Monthly Archives: April 2016


I am fascinated these days by how everyone is seemingly obsessed with keeping their smartphones charged. I am in restaurants and bars where patrons are always asking waiters and bartenders if they can plug in their phones behind a counter somewhere. And on any trip to the airport you will see all kinds of electronic devices being charged at outlet stations at various seating areas. Our greatest fear is being somewhere without our phone fully charged, it charger

While I do know from experience how lost you feel when you are out in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone, I do wonder about what our obsession with wanted to keep charging our phones says about where our priorities lie.

We want to keep our phones charged at all times, yet we are not as diligent about recharging our faith on a daily basis. If we have the time to search for an outlet to recharge our phones, we certainly have to the time to take a few minute to search through Scripture at various times throughout the day to keep ourselves charged up spiritually.

Instead of panicking when we receive notification that our phone power is at 20% and then at 10%, we should be worried that we have made through 10% or 20% of the day without praying. Our spirits can be refreshed again and again with a few moments of simple one-on-one conversation with our Savior.

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Christian Reading List


reading list

Reading Christian writers is like having coffee with a friend.

In an article in the March/April 2016 Outreach magazine, Ed Stetzer, of the Baptist publishing house LifeWay, talked about the value of keeping well-read as a church worker. “The books we read and allow to influence us hold great importance,” he said.

He explained how reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis as a teen intrigued him enough to read more of Lewis’ profound theological works and helped him to become a Christian writer. “Lewis made it OK to love Jesus and have a brain,“ Stetzer realized.

Setting aside time to delve into the works of well-known Christian writers past and present is essential for anyone in church leadership. Reading people like Timothy Keller or Andy Couch can inspire us in our own writing, preaching, interacting and planning. Keeping in mind the foundations of faith as expressed by Christian apologists helps us to see past the nitty-gritty of balance sheets and attendance levels and remember that our call is simply to speak the truth of Christ in love and to serve those around us, no matter how many or few that might be.

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Pattern Interrupt

One of the speakers at Best Practices from Camp Lutherhoma in Oklahoma (of course!) talked about the need we all have for “pattern interrupt.”

Camps like his provide people with the opportunity to get away from their usual schedules and take time to sit back, relax and be at one with nature, as they say. At camps like these, people are free to join in Bible classes, eat meals served by the staff, engage in crafts, play games, take part in activities, head out on hikes, read books, go swimming and enjoy naps in the middle of the day.

Sounds good, right?


Take time for a pattern interrupt.

It seems more than ever than our lives are far too busy, our days are filled to the brink, our calendars and day planners are stuffed. Part of that is healthy, of course. It is a good thing to stay active, to be involved, to spend time with people, to use the gifts that God has granted to us.

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The Power of Hymns

At the end of my time at the Best Practices conference in Phoenix, I experienced something unusual and unexpected: I wept.

It happened during the closingsinging hymns worship service when all participants were gathered in the traditional worship space and we sang with the organ from the hymnal (or from memory) the beloved hymns: “Lift High the Cross,“ “Thy Strong Word,“ “Hark the Voice of Jesus Crying“ and “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” (in harmony and a cappella). That’s when I lost it.

“So why the tears?” I pondered.

Hearing the participants sing with such gusto and experiencing the sounds of the 2000 voices echo through the vaulted space of the church brought out an emotional response in me in a way that the wonderful contemporary music I had been listening to and singing with over the previous days of the conference had not elicited.

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Packaging is the “in” buzzword in marketing these days. It means the presentation of a product to the public in a way designed to build up a favorable image. While it may seem strange to hear the term packaging as it relates at a church conference, Rev. Jeff Scheich in a session at Best Practices, explained that packaging is fundamental for churches to use to build interest in a worship series they are introducing.

movie posters

Movie posters like these are an example of packaging.

Like with the launch of a movie, it is important to “get the word out” in various forms of media: posters, banners, videos, special events, even trinkets like cups, lanyards and little flashlights. Most every parish has a member who is a vendor for items like this and would be willing to provide them at a discount or free of charge. Continue reading →


ragamuffinI recently read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning for the first time this week and was struck by how timely its insights were, though the book was written 26 years ago.

Ragamuffin is a term meaning the dirty, bedraggled and beat-up of society. These are the ones that society often pushes to the side or disregards completely. But these are the ones that Jesus went out of his way to spend time with, to the consternation of those around him. ““Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” the scribes of the Pharisees asked the disciples (Mark 2:16).

But that is why he came: to save the least and the lost and to show the world that each one of us is the least and the lost, the poor and bedraggled, the ragamuffin, in desperate need of his grace. Continue reading →

Modern-Day Parables

In “Parable Preaching,” another session I attended at the Best Practices in Ministry conference in Phoenix in February, presenter Pastor Jeff Scheich of Lincoln, NE, talked about the power of parables that Jesus utilized in his time on earth, and the power of a good story we can still use in our day to preach the Gospel message.

projectorIn an interesting wary of looking at things, Scheich explained that the parables that Jesus taught in the first century were related to the things that the listeners were interesting in, talking about and involved with: planting, farming, shepherding, going to banquets, attending weddings, etc. And the points that Jesus made from stories about things that people were familiar with would stick with them.

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Common Denominators

In Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive, Thom Rainer relates the sobering statistic that as many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline toward death.

In his study of fourteen churches that actually shuttered their doors and disbanded, Rainer came to see some common denominators present in the parishes that closed. His findings serve as a wake-up call to all churches, struggling or not.

church door lockedOne of the common denominators was that in each of the failing churches the past was the hero. Members remembered fondly the “good old days” and generally desired to do things “the way we used to.” This is not to say that nostalgia in and of itself is a bad thing. It is a good thing to remember “where we came from,” but churches need to be willing to move on and adjust to the changing needs of the congregation and the community in order to survive.

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