Bad Day? Nothing spiritual, I just liked the picture

You ever had a bad day? Youngest daughter here was having one of those days. You know, the kind of day when your mother dressed you in blue and white striped bloomers, red Converse high tops, and a pull behind duck. I mean really, the shoes clash with everything and were only marginally popular in the 80’s. Why? Why would any parent do this to her child? Ohhhh, the humanity!

Published in: on May 31, 2008 at 3:53 am  Comments (4)  

Seminary Never Prepared Me For Banana Pudding

I love banana pudding.  It could verge on being a vice.  I mentally prepare myself before church fellowships by repeating, “One bowl is enough.  One bowl is enough!”  My fail-safe, though, is the number 36.  This is my current waist size.  It wasn’t long ago that I had to work very hard to get my size 36 pants to button.  Since I cannot afford new suits every time I fall off the banana pudding wagon, I keep it down to one bowl. 

Never was there a more perfect dessert.  All the ingredients I long for in one location.  I love bananas, sugar, pudding, and I even like that whip they put on the top that looks a bit like calf slobber.  When you add Nilla Wafers you have the perfect storm.  It is the Nilla Wafers that make the whole thing come together.  Apart from the pudding, I’m not a huge fan of that plain little cookie.  But in the company of pudding and bananas, that cookie takes on a whole new texture and taste.

Seminary never warned me about banana pudding temptation.  I never had a class on the discipline it takes to only have one bowl.  There was not a specialist on campus who ever mentioned that two bowls of that yummy mixture leads to new and bigger pants.  There are a ton of other things that seminary didn’t, and couldn’t, prepare me for.  There are things you just have to work out day by day as you encounter them.  

Seminary just can’t teach you how to discipline your life in such a way that you adequately deal with family, church, and other relationships.  Seminary can’t teach you how to reconcile difficult people and circumstances.  I don’t think I ever heard any professor tell me how the day to day activities of ministry could become mundane if I let them.  No one ever taught me how hard it is to bury people that you have come to love and respect.   No one can prepare you for the day a church member walks away from the church and blames you.  Seminary could never prepare me for that stuff.  Its not their fault .  . . you just can’t teach experience from the class room.       

A friend of mine reminded me the other day that “no one can teach savvy”.  Savvy comes with experience.  Experience comes with time and trials.  I learned my banana pudding lesson when I almost had to purchase new pants. . . I got a treadmill instead.  I learned the secret of staying with day to day ministry from watching other long time pastors.  Many pastoral lessons have been learned on the fly as events have unfolded.  Some lessons were pleasant and some were not.  Contentment has been the hardest lesson to learn.  I learned it from Paul.  In Philippians chapter 4 Paul paints a beautiful picture for us of what it means to find contentment in Christ.  I pray that our pastors (me) could learn to be content.  Content with one bowl of pudding, and content with the people and circumstances that God has called us to.           



Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 1:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Questions about John 10:12

He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

Disclaimer:  Please assume I know that there are a few bad churches with problems beyond the leadership of the most spiritual and skilled pastor!

Can we apply John 10:12 to pastoral tenure or is it stretching the text?  For full disclosure I believe that it is applicable.  If we are going to follow the true shepherd then we must be willing to sacrifice as He has taught us.  The average tenure for SBC pastors is about 3 years.  I think it is valid to ask ourselves if we are hired hands or shepherds.  What have we taught our pastors to think they are?  What have we taught our churches to think their pastors are?  Why do so many pastors leave the sheep so quickly? 

One thing is for sure. . . there are a lot of pastors who are fleeing from real or perceived wolves.  I truly believe our small rural churches are suffering because of this issue.  I don’t have any empirical evidence, only what I have observed around me, but I think pastoral tenure can be directly linked to much of what ails small rural churches.  Nothing good can come from a church losing a pastor every 2 or 3 years.  Nothing good can happen for a pastor who moves every 2 or 3 years. 

Most of the research I have seen thus far focuses attention on the perceived threat to the pastor.   Everyone seems drawn to the external forces that beat pastors down.  What about the internal spiritual stuff?  What about the pastor himself?  What is it that makes our current crop of pastors so vulnerable to attack.  Where did so many of us learn to think that we were only hired hands?  Could there be character flaws so prevalent within our ranks that our average tenure only adds up to three years?  Is the character flaw in the churches?  Why are we so willing to run and so unwilling to stay for the sake of the sheep?  Are there that many BAD churches out there or do we have a leadership problem?  

I am full of questions tonight. . . with few answers.  Perhaps you can help. 

Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 4:08 am  Comments (8)  

Stuff I Think About

1.  Can we be the first traditional emergent church of Cottage Grove? 

2.  Does knowing 10 fast facts about Lottie Moon qualify us as a missional church?

3.  Would we be considered relevant to our culture if we planted corn and soy beans on the church lawn?

 4.  I caught a glimpse of contemporary church glory last Sunday when I loosened my tie while preaching.  

5.  We have averaged 75 in Sunday School for 150 years in a community of 100 people.  Can we PLEASE come up with another term besides plateaued to describe our church?

6.  I conducted a funeral last month with the Mennonite preacher down the road.  Does that mean we had blended worship?

Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Comments Off on Stuff I Think About  

A Little Whine Please / edited version

This is an edited version of an earlier post. It was edited b/c I misinterpreted information that I had received. Upon further reflection, and some deserved chastisement, I believe my writing was harsh, was born out of frustration, and misrepresented what LifeWay was trying to accomplish.

LifeWay recently conducted a study on small church ministry and presented their findings to 110 pastors in Lewisville N.C. Lifeway found the following 6 challenges to be the most daunting for small church pastors:

Here are the top 6 challenges to small church ministry that came from a sample group of pastors from across the Southern Baptist Convention. 1. Not enough time. 2. Resistance from the congregation to change. 3. Lack of commitment from members. 4. Too few workers in the church. 5. The church is too old. 6. Lack of money. Some of the lesser cited problems were: worldliness of the church, age of the pastor, too few people, and demographics.

Not enough time? Not enough money? All of the problems they cited could be present in any church anywhere in the world. The question is really this: What will our pastors do with the information? Will our pastors allow time constraints, money, and relational issues trump their call to preach the word and love the people. Will we as pastors whine about the problems or lead through them. WE NEED GOD-CALLED PASTORS who will lead as shepherds.

At a recent meeting at the Tennessee Baptist Convention our rural church affinity team met to discuss the challenges that small rural churches face.  Rural Pastors, Directors of Missions, laymen, and our state staff met to discuss Rural Church Ministry. We began to understand that the real problem in most small rural churches is LEADERSHIP! Instead of indicting our churches we indicted ourselves. Here are some of the observations that came out of our meeting:

1. Pastors need to understand the call. 2. Pastors need to be shepherds. 3. Pastors need to persevere. Pastors need to be willing to stay where God put them. They need to be willing to invest their lives. (Long intentional tenure) 4. Pastors need to understand their people. 5. Pastors need to be willing to be bi-vocational if God calls them to a place with little money. We observed that many of the problems that rural churches and small churches face is either tied to a lack of leadership or directly caused by poor leadership.

We also observed that the rural small church is, for the most part, a wonderful place to be with wonderful people to serve (there are always a few exceptions). There is a ton of heritage and hope found in our small and rural churches. Every church has problems and challenges. There are churches with worldly and difficult people in the country and in the city. There is never enough money, and there are never enough workers. You can either dwell on the problem and whine about it, or you can be patient and focus on the ability of God to bring lasting change. I pray that God raises a generation of faithful men.

Published in: on May 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm  Comments (16)  

My Buddy

Everyone needs a someone to call their buddy sometimes. This is our Buddy. . . really, his name is Buddy. Buddy is true blue Cottage Grove through and through. Besides being a very faithful church member for more years than most of us will be alive, he is a good neighbor and friend. WHERE would we be without our Buddy?

Buddy has come to my rescue more times than I can count. He has 87 years of experience under his belt, so he has become my 24 hour 7 day a week bank of wisdom. Where does a pastor go to find out how to tie a tire swing properly? Where does a pastor go to learn how to plant tomatoes? Where does a pastor go to find out how to endure, overcome, and stick with a project? Where does a pastor go to borrow tools? YOU GO TO BUDDY!

There are many things to like about Buddy but the thing I love about him is how he has become a mentor to my son. Mentors are so important. Mentors are hands on teachers who allow you into their world so that you can learn what they have spent a lifetime figuring out. Mentors are usually people that the pupil has great admiration and respect for. Buddy is one of those people for my son. He looks up to Buddy so much that he is willing to be taught, corrected, and even rebuked at times in order to learn what Buddy knows. Because of Buddy, my son has acquired a love for growing things. Not only does he have a desire to grow things, but the knowledge it takes to see it through from seed to harvest.

Mentors are sorely lacking in pastoral ministry these days. A young pastor needs an older pastor to teach, admonish, and even rebuke him at times. A young pastor needs to be encouraged to “stick with it” even when the ministry is tough. Young pastors need an “ata boy” at times when everything goes right. It seems, though, that we are becoming all too professional. We rely on our training. We rely on our books. We rely on the resources and even the blogs we find on the internet for inspiration and encouragement. The truth though, is that we need living breathing mentors. I can’t help but think of the way that Paul took the time to mentor Timothy. I am praying for more “Pauls” to come along side more “Timothys” for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of the church.

Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 2:41 am  Comments (4)  

Wow! I could not agree more. Please click this link!


Published in: on May 2, 2008 at 1:47 pm  Comments Off on Wow! I could not agree more. Please click this link!