That’s the PC(USA)

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Imagine going to a shareholders meeting and the following statistics regarding market share were presented:

  • Year 2000 – 2.5 million
  • 2005 – 2.3 million
  • 2010 – 2 million
  • end of 2014 – 1.6 million

And then you hear from the CEO, CFO, and the Board Chair that the organization is projecting to lose over 400,000 more for 2015-2020.

As if this nightmare scenario can’t get worse, you hear from the same CEO, CFO, and the Board Chair “We are not dead, we are reforming, we are alive and we are well.”

In what organizational structure would that be acceptable? In what organizational setting would that be applauded?

That’s the PC(USA).

A Brief Reflection on Inter-generational Ministry

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There are articles, blogs, books you can read about Inter-generational Ministry. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I don’t have much to add to the fine materials one can find out there.

This entry is a plea to anyone who may be considering doing “Inter-generational Ministry” from a guy who’s doing his best to lead a ministry that reflects the inter-generational nature of Christ’s ministry.

First, please don’t try to be who you’re not. That get’s weird. What do I mean? 

That’s what I mean. That’s weird. Don’t do that.

Don’t try to “get relevant.” Just be authentically you. Should a young person come to your church, they are wanting folks to be real. And when they see that there aren’t many young people around, the last thing they are wanting is for the older folk to be “young.” Should the young people stick around, it will be because they see and sense a genuine love for Christ in you. They will be drawn by your way of loving and being loved by Christ.

So be you. Be a wiser, older, uncle/aunt or grandparent figure. You are not their “pals” and young people aren’t expecting that from you.

The reality is that most of our Presbyterian churches are older. That’s okay. It’s who we are. There’s no shame in that. And the good news of Jesus is that God will use who we are to reach people.

Lastly, please don’t do inter-generational ministry as a church growth strategy. No one wants to be someone else’s project. If you’re going to do inter-generational ministry, this is not about the future of your local church. This is kingdom investment in the people God sends your way. Young people who don’t know Jesus and who don’t share your local church history, don’t give a rip about the future viability of your local church. That’s one of the last reasons why they would be a part of a church community.

When young people show up it’s because they are hoping against hope that this God thing is for real and that they can experience in the church something bigger than them, bigger than this generation, bigger than this world. They want to connect with a God who is eternal and a community who can “usher” them into God’s presence.

Doing inter-generational ministry will be difficult, time-consuming, have a low investment-to-return ratio, and be costly.

So why should anyone do inter-generational ministry?

Because Christ’s kingdom is multi-generational in nature. Our local church should reflect that.

Now What? What Shall You do?

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Once again, we find ourselves on the aftermath another senseless tragedy. The biggest question for all of us is, “Now what? What shall you do?”

It pains me to admit it but there is a part of me that finds the bravado of Donald Trump attractive. I would love for our military to go and kick some terrorist butts.

But then what? What’s changed? What’s different? All that we would have accomplished is to gain even more who hate America and all that America stands for.

So, “Now what? What shall you do?”

I challenge you to hope, to love, to be gracious, to be kind in face of unspeakable atrocity. The only thing that can change hate is love. The only thing that can change hopelessness into hope is grace and kindness.

It is easy, animalistic to treat well those who treat you well, and to desire to hurt those who hurt you. It takes mature human beings, it takes those who follow the way of the One who chose the way of the cross to offer grace, hope, kindness, and love.

So, “Now what? What shall you do?”

Choose love. Choose grace. Choose hope. Choose to be kind.

The Most Important Book I’ve Read Next to the Bible

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There is no shortage of books. On average, I read about a book a week. Of all the books I’ve read in my life time, next to the Bible, one of the most important books I’ve read is “The Cure.”

Few other books have impacted my relationship and understanding of who God is and who I am in light of grace as much as this book.

You won’t want to read this book fast. This one will require you to go slow as the Holy Spirit works with you. I am currently on my third reading through the book. I want the grace that this book talks about to permeate my being. I want to live in grace and trust that Christ has purchased for me. And I want the same for you.
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If you read any book in the coming year, read this book.

Merry Christmas = God Loves You

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As many gather in churches this evening to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the reality is that many who come to worship know the Star Wars narrative more completely and fully than they do the story of Jesus.

The Star Wars narrative is totally fiction.

The story of Jesus has to do with eternal truth.

This is such a sad commentary for a couple of reasons. First, it’s sad that churches and Christians have managed to make the greatest love story, the greatest epic of good versus evil, the greatest story for the struggle over loved ones into a dull, meaningless, irrelevant fable. It’s also sad that the George Lucas’ of our world are doing a far better job of capturing the imaginations and the hearts of our generation than the church.

So friends, on this Christmas give day, for just a few minutes, please indulge this pastor guy the opportunity to set this right.

Remember. God loves you. God love you more than you could ever imagine.

But because of sin, shame separates us from God’s love. Shame makes it impossible for us to understand and comprehend God’s love for us. Sin causes us to pursue the very things that cause more harm, more death, more darkness.

So God sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus did this because God could not imagine an eternity without you in it.

But there’s a darkness that would love for us to remain blind to this love. There really is an evil that would love for us to remain in the dark.

The darkness loves it when we ignore, distrust, and push aside God’s love story as nothing other than mere fiction.

But Christmas is a reminder that “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12).

God loves you. God could not imagine an eternity without you. So the Creator God became a creature in Bethlehem to live and die to rise again that all who believe and receive him might have life in his name. And that’s the God honest truth.

Merry Christmas!

Why Christmas is Christmas

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

This is the opening of the gospel of John. What an odd way to tell us about Jesus.

The reading from John 1:1-14 is included in most Lectionary texts for Christmas. What’s strange about this is that there are shepherds, no angels, no manger, no Joseph, no Mary…heck! there’s not even the baby Jesus!

So why is this a part of the reading for Christmas?

You see, the birth we are celebrating is not the birth of a great king, a great teacher, a great religious leader, a great rabbi, a great prophet. The reason why Christmas is Christmas and not like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day is because the Creator of the universe became a creature on Christmas day.

Every living thing that has been born has an innate drive to live, to survive.

Jesus was born in order that he might die.

Jesus was born in order that he might die, so that we who receive him as Lord and Savior would share in our death in order that we might share in his resurrection.

That’s not just a baby. That’s the Creator of the Universe. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Facebook: A Royal Waste of Time? A Fantastic Tool for Ministry?

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A couple of weeks ago I decided to voluntarily go on a Facebook Fast. The goal was to see what difference not going on Facebook would make on my life.

Here are a few things I learned.

First. Facebook can be a royal waste of time. When perusing Facebook out of boredom or out of habit, Facebook has the ability to suck you in and the next thing you know 30, 40, 60 minutes have gone by. And the worst part of doing something like that is you are no better for it at the end of your Facebook session than you were before. Whatever state you were in before checking in with Facebook is the state you will find yourself at the end of that session.

Second, Facebook is a fantastic tool for ministry. It was fitting that I chose to go on the Facebook fast right before I went to Russia to teach at the Moscow Presbyterian Theological Seminary for a couple of weeks. While at the seminary, I had several requests from pastors and students there who wanted to know if I was on Facebook so we could stay in touch even when I went back to the States. Facebook is an amazing tool to help folks from across the world to stay in touch. Not only that, being on Facebook would have allowed me to stay connected with the folks from my congregation while in Russia.

Conclusion: if you are looking at Facebook as a way to meet your needs (friendship needs, relational needs, spiritual needs, etc.) you will be terribly let down. Facebook can’t do that. The only way to do that is to get together with real people, face-to-face and interact. The only way to connect spiritually is to get involved with a local church with real people who are doing their best to journey through their faith life authentically.

However, if you are already starting from a position of having healthy relationships and a healthy spirituality, and you are using Facebook as a tool to stay connected with folks, Facebook really is a tremendous tool.

What a gift to be able to connect with friends from all over the world. What a gift it is to be able to pray for one another.

So, I find myself back on Facebook. But I have made a few adjustments.

  1. I have over a thousand “friends” on Facebook. And because of the sheer enormity of people their posts can be daunting. So, if I have not interacted with you on Facebook through messages, comments, etc., we will remain friends but I have opted out of seeing posts from folks I do not have a personal and ongoing relationship with.
  2. I am choosing to use Facebook as a ministry post. Therefore, the primary relationships I am opting for are ministry, mission, and friendship connections.