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.

Monday, June 25, 2007

On the road again

I survived the week at Liberty. The class was great with a lot of good discussion about ministry in the 21st century. My wife and I also enjoyed eating at Koto's, a Japanese steakhouse in Lynchburg. Anytime I'm in Lynchburg for a week I make sure to eat there at least once, and sometimes twice during the week. Their Yum-Yum sauce is great! But, it was also good to get back home even with all the phone calls and e-mails I needed to return. It's always good to sleep in your own bed. Unfortunately, it won't last long.

The American Baptist biennial starts later this week in Washington DC, and I will leave for it on Wednesday. It will be good to see some folks I haven't seen for awhile and catch up on all the latest scuttlebutt in the denomination. Judson Press also has me scheduled for a book signing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for The Work of the Bivocational Minister. If any of the readers of this blog attends the biennial, be sure to look me up and introduce yourself.

Now I have to get back to this backlog of calls and e-mails.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Missional Church

During the morning session of our class yesterday we were fortunate to have Ed Stetzer join us for an hour. He is at Liberty for a conference and had some free time to visit our class. Our instructor this week is Elmer Towns, and he and Ed co-authored our text books. It was a great opportunity to ask Stetzer some questions about the books and about doing ministry in the 21st century.

Before our class ended yesterday I had to give a presentation on boundaries regarding practices that are acceptable in trying to minister to this postmodern world. Many pastors today use movie clips during their sermons for an illustration. Is it ever acceptable to use a clip from an R rated movie? One of the students reminded us that The Passion of the Christ is rated R. Another person mentioned that he had seen a very effective use of a clip from Schindler's List which is also R rated. Someone else said that it would depend on the reason the film was rated R. He would not use a clip from a film rated R due to sex or vulgarity. Of course, that would also call into question some PG films, but we didn't go into that.

We ended the presentation by stating that the challenge the church has is to understand the context in which we do ministry, engage that context, but that we cannot become one with that context. This is not always as easy as it sounds. Ministry used to be a lot easier because we operated with a clear set of boundaries. There are a lot more gray areas today in ministry, and there can be a very fine line between engaging the culture and becoming one with the culture.

What gray areas are you facing in your ministry right now? What boundaries are you coming up against, and you're just not sure which way to go? I think this would be a very helpful discussion for our blogging community of bivocational ministers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Brain Lock

I'm currently in a DMin class at Liberty Theological Seminary and writing a brief blog during our morning break. The class is on 21st Century Techniques for Church Ministry. It has been good, but an intensive class is aptly named! We're half way through the week, and I can imagine what my mind will be like when we reach Friday.

We have a bonus today as Ed Stetzer is on campus today and will speak to our class after break. In fact, he's starting now so I'm gone.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My study

While I was sitting in meetings today my wife finished painting my study. We started last Friday, and it took until today to finish it, but all the work is worth it. The walls were a neutral beige with tan doors and trim. Now the walls are a light blue, and the doors and trim is white. She also shampooed the carpet. The room seems so much brighter. Tomorrow I'll finish moving my books back in and rehang my pictures.

I really need to go through my books and discard some of the older ones that are outdated. I enjoy books so much that it is hard for me to get rid of any, even the ones that really aren't useful any more. I still have all my college textbooks "just in case I ever need information that is is one of them." This would be the perfect time to discard some books and open up some bookshelf space. Most of my walls are lined with bookshelves that are nearly all full. I have no room for more shelves and little room in my existing shelves for more books. I just need to box the older ones up and take them to the library for their annual book sale. I've bought so many books at that sale that it's probably time for me to donate some to sell to others. You can buy some good books at a library book sale for very little money. My prize purchase is the two volume Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Archer, and Waltke that I bought for $1.00. Those volumes sell new for nearly $75.00.

Ministers need a good place to study and the resources that will help them lead and teach their people. I can remember when I had an old metal desk that I bought used for $25.00, a three shelf bookshelf that I made, an old Underwood typewriter, and about a dozen books. Everytime I had some extra money I bought books, upgraded to a word processor and then to computers, and bought more bookshelves, and a nice oak desk. I spend a lot of time in my study, and I want that time to be used wisely and effectively.

Bivocational ministers don't have a lot of time to be looking for things they need. Providing yourself with a good place to study and good resources will pay huge dividends. And if you can get your wife to help you paint it once in a while it's even better!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Self-Aware leaders

This morning it was time for an oil change in my wife's car. While sitting in the garage waiting room I was reading The Hidden Lives of Congregations by Israel Galindo. In the chapter I read Galindo spoke about the importance of a minister being a self-aware leader, and near the end of the chapter he wrote, "For self-aware leaders, merely being in touch with one's personal deficits and shortcomings is not sufficient. They work at overcoming those limitations by developing new skills, investing in lifelong learning, and constantly retraining and retooling, because they know that an effective leader is not born but cultivated and formed through intentional effort. Becoming an effective leader doesn't just happen; one has to make it happen." He challenged his readers to think about where they wanted to be in the next ten and fifteen years in their lives and their ministries and to ask what they needed to do to be able to reach those goals.

I'm concerned that too many bivocational (and fully-funded) ministers are content to relive yesterday and continue to do the same things they have always done. Their sermons sound the same as they did ten years earlier. Their ministry style and focus doesn't change. They read the same books and magazines they have always read. In short, they simply stop growing.

A few years ago I realized that the magazines I had read for years no longer spoke to me and canceled my subscriptions to every one of them. I began looking for different authors who would speak new thoughts to me and stretch my thinking. I decided to go ahead and pursue that master's degree that I had put off, and when that was finished last spring I enrolled in a DMin program. I didn't need a degree for the ministry God has given me, and I'll be 60 years old when I finish my doctorate so it's not like I'm preparing for my career! It is just a way to learn new things and grow as a person and as a believer in Jesus Christ.

What dreams do you have for your future? Has God challenged you to do a new thing, but you find yourself frightened every time you think about it? Are you enjoying regular growth in your own life, and if not, how do you expect to lead your congregation to experience growth? A little naval gazing isn't a bad thing. Becoming more aware of your self and your needs can help make you a more effective leader.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Long Term Pastors and Vision

I am currently reading The Hidden Lives of Congregations written by Israel Galindo. He writes, "Pastors cannot even begin to formulate a vision until well into their fifth year of ministry at the church...Until a pastor has been at a congregation for at least five years, he or she does not know the congregation well enough to shape a vision."

I was the bivocational pastor of my church for seven years before I was able to lead the church in some new directions. Based on my experience and research by George Barna that shows the most effective years of a pastor's ministry doesn't occur until at least the third year, I believe Galindo is right. What has been your experience? How long did you serve at your church before the congregation recognized your leadership and begin to allow you to cast a vision for the church's ministry?


I am writing a new book that examines how to introduce change to a small church. I know what you're thinking...change and small church in the same sentence must be an oxymoron. We all know how resistant to change small churches are, but I am convinced that many smaller churches are willing to change if the change is presented to them in the right way. My book is intended to provide a process for doing that.

If you are the pastor of a smaller church, how has your church changed since you went there? What led to the church's willingness to change? Who directed the change?

The change I am particularly interested in is the transformation from the church being primarily maintenance-minded to becoming more missional in its outlook. Many of our smaller churches are focused on survival and maintaining what they have rather than looking for ways to enter their mission field (communities) and ministering to the needs that exist there. I would be interested in knowing how many of our readers' churches are maintenance minded and how many are missional. Let me know!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Church switching from fully-funded to bivocational

I need your help. One of the churches I serve will soon be seeking a new pastor. They have just called a search committee, and the chairman called me this evening to talk about what they need to do to find a new pastor. I will meet with their search committee next week to discuss the steps our denomination recommends they take as they begin this process. During the conversation with the chair of this committee we discussed the finances of the church. He and I believe this church will need to look at bivocational ministers, but we both believe this will be difficult for some in the church because they have had a fully-funded pastor for many years. They will not understand how things have changed over the past several years, and they will see this as taking a step backwards.

Have any of you accepted the position of a bivocational minister in a church that had previously been served by a fully-funded person? If so, what kind of problems did you encounter? How did you help the church transition to being bivocational? What things did not go well, and what are some of your success stories?

This will be the scenario in many churches in the near future, and your experiences will help others when they lead their churches in this transition. Your experiences will also help judicatory leaders like myself as we serve churches that will be making these changes. Please share your stories with the rest of us. Thanks.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Coaching for ministry excellence

Bivocational ministers come from all walks of life. Some of us have been fully-funded and are now serving as bivocational either by choice or necessity. Some have been in the ministry for many years, and others entered this ministry as a second career. Some of us have professional, white collar jobs, and others wear a blue collar on our jobs. Some of us have had the opportunity to further our education while others are serving without a college or seminary education. When I began my ministry at Hebron I worked on the assembly line in a factory and had only a high school education. I worked at that factory job for another fifteen years before taking early retirement, but I did enroll in a Bible school and then earned my college degree. It wasn't until leaving the factory job that I enrolled in seminary.

One of the challenges facing leaders today is how do we provide training for our bivocational ministers who have not had the opportunity to further their education. If bivocational ministry will continue to grow, as I believe it will, we need to find ways to train those persons God is calling to this ministry. Some schools are now offering diploma and certification programs for bivocational ministers, and some seminaries now offer dual degree programs for persons planning to enter bivocational ministry. Some judicatories offer training programs such as the Church Leadership Institute I refer to in a previous blog. All these opportunities are good, but there is another component that I believe can be a helpful tool for training bivocational ministers. That component is coaching.

Many corporations now recognize the value of having professional coaches for their executives, and some offer coaching as a perk for their top executives. Many ministers would also benefit from having a coach to work with them through the challenging time of life and ministry. Some of the challenging times I'm thinking about are:
  • when a minister is facing conflict in the church.
  • when the minister is considering whether or not it is time to seek another place of service.
  • when things are not going well at home.
  • when a minister is seeking a fresh vision from God for his or her church.
  • when the minister feels "stuck" and isn't sure how to regain his or her momentum.
  • when the minister struggles with personal issues that challenge his or her sense of call.
  • when the minister simply wants someone to bounce ideas off of without being afraid that those ideas will be ridiculed.
  • when the minister needs some affirmation.

I've had the opportunity to serve as a coach for a number of bivocational ministers, and each of them have said that it was a growing time in their lives and ministries. One of the positive things about coaching is that we always work from your agenda. The person being coached always determines what we will address at each session so we are always working on the things that matter most to you. We normally set up six sessions to begin with and then review to see if more are needed. Because of my commitment to bivocational ministry I keep my rates very low for bivocational ministers, much lower than if you were to use an executive coach. If you would like to discuss whether or not coaching could help you move forward in life and ministry, please respond to this post, and I will get back to you.