Monday, January 30, 2006

Gettin' Outta Town

I won't be posting for a couple of days, because I'll be at our District's Ministers & Mates Retreat at the Kalahari in the Dells.

I'll be back online Wednesday.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

That's Entertainment!


It seems to me, the Nigerians enjoy their worship services more than we Americans. This is a picture of an ordination service connected with MCMA Africa.

It looks a lot more exciting than the service when I was ordained. Nobody tossed me in the air. We just bowed our heads.

While the Nigerians are taking the world for Christ, American Christians are fussing over how much we should hide from the world.

A Rockford, IL church decided to declare themselves as anti-entertainment. I understand what they are trying to say, but I seriously doubt that this approach would go over very well with the Nigerians.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Give Me My Gun!



The pastor wants his gun back!

This article brought to mind a thought Dean Brown, shared recently on his blog:

"Ministry failure most often centers around issues of character, as opposed to skill."

It also reminds me of a pastor I knew in California who came to his first church board meeting packing a .357 Magnum. He laid it on the conference room table and said, "I'm in charge here. Any questions?"

As I recall, he didn't last too long in that pastorate.

I'm also reminded of the independent Baptist preacher, J. Frank Norris, who pastored First Baptist Church of Fort Worth. It was a megachurch before the day of megachurches -- and definitely NOT seeker sensitive!

One day Rev. Norris shot a guy in his office. It was an argument about Catholicism gone awry. (The fellow had threatened him, and thus Norris was acquitted.) People thought twice about going to the preacher with a bad attitude after that!

Maybe pastors should leave gun packing to others.

God Bless the Nigerians


What is the common denominator in the following locations?
* Nigeria *Zimbabwe
* Kenya * Jamaica
* Tanzania * Ukraine
* Ghana * England

Answer: The largest church in these nations is pastored by a Nigerian!

Perhaps the American Church could learn a lesson or two from our brothers and sisters in Nigeria about the meaning of Acts 1:8.

O.K. -- they're all Word of Faith Pentecostal -- and those in the broader evangelical camp will likely look down their noses and "dis" (disapprove with disrespect) their inadequate theology and excessive practices.

That reminds me of D.L. Moody's critic who said, "I don't like your method of evangelism."
"Oh," Moody replied, "and what is your method of evangelism?"
"I don't have one." said the critic.
"I like mine better than yours." Moody responded.

Instead of carping and criticizing, we should learn a thing or two from the Nigerians about evangelism, revival, and reaching the masses.

Could this be a solution to the rapid spread of militant Islam?

Reports on the Nigerian Revival here and here
Kingsway International Centre (London)
Embassy of God Church (Kiev, Ukraine) -- the largest church in Europe

Take Time Out for Mental Digestion


My good friend, Steve Gerich, often sends me quotes from the motivational guru, Brian Tracy.

This week, he sent me one I liked so much, I posted it on my Leadership and Church Management Blog.

It ties in with my last post on how to initiate change.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Grab A Surfboard!


I've figured out the difference between good ideas and bad ideas!

Good ideas are the ones we create. Bad ideas are the ones other people come up with and expect us to accept!

In other words, if it's my idea -- IT'S GRAND!
If it's your idea -- it's bland.

At least, that's what we think!

"Nobody likes change," said Mark Twain, "except a baby in dirty diapers." Maybe we should add, "unless it's their idea!"

So, how do you implement change in your family, community, church or workplace?

Start by listening! Listen to other people's good ideas and then agree with them! Realize that you don't have the corner on the insight market.

If you're the ONLY one thinking something should be done, you are either a visionary or wrong.

If you are a visionary, then others will join the bandwagon before too long -- and it will be their idea also. It's amazing what can be accomplished if you don't care who gets the credit.

If you are wrong, you will be trekking up the mountain alone. As the old Chinese proverb says, "He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a hike."

God's ideas are always good ideas! When we are inspired by faith and prayer to attempt something wonderful, other hearts will also be inspired.

I once heard John Maxwell say that people never change until staying the same is too painful, or if the new idea is too wonderful to pass up.

Thus, we change when we hurt enough or dream enough. I prefer dreaming over hurting! Sometimes it takes both.

One thing is certain -- you can change without growing, but you cannot grow without changing.

Life is all about change, and it doesn't do much good to resist it.

When the waves of change are rolling, and they're headed somewhere near your desired destination, grab a surf board and hang on!

Creation Wonder


Canyons were carved.
Oceans were dug.
Mountains erupted.
Stars were flung.
A universe sparkled.
God's creation became pregnant with wonder.
-- Max Lucado

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Small Town Business


Tony Engle, a student in my Church Leadership Class (FLAME), shared a good small town story with me yesterday:

As I was recently traveling home from South Carolina, a headlight went out on my truck. It was about 7:30 at night and it was dark. This is not a good idea for traveling through the mountains and around tight turns in the deep woods. I pulled into a small town auto store that was in the middle of nowhere. The store closed a half hour ago. There was a man inside actually leaving with the bank bag in hand as I ran to the door. I explained my situation and he sold me a headlight. The main point is this… As I apologized for messing the books up and for keeping him there even later than he wanted he said, “I need the sale anyway.” I replied, “business that bad?” “Nope. This is how a small town business operates.”
I think that the church needs to pay attention and learn from the small business owners of this country. They genuinely care to help.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good Fishing


During Al Lindner's talk last Saturday night, he spoke about the difference between the average and very good fishermen. He said there are four things that make the difference.

As I listened, I thought there are some direct applications for pastors who are "fishing for people!"

An excellent fisherman. . .

1. Really Knows the Target Species of Fish. They understand the subtle differences. For instance, muskies and northern are both pikes, and are similar in many ways, but there are also some major differences. The good fishermen recognize these differences, and approach them accordingly.

* In your ministry, do you really know and understand your target species?
* Are you sensitive to the needs, hopes and desires of various kinds of people?

2. Has a Good Understanding of Basic Seasonal Movements. These are somewhat predictable.

* What are the basic seasonal movements in your community? In the life cycle?
* How can you use this to maximize impact?

3.. Knows the Key to Success and a Good Day in the Water is Presentation, not Location.
Never say, "The fish aren't biting." They're ALWAYS biting. There's no such thing as a lake where the fish aren't biting. They're just not biting what you have to offer! They have seen what you've presented and said, "No."

* How do unchurched people respond to what you have to offer?
* Have you been blaming your location for the lack of results?
* How can you improve your presentation?

4. Understands Boat Control. The great fisherman finds the sweet spot, and anchors there!

* What is your ministry sweet spot?
* What activity promises the greatest eternal return on your investment of energy?
* What currents lead you away from the sweet spot?
* How can you remain achored where you're going to catch the fish?

Lindner went on to share two qualities that separated the Very Best Fishermen from the Very Good Ones.

The Great Fishermen. . .

1. Exhibit Confidence based on Personal Experience. This is a matter of passion and heart.

2. Never Get Burned Out. They never lose their passion for fishing. What causes us to lose our passion? Repetition. Great fishermen are committed to learning new things all the time -- personal growth. They continually ask, "What can I do to catch one more fish?"

* What would happen if pastors carried that kind of confidence and passion into into their churches and communities?




Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fishing Expo



The Tiger Woods of fishing, Al Lindner, came to Hayward Wesleyan Church last Saturday to speak for our fourth annual Fishing Expo!

Unchurched men swarmed to the event -- even those who said the roof would collapse if they entered the building. (I told them not to worry. We put in special reinforced beams just in case they showed up!)

Al is a committed believer in Jesus Christ, and he challenged the men to take care of business spiritually. Many of them joined him in a prayer of commitment at the end of his talk, opening their lives up to Jesus.

It was a wonderful evening all the way around. There were seminars of fly fishing, muskie fishing, Chippewa Flowage walleyes, and tying flies and jigs.

Here's the best part: the guys came to learn about fishing -- and we were fishing for them!!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Divesting False Belongings

Prayer is the act by which we divest ourselves of all false belongings and become free to belong to God and God alone.

-- Henri Nouwen

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ice Glazed Hearts


The arctic night air left my windshield glazed over with thick ice. So, in the early morning, before the sun rose, I found myself trying to carve a hole.

Someone had borrowed my sraper, so I improvised by using a cd case, which hardly seemed sufficient.

I struggled hard against the elements. As soon as I would scrape the ice away, it would just frost over again.

After a half hour of scratching and scraping, I finally had a peep hole big enough to see while driving.

At lunchtime, the same day, I went to my car and was surprised to discover all of my windows were clear -- not a patch of ice on them!

The sun had risen and melted it all away!

I thought, "There's a lesson on how to deal with relationship problems. Love is like the sun. When it rises, its warming beams melt away all the resentments, bitterness, and misunderstanding"

Chiselling and hammering will result only in futility and uninspired frustration.

Perhaps, if you are having relationship problems with someone, you should stop "working so hard" to fix them, and just let the sun come up

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Eccentric Me???

On second thought -- concerning my last post, the Eccentric Old Testament -- I was convicted of my attitude this morning.

If the whole Bible is God's Word, then I should trust Him with the parts I don't understand.

If there's a communication gap between the Old Testament and me -- who's responsible for that?

Could the problem be ME instead of the Old Testament? In the big picture, maybe I'm the eccentric Aunt Suzie, and the Old Testament is the normal one.

The Essentric Old Testament


As 2006 is the Year of the Bible for the Wesleyan Church, I have challenged my congregation to read it through -- from Genesis to Revelation!

Many have risen to the challenge, and it's exciting to hear the buzz. I seriously doubt that more than 2% have read it entirely through before.

Some are jogging right along with me. Others are huffing and puffing about three hills behind. I keep calling back to them -- keep moving! Don't sit down! The view is spectacular for the next hill!

I'm preaching from the previous week's readings -- which creates a whole batch of homiletic challenges. Last Sunday, for instance, I attempted to cover Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Tithing all in one sermon (January has always been our Stewardship Month! Abraham was a tither! -- and you ought to be one too!)

Usually, when people shake my hand after church, they say, "Good sermon, Pastor", much like they would compliment the waitress after eating pie at Norske Nook.

Last Sunday, it was more like, "Nice try!" In all my preaching life, I've never covered so many chapters in twenty minutes. Still, they're tracking with me!

Between services, for the last two weeks, people have been flocking to me with questions from their reading. The basic Bible Stories of Sunday School leave out a lot of stuff -- sort of a sanitized approach -- so, though church people think they know the Bible stories -- they are caught off guard by the unmentioned passages that lurk in the shadows.

There's no flannelgraph lesson, for instance, about Tamar -- or Lot's daughters for that matter.

So -- people are coming to me with their Old Testament questions:

1. Where did Cain get his wife?
2. Were those six literal days or were they periods of time?
3. What's this polygamy business?
4. What's with the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men?
5. How did Noah get all those animals in the boat?


And I thought -- the Old Testament is like my essentric Aunt Susie, God rest her soul. We loved her a lot, but she didn't always make sense.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Grim Shakers


Charles Dickens, encountering American Shakers, observed:

"we walked into a grim room, where several grim hats were hanging on grim pegs, and the time was grimly told by a grim clock, which uttered every tick with a kind of struggle, as if it broke the grim silence reluctantly, and under protest. Ranged against the wall were six or eight stiff high-backed chairs, and they partook so strongly of the general grimness, that one would much rather have sat on the floor than incurred the smallest obligation to any of them. Presently, there stalked into this apartment, a grim old Shaker, with eyes as hard, and dull, and cold, as the great round metal buttons on his coat and waistcoat; a sort of calm goblin."

(Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation)

Note: Come to think of it, I've experienced a few church services like that myself!

In Defense of the Shakers: They were the first ones who put seeds in evelopes to sell across the country. What would today's gardeners do without them?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fatigue

Monday morning -- Pastor's Day Off -- or, as Arch Hart calls it, Adrenaline Letdown Day.

A busy schedule combined with a bad chest cold leaves me drained and tired.

Digging around in my office today, I found notes from a talk I gave on fatigue two or three years ago.

When You're Weary

1. Problems seem bigger.
2. Irritations are more annoying.
3. Blessings are less inspiring.

Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is go home and take a nap!

* Every obligation shirked is a source of guilt.
* Guilt consumes energy
* It takes more energy to avoid something than to go ahead and face it.
* Fatigue opens us up to spiritual attack.

Key Question: Is it possible to do all the things I'm trying to do in the time I have?

The art of getting things done is the noble art of leving things undone.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wrestling Jacob


Come, O Thou Traveler unknown. Whom still I hold, but cannot see;
Ny company before is gone, And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am. My sin and misery declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name -- Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who are Thou? Tell me Thy Name, and tell me now.

Yield to me now, for I am weak. But confidence in self despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessing speak; Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move, And tell me if Thy Name be Love.

Tis Love! Tis Love! Thou diedst for me! I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee; Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all Thy mercies move; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

-- Charles Wesley

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Wrong Side of the Bed


"Harrumph!"

"What's the matter with you?"

"I just got up on the wrong side of the bed this monrning."

"Oh, that's too bad. And now you're stuck in a foul mood for the entire day? How unfortunate!"

"Yeah, I'm in a grumpy mood, so stay outta my way."

"Say, I have an idea."

"Whazzat?"

"Go home, walk into your bedroom., change into your jammies and climb back into bed. Pull the covers over your head and say a prayer like this, 'God, I don't want to be a grouch. Put a song in my heart and help me to be thankful for all my blessings.'

"Then, think of ten things you're thankful for -- and once you've done that, climb out on the other side of the bed!"

"Now, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! Do you think it will work?"

"It's certainly worth a try -- and it beats sitting around here grousing all day."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Purpose Driven Pastor


The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter is one of my favorite texts.

Baxter pastored 19 years in Kidderminster, before he was forced from the pulpit by the Act of Uniformity.

During his tenure at Kidderminster, he gave himself to the cure of souls.

He said to his congregation, "I was sent into the world especially for the service of your souls."

"In a word, when I came thither first, there was about one family in a street that worshipped God and called on his holy name; and when I came away, there were some streets where there was not more than one family in the side of a street that did not so."

Oh, how I long for this to be true in Hayward!

Ihat's what I call a purpose driven pastor!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Obsessive Calvinists


Are you an obsessive Calvinist?

Here are the 25 Warning signs, thanks to Mark Heinrich, of Minnetonka, Minnesota.

There's still a cure, if detected early enough!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Keith Drury's Letter to Emergents

Keith Drury's recent "Open Letter to Emergents" is outstanding. I love his perspective.

For a guy who decided to become an old man this year, he is forever young!

I feel younger, just reading his stuff!

Job or Ministry?


Some people have a JOB in the church; others involve themselves in a MINISTRY. What's the difference?

If you are doing it because not one else will, it's a JOB.
If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it's a MINISTRY.

If you quit because somebody criticized you, it was a JOB.
If you keep on serving, it's a MINISTRY.

If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it was a JOB.
If you stay with it even though nobody recognized your efforts, it's a MINISTRY.

If you do it only as long as it does not interfere with your other activities, it''s a JOB.
If you are committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it's a MINISTRY.

The average church is filled with people doing JOBS.
A great church is filled with people inolved in MINISTRY.

If God calls you to MINISTRY, don't treat it like a JOB.
If you have a JOB, consider giving it up to find MINISTRY.
God wants people who are excited and faithful to Him in MINISTRY.

-- My friend, Lois Drown, brought this back with her from her recent visit to Van Church of Christ in Texas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pharisaitis


Don Francisco, the Christian recording artist ("He's Alive"), wrote this delightful article: Pharisaitis!

O Lord, from Pharisaitis, deliver us!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lilies of His Love


"And here in dust and dirt, O here,
The lilies of his love appear." -- Henry Vaughn

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Look Up!


Are you going through life looking down, just looking at dirt as you shuffle around? Are you "down" on other people, and "down" on yourself? Do you only see the "down" side of the situation? Are you "down" on new ideas?

If so, do you realize you are bringing everybody else down right along with you?

Maybe it's time for a face lift! (or better yet, a faith lift!) It's time to stop looking down and start looking up! You will see a blue sky with limitless opportunities, when you look up!

You will believe the best of others, possess a high degree of confidence, and make the most of each day, when you look up!

You will focus on what's right rather than what's wrong, when you look up! Look down and you will see the hardened ground. Look up and you will see the smile of God. What a difference looking up makes in our faith and perspective! Our attitude towards life largely determines what we can accomplish.

If you frown, look down and say "It can't be done", you're right! With that attitude it CAN'T!

But if you throw your shoulders back, look up and say, "It CAN be done", you are also right! With that attitude, anything is possible!

Many years ago, an anonymous poet captured this thought by saying:

If you would have some worthwhile plans, You've got to watch your can'ts and cans;
You can't aim low and then rise high;
You can't succeed if you don't try;
You can't go wrong and come out right;
You can't love sin and walk in light;
You can't throw time and means away, And live sublime from day to day.

William Makepeace Thackery said, "The world is a looking glass and gives back to everyone the reflection of his own face."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Northwoods Welcome Mat

Don beamed as he entered my office yesterday. "Pastor, I have some fresh venison for you. Where would you like me to put it?"

"How about out front of the church?" I answered, "There's plenty of snow to keep it cold. I'm taking my son out to lunch today. We can put it in our car and bring it home from there."

"O.K.," said Don, "Could you help me get it out of my truck?"

It was only when I had put on my coat and went out to Don's truck, that I realized this fresh venison was REALLY fresh! It still had it's hide on!

"Yep," said Don, "All you'll have to do is process it and you'll have some tasty meat."

I thanked Don and we hefted the dead deer out of his trunk to the sidewalk in front of the church.

Now, what would I do? I'm not an accomplished deer butcher. I only tried it once before, and that was a disaster!

This was when I made a foolish mistake. I decided to leave it there and deal with it after lunch. (note to self: procrastination always leads to trouble!)

So, the deer carcas laid there, like a welcome mat in front of the main entrance of our church -- with glazed eyes wide open and tongue hanging out.

I forgot that the area homeschoolers would be holding a meeting there in just a few minutes.

The homeschool children will hopefully survive the trauma. And now, I have to be extra nice to Linda, our office manager, who fielded a barrage of hysterical complaints from their mothers.

"What in the world were you thinking?" she inquired when I returned from lunch.

"I wasn't." I replied sheepishly.

Brett, a fine young man from our congregation, rescued me from my plight, by volunteering to take it home with him to process. He said he enjoyed doing stuff like that -- and I think he was telling me the truth.

So -- the Wilson's will have venison this winter, and the homeschool children will have nightmares.

Only in the Northwoods!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rick Warren and the Saints


Bad News: Rick Warren did not buy the New Orleans Saints -- although that's a fantastic and funny idea!

Good News: He does know how to delegate.

It's better to equip the Saints than to own them!

The Blues


Yesterday morning, for some perplexing reason, I was feeling blue -- a heaviness of spirit. Perhaps, it was a mood such as this that caused Charles Spurgeon to pen "The Minister's Fainting Fits."

I sat in our empty sanctuary and prayed and asked God to send me a word of encouragement -- refreshing rain for my drooping spirit.

Returning to my office, I checked my e-mail, and found this beautiful poem written by my friend, Naomi Cochran. It was the answer to my prayer and just what I needed to chase the blues away!

Somewhere in Michigan
There were blueberries, too many,
Where we slept in the woods.
So we made pancakes,
And ate with the whippoorwills.

Along the riverbanks
Blue flags bloom in the current, and
Forget-me-nots bring me
To my knees, wholly,
As blue herons float above.

Once, at Pansy Landing,
A robin' egg blue enamel pan
Was lifted from a life
Long gone: now mine, full
Of pansies, zinnias, summer.

There was a blue blanket
Laid soft in my arms, my new son
Safe and perfect, alive,
Blue eyed...my world now
Forever changed; my life, his.

Eight eagles circled high
In a blue, blue sky, and red leaves
Waved from below, not yet
Free to go. I breathed
Blue, listened blue, became blue.


"The heavens declare the glory of God. . ." Psalm 19

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Brainless Enthusiasm


Watching King Kong with my sons last night, I was struck by the stupidity of blind enthusiasm.

It almost always takes folks the wrong direction -- towards destruction and misunderstanding -- even if it is re-labeled "faith".

Blind, brainless enthusiasm usually leads to frustration and failure.

Once a valiant knight knelt before his king and announced, "Your Majesty, we have just attacked and plundered all of your enemies to the west!"

To this the king responded, "What? We don't have any enemies to the west!"

"We do now!" the enthusiastic knight replied.

"Zeal without knowledge," said Thomas Fuller, "is like fire without light."

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Pastor's Personal Growth


Rev Magazine published a great article on how to develop a plan for personal growth. It's written by Kent Hunter, the Church Doctor I found it really helpful.

Reading Aloud


You may have tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a Mother who read to me.


-- Strickland Gillilan

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Fresh Start


An irate subscriber stormed into a newspaper office waving the current edition, asking to see "whoever wrote the obituary column".

When referred to a young reporter, he ranted, "You can see I'm very much alive, and you've put me in the obituary column! I demand a retraction!"

Replied the reporter, "I never retract a story. But I tell you what I'll do. I'll put you in the birth column and give you a fresh start."

(from CyberSalt)