Sunday, April 24, 2011

Celebrating Easter

I want to wish each of you a joyous Easter as you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!  My wife and I are leaving shortly to spend this Easter with our daughter and her family.  We're looking forward to spending time with family, and I think Granny has a couple of surprises for the grand-children.

Friday, April 22, 2011


It seems like a lot of people I've talked to in the past few weeks are struggling.  Pastors and lay people alike are struggling with the economy, relationships, job security, health issues and a host of other issues.  Some are exhausted from the constant stress; a few are about ready to give up.  Some remind me of the disciples after they witnessed Jesus' death on the cross.  They just want to get away, lock the doors behind them, and avoid any further problems.  Life hasn't worked out the way they hoped, and they just want to withdraw and escape any more pain.

You pastors probably already have your Easter messages prepared, but I do hope your message will offer hope to the hurting people who will attend your services.  The story of Christ's resurrection is a story of hope.  The Son of God is alive forevermore and wants to dwell within every man, woman, and child who will receive Him.  To those who will call out to Him He promises to hear.  Furthermore, He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us no matter what we may experience in this life.  Some of the paths we walk on earth are dark and uncertain, but what hope it brings to know that our Lord is with us on those paths!  This is the Sunday to remind your listeners how precious they are in the sight of God and of the unconditional love God has for each of us.

I would also encourage you to listen to your own messages this Sunday.  I've talked to a number of pastors recently carrying a lot of pain in their own lives.  They need to be reminded of the hope found in the story of Easter, and when I write "they" I really mean all of us.  It's easy for any of us to forget sometimes that God's love isn't reserved for those pastors who are doing great things for the Kingdom of God or for those who seem to have it all together in their lives.  Unconditional love is just that...unconditional.  God has chosen to love us even when we are not very loveable.

If you are struggling in some areas of your life right now, please remember you are not alone.  God is with you in the midst of your struggles and doubts.  He is ready to listen anytime you want to talk to Him.  So am I.  Friends, whether you are bivocational, fully-funded, or a lay person, please know I care about you, your ministries, your families, and your struggles.  Feel free anytime to contact me.  I'll be more than glad to pray with you and to encourage you any way I can. 

Until we meet again, have a most blessed Easter weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New book

Beacon Hill Press informed me this week they have accepted my latest book proposal for publication with a planned release in spring 2012.  The working title is Heart Disease in the Body of Christ.  This book is not directly related to bivocational and small church ministry as my previous books but looks at various factors that limit the effectiveness of churches.  I believe each of the conditions examined in the book are heart issues which is why I've selected the title I have.  Chapters will explore issues such as doctrinal confusion, a lack of grace, a lack of mission, a lack of spiritual maturity, a lack of pastoral leadership, a lack of denominational excellence, and others.  I try to not only point out the problems but offer solutions that can lead to a healthier church.  This is my fifth book with Beacon Hill Press, and I know I will enjoy working with them on this book as I have with the other books.  I'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The value of a soul

A few years ago I was approached by some people upset with some recent expenses their church made for its youth ministry.  When they voiced their concerns to me I asked how many young people had made professions of faith in Christ in recent year.  They admitted that the church had received several young people and/or their family members in recent years and their church was growing.  I then asked, "How much do you think a soul is worth?"  I never received an answer, and in a few minutes the group left.

In our current financial recession many churches have struggled financially.  Many have been forced to cut their budgets, sometimes through staff reductions or by eliminating ministries.  In some situations this has been necessary in order to survive, especially in those areas hardest hit with high unemployment numbers or other financial difficulties.  However, one of my concerns is that most of the money that was cut from budgets was for mission work both locally and abroad.  We've kept the items in our budget that provided care and ministry for our membership, but too often we've reduced or removed entirely funding that would enable our churches to effectively impact people outside of the church.  Both denominational mission agencies and local ministries have been impacted by these cuts.

I would encourage you to look at your budget with your church leadership and determine how much of your budget is for the church membership and how much is for reaching out to those outside the church.  Then ask yourself the question I posed that evening: How much is a soul worth?  Does a ministry project that would impact unchurched people really have to be eliminated, or could something else in the budget be reduced?  Could people be challenged to give more to ensure that the project can continue?  How important to your church are the unchurched people who live in your community?

These questions are not meant to be mean-spirited or accusatory.  I ask them to help remind each of us of the main purpose of our church.  As someone has said, the church was never meant to be a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners.  The mission of every church is to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, and that doesn't change because of changing economic situations.  I could not put a financial figure on the value of a soul, but I do know the cost God paid.  John 3:16 tells us what God thought the value of our souls was, and He was willing to pay it.  Personally, I'm thankful He was, and the people your church reaches for the Kingdom of God will be thankful that your church was willing to pay a price to continue reaching out to them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Yesterday I read that Microsoft might be coming out with Windows 8 sooner than anticipated.  My first thought was why?  They haven't got Windows 7 working right so why would they come out with a new version of Windows?  Maybe they've given up on Windows 7 and instead of fixing the problems with that version they are going straight to Windows 8.  Isn't that what they tried when they went from Vista to Windows 7?  How well did that work????  Over the past several years I've owned 10-12 computers, both desktop and laptops.  All have been Windows based, and most of them have been disappointing in some respects.  XP has been my favorite system so far by a long shot.   I bought a new computer with Vista just before Windows 7 was released.  Several months after the release I installed 7 on the computer, and both Vista and 7 have been major disappointments.  I can't even use any but one of my USB ports, and from the multitiude of complaints about that problem on the Internet it's a common problem with 7, and it's obvious that months later Microsoft still doesn't have a fix.  Don't even get me started with the problems I'm having with Microsoft Office, especially with Publisher.  So, instead of fixing their problems they are thinking about releasing a new system early so people can buy it.  My daughter-in-law recently bought a new Mac laptop, and I'm seriously thinking of taking the Mac plunge myself.

Why this rant about computers on a blog about bivocational ministry?  Microsoft's problems come when they rush to introduce something new before they have the bugs out of it, and I see the same thing happening in some churches.  For instance, a church decides it needs to have a contemporary worship service to attract younger people, and they announce that a month later they will begin the new service.  The problem is that they may not have the musicians with the talent to have such a service.  Or they may not have taken the time to consider what a contemporary service should look like in their situation.  In some churches I've attended they've printed off a booklet of 1970's praise songs and put them in the pew racks behind the pews.  In about a month they look like a stack of ragged papers that should be thrown into the trash.  I've sat in a number of "contemporary" worship services and wondered who the church hoped to reach with what I was experiencing.  They had great goals, but they didn't take the time to do it right.

I see the same thing happen sometimes when a church decides to start small groups.  Since the other churches in the town has small groups, and because the pastor read about small groups in one of his magazines, the church forms small groups.  Six months later these groups shut down.  Most of the pastors admit to me the small groups didn't work in their church because the church either wasn't prepared for small groups or because not enough planning went into the small groups before they began.  Either way, it leaves the church with the sense that small groups are not a good idea, and they will be reluctant to try them again in the future.

As I often tell church leaders in my workshops, small churches can accomplish more oftentimes by doing less.  Instead of trying to offer everything the other churches in your community offer, focus on just 2-3 things that your church can do with excellence.  Take the time to think through and pray through the new things you feel led to introduce into your church.  Make sure you have the people who can pull it off, and that they are on-board with your ideas.  Count the cost, and ensure you have the resources to pay the price.  Remove as many bugs in your idea as possible before launching anything new.  Doing these few things will ensure a better quality ministry that will have a much great impact on your community than jumping on the flavor-of-the-month every time a new magazine hits your office.