Friday, October 28, 2016

The Failure of Short Term Optimism

On September 6, 1965, Admiral James Stockdale’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Viet Nam. The injured Stockdale found himself captured and imprisoned in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was the highest ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in the Viet Nam war.


Stockdale was kept in solitary confinement for four years, placed in irons for two years, denied medical care and malnourished. Despite these terrible conditions, he led an “underground resistance movement” which brought hope and a sense of esprit de corps to his fellow POW’s. Still, many prisoners died under these grueling circumstances. Finally, in 1973, the brave admiral was released, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor is 1976 by President Ford.

 Several years later, author and researcher, Jim Collins, interviewed Stockdale in the campus of Stanford University, and asked the decorated offer how he coped with the demoralizing effects of his imprisonment.

 Stockdale replied, “I never lost faith in the end the end of the story. I never doubted that not only would I get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

 Then, Collins asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”

 "Oh, that’s easy,” Stockdale responded, “The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

 Now, I certainly believe in optimism. The title of my newspaper column, “Positively Speaking”, speaks to that. However, I believe Stockdale was right.

 A misplaced, short term optimism can lead to failure and disillusionment. It’s much better to focus on the long term.

 Some day
 Some way
 I’m going to make it.

 Things may not go as I’ve expected or desired, but I’m not going to let a few temporary setbacks keep me from my ultimate destiny. Rarely, does a person follow a straight path from success to success. Usually, there’s quite a winding road, replete with failures, frustrations, shortcomings, and disappointments.

 The important thing is to keep plugging on, regardless of the short term circumstance. Eventually, you’ll find your way.

 Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.

Contributed by Mark Wilson

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three Sure Ways to Create Conflict

“Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them”                                                                      (Proverbs 20:3 TEV).

Wise people are peacemakers, not troublemakers. Wise people don’t carry a chip on their shoulder. They’re not always looking for a fight, and they don’t intentionally antagonize other people.

The fact is, if you’re around anybody for any length of time, you’ll figure out what that person does that irritates you, and you file that information in the back of your mind as a tool to use when you get in an argument. It becomes a personal “weapon of mass destruction”! When you get in an argument, and that person says something that hurts, offends, or slights you in any way, then you pull out the big gun. You push the hot button. And it works every time!

You know what the Bible calls that? Foolishness! You’re not getting any closer to the resolution. You’re not helping the relationship. In fact, you’re hurting it. It is not wise.

Proverbs 20:3 says, “Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them” (TEV).

We all use tools, tricks of the trade, and skills in relationships that are actually counter productive. They’re hurtful, they’re harmful, and they don’t get you what you want out of relationships. In fact, they get you the exact opposite behavior. But when we lack wisdom, we use them anyway.

There are many of these tools, but here are just a few:

1.   Comparing. Never compare your wife, your husband, your kids, your boss, or anybody else, because everybody’s unique. Comparing antagonizes anger.

2.   Condemning. When you start laying on the guilt in a relationship, all you’re going to do is get the exact opposite of what you expect. It doesn’t work. It’s foolish.

3.   Contradicting. William James, the famous psychologist said, “Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” There’s some stuff you just need to overlook.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:29, “A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes” (TLB). Have you ever said or done anything stupid out of anger? Yes? Because when you get angry, your intelligence goes out the window. When you get angry, you say and do foolish things that are actually self-defeating.

Did you ever think about the fact that there is only one letter difference between “anger” and “danger”? When you get angry, you are in dangerous territory. You are about to hurt others — and yourself — with your own anger.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

As you prayer - What are you counting on?

Tonight we gather for prayer at 7:00pm in the Worship Center of Gastonia First Wesleyan Church.  Here is a little primer for our time together this evening.....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10 Characteristics of Churches that GROW!

I’m sure you’ve heard the startling news that Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway has said, “eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.” 

Depending on the year, the pace of dying churches has been a little more or about the same as the pace of new church plants. And while many of these new churches are seeing growth in reaching people who were unchurched, ground is still being lost. If reality is even remotely close to what Lifeway has claimed, what can be done?

We’re not ones to stay in a place of fear here at Rookie Preacher. Instead, we see it as our mission to give you practical help on how you can be a better preacher and church leader. So, instead of sitting and worrying about the state of the Church in America, let’s begin asking the question, what are growing churches doing differently?


Scripture and experience are clear: God causes true growth to happen. He is the one who grows people deeper in their faith. He is the one who draws people to Himself. He is the one who tills the soil of hearts, making them receptive to His Gospel. He is the one who leads pastors to lead the local church where He desires it to go.

This series has that truth at its core. It also has this truth at its core: God works through people to accomplish His mission, to cast His vision for the future, and to disciple people for His glory. So it is with that tension in mind that we proceed to see the 10 characteristics of churches that grow. The Growing Church Series will consist of 10 separate and highly practical articles on the following characteristics:

1.   Staff Led, Elder Protected Governance Structure 

This will also work if you have a governing board that you don’t call elders. Be sure to read this before you write it off.

2.   Courageous Leaders Who Pray Boldly and Take Bold Action 

Church leaders shouldn’t just be pray-ers, they should be do-ers. And this isn’t about big programs and flashy promotions. This is about the nitty gritty decisions of leadership.

3.   Genuine Heart for the Lost and Desire to Embrace the Mess 

Inward-focused churches are dying churches. Growing churches aren’t just conscious of the lost, they pursue them and are ready to take on the messes of life they may bring.

4.   Engaging, Gospel-Proclaiming Preaching

Many people advocate for shorter sermons. That’s fine, but I think it misses the point. Preaching in growing churches engages people on multiple levels and is a tool to proclaim the good news of Christ.

5.   Children’s Ministry that Kids Don’t Want to Leave

This goes far beyond fun and games, but those are certainly part of it. Imagine kids being in an environment that allows them to understand God’s love for them while being invested in by caring adults who partner with parents to disciple them!

6.   A Clear Path to Guide Guests to Become Regulars 

Please, please, please don’t ask guests to stand during service. That’s a surefire way to make them not come back. Instead, have an incentivized path to help them get connected to the church.

7.   Lay Leader Development and Empowerment 

Equip the Saints. Scripture tells us to do it, but what does this really look like? Leadership development is something we know we need to do, but so many of us are at a loss when it comes to practically doing so.

8.   Intentional Small Group Strategy 

Real Christ-centered life, together. This is what small groups should be about. Instead of just settling with meet once a week and talk about the Bible, we want to give you a real, intentional strategy to make your small group ministry effective.

9.   A Clear Path to Guide Regulars to Become All In Members

In my view, church membership isn’t simply about agreeing with a church’s beliefs and showing up on Sundays. It’s about contributing in ways of service, generosity, and being a part of the mission. We’ll give you a practical path that will allow people to go deeper in their commitment to the local church.

10. Shareable Church Communication that Inspires and Informs

Too many churches do a bad job of communicating past Sunday morning. We can do so much better. We’ll give you practical ways to improve your church communication to make it a source of inspiration and information for your people.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Millennials Won't Build the Kinds of Churches their Parents Built

We can’t treat millennials as a homogeneous group. We have to minister to them as individuals, instead.

Millennials defy categorization. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to categorize them, anyway.

Especially for Baby Boomers like me. We love categorizing people. It makes ministry easier. Simpler. Safer.

You know, boring.

As I wrote in Why Church Leaders Will Never Understand Millennials, the main reason we’re having a hard time figuring out how to minister to this generation is because Millennials aren’t really a thing. We made them up.

Millennials aren’t really a thing. We made them up.

Sure, people exist in the age range born between 1982 and 2004. But the idea that every generation can be defined by a clear set of distinctives doesn’t apply to them the way we’ve become accustomed to.

How We Started Doing Generational Ministry

Baby Boomers were the first generation to be defined as a homogeneous group. First of all, because there really was a baby boom in the decades following World War II. Our arrival also corresponded with the rise of the universal media. Three TV stations (in the US) one or two local newspapers per town (served by two wire services), nationally-read magazines, and a list of Top 40 songs that almost everyone listened to. And we lapped it up!
Boomers loved having these experiences in common. In fact, we got so used to being defined as a group that we looked back at our parents’ generation and called them Builders. And that moniker fit. They had won the war, then the peace, then built the infrastructure of our nations.

But then came the next generation and we didn’t know what to do with them. So we literally put an X on them – and Generation X was born.

What changed that made Gen X so hard to categorize? The universal, one-size-fits-all media landscape was giving way to a multi-dimensional, choice-heavy society. In 1992, Bruce Springsteen sang 57 Channels and Nothing On, and we all wondered how anyone could navigate life with so many options!
Now come the Millennials. With Facebook, YouTube, Netflix and more all literally in the palm of our hands, the idea of limited choices is a thing of the past. It’s every option at all times. Which makes categorizing this generation not just impossible, but foolhardy.

The one-size-fits-all, homogeneous generation is over. But it really only existed for 50 years anyway. From about 1945 to 1995. We don’t have a name for any generation before the Builders because, without mass media, people were identified ethnically and regionally, not generationally.

Millennials are forcing us to minister in a new way. New for us, that is. But it’s really the oldest way of all. We can’t treat them as a group, or even as subgroups. We have to actually minister to them one-on-one as individuals, instead. Oh, the (mock) horror!

What Kinds of Churches Will Millennials Build?

Millennials won't build the kinds of churches their parents and grandparents built. I don’t know what kinds of churches they will build, but they’ll be very different than what we’ve been used to in the last two generations. Here’s why.
Builders and Boomers took relationships for granted and needed to build structures. Millennials take the structures for granted and need to build relationships.

Builders and Boomers took relationships for granted and needed to build structures. Millennials take the structures for granted and need to build relationships.

My parents’ and grandparents’ generations were literally building and rebuilding nations following the war. For the first time, construction companies didn’t just put up houses, they designed and built entire neighborhoods almost overnight. They ran telephone and electricity cables. They constructed freeways. And they erected church buildings in the same way.

For my parents and grandparents, a permanent church building with pews bolted to the floor, a full-time pastor and denominational label meant permanence and status. In those generations, the fastest way to get money out of their pockets was to launch a capital fund building campaign.
Not so for my kids’ generation. Launch a capital building campaign today and you’re likely to be met with blank stares or questions like “why should I give my hard-earned money to help you build a building?”

The High Value of Restoring Broken Relationships

Millennials aren’t wrong to feel that way. And they’re not uncommitted. They just have different needs and see ministry through a different lens.

In addition to giving them permanent physical structures, we also gave them an emotionally impaired, morally ambiguous, relationally impermanent society. This is the generation where divorce and/or parental neglect are virtually assumed. Contrasted by the sometimes equally damaging do-everything-for-them helicopter parents.

Most of the relationships that previous generations took for granted have broken. So this generation has a high degree of skepticism, low trust in institutions and finely-tuned phoniness detectors.

This generation has a high degree of skepticism, low trust in institutions and finely-tuned phoniness detectors.

The previous generations sang songs of permanence and trust in our structures, like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This one gushes over songs about restoring broken relationships and identity, like “You’re a good, good father and I’m loved by you. It’s who I am.”

Neither is wrong. They just have different needs and ways of expressing them.

Now that we have some idea of why millennials are different, maybe we can start talking about how to do better ministry with them. 

Note: ministry must happen with them, not to them or for them.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thank you, Lord, for persecution

Tomorrow at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church I will be continuing the series through the Beatitudes. We have come the longest beatitude.

Matthew 5:10-12New King James Version (NKJV)

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We plan to begin the time of worship with this song:

The song we sing next is

The song we plan to sing before the message:

 Here is teaser clip for the message tomorrow. I hope you will invite a friend to join you at church tomorrow. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Funny

Friday Funny:


A man feared his wife wasn't hearing as well as she used to and he thought she might need a hearing aid.

Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem.

The Doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss.

Here's what you do," said the Doctor, "stand about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response."

That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens." Then in a normal tone he asks, 'Honey, what's for dinner?"

No response. So, the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife and repeats, "Honey, what's for dinner?" Still no response.

Next he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Again he gets no response.

So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Again, there is no response.

So, he walks right up behind her. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

"Clyde, for the fifth time... CHICKEN!"