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10 most helpful comments as a pastor

September 8, 2016


Several weeks ago, I published “10 most painful comments as a pastor” and said I would follow up with “10 most helpful comments as a pastor.” After 10 years of full-time ordained ministry, I can say that I’ve been encouraged by some incredible people.

With pastor appreciation month coming up here in October, it’s important to realize that clergy need lifting up. As people who work serving others, the calling pastoral ministry requires long hours, late nights, and weekends. It can be exhausting work. As I wrote in my book,  The Work of the Associate Pastorclergy need to be affirmed and thanked for their service. Helpful comments or information on behalf of lay people are found from a source of love and not from frustration:

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6 restorative practices for well-being

March 12, 2014


Leaders constantly give of themselves to those who serve. How can they recharge? Where can they find restorative practices for ministry that build up our well-being?

Today I’m attending the Lewis Fellows alumni gathering at Wesley Theological Seminary and we are engaging in reflecting and reviewing our role as young leaders in the church. This morning, Dr. Matt Bloom led us pastors in examining our well-being. Dr. Bloom and his team surveyed over 1,000 pastors in 8 different denominations in an attempt to learn:

  1. The characteristics of clergy well-being.
  2. What factors or impede well-being?
  3. How well-being changes over a life-span.

Dr. Bloom presented the following guidance for “recharging” our batteries for well-being:

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blog, Churches

Church gun giveaways send wrong message

March 8, 2014

A local church in Troy, NY is promoting a gun giveaway and its not the first church to do so. Churches in Texas and Kentucky have offered gun giveaways.

The practice of a church gun giveaway sends the wrong message.  Is it wrong because it is illegal to own a gun? No. Is it wrong because it is immoral to own a gun? No.

The apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Corinth,

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

It may be lawful for a church to have a AR-15 gun giveaway, but it is not profitable to Christianity. To some, having more guns means more safety. However, studies show no strong empirical evidence to support this. For instance, in the only peer review published study on gun related deaths, the Annals of Emergency Medicine reported:

“…on a case-controlled study in which household were matched on a number of demographic factors, and then incidences of gun violence were compared.  They found that people who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide.”

In 2004, American Journal of Epidemiology published a study that found:

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Churches, Guns

Guns in churches: help or hinder?

January 30, 2013

The first time I was confronted with the idea of a gun being in a church was when I visited The Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, KS.  I walked into the church and I saw a small sign on the window. The sign had a picture of a gun surrounded with a red circle and a red line going through the gun. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, do they have a gun problem here? In the ‘burbs?”

With gun legislation on the President Obama’s agenda and the National Rifle Association fighting against more gun restrictions, it seems every organization in our culture is thinking about guns. That includes churches. Many states, mostly in the Mid-West and the South, have laws protecting a gun owner’s right to carry a concealed weapon in a house of worship. Arkansas’s Senate just approved a bill that will allow handguns in churches and North Dakota is eying a similar bill.

With Sandy Hook still fresh on our minds, a number of politicians have come up with ideas on how to solve the problem of mass shootings in schools. In the same vein, church leaders are considering how we can better protect churches. Evacuation plans, lock down procedures, and child protection are all issues that pastors and lay leaders are looking at.  But, should a plan include guns?

Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was interview about his state’s bill on guns in churches. He said:

“I can’t imagine the need to bring a gun into a church. I just think that’s unnecessary, and I think it sends a terrible message… Religion can be an emotional thing in people’s lives. I would hate to see guns present when people’s emotions are running high.”

The American Baptist Home Mission Society recently called for “common sense” approaches to solving gun violence and issued this statement:

Firearms are a part of the history and fabric of our nation… The Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual right to “keep and bear arms,” while also making it clear that this right is “not unlimited.”1 Nor should it be. The liberties we enjoy are often in tension with one another and no right should be so broadly construed as to undermine the ability of the broader community to maintain order and the peace necessary for human life and flourishing.

Does allowing a gun in a church conflict with this idea of maintaining “order and the peace”? This is the tension that the above statement addresses. Perhaps instead of coming out and making a statement, I’m pondering these questions:

  • Do we feel more safe with guns in church? Or does it make us more fearful?
  • Does a weapon belong in God’s house of prayer?
  • Does the need to carry a weapon in church send the wrong message to those affected by violence?
  • If we call our places of worship “sanctuaries”, do guns follow the concept of having a religious place of refuge and protection?

What is your response to guns in churches? Read. Respond. Render.

Churches, Millennials

Church giving increases, but hurts Millennials

March 30, 2012

As the economy rebounds it appears that contributions to churches are increasing as well.   According to 4th annual “State of the Plate” survey , 51% of churches last year saw an increase in church giving, up from 43% in 2010 and 36% in 2009. That should make all churches rejoice. However, if you look deeper into this report, we see that we shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

This study shows increase support of churches, but concerns arise from which churches see an increase in giving:

The increase seen in 2011 was most noticeable in the most mega of megachurches: 86 percent of churches with more than 10,000 congregants saw an greatest rise in giving, compared to 39 percent of churches with fewer than 100 people saw an increase.

Still, nearly one-third (32 percent) of churches said giving was down in 2011 — although a smaller share than the 39 percent of churches that reported a decline two years ago, according to the survey.

This means that mega churches, which tend to be populated by affluent Christians, saw a rebound in giving compared to smaller churches, which tend to be populated by less affluent churches goers.  This followers the pattern in our society: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are becoming poorer.  Even in churches, we see an income and giving gap. As the economy rebounded for the more wealthy, the lower-income segment of the population continues to struggle. How can a wealthy mega church continue to pump money into their large buildings and staffs when their neighbors are suffering to survive?

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Why the NYC church ban doesn’t make sense

February 17, 2012

As if we don’t need another church and state battle in the news, New York City churches were granted a 10 day reprieve to continue to meet in public school buildings. An ongoing legal battle for 17 years has some New York City churches at odds with the city government. The New York City Board of Education’s policy states that no permits will be granted “for the purpose of holding religious worship services, or otherwise using a school as a house of worship.” In other words, a church ban. However, NYC does allow community groups, including religious ones, to use its buildings.

The whole “separation of church and state” argument really doesn’t have merit. By allowing churches or religious groups to rent space from schools, that does not constitute an endorsement of religion. If all religions are allowed to rent space, then the freedom is not restricting nor hindering religious practices.  The New York City Department of Education has defended its decision because the city needs to protect the minds of “impressionable youth”.

Of course, the fear is that children will walk into schools and see a cross, hear a sermon, or have to see other religious icons. This is based on anxiety… fear. Simple guidelines can prevent such interactions.  Have churches only meet on weekends when children are not in school. The New York State Legislature recently introduced a bill that sought to allow churches to meet in schools, which some have criticized.

This whole debate doesn’t make sense. Continue Reading…


Reverse Offering as a Spiritual Stimulus

September 26, 2011

Almost every church has some form of an offering or a way for people to give donations. Most churches pass offering plates to congregants while music plays or a soloist sings.  A church in New Jersey is trying a new approach to the offering: a reverse offering where congregants receive money from the church instead of giving.

CNN reports on a  Morristown, New Jersey  nondenominational church that collects $30,000 in weekly offerings from three church locations. About 2,000 people  its services and plans to give about that same amount – $30,000 . Attendees receive envelopes containing $10, $20 and $50 bills.

The idea of this reverse offering came from the church’s pastor Tim Lucas of the Liquid Church:

People are cynical about religion and expect to come to church and be shaken down, but really, it’s all God’s money. Every bill in the U.S. economy says ‘In God we trust,’ and we’re going to put that to the test. We’re not a rich church. We don’t own a building. We don’t hold a mortgage, but we’re trying to teach our people to be rich in good deeds.

This ‘spiritual stimulus’ package is geared  to encourage people to use the money to help others.  New Jersey experienced crippling flooding recently because of Hurricane Irene.  Also, the church encourages people to invest their funds and then donate the proceeds to the church to rebuild a homeless shelter.

What would you do with a reverse collection? How would you spend the money?

Church Leadership, Churches, mega church, megachurch

Crystal Cathedral: End of Mega Church Era?

July 8, 2011

The reports out of Orange County, California have not been encouraging for the once mighty Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller founded the church and recently retired as the church’s senior pastor.  In turn, the church never fully recovered from Schuller’s pastoral departure. Though he stayed on the church’s governing board, two of his children took a shot at pastoring the large church. Schuller’s son, Robert became the senior pastor and two years later resigned. Then, Sheila, daughter of the elder Schuller, became senior pastor.  The church then filed for bankruptcy last year with $50 million in debt.

If this was not enough, reports of the the founder, Robert Schuller’s departure from the church’s governing board surfaced last week. However, his position on the board was moved from voting member to “honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus” in order to free him up for more speaking engagements.  Ah huh.

Membership and attendance have fallen since the founding pastor’s departure. Now with the debt issue over the church’s head, a few organizations have considering buying the church. The Catholic Diocese of Orange said it was considering buying the bankrupt church and converting it to a Catholic cathedral.  Chapman University bid $46 million and would allow the church to lease back its core buildings.

With all of these issues surrounding the Crystal Cathedral, the question rolls around in many minds: Can “newly” planted mega churches survive when the founding pastor leaves?

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change, Church Leadership, Churches, Culture

Why 9 in 10 Believe in God but not Church

June 9, 2011


Many in the religious right have been running for the hills because this “godless” nation has become too secular.  The rhetoric of our nation’s direction is flawed by the growth of atheists and secularists is over played.  It seems a recent Gallup study confirmed what has simply is unknown to many: We are still a religious nation.  More than 9 in 10 Americans still say “yes” when asked the basic question “Do you believe in God?” Perhaps even more encouraging is that 84% of 18-29 year-old segment and 94% of 30-49 year-old segment answered in the affirmative.

And this is not a statistical bump, but historically, since 1943, the vast majority of Americans believe in “God”.

godbelieveIt would seem that we are still a religious nation, but obviously church leaders want to know how many of those 90 plus percent are Christian. Logically, many ask the question, “If we are such a God-believing country, then why is church attendance so low?”

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Church of England Attendance Up: What It Means for American Churches

May 16, 2011

Is God still dead in Europe? In the past few decades, report have shown that church attendance and membership are in steep decline in Europe.  However, last year a report confirmed stable church attendance among United Kingdom churches.    Now, the Church of England reports that attendance in cathedrals is up by 7% this year.

Is this just a Royal Wedding bump?

Not likely.  (The Royal Wedding was only a few weeks ago and Westminster Abbey is not a cathedral.) Certainly, excitement around the royal wedding and the televised wedding service could spark some people to get to church Sunday morning. However, it is unlikely the Royal Wedding will encourage a large increase in church attendance.

The Religion News Service reports that Rev. Lynda Barley, head of research and statistics of the Archbishops’ Council, said that non-Sunday church attendance was up 10% in 2010, and “steady growth” in the past decade.

Are traditional churches heading back from the bottom of decline? Continue Reading…


Churches Stop Decline in UK

November 11, 2010

For years we have heard reports and studies tracking how churches are dying and God is slowly “disappearing” from Europe. Personal stories persist too. Despite what Fox News and other news outlets like to spin, there are counter reports that suggest otherwise. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that churches are growing in the face of modernization:

Most scholars used to believe that modernization would extinguish religion in the long run. But that view always had trouble explaining why America, a nation in the vanguard of modernity, is so religious.

One study, by Christian Research, who published a widely-respected Religious Trends survey discovered:

…that Church of England attendance has held steady for the past decade (not including Fresh Expressions), the Catholic Church has held steady for the past five years, and Baptist Union attendance has actually been growing.

Secularism is often also thought to contribute to empty churches and forgotten stories of God’s people. However, it is not an issue concerning if people in the United Kingdom believe in God, it is their participation.  The following graph shows some surprising facts about Christian belief in the UK:

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