Tuesday, April 30, 2013


It's not the church, it's the parents

If we really want to talk about why our young people might be losing their faith as adults, then let's shift the discussion to where it belongs.  And it is not a discussion about the church.

It is not the church's fault.

And "fixing" church is not the answer.

I know that worship can be more relevant.  I know preaching could be better.  I get all the things we think are wrong with church.  And I know a lot of churches that have worked hard over the last few decades to get it right.  So they shouldn't be losing their kids, right?

But they still do.

So maybe the answer is to talk about parents.  If you want your children to grow up with a strong faith, then take responsibility for your child's spiritual development.  It is your job.

I do not want to beat up on parents whose children are lost, but I do think parents still raising their kids have got to hear some things.  So I am urging parents with unfaithful kids to quit blaming church.  Don't talk about the failures of the church, the youth group, the preachers, the elders, the singing, the budget, and the color of the ceiling tiles.  Because a lot of imperfect churches have produced faithful kids.

Because of the parents.  Church not authentic enough for your kids?  OK, show them real authentic faith at home.  You have them lots more than church does.  Not enough Bible being taught?  What are you doing at home?  More service opportunities?  What are they seeing your family do?

It is hard work to instill faith in children.  So you have to decide how important it is.  Maybe you have to work less.  Maybe you as a parent have to step up spiritually.  Less "me" time, more "kids" time.

And here is the big one:  Dads, this is on you.  God told us Dads to raise our children in the Lord.  Don't put it off on Mom or the church.  Step up and raise your kids to love Jesus.

And it starts with your example.  If you love Jesus, your kids will too.

Spiritual parents produce spiritual kids.  They do in large, healthy churches with vibrant worship and youth ministries.  And they do in tiny churches with no staff and no youth program.  Because it is not about the church.  It is about the parents.

So if you are want to be sure there is a church of tomorrow... then invest in the parents of today.  Not the kids, the parents.  Pray for them, encourage them, and love on them.  Quit celebrating business success and celebrate spiritual success.  Help the parents that need help.  And here is the one place the church should step up:  help your single parents.  Figure out how to "parent" spiritually your teenage converts.  Or the kids who are coming but have parents who are not doing their job.

And as a parent if you cannot figure out what to do, then look around for some faithful kids.  Then go ask their parents what they did.  Then do it.

Because when you are old, the only heritage that will matter to you is not financial, or political, or professional.

It will be spiritual.

I hurt for orphans who have no parents.  And we must help them.  But the saddest orphan of all is the spiritual orphan.  The one with no spiritual parents.  And most tragic of all is when that happens in families that are supposed to believe.  

Do not let that happen to your kids.

We will not lose our kids because of what we do with them.  We will lose our kids because we lost the parents.  The kids are collateral damage.  And that is a tragedy.


Thursday, April 25, 2013


Our young people and self--fulfilling prophecies...

"Our young people are leaving."

I hear it everywhere.  I listen to countless discussions that revolve around what we must -- or must not -- do to keep our young people.  I have heard all sorts of statistics.  Someone told me the other day they heard that we were losing all but 6 -- 8% of our young people.  Really?

Christianity worries about being relevant to today's youth.  Every group -- including my tribe( churches of Christ) -- stresses about it.  Individual congregations trot this out as an accepted truth for every discussion about worship, staffing, programs, etc.

But is it true?

As I alluded to in my last post, we better define our terms better.

But I mostly wonder if this fear is not becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is it now an accepted reality that our young people are going to leave?  Do we really have to structure everything we do around trying to keep our youth?  Do they even hear it so much that they think the normal course of action is to grow up and leave the church they grew up in?

We have reacted so strongly to this fear that I am not surprised our young people want to leave.  We are incredibly condescending to our young people.  Do we really think they are so shallow that casual dress and rock bands with a really young preacher will keep them?  They should be insulted.

And many of them are.  I believe they leave because they want authenticity.  We give them what we wanted as young people.  Nothing sadder than a bunch of old church leaders trying to decide what young people want.

How about if we started by asking what young people need in a church community?  Isn't that what church leaders ought to be deciding.  Need... not want.

And yes, I think we ought to engage in serious conversations with our teens and young adults.  And we ought to listen to them.  But shouldn't mature Christians know what they need?  After all, when my kids were growing up we rarely let them decide what they were going to eat at mealtime.  Amazingly, they grew up pretty healthy.  And today they don't cater to their kids meal preferences either.

Give our young people their due.  They may be looking for something that is real, true, and life changing.  And we are giving them superficial images.

And I don't think we are losing our young people.  I think a lot of kids raised in Christian families stay faithful to Jesus.  Even in churches of Christ, I meet people in every congregation whose parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents worshiped in that fellowship.  Even where I go to church, I worship with kids who were in my youth group 40 years ago.  Still at Southern Hills.  Still faithful.

Sure some leave.  And some stay.  We even some who leave the church they grew up in and find what they are looking for with us.

So maybe we ought to talk about those who stay.  Maybe we ought to ask them why.  Maybe we ought to celebrate faithfulness.

Maybe we should expect them to stay rather than expect them to go.

I'll share more thoughts about "keeping" our young people, but let me share one thing that really is the answer.

Any discussion of keeping our young people that does not start with Jesus is the wrong conversation.    

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Are we really "losing" our young people?

We are losing our young people!

I have been hearing this for almost 50 years.  I first heard this when I was a teenager and our church wanted to hire a youth minister.  I still hear it today, both as an elder and as I travel around the country preaching in various places.

I have been thinking quite a bit about this and I will share some of my thoughts in future posts, but first I want to think about some of the problems I have with this statement.

If we never had them, are we really losing them?  If young people do not really buy into the Jesus lifestyle, then can we really say we have lost them?  I suspect we never had a lot of them to begin with.

If they go to another church and stay faithful to the Lord, have we really lost them?  And yes, I do have problems with young people that leave my fellowship and go to places that do not believe those things that Scripture teaches really matter.  But having said that, I find many young people in house churches, cell group fellowships, and various churches with differing worship styles.  But if the core convictions are the same, I don't believe we have "lost" them.

I am mostly concerned that this statement is used as a scare tactic to bully others into accepting changes -- or resisting all change -- in the name of "keeping our young people".

I am very concerned about any statement that says:  "if we do not do so and so, we won't even have a church in ten years."  Unless the so and so is Jesus, I would be very nervous about people using scare tactics like this.

Just because church, worship, and ministry may look different over the years does not mean we have lost anyone.  I am fairly confident that I have never seen or heard of a church that is doing everything just like they did in the New Testament.  But some things are the same and the matter.  Those are the things that are important about keeping our young people.

The one thing absolutely critical to this discussion is that this is about our kids growing up and getting to heaven.  God wants them there.  Satan doesn't.

Let's start framing the discussion in those terms.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I am at war in this world

Random bombs that destroy lives. Terrorism.  Shootings in schools that kill precious children.  Unimaginable violence.  Pedophiles.  Drunk drivers.  Natural disasters.

It is a fallen world.

Divorce.  Same sex marriage.  Adultery.  Single parents.  Workaholic parents.  

I am out of step with my culture.  It is a fallen world.  

Sickness and death.  

It is a fallen world.

The forces of evil are rampant in this world.  It is heartbreaking and it is almost overwhelming.

And I believe the kingdom of God is a war with the kingdom of darkness in this world.  And I a soldier in the army of God.

So how do I fight the war against evil?  

Not with the weapons of this world.  The answer is not in passing laws or in "restoring" America.  My kingdom is not of this world.  My allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven.  So my weapons are not political issues.

The answer is not concealed handguns for Christians or a stronger military.  Weapons of the world do not defeat evil.

So what will I do?:

Pray.  That is my first weapon.  I will call on God to defeat evil, to protect His people, and to give us courage.

I will stay grounded in His Word.  The Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit will equip me.

I will fight evil in my life.  I cannot be a traitor to the army and kingdom of God.

I will fearlessly proclaim the kingdom of God with my life and with my mouth.  I will publicly proclaim the good news.  I will tell my family, friends, and neighbors the good news.  And I will live the good news.

I will love courageously for God.  I will not be afraid.  I have already died with Jesus.  Satan's greatest weapon is defeated.  Death will not hold me.

I have given my family to God so I pray for each of them to live courageously in this world.  

War is ugly.  There are casualties.  But here is the thing:  The war is won.  God is all powerful.  Some day this world will pass away.  But not me.  I will live forever.  

So keep bringing it on Satan.  I pledge to fight you by the power of the Lord Almighty.  Just like Kingdom people who have gone before me.  

Every day.  Till I go home.  

And so will my family.  And my church family.  And kingdom people all over this world.  

We will change lives. Our kingdom will grow.  And Satan will never defeat us.  No matter what.

We have won the war.  Let's go fight the battles.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Happy birthday to Marsha...

Well, it was really last Saturday but we were too busy celebrating to post.  Here are some of the reasons I love her.

These days she is better known as Mimi.  She is awesome with the grandkids.  She cooks for them, studies with them, cheers for them, babysits them, watches movies with them, reads with them, prays with them, and plays with them.  It is awesome to see.

I love that she isn't bothered by people finding out she's 60.  That's right ... I told her age.  She doesn't act it or look it, but I love the fact that she is so secure in who she is that she doesn't whine about it.

She is a fantastic daughter.  She calls my Mom lots.  She helps research things about Alzheimer's to help my Mom deal with my Dad. She goes to see them.  She carries her parents to all the Dr. appointments.  She shops for them.  She visits with them.  She takes care of them.

Great elder's wife.  Loves people.  Prays for them.  Hosts couples in our home two or three nights a week.  Cooks for lots of people.  Lots of wedding and baby showers.  Keeps up with everyone.  Has washed literally hundreds of baptism outfits and towels.

Amazing traveling preacher's wife.  I know some people at church must think she is a widow because I am gone so much.  She takes care of everything while I am gone and never lets me think it is a burden on her.  She packs for me, prays for me, and blesses my ministry.

And she is my wife.  God did an amazing thing for me when he connected us.  She loves God more than me, but she loves me.  She loves her family.  She loves her church.  She loves the lost.

So she is a great role model.  Lots of younger women at church admire her.  They learn from her.

Oh yeah... she still cooks dove, fish and deer, and will go up to the farm and hang out with me.

So God, not only do I thank you for Mimi... but I speak for so many others who love her and appreciate her. You did a good work when you made her.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Open roads, wacky Wednesday, and bar church...

Or said another way:  Cuba, Stamford, TX., and Southern Hills in Abilene, TX..  I could put others on this list but these are mission efforts I have seen in the last few weeks.  These are all efforts by local churches to reach their communities with the good news of Jesus.

Cuba:  Open roads.  The Versailles church of Christ in Matanzas, Cuba calls their outreach Open Roads.  They plant house churches in every hamlet and village on the main roads leading in and out of their city.

Stamford:  Wacky Wednesday.  The Orient St. church of Christ gives most of their Wednesday night resources to feeding and teaching kids from the community.  As these kids grow, they will make decisions to follow Jesus.  Many of them will stay in Stamford.  The church will grow.

Southern Hills:  Bar church.  We are having a worship service in a bar.  The hope is that people who will not show up to worship in a church building might show up for one in a bar.  Relationships will be formed.  Jesus will be shared.  Kingdom will grow.

I need to say that I am not directly involved with any of these.  Tony Fernandez works with the Open Roads project and he is part of our Herald of Truth team.  So I have been able to visit many of the house churches and preach in several of them.  But I don't work with them regularly.  I've preached at Stamford and have friends there.  But I have never seen a Wacky Wednesday.  And I am an elder at Southern Hills but have never spoken at Bar church.  Never even attended a service.

And every one of these three has critics, many from other churches. Even some among their own congregations.  They are different.  They are "out of the box".  They require lots of time and effort.

And I am sure each of them could  be done better.  I doubt any of them do it exactly like I would do it if it all up to me to organize.  But here's the thing.  I love every one of them.  Pray for each of them.  Excited to see what God has done, is doing, and will do thru each of them.

I love them because each of these churches is doing something to reach lost people.  Thinking outside the box.  And in their own way, each of them is trying to "go into all the world" instead of hoping the world comes to them.

So don't be critical.  Pray for these efforts.  If you don't like it, then do something different at your church.  Or in your life.  But do something.  Don't waste your time and energy criticizing the ones who are.

So thanks brothers in Cuba, Stamford, and Abilene.

God, I pray that these efforts are an answer to the prayer for harvesters in a white field.  Bless them.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


68 years for Granny and Grandpa...

Yes, March is a big month for anniversaries in our family.  My folks, Julie and Bobby, and Marsha's parents.  Sunday, March 24, was Don and Jean Herttenberger's 68th wedding anniversary.  Wow.  I love them just like they are my own parents.  And in a way, they are.  Here are the reasons I love Granny and Grandpa.

Grandpa converted Granny.  I love that.  He didn't just live his faith.  He shared it.

They have been involved in church all their life.  Still are.  They worship with God's family every week.

They are such a great example of love and faith for my kids... and even my grandkids.

They only have two goals in life.  Glorify God.  Take care of each other.

I love hearing them say they will pray about things.  They remind me they have lots of time to do that.

They love their family.  They love their kids, their grandkids, and their great-grandkids.  They love their extended family.  Being in the Herttenberger family if a big deal.  They love their church family.

Trusting God is not a slogan for them.  It is a lifestyle.

They look forward to heaven.

They gave me Marsha.  Obviously she is way more than I deserve, but what a great package deal.  I got another set of parents to mold me and to love me.  And they have.  And do.

They bless the lives of everyone they touch.

Especially mine.

68 years and counting (and this makes 191 for the five couples in our family).  They lead the way and show how it is done.

Love God and love each other.  In that order.

Thank you God for a living witness and testiment to your faithfulness.

Marsha and I want to be them when we grow up.

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