Monthly Archives: October 2018

Does the Church really Need to Change? Maybe or Maybe not

We have all heard phrases like “The church needs to change” and “Change or die.”  Nearly everyone agrees that change must happen or the American church will go the way of the horse and buggy, rotary phones and Sears.  A friend of mine recently posted on Twitter this quote: “It is easier for church members to close the doors of their beloved church than it is for them to change.” Is this true?  Is change the hardest yet most necessary thing for a church to do?

I don’t want to be the guy that says we don’t need to change. Clearly, the church in America has issues. As you probably know, every major faith branch in the US is in decline. Every. Single. One. The big question becomes: if the church is to “change” what are we to change into?

Change into a more progressive church?  Progressive churches are dying.

Change into a more conservative church?  They are dying too.

Change into a more liturgical church?  Dead and dying.

Change into a cooler, hipper church?  Who decides what’s cool? Today’s cool is tomorrow’s dead.

Of course, we want our churches growing again.  We want them to be relevant.  We want to reverse the downward trajectory in our attendance and influence numbers.  We want our losses to change into gains. What change needs to happen that will lead to a reversal of our current path?

The Bible tells us:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). In other words, Jesus doesn’t change.  We serve the same Jesus that Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther and John Wesley did. Maybe the changes the church needs are not upping the cool factor, but getting back to the never changing Jesus. Could it be that in an ever-changing culture, the church should not be concerned with changing equally fast, but instead reclaim its original message. Maybe the answer to staving off our imminent demise is less about music style and coffee options in our cool cafes and more about Jesus.

What I’m suggesting is that the primary reason for our rapid decline is that the culture has rejected the church because we don’t look enough like Jesus.  The remedy for the dying church in America is a healthy dose of “that old time religion,” where Jesus is preached and Jesus’ values are deeply imbedded in our church’s DNA once again. A church, like Jesus, loves all people including the “least of these;” shares with the hungry, thirsty, blind, and imprisoned; preaches the good news to the poor; and makes disciples and teaches them in the ways of Jesus. It’s less politics. More Jesus.  Less Judgment. More Jesus. Less hypocrisy. More Jesus. Less pumpkin spice lattes in the lobby and more Jesus in every corner in the church. Our world doesn’t need another church named “the Rock” or some other outdoorsy sounding name, where outsiders don’t know if they are attending a concert, a geological appreciation meeting or a church.  Our world needs the church of Jesus Christ to reflect Jesus Christ more and more.

If your church has gotten away from the Jesus message, then yes, you need to change.  But not change for change sake.  Change for Jesus sake.


The Perfect Life Verses for Church Workers!

Usher: He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat. 2 Kings 25:28

Church Attendance Secretary: What is lacking cannot be counted.” Ecclesiastes 1:15

Church Bus Driver: The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.” 2 Kings 9:20

Upwards Concession Stand Cashier: “You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink.”  Deuteronomy 2:6

Funeral Dinner Committee: Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat Genesis 27:4

Church Janitor:  You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean Leviticus 11:47

Babies in the Nursery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” 1 Corinthians 15:51

Overwhelmed Children’s Worker: But the children rebelled against me.”  Ezekiel 20:21

Jr. High Boys Party Planner: “They will eat but not have enough;” Hosea 4:10

Overly friendly Greeter: Greet one another with a holy kiss. 1 Corinthians 16:20

Carnal Board Member (or Pastor): May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. Psalm 109:8

Church Coffee Shop Barista: “and drink; drink your fill of love” Song of Songs 5:1

Youth Pastor following a Lock-in: “He lay fast asleep, exhausted.”  Judges 4:21

Sr. Adult Pastor: The gray-haired and the aged are on our side. Job 15:10

Church Security team member: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe Psalm 27:5

Contemporary Worship Leader: Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.  Psalm 150:5

All silliness aside as a pastor one of my life verses is this:

Lead Pastor: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.  1 Peter 5:2


Bonus:  Non-Churched Life Verses

Dentist:  Take the silver and gold and make a crown  Zechariah 6:11

Aaron Rogers (Green Bay Packers’ Quarterback): Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. Psalm 35:17 (Can you tell I am a Detroit Lions football fan?)

Ohio State Football or New Yankees:  Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 1 John 3:13 (Can you tell I am not a Buckeye or Yankee fan?)

Hotel Receptionist and Wake Up Caller:  The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber Romans 13:11

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets Cook:  They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. Number 11:8

Cabela’s Patrons: Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game. Genesis 27:3

Do you have a life verse or favorite Bible verse?  Share it with a friend today!

**All verses from the New International Version

















Disagreeing with Stephen Hawking

“There is no God” — that’s the conclusion of the physicist Stephen Hawking, whose final book was published Tuesday. The book, which was completed by his family after his death, offers answers to various questions that Hawking had received in his lifetime. Also “answered” in his book, the British genius believes that alien life is out there. So, if you are keeping score at home, according to Hawking there is no God, but E.T. is somewhere out there in a galaxy far, far away.

With all due respect to Dr. Hawking, I respectfully disagree.

Hawking was a smart guy. Smarter than I ever will be. But he was wrong about God. Now I don’t know if he was wrong about spacemen or not, but I know God is real. I’ve staked my life on it. I believe there is a Creator who made all that there is including Steven Hawking, Pluto, the Milky Way (not the candy bar) and me.

I can’t offer a formula or proof that will convince a hardened atheist. I’m not the mathematician that Steven Hawking was. But here is how my math works:

Jesus > my alcoholic dad

Jesus > than my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease

Jesus > than a subarachnoid hemorrhage

Jesus > than all my sin (Praise the Lord)

Jesus + the cross = my salvation

Jesus + the empty tomb = my eternal hope

Life – Jesus = meaningless and hopeless

Life + Jesus = Joy Unspeakable

Jesus + us = a match made in heaven (literally)

Knowing Jesus = Peace

Maybe that is all too simplistic for a smart guy like Steven Hawking. The Apostle Paul (an equally brilliant guy) would have answered Steven Hawking this way:

 Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)

If I am reading Paul’s words correctly (and I’d like to think that I am), Paul’s math formula is this:

God > the smartest minds on earth (including Steven Hawking)


Can the Followers of Jesus Disagree on Politics?

Two notable exceptions to the fishermen faction of Jesus’ twelve disciples was the curious inclusion of Matthew the former tax collector and Simon the zealot. If you know much about first century politics you might wonder, what was Jesus thinking in picking these two guys for his inner circle?

As you probably know, for the people in the first century (and 21stcentury for that matter), the tax man was not high on anyone’s Christmas card list (truth be told, very few people received Christmas cards in the first century).  Still the 21stcentury IRS employees would not be considered thieves, loan sharks or collaborators with the enemies. They are nice people. That would not have been the common opinion regarding their 1stcentury counterparts.

On the other hand, the zealots would have been at the polar opposite extreme of tax collectors. Instead of collaborating with the enemy, the zealots would advocate violently overthrowing the enemy. As much as the everyday people hated tax collectors, the zealots hated the Romans and anyone in cahoots with the Romans even more.

It seems with Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot in the tight knit circle of disciples there would have been interesting campfire discussions if not an occasional all-out Conner McGregor vs. Floyd Merriweather-like rumble.

The Gospels don’t sugarcoat the conversations among the disciples.  They tell of the disciples arguing about who among them was the greatest (Mark 9:34).  And how the other ten were upset with James and John when the brothers were trying to finagle the best seats in heaven (10:41).  But you will never read in the Bible: “Simon the zealot was at Matthew the tax collector’s throat. He called him a Little Caesar lover, (which had nothing to do with pizza) and said the Kingdom of heaven wasn’t big enough for them both.”  Apparently, Matthew wasn’t petty either.  He didn’t conveniently leave Simon off the list of disciples in his gospel.  In fact, he points out (like Mark and Luke) that Simon was a zealot.  He didn’t even write that Simon was a low-down-good-for-nothing zealot.  He simply included Simon the zealot on his list. No big deal.

Christ-followers in the 21stcentury could learn something from these two disciples in the first century. Apparently, not every follower of Jesus must be in the same political camp. It’s possible to have vastly different opinions on tough issues and still follow Jesus. Matthew and Simon’s model shows that even when on opposite ends of the political spectrum, we can still sit and learn together at the feet of Jesus. The Kingdom of God took priority over politics.

If an in-cahoots-with-the-enemy tax collector and a wipe-the-stinking-Romans-and-all-their-collaborators-off-the-face-of-the-earth zealot can get along, why can’t we?  Can’t we love those who voted for the other candidate?  Can’t we live into Ephesians 4:2 that says:  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. “Bearing with one another in love” means to love our fellow believers even when we don’t agree. Can’t we do that? Can’t we be humble, gentle and patient too? It certainly appears that Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector were all of those things.

What this Pastor Appreciates Most During Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month when congregants take time to appreciate their pastors.  But I’d like to flip the meaning of Pastor Appreciation Month a tad and tell you the attributes that I most appreciate in church folks.

I deeply appreciate the people of my church who…

1)  Love my family. These congregants don’t have undo expectations of the pastor’s family. My kids are grown, but when they were young their “adopted” grandparents, aunts and uncles in the congregation loved them and in so doing taught them to love church folks and love the church. Moreover, they don’t insist that my wife play the piano, be a super-spiritual pray-er or act as if she has a Master of Divinity too

2)  Love their fellow church members. Even if they didn’t vote the same way or have different musical tastes or dress out of style or cheer for the wrong teams, they still love them and wouldn’t dream of looking for greener pastures.

3) Serve without being asked. No pleading required.  These church folks show up to work days, revival services, youth fundraisers and whatever else is happening.

4)  Refuse to Gossip. Rumors and innuendo go in one ear and out the other and don’t pass over their tongue or through their lips.

5) Use social media to be the church’s biggest cheerleader and to spread kindness (and not to cherry pick theological or political posts to be used in a passive aggressive ambush of others).

6) Don’t whine when a hymn or chorus is played that they don’t like. Not every hymn is my favorite. Not every chorus gives me goose bumps, but that’s ok because worship isn’t directed toward you or me.

7). Pray regularly for their pastors (and not by praying: “O Lord, could you send my pastor to a little church in Timbuktu. Amen.”).

8). Welcome newcomers.  These parishioners live by the motto: There are no strangers in God’s house.

9). Invite friends on a regular basis. They tell others about their church like they would tell them if their favorite pop star or athlete was going to be in attendance. “Yahoo! Guess what? Jesus is coming to my church on Sunday? You’ve got to come and meet Him!”

10). Give. No pastor likes talking about money.  Don’t force him or her to become a beggar for Jesus. Just faithfully, regularly, generously give to the Lord.

Appreciate your pastor in a tangible way this month if you are so led, but even more importantly appreciate your pastor by being the best layperson all year long!



How To Kill a Church in Six Easy Steps

1)  Evangelism is a relic of the past. If people stumble into the church… great. But don’t ask the members to knock on doors, hand out tracks, hold special revival services or talk to friends or relatives about spiritual things. That’s the pastor’s job.

2)  Brag about everything but Jesus. Be quick to talk about sports, weather, politics, clothing styles, the latest TV shows, a new car, phone or exotic vacation plans. In other words, talk about everything but Jesus? C’mon you don’t want to be pushy or holier-than-thou.

3). Young People’s opinions don’t matter. Who pays the bills? Not the coffee drinking, college debt ridden, stocking cap wearing hipster.

4). Missions are fine as long as it cost me nothing. Don’t ask people to give to missions, go on mission trips, work in their neighborhood, love the marginalized or do anything that will unsettle their safe, secure and worry free life.

 5).  Blame the Preacher.  The church isn’t growing?  It’s the preachers fault.

  • Tithes are down. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • Worship is lethargic. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • My kids are wayward. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • The potluck dinner had too many chicken dishes. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • Aunt Millie’s feelings were hurt when she wasn’t asked to sing her special rendition of “The Great Speckled Bird” (that’s really a song).  It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • The snow wasn’t plowed in a timely manner.  It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • The temperature in the sanctuary is too cold.  It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • The temperature in the sanctuary is too hot. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • Communion wafers taste like cardboard.  It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • Communion juice fermented. It’s the preacher’s fault.
  • Communion is celebrated too often (or not enough). It’s the preachers fault.

You name it, it’s the preacher’s fault.

6). Restlessness not Faithfulness is the modus operandi. At the first sign of trouble, when a hot-new church comes to town, when the preacher talks too much about: Money, missions, Luke-warm Christians, or modern day Pharisees—exit the church faster than you can say:  I’m not being fed.

How To not kill a church:  Love. Participate. Give. Invite. Care. Share. Help. Love some more. Offer Grace. Trust. Refuse to Quit. Get involved. Love some more. Pray. Read your Bible. Fast. Be the pastor’s biggest supporter. Give the benefit of the doubt. Pray some more. Serve. Brag on Jesus. And love, love, love some more.