Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump – March 31, 2013 (Easter)

I had a feeling today would be a good day at PCC.

It was.

Attendance jumped by 165 people over last week.  It felt good to see such a full room and to preach the gospel to so many unlearned people.  I’m really in my element doing that.

Philip Polk nailed it in the opening when he said that PCC is one of the friendliest churches he’s ever seen.

The Bible is full of admonitions of hospitality and servanthood.  I’m so thankful that PCC makes the extra effort – all 52 Sunday’s a year – to welcome people and calm their fears… especially on a Sunday like today.

This singers hit it out of the park.  We have some of the best musical talent to be found anywhere… and yet, it never feels like a production or a show.  It’s real, authentic, and down to earth.

One elderly lady said to me this afternoon, “Preacher, sometimes you do better than other times… and today was one of those days you did good.”


I met a lady today at a family gathering.  She attends another church in the area.  When I asked her where she atteded, she told me, and immediately began to brag about her church, her pastor, and her church family.  It is SO REFRESHING to meet church members who speak highly of their church’s and their pastor’s – especially when it is so common to hear members talk down about their churches.  We thank God for such people.  I contacted her pastor this afternoon and told him all the nice things she said.  He really appreciated it.

It makes my skin crawl to hear people talk ugly about their church.

Another pastor in the area contacted me to let me know that he and his congregation prayed for PCC this morning in their service.  We thank God for these people too.

If more pastors and churches would form a wall of solidarity among themselves, there would be less competition and more kingdom advancement.  Plus, it would limit the “reshuffling of the deck” that is so common in their area.

I’m glad to say that there are a group of pastors who have agreed together among ourselves that this is the best way to influence the community.

This is a good thing.

It was a fun day at PCC.  Great crowd, great worship, and hopefully lots of life change.  The gospel was preached, God was honored, Christ was exalted, and the saints edified. 

Next Sunday we begin a new message series on the book of James.

I will not be teaching this series by myself.  It will be presented in a team-teaching effort… using other gifted men.

You may not know this, but we have five pastors (with experience as senior pastors) who are part of the PCC congregation.  Additionally, we have two laymen who are gifted teachers themselves.

I’m absolutely spent after such a big day, but so proud of all that happened.  Hundreds in attendance and AMAZING volunteers pulled it off.

Only three words really matter, and they are three that changed the world:  He is risen!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Why PCC Does Not Have Big Productions on Easter or Christmas

Lasers, smoke, strobe lights, live animals, donkeys, camels, free cars & free plasma tvs as giveaway prizes, helicopter egg drops, cantatas, singing Christmas trees, drama, plays, actors…. this is what Easter and Christmas has become in some churches.
Evangelical pastors refer to Easter Sunday as the Superbowl of church services.  It's when the highest percentage of borderline believers (or non-believers) attend.  So, in an effort to reach such people, we ramp it up by offering the above mentioned marketing tools…. and go over the top.
Here’s the delimma.  If such a person comes back to church the following Sunday, he/she is going to be disappointed and let down because things will be back to normal.
It’s the classic bait-and-switch.
You remember what it’s like to go on the first date, right?  He/she is picture perfect, dressed to the nines, polite, and has good manners.  They say the right things, ask the right questions, opens the door for you, picks up the tab, and makes your heart flutter.  But this is not the real person.  The real person is hiddben behind this skin-deep fake presentation.  You discover the real person later on.
In church work, it’s better to just “be ourselves” on Easter and Christmas.  That way people know who we really are.  Sure, we anticipate larger attendance on those days.  In response, we have all our workers on duty to accommodate the crowds and we do everything possible to provide the best experience for our guests.  We turn up the dial in a lot of ways - roll out the carpet and offer good programming - but we do not go over the top.
I could give you plenty of theological and personal reasons why.  And we could even debate it, polarizing people into two camps, with one side using workds like shallowness, compromise, and the other side saying “we need to do whatever it takes to reach people.”  But I won’t go there.  You probably already have your opinion anyway.  Besides, this is not about you - it's a positional statement about PCC. 
However, what I will share with you is this:  it is simply a poor strategy.  That’s one of the biggest reasons we don’t do big productions at PCC.  Despite the large numbers that are often attracted by these events, it is a strategy that does not work.  In fact, it is even counter-productive.  Here’s why:
1.  It is exhausting for church workers, volunteers, staff, and their families.  It burns everyone out.  You spend all month long in choir practice – two or three nights a week – in the evenings after work – and away from your family.    There’s rehersal for the drama.  There are costumes to buy, fit, and alter.  The men in the church have to construct a stage design on the platform.  They haul in lumber, nails, and tools.  They work just as many hours in the evenings as everyone else.  The pastor and staff are coordianting schedules and trying to stay on budget.  Everyone’s nerves run thin.  You’re irritating each other.  The stress level increases and frustration mounts.  And by the time the production date comes rolling around, all joy is lost.  People are sick of it all and can’t wait for it to “just be over.”
2.  It costs too much money, and the expense is hard to justify.  Do you have any idea how much it costs to pull off events like that?  Most don’t.  In big churches, it can easily top $50,000 to $100,000.  Can you imagine?  Even in smaller or mid-sized churches, the expense is still very high (in proportion to the budget).  While PCC does not have a large budget, any expense on such an event would be a strain and unjustifiable.  Are we really reaching anyone with these events?  Besides, do you want your tithe money to be used to “rent a donkey” for the day?  Or a helicopter?  I think there's a better way to use the Lord's treasury. 
3.  It’s bait-and-switch evangelism that does not work.  If fails miserably because it is not sustainable.  It is a known fact that whatever conditions you create to reach people, those are the conditions you have to maintain to keep people.  If you win people with rock-and-roll concerts, free pizza nights, camel rides, Disney-level productions, Cantatas, singing Christmas trees, etc, you have to keep doing those things to keep them.  This is not sustainable - in manpower or resources.  Besides, people who show up for an Easter carnival are usually not interested in hearing the gospel anyway.  Yet, if you reach people "with the gospel"… in a God-honoring worship service… where Jesus is exalted, and His Word it taught without fear or favor… then you are actually making disciples.  For them, the Word is enough.

4.  Sunday is supposed to be a day of REST.  This doesn't need any elaboration, does it?
Tomorrow at PCC, we will simply be ourselves – messed up and trying to do our best to follow God.  We will offer the best Sunday worship service possible – just like we always do.  There will be exceptional music, solid teaching from God’s Word, warm fellowship, good times, and, hopefully, lives will be changed as people cross the line of faith.
It will be a meat-and-potatoes service – just like the other 51 Sundays of the year.
And if your guest comes back the next Sunday, he/she will not have experienced a bait-and-switch.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming

Did you know that without the recurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity would collapse?  It is the very bedrock of the Christian faith.  The apotle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15...

  • If the resurrection did not happen, our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins (v.17), and,
  • If our hope in Christ pertains only to this life, we are of all men most miserable and to be pitied (v.19)
This Sunday's message is entitled, "What If There is No Resurrection?  It's going to be a good talk.  For the believer, it will affirm this truth we hold dear.  For unbelievers in the service, it will be enlightening.  Plus, there will be a strong emphasis to believe and receive Christ.

Have you invited anyone to be with you in service this Sunday?  Easter is one of the two easiest days of the year to invite someone to church.  Who will you invite?  It just might change their life.

What the video below.  Wow!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Giving Kiosk

More and more people in the PCC family have been asking us about offering more options for donations.  Currently we receive an offering on Sunday mornings (which is the traditional method), and offer an online option through our church’s website.

In an effort to serve our church family better, we are considering offering a third option – a giving kiosk, that would be set up in the atrium.  It’s a convenient way to tithe and contribute.  Plus, it’s easy to use – much easier than our web site.

There are a number of reasons why a giving kiosk makes sense. 

First of all, most people do not carry cash or checkbooks any more, relying instead on electronic transactions.  Paper currency is almost a thing of the past – as are paper checks – but everyone carries their bank card. It makes perfect sense to utilize the same technology that everyone is already using.

Second, it’s simpler. 

Third, you can make contributions any time – before the service, after service, or sometime during the week, instead of having to rely upon a five minute widow during service using an tithing envelope.

Fourth, it saves time on “book work.”  A lot of time is required for counting, posting, logging in, and depositing the Sunday collection.  Every dollar that is given in the Sunday collection is documented.  It’s the law.  In light of this, the giving kiosk could be an invaluable tool.  Not only is it convenient, but once the electronic transaction is completed, each party has a record of the transaction.  Time saved in the manual process is worth considering.

Q & A

What is a kiosk?  It’s like an ATM, except it does not contain any cash.  It's merely a card swipe machine... much like you use when you go to the store.

Doesn’t a giving Kiosk (or online giving for that matter) remove the worship aspect of giving?  Worship is a matter of the heart, not methodology.  2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that each man should give what he has purposed in his heart… for God loves a cheerful giver.  God is more concerned with your generosity than how you bring the gift back to Him.

Can I still give the traditional way?  Yes.  We will have three options of giving:  Drop it in the bag, online at, or swipe your bank card at the Kiosk.

Doesn’t PCC teach against the reckless use of credit cards and unsecured debt?  Yes we do.  Credit card abuse leads to all sorts of trouble for some people.  If you are carrying heavy credit card debt, please do not use a credit card for your giving.  The giving kiosk will accept debit cards for those who struggle with credit card debt.  However, we also recognize there are some people who are very disciplined in the use of credit cards  – they use their credit cards and pay off the balance each month – which makes them God-honoring stewards of God’s blessings.

Is there a transaction fee?  There is no charge to the donor for using a kiosk.

Is the kiosk secure?  Yes.

Why are you considering using the kiosk option?  It’s simply another way to give.  Like banks, retail businesses, and other organizations who accept bank cards, checks, cash, or electronic transactions, we’ve chosen to provide our people with the same options when it comes to giving to their church.


I am pro-deacon. That is, “Biblical” deacon. I'm one hundred percent for these godly men who will stand with their pastor, who love the Lord, serve God's people, and are always on guard for any thing (or person) who threatens unity in the Body of Christ.

The pastor who has such men surrounding him is one blessed dude, I'll tell you that.

On the other hand...

I am “anti” the deacon who wants to control the church, micro-manage the pastor, run the business of the congregation, and push his own agenda. The Lord Jesus Christ is dishonored by such little despots, and churches have been hindered by them long enough.

Why, I wonder, do some people want to take the mantle of a servant (diakonos, which is the Greek word for deacon, and it means servant) and use the office to bully others or run the church?

A deacon is a servant.  A good deacon is a treasureEvery pastor and church wants men and women who have a heart to serve.  What they do not want is a little cluster of ingrown power-brokers who protect their turf, and see their status as recognition of their importance, and elevate their decisions as law for the pastor and congregation.

In a trustees meeting several years ago, a shriveled up nay-sayer waved his hands wildly in the air and waxed eloquent as he said, “The Bible says that deacons and trustees are supposed to run the business of the church.”

I said, “Show me that in the Bible.”

He couldn’t.  Do you know why?  It’s not in the Bible.  That’s why.

No church needs a small group of men who see themselves as something special, who draw lines in the sand defining their elite status tighter and tighter (by ignoring the Scriptures and writing up their own job description).

No pastor needs that.

What a pastor needs is helpersPastors need friends, encouragers, workers, partners, and brethren in Christ.  What they do not need is obstacles, barriers, and opposition to overcome in doing their work.  What pastors do not need is a little group who set themselves up as a corporate board of directors for the church and expect their word to carry great weight for everyone else.  The church needs workmen; not dead weight.  What churches need is godly and mature encouragers; what they do not need is a debate squad that fights among themselves over every issue.  The church needs sweet-spirited laymen to bless and encourage the ministers; what they do not need is a group of men who boss the pastor and staff around like children.

When a group of deacons morph into power-brokers, intent on ruling the church, I suggest they be rejected and removed.  Find servants instead.  No one has to ordain or elect a servant.  They simply serve.  That’s what makes them deacons.

I have two sons.  I would love for them to be deacons in a church.  Biblical deacons, that is.  Not these corporate monsters that have been created by American religion, using a system borrowed from our federal government.  Such a model is not even Biblical!

Here’s what I would like to see them as:

1.  They would always be men of God, first and foremost.
2.  They would love and support their pastor, wherever they decided to attend church.
3.  They would pray for their pastor and the church staff.
4.  They would minister to others whether they were officially designated as deacons or not.
5.  They would serve quietly, not drawing attention to themselves.  This is a mark of maturity.
6.  They are tithers, witnesses, and encourager's.
7.  In time, younger men would see them as examples to follow.
8.  In time, my grandsons would become deacons too…. servants in the church.

To have deacons, here’s how it is to be done.  You organize a group of servant-minded Christians and put them in charge of any gap in the church’s ministries.

That was the case in Acts 6, when one group in the congregation was being neglected in the distribution of food.  Once the apostles got wind of the situation, they chose seven men who could oversee that ministry.  After all, the apostles pointed out, “It’s not expedient that we neglect the Word of God and prayer to serve tables.”

Nothing magnifies the ministry of a pastor better than when the membership relieves him of certain tasks so that he can do what he is called to do.

Here are more Biblical facts about deacons:

1.  There are only two places in the Bible where deacons are mentioned in any depth.  I Timothy 3 gives the qualifications of deacons, and Acts 6 tells of the one instance of their selection and the role they had.

2.  Nowhere in the Scripture are churches “commanded” to have deacons.

3.  Nowhere in the Scripture are we specifically told that God “calls” deacons.  Rather, they are selected and appointed by the apostles or overseers in the church.

4.  In Acts 6:1-7, the deacons are completely under the authority of the ministers. In I Timothy 3, the role and authority of ministers and deacons is clearly defined as well.

5.  Deacons served as assistants to the apostles, and later, to the ministers of the church. They were not called to supervise pastors, but to serve as extensions of pastoral ministry by ministering to needs within the congregation.

I’m glad to say that PCC is full of such gifted men and women.  These people have the genuine heart of a servant and sacrificially serve wherever needed.  They have the pastors back.  They protect the unity of our church.  They work and serve quietly.    They fill dozens of gaps in our ministry.

Is it any wonder that our church is as great as it is?  No, it’s not. 

I haven’t counted lately, but my best guess is that we have dozens of such people.  This much I do know:  we have approximately 150 people who make this church run on a weekly basis.  Plus, I have an inner circle of men who are a real asset to me.

I’m one fortunate pastor.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Single-Issue Voters

Some people can get so focused or obsessed about certain issues that they lose objectivity.  There's a single issue that they are so passionate about that it becomes the main issue for them in any church they attend; often exceeding everything else the church is accomplishing.   Some of the common questions I encounter from single-issue voters are:  “What version of the Bible do you use?” or “What do you believe about eschatology?” or “Why don’t you have Sunday School?” or “Who's in charge?” or “What’s the role of women in this church?” or “What kind of music do you play?

Or it might be objections to Christmas trees, Halloween, or the Easter Bunny.  It might twirling in the isles or people exercising their glossolalia in the service.  Their hot-button issue might be majority rule, a pet doctrine, personal convictions, or the King James Version only.  Whatever.  The check-list is endless.

It doesn’t matter how much kingdom work a church might actually accomplishing, the only thing important to them is their personal hot-button issue.  They are single-issue voters.

Case in point:  A few years back a man and his family left our church because I would not teach a specific doctrine he liked.  It was a denominational doctrine of his previous church.  I said, "Look at what we are accomplishing here.  People are being saved, baptized, and discipled.  Groups and classes are flourishing.  Community it taking place.  I go through the Bible verse-by-verse and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.  People are growing in knowledge of the Word.  Lay-ministry is flourishing all over the place.  The gospel is preached, Jesus is lifted up, and God is being honored by our fruitfulness... And it's all taking place without teaching that specific doctrine of yours." 

But it didn't matter.  The only thing that mattered to him was this single issue of his.  So he and his family left PCC and ended up in a nondescript little church that was filled with all sorts of trouble and was accomplishing little or nothing for the kingdom.

There's nothing wrong with feeling strongly about certain issues related to the Christian life, but when those feelings exceed our passion for the gospel itself, kingdom advancement, and other believers in the Body, something is wrong.

If he wanted to beleive that doctrine, fine, but it didn't have to be grounds to dis-fellowship himself from the PCC Body of believers.  He walked away from 400 people because I (an individual person) would not do a single thing for him.  His departure (under those circumstances) spoke more about HIS immaturity than it did that something might be wrong at PCC.

That same scenario has been repeated to me hundreds of times over... and for reasons as varied as the people who have opinions.  There's no end to it.  People have left PCC because we don't have a banner ministry... a dancing ministry... Christian concerts... fund raisers... cake walks... the same government as their last church... the same methods as their last church... gospel sings... Sunday School... Valentine Banquets... blood drives... Sunday night services.... revival meetings... add infinitium.  And much to my surprise, these issues often arise from people who have taken our 101 Seminar - in which we clearly explain our church's mission, statements, strategy, and structure - and they have signed our membership covenant saying they are in agreement with PCC's philosophy. 

My only recourse has been to stand up to these single-issue voters and keep the main thing the main thing.

Thankfully, most people who authentically commit to PCC are more interested in what's good for the whole church, rather than a personal agenda.  Their focus is on broader issues like our vision, our mission, the role of prayer in our church, the importance of reaching the lost, the integrity of our leaders, our view of Scripture, how many people we have baptized, and a dozen other matters that are actually related to the Great Commission.  To them, kingdom advancement is more important than knit-picking.

I just love it when people say, “Pastor, tell me about your vision,” or “Tell me about your church”, or ask  What's the mission of this church?  Questions such as these reveal that a person is actually interested in finding about who we are and what we are doing.  This is something I enjoy immensely because it gives me the opportunity to enthusiastically share all the good things happening at PCC.

These are the kinds of people who usually end up as key players in our church family.  They buy-in, serve, give, pray, give, sweep the floors, follow their leaders, lead teams, and take care of the babies in the nursery when nobody else will.  They teach classes, mow the grass, trim the hedges, clean flowerbeds, serve Communion, clean the building, and get under the heavy end of the log when needed. They drape a towell over their arm to serve.

And they often end up in positions of authority.

Not so with single-issue voters.  Their single-issue emphasis is a deal breaker.

Real kingdom work is actually being accomplished here.  People are being saved, baptized, discipled, changed by God’s power, and marriages are being put back together. Teenagers are on fire for God. Children are being instructed and grounded in God’s Word.  Volunteerism is at an all-time high.  Currently, we have about 150 volunteers serving at PCC in a variety of roles with varying degrees of authority.  Our Sunday services have never been better.  Plus, new ministry teams have been formed since the beginning of the year... and their enthusiasm is off-the-chart!  All of this adds up to a dramatic demonstration of what the power of God is truly accomplishing in our midst.  At this very moment, we have the right people for the current season we are in - they are a good team fit.

I truly believe that 2013 is going to be a bust-out year for us.  Just watch.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The American Flag and Churches

Maybe you've noticed. Maybe you haven't. PCC does not have an American flag on the platform. We don't have one in the building. We don't even have a Christian flag.

I've only been asked why 2 or 3 times in our fifteen years, each time by a visitor from another church where flags were on display.  No one from PCC has ever asked me.  I suppose it's just not that big of a deal.  However there are reasons behind the decision.

Before I give the reasons why – let me say this clearly: I am a proud American. I am patriotic. I'm a law abiding citizen. My family has a long history of military service. I have served my country in the U.S. Army, and was deployed overseas twice. If called to serve in war, I would do my duty. I am one of those who stands to my feet when the National Anthem is played, and I still believe in the Pledge of Allegiance. For all our faults, I would not want to live in any other county.

Okay. Point made. Nuff said.

1. The first reason we do not have an American flag on the platform is that our church services have a single focus – we have gathered to worship God, not admire our country. As good as patriotism is, it does not have equal standing with worship. Frankly, many people confuse the two, or mesh them together as one.

American flags were first displayed in church by Catholics. About 150 years ago, Catholics were accused of being more loyal to the Pope than to our country, so they began displaying American flags to prove they could be loyal to both. Two world wars later and protestant churches who sponsored Boy Scout troops increased the popularity of displaying the flag from platforms. Now, some churches simply go over the top with patriotic themes in their services.

2. Our church has members from other countries who are not American citizens. Why on earth would we subject them to patriotic songs or themes? They would automatically be excluded from worship. How would you like to be in Iran, fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord, when they begin singing about the glories of their country or parading their national flag in the service? Would you be comfortable with that?  Would it create unity or division in the Body?

3. Jesus does not salute the American flag or pledge an allegiance to it. We are not His favorite country, and believe it or not, some of our national policies are abhorrent to Him. Blending worship with patriotism is to be “unequally yoked” with the world.

4.  The MAIN reason we do not have an American flag on the platform is because of the law.... and it's conflict with Holy Scripture.

According to Section 175k of the U.S. Flag Code, “When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America SHOULD HOLD THE POSITION OF SUPERIOR PROMINENCE, in advance of the audience and in the position honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience.”

This presents two problems in a church meeting:

  • First, if a stage has an American flag and a Christian flag – the Christian flag, BY LAW, must be in a subservient position. I am not an American first and a Christian second. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost.
By the way, the only time a Christian flag can be displayed "above" an American flag is on a Navy ship during a chapel service. Other than that time - the Christian flag MUST fly below the American flag.

  • Second, even if the American flag is the only one on the platform, it is required by law to hold a position of greatest honor.  That presents both a theological problem and an issue of conscience.  The Bible tells us that God has exalted His Name and His Word above all things (Psalms 138:2), and that Christ should have preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18). I don't think we should exalt ANYTHING except Jesus Christ and the Word in a worship service.  It's one thing to exalt the flag at a sporting event, public ceremony, military or civic events, but not at a worship service that is specifically dedicated to worship God, to teach His law, and introduce people to Him.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - March 24, 2013 (Palm Sunday)

Solid day.  Were you at PCC today? What a service we had.

The theme of the service was Palm Sunday & Holy Week. We focused on Christ's passion and sufferings during the last days of His life. We ended the service by receiving Communion together.

Very, very powerful.

For the record, today was PCC's fifteen year anniversary. We held our first public service on Palm Sunday 1998. We've had a long journey together – with steady kingdom impact. Very thankful to God.

Most new church plants fail within five years – and we were pretty close to extinction ourselves in those first five years, but after fifteen years I can say we're here to stay.

I thought of mentioning it today in service, but now I'm glad I didn't... our focus was clearly on Jesus Christ and nothing else.

The ushers did an exceptional job of preparing the elements for Communion and serving our congregation. They really make things happen and I'm very glad for their contribution. They serve honorably.

After church we had a family dinner at my home. It was a very good time together. Then this evening Renae and I spent time with friends in their home. It's what Sunday's are for: Good church... worship... food... family... and fellowship.

I would write more, but it's 9:00 p.m. and I haven't slowed down all day. It's time to call it a day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Five

1.  This Sunday we are receiving Communion.  It’s Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week – a week designed to focus our attention on the “passion” or sufferings of Christ.  I'll give a breif talk (10-15 minutes) about the final four days of Jesus' life before we receive the bread and wine.  You can experience Christ in the elements.  This service is going to be powerful and memorable.

2.  Margin.   It’s the new watchword for my life.  I need it for mental heath, balance, and rejuvenation.  And it’s working.

3.  The series on first Timothy – Doing Church God’s Way – was one of the most important message series I have ever taught at PCC – not that it appealed to most people, because it didn’t.  Rather, it was solid instruction for our church.  It firmly established – with Biblical authority – rather than the traditions of man – how churches are to be led and what the role of each person is.  This series is going to have strong implications for the future of PCC too.

The message titles were:
What’s a Pastor to Do?
God’s Answer for My Guilt
Instructions for Worship
A Checklist for Church Leaders
Command and Teach These Things
Family Matters
Restoring Biblical Leadership
Good Employees, Bad Teachers, Contentment, & the Love of Money
Clear Commands for Godliness

4.  The Word of God should govern churches – rather than denominational traditions.  Those kinds of traditions are nothing more than the hardened lava of men’s ideas that has flowed down from Mt. Opinion and became solidified over time… and, in some people’s minds, has the same status as Holy Scripture.  Good grief. 

5.  I took two days off this week – being Spring Break – and spent a great deal of time in my garden.  Really enjoyed it.   

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is a Pastor Supposed to Do?

Of all the vocations one might enter, pastoral ministry has to be the most confusing.

For the person who finishes medical school, hanging out a shingle and practicing medicine is the next logical step.   The details of practicing medicine can be complicated, but the mission remains clear.  Everyone knows what a doctor is supposed to do:  treat patients and make them healthy.

The same is true of an attorney.  Once law school is completed and the bar exam is passed, the lawyer uses his/her know-how to advise and represent clients in legal matters.  The same is true for a CPA – so forth and so on.

The job profile of a minister, however, is not so clear cut.  To enter the ministry is to step into an environment of high and lofty expectations, most of which are ambiguous – meaning there is more than one interpretation for the role of a pastor.

For example, consider the expectations that many church members often have of their pastors.  I have heard stories about people expecting their pastor to talk to them late in the night when they can’t sleep, come over and mow their lawn, fix their car, visit them at the dentist, and pick up their children from school.

The typical pastor is expected to wear too many hats: he must be a therapist, marriage counselor, spiritual advisor, scholar, teacher, .... a healer, administrator, accountant, fund-raiser, friend of children, preacher, church leader, community activist, hospital Chaplin, wedding planner, funeral director, baby dedicator, and house-blesser.

But it doesn’t end there; he should also conduct religious services, plan and lead special services, make house calls, show up at recitals, be on call seven days a week, and work on holidays – including Christmas Eve, Easter, and Thanksgiving.  Pastors must have perfect marriages with exceptional kids.  Finally, they must live in homes that are acceptable to public opinion and drive automobiles that are not too expensive.

And then there is the whole realm of theology that pastors have to cover for.  i.e., There are so many denominations, doctrines, interpretations, books, article, and alleged spiritual authorities out there with all sorts of perspectives related to the Christian life... and the pastor is supposed to be an expert on all of them.  He is also expected to be an expert on all the latest theological trends.... a walking encyclopedia of Biblical knowledge… a flawless public speaker… an academic thinker.... a consummate politician who strives for majority consensus... and an inspiring executive leader… all with the heart of a shepherd who is willing to hold hands with the skill of Mr. Rogers himself.

Then there are the expectations of church transferees.  When people transfer from one church to another church, they often arrive at the new church with certain expectations based upon their experiences in their last church.  i.e., They have notions about how the church should be run… its form of government… the role of the pastor…. who has authority...  the methods ministry…  the ministries that should be offered… certain practices.. style… flavor… or what the worship services are supposed to look like.

Everybody has their “thing” that they would like to see their new church doing.  They want their thing to become the church’s thing.  And in a church of 400 people there will be close to 400 opinions that the pastor is expected to entertain, embrace, support, or promote.  But guess what?  There is no church that can do everybody’s thing.  So you have to keep the main thing the main thing

With so many hats to wear, so many shoes to fill, so many expectations to meet, and roles to play… a pastor can get on a squirrel cage of activity… of being a people pleaser… and forget why he entered the ministry in the first place.  It's one of the reasons pastors end up bitter and spent.

So what is a pastor to do?  It’s not so clear cut as the job description of other vocations?

Fortunately, the HS inspired the apostle Paul to write a letter to Timothy, a young pastor, so that he –  and pastors today – would know for certain what God expects of them rather than catering to the masses. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Potatoes Up!

Planted these potatoes four weeks ago.  See here

Below is a picture taken today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Five

1. This Sunday we conclude the series based on I Timothy – Doing Church God's Way. The final message is entitled: Clear Commands for Godliness. We're really going to go out with a bang!

2. Communion will be received Next Sunday. Can't wait.

3. Bi-vocational. I've been in the ministry for 30+ years and most of that time has been bi-vocational. Of the 15 years I've pastored PCC I was bi-vocational for 9 of those years, working two business that I owned (as a sole proprietorship). It was very hard, but also very rewarding. I’m thinking about returning to a bi-vocational role again. I will reveal the reasons why on Monday.

4. Me and Renae are ready to enter the next chapter of our lives. The kids are grown, our house is empty, and we're reconnecting with each other as we look to the future. We have plans. We are very excited.

5.  We thank God for the non-demanding people of our remarkable church family.

Monday, March 11, 2013

When I Stopped Trying to Have a Bigger Church

No one wants to be used. No one invites their friends to church to help the pastor fulfill his dream. No one invites their friends to church to prop up one of the programs. No one invites their friends to church to just to build a bigger church. Most people come to church because they are on a journey of their own - they are focused on their own needs, brokenness, or spiritual lives.

Once I gave up the dream of pastoring a bigger church and stopped striving to make it happen, I found myself enjoying the ministry again and truly loving people. It changed everything. Ironically, once I began focusing on the people I had, rather than the ones I wanted to reach, they started bringing their friends to church to get the same kind of help.... and we ended up with a good sized church anyway.

The care, warmth, and support that is experienced by our member’s leads to conversations outside to the church with irreligious people, who then are invited to PCC.

It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

Sunday Mind Dump & Some Personal 411

Sunday's service was a good day. The music was good, and I especially liked the last song in the song-set.

The men's quartette did a good job for the offertory too. Love those oldies. A lot of people rubber-neck during that part of the service.

The morning message was about the theology of WORK (which is a part of God's creative design for us), learning to be content, and the ruin of the love of money.

Very solid stuff.

Not a lot of “amen's” - rather, a lot of silence. I guess people were reflecting.

I could feel the presence of God all through the service. It was like getting an oil change.

As I reflect on the fifteen years of PCC, some of my favorite times were when we were meeting in Freedom Hall at Pace High School. We had a couple of hundred people in attendance, not a lot of technology (we were brown-bagging it most of the time), and it was just raw fun.

Although we are well-established, we still have the same family/fellowship vibe. The main difference is a lot of overheard (i.e., a building and 25 acre campus) - just more zeros.

I experience as much (or more) community and fellowship at PCC right now as I ever have. The energy and family feel is just just insane.

It's truly an odd mix of people at PCC – there really is a brotherhood.

For years I thought it was important that our church offer multiple church events, meetings, classes, and groups throughout the week. Nowadays, most of us now prefer family time more than anything else. I love the fellowship, community, and family time that is taking place in our church now that we offer only one service... and a limited calendar.

The biggest compliment I’ve been given recently came from a relative newcomer to PCC. He asked, “How is it that everyone seems to be so close when you don’t have Sunday School classes or a structured small groups ministry? “Because we’ve given them the time to fellowship on their own” I replied.

PERSONAL: Today is day 35 (five weeks) of my intermittent fasting. I'm hanging with it. (i.e, Twenty hours of fasting each day, and eating only during a four-hour window). It's working.

I spent a good part of today in the yard repairing six broken water pipes on my sprinkler system that I damaged last Saturday. Not fun. At least I didn't have to hire someone to do it for me – I'm pretty much a handy-man around the house.

QUESTION: At what point do we legally stop allowing celebrities to name their own children? Faw-Qanna-Niquita? Are you serious?

DEAR LADIES: Don't date dudes who don't like Duck Dynasty. Just saying.

GARDEN: Since it is going to be cool this week (at night) I am going to wait one more week (maybe two) to plant tomatoes, pepper, squash, cucumber, and field peas. The soil has to be warm for these plants to grow.

Currently I have potatoes, onion, and garlic planted.

My blueberry bushes are in bloom. I've planted 25 of them... and they should produce more than enough. We really look forward to inviting people over to help pick... for free.

I've also established a row of grapes (muscadines) that is 100 feet long. In the next week or so I will be finishing the trellis for the vines to grow on. I've anchored the end-posts in concrete, now I have to stretch the cable between them and train the vines upward. This is for my vineyard... and winery :-)

Also have two pear trees (Keifer and Ayres) to plant.

I also have two lime trees and one lemon tree for a citrus harvest, but I'm about to give up on them. They are not very cold tolerant. It's a bummer to nurture them for three/four years, only to have the cold damage them.

WORK: It was insane at the office last week.

This Sunday will be the last message in the current series on I Timothy. The following Sunday we will be receiving Communion – which is Palm Sunday.

PERSONAL: I'm getting my boat ready for fishing. Haven't had it in the water since October... and now I'm getting the fervor! Had to buy a new battery charger (about $140.00).

BOAT – Break Out Another Thousand

Renae and I have an out-of-town fishing trip planned in May. Can't wait.

Before then, I'm going to be doing some serious fishing in local waters.... beginning next week.

HOME FRONT: On the home front things are as good right now as they have been in years. Very encouraged. We've never lost faith, given up, or stopped striving to do 'our part' while continuing to trust God to do His part, recognizing that those we intercede for posses a free will.

PREACHING & TEACHING: If you can get someone to laugh, you might get them to listen. That's why I use humor... without becoming frivolous or irreverent. If you are pious all the time, you appear to be 'stuffy.' BTW, Jesus used hyperboles often.

The Sunday after Easter will launch a new sermon series based on the book of James. At least two others will be assisting me (team-teaching). It's going to be refreshing to hear other voices.

This is only the beginning. I have two others identified as potential teachers for the Sunday morning services at PCC.

I wrote about this last year... and the plan has been in motion since then.

Sharing the pulpit (Part 1)

Sharing the pulpit (Part 2)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

You'd Think I'd Learn.....

I've been doing a little tilling in my yard, getting it ready for sod or grass seed,  I busted three sprinkler heads and two water pipes.... just like I did two years ago.

Last Sunday Lunch

Great meal... great friends... great hosptiality.  It's what Sunday's are for!

Friday, March 8, 2013

This Sunday....

1.  Time Change this weekend.  Set your clock FORWARD one hour Saturday night.

2.  Message title:  "Good Employees, Bad Teachers, Contentment, and the Love of Money" from I Timothy 6.