Thursday, November 27, 2008


The meal is over and so are the football games. Our kids and grandchildren have been here and celebrated this day with us. Everyone is exhausted and gone to bed early except for me. I'm still thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for this year.

This has been a very difficult year for a number of reasons. Emotionally, financially, and spiritually it has been about as difficult year as I've had, but God was faithful to bring me through it. There are some scars, but I feel that God has given me a great victory over the enemy's attempt to destroy me and my family.

I continue to be amazed and thankful that God called me into the ministry nearly 30 years ago. I sometimes wonder why He did so since I have failed Him many times, but He keeps reminding me that He is omniscient and knew all my failures long before they occurred, and He still chose to call me to serve Him first as a pastor and now as a judicatory leader. My ministry has given me opportunities I could never have imagined, and I am thankful to God that He has given me these opportunities.

It is easy to simply eat too much turkey and watch too much football and never really think much about how your life has been blessed. I'm afraid that many of us seldom take even a few minutes to think about the things for which we are thankful. If that describes you, please take a few minutes this week to think about those things, and offer to God a prayer of thanksgiving for the many ways He has enriched your life.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Yesterday I attended the dedication of a new fellowship building in one of my Area churches. The people were so excited, and they had a right to be. This building had been discussed for years and frequently voted down. Obviously, when God's timing was right the church decided to move forward with the new facility. Another reason they had a right to be excited was that the new building is debt-free. A layman in the church told me a story of how God provided the final money they needed to complete the building. It was a true miracle how God worked to enable them to build their facility without borrowing any money.

As I left the service I wondered how excited they will be a year from now. They spoke much during the service how this building will be used to the glory of God and to better reach their community, and I pray that happens. However, I've been around long enough now to know that sometimes the completion of a new building can also be the beginning of a major let-down in ministry in many churches.

During the planning and building phases there is so much excitement. People pour their financial, physical, and emotional resources behind the building project. Most people are working with a common vision to see the new facility completed. However, when the building is finished so is that vision, and too often a new vision does not rise up to challenge the people. Everything in the church stops. Suddenly, the people become very protective of the new building. A facility that is dedicated to minister to people outside the family of God suddenly has to be protected from those people. After all, we can't let our new building get dirty. Those people wouldn't know how to act in a church building, their children would probably damage it, and we don't want to get any stains on the carpet. I've seen this happen too many times in too many churches.

These churches forget that their new building is just a tool. If it is used to reach out to people and provide for better ministry, then praise the Lord! If not, it might as well be used to store hay. Such churches need to ask themselves if God would be more concerned about dirty carpet or lost souls. What happened to the vision of reaching new people with improved facilities? Too often, we say the right words but we fail to follow them up with right actions.

Are you in a building program? That's great, but just remember that when the building is completed that is when real ministry should begin to happen. In a smaller church it is often hard to be involved in both a building program and ministry because there are just so many resources available. But even before the building is completed the leadership of the church needs to be praying about the future ministry of the church. The vision of building a new facility will end with the building is completed, and it's essential that the church have a new vision for ministry to take its place. Otherwise, you will likely find you have a very expensive facility that you really didn't need.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Many of our churches find themselves in ruts from time to time. Some prefer living in their ruts because it is comfortable and all they have ever known. Unfortunately, little ministry occurs in ruts. I often define a rut as a grave with both ends kicked out. We don't find much life around a grave, and we don't find much life around ruts either. However, the pastor who tries to lift his or her church out of the rut can find a great deal of opposition and may find it necessary to look for a new place of service. How can the pastor help a church out of its ruts and find new ways of doing ministry?

This morning I read an interesting thought by Thom Rainer. He wrote, "The way out of the rut is not the attack of the rut itself. It is a new outward focus that helps people look beyond themselves." That is great advice! We will seldom help a church out of its ruts by attacking the ruts. BTW - those ruts can be found in almost any aspect of church life: a Sunday School class that is resistant to new members; a worship format; an outreach program that isn't working; a legalistic dependence upon the church constitution that prevents almost any new idea from being considered, etc.

It is always tempting to attack the rut by attacking the problem. The church constitution may well need to be studied and re-written to reflect the current times. A different outreach program may need to be started. But, it is usually a mistake to start there. The right place to start is by helping people develop a new focus. They need to begin looking beyond themselves and their comfort level and begin to look at their mission field. I would start by challenging the people to ask themselves, "Who are we here for?" Until a congregation understands it exists not for their own comfort but to reach new people for the Kingdom of God there is really no reason to leave their ruts and it is unlikely they will do so.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The current issue of Rev! magazine has an article I wrote about bivocational ministry entitled "Bivocational Ministry: Meeting the Leadership Needs of the Smaller Church." It is a five page article that examines some of the challenges and advantages associated with bivocational ministry. Alan Nelson, Executive Editor, contacted me earlier this year asking if I would write an article on bivocational ministry, and it was exciting to see it published in the Nov/Dec issue. It is even more exciting to me that a major ministry magazine wants to discuss bivocational ministry. I think it shows again how much of an impact bivocational ministry is having on the 21st century church and its continued importance to the Kingdom of God.

We continue to see smaller churches looking at bivocational ministry as a viable option for their leadership needs. One reason for that is the excellent work that many of you are doing in your churches. Other churches see that and realize that they can also benefit from having a bivocational minister. Denominations that once were reluctant to use bivocational ministers also see the value we bring to the church, and many of them are now anticipating that the numbers of bivocational ministers will increase in their denomination.

If you don't subscribe to Rev! I encourage you to look for a copy. If your bookstore doesn't carry it I'm sure they can order a copy for you. I think you'll find other articles in the magazine will also be helpful to your ministry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election 2008

From all appearances this will be an election like we've not seen in the United States in many years. Millions of people have already voted in states that permit early voting. The news media are showing pictures of long lines at many voting locations. We are likely to see a record number of ballots cast in this election, and I doubt that any of us will know the winner when we go to bed tonight. As soon as I finish this blog I will go to my voting place and pray that there are no long lines at that site. Regardless, I will vote today.

I have not missed voting in a single election since I became eligible to do so. That includes every primary and local vote as well as in the national elections. It is my belief that as Christians we have an obligation to vote and work to make our nation a better place for each of us to live in. Sometimes my candidate is elected, and sometimes he or she is defeated, but at least I know that I voiced my opinion.

Regardless of who wins an election the Bible teaches that we believers have an obligation to pray for those individuals. We may not like their policies, and we may not even like them personally, but that does not negate our responsibility to pray for them. And when we believe they are wrong we have an obligation to speak up and let our opinions be known.

Please remember this: God doesn't fly on Air Force One. Whether or not your candidate wins today, God is still in ultimate control of this universe. The policies of an elected official or a political party may have a great impact on our nation and the world, but they do not have the power to bring about the spiritual change that our nation most needs. Only God can do that. Only He can send a revival that would restore this nation to Him. As we pray for our elected officials let's not forget to also ask God to have mercy on our nation and send the spiritual revival that we so greatly need.