How You Know You Are In A Bad Church

I hold several unorthodox views when it comes to church starts and designs. One, I am not persuaded many if not most churches are suppose to last more than 20 to 30 years. I might be wrong but I am persuaded. Two, I am pretty sue the sermon centric church might not be the best model. Lot’s of talk about vision is usually about the ego of the leader(s). I am pretty sure most churches just need some faith inspiring goals every year. We will be ashamed in 30 years by the way the church has treated women. We are reaching a world in our minds that ceased to exist 55 years ago. We don’t know what to do in a mostly pagan culture. We spend way too much energy hanging to buildings and little is left for loving the lost. We need many different new forms of what a church looks like. I am pretty sure the board ran church is a cultural reflection of American society rather than a form true to the bible.

And the percentage of abusive leaders is on the rise from my anecdotal viewpoint. Many people are actually unraveling spiritual because of the need many leaders have to control. The size of church has little to do with this. It’s too bad we can’t have a reporting systems that leaders could sign up for showing their compliance with basic Christian behavior.

Here some signs you are in the wrong church:

  1. The church defines discipleship by conforming to the needs and system of the church.
  2. The Bible isn’t taught with careful use of the scriptures – if a communicator only uses the Bible to confirm their ideas you aren’t being expose to the Bible.
  3. There is no transparency about the income and expenditures of the church. Everyone should at least know how much comes in and how much the spending of money is taking place.
  4. Many times if the pastor’s wife is a paid member of the staff. Sometimes this is good but make sure it isn’t just a way to double dip.
  5. The Pastor lives extremely higher than the successful church member.
  6. If the pastor and leader don’t have a system for receiving valid criticism.
  7. If the church talks about “covering” or “the visionary” of the church. Some MIGHT be ok but if it is chronic they are trying t control you.
  8. If the Pastor clearly has a posse he hangs with. Not just friends but people who have status in the church because they hang with the Pastor.
  9. If the church talks about giving and money evens slightly in sermons more than every other month. If they talk more you can count on it the church isn’t being managed well.
  10. If there is a constant turn over of staff or leaders.
  11. If there is an elaborate multi-season membership process. If so they are again trying to tighten control.
  12. If the church won’t report back on special offerings for missions etc…
  13. If the church doesn’t have a yearly outside audit.
  14. If no one is every receiving Christ in the services.
  15. If you friends won’t come back a second time on a regular basis.
  16. If the vision and goals of the church are only about numbers and how much and not about character and inner qualities.
  17. If the leader ever lies to the church run for the hills because its a life style if it has gotten the pint of doing it publicly.
  18. If the church never has outside speakers.
  19. If the building debt is beyond 25 or 30% of income. The church will be in jeopardy.
  20. If the pastor and leaders tried to be cute and trendy. Church about honesty, simplicity and substance.
  21. If you children hate their classes on Sunday morning.
  22. If shamming and shunning is used on people who leave, sin or question.
  23. If the church has more than two meetings a week. They are trying to keep you tied into meetings and the control of the church. Church isn’t meetings.
  24. if the staff is poorly paid but the pastor is well paid. This is a disreputable treatment of people.
  25. Divorced people are scorned on.
  26. When people leave they aren’t prayed for and loved and trusted that they have heard God. Or you should listen totem and at least consider their reasons. But never go to a church that makes those who don’t want to stay into evil people.
  27. If you have a pastor that has no real accountability and oversight.
  28. If the pastor talks constantly about rebellion, making more money, people who hurt them, loyalty. Run they are up to no good.
  29. If your leaders are shop-o-holics. Sometime they will have a tragedy in their believability.
  30. If the church never brings in outside consultation.
  31. If the pastor ever talks about being national not matter how big the church.

Things I Tell People And Churches Doing Start Overs

  1. Resets are normal and healthy.
  1. Failure can not be determined in the short term. Often the long term experience
finds the set back was par at of the success.

  1. Make certain you learn from the set back.
  1. The least important piece of information is what was in the past.
  1. Stay away from negative or toxic people you will need all the energy you can muster.
  1. Never blame anyone else. It really doest’ matter who’s fault it is.
  1. Ever notice furniture stores are always have another grand opening. Churches and lives can too.
  1. Call a set back tuition because that’s what it is.
  1. Don’t wait too long to start again.
  1. Learn to laugh at yourself and your failures.
1l. Remember the pathway to finding who you are is often through finding who your not.

  1. Remember God can use sins of others to get you where you should be.
  1. Remember who told you so…and listen to them in the future.
  1. Find what needs to change next time.
  1. Get outside help.
  1. Forgiveness is the starting point. But forgiveness doesn’t forget it just rethinks things.
  1. Make sure you have fun…serious people trip over themselves.
  1. Thank everyone who helped you.
  1. Go to a lot of movies. Don’t over think you aren’t usually smart enough to figure it all out.
  1. I have found that setbacks often help me see that my perspective and planning were too small to begin with.

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

I have taken it a serious task to understand how people learn and are transformed. I think if they made me King I could greatly raise the quality and competitive power of our educational systems. Here’s what I would do.

  1. Have no High School have more than 400 students. Sell the buildings to churches. It is a fact that any time there are more than 400 people in an education process the dumb factor is stronger with each student about 400.
  2. I would definitely go with the voucher system.
  3. I would pay more for teachers and administrators in inner city Urban areas.
  4. I would gig every student an iPad.
  5. I would have many class assignments on the internet.
  6. I would apply the Asian system of studying in groups as the norm.
  7. I would require a short of uniform based on age and school. There is too much every spent on wardrobe. School is about education not creating a social environment.
  8. I would end the teachers union.
  9. I would add one more year to Junior College and have it be free for all.
  10. I would adapt the German system of setting the course of one’s education based on learning style and optimal tracks for each persons make-up.
  11. Offer free University and add one more year – and giving MA degrees for all grads.
  12. I would add a practical living curriculum on parenting, handling your money, parenting, and faith.
  13. I would add regular motivational speakers.

WHAT IS A VISION

Today – on my blog I want to stay on church development. I have helped dozens of churches develop strategic plans. I have often been a little hesitant to launch into a great vision plan. Over the years I have come to be very cautious about visions. I am not sure they are needed, necessarily helpful, and in many cases safe.

Here’s the down side of visions driven by a key leader or oligarchy of leaders:

  1. Few people actually read them and fewer apply them.
  2. Goals and planing are often neglected in developing a plan.
  3. Visions can be tools that become abusive of the folks in a church.
  4. I find church life can be much more fluid than people think.
  5. Way too much time is wasted on the concept.
  6. People easily become abused, or only functional part of the church. In other words everyone finds their value in what they contribute to the plan.
  7. Success is defined by scorecards that differ from Jesus’ heart for people.
  8. People become tools.
I have located two things i like to do before one writes a mission or vision statement if you ever need one.

  1. Every plan has to begin with values. Until you establish what is important to the group and leader there is no need to bother with a vision. I like to have leaders and churches assess what they spend their time on, prayer on, money, and energy. A close look at these areas and you will quickly find out what your true values are. And then you can be deliberate about stating your values.
  2. I have come to believe that a church should be simple and just have goals for three years. I believe that your history will reveal what God’s vision is for you. I know some of the best and brightest will disagree with me here. But what can I say – I am right.
I am very very certain that some of the best churches and I might add growing churches don’t have vision statements or

mission plans. Or a leader who has like Moses come down from the mountain. And I have frankly found that very view

churches seek to apply their plan, just like most of us they live crises to crises. What we need are clear values that are

educated by the Bible and clear plans and goals that require God to be the partner.

Why I Love Being a Church Leader: A Call To Young Leaders

Publications like to wax bodily about how rough the ministry is and how depressed all the pastors and their wives are. I have even passed on some thoughts that I have come to see are anecdotal and tainted by the fact that as a coach and consultant I am more often that not called into most often unhappy situations.

I was asked by a young leader this week this question? “What do you like about leading churches and why should I want to do that?’ I concluded I had to believe church leadership is a worthwhile and virtuous calling rather than I just wanted company in my misery.

I have spent several days thinking about that question. And I concluded that one, I love pastoring and leading ministries. And I could highly recommend it to young men and women wanting to make a dent in the slippery slope the world is in. I really don’t think the ministry is any more virtuous or a concern of God’s for say bankers and dentists. But it is a noble call Paul said.

And I know enough business owners, educators, politicians, athletes and doctors to know that the ministry isn’t the most stressful, under paid job you can have out there. Hey its tough running a governmental department, or managing a small business and you don’t usually get anywhere near the affirmation church leaders do.

So what do I like about ministry and why would encourage you to sign up?

  1. I am a visionary/creative person. And there is likely no more fulfilling arena to fulfill the joy of expressing who I am than what I do. I get to create and design every day of my life. And people appreciate it most of the time.
  2. You get to work every day and week at efforts that have the potential of bring eternal results.
  3. You usually get to work with honest and wonderful people.
  4. You get to grow as a person, leader and thinker daily.
  5. You really can make a good income at it if you apply yourself and work hard.
  6. You can influence entire cities with a simple message on Sunday.
  7. You get to see up close lives that are changed, transformed and get back on track.
  8. Your schedule is more often than not your own and you are free to design it.
  9. You usually get to choose the team of people you will work with rather than having them handed to you.
  10. You can leave your mark on the culture, your church group, families and young people moving into their callings and vocations for generations to come.
So yes I could recommend the ministry.

I Am Just Wondering

I was wondering today what would happen if the driving ministries in the country told the truth on a few things. Would we participants be mature enough to handle it. The American passion for success, more, and presentation I think can be an addictive vice.

I was just thinking when I read the report of an acquaintance ministry event. i won’t name them. And I am not saying I am not tainted by the same toxin having been an American leader at all. But they reported that they had a blow out event with x number of people and the strongest spirit. Now, I noted that the attendance was about 200 less than last year’s. I just wonder what it they had said, “we had 200 less people this year and the messages weren’t nearly as good either.” Would that be a bad thing?

What if they just told the truth and said,”it goes that way sometimes but we are going to give it our best next week but our marketing department has a real chore ahead of them now.” Personally I would love it. I may even plan to come next year.

Why is it we have to have the biggest and better every year? Its not true much of the time.

I thought about myself. When I send a bio in I usually say, “wrote fifteen published books one was a Gold Medallion finalist, and another was the text book for church growth for eight years.” Both of these statements are true. But what if I added one of his books only sold 800 books for one publish and was then sold to another and sold only 2000 and had a lousy cover Doug insisted upon. I think I may just do that in the future.

Or how’s this “20 years ago Doug led the eighth fastest growing church for five years in America but the last church he stepped into heal up had less money when he left than he arrived and he discovered he really didn’t have a grace upon him to pastor any more though the indicators were good for the church. He simply doesn’t like taking on churches he hasn’t started because he is too impatient to put up with the process. Sounds good. I would go hear that guy.

I wonder what would happen if we just told the truth a little more.

There is really good news we miss out on too. Like instead of 50% of Christian marriages ending in divorce only 20% do.

Or this 80% of pastor’s kids require therapy to deal with depression by the time they are young adults to forty years old. And it is usually due to the way churches treated their family.

I had a friend who pastored a church of thousands who constantly told young leaders he only made $36.000 year. It just didn’t set with me. He had two new cars every year (given to him by the guy who owned the car business in his church), He had a 5,000 square foot house that four builders built for him. His kids study in major overseas universities which another donor paid for. And the mostly ate out with church business covered by church business cards.

I had not an ounce of envy or chagrin about how God blessed my friend. But basically he had $36,000 with no obligations most of us have and that was a couple decades ago. It would be like having $8,000 free cash a month these days. Now my friend probably deserved four times what he was paid even then. But why tell a group of young leaders you only made $36,000. I know they went home and cut their pay to keep up.

Some of our less than truthful statements cause some real damage.

Insights: Setting Up the Room

I have learned several subtle but important insights that can predict the outcome of a meeting. One is I can predict how a meeting will go first by how a room is set up (setting of the chars and tables, where the windows in the room are in relation to the tables or chairs) and where people are seated.

I recommend a book titled “Making Room for Leaadership: Power, Space and Influence (IVP) buy MaryKate Morse. It is one of the most helpful books you will ever read on the topic of impressions, influence and power.

Here are some pointers I have found:

  1. If you are leading the meeting never let someone else organize how the chairs will be set up.
  2. A rectangular set up of a room is cold and inhibits communication.
  3. Half circles make for an easier communication experience. I disdain speaking in a rectangular room.
  4. Don’t have a disproportionate amount of space between the speaker/leader and the folks. People detach or you have to resort to near bullying tactics to maintain the crowds attention.
  5. Family meetings and sensitive meetings should be in a circular form. The lead member should blend in with the group if you want open communication or have sensitive topics to be covered.
  6. It is a good idea for there to be name plates and determine where people sit for a business meeting. Especially if there are several dominate personalities in the group.
  7. I think serious meetings should be set up so all people can see each other all at once. A perfect square works for me usually with people dispersed around the table. I prefer not by rank.
  8. I don’t trust anyone who sits behind a desk when we are talking. Its a power pose and I don’t need the stress. So I never have a barrier between me and anyone I am talking with that I am trying to get acquainted with or am trying to help.
  9. If you are a weaker personality or naturally on the more mellow side yet have to led the meeting take what they call the mafia seat. Its the seat that looks directly at the door. Sometimes its the head of the table others the middle of the table. Its the seat where no one is behind you nor out of your view. You will have the upper hand to get your point across.
  10. If you are introducing change or new topics or leaders to a group always set things up in a half circle where all can see one another. And have more than one person up front with the group.
  11. Also mix the new folks, or idea sources with the longer term people never have the separate entities of a group sit together it creates an us /them dynamic. You need a “we” moment or hour to get the point across.
  12. Always seat a room from the front to the back. Block off rows so people will be forced forward.
  13. In public meetings of any kind always have someone in command of the door. And train them what to say to intruders, distractors, mothers of crying babies etc…
  14. I always watch for who tries to take the Mafia seat and who takes the weaker seats when I work with churches it tips me off as to the group dynamics in the church.
  15. If you are a very strong personality and want discussion in the meeting take a weaker and less powerful seat in the room. Never take the mafia seat. In fact I like to place the quietest and more intelligent person in that seat.
  16. If you are gong to let a staff member or leader go who has caused you problems always stay behind a desk or table. They need the power base not a warm I am vulnerable to you setting.
  17. Change the set up for your board or other meetings six times a year.
  18. Don’t leave a lot of space between tables – leave that for the totalitarians.
In addition:

  1. NEVER EVER HAVE A MEETING OF ANY KIND WITHOUT AN AGENDA AND TIMELINE.
  2. ALWAYS AND ALWAYS ALWAYS START ON TIME AND HAVE AN END TIME.
**If you don’t do these things there are those who will hijack the meeting and make it too long and make private points that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  1. NEVER EVER EVER HAVE A Q AND A WITHOUT SETTING A CLEAR TOPIC….FOR EXAMPLE JIM DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ABOUT THE SERVICE CHANGE TIME….. OR JILL DO YOU ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT ADDING THE NEW CAMPUS WITH REGARD TO ITS SCHEDULE. NEVER SAY BILL WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING. HE PROBABLY WILL SAY IT.
  2. HAVE CLEAR CONCISE REAONS WRITTEN FOR HAVING THE MEETING AND WHAT NEEDS TO COME OUT OF THE MEETING.
  3. ALWAYS HAVE A CONSULTANT OR EXPERT GIVE THEIR CREDENTIALS AND REASONS FOR CREDIBILITY BEFORE THEY SPEAK.
  4. NEVER TIE THE WHOLE GROUP UP ON WHAT CAN BE DISCUSSED AND DECIDED BY THE LEADER AND A SUBCOMMITTEE.
  5. ALWAYS HAVE A SECRETARY AT ANY KIND OF MEETING. IT REMINDS PEOPLE THAT WHAT THEY SAY WILL OUTLAST THE MEETING. IT HAS MUCH THE SAME EFFECT AS A VIDEO CAMERA RECORDING YOU AT 7/11.
  6. MAKE CERTAIN EVERYONE PLAYS FAIR THAT’S PRIMARILY WHY YOUR ARE THE LEADER. DONT’ LET MEN TALK OVER WOMEN. AND DONT’ LET TALKATIVE PEOPLE DOMINATE THE MEETING.
  7. ALWAYS HAVE A TIME LIMIT ON COMMENTS AND STATE HOW MANY COMMENTS YOU HAVE TIME FOR.
  8. NEVER BE SURPRISED BY THE OUTCOME OF A MEETING. ALWAYS TAKE A STRAW POLL BEFORE THE MEETING SO YOU HAVE A GOOD IDEA WHAT TO PREPARE FOR.
  9. BE WILLING TO ENDORSE THE BEST IDEAS NOT JUST YOUR OWN.
  10. ALWAYS THANK EVERY PERSON WHO SPEAKS AFTER THEY SAY SOMETHING. IT WILL HELP THE GROUP STAY OPEN.
  11. NEVER EVER ALLOW FOR PAST ISSUES TO TAKE THE TOTAL DISCUSSION. TRAIN PEOPLE TO LEARN FROM THE PAST BUT BE FUTURE FOCUSED. IN FACT YOUR AGENDA SHOULD CLEARLY STATE HOW MUCH TIME WILL BE GIVEN TO BOTH.
  12. ALWAYS ALWAYS REMEMBER – LEADERS HAVE THEIR JOBS, FEARS, CHALLENGES AND TIME LIMITS. AND THEY MAY HAVE A LITTLE DIFFICULTY GIVING YOU FULL ATTENTION. I LIKE TO TELL A STORY OR A JOKE TO START OFF A MEETING TO ESTABLISH HUMANITY IN THE MEETING.
  13. NEVER LET ANOTHER PERSON START YOUR MEETINGS. YOU NEED TO SET THE TONE AND PACE OF THE MEETING. I LIKE TO START WITH A SNAP AND DRIVE THE THINGS. AND GET HOME.
  14. IF YOU REALLY WANT INPUT MAKE PERSONAL CALLS AND HAVE COFFEE WITH PEOPLE. YOU WILL FIND THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT OFTE DIFFER IN A MEETING AND THOSE WHO DONT’ LIKE SPEAK AS THEY LEARN. AND I LIKE TO HAVE A PREPARED SHEET OF COMMENTS YOU HAVE ALREADY GOTTEN FROM THE GROUP.
That’s plenty for now. I have often kicked myself as a leader and consultant for not commanding the room. I have seen important causes dropped, near fist fights start, and even leadership groups split mostly due to a bad room or meeting set up and preparation. I recently walked into a set-up that was ready made for failure. And sure enough what would have been a glorious move ahead with a great opportunity was controlled by the least qualified and most emotionally unhealthy person in the room due to set up and having open ended Q and A.

As a leader you can make certain the important thing happens by paying attention to these small details.

And all this isn’t about control. It’s about just the opposite. It is about making sure the agenda and needs of the group are covered over those needs of the ill motivated, unintelligent, attitudinally challenged or those who don’t prepare for meetings. It’s about keeping things fair and in order.

In a future submission I will cover how to encourage, develop and guide a meeting where there can be true criticism, disagreement and challenges. It begins with the above and moves from there. It will also create ownership.

The Tragic Error of The American Church

If I were to pinpoint the major point where the U.S. church has been neutered it would be the religious consumerism

of the American church. I do believe this premise can attract people to Christ. If we are consumers we are very likely to be more comfortable in an appeal to our needs.

Needs based church life is killing us. I have for years sought as a leader to connect people’s needs with God. And I will continue. But needs based Church life CAN undermine the basic call that Christ places on the believer.

When Christians seek only the meeting of their needs and that is all we are feeding for dinner we have run the risk of being a motivational club rather than the dynamic people of God committed to the spread of the Kingdom of God. I have concluded the teaching on the cross and a call to challenge the forces that push back on the kingdom are more to the core of what it means to be a Christian.

I am not sure we can recover any time soon from this upside down view of the church. As a coach I am trying to help churches do just that…

Young Leaders

I am working on a book for Young Leaders. I was presenting the material in seminar form. IN my question answer session I was asked a great question. What are the five top mistakes young leaders make?

I gave a couple responses but the thought further than evening about the question. Here are what I believe are the biggest mistake young leaders mistake. At least in my humble unresearched opinion.

  1. Saying no to opportunities. If you fur down teaching the second grade boys you might be saying no to more than you think. I recently was asked to work with a group of church leaders – and I really didn’t have the time but I saw it as an opportunity to learn from younger leaders and share my limited expertise with the leaders. A short time later one of the leaders shared how I had helped them with a pastor of 40,000 member church in Latin American. He sought me out and said God had told him I was going to help him restructure his ministry and church…. Young leaders can hold out for what really “get’s their juices going” and miss finding themselves. I believe that success finds all callings as long as we jump at opportunities.
  1. Pre-marital sex.
  1. Marrying the wrong person.
  1. Not getting all the education they can.
  1. Fail to see the real way to leadership and success is seeking to make someone else successful at what they do.

Morning Meditation

I usually take and hour and just think and review what I have read and experienced the precious day. And then quickly review my one week, one month, one year and ten year goals and plans. This morning I took myself into a personal coaching mode. Here a couple points I know but have not mastered and brought into my thinking today.

First – Success is usually achieved more by what you don’t do that what you do decide to do. Focus. Distraction is the enemy of success. Every day should start with an eraser.

Second – A daily deletion of fear has to be done. Fear means failure eventually.

Third – Learn to overlap work. One activity might be usable in four different arena’s if you invest the time to pay attention.

Four – There is a sliver lining in every mistake or set back. Better to find the benefit than try and find who is to blame.

Five – Books are written one line at a time. You can never write a book trying to right a book.

Six – Work from the end of your life backward when making decisions and investing time and money.

Peace- have a good day….

Church Stuff

I am a church guy. And this is supposed to be a church site. So I want to put out some thoughts I have as a church coach. i have to say there aren’t really a lot of churches I would attend from my broad experience. And if we all got honest there are many churches that just plain are bad for you and your health. And as long as we are all being honest you don’t really need to go to church to be a good Christian. Many of my friends don’t and they seem as happy and Christian as my friends who do. Go figure.

So why church? I believe in the church. I really do. I think Jesus clearly believes in the church. But my twist is a little different and I believe biblically educated. First off Jesus’ mission wasn’t to create churches. It was about His becoming the manifest King of God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is to be released every where at all times. The church is the agency of the Kingdom. In other words we gather as the church to be healed up, trained and released to do the Kingdom in the bank, the school, the court, congress, football stadium, and even church.

The church is not about an event. The church is a verb. We gather for one reason and that is to be prepared. Prepared for combat, prepared to love, and released to give. Church is the only organization it has been said that exists mostly for those not there yet. Church without promoting the Kingdom is not really a church. I am not sure what it is but there might be a 150,000 of them.

Thom Rainer one of my favorite researchers and analyst said that out of 330,000 churches in the U.S. 150,000 of them are dying. And for the most part he believes because they have begun to exist to meet members needs. Nearly none of these dying churches can hope for a turn around. Thankfully last year we started 500 more churches than we closed.

The following are some of my radical and surprising solutions to where we are:

  1. We need persecution. And it looks like we are getting it. If we truly contended as citizens of the Kingdom on many issues we would be persecuted. The church always does better when its persecuted. Persecution is rising so that must be the precursor to an awakening.
  2. I think denominations should stop being unrealistically hopeful and shut down many churches, sell the building and give the money to successful churches. Or take the money and find a qualified planter and start another church.
  3. Get rid of all boards. And get qualified trustees. I believe the smaller the church the more qualified the leadership needs to be to grow. Boards are a failed experiment following a corporate model. Church in the NT is led by the expert and highly qualified. I know of no other aspect of church that has destroyed more churches than the board. I say fire them all. And give them real ministry jobs in the church like teaching kids, going door to door for evangelism. And either get some qualified successful pastors and leaders to manage the church or the denominational leaders need to run the business details. I have been at this for nearly 40 years and way too much energy is spent on dealing with a room full of people who have no business deciding the direction of a church.
  4. We should start churches with a death clause. Committing to close down the church in 20 years and have the church split up into groups of 100 and start over splitting the money they put away. Let’s face it after 20 years you really have to work hard to keep people interested. Churches will make better facilities decisions, and stick to task I believe if we did this.. Develop a retirement fund for the leader(s) so they are not left in the lurch and go for it.
  5. Give significant pay raises to pastors who stay ten years. Not time to go over why. I should add successfully for ten years.
  6. Affirm the ordination and call of leaders form the church in the community. Take offerings for their ministries. Give scholarships to strong Christian Kingdom kids for their education. Help connect people to start businesses. Let the young couples take care of themselves, and the singles groups…. spend the money and energy of the church on doing the stuff. And don’t give away hamburgers or hot dogs and things. Go deeper and invest in the neighborhood.
  7. Assign groups of four to own two blocks of the city and help them to develop a two year plan to reach the folks there, heal them, start studies, pray for them, include them in your Thanksgiving. And cancel mid-week services. The people already know too much for their own good anyway.
  8. Don’t just start churches start networks of small groups that meet in a large group once a month.
  9. Do all skill level training online…forget so many meetings. Or just do them four times a year. People are tired of your silly meetings they want to do something. The only people who like them are geeky people who like being smarter than everyone else…It’s true let’s be honest.
  10. If someone can’t make their own friends you will never hand them one. Make small groups leaders build their own crowd.
Ok enough already. In the next submission I am going to outline what a good board meeting would look like if you still had to do one.

Things Hoover (my dog) Has Taught Me

Hoover my recent Buddy is a remarkable little guy. He has a lot to say without saying it. He has to be able to see me at all times and attacks the door when I have to go without him. Right now he is laying with his head on my feet while I work something he can do for hours, occasional getting up to remind me nature calls.

Here are my lessons so far from the little guy:

  1. Life is to be absorbed and some times you just have to sit awhile on your walk and take it in. Which he does about 10 times every walk. Some times we just sit on the grass and take it all in. A practice that is good even without little Hoover.
  2. Your will has to be refocused but never broken. And this takes patience and a steady hand for a while. I think this is God’s approach to me.
  3. Some times when you want to bite you need someone bigger than you to hold you down until you stop.
  4. Routines are good. His is up at six – pees and eats — lays down with Dog until 7 – then wakes up Lori – then 7:30 goes on the first walk of the day and poops. And then stands by the leash at 9:00 at night for the night walk. He does all this exactly straight up with the clock at the same time every day. An ordered and structured day is far more fruitful he has taught me.
  5. People love to see you do tricks even if you’ve done them a million times.
  6. People and dogs are always a friend in the making no matter where or when.
  7. If you sit and wait and don’t jump frantically you get treats out of life.
  8. You don’t always get to sit where you want…you have consider other peoples feelings.
  9. Riding in the car and going to new places is a miracle and a great surprise. New adventures are always good for you.
  10. If your leash comes off just stand still.
  11. If your smart enough you can train the people in your life without them even knowing it.
  12. Playing tug of war is a great time to growl and make noise. Your growls have to come out some time so do it when it it’s the time and place.
  13. You own nothing and everything you have is on loan from the Master. Things like your crate, food in the pantry, your master’s socks, the couch, the cords to the lamps — and everything else isn’t yours you just get to look at it or borrow it. And in the end its a good thing for us all to remember. We aren’t our own we were bought with a price.

Three Americans Part III

I met a Vietnamese family two months ago. They own business five minutes from my house. Some don’t speak English yet but most due. There are cousins from three families, a grandma, and some bothers and a grand kid who all work together. Their little shop is crowded with customers.

I had to wait a bit and started talking to the cash register clerk. She goes by the name Lilly. I asked where she had lived in Vietnam. I found tom her that she lived on the outskirts of Saigon. I asked her if it was difficult to get into the U.S.

She smiled and said very hard.

She began to tell me how she and several of her family members including her father drifted out into the China a sea in a boat nothing more than a crudely made raft. They floated for days at east hoping to be found. They were bonafide boat people as they were called in the 70’s. She told the story of how several of them almost died. They eventually were allowed to come to the U.S.

Her father had been and officer in the South Vietnamese army during the war. He was unable to get he nor his family out of the country when Vietnam fell to the communist. He spent seven years in prison after the war and was tortured nearly every day while shackled. He was released and longed for the day to get to America and find his friends again.

Her mother didn’t make the boat trip and it took 14 years to get out of Vietnam to the U.S. Along wait, it took that long to afford to get her out. They all since been back to their country to see family.

She introduced me to her father. And I was impressed by is optimistic walk and attitude. They had succeed together. As we shook hands he said, “are you are Republican?” I thought it was a funny question. My answer was, “most of the time.”

He said, “ I am a Republican and I am an American. And I never forget it for one day.”

Three Americans

I live in a very diverse city. Like most large to medium sized cities people have come from

all over the world to join in on the idea and power of “America.”

I visited my pharmacists a few weeks ago. One of the clerks I see a couple times a month is of Japanese and Mexican nationalities. Tom out of blue asked me, “what do you do for work?”

I asked, “why?”

He said, “because you are so happy every time you come in here you must love what you do.”

“Well I love my job that’s for sure,” I responded.

“What do you do then for work?” He probed.

I never tell anyone I am a church leader or pastor it shuts down the conversation right then. I usually tell strangers I am a writer or a professor. Then I can have a normal street level conversation with their being filled with sheer terror or cynicism.

“Well, I am a writer,” I smiled as I responded.

“You know I want to write. I have a great personal story that would be very interesting. Maybe you should help me putt together,” He asked.

“So what’s the story about?”

Tom began to tell me how his mother of Japanese decent had rescued and hidden an American soldier on one of the Pacific Islands the Japanese had occupied in WW II, The soldier eventually was able to sneak out and find his way back to American lines. When the war was over his mother found her way to the U.S. hoping to become a citizen. But given her involvement in the war and lacking the right papas she was taken into custody to be transported back to Japan.

She was held for a number of days and then finally taken to the airport in San Francisco for her flight home. The boarder officials interrogated her and explained what it would take to stay in the U.S. She surmised she had no chance.

So they handed her over to the border agent who would prepare her final paper work.

As the young agent walked in the door they both were stunned. You guest it the agent was the same solider she had hidden from the Japanese army for a number of days. There reunion was a joyous one. But the best part was the agent was able to asset Tom’s mother in getting the requirements met within days. And so in a few years – in comes Tom.

He asked me, “do you think its a good story?”

“It’s a great short story I said. But you should try and put together about four pages and then I will work at it for you. At least your family would have a story to pass down.” I offered.

“Well is their something I could read to understand how sorties work?” he asked.

As I often do I referred him to my favorite story and said, “yes the best story every told you can find in theGospel of John. Note the ups and downs and how a lousy ugly state of things ends up with a great positive event.”

I went to the pharmacy again last week and Tom was at the check out. He said, “hey Doug I have read the Gospel of John several times now. I need you to help me see how I can use that get my story organized”

“Ok take notes on who the Heroes are, who the enemy is, what gets changed, and who the star is what you can learn as about him and go from there,” I told him. “But most of all think about the lessons that are being taught. And then think about what the lesson is from your mother’s story.”

I have a few weeks to go before I need to return to the pharmacy. I am looking forward to what Tom sees in my favorite story.

Issue III – Same Sex Marriage

Approximately fourteen years ago I was speaking in Orlando for the yearly convention of a

large mainline denomination. There were over 17,000 people in attendance. My assigned topic

was related to the process of evangelism (which I soon found this group defined as gaining members not conversions) in a growing post-modern society (now we are i a clearly anit-christian environment).

One of my major points was that the sexualization of our culture has presented us with some

significant hurdles in getting our message heard. And that sexual addiction issues were causing us

to deal with some extreme challenges for conversion and as well the need to heal up the wounds of

a perverted and sexualized life.

I made the comment that one of the proofs we were in a sexualized distortion as a nation was the fact

that an entire segment of our population was gaining militancy and identified itself solely on the basis of a sex act. And this was unprecedented in ancient or modern society. And the statement is and was true. I couldn’t see because the television cameras were so bright but I heard about 500 people make noise and leave and a few shouted at me.

I was accosted by three denominational leaders back stage after my session. They were furious that I had offended their “gay” constituency. Several of my friends were defending me. The outcome was they cancelled me for the rest of the event packed my books up and offered to change my airline ticket to get me home asap. And that I should apologize to their “gay” contingent at a meeting they would call. I said I would be glad to answer questions and allow them to experience my heart as well as my thoughts. But I couldn’t apologize for gently and respectfully stating my conviction based on exegesis of scripture and basic logic and rational. My friends wisked me out of the convention fearing some kind of

reprisal.

And friends that was my first exposure to the militant homosexual culture. And I decided I had better make sure I had it right and could find a way to state what I believed.

Now anyone who truly knows me knows that I major on Jesus. I have no hatred toward anyone or any group. I am gentle and understanding and caring. I have carried myself in this manner for 40 years of ministry. Some have called me soft on sin. Others say I am too accepting. And no one has ever called me bigoted, harsh or caustic and attacking…ever.

My concern on this issue is the “homosexual life-style” is dangerous. life shortening and avoidable. I also feel the Nazi like tactics that are used by our mainline culture against anyone who holds to a different opinion such as me is wrong headed. I am not wanting gays to be arrested, fired from their jobs, kicked out of church or shamed out of society. I do believe they need healed. And I believe in an intellectually honest culture stating a counter opinion to 3% of the population calling me homophobic or practicing a hate crime is just about as unwarranted as anyone can get.

I don’t have time to go into exegesis and all that. There is some very faulty use of scripture out there from the positively disposed toward homosexuality culture. But I will spare you for now. This has made for interesting discussions with some of my friends.

Quickly let me give you just a few quick reasons I think it dangerous the trend toward same-sex marriage.

  1. Homosexual men die at least 20 years younger than heterosexual men. And there are many medical and health reasons that I won’t go into here due to not wanting to sound indiscreet or inflammatory.
  2. It is a fallacy that there is a “gay-gene”. There is absolutely no scientific evidence and in fact there is mounting evidence mounting that it is impossible for such a gene (I will spare you here and just say this position is supportable solidly)
a. If genes were the case there would not be such a wide range of homosexual practice from society to society.

b. Divorce in your family makes you twice as likely to be homosexual than blood line.

c. There are many more homosexuals in larger cities than small ones. This can not be explained in any other way than choice and enculturalization.

d. The nature of genetics is that if there were a gene it would have bred itself out of existence long ago.

  1. Ex-gay practitioners significantly out number the 3% gay population. So behaviors must be able to be changed.
4 No honest person could say anything other than that homosexual behavior is unnatural even in the design of the human body and purpose for sex as procreation.

5. Stating that “gay” is the new “black” in the oppression practices of our society is insulting and stupid. And I know is very offensive to Afircan Americans.

So my conclusions are three fold in my concern for same sex marriage. One, I do believe homosexuality is a “choice” and/or product of environment and cultural nurture. Therefore doesn’t constitute the status of a “third-way.” And as I have stated even as late as last month s substantial scientific organization stated conclusively that there was no genetic component to homosexuality but that it is a function of nurture and practice.

Two, same sex marriage is a frightening experiment in my opinion and that is all it is an “experiment.” For 3,000 years marriage has been between a man and a women. We have no historical reference to even predict how this experiment will end. In the state of Mass. the last year three women married one another. In my yes biased opinion this is a sign of things to come and a fast slide into who knows what.

My third concern is that just for writing my thoughts here which are well researched, biblical in the opinion of hundreds of years of theological thought I could and will be said to be spreading a hate crime. I fully expect in my remaining life time I will be attempted to be forced to perform gay weddings or be charged with a hate crime.

So many of my evangelical friends have either joined in the approval of same sex marriage and bought into the idea that homosexuals are unable to be anything else is frightening me. I had for years a good number of practicing homosexuals attend my church. They were for most part seeking kindness and loving help. They all knew I didn’t approve of their lifestyle from a concerned rational point of view. But in todays militant gay world one is not allowed a counter position. And hence there is a serious breach in our society.

And many of my remaining friends are either in a “moratorium” on the topic or of fear reprisal and loss of attendance that they say nothing.

i have never written on this topic until now. I have rarely spoken on the topic. But I fully expect this topic to be the major point of persecution of Christians. I don’t think my friends would categorize me as a right wing conservative. I like to think of myself as a hard thinking person when it comes to politics and frankly my call is such that I don’t get to these topics much. And I am certainly not hateful or dangerous for any gay person. I just disagree with their lifestyle.

I know many with my position try and come up with metaphors or parallels and such to state their case. I have none. This is a stand alone issue without comparison. And I predict will grow. Right now I helped a group get an artist and agent to design a billboard offering help to homosexual folks. This city has billboards advertising “gay hook-ups,” escort services and clubs and yet require their national headquarter’s attorneys to review the website and board fearing reprisal. This stinks! And I believe is only a mild taste of what is to come.