Thursday, January 31, 2019


Thinking about how to appoint elders

One of the interesting things about being a traveling preacher is that I get to learn a lot from different congregations about how things work in local churches.  Different people do things in different ways and I enjoy learning from others.  And I get asked a lot of questions about different things.  Usually I am at a church to either talk about evangelism or to do evangelistic preaching, but I also seem to function as an informal church consultant.  I guess it is because I am old.  Or maybe because I travel so much.  But people seem to think I have insight on how to do certain things.

Lately I have been asked frequently about how to appoint/pick/select elders.  I have to say ... I don't really know.  I have been heavily involved in elder appointments.  I have been asked to serve (and accepted) several times.  I have seen great shepherds who could never get appointed as elders.  And I have elders appointed who were terrible shepherds. 

So I typically just talk about the different way I have seen it done and share the pros and cons.

I most often see elder selection done by democratic vote.  Most of the churches I spend time with are in America.  I know that we are never ever influenced by culture, but still... Anyway, the advantages to this seem to be:  congregational buy-in because they have a voice, opportunist for new blood to be recognized, and we Americans are comfortable with elections.

The disadvantages of this are pretty obvious.  It is easy to become a popularity contest.  I have seen men (and their wives) "running" for elder.  If not careful, it is easy to elect men who will take us where we want to go instead of selecting men who will lead us where God wants us to go.

I still sometimes see congregations where elders select the additional elders.  The obvious advantage is that our spiritual shepherds should know those best qualified and equipped to help get the flock to heaven.  Some places even "pre-select" men and mentor them with the intention of making them elders.

The disadvantage is that it is natural and easy to only select men that the current elders know and are comfortable with.  Self-perpetuating.  Tho I will tell you I think this is really a matter of trust and confidence more than any thing else.

The third way that I hear more of recently is to have the preacher/minister/staff select the elders.  Some even have the senior pastor select the pastors.  One huge positive for this.  Titus was told to appoint elders.  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders.  So there is a Biblical precedent. 

The biggest problem with this is that most, if not all, of the ministers in most churches are not like Paul, Barnabas, or Titus.  Located ministers, not traveling evangelists.  Salaried employees selecting the men who will decide how much to pay, or even if they remain employed.  I get the whole tension between do not treat ministers as employees versus pay me a salary.  Hard to have it both ways. 

So what is the best way to select elders?

I don't know.  Scripture says the evangelists do it.  But I don't know many churches that have evangelists like the Acts church did.  And I am a little uncomfortable with the democratic process. 

Probably I would lean to letting members put names forward, let the elders select them, and let the ministers ordain/install them. 

So I'm just thinking out loud.  Mostly for me.  And when all is said and done it matters more the kind of men that serve and what they do.  Scripture does say way more about who they are and what they do than how they are selected.

So blessings on my elder buddies.  And thanks for all the real shepherds out there.  Whether you are an elder or not.

Just get you flock home.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


It's a one way track ... how hard can it be

I work out in the mornings at an athletic center at a major university where I live.  The upstairs has a running/walking track.  It is a one way track.  Clockwise one day, counter clockwise the next.  And I am amazed how many bright, in-shape people get it wrong.  They go the wrong way.  So I decided to try and find out why so many people go the wrong way. 

By the way, it is dangerous.  You have one-way tracks so people will not run into each other.  When you go the wrong way, you are a danger to yourself and others.  You are also wrong.

So here is what I have found out.

Some do not know it is one-way.  They didn't see the sign.  No one told them, and they never realized they were going the wrong way.

Some forget.  Or they get the day mixed up. Innocent mistake so to speak.  They think they are right but they are wrong.

Some rationalize it because they are only going part-way around the track.  It is not a long way so how can it really matter.

Some think the rules don't apply to them. 

Some don't care.

All of that made me think about Jesus as the way to God.  I am absolutely convicted that Jesus is the only way (the one way) to God.  Jesus himself said no one comes to the Father except by him, so...

And some people are going the wrong way. 

OK.  I don't even have to make the analogy here, do I?  Some don't care and I can't do anything about that.  Others think they can decide the way to God and He will honor their way.  And some are mistaken. 

I can't do much about the first two.  I can point out the right way but after that it is between them and God.  And if they think their way is best ... well, God will make it clear to them at judgment.

But I can do something about those that do not know.  I can point out the correct path.  I always do this politely at the track.  And in life, I am gentle and respectful.  Just like the Bible says to be.

It may not matter that much at the track.  Or it may if there is an accident.  But in life it really matters.

One way. 

And that way is Jesus.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Why I need the Bible

Here are five reasons I need my Bible.  I need to read it, study it, memorize it, carry it with me, have an app on my phone ... well, you get the idea.

1.  It is the word of God inspired by the Spirit that tells the story of Jesus. 

2.  I don't need to depend on what I think God wants for my life.  I need to depend on what God thinks I need for my life.

3.  When someone in my community of faith is in trouble, I need to speak truth into their life.  Not my opinion, or what they want to hear, but truth.

4.  I need to remember that in a world of lies and deception, there is truth.  I need to stay anchored in that truth.

5.  Reading the story of God's people thru the ages helps me realize that the things I deal with today have happened before.  There really is nothing new under the sun.  The stories in Scripture remind me of this truth. 

So I am excited to see so many people committing to read the Bible thru this year.  Lots of small groups meeting to read and study the Bible, not just books about the Bible. 

So thanks God for your Bible.  Help me read it and learn it.  Let your word light my way.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Richard Melton made it home ... forever

Richard Melton was going to live to 100 and then meet the Lord in the air when the Lord returned.

It didn't work out that way. 

Richard got sick, got worse, and is now seeing the Lord about nineteen years before he planned.

And he is OK with that.  In fact, he is thrilled.  He is where he spent most of his life wanting to go.

I served as an elder for a long time with Richard and here are few things that made him a great shepherd.

Richard loved/loves Jesus.  He was full of joy and excitement to worship and to live every day with anticipation for what God would do.

Great marriage.  He and Jane were a great team for the Lord.  It was always a shock to Richard to find out every couple was not like he and Jane.  He thought that their extraordinary marriage was normal.  And I watched his son Paul the past few weeks.  Helping manage his Dad's care, taking care of his Mom.  Great elders have great families.

Richard knew Scripture.  He studied his Bible.  Apt to teach.  Richard not only knew the Bible but he taught it.  One of the few elders I have known who consistently taught a Bible class. 

He was a prayer.  Kept prayer lists stuck all around his house and vehicle.  Only thing weird about his room in ICU was that I didn't see his prayer list. 

Richard loved the people on the margins.  People who were going thru a hard time.  People who life had slapped in the face.  He loved people when they weren't always lovable.  Lots of elders talk about how we ought to treat people.  Richard did it.

Richard had the heart of a shepherd because he knew the real Shepherd. 

Richard was a faithful disciple and a true servant.

Well done. 

You are home. 

And because of you, lots of us will be along shortly and we will celebrate forever.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Hypocrite, Sinner, or Struggler... and how to tell the difference

I am a Christian.  I am a sinner.  I am holy.  I still struggle with my sin.  I am living proof that Jesus changes lives and that the Jesus way works.  I know sometimes I must look like a hypocrite.  I know that the Holy Spirit is helping me put to death the sin in my life.

If you are a Christian, you too experience these seemingly contradictory emotions.

And I know a lot of Christians who still struggle with their identity.  Are they a saved sinner?  A hypocrite?  No one is perfect but shouldn't they be better than they are?

And how do you convince people that do not follow Jesus that he really is the way to God?

So here are a few questions I periodically ask myself to help do a spiritual look in the mirror to see who I really am.

When I sin, do I repent? 

Do I confess (acknowledge) my sin to God and even to trusted others?

Do I make excuses for my sin?  Blame others, or circumstances, or rationalize how it is not really my fault?

Do I commit to do better?

Do I have an action plan to overcome my sin?  Plans from Scripture or developed with guidance from family, friends, or shepherds?

Do I work the plan? 

Do I have accountability for how I am doing?

Am I getting better, making progress? 

These are a few of the things that keep me focused on who I really am.  A child of God.  Having my sins forgiven.  Showing more fruits of the Spirit every year.

Not a hypocrite.  Not even a sinner.  A struggler who sins, but is living in grace.

Living forgiven. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019


My Grandson Jake is a teenager...

So my grandson, Jake Gilbreth, turned 13 this week.  For some reason I got to thinking about the most favorite things I have ever done with him.  So here are just a few of my favorite Jake memories. 

Jg Soles.  That is Jake's Youtube channel.  Watching him develop this has been astounding.  He has right at 20,000 subscribers. 

Being the winning pitcher in Sectionals as a Little League All Star.

Teaching himself to play the drums. 

Seeing elders pray over Jake when he had Kawasaki disease and was diagnosed just before the time when the odds of surviving went way down. 

Spending hours together outside.  Lots of zoo trips, fishing trips, and just hanging out.

Working together.  We have done lots of projects.  Around our house and his house.  But I think my favorite was working at Marsha's folks house. 

But my all-time favorite are all the preaching trips we have made together.  All the grands have gone with me to preach, but Jake has gone more than any of them.  Lots of good conversations. Letting him see my sermon outline and talking about how you develop a sermon.  Watching him meet people.  Knowing he looks adults in the eyes and shakes hands.  Eating out, often with church members.  Listening to him pray when someone asks him to lead the blessing for the meal.  Talking on the way home about what we learned together.

Great, great memories of the boy becoming a man.  Teenager.  I cannot wait for the next round of memories. 

So I am proud of Jake.  Entrepreneur.  Musician.  Athlete.  Good with his hands.  Smart.  Learning to make our faith his faith.

So thanks Jake for hanging out with your Pops.  I am better for it.  And I am blessed.

And thanks God for the gift of Jake.  For healing him, blessing him, and now forming him into someone who will follow you.  Do great things in him and thru him.  I look forward to the memories yet to be made.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Educated and smart people are right, wrong, and sometimes right again. Or not.

So two things really caught my attention in reading all of the end of year news briefs.

The first one is about Pluto.  Not the Disney dog, but the planet -- or not a planet.

I grew up naming Pluto as one of the planets.  But when my grands studied the planets, Pluto was not one of them.  Some really smart scientists said Pluto was a planet.  Then some really smart scientist came along and said that Pluto was not a planet.  Now a couple of really smart, well educated scientists are arguing that Pluto should be reclassified.  As a planet. 

So is Pluto changing that much?  Did we learn something that made Pluto a planet, then learn something that made it not, then learn something that made it one again?

I don't know much about science.  Not really smart about it.  So when smart people talk about science I tend to listen.  And here is what I have learned.  Smart people may not be right.  And what constitutes well educated may change. 

So I wouldn't get too worked up about Pluto.  Your great-grandkids may have figured out by then that Pluto is, isn't, is again, and maybe even isn't a planet by then.

I grew up eating eggs.  Breakfast, sometimes for supper.  Sunnyside up, scrambled, omlets, migas.  Healthy breakfast.

And then some really smart people decided that eggs were not if fact good for you at all.  So no more than two per week.  And now I find out that last year some really smart, well-educated people decided that eggs are good for you and you can eat a dozen per week.

I don't think eggs have changed over the years.  Smart thinking about eggs changes.  But not eggs.  Or the truth about eggs.

So I listen to our culture talk about Jesus.  Really smart people say lots of different things about Jesus.  He is one way to God.  He was a really good man.  He was a very good teacher.  He is a myth.  Some smart, well-educated people even say He is the Son of God.

Same thing about the Bible.  Biblical scholarship changes pretty often too.  Something is right according to Scripture, then it is wrong, and in a couple of generations some really smart, well-educated people will decide it is right again.

And I think Jesus is the same as always.  And I think the Bible is truth. 

I still don't know if Pluto is a planet or not.  Not sure it matters.

And I still eat eggs.  Lots of eggs.  I am either really healthy or I am killing myself.

And whatever the smart people decide, I still believe in Jesus.  I have staked my life on the conviction that he is the Son of God.

And smart people can tell me that the Bible doesn't mean what it says, or then it does.  I'll go with what it says.  And they can tell it means what it doesn't say.  Or it does.  I'll just go with what the Spirit had written.

Really smart people are not always right.  And what makes one well educated might change from generation to generation.

So here's the about education and following Jesus.

Jesus used ordinary, uneducated people to turn the world upside down with his message.

People just like me.

Maybe just like you.

Thursday, January 03, 2019


Learning to do what I talk about when it comes to church.

For a guy who talks about Jesus as much as I do, I can sure get sidetracked on things not nearly as  important.  Things like church for instance.

I know that Christians are the body of Christ.  I know church is not the hour Sunday morning.  Not the budget.  Not the professional staff.  Not the politics.  And those last things are some of the things that sidetrack me. 

I can sure find myself upset when things don't go the way I think they should.  I lost a lot of sleep this past year over Church turmoil.  Worried about what was being taught.  Worried about division.  Worried about power and politics. 

And I get that Paul worried about people too.  People not institutions.  Not buildings and budgets.  Not membership.  People.

So I have a sneaking suspicion that I worried too much about the not-really church part of church. 

I recently wrote about how my church was so much bigger than whatever congregation I attend. 

I need to remember that. 

We had a lot of emotional investment in our congregation.  Marsha was practically a charter member.  I was the first full-time youth minister/song leader.  We met there.  We got married there.  Preached on Wednesday night for almost ten years.  Served as an elder for almost 15 years.

But that is not the same as my people.  Church is not, is not, is not, the building and the programs. 

I need to pay more attention to Jesus.  I have come to realize that church really is not just about a congregation, "membership", and structure.

That does not mean that I believe whatever churches do or teach doesn't matter.  Of course it does.  I am more passionate than ever about how we decide what Scripture teaches.  Everyone may, or may not, agree with me. 

That is OK.  I will answer for what I teach.  As will every other parent, Bible class teacher, elder, preacher, and Christian that talks about Jesus.

But I am done worrying about church splits, budgets, attendance, and politics.

Bigger things to worry about if I am going to worry.

So here is my resolve this year.

God and Jesus.  Lost people.  Bible.  Getting brothers and sisters home.  Shepherding.  Serving.  People. 

Maybe I'll be a member of the body at large.  That might even be more what God had in mind for me.

More living and teaching.  Less worry about church stuff. 

More God business.  Less church business.

So God help me keep my eyes on you and your Son.  I look forward to what is next.

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