Category Archives: This That and the Other

What Your Pastor Wishes You Knew About Him – Part 2

I’ve been rather gratified with the response I’ve received on Part 1 of this article via blog comments, Facebook comments (my blog articles are automatically posted on Facebook) and private emails.  It has actually been linked on several blogs and discussion boards as well.  So today, I’m going to continue with my thoughts on this topic.  If you haven’t read Part 1 as of yet, you may do so by clicking HERE.

————-

6. Your Pastor probably views you differently than you view him.

Being someone’s pastor is actually a very intimate experience.  If your pastor is a good one — he loves you.  He’s been there during some of your most difficult moments.  He’s caught tears, perhaps had to be the one to tell you difficult news, has seen you at your best and at your worst.  You may have confided some personal things in him that are known only to you, him and God as you work through the consequences of sin, personal tragedies and other pains.  He has invested his heart and soul in you by praying for you, weeping with you, perhaps even putting your needs ahead of his or his family’s at times.

Then a church down the street calls a new pastor, builds a new building or offers a service style that you find a bit more appealing and you switch as if you were changing from Wal-Mart to Target or finding a new chiropractor.  And of course, people are going to ask “why” and often excuses like “We’re just not being fed” or “Our needs aren’t being met” or “We just need a change” are offered.  For you, it’s a new adventure.  For him, it feels painfully like rejection.

That’s not to say that there are no good reasons for changing churches.  It doesn’t justify those renegade pastors who then grow angry and defensive and say unkind things.  It doesn’t mean that you are leaving God’s will for you life necessarily and are making the first step on a trek toward leaving the faith.  But it does hurt.  Pastors are human too.  And while you may see him as a distant leader or provider of services, if he knows you personally, he probably sees you more like family or a friend.  It’s simply a difference in roles and perspective and you might never understand that.  Sometimes where you stand on things depends on where you sit.  But I think you should know — pastors usually see their church members differently than they are viewed by their church members.

7. Pastors sometimes find it difficult to have friendships.

For better or for worse, there is a celebrity element to being a pastor.  If you don’t believe that then check out the New Testament account of those who were “Paul fans” verses those who liked Apollos.  A wise pastor resists being viewed as “special”, but this tendency is why humility in leadership is so necessary.  Any celebrity, politician or person of wealth will tell you that one of the greatest frustrations is that one never knows which friendships are genuine.  There is always the difficulty in knowing who is genuinely a friend or who is simply there to exploit their position or fame or influence.  Pastors struggle with this on several levels.  Some pastors purposefully choose not to be friends with people in their congregation — it’s too risky in their opinion.  Some pastors refuse to have friendships with their staff — they are afraid it will hurt objectivity, communicate favoritism or just simply be too complicated.  Some pastors have been burned by past friendships and thus become almost reclusive and over-guarded.  Some pastors naturally migrate toward friendships exclusively with peers — fellow pastors who can relate to the unique role and scrutiny being a pastor encompasses.

Several years ago,  a pastor of a large and prestigious church in the same city where I was a pastor had a very close friend as a church member.  A local seeker-sensitive church in town “caught fire” and all of us were experiencing mass migrations out of our pews to the new “cool/hip” church.  His church was among those hardest hit.  But then his very best friend, the person who had introduced him to the church before he was pastor, his closest confident, took him to lunch and let him know that he was leaving for the new “fellowship”.  The pastor said all the perfunctory things about following the Lord, etc… and then went to his already scheduled staff meeting.  After he opened with prayer, he looked at his team of pastors — broke down in wracking sobs, explained what had just happened, apologized and excused himself.  I wish that wasn’t the only story like this that I’ve heard, but I’ve got many more — people meeting privately for the “dismissal” of their pastor, people trying to arrange financial gain/business with the church, people who expected their sins to be covered and undealt with — all while claiming “friendship”.

I don’t have any solutions to this.  I’ve experienced it personally.  I don’t know of many pastors who haven’t.  It is what it is.  But maybe it will give you some insight into your Pastor’s world.

8. Your pastor may well be different out of the pulpit than when he’s in the pulpit and that doesn’t necessarily make him a hypocrite.

I’ve laughed over the years at how people often describe me — outgoing, super confident, “people person”, extrovert.  I can understand why they would say that, but they don’t know the “real me”.  The “real me” is actually rather shy, mostly an introvert, hopes that the people in the seat next to him in the airplane go to sleep and don’t want to talk, am a veritable cauldron of insecurities and often would rather have a quiet evening at home with his family or a book than be with a large group of people.  So why do they suddenly go “electric” when they walk behind the lectern?  It’s a God thing.  It’s His gift, His calling, His annointing — whatever you want to call it.  Moses experienced it.  Coarse Peter overcame his own proclivities.  Odd John the Baptist certainly got beyond his idiosycracies enough that he was heard.  The delivery of the Gospel is never about the man, but always about the message — so don’t get too enamored or distracted by the amplification system.

Some of my most important spiritual moments have regularly been before I preached on a topic that God had led me to address, but on which I was still struggling.  Your pastor probably doesn’t sleep in a suit, sing praise choruses before every meal and memorizes Spurgeon and the Reformers in lieu of watching Reality TV.  He has morning breath, he sometimes fusses with his wife, he yells at the kids when they forget to take the dog out and he steps in a wet spot on the carpet, gets frustrated in heavy traffic and might have a secret affinity for Roller Coasters or deer hunting or restoring old cars.  In other words — he’s just a regular guy.  He certainly isn’t perfect.  But if he’s a good pastor, he’s earnest and sincere and also man enough to admit his faults and make them right when he needs to do so.

Take time to get to know your pastor as a person before you make huge assumptions about him as a “professional”.  You might be shocked at how much like you he really is even though your callings are different.

9. Your Pastor has bills too.

This area is touchy.  There’s nothing like a conversation about money to get people stirred up.  Let me just say this.  Scripture is very clear that spiritual leadership should be supported by the tithes and offerings of the people who benefit from and need their ministry.  It’s God’s plan.  Paul referenced it as the “double honor”.  Someday, your pastor will need a home to live in that isn’t owned by the church.  There will come a day when he will need, because of age or infirmity, to transition out of being a full-time pastor so he needs a retirement strategy.  (There are few things sadder than a pastor who has faithfully served a congregation for years and years who can’t “afford” to retire and thus inflicts himself on a poor church or has to beg for “meetings” because he has no income.  Many pastors foolishly opt out of Social Security and when it comes time to fund their 403b retirement plans, they get cut because of tight budgets.)  Your pastor’s kids need to go to college.  There are weddings that need to be paid for, children that need braces, cars that need repaired.

Please don’t demean him by noting every purchase he makes, vacation he takes or gift he receives with a “It must be nice to be in the ministry to be able to afford that!” or “I guess that explains that special offering last month!” or some other witty little cutting remark that puts him on the defensive.  It’s unkind and petty.  Stop it.  Instead, show some maturity and say something like, “Wow….I’m so pleased that God has blessed you and provided that for you.  If anyone deserves it — you do!” and then notice how you are blessed for rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and how he is blessed in receiving your kind words.

If you think your pastor is a crook, given to filthy lucre, too wealthy — then confront him Biblically or shut up.  If you are a church leader and wonder what is appropriate compensation, may I recommend a study that is produced each year called the “Church Compensation Report” and HERE‘s the link to it.

Finally, I want to state for the record that all three of the churches where I have ministered have been a genuine blessing to me and my family in this regard.  They very generously honored us with a living wage, they gave me freedom to write, teach and speak which allowed me to squirrel away money for life’s unexpected or bigger expenses as they came and provided me with the necessary tools for ministry.  I wish every pastor was treated as I have been treated in the matter of financial support.

10.  Your pastor loves the work of the ministry.

You might say, “duh” — but I would ask, how many people do you know who really, deep down inside, would like to be doing something else as a vocation?  If you are like me — a ton.  Preaching the Gospel, seeing people accept Christ, watching lives transformed by Truth, seeing healing and reconciliation occur in families — wow….that’s just the best.

Over the years, I have wearied over the administrative load of ministry.  I do not get excited about trying to get budgets to balance, dealing with maintenance issues, making sure that risk-management is taken into consideration every time we start a new initiative and dealing with governmental and even church bureaucracy and politics.  But that’s simply the price a pastor pays for being able to stand up, open the Word of God and share what the Holy Spirit has laid on his heart for that day.  I can be absolutely exhausted, frustrated, depressed or overwhelmed, but the moment I crack open my Bible before a group of people ready to hear — I realize once again that I’m doing what I was created to do.  Whether you pastor a mega-church, lead a Sunday School class, host a home Bible study or simply leading your family in devotions — when you are called to the ministry of the Word, everything is as it should be every time you get the chance.  It simply doesn’t get much better than that!

I’m going to stop here.  I know I have not exhausted the list, but I’ve probably exhausted you.  I would invite pastors to add additional points if you’d like to do so.  You may forward, link, print, copy or otherwise use these articles as they would bless you or others.  The purpose in writing this has not been to complain, but to explain.  Pray for your pastor today — or even right now.  I’m guessing he’s already been praying for you.

Expecting HIS Best……Dan

What Your Pastor Wishes You Knew About Him – Part 1

discouraged.jpgIn the last week, I’ve spent time talking with three pastors who are about ready to throw in the proverbial towel.  Each case is different and no two pastors, churches, boards or any other “part” of church leadership is exactly the same, but what is common among them is a sense of deep despair.  Sadly, in the last week, I’ve also heard of two colleagues in the ministry who ended their ministry with a catastrophic failure — one of them a rising evangelical leader who admitted to an affair.  Not in every case, but in some cases, I’ve noticed a correlation to the thought processes between those who burnout in ministry and those who “flame out” due to sin.  But whether you burnout, flame out, drop out or rust out — out is still out.

I am now two years beyond my own decision to step away from the Senior Pastorate, so I hope I can be a bit more objective about a topic like this than I might have been 24 short months ago.  As for my own situation, I had my own reasons for changing the nature of my ministry and I am not looking back.  For the cynical or others, nothing I write in this article should be construed as anything more or less than what it is — an opinion piece from someone who has sat on both sides of the pulpit for the last 25 years of ministry and who is still engaged in pastoral ministry — just from a different perspective in recent months.

I don’t pretend to write for every pastor out there, but I spend a lot of time with pastors and former pastors.  There are some trends that are impacting pastoral leadership at this time that I think impact churches and their leaders.  There are some frailties and vulnerabilities that any man called to be a pastor is naturally going to carry into his responsibilities.  Add to that the spiritual warfare that is incumbent upon being a spiritual shepherd (or undershepherd).  It is with these realities in mind that I offer some things that I’m guessing your pastor wishes you knew about him.

1. Bible College and Seminary Weren’t Enough

I don’t care where your pastor went to school, they did not and could not possibly prepare him for all that a pastor faces.  Today’s pastor must be an extraordinary communicator, an effective administrator, somewhat astute to legalities and business procedures, a counselor, a therapist and a dozen other roles that today’s high-expectation church member often expects from their pastor.

Though many will say that’s what boards and staff are for, that thinking simply isn’t based in reality.  The expectation is that the Pastor should be able to protect the church, lead the church, inspire the church and manage the church.  Failure to function in those four primary departments may jeopardize the support level he enjoys from the congregation.

Much of the experience and expertise in those areas needs to be learned and earned over time.  That fact has lead me to a personal conclusion that we should discuss pastoral internships more seriously in seminaries and church leadership circles.

2. Good Sermon Preparation Takes Time

If your pastor is going to accurately and thoroughly present the Word to your congregation, he must have study time.  The best pastors and Bible teachers will tell you that for every one hour of teaching or preaching, about eight hours of study is optimum.  Your pastor may make it look simple, but it isn’t.  Typically, your pastor may need 3-4 fresh preparations in a week (particularly if he speaks outside the church a lot or if he is a solo pastor.)

It is not realistic to expect your pastor to attend every function, make every hospital visit, lead every meeting, make an appearance at every social, go to every shut-in and still be brilliant in the pulpit 2-3 times per week.  A pastor should be about leading and shepherding and equipping the church for the work of the ministry.  Certainly every pastor should attend “some” functions, make hospital visits on occasion, attend important meetings, drop in a socials when possible and take the time to minister to the shut-ins — but to heap all of those responsibilities (plus the administration of the church, personal growth exercises and other important tasks) is not just unreasonable, it is inhumane.

If each Bible study teacher, each deacon, each elder, each staff member took some of these responsibilities, everyone and everything would be covered and all would be blessed as they fulfill their spiritual giftedness in the work of the ministry.

3.  His Family is Important Too

familystudies.jpgYour pastor needs time with his children and spouse.  If his marriage fails, his ministry is likely over.  If his kids don’t turn out right, his grief will be deep, his regrets will be suffocating and his reputation will be diminished.  You will bless your pastor and your church by freeing him to be with his family.

For years, I’ve often told my pastors to look at their day in three parts — Morning, Afternoon and Evening — each comprised of about 4 hours.  On average, it is reasonable to expect that those in the ministry will work at least 14-16 “parts” over a week’s time.   That way, we should have at least 5 – 7 morning/afternoons/nights available for family time.  Remember that a pastor who preaches and teaches the Word is working — it isn’t the same as sitting in the pew.  It is physically exhausting and emotionally draining.  Most pastors go into “Sunday mode” on Saturday evening and aren’t much of a “family guy” then.  If they have a Saturday night service, move that “mode” to Saturday around noon.

According to that formula, your pastor needs one full day off and 2-4 evenings free.  If he can’t get those evenings free, then he should take a morning or an afternoon when he can to compensate for the lost evenings.

giftcards.jpgAnother blessing you might share with your pastor is to give him a gift card for dinner out on his birthday or at Christmas or if you own a condo at the beach or a vacation home in the mountains, offer to let him take his family there for a few days.  These small tokens can be a fresh encouragement when relationships get neglected.  Being able to run to a restaurant with your spouse and pay for it with a gift card is a double blessing.

In cases of extreme crisis — a wayward child, substantial marriage difficulty — be willing to send your pastor to professional help, a retreat or some intervention.  If you don’t think pastors ever have family problems, then you are naive.  This is a great time to practice the Golden Rule and ask one’s self what they would appreciate if the roles were reversed.  The investment of giving your pastor a week or even a month off to deal with a family crisis is far cheaper than the process of kicking him to the curb and looking for a new pastor — not to mention more Biblical.

4.  Be Kind if You Have a Criticism

Your pastor is going to make some mistakes.  I certainly made my share of bone-headed decisions over the years.  And, if the truth be told, sometimes the pastor won’t see them as quickly as everyone else does.  No pastor has a corner on the Truth and no pastor is above criticism, correction or simple advice.  But when you approach your pastor with something you’re concerned about, address the problem without attacking the person.

Pastoring is interesting in that no decision a pastor ever makes is received positively by everyone.  That would also include no sermon, no vision, no counsel, no strategy, no hire, no building campaign and the list goes on and on.  So before bringing your offense to the pastor, it would wise to pause and ask yourself, “Is this important enough to complain about or to place on the pastor’s mind?”  Some things are — certainly things that deal with Theology, ethics, morality and legal matters should be addressed.  Some things simply aren’t — personal peeves and preferences, gossip, many traditions and irritations.

angry.jpgSome pastors, when faced with the cacophony of criticisms, suggestions, problems and hissy fits they regularly confront, simply shut down — overwhelmed by the torrent and unable to prioritize, distinguish and discern what is legitimate and what is simply whining.  Others will respond defensively at first, but after a while, the Holy Spirit guides them to acknowledgement of the validity of the issue.  A stiff-necked and unapproachable pastor will soon lose credibility and will probably require a confrontation initiated by spiritual leadership with the church.  But it is wise for all of us to measure our words correctly and to do as the Scripture tells us and “entreat as a brother” as opposed to rebuking an  elder with hostility, demands or threats.

5. Give Your Pastor Time to Grow

Sadly, the average term (depending on several factors) of a pastor in America today is somewhere between 2 and 5 years.  Yet, all the research tells us that a pastor’s most effective years take place after the 10th year of ministry at a congregation.  It is not until a pastor marries, buries, cries and works with a majority of his congregation that he can really “connect” intimately with them as a family member might.  Relationships simply take time — most of us who are married realize that the longer one is married the more we learn about patience, perseverance and unconditional love.

This is particularly true if you have a young pastor.  I was twenty-nine when I became a Senior Pastor.  Thankfully, our church was rather small (fewer than 300) at the time.  The Lord tremendously blessed and in short order the church doubled in size and then went on to triple.  But the growing pains that we went through together were extraordinary.  How they put up with me for a decade, I’ll never know.  I was so blessed to have some of the most wonderful and Godly elders surrounding me that I’ve ever known.  They encouraged, counseled, cautioned and sometimes just let me go and in the process — I learned and the Lord blessed.  They let me grow up and grow deep and though I was the youngest among them, they respected my position while offering me wise and Godly counsel.  I love them to this day.  I’m grateful for their patience.

Your pastor will make some bone-headed decisions.  Sometimes you’ll be frustrated with how he arranges his priorities or handles problems.  Sometimes you’ll have to clean up his messes and occasionally, you might have to speak earnestly and honestly with him.  But like rearing children, dealing with aging parents, settling in to married life or maintaining a life-long friendship — it takes time and patience and grace.

I’m out of time, but not out of thoughts.  I’ll pick this up in a few days with some more thoughts.  I’d encourage any pastors who read this blog to share their thoughts or experiences as well.  Until next time….

House Rental in Lake Lure, NC

burrells-peaceful-cove-01.jpgSeveral years ago, I received a modest inheritance after the death of my grandfather which made it possible for us to get a family retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the community of Lake Lure.  This is very much an “old Carolina” community that is charming, small-town, simple and drop-dead gorgeous.  Located next to the stunning Lake Lure, Chimney Rock Park and, near the Biltmore estates, near Asheville and Hendersonville and loads of other great things to see and do, it is in a fantastic setting for resting, relaxing and exploring.

burrells-peaceful-cove-02.jpgOur house is not a “rustic cabin” but a lovely 3 bedroom home fully-equipped with nice furnishings, satellite TV, things for the family to do, nice master suite with a king-sized bed and jacuzzi garden tub and more.  It is perched above beautiful Mirror Lake and is five minutes from Lake Lure, all the resort amenities, two breath-taking golf courses, 3 pools (one indoor), mini golf, a marina, white-water rafting, horse-back riding and more.  Go in the fall and pick apples, hike the Appalachian Trail, visit the site of the place where “Last of the Mohicans” was filmed and more.  Winter offers quiet, year-round golf, a full-spa and even better mountain views.

burrells-peaceful-cove-03.jpgWe used to use this as a regular family retreat location when we lived in Charlotte, but obviously, it’s a bit longer drive now that we are in Miami.  We have placed this house on a nightly and weekly rental plan through Wyndham Resorts.  You can get booking information HERE. (Click on Vacation Rentals and then Click on View our Vacation Home Rentals and then click on “more information” for Burrell’s Paradise Cove).  If you are in full-time vocational ministry as a pastor or missionary, email me at dan@danburrell.com and I can get you a special rate.  It’s a great place to go for a private retreat if you are a pastor and I used it to do long-term planning, studying and writing on a regular basis.

burrells-peaceful-cove-04.jpgIt is less than an hour from the Biltmore Estates, two hours from Charlotte, less than two hours from Greenville and Spartanburg, SC, less than an hour from Hendersonville and about two hours from Pigeon Forge, TN and Dollywood.  Fantastic day trips are in every direction.  It will sleep 7 comfortably and you can use blow-up mattresses (as we have done) and fit even more in comfortably.  Two full baths, a wonderful kitchen and a 2,000 square foot unfinished basement with scooters and ping-pong or a finished loft with TV/Video and fooseball will give you a place to send the kids on rainy days.The house is fully-burrells-peaceful-cove-16.jpgequipped, linen and towel service is provided, a maid cleans after you leave.

So if you are heading to Western North Carolina in 2009, consider this house as an option for your family! Write me if you have any questions.

Back from FACCS/IACCS Conference

faccs-004.jpgI’ve been on the road a lot for the last two weeks.  First at Davis College for the Installation of Dr. Dino Pedrone as the new President there and then last week, I was in Orlando, FL for the 40th Annual FACCS Teacher’s Convention.

FACCS stands for the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and they recently founded a second organization known as the International Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (IACCS).  It was my pleasure to serve on the Board of Directors through most of the 1990′s and also as the 2nd of only 3 Presidents in the forty-year history of FACCS.  FACCS has over 60,000 teachers and students who are part of the member schools and it is the largest single state association of Christian schools in the country.

As part of the 40th anniversary commemoration, I was asked to give one of the three faccs-009.jpgkeynote addresses.  I also presented three workshops as well.  I have been attending FACCS conventions since 1983 and have been a presenter and/or keynote speaker at twenty of the last twenty-five conventions.  There were over 2,000 conference attendees and exhibitors present last week.

After the convention was over, we were able to take some family time and even worked in a quick visit to the “Magic Kingdom/EPCOT”.  Now we’re back home and off the road for a few weeks, so hopefully, my blogging will return to its regular irregularity.

Teaching Our Students to Confront the Culture with a Christian Worldview

The following is an article I wrote recently for Life@School — the Magazine for the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and the International Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

Christian Day Schools as a movement are rapidly approaching the fiftieth anniversary of its modern resurgence.  Our current incarnation of Christian education was largely motivated by the Supreme Court decisions of activist jurists which systematically eliminated religious exercises and content while clearing the way for social initiatives such as mandatory busing and sex education in the government school system.  During this same time, there was a cataclysmic shift in philosophy and worldview which was the fruit of the introduction of Darwinism, higher criticism of Scriptural inerrancy and the social gospel which produced a generation of influencers who denied, or at least questioned, the presence of Absolute Truth in the universe.

At this juncture, perhaps it is time for us to ask some difficult and uncomfortable questions of ourselves as we evaluate our effectiveness in producing students who leave our schools thinking Biblically over the last half century.  Among the questions one might reasonably ask:

        –  In what ways have graduates of Christian schools impacted the culture with a Christian Worldview which embraces the reality of Absolute Truth?

        —   Do our students think and behave substantially different from their public school counterparts upon leaving our schools?

        —    Are we effectively discipling our students to mastery of the fundamental doctrines of Christian orthodoxy?

        —    Do we see evidence that the cognitive accomplishments of Biblical literacy in our schools is leading to affective embracement of the implications of fundamental Christian doctrine?

        —    Among our graduates, is there an on-going commitment to ministry, spiritual leadership and vocational dedication that transfers and extends the vision of Christian education beyond the current generation?

One organization that has been asking these questions of our students over the last decade has been The Nehemiah Institute.  Sadly, many of the findings of this organization are sadly disconcerting when one considers the impact the typical Christian school educational experience is having on the way our students think and subsequently, the way our students ultimately will behave.   Perhaps one of the most discouraging discoveries was that only 6% of students who have attended a Christian school full embrace a Worldview of Biblical Theism.1

Another matter of concern is the number of young people who are reared in Christian homes, attend Bible-believing church or attend Christian day schools who completely leave a doctrinally sound church altogether upon graduating.  Whereas early studies once revealed that fifty-five percent (55%) to sixty-six percent (66%) of young people who regularly attended church while living at home said that they would remain active in their church upon leaving home, today, a mere thirty-three percent (33%) plan to remain part of their local church.2

According to the Josephson Institute on Ethic’s report entitled, “The Ethics of American Youth”, there is no more than a 4% variable in the attitude and conduct of young people who profess to be Christians and those who make no claim of Christianity.3  Leading Christian researcher and pollster, George Barna of the Barna Group concluded that “ninety easy percent (98%) of professed born-again young people do believe in Christ, but they do not reflect Christlike attitudes or actions.4

With those sobering statistics in mind, perhaps it is time to re-examine how we can help students find their voices that they might be ready and willing to confront a culture that has abandoned a worldview based on the immutable Truth of the Word of God.   The following is a list of conversation points which might be used in discussing the process:

1.      Effective worldview education begins with Biblical literacy.

Gone forever are the days in American culture when children learned Biblical facts, history and principles as a result of education.  From the days when the alphabet was taught beginning with the phrase “A is for Adam – In Adam’s fall, we sin all”.  Today’s child literally needs instruction from Genesis to Revelation in Bible characters, basic historical events found in Scripture and even the layout and structure of the Scriptural account of “His story”. 

For years, we have taught phonics by repeating phonics rules, we have taught the letters with rhymes, we drill lists ranging from multiplication tables to the Periodic Table.  Perhaps it is time to develop a simply catechism which would be used to help our children learn and retain essential facts from the Scriptures which would be the foundation for Biblical literacy.

Sadly, many churches rely so much on entertainment and activities that they are neglecting basic Bible education in the Sunday school and church.  Many parents are either too busy or Biblically illiterate themselves and thus fail in their responsibility to train up their children in Biblical truth.  Often, school relegate the Bible class and curriculum to an “elective” status which is not taken as seriously as traditional “core courses” and thus, our students don’t receive the excellence in Bible training that they need.

2.      Emphasize conversion over control.

The Gospel is man’s only hope through the Person of Jesus Christ and the Power of the Word of God.  Salvation is a work of God, not a work of man.  We should be less interested in “decisions” and more interested in the converting power of the Holy Spirit.  Control is only effective in the present tense unless the student learns self control and self control is best a work of the Holy Spirit in which the student willingly submits to the authority of the Word of God.

This transformation work, mentioned in Romans 12:1-2, leads to a life wholly committed to living with Christ foremost in mind and consequently in actions as well. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

3.      Equip our students with apologetics.

Today’s student tends to be more cynical, less likely to respect tradition or heritage, is being constantly bombarded with the narcissistic message of our culture that says “it’s all about me” and as a result, they are more prone to ask “why” when given instruction.  Apologetics is a great resource which can equip our students with the “why’s” in addition to the “what’s” of Scripture.  In addition, it also instructs in implications.  While most students may initially recoil in fear over terminology like teleological arguments and cosmological positions, having a basic understanding of apologetics will help them withstand hostile professors, cultic personalities like Oprah, the false teachings of many so-called televangelists and the plethora of false and phony philosophies that pervade the cultural landscape of this generation.

4.       Educating the Parents is a necessity

Survey after survey reveals, in spite of the ongoing deterioration of the nuclear family, that the primary influence in a young person’s life remains the parents.  With this in mind, it is more important than ever that there be a partnership between the school, home and church wherein a basic agreement exists that Biblical principles and a Christian worldview and philosophy are in place.  However, few would debate the fact that many parents today are ill-equipped, if not flatly disinterested, in providing the lead for that level of Christian education – even among self-described born-again parents.

Educational and church leaders will need to initiate strategies for training parents in leading their homes Biblically and in the spiritual instruction that is most effective when it originates in the home.  This may include working through parent-teacher fellowships, church life development classes, support groups, parenting seminars or other methods.  It cannot be assumed that today’s parents are equipped with the necessary knowledge or techniques to guide their students toward a Biblical world view.

Helping our students find their voice in living and espousing a Christian worldview is a process which must be developed over the entire life of the child.  Indeed, as our culture continues to groan under the weight and consequence of a flawed worldview, adults must be constantly challenged to think and act Biblically.  Discipleship that teaches doctrine and not just addresses “felt needs” is a keystone in this process.  Unless we understand the origin, basis and nature of Truth, we build our worldview on shifting sand.

But there is reason for hope.  George Barna found that seventy-four percent (74%) of today’s kids still haven’t figured out the purpose or meaning of their lives and sixty-three percent (63%) do not have a comprehensive and clear philosophy about life that consistently “influences their lifestyle and decisions.” 5

The story is told of two shoe salesmen that went to the interior of a jungle to open a new branch for their respective companies.  There was only one phone in a lone phone booth in the village where they had been assigned.  One of the salesmen was in the phone booth talking to his manager.  He said, “Please get me home quickly.  I am completely wasting my time and your money.  Not a single person in this entire village even wears shoes!”  While he was talking the second shoe salesman was standing impatiently outside of the phone booth motioning for the first man to hurry up and finish his call.  As soon as the phone was free, he frantically dialed the number and connected with his manager.  “Quick!,” he shouted, “Send me every shoe you have in the warehouse!  Your not going to believe this, but not a single person in this entire village is wearing shoes!  We’re going to make a fortune!”

It was simply a matter of perception and attitude.  In today’s culture, many are discouraged with the wickedness and darkness that pervades every facet of society — from the boardroom to the classroom to the church sanctuary.  However, there is reason for hope and enthusiasm.  Biblical Christian educators don’t have to battle “for” Truth – they contend from Truth.  Where the darkness is the greatest, the opportunity for the impact of Light is equally great. 

Helping our students find their voice is a matter of equipping them well with the whole counsel of God ready always to give an answer for the hope that lies within them.

1Nehemiah Institute, Inc. PEERS Trend Chart and Explanation, (Lexington, KY: www.nehemiahinstitute.com, 2004).

2  George Barna, Real Teens (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001), 136.

3Josephson Institute of Ethics: “The Ethics of American Youth,” (2002ReportCard@www.josephsoninstitute.org).

4George Barna, Think Like Jesus (Minneapolis: Baker Books, 2003), 26.

5Barna Research Group, “Third Millennium Teens,” (Ventura, CA: The Barna Research Group, LTD., 1999) 37.

What’s In a (Church) Name?

Recently, I was asked to “weigh in” on the topic of Baptist Churches who, for a variety of reasons, don’t actually put the word “Baptist” in their church name.  For some, this is a pragmatic concession to avoiding doors where there should be windows in a church’s public image.  For example, use the term “Baptist” in many areas of the Northeast and you might as well be saying “cult” or “racist” or “Latter-Day Saints”.  Others are less noble and practice a sort of religious “bait-n-switch” moniker assignment which is intended to get people to give them a try who might have had some sort of negative “Baptist baggage” lurking in their closet and would otherwise pass them by.  Whatever, the rationale, it is a matter of great consternation in some circles of brethren who have apparently wearied of other great theological lint-picking topics.

But, as is the frequent case in this blogger’s ADD-addled mind, the topic of church names has been bouncing around for several weeks and I realize that there are actually some fairly interesting sub-groupings of church titles that can be both amusing and acceptably stereotypical.  Let me share a few with you….

1. Churches with One-Word Names

1rock-worship-center-sign.jpgThese churches have cool, hip-even, names which often sound as much like a rock band or a let’s-open-the-dictionary-and-point-at-any-word-and-use-it exercise.  Here are a few that I’ve seen recently: Kinetic, Elevation, Front-Porch (technically 2 words, but still hip), Mosaic, Celebration, North_______ (as in -ridge, -point, -pointe, -side, -ward, etc…), Impact, Lift, LatterRain, Life, and Fellowship. 

These churches are generally for the younger and hipper crowd (that means not me) and their pastor is usually still shaving with a cat and a bowl of milk.  The pastor usually doesn’t own a suit and if he should be caught wearing one, he wouldn’t apologize more if you caught him naked as a jaybird or wearing a silk teddy.  Often, they will shave their head and polish it with lemon pledge which gives them a nice shine and a friendly lemony aroma.  If they don’t shave their head, they will spike it, wax it, mousse it or towel dry it to get that “I just got out of bed” look.  Often, they will produce kewl-looking facial hair (even in the presence of a totally bald head).  Soul patches (that little tuft that grows between the chin and your lower lip), line side burns (which look like someone ran a charcoal briquet from sideburn to near the chin) the 5-day-old-5-o’clock-shadow look (which really is cool unless you have a beard like mine that grows straight out at which point you end up looking like a pubescent porcupine) and the every popular goatee du jour.  State-of-the-art techno worship, stage props and coffee made from beans that have been passed through the digestive system of South American racoons complete the “One-Word” named church experience.

2. Churches with names that prove that they use THE Bible

These churches put it all out front and they are NOT ASHAMED.  They believe that if they offend you before you actually walk in the door, they have begun the work of the Lord.  Often, these names begin with “in-your-face” declarations like “Bible-Believer’s Baptist Church” (which is to imply that other churches may technically be churches, but really they don’t believe the Bible 1churchsign.jpgbecause if they did, they’d have it in their church name like we do.)  But then, some good fundamentalist brethren decided that to merely say “Bible-Believers” was a compromise and so they took it a step further with the “KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church” (because if the KJV was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it should be good enough for us!  Amen?).  Well, as the FFF would have it (Freakish Fundamentalist Fanatics) that wasn’t good enough, so some decided to adopt the coup de grace of Bible-believing church names…. The 1611 KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church and all was well in fundamentalism.  Until, of course, someone decided to name their church the Hyles Baptist Church (I’m not making this stuff up) after the legendary (in his own mind) Jack Hyles — universal protector of the KJV after 1988 or so.  At any point, one can anticipate the formation of a Ruckman Baptist Church or a Riplinger Baptist Church.  (No use explaining this to the sane…just do a google search for “Peter Ruckman” or “Gail Riplinger”.)

These churches are usually so exclusive that they break fellowship with themselves every few months at which they refer to their former “Bible-Believers” as members of the Alexandrian Cults.  Their pastors choose hairstyles that are of several approved styles: 1) High and Tight — you know like they give you on the first day of boot camp or the first day in prison; 2) the ever-so-stylish pompadour; 3) recommended by Brylcream or 4) the artistic weave (practiced by guys who have developed a totally clear landing strip down their dome but are still in serious denial thus they weave the few pathetic strands from the sides of the road and which are now six feet long artfully into a poor imitation of a combover which is really quite amusing should you be so lucky as to be near them on a windy day.) 

 These guys also sleep in wing-tips and polyester suits (double-breasted preferred).  White shirts are the sign of a true man and if you dare wear a pastel-colored shirt, you should simply join a Metropolitan Community Church as you are surely gay.  Wrinkles are OK, cuff-lins aren’t and navy, gray and black are your only options.  Members are expected to be able to pass dress-check when entering the vestibule.

3. The More-the-Merrier Named Church

There is a definite co-relation between the number of words in a church name and the racial composition of its congregation.  As a general rule 3-word named churches will be as lilly white as a Brigham Young football game.  Four-word named churches can go either way.  But when you hit five words in a church name, you can bet your tithe check it is a church for “brothers” and I don’t mean in the spiritual sense of that word.  Any time you see these words used in a collection of four or more  followed by the word “church”, well you just gotta’ know they’ve got some good gospel music happening inside: Apostolic, Deliverance, Faith, Prophecy Divine, Holiness, Pentacostal, Zion, Horeb, Missionary, Ebenezer, House, Prayer, United, Holy Ghost/Spirit.  These churches also seem to have the market on 15-passenger vans pretty much cornered.  Many a tragic accident has nearly occurred because of a driver’s insistence on trying to read the entire church name from one of these fellowships while driving 70 down the interstate.

4. The Fundamentalist-Sub-Title Church

These particular churches are usually small and want you to know who they are before you even think about walking inside.  At the same time, heaven forbid that you think they might be a black church, so they won’t put all their adjectives in the actual name of their church.  They use “sub-titles” instead.  Watch for their signs, but plan on reading them twice.  They will use the traditional 3-word name like “Bible Baptist Church” or “Calvary Baptist Church”, but then underneath, you get the whole scoop.  In smaller, but still clearly readable letters, they’ll tell you what “kind” of Baptist they are with a series of additional informative adjectives like: Independent, fundamental, missionary, soul-winning, Southern, premillenial, pre-wrath, post-wrath, amillienial, separated, BJU-supporting, GARB, non-charismatic, moral majority, Republican, pro-American, anti-immigration, gun -totin’, “Christ-honoring” music, women-can’t-wear-pants, Christian-school sponsoring, anti-NIV, IFCA, SBC, ABC, CBC, BBF, SWBF, IBBF, FBF, anti-Purpose-Driven, Purpose Driven,  Beka-Book, homeschool, anti-cell group, no drums, CCM, just-say-no-to-wire-rim glasses, etc…  If you don’t line up with all the subtitles, you’re basically not welcome, because, well….what would people think of us if we allowed the likes of you to worship with us?

5. The Obscure Bible Terms/Names Church

1church-sign-2.JPGThese churches seem to look far and wide to find little known places in Biblical geography or obscure or obtuse theological terms that may be “code” to the knowledgeable to name their congregations and give them a unique identity.  Look for these words: Ebenezer, Gilead, Zion, Pisgah, Horeb, Herman, Berean, Corinthian, Laodicean, Pauline, Pergamus, Adventist, Ephesian, Bethany, Desiring God, Christ-Honoring, Believers, Abiding-in-Him, Covenant,  Glad Tidings, Petra, Colossian, etc…  Unless you have a seminary degree, upon seeing the church title, you might simply furrow your brow and say, “Huh?”

6. The Upright (and at times, Uptight) Church Name

All churches are technically institutions, but some are INSTITUTIONS and you can often see that in a name.  For example, any church that has “First” in it’s name is an INSTITUTION.  They have squatter’s rights to the spiritual of that particular denomination.  Yes, you may indeed go to a non-numbered church or on occasion, a lesser-numbered church (in the USA, I’ve never seen a number go higher than 4th, but it is possible.  I once attended a Thirteenth Baptist Church in Santiago, Cuba.)  But if you don’t go to “First Church”, well then, you’ll always just feel a little lower than the others. 

Another category of the Upright/Uptight would be churches named after Streets.  This poses somewhat of a dilemma if the church chooses to relocate to a different street (see High Street Baptist in Springfield, MO and Thomas Road Baptist in Lynchburg, VA), but usually they just ignore the address and keep the name. 

Another great signal is any name with Memorial in it.   If there is a Memorial in the name, you’d better believe that someone from the individual’s family is still a member there and woe, and I mean WOE, to the pastor or individual who would dare consider changing the name of the church to something else. 

These churches usually keep a pipe or Wurlitzer organ in the sanctuary even if no one knows how to play it.  Guests who enter when the pipe organ style is being played have been known to spontaneously genuflect even when they’ve never been in a church before.  When the Wurlitzer organ is playing, guests are known to have experienced episodes of confusion and furtively whispering to their spouses something about forgetting their roller skates.

On some occasions, as a church is transitioning to a more contemporary style or is still at war with itself as to whether or not we should try to keep their teens attending the church, you will find the organ accompanying a praise band which makes for a most-interesting, er, uh, shall we say, “Instrumental Cornucopia” of sounds and rhythms.  One will also note that the organ is always placed as far as is architecturaly possible from the trap set on the platform.  But if the organ ceases to be in view, the upright/uptight church must change it’s name to a one-named church.  (Which is usually easier to accomplish AFTER the split rather than during it.)

There are other groups of churches classified by name categories, but my time for writing is over on this day.  For those of you who are positively foaming at the mouth with rage over my tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor, please relax and get over yourself a little bit.  We can laugh at ourselves and not be apostates.  I’ve actually attended, pastored, preached at, been members at churches that fit all of the above categories and then some.  If you know of a category that really needed to be mentioned, feel free to add it in the comments section.  And if you can’t laugh with us, just laugh at us.  It won’t matter in a hundred years.

The Golden Menorah – On the Move

gold_menorah.jpgIn December, 2007, I was able to visit Jerusalem for the first time.  We had an extremely unique and even historical moment when we were able to observe the Menorah, that has been made by the Temple Institute for the future rebuilt Solomon’s Temple, moved to Temple Square.  I was able to take a few seconds of this prophetic moment and posted it on You Tube.  (You can see it HERE.)

More recently, the Temple Institute, made a video of the journey to the Menorah’s new location as well and someone has posted it on You Tube as well.  You can view it HERE.

If you are ever in Jerusalem, you should make visiting the Temple Institute a priority.  It is fascinating to see how Jewish Rabbis are preparing even now for the arrival (actually RETURN) of the Messiah.  For the Christian Believer, such actions should cause us to live like we actually believe the Doctrine of the Eminent Return of Christ.

For additional videos of some of my sights in the streets of Jerusalem that night, click HERE and HERE.

Now Here’s a Movie I Plan to See

a_home_01.jpgA good friend of mine from Florida recently sent me a link to a documentary that is scheduled to hit the theaters in early 2008 that has been put together by Ben Stein.  It is called “Expelled” and uncovers the great political intimidation taking place in academia against any mention that a) Darwin was wrong and b) the existence of a Creator is a plausible explanation for the complex universe in which we live.  If it is anywhere near as powerful as the trailer on THIS website, then it has the potential to rock the world of a lot of academics and scholars.

I generally never take the time to go to promotional websites, let along watch a trailer for a movie.  Trust me on this one — take a look at the trailer for “Expelled“.  I’m guessing you’ll be as interested in seeing it as I am.

Rants Redux

It’s been a busy week since I last posted.-á I had a great article replete with photos entitled “First Days” which was about the first day of school in general and the one we experienced at Dade Christian in Miami where I am serving as a part-time interim, but WordPress went crazy for a day or so and I couldn’t get it posted and I eventually lost it somewhere in cyperspace.-á But we had a great opening to school at DCS with between 1,300 and 1,400 students, 106 in the senior class (a school record), a tremendous orientation for faculty and just a generally great week.-á Upon my return to Charlotte, it was a busy week of painting and remodeling the house we are moving into in the next few weeks, a great Sunday service at Providence Church where my good friend, Ken Rudolph delivered an awesome message on prayer and then catching a plane back to Miami last night.-á

So on the plane last night, I jotted down a list of rants, observations, questions and oddities while we flew south.-á By far, my periodic “Rants” are the most popular blog articles I post (based on feedback) which probably says a lot about me and you, the readers.-á Last week, I had at least a dozen people write, call or mention to me that they were waiting for the next installment.-á So, in no order of importance or significance or anything else….here we go yet again!

- So, who was the Rocket Scientist who decided to send the first teacher (to make it) into space during a time of the year when 99.9% of the students AREN’T EVEN IN SCHOOL?!?-á Hello, NASA?-á Doesn’t anyone there remember that agrarian ritual that’s been in our country for about 250 years known as “SUMMER BREAK?”-á

- Having switched to diet beverages several years ago, (when ironically, I weighed 20 pounds less), I now believe that the diet soda that tastes least like a diet soda is Diet A&W Root Beer.-á If you have to drink diet and if you like root beer, then Diet A&W is the way to go.-á (Plus, no caffiene!)

- While watching a classic game on ESPN the other night, it struck me that when I was in high school in the 70′s, all the guys wore short shorts and tall socks.-á Today’s teams wear long shorts (that look more like culottes than shorts) and short socks.-á Either way, we showed about the same amount of leg, just different parts of the leg.-á Let me pause here to say that I like the 00′s better than the 70′s.-á Can I get a witness?

- I’ve noticed that a professional liability that comes with working for the government at about any level seems to be extreme arrogance for some folks.

- I predict that the Democratic ticket will be Clinton/Obama and that they will win the White House.-á I’m not particularly glad about it, but it’s my prediction.

- Why is Obama considered a “black candidate” when he’s as much white as he is black?-á And why do we care?-á I’m far more interested in his stand on the issues than the tone of his skin.

- In the end, I’ll take character over talent and/or good looks any day.

- What’s with our culture’s production of “bad girls” lately?-á I thought boys were rats and snails and puppy dogs tails.-á Considering today’s crop of Paris, Lindsey, Britney and their ilk, someone’s going to need to rewrite-áthat nursery rhyme.-á And I REALLY don’t understand parents who let their-á’tween and teen kids follow after these kinds of trampy examples.

- Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?-á (Please join me in praying that-ásome kind and-ábenevolent South Floridian will produce a couple of Monday Night tickets for me to see my beloved ‘fins this year while I’m working in Miami.)

- The difference in wishing “grace” or “vengeance” on someone is usually dependent on whether you need it yourself or you want someone else to get it.

- I’ve lived in the heat and I’ve lived in the cold.-á Personally, I think it’s easier to live in the cold.-á I mean you can always put more clothes on to get warm, but there’s a limit to what you can take off to get cool.

- I recently rented a PT Cruiser and found it to be the roomiest compact care I’ve ever driven.-á I’ve heard they are going out of production and I think that would be a shame.-á They are really a nice little car.

- Why do we punish Cuba with a trade embargo and enrich China with all kinds of free trade?-á-áThey are both communist countries who don’t really like us….and frankly, I’m more frightened by China than-áCuba.

- I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a tattoo that didn’t make the wearer just look a little sleezy.-á I know they are popular.-á I think it sounds cool to hear them called “tats”.-á But c’mon, even a tiny little smiling butterfly makes the wearer look just a little trashy.-á And to call them-á”Body Art” is like saying that grafitti belongs in the capital rotunda.

–áSomeone told me years ago to read the Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month.-á That was really great advice and no matter how many times I read the Proverbs, I keep learning stuff.

- The amount of junk we tend to gradually accumulate is-ásimply appalling.-á Thus, I end up parking $25,000 worth of automobiles in my driveway while we park-ástuff that wouldn’t bring $250 at a-áyard sale in the garage.-á Pretty stupid, isn’t it?

- Arby’s Homestyle Turkey/Bacon/Ranch Sandwhich is outstanding.-á The bread is whole grain and really great.-á Plus, there’s something about them that makes you feel like you’re eating healthy when you have one even though it isn’t.

OK….I’m out of time.-á Until-áthe next rant-o-mania…I’m over and out.

This, That and the Other

I used to do this from time to time a year or so ago and I dont remember why I stopped. So Im doing it againheres a collection of random, unabridged, purely off-the-cuff, miscellaneous thoughts, rants and observations.

  • The more I hear about Mike Huckabee, the more I think I might finally have found someone in the Republican primary for whom I could vote. But Im not making any promises
  • Rosie ODonnell gives the cliche angry lesbian a bad name. What do her fans see in her? Shes just mean, crude and ugly.
  • I cant think of Memorial Day unless I think of fresh-cut peonies. I havent lived in a place where peonies can grow for over 25 years, but I just cant help it. My grandmother always put fresh-cut peonies on our family graves on Memorial Day. She also didnt call Memorial Day, Memorial Day. She called it Decoration Day.
  • I have made a decision. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable. That is until the fresh sweet corn comes in, then that will be my favorite vegetable.
  • It would be impossible for me to describe how tired I am of people fighting over what constitutes appropriate music in church.
  • I dont think 24 was as good as usual this year.
  • I quit taping AI to watch after the voted off Melinda Doolittle. There is no justice in a world that let that Blake dude go further than the sweet and smiling Melinda.
  • I think Imus got what he deserved. I do worry what is happening to free speech in this country though.
  • It bugs me that it seemed like everyone who was a friend of his had to say While I didnt always agree with Jerry Falwell, whenever they were asked to share a comment about his life. Do any of us ever always agree with someone else?
  • I cried during Jerry Falwells funeral.
  • Spring is my favorite season except for summer, fall and winter.
  • If I was rich enough, Id only wear brand new white, no-show socks. No matter what kind of bleach you use, they are just never the same after you wear them once.
  • Theres something about little kindergarten kids with missing front teeth quoting Scripture in the end-of-year programs at our Christian school that is just too precious for words.
  • This week a North Carolina court ruled that a witness at a trial didnt have to swear on the Bible, but could use their own holy book or just affirm that they are telling the truth. I know some Christians are really upset. Im not. I think it makes sense. I wouldnt want someone making me swear to tell the truth on the Koran. In fact, Im not really wild about using a Bible as a prop to get me to tell the truth. Im going to tell the truth as a matter of Christian character, not because I just put my hand on the Bible. I also wouldnt swear on my mothers grave. I never really got that anyway. Plus, my moms still alive.
  • I saw Spiderman III on IMAX. I guess Im getting old. It was too much for me. Way too big and busy. But because it cost me $11 to see it, I didnt take a nap like I usually do when I only have to pay $6 for a ticket.
  • People are too often fickle and too rarely loyal.
  • Petunias are one of natures under-rated flowers.
  • There are 180,000 NASCAR fans in Charlotte this week. Thats a lot of NASCAR fans. Im not going to say anything else about that. At all. Nothing.
  • Sundays are my favorite day of the week. I get to preach and take a nap on the same day. It doesnt get much better than that.
  • I dont understand why some young people are SO defensive about their music.
  • I dont understand why some older people are SO defensive about their music.
  • I guess I should mention that Im really not into music. I listen to Fox News on the radio.
  • Football season is only 3 months away. I dont think I can wait.
  • Ive come to the conclusion that people in Florida were more spiritual than they are in North Carolina. In Florida, people always gave me free tickets to football games. In North Carolina, I have to buy them. But that doesnt bother me enough to make me want to move back to Florida. But free tickets AND a lifetime pass to Pollo Tropical might give me pause.

I suspect youre probably tired of reading this drivel, so Im stopping. Have a great Memorial Days Week-end.