Thursday, April 27, 2017


Inbred churches get sick and then they die...

Inbreeding is not healthy for families.  Not physical families, and not church families either.

Inbred churches are those that have no -- or very little -- new blood.  Very few first generation Christians, and not many second generation ones.  No new converts and few whose parents were new Christians.  Many churches are mostly third and fourth (or more) generation Christians.

One obvious problem is that if you are not making new disciples, you are not growing.  But there are a number of other problems that are a result of inbreeding.

Inbred churches tend to want to preserve tradition.  Family traditions become church traditions.  Nothing changes because we are comfortable with the way it has always been. Preferences become traditions which become commands, which leads to convoluted attempts to explain that Scripture means what it does not say.

Or... inbred churches get focused on themselves.  They expect to be fed instead of feeding others.  After all, there are no new Christians to feed.  Buildings for us.  Youth programs to teach our kids.  Preachers at inbred churches have to please an increasingly self-centered audience.  Self-satisfied, inward focused churches.  And that leads to fighting and a desire for something fresh and exciting.  Eventually old things are discarded without much thought to why they were done in the first place.  Which often leads to convoluted attempts to explain why Scripture does not mean what it does say.

New Christians mean that a church is being outward focused instead of inward focused.  New Christians need teaching, fellowship, and discipling.  They bring excitement and enthusiasm. Teaching lost people the good news of Jesus keeps churches focused on the main thing:  Jesus.

We worry about keeping our young people.  Why would they want to stay in a church that is more focused on preserving the past than creating a future?  Or why would they want to stay in a church so focused on change that there is no sense of something solid and permanent?

So do a survey of your church friends.  Find out how many of them are first or second generation Christians.  You will find that to be a very accurate barometer of the overall health of your church.

God did not send his Son to die just for your kids and grandkids.  He sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world.

Start believing it and then start living it.

It will change everything in your community of faith.  It may even change everything for you.


Thursday, April 20, 2017


How to destroy your credibility as a Bible teacher...

The worst thing that can happen to a preacher, Bible class teacher, or Christian parent is to lose your credibility.  And even worse is if you claim to teach from the Bible but no one believes you.  Even when you try to just open your Bible, or to speak directly from Scripture, you are not heard.

Here are a few ways you can destroy your credibility as a Bible teacher.

Act as though you do exactly as you teach.  No you don't.  You know it and we know it.  If you are lying about your life, what else are you lying about.

Live differently than you teach.  Of course you are not perfect.  But we need to know you are trying to live up to your teaching.  You repent, you do the work, you bring your life into harmony with your words.

You teach that the Bible means what it does not say.    

You teach that the Bible does not mean what it does say.

Which leads us to think you believe that we cannot understand what Scripture means so we will just have to trust you to tell us. It is as if you do not even want anyone to read or think for themselves.


Do your best to live what you teach.

Do your best to be honest about what God's word does -- and does not -- say.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Three tests for every elder...

Being an elder is not always easy.  You make decisions that deeply and personally affect your community of faith.  I believe as an elder I am accountable for the spiritual welfare of my flock.  I have to deliver them safely home.  There are times when truth must be spoken into the lives of people who do not want to hear it.  There are times when you will not be popular and not be liked.  I have been yelled at, cussed out, and threatened as an elder.  And there are times when you will have to make policy decisions about core beliefs, or worship, or personnel.  Any of those decisions will not always please everyone in you church.  You wrestle with Scripture, you call on a long history of spiritual experiences, and you partner with other elders in leading your flock.  

And sometimes you will wonder if you are right.  You will have to urge to quit.

So how do you know you are doing the right thing?  How do you know what to do?

For me personally, I have found there to be three things that help me focus and decide things.  These tests have gotten me through difficult times with individual sheep and with my community of faith.  These are the reminders that help keep me going.  These are even the tests that I believe will help me know when it is time to quit.

And these are the only things that really matter to me when evaluating my shepherding.

I have to look myself in the mirror.

I have to look my wife in the eyes.

And someday, I will have to see my God face to face.

That's it for me.  My three elder tests for any action I take.

Can I look at myself in the mirror, can I look Marsha in the eyes, and can I look my God in the face?

My ultimate elder tests.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Thinking about Lou Elmore, heaven, and role models

Most of you have never heard of Lou Elmore.  I have known her all my life because she married my older cousin Eppie Elmore.   For most of my growing up years our families lived near each other.  And when I preached in Winnsboro, TX Eppie was one the deacons.  Our kids were little then and Eppie and Lou helped us raise them for about five years.

A few years ago, Eppie lost a leg and Lou became his full-time caregiver.  Then she got cancer.  Fought cancer, took care of Eppie, and loved her three boys and their families. I still remember when Lou told us she was stopping chemo.  It wasn't making her well and she was too sick from the treatment to enjoy the days she had left.

And now she has gone home and I will be preaching her Memorial service tomorrow.  Fitting that on Easter weekend I get to talk about Lou.

She loved God with all she had.  Taught Bible class for years.  Cooked thousands of meals for people.  Raised her boys.  She was a good lady.  Raised in a Christian home and decided to follow Jesus when she was young.  Never stopped following.

Loved her neighbors as if they were her own family.  Loved her church family.  Everyone felt like they were family with Lou and Ep.  She cooked, cleaned, and cared for a lot of people.

She shared her faith.  There will be people in heaven because Lou cared, invited people to church, and talked about her faith.  And that group includes Eppie.  She led him to Jesus (with help from my Mom and Dad).

And now she is home.  With her God and her Savior.  With her folks.  With her twin sister Sue.

She wasn't famous.  She never was in the spotlight and did not want to be.  But Lou was a doer not a talker.  She lived her faith.  She was love in action.

We need more like Lou Elmore.  She made a difference in my life and in the lives of my family.  She made a difference in this world.  She helped people find the way to Jesus and she helped people stay on that road.

I am glad I will see her again.

So God thanks for Lou.  You used her to help a lot of people.  You used her to make a difference.  So give us more people like her.  People who do for You.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


So my wife had a birthday last week...

Marsha is 64.  Doesn't act it.  Doesn't look it.  And here are just a few reasons I love her and am proud she is mine.

She lives her faith.  She is a genuinely good person.  Tries to treat people like Jesus would.  She opens our home and our pocketbook to help people.  She prays lots.  But most of all she acts.  Faith is a verb for her and not just a noun.

Loves her family.  Intensely proud of her kids and grandkids. She is an amazing daughter.  I watched her with her Mom when Granny was dying.  It was holy.  Watching her with her Dad now.  Amazing.  And she helps my Mom.  She pours her time and energy into helping her folks and into Julie and her kids.  Loves Joe Don, Jamie, and their bunch.  Makes time to go see them.  Takes grandkid baskets for every holiday.  Every holiday.

Makes everyone feel special.  Our family.  Our friends.

Great elder's wife.  She cries with, hugs on, and helps a lot of hurting people.

Let's me do my thing in ministry.  I am gone preaching a lot.  She keeps everything going while I am gone and keeps me centered.

She cares about the marginal and disenfranchised.  I don't mean just talks about them, but actually does for them.  As a friend would.

She is a world changer.  Keeping believers connected to Jesus.  Helping bring others to know him.

Busy all the time.  For others.  Doesn't spend time on herself.

So I celebrate her 64 years in this life and her eternity in the life to come.

God thanks for Mimi.  She is your child, an amazing daughter, wife, Mom, and Mimi.  She is a real friend.  Bless her with continued energy and health.  She learned from you how to pour love into others.  So thanks for what you have done -- and will do -- thru her.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


Why I Tell Church Leaders How to Behave...

There has been quite a bit of discussion about spiritual disciplines and behavioral standards between Christian men and women because of the recent publicity given the Vice President over his guidelines.  Preachers often have heard of the Billy Graham rules.

Of course many non-believers are making fun of these rules for how to interact with the opposite sex.  But many believers also seem disturbed by them.  Some think they are legalistic.  Others think they reduce women to sex objects or men to little more than animals governed by their lust.  some even seem to think these rules keep women from being fully involved in ministry and church life.

Some even insist that spiritual disciples do not need these rules.

It does seem to me that in the rush to point out perceived problems with these rules, that some may not understand all the reasons so many of us use them.  And by the way, I strongly urge everyone to have a set of guidelines they follow and I am very concerned about church leaders (and even members) who insist they do not need them.

So I have followed my own set of strict rules now for several years.  I call them Ridgell Rules and I have taught them to many preachers and elders.  Most think they are wise and implement them.  Others seem offended and insist they will not be bound by them.  

I am not going to explain my rules in this post.  Maybe I'll do that later.  But just know they are basic things like not being alone with a woman other than family, letting my wife have access to all social media passwords, etc.  Similar to Pence and Graham.  

So here are the reasons I live by the Ridgell Rules and encourage others to do the same.

It protects me from temptation.  Some of us know our demons and want to ensure that we are protected.  But I know of so many instances where temptation ambushed one or both of the people involved.  Sometimes it becomes an emotional affair, which provides an opening for Satan to work.  Better to be on guard.  And I have never know anyone who got in trouble by following the rules.

It protects your flock.  In this day and age, how can someone feel safe at church?  One way is to protect them from situations that have potential for sin.  The leadership at churches that follow some set of rules like these are letting their flock know that they are absolutely safe.  The only way for someone to be in danger is for someone to intentionally violate the rules.  And if you publicize the guidelines/rules, then people know something is not quite right when someone wants to change them.

It protects you from false accusations.  It is hard to lie about what someone said or did when there was someone else there.  Nothing is worse than a "he said... she said" controversy.  And do not think people will not lie about you.

We have all known great leaders ambushed by temptation.  We have all known Christians hurt by leaders.  We have all known people falsely accused.

Living by a set of protective rules/guidelines seems wise to me.

So I do, I teach others to, and I am concerned about those that don't.

Protects you from temptation.  Protects your flock from leadership sin.  Protects you from false accusations.

Makes sense to me.


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