Monday, November 26, 2007

A moment of thanks...a few days late

here's a story that moved me today:

Several years ago I ran into a pastor at a store while shopping. I had preached for him a decade earlier and asked how his church was doing. Here is the conversation that followed.

“Well Clayton, I really can’t say how the church is doing because they fired me 2 years ago and I have not been back, or even heard from anyone since I left. I was there for 13 years. Attendance doubled, we built a new sanctuary and added 4 new staff positions. But what I did not realize is that I let church work become my life. It came before time with my family and it even became more important to me than Jesus.”

“I figured out who the power players were in the church, and a deacon told me to make sure I did not make any of them mad because they had the 2 things that mattered most; family and money. So I made every decision based on them. I preached for them, made sure I did not offend them, and made special efforts to cater to them and their families. This brought short-term success, but I was burning out. I had no passion left. I was just working for a paycheck and health insurance for my family.”

“I did not realize how much I had neglected my kids until one became a drug addict and the other one slipped into deep physical sin. I did not even know my own children, and it was my fault. Then one day I came home from a deacon’s meeting, and my wife had taken all of her stuff and left a note on the table that said she was tired of it. She hated me for ignoring my family and she blamed me for everything, for putting the church before them.”

You can imagine the lump in my throat as I stood there and listened to this grown man choke back tears over the family he lost. He was broken; a ghost of the leader, pastor, and shepherd I had met 10 years earlier. Then the saddest words to ever leave his lips landed on my ears.

“So what did my church do when all of this happened? The people I had served and pastored called a business meeting and they fired me. They said they could not have a divorced pastor with rebellious kids leading their congregation. They gave me 2 months salary and wished me luck.”

No grace. No counseling. No support. Maybe they felt he was unable to lead them any further. Fine. But not even a reception with cupcakes and coffee to say thanks for 13 years? This is way too common. I see it more than most anyone else because my calling carries me so many places, and when I hear these stories, I cry out to God to protect pastors, and the churches they serve, from shooting our own wounded. Of course not every church is like this and not every pastor suffers such a fate, but this man did. God help him, his wife, and his kids. And God help the Body of Christ to offer mercy and compassion to our own wounded who lay on the side of the road, in a ditch, waiting on anyone, even a Samaritan, to come to our aid.

i am so grateful to serve in a church that treats me like a friend and not an employee...a church that values my time with my wife and my family...a church that supports and encourages and forgives me and does not place unrealistic expectations on me...a church that has patiently waited for me to grow into the position that i hold...a church that holds to the biblical model of a pastor and not one that has been unfairly and unspiritually created by church tradition and modern culture...

we may not be the biggest or baddest church in the city, but i wouldn't trade places with anybody.

hope you are continuing to experience a life that is worth being grateful for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Relationships with skin

this afternoon, i was reading an article about the rise of instant messaging throughout our society...with both kids and adults. there's some pretty amazing figures about how many "im" and how much they do it.

(ok...i'm just now getting back to writing because i was just answering a text from one of the kids in our youth group. talk about current...)

anyway, one of the things the article says is that 43% of teenagers use it to say things to people that they wouldn't say in person. accepting dates, turning down dates, breaking up, "facing" conflict, expressing anger. this doesn't surprise me. but a comment by a 34 year old adult is the one that leaves me frustrated:

Danny Hitt, 34, a real estate agent in Riverside, Calif., says he has chatted with four or five IM buddies at once — a number some teens would consider embarrassingly low. He prefers the telephone for important communications. "To me, a significant conversation takes a phone call," Hitt said. "The inflection in the voice, you lose that" with instant messages.

significant conversations take place on the phone? you gotta be kidding me. what is happening to us? my frustration with the comment is that it's true. and he's not even telling the half of it. we have become people that hide behind phone calls and emails and text messages and fake handshakes and distant smiles and unresolved conflicts and fear that speaking the truth will draw us into relationships that will demand more of us than we want to give.

i'm with lose the inflection of the voice with instant messages. and you lose connection with no eye contact...and you lose conviction with no body language...and you lose trust with no smile and confidence with no heart.

i like relationship with skin. even if there's bad news. being part of a body demands it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

snicker, snicker

like i've always's better to be lucky than good.

go chargers.

The virtual church, part two

i don't know all the reasons why i'm stuck on this right now, but i just can't let it go...

i read an article in usa today this morning talking about the rise in church websites. it said that over 88% of churches over 200 have websites and many of them are using their sites as a way to recruit new members.

the article, just like the ongoing discussion among church leaders, debates some of the pros and cons building cyber connections. the fear is that people are already disconnected enough...and don't need an even easier way of keeping their distance. the upside is the willingness to face the reality that this is a digital age and people will simply use the most convenient and efficient way possible to make good decisions.

apparently, smart churches are using the web to showcase who they are and give discriminating church shoppers a clear and appealing look at their product. the truth is, i don't particularly want to be a pastor of a dumb church, so we are rethinking our website...since we are part of the 88%. here's what i'm also thinking:

i believe that jesus is the son of God, incarnate, sinless, killed, buried, raised from the dead, the perfect atonement for my pathetic life, giver of purpose, the key to the mystery of life and the king who will return and reign for eternity. i also believe that the church is his holy bride, his body, God's chosen for the purpose of living out his priorities and message for all of history.

with that said, it kind of hacks me off that there are people who say they believe this stuff, but don't care enough to invest themselves particularly deep into friendships with others who believe this stuff. consequently, we shop for churches.'s only monday!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Virtual church

i was doing some online reading the other morning and i came across this website. it's an internet church. you can sit in the confines of your comfortable recliner and do church. you can watch and listen to the music. you can watch and hear the preacher. you can give your offering online. you can even go into the virtual lobby and meet people by having live chats with others you are doing church with. amazing.

at first glance, it seems so wrong. but times have changed. people have changed. we live in a culture of people that connect through their computers. myspace. facebook. personal websites. bloggers who have their own private audiences. i'm still processing this, but i can't help but think that this could be the perfect front door for a disconnected digital generation.

while i'm thinking, here's a question: why do people come to church buildings on sundays if they have no real intention of entering into meaningful, honest, committed friendships? what's the point? if all you are looking for is a sermon, some music, and a place to give your money, why bother wasting the gas? maybe the internet church is just what you're looking for...

Friday, November 02, 2007

A mere 27 days

ok, i took a month off of writing. so sue me...

there is so much that i could write about. the last 27 days have been so full. i could give you my perspective on fire and displacement and loss. or car wrecks and death and unspeakable sadness. or tumors and cancer and life change. broken bones, hip replacement, financial stress, marriage trouble, broken friendships, lost dreams, theological confusion, poverty, depression, fear, emotional paralysis, and hopelessness. but that's far from the whole story.

the last month has also been about hope and change and faith and courage and determination and real friendship and commitment. it's been about love. it's been about priorities. it's been about spiritual growth...growing up and growing deeper. it's been about fun and laughter and sarcasm (the good kind) and practical jokes and honest conversation and music. good music. cooler nights and an even cooler snow storm. and baseball.

and, oh yeah, the chargers are back.

it's amazing how much can be packed into the short span of 27 days.