Author Archives: Mark Zimmermann


accompanimentOur sister company, Twenty-Third Publications, came out with a publication recently called The Art of Accompaniment, a term expressed by Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel. Here is the link to the booklet:

By the term “the art of accompaniment,” Pope Francis is referring to the call of the Church to walk with people in compassion and love in whatever circumstances of life they are given.

The concept of the art of accompaniment can be applied to our journeying with younger generations through their milestones of faith as well (baptism, First Communion, confirmation). Our presence at these events and our encouragement of them in their faith can go a long way in keeping them grounded and confident in their relationship with Christ.

Continue reading →

The Magna Carta of Christianity

RomansMy pastor recently called the book of Romans the Magna Carta of Christianity, because it states what makes our faith unique and includes the details of our faith that are non-negotiable.

A perusal of Romans reveals the following non-negotiables:

The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17)

No one can be declared righteous in God’s sight by works of the law (Romans 3:20)

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:22)

Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)

Continue reading →

The Contemplative Pastor

contemplative pastorRenowned theologian Eugene Peterson reminds us in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that what a church needs most is a pastor immersed both in God’s life and our own lives. For Peterson, the question on a pastor’s mind should be: “Who are these particular people and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”

A daunting and humbling question, to be sure. But it got me to thinking about the massive role we have come to expect from our pastors. We want them to be active yet reserved, a visionary but realistic, an authority and yet a friend.

Pastors are human, too, and, therefore, cannot be all things to all people.

So it takes us back to Peterson’s question. Finding a good match between a people and the unique person that a certain pastor is is key.

Each pastor has a different style and approach that may work in some churches, but not in others. So it is about both a church and a potential pastor being honest about strengths and weaknesses and what is a good fit and what is not.

Continue reading →

Judge Not

judge not“Judge not lest you be judged,” Jesus clearly states to us in Scripture (Luke 6:37). But it’s easier said than done when we are living in an ever increasingly judgmental society.

It can seem like no big deal to join the chorus of voices who are judging others out of hand for all sorts of things they have said or done.

But as the saying goes, every time you point one finger at someone, there are usually ten fingers pointing back at you. There by the grace of God gooes each one of us. We are all sinners and we all make mistakes.

The difference for us as Christians is to replace judgment that may be welling upside of us for any given person, with forgiveness and love. Because that is how we would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Continue reading →


pillowIn the middle of the growing contentious issue regarding refugees in America, I came across a moment of brightness in the conversation. I found it in the story of Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers, of Bethany Lutheran Church in Bainbridge Island, Washington, who had an idea:

“I recognized pillows as a symbol of hospitality. Who invites a guest without offering a pillow? And I found a great deal on pillows at a local retailer. What a fitting way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the ministry of Jesus, who associated with the outsiders, Samaritans and lepers, and who himself was a refugee as an infant” (Pritchett, Rachel, “Providing Comfort,” Living Lutheran magazine, November 2017, p. 39).

The church blessed 500 pillows in their sanctuary by tossing them into the air before delivering them to Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Northwest, which provides services to refugees.

Continue reading →

Blessed Are You NOW

blessedIn a recent article in Living Lutheran magazine, author Tiffany C. Chaney makes an interesting observation about the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. She writes,

“The text doesn’t say ‘Blessed are those who used to mourn or those who were poor in spirit or those who made peace before.’ The blessed are in the midst of serving God now; they are deep in the trenches. They are being persecuted and reviled and more, even now. And yet they are blessed” (“Living Saints,” Living Lutheran magazine, November 2017, p. 23).

The present-tense reality of being blessed in the midst of trials really struck home to me. I realize that in the midst of struggles, I often look toward to some future time when blessings will come my way. But the fact of the matter is that blessings come when I am feeling sad, when I can feeling a lack of spirit, when I feel far from peaceful.

Continue reading →

The Drifters

two in pewIn his letter in the Summer 2017 Concordia Seminary magazine, Seminary president Dale A. Meyer makes an interesting observation. He says, “Some people come to worship rain or shine; almost nothing keeps them away. Others, sadly, have walked away from worship and don’t readily return. In the middle, between the always-come and never-come, are those who come but could drift away” (“From the President,” Concordia Seminary magazine, Summer 2017, p. 5).

Let’s call this group the drifters. What causes someone to become a worship drifter? I know for me, the rub comes on Sunday morning when you are cozy in bed and just want to sleep some more. So you drift off to sleep and skip church. For others it is other commitments and activities on Sunday morning that have taken precedence over worship. Sports practices, Sunday brunches, or shopping that needs to get done all can conspire to draw people away from worship. It does not take much for the drift to happen. Even a change in worship time can cause people to bolt.

Continue reading →

Dunbar’s Number

150 membersHave you ever heard of “Dunbar’s Number”? Discovered by British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it is the human norm that the number of genuinely personal relationships a person can actively maintain is 150, give or take. Dunbar and his colleagues note that “150 people is both the approximate size of a typical small-scale human village and about the number of people who can live or work together without needing power structures to enforce cooperation. The group is small enough that social pressures can keep people in line” (“Does Your Pastor Need a Friend?” Christianity Today, October 2017, p. 62).

I find this interesting because at a recent conference I attended, the keynote speaker said that currently a majority of congregations in America have an average weekly attendance of guess what? 150 members.

It occurs to me that this is not simply a coincidence. 150 appears to be the sweet spot for most churches for the very reasons that research for Dumbar’s Number indicates:

It keeps the group manageable. People do not become just a number. People know them by name. Functions can happen without an overflow of people and not in an oversize room.

It keeps the group personal. Everybody knows each other and can keep relationships functioning. People care about one another because they know them well and see them often.

It keeps the group accountable. People notice when others are missing and can follow up with them. People can see when fellow members are straying and can bring them back into the fold. There is a sense that people are expected to be present at certain times and be there for one another in times of need.

Continue reading →

Simply Sow

sow the seedI recently attended the Best Practices in Ministry conference at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Columbus, IN. One of the breakout sessions was led by Lou Jander, a retired teacher and church leader. He and his wife Martha have a ministry called Sow the Word. Their mission is to give a booklet of the entire Gospel of John to as many people as they can.

In their travels, they have given the Gospel of John to waiters, bus drivers, store clerks, gas station attendants, whomever they meet along their way.

Lou talked about the fact that he and his wife serve simply as sowers of the seed, as in the parable of the sower. When you look closely at that parable, Jander said, you see that the sower simply sowed the seed with the expectation that not all the seeds would “take.” Some would fall on rocky, thorny or  dry soil and not take root. That was just part of the reality of “broadcast” farming in those days. But what seeds did take root would produce greatly, the parable says, “yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).

Continue reading →


coffee table crateThere is a lot of interest and energy lately around the concept of repurposing. I confess that I watch a lot of home improvement shows and they are always repurposing old crates into rustic coffee tables or making bookshelves out of old school lockers, and things like that. In the art world, there are many artists who create interesting art pieces from old-fashioned kitchen utensils, tins, banks and toys found at flea markets or antique stores.

The concept of repurposing came to my mind recently when read again the story in Scripture of the conversion of St. Paul. Here was a man  was zealous in his persecution of Christians. But God repurposed this man’s zealousness to promote the Christian message instead. The story of the repurposing of Saul to Paul makes us realize that God can do dramatic things with what is put before him. Like a craftsperson at a workbench with various pieces laid out, God can create something beautiful and unexpected from the most random of things.

Continue reading →