Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Laugher in the warm vehicle

Several days ago the rain was falling in NC and the temperature was in the upper 50's as Sharron and I ran out for a few errands.   That means - I drive the van to the appointed store and pull up close to the door and exit the vehicle in the cold rain and run to the store entrance.  I complete the errand to exit the store and run, once again, in the cold rain to the warmth and safety of our vehicle.  There I find Sharron, sitting in the warm vehicle laughing.  In a calm and subdued tone, I ask. "What's so funny?"  She turned her iphone screen toward me and simply says, "watch":

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Oath of the Soldier - Memorial Day 2016

The Oath of the Soldier
A Memorial Day Observance Speech
by Johnny Q. Gogue III

Memorial Day – For most it is a three-day weekend, filled with bar-b-que’s and picnics . . . A time to get away from the normal humdrum of the week. For other’s it’s the beginning of summer, a time to look towards the long lazy days and a time to plan your summer get-a-ways. Though for some, Memorial Day holds a special significance.

On May 5, 1868, an order issued by General John Logan established a day of remembrance for those soldiers who died during the Civil War. May 30, 1868, was the day designated for this observance and flowers were placed on the graves of the fallen soldiers of both the Union and Confederate Armies. New York was the first state to officially recognize this observance in 1873 and in 1971 with the passage of the National Holiday Act; Memorial Day was designated as the last Monday of May.

Now for many of us, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, and the Korean War are ancient history. The Vietnam War a fading memory. But with the recent Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom we, the American people have once again been thrust into a position of remembering those who are fighting and dying today.

I, like my grandfathers, father, uncles and aunt before me, am a veteran. I am and was proud of serving in the Armed Forces. I served in the Army from 1985 to 1994. I was in Operation Desert Storm/Shield. I know what Memorial Day is about.

I have two brothers who are currently serving. One brother is serving in the Navy in Italy. My youngest brother, who is currently serving in the Army, is right now in Iraq supporting and defending his fellow soldiers. I know what Memorial Day is about.

Memorial Day for all soldiers is embodied in the words of the oath that you first take when you enlist into the service of the country:


This oath taken by each and every soldier exemplifies the reason why soldiers do what they do each and every day. Soldiers are defenders of the same principles that made this country great. They stand as Patriots to defend and protect the ideals and sentiments espoused in the Constitution of the United States. Soldiers bear true faith and allegiance to that document and they work, and live, within the Codes of Military Justice. Soldiers also obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Officers appointed over them. These truths are self evident in the everyday lives of soldiers.

Now, as we see our fellow citizens arrive back from a foreign land, we should not forget those words that each and every soldier spoke upon enlistment. Because when we look upon a returning soldier from conflict, a disabled veteran, or a grave marker – those words should ring in your conscience.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . streaming from the eyes of the returning soldier. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the Officers appointed over me . . . sounding from the stumbling gait of the disabled veteran. According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God . . . blasting from the cold stone face of a grave marker.

Remember those that gave their lives, so that we may continue to live in freedom as spelled out in the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence . . . Lest we forget.

Each year I served as Lead Pastor of North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene in Raleigh NC I commentated Memorial Day on the Sunday before by showing a clip and leading our church family in prayer.  This is my favorite clip to show:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Soooo is this really what preachers feel like?!?

As you prepare to go to church today - a little something to consider:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Small Doors Lead to Big Ministry

Joel Kilpatrick is most well known as the owner/writer of LarkNews.com, the world’s leading satirical Christian news site. Joel draws on his experiences to bring a fresh perspective to ministries that seem small, but have great value.

Principles that are covered include: writing and speaking for a heavenly audience, how expectations/realities for first-time writers are very similar to expectations/realities for pastoral ministry, and how much of Jesus’ ministry was about smallness. 
In this talk from the NewSmallChurch.com Small Church Pastors' Workshop, Joel Kilpatrick covers principles which include: Much of Jesus' Ministry was about Smallness, Writing and Speaking for a Heavenly Audience, and The Importance of Downward Mobility. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A day at the stables

For the past few weeks Sharron and I have been in Monroe, NC to be with our family.  On Tuesday afternoons we have taken Alyse to horse back riding.  The experience has been awesome.  Recently Stephanie posted a You Tube of Alyse's Things - A Day at the Stables.  Here are some pictures I recently snapped and the clip - Enjoy:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting for an Answer

                  By:  James Banks | Printed in Our Daily Bread

When our daughter was 15, she ran away. She was gone more than 3 weeks. Those were the longest 3 weeks of our lives. We looked everywhere for her and sought help from law enforcement and friends. During those desperate days, my wife and I learned the importance of waiting on God in prayer. We had come to the end of our strength and resources. We had to rely on God.

It was on a Father’s Day that we found her. We were in a restaurant parking lot, on our way to dinner, when the phone rang. A waitress at another restaurant had spotted her. Our daughter was only three blocks away. We soon had her home, safe and sound.

We have to wait on God when we pray. We may not know how or when He will answer, but we can put our hearts constantly before Him in prayer. Sometimes the answers to our prayers don’t come when we would hope. Things may even go from bad to worse. But we have to persevere, keep believing, and keep asking.

Waiting is never easy, but the end result, whatever it is, will be worth it. David put it this way: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Ps. 9:10).

Keep seeking.   Keep trusting.   Keep asking.   Keep praying.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Wesleyan's View of Love, Sex, Sin, and Holiness: The College "Conversation" - Oklahoma Wesleyan University‏

These Trustworthy Sayings are worth reading:

Dr Everett Piper, President
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
May 18, 2016

The question has come up repeatedly in recent days asking how Christian colleges—specifically, those aligned with the Wesleyan tradition—should respond to the government’s new Title IX mandates concerning transgender accommodations, gay “marriage”, and the broader LGBT agenda. More directly, many Christian college leaders (presidents, faculty, board members, etc.) presently argue that John Wesley’s call to love requires the Christian community to be more inclusive and conversational (rather than exclusive and confrontational) in the face of the present cultural shifts sweeping across the land. As the leader of a Wesleyan university, I offer the following points of response for your consideration:

(1) Yes, Wesleyans elevate love as evidence of God’s grace in our lives. 

Loving God and loving our neighbor, however, demands that we hate sin. Sin is anathema to love and love is anathema to sin. Wesley teaches over and over again that the walk of holiness: the obedient, “methodical” path of sanctification, is one that condemns sin at every turn. There is no place in Wesley’s teaching to have a “conversation” about sin. The message of holiness demands that we confess it, not sit around and discuss it.

(2) Wesley never watered down Scriptural authority and certainly never questioned the Bible’s clear definition of right and wrong, good and evil. 

“Oh give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.”

(3) Wesley was VERY clear about what he called “singularity,” i.e. the exclusive and non-negotiable truths of the Gospel. 

In fact, he made it so clear that he said “singularity” was the difference between heaven and hell: “You must be singular or be damned. The way to hell has nothing singular in it. The way to heaven has singularity all over it. You must be singular or be damned.”

(4) Yes, Wesley did say, “In the essentials unity… in all else charity…” and in doing so he clearly made the “essentials” the priority of the formula. 

In calling for “charity” he never intended to diminish the First Thing: the mandate to be unified around the authority of the Word. In fact, Wesley repeatedly preached that anyone who denied “the essentials” was guilty of compromising the unity of the Church and was, therefore, guilty of being “almost Christian.”

(5) The entire Wesleyan movement was one where Wesley challenged the Church of England’s acceptance of sin. 

He was essentially saying, “You have orthodoxy but you don’t have orthopraxy. You are not practicing what you preach.” Wesley was condemning the hypocrisy of separating belief from behavior. He was calling for obedience! Methodical, habitual, disciplined holiness. He confronted sin. He didn’t have a conversation about it. He would be appalled to learn that we are now debating the acceptability of the act of sodomy within the Body of Christ. He would quickly cite the words of St. Paul: “It is shameful to even talk about what the evil do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). Wesley would be first to say that our sinful inclinations do not and should not define us. He would condemn the dumbing down of the human being to nothing but the sum total of what we are inclined to do sexually.

Our identity is found in Christ, not in our proclivities and passions. Holiness, by definition, means that we rise above such inclinations in obedience to God rather than capitulating to one’s base appetites and instincts. Wesley would shout from the pulpit, “You are the imago dei, my land, not the imago dog! Now, by God’s grace, act like it!”

(6) Christian colleges will only succeed if we have the courage to stand firm. 

We must run into the storm and not away from it. We must wave the banner of the Truth of Christ and the Truth of Scripture with the confidence that if we win – great that’s God’s grace – but if we lose, it doesn’t matter because the battle is the Lord’s and we are willing to go down fighting. How can we do anything less? 

Selling our soul for the sake of government approval dishonors our mission, our message, and our very reason to exist. It dishonors our founders who gave us their treasure and their trust. It dishonors our students. It dishonors our God. If we become nothing but pale copies of the secular academy, then why in the world would anyone want to buy what we are selling?

Anything short of a unified stand for the essentials of our faith – for Orthodoxy, for Biblical authority, for the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word – will doom the Christian college to the ash heap of history. Compromise will be our demise and, consequently, we will be “thrown out and trampled underfoot” by a culture that laughs at our irrelevancy. We are supposed to preserve culture, not take part in its rot. We are supposed to shine a light on evil, not have a conversation about it. We are supposed to confront sin, not capitulate to it. 

May God help us if we have really come to the point where any Christian college’s board, president and/or faculty actually thinks that our salvation comes from negotiating a compromise with a world that hates our Lord and His Gospel.

There is no “middle way” with Christ. He is the only way.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Mazing - Pic-of-the-Day

Mike Maze of WRAL weather in Raleigh, NC recently posted this picture from his Pic of the Day on Facebook:

Here's an up close and personal look at a snake in a bird box from Annette Huetter of Raleigh. She opened the bird house Tuesday morning after she saw 'something white' in the opening. She had just cleaned it out a few days before so she was curious about what was inside. I think I would have jumped if I saw this. 
Thanks Annette for sending us the Amazing Pic-of-the-Day. I was reminded by a viewer from last week that not all snakes are bad...here is what she said in her email.

"The amazing pic you showed last night was of a NC black snake, sometimes known as black racers, among other names in NC. People have a tendency to want to kill these beautiful creatures, but they are very beneficial. Their main prey is copperhead snakes. 
I have seen these snakes tangle with copperheads and usually win every time. If people see these black snakes, leave them be. They are very helpful to keep the copperhead population down, especially if you live in a rural area. Please pass this on to your viewers."
Some sound advice I would say!!

Here is a comment on this post:

Lynn Johnson These are called chicken snakes on the farm--they eat eggs. I would probably have fainted if I'd seen one in the birdhouse, but I had a black snake living in my crawlspace for several years. After my initial panic, I talked to the "snake guy" at the college, who told me that so long as he was there, I'd have no mice and no other snakes--like poisonous ones. He also told me that if he bit me, I wouldn't be able to find the bite the next morning.

I named him Slinky and told him that so long as he stayed in the crawl space, I'd have no problem with him. During the four or so years he lived there, I did not see ONE trace of a mouse. Unfortunately, he decided to go outside to sun one day and the neighbors killed him.

I know farmers who put a black snake in their barn to protect against mice. The "snake guy" said he took two home with him and put them in the crawl space of his house. I did warn anyone going under the house to "watch out for Slinky".

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Heart of Stone - Award-Winning Christian Animated Short-Film

What is the condition of your heart today?

This is a short film made for the 2008 Ignite Film Festival. It took home the award for Best Animation!

I suggest you go to church today and meet with God and enjoy a time with God's people joining in worship!  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Holiness is a Symphony of Love

God is love—love lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit in a community of gifted individuals playing one musical piece in different parts, a holy symphony.

Holiness is life lived by people in the fullness of the Holy Spirit who are empowered to offer a drastic alternative to the world around them. Love is the melody running through the community, underneath the community, and all around the community.

 The Christian community is not a place of jarring instruments singing different songs, or a place of gossip, conflict, rejection, pain, strife, and hatred. It is a place where the Spirit’s fruit is present in abundance, so much so that the world around the Christian community can’t help but join the melody. It is a community that is so unified, so melodious, so beautiful that it stops others in their tracks. Those on the outside can’t help but peer in, and watch with awe and wonder, and notice the unity of the symphony.

 Instead of the emphasis being on the solo Christian striving to live a holy life, it is on a holy people, a symphony. It is a collection of individuals all uniquely gifted, sometimes polarizing opposites, yet unified in the same symphony. 

--Tara Beth Leach (The Holiness Tradition in the New Perspective in The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life )

Thanks to my friend Mark Wilson for this post. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Birthday to my brother Vic!

Today I want to share a special HAPPY BIRTHDAY wish to my younger brother Vic.  Vic and his family reside in Charlotte, NC.

I must admit for years we seemed estranged as my family followed God's will in ministry to take us to Herndon Va.; Marion, IN; Sturgis MI; Topeka KS; and back to North Carolina in 2007 to pastor in Raleigh. NC.  Since returning to North Carolina I have had the opportunity to reconnect with my brother Vic.

I cherish each time we can connect. Now we meet for lunch at least once a month. I hope Vic checks this blog today and it places a smile on his face.  He is my "little" brother and I love him dearly.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Hidden Danger of Seeking God

Some ideas sound good until we examine the premise, which Alan Hirsch does with “seeking God.”  If we're passionate about a false conception of God, evil can happen.       Alan Hirsch discusses having a clear conception of God through Jesus.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ben's Prayer

A minister passing through his church
In the middle of the day,
Decided to pause by the altar
To see who come to pray.
Just then the back door opened,
And a man came down the aisle,
The minister frowned as he saw the man
Hadn't shaved in a while.
His shirt was torn and shabby,
And his coat was worn and frayed,
The man knelt down and bowed his head,
Then rose and walked away.

In the days that followed at precisely noon,
The preacher saw this chap,
Each time he knelt just for a moment,
A lunch pail in his lap.
Well, the minister's suspicions grew,
With robbery a main fear,
He decided to stop and ask the man,
'What are you doing here?'
The old man said he was a factory worker
And lunch was half an hour
Lunchtime was his prayer time,
For finding strength and power.
I stay only a moment
Because the factory's far away;
As I kneel here talking to the Lord,
This is kinda what I say:


The minister feeling foolish,
Told Ben that it was fine.
He told the man that he was welcome
To pray there anytime.
'It's time to go, and thanks,' Ben said
As he hurried to the door.
Then the minister knelt there at the altar,
Which he'd never done before.
His cold heart melted, warmed with love,
As he met with Jesus there.
As the tears flowed down his cheeks,
He repeated old Ben's prayer:


Past noon one day, the minister noticed
That old Ben hadn't come.
As more days passed and still no Ben,
He began to worry some.
At the factory, he asked about him,
Learning he was ill.
The hospital staff was worried,
But he'd given them a thrill.

The week that Ben was with them,
Brought changes in the ward.
His smiles and joy contagious.
Changed people were his reward.
The head nurse couldn't understand
Why Ben could be so glad,
When no flowers, calls or cards came,
Not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by his bed,
He voiced the nurse's concern:
No friends had come to show they cared.
He had nowhere to turn.
Looking surprised, old Ben spoke up
And with a winsome smile;
'The nurse is wrong, she couldn't know,
He's been here all the while.'
Everyday at noon He comes here,
A dear friend of mine, you see,
He sits right down and takes my hand,
Leans over and says to me:


"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."        
                                                                                                                 Luke 18:10-14 NKJV

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                            I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Morning Advantage

“The best leaders get more done before 10 a.m. than many people get done in a day.”

So you’re trying to be more productive—to get more done in less time.

Here’s the question: Does it really make a difference whether you’re a morning person or not when it comes to productivity?

One of the more frequently asked questions I get as a leader is “How do you get it all done?”   (church, blogging, podcastspeaking and writing books).
My answer is usually a variation of “It’s amazing what you can get done before 8 a.m. if you try.”

As painful as that may sound to you, it’s probably also true for you. The best leaders I know get more done before 10 a.m. than many people get done in a day.

Let me show you why and how.

Wasn't Always a Morning Person…

I wasn't always a morning person.

I spent my university days choosing classes based on how late they started so I could sleep in.

I’ve made the transition from NOT being a morning person to getting up most days between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m.

How did that happen? Well, the journey got started when my wife and I got married (I decided to get up at 8 because she was a morning person).
Having kids a few years later threw my schedule out the window and I started rising around 6 and kept that discipline up through my 30s. Usually I would get up early, pound through some email (after devotions) and then make breakfast and then start work in earnest around 9.

I spent my 30s wanting to write a book and having friends tell me I should. But I didn’t.

It wasn’t until my 40s that I started getting up earlier and really committing to a 5:00 a.m. wake up call.

Since then, I’ve led our church to the largest it’s ever been, published three books, blogged regularly, launched a podcast and spoken more regularly at conferences … plus spent meaningfully more time with my wife and kids than before.

Is that ALL because I got up earlier? No, age and stage have their advantages.
You accumulate (hopefully) wisdom, learn to do things faster, and your kids get older and don’t demand 24/7 attention like they used to (although I’m still convinced parenting teens requires as much or more time than parenting toddlers). Could I have done all of this in my 30s? Probably not.

But if I got up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. most days, I’m convinced all I’d be able to handle is my day job … and I’m convinced I would do it more poorly at that. In other words, I’m not sure I’d be doing anything more than my day job had I kept sleeping in.

So how does being a morning person give me (and many other leaders) a distinct advantage?

Here are five reasons:

1. Your brain is (probably) at its best

Personally, there’s no doubt I get my best work done before 10:00 a.m. My most creative thoughts, best insights and clearest analysis happens well before lunch.

I’m amazed at how many high capacity leaders I know tell me the same thing.
Some research backs up my personal findings—that morning people do significantly better overall than night owls do.

Other studies show a more balanced view with night owls gaining a few advantages over morning people.

My guess is we could trade studies all day long to make our points, but I’ve personally never been better than when I’m up early.
Your most important asset as a leader is your mind.

And personally, my brain just does better when it’s fresh off of rest. (I think sleep is the secret leadership weapon no one wants to talk about.) 
By working early (even if it’s just an hour), you do your most important work when your brain is at its best.

Naps can also reset your brain during the day … and I will often take a nap if I can. However, I find a nap recharges my brain for far less time than a 6- to 8-hour sleep will.

Your brain simply serves you better as a leader when it’s rested.

2. You’re more efficient because you beat rush hour

Work patterns are a lot like traffic patterns: At 5 a.m. you have the road to yourself. At 8 a.m., it could take you three times as long to travel the same distance.

These days I do everything I can to beat traffic, not just on the road, but in life. I do most of my shopping at off hours. My wife and I have even begun to do off-season travel.

Why? Because we end up having have more time to do what matters most.
Ditto with work.

Guess who’s texting you at 5:30 a.m.? Nobody.

Guess who’s emailing for you an urgent response at 6:15 a.m.? Nobody.

You’ve got the work lane all to yourself, which means you can work uninterrupted. You can think uninterrupted. You can actually accomplish all your most important tasks completely distraction-free.

And for a naturally ADD guy, I’m grateful for that.

By the way, this reason alone is enough for me to recommend starting early to any leader.

Working when no one else is working gives any leader a distinct advantage.
Any other time of the day, people are trying to communicate with you. But rarely do they do that before 8 a.m.

3. You get to work on your most important tasks

You know what’s fascinating about leadership?

Nobody asks you to accomplish your most important priorities. They just criticize you if you don’t.

In fact, not only will your colleagues never ask you to accomplish your priorities, they will usually ask you to help accomplish theirs.

Which is why you never get your work done.

That’s also what email is, by the way, other people asking you to do things that aren’t on your task list.

By starting early, you can accomplish your priorities and THEN be available to help others with theirs, in person or via email.

Starting early eliminates so much of the push and pull of the every day. Plus you’ll be far more kind and gracious when you interact with them, because you’re already done.

4. You already have series of wins under your belt

Sometimes all you need as a leader is some kind of win.

Starting early gives you that:
You got a jump on your message.
You came up with a great idea.
You discovered a new strategy.
You banged out a chapter you were not expecting to write.
You got the retreat planned ahead of schedule.

With one or two wins under your belt, the rest of the day is easier.

So much of leadership remains undone at the end of the day—except for what you got done first.

5. Your big to-do’s are already done

Not only is SOMETHING done before 10:00 a.m., if you use your time well, the most important task for the day is done by mid-morning.

I’ve never tried this, but I suspect if I stopped working at 10:00 a.m. most days I’d still be 70 percent as productive as I am now. And more importantly, I’d have the most significant things done.

The way I usually spend my later time is in meetings, answering email or doing other tasks that require less mental energy.

But again, even if those don’t go well or take longer than expected, the big stuff is already accomplished. Which means you’re kind of already done for the day.
Think about what that could mean to you and the people you love: When you start early, you get your evenings back, your weekends back and your life back. Because your big work is … done.

Start Now

So how can you become a morning person?

I’d try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier every week until you hit the time you think you need to be up. In a month, you could be operating one hour earlier than before. A(And remember to go to bed earlier too. I’m generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 most nights.)

Michael Hyatt has some great ideas on becoming a morning person as well.
The bottom line is: start now.

Wanting to be a morning person brings you none of the benefits of becoming a morning person.

What Do You Think?

Well morning people? What do you think? And night owls, we love you. We really do.

Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and the author of several books, including his latest best-selling work, 'Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.' Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and personal growth

Monday, May 16, 2016

How to Leave a Family Legacy

By Rick Warren
Awesome families teach their kids that they’re not the center of the universe. They teach their kids that God made them and shaped them for a mission. They model dedication, service, generosity, and prayer. 

Average families don’t do those things. Awesome families do. I am the man that I am today first of all because of my parents. They instilled in me certain values to care about other people.

My parents were very, very poor, but they both had the gift of hospitality. They loved to give to others even though they didn’t have much. We lived out in the country, and my dad would plant an acre in garden with all kinds of vegetables. There was no way our family could eat all that food, but he did it just so he could give it away, because he didn’t have any money to give away. So we always planted more and then gave it away to help other people who were in need.

Our home was constantly filled with other people. If people were in pain, they were at our house. If they were on the road, they were at our house. If they were going through a conflict, they were at our house. If they were a well-known Christian leader coming through town, they were at our house. One day my dad added up how many meals my mom had cooked for guests in our home in one year. It was over a thousand meals! I grew up learning an attitude of “give your life away” and that it’s not about me. It’s about helping other people.

That’s what awesome families do. They teach each other to show love and to do good deeds. Good deeds are called ministry. They are called service.         

A good example of this is Cornelius’ family in the book of Acts: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2 NIV).

What a great legacy! Wouldn’t you like to have people writing that about you and your family one day?

Pray this prayer today: 

Dear Jesus Christ, I want to live an awesome life. And I want to have an awesome family. I know I won’t have either if I just live for myself. So today I give myself to you. As for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord. I want my family to be a place of play and fun, not just work and negativity. I want my family to be a place where we encourage each other to grow constantly. I want to be a family that is a shelter in the storm, a safe haven, a refuge. Help me to protect my family — not just their bodies but also their minds. I want my family to serve you by serving others. Help us to find our family mission, our purpose, what you shaped our family to do. Help me to teach my kids to be generous by modeling generosity to God and to others. Help me to have a bifocal vision to not just care about my family but to teach them to care about the whole world. May we model dedication and service and generosity and prayer. I can’t do this on my own, Lord. So I ask you to come into my life and take complete control of every area and give me the power to do the right thing. In your name I pray. Amen.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Is Skipping Church Good For You?

Pastors must craft compelling, Spirit-led services if we are to entice the unchurched to attend and keep attending. What they experience at church must I’m a pastor. 

Pastors are supposed to go to church. So I go to church, several times each week. I’ve done that for decades. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed church by choice. But one weekend I added to that handful of misses. I skipped church. Was skipping church that day helpful or hurtful? 

Read on and you decide.

My daughter had come to visit us over the Labor Day weekend and I scheduled one of our other pastors to preach at the weekend services. We took a long weekend at a lake house about 50 miles from our home.
The last time we took a long weekend we all went to church, a very boring one. This time however, I simply decided I wouldn’t go. To be frank, I felt a tinge of guilt because my wife will tell you I’m always the one pushing us to go to church while on vacation.

But for some odd reason, I didn’t push us this time.

So what did I do that Sunday morning? I sat in a swing and read my bible. I cut some dead limbs off a tree. I chatted with a neighbor. I exercised on my treadmill. I practiced the art of ‘slowing.’ And I really liked it.

Although I’m deeply committed to the local church and won’t make skipping a habit, I leaned a few valuable lessons.

1.   Skipping church reminded me that pastors’ schedules keep us from normal weekends that most families experience. Sundays (and Saturdays if you hold services) are our biggest work days. But, it’s not all about me and I will gladly stay faithful to God’s calling.

2.   Those not in pastoral leadership roles will never understand this sacrificial part of our profession because when they want to skip church, they easily do with no repercussions. And when they do, most don’t even think twice about skipping.

3.   An occasional ‘break from the Sunday routine’ can refresh a soul and help avoid pastoral burnout.

4.   I now truly understand how hard it would be for someone who has seldom attended church to give up his or her Sunday mornings and start attending. I really enjoyed having that Sunday free.

5.   Number 4 above reminded me that we pastors must craft compelling, Spirit-led services if we are to entice the unchurched to attend and keep attending. What they experience at church must be worth the price of giving up their relaxing mornings at home, at the lake, or at the ballpark. We may only get one shot.

6.   Pastors need a Sabbath too. Since Sundays aren’t ours, we must prioritize another day for rest. I now take Saturdays off and I was reminded that I must truly rest on that day.

If you’ve ever played hookey from church, I’d love to hear what you learned.

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015).

Here are my comments:

I NEVER miss church on a weekend. Even when we have traveled to Canada to visit family - I have departed the family on Sunday am and find an  Evangelical church to attend. I feel this has enhanced my witness to my family.  When we depart for vacation - I find myself pulling away to go to church on Sunday morning. During this time in God's Waiting Room -  I am considering this a time of learning lessons and throwing myself upon God. Sharron and I recently took the time to worship at a local church on Saturday evening and then slept in on Sunday.  It was a great decision. 

You are a very important part of your local church.  I know family is high priority and we all need times for rest - this is what the Sabbath was designed for. I have a new appreciation for Saturday as my Sabbath Day and Sunday as the Lord's Day to be in church!