Monthly Archives: May 2019

Is your church like a Country Club or a City Park? Here’s how to tell the difference

Not everyone likes being a part of a church that deeply cares about its community (They’d never say it that way. It’s kind of like saying, “I don’t care about people.” That sounds bad. So they’d never say it, but if the Gucci loafer fits…). There are plenty of church goers who’d rather their house of worship was more like a country club than a city park. There are big differences between a church that’s like a country club and a church that’s like a city park.

A country club-like church is exclusive—only a select few are welcome. It’s for “us.”
A city park-like church is open for all. It’s for “us,” “them” and “them” too. Everyone’s welcome.

A county club church keeps “those people” out.
A city park church is full of “those people” (whoever “those people” happen to be).

A country club church’s members like being with people just like themselves. Diversity is bad.
A city park church’s attenders love that everyone is not alike. Different is good.

A country club church’s members show up to be seen.
A city park church show up to celebrate life.

A country club church only values those who contribute.
A city park church values everyone.

A country club church proudly boasts of their once-in-a-blue-moon pittance for the needy.
A city park church regularly cries with those who have been beaten down by life.

A country club church is nice and neat.
A city park church is sometimes messy. The playground equipment isn’t the best or newest… and that’s ok.

A country club church would rather have kids seen than heard. The quieter the better.
A city park church loves it when kids are squealing and having fun. The louder the better.

A country club church is best summarized by the words, “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn.”
A city park church is best summarized by the words, “Have fun kids! You are loved!”

A country club church exudes snootiness (snotty-ness?).
A city park church exudes Jesus (just Jesus!).

But most of all…

A country club-like church teaches you’re better than your neighbor.
A city park-like church teaches one to love their neighbor.

Would Jesus be at the city park or the country club? We all know the answer to that question.

A Pastoral Perspective on the Abortion Discussion: Pro-Women, Pro-Baby, Pro-Both.

A week or so ago, a Nebraska farmer, Kurt Kaser, amputated his own leg with a pocketknife after his leg was caught in some farm machinery. With his leg stuck in an auger, he was being drawn into the apparatus which would mean certain death. No one was around. His cell phone was out of reach. Mr. Kaser realized his only hope for survival was to cut off his leg. (You can read his story here.)

No one in their right mind, under normal circumstances, would cut off a limb with a pocket knife. One would only resort to such measures if it was life or death. Extreme circumstances caused him to do the unthinkable.

As the abortion debate has heated up in recent days, Mr. Kaser’s dilemma seems eerily similar to what many women face with an unwanted pregnancy. The notion of ending a pregnancy goes against every maternal instinct we humans have.  Yet extreme circumstances cause many women to do the unthinkable.  (Tara Beth Leech’s article from a few years ago helped me understand this issue better).

I don’t believe that most women (at least not the ones I’ve talked to) choose to have an abortion like one chooses hair color or an item from the menu at Applebee’s. The decision is more like Mr. Kaser’s: amputate or die. When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, often women, like Mr. Kaser, feel trapped, alone and afraid. It might seem at that moment to bring a child into her dysfunctional world would only cause more grief, hopelessness and despair. Extreme circumstances lead to the unthinkable.

As a male, pro-life pastor, I understand some people view those three descriptors as disqualifiers from having any meaningful input into the abortion debate. It’s true, I can’t imagine being trapped like Mr. Kaser where my only option was to amputate my leg with a pocketknife. Just as I do not pretend to know the horrific trap that many women feel when trying to navigate the decision of having a child while their world is caving in all around them. My contribution to the abortion discussion is not more pontificating, but is the work of a pastor. I want to following Jesus lead in John 1:14. I want to be full of grace and truth. I want to help build a hope-filled and loving Christian community that comes alongside women and their babies. It’s advocating and working for a better story for women who feel trapped in their pregnancy.

Surveys show that the church is not the first-place women turn to when in the midst of an unwanted pregnancy. For some it’s the last place. That’s part of our problem.  But what if we could change that story?  What if we aren’t seen as dishing out condemnations for their present circumstances, but seen as a Jesus-reflecting, helpful place that leads women and children toward a better future? What if churches offered real concern, love and resources to women who feel stuck in an uncertain future? What if women came to our churches because we offered the most empathy and support?

The work of the church and the pro-life movement cannot stop caring at the baby’s birth, but must continue to provide a loving and nurturing community for moms and babies (and for everyone else, for that matter) throughout their lifetime. Let’s work for everyone’s well-being both in the present tense and in the future. Let’s fight for better present circumstances of women who feel their only option is an abortion and fight for a better life for moms and their babies in the days ahead. Maybe if the church demonstrates that both women and their unborn children are created in the image of God and their well-being matters to God, then women wouldn’t view abortion as their only option. Let’s be pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-both.




Will the Church of the Nazarene Split over Social Drinking?

Please read the following disclaimer/facts before reading the article below:

Fact 1: My dad was an alcoholic before becoming a Christian. Had he come to Christ in a church that allowed social drinking, I believe my dad would have died an alcoholic.

Fact 2: Medical professionals are now admitting that even small amounts of alcohol can have a negative effect on a person’s well-being. See the August 23, 2018 study here.

Fact 3: The Church of the Nazarene has historically taken the stance of prohibition in part to side with those who struggle with issues of alcohol and chemical dependency.

Fact 4: Many Nazarenes are already drinking (I have had plenty of attenders, members, and leaders admit to social drinking and voice disagreement with our current policy).

Fact 5: Other historically “dry” denominations have allowed social drinking in recent years.

Fact 6: The Bible argues against drunkenness. It does not mandate abstinence or prohibit the consumption of alcohol. (Note: a case could be made that clean drinking water was not readily available for the Biblical writers and the medicinal purposes of wine in ancient times outweighed the dangers of moderate alcohol consumption.),

Fact 7: The Social Action Committee at the 2017 General Assembly passed a resolution that would have permitted social drinking. There was not a vote on the General Assembly floor because the proposal was sent to committee for further study (I do not know if a committee has been formed nor do I know what is/was the outcome or recommendations from that committee).


Given these facts, will the Church of the Nazarene split over the issue of Social Drinking?

I have heard from people that if the church changes its stance regarding social drinking they will leave. I liken this to their parents who made similar statements regarding the cinema 30+ years ago. They didn’t leave then, and most won’t leave now. Members won’t leave in droves should the alcohol position change. There won’t be a split. Where would the teetotaler members go?  As already stated, most once dry denominations have already allowed for (or turned a blind eye to) social drinking among its membership. Moreover, for many of the younger members in the Church of the Nazarene, drinking is a nonissue. They already socially drink.

The great likelihood is that the General Assembly delegates will pass legislation that opens the door for moderate social drinking (if not in 2021 then surely in 2025), Given my family history (see Fact 1), I will not be happy with the change. Given modern research (see Fact 2) we may regret the decision. Given our historic stance of siding with those who struggle with alcohol (See Fact 3) we may lose some of our voice with the victims of alcoholism and its effect upon individuals and families.

Ultimately, the reasoning to move away from our historical stance regarding alcohol is less about righteousness or coming alongside a struggling believer and more about pragmatism:

1) The ship has sailed. Many are already drinking (see Fact 4);

2) “Peer pressure.” Other once dry denominations now allow social drinking (see fact 5); and

3) Making a Biblical argument is difficult as the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid it (see Fact 6).

For these reasons, the prohibition against alcohol consumption seems likely to be lifted once the debate reaches the General Assembly floor. I will not leave the Church of the Nazarene over this issue, nor do I think that many others will. But I will be saddened for the children of alcoholics like myself whose family was salvaged because of the grace of God and the historic stance of a church that stood with those who struggle with alcohol.





A Better Mother’s Day Gift than Burnt Toast and Cheerios

On Mother’s Day, I would make my mom breakfast-in-bed. By “breakfast-in-bed,” I mean: burnt toast, orange juice and cheerios. I would have a jelly jar with hand-picked dandelions and a homemade card to garnish the cookie sheet that would hold the items listed. My mom always seemed thankful for the less than appetizing meal and not quite made-by-Hallmark Mother’s Day card. She conveyed an appreciated for the effort. She probably would have appreciated more my completion of any number of household chores that generally slipped my mind without parental reminders and threats of no allowance. But breakfast-in-bed was what she got.

At church on Mother’s Day, there were generally prizes for the oldest, youngest and mom with the most kids. I can’t remember my mom ever winning any of those awards. Often the ladies of the church were paraded to the front where they would sing the third verse of Such Love or some hymn.  Was this “special recognition” a prize or punishment? Once home from church, I don’t remember my mom ever sitting in the living room while the kids prepared Sunday dinner. The kitchen was her domain (Mother’s Day or not).

Mother’s Day consisted of a lousy breakfast, an introvert’s nightmare at church and making her own Mother’s Day meal. Lot-te-da!

Truth-be-told, I’m not sure any mom becomes one because of a Mother’s Day gift. Enduring childbirth and the hassles of raising a bunch of yahoos for a box of chocolates or a dozen roses hardly seems like a good deal. Most moms (sadly not all) are glad for this special, unique role and would do it all over again even without the dandelion bouquet.

To all ladies (mothers or not), no Cheerios or burnt toast, instead I offer the following:

  • If you are exhausted with all the duties that come with being a mom, I’m praying for your strength and cheering you on!
  • If you adopted a child or are a foster parent, thank you for your commitment to the lives of children.
  • If you are struggling with infertility, I am hoping with you and holding you in prayer.
  • If you are single, remember the Lord has made you completely whole!
  • If you are a single mom, I pray that the Lord provides all of your needs!
  • If you lost a child this year to death or miscarriage, I weep with you.
  • If your child is hindered by addiction or struggling with life, then I will take you to the One that specializes in bringing home prodigals.
  • If you are alone on Mother’s Day, the Lord is your companion.
  • If you are surrounded by loved ones on Mother’s Day, the Lord enjoys your delight!
  • If you grieve this Mother’s Day, the Lord mourns with you.
  • If you celebrate Mother’s Day, the Lord rejoices with you.

If Mother’s Day brings a smile or a tear, know that the Lord is forever on your side in all of the circumstances of life.