Monthly Archives: July 2019

When Your Family’s Story is not great…

When I first became a Church of the Nazarene pastor, people would frequently ask if General Superintendent William Prince was my grandfather. Um…. no. Not by a long shot. This became more evident this week, when a cousin shared a 1937 Detroit newspaper article about my grandfather. The article doesn’t tell how my grandfather rescued a child from a burning building in heroic fashion. My grandfather did not lead a food drive to help the hungry in the Great Depression. I wish that were the case.IMG_6682.JPG

Apparently, a jury awarded my grandfather $5,000 (that’s over $92,000 in today’s dollars). This windfall came to the namesake of my brother and cousin because two men, the owner of a tavern, Fred Hicks and his son Raymond, tossed my grandfather out of their bar and beat him with a wooden mallet. Grandpa Fred claimed his knee was permanently damaged. The jury agreed.

It’s a brief article, but it gives a peek into my family history.

Princes have had a problem with alcohol. I’m not sure what prompted my grandfather’s hasty exit from the drinking establishment, but it’s not a stretch to say alcohol played a role. Of course, this incident happened approximately seven years after my grandmother (Fred’s wife) died of alcohol poisoning. Did I mention we had a problem with alcohol?

Princes haven’t always been good with money. $5000 was a lot of money during the Great Depression. When my grandfather died no one in the family worried about how they were going to spend their inheritance. There was no inheritance.

The article stated that the tavern owner was a middleweight boxer. My ancestors hit the bottle hard, but apparently did not hit the gym hard. Moreover, my grandfather must not have taken the advice that he gave his son (and my dad taught me): “When in trouble– do a lot of ‘cutting’ and ‘shooting.’ Cutting around corners and shooting for home.” Apparently, even before my grandfather’s kneecap was smashed by a wooden mallet, he was not the fleetest of foot.

It’s not a story that produces family reunion pride. We had substance abuse, money problems and we weren’t particularly smart or athletic All this to say, we were a mess.

Can anything good come out of 8376 Logan Street? Others may have given up on our motley crew. God did not. I’m not sure of where my grandfather stood with the Lord—he died before my dad met my mom. But in spite of all the dysfunction, all of Fred’s children came to faith. Many of Fred’s grandchildren and great grandchildren are serving the Lord. There are lawyers, teachers, nurses, counselors, and business people in the family. The two namesake grandsons (my cousin Fred and my brother Fred) both became pastors, so did three others. God never gave up on my family.

Your family story may include a drunk with a gimpy leg, like mine, but that doesn’t have to be the final word. God can redeem even the worst family’s story by making us part of His family and His story! Paul said this about himself, but it applies to me and my family: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15) Thanks be to God!


Future Church > Present Church. Here’s Why…

Future Church is going to look a lot different than Present Church and that’s a good thing.

Present Church:
Aging clergy
Declining attendance
Decreased giving
Partisan politics dividing the church
Young adults leaving church in record numbers.
Commitment level (even among the most devout) at an all-time low.

Future Church:
Bi-vocational ministers (like the early church*)
More house churches (like the early church*)
Less reliance on money and buildings (like the early church*)
Less politics, more Jesus (like the early church*)
An all-in, whatever-it-takes mentality of the faithful (like the early church*)

Present Church has taught Future Church what NOT to do. Present Church has gotten off track in our Americanized version of Christianity. Our voice is being convoluted by things that are not the Gospel. There’s too much carnality within our ranks. We are too political. We have too much angst and not enough Jesus. We are quick to point out the slivers in other’s eyes, while winking at the log in our own. Hypocrisy is rampant. It’s no wonder our young people are saying, “if that’s the church, thanks but no thanks.”

The Church was Jesus’ idea. He builds it, not us. If Present Church has failed Him (the previous paragraph implies that we have), then Jesus will raise up a new generation with new methods to proclaim His never changing message of hope. A new generation will look at what our efforts have gotten us (low numbers, feeble faith, anemic commitment and fearful and silent leaders) and determine that they will not be like us. They will have learned from our silence in the face of sin and our boisterous condemnations of those not like us. The next generation will not make the same mistakes.

How can I be so sure? Jesus! Jesus is the head! Jesus is our Teacher. Jesus is our strength. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1:17-19). Jesus will overcome! If death could not defeat Him, then neither will our generation’s watered down, powerless, politicized, teetering, non-Biblical ways. I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. –Jesus (in Matthew 16:18).

*The Early Church had its troubles. Future Church will too. Our Enemy was, is and will be on the prowl. But Future Church like the Early Church will rely on Jesus more, because Jesus is all they will have and that will be enough.

Bring back the Covered Dish as a symbol of our church

On Tuesday night, the Central Church Board and some of the pastors joined Karla and me for a cookout at our house. (I say some of the pastors because some were out of town or had other commitments). I grilled chicken, pork, beef and hot dogs (who knows what’s in the dogs… I’d like to think it was only chicken, beef or pork). Everyone brought a dish to pass. The potluck proved to be lucky as every pot (or dish) was yummy. The conversations were even better. The rain held off for most of the night and all was good. (Tangent Alert: Let me take this space to say we have a great church board! They love Jesus and Central Church. They are leaders you can be proud of and it is a pleasure to serve alongside of them. The pastors are awesome too!).

Tonight, it’s Cookout Part II, as our home group is coming over. It’s the same drill as Tuesday only no beef (except for what may or may not be in the hotdogs). We will eat, talk, pray for one another and look a bit into God’s Word. Many times, my home group helps hash out my thoughts for the upcoming sermon. (Let’s pray they help me tonight… or we could all be in trouble Sunday morning). I love our group—they are a huge blessing!

Christians have been doing this sort of thing since before we were called Christians. In Acts 2, Luke writes about those early believers: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

Back in the NO NO Days (no movies and no dancing), we used to say that the only thing Nazarenes could do was have pot-lucks. We’d say in jest that we needed to replace the dove on our logo with a covered dish as it was the best symbol of the denomination. While we were mostly joking, I think something important was happening in those church potlucks.

When folks gather in Jesus’ name for the simple purpose of eating, fellowshipping, praying and Bible study, the Lord is present. When Jesus is near, we grow together. We learn from one another. We cry with one another’s sorrows and rejoice in our victories. It’s not complicated. It’s the church at its best. It’s also not shocking that Luke further wrote: And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). When the church is at its best, the world notices and wants to be a part of what God is doing!

Bottom Line: If you want to grow in the Lord, then do what the early believers did. Get with a group in Jesus name and eat, fellowship, pray and get into the Word. You’ll be amazed at what God will do!

Where have all the prophet’s gone? Has modern preaching failed us?

Few would argue that we are living in a post-Christian America. There is anger, envy, lust, pride, and greed on all sides. Like most previous generations, we look around at the dismal state of affairs in and out of the church and say, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” Unlike most previous generations, very few prophets are emerging calling out our sin, directing us back to Jesus and toward the way of holiness.

Where are all the prophets?

My cynical view:
Truth telling is costly. Prophets and their families like to eat. Isaiah may have been an aristocrat. Amos wasn’t a prophet or the son of a prophet, his income probably came from sheep and figs. The Apostle Paul was a tent maker. Are modern would-be prophets silenced because they know where their paychecks are coming from and speaking out could jeopardize their livelihood? Have prophets been influenced by profits and loss?

Churches have enough trouble these days keeping members even without the preacher/prophet upsetting half the crowd. With less people attending, pastors feel pressured to keep all the folks they can. Has fear of emptying pews toned down the prophetic or controversial (yet Biblical) topics? There is no need for the devil’s temptations to be silent in the face of blatant sin when the prophetic voices are silenced by fear.

Do our preachers/prophets lack backbone?

It seems the few modern-day prophets (who are not afraid to speak truth) fall into one of these categories:

1) Retired Leaders. New-found boldness comes in direct proportion to their retirement from Big Wig status. With a secure retirement and no longer the subject of church votes, the formerly silent leaders can now utter all sorts of platitudes. Maybe the point is: Better late than never.

2) Pastors who are no longer pastoring. Disillusioned by the state of the politicized church, they have left the pulpit for another gig or have a spouse that makes a living wage. This newly voiced prophet (again unhindered by salary) will occasionally tweet or blog prophetic-like truths, but they have lost their pulpit, platform and much of their voice.

3) Pastors (usually from smaller churches) whose congregants have determined no matter what is said or written by the pulpit resident– they aren’t going anywhere. It was their church before the pot stirring pastor arrived and it will be their church after the pot stirring pastor leaves. Agree or disagree, they will wait him/her out. They’ll keep coming to church when the doors are open because that’s what they do. Of course, these small church truth tellers have a limited crowd.

That’s your list of modern day prophets. Prophets who need no money or prophets who have no audience.

Your cynical view:
“I don’t see you speaking up. I don’t see you calling out hypocrisy in the church, in politics and in our lives. I don’t hear your prophetic utterances that shake the rafters and cause a stir. You, sir, are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.”

 My Confession:
I know. God help me, I know. I want to think that I am not afraid of half the congregation walking out following a biblical but unpopular message, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern. Pastors and would-be prophets (myself included) remember the words from Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

My Hope:
My fellow boomer and X-gen pastors, let’s not wait for someone else to pick up the prophetic torch in the days ahead (I’m looking at you, millennial pastors, and I believe in you!). Today. all pastors/prophets must follow Jesus’ example and boldly speak full of grace and truth (see John 1:14)! Pray for wisdom, strength and courage and go forth proclaiming the Gospel! This generation desperately needs us to regain our prophetic voice and proclaim the powerful message of Jesus. Don’t be quiet. Be brave! Be bold… and God will be with you wherever you go!

How to Disarm Enemies and Disperse Haters in One Easy Step

We all know Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” but did he mean it? That’s the big question. If you say, “Yes, of course, Jesus meant it,” then it makes sense that the followers of Jesus would (I’m stepping out on a limb here) love our enemies.  Moreover, if followers of Jesus loved their enemies then those enemies wouldn’t be enemies, at least not for long. Love disarms hate. If I love them; work for their good; pray for their well-being, then I’m not behaving like an enemy but a friend.

I’m not totally naïve (just in case you are about to make such an accusation). Our former enemies might still consider us enemies. In fact, they might hate us; say and post hurtful things; and be divisive. But Jesus didn’t say, “Love your enemies as long as they reciprocate.” If our haters see us continue to love while they are still hating, then eventually they might conclude that we aren’t their enemy. Or maybe they will still hate. I can’t control them, only me.  But as I refuse to hate (you can’t spew hate and love someone too); stop lobbing mud (you can’t throw mud at someone you love); and am kind (love is kind, 1 Corinthians 13:4); then something changes. That something is me. I can’t view them as the enemy any longer.

In case you are wondering, “loving” does not equal “agreeing with.” I can love someone and not agree with their life choices. But in our disagreement, we don’t have to be disagreeable. Disagreeing does not mean disrespecting. Love does not dishonor others (1 Corinthians 13:5).

How this plays out in the real world goes against the mistaken notion that everything in life has to be “Us vs. Them.”  When social media blows up between Christians and others engaging in back and forth yapping, then the hate continues and enemies are still enemies.  Following the “Love your enemy” command means you can’t participate in a conversation like this:

“I hate you.”
“No, I hate you.”
“You are bad.”
“You are worse.”
“Blah, blah, blah…”

If you don’t think such banter exists (on a much more complicated and wordy level) then you haven’t spent much time on social media lately (congratulations for that, by the way). Malicious speech among all sides happens all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.

If love disarms hate, and If I am loving then…

LBGTQ people aren’t my enemy.
Immigrants aren’t my enemy.
Liberals aren’t my enemy.
Conservatives aren’t my enemy.
Other religion adherents aren’t my enemies.
Atheists aren’t my enemies.
Abortion rights advocates are not my enemy.
Pro-Life picket sign holders are not my enemy.
Democrats are not my enemy.
Republicans are not my enemy.

But Ohio State Buckeyes are still my enemy! Just kidding, even Buckeyes are not my enemy. Our Enemy is the Evil one. That’s it. When we engage in hate toward our enemies, he wins.  When we love our enemies, he loses. Simple. Let’s not let our true Enemy win. Instead, let’s do what Jesus said to do: In both our actions and attitudes, love our enemies (He really said it and he really means it).







Are We More United Than You Are Led to Believe?

July 4th is the day we celebrate the United States of America. At times, you might get the impression that our nation’s name is the Divided States of America. I’m not naive. We aren’t perfect. We have our differences in the land that we love. What country doesn’t have problems? Our streets aren’t paved with gold and our gates aren’t made of pearls. As much as we pray that God’s kingdom would come and his will done on earth as it is in heaven, we aren’t there yet. But I’m an optimist. The squeaky wheels seem to get the media’s grease—but I like to think that most people aren’t like those squeaky wheels. Most people are good, honest and hard working. Most people have common sense. I want to side with most folks.

Most Americans like our diversity. Most folks know that God uniquely created us and gave us different gifts, ideas, abilities, talents, desires, and aptitudes. We don’t all look alike, think alike, dress alike, or like the same music or sports teams. That helps make life full and exciting instead of boring and stale.

Most churches are trying their best to serve God. Are there mean spirited churches or churches that have gotten off mission? Ugh…yes. But most love Jesus and love their neighbors.

Most folks understand that the content of one’s character not the color of one’s skin is what matters. Are there racists out there? Unfortunately. But let’s keep educating, working and singing until everyone believes: Red and Yellow, Black and White they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the children of the world.

Most police are doing a great job. Are there some bad apples?  Sure. There are bad preachers too and bad teachers and bad burger flippers and bad you name it.

Most people on-line like to share their joys, delights and maybe prayer requests. Are there cyber bullies? Not only cyber bullies, there are cyber goofballs, cyber knuckleheads and cyber what-were-you-thinking-for-posting-that. But most folks use social media to share victories not dance on other’s defeats.

Most people recognize that politics is necessary in a democracy (refer to the above statement on how we don’t all have the same ideas). For Christians, we put our hope in the Lamb, not the elephants or donkeys, but we also understand that those on the other side of the aisle don’t hate you or hate America. We just see things differently. If we look for it, we will see we have more in common than not.

Most people want everyone to be healthy. Do we all agree on how this can happen? Nope. But if we don’t dream of a better healthier tomorrow, we won’t get a better healthier tomorrow.

Most folks recognize that’s what is happening at the southern border is terribly sad and disturbing. Do we all agree on how to move forward? No, but most people agree with Jesus who said we need to love our neighbor and to care for the least of these.

Most Americans love our veterans and want them to have the absolute best care— for their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Most people are rightly shaken that 23 vets take their own life every single day and we must end to this disturbing trend.

There’s more circumstances that seem divisive but don’t necessarily have to be, but you get the idea.

Most folks can’t quote Mark 8:25, but we all know its truth that says: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Most individuals want our country to stand strong and united for generations to come.

The divisive words and actions of others might make the news, but let us work with most Americans who long for us to be the United States of America. That is all.