Cheeky Saints

Many Christian families and churches dread the end of October as the days draw closer to Halloween.

I spent a good deal of time in Halloween blog post advocating for Christians to reclaim Halloween as Christian celebration. For those of you who follow a lectionary or liturgical calendar, November 4th is All Saints Sunday.  I’m sure that there are Christians trying to make sense of these events for churches.  Seeing Halloween through All Saint’s Day, Christians can remember loved ones and thank God for those who labored as saints of Christianity. There are a number of churches that hold fall festivals, trick or trunk events, or other safe trick or treat events.

Instead of drawing attention to Halloween as our culture does, through scary movies, gory displays, and haunted hay rides, we are going to spend some time honoring our loved ones who passed away on this All Saints Sunday.  We will have a special time of remembrance for our personal ‘saints’ who have passed away. We did this last year in worship and it provided a very meaningful time of reflection.

Historically, All Saints Day was a way for Christians to remember martyrs and saints.  Most protestants are uneasy with using the word “saint” because of Catholic theology and veneration of saints. The New Testament mentions ‘saint’ over 60 times. This Sunday, we will be talking about ‘cheeky saints.’  What is a cheeky saint?

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7 Reasons Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Is celebrating a holiday that honors ghouls, demons, ghosts, and everything that goes bump in the night dangerous or even evil?

Somewhere, in the halls of history, Halloween or All Hallows Eve, got hijacked.  What started as a day to prepare for All Saints’ Day (November 1st), Halloween became a spooky, evil, and candy filled observance.  The term “Halloween” from its beginnings, had nothing to do with any pagan or evil beliefs.  The Christian festival All Hallows Eve morphed into our current term Hallowe’en.

The key in understanding of the origins of the term Halloween comes from the sense of what is “hallowed” or “holy”.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray, “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name…”  In the fourth century, John Chrysostom tells us that the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints who died. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Christians celebrated “All Saints’ Day” formally.

How did Halloween become associated with evil spirits?  When we look at history we discover:

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits… the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks.

If the Christian observance of Halloween began with a religious focus, how can we reclaim Halloween from its current feared status?  Here are 7 ways Christians can take back Halloween:

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The Nature of Pastoral Work

Several bloggers are writing about a paradigm shift in pastoral ministry.  The model of a pastor working 60-80 hours a week is slowly changing and for good reason!  Who can sustain their sanity, a family, and a job at that rate?  Maybe that is why many people think of pastors as male, bald (or have bad hair), look disheveled, and are over weight.  I know of some pastors that are literally killing themselves in their work by being at church four or five nights a week.

Three blog posts are worthy of your attention.  My friend and fellow pastor Elizabeth Hagan recently wrote about “Being Off Duty as a Pastor” on her blog Preacher on the Plaza.  Her piece was picked up by the Associated Baptist Press.  Props to Elizabeth!  Her most pointed comments might come to a surprise to many lay people:

But, as you might imagine, all of this can be quite weighty on a pastor when everyone expects him or her to be at everything. My week, as is the case with almost every pastor I know, is filled with hard choices of what invitations to accept (and don’t take this to mean I don’t want to be invited to things, I consider it an honor and an important part of my work, so I tell my church to keep them coming). If I say “no” to a birthday party or graduation ceremony or even a anniversary dinner, it doesn’t mean I don’t love my congregation.

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Lewis Fellows: Kansas City or Bust

This past week was crazy.  I didn’t have any time to blog or tweet. I traveled to Kansas City, MO with the Lewis Fellows and spent some time with pastors of dynamic churches.  When I returned to New York, I went back to the airport to welcome Gary Long, our retreat speaker.  Saturday the church held our fall retreat on vision – an excellent time.  Sunday was worship.  As you can see, it was a pretty full couple of days.

I want to briefly share with you my Lewis Fellows experience.  Tuesday, October 19 we visited Saint Andrew Christian Church ( and had a conversation with Senior Pastor Rev. Holly McKissick.  Saint Andrew Christian Church is a Disciples of Christ church.  Check out the church below:

As you can see, it looks more like a market than a church.  Such a welcoming property and building.  The church is only 20 years old and Holly is the founding pastor.  Below, Holly is standing and we are meeting in the sanctuary.  I loved this sanctuary.  The building is only about 12 years old.

Holly comes out of the Southern Baptist tradition, but was ordained in the Disciples of Christ church.  The sanctuary is welcoming and seating is structured in a “U”.  Holly’s take on leadership was interesting.  She talked about making mistakes, as all pastors do, but learning from them.  She was honest and candid about her leadership and ministry.

Below is a pic of the cross that hangs in the sanctuary:

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Changing Habits

Recently, I had to make some changes in my eating habits. I started to eat different foods and I didn’t like it.  It made me feel different. I was cranky and unpleasant.  It was almost like feeling withdraw symptoms that people with addiction experience.   Though I didn’t like the way I felt, I knew it was necessary to get to a point of change.

Who is ever successful in those New Year’s resolutions?  We usually stop those resolutions sometime around mid-February.  Why? It’s hard.  It is hard to change those habits that we know are not good for us.Organization consultants talk about change all the time.  Many fear the word “change.”  Why?

Change usually involves three areas of focus.  A recent university study found that  three things (pictured right)are required to make a difference.

The study also found some other information that will shock us (not really):

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A Vision For Chipotle

Man, I love Chipotle.  Goodness wrapped in a burrito.  Chipolte has been very successful creating a niche for their products.  Chipolte started as a humble company, but it quickly grew into a national chain. They have a very simple menu, store, and concept:

“Food with Integrity” is our commitment to always look closer, dig deeper, and work harder to ensure that our actions are making things better, not worse. It’s our promise to run our business in a way that doesn’t exploit animals, people or the environment. It is the philosophy that guides every decision we make at Chipotle.

Chipotle shares a special place in the hearts of poor college students.  For only about $6, you can get something to eat that tastes great and is fresh.  Chipotle has turned this idea into a multi-million dollar business.

Why do some stores or brands fail and other succeed?

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Mainline Churches Deal with ‘No Shows’

A new report this week has left many mainline churches  scratching their heads and wondering why church attendance has dropped.  The four major mainline churches, the Episcopal Church in the USA, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian (PCUSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), have all experienced double digit drops in worship attendance.  What is even more puzzling is that the ELCA has seen an increase in giving in the last 10 years.

Churches increased attendance in the last decade but lost in attendance numbers in this decade. What gives?  The economy?

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World Communion & Mission Sunday

We have an incredible opportunity this Sunday to experience God in new ways at the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa. This Sunday, October 3 is World Communion Sunday.  What is World Communion Sunday? The National Council of Church explains:

The day has taken on new relevancy and depth of meaning in a world where globalization often has undermined peace and justice – and in a time when fear divides the peoples of God’s earth. On this day we celebrate our oneness in Christ, the Prince of Peace, in the midst of the world we are called to serve – a world ever more in need of peacemaking.

Churches from every denomination are taking part in this celebration of oneness in Christ. At FBC, we do communion a little differently this Sunday. We have four stations for communion, representing the four corners of the world, and we invite worshipers to visit one or all of the stations. The communion bread consists of different ethnic breads from around the world.

In addition, we have a special quest preacher from the American Baptist Churches International Ministries:

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Atheists Know More about Religion

In a recent Pew Religious study, atheists scored highest on a  survey asking basic questions regarding religion.  Even more surprising is the fact that some answered questions incorrectly when it came to facts about their own faith. The New York Times reports that on average respondents answered half of the questions incorrectly.

Atheists and agnostics scored the highest out of all respondents.  Jews and Mormons scored the highest out of all religious groups. White Protestant Christians scored in the middle range.

How could Atheists out score all other religious groups in this simple religious test?  It had to be the questions.  The questions were too hard, right?  Well, there were some basic questions like, “Where was Jesus born?” “Whose writings inspired the Protestant Reformation?” “Which Biblical figure led the exodus from Egypt?”  The respondents answered in multiple choice form.

What conclusion can we reach about this study?  Atheists know more about religion?

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A Theology For Planning

A plan for the future is always a challenge, especially when it deals with money. The former CEO, Alan Schwartz of defunct investment bank Bear Stearns was apparently delusional in March 2008 when he stated that things were going fine with the faltering investment bank:

Bear Stearns’s balance sheet, liquidity and capital remain strong… Our liquidity position has not changed at all, our balance sheet has not changed at all…

Less than two days after Schwartz spoke these words, Bear Stearns filed for bankruptcy.

How can someone be so off, delusional, and even dense?  No wonder nobody wants to trust governmental or business leaders these days.  With stuff like this going on, who wants to?  When things are going well or when things are going bad there has to be a plan for the future.

Many of us like to think we have a plan, but do we really have a sound plan for our futures? [Read more...]