Saturday, June 16, 2007

10 Observations of a Successful Pastor

I'm tired of people who never actually succeeded at being a pastor, building a church, starting from scratch or fighting up from the bottom pontificating about how to run or start a church. They haven't earned the right to even talk about it. That's why I appreciate Don Lyon of Faith Center so much. He did it. Started from nothing and has built a great church. In a conversation with Aaron Helland, the pastor with whom I am currently working, Pastor Lyon makes this comment about starting a church from scratch:

"It's all about momentum. For a long time a boat you launch from the dock and give it all the power you have will go slowly, nose in the air. It seems like there is nothing you can do. Then after a certain amount of speed is attained the nose will drop and with the same amount of power you will see the boat go faster and faster. Planting a Church is like that. It takes a long time. Then, the momentum picks up and things begin to happen".

Tony Atkinson, a pastor friend of mine, came to Belpre Ohio 30 years ago. For over 3 years he fought hard to get the church up to 8 people. Then, things started to happen. The nose dropped. Speed picked up. When he recently left for another church attendance was over 500 and they had just finished a new sanctuary able to seat 1000.

That's the way it is. At the other end of the spectrum is doing the wrong things that may well cause that boat to sink or capsize. That sadly is the state of many churches today.

Mark Batterson is the pastor of a church in Washington DC. He is someone I knew from Calvary Church. He has earned the right to speak and teach on being an effective leader and pastor. He has 10 areas of vulnerability every pastor must embrace. Read them and learn.

I have a book given me when I was licenced as a Minister several years ago. One of it's tenants is "Don't be too transparent, people won't hold you in esteem". Really? I have recently reviewed it. It's laughable. I am learning so much from the young men I know and work with about being real. That's what the mainline church needs.

If the next generation brings fresh authenticity and vulnerability it will be enough. I am sick to here of Religiously bound pastors. Here's the sad part. I am going to forward this to about 100 pastors I have on an email list. I think what Mark said is important. The smaller the church the less likely the pastors who receive this will embrace this. THAT'S WHY THEY ARE SMALLER AND DECLINING. The guy who has been pastor for 30 years and has a church of 200 will poo poo the whole idea. The guy who has a church of 1000 will say YES and AMEN. That's why he has a church of 1000. Especially if he built it from scratch. Vulnerability doesn't exist because the pastors who can't be vulnerable have a distorted vision of who Jesus is and who they are.

Get over your bad self. You aren't that important. Your call is, but Jesus could have used a donkey. "It's the call stupid" to paraphrase Bill Clinton.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Earl is a Pearl of Great Price (we all are)

I want you to meet a friend of mine. A man I love dearly. Oh, I disagree with him on many things. But it has never halted my persistent affection for him. I disagree and fight with everyone I love from time to time. If I didn't it would mean you didn't matter enough to me to take you on when I think you are wrong. If we fight, I still love you. OK?

Earl Donaldson and I worked together in Dale Carnegie many years ago. We had adventures, taught together. I don't know if he put me on a right or wrong path Carnegie wise. Earl has also been a pastor, attended seminary and today preaches at his son John's church from time to time. We always enjoy talking theology. He's a bit more liberal than am I. But that's OK. I have lots of people I like with whom I disagree.

Earl's a great guy. He lives in Atlanta now. He still provides training. He's a good writer. A couple weeks ago he started a blog. He called and wanted some help. I was little help I told him to do what I did. Fumble around and it will come to you.

So now he's up and running. Check his blog out.

The post I will point you to as a starter is one he did on the Holy Spirit of God.

I read it and was compelled to ask; Earl, In the book of Acts there appears to be a consistent sign that confirmed people had received the Holy Spirit of God, Baptised in it as it was described by Jesus before he ascended to heaven.

Acts 1:4-5
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

What was that sign? Why do many Christians, even well meaning Christians reject that sign as a valid even essential part of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as described by Jesus? Why did the disciples who had already received the Holy Spirit right after the resurrection when Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive Ye the Holy Spirit". Wouldn't the baptism in the Holy Spirit be redundant? Are there two or is one different from another? Why did the disciples go to Jerusalem and wait if they already had it? Was Jesus jerking their chain?

Why don't we have publicly funded and operated auto repair?

It's a need. Everyone uses it. It's in the best interests of the nation that roads are safe and people drive cars that don't cause a hazard. We publicly fund road repair, why not autos?

In fact, why don't we have all auto repair shops and dealerships run by governmental agencies. We could hire public shop superintendents who would be in charge of all the auto repair agencies in a given city or area. Then we should have principals who manage each shop. They would be public employees.

Every mechanic, partsman, car washer, desk clerk would be employed by a governmental agency. They would only be responsible to the administration. If you had a complaint about your car repair quality, you took it up with the administration. But, they know better than you. They have degrees in car repair and even if your car doesn't work right, it will work about as well as any other car on the road. This would slow traffic.

The administration would instruct every person in the area where they can take their car for repair. Even if the repair shop down the street seems to do a better job, you must only take your car where you are told. Nowhere else.

Oh, your care repair is "Free". Proponents would say, there would be no car repair if we didn't have publicly administered auto repair.

There would be private underground auto repair shops pop up. They would cost money. But they would fix your car right. However since your tax money already is taken from you for "Free" repair of your car by the government you are paying twice. Critics of the private shops say they won't fix junkers, badly damaged or lost cause autos. Some people wouldn't be able to afford the repairs if it weren't for Public Auto Repair.

I know the Metaphor breaks down (or is it analogy). But the question Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online asked this week in a Chicago Tribune articles is: Why do we need Public Education at all?

I know all the arguments. I just wanted to post the question one more time. We just had graduation of the illiterates from the Chicago Public School System. We can't get educated people of competence who can work in high tech so we have to import them from China and India. Try hiring folds of ability.

I think we need public education like we need public auto repair. We don't.

Close all schools.

Goldberg says this key thing in his article:

There’s a consensus in America that every child should get an education, but as David Gelernter noted recently in The Weekly Standard, there’s no such consensus that public schools need to do the educating.

Really, what would be so terrible about government mandating that every kid has to go to school, and providing subsidies and oversight when necessary, but then getting out of the way?

Milton Friedman noted long ago that the government is bad at providing services — that’s why he wanted public schools to be called “government schools” — but that it’s good at writing checks. So why not cut checks to people so they can send their kids to school?

What about the good public schools? Well, the reason good public schools are good has nothing to do with government’s special expertise and everything to do with the fact that parents care enough to ensure their kids get a good education. That wouldn’t change if the government got out of the school business. What would change is that fewer kids would get left behind.


Look how well the TSA has worked out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Flag Day - June 14

Growing up in Ellendale ND we had lots of WWII vets including my Uncle Earl who raised me after my folks died. 
We celebrated flag day, parade, bands and all.
Just thought I would give you a little reminder.
Old Glory is still worth celebrating. 


Skipper was the best dog I ever had. To this day I dream about him. His fuzzy face, his 3 legged walk, how much he loved me. He was a great dog. He died in 1989.

He still lives in my heart. I'll never forget him.

But, Skip was a dog not GOD. I'm not dyslexic.

I say that because of the comments to this post regarding the 7 essentials. One came from a really good man. A pastor. He asked about number 8. Can you believe and embrace all 7 and still go to hell? I thought about that. I think if you are a condemned demon from hell you can and will. You know the truth, that's part of the torment of hell, to know the truth and be able to do nothing about it. Think of the rich man and Lazarus. He came to know the truth only when it was too late. That's why they tremble. I'm not so sure if you are a human still in need of redemption you can know the truth and not be set free from HELL.

I think it is very possible for people to say, "Jesus lives in my heart", mean it, believe it, think they are on the way to heaven and it has no more effect on who they are or how they feel about him than my affection and remembrance of Skip the Dog.

Barna and Gallup tell us that nearly 90% of Americans believe they are going to heaven. 70% say they have been born again and have Jesus living in their heart. Really? How can that be?

You see, I think the Jesus most people have in their hearts is more like my dog Skip. Soft, fuzzy, loving and well remembered. He's some friendly (what a friend we have in Jesus) good guy who died and some say even rose again who hears them if they pray once or twice a year.

Oh, they go thru the religious stuff but no Jesus. Not the real Jesus.

You see, if you really really knew, accepted, believed, embraced the truths about Jesus you will change who YOU are.

If Jesus lived, died, washed all our sins away, rose again, and is now seated on the throne as GOD,
How should we then live?

That is the question.

More people believe in a "Dog Jesus" than Jesus the Lord GOD. Even people raised and steeped in Church to say
Jesus is Lord God Almighty is hard to accept. Except, he is. Trinitarian teaching has confused them. They don't understand the fullness and equality of the Godhead in it's trinity. The trinity is easier to understand when you put Jesus in focus first.

So, number 8 doesn't really apply if one thru seven isn't there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Road to Nowhere

Hypothetical. Fathers Day.

My Dad who I really want to see lives in St. Louis Missouri. I'm in Chicagoland. So I decide to go see him.

I want to be united. I want to have some good times with him. I want to be where he is. I do it because I love him.

Someone tells me that the only way to St. Louis is Interstate 55. Oh, there are parallel roads but in the end you must end up on 55 as you head south southwest. The direction is right. The only way to St. Louis is I-55.

On the other hand, Frank says to me, Gene, you really ought to take I-80 east. Toledo, Cleveland. Great sights. Fast road. Lots of fun. But I say, it won't get me to St. Louis will it? Frank says, all roads are the same. It's the journey that matters, not the destination.

Tom counters. You need to go up I-94 toward Minneapolis. It's one of the most beautiful rides. Plenty of places to get off the road. Pleasant. Scenic. Will it get to St. Louis, I ask? Oh, this road has much to offer. It's beautiful. Many great people have traveled this road before. Did they get to St. Louis. No one knows. But the ride was great.

Bill finally says. I know a road that goes very close to St. Louis. I-57. Goes South and a tiny bit west. It's nearly the same as I-55. The same people built it. Besides you'll end up in Memphis, Elvis's home town. Won't that be fun?

I listen, but soon realize that if I want to get to to St. Louis, there's only one road that will take me there. I-55. If I take a wrong road I will have to turn back from I-80 or I-90 or even correct my course on I-57 to redirect my path to St. Louis.
If I choose go down other roads I will end up somewhere else, not in the presence of my Father.

I remember as a kid in Sunday School a handout with people going down a great road, nice, straight wide, clean and at the end dropping off a cliff at the end to ultimate destruction. While on the other hand, some were staying on a narrow path and ending up in Heaven. It impressed me and to this day it still does. There is a way that seemeth right to a man but in the end leadeth to destruction.

It's not even about all the people who have traveled the other roads. Even Hitler had his good points. Gandhi too. They just traveled the wrong road. Every other road has things about it that offers much to commend it. At the same time these other roads offers nothing but death in the end. The road marked Buddhism is beautiful but leads nowhere, the road marked Islam is clean and straight but has a dead end, the road marked atheism has no roadmarks at all, just wandering around, and there are other roads that at the beginning have signs that say, Jesus, 500 miles. But they take wrong turns and end up somewhere other than the destination intended. The Highway of Holiness is the only way, all others lead nowhere.

There is only ONE WAY to the Father, Jesus. Only one.

Doctor = Mechanic. REALLY!

The article below was part of the editorial page from the Chicago Tribune today. I have a problem with the medical community and their secretive pricing practices. I want to know. Part of why they don't want you to know is the price for any given procedure is all over the map. In South Carolina at least Blue Cross tries to help people get a handle on this big time expenditure which fewer and fewer insurance companies are paying for and which fewer and fewer employers are providing. We are soon ALL going to have to negotiate our own health care costs.

My son and his wife are about to have their 4th child. Maternity costs are nationwide from $4-11,000. Oh, the medical community will tell you there are qualitative differences. I'll give you that is a reason for some of the price difference but there is a limit. That price range is way out of whack. By the way, the national average for doc, hospital and baby is $8800 according to a study released yesterday. When our son was born, total costs were about $600 in 1967. Prices have gone up but not that much.

I did some research on what Medicaid pays for the mother in Chicago for a delivery. A little over 3 grand. That's everything. That may be too low. His doc has told him expect a bill for 10 grand. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Recently I was recommended to have a Colonoscopy. The price proffered was $2500. I'll give you this. That's not something I want to do at any price as patient or provider. But, then today I run across this story in the Trib. If I fly to California I can get the same procedure done for $424. I think I can go there, fly back, and enjoy a nice meal in CA, visit the beach and still save money.

We need transparency in medical pricing. The idea that a doctor can just prescribe a procedure and expect us to just buy it sight unseen without questioning the price is ludicrous. We don't buy anything else that way.

I'm the customer, they're the supplier. Tell me what you have, I'll decide. Last go round, I parted company with a doctor because I didn't like what he decided in my behalf for me to do. I asked too many questions. Expected him to act in my behalf. He expected me to act in his interest. We parted company. Now I have a new doctor. I'm hopeful this relationship will go better. She seems nice.

It's really like finding an auto mechanic. If the guy I'm talking too doesn't offer to get my car fixed at a price I'll accept (he must tell me before I allow him to start. That's the LAW in ILLINOIS) I'll go somewhere else or maybe decide NOT to have the procedure done if I understand the risks. I use more than one mechanic. I don't have the $75/hour guy change my oil or balance my tires and I don't expect the $20/hour guy to quiet my noisy tappet. I am dilligent in keeping my auto in order but I'm a careful shopper. I expect to pay what the mechanic quoted. That's the law. I seldom go back to the dealer after the warranty runs out. The price of their work can be double what the guy in the local garage does it for. And, the net results of their action are the same or I don't pay.

In any case, if I'm not well, my first contact is the maker of the body I carry with me. That solves most things. I take care of it but I am very careful to make sure the Doc I see keeps to the Hippocratic oath, "First do no harm". That includes my pocketbook.We need more of this transparency in medicine. Read the article.

How much, doc?

Published June 13, 2007

So you need an EKG and you wonder what it's going to cost you? If you're in Southern California, you can just click over to the Web site of HealthCare Partners Medical Group, which has listed the out-of-pocket prices for 58 common procedures. By offering price information about medical services, the mammoth medical group, which serves more than 500,000 Californians, gives its patients the opportunity to be more discerning consumers of health care.

EKG? $45. Colonoscopy? $424. Chest X-ray? $61.

Of course, to make informed decisions on purchasing health care, consumers need to look beyond sticker prices. The HealthCare Partners Web site makes the job easier by allowing patients to quickly and easily access studies -- government and non-profit -- that offer information on how the group stacks up against local competitors (Hint: It usually comes out ahead).

Self-congratulatory? Yes. Useful for people? Absolutely.

Transparent pricing isn't the be-all of health care. The physician or hospital with the lowest prices isn't necessarily the best deal. Not, for instance, if they're likely to order up unnecessary tests and pump up the final bill.

Comparison shopping for medical care isn't easy, particularly if you don't have an insurer to do some of the work for you. But the chance to make comparisons beats the alternative: knowing little or nothing about the cost and quality of the health care you will receive.

It would be good if more providers went the way of HealthCare Partners Medical Group, giving consumers a better chance to find high-quality, competitively priced care in a crowded marketplace.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How to Tell if Fred Thompson is a Christian

There has been a great deal of kerfuffle about the issue from James Dobson as to IF Senator Fred Thompson is or is not a Christian.  I don't know how Dr. Dobson can tell.  I know he is doing fruit inspections.  The article linked above doesn't say very much good about the evaluation that some in the evangelical community are making.  I'm not sure I would make it.  OR YOU!
I'm not convinced that Dr. Dobson is on the money on this one.  John Armstrong on the other hand has a much better balanced view of all this. 
I think there is a better way to measure and that measurement must take place in Fred Thompson's heart.  In my opinion and in the opinion of a Pastor Friend of mine, Aaron Helland there are 7 essential truths that differentiate those who are or are not Christians headed for Heaven.  In other words,  IF YOU DON'T believe these 7 things you are headed for HELL and you are NOT a Christian.
I know that's a bit tough but it's straightforward.  My point is, I don't think Dr. Dobson has a clue to IF Fred Thompson does or does not believe these things.  I think Dr. Dobson is talking out of his hat.
1. Jesus Christ is GOD
He is equal with God, uncreated, not a Co-God, but True God. 
John 1:1-3 John testifies of Jesus
John 5:18 Jesus says of Himself
John 20:28 Thomas says of Jesus
Revelation 1:8  Jesus says of himself
2. Jesus was born of a Virgin
Mary didn't get "Knocked Up" and cop out.  She was virgin, never knew a man sexually, bore Jesus like that.  Born of the Holy Spirit. 
Matthew 1:23
Luke 1:34-35
3. Jesus lived a sinless life on this earth
He never sinned once.  He was perfect in every way and still is.  That's why his sacrifice is perfect.  There is no accusation that can stand against him. 
Hebrews 4:14-16
2 Corinthians 5:21
4. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world
He was fully man but he is the only Jew of the 60,000 or so Jews crucified by the Romans who's guiltless life was able to pay for all the sins of the whole world.   If you or I die we can't even pay for our own sins because we are guilty.  It's only thru the blood of Jesus that God sees us as pure.
1 John 2:2
2 Corinthians 5:19
Ephesians 2:13
5. Jesus rose bodily from the dead
Jesus died.  He rose.  Not some spirit.  Not that he had a bad day and recovered.  HE was dead and rose again.
Romans 8:11
Acts 2:31
Acts 4:33
Romans 10:9
6. Jesus is alive today seated at the right hand of God the Father
He lives to make intercession for us.   He sits in the place of power.  His name is above every name that can or could be named. 
Luke 22:69
Colossians 3:1
Acts 7:55
7. Jesus is the one and only way to eternal life
Even though there are many other ways which people walk in faith, only one way leads to the Father.  Jesus.  There is no other way.  No other path.  No other method.  Every other pathway leads to destruction. 
John 14:6
1 Timothy 2:5
Acts 4:12
If James Dobson was asking Senator Thompson to affirm those beliefs there might be some validity.  The measures he uses are external.  This isn't about the length of hair, makeup, speaking in tongues, regular church attendance, tithing, singing songs, serving on committees, taking communion or any such religious activities.  This is about what does Senator Thompson says of the Christ.  By the way if this sounds a little like a creed you might say, it is.  In the end it's all about Jesus.  If anyone, even a Baptist or a member of Church of Christ tells you that you must have Jesus and something else to be a Christian, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!   That's a cult.  Anyone who tells you that you need Jesus plus anything to be saved is a spiritual misleader.
Now, if he believes all those things and eschews the things of God otherwise then there IS a disconnect. 
I think this is over the top in my most humble opinion.  We're hiring a President not a High Priest.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cursed Church Plants

I have a theory.  I Can't prove it, But I Believe it.
IF a new church is started out of order it will never come into order.  God will Withhold his hand from it and it will collapse of it's own weight.  In other words, he will allow a curse to be placed on the church that will stand.  Never a good thing.
I have been involved in enough new church plants to know that there are curses that follow some new church plants.  If a person is a church planter it will serve them well NOT to allow any of these curses to follow those plants: 
Planting from a split.  I know of very few church plants that come from a church split that amount to anything.  If a group of people become offended with a church and leave in a huff to go off to start their own church that new church is doomed.  I have watched 5 examples personally: one in Fargo at First Assembly, Two from Faith Center, Two from Calvary.  In every case that new effort collapsed because the spirit of offense and rebellion manifested itself in the new Fellowship.  Collapse happens within a few years.
Pirating, living off the work of others.  I was part of a church that was pirated (Proselytized) by another small church.  Now 5 years later that church runs on average less than 70 people which is what the congregation was combined when the proselytizing happened.  This kind of drinking from wells he didn't drill has caused this young pastor to stagnate.  God doesn't bless a divider.  If your church growth only comes from stripping people out of other churches you will stagnate.  It's a curse.
A church formed of rebellion, anger, divisiveness and strife.  Even if the founder is a Godly man or woman if the core vision is "at least we aren't those other guys" it will fail.  I know of a church that struggled with the spirit of rebellion and divisiveness for a long time.  It wasn't a split but it depended on people who came to the new fellowship with a church split mentality.  People would compare what happened at their church with what happened at others.  This church finally got out of the box when it abandoned this for a new vision which is focused on community.  It now is growing.  The "at least we aren't those other guys" vision is no vision at all.
Vanilla Church, Trying to be all things to all people.  This is the saddest situation of all.  Trying to build a church by being whatever you think everyone wants.  In other words not having a core vision, not remaining faithful to the beliefs and principles you started with.  People are attracted by vision.  Not by division which is what happens when everyone has their say.  The leadership must promote the vision constantly.  Those who buy into the vision will come, those who don't will leave.  The church that results will be strong and unified.
Plan B. This curse is the worst of all.   If a church planter lives with  Plan B in his pocket he will fail. When he committed to planting a church he had to say to himself, there is no plan B.  I worked with a man who planted a church a few years ago and he was constantly scheming to come up with a plan B.  Not God's plan.  His Plan B.  If a person is a church planter, he must say to himself, there is no plan B.  The tentativeness will cause him to bob and weave when he should be focused and straight ahead.
If God told him to plant a church and if it succeeds all the Glory goes to God.  If it fails who let it fail?   A church planter must be neutral regarding success or failure.  If he becomes failure minded (feeling like if the church fails he failed) he will fail.  It's not about him.  It's about what God wants to do thru him.  If God wants to plant a church and he calls a man or woman to do it then all that man or woman can do is do their level best every day using all the skills abilities and anointing God gave them.  If it doesn't work he closes the book and moves on.
Church planting is brutal business.  It's family stretching.  It's marriage punishing.  It's ego destroying.  It can drive a man out of ministry. 
Yet I have worked with some GOOD men who planted and made it work even if it failed.  Tim and Aaron.  If they read this (I sent them a copy as I sent this to the Blogpost) they know who they are.  They both planted without the curse.  It was a pure work. That doesn't mean immediate success.  It may not mean success at all.  It means they did what God asked them to do.  In that they are successful.
Planting a church without one of the curses noted above has a much better chance of making it than one that is planted with a curse.  I know the devil curses new church plants, that's OK.  The gates of hell won't prevail anyway.  I just want to make sure that there isn't a curse that God will allow because of one of the rebellions noted above.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Does over the Hill mean going Faster?

The US government asked me if I want to start collecting Social Security. I said no. Let it ride. I'm over the hill in their opinion. I think I must be because I'm going so much faster than I used to. That's what happens when you start going downhill. I even changed the Blood Pressure medication (or the Doc did) and I take fewer naps. So, now I run even faster.

My blogging absence is mostly because I am behind in work. I should be writing a shipping order. I should be but I'm not. I'm blogging.

I should be unpacking and heeling in a couple hundred plants that came on Friday. I should be but I'm not. I'm blogging.

And it's not topic shortage. I have much to blog on that I may never get to:
  • Cultural Pimps Leading to Disaster
  • Trading your soul for acceptance
  • 7 basic Christian beliefs you must accept or you will go to hell
  • Pre and post Pentecost infilling of the Spirit of God, which side are you on?
  • The Highways with Pretty Scenery may not take you where you want to go
  • I was bitten on Thursday by a Black Widow Spider (in honor of Julies post on Spiders) and survived. I did swell up. I'll live.
and much much more.

I have to stop blogging and go unpack that box of plants and unload a pickup load of potting soil and and and and......

That's how I know I'm over the hill, I keep going faster.

I hope there's no nasty spiders in those boxes.