Showing posts from June, 2007

Worried Sick

A pastor was visiting a 96 year old parishioner in the nursing home.
When he asked how she was doing, the elderly lady replied, "I'm worried sick!"
"What's the problem?" the pastor inquired.
"Well, all my friends have already died and gone to heaven. I'm afraid they're all wondering where I went!"

The Firing of the Missionary

She was a good worker alright. Nobody would dispute that. In fact, she worked her fingers to the bone from early morn to late at night -- helping the sick at the African mission hospital.

No one doubted her commitment. Through thick and thin, she was always there -- without apology or excuse. She fought valiantly in the grim cause of human justice.

She was a good thinker alright., with an uncanny gift of administrtion and organization. Many missionaries can't administrate their way out of a paper bag. If she wanted to, with her organizational abilities, she could launch a paper bag factory. She ran a "tight ship."

She was passionate alright -- and felt the urgency of mission every day. Men and women came to the clinic for miles to receive help for their many diseases. Mothers brought their languishing children with hopes of a miracle cure. Providing comfort for the sick was her foremost thought every day. This was her top priority. "Whatever it takes" was the mott…

Hitchens vs Hitchens


On Meager Results

Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.

–Hudson Taylor

One of the Top 25

I was delighted to see that Grace Fellowship, pastored by my buddy, Dave Reno, made the list of the top 25 Multiplying Churches in America.

I've never seen anybody more excited about the idea of church planting. I think Dave's ultimate goal is to give away his people!

Blankety Blank Sermons

Here's a great post from Pastor Rod on "Fill in the Blank" Sermons. I agree with what my good brother from the windy city -- although I wouldn't go so far as to call the practice foolish.

I've always had an aversion to that kind of preaching, but have never been able to put my finger on it. Tried it three or four times -- but always felt like I was teaching kindergarten.

One thing that drives me nuts is to get one of those sermon "fill in the blank" sheets where all the missing words are obvious. For goodness sakes, if you're going to resort to blankety blank sermons, at least be creative and stick in a few unusual words nobody would ever expect

Doubting Thomas

How often do we, like Thomas, rather than simply trusting, stubbornly insist on poking our doubting fingers into Christ's side.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio

Dad and Daughter

My daughter Hannah and I spent a beautiful day together in Duluth. We spent an hour at the Duluth Library and picked up a few classics for "read alouds."

Then, we lunched at the Top of the Harbor restaurant, which revolves on the 16th floor of the Radisson.

After that, we spent a few hours at the Lake Superior Zoo. As we headed to the primate house, she joked that we were visiting MY relatives. I reminded her that since I'm her dad -- they're HER relatives too!

I love Mondays!

Reasons and Excuses

Most organizations need a good reason to do something new.

All they need is a flimsy excuse to not do something for the first time.

And they often need a lawsuit to stop doing something they're used to.

-- Seth Godin

A Note to My Congregation

Recently, we celebrated Vision Sunday, which was a tremendous blessing to all who attended. We invited anyone who had had experienced a significant spiritual breakthrough to come forward and light a candle. Tears filled my eyes as dozens of people streamed to the front of the sanctuary. Each one represented a special story of God's redeeming grace.

God has certainly been doing significant and wonderfull things here at Hayward Wesleyan Church.

But we must never be content with "what IS". If we merely stay where we are, "What Is" will become "What Was."

Rather, our challenge is to move forward in fatih to become ALL that God wants us to be.

With this in mind, I believe God is leading us in the following direction: In the coming months, I sense that God is calling us to. . .

1) Worship Deeper:
This, of course, relates to our services on Sunday morning -- but also to our personal lives throughout the week. How can we help families worship deeper at home? How c…

Church Today

Church today was a real blessing to me. We did everything backwards.

After my son, Ryan, sang an original composition as a "Call to Worship" and a couple of brief announcements, I got up right away and preached a message on worship (from Isaiah 6) -- we didn't sing ANY songs before the sermon.

Then, after I'd finished preaching, our praise team lead us in an extended time of praise and worship. It was powerful -- especially at the first two services.

I had the opportunity to pray with a young man after church to get right with God. That was a joy. Another young man in his 20's came up to me - - tears in his eyes -- hugged me tight and walked away without saying a word. I think God's at work in him.

Wow -- come to think of it, we sure sang a lot: seven songs at each of our three services, that's 21 songs in all. Not even the pentecostals sing that much!! No wonder I'm tired.

I guess this should be expected when one goes to worship. After all, the …

Our Town Hayward

WEAU featured our town, Hayward, on their news broadcast recently. You can read/see it here. Both Andi and John, the historians interviewd in this segment, attend Hayward Wesleyan Church. My goal is to switch the slogan to, "Hayward, Hurley and Heaven!"


I returned from a couple of delightful and inspiring days of District Conference to find that the comment section on my "What Wesleyans Do Well" post morphed into it's own incredible life form!!

OK gang -- here's the scoop:

1. I deeply appreciate the many regular readers of this blog. Hundreds of different people from all over the world come by each week. I have several daily readers. Some weekly. Some are hit and miss -- but I am grateful for each one. The vast majority has never commented. I'd love to hear from ya!

2. I appreciate all those who leave comments. The negative and controversial ones are fine with me. (I've deleted a few that I thought were totally inappropriate -- but not very many.) I want people to have freedom in this forum to say what's on their hearts. Anonymous comments are ok with me too, but I'd like for them to steer clear from personal attacks.

3. Those who speak negatively of their church experience are helpful to me. They help m…

District Conference

Headed to LaCrosse for a couple of days for District Conference. The highlight will be Friday night, when Heath, our Spiritual Formation Pastor, will be ordained along with five others.

Congratulations, Heath, on this sacred milestone.

For a preacher, going to an ordination service is like attending a wedding with your spouse -- you do it all over again!

Plywood Coffins

My friend, Ruth Tucker, recently launched a site to encourage people to choose a plywood coffin for burial.
"The inspiration for this site came from reading that Ruth Bell Graham was buried (as Billy will be) in an inexpensive plywood coffin made by prisoners. Just imagine the good deeds that could be done with the money saved by not buying an expensive casket."
"This is hopefully the beginning of a plywood coffin movement." Tucker declares.

Christians in Gaza

Please pray for Pastor Hanna Massad, his family, and his congregation, Gaza Baptist Church.
Pastor Massad and I have communicated via e-mail several times since December. I am overwhelmed at the tragedy and carnage this dear man of God and his people face regularly. For him, following Jesus comes at a very high price.
We must not forget them. Every time I see something on the news about Gaza, I always pray for these precious brothers and sisters.

Between What Is and What Ought to Be

Tommy Mitchell pastors a thriving church in southeast Mississippi. Recently, left this outstanding post on his blog, Rurban Church. It's about navigating the tension between "What Is" and "What Ought to Be.

"Lord, help me rejoice in the blessings of "what is!" Help me to avoid letting "what is" become "what was!" And most of all - help me do my part to bring "what ought to be" to reality."

What Do Wesleyans Do Well?

At the recent Wesleyan Doctrinal Symposium one of the presenters, Dr. Ken Schenck, asked this thought provoking question: "What do Wesleyans do well?"

Justin Neirer, in response, posted a few things Wesleyans DON'T do well:

He noted that we Wesleyans. . .
1. Don't Communicate Well
2. Don't Evangelize Well
3. Don't Multiply Well
4. Don't Define Well
5. Don't Do Accountability Well

I appreciate Justin's candor, and stand challenged to do my part in improving the situation. However, Justin didn't get around to answering the big question.

In fact, at the end of his post, he asked it again: What do Wesleyans DO well?

From the vantage point of a lifelong Wesleyan, I'd like to take a shot at answering that question.

1. Wesleyans do Stewardship Well.
The Wesleyan Church always ranks in the top three or four denominations in per capita giving each year.

2. Wesleyans do College Well.
Our colleges foster a climate of spiritual commitment. I have visited four of ou…

Father's Day

I love Father's Day -- although I miss Dad quite a lot. It's easier now, that 16 years have passed. He died on the Thursday before Father's Day in 1991. All through the week, I've been thinking of him, and thankful for his godly example.

Yesterday was great. We had beautiful church services. Andy, a young dad in our congregation, tearfully shared about his recent journey to faith from a latent, non-verbalized agnosticism. Some very difficult experiences in his life left him doubting the existence of a loving heavenly Father. However, through attending Alpha at our church, significant spiritual conversations, and his faithful "Band of Brothers" Andy's faith has bloomed like a beautiful flower.

"I still have some questions," he admitted, "but my fear is gone. Now, when I pray with my children, I really mean it." Everybody choked back tears, and at one of the services he (or, I should say HE -- meaning God) received a heartfelt standing ova…

There's Another Side to It

My grandmother used to make quilts. As a little boy, I couldn’t figure out by looking at the underside what the quilt would look like without looking on the top side to see the pattern that she was making.
Sometimes when I board an airplane there are dark clouds and it is raining. But in a few minutes the plane is above the clouds and the sun is shining. I can assure you that above the clouds in your life the sun is shining. God is still there despite any tragedy that you may be experiencing.
-- Billy Graham

So, Where is the Jordan River?

Sometimes, for baptisms, I use my stash of Jordan River water that I brought home from my trips to Israel. I usually make a big deal about it, saying, "Folks, I think it might impress you to know this water is straight from the River Jordan!" A few months ago, in the foyer, after one of those baptisms, I overheard a puzzled guy ask, "So, where is the Jordan River, anyway?" To this, his friend replied, "I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's somewhere in Missouri."

Proud of Linda

Congratulations to my sister-in-law, Linda Weaver Wilson, who often leaves insightful comments here at Revitalize Your Church.

She is an Ohio State University mathematics professor, and last week, was honored with the Griffin Society Teaching Award.

The Wisconsin Wilson's are all extremely proud to say we're related!

Behold the Power of Cheeseburgers!

Kudos to Greg Westgard and the other Northwestern College students who launched a Cheeseburger Ministry to homeless people.

Four Stages of Fatherhood

1. They call you "Da-Da."
2. They call you "Daddy."
3. They call you "Dad."
4. They call you Collect!

Leadership Guru

Just learned today that my friend (and Wesleyan pastor) John Maxwell was named the World's Top Leadership Guru, by Leadership Gurus International. Now, that's quite impressive. This is NOT John's picture -- but I couldn't find one of him in a turban.

Thrill of Giving

Interesting research on the thrill of giving.

I just didn't realize that giving was THAT exciting, and will have to remember it next time I take an offering.

The data, I fear, is bit skewed however:

1) The research is based on 19 women. It would probably come out differently if conducted with 19 men. (particularly the part that equates charitable giving with food and sex.)

2) It is also conducted with OTHER PEOPLE'S money. I can understand that part. It's much more exciting to spend other people's money than your own. (i.e. observe the politicians.)

Win A Soul Contest

Win A Soul Contest? Doesn't that strike you as a bit contrived?

Effective Leadership

My friend, Mark Gorveatte, pointed me to this fascinating article on effective leadership.

Researchers from MIT broke down leadership into four capabilities:

1. Sensemaking (understanding the context in which an organization and its people operate)
2. Relating (building relationships within and across organizations)
3. Visioning (creating a compelling picture of the future)
4. Inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision)

Few people excel in all four areas -- but effective leaders bring other members onto the team, who bring their complementing strengths to the bigger picture.

Heading Home

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

What I Learned from Dad

When I was 16, my dad didn't know very much. He was old fashioned and too strict. He always wanted to know where I was going and what I planned to do.

Dad simply didn't understand. He made me work when I wanted to be lazy. He forced me to clean up my messes. Sometimes, he would even put me on restriction.

"Unfair!" I would protest, but my cries would fall on deaf ears.

Since Dad was a preacher I had to go to church every Sunday, even if I stayed up late on Saturday night. Not only did I hear sermons on Sunday morning, I would also hear them throughout the week:

"Be kind to people-- especially the grouchy ones. There's a reason they are acting that way."

"Work hard son. You'll never get the job done by quitting when you feel like it."

"I trust you to do the right thing."

"Don't be silly."

"Do you love God, son? Do you really love Him with all your heart? That's the only way to live, you know!"

I shrugged my shou…

A Night on the Chippewa Flowage

Yesterday, I took my sons, Luke and Wes on an overnight canoe camping trip on the Chippewa Flowage. The Flowage is Wisconsin's largest wilderness lake, with a maze of over 200 islands. Campsites are available at about eighteen of them.
After getting lost, and meandering for miles, with a boatload that resembled the Beverly Hillbillies, a kind fisherman pointed us in the right direction. Actually, he pointed us in the right direction about four different times. I think he got a kick out of watching us flail and zig zag. We had been totally turned around and disoriented, and were, indeed, grateful for his help.
Later, Luke said, "We didn't even get the guy's name." To this I replied, "I wouldn't be surprised if his name is Gabriel."
By late afternoon, we'd found our way to Cedar Tops, where we set up camp, and for a delightful evening, we were kings of our very own island! Went fishing and caught a few. Went swimming twice. Cooked over the fire. Told…


It was so un-deaconlike
for him to have a tawdry fling.

It was so un-christianlike
the way they gossipped
and went about the shunning.

It was so un-ladylike
of his mistress to show on sunday morning
for a tense and loud denouncing.

It was so un-pastorlike
for the rattled reverend to continue with his sermon
as if nothing had occurred.

It was so Jesus-like
to see the deacon's faithful wife, though blushing,
bear such disgrace with grace.

On The Body

A fabulous post by my friend and ministry partner, Heath Davis. I encourage you to leave a comment for him.

What Talks

Your WALK talks louder
Than your TALK talks.

Sing to Beat the Devil

“I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people happy;they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.” -- Martin Luther

What Pastors Do All Week Anyway?

Todd, at Monday Morning Insight, recently reported the results of the "What Do Clergy Do All Week" survey.

See the graph here at Cartoon Church

Vision Sunday

The church services this week were powerful. Instead of the normal (whatever that is) format, we held our annual Vision Sunday.

There are two kinds of vision: Near Sight and Far Sight. Usually, when people speak of vision in an organizational (church) setting, they are referring to Far Sight: a long look into the future. It's a matter of motivation, goals and direction. Martin Luther King captured this kind of vision with his speech, "I have a dream. . ."

Yesterday, however, we focused on Near Sight: celebrating what God has done, and what He IS doing right now. Indeed, that's vision too! Sometimes, leaders can be so caught up with "where we need to go" in the futre that they fail to see what God is doing in the present. We can't understand where we need to head tomorrow, if we don't know where we are today!

Henry Blackaby, talking of church leadership, says the key is to "find out what God is doing and then join Him." I like that!



I'm flying out this afternoon to Rapid City for a Wesleyan Native American Ministries Board Meeting.

Native American ministry is perhaps, the most difficult ministry field in North America. There is a huge suspicion of "white man's gospel." We've given them good reason to be skeptical.

Down through the years, Native Americans have been oppressed by white people, often in the name of Christianity. For instance, many of the "boarding schools" were run by churches. Native Americans don't have much good to say about that experiment.

Effective "leadership paradigms" from other contexts, often fall woefully short when applied to Native American ministry. I think it's a mistake to try to force it. If we do, it's much like when the 19th Century missionaries dressed the Lakota up in suits.

So far, after 400 years of bad haircuts, it's still not working. But, there has to be SOME key to their hearts. There has to be SOME means of ef…

Dandelion People

I love dandelions!
Call me crazy.
Call me lazy.
Call me a weed lover all you want --I Iove dandelions. I used to hate 'em, but now I love 'em.
Why in the world would I have an affinity for such pesky plants? Because they are a splendid illustration of how we ought to live!

1. You can't keep a good dandelion down. Try all you want, those little yellow flowers keep popping up all over the place.
Weed eaters, lawn mowers, and even poisons don't seem to phase them. They just keep coming back. Dandelion people are like that too.

When the setbacks and disappointments come, they refuse to cave into discouragement. They do not allow the circumstance to get the best of them. These folks figure out a way through the problem.

Instead of complaining about how bad the situation is, they figure out ways to make things better. Whatever comes -- they will always find a way to bounce back. You can count on it!

2. Dandelions add color to the landscape. Isn't it boring to have a lawn of only o…