I’m So Excited and I Just Can’t Hide It!

Have you ever noticed how babies just can’t hide their joy, pain, sadness, or enthusiasm?  Liddy diddy here was intense about having her watermelon served on the back lawn in a bucket.  She unashamedly let us know how thankful she was.  Just thought you might want to share in her exuberance.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 3:27 am  Comments (2)  

Killer # 5: Human Expectations

Self reliance is an admirable quality that I have found in our rural churches.  They are independent and strong.  They “get-r-done!”  This can be a doubleedged sword though when the pendulum of independence swings so far that we forget that God still desires to do supernatural things through us.  We often come to church expecting nothing more than what people can deliver.  People in the rural church are great.  They are strong, smart, resourceful, and gifted in many ways, but they are not God.  They, in and of themselves, cannot produce God sized results.   

Some rural churches have been so self reliant for so long they have forgotten to see things with spiritual eyes.  They have forgotten what it means to seek God’s strength, God’s wisdom, and God’s resources.  A church cannot survive long on its humanity.  Churches are called supernaturally for a supernatural purpose.  The great commission cannot be fulfilled in our humanity.  Real ministry within the church cannot take place without the discernment and wisdom given by the Holy Spirit.  Worship becomes stale.  Discipleship becomes boring.  Fellowship is man-centered.  Evangelism becomes a chore and our prayers become stilted when our expectations are only human.  The church suffers when we don’t expect God to show up.  The church dies without the expectation that God will do something extra ordinary.  A church might exist for a while focused on itself, but it won’t really be the church.  Human expectations kill the church.

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 6:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Entitled or Earned?

I know this is not necessarily a rural church issue, but it does affect many people that I know.  Many rural folk are poor to middle class.  There are those within my own community and church that fall into into this category.  Most of the rural people I am acquainted with though do not want the government involved in their health care.  I am really struggling with this issue so help me out!

Universal Health Care?  Is this a good idea?  I am really interested in what you all think.  Should insured health care be an entitlement because you are an American Citizen?  Should insured health care be earned?  For full disclosure, I believe poor and middle class people already have access to better health care than the rest of the world.  There are many poor people that have better dental, eye, and health care than my family, and we pay for ours.  What do you think. . . earned or entitled?

Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 1:46 am  Comments (5)  

Beulah Land

I had the distinct privilege of meeting with the Director of Missions, Jack Long, and several pastors from the Beulah Baptist Association today.  I made the drive over to Union City in about an hour today.  I spent that hour praying and thinking about how far this process has come.  Less than a year ago the Rural Church Affinity Team of the Tennessee Baptist Convention didn’t exist.  Today we are actively meeting with and engaging rural church pastors and leaders across the state.  We are listening to their frustrations, their struggles, and especially to the many victories God has brought to their ministries. 

The guys I talked to today were a lively bunch with a lot on their minds.  We discussed the health of the rural church.  We discussed the relationship between rural churches and the state convention.  We discussed the unique role of the rural church in reaching their communities.  We talked in depth about pastoral and leadership issues within a rural context.  At one point we even discussed the recent discovery of Bigfoot outside of Atlanta (we chased a few rabbits.)  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of guys who had been in the same church for five years or more.  In a day when many guys are looking for the bigger, better church ,it was good to hear that some are able to stay in their rural contexts for long tenures.

Like alot of us, these pastors were tired of being compared to large churches.  They all believed that the rural church was doing good Kingdom work.  They understood there were challenges but that God was bigger than those difficulties.  They understand that the work they do doesn’t always fit nicely in a book of statistics.  They all seemed to have a grip on the fact that God had called them to the place and to the people they were shepherding.  They understood that their churches had a wonderful heritage and that God was not done with them yet.  Praise God. . . they believe that God has plan and a purpose for the future of their churches.

I had a fantastic time meeting with these guys.  I was encouraged by these pastors and their unwavering commitment to Christ, the call on their lives, and their candor in discussing the rural church.   Oh yeah, if any of you Beulah guys are reading this, I saw Bigfoot on the way home just outside of Dresden.

Published in: on August 19, 2008 at 2:48 am  Comments (3)  

The Baptist and Reflector is a Rural Church Friend

Take a look at this:


Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 4:47 am  Comments (4)  

Killer # 4: Mediocrity

There are some rural churches that dwell in the land of betwixt and between. Not hot and not cold. Not excellent and not poor. They simply exist in a place where programs and ministry have a place but have no substance. There are bones but no meat. If this type of church were a cup of coffee, you wouldn’t want to drink it because it would be leftover and lukewarm. If it were a plate of pancakes, they would be cold and rubbery. Welcome to Mediocre Baptist Church, where activity abounds but nothing special ever happens.

We can point the finger at the pastor and the laity for this problem. These churches are usually led by a pastor, or a succession of pastors, who have never challenged the people on a personal level. He may make some rare, bold statements from the pulpit, but never to the leadership of the church directly. His desire is longevity without any hassles. This pastor may prompt the church to deeper obedience, but he will never demand it. This church evangelizes and disciples very little. They may knock on doors, but they hope no one is home. They do something that resembles worship, but it seems devoid of the presence and power of God. They are a people led by a man who has no desire to lead, and they are people who have no desire to follow. They are complacently content.

There are three words (attitudes) that are tied to mediocrity: ignorant, stubborn, and lazy. It is very difficult to do anything with ignorant, lazy, and stubborn people. Ignorance, by itself, can be overcome with discipleship. Ignorance tied to a stubborn attitude is disaster. You cannot teach a church that doesn’t want to learn. You cannot teach a church that is too lazy to learn. A church will never move if the pastor they have called is too lazy to teach or just won’t teach. The problem with ignorant, lazy, and stubborn people is that they often want to seem smart, energetic, and willing. They even think of themselves as smart, energetic, and willing. It is hard to convince a drunk that he is a drunk. It is even harder to convince a mediocre church of thier mediorcity.  They are convinced of their great zeal.

These churches are being devoured by mediocrity. They settle for fair when God requires great. When God says “all”, they say “some”.  Mediocrity is a killer.

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Questions for the Candidates

1. Since our nation runs on coffee can we erect a statue of Juan Valdez on the National Mall? I just think it is time we recognize and give props to 100% Colombian.

2. Are you cool with me and a few local farmers making our own “ethanol” like uncle Jesse did in that Duke’s Of Hazard episode?

3. I think Nascar ought to be our national pastime instead of baseball, don’t you?

4. For every 10 cents gas goes up during your administration, I think you and 10 members of congress (your choice) should get to spend 10 days thinking about it at Guantanamo Bay. Think of it as an intensive “time out”. How bout it?

5. I like stuff with trans fat in it. Leave it alone. Really, my fries taste different every time I go to Wendy’s. Could you talk to the surgeon general about this?

6. The White House is to the federal government what my parsonage is to our church. I have to pay social security on the the fair market value of the parsonage. Don’t you think you should have to pay social security on the fair market value of White House?

7. I know this could never happen and is only hypothetical, but if the election comes down to one state, one county, and we have to start counting ballots by hand, can we settle the election with a cage match between you guys? Ron Paul could referee. I also think “paper, rock, scissors” is an acceptable way to settle matters.

8. Can I be your Secretary of State?

9. Would you consider making Cottage Grove your “Western White House?”

10. If I say, “I like Jr.” who pops into your mind? A. Dale Earhardt, Jr. B. John F. Kennedy, Jr. C. Jr. Samples Important Note: If you don’t know who Jr. Samples is you cannot be my president.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 10:02 pm  Comments Off on Questions for the Candidates  

Killer # 3: The 21st Century

Time machines do exist. If you were to walk into some of our rural churches you would feel as though you have gone back to 1950 or even 1900. The 21st century is killing some of us. Now, we all know that this killer is also tied to a stubborn and bull-headed attitude that says, “If it was good enough then, it’s good enough now”.

I have to be careful with this post because I don’t want any of you thinking that I am a “relevance” guy. As a matter of fact, I have a general disdain for pursuit of cultural relevance. We have cowboy churches for cowboys. We have Harley churches for motorcycle guys. We have country churches for those of you who like country music. We have contemporary churches for those of you who can’t get enough of Michael Bolton. I am personally going to start the first Southern Rock Southern Baptist Church (FREE BIRD! WOOOO SING FREE BIRD MAN! Rock On!)

I am not a relevance guy. I think if Jesus truly saves you, and the only church available to you meets in a cave with a worship leader who can’t sing his way out of a paper bag, led by a mono tone preacher, that’s where you would go. I do, however, believe that a church should strive for excellence. I do believe a church should update its facilities and at least review its methods at least once a decade.

I think the successful rural church is the one that can honor its rich heritage and press ahead as technology, methods, and styles evolve. A rural church can keep the stuff from its past that is endearing and meaningful while it keeps up with technology and methodology. It is possible! I have seen it happen! When a church can’t get past the idea of adding audio and visual in 2008, they are pretty much on their way out. When a church is unwilling to update its nursery with modern toys and furniture, they are on their way out. When a church just can’t get rid of that shag carpet and paneling from 1968, they are on their way out. If your church has a clean up day and no one will take the film projector donated by some dead church member to the dump. . . the 21st century is probably going to be your death nail.

If your excellent preaching is going to be heard today, you better have a decent sound system. Some of the best illustrations for sermons today come via www.sermonspice.com and other web resources. For crying out loud, people. . . use that screen and projector! If you are going to communicate with people 35 and younger, you better understand their need to see and hear your sermon. Using technology doesn’t mean that you have abandoned the Gospel. It simply means that you are using the available resources to communicate better with your congregation.

Ministry methods. This one is tough because I serve a church where 1940’s methods are working in 2008. We are a throw back to a very simple, yet effective, style of church that I wished worked for everyone. Because of that, I might not be the most qualified guy to talk about methodology. I do believe though that programs and ministries ought to be effective. Some churches just can’t let go of that Sunbeam program from 1950. They are spending people and money on a bus program that doesn’t reach anyone anymore. They still believe the best way to reach the world is though puppets and youth choir. It may be time to reevaluate before the 21st century takes its toll.

What do you think?

Published in: on August 4, 2008 at 1:36 pm  Comments (10)  

Sweet Tea

Danny Franks posted a great piece about pulled Tennessee pork yesterday. There is nothing better with bar-b-que than sweet tea.

1. The sugar tea ratio should be very much in favor of the sugar!

2. The sugar should be dissolved when the hot tea is poured over it.

3. Sweet tea cannot be manufactured by pouring a couple of little sugar packs in your glass. It will not dissolve. You will be left with a nasty mixture of ice and semi-dissolved sugar in the bottom of your glass.

4. After drinking real sweet tea you my have mild hallucinations.

5. There is no such thing as a sugar substitute when it comes to tea. If you are diabetic, just drink water.

6. Never, under any circumstances, should sweet tea be served in a plastic cup. Glass is the only way to fly. Plastic demeans the character of the beverage, and is an insult to the dignity of the South’s thirst quencher.

7. Hot sweet tea is a good way to shake off the cold and makes a nice night cap.

8. When icing down your sweet tea, be careful not to tip the water/sugar balance back in favor of the water.

9. Real lemons should be used to add a light zip to your sweet tea. Don’t EVER use that horrible liquid lemon substitute.

10. Sweet tea does not exist above the Mason-Dixon line. Don’t order sweet tea from a Yankee because he will bring you a glass of unsweet tea with two little sugar packs (see # 3). Just get it over with and order yourself a Dr. Pepper.

Published in: on August 1, 2008 at 1:12 am  Comments Off on Sweet Tea