Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Great Halloween Costume for Pastors

Pastor, do you need a great Halloween Costume idea? Click Here.

(brought to us by the folks at Addison Road)

Three Chairs for the Lutherans

Once, the Catholic Church was celebrating the dedication of their new building. The place was crowded and overflowing as the service began.

Then, the priest was pleasantly surprised to see the local Lutheran pastor walking in the door with a couple of representatives from his church. "Well, isn't that nice," the priest thought to himself, "We need to treat our protestant friends well."

He glanced around, noting that every pew was filled and that his Lutheran friends did not have a place to seat.

Furtively, the priest leaned over and whispered in the ear of the altar boy, "Get three chairs for the Lutherans."

"What??" the altar boy asked.

"I said, get three chairs for the Lutherans!"

"I'm sorry, I still couldn't hear you."

"Three Chairs For The Lutherans NOW!!"

The puzzled lad shrugged his shoulders and shouted,

"HEY EVERYBODY!! THREE CHEERS FOR THE LUTHERANS!!

HIP HIP HORRAY!
HIP HIP HORRAY!
HIP HIP HORRAY!"

Way to Go Marty Baby!


Here is an excellent translation of the 95 Theses Martin Luther hammered to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chrysler Goes to Church


Patti LaBelle and Chrysler are joining forces, to make a 14 day tour of megachurches. (Starting with T.D. Jakes and company)

The megachurch folks are getting some good gospel music, and Chrysler is getting some fantastic promotion.

I think GMC ought to do a Blaze Orange 4 Wheel Drive Tour featuring Banannas at Large. I'm sure if that happens, they'll make a stop in Hayward.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cathy

Cathy is recovering in good order -- but the progress is slower than she'd like. She's not quite ready to venture out into public yet -- so I don't expect she'll make it to church this morning.

I guess I'll just have to unload the sermon on her one on one.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Yesterday's Visitors

five dear ladies came
bearing precious treasure -- dinner
apple pie and muffins.

they left with loving hugs.

two stiff unpleasant mormons came
bearing strange ideas of treasure -- inkings
from the pen of shyster smith.

they left without a hug
only foot shakings.

(latter day saints would fare much better with apple pie and cookies)

two deer, a yearling and her mother, came
to forage old tomatoes in our garden bed
their visit was a treasure

though they left with neither hug
nor shaken feet.

Friday, October 27, 2006

5 Blogging Questions

Cory Miller, of Church Communications Pro, recently posted my answers to his Five Blogging Questions for Pastors (in his "I Help Pastors Blog" Series.)

He has a great site, filled with tons of helpful resources for churches on the information highway.

Lot's Wife



sodom's fury fleeing
she turned and took
a longing look
towards yesterday

sulfur of the soul
fossilized in salt

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Next Big Issue

"I think we've focused some good attention on racism in the last 20 years, but I'm starting to wonder if 'ageism' is the next divide we will have to address."

-- John Burke, Pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. (from Out of Ur)

Silly Prayers

I believe God always answers prayer -- but sometimes, he answers with a "no."

In the end, I'm glad.

"Where would I be now," wondered C. S. Lewis, "if God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life?" (From Letters to Malcolm)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Back Home

Cathy had her gall bladder removed this morning, and we just arrived home a few minutes ago. She feels like she was run over by a Mack truck -- groggy, and in a lot of pain. I hope she starts feeling better before too long.

She said all her "It's gonna be a piece of cake" friends didn't give her the whole picture. Still, we're on this side of the hill now, and it's just a matter of recovery.

I'm planning on staying home the rest of the week, to take care of her and teach the kids.

Amazingly, the lady in the hospital bed next to Cathy attended a wedding I officiated this past Saturday. She's the bride's sister -- and the newlyweds were in the waiting room. I told her that was not a "coincidence" but rather God's "providence" at work: a postcard from heaven to remind her h0w much she is loved.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Kind Word

Ruth Tucker spoke a kind word about Hayward Wesleyan Church, at her River Rat Reflections blog. We really were honored to have her and her husband, John, come and worship with us.

Gall Bladder Date


Tomorrow, Cathy is going to have surgery to remove her gall bladder. The doctor says it will be a relatively "minor" procedure -- three small incisions, a couple of snips, and she'll be good to go.

Well, it might be "minor" for him, but it's Major for us (A good definition of Major Surgery is any cutting they do on YOU!)

There is one fringe benefit, however. We are planning to head up to Duluth this evening for a romantic overnight date. We plan to dine at Red Lobster (thanks to our friend, Mark and Lori) and lodge at Hawthorne Inn and Suites on the harbor (thanks to their special "gall bladder removal" rates.)

If all goes well, we will have her home by tomorrow evening -- though they say recovery will take a while. I'm planning on staying home to take care of her, and teach the kids the rest of the week.

Over the next couple of days, we'd really appreciate it if you sent up a prayer.

Dear Church

If you want to know what the 20-somethings think about the way churches do ministry, check out Sarah Cunningham's site: Dear Church.

Some of the letters broke my heart. How can we do a better job of showing the love of Jesus to the rising generation?

Thanks to Scott McKnight, at Jesus Creed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Grow Like a Tree, Not a Fire

We must see the error of our effort to live by fire, by burning the world in order to live in it. There is no plainer symptom of our insanity than our avowed intention to maintain by fire an unlimited economic growth.

Fire destroys what nourishes it and so in fact imposes severe limits on any growth associated with it. The true source and analogue of our economic life is the economy of plants, which never exceeds natural limits, never grows beyond the power of its place to support it, produces no waste, and enriches and preserves itself by death and decay.

We must learn to grow like a tree, not like a fire.
--Wendell Berry

(Thanks to Heath Davis for this thought provoking quote from the Kentucky poet.)

How would this apply to spiritual growth and church leadership?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Friends


I was delighted to meet one of my favorite writers, Ruth Tucker, today. She and her husband, John, attended our 11:00 service, and then we lunched at Famous Dave's!

Ruth encouraged me to really get serious about writing a book for small town pastors. I think I'll take her up on it!

Ironically, Ron Carlson and his wife, Marge, also attended church today. Ron travels extensively and speaks about the Christian worldview, and it's challenges. He is also a noted authority on cults.

I found it absolutely astounding that Ron and Ruth both ended up at our 11:00 worship service!

I admit, Hayward's a small town -- but wow -- what a small world!

In Evil Long I Took Delight

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:

I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:

My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now is fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!

-- John Newton, redeemed sinner, former slave trader, pastor, author of Amazing Grace

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Surprise Me, God

I like this idea! For 30 days, conduct this experiment:

Every morning, when you get up, pray these three words, "Surprise me, God"

- no agendas
- no lists
- no complaints

Just, "Surprise me, God"

And be prepared for something unusual!

(This simple, but profound concept comes from Terry Esau of Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Friday, October 20, 2006

20 Most Influential Wesleyans


Here's my list of the 20 Most Influential People in the History of the Wesleyan Church:

1. John Wesley
2. John Fletcher
3. Francis Asbury
4. Barbara Heck
5. Phoebe Palmer
6. Orange Scott
7. Luther Lee
8. Adam Crooks
9. Seth Rees
10. Martin Wells Knapp
11. Eber Teter
12. Roy S. Nicholson
13. Orval Butcher
14. Earle Wilson
15. John Maxwell
16. Steve Babby
17. Keith Drury
18. Jo Anne Lyon
19. Phil Stevenson
20. Andy Wilson -- o.k. I admit it -- he was my daddy, and just a country preacher who stayed at the same church for 30 years. He wasn't too famous beyond Marengo, Ohio -- but he made a significant impact on his community -- and he certainly influenced me! (After all, this is my list!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dysfunctional Boards

This week, USA Today interviewed former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiona, who was fired in 2005.

The conversation touched on "dysfunctional boards."

Q: HP doesn't have the only dysfunctional board on the planet. What can other boards do to stop the ugliness and focus on their responsibilities?

A: Don't become consumed by personal agenda. Put tough issues about the business and personality conflicts on the table and talk about them face to face. The ability to talk directly instead of taking issues underground is a big part of keeping any team functioning.

As Jesus

"As Jesus to the world, so the church to the world."
-- N. T. Wright

If we took that seriously, what would the church be doing differently?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cussing Preachers


The recent trend of preachers spicing their sermons with expletitives bothers me.

Just a few years ago, the only "cussing preachers" were Gene Scott, and a few backwoodsy independant baptists who didn't have any accountability.

Now, the cussing preachers are keynoting at Pastors' Conferences.

I realize that addressing this issue will open me up to charges of legalism. I also understand that "cussing preachers" aren't any worse than "gossipy preachers" or "doubting preachers." Then of course, someone might ask, "And what about the gluttons?"

Nevertheless, the Bible says that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Whatever is coming out of a person is from the heart.

If somebody goes around saying "BLANKETY BLANK!!"
It makes one wonder, are they full of "blankety blank?"

My concern is that the rising generation of cussing preachers will find an audience of young ministers who, thinking it's cool, will pick up the habit themselves.

The deacons will ask, "Where did you pick up that filthy language?"
The young minister will reply, "I got it from the Preachers' Conference!"
------------

“Now the reason of common swearing is this; it is because men have not so much as the intention to please God in all their actions. For let a man but have so much piety as to intend to please God in all the actions of his life, as the happiest and best thing in the world, and then he will never swear more. It will be as impossible for him to swear, whilst he feels this intention within himself, as it is impossible for a man that intends to please his prince, to go up and abuse him to his face.”

-- William Law, (1729)

Monday, October 16, 2006

College Visits

Today, I am in St. Paul with my son, Ryan, scouting out colleges. Last night, we went to the Guitar Center, where he tried out two dozen different instruments, and then enjoyed dinner at Chili's.

We plan to go to Bethel in the morning, Northwestern in the afternoon, and back to the Guitar Center for a purchase before we head home.

My vote for his education is Indiana Wesleyan -- but, I realize, that decision is not a democratic process.

Maybe I could apply some exterior motivation. "If you REALLY want that guitar. . ."

Salvation

A careful exegesis of Romans has convinced me that salvation is not God's gift TO the church.
It is God's gift THROUGH the church!
-- Bishop N. T. Wright

(Thanks to my great friend and colleague, Heath Davis, for sharing this powerful quote with me.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Field Trip

Yesterday, I took a team of leaders on a field trip to the Twin Cities. We visited four churches that had recently built new or additional facilities.

We had the privilege of meeting three of the senior pastors. (The fourth congregation is between pastors right now.)

It was a valuable learning experience for all of us, and although it is impossible to give you every insight gleaned, I'd like to share a few key "take home" points:

1. Be careful not to overbuild.

2. Build what you really need with a masterplan for future expansion.

3. Maintain a missional mindset -- but be sure to remember the local church is at the very heart of the mission.

4. Building expansion can either catalyze or implode a congregation. Much of it depends on morale going into the project, discerning leadership, and perceived need.

5. Coffee shops in church foyers are warm and inviting.

6. A capital fund drive should be about MISSION rather than just mortar.

7. The mother ship needs to stay strong for long term mission effectiveness. It is possible to "over-extend" in church planting and global efforts, to the detriment of the local church. (the opposite is also true -- some churches only think about themselves to God's dismay and their demise.)

8. A church's facilities speak the congregation's priorities more accurately than the official written mission statement.

9. You can get a fairly clear picture of how things are really going in a church just by touring the facilities and spending twenty minutes with the pastor.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rev Unplugged

My friend from yesteryear, Alan Nelson, has asked me to join the blogging team at Rev Unplugged (Group Publishing.) We will write on a rotating basis -- and my first stint will start Monday.

It shouldn't make a big difference in my regular blogging here. I do encourage you to stop by for a visit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Love of God


From the Diary of Father Frederic Baraga, the snowshoe priest:

There is no doubt that the love of God consists neither of sweet tears nor inner comfort and sensibility, but rather in that we serve Him with righteousness, fortitude, and true humility.

A truly loving soul finds its greatest peace by expending everything that it is, has and is capable of for the Beloved, and the more dear and admirable something may be, the more readily it is given.

The highest and truest perfection of the spiritual life consists not of inner charm or comfortable sentiment, nor of raptures, appearances and offerings of prophecy, but rather of the uniformity of our will with the will of God.

Whoever adheres to that which is mortal, everything that he does under those circumstances will be for him incomplete. Whoever follows that which is lost, also will be lost.

Whoever owns such mortal things to the extent that his whole will is possessed by them, he has and owns nothing. Rather those things will imprison, own and torment him.

What's a Pastor to Do?

1. Pray Up
2. Believe Big
3. Think Smart
4. Work Hard
5. Stay True
6. Love Everybody

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ben and Ingrid


Ben and Ingrid Kidder have arrived from Iowa to pastor our baby church in Minong. Please pray for them as they embark on this great adventure!

A young man recently wrote in a letter to me from jail, "In Hayward, you have two options -- go drinking, or go to church."

In Minong, there are a LOT of folks who go drinking -- and not very many who go to church.

We have a ripe mission field before us!

Bubba Had Shingles


My sister in law, Sandy, sent this funny e-mail to me:

Bubba walked into a doctor's office and the receptionist asked him what he had. Bubba said, Shingles. So she wrote down his name, address, medical insurance number and told him to have a seat.

Fifteen minutes later a nurse's aide came out and asked Bubba what he had.

Bubba said, Shingles. So she wrote down his height, weight, a complete medical history and told Bubba to wait in the examining room.

A half hour later a nurse came in and asked Bubba what he had. Bubba said, Shingles.

So the nurse gave Bubba a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electrocardiogram, and told Bubba to take off all his clothes and wait for the doctor

.An hour later the doctor came in and asked Bubba what he had. Bubba said, shingles. The doctor asked, Where?

Bubba said, "Outside on the truck. Where do you want them??"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rural Pastors

It was a great blessing to me to minister to a fine group of small town and country pastors at Oak Hills Christian College the last couple of days.

I thought Hayward was remote and small, but compared some of the churches these guys pastor, I live in a bustling metropolis! Why, we're such a big city, we even have three stop lights, a McDonalds and a Wal Mart.

Some of these pastors have to drive two hours to go shopping in a big town like ours. One of the fellows lives in a village with a population of 3.

All he has to do is win one more to Jesus -- and the whole town will be converted! Now, that's a community influence beyond anything Willow Creek has ever seen!

Somehow, in American evangelical culture, pastoral "success" is defined as: building a megachurch.

Now, I am, indeed, thankful for the great megachurches in our land. They inspire me to think bigger and broader. We have learned much from trails they've blazed.

However, "building a megachurch" is NOT the definition of "success." That kind of thinking is counterproductive for pastors in small communities. If you buy into that perspective, all small town and rural pastors are "failures by default."

Nothing could be further from the truth!

True Success is obedience to God's call and the Great Commandment. . . period.

Love God.
Love your people.
Love your whole community.
Love lost people.

That's a real success story!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogging Break

Today, after church, I'm heading to Oak Hills Bible College in Bemidji, Minnesota, to speak to a gathering of pastors: The Country Shepherd's Workshop. That's right down my alley -- helping pastors in small places capture a God sized vision for their life and ministry!

So, I'll be gone a couple of days, and therefore absent from the blogosphere.

For those who come by the birdfeeder on a regular basis, you might want to plunder the archives -- or visit my links.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Baby Church

Tonight, I was overjoyed to participate in the installation of Ben Kidder as the pastor of our daughter congregation in the little northwoods community of Minong, Wisconsin, about 20 miles from Hayward.

The whole thing started last December, when we decided to do something a little crazy, and hold Christmas Eve Services in an abandoned church.

Then, in February, we then started having weekly Saturday night services, staffed mostly by the Hayward Wesleyan pastors.

My daughter, Hannah, and I made the Minong journey many Saturday nights over the last several months. It's a remote wilderness between the two villages, and we've seen wildlife every time -- bald eagles, an albino deer, a fox, a weasel, and a timber wolf.

We've seen some "wild-living" humans, too, as the fledgling congregation has grown to an average of 40 or 50.

Some folks scratched their heads in bewilderment. "Why are you trying to start a church in the middle of nowhere?" Well, Minong only had two churches -- Catholic and Lutheran -- and about a hundred bars. I figure those folks really need a good, life-giving church, which will have a positive influence on the entire community, and introduce many to Jesus.

There is a tremendous spiritual darkness over the region. I've never seen anything like it -- but the powers of darkness cannot withstand the light!

Tonight, over 75 people attended the church service. Ben delivered an anointed message, which was captivating, challenging and inspiring. I am so thankful! God delivered a real winner to our doorstep!

I smiled when I realized we had more people out for church this evening, than my first few weeks in Hayward 15 years ago.

At the conclusion of the service, we commissioned Ben, and his precious wife, Ingrid to their new charge! I handed the responsibility for the little flock over to them. It's going to be quite an adventure!

Now, I'll serve now in more of a "grandfatherly" role. I'll be around to bless, encourage, help, give advice when asked, and try really hard not to meddle.

I drove home deeply contented, but Hannah wondered, "Now, what are we going to do with our Saturday nights? Is there another town somewhere that needs a church?"

The Ooze

My Seed of Heaven poem was published over at The Ooze yesterday. I encourage you to drop by and pay them a visit.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Fast Food


Northwoods Definition of Fast Food: hitting a deer at 65 mile per hour.

Making Jesus Look Cool

"The church has bought into this idea that if we make Jesus look cool, we win. But we're really trying to make ourselves look cool, not Jesus. We certainly need to repent of that."

-- Donald Miller, from Summer 2006 Leadership Journal article, quoted in Our of Ur

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Go Luis!


This is a wonderful report about our dear friend, Luis Martinez, and his recent open-air meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, where 25,000 people gathered!

I love what he said in the interview about the presidential election.

A team from our church will go with Luis to Guatemala in a few weeks for outreach ministry. Also, I'm planning to head down to Nicaragua in January to do some training for pastors.

Bent Out of Shape


"Flexible people don't get bent out of shape!"

(On the church sign at Northern Lights Christian Center in Hayward.)

Double Digits!


Today is Hannah's tenth birthday.

Just think, she's been brightening the Wilson household for an entire decade! She brings us a lot of joy -- and it takes almost all my energy to keep up.

Now, everybody in our family is in double digits.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pulling the Glutton Card

Occasionally, every pastor has to face the difficult challenge of correcting naughty church members. These issues often are sticky and fuzzy, and there's a good chance that there will be at least some measure of misunderstanding.

Often, a sympathetic friend who has heard "one side of the story", comes riding in on a white horse, with the the trump card: The Glutton Card.

"Well, if you're doing this, what are you going to do about the gluttons in the church??"

Now, I understand their point -- and of course, gluttony brings dishonor to the Lord. However, I have never seen a "gluttony scandal" tear up a church. (o.k. -- except the Corinth folks, but they had other moral issues -- and that's just the point I'm making.)

In the hundreds of counseling situations I've faced, I've never had a wife sob, "I'm suspecting my husband's a GLUTTON!"

Yes, I understand that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we should honor God with them, but hard situations are never resolved by playing the "Glutton Card." It doesn't help matters at all, and only deflects the truth.

Playing hardball with such issues as adultery or drunkenness is difficult enough without having to stop and deal with little leaguers who hurl wiffleballs while hiding behind the gluttons.

Monday, October 02, 2006

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day


One of my favorite bloggers, Mark Batterson, wrote a fantastic book which is available for purchase today:

In A Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars.

Here's the Amazon Link. Be sure to read the excerpt-- wow!

The greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn't chase! Unleash the "Lion Chaser" within!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Tribute to Steve

A friend is someone who stays with you in the bad and good weather of life,
guards you when you are off your guard,
restrains your impetuosity,
delights in your wholeness,
forgives your failures,
does not forsake you when others let you down.
The friendship of Jesus enables us to see others
as he saw the apostles:
flawed, but good children of the Father.

-- Brennan Manning

Down through the years, Steve Gerich has been a good friend like that to me. Thanks, Steve!