If You Could Change One Thing About Your Church

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

What is it that would help your church be more effective in its ministry?

I suspect that the answers to such a question might be varied. For example, some might say they wish that someone would give more attention to what actually happens during a Sunday morning worship service. Others might say that they wish their church offered more for children or teenagers. Still others might suggest that the preaching could be more engaging, challenging, or relevant.

What about your congregation? What would help your congregation in its practices?

Maybe you see room for improvement in a certain area. In seeing such a need and acknowledging it, you are not discounting your church. Nor are you suggesting that the leaders of your church are not making an effort and working hard. (You may be one of those leaders!) No, you are simply paying attention to the effectiveness of your church and acknowledging what you see.

I Have Heard So Many Secrets

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Through the years, as a minister, I have sat with person after person and listened to sad, difficult stories.

I have heard so many secrets.

The alcoholic father who told me of his affair with his high school daughter’s friend.The foster children who told me of a cruel woman who isolated them in a basement each evening, while the rest of the family ate dinner together. Later, they were brought the family’s leftovers.The mother who grew up constantly hearing critical, demeaning words from her mother.

The man, who as a child, had lived with a brutal, bullying father. Yet at church, his father was perceived to be very godly.

The young woman who told me of the abortion she had while in college and how she had lived with this secret for several decades.

I am reading Joe Queenan’s memoir,

It is the story of a boy who grew up in a

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Philadelphia housing project. He and his three sisters are forced to make do. They live with their father and mother in an atmosphere that does not feel emotionally or physically safe. Their mother repeatedly said to her children that she wished she had never had children. Their mother seemed emotionally disconnected from the family. Meanwhile, their father was a violent man — especially when he drank:

My father got broke when he was young, and he never got fixed. He may have wanted to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, but he was not cut out for that job. He liked to drink, and unlike some men who like to drink, it was the only thing he liked to do. Among our relatives, he had a reputation as a happy-go-lucky fellow who, once he got a few beers in him, would turn into the life of the party. He was not the life of our party. Most of the time he was already dead drunk when he came home from work, spoiling for a fight with whoever crossed him first. (p. 7)

His father, when he was drunk, beat his children, quite often. The rest of the family, instead of condemning such behavior, seemed more interested in providing excuses for such behavior. Queenan says that, “Manufacturing excuses for my father’s behavior was a family industry.” (p. 9)

Fear

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Fear.

It is everywhere! No, I am not talking about the fear of the Lord. Nor am I talking about any sort of healthy fear.

No, I am referring to another kind of fear — an unhealthy fear.

She sat just outside the main doors to our auditorium (sanctuary, worship center, etc.). She was in her late 40s, had alcohol on her breath, and looked as if she had been crying for days. The doors were open and the service was about to begin. She sat in a chair and refused to go in. She said something about not being worthy. She sat in that chair, legs crossed, and rocked.

I knew this woman and some of her family. She was an alcoholic and had lived in much pain and had caused much pain for many years. She had lived a sad life.

Deep within this woman was much fear. She was fearful that God no longer loved her. She was afraid to stop drinking and afraid to continue. She had been hurt deeply by others. She had been through one broken marriage and wondered if she would be loved again.

Burying Those Feelings Never Works

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

There is often a high price to pay when you bury your feelings.

Feelings exist.

I may not like these feelings.

I may not feel comfortable with these feelings.

I may be very uneasy by what I am feeling.

I can try to bury my feelings but they will not stay buried. At some point in time, they will surface again. Quite often when they do surface, they impact us in negative ways.

Consider:

*Your father dies of cancer. A few months after his funeral, you lose your job. Then, to top this off, your daughter files for divorce. One day you say to a close friend, “I don’t think that I have really begun to grieve the death of my father. So much has gone on in the last few months. There has been so much loss.”

*You are a minister in a church. You are so tired. It seems like there has been loss after loss. You have done one funeral per month in the last twelve months. A few of these were people you knew well and loved. You really don’t feel as if you ever grieved any of these deaths. You were too busy trying to deal with the conflict in your church. You’ve experienced conflict before in churches but this was particularly hurtful. You learned that a man you thought one of your best friends in the church was being openly critical toward your ministry and was accusing you personally of lacking integrity.

*You dated this girl while both of you were students at the university. To this day, you can’t figure out why you stayed together so long. She was manipulative and untrustworthy. Again and again, she cheated on you with other guys. Now, several years later, you find yourself in a similar relationship. You wonder what you are doing to attract these kinds of people. Some very negative feelings are starting to surface that you thought long ago were buried. You never went to counseling after this traumatic first relationship or even process these feelings with another person.

Feelings may be buried for a time but eventually they will bubble up and surface.

Don’t Ignore the Obvious

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

I really don’t want to ignore the obvious, and yet I do at times.

I graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in business. I recall taking a variety of classes including some in business management, accounting, business law, finance, statistics, etc. Yet, in spite of these courses, I ignored the obvious.

I actually paid very little attention toward thinking about the kind of work that I might do for the rest of my life. I am not suggesting that I should have known exactly what I was going to do. I am saying that I did not even give it very much thought. Oh I knew what I was going to do when I graduated. I had been working for UPS while in college and I knew that I would be driving and then going into management with them. Yet, beyond that, I gave my future little thought.

Maybe the following is obvious to you. Yet, I need to be reminded to not ignore the obvious.


Am I thinking ahead?

1. In five years, I will be somewhere doing something.  In five years, do I want to be able to say that I have invested in my growth and maturity over these past five years? What will that mean TODAY in terms of the practical decisions that I need to make?

2. At the end of this year, I will be somewhere financially.  If I continue to spend money the way I am currently spending money, what will be my financial condition in January 2010? Do I need to make a change TODAY in terms of the way I spend money?

3. As I begin my week, I am going to make choices about the way I invest my time. Who needs my attention and time this week? Are there significant people in my life who have not been receiving the time or attention the need? Do I need to make a decision TODAY regarding this?

4. In front of me is an unread book.  I can easily say, given what I already have scheduled, “I don’t have time to read a book this week.” Yet, could I carve out thirty minutes each day to read? Could I carve out fifteen minutes each day to read? Do I need to begin this TODAY?

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 4)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Need to “upgrade” your relationships? The following suggestions might be helpful:


10. Come to grips with any anger and rage issues in your life (Colossians 3:8). Who knows how many relationships have been damaged and even ended because of uncontrolled anger? Years ago, I was in a meeting and watched a guy have a meltdown. People were talking in this meeting and there was some kind of disagreement. This man’s face turned beet red and then he just lost it. For a few seconds (that seemed like a long, long time) he exploded and chewed out the group. Later, he acted as if nothing had happened. No apology. No remorse. Nothing. Life went on until some months later, he had another fit of rage. This happened again and again. This man lost much of his influence and damaged numerous relationships over this behavior.


11. Be honest in your relationships. Paul says, “Do not lie to each other, . . . .” (Colossians 3:9) Lying is a part of the old self and not the new self. Lies are absolutely destructive in relationships. Once a friend or a spouse discovers that you have been lying to them, it is very difficult for that relationship to ever really go anywhere. After all, relationships are based on truth, openness, and transparency. Not long ago, I spoke with a person who realized that a good friend had been lying to her for many years. There had been so many lies that she wondered what she could believe. The relationship has been severely severed now that these lies have been discovered.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 3)

(I am away on vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)


A few suggestions for upgrading relationships:7. Get out of your recliner and get into the game. Some people live in a mental and emotional recliner. That is, they sit back and watch life happen. They watch their marriage sink, long ago losing any real emotional connection with their spouse. They watch as their children lose any sense of an emotional connection with dad (or mom). Yet, they just passively sit in their mental recliner and watch it happen.If this is you, let me encourage you to get up. Make a move. Pay attention to your spouse or children. Show interest in what seems to interest them. Ask questions. Look for something, anything, which you can affirm and even compliment.


8. Be gracious. Living graciously is about living in such a way as to express grace in all that we do. Gracious people are quick to give credit and are slow to boast.

Gracious people never seek to humiliate or embarrass another. Upgrade your relationships by toning down the sarcasm and cutting remarks. So many people are rude, critical, and curt. When we are around such people, our thoughts and words may mirror what we hear from these people. Give your family and friends a gift today. Let them experience life in the presence of a gracious person. They may find this to be very refreshing.

Monday Start

The following are links to posts that I found particularly interesting this week. Maybe you will see something that interests you. startnow8nor.png

Everything New

Check out this video by Jeff Cook that Scot McKnight posted. It is very good. I look forward to reading the book. You might enjoy his website.


On writing

Have you been reading Jeff Goins’ series: 15 habits of Great Writers? It is very well done. I especially enjoyed one recent post in this series entitled: “Great Writers Share Other’s Work.”

Also be sure to see this letter to a writer who is losing confidence.


Particularly for men

Have you seen Patrick Morley’s new book Man Alive? You might enjoy the website as well.


On ministry and identity

Some ministers are perceived by others to be important. Meanwhile other ministers feel self-conscious and believe they have little, if anything, to offer. I reflect on this kind of self-perception in this post which begins with this sentence: “When I first began preaching and serving as a “full-time minister,” I soon realized that some preachers were considered to be important people.”


Regarding e-books

Be sure to see Wade Hodges’ post “Thirteen Lessons I’ve Learned From the Ebook Business.”


I’ll take one of these offices!

The Libraries, Studies and Writing Rooms of 15 Famous Men.”


Ministry Inside.85

Some ministers are perceived to be important.servant-leader-570x311.jpg

When I first began preaching and serving as a “full-time minister,” I soon realized that some preachers were considered to be important people.

That struck me as interesting and even a bit odd.

After all, I was a business major in college. It wasn’t until after I had graduated from college that I began to think about the possibility of becoming better equipped to serve God. I wasn’t going back to school for a new career. In fact, to this day I have never referred to my work as a minister as a career. Instead, I tend to think of my work as a calling that I am doing as long as I think this is what God wants me to do.

I do remember, however, when it occurred to me that some ministers were perceived to be important people.

  • They were invited to speak at large gatherings of Christians.
  • They were described as having “preached in some of our most influential pulpits.
  • They were characterized as “highly sought after” ministers.

For a while, I thought that I should pursue importance. (Yes, this is embarrassing to admit. I know that is not a good thing. I know that idea reeks of pride. I’m just telling you what went through my head.) After thinking about this (way too long), I began to wonder if I was losing my mind. I do remember, after all, the times when Jesus was approached by people either perceiving their own greatness or wanting to be great.

Monday Start

Hopefully one or more of these links will be helpful to you. I am so grateful that you come here each Monday.start_button_gif (1).gif


Glad to see this changing.

I was glad to read this post! I’ve been concerned about this characterization for quite some time. “No more dumb old dad: changing the bumbling father stereotype.”


Fathers and sons: Do I ever relate!

Be sure to read this piece from Canda’s Globe and Mail. Do I ever relate! I once put a huge dent in the door of my father’s driver’s side car door (on a car that was practically new) as I put the car in neutral and tried to push it out of the garage. Unfortunately, as I was pushing it out of the garage, the door I had failed to close adequately got jammed against the door facing of the garage. Not good.


The future.

I found this post interesting: “6 Tech Concepts Changing the World.” I find it helpful to occasionally read such posts so I can keep up with changing technology.


One.

Check out this post from my friend Allan Stanglin’s blog regarding a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding “sheep stealing.” Very interesting.


Tony Evans and his dad.

What a great post! Tony Evans talks about the transformation of his dad.


Reflecting on Pastoral Ministry.

Ron Edmondson has written a good post: “7 Ways I Want to Improve as a Pastor.” A good post with insights worth thinking about.