Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Blog Location

Dear Friends,

Thanks for continuing to follow me.

With the start of my new ministry, Etchea Coaching, my blog location has moved. Please update you links and feeds. The new location is The RSS is As I open this blog, I'll be writing more posts, consistently. The posts will also be directed to issues of discipleship, family and family ministry leadership.

Blessings in 2013.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The pastoral metaphor

Gordon MacDonald has a great article on CT this morning. He walks pastors through what it means to be a shepherd of their flock. I love the shepherd metaphor. It is so much better than the CEO metaphor that we have been using in the church. In the next few months, I hope to work on the Christian leader metaphor some more. While I like shepherd, I also see that we need to return to a parenting role as Christian leaders. MacDonald lists the characteristics of the Apostle Paul's leadership at the close of the article. I'll relist them here. MacDonald sees these as characteristics of "guarding the flock." I conclude these are the same characteristics that make one a father or mother of the family of God.

How Paul Guarded The Flock

As I made my way through Paul's letters, I saw, once again, that he was a missionary-apostle (church planter), a theologian, a developer of leaders. But most important, Paul was a shepherd-pastor. He clearly understood-like the shepherd of Psalm 23-the significance of congregational feeding and protection. Here's how Paul practiced what he preached about guarding the flock.
Affirming: quick to identify evidences of God's work in persons and peoples;
Thankful: ready to express gratitude for any act of generosity;
Corrective: never reluctant to identify sin and rebuke it;
Prophetic: warning of consequences if people were bent on making bad choices;
Instructive: enlarging the theological base of peoples' faith;
Protective: quick to defend those who were vulnerable;
Transparent: unashamed to speak of his own weaknesses and sins;
Affectionate: anxious for people to know how much he loved them;
Prayerful: frequently praying "aloud" in his letters for people and their needs;
Developmental: identifying, raising up those who might become leaders;
Observable: presenting a model of the Christ-following life that others could copy. -GMac
You'll notice that organizer, programmer visionary, and change agent aren't listed here. That's because those aren't primary tasks for Christian leaders. God is the visionary/change agent. Relationship is the program that we should organize our churches around.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Time-Card Christians v. Orchestrated Ministry

This post doesn't have anything to do with Christians punching their card. I'm writing about the interchangeability of members.

Most churches I know about tend to treat their people like time cards and their ministries like the slots in the rack.

It doesn't matter which card I put into which slot, just so each slot has a card and each card has a slot. We design ministries that make this interchangeability possible. When I was a children's pastor, I remember a curriculum that advertised, "So easy to use that it doesn't matter who shows up." Of course, I bought it. We were a fast growing church and part of the goal of the church was to add more ministries so nobody's need would go unmet. I was desperate.

It wasn't good ministry. I'd say that was one of my weakest seasons of ministry. Responding to the needs and the slot rather than strengthening the saints to use their gifts in ministry.

Ministry should be more artistic than that. Leaders should allow the gifts of the people to guide the form of the ministry. That doesn't mean that every member can pick their own role. It means that leaders should prayerfully sit back and notice how God is orchestrating the ministry.

In fact, we should look at our ministries as an orchestra. Not every orchestra has the same kinds musicians or the same strengths, but a good conductor chooses music that emphasizes the strengths of each musician, pushing some to improve and allowing weaker musicians to fill the background until they recognize their style and strength.

Orchestras combine the gifts of many to make good music. Time cards just sit their on the wall until someone finally gets to go home.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Christ never demands that we be leader

"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." -Matthew 23:10 (NASB)
Tomorrow thousands of church leaders from around the world will participate in an annual event where they will be challenged to become great leaders. That's fine, I guess. In their time they will hear challenges from people who have built giant organizations and super-sized churches, are called leadership gurus, and who have led nations into war. But will they learn what it means to be what Christ is calling them to be?

In the Gospels, the term leader never refers to any human in completely positive terms. Jesus is the only positively referenced as the leader. The closest it comes to lifting up human leadership is the encouragement for those who wish to be leaders to be servants. Sadly, many Christian leaders consider this to be a pathway to leadership. "If I serve my organization well, them I am a leader," they say.

They are wrong. That's only a path to disingenuous servanthood.

The church today doesn't need more leaders. It needs more disciples. People who honestly follow Christ in all things. The true leaders among them will be those who, as disciples, share Christ's story and their own story in Christ with the next generation whether the next generation is chronologically younger or spiritually younger.

My advice...Don't follow the people whose life goal is to be the great leader. Follow those whose goal is to follow the One Leader.

Lord, make me a follower, and make me happy to be so.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spring Hope

In the woods
with my dog
Only a flannel to keep me warm

The King is all around me
He calls to me
In the song of a cardinal
The rattle of a woodpecker

And the silence of newly budded leaves

There is hope
All is new this morning

Chee burger chee burger chee burger chee
He speaks through a Carolina Wren

There is hope
But I still have to clean up my dogs mess.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I believe something weird

Yesterday a well meaning and good man asked me a question that was harder to answer than I thought. As such, I've been thinking about it for the whole day today. He asked me if I believe in anything weird. I do.

I believe that there is a God. A being bigger than me, bigger than this universe, bigger than time, and active in all those things.

I believe that this God created the universe, this world and me. He created it in the perfect time and perfect order according to his will. That's weird. He did it all for his own glory and that wasn't arrogant. It was, in fact, quite natural for him and loving, too. That's weird.

He created people and put them in this universe on this world. He created us in his own image, male and female, both. That's weird enough, but that image has power as it carries with it the rights and responsibility to represent him in this world. That's weird.

Do I believe anything weird? I believe that all those made in his image are also flawed. Not flawed in the way he made us, but flawed in the way that we think we can make ourselves as powerful and knowledgable as God himself. We are flawed despite being the image of a perfect God. That's weird.

I believe that all people are made for relationship, but, in those relationship, our natural actions are often destructive. We tend to destroy our relationship with the loving God who created us, and we tend to destroy our relationships with the people around us. We do that because the thing that we need most--love--is overrun by the thing that we want most--power. That's weird because if we love God and love people, God's power will enable us to do much more than all the power of this world could ever enable us to do.

I believe that the best way to love someone, no matter you gender, age or position is to submit to the other person. Humility is always more strengthening than self confidence. That's weird and seems like foolishness to most people, but God says and demonstrates that it is wise.

I believe that the fix for all broken relationships--between people and God and between people and other people--comes through God, and the fact that God, who is not man, became a man, humbled himself to the lowest point of manhood, submitted to the will of the worst kind of men, and died because of it. That's really weird.

I believe that the dead man, who was God, didn't stay dead, but, on his own power, came back to life. That's weird because how does something that is dead (powerless?) have the power to do the impossible? I don't know. Yes, it is weird. But I believe it because I've experienced it.

I believe that I am a testimony of that power, because I am dead on my own. I have no power within me. I have killed myself in my own selfishness, but I see God making life out of my death. I see God making strength out of my weakness. The new strength within me are not mine to use for me, but mine to give to other people. It isn't mine, because it belong to God, Spirit and the to those on earth that he has call, the Church. When I think they are mine, I use them in the wrong way and they become weaknesses to me. This whole thing about my strengths being my weaknesses and my weaknesses being my strengths is really weird, and o so frustrating.

I believe that events that are best for me are the ones that I most like to avoid. Pain is a path to growth, but seldom do I grow from being comfortable. Still, I almost always want to be comfortable. It is for that reason that I believe that the people who should be given the most attention in this world are the lowest one, the poor, the handicapped, the disenfranchised, and the children. The natural tendency is to want to learn from those who have become strong on their own power, those who run big organization and have powerful jobs or write important books, but more often we can learn from the simple people in this world if we stop to listen to them and experience the place where they live. That's weird and doesn't sell real well.

I do believe some weird stuff.

I believe that a husband, long before they even considers telling his wife that he's in charge and she should listen to him, should give 100% of his love and even his life for his wife because that is what God did for him. I believe long before church leaders demand followers follow them, they should sacrifice all that they have for those who would be their followers. I believe that men in the churches should do everything to help women and children in their company to use every gift that God gives them to empower them for doing what God would have them to do. I believe that a father's first responsibility is to give his children hope that they would not be bitter. That's uncomfortable, and weird.

At the same time, I believe that children need to honor their parents through obedience, not obedience demanded, but obedience taught and demonstrated. A wife need to submit to her husband, not because her husband demands it, but because it is right. A woman in the church needs to submit to men, not because it is a commandment, but because it will bring peace. That's weird too. Shouldn't women and children have just as much right to demand their rights? They should. But everyone's rights are more quickly served when everyone is looking out for the good of other people. Men should be loudly demanding the rights be given to women and children. That's weird.

I believe that even with all of this kind of thinking and teaching, people will inevitably be selfish and act in ways that are destructive. But that doesn't faze God. The free will of people (and I believe that humans all have completely free wills) will never disrupt the perfect plan of God. It will make his plan keener and wiser. That's weird because we think like people, not like God.

I believe that God's perfect plan is to destroy this world as we know it and raise up a new, perfect world. I don't know what that means, because I'm not God, nor has he made humans privy to the fullness of knowledge of what that mean. Again that’s weird.

At the same time, he promise that in his lovingness he will judge all people. We are all guilty and the penalty of this guilt is death and torment. I don't know what that means either, because it's too big for me to know. Still, it doesn't sound good. It sound weird. But in God's perfect and glorious ways, I believe that it will be holy and good.

Not everyone gets that judgment. Not because anyone is worthy of something else. None of us are. Those who don't get that judgment are those who chose to have faith in the work of Jesus done on the Cross. That sure seems like a weird way for me to escape judgment, but I believe that it does. Weirder yet is that it all happens because I chose to follow Christ because he chose for me to follow him. I don't get that. It's weird. But I believe it.

I believe that those who are chosen won't go to some far off place called heaven. They we stay no earth. But not like this earth. It will be a new earth, or a renewed earth. It will be glorious. Weird? Yes. And we won't be in some angel like bodies or even ghostly bodies. We will be in these bodies. These bodies will be made new, and perfect. Even if the body has already be destroyed, God will make it new again. I can tell you, that's weird.

I believe all this weirdness because I'm a testimony of the fact that it is true. I have experience the transformation that tells me it is true, but not just because I am a testimony. I believe it because God has preserved his specific testimony in a special way. That testimony, the story of God and his love, is the Bible. It is whole and complete and always good for teaching me and all other people who God is and how each of us belongs in his story.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

This doesn't leave much doubt

Nothing can separate us from God's love. 

‎"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39