Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Could I have Missed This?

 I have been thinking on this one thought a lot we can be so close to something we can miss what is going on. When you look in a mirror, depending on what you are looking at is what you see or focus on. If you are looking for an over all view you stand back a bit so you can see more of the image you are checking out. If it is a spot on you face you want to check out you get closer and focus on the spot you want to see. I think this is the meaning of the old phrase, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In the middle of the woods you just see the trees nearby...from a hill over looking the woods you can see the depth and width of the forest.    

A leader has to be able to do both I look closely at what is going around you, what is near you. Then at times you need to step back and look at everything from a distance...get the bigger picture so to speak. The hard part I think is the timing of it all...some micromanage to such point other leaders around them feel stifled. Then you can be too hands off also...I think I tend to default here, to back off too much. 

Anyway this whole thought process began as I watched my parents pass away. The story goes like this, I know many of you already know but here goes. My mom and dad were married for sixty-three years...sixty three years. Some marriages hardly make sixty-three days and others seem like they have had sixty-three different spouses. This was one man to one woman...for sixty-three years. The last few years have been very difficult for my dad...we almost lost mom three or four years ago but she recovered...somewhat. She remained bed ridden for the last few years and dad was her  care giver. My sisters offered to help or encouraged him to get help but he would say, “We took vows over 60 years ago and we meant them.” So for better for sickness and in health...‘til death do us was a serious vow they made. 

Dad and I had our moments for sure. He taught me to love the game of baseball but his methods were kind of harsh at times. His temper seemed to flare at really weird times or at least unsuspecting times. I can still remember some name calling and him making fun of my weight. This is what I mean by being too close to the story to see what all was going on around me...maybe the bigger story...well the better story for sure. I think as I grew older and I sought healing I focused on the negative a lot. Old wounds were close to the surface. I remember one time being on vacation with friends and Stacy and Ian were with us. We were riding bikes together and I had Ian on the back of mine...and he was not pedaling! We crossed this bridge which was kind of narrow and had a sharp turn as we approached the street. As we got to the top I stopped not knowing there was another couple coming up behind us. They got a little angry and were muttering...loudly as they passed by. Then they said something about us being stupid...stupid! A trigger. Not a good word. I came unglued and if I could have gotten free from our crowd I am not sure what would have done. Being called stupid as a kid leaves a mark...a deep one. 

So I think I had these trees in my face...and I could not see the forest around me...the story I grew up in. I never suspected at all I was surrounded by a love story...oh sure they were married a long time but a real love story? My dad passed on a Saturday morning in a care facility as my sister was coming to be with him. Really he went quickly...we thought we had some more time but we did not. He knew he was going and I really think he resigned himself and went. My mom was in the same facility but in another room and she did not know he was gone, although looking back now I think she knew way before we did he was pretty sick. So she was kind of preparing to go too...we did not recognize this either. On Monday, dad’s 89th birthday, my sister told mom he was gone...she repeated what Diane said and then did not say much more. The next day we got word mom was slipping away now...really! Again we thought we had more time...we needed more time. At dad’s viewing we got a had passed. My Aunt Barb was with her, her oldest friend, as she went home. The nurse said she would sing “Home on the Range” and “Jesus Loves Me” and then say, “I’m coming dad, I’m coming.” Then laid her head in my aunts hands and Jesus. Twenty-four hours after finding out dad was gone...she join him. 

Dad had fought to keep her alive when she got sick and as she recovered...he would not let her go. I really think he kept her here...and when he left it was OK for her to go too. Rarely apart for 63 years they would not stay apart either...‘til death do us part. Mom he was only gone twenty-four hours! Couldn’t you have given is at least a week to get through dad’s funeral? What kind of story is this? Did I really miss for most of my sixty-two years what really was right in front of me? I mean everyone loved mom...what was said at her funeral was she had this amazing gift of making everyone feel like they here her favorite or her best friend. Dad was little more prickly...well a lot more really. On the other hand we all knew if we needed anything he would drop what he was doing to give you a hand. I cannot tell you how many times I would be working on a car of mine and he would wander over and give me a hand. And they go down in the grandparents Hall of Fame...they baby sat for quite a few kids and all of them adopted them as grandparents also. 

I think as one in the middle of the story I missed the essentials of the story...I could not see the forest for the trees. I think of the disciples as they hung out with Jesus...they all came with their ideas of what He should be about and what He should do. They had a different view of the end of the story than He did. He tried to tell them...but they could not see...they could not see the love story unfolding right in front of them. We can see it now...from a distance...from a different vantage point. I can now see my mom and dad’s story, love story, better and more clearly. It is still confounding and amazing...but becoming more clearly every day. “I’m coming dad, I’m coming.” Love kept them together, love kept her alive, love let her go be with dad...and Jesus. 

In this world of smart phones and tablets all making little noises letting you know you have a text or an email, where it is hard to get away or to back up to see more clearly what is going around you I hope we will all slow down and look around us. Is there a Frank and Evelyn type love story nearby that you might be missing? Are our bruises and pains from life so large we cannot see the glories of heaven all around us? Are we so busy looking for the next big thing the best thing is being overlooked? 

I have prayed for years to see what God sees...I think there is a big lesson for me here...maybe I am not even looking in the same direction as He is. Maybe...I need to back up and get a better about you?  


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Singing Off Key

Oh man...Dave said it has been since July since I wrote anything for the blog. I do not do well just trying to get something down to put out there. I did write a couple of things I might put out after some adaptations to them. They are personal and I am not ready to share some of that yet. During this time my father-in-law passed away and we have had to place both my mom and dad in a nursing facility to get them the care they need. Lot so of stress but I so admire my siblings. My sisters have done an incredible job caring for mom and dad until it was impossible and my brother, Frank, really stepped up to help also. They are really amazing. 

As I sat down to put some thoughts down it amazes me how the Lord will put us in places or situations that help us face our stuff...our issues. Then as we do step up He gently nudges us forward to places and situations to see if anything has stuck. If our healing has taken hold, I suppose. For me as I have discovered the voice the Lord has given me it seems like He keeps pushing me out there in uncomfortable places to speak. As I have been writing for a local website I have been challenged to keep writing...speaking. I direct my posts primarily to the Church, to challenge and to encourage, and many of the readers are not coming from that perspective at all. Some do....but definitely a different section of the church. 

We are living in times where it seems like the call word of the day is “tolerance.” Can we be tolerant of others? Can you Christians be more tolerant? Kind of a can’t we all get along theme to life. The surprising thing is that the loudest voices crying out for tolerance are...the least tolerant! Oh if you will sing along with them their can’t we all get along song they will be tolerant....but don’t you dare change the words of the song. It could get ugly...well it will get ugly...and quickly. Strange. On one article as the comments rolled in a sweet individual joined the conversation and sang her let’s all get along song. As I sang out of key it got a little tense...strange...the next thing you know...I am not welcome to sing along room in the inn for guys like me. You know if you can push some sweet new ager over the just might be doing something right! TOLERANT! I WILL SHOW YOU TOLERANT! AS SOON AS YOU LEAVE! Dorothy we ain’t in Kansas anymore. 

How do we lead in a culture that tells you in five different ways you are not welcome here? Your kind is not welcome. Hmmm. Land of the free. As long as you know the right words to sing maybe. As I write I am thinking of the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me.” It would be OK to sing this as long as it is the Prophet Jesus or the teacher Jesus you are singing to. Then we have to do something with the line, “The Bible tells me soooo.” Can’t have that can we? Well, I guess you could as long as did not take the Bible literally...we have to remember it is just a story book meant to teach us how to love. Jonah is a fable...Genesis a my favorite lines has been, “Yes I believe in the resurrection...just not literally.” Doesn’t that just kind of stop you in your tracks and wonder what does that mean? So Jonah...Adam and Eve...just made up characters to teach us about life...and Jesus too? Somebody made that all up? Really? 

I do find it humorous that I am writing for something like this website...and people are reading it. Then commenting. Not agreeing with me very much but reading. I kind of feel like an exhibit at a know...let’s go see the guy who actually believes the Bible is inspired by God! He is sooo strange. What they really would say is, “Let’s go see this guy who is a literalist when it comes to the Bible!” “He believes the stories inside it...this should be fun. Maybe we could feed him.”  Yeah...that is right...they have labeled me...a literalist. Trust me they do not say this with awe in their is with sadness You can almost see them shaking their head sadly...thinking that this animal was supposed to be extinct...but there is one left. How sad. Now I know I am not a real literalist because if I were I would have one eye plucked out and one hand chopped off for sure...and who knows what else? But in the culture we live in believing the scripture for anything is taboo. It is being reduced down to a collection of fables for good living...and should be on the shelf with other sources of enlightenment. 

So the point here is...well one of the points here is...a couple of years ago I felt like God gave me my voice back. That after years of being shut up and feeling like what I have to say does not matter He has put me in a place to speak. Odd thing is for me I never would have seen myself speaking to this crowd...let me talk to other Christians but not to the Buddhists, agnostics, Bahai, and liberals. Please not me. I do feel like Moses here...I don’t speak all that well...I will stutter...I am not that deep...and I will get angry! Then I sense Him asking me, “Why did I give you your voice back then? To be safe? To be quiet?” As I go through this whole deal I stay humbled because I know I am over my head in so many areas. That at an elementary level I am rejected...because of Him...well He is being rejected...and I have a birds eye view. 

He never sends us places He does not go with us...He never asks us to do anything He has not already done...He did not give me my voice remain silent. How can you not love a savior like this? How can you not serve a God that cares so deeply? 

Last week I was close to shutting up...shutting down shop. Someone asked me about the line of casting my pearls before swine...I suppose I could make it fit here...but I can also make Paul’s words fit here...4 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”Romans 10:14,15                   

Listen friends...they want you to stop singing...but our song brings light and life...we have to sing...if not the rocks and hills will take our place. I am an introvert...I am not seminary trained...I am bald.Yet God gave me a voice...I will use it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wet Leadership Lessons

I was talking with a few friends recently about how they were doing and the rough time they had been going through at their church. The main guy is a great communicator/speaker, his wife is a gentle pastor and his main associate is an extremely gifted and loyal guy. You would never suspect they could be facing what they are facing...then you hear more of the story. One of a good leader hearing too many voices on how to lead...and he got lost in the noise...he began leading trying to keep others happy.  

Reminded me of the time we were finishing the last leg of our week of motorcycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were an hour or two our from our home and Ray said I should lead us to the house. From there they might go on or spend the night and then head on in the morning. It was an easy leading was my home...we were on a highway not back roads. Really it was just riding in front of Ray and Carol. How hard could that be? YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED!

As we got closer to home (nice title of my favorite Grand Funk song...sorry) the weather began to change especially in front of us. We stopped and gassed up and I suggested maybe we stop there and wait it out...Ray said we could press on. (thought I was leading:) So off we head...right into a storm. Now this is the hard part...I was leading but I was also wondering how Ray would lead here...what would he do? (WWRD) I was thinking we should stop but I didn’t want Ray to think I cannot is not fun getting wet on a bike. I mean the sky was ugly and menacing and it was obvious it was going to rain...sometime. I kept looking in my mirror to see if maybe Ray would wave me over...yeah I am leading...kind of. No wave. So we kept going forward...that is what a leader does...goes forward. Right? 

Now to top it off we had called ahead and talked to my daughter and she told us it was raining. But we were not sure I guess. Then it happened. The skies opened up and down came the rain. Cars were pulling over...not us. WWRD was my main thought...even as it felt like I was about to drown on my bike. How embarrassing would that be...”Man Drowns While Riding Motorcycle!” The Toledo Blade would have been all over it. I can hear them interviewing Ray...”Well I wondered why we did not stop...but Bill was leading.” Sure Ray, throw me under the bus! 

The point really is cannot lead if you are looking over your shoulder wondering if everyone following you is happy. Happeh, happeh, happeh. Does not work. You go crazy. You are trying to think about what they are thinking. Instead of leading you are trying to keep people they will follow as you lead. This was my friends situation...the one at the beginning at the story. He had others correcting him and stop following him. In the end that is what they did anyway...and they took many with them. Now we can blame them and they get some blame for sure. But like when I was on the bike...I knew we should stop...and I did not. I knew what should be doing but once I stopped leading and began following from up front...we were going to get wet. We sure did. 

I am not talking like we don’t need feed back...there is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors...if I had stopped and consulted with Ray and Carol I might have found we were on the same page. Instead I tried to think for both of us...not good. I am not mind reader...sometimes I am not sure what I am thinking! 

My friends have been hurt badly...maybe we could say they got soaked. On a motorcycle the worst thing you could do is spend more time looking behind you or to the side than looking straight ahead. You need to look ahead to see the traffic or the clouds ahead. What is behind you really cannot get you like what is in front of you...and you are leading. I just heard of a guy riding his bike on the turnpike and he looked down at something and when he looked up...traffic was stopped. He was not. He walked away...hurt...his bike totaled...stuff happens.

I know there will always be many voices behind us and around us to help us. Some will help...but some won’t. You have to discern...and that means you have to know you are leading...or not. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Barb and I just got back from Zimbabwe. I traveled there with three women and while there I was usually accompanied by four women...I learned things like how to say, “He/she is such a sweet person.” “What a wonderful person ____ is. Just wonderful.” I learned every place you go you should take pictures...even if you have been there hundreds of times quiet and take the picture. I learned a lot...and did not talk much. No room in the inn. 

Enough whining, it was a great trip built around much praying. Lot of any any place. Pray. Now! Awesome, really. 

Now Barb has a thing about of them...carvings of them...statues of them. Rhinos...she looked for them everywhere we went...and bought a lot of them. It is my fault she has fallen in love with the rhino...not because of my body type. A few years back I did a sermon series titled, “Crashing into___” I read a book written by Erwin McManus titled, “The Barbarian Way” and in the book he talks about a trip to the San Diego Zoo he took with his children. At the zoo they would give you the names of what a group of animals were called. Dolphins are a pod. Flamingo are a Flamboyance. My personal favorite...buzzards are a Committee. So the chapter goes until he comes to the Rhino. A herd of Rhino is called a Crash...yep a Crash. Why you ask? Thanks for asking. Well, a rhino can run up to 30 MPH but can only see about thirty feet out. Hence the name crash...if you or something else is out about 31 feet by the time they see you...crash! 

So why does she love rhinos so much or what does she get from that image? Why did I title a sermon series “Crashin‘ Into___”?  For me and Barb the image of the rhino running that fast and seeing so little in front of them is a great description of the kingdom of God crashing into the kingdom of darkness. Both John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene proclaiming the kingdom of God in the future. This was not a timid statement with a lot of religious connotations stuck to it. It was a declaration...of war. What happened as Jesus declared the presence of the kingdom? The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame run...the captives chains are broken...the poor hear the good news. Darkness was pushed back...the religious became uncomfortable...those living in shame were lifted up. 

Jesus gives a model prayer to pray...”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matt.6:9-15

We have tamed this down a bit by repetition but this little prayer is another declaration of war...against the ruler of this age. Christianity has been tamed a bit...well quite a bit I think. What was once a radical call to follow Jesus and live our lives counter to culture has adapted to culture. The group that once offered healing and help now entertains and hides the power in the back room...kind of embarrassing those emotional, charismatic type. In much of the world people die for naming the name of we fight to be popular...liked...accepted. Kind of interesting Jesus told His guys they would be hated like He was hated...and yet we fight to be accepted and liked. To be seen as accepting and tolerant...and then the be seen as cool. Sigh...

So on our trip to Zimbabwe our team went to a game preserve where we could see elephants, giraffes, lion’s and rhino. Yep rhino...Barb was excited for sure. Well, we found the rhino and they came right up to our trailer where we were seated. I was getting kind of nervous...wouldn’t you? That big powerful animal coming right up to you...then I noticed they were being guided towards skinny guys with sticks. Then the guide fed them some sweet mix of grains. Then...then Barb fed them. Are you kidding me...these beasts eating out of her hand and she is petting them on the head. What!!!!???? They were tamed...gentle. It was nice to be close to them for sure but is this how it is supposed to be? Something felt wrong...really wrong. Don’t get me wrong it was fun....but still. 

Later as we left the thought started coming to me...just like we see the rhino as the kingdom of God crashing into the kingdom of darkness with the Church leading the way, this picture of tamed rhino reminded me of the church. What was once powerful filled with surprise and even chaos has been tamed. Where we once ran full speed with our eyes fixed on Jesus...the author and perfecter of our faith, we now take our cues from culture. What once ran into culture, in the opposite direction now drifts slowly, peacefully along with it. We once said give us our daily we could only see thirty feet in front now needs five year plans and CEO’s at the helms of corporations meetings budgets and projections. Acts says, “ Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” Acts 5:11+13 Well in many cases no one wants to join us but we are not highly regarded either. 

Sure it was fun seeing tame rhinos...but not scary...and not impressive either. It would have been much more fun and intense if we had caught a glimpse of one knowing at any moment he could turn on us and chaos would ensue. His power unleashed and untethered, loose to explode at any moment. Your heart rate goes encounter that could be life changing...or even ending! 

I was talking with some friends the other day and I told them, “I don’t think church should be safe...from God...maybe from strange people...but God needs to be free to get their attention.” The taming of the rhinos is kind of a sad thing...but the taming of the church is even sadder. We are moving in fear...afraid culture won’t like us anymore. Some of our own super stars are pushing us to make peace with stop living counter cultural but adapt to it. Take the message of the kingdom and tone it down a bit...change it where needed. Take sections of scripture that makes us uncomfortable and explain away...or just ignore because they are offensive to many. Inside and out of the church. 

I just celebrated another birthday recently and I realize I may be running out of birthdays soon...well at least I know I am way past middle age...unless I live to be 124. I know my days being a pastor of my church family could be winding down...and I have decided...along with Barb...we refuse to turn over a tame, calm church over to our won’t be a likable, easy going group looking for hand outs and just trying to be liked by everyone. We refuse to drift with culture enjoying the sights as we go...we will swim upstream, against the current. We will embrace the power and the chaos of the power of the kingdom breaking in. We are not going to feed the rhino from our hand, we are going to hop on the back of one of those crazy animals running 30 MPH knowing they cannot see where they are heading but knowing no one is going to stop it. I cannot imagine when Jesus said, “Behold the kingdom of God is here.” He saw what we see now...a Sunday morning product, rehearsed and perfected, with lights and smoke. I cannot imagine when Peter stood up on that Pentecost morning, he could envision services that would last less than an hour...parking lot order of service. That one day we would look at the gifts of the Spirit and say, “Deny not, seek not.” That would have driven Peter back to fishing for sure. Many of our places cannot relate to “Silver and Gold we don’t have.” Lots of that around for buildings and such...but neither can we say “Stand up and walk!” 

Enough for today...but you get my loooong point. I may design a new bumper sticker...”Free the Kingdom of God” 


PS...You thought I was done didn’t you? So did I. I remember on our motor cycle trip to Sturgis how we stopped in one of the National Parks. As we rode along a large herd of Buffalo began crossing the road and walking close by. Now these animals are not tame or use to people. They are angry and crabby...kind of like me I guess:) We sat there close to a baby with the dad coming up from behind...he began snorting and looking at us. The idea of trying to feed him and make friends with him never crossed my mind. I was looking for an escape heart rate picked up...I knew at any moment this calm picture taking opportunity could get crazy real quick. Totally different than my rhino experience...and many of my church experiences! But it was memorable...     

Friday, May 10, 2013

Seeker Sensitive...hmmmm

Sooo I got some nice feedback on the last bad stuff. I have been thinking a bit more about where we are as an association of churches. One of the things I would like to say as I begin here is as I see things I do not understand and disagree with these are really good people I disagree with. I tend to get frustrated and when I get frustrated I can just kind of let it out. I am frustrated right now...with my tribe...and with large segments of the church that seems to me are panicking big time. But back to what I was just saying...these are really good people...motivated primarily by compassion and mercy. Feeling like there is a whole segment of the population that rejects the church and even more important to them...the church seems to reject these people. So I believe in my heart there is a pure motive behind their struggle...I disagree but I love and respect them. When there is a fracture in the hurts. I think that is why I get fired winner here. 

As I think more about this I am going to throw out a really hot potato...this one may get me placed in a looney bin but here goes. I wonder, as I watch this all unravel, I wonder how much the “seeker sensitive” aspect of church growth in our tribe contributes to this dilemma? As in many places, some of our largest churches, not all but many of them have gone to the seeker format...maybe even beyond seeker sensitive...seeker driven. Now from my 30 plus years in the Vineyard...oops I named belief was John taught us to be seeker sensitive in the way we talked...dressed...if something happened during the service we took time to explain what was going on, prophecy, tongue, healing...just tell the people what is happening. We were a presence movement. 

Worship was in some places ten or twelve minutes no more. Room for the Holy Spirit...not in a 60 minute service...get them in and get them out. Ministry time...again no room in the inn. So many things that were trademarks of my tribe gone. John wrote books like “Power Evangelism” and taught seminars, “SIgns and Wonders and Church Growth.”  I heard him say on DVD that he never wanted the church to be a safe place...not safe from God! Now I know John was extremely gifted...he was a charismatic leader who moved in great power...he tried to give it to us but some things he was just blessed with. Now again before I go to far we have churches still doing the stuff, as we used to say. Penny and Danny Meyer...Happy and Di Lehman...Robby Dawkins...Christy Wimber...many others. But lots of churches with no interest in being “empowered evangelicals” maybe just evangelical...or maybe not even that. 

My questions is has the church growth movement, centered on seekers, moved us away from the main and the plain? I remember our second National Director, after John and how he talked about Gen X until it came out of our ears and noses, then moved to post modernism. Over and modern modern that. We have got to change...we have got to get ready. At one of our National meetings he had the guru of post modern gurus in to talk with us. You know what he told us? Don’t change a are set for the future...experiential with with small groups...on and on he went...and we did not listen. We got smoother and more acceptable...and less emphasis on Holy Spirit...and grew...numerically. 

Has the idea of church being for the seeker moved us away from what church really is...aren’t we the church? You know the people...aren’t we the church. I remember sitting in a work shop where the leader was talking about him planting a church and how he was not sure “the Sunday morning product” was ready. The "product"? Really? I am sure that was what Peter was thinking in Acts 2...”Boy I hope nothing happens today...I don’t think our Sunday morning product is quite ready yet.” Yep...can’t you hear that? Me neither. So we have more lights and better a secular song or two just to remind everybody how cool we really are. Two or three screens clips...commercials during the message...hip, relevant message. Then send them home to do it all again. Don’t use too much scripture...they will get lost...they don’t have to carry a Bible because we can put it up on the big screens. 

I am not saying a lot of this stuff is bad...but is it a distraction? Does it cause us to water things down to not offend? Do we stay away from certain topics or do we approach them like Oprah and Dr. Phil...leaving the scriptures on the cutting floor? I know we are doing this to win the lost but I continue to wonder what are we winning them to? The body of Christ, where Jesus is the Head, and the Holy Spirit leads, guides and directs. Or a performance based setting that points to a building and says...that is the church...that building right there is where it all happens. 

I don’t have the answer but I wonder how history will look back on this season of seeker sensitive church growth activity. We have mega mega churches all over...not just my tribe...and statistically the Church is shrinking. Little influence on culture...not many lives changing. Massive campuses...multi campuses...and yet our numbers are shrinking. Churches closing...I wonder what the verdict will be. I wonder how a group of empowered evangelicals will respond...for me this is personal I suppose. Barb and I helped plant a Vineyard here in Toledo starting in the 80’s. Five years into it, the guy, who came from one of our biggest seeker churches said he did not believe in the things of the Spirit anymore...he was kind of excited about his discovery. Well, we went around and around for a while...he talked to the Reginal leader who told him that was fine but he could not lead in the Vineyard so he pulled the church out. Five years we invested in something we loved...gone on 60 seconds...seemed that way. Sooo we began over...with us as leaders...Rich Nathan gave us the go ahead and I mention his name because I am extremely grateful he took a chance on me...he did not have to but he did. I will always be thankful for a tribe who took a chance on a reluctant leader...a factory you can see all of this Holy Spirit stuff means a lot to us. What we saw when we came into the Vineyard is still what is important to us...worship...scripture...kingdom of God...the poor...healing the sick...all of this and so much more. I saw the Church in action...and that is what I wanted. I am not against seeker driven I just wonder how it has affected our movement...don’t you ever wonder? 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

OK...I am back....on my own I can say what I want...right? So I thought I would write a letter to the Association of churches I belong association of churches is another way of saying denomination without using the “D” word. Really it is so 80’ is much cooler. So anyway when you are part of a family you say things to them you might not say to others outside the family...and you can brag on them if you want. I love to brag about my kids and grandkids...awesome. I have been in my family of churches for 25 years! Now I am aware again of how old I am. 

I love this family...most of the time...a lot of the time for sure. This is one of those moments when I think I want to brag on them a bit.(In a facetious way) I cannot believe how quickly we have moved on a certain quickly we are discussing this controversial subject...and how quickly we have gotten to...nowhere. I have studied has taken them hundreds of years...and really they are not sure yet. Some of the Lutherans..again hundreds of years before they decided to slip over the fence. Anglicans... Episcopalians...hundreds and hundreds of years...and then some of them broke up with the others. You know what I am talking about right? do. Well, it is the whole gay marriage....the LGBT issue. The leadership you ordain or not? Do we marry of not? I am so amazed we are even having discussions about this really. I wonder as I write this you think we could get Rob Bell an audience with the Pope so he could explain to the Pope, “Dude you have to adapt...really you have to adapt.” I would like to see that....

(Really it is not a LGBT or marriage amendment is a biblical issue. How do we read the Bible? How do we look at the it to be trusted? Is it a story book? Is it the Word of God...or not? I find that the amazing speed we have gotten to the point of turning scripture into a big story book has been amazing.)   

See we are supposed to be “Empowered Evangelicals” taking the best of two worlds. The best of Pentecostalism and the best of Evangelicalism and we are running with it. BOOM! That is us! We love the Bible and digging into it and we love the Holy Spirit...and moves of the Spirit. Yes we do...well we did. Thing is I don’t think many evangelicals are having debates over this...they seem to think the scriptures have said enough. And I am pretty sure those old Pentecostals are not voting on anything...and yet...we are...well not voting...discussing. Well, someone is...I have heard we have some V_______d Scholars doing a lot of talking. That is not me....25 years in a factory and dropping out of VLI with just a summer session to go does not qualify you to be a V______D Scholar. No siree Bob. So we are talking about it...and it seems like it is a difficult talk. I have a friend nearby that as I tell him our leaders are almost ready to make a statement he says, every time, “So what Paul had to say was not good enough?” I have to shake my head and say, “Jim, Jim, Jim....haven’t you heard? There are many new ways to read the Bible. It is not simple.” He does not get it...well neither do I but I pretend like I do to try to make him feel bad. I mean you have to know the “original language” and what it means...but then you have to know what the original language meant before the 1850s. Because after that we got it wrong. You have to realize that most of the Bible is stories...not real stuff...stories to make a point. I know Jesus seemed to think the stories were real...but what can I say. is helping us understand the Bible now...really helpful guys, those scientist. I suppose we could look at science through a biblical lens...but it makes others happier if you look at the Bible though a scientific lens. Got it? 

So then here we are...empowered evangelicals...waiting for our leaders to tell us how this all works. I have to admit...we obviously are much smarter than the average Den...Association of churches. How else could you explain us being here now? We are just quick learners....sorry you Lutherans and Episcopalians...I know it took you a loooong time to get what some would least have liberal discussions. Not us....BOOM...we are there! The other day I got the word from headquarters...not yet out there for all our guys and gals. The paper I was waiting for to put this to lay down guidelines for our future. To slam it down in the table like a trump card and say, “Bam, there it get with the program!” Got it. Wow! Disappointed. To say the least. Oh we did not completely disappoint...but kind of close...real close. You know I write this blog talking about my struggles with being a leader...I get it when you don’t want to lose friends by saying the wrong thing. I know what it means to be a people I know it when I see it too. I also know, after many hard and painful lessons, that is you don’t lead someone else will. If you don’t clarify and make a clear statement, someone will. (Now let me stop here a moment and say I truly believe the large majority of my tribe are still pretty conservative. I do not think we are a liberal group over all. But for us to be having these type of discussions over scripture is really, really strange on many levels.) 

A really good friend of mine was in the Lutheran wing that decided to license and ordain LGBT. He and the leadership pulled his church out...simple really...he said the denomination had changed...he didn’t. They walked away from Biblical truth to play it safer and be more popular. He couldn’t....and neither would his church body. It was really simple in his eyes. And this guy was not a factory worker...he is a seminary trained guy who loves Jesus. I talked with him today...even he admits...we are really speedy learners. 

Now I will get whacked here a little bit...the only thing I have going for me is not a lot of people read my blog. Unless you guys who do read it pass it around...then I might be in hot water. How did we get here? John Wimber and others got this thing going by allowing God to mess things move. By staying true to the “main and the plain” as I just heard recently. You know we used to get a lot of “hate mail” as a movement. The Bible Answer guy did not like all! And mostly over things the Holy Spirit was doing....making a mess. John, well, Lonnie Frisbee, taught us to say, “Come Holy Spirit.” and He came. Now we are kind of liked...accepted. Scientist like people love us...scholars enjoy us. Yeah we are really main stream...but no longer in the stream we were in. The stream now is mess...just drifting along...enjoying being liked. Except...where is the power?  The Presence? Is using the right light bulbs going to save the drug addict down the street? If I agree with the scientist that our earth is really old, will he now like Jesus? Doubt it. 

Soooo yes we have moved along at a fast pace. Personally I am like my friend Jim...I think Paul said it quite did Moses. I think rather than looking at the original language maybe we should look at original intent and design. Just seems wise to me...and faith filled. 

Oh well...Jesus still sits at the right hand of the Father....well...unless being on the right side makes Him a conservative...then maybe He is on the that can’t be...Is He sitting on the Fathers lap? Do we still believe in heaven or did Rob Bell do away with that too. Oh man...I am too old for this. Come Holy Spirit...               

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What a Ride!

Barb and I were with some Pastor friends this afternoon and we began talking about odds and ends of things and the conversation came around to important encounters with God. This blog started out being called “Thoughts of a Reluctant Leader” so you can see I had some problems with being a leader. I got a little kick back and changed it to what it is now, “Thoughts From a Regular Guy.” I have kind of journaled here my struggle as I pondered leadership and all that it seems to mean to many. Boy many times I do relate to David when they tried to put Saul’s armor on him...uncomfortable and not very just does not fit! So unlike the clothing we see out there where it says, “One size fits all” leadership is not like that at all. One size does not fit all...not even close. 

So as we talked today we went over some of the events in the last few years that have had an impact on me so powerfully. I have had a few and being almost 62 years old I am afraid I may be repeating myself here but that is’s my blog anyway. I began to recount the encounter at a retreat called “Come Away With Me.” Awesome retreat held near Ashland, Ohio....highly recommend. Towards the end of the retreat during my one on one time with my spiritual advisor, I met Jesus, or really, Jesus met me in a powerful way. I have always struggled with feelings of inadequacy and I did not have a voice. That whatever I had to say really did not matter...and I had better never question someone more important than me...which was pretty much everyone. I talked about how if I entered a room of leaders I felt like a fake and was afraid they would ask me to leave if they found out who I really was. I told my one friend, who had been a college professor at a Bible college, I would never dared to think I was his peer. Never. He had degrees...I had...25 years at Ford. He would never or has he ever made me feel less than...I did that. But it was how I lived. Then this encounter with Jesus...He gave me my voice back...tells me I do matter...and I do have value. 

One person at the table eyes began to water...she not only could relate but she could feel the pain I had felt for all those years and wondered how I could live this out front of my painful it had to have been. You know it really was not that painful...the healing part especially. It was life giving...I got back what had been taken from me when I was about voice. And I live it out in front of my church family because some of them need to know there is always hope...always time for healing. Never too late. Not too late for her either. But this is the cool thing...I got to see right in the room my story her and her story. Man, God is so good. I lived thinking I had nothing to offer...and now God is breathing on things I never thought He would...He can...if we let Him. 

I talked about another encounter...another retreat...oh yeah...gotta love those retreats! This was for pastors only...Vineyard family. I think that is why this one had such an impact on was my own spiritual family speaking into me. During the retreat each couple got to tell their hour per couple to tell all they wanted to. Barb and I were in a pretty good place thanks to all the stuff God has been doing and done in the other retreat. Our goal as a couple is to finish this race...and finish it well. So many we have seen crash and burn when they should be having the biggest affect. 
So after you tell your story the other couples and the leaders of the retreat would speak words of affirmation to you...not prophetic things...what they saw about you that was good...that was God. It went on for quite a while....really nice people I think. Finally as it kind of was winding down one of the leaders asked me directly, “Bill did you hear what was said about you and to you?” I said sure...but you know they were nice people and they had to say nice things didn’t they? He then asked me again and then said, “Bill this IS what we see in you.” It connected...and I think it connected because it was my family speaking to tribe...the people I love to journey with. It really means something when your family calls things out in sticks. It has stuck...I see God doing so many cool things...even the meeting today was out of this overflow of God working in me...and me feeling like I have real value and things to share. Amazing!          

Some of you can’t relate to what I am talking are in a very different place and that is so cool. Others will know exactly what I am talking feel the eyes looking you over...the questions on their faces. Now I hope you will experience God calling you out and restoring your voice...your calling. I hope if you hear or read nothing else but this...God is a healing, restoring God...and He loves you and believes in you.  I hope your family or tribe will help you find your place...that they will call out the calling of God in your lives...they will affirm you and support you. 

Before I began writing I was thinking of the healing Jesus did where the person had to turn and walk in another direction before the healing happened. I remember the lepers where Jesus simply said, “Go and show yourselves to the Priest.” And they went...and they were came back to praise God for his healing. I hope you will read this and understand that is what I am doing here...not bragging about the strides I have taken...but really I am overcome by how He has moved and healed...and I have to tell someone!  My healing journey has been just that...a journey. Like the lepers I have had to head towards the temple to tell others about my I am being healed. 

I admire and am so thankful for leaders who really do have it all together...but I would not trade my journey for theirs. John Wimber used to say that he would never follow or trust a leader that did not walk with a limp. Thank you John for making room for a guy like me...a regular guy...with a limp...and a healing. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

You Go Ahead...

I love to play golf with my son...and also My grandson now...he is just learning. Corey, my son, and I play at about the same level...bad. We might have a good day and we do not need mulligans to feel better about ourselves but other days...a few do overs help mightily. Most of you who are parents out there will get this next thing I am about to write. I really get more joy when I see Corey hit a great shot that when I hit one. (not that I do very often:) He can hit the ball further and I love to see him whack it a good one. I enjoy him sinking a long putt or pulling off a good chip...whatever he does it always more fun to watch him succeed. I still do not like to lose to him but I am getting better there. You really long to see your kids...grandkids do well.

As I continue to grow older, and I have not figured out how to stop that other than checking out and I am having too much fun to do that, I get the same sense as I see men and women God has placed around us do awesome things. In our 19 years of leading our church we have had men and women come through and go on that God has used and is using to do amazing things with them. One young man God gave the vision to bring the C back to the YMCA and God is using him nationally and internationally to encourage this very thing. Some other couples felt led to help start a local House of Prayer in Toledo...and they are doing that. Numerous couples and singles have adopted children...local and international. Another young man came to us from Nigeria and served us for quite a while in our college ministry. He has since moved on and is building a great ministry among students and travels nationally with some big name musical groups speaking and raising money for well in Africa. Incredibly gifted...out of our midst. We love every bit of it! They, and many more I cannot put here, are so much more gifted...doing such great things...making such a big splash in this world. So proud of blessed by them.

As I look back I am not sure what part we would have played in all of this...maybe not much...but maybe quite a bit. I think the best thing we did was give them a place and space to go for dream take risks....I can remember the time Sammy was making a sermon point...can’t remember for sure what it was but it was good...and then to prove his point he ripped some pages out of the Bible. Oh yes he did! Got some feed back on that one...but I would rather lose a few Bibles than to stifle passion. Don’t think he will do it again...but your never know. 

I am always concerned when I see leaders who have to be the one leading and looking successful.  Using other peoples gifts and talents to promote be always holding someone back because they are not quite ready yet. How do we get ready? Back in the day a church I was part of decided to have an elders in training program. To gather some leaders and train them to be elders...sounds good so far doesn’t it? But there was never a graduation one ever finished...always in training...know release date. So when they closed the church doors I guess I was still in training...still am I suppose. It was nice to be noticed but it was a shame I could never graduate...or at least get kicked out. Leader was insecure...had a great idea...but not sure enough in himself to release others to lead. 

For some being “the Pastor” is something to be grasped and protected...a title for reverence. They are the personality that drives the church and anyone else can be seen as a threat if they have some level of gifting too. I drive down the street and see the billboards with their names and faces out there for all to see and to be drawn to. I find it kind of strange myself. I have never been ables to grasp the idea that this is my ministry...I am pretty sure it is Jesus ministry and I get to walk along with Him. I am sure I am a bit backwards in many ways but it makes me feel safer about who I am. I never carry business cards with me...first of all in my wallet they would be all crunched up and dirty...and I don’t think they are necessary...for me. 

I think my point in writing is that I am in a season where I am really enjoying watching others be fruitful that I have had some contact with. My friends In Zimbabwe are doing so well...I love to hear what God is doing with small groups starting life happening...baptisms. Training...equipping...evangelism...all cool things. Now I am not writing saying this is because of me, I am saying I was there. I have new friends and they are doing so well...leading like they were meant to lead. 

Working with a couple of friends out west of me in a small community. Man they have been through a lot of stuff and they are still going on...change is happening...and we are just hanging out. I told them I do not have programs and schemes to pick up the pieces again but I can be a friend. I can listen...I can pray. Maybe sometimes you don’t lead by being out front but you lead by coming carry some of the load...carry some stuff.  Just a thought. Won’t sell many books to be sure...but might help a few continue the journey and isn’t that more important than book sales? 

In Mexico we hung out with the guy who gets everything done for the ministry there...hard worker...tireless. Seems like when we first met all he did was work and build and it is important for what they are doing there.  In the past few years I have watched as God has begun changing him a pastor of a small colonia church...his wife is really running everything pretty much right now...but he is coming along. You can hear it when he talks...about God and about this church he is overseeing. How he wants them to be a people filled with His He wants to build a place of he longs to equip his people to succeed. I told him it is going to get harder and harder for him to be away from this church build things.. It is going to get stronger and stronger on his heart to care, along with his wife, for the people God has put under his care. I love it...because it is like my story a bit...and my friends in Zim...we were just going along enjoying life and church...WHAM!...we are pastors. We fought it...denied it...prayed around it...then gave in to it. 

Funny thing the church we are working with nearby are men and women that knew this is what they were going to do...trained for it...pursued it. Kind of different for me to be interacting with them a little...but good for me...and them. It will work out...they have some real organized leaders working with them also...I am just there for the relationship part. To be the old guy in the room whose knees cracks when he stands up...who lost all his hair...and his beard is totally gray. My only desire is that they do well...better than me...they finish this race strong. It is Jesus  Church...not mine...not theirs...His. I think He wants them to do well...don’t you?                   

Friday, February 8, 2013

securely insecure...

Oh boy, I have to get my ideas down while they are still fresh in my mind. I am 61 and a half you know! I remembered this incident from early on in our church’s life. We were beginning to grow at a nice pace and a guy visited one Sunday. As I introduced myself and he told me his name I recognized the name but was not sure  from where. The I remembered a good friend of mine had told me about him and had said he was a really good guy. Truth is at one time he had come to Toledo to plant a church near the UT campus...but his leaders had discouraged him from doing this. Not sure why, some leaders that have titles like control and I kind of felt like this guy had got the short end of a story like that.

Anyway I went back to him and told him I had heard of him and how I knew this guy and that guy and we hit it off well. When you are at certain stages of church planting you are looking for other leaders to come alongside to work with you. He began to come around a little...kind of sporadic but making noises like he really liked what we were doing and felt at home here. He was gone for a couple of weeks so I called him to see if he was OK...this is what we do you know. 

When we connected we got together for coffee and to chat. I kind of teased him by saying, “ I called to see if anything had happened or to see if maybe I offended you. You know us pastors. We are an insecure group.” He responded with, “I am not insecure.” Nervous chuckle on my part...I was insecure...he wasn’t. AWKWARD! Later I realized...he was not leading anything! Why should he be insecure? He was sitting on the back row with his big responsibility being taking up the offering...and I mean passing the buckets not from the platform. 

I mean he did seem quite confident...and I know he had been extremely hurt by the other leaders...and I think he was quite gifted. Leading nothing.  Not insecure...but not too secure I think also. I always wondered why, if he felt like God was sending him to plant, he would let someone else talk him out of it. Now I am thinking I could use his help here...we have room for more leaders...we might even be able to send him out to do the plant he felt like God had intended him to do. He disappeared...well went back to the safety of the large church where he could be knowing he was not leading anything. Sad...really sad. 

I have a feeling as I read scripture Moses was pretty secure out there watching sheep hanging out with his wife and kids. It was not until the burning bush and God calling him out that his insecurity shows up. Gideon was fine hiding in the cave smashing grain until the angel shows up and says, “Have I got a job for you!” I have to admit it is hard to lead with much insecurity going on in your life...but on the other hand if I am too secure in my abilities, I may miss what God is trying to do with me and in me. 

Funny how I remember that moment...really not that significant...and yet I remember. I do wish I had been a more secure leader...but the key is...I was leading. I had said yes...when others thought maybe I shouldn’t...when I thought I shouldn’t...waiting for the “real” leader to appear. Turns out he was already in the was me. Strange how that works isn’t it. 
I came across this guy a few more times at church events...I think he had a hard time remembering who I was. (imagine that!) Whenever we talked it was obvious he was still secure...and not leading. Sadness usually entered my heart as I thought about him...think about him now. I really do think he was a leader...probably would have done well. We are all secure in the boat...well kind of...but when you get out of the out! It is a different world outside the boat. Insecurity explodes...until we look at Jesus...and He leads us back to the boat. 

Please do not read this as criticism of this fellow or me bragging on myself...nothing could be further from the truth in either case. John Wimber would say, “You know you are a leader when someone is following you.” While I so rejoice in this journey God has taken my me on and still has me on...I pray for those who began the journey to leadership and stopped. Lots of good men and women have been hurt or convinced they are not leaders and so they stop. Safe and secure in the background...but not fulfilling what God has called them to. 

So this regular, reluctant, insecure guy will sign off now...knowing I am no longer reluctant or insecure...well not too reluctant or insecure...and still a regular guy. 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Boy this leadership deal is strange...takes many twists and turns...lots of ups and downs. I think if I had to make one statement concerning leadership it would be that the leader has to be a life long learner. Always digging deeper, going further. Never resting on past successes or accomplishments...not ever taking compliments to deeply. Even though I know I will never be a corporate style leader I have read many books on many topics just to be stretched to go further than I thought I could go. You don’t have to compare yourself to the Jack Welch’s of the world or incorporate all of what it takes to go from “Good to Great” but we should know and grow. If nothing else it helps us identify our strengths and allows us to bring people around us with other gifts. Not to fear other gifts and allow others to grow in how God has created them. 

Yesterday, I think for the first time ever, I told a friend in leadership they needed to hang out with me and Barb more often. We had something to offer him and the others leading around him. It took me about ten minutes to get it out...sounded so arrogant on some should hang out with would be good for you. Thing is he just looked at me and asked, “Why do you think I called you today?” Brilliant Bill...just brilliant. As I listened to him talk about some of their issues as a team they had the corporate model down...but knew little of servant leadership. Funny how God brings you to a place where you begin to see that you have things to offer when you thought you had nothing. How He can heal you enough to let you step out of your comfort zone to offer to help someone who may be more gifted, more of a leader than you. 

I leave the meeting wondering, what just happened there? Was that me? Did I really say that? What was I thinking? I also leave thanking God for never giving up on me...for Barb never giving up...for Dave never giving church family never giving up. That is such a key in growth as a leader or in anything. Having people not give up on you...and knowing God will never give up on us. HUGE! I love reading stories about guys like Gideon, where and angel encounters Gideon hiding in a cave. He greets him with, “Hail mighty warrior.” Gideon had to be looking around the cave wondering who this being was talking to...surely it was not him. But it was...God calls it as He sees it, not as we do. He sees us so differently than we do...or at least before we do. Then He has others speak into us to help us get there. I cannot tell you how many times people have spoke into my life and said things about me that seemed so out of the picture. Words about leadership...about leading...that I wanted to say, “Hey you got the wrong guy here. That word must be for someone else in the room.” But when you hear it on so many occasions in so many settings you have to either believe God is speaking to you or wonder how so many people could be so wrong. 

A reluctant leader has to stand up and lead eventually or he will get trampled by those who want to follow. I do not think a leader always is way up ahead but more likely is just ahead of the group. If we get too far ahead or think we need to be separated from the group how will they ever follow? Won’t they get discouraged and stop...or look for a leader who cares enough to see how they are doing? I think this is why scripture and Jesus use the model of a shepherd so often. In a flock of sheep there will be all sizes and shapes if sheep..some who can want to go fast but many others who will need to travel slower. Young sheep, lambs, who need care and nurture...who just cannot travel that quickly. Sometimes they need to rest...sometimes they need to learn what it means to be a sheep out in the pasture. The dangers...the to get to water...who will find food for them. You do not drive sheep like lead sheep. John 10 Jesus is speaking and He says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” 

I think this is Jesus model of leadership...He goes ahead...and yet is close by...close enough the sheep can hear His voice. I suppose at times I may be too close to those following...if you can be...there is a model that many in the Vineyard and other churches use and have talked about. It talks of moving from a shepherd to a rancher...from leading the sheep to leading the ranch hands and driving the cattle I think. Honestly I have never been able to transition to rancher...maybe in the future...more to learn for sure. For now a shepherd is who I am...and now I am seeing that God has done enough in me that I do have stuff to offer others...not my stuff...God’s stuff. That maybe a shepherd could teach a rancher a couple of things...maybe. 

I will tell you it is nice to enter a room and not feel like I am a fraud...that I should not be there. That if someone asks the right questions I will be found out...that One who is greater than me or you has said I am welcome to sit at the table. It is He who called me to be a He was. I always wanted to be like Jesus...always...still do...and if this part of it. That is way cool by me. 


In the past few weeks God has spoke on many different occasions to Barb and me about our level of influence increasing...about the authority I walk in...and so much more. It is overwhelming on so many levels...humbling and fearful. I, we, are open to all of this but my heart is to always makes sure it is in humility that we walk. If there is influence...if there is is all from Him...and while I will walk where He says I need to continue to always be pointing back to Him. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights,” (Jas.1:17)
I can walk in some measure of Him...not me...I know me. Pray for me, us, to continue to walk humbly before God and His people...we will go where He sends.                  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The other day I remembered an incident from a motorcycle ride a few years back and for some reason it has stuck with me.  It was Barb and my first long ride with a group and on the last day as we were heading home we had to ride out in a heavy rain. We stopped for breakfast hoping the rain would let up but it would not. So we headed out...three bikes heading home after a great week of riding. Of course Barb and I had the worst rain suits ever and the other tried to talk Barb into tying plastic bags over her shoes to keep her feet dry. Come on. No one looks cool with plastic bags tied to your feet...even Barb. So she refused. 

Well, we left out and it was raining and on the highways you get lots of spray off the cars and trucks around you. It was wet...and not real comfortable feeling...little scary I suppose. Somehow I ended up leading the pack through a downtown interstate area and we got beside a truck and we had to decide whether to pass or not. So I am leading...wondering what the others would like to do. Pass? Stay? Pass? Stay? No way to ask. Now I begin to feel the pressure to lead...I am uneasy. Water spraying, rain falling, road wet. WHAT DO I DO? 

I decided to pass the truck...on the right at least three lanes of traffic. The cool thing about being on the bike is no one can tell I am scared. All looks the same from behind me I suppose. Even Barb cannot tell. So I go for it. The good news is we made it just fine...and even if I had wet myself no one could tell because I was soaked anyway! But I was really tense going around the truck. I might not have done it if we had been by ourselves but with others following expecting you to go. 

I read this the other day: Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.  ~Dan Rather. Dan is not a guy I will probably quote a lot and I am not saying it took courage to pass...but as a leader I find myself leading even if I am not feeling the bravest at the time. People are either lead or get out of the way. I remember on mission trip we had a young high school guy with us working and he did everything slow. Now he was a great guy to have on the trip but he was not a sprinter for sure. We were carrying paint supplies into a building we were going to paint and he was in front of me carrying some items and I was right behind him carrying a bag of cement mix. He was moseying along and finally I said, “Anthony, either speed up or step out of the way.” He started to speed up...then shrugged his shoulders and moved over so I could pass. Great memory for me. 

I have felt the poking or prodding from others as they wait to see if I will lead. I have also felt the poking and prodding from the Lord to see if I will lead or not. His is gentle prodding for sure but still there with persistence.  God is the only One who really knows when we are afraid to lead and He is the only One we can count on to go with us as we lead. Others may not go...He will. The angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon is hiding in a cave! Mighty warrior! You have to appreciate the Lord’s great kindness to call to us as He sees and knows us not how we see and know ourselves. Being afraid does not disqualify you from means you are human. Does the fear lock you you hear the voice of the accuser reminding you how big of a chicken you are? Do you hear our own voice telling you you cannot do it? Do you hear the lies from your past saying you have always been a coward. What makes you think anything is different now?

I love being around people that seem to be fearless. Nothing is a problem. No problem is their favorite answer...we can take that hill! (or whatever they are going after) Well maybe I don’t really love it...but I am fascinated by it...appreciate it when I see it. So different from my wiring it can be confusing to me and I can get offended by and I begin to accuse them of not having humility...not true at all, just me. I guess when I write I am writing for the leader like myself...that is not John Wayne. For every very confident leader there is another leader God has called and is looking for the confidence to put one foot in front of the other. To keep moving at all. I am not sure one is better than the other but I do know this...who God calls He will equip. If God chooses to use you or me in a leadership role He will not only send us out...He will go with us!

Gideon threw out fleeces to God...if this is you do this...or this...or that. I think it came to the point where God would bypass Gideon’s asking and just say, “If you need to know more do this...or listen to that.” I do not do a lot of fleecing but I do a lot of God.  

The challenge we all will face is if He has called you to lead then you must lead. It is simple obedience. He is not sending you or me out to fail...but He is sending us lead. I know you did not pursue a title or some position...He chose you...He pursued you. I think we all have to put ourselves in a place to hear the Father say, “Hey there mighty warrior, I am with you.” 

Yep! I was afraid that day on my bike...not a big deal really...but it is a reminder that to walk on water you have to push fear back, look at Jesus, and get out of the boat. Either God is who He says He is or He is not. Either He is with us or He is not. I am meditating on something AW Tozer once said: The most important thing you think is what you think about God..” (might not be an exact quote) I am thinking that as a pastor one of the things others want to know from me as a leader is just that...what do I think about God. It will show up in our leading...or lack thereof. 

So all of my chicken friends out there...let’s lead through the fear of failure...through our weaknesses...because if you are leading...someone is following. I have an acquaintance nearby, another pastor who teaches spiritual formation primarily to pastors. What he does to start each session is send the class out with the 23rd Psalm and a notebook and pen and instructs the class to read and listen. You know if you struggle with much fear as a leader I really would recommend you doing the same. Become very familiar with this Psalm...and what God would say to you through it. Good stuff. 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Oh boy...a new year...2013 Funny. I was trying to think back to when I would have begun noticing the new year...probably about the time I entered school. Until then who cared...but when you started school then you had to put the date on papers and such. So I would guess I began noticing about 1957...ouch! That is a loooooong time ago. It was a good year for Chevy I guess, and a good year to head to first grade. So then I head into high school in the ’60’s...the turbulent 60’s. Did not seem all that turbulent to me...I think you begin to assume assassinations and mobs burning down cities were kind of normal. Didn’t that happen all the time? Viet Nam...did not really want to participate in that...aren’t never ending wars normal? I was busy trying to find a girl friend, make it to the big leagues as a baseball player, and not to flunk out of school. So the 60’s did not seem at that weird to me...great music for sure. I went to Woodstock...the movie. 

So the 70’s and I decide to follow Jesus...the Jesus movement was in full swing...I think I got swept in by that move, but in reality I was saved in a small, country church that was full of people from Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia and other parts south. I was in the minority as far as not having an accent...or maybe I had the accent. So while many were coming to Jesus in cool places where hippies gathered and rock music was played...I was hearing hell fire preaching 3 times a grass music by whoever was not back-slidden that week...and wearing leisure suits. Yep leisure suits...platform shoes...that’s enough of that.

The 80‘s were our really big church age I more listening to music with a beat. That is the devils music...only Christian music played here...became a charismaniac....lots of fun and weird. Church got weird in more ways than one. Cultish at times. 

90’s found us being introduced to Vineyard....should have ran I guess. Did look at where I am! I need to say this, when we discovered the Vineyard it was like finding out family...our tribe. I am quite sure only the Vineyard would have said yes to Barb and I planting a church. I was a factory worker looking forward to retiring one day and doing what ever God wanted...THEN...not now. I am so grateful for guys like Danny Meyer and Rich Nathan telling us to go for it when it really did not make much sense for them to agree to it. So mid 90’s planting our Vineyard.

Then the turn of the century...2000...Y2K. Who could ever forget Y2K? I could...what a bunch of hype...and much of it from the church. I can remember a young man asking me when was I going to start warning the congregation about the impending doom of Y2K. I think I said I would do something the first week end in January of 2000...he thought that might be a bit late. It was fine. Now I need to let you in on one of my funny Y2K moments. The one thing I did do was but some extra gas for around the house. About 30 gallons in five six gallon cans. I thought maybe we should have some extra gas around if gas station computers crashed...and also I would have plenty for my lawn mower for the summer. Well, nothing happened and one day in my garage I stumbled on one my of my gas cans and it slid across the floor empty. Huh? So I kicked another one...empty. All five cans...empty. I scratched my head and wondered what had happened. Then I knew what had happened. My son had happened. Since the cans were sitting there full and Y2K had passed he assumed the gas was up for grabs. All of it! I told him he had to refill the cans. I think I got one can filled back up. He is a smart one.

So now we are passing into to 2000 teens...2013. I am 61 years old...61 and a half Dave tells me. Been on the calendar since 1951. Back in the 60‘s, the decade not my age, 61 was ancient. Really, really old. Now it just seems...old. Following Jesus for over 40 years and it still seems like I am a beginner. Married to my best friend for 40 years...still trying to be a better spouse. Two grown kids...six grandkids...amazing! I could not imagine myself in 1957 as a grandparent...or even having a girl friend. 

I guess as I write today I am thinking there was nothing in the my past that would have pointed to me being here, doing what I do today. Never went to church as a kid, ever. Really was not a leader in school though I was elected Sgt. at  Arms of my Senior class, more popularity than leadership skills. I remember being picked to captain the football team one game...I froze...could not even call out heads or tails. Leader? Not so much. When I surrendered to Jesus I think God began preparing me and Barb for leadership down the road. We served in every role in the church imaginable...bus ministry...Sunday school teacher...choir director (no kidding) the church. Whatever needed to be done...we did. That is the way I thought it was supposed to be. I think early on I suspected God could call us to an assistant or something like that. In our church life we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and it has helped form us to lead the way we lead. What we saw good we could hold onto but other stuff we would run from...manipulation...not knowing what you believed...control.etc. We said no way. 

Have we been perfect even close. But Danny Meyer told us long ago, “Build a church you would want to go to and others will want to go there also.” I have had lots of good advice over the years but that has been a cornerstone to what we do. May sound selfish but I have friends that pastor churches they do not like and would not go to if they did not work there. Sad. So happy New year to you and has been a long journey for sure...I have seen so much...assassinations, school shootings, planes flying into buildings, people blowing buildings up, multiple long wars. The Jesus movement...the charismatic movement...laughed through Y2K...Toronto blessing...wept as friends died too young...a lot of stuff. My hope is that in all of it God was able to shape and build things into me that help me as a leader. Life shapes can beat us down and defeat us or it can make us to be the leaders and people God has intended for us to be. We choose. I choose to be clay in the hands of the about you?