Showing posts from May, 2006

Jesus was Tribal

Going out of town for a couple of days to attend my first Wesleyan Native American Board Meeting in Rapid City, South Dakota. So -- I won't be posting for the rest of the week. Native American Ministry is really difficult, thanks to the mistakes of our white forefathers. I believe our Native American friends would love Jesus a lot, if they saw him as he is, rather than dressed up as a clench-fisted redneck. The historical Jesus was a lot more Native than White European: 1. He was tribal. 2. He told stories. 3. He lived close nature. 4. He understood fishing and harvesting. 5. He was from an oppressed people group. But thus far, the outreach efforts have failed miserably, because we are judged by what we do rather than what we say. It's easier to make a toxic mess than to clean one up. In all relationships, you make a toxic mess by dishonesty, manipulation and demanding control. You clean up a toxic mess by understanding, trust, perseverance, and love.

The Von Wilson Family Singers

Hey, I think the Wilson Family ought to do this! We could take our show to Carnegie Hall, and then to Vegas! Maybe they would let us sing at Sonshine Fest or Ichthus. I'm almost inspired to break out my harmonica!

Three Sizes Too Small

In the year of Our Lord, 1682, To ye aged and beloved Mr. John Higginson: There is now a ship at sea called "The Welcome", which has on board 100 or more heretics called Quakers , with Penn, the chief scamp at the head. The General Court has given sacred orders to Master Huscroft of the Porpoise to waylay "The Welcome" slyly, and make captive the said Penn and his ungodly crew , so that the Lord may be glorified and not mocked with the heathen worship of these people. Much spoil can be made for selling the whole lot to Barbados, where the slaves fetch good prices in rum and suger, and we shall make great good for the Lord's ministers and people. Yours in the bowels of Christ, Cotton Mather --- At sunrise, on June 5, 1637, Colonists and Indian allies, attacked a Pequot village near West Mystic, Connecticut, where they burned 600-700 Native Americans alive. (When researching this yesterday, I was horrified to discover that one of my ancestors, a volunteer in th

Archie Manning

I feel like Archie Manning. My son, Adam, preached at the Gull Lake Wesleyan Church yesterday! He's home from his first year at Bethany Bible College, and is developing into an outstanding minister of the Gospel. This week, he has been invited to Indiana Wesleyan for a Conference hosted by the Wesleyan College presidents. Leaders from across the denomination are gathering to dialogue about how to bring unchanging Truth to a rapidly changing culture. That makes me a happy pappy.

Church Today

Most churches lose a lot of folks on Memorial Day weekend. Our attendance goes up! We had a full house in all three services this morning -- and visitors from: - other cities in Wisconsin - Minnesota - Illinois - Indiana - Texas - Michigan - Arkansas - Arizona - Florida - California Hayward is not on the way to anywhere, but it sure is a destination point! The services were inspiring. We had an enthusiastic worship choir leading us in three "rockin'" praise songs. After that, in observance of Memorial Day, I read the names of 25 members of our church family who passed away in recent months. After I shared their names, I opened it up for the congregation to add names of others who have recently died. It was powerful to hear the many names spoken by grieving loved ones. One young family came to church today, specifically because I had called them and told them I was going to mention their little daughter's name in church. She died a few months ago. They rarely a

Hit the Nail

Mark Batterson hit the nail on the head with this one.

What an Opportunity

Jamie posted this thought provoking photo at emergent voyageur . Sort of puts things in perspective.

Self Serve

This is a very old picture -- before the cost of gasoline went to an arm and a leg. The other day, as I was filling up my car with $3.00 gasoline, I noticed the sign above the station: "Self Serve." A lot of people have an inward focused, "self serve" mentality. Here's an example: While celebrating their 25th anniversary, a husband asked his wife, "Honey, do you know why we've managed to stay together all these years?" She sweetly replied, "I think it's because we're both in love with the same man!"


How could a person go from being a rural pastor's kid -- to the top of the corporate world -- to convicted felon? Bryan Gruley and Rebecca Smith have some suggestions in this 2002 article from The Wall Street Journal. They omit the fact that Ken Lay is the son of a Baptist Pastor -- but make some interesting observations: To the many people who know and admire Kenneth Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron Corp., he's a brilliant, hard-working, decent, God-fearing man who couldn't possibly have been responsible for one of the biggest corporate collapses in history. To some of the same people, he's also an ambitious man who grew so enamored of the trappings of his extraordinary success that he neglected their source, Enron, and blithely allowed his trusted lieutenants to plunge the company into a mire of deception and possible fraud. It's the enigma central to the collapse of Enron. The same attributes that underpinned Mr. Lay's success -- tirele

Prayer for Guidance

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not meean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. -- Thomas Merton , Thoughts in Solitude

A morbid but curious discovery

"When I found the skull in the woods, the first thing I did was call the police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering who this person was, and why he had deer horns." - Jack Handey

Grandpa's Church

I don't really like the phrase "assimilation" when used in reference to congregations. "Assimilation" means "making similar". I'm not interested in producing clones or zombies. Our church is full of all kinds of people -- and we celebrate our differences. Perhaps, that's just a small town thing -- but the church growth adage, "Focus on a Demographic Target" doesn't fit very well here in the northwoods. As our city population is 2100 -- if you're breathing, you're a target!! The slogan: "This isn't your Granfather's Church" doesn't fly in Hayward -- at least if you want to have a growing, thriving ministry. A Better Slogan for Hayward: "A Church You AND Your Grandfather will Love!" Or, "Bring Grandpa with you to Church!" When we're jamming, Grandpa might want to bring his earplugs -- but he'll love it when we sing, "When the Roll is Called up Yonder."

Just Wondering

I'm just wondering why the Wesleyans don't merge together with the Nazarenes and/or the Free Methodists -- then throw out the welcome mat to the disenfranchised Methodists, and other confessional (fired-up-for Jesus) mainliners. We have so much in common, and our differences are miniscule. Together, we could accomplish much more than we're doing separately. I think, perhaps, the biggest thing that keeps us from seriously pursuing such progressive action is fear. Fear of not having control. Fear of how to handle someone who sees things just a bit differently. Fear of what to do with all the unemployed denominational and district executives. Fear that we might lose a college or two. Fear that our "competitor" will be our family. Fear of losing influence. So, we remain on our small, isolated islands, and replicate each other's work. The sands are shifting, but sadly, our heads remain there.

Hey Pastor, How's Your Wife Doing?

Todd Rhoads, posted this great reminder at my favorite blog: Monday Morning Insight : Hey Pastor, How's Your Wife Doing? I received a gripping email from a pastor's wife this week. She asked not to be identified; but she was clearly tired and frustrated at all the responsibilities of being a 'pastors' wife'. In addition, she found that her husband was so involved in the ministry of the church and his job, that he had little time for her or their family. It's something that I hear quite often; and it's an easy trap for pastors to fall into, especially if you tend to be a workaholic. Anyway... she passed on a poem that she wrote for her journal and gave me permission to share it here; hoping that "some husbands (like mine) could really use a reminder that their wife and children are important and should be placed in priority above the church." So read this, and ask yourself honestly... could my wife have written this? If so, take some time off this a


Something splendid happened Saturday night at our Baby Church in Minong. Our Mission Committee brought in Luis Martinez, the tremendous Latin American evangelist for special church services this weekend. They had scheduled him for Friday and Sunday -- with Saturday as a "free day." I recently learned that 25 families have recently moved from Mexico to Minong (Now THAT is a culture shift!) They are working for Link's Snack Foods , Minong's only industry. (They make the best beef jerky anywhere.) Far from family, friends, and home, these precious men and women need an extra touch of God's peace and love. So we did something "Outside the Box"! We held a church service "En Espanol!" We distributed Spanish fliers, and miraculously God sent us a connection person, who assured us our friends from Mexico were coming. At starting time, however, we had a bunch of Swedes and Norweigians -- but no Mexicans! "Uh oh," I fretted, "Now, what are


This week, the treasurer reported that we hit our budget projection for 2005-06 on the head. It was over a half million dollars -- and we were within about $2000. (Our income was $2000 better than budget, and expenses were $2000 less! A $4000 difference!) I said, "Wow, that's amazing. We really hit the target!" To this, my friend Dennis replied, "No, God did!"

T. D. Jakes and the Holy Spirit

The Christian Post reported today that "T.D. Jakes and the Holy Spirit are expected" to show up at the Azusa Street Celebration. Wow -- I guess Time Magazine is right, when it listed T. D. as one of most influential Evangelicals in America . Why, he even gets the same billing as the Holy Spirit! You know, with all that revival fervor going on, I'll be the devil is going to show up too -- but he didn't make the headlines.

Da Vinci Code and Pastoral Reviews

Thursday night, the church board conducted my annual review. They sent me out of the room, and then took a loooooong time discussing. (I think maybe they all snuck out to Dairy Queen behind my back.) It was a good evaluation, and I gained some very helpful insights about myself and the way I do ministry. This morning, I saw reviews of another kind. It's fascinating to me that the film critics are all over the map in their evaluation of the Da Vinci Code blockbuster. Here's how they rated it: The New York Post: A The Seattle Post Intelligencer: B+ The Chicago Sun Times: B The San Fransisco Chronicle:B- Entertainment Weekly: C+ New York Times: C Hollywood Reporter: C- Rolling Stone: D These guys all saw the same film -- but they walked away with vastly different opinions. It reminds me that not everybody sees things the same way. One person might think I'm a C- pastor, and another will say I'm an "A." We can't please everybody. Quality, like beauty, is in th

Battling Mosquitoes

I sat in the woods one day, with pen in hand, and open journal, pondering deep spiritual matters, and hoping for a burst of inspiration. Instead, I got a mosquito. The pesky little critter buzzed in my ears and bit me! Frustrated, I sputtered, swatted and swang, but the illusive insect must have taken flying lessons from the Red Baron. He dodged me every time. Arrrgh!! My tranquility evaporated. How could I possibly contemplate life's deepest meanings, when bombarded by such nuisance? About seven bites later, I finally triumphed. The weary warrior paused for a moment to catch his breath and rest his wings. Giant fighting is hard work, you know. The unfortunate bug came in for a landing right on my open journal. THWACKK!! I slammed the pages together -- and the pesky mosquito was dispatched. I'm sure his relatives would be glad to know he didn't suffer. The little fellow didn't even know what hit him. He started in my ears and ended in my journal! Curious, I opened the n

Blood Pressure

Spirituality may help lower blood pressure -- according to a recent study presented at the American Society of Hypertension. However, being a pastor at budget time has a tendency to raise it!

Not Theology?

"It's not theology ," said Ron Howard, director of The DaVinci Code. Not theology?? When I read the book, I saw a lot of theology in there -- lousy theology. The blockbuster will create a great opportunity for theological discussions. Jim Garlow has put together some helpful Da Vinci Code resources , and Willow Creek is doing something interesting with it. At our church, my good friend, Steve Gerich, is teaching a class on it -- but we're not making it the "grand theme" for everything. I've heard that bankers recognize counterfeit bills because they spend so much time with genuine ones. As we make the "Real Thing" our constant focus, the artificial will dim in comparison. When I hear reports that this will be the greatest outreach tool the world has ever seen, I raise a skeptical eyebrow. I've heard that hype before. . . last year . . . and the year before that. Nevertheless, this will open the door for some significant spiritual convers

10 Questions Growing Churches Should Ask

Tony Morgan, Administrative Pastor of Granger Community Church , wrote the following article. I read an article in Fast Company magazine about a year ago that really challenged my thinking about the ministry of the local church. The brief article included a list of the ten make-or-break questions businesses needed to address in order to be successful in a competitive marketplace. As I read through the list, I began to ask myself: What are the questions growing churches should be asking to reach people for Jesus in today’s fast-paced culture? What are some of the key questions that churches need to address in order to build growing, innovative ministries that transform lives? In addition to the foundations like Christ-centered teaching, prayer, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I strongly believe that there are some strategic questions growing churches can address to more effectively impact the communities around them. It takes more than faith to grow a church. In fact James 2:17 con

Mors Et Vita

Into the soil a seed is sown, Out of the soul a song is wrung, Out of the shell a pearl is gone, Out of the cage a bird is flown, Out of the body, a soul. Unto a tree the seed is grown, Wide in the world the song is sung, The pearl in a necklace gleams more fair, The bird is flown to a sweeter air. And death is half and life is half, And the two make up the whole! -- James Edwin Campbell I share this poem in loving memory of my friend, Larry Geise. We conducted his memorial service yesterday. Larry was the "comeback kid" -- but this time, he didn't come back -- he went -- to a fairer land and is experiencing the other half! At Larry's request, I gave a gentle invitation for people to open their lives to Christ, and a dozen people responded!

Church Leadership Class

If you are here from FLAME Church Leadership Class -- you can find the Roberts Rules Test on My Church Leadership Blog (see links). Feel free to brouse around here at Revitalize Your Church! If you are here from FLAME Evangelism Class, welcome! For starters, what was your #1 take home point from the class?

Gold in the Pews

Monday Morning Insight recently posted this great article from Erwin McManus . Thar's Gold in them there pews!

It's Courage that Counts!

Bob Wieland , who lost both legs while serving in Viet Nam, believe that he could make a difference in his world. With courage that amazed America, he began a 3000 mile "walk" across the nation -- on his hands! The trip from California to Washington D. C. took 4,999,016 steps and lasted three and a half years. In the process, he raised $305,000 to feed the hungry. The mission was difficult, but as he struggled along the way, he reminded himself of his favorite Bible verse: "With God, all things are possible." (Luke 1:37) Wieland's walk proved to the rest of us that a person with courage and determination can do just about anything. I believe that everyone has a mission in life. I have one. You do too! Your mission is soemthing that only you can fulfill, and if you depart from it, your life will be incomplete. Fulfilling a mission takes courage. It requires us to move beyond the ordinary. It compels us to launch out and attempt thiings which may be scorned by oth

Out of Town

Leaving directly after our 11:00 service today -- to teach some ministerial training classes in Stroudsburg, PA. This is with FLAME, a Wesleyan training program for non-traditional students. Believe me, these folks ARE non-traditional! Last year, in one of my classes, I had three former drug dealers! Now they're dealing in Eternal Life! I'm teaching Evangelism/Church Health and Church Leadership/Management. So -- don't count on any posts this week.


Grudge is an ugly word. It starts with "Grrr. . ." and ends with ". . .udge." That doesn't sound pretty at all. When we carry grudges against other people, the weight becomes almost unbearable. Resentment is a heavy burden to bear. Our souls weren't made to carry that kind of heaviness. Momma used to say unforgiveness is like "drinking poison and hoping that the other person will die." We do more harm to ourselves than anybody else when we refuse to let it go. A physician friend once told me that resentment is at the root of many of the physical ailments he sees: tension headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure. Dis-ease of the spirit leads to disease of the body. If someone offends you, there are really only two options: A. forgive and let it go or B. hold onto it and be bitter. A heart wound will never get better by being bitter. Bitterness just rubs salt into it. It's always best to let it go. Jesus understood this well, and that is why he spo

Not Worth the Knot

Whatever you're stewing over isn't worth the stomach knot. It's not worth the knot! I've found, from personal experience, that worrying doesn't help matters one bit. It just makes the burden heavier. We all know we shouldn't worry -- but circumstances beyond our control set us off. Anxiety is toxic waste oozing through our mind and body. It's contagious too. You can get a whole room full of people to start fretting with just a few negative fearful words. The crazy thing is -- most of the stuff we worry about never happens. And that's a fact. The other day, I came across my worry file. Several years ago, as I was trying to quit the worry habit, I would write my worries down and place them in my file. Now -- over a decade later, I've unearthed my pile of worries. Guess what. Of the dozen or so worries I had placed in the file, NOT ONE OF THEM happened!! I had spent restless nights, and hours of inner churning for nothing!! One wise guy figured it out:

Added to the Number Daily

As I was gathing information for the "end of the year" reports, I was amazed to discover that through our church ministries, we have record of 192 people who received Christ as their Savior over the past twelve months -- and another 147 recommitments! That's 339 people! Last summer, at our picnic, we baptized 65 people -- which, I believe is the most people ever baptized at one time in the history of the northwoods. (We also dunked another eight a few weeks.) We started a baby church 20 miles away, supported 24 missionaries around the world, and sent 104 people on short term mission trips. God is so amazing -- and His grace reaches far enough. . . even to the end of the world! (Hayward is not quite the end of the world, but you can see if from here!) This is absolutely mind boggling for me -- and I am so thankful to be a part of such a thriving and vibrant congregation. I am reminded of Acts 2:47: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved

National Day of Prayer

Tonight, at our Community National Day of Prayer Gathering, I am planning to lead the congregation in the following prayer by Henry Blackaby: Oh Heavenly Father, You have made Yourself known to us as a nation by Your mighy works throughout our history. From the beginning, You have been with us through many wars and conflicts; Your right arm has saved us. We have been amazingly and graciously blessed. Today, we confess our sin of not responding to Your right to rule in our lives and our nation. Too often, we have despised and rejected Your will while imposing our own, and we are now facing the consequences of our disobedience. Draw us back to Yourself, that we may return to Yoru ways once again. Without You we can do nothing. You have promised that if we honor You, You will once again honor this great nation. That is our fervent prayer. For Your honor and glory we pray, Amen


SMALL PLACES ARE MAGNIFICENT! -- Until today SPAM has been a bad word to me. Not anymore. A brainstorm this morning changed that. I still hate canned meat (even if it warrants a museum ), and unsolicited e-mails. However. . . SMALL-TOWN PASTORS ARE MIGHTY. SMALL-TOWN PARISHONERS ARE MOBILIZED. SMALL-TOWN PARTNERSHIPS ARE MISSIONAL. SMALL PLACE AS MISSION! SMALL PLACES ARE MARVELOUS! I LOVE than kind of SPAM!

Mapping Religion in Ameica

Here's a great link denoting the religious demographics of America. No surprise that our territory (northern Wisconsin & Minnesota) is primarily Catholic and Lutheran. It verifies Garrison Keillor's adage that in Lake Wobegon, you're either Catholic, Lutheran, or weird. We're the weird ones!

A Billion Words

It's official. The "one billionth word" was just added to the English language. A billion words -- and yet, there are times when my mind goes blank, and I can't come up even one that seems appropriate. On the other hand, I declare, there are some folks can get through the whole billion in twenty minutes over the telephone!! I've been on the receiving end of that! On several occasions, I've found myself murmering mindlessly: "Uh Huh." "You don't say." "Is that right." Mmmmhmmmm." "I believe so." "I don't know." You do have to be careful in selecting these responses though. My Mother found that out the hard way. In one of those long, taxing conversations, she said, "Mmmhhhh", and then "I don't know." The other person stopped abruptly. "You don't know?????" Mom said, "What was that you asked me again?" "I asked how many children you have!"


Here's what I've been reading lately.

A Big Flop?

Last Saturday night, at our new satellite campus in Minong, I led the music. Pastor Loretta delivered the sermon, and was going to have help from the Youth Group Praise Team. Saturday was the Prom, however, and thus, hardly any of the young people were available -- I ended up volunteering to take their place. A few days before the service, I visited our Minong small group, and told them: "This week is really going to be different. Loretta is going to preach, and I am going to lead the music." Lori's reponse was really funny. She meant to say, "That will be a flip-flop!" Instead, it came out this way: "That will be a BIG FLOP!" It's gonna take her a long time to live that one down! Actually, everything went really well. The Minong service was really inspiring, and a tremendous help to the 40-some people who attended. Reminds me of the Ethel Waters' quote: "God don't sponsor no flops!"