Thursday, February 25, 2016


Of course you are going to have tension between preachers and elders

Of course there is going to be conflict between ministers and elders.  And to some extent I think it is unavoidable.  Some of that is because of the way our churches are organized.  Unique to American culture.  Because money causes tension.

And here is what I mean.

I believe ministry is both a calling and a career, a passion and a profession.  Because of this, conflict is inevitable.

For example, preachers get frustrated when elders do not give proper respect and attention to their gifts as leaders.  Many preachers want to be seen as pastors -- even the senior pastor.  They have training, experience, and education.  Combine that with passion and a sense of calling and why would you not let them lead the church.

Except of course that preachers want the right to leave when a better opportunity comes their way.  Just like in any profession.  A church calls that is closer to family, or near a place you have always wanted to live, or with better ministry opportunities, or even that just pays more.  Better for your family.

So the leader of the church, the one you have been asked to follow, is all of a sudden gone.

Natural conflict.  Follow me except that I might leave you at any time.  Or be our leader but you cannot leave to for a better opportunity.

No preacher wants to be treated like an employee.  Some elder checking your work schedule.  Or evaluating your ministry.  It can be humiliating and even demeaning.

Except preachers want to be paid like an employee.  Negotiate a salary.  Not just support, but paid commensurate with your talent, experience, and education.

Hard to have it both ways.

Hire a preacher because you believe they will be a great fit and incredibly effective.  But don't fire them if they are not.  And who decides that anyway?  The preacher?  Never met one yet who admits they are not getting it done and should be fired.

Or take a job because it is a church that wants you to lead them and set a vision.  Until you realize that they are not following.  Time to leave?  Or time to stay in it together?

Elders thinking the preacher works for them while they think they are working for Jesus.  Elders who control your financial future.

Elders who also mostly have, or had, jobs in the workplace.  Some of them have been fired.  Some of them left jobs for better opportunities.

And this is a pattern far different than the one you see in the New Testament.  But lots of things are different now that then.  And different in America than in Cuba or Africa.

I have been a preacher in local ministry.  I am currently a preacher working for a non-profit.  And yes, I have a boss.  And I am an elder.

I have told preachers they should listen to that other church because it really sounded like a better opportunity.  And I have been hurt when ministers left.  I have pushed to hire ministers and I have voted to fire ministers.

So what is the solution?

I have no idea.

Passion and profession.  Career and calling.

I think there is always going to be tension.

I've been paid well and I have done ministry for free.

And in fairness, I've never wanted to lead a church as a preacher.   Just wanted to talk about Jesus.  But that's a little idealistic, huh?

So I love elders who have to answer for how we spend money given to God thru us.

And I love preachers who give their life to full-time ministry.

So blessings on all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Rick, Jarrod, Southern Hills, and reaching the lost

Last Sunday was my first Sunday to be home at Southern Hills since the holidays.

Rick Atchley from the The Hills was our guest preacher.  Rick used to be our preacher and he was back as part of the year long celebration of our fiftieth anniversary as Southern Hills.  I have long admired and appreciated Rick for several reasons.  One is that he is a really gifted preacher.  Another is that my kids go to the Hills so I am partial to that church.  But I really appreciate Rick because he is passionate and intentional about reaching lost people.

And that is what he talked about Sunday.  Not just having missionaries, but being mission.  Talking about Jesus.  Growing the kingdom.  And yes, I do realize he was preaching about my passion.  I spend my life motivating and equipping churches to make disciples.  Marsha and I are intentional about telling people about Jesus.  So obviously I was excited about it.

So here are just a few thoughts that Rick sparked in me.

Churches that lose sight of their purpose die.

Churches that focus on themselves and not on the lost will die.

But we are not evangelistic because we do not want to cease to exist as a church.  We are evangelistic because our world needs to know Jesus.  They are lost without him.  We have to tell them.

So I want Southern Hills to be all about sharing Jesus in our world, especially here in Abilene.  That's our world.  I am glad that has long been part of Southern Hills heritage.  I want it be our identity now.
Rick did not preach this sermon just for Southern Hills.  I know it is what he has been preaching at the Hills for a couple of years.  He and I have talked before about the importance of not just having preachers and theologians and ministers on our church staffs -- but having evangelists.  And by the way, I comment the Hills for having a full-time evangelist on their staff.  Every church should.

And yes, I wish Southern Hills did.

But I also appreciate Jarrod Robinson, our regular preacher at Southern Hills.  He asked Rick to preach about this.  Because Jarrod thinks it is important too.

So thanks Rick and Jarrod.  I love the passion for the lost.  So for my Southern Hills flock, let's be intentional about sharing our faith and making disciples.  After all, their lives depend on it.

And as an extra bonus, it was nice to hear that message.  Usually I am the one preaching and teaching it.  Good to get fired up myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Rethinking the Great Commission

It is the famous passage from Matthew 28:18-20 about going into all the world and making disciples.

I know how I have mostly heard it used...

and I think I know how should be used.

What if...

Instead of using it to bless missionaries (you know -- those special people)
who are going to a far away place ( you know -- that special place where lost people are)
to do special things (you know -- mission things)

We ended our assemblies by blessing special missionaries (like all of us)
who are going outside the church doors into our world (were lost people are)
to do special things (like live forgiven and forgiving, serving in the name of Jesus, and telling people the good news that Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead).

What if the Great Commission is really about us, right here and right now, making disciples of the people God and the Holy Spirit place in our lives.

We are the missionaries.

The world is where we live and work.

And making disciples is not an option.

It is our Christian DNA.

And everything we do is drawing people closer to God...

Or driving them further away from God.

God, help us to listen to your call to make disciples in our world.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


God is at work in Idaho

Hope for Life is doing a year long campaign in and around Twin Falls, Idaho this year.  There are five congregations working together in a concentrated effort to reach the lost in their part of the world.  I was blessed to be there a couple of weeks ago to present my seminar on sharing stories to make disciples.

Right at 60 people attended the seminar.  That represents about 40% of their membership for those congregations.  They were engaged, motivated, and hungry to learn effective ways to talk to their friends and neighbors.

Sunday night I was preaching at the congregation in Rupert.  They had four baptisms, two of whom had attended the seminar.  That was the most baptisms at one time that any of them could remember.

But here is what is neat about those precious new Christians.

They were already seeking after Jesus.  Their hearts were ready.

The members at Rupert and their leaders had already been working with them.  They made friends, invited them to church, shared their stories, studied the Bible with them.  Doing life together.  These four were ready to give their life to Jesus and enter into his story.

There will be more.  They have others they are talking to and these new Christians will talk to friends, family, and neighbors.

Other Christians from the seminar have already let me know about the opportunities they have had to share their story.

And it was pretty cool that the whole church at Rupert and some from other congregations traveled to one of the member's home and witnessed the baptisms.  In a hot tub.  With snow and ice still on the ground.

So here is what I am praying about for my family in Idaho.

That they will recognize the opportunity when God and the Holy Spirit connect them to seekers.

That they will know the appropriate stories to share with them.

And that they will have the courage to ask if they can tell them a story.

Same thing I am praying for lots of my friends around the country and around the world.

Same thing I pray for me and my Southern Hills family.


Thanks God for what you are doing in Idaho.  Thank you for trusting us to work with you in telling our world the good news of your Son.  Give the increase.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Waiting on God... and it was worth it

Some of you will know about this and some will not.

Our daughter Julie has been on a very long five year medical journey.  She had internal issues that just could not get diagnosed.  During that time she went to Drs. in Abilene, specialists in the Dallas area, and specialists in a major medical facility in Central Texas.  Test after test, a few surgeries, and lots of "don't worry, we will fix this."  Bills, bills, and more bills.

There was suspicion of pancreatic cancer, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure.

Pain, exhaustion, fear, and depression.  For Julie, her husband Bobby, parents and family, kids.

But we kept begging God for answers and healing.  Our elders prayed and anointed her with oil.  She prayed.  We prayed.  For five years.

Sometimes we got our hopes up, sometimes we were resigned to life as it was.

Julie kept working, kept doing the best she could to be a wife and mom.  Fought to believe and to keep her faith.  Lived by Philippians 4:6.  Giving it to God.  Nursed her son Jake through a bout with Kawasaki disease, buried her Pap-pa, worked as a school nurse, even taught Bible school.  Lived and worked with situations I am not sure I could have handled.

Kept working to believe that she was not crazy and that God could -- and would -- someday heal her.

Finally, a couple of years ago the Doctors began to narrow it down to bladder issues.  Kept asking God to find her a Doctor that could help.  Or for God to just heal her.  Then she found Dr. Rinard, an Abilene girl who came home to practice.  Said the same things everyone else said.  But this time it was true.  

She got approval for a new treatment.  Insurance came through.  Had two surgeries this month.

Had a checkup yesterday and everything really is working.  Feels better than she has in five years.


So glad for our GP, Dr. Chad, who is a believer and a friend.  Thankful God used Dr. Rinard who I do not even know but I love her.

But mostly thankful to God and giving him the glory.  We are.  Julie is.  The whole family is.  Our church family is.  The kids are celebrating Mommy's healing.

After five years.

So here are a couple of things I have learned.

God always heard.

He is in charge.

He did answer our prayer and heal our Julie.

He would have still been God and we would still have praised him and given him glory even if we were still waiting.

Never quit.  Never give up.

Faith.  Family.  God.  Jesus.  Love.

And gratitude.

So thanks God for healing Julie.  Thanks for being patient with us when we were frustrated.  Thanks for drying the tears.  Thanks for equipping good doctors.  But we believe the healing came from you.  So we give you the praise and the glory.  And we will not forget.  We will tell others what you have done.  We will use this story to bring others to know you and your son.  



Tuesday, February 09, 2016


When you argue that Scripture does not say what it means or mean what it says...

I don't think that any church leader sets out to take away from God's Word.  But it does happen.

Not too long ago I posted about how we can end up adding to God's Word by insisting he said things that he did not say.  It works the other way too.  Here is how we end up taking away from God's Word by insisting he did not say things that he did say.

It starts by studying God's Word and applying principles and forming opinions based on your study of what Scripture says and means.  But if not careful, your thoughtful  interpretation and opinion can transform itself into a conviction that any verse does not seem to fit with your theological view does not really mean what it says.

Here are some danger signs that worry me about negating (taking away) from Scripture in order to fit my convictions.

When someone says one passage is more important than another.  Unless God says it is more important (greatest commands, of first importance, etc), be very careful.

Using a passage to prove your point of view even if the passage does not say it applies to the position in question.

Proving the meaning of a passage by using only outside sources.  In other words, "you would not understand this passage just by reading it, but if you knew all the appropriate context, culture, and linguistic studies of when it was written you would know it does not say what it seems to say."

When you are told you cannot possibly understand what a Scripture means unless a real scholar tells you what it means,

Or... you are reading the wrong scholar.

Here is why these kind of things bother me.

If I really believe them, then what is the point of my even trying to read and/or study my Bible?  Just let the preacher (at least if he has been educated in theology) tell you what you should believe.  And of course, that assumes there will be no changing of opinions by the scholars.

You may think I am against scholarship or theology.  Quite the opposite.  I really appreciate and gain much from the work of people smarter and more educated than me.  but not at the expense of studying the word of God for myself.  And certainly not to the point where I begin to wonder how God could be so unclear that only a scholar could possibly know what he meant.

I even have a degree in Bible.  I even have a Master's degree.

But when we start explaining how Scripture cannot mean what it says unless interpreted for us then it seems very close to taking away from God's Word.

So we end up with opinions about salvation, Christian ethics, worship, and church organization that say the opposite of what Scripture says.

And I am afraid to do that.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Hudson, Heaven, and Being a Hope Griever...

Hudson Wade died this morning from Leukemia.  Our church -- and many others -- prayed and prayed for his healing.  Over the past few months and years, their have been so many parents I know who had to bury their kids.  Some from sickness and some from accidents.  Some saw it coming, others had no idea till the phone rang.  Some died in the womb, some were grown.  So I think on Hudson, Matt, Ashton, Scottie, Nick, Matt, Caleb, and Lane.  And so many more.

I have prayed and cried.  I have preached many of the funerals.  Attended most of the others.  And now I am grieving again with the Wades.  But I am remembering that as believers we are hope grievers.

So I don't have the answers about death, God, prayer, and suffering.

But I do know some things to be true.

Here is what I know.

This world is a tough place.  Sickness, sin, pain, and death.  It is real and it touches all of us.

God is here in the midst of all of it.

This world is not our home.

God will be glorified.  We will praise him in the storm.

We do not grieve like those with no hope.  Because we believe.

We will see Hudson around the throne of God someday.

I have to tell the world of our hope.

So they can know what we know.

In a broken world of death and pain...

Jesus rose from the grave.

We believe and because of that, we will see our babies, our sons and daughters, our children, again.

Until then, we cry, praise, and hang on to God and each other.

And wait for the Lord to take us home so we can all be together again.

And I know that I cannot fathom how you survive without Jesus.

So come quickly Lord.

Take us home.

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