Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Another God story....

I got to witness a new birth one Thursday night recently. And, as we always do, we did a baptisimal blessing for Ben this last Sunday. You need to know his story.

It started about two years ago. At least that's when I got involved. Glen and Connie stopped me during the Garden of Prayer one Sunday morning and asked if I would pray with their grandkids. They had started bringing them to church and wanted them to know Jesus. After a few months, their granddaughter decided to become a Christian. Her mother and one of our elder's wives -- Hymonda -- were visiting at the baptism.

Hymonda told the story of her conversion. She talked about her Mom had come to see her baptized, and decided that she needed to accept Jesus also. And how that family heritage has continued now into the fourth generation. So Pam, Glen's daughter, decided that was a great idea and she was baptized too.

Ben is Pam's son. He had been coming to church and got involved with some of our youth, studied with Ricky and decided to follow Jesus also.

The power of stories. God writing stories. Believers sharing their story with family. Stories playing out over years. Ricky and Phil, two of our ministers, sharing God's Word. Elders praying. Jesus saving.

There will be more stories like Ben's. Even now there are believers sharing their story, inviting friends and family to make their story part of God's never ending story.

Go God.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Anything you pay the wrong preacher is too much...

Yesterday I wrote that I believe you cannot pay the right preacher/minister too much. But I also believe just as strongly that anything you pay the wrong preacher/minister is too much. So the obvious question is how do you know when you have the wrong minister? Some of this will be a matter of reversing yesterday's assesment of how you know you have the right minister.

You have no idea what he does. Not that you do not know his job description, but you are unable to identify what he does. You never cross their ministry tracks.

Their area of responsibility seems to always be in a struggle.

There are no unsolicited "wows" or "thanks" from lives they have touched.

They are unhappy with their pay or their workload.

It may be simply a matter of the wrong fit. I have seen many ministers who were clearly not succesful at one congregation be absolutely the right fit at a different place. And vice versa.

Maybe you have them in the wrong job. Every effective youth minister does not "grow up" to be a good preacher.

One last test: if they leave tomorrow, how hard will it be to replace them?

And for the record -- most minsiters I know are the ones you can't overpay.

But if you have the wrong one, don't keep pouring good money into a bad fit. You are not doing either the minsiter or the church a favor. And not helping the kingdom either.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


You can't pay the right preacher too much...

It's the time of year when budgets are being set and that always leads to discussions about how much to pay the ministry staff. If you have the right one, you cannot pay him too much. And here is why I think that.

If he is really God's man, he and his family will use and give away in ministry what they recieve above reasonable living expenses. They will have a house that is constantly used for kingdom business. He will wear out his vehicles doing ministry. He will be a generous giver. It is concievable that he might even say "I have enough. Use it somewhere else."

So how do you know you have the right man? One way is that you always come across their ministry tracks. You see people they are working with, you hear people talk about how much they have meant to their family. You never have to wonder what they are doing. You worry that they need to spend more time with family and encourage them to take time off.

God is blessing their ministry with growth. Youth ministry, or campus, or family, or pulpit. It doesn't matter. You will see evidence that they are the right fit for the job. Spiritual growth -- not just numerical growth -- is a result of their ministry.

You know that their ministry is a calling, not a career. They would do ministry if no one paid them. They can't help it.

So if you have the right people in place, be generous. It will come back to you many times over.

And yes, I really do know ministers like this.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


What to do when you can't do it all ....

I can't do everything at church, but I feel guilty when I don't.

I hear this from elders, preachers, and members. I hear it from those at small congregations because there is so much that needs doing and so few to do it. I hear it at large congregations because there are so many ministries and opportunities.

So how do you decide where to commit your time, energy, and resources?

I tell you what has worked for me: matching my talents and my passion. Your talent is what you are good at. Maybe it is a gift you were born with, or maybe something you developed with training and practice. Maybe it is something life experience has equipped you to do well. If you are not sure where your talent lies, try different ministries. It will become clear to you. People will let you know. If you are not good at certain ministries, don't do them. For years we told every young man that he could preach and/or lead singing. But some were no good at it. They were miserable and so was the poor congregation.

Then match your talent with something that lights your fire. What is it you love to do? What excites you in ministry? And remember that over time, your passion may change. Some love youth ministry but see that passion fade when their children are no longer teenagers.

But you can't do everything. I think I am a gifted teacher and preacher. I think I connect with people. I love to help people learn about Jesus and decide to follow him. I am passionate about helping stuggling Christians find grace, healing, redemption, and restoration.

So I spend most of my time preaching and teaching at Southern Hills, around the country, and even around the world. I focus on evangelism. And as and elder, I mostly do "spiritual triage" work. I like it and I'm good at it.

But that means there are lots of other things I don't do. I don't spend much time on programs, budgets, and equipping others. But we have lots of elders and ministers who are good at that. And they like it. I don't do much long-term ministry. Most of my preaching is in seminars or short series. So are most of my teaching stints. I don't do much long term spiritual counseling, discipling, or mentoring. Others do and I celebrate that and encourage them.

And I still seem to connect with young people, college students, and couples younger than me (which of course is almost every one) so I do my preaching and teaching in those venues when possible. And most of my preaching and seminar appointments are about evangelism or redeeming fallen Christians.

Life is too short to spend it doing things I don't enjoy. And there are only so many hours in the day so I don't want to waste them on things I am not good at doing.

Of course, I am old and it took me a long time to figure this all out. Maybe this will help you catch on quicker.

But if you are trying to find Jesus, or your spiritual life just blew up ... call me. I'm your guy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Why I love church

Snapshots from the past week that remind me why I love church.

Marsha and I got to study with a young couple who are wondering if Jesus is the answer for a life of "hard" times. Heard about Southern Hills and started visiting. Heard about us and asked if we would help them. Loved seeing so many of our elders, ministers, and members stop by and meet them. They could see family.

Had another couple who realized they have some spiritual issues they must address. They honored us by coming to us for help. By the way, they contacted me on Facebook. Technology and kingdom business. Interesting. They knew it was safe to ask for help. Loved meeting with two of our elder couples who are going to get in their lives and help.

Taught the class for our Bhutanese refugee friends. Many of them are new Christians, others have been coming for a year or so. New batch arrived in Abilene and our Bhutanese told them they must come to Southern Hills. They are evangelizing. Most from Bhuddist background. Loved telling the story of Jesus. They are outgrowing their class. Had some even sitting on the floor. Awesome.

Got to do a baptisimal blessing for Natalie Neill. She is one of ours. I am thrilled when we reach those who have never know Jesus. But also thrilled when our kids move from family faith to personal faith. Liked watching her Dad baptize her. Enjoyed knowing that her Dad was raised at Southern Hills too and baptized in what is now our Chapel when he was about her age.

Go God.

I love church.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Our Austin is one year old today

It's another birthday for one of our grandkids. Today Austin James Ridgell turned one. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. The other four are really developing their personalities and I can already see faith in action in their lives. But with Austin I don't know yet. About all I know about him is that he laughs and smiles alot. And even if his Mommy and Daddy read this to him, he won't get it. Not yet.

But here is what I thought about today.

I'm getting older but it doesn't bother me much. I know I must be old because all my babies not only had babies, but their babies are growing older. Fast. But I like it. When I was a Dad, I was so busy making a living, dealing with my own growing up, and so caught up in the moment that I barely had time to enjoy my kids. And I spent a lot of time with them. But as Dad I was always thinking about what I needed to do -- could do -- to mold and shape them into Jesus people. But as a Pops I can just enjoy the ride.

So what do I do as Pops for Austin. I pray lots, give advice if I am asked (tho JD is a better Dad than I ever was so most of my advice is in the form of "...if I had it to do over again"), and revel in the joy of being Pops.

I wonder what great things he will do for the Lord. Some of you think I meant if, but I don't. I have no doubt that he will be faithful to the Lord just like the other four. I am not naive or arrogant, but I see how intentional both kids and spouses are about imparting faith. And, no, I never doubted Julie or Joe Don would have faith. Notice I don't say perfect, but faithful. And I believe the power of faithful parents sharing faith and God's Word is stronger than the world.

I wonder what his spiritual battles will be. And he will have them because we live in a fallen world.

I wonder who he will marry. I do already pray for her even tho I don't know her. I pray for all five future mates of my grandkids. Just like I prayed for Bobby and Jamie even before I knew who they were specifically.

Mostly I realized today how blessed and happy I am. God has been good to me and mine. He got us thru the tough times, and there have been more than a few. He's given good times, and there have been way more of those than we deserve.

So happy birthday Austin. You are part of an incredible family. You remind me how great our God is. I see His work in you. And I look forward to watching what He does with you in the future. So even tho I don't think I am old, you will. It's OK because it means I will have enjoyed our years together.

Listen to Mommy and Daddy. And Anna and Andrew most of the time. :)

Thanks God for giving us Austin. You did good.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Anna is 6 today.

Today our oldest grandchild turns 6. Anna Claire changed our world. She has been the pacesetter for the other four grandchildren. I know every grandparent will say this, but... she is smart, pretty, and so self confident.

I love it when she sits on the counter with Mimi to make breakfast. I love it that she sometimes makes me "Popsie" instead of just Pops. I love to watch her run. She is a natural. so graceful.

But my favorite thing about our Anna Claire is that she loves to sing Jesus songs. From the time she was about 2, she has had a favorite song we like to sing. Right now it is the Revelation Song, tho she calls it the Holy, Holy, Holy song. I love that her Abilene cousins talk about visiting "Anna's church".

I like the way she organizes the other grandkids. She is a great boss. She is the independent grandchild. She can entertain herself with books and colors and is OK with being by herself.

So Anna, you will always be a success in the world's eyes because you are smart and beautiful. But you keep singing Jesus songs because that is why you will always be succesful in God's eyes. Use your persuasive ability to bring others to Jesus. Keep your individuality to walk in God's path. no matter what everyone wants to do.

I love you.

So thank you God for Anna Claire. She has brought joy into lots of lives. Especially that of her Mimi and Pops.

P.S. Even tho you are really smart, your Mom and Dad may have to read this to you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


How Do They Do It... thoughts on church growth in Africa.

How do they do it? People are coming to Jesus all over Africa. I am just back from spending time in Malawi and Tanzania. Met with brothers from Zambia. Heard reports from work we have done in Mozambique. The gospel is spreading and the church is growing.

I think a lot about missionaries when I come back from there. The church here has lots of financial resources and there is a real need to share the Jesus story. So here is what I think. We need to use our resources to bring some missionaries from Africa to the United States. They can show us how they are reaching people. I wnat to know because they are missing several ingredients that we use here in the States.

They don't have nice buildings. They can't afford them. They meet in homes. Or their church building is a tent. Or it has dirt floors. Or they meet outside.

They don't put much of their budgets into missions and evangelism. They don't have budgets. They give to help those who need food and shelter. No budgets. Have to depend on God.

They don't have large ministerial staffs. Oops. That's not right. I should have said they do not have large paid ministerial staffs. They expect their members to do the youth ministry, lead worship, organize the Bible school classes, and often to do the preaching. If they support a preacher, he is an evangelist and he is often out planting churches in other places.

They just tell their friends and families about Jesus. Just like we do here. And maybe in our culture we need buildings and budgets and large paid staff. And maybe those things can be a means to an end.

But maybe we let those things become the end itself. Those things become the measurement of how we are growing. Bigger, larger, more.

So we have these things to attract people to our congregation. And the Lord's army will have a large troop transfer to our bigger, better, most. Or if we are losing the troops, it's because someone else has out programmed us. They out biggered and out mored us.

Let's use the tools we may have. But please God help us to focus on lost friends, family, and neighbors. We don't have to have any of the things we seem to put so much attention on. Please forgive us.

Churches anywhere grow when they talk about Jesus. When they live out the Jesus story in their lives. Here, there, and everywhere.

So let's get back to basics. You, me, and Jesus. The rest really doesn't matter.

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