Friday, July 29, 2011

Stresses of life

In my devotional reading this morning the author reminded his readers that "When the stresses of life become too great, pastors typically focus on the negative aspects of ministry."  What a great reminder that we cannot put our lives in tidy little boxes.  The stresses we feel in our family relationships, our ministries, our other jobs, and from the additional responsibilities we all have will impact how we view our ministries.  Conversely, the reverse is also true.  The frustrations we feel in ministry will carry over into other areas of our lives as well.  This makes it imperative that we find healthy ways of dealing with the various stressors that will impact our lives.

For some people exercise is a great way to deal with stress.  Running, walking, working out in a gym can all help alleviate stress.  Reading is one of the ways I've found most helpful.  Sometimes I'll take a break from what I'm doing and pick up a book to get my mind off some issue that is bothering me.  If I take a concern to bed with me, and who in ministry hasn't done that, I may get up in the middle of the night to sit and read for a half-hour or so until I'm able to refocus my thinking.  Other people will call a friend or coach to talk through an issue and try to get closure on it.

One important way to reduce the stress you feel is to get control of your schedule.  This will require you to prioritize the various demands on your life and schedule time for the most important.  I know ministry has a funny way of interrupting your best plans, but at least you've set priorities for your life and ministry to which you can return when the interruption has been resolved.  You won't be able to do this, however, until you learn to say no to some good opportunities people bring you.  No minister, and certainly no bivocational minister, can do everything he or she is asked to do.  Once you've determined the most important things on which to focus your attention you are in a better position to say no to other requests.

One final thing to mention is maintaining good health.  This includes getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, practicing a Sabbath, and maintaining a balanced life.  Busy pastors can soon discover that grabbing a sandwich from a drive-through may get you to the next appointment quicker, but it's not the best thing you can do for your overall health and well-being.  There are too many stresses involved when we are not healthy to neglect this important aspect of our lives.

We'll never avoid all the stressors that present themselves to us, but we can deal with them in healthy ways so they have limited impact on our ministries, our relationships, and our own personal well-being.  Find the tools that work for you in reducing the stress in your life and put them to work.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A little cooperation would be nice

For the past few weeks the nation has watched the two political parties spin their versions of the discussions around how to best handle the debt crisis our nation is in.  We are told that the nation faces severe economic challenges if the debt ceiling isn't raised.  We are futher told that both parties have their own version of a bill that would alleviate the problem but neither party is willing to accept the other's solution.  The stalemate continues while the nation marches towards default.  Naturally, both parties blame the other when the truth is both parties are responsible.  Washington DC has become a national Day Care Center at a time when we need adults who are more interested in finding solutions that benefit the nation than they are in promoting their own selfish interests.

Since this blog is about bivocational ministry and not politics I'll end my thoughts about this mess here, but can you see how what we are seeing happening in Washington right now is so similar to what happens in many of our churches?  Take a look at many of our churches today.  Many of them have been in decline for years (decades in some cases).  Not only are the numbers declining but those who do attend are getting older.  Many smaller churches struggle to attract new people.  I am finding a number of churches that are struggling financially.  One pastor of a mid-size church told me their church has only made budget five Sundays this year.  I know of others who are dipping into their savings to pay monthly bills.  Several churches have been involved in pastoral searches this year.  Although they have been served for years by fully-funded pastors, they are now looking for bivocational leadership primarily due to their financial situation.  Our churches are becoming more inward-focused and less interested in the world that lies outside their doorsteps.  Simply put, many of our churches are in real trouble.

But, how many of these churches are willing to do something different to get themselves out of the ruts they've created for themselves?  Common sense should tell one that if what you're doing isn't working you need to do something else, but common sense doesn't seem to be in great supply in Washington DC or in many of our churches.  If some change is proposed the common reaction is to oppose it especially if it seems to threaten our own personal well-being.  Congress no longer seems to be about the business of the people; it is about the well-being of those who have been elected to office, and some of our churches no longer seem to be about the business of advancing the Kingdom of God; they are about advancing the status of the patriarchs or matriarchs in the church.

Cooperation is not a dirty word.  It is past time when our political leaders need to learn to work together to solve the problems this nation faces or leave office, and if they won't leave they need to be voted out in their next election.  I don't care what political party they belong to or how many city streets they got paved since the last election.  This nation's problems are much larger than a few miles of asphalt, and we need leaders who recognize that fact and are willing to work together to find real solutions.  It is also past time when our church leaders need to learn how to work together to promote a healthier church that is able to impact the communities in which God has placed us.  If they can't, they need to be removed from whatever positions of influence they hold and Godly men and women who have a genuine vision from God of what the church should be should replace them.  Yes, change can be difficult, but without change many of our churches face irrelevance and even death in the next few years.  Let's not allow that to happen.  Let's find ways to work together so hurting people can have their lives changed through an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2012 workshops

Although this year is only a little more than half over, I already have three workshops scheduled for 2012.  So far I am scheduled to be with American Baptists, United Methodists, and the Church of the Nazarene to talk with their small church leaders about small church health and transformation.  These are just the confirmed workshops; I've had other contacts about possible dates for other events but nothing has been confirmed.  I would like to invite you to consider hosting one of my small church/bivocational workshops in your judicatory or at your denominational event in 2012.

The most popular workshop I lead has been "The Healthy Small Church."  This workshop has been presented in various states and in Canada for a number of different denominations.  At every event participants tell me during the breaks that I have been describing their churches and given them tools they can take back to their churches to help them regain their health and begin to more effectively minister to their communities.  I've been getting more requests lately for the "Transforming the Small Church from Maintainance-Minded to Missional" workshop.  Small church leaders want to know how to help their churches escape the ruts they've been stuck in for years and become more focused on ministry.  This workshop helps them do that.

I anticipate my workshop on "The Healthy Pastor" will soon become the most requested workshop I lead.  Too many ministers are leaving the ministry because of burn-out, frustration, or personal and/or family concerns.  Some denominations are beginning to recognize that if they want healthy churches they must encourage their ministers to practice good self-care.  A church is unlikely to be healthier than its pastoral leadership, so it is a good investment to provide ministers the tools to ease the various pressures of ministry.  This workshop does just that.  More than one pastor has left this workshop telling me he or she wished they had learned the material I present earlier in their ministry.

Each of these workshops can be presented in a day-long or half-day event.  I prefer the day long because it allows for more material to be covered.  They can also be presented in a 60-90 minute format as an optional workshop offered during a major training event. 

I personally know of very few persons who focus primarily on small church and bivocational leaders and present the kind of material I offer.  As a bivocational pastor for 20 years I developed a passion for this ministry and a deep appreciation for those whom God has called to this ministry.  I am committed to developing and presenting material that will be a help to these individuals.

If you are a denominational or judicatory leader who would like to offer some of this material to the pastors and lay leaders you serve, please contact me as soon as possible to begin discussing how I might be of assistance to you.  If you are a pastor who would like this kind of training, please pass this post on to your denominational leader and ask him or her to consider inviting me in for one of these workshops.  Thank you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Addicted to technology

During the past few weeks I've spent some time with our seven grandchildren.  Only the two youngest ones do not have cell phones, and I've noticed that those who do cannot keep their hands off of them.  I might add that the oldest is almost 14.  For editorial honesty I must admit that I have the I-Phone 4 which I use to make calls, send texts, check e-mail, and search the Internet for information I need before I can get to my computer.  But, the amount of time I spend on my phone during the day can be measured in minutes, not hours like the younger people spend.  Some of my grandchildren will send more texts in a day than I do in a month.  This post is not a rant against technology, but I do want to offer a couple of suggestions to church leaders.

Churches need to look at how they are making use of the various technologies available to them today.  Does your church have a blog that people can check out?  Are you on Facebook and Twitter?  Your youth ministry especially should be sending out tweets on a regular basis to stay connected to your young people.  I still know too many smaller churches that don't even have voice mail to receive calls into their church office and to give out valuable information such as worship times.  Not using the technology that is available today really says that a church is not interested in growth or reaching new people because they are failing to use the most cost effective tools for outreach there are today.

Church leaders also need to talk about how technology can take over a person's life if they allow it to.  Sitting in a restaurant the other evening I noticed a family of four all on their cell phones while eating dinner.  What kind of family meal is that?  I seriously doubt that any of them were dealing with a life-and-death issue on their phone.  People can become, and have, just as addicted to techology as they are to drugs, alcohol, or any of the other addictions we commonly talk about in our sermons.  It seems to me that it would be very suitable to warn in a sermon about becoming a slave to technology.

Of course, we can only preach on such topics if we are modeling it ourselves.  Ministers can become just as addicted to their "time-saving" devices as anyone else.  If you're struggling with quality family time, turn off your phones, both home and cell, during meal times.  Let your voice mail pick up calls after a certain hour each evening.  You can check the message and respond if it's a true emergency; otherwise you can let it go until the next day.  Despite what some seminary professor may have told you, you do not have to be available to every person in the world 24/7/365.  Jesus modeled that for us when we read there were times He went off by Himself.  He purposely separated Himself from others even at times when they felt they "really" needed Him.  I think this is an important reminder especially for those of us who are bivocational.  Use technology wisely to make life and ministry easier, but refuse to become a slave to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who ministers to you?

As ministers we are used to serving others during times of both joy and sorrow.  People call us as they go through the various valleys of life seeking a word from God and the comfort of the church.  Most of us are glad to be able to walk with them during those times of pain and confusion.  But, do you have someone to walk with you during similar times in your own life?  Who are the people in your life with whom you can share your own pain and questions?  Are there people with whom you can process your own grief?

Several years ago my father-in-law passed away, and the family asked me to have his funeral.  It was a very emotional service, and I nearly broke down a couple of times myself.  But, as the minister I felt I had to be the professional.  I needed to be the strong one others could lean on so I forced myself to appear strong.  About three months later I was driving past the farm my father-in-law owned.  For a number of years I had farmed that land and felt a strong attraction to it.  Knowing it was for sale and this might be the last time I could be on it, I stopped.  I walked down to the corn crib that I filled each year with corn and to the barn where I kept some tools, housed the tobacco crop we raised, and where he kept chickens.  I sat down in the floor of that dusty barn looking around when all the grief I had stored for three months began to pour out.  I cried until there were no more tears left as I grieved the loss of my father-in-law.  How much better for me would it have been if I would have had someone with whom I could have processed that grief sooner?

In my experience with bivocational ministers I have found that few of us have those people in our lives.  For some of us, the only people we have to talk to are our spouses, and that isn't fair to them.  They should not be the only support system we have.  If you do not have a support system I would encourage you to begin looking for such people now.  They might be other bivocational ministers who understand the special challenges you face.  It might be a denominational or judicatory person, a retired pastor, or a fully-funded pastor you know.  Your support system could include a life or ministry coach if that would work better for you.  Whoever you choose should be someone you trust and who appreciates you and your ministry.

Some reading this post will immediately think they don't have time for such relationships, but after 30 years of doing bivocational ministry I will tell you that you don't have the time to not have those relationships.  If you are in the ministry for the long haul you must have people in your life who can come alongside to encourage you, minister to you, and help you process some of the challenges you will experience in ministry.  I encourage you to begin seeking such individuals and invite them into your life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Staying true to our call

For the minister there are many calls in one's life.  There is the call to faith as the Holy Spirit invites us to enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  There is the call to ministry as one somehow knows that God has called him or her to a place of service within the Christian community.  There is also the call to a specific place where we will serve God for a period of time.  Often, this will be in a church setting, on the mission field, or in some other place where we minister to people.  It is this second call, the call to ministry, that I want to address in this post.

After over three decades in ministry I still find it remarkable that God called me to become a minister, first as a pastor and then as a judicatory leader.  I know myself too well, and I realize God knows me even better than I know myself.  Still, for some reason, He chose to call me to serve Him in a ministry position.  Since that time I am sure I have disappointed Him many times.  I've disappointed myself at times and questioned again why He would have called me.  But He did and continues to use me in ministry.  This is one more example of the grace of our Lord.

Staying true to our call means that we honor that call God has placed on our lives.  If God has called us to pastor a church, we pastor that church.  We pour ourselves out into the lives of those people.  It's not a job to which we are hired; it is a place of service to which God has called us.  We serve there with integrity and attempt to honor God through our lives and service.  When we fall short, and we will at times, we confess our failures to God and move on.  Remember, throughout Scripture God never called a perfect person to any place of ministry.  Many had some major failures that were recorded for all of history, and yet God still used them to accomplish His purposes.  If God did not call perfect people in the Bible we should not expect that we are the first ones who are expected to be perfect.  Knowing this does not give us a license to be imperfect, but it does mean we should not beat ourselves up when we come up short.  We confess our failure to God and ask for His help as we move forward.

Many who read this are serving in a bivocational setting.  Stay true to your call in that setting.  Part of what that means is that we shouldn't be envious of those who are serving in larger places.  We should not resent having to work a job to provide for our families while we serve in this place where God has called us.  We are not to decide that this small church we serve doesn't deserve our best ministry efforts or that this place will never enjoy anything different than what they already know.  You are the pastor of men, women, and young people for whom Christ gave His life, and they deserve your best ministry.  That is why God has called you to that place.

In one of his books, H. B. London, Jr. wrote that if you are in a place enjoying a healthy ministry it is because someone made it such a place, and if you are in a place that isn't as healthy perhaps God has called you to be the person who will stay and make it a better place for ministry.  As usual, he's right.  Stay true to your call by being that person who will bloom wherever you are planted and see what kind of harvest God will bring.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking it to the people

A few weeks ago I visited a church with two worship services.  Their first service runs about 250 people and packs out their sanctuary.  The second service had 8 people attending.  After the second service the pastor explained their people really enjoy being together even if it means the sanctuary is crowded.  The second service is primarily for a family with a member battling cancer.  She is unable to be around large crowds due to extremely low resistance to illness as a result of the treatments she receives.  The church has voted to build a new sanctuary that will double their seating, but they plan to continue to offer the second service for this family and any one else who might want to attend.  They are going the extra mile to ensure this family can attend church and participate in the life of the church.

During my devotions this morning I read about a pastor who was surprised when a faithful member who was responsible for bringing many people to their church and to faith in Jesus Christ told him that a group she was working with would not attend church services.  She explained that she was working with a support group for women with eating disorders, and none of them felt comfortable being in larger crowds.  She was asking the pastor how they could take the church to these women.

We make a big deal of inviting people to "church," but is that really what the Great Commission calls us to do?  Yes, I think we should be inviting people to worship services, and I remain convinced that there is value in regular times of worship with fellow believers, but what do we do with the many people who, for one reason or another, will not or cannot attend those services?

A number of years ago I had been working with a single mother who wanted to make changes in her life.  She had continually resisted coming to church despite my regular invitations.  She finally reminded me that she worked in a local restaurant and her regular shift was Sunday morning.  Ouch!  How many people can't come to our churches because they have to be ready to feed us when the service is over???  In this person's case, I started a Sunday evening Sunday school class for her age group, enlisted a couple of our regular female members to attend the class, and she became a regular member of the class.  A few months later she gave her life to Christ and was baptized.

In addition to those who work on Sundays, there are people who physically or emotionally are unable to come to regular worship services.  How can your church take the church to them?  How can your church be the church to them?  To be faithful to the Great Commission we have to be a going agency, not just one that invites people to come to us.  As you think about your fall ministry programs, is there a people group in your community that you need to take the church to?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The pastor's honeymoon

Most pastors enjoy a honeymoon period when they begin serving a new church.  Occasionally, due to some unexpected event, this period may be rather short-lived, but usually the honeymoon time will last for a few months.  This is a great time to get acquainted with the congregation, especially the leadership, and the community.  It is a time to learn "how things work" in a new church.  This is a good time to learn the history of the church and any possible "land mines" that might exist.  At my very first business meeting as a new pastor I made a proposal that resulted in major pushback from those attending.  I learned later that night that I had inadvertantly stepped on a land mine by reminding the church of an unfortunate and painful event in their history.

Some people recommend that pastors not try to introduce any changes during the honeymoon period, but I don't necessarily agree.  While you want to avoid major changes until you know the church better, it is OK to make smaller changes, especially if they present themselves to you.  Small, incremental changes that have the congregation's approval can earn you trust in the eyes of the congregation and give it a sense that things are moving forward in a positive way.  This can actually enhance the honeymoon period.  I would suggest treading lightly in any change you might want to make, and be willing to back off if you encounter much resistance.

Use this time to build relationships.  Remember, as a bivocational minister you are probably the only person in the congregation who does not have a long-term relationship with everyone else in the congregation.  They are family, and you have to earn the right to be adopted into that family.  Being called as the pastor does not automatically mean that you are now part of the family.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teaching a class

This Saturday I'll begin teaching a four week class on "Personal and Family Care."  This is one of the courses we require in the Church Leadership Institute and is the only one I teach.  Classes are held all day on four Saturdays on the campus of Franklin College.  I always look forward to teaching this class because I think it is important that we encourage our church leaders (both clergy and lay) to develop healthy habits for themselves, their ministries, and their families.

In the course we'll look at several issues such as some of the stressors that exist in ministry, time management, the needs of families, and the importance of developing priorities and setting goals.  In my opinion, this is a course that should be taught in seminaries and Bible colleges, but to my knowledge is not offered in any of them.  Too many ministers and their families suffer due to the fact that they do not know how to balance the various demands on their lives.

We are losing too many good ministers to burnout, fatigue, and family issues.  The causes of these are many, but a few would include: insufficient finances, unreasonable expectations from the congregation, poor time management, refusing to delegate, a lack of priorities to govern one's life, the wrong priorities, and a Superman complex.  Add to these the challenges of ministering to a 21st century audience, and you have the perfect recipe for a disasterous life and ministry.  In this class we'll try to help the students recognize the problems and find ways to address them.  If you are interested, we will use three textbooks in the class: Pastors at Greater Risk by H. B. London, Jr, and The Bivocational Pastor and The Work of the Bivocational Minister, both written by me.

Our Church Leadership Institute (CLI) is designed to train both lay leaders and clergy, especially bivocational ministers.  A number of our graduates are now serving churches in our Region and doing a very good job.  A larger number of our graduates are serving as lay leaders in their churches, and they are providing a much higher quality of leadership as a result of going through our program.  Although we created the Church Leadership Institute for members of our American Baptist Churches in Indiana, we would certainly consider applications from persons outside our denomination.  If you think you would be interested in learning more about CLI please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


For the past several years I have published a monthly e-newsletter on bivocational and small church ministry.  It usually goes out on the first of each month.  Currently, between 500-600 people receive the newsletter directly, and some forward it to others.  I also know of two judicatories that publishes the newsletter on their web site.  If you would like to be added to the mailing list all you need to do is contact me and request it.  Please know that I will never sell my mailing list to anyone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two kinds of power

In my devotional reading this morning the author discussed two kinds of power: relational and coercive.  Coercive power is used by leaders who refuse to listen to others or change the direction or focus of their ministry.  Such leaders often feel they are being led by God and anyone who challenges or questions them is being used by the enemy to keep their vision from being fulfilled.  I've known many pastors who feel that their position gives them the authority to force the congregation to think as they do or leave.  From such people you'll hear complaints like, "They don't seem to realize that I'm the pastor and they are to follow my leadership."  These pastors leave a trail of destruction as they move from one ministry to another.

Relational power recognizes that all of God's people have been called and gifted for ministry.  There is a genuine respect between the leader and those he or she serves.  Pastors who lead with relational power are true servant leaders who requests and respects input from others.  Such mutual respect takes time to develop as people learn to trust one another, but the results that come from such relationships are often long-lasting.

I have always believed that one of the strengths of bivocational ministry is the opportunity to develop such relationships with members of the congregation.  Those who pastor large churches often do not even know the names of those who attend.  In medium size churches the pastor may know the names but may know very little else about the members of the congregation.  In bivocational churches we often know too much about one another!  But, this is also a strength as we can know the gifts and passions of those we serve, and we can challenge them to serve in those areas.  The greatest accomplishments we enjoyed during my pastorate were the ones that flowed out of the relationships we had with one another.

It might be possible to get things done quicker using coercion, but that does nothing to develop people.  It also fails to get other's perspectives which may mean that you accomplished much less than you could have with more input.  There is a greater chance of upsetting people making later changes more difficult.  Leaders who use such tactics are usually short-sighted, insecure people who simply do not understand the importance of servant leadership.  Don't be that person.  Develop relationships with those within your congregation.  Trust their wisdom and judgment.  Doing these simple things will allow you to move forward together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The pastor's personal spiritual life

This week you will spend a certain number of hours preparing a message that is intended to help the spiritual development of your congregation.  How many hours will you spend in your own spiritual development?  My experience is that most pastors (both bivocational and fully-funded) spend much more time trying to help others to grow spiritually than they do in their own spiritual growth.  Eventually, such pastors learn that they have nothing left to give.  This may explain why many pastors seldom stay at one place for more than 4-5 years.  They move on so they can repeat what they did in their previous pastorate.

Unfortunately, most pastors are graded by what they do.  As a judicatory minister I've had several churches complain that their pastors are poor at one or more aspects of ministry.  I've never received a complaint from a church member that their pastor was neglecting his or her personal spiritual development.  Pastors are unlikely to hear such complaints either.  They know what their congregation is judging them on is their ministry activity, so that is what they provide.

Perhaps even more unfortunate, most pastors with a little experience and training can provide adequate ministry activity with little or no spiritual development in their lives.  Sermons can be prepared quite nicely with the proper commentaries and sermon helps, and this is even more true now that many of these helps are available on-line.  We can make hospital visits and offer comforting words and even say a little prayer without having spent much time studying Scripture or enjoying times of personal prayer.  We can organize and plan ministry activities using the same techniques business leaders use, and nobody will bat an eye.  We can grow our churches while our own souls are slowly spiritually starving.

I have to confess that I've found myself guilty of all of these at more times in my ministry than I care to admit.  As a type A personality I enjoy staying busy.  I like doing things.  It is easy to convince myself that I have too much to do today for God to spend much time (if any) in prayer or Bible study.  Besides, I tell myself, I can pray later in the car while driving to the next activity.  No one has done more to help me address this tendency in my life than Eugene Peterson.  His books always remind me that I am responsible for my own spiritual growth, and it is out of such growth that true success in ministry will come.

How are you doing?  Many bivocational ministers struggle to find time for their own spiritual development.  Has this been a problem for you?  If so, how are you addressing it?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Small churches and opposition to growth

Last week I spoke with a bivocational pastor who has enjoyed a successful ministry in his church.  Fifteen months ago he began as a pastor with about 18 people attending church on an average Sunday.  Today the church consistently sees over 70 people each week attend their morning service.  I asked how the older members of the church felt about that growth.  He responded that while most are pleased there are some who are starting to resist further changes that might lead to additional growth.  Some of those are the same ones who insisted what they wanted in a new pastor was someone who could grow their church and someone who could attract youth to the church.  Now that this pastor is doing that they are becoming uncomfortable.  While they are unlikely to admit it, in my opinion much of their discomfort is due to feeling threatened by the new people.  They may sense they are losing the authority they once held in their church and believe if they do not do something soon to reestablish that authority it will be lost forever.

This is a scenario I've seen played over and over again.  Smaller churches seeking a new pastor insist they want to see their church grow but then fight any change that might lead to such growth.  It's almost like they want growth, but they want it to occur as it did in 1950.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way any more.  21st century techniques are needed to reach 21st century people.  This makes many patriarchs and matriarchs who are stuck in the 20th century uncomfortable and is likely to cause them to react.  This pastor was starting to run into that discomfort and wanted to know how to address it.

We discussed several things to remember when trying to introduce change into a smaller church.  One is that he cannot assume he is the leader of that church yet even though he's been there over a year.  It is likely that most of the church leadership is still with the older members, and they are likely to trust one another (whom they've known for years) more than their young pastor.  If he wants to lead the church he must work through the leaders.  This means he must try to get their buy-in for any new ideas before he presents them to the larger church body.  If he can convince them he is unlikely to get opposition from anyone else.

A second thing he needs to do is to create a sense of urgency for the change.  He must not only present the what of the change he wants to make; he must provide a compelling reason why the change needs to occur and why it needs to occur now and not later.  The third thing we discussed is the speed of change.  He shouldn't try to change everything at once.  That frightens people, and frightened people will do everything possible to maintain calm.  He also has to understand that significant change may take five years from introduction to becoming part of the DNA of the church, and during that five years there are likely to be numerous attempts to return to what the system knew before the change was introduced.

This young bivocational minister seemed to understand these concepts.  Although this is his first pastorate, he seems to have a wisdom beyond his years, and I anticipate he'll enjoy a very successful ministry in that church.  As we ended our conversation he told me he is beginning a coaching relationship with a well known ministry coach that should be a big help to him.  This will help keep him on track and avoid some mistakes often made by younger pastors.

If the church you serve has grown under your ministry, did some of your established leaders resist that growth?  How was your church impacted by the new people who came into your congregation?  Were there specific battles you had to fight?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

I was privileged to preach in a church yesterday whose pastor was away on vacation.  I used that opportunity to remind the congregation of the Christian foundation on which this country was created.  So many of today's history books have been written by historical revisionists that I find that many people do not not realize the impact their Christian beliefs had on our founding fathers and how those beliefs influenced the writing of our earliest documents and our earliest laws.  Our founding fathers are often referred to as deists in much of today's writings, but even a brief look at their own words demonstrate that isn't the case at all.  The majority of these individuals were Christians who took seriously the teachings with which they had been taught.

There were a large number of young people and teenagers in the congregation yesterday, and I couldn't help but notice how many of them were listening intently to the message.  I would imagine that may have been the first time some of them had heard much of what I said yesterday.  I'm certain they would not have received that message in their American history classes.  Unfortunately, I fear it isn't a message many will hear in their churches either.  It seems that many pastors are reluctant to talk about the Christian foundations that led to the early greatness of this nation.  Perhaps they are afraid some will consider such messages as too political or not politically correct.  But, if our young people do not hear this message from the pulpit, where will they hear it?  They won't, and the historical revivisionists will have won.  Even worse, the Christian foundations of our nation will continue to erode until one day there is nothing left to define right and wrong.

After the service a few older members came to me with tears in their eyes and thanked me for bringing such a message.  They fear for their children and grandchildren, as I do, if we as a nation do not rediscover that we are truly one nation under God.

Whatever your plans are for the remainder of this holiday weekend, please take a few moments to thank God for this nation in which we live.  Thank Him for the foundations on which this country was founded and ask Him to once again pour out His Spirit upon us.  Also, if you are not aware of the role Christianity had on the beginnings of our nation, take some time this month to read one or both of the books I've referenced in this posting.  I believe you'll have a new appreciation for our founding fathers and for the values they brought to the birth of our wonderful nation.  May God bless America!