Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Current State of the Flint Water Crisis: A Pastoral Perspective

I arrived back in Flint in October of 2013.  The Flint Water Crisis began six months later on April 21, 2014.  That’s the date, under the state’s supervision and guidance, the city switched from the Detroit water source to the Flint River. So nearly my entire time in Flint, the citizens of Flint have been living with the effects, the blaming, the promises, the back and forth accusations, the lawsuits, the anger, the distrust that flowed along with the leaded water in the Flint Water Crisis.

Most common sense thinking people look at what happened in Flint and say, “How can that happen in America? How can the richest country in the world allow for a contaminated water supply?”  Some people have been held accountable for their actions (or inactions) that resulted in this crisis.  Some court cases are still on going. Probably more are yet to come.

Water has always been a vital commodity.  In Jesus’ story about the end times when God is separating people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats (you want to be a sheep not a goat); Jesus commends those sheep who followed his example of compassion and concern for others. Jesus said, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”(Matthew 25:35). The implication is that He was given something good to drink.  Not poison to drink; not contaminated water to drink, but rather He was given something good to quench his thirst.

Trying to live out Jesus words, a lot of money and water donations have come to Flint from many different sources from all over the country. Some inspired by the words of Jesus, some not. Some private. Some governmental. Our church worked with the Convoy of Hope to bring a lot of bottled water into the city. We helped our inner-city partner Joy Tabernacle receive a total church filtration system.  We gave funds to purchase healthy foods to be given away that would help mitigate the lead contamination affects in people. We gave out water and filters to our church folks and anyone in need.  We tried to do our part, in other words.

Citing improvements made to the water system since the crisis began (90% of the residents now show acceptable levels of lead), recently the state stopped the water bottle distribution sites and the home delivery to the elderly and infirmed that could not get the bottled water on their own.  Now I was not a math major (I was a psychology major) in college, but it seems to me that still leaves 10% of the residents with water that is still leaded. That doesn’t seem like a good percentage.

There’s another story involving a shepherd that Jesus once told– in that one, the shepherd has exactly 100 sheep but he leaves 99 sheep to find one lost sheep.  In other words, 99% safe sheep was not an acceptable number. Jesus is not called “the good enough shepherd,” he’s the Good Shepherd who looks for the lost 1%.  Given that story, I think Jesus would say 10% of folks without safe drinking water is not good enough.

Without getting into the politics of the situation (I know, I know…everything becomes political these days), still I think we should expect that all of our residents have access to clean, safe water.  Until all of our people can drink clean, safe water we cannot stop advocating for those who need it.  The church behaves as God’s representative on earth. As such, we need to speak for those silenced and cry with those whose tears have been ignored. And let us never forget Jesus words (in that same story about the sheep and goats), “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”(Matthew 25:40).

Keep praying for God’s Kingdom to Come and God’s will to be done in Flint as it is in heaven!



In the little Nazarene church of my youth, Sunday School and evangelism were a big deal.

  • We had “Opening Exercises” that had nothing to do with calisthenics. Instead it was the time before Sunday School when everybody (old, young, everybody) would gather in the sanctuary to sing songs (Hallelu, Hallelu…, Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain and Deep and Wide were my favorites), recognize visitors (the visitors would stand up and we formally welcomed them) and sing happy birthday to those who celebrated getting a year older that week.
  • If it was your birthday week, you went forward with money (a penny for each year) that you put into a birthday cake shaped bank. The money went to missions. My mom always gave 29 cents (I guess she wasn’t worried about lying in the “Opening Exercises.”)
  • We would sing the following birthday song:

A happy birthday to you

A happy birthday to you.

May each day of the year

May you feel Jesus near.

A happy Birthday to you

A happy Birthday to you.

The best you have ever had.

  • We had Sunday School drives and gave out prizes to whoever brought the most friends.
  • We had competitions with other churches on who could most increase their attendance.
  • We went door to door inviting people to Sunday School.
  • We had a bus that picked up kids from some poorer communities.
  • On more than one occasion we brought in a “Gospel Clown.” (There may be some folks who would say our church board did too when they called me as pastor, but I digress).
  • If we broke an attendance record the preacher would get a pie in the face. I think he once promised to preach from the roof if an attendance record was broken.
  • We had dinner on the grounds (which meant a potluck dinner picnic style outside).
  • Old Fashion Days were when we would dress up like pioneers (usually there was “dinner on the grounds” on this day). I still don’t know why we did that.
  • We had two revivals a year (Sunday to Sunday. Every night. Occasionally, we would extend the services an extra week if it was going well).
  • We had little envelopes for Prayer and Fasting and the idea was to put in money that we would have been spent on the fasted meal and give that money to missions. My mom usually gave me 50 cents for my Prayer and Fasting envelope.
  • We were taught the Romans’ Road and the Four Spiritual Laws, which were personal evangelism tools for leading people to Jesus.
  • There were Sunday School Campaigns: Strive for Five; Everybody Win Some, All Out for Souls and Our Church Can Be Your Home.
  • We believed in a heaven, a hell and that Jesus was going to return to earth.
  • We had movie nights that consisted of cinematography classics like “A Thief in the Night” and “A Distant Thunder.”
  • We were convinced that if we didn’t reach our neighbors and give money so that people on the other side of the world could hear about Jesus, then they were not going to make it to heaven. We took that serious.

We don’t think that way anymore.  The arguments are: Our tactics were embarrassing (I’m not preaching from our roof– it’s a little high); It’s old fashion; and those things just won’t work anymore.  Instead, our evangelism now consists of…. umm…. well… we are nice and we hope that somehow, people will assume that we must be Christians because of our niceness.  (We would never want to actually talk to our neighbors and co-workers about Jesus or invite them to a small group, Sunday School class or church and we would never, ever present the gospel to them because that might make them feel uncomfortable and besides isn’t that the preacher’s job?).  But hopefully they will know that we kinda like Jesus and give him a whole hour of our time most (some) Sundays (if there is nothing better going on in our life).

And we wonder why our churches are dying.

Author’s Note: I am not advocating for the good ol’ days. I know we have to change our methods.  I just wonder if we have forgotten the message too.




Had Twitter Existed at Pentecost

My Twitter feed is a mixed bag.  I guess I have friends on both sides of the issues (no matter what the issue is).  Some folks look at a set of facts and smell a rose, others look at the same facts and smell a rat. It’s not a new phenomenon. It happened on Pentecost too. Acts 2:12-13 gives two differing viewpoints of the events taking place:   Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

So, with that in mind, here is what I imagine my Twitter feed might have looked like if Twitter had been around on the first Pentecost:

  • The Holy Spirit filled the people in the upper room? #YeahRight #ItsNeverBeenDoneThatWayBefore
  • Did anybody hear that loud sound? It wasn’t a tornado. God must be up to something #WhatDoesThisMean #CantWait
  • Rushing Wind? Tongues of Fire? #ProveIt #WhatsNextLittleGreenMenfromMars
  • Crowd is asking if these people are drunk. #NoAppearanceOfEvil #IfItQuacksLikeADuck
  • I’m from Mesopotamia and a Galilean is speaking my language! #NoTranslatorNeeded #NoJoke
  • Reports of people hearing the message of Jesus in their own languages spoken by Galileans. #MaybeTheListenersWereDrunkToo #TooMuchWine
  • Peter Preaching. Are you kidding me? #FailureDisqualifies #LiarLiarPantsOnFire
  • Peter is a fisherman. Not a preacher. #SermonFail #NoThreePoints #NoClosingTearJerkerStory #NoJustAsIAm #GoBackToFishing
  • The guy who a few weeks ago was cursing and saying he didn’t know Jesus to a servant girl is now boldly speaking before thousands saying, “Jesus is Risen from the grave.” #WhatHappenedToThisGuy #HeHasChanged
  • Church leaders say there were 3000 converts in one day. #WhenPigsFly #UshersCantCount #MoreLike300 #WontLast #NoAltarNoConverts #FactCheckTheNumbers
  • I believe!#Jesus #NewConvert #Baptized #2999JustLikeMe

Mixed viewpoints still exist.  The question becomes “to whom will you listen?”  Whose voice will win out in your life?  The voice of the hope or the voice of despair?  The American church’s pews too often are filled with people who are more defined by politics, materialism, and a feeble prayer life. Their authority is from a news channel instead of the Bible. Too many are filled with a spirit of fear and criticism rather than filled with the Holy Spirit.

What’s needed?

Another Pentecost.

And for another Pentecost, we will need:

Less social media and more prayer;

Less news channels and more prayer;

Less “us vs. them” and more prayer;

Less trivial pursuits and more prayer.

What voices are you listening to?  What or Who is shaping your story? Bottom line: We all need more of the Spirit of Jesus filling our lives.  #AnotherPentecost

Ten Ways a Mom can get her Adult Kids to Join her in Church on Mother’s Day

1. Bribe them with her world famous homemade fried chicken dinner after church

2.  Remind them that the preacher has a 25-minute sermon guarantee or it’s free (I have heard from a good source this is not entirely true).

3.  Offer to pay for travel expenses even from Australia (They’ll need to get busy. To almost quote Anthony Campolo: “It’s Thursday, but Sunday’s a comin’”).

4.  Tell them if they DON’T come to church with you, then you WILL go with them to their work family picnic telling stories from their childhood (see below).

5.  Promise that you will no longer remind him/her of the infamous alleged booger eating incident during the kindergarten Christmas program of 1989.

6.  No Churchy. No trust fundy.

7.  (If child is single) Assure her/him that you will not introduce your son/daughter to that nice young lady/fella with the wonderful personality but who also has some halitosis issues.

8.  Guarantee no twisty pinches if they misbehave like the old days in church.


but the best way to get your adult kids to come to church with you on Mother’s Day is to simply…

10. Invite them*

*Most surveys indicate that people (even family) come to church if invited.


A Suggestion to Improve Nazarene District Assemblies

We are in the middle of the ever-exciting (cough cough) Nazarene District Assembly season in USA/Canada.  With the hand picking (as opposed to truly electing) of District Superintendents that has become more and more in vogue (I’m not expressing an opinion of this practice, simply recognizing its occurrence), even DS election years have lost their luster.  I have been to 30 consecutive District Assemblies and the closest that any of them have ever come to anything that could be described as “exciting” was when a church split boiled over onto the District Assembly floor.  Excuse me, holiness folks don’t have church splits (cough cough). That year, there was some fascinating discussion when a “church plant” had a disagreement over the property and money given or not given by the “mother church.”  With that lone exception, it’s been tough to keep the mostly whited headed delegates awake, much less engaged in anything remotely considered missional.

There have been plenty of honest attempts to juice up our yearly gatherings: special speakers, workshops, and mission projects.  For the most part, it hasn’t worked. So here’s my suggestion (Truth Alert: it’s not a new idea and it’s not even my idea. In fact, it’s ancient).  How about if we followed the Acts 2:42 model for our District Assemblies?  Luke wrote that the early church gathered and:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 

Could we do that in our District Assemblies?

We already have good apostolic teaching (usually).  I generally like the General Superintendent’s sermons and the DS’s report (when they stick to vision, mission and Jesus and not making excuses for the district’s and/or denomination’s decline). I love the ordination service.  But what if like in Acts 2:42 we fellowshipped more?  What if instead of scattering to the closest Golden Corral for lunch we all ate our meals together and we talked about the good things that were happening in our churches. No negativity and gossip allowed (if that is possible).  What if we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together (do you ever remember celebrating the Lord’s Supper at a District Assembly?  Me neither). What if (now I’m just getting crazy) we made baptisms a part of District Assembly? Baptisms at District Assembly? Why not?  And what if we concluded with a great and boisterous prayer meeting where we confessed our faults and failures, thanked the Lord for his provisions and cried out to God for a Pentecost like renewal in all of our churches.

Could such a District Assembly change our churches, pastors and laypeople?  If the manual changed and allowed me to make a wager, I’d bet such a District Assembly would do more good than the snoozefests that too often our District Assemblies have become.