2007. After that date registration goes up to $35.00 per minister and $25.00 per spouse. This conference is not just for clergy either. You are welcome to invite members of your congregation to join you at this conference.

For more information check out Campbellsville University's website at

Thursday, July 26, 2007


For the past three years I have published and sent an e-newsletter for bivocational ministers. The newsletter contains helpful articles and information for bivocational ministers and points them to resources I and others have developed that will assist bivocational ministers in their ministries. Usually the newsletter is sent on the first of each month, although occasionally life gets in the way of that deadline. You know how hectic life can get for a bivocational minister. If you would like to start receiving your copy of this newsletter, please send me your e-mail address, and you will be added to the growing list of bivocational ministers and judicatory leaders who are finding this a helpful resource. There is no charge for the newsletter, and I will never sell my mailing list to anyone. The next issue is ready to be sent on August 1 so I hope to hear from you soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Certificate in Christian Ministry

Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, KY has announced that their new Certificate in Christian Ministry will be available in the fall of 2007. This 27 hour program can be taken on-line, and the credits will count towards your degree if you wish to continue your education beyond this program. This is a great opportunity for the busy bivocational minister who wishes to pursue an education. For more information about this program check out their new website at

Friday, July 20, 2007

Unforgiving churches

This morning I received one of those calls that every denominational minister hates to receive. It was about a church that continues to decline due to factions within the church. I was told that two more people have announced they are leaving this small bivocational church to find another place to worship. I don't know all the details, but they are tired of the disagreements and battles that are going on in the church. These battles have been on-going for a couple of years now, and they have had their toll on the church which is down to nearly half of its former attendance.

We are great at preaching grace in our churches, but we are not so good at extending that grace to one another. We will treat a former reprobate who has repented and turned his or her life over to Christ better than we often treat a fellow believer who has been worshiping beside us for the past ten years. In 1984 Jack Van Impe wrote a powerful book titled Heart Disease in Christ's Body, and we continue to suffer from the same ailment. I'm afraid that if God extended His grace towards us the same way we offer it to others we would all be condemned to hell.

In most churches the problem exists because of a small handful of people who have been hurt over something that has happened in the church. Smaller, bivocational churches can be most susceptible to this problem because everyone in such churches are so closely connected. People get upset over something and then refuse to ever forgive the offenders. It sometimes seems they carry their hurt like a badge of honor and make sure that everyone within earshot hears how offended they have been by the actions or words of another. They are allowed to rant and rage, and seldom will anyone confront them about the divisions they create in the church. Not only do the churches suffer, but the unchurched around them suffers as well because such antics cannot be kept within the church family. People observe how we treat one another and decide that the last thing they need is Christianity. They have enough people attacking them and making their lives miserable without having Christian "brothers" and "sisters" doing the same thing. How many men, women, and young people have died eternally separated from God because Christian people have refused to forgive one another and treat each other with respect and dignity?

My heart grieves over this church and too many others like it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

For women only

Are you looking to sharpen your skills and learn from other women in ministry? Elmbrook Church's "Leadership Summit for Women" brings you "Synergy," October 4-5, 2007. Women from all church sizes are invited to attend. Recruiting and Sustaining Volunteers, Coaching, Helping Hurting People, Reaching the Next Generation, and Women in the Half-time of their Life are just a few of the workshop options you can choose from! Keynote speakers include: Jill Briscoe, Dr. Sarah Sumner, Jane Creswell, and Anita Carmen. For more information and to register you should check out their website at

I've got no stock in this conference and no reason to promote it except that I think it could be very helpful for women who serve as bivocational ministers. It will be a great opportunity to spend time with other women in ministry leadership positions and learn from one another. If anyone attends, please let us know how it was and the impact it made on your life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Search committees and change

Churches of different denominations search for a pastor in different ways. In my denomination, most churches will form a Pastor Search Committee to search for a candidate to present to the church. In the search process there will normally be a number of interviews between the committee and the candidate. Obviously, each party is presenting their best side to the other, and this is where problems can occur.

Search committees often suggest, or state, that the church is ready for change, for growth, for finding new ways of doing ministry. Sometimes the committee is ready for those things, but that does not mean that the church wants this from their new pastor. The majority of the church may like things just as they are, and any attempt by the new pastor to change something will be met with fierce opposition. Also, it doesn't have to be a majority of the church opposing the change. In many smaller churches a vocal minority can stop almost any effort to do something new because their fellow church members are not willing to stand up to them. The new pastor is confused because the search committee assured him or her that the church was excited about change but every suggested change is immediately shot down.

A pastor called me today and asked if the search committee he was talking to was representative of the congregation. This is a good search committee, and they have assured this person that the church is seeking a pastor who can provide strong leadership that will lead to growth. Having worked with this committee I could tell him that I felt that this committee was reflective of the congregation, but that did not mean that everyone in the church would be accepting of change. However, I do believe this committee and others in the church will support him if he went about leading change in a positive and healthy manner.

Bivocational ministers, especially, should be careful when talking to search committees who insist the church is ready for change. These churches do not find change easy to accept, and the committee members may not truly reflect the mindset of the church. Smaller churches, who are most likely to call a bivocational minister, are known as family churches for a reason. Some of them do want to grow and realize that changes must occur for that to happen, but many of them are simply seeking a chaplain for their pastor. They want a family priest who will be there to minister to the needs of the congregation. If these churches are part of a denomination try to find out the name of the judicatory leader who works with them and talk to him or her about the church. Talk to other pastors in the area and ask the history of the church. Most importantly, pray about any ministry change you might be considering. Remember, no matter what the search committee tells you about the church's readiness for change, it will take longer than you would like to complete any change in the smaller church.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Growing the small church

Last night I met with the pastor and deacons of a small, rural church that averages about 20 people on Sunday morning. They have a very attractive facility with blacktop parking. The pastor has been serving this church for around five years, but they just can't seem to reach their community. One of my recommendations was to find out what the community needs from their church and find ways to provide that if possible. They wanted to know how to access that information. Their first thought was to go door-to-door, but that doesn't really work very well today. Instead, I suggested they invite people to the church for a community-wide party.

I suggested they select a date and invite the community to enjoy a fun-filled day at the church. Some things I recommended they think about was renting an air house the smaller children could bounce around in, setting up some bean bag tosses that seem so popular today, having home-made ice cream, and setting up an outdoor theatre for showing a movie after it got dark. To make this work they needed to not only invite the community, but every member had to attend and bring an unchurched friend or family member with them. As they were milling around the crowd they could ask people, "What do you think this community needs more than anything else?" They could get a sense of needed ministries in the church, people in the community would have a safe way to connect with the church, and everyone could have a good time.

Nearly every church claims they want to grow and can find many excuses why growth isn't happening. What they lack is a plan to grow, and a recent study has found that churches with a specific plan for growing the church was much more likely to grow than the church the just hopes growth would somehow occur. In other words, a church must be intentional if it truly wants to reach people. You can read several findings that came out of that study at It is a good study that should be helpful to stimulate some discussion in your church about some specific things your church might do to experience growth.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Good question

I just received a good question from a regular reader of this blog. He asks, "What is the single most important aspect of Bivocational ministry? Is it education, time, money, deacons, Sunday lunches with members, baptizing one lost soul, personal time with the Lord or just what do you think and what do other bivos think is paramount in their ministry? What is the one thing they cannot live without besides a loving wife? I would like to know."

Excellent question. Let me give a brief reply and open it up for our readers to respond. In my opinion nothing is more important than leading an unsaved person to a relationship with Jesus Christ. That makes an eternal difference in that person's life.

However, being able to manage our time makes it possible for all the other things listed here to be accomplished. Everything mentioned here is important, but if we do not find ways to properly manage our time we will be unable to accomplish the other things we need to do.

I'm excited to hear others respond to this question.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Coaching bivocational ministers for greater ministry effectiveness

This is a much longer title than I normally use in my blogs, but this is the subject I plan to submit as my DMin dissertation. Whether or not it will be accepted is another story! I hear getting approval for these things can be difficult sometimes. However, I do believe coaching provides a powerful way to assist those in bivocational ministry achieve greater ministry effectiveness.

I have had the privilege of coaching several bivocational ministers, and each of them commented that the process was helpful to them. For some of them it was the first time they could talk to someone about their challenges or dreams without fearing that they would be misunderstood. A few of them were stuck in some area of their lives or ministries and found coaching to be helpful for getting unstuck and moving forward with their lives. Let's face it, people who have not been in bivocational ministry often do not understand the unique dynamics of this ministry and the challenges that exist in it.

During my 20 year bivocational pastorate I was often frustrated that I had no one to talk to about things I was facing in my ministry. There were no written resources specifically for bivocational ministers during most of their years. I was trying to balance my work, my ministry, my family, and pursue an education and there just didn't seem to be anyone who understood how difficult that was. I tried to talk to fully-funded pastors about it, but their advice was usually that I should quit my job and trust God. Everyone who trusted God abandoned the church I was serving after about a year, and I just believed that church deserved better than that. If that last comment seemed a little sarcastic, it was meant to be. It is my strong belief that God is calling persons to bivocational minstry so that these smaller churches such as I served can enjoy a more fruitful ministry, and we saw great progress in that church due to my willingness to stay there for 20 years. I often told our folks that my only contribution to the growth of our church was that I hung around for awhile.

I would have loved to have someone to talk to during those earliest days. Coaching didn't exist in those days, but a coach could have helped me sort through the many issues I dealt with and would have enabled me to move forward much faster than I did trying to sort through everything on my own. This is what excites me about coaching bivocational ministers now. I have the opportunity to lead persons through places where I have gone and hopefully help them get to where God wants them to be much faster than if they try to make that trip by themselves.

Let me know if you think coaching might help you in your life and ministry. I truly enjoy working with people who are ready to move forward with their lives.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


A few days ago I wrote about the class I had last week. One of the things we looked at were boundaries that a church should not exceed if it wanted to remain a church. After writing that blog I talked to a pastor who told me about a church in his community that cancelled its Sunday morning worship service, rented a local movie theatre, and had a viewing of Evan Almighty for the congregation and their guests. He was appalled that a church would do that in an effort to relate to the culture. What's your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I left home this morning for the American Baptist Churches biennial and will arrive in Washington DC tomorrow. I'm spending this evening in Washington, PA. It's just me and my computer and a bag full of work that I didn't get done last week while I was at school. One thing I did complete this evening in the motel room was the e-newsletter I publish for bivocational ministers. This normally goes out on the first of each month, and I wasn't sure I would get it done in time.

This newsletter goes to bivocational ministers, judicatory leaders, and others who have requested a copy of it (or that I think needs to receive it!) There is no charge for the newsletter, and I will not sell your e-mail address to anyone. If you would like to start receiving this e-newsletter just send me your e-mail address, and you'll receive the next issue.