Church Membership

from Grace Hills Church

from Grace Hills Church

We live in a world where joining organizations is becoming less and less popular.  It affects us in churches as we invite people to be members of our congregations.  The cultural resistance to joining comes into conflict with appeals to join a local congregation.  Recently I had a young friend who was visiting a church that she liked a lot, but was wondering if she needed to join write to me about joining.  Here is what I said: Continue reading



Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 3.35.57 PMOne thing most of us want is change. We want to be improving. We want to sin less. We want to grow into the man or woman God has called us (and designed us) to be. As followers of Jesus Christ we want to be people who are being changed into His image. We are told in Romans that God determined that those who are His will be formed into the image of His son. In II Corinthians 3:18 we learn that this brings God glory—our transformation!

The problem is that change can be difficult. It also forces us to admit a need for something else. It is humbling to face a need to be different. Continue reading


Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.24.18 PMScripture calls us not to be ‘double-minded.”  James tells us that when we are we’re unstable in all our ways.  (James 1:7-8)  At the same time Paul bounces back and forth between conviction and joy in Romans 7:21-24.

These days I find myself caught between two poles.  We have agreed to leave where we are and serve in a new place, but we are not there yet.  I must confess that sometimes I feel very divided or ‘double-minded.’  On one hand there is the sorrow of contemplating relationships that have been rich and enriching for us.  We have the sense that God has indeed inhabited some of our relationships and we and they have benefitted and we have grown as followers of Jesus.  That feels good.  At the same time, contemplating departure also produces pain.  There is the pain of pulling up roots.  There is also pain of becoming more distant in what have felt like very close relationships.  We grieve for those relationships.  As our home becomes filled with boxes and the pieces of our lives get put away, there is a certain instability that creeps in.  Sometimes I wonder if this part of our life will disappear just like things that are disappearing into boxes.  Because of the great people we have met here and shared life with, we don’t want that to happen. Continue reading

Eyes in the back of her head

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 2.54.07 PMGrowing up my brother, sister and I thought our mother had “eyes in the back of her head.”  What we meant was simply that she so aware of what we did we could not get away with anything.   Our mother had that ability because as her children we had her attention.   She turned her attention away from her needs and desires to focus on our needs.

Recently I was in the audience when a person conducted some business for the whole group.  In terms of the presentation, it was good.  But when she concluded someone near me said, “That wasn’t about our group or our business, that was all about her!”  She was so preoccupied with herself and how people perceived her that she missed what the group needed her to do.  Her leadership in that group failed. Continue reading

Size-Appropriate Structures

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.17.06 PMWe all know an ‘intimate dinner’ of three or four couples has a different function and planning level than a party to which you invite seventy or eighty.  We also know that a Morris Mini has a different engine and transmission than does a delivery truck.  In the same manner, we have different equipment to fish for bluegill off the pier than we would if we fished for tuna in the ocean.  Yet sometimes we act in churches as if supporting structures in the church are the same for an eighty-member congregation as for a five thousand-member congregation, just bigger.

One of the pieces of wisdom shared in church growth circles is that if you combine a couple of two hundred-member churches, you will get one two hundred member church—because they know how to be a two hundred-member church!  What that statement tries to highlight is that different sizes of congregations need different structures to support their size.  When internal structures do not match the size of a church two things can happen; either growth is inhibited or internal discomfort and conflict arises. Continue reading

Angry With God?

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.49.33 AMI have had the regular privilege of being a guest on “Life Questions with Pastor Michael” a radio show that a friend of mine, Michael Bannon produces.  It is a show where he talks about spiritual questions ordinary folks might have.  I that find interesting.  I want a faith grounded in real life so I like to try to answer questions real people are asking.  A recent question was from a person who asked if it was permissible for a person to be angry with God.  It was an interesting discussion.

Michael asked, “Do we have the right to be angry with God?”  I was not sure that was the question that helped me get at the root of the issue.  I believe that at times we are all angry with God whether we have the right or not.  Continue reading

The Danger of Familiarity

Our dog is a Great Dane.  Having him has helped me conclude that he has something to teach me spiritually.  After 4 years, I have gotten used to his size.  It seems odd when

Our Dog

Our Dog

people encounter him and say, “Wow, that’s a really big dog!” or  “Do you have a saddle for him?” (I hear that one a lot!)  At 137, he just seems normal to me.  As Great Danes go, he’s not very big.  I’ll sometimes call him a ‘mini-Great Dane.’

The other day when I was walking him I thought to myself, “If we ever get another dog, I want a really big one.”  I have become used to his size.  But even though I am used to his size, not everyone else is.  As an interim pastor I move around a bit.  We have discovered that landlords don’t want big dogs in their houses or apartments.  Actually the little 7-pound dogs we’ve had have been much more challenging to train.  Although I think he is no danger, others do.  I see him as normal; others are startled by his size. Continue reading

God in a Box

Do you prefer Jesus to be radical or comfortable?  The Jesus we encounter in the gospels is one who really challenges the status quo.  Folks who were a part of the religious establishment had real issues with Jesus.  When one considers the entire witness of the scriptures, one must conclude that often encountering God disrupts the status quo.  The God present in the scriptures leads us into uncharted territory; He calls us to adventure.  One of Jesus’ most consistent commands is not, “Don’t doubt,” but “Fear not.”  The implication is that when we really hear God, fear might be a natural response. Continue reading

Always Changing–Staying the Same

The old Hymn, “Great is They Faithfulness” begins, “Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 10.03.57 AMThy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”

In Hebrews we read, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb 13:8)

God may be the same, but our lives are full of change. We need to learn to find and experience God in new circumstances.  Certainly Joseph’s encounters with God were different when he received his dream, when he was in prison and then when he was ruling Egypt.  Yet God was the same.  The Apostle Peter must have had a very different experience of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, stepping out of the boat in a storm and finding the forgiveness of Christ after Jesus’ resurrection. Continue reading

Dead Ends

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 9.26.06 AMHow many times has life been confusing for you? One does not need to live very long to have encountered or known someone who has encountered a confusing time in life. The cool weather this week is certainly a bit of a change, but we are talking here about genuine conundrums—those places in life when it seems we are at our wits end and cannot make sense of the circumstances of our lives. Sometimes we call those places ‘dead ends.’ Continue reading