Category Archives: This That and the Other

Vacation in Beautiful Lake Lure, North Carolina

front.jpgHave you put off booking a place for a lovely North Carolina mountain vacation near a beautiful lake?  Well here’s your chance!  Rent our home in gorgeous Lake Lure, NC just 5 minutes from the Lake Lure beach, marina, swimming pools, lazy river, fitness center, volleyball courts, tennis, horseshoes, mini-golf, restaurants, championship golf, hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, zip-lines and more.  In less than an hour, you can be at Biltmore Estates, riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, shopping, dining and exploring Asheville.  This is NOT a cabin, but a fully-equipped home with internet, satellite TV, pingpong, foosball and other games, waterview, master suite lake-lure.jpgwith King-size bed, enough room for a large family and a private setting with tons of wildlife around.  You can enjoy this entire 3 bedroom house, save money cooking at home, control your schedule and all at about the cost of a local hotel room.

For pictures, availability and rental information, click on THIS link.

Note: While this is our private home, it is under the management of a rental agency and all reservations MUST be made through them.

playroom.jpg dining-room.jpg deck.jpg bedroom-3.jpg bedroom-2.jpg backview.jpg master-bedroom.jpg living-room.jpg

 

And another one bites the dust….

Sometimes I hate to be right.

A decade ago, I wrote a series of articles on my blog (don’t look for them now, I took them down some time ago) on the problems facing the Christian Colleges largely supported by Independent Baptists. (I was still ensconced in that identity at the time.) It was a serious of 3-4 articles wherein I very pointedly named about a dozen things they would need to change if they were to survive in the coming decade. It created a firestorm. The articles got 10′s of thousands of hits — particularly in cities like Pensacola, Tampa/Clearwater, Greenville, Chattanooga, Springfield, MO, etc… I was informed I was no longer welcome on the campus of one of my alma maters for daring to publicly challenge them. Another one banned faculty and students from accessing my blog. (Such childish reactions, ftr.) Others accused me of being a rabble rouser.

Today, I heard that Clearwater Christian College is closing. This follows recent announcements from Tennessee Temple that this was their last year and they were “merging” with Piedmont (which has largely become an “online” institution) and also Northland International closed its doors. Prior to that, Calvary in Lansdale, PA had closed, as had Spurgeon Baptist Bible and Atlantic Coast Baptist. (Piedmont hoovered up their assets as the last two were closing.) Baptist University died. BJU has been hemorrhaging students in recent years as has Hyles — largely due to various scandals — and most other extreme right institutions affiliated with churches are barely functioning with the possible exceptions of Crown and West Coast which are both church-based colleges which will likely disappear when their founders die off or retire.. There are a handful of tiny ones run by churches, but they have never been credible. Cedarville does well, but they have moved more mainstream with excellent academics and a recent alignment with the SBC. Pensacola can afford to give away its education due to Beka Books, but otherwise would be struggling as they still don’t have credible accreditation. BBC/Clark Summit has changed its name as they struggle to find their niche and BBC/Springfield is on life support and I predict they’ll be one of the next 2-3 to close. Boston Baptist and Davis are about as small as a school can get before it collapses without outside support. Liberty has sucked the life out of most evangelical schools as they have developed a world-class campus and a national student body base with nearly 100,000 students. Ironically, some of these schools once had robust student bodies numbers in the thousands at their peak. (BJU/TTU/BBC-Springfield had 4,000+, HAC had nearly 3,000. BBC/CS had around 1,000.)

Years ago, I noted that if these schools wanted to survive they had to start thinking regionally, instead of nationally as Liberty and Cedarville took over the national market. I wrote that the right-wing schools had to get over the fixations with music styles, Bible versions, affiliations/associations, the hyper restrictive dating and dress rules, the lack of academic freedom, the incestuous over-hiring of alumni and over-control by alumni. They had to stop their foolish disparaging of any form of accreditation or their students would leave for more credible institutions. I was right. They refused. Called me a liberal and compromiser. They disparaged my ministry — PCC refused to allow us to recruit faculty from them and the Sword of the Lord magazine did a two-part series trashing my church, me and a conference we hosted.

I wish they had listened. Now it’s too late. As has been the case with many fundamentalists I know, if they can’t control something, they’d prefer to kill it. In their mind, they won by losing. It’s really sad, if not pathetic. I was right. I wish this time I hadn’t been.

I’ll probably write more on this in a few days.  Stay tuned.

Jack-Booted Fascists of the Radical Left Take on Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson

BringBackPhil

In one of the most insane moves since Coke introduced “New Coke” to a fan base that didn’t want corporate eggheads messing with the things they enjoyed, A&E announced tonight that they are suspending Duck Dynasty star and patriarch Phil Robertson for personal remarks he made opposing homosexuality.  Instantly, the twitterverse lit up with boycotts, outrage and disgust — similar to that found when the LBGT extremists took on Chick-Fil-A because the founder also expressed his personal opinions.

Once again, the public is shown that “tolerance” is a one-way street and the First Amendment doesn’t apply to those who dare refuse the group think of political correctness.  Every time the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD or any other LBGTQ spokesmen gets the vapors over someone daring to question their lifestyle choices, some corporate scaredy cat freaks and throws freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to free expression of unpopular thoughts or opinions under the bus faster than one can say “Rosie O’Donnell”.

Hopefully, the rocket-scientist dropouts at A&E will get a hopper-full of email post haste which might drive them to their senses.  Care to drop the fine folks in charge an email expressing your opinion (while you still can without getting kicked off the internet)?  Here’s the contact email: feedbackaetv@aenetworks.com.

Here’s a list of the A&E Stations: http://www.aenetworks.com/contact

Here’s a link to the article announcing the decision: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/duck-dynastys-phil-robertson-indefinite-666808

 

Would You Help A Cuban Pastor?

service10.jpegOver the last 10 years, I’ve had a wonderful and exciting ministry in Cuba where I’ve been able to assist national pastors with their ministries.  For security reasons, I am never really able to share everything I’d like to share in my public reports, but the work of the Lord is happening all over Cuba and in the midst of difficult economic times, I always come back from my visits inspired by the faith, sacrifice and dedication of those with whom I partner there.  The needs are HUGE and life is simply a daily struggle due to the embargo situation.  A large percentage of what I do there is humanitarian in its orientation as we assist these national pastors with the basic necessities for living that they might be able to do the other work to which God has called them.  We have HIGH accountability, careful screening and regular visits to make sure good stewardship is performed.

I just returned with a fresh list of things I am needing to send or take over there in the coming weeks.  I’m regularly blown away by how people step up to assist me in obtaining these items.  I use a portion of my second income with Liberty University to fund this ministry and am joined by two wonderful Cuban Americancuba2008-262.jpg ladies who have given so sacrificially over the years, that I’m humbled to think of it.   Then I have Cuban-American friends, Blog Readers, Facebook Friends, former students and sometimes just anonymous benefactors who have also helped.  I’ve learned to just put the need “out there” and let God take care of the rest.

So with that in mind, I share my current list of significant needs.  Some might seem silly and trivial, but believe me, for them — it can be a big deal.  An example is shoes.  They have very limited sizes.  One of our pastors wears a size 12EEE.  IMPOSSIBLE to get there.  One of the pastor’s sons wears a size 29/36 pair of jeans.  Again, impossible.  So by bringing simple items like these with me, it changes lives.  The list follows — I am putting the item with all specifics down and the estimated price.  If the Lord leads you to assist, you can either send the item to me or the funds and I will get the item.  I’ll explain how to get things or funds to me at the end.

Items for Ministry and Pastoral Education

  • 10 More Kindles to provide a theological library for each pastor — $69 each
  • Funds to purchase the 80 theological texts on the Kindles — $500
  • 4 Bicycles for Pastor transportation -$200 each
  • 20 used digital cameras w/chargers and memory cards (for ministry reports)
  • $400 for a bicycle repair fund
  • $100 per month for fuel for the ministry car which serves the entire country from Santiago de Cuba to Havana
  • Used iPods and mini-speakers for music in the house churches
  • Funds for plastic stackable stools for seating in house churches — $12 USD each.  (Approximately 100 needed)
  • Musical instruments — New or Used — tambourines, maracas, bongos, guitar strings, latin rhythm instruments,
  • Spoons and Forks (non-disposable, at least 70 – for training conferences)
  • Plastic Tumblers (at least 70 — for training conferences)

 Items for Individuals and Families
(Some of these are very specific for individuals that I identified on my trip)

  • 2 pairs of 12eee (extra-wide) shoes (running/walking)  — $80 each
  • Shoes (Various Needs — $40 per pair)
  • Umbrellas for Women (20 — need to be compact, but full size due to heavy tropical rains.)
  • Watches for Pastor’s Wives (20)
  • Eye drops
  • Work Gloves (12 pair – heavy duty)
  • Irrigation supplies for micro-business project — $300
  • Rubber Boots (size 10) 2 Pair ($30 each)
  • Wire fencing pliers w/side snips
  • Men’s Hankerchiefs
  • Portable Sewing Machine (Used is fine)
  • New/Used Portable/Rechargeable Drill w/Bits
  • New/Used Plug-in Drill w/Bits
  • New/Used Small power hand saw with extra blades
  • Small (1-gal) garden sprayer ($30)
  • Women’s clothes — Size 0
  • Clothing for teens and children — (I have the sizes/needs) — $200
  • 34 inch boy’s belt
  • Light blanket — 3 for single beds, 1 for double bed (Think Tropical)

If you’d like to mail a donation (item or check) — the address is Dan Burrell, Life Fellowship Church, 16507 Northcross Drive, Suite B, Huntersville, NC — Mark it to my attention.  Do not write Cuba on the check, but just let me know what it is for in separate correspondence.  All checks should be made payable to Life Fellowship Church.

If you’d like to give online, click HERE. It’s easy to register and simply click on “MISSIONS” and type in “Burrell-Cuba” and it will get to me.  Your gift is tax deductible.

Or if you have a question: Drop me a line at DBurrell@lifecharlotte.com!

Thanks in advance for responding as the Lord leads you!  These guys are amazing and you are making a huge difference in their lives.

Tips for Those Applying for Ministry Openings

0-a-key.jpgA week ago today, I listed two open positions we have at our church for which I am recruiting.  Over the last week, I’ve received several hundred resumes from folks looking for employment in the ministry.  As a professor for Liberty University in their graduate program, I‘ve learned that during this time of difficult economy, there are many who are engaging in advanced degree programs wanting to change the over-all qualifications they possess with an eye toward going into ministry and this has produced a large number of “older” students who are trying to “break-in” to ministry work.. Add to that the number of churches which are declining in attendance or experiencing financial difficulties and are cutting back which results in dismissals and layoffs, there is just an unusually large number of people looking for ministry openings and also a smaller than normal pool of opportunities.

I’m in a position where I can only afford to give each resume and cover letter maybe 2-3 minutes of review if I have any hope of staying ahead of the tsunami of applicants.  I’ve learned, from personal experience, that it is very frustrating to be on the applicant end and to send someone your carefully-worded cover letter and meticulously-dcveloped resume only to have it disappeared into some cyberspace abyss with nary any indication that it was received, considered or anything else.  Therefore, I send a very brief acknowledgement when I receive a resume that gives our timeline for making a decision and a second email whenever they are no longer in consideration.  I have found that folks are very appreciative of any communication at all and I think it‘s just courteous to do something so that they don’t feel locked in limbo.

Quite a few will then write me back upon learning they are no longer under consideration and ask for advice on how they can get further in a process with their next effort.  I think this is a legitimate question and as a result, I’ve developed a template reply for those requests as well as I think it is important to help those who are sincerely asking.

Here’s some of what I’ve been telling them and I share it here in hopes that it might help others:

Here are some pointers and tips that are important for me, if not others…

  • Use email and a file attachment.  Paper resumes are SO yesterday.  I hate shuffling the paperwork.  When I print one out, that’s a good sign — that means someone has made the first-round cut.
  • I expect very few, if any, typographical errors.  You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
  • I enjoy a professional and warm cover letter without being overly familiar or casual.  I don’t need hip vernacular, easy complements about our amazing website, a real long history, etc…  At this stage of the process, I just focus on facts.  Concise, bullet-pointed, facts.  Gushy add-ons about having the most beautiful spouse in the world and the smartest children in the world, etc… seem rather out of place.
  • Photographs invariably catch my attention and I ALWAYS look at them, but they should be careful.  I look for discernment in the photos.  Give me a picture of your wife or your older daughters in plunging necklines or short-shorts and I’m concerned about what I might have to deal with as you become a ministry leader of serious grown-ups and believers.  It’s not about legalism, it’s about propriety, modesty, dignity and wisdom.
  • This may sound superficial and even discriminatory, but I’m going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.  If you are sending me a picture, remember that appearance DOES count.  If you are 27 years old and pushing the scales at 300 pounds, I’ve gotta’ tell you that I’m thinking about diabetes, heart disease, insurance rates and a whole lot of other negative things.  If you dress like you’re still in high school and you are 40 or if you dress like a mortician and you’re 22, that doesn’t just slide by unnoticed.  I don’t want to see pictures of you at a birthday party.  I do like seeing pictures of you in the midst of ministry as long as they don’t look staged or cheesy.  And yep, if you have cute kids, a dalmation and a lovely wife, those pictures leave good impressions as well.  However, if your kids are into goth, your wife dress like she’s Amish and you own a pet boa constrictor — I’d leave those lovely photos for some other time.
  • Concise – Anything more than 2 – rarely 3 – pages doesn’t get fully read.  I don’t care where you went to High School or that someone once worked at Taco Bell.  Edit, condense, repeat.
  • Professional Achievements – Anything published, awards, recognitions, unusual opportunities give me a reason to remember you.
  • Anything Extraordinary – Did you start something from scratch, have you done ‘extreme’ ministry somewhere, have you worked in multi-cultural settings, are you related to D. L. Moody, do you speak multiple languages, have you had the Virgin Mary appear on a honeybun at breakfast, etc…?
  • Transparency – I love that.  Brutal honesty always catches my attention.  If you have a wonderful testimony of God’s redemptive grace in your life — I want to know that.  If you’ve had a couple of really horrific ministry experiences and are hurting — you’ll find a sympathetic ear from me if it isn’t presented in a way that is manipulative or indicates you are still carrying tons of baggage.  But no one is perfect.  I already know that.  So help me not to go have to search for the issues.
  • Something I just learned – I’d put my “Letter of Introduction/Cover Letter” in the text of the email to which you attach your resume.  I found it laborious to open more than one file attachment per applicant.
  • I liked when applicants gave me a click-through link to their blog or a vimeo link to a sermon or lesson.  It’s not part of the first-level screening, but definitely will be later on.
  • I’m generally suspicious if there is NO internet footprint at all when I google a name of someone.  It either says that they’ve scrubbed their available information from the internet or that they are really young/bland or maybe both.
  • Please don’t nag me.  It’s OK to ask once for an update if you haven’t heard anything, but PLEASE don’t call me, don’t email me every day and DO NOT SHOW UP at my office or church saying you were “just in the area.”  That’s almost always an automatic, “no thanks” from me.

None of those are “deal-breakers” – but let’s be honest, when you receive hundreds of applications, the “little things” can be the difference between moving ahead and staying behind.  Obviously, ultimately this is a spiritual exercise rife with human judgments.  We all clearly want the Lord’s will, but at the end of the process – there are some very subjective criteria involved as well.  My wife and I once had a birth mother select us to adopt her child over another couple because we had a picture of our toy poodle with us in our introduction packet.  Go figure.

So I leave those thoughts and observations with you in an effort to sharpen you and encourage you.  As one who works with tons of young people breaking into the ministry and as one who has hired literally hundreds and hundreds of Christian school teachers, pastors, support staff, etc… over the years – I hope these observations will be helpful to you.

The Hypocrisy that is “Pro-Choice”

You simply HAVE to take a minute and watch these interviews from the recent Democrat National Convention held in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.  The issue of Abortion is a very important and very personal issue for me and I frankly do not care if someone is offended by my discussion of it from any angle.  This video shows you the lack of intellectual integrity the “pro-choicers” have when it comes to the slaughter of innocent children in their mother’s womb.  It would be humorous were we not talking about racist, xenophobic genocide.

View it HERE.

Seven Christmas Misconceptions

This entry was written by my friend, Dr. Wesley Scott, who is a colleague on the Liberty University faculty and the Educational Services Director for the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.  He is a critical thinker and when I read these on his Facebook wall, I asked his permission to share them with my Whirled Views Audience.

Seven Christmas Misconceptions

Common Christmas Misconception #1 – Jesus was not born on December 25, 1 AD. After years of study on this topic in reference to the appearance of an astronomical anomaly and the Roman rulers at the time of His birth, it is more likely that He was born somewhere between 3-5 BC and likely in the spring. December 25th is a traditional date first indicated by a Roman historian and orator in the 3rd century. While he and the Roman Catholic Church may have been incorrect in their date and year (Gregorian calendar) and since we cannot really pin down a specific date, we can still celebrate the incarnation of Christ on this date without any hesitation.
Common Christmas Misconception #2 – Joseph and Mary were not married when Jesus was born – well not quite. Joseph and Mary were “betrothed” or engaged to be married when he was told by the angel of Mary’s pregnancy. They had likely signed the “ketubbah” which was a Jewish contract of engagement – much more legally binding that our modern engagement. As instructed by the angel, he took Mary as his wife but did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. So, in the public eye they were married, but technically since they had not consummated the marriage, they were not officially married – yet. Jesus was born into a questionable and some might say dysfunctional situation. Thus, He can relate to any type of difficult situation in which we find ourselves today – His life started out that way!
000nativityscene.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #3 – The manger was not a stable in which the birth of Jesus took place. When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, since there was no room at any guest chamber (inn), they went to the place where the livestock were kept to lodge – which in that day was generally a small grotto or cave. The “manger” is actually the livestock feeding trough into which Jesus was laid after being wrapped in strips of cloth. (These were the two specific signs to the shepherds as to who the Messiah child was.) Whether your manger scene is a stable or cave really doesn’t matter. The point is that the King of Kings was born to a poor, Nazarene couple in a cave among the animals. Social pariahs, the poor, homeless, needy, lower class, tired, sick, and even animals would all play key roles in the life and ministry of Jesus.
000angels.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #4 – The angels who appeared to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth did not sing. As wonderful and glorious as an angelic choir might sound, the Bible tells us the angel appeared with a heavenly host of other angels to the shepherds and they were “saying, Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” In fact there is no place in Scripture where it is clear that the angels “sing” at all (although there are a few questionable references). Regardless, I think it is key that the first declaration of Jesus’ birth was made to shepherds – among the lowest class of citizens in that day. Not to mention that Jesus would identify with both the shepherds and the sheep as our Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So go ahead – sing out “Gloria, in excelsis Deo” – I’m sure God won’t mind at all.
Common Christmas Misconception #5 – The shepherds did not follow the star to the place where Jesus was born. They were instructed by the angel to look for the Christ child “in the city of David” – which is Bethlehem. Two other signs to His location were that He would be 1) wrapped in swaddling clothes and 2) lying in a manger. We’ve already dealt with the manger (see Sunday), but what are swaddling clothes? Well, they are strips of cloth that were used to clean up the afterbirth. Clean strips were used to wrap the baby Jesus after His birth – sort of like a mummy. Was that odd? Yep – that’s why it was a sign to the shepherds. Thirty-three years later this child would be wrapped in strips of cloth again – for His burial. The swaddling clothes were a picture of the whole purpose of this child’s life – He was born to die for the sin of all mankind. God’s Christmas gift to you was His Son – will you receive Him?
Common Christmas Misconception #6 – “Three Kings” did not visit Jesus to worship Him. The men who visited Jesus were not kings. Our English Bibles call them “wise men” or “Magi” – however literally translated from the Greek “magoi,” the word means sorcerers or magicians. The Magi were likely from Persia where they had been elevated to a priestly status. They were likely students of many histories and religions, including the Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah, and as a result of their astronomical knowledge, they came to worship the King of the Jews as they saw His star. We really don’t know exactly how many came, but this was primarily a political gesture and they brought three types of gifts (this is where the idea of “three kings” comes from) for the new King. Did they really know who they were visiting? We don’t know. Many people know “of” Jesus and some may even worship Him as a religious figure or respect Him as a great humanitarian, but the real question is, do you “know” Him, personally, as your Lord and Savior?
000magi.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #7 – The Magi were not present at the manger scene. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they apparently told Herod the star had appeared around 2 years prior. Herod tells them to go find the “young child” – with secret intentions that he might kill this threat to his throne and they were directed to Bethlehem (about 6 miles away). Interestingly the star they had seen earlier reappeared and stood over the “house” where the “young child” was. Joseph and Mary apparently took up residence in Bethlehem after His birth and it is clear in the Greek that He was no longer a baby but a small child. From the reaction of Herod in killing all male children in Bethlehem less than 2 years of age and the Magi time recollection; He was likely around 2 years old when they worshipped Him. Don’t toss out your manger scene! Whether you place the Magi at, near, or far away from the manger doesn’t really matter. Celebrate that God used these men to show us that Jesus was sent to save all men from all nations. His final words on earth would echo this same sentiment 33 years later. Jesus – God’s gift to the whole world!

Will you give me your Kindle for Christmas?

Well, it’s not really for me.  I have a Kindle.  Better yet, I have an Ipad.  That’s why I don’t use amazon-kindle-3.jpgmy Kindle anymore.  But I know someone who can — my pastor friend in Cuba.  They can’t download books there with Amazon’s “whispernet”, but I can load a TON of theology books in both English and Spanish (he’s bilingual), take it to him, and he can literally have an entire library of hundreds of books on one single E-Reader.  Can you imagine what an amazing tool this could mean for him?

So, I’ve got thirty other Cuban national pastors that we support and work with who barely own a Bible and virtually no theology books.  I started thinking — with Kindles now available for as low as $100, what if I could get 30 friends to send me their old one or buy a new one for a Christmas gift and I could load them with good books and take an entire library for each pastor with me on my next trip in February?  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Maybe you are like me and had a Kindle, but like the IPad reader better, so you aren’t using it any more.  I’ll be brash — I’d like for you to give me your old one.

mcuba.gifMaybe you enjoy doing something nice for someone at Christmas — How about doing something for a guy who makes less than $1 per day and lives in a house with no air or heat or hot water or toilet seat and who has never driven a car and doesn’t have a library and sometimes doesn’t have electricity or running water?  Think that might be something pretty special for them?  I know so!  So order a Kindle (your choice) on Cyber-Monday and send it my way.  I promise you that every single one of them will get to a pastor in Cuba.

Perhaps you can’t afford a Kindle, but you will send an Amazon gift card via email or snail mail.  That would be awesome, because right now, I’m buying all these books on my own.  That would be a big help in any amount.

I promise that 100% of what you give will go directly to Cuba.  Nothing stays here and nothing cuban-church.jpgsticks to me.  It all goes.  Some of you have been tremendous blessings over the years to the Cuban church planters who are part of our ministry.  I have to be very careful about how I report about them or identify them for their own safety, but it would make you cry to hear their stories — at least it always does me.

So think about it — I know it’s brash to ask straight up like this, but it’s not for me and I know how bad they need these kinds of tools there.  I’ve probably got 10,000 books in my two houses and two offices.  They may have 3.  They are better men than I could ever hope to be in ministry — they know suffering every day.  I don’t.  They have cute little kids and sweet wives.  They are real people who weep and worry and hurt.  I want to help them.  Will you join me.

So….send me your Kindle.  It will be a huge blessing to a  wonderful pastor in Cuba.

To contact me: email me @ dburrell@lifecharlotte.com or you can send your Kindle to:

Dan Burrell
c/o Life Fellowship
16507 Northcross Drive, Suite B
Huntersville, NC 28078

What to Get Your Pastor for Christmas

We’re coming up on that time of the year when we start thinking of what to get people who have been a blessing or inspiration to us a little something to say “Thanks” or “We love you” and for many people, that includes their pastor.  As a former pastor who has nothing to gain from writing this article at all, I thought it might be a help to share some thoughts from a pastoral perspective and even share some ideas to help you come up with something that is helpful and not a waste of your money.

First, let me tell you what your pastor does not probably want or need….

1. Most anything purchased at a Christian bookstore that isn’t a gift certificate.  Schlocky “Christian” art, paperweights and wall plaques with poems written to pastors by some unnamed author, a quilted Bible carrier, etc… just simply isn’t what your pastor needs or wants.  It’s like getting your kid’s school teacher something that has the word “teacher” or an apple on it or worst of all — a coffee mug.  It just isn’t needed and it ends up in a garage sale or a good-will box shortly.  Even buying a book for him isn’t a good idea — he probably already has it or won’t read it.  Unless they’ve specifically said, “I want this book” — they probably already have it or won’t read it.

2. Fruit and cookie tins.  They’ll get a couple from someone, you can count on it and one or two a season isn’t bad.  I mean, really — who doesn’t like a good selection of cheese and summer sausages?  But 30 of them is a bit much.  So we re-gift or send them to the food bank.  I know they are easy and quick, but they also tend to communicate — “Here pastor, I couldn’t think of anything thoughtful for you, so here’s a bowl of fruit I picked up at Publix at the checkout counter.  Enjoy.”

3. A Bible.  Guess what.  I know this is shocking, but your pastor already has a Bible….or THREE DOZEN.  He’s probably covered in that area.  I’ll never forget getting flown half-way across the country one time to speak at a place and was gone from my family for several days and my honorarium for the trip?  A $50 Bible.  $50 I could have used.  A Bible?  I had plenty.  I still have it — in it’s original box.  I don’t know what to do with it.  They engraved me name on it.  I can’t regift it.  So I keep it.  LOL.

OK…now I’ll get more serious and make some practical suggestions:

1. A gift card. Seriously — a gift card to just about anywhere is always nice.  It’s like “free money”.  I loved getting gift cards because I would buy things that I normally would not buy.  Some fancy-schmanzy cup of coffee at Starbucks, a book online at Barnes and Noble, a new fishing rod at Bass Pro Shop or some new tool at Lowes.  It’s just fun to spend a gift card.  If you gave me money, I’d pay a bill with it or give it away.  A gift card, I would always use.

2. A family night basket.  One thoughtful family once gave us a basket wrapped in cellophane that had microwave popcorn, a 2-liter of soda, a table game and a video rental card in it and it was really thoughtful and fun for the whole family.  We loved that.

3. A Kindle or some other electronic reader.  Your pastor would probably never ask for it and wouldn’t splurge for it, but he might just want one.  (Find out from his wife if he wants or has one.)  Now you probably aren’t wanting to spend $300 bucks for a Christmas gift for the pastor, so consider having your entire Sunday School class or department or some other group going together.  Someone gave me one several years ago and I use it constantly.  I can have 1,500 books on it at any one time.  It saves time, space and money as the books are cheaper than buying them on line.  Some people want a hard copy book in their hands, but if your pastor is 40 or younger, I bet he’s wanting an e-reader of some kind.

4. A restaurant date with his wife.  Put a gift card to the Red Lobster or some other fine-dining establishment in an envelope and a coupon good for childcare at your house and let the pastor and his wife go out together.  There’s a good chance your pastor isn’t from your town so he may not have family where he can dump the kids — so make it possible for it to be a date night with his wife.  It’s a good investment.

5. Season tickets somewhere for the family.  (Again, this is a group gift.) One year, a group at my church in Charlotte got together and gave us season tickets to Carowinds.  We probably wouldn’t have gone even once — too much money.  But with season tickets, we would often visit — sometimes for just an evening or to visit the water park or my wife would take the kids.  They were a great gift that we enjoyed an entire season.  Brilliant idea.

6. Car Washes.  The pastor has to have a clean car for things like funerals, etc… and Saturdays — when most people have time to wash their cars are usually filled with weddings, ball games, getting ready for Sunday or week-end services.  A deacon in my Charlotte church once gave me a year’s supply of car washes and a case of tire black for Christmas.  Over the course of a year, it saved me hours of time and mucho dinero and was one of the coolest, most unique gifts I ever received.

7.  A night away in a hotel with his wife.  One year, someone gave me my wife and I a trip to a bed and breakfast for a night.  It was such a nice break and something we’d never have done on our own.  It probably cost $100 and included a certificate for dinner, but it was really a nice time for us.

8. Something for the wife.  It was always honored to have someone do something nice for me, but if someone did something nice for my wife — well, that was just the best.  So if someone gave a gift to my wife instead of me, I really loved that.

9. Gas.  Pastors use a lot of gas.  Go ask his secretary for his keys and take it to the gas station, gas it up, vacuum it out and wash it and give the keys back and he’ll be blessed.

10.  A letter.  It isn’t about money or price.  Really.  Believe me on this.  Sure….pastors have needs and bills like anyone else, but it’s not about “stuff”.  Write a nice letter.  Give him a jar of homemade jelly.  Give him a few pictures of the church and his ministry.  Simple and cheap stuff mean a lot as well.  Pastors often lead with their hearts, so if you want to bless him — touch his heart.  They’ll keep a letter and a photo.  They’ll appreciate something made with your own hands.  They’ll love you for being personal.  Don’t think spending money is what it’s about.

If you feel like this post is inappropriate and that pastors should be giving gifts.  Look, you tithe and he gets paid and that should be enough.  Then seriously, if you’ve read this far, please don’t get him anything.  He doesn’t want it.  He didn’t sign up for the ministry so he could get your stuff.  Don’t stress about it and don’t feel obligated.  Honestly.

But if you, like we will do with our family this year, want to bless your pastor and his family, I hope you’ll consider some of the ideas I’ve shared in this.  He’ll be delighted with whatever you do to express your love and appreciation — I just wanted to say a few things that he probably wouldn’t say in a million years.

Of Elders and Deacons

 Recently, my friend Charles Wood, has been discussing church governance from a Biblical perspective in his daily “Woodchuck’s Den” that he sends out by email.  (Why he will not blog these wonderful articles is beyond me! –hint, hint.)  Apparently, his pastor, John Blodgett, of the First Baptist Church of Elkhart, Indiana, recently preached on the topic as well and he reproduced an outline.  As I read it, I was struck by how closely this aligns with the view that I hold.  Pastor Blodgett gives credit to John Piper for helping him reach his conclusion and I must admit that I have been influenced by several academic friends who have done research on elders and Baptist history and by John MacArthur, myself.

I took both of the churches I pastored through the transition from using deacons as a quasi-”Board of Directors” model to what I believe is the more Biblical model of using elder leadership (both vocational and non-vocational — as in pastors and lay members that both meet the Biblical criteria.)  In hindsight now, I can honestly say that I anticipated and looked forward to the elder meetings in my churches and I dreaded with a passion many of the deacons meetings.  I hold fast to the opinion that having an elder board is important for any pastor to help him avoid an autocratic style of leadership that may swing toward dictatorship.  At the same time, elders who understand their Biblical role and mandate, understand that God does generally use a single elder to provide the vision and direction of the ministry with the plurality of elders and thta he will generally serve as the primary voice from the pulpit.  Other elders will use their spiritual gifts in areas in which the pastor may not be as gifted like finances, administration, etc…  Ideally, the elders work in a spirit of unanimity and proceed with much consideration of Scripture, prayer and a spirit of humility and transparency.  I vowed that I would never push the church forward on a matter without the unanimous support of those that sat on the elder board.

Both of the elder boards at the churches I pastored were men of exceptional spiritual depth and maturity.  I have not a single regret about any lay elder that we selected to serve our church by providing leadership in either place.  (I cannot say the same for every “staff” elder and that may lead to a different commentary on Biblical qualifications for pastoral/vocational/elder leadership within a church.)  If I were in either church today, I would want the exact same lay elders to give me guidance and counsel.

The elder board approach is still in place in my first church and functions wonderfully from all that I can tell.  The church has more than tripled in size and scope since I was there, so I assume there may be a few more than we had while I was the Senior Pastor, but it worked.  The deacons moved away from management (and micromanagement) and worked as servants and assistants and some have and will eventually become elders themselves as their gifts matured.

In my second church, the deacons could not/would not adjust to not being the group “in charge”.  I must take some responsibility for this by possibly moving too quickly (about 5 years) in transitioning to elder leadership.  It was definitely hard for some who had been there a long time to accept and the fact that within hours of my resignation they regained control and abolished the elders is just further evidence of this.  I will say that the lay elders in that congregation were exceptional leaders and good and godly men who met the Biblical qualifications for their office and I believe the church suffered significantly by the loss of their influence in that role, particularly during a time of transition such as they were experiencing.

In the last church where I served as the Executive Pastor rather than the Senior Pastor, there were no lay elders and the church was primarily run by a “finance committee” on which many did not meet even the most basic requirements for being a deacon.  On top of that, the deacon board was largely kept in the dark about most issues and had a habit of rubber stamping decisions (if they were even given that opportunity) by the finance committee without having been directly involved in the process.  The authority of the deacon board was largely an illusion and the ones with real authority/power, were the ones who served on both the deacon board and the finance committee.  Hardly a Biblical model.  (I would add here that in each case, there were a few “deacons” who would point to the “by-laws” for their authority rather than what the Scriptures said.  In one meeting I had a deacon directly say to me, “I know what the Bible says, but the by-laws say THIS is the way we are to do it and that’s how we need to do it.”  I have found that any time you come to a business meeting and someone has a copy of the by-laws in his/her hands, you can expect a rumble before the evening is over.)

In the 20+ years that have passed from which I began pastoring, a fresh look at the offices of deacon and elder has begun taking place in many evangelical churches generally and in Baptist church specifically.  I believe this is a great idea.

I would recommend Strauch’s book on Eldership if you have questions about the Biblical foundation for elder participation in church governance.  I am not a Presbyterian and not moving into the direction.  I do not specifically identify myself as a “reformed” Baptist and I don’t wear the tag “Calvinist”, though I don’t summarily reject all that they believe and in fact, embrace some facets of it.  But wherever one stands on church polity, one would be wise to examine the arguments, study the Scriptures and be able to defend their own position using Scripture — not tradition.

Take a moment and review the outline below and prayerfully study the Scriptures attached to the positions and principles discussed.

Church Offices and Leadership Structure by Pastor John Blodgett

1.  What is the nature of the church?
A. The church is a family – I Jn. 3:1
B. The family needs structure – God’s structure for leadership is elders and deacons
2.  Who is in charge of the church?
A.  The church is under the direct authority of Christ – Eph. 5:23
B.  Some churches have elder rule
1.  The final authority rests with the elders
2.  Our leadership is not promoting elder rule for this congregation
C.  Some churches have congregational rule
1.  This is how our church operates and will continue to operate
2.  Under Christ and His Word, the church settles matters of faith and life
3.  The local church is the final authority in matter of dispute – Mt. 18:15-17
4.   The church settled the dispute in Acts 6:1-6 and selected men who could be put in charge of the widows
5.   Paul instructed the churches in Galatia to reject anyone who taught false doctrine (Gal. 1:6-9)
6.  Paul told the Corinthian church how to act in a discipline situation
(I Cor. 5:2)
7.  Paul told the Corinthians how they were to act as a body toward a sinning brother (2 Cor. 2:6-8)
3.  The local body is to have spiritual leaders – elders
A.  Who are elders?
1.  Elders are spiritual leaders of the congregation who serve as shepherds under the authority of Christ there are both paid and non-paid elders (laymen)
2.  The Bible calls these spiritual leaders: pastors, elders, bishops, and overseers – all of these terms talk about the same office, while describing the work of that office

 B.  What are the spiritual qualifications of elders: I Tim. 3:1-7
C.  What does an elder do?
1.  Elders shepherd and care for the Lord’s church – Acts 20:28
2.  An elder is alert to protect the church from attacks – Acts 20:29-31
3.  Elders lead and direct the church by guiding, not driving – I Pet. 5:3
4.  Elders preach the Word, teach sound doctrine, and refute those who contradict it, ensuring that church doctrine is biblical – I Tim.5:17
5.  Elders moderate and arbitrate in doctrinal and ethical matters -Acts 15:5-6
6.  Elders shepherd the church to spiritual maturity – Eph. 4:11-14
7.  Elders seek to restore the believers who have been overtaken in any sin - Gal. 6:1
8.  Elders exercise a ministry of prayer, especially with regard to the sick -  James 5:13-16
9.  Elders administer in love and humility the process of church discipline as outlined in Mt. 18:15-20
10.  Elders share in the commendation of gifted men, to the work to which God has called them – I Tim. 4:14
11.  Elders care for the souls of people
D. The leadership is proposing that we create an elder council made up of our pastors and qualified lay elders to guide our church in spiritual matters
E.  Why should we have lay elders join our paid elders (pastors)
1.  To provide long-term stability for the church
2.  To allow lay people whom God has gifted to be elders to serve this body and give guidance for its future
3.  To have a group of lay elders who are well trained in the Scriptures to help preserve the doctrinal purity of the church
4.  To have lay elders help care for the spiritual needs of the church
5.   Lay elders will give added insight into the needs of the body – as pastors we need the input and help of lay elders
6.   To allow the deacons to function as deacons in meeting the needs of the body
4. The local church is to have servants – deacons
A.  What is a deacon?
1.  “Deacon” means servant
2.  They are not “second class” leaders; they simply minister to the body differently from the elders
3.  The responsibility of the deacons is to serve the members of the church  Acts 6:1-7
a.  They are to solve problems in the church through their ministry to the body
b.  They are leaders in the church who serve the body in practical ways  handling the finances, the property, membership, helping people in need, solving disputes and problems, caring for the widows, etc.
B.  The character of a deacon – I Tim. 3:8-13