Summer 2012 Recap

Riding a hot air balloon on the 4th of July.

When the blog went down in July, I frantically tried to get it back up and running.  And when I finally got the thing going again, I just didn’t have anything interesting to say or post.  So I haven’t.  But now the summer is nearly over, so I thought I would fire some one-liners about life, ministry, parenting, and the culture.

  • The Olympics – Team USA is awesome, but the Chinese are machines. 
  • Living Grace Church – I am 1 month in and am having a very good time.  The health of the church is tremendously better than compared to 3 years ago when I was here before.  That goes in a very large part to the leadership of Pastor Jason Fox.  His steady hand and commitment to biblical health for the church paid off.  I tip my hat to you my friend.  Well done. 
  • Jennifer’s father – Earl – was in the hospital nearly all of July with a serious infection through out his body.  He is home now and we are very thankful.  God spared his life.
  • CentriKid Camp – Getting to be camp pastor of CentriKid camp was way too much fun.  3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders are so sweet and gracious.  They actually paid great attention to the messages each morning and evening, which I didn’t expect.  Organized Mass Chaos (OMC) was pure craziness.
  • Both boys in school – Isaac started 1st grade, Ethan started pre-K.  For 3 hours each morning, not one kid is in our house.  Very strange phenomenon.  I think Jennifer likes the quiet mornings.
  • Chick-Fil-A – Americans can’t spell the name of the store, but they sure do love themselves some Jesus chicken.  The original and the spicy are my favs.
  • Summer movies – Didn’t see anything at all.  Not Batman, not Spiderman, not Brave.  Nothing.  Nada.
  • Books – Great reads this summer mostly from the secular world.  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakaur, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, Theodore Rooseveltan Autobiography, and The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptist by E. Belfort Bax.
  • Downtown Abbey Season 1 – Extraordinary.  Season 2 needs to get on NetFlix asap.
  • Jennifer’s book – The Leaders Guide to “Christian History Made Easy” – was released in July and we got a copy.  I am so happy she beat me to the publishing punch.
  • Greece/Turkey Trip – The May study tour has really helped in preaching and teaching.  I will start my series on the 7 churches of Revelation in September and have tons of video to show.  The dates for Israel/Jordan 2014 are available if you’re interested in traveling with the School of Theology.
  • My sister Crystal got married.  Small, sweet ceremony in a quaint Methodist chapel.  Congrats Sis.
  • Finally Turning 35 – With July came my birthday and officially rolling into the middle-age demographic.  All demographic studies have 21-34 and 35-54 as categories determining young adults and middle adults.  10 years of marriage, 2 kids, a mortgage, a Buick sedan.  Yup, we are middle adults.

Cheers to Summer 2012.  You’ve been a wild one.

When the Glasshouse Cracks

News cycles reeled last week after the arrest of well-known prosperity preacher and pastor Rev. Creflo Dollar Jr, pastor and founder of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga. Dollar was released on bail after allegedly choking his 19-year-old daughter during an argument in their home.

Pastor Dollar came to the pulpit the following Sunday to a packed auditorium and to the reception of a standing ovation. His congregation showed unfailing support for their leader and believe he is innocent of all charges. Prior to his sermon, Pastor Dollar denied all allegations saying that there was a family argument that got “emotional” but nothing more. He asserts he was simply disciplining his daughter and things “escalated.”

This brief look into the private life of a celebrity pastor has brought to bear the undeniable interest of the media and public in the domestic affairs of spiritual leaders. The pastor’s home life, no matter if one is leading a church of 50 or 5,000, always generates a lot of attention.

Some have even named the pastor’s house a glasshouse where everyone wants to look inside finding out what really happens behind closed doors. Church members, neighbors, complete strangers are eager to get a look what the preacher does in private.

There is something voyeuristic about seeing how a pastor treats his spouse and kids. Undoubtedly people want to know how he deals with everyday pressures in comparison to their own lives. Does he yell in frustration at his kids? Does he spank with his hand or a belt or at all? Do he and his wife get into heated debates using swear words? The world wants to know.

Even the more mundane daily rituals are tantalizing tidbits of information. Does he do chores around the house like laundry or dusting? Does he watch R-rated movies? Do they have a filter on their internet? Is the checkbook organized or are bills laying everywhere? Inquiring minds want to know.

But when the glasshouse cracks, when obvious sin seeps into the pastor’s family, it becomes headline news. As the glasshouse shows signs of wear and tear, the peeping eyes increase.

However, two overarching principles about ministry and family need to be identified and spoken to. First, pastors, ministers, priests and their families are sinful, morally broken people. They make mistakes. They have conflicts with each other and within themselves. They have real issues that arise at times, inevitably making their way out in the public square.

This should not be a surprise to anyone, no matter if a believer or not. The Bible is very clear on this issue. No one is perfect. Everyone is sinful (Romans 3:10). That is life. That is the reason Jesus came, died and was raised again. Sin was the human problem that the Gospel, or the Good News of Jesus, came to fix (Luke 19:10).

Secondly, pastoral ministry has and will always include living in a glasshouse. So here’s my personal invitation: look in and enjoy. You are free to take a peek. There will be cracks at times in the walls. There will be messes and mistakes strewn all over the living room floor. There will be good days and not so good days, and you are free to witness them all.

But remember when you look in, the Christian life is not a journey into perfection for those in ministry or otherwise. The Christian life is a continual walk with Jesus in grace and in truth, through growth, correction, failure, forgiveness, reproof, assurance – all surrounded by God’s love and mercy.

You are welcome to look inside the glasshouse, but don’t be surprised by what you see. Our house, like your house, always needs to be fixed up.

Originally written for and posted on – June 12, 2012

2012 Thru the Front View Mirror

All leaders want to look forward and see what’s coming on the horizon.  Every year I write 5 to 7 goals for myself in several categories: spiritual, financial, marriage & family, career, personal.  I like to think, envision and dream about the future.  If you don’t have a target, you’ll hit it everytime. 

For 2011, I met 5 of my 7 goals (71.4%).  Not too bad.  Those were:

  1. Spiritual:  Finish Bethany Bapt Church well.
  2. Financial:  Wipe out medical and credit card debt and pay for everyone’s (Jennifer, Isaac and Ethan) school tuition in cash.
  3. Parenting:  Build the boys a tree fort and have a camp out.
  4. Personal:  Get below 170 lbs for the first time since we were married.
  5. Marital:  Determine Jennifer’s career re-entry plan.

I didn’t complete two goals: 1) career – find a publisher for Theology 4 Kids (my book).  I was turned down 3x’s.  Stink!  Or 2) financial – buy a new car in cash.  Both vehicles are still running fine and didn’t need replacing, which I am very thankful for.

So what’s on the horizon for 2012.  Here’s the list. 

  1. Spiritual:  Finish Lancaster Bapt well.  Ending an interim pastorate is like landing a plane on an air craft carrier.  You have to do it perfectly or a lot of people get hurt.  This will be my 4th landing.
  2. Financial:  Knock out a huge chunk of Jennifer’s Ph.D. tuition, maybe the whole thing in one year.  That would means a lot of extra work.  Summer school here I come.
  3. Marital:  Celebrate our 10 year anniversary in a big way.  Can we say Honeymoon 2.0?
  4. Parenting:  Read all the Gospels to my boys.  We are halfway thru the 7 Chronicles of Narnia books and it is going really well.
  5. Career:  Find a publisher and get a contract on the book.  Gotta keep pushing and seeking the right fit for this project.
  6. Personal:  Travel on the Apostles & Epistles Tour to Turkey & Greece.  This will complete my biblical lands cycle (e.g., Israel, Egypt, Rome, Italy, and Jordan).
  7. Personal:  Select a charity and get involved at a higher level.  Preferably something the whole family can volunteer in and support from our community.

What’s your goals for 2012?

Who Wrote the Bible on ____________ ?

I’ve heard that Vince Lombardi wrote the bible on the power sweep and John Wooden wrote the bible on the man-to-man defense.  Everyone knows that David Copperfield wrote the bible on performing spectacular illusions and magic and Johnny Carson wrote the bible on late night comedy monologues. 

You hear this phrase all the time.  When people want to say something is authoritative, documented truth, the primary source for that topic or discipline, they use the phrase that it is “the bible” on that subject. 

So here is my question.  Why do we use that phrase?  In a secular, post-Christian, post-religious culture as the United States is, why do non-believers still use that expression to describe authority?  They never say “this is the koran” on a company’s business practices or “this is the veda” on medical diagnosis.

I believe the expression is still used by many because deep down people still believe the Holy Bible is something wholy different.  It is not the same as other religious books.  I believe non-Christians who use that expression know there is explicit truth in the Bible, even if they don’t ascribe to that truth or even recognize it as relevant to their lives.  I believe most secular, non-believing Americans still view the Bible as authoritative, unique, distinct from all other books and because of that fact they’ve chosen to keep the expression in our American vernacular.  I am not sure if it will stay that way forever, but it remains in place today.

So when you hear that expression in your workplace or while talking to friends, ask why they use it.  It might be an opening to explain your views on the Bible and the truth it contains for your life. 

And that my friends is the bible-truth.

Save Me From My Cell Phone

There is a new Window’s Phone commercial out with the catch slogan “A Phone to Save Us from Our Cell Phones.”  The commercial shows a man and his wife in a rather intimate scene and he doesn’t even notice his wife is wearing silky lingerie.

Add that slogan to the woman who fell into a shopping mall fountain because she was texting and not paying attention.  Add that to the millions of accidents on highways and roads where drivers have been texting and caused a serious accident.  Add that to state laws banning cellphone usage by drivers under the age of 18. 

From all accounts it appears we really do need to be saved from our phones.  But not with another cell phone!  Salvation from cell phone addiction (i.e., the crack-berry), texting while driving, and  falling into fountains because you’re not paying attention is not found in a simpler model with fewer apps and less digital distractions.

Salvation comes from turning it off.  Unplugging.  Putting it away.  Stop looking at it.  Maybe even letting it go forever.  What I call “Going Amish.”

I teach Millennial students everyday who can’t conceive living a minute of their young lives without a cellphone.  Putting their phone away, even for a 60 minute class period, is unthinkable and suffocating.  What if they miss a text?  What if they aren’t available when someone calls?  Anxiety and stress kicks in when the phone is in their backpack and not sitting on the desk in front of them.

Studies have found that Millennials and their younger siblings the iGens are losing between 1-2 hours of sleep every night because of their cell phone.  Apparently they keep the phones on all night long lying right next to their ears.  As texts come in and out, they stay awake and never really fall into deep sleep ( or REM).  This finding has been loosely linked to adolescent obesity, depression, early sexual activity, early drug abuse, self-mutilation and eating disorders.

I primarily teach students who are considering Christian ministry.  I overheard a student in the hallways say they couldn’t go on an international mission trip because they wouldn’t have access to their cellphone.  I’m still not sure if they were joking or serious.  But in the discussion, I heard the girl say she could not leave home to serve in a developing country because they wouldn’t cell phone access for the 2 week period.  Is that really what it has come to?

Maybe the people at Windows have it right.  We really do need to be saved from our phones.

Top 8 Trends for Ministry in Kentucky for the Next Decade

Everyone seems to be producing their Top Trends for the Next Decade lists as we have entered the 20-tens.

I have read several lists describing the shifts in global Christianity and Evangelical life in America.  Well, I am from KY and my perspective is much more local and Baptist.  So I thought I would offer my Top 8 Trends for those of us who live, minister in, and love KY Baptist churches in the Bluegrass State.

(These are in no order of importance.)

1.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see an increase in the debate over Calvinism vs. Arminianism.  Especially as it relates to preaching, pastoral leadership, evangelism and church leadership.

2.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see a continued decline in revivals, street preaching, door-to-door witnessing, and event-based “draw them in” methods of evangelism.  Relational and servant evangelism is quickly becoming the method of choice.

3.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see an explosion of new church plants, but in contrast, they will not see the renewal of aging, established churches.  Younger leaders are choosing to plant new work vs. fighting established traditions.

4.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see Christian parents returning as an integral part of the children and youth ministries.  Separating out Christian parents from the spiritual development of their children is not working over the long-haul.

5.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see less participation with local Baptist associations.  If the church has more than 100 attenders, it will access the resources of the local association less and less.  Information and training is too widely available via the internet.

6.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will see an enormous increase in the use of technology and social media in every aspect of the church.  More technology will be used in worship, in communication, in children & youth ministries and in church administration.  Social media will become the link for prayer, networking, community involvement, missions, and fellowship with other members.

7.  Christians in KY Baptist larger churches will see CEO-type pastoral leadership decrease, and pastors who view their work as more theological and pastoral increase.  The business manager / company president model of pastoral leadership is moving away fast in our state, the sacred desk and pastoral study is returning.

8.  Christians in KY Baptist churches will have to hire much younger leaders on their staffs.  The Builders have retired or died.  The Boomers are only a few years away from a mass exodus.  There aren’t enough Gen X’ers to fill the pulpits and staffs.  So the Millennials will be the only viable choice to fill positions.  However, these younger leaders think VERY differently about church leadership and some (including me) are wondering if they even want the job in the first place.

Millennials on Online Relationships

While driving back from Catalyst 2010, I took the opportunity to quiz the students I was traveling with on how they view online relationships & cell phone etiquette.  What’s legal and what’s rude.  Here is a sampling of their responses.

1.  First interaction online (thru Facebook or Chat) does not equal a real first interaction.  If they saw each other the next day, they would still feel awkward as if they were interacting for the very first time. 

2.  They will share more about themselves online than face-to-face, only because its private and behind closed doors.  However, you are not allowed to bring up what they posted online unless you were there with them.  That is an invasion of privacy.

3.  Cell phones – You can take a call from a friend while with others in public, but they expect you to leave the table. If someone is on a call in a group setting everyone else will get quiet.  They don’t want to interrupt your call.

4.  Text messages – They are legal at all times to take.  But not legal at all times to respond.  When Millennials are in a group setting where folks are facing each other (like in a circle), they don’t want to look like a text addict (on the CrackBerry), so they will take the text, but wait till afterwards to respond. 

However, when they are in an academic class setting (my world) with everyone facing forward, everything is legal because there isn’t any peer pressure from other Millennials.  In church, receiving and sending is totally legal, especially during the preaching.  At work, all is legal as long as your boss isn’t looking.

5.  Ear Buds & iPods – One bud in the ear is legal all the time.  Both buds are considered rude when in a conversation with someone.  However, both buds in are an indication that they don’t want to be bothered.  It is a sign to others, I’m not open for business.  Come back tomorrow.

6.  Finally, they love their online personalities but they still want personal interaction.  Girls don’t like to be asked out online.  That’s icky.  They also don’t want to receive a thank you through a text, they want something personal.

FUN FACT:  One side note I learned is that Millennial girls will send a “mistaken” text message to a guy they are interested in.  They will say they were trying to send the text to a girlfriend, but “whoops” it went to the guy.  Something like “Oh, he’s hot” or “I’d wish he’d ask me out.”  So the guy will get the text message and know the girl is interested.  And they will just play it off as if they don’t know what happened.  “I just got this phone. I must’ve hit the wrong button.”

It appears new courtship rules apply in the digital age.

Did Jesus Ever Get Sick?

I’ve been coughing for about two weeks.  Cough drops, cough syrup, Nyquil and hot coffee have been my cures. Over the past week, a question has kept sneaking into my head.  Is there any reference in the Gospels of Jesus having a cold?  Did Jesus ever get sick?  I know he was fully human, which means he walked, slept, ate, drank, needed a bath and had to go to the bathroom, but did he ever experience a sickness or physical injury.

I have looked over and over in the New Testament for an example of Jesus getting a stubbed toe or a hangnail; nothing. I have looked for Jesus needing to sit out for a while because he pulled a hamstring or had a cut on his foot; nada. No reference to Jesus sneezing, coughing, or needing a hankie.

I know Jesus suffered the torture of the crucifixion and the horrific beating of the Romans, but before that did he ever have a broken finger or strained muscle?  Did he get headaches or an upset stomach?  Did he ever get a sinus infection or have a raspy voice from preaching too much?  Was there times during his carpenter years when he couldn’t go out on the job site because he was up all night coughing up a lung (an experience I have become very familiar with the last couple weeks)?

Just a question I am thinking about.  One of those questions I will probably ask when I get to heaven.  Not as deep as other questions I have, but one that has been on my mind as I have been popping Halls like they are candy.

LifeWay VBS 1987

The LifeWay Customer Care department sent me this today and I just had to share it here on the blog.

This is the a picture of the cover and logo from the Vacation Bible School I was saved at way back in the summer of 1987 at Lewisport Baptist Church. This would have been the cover of the teaching materials in my middle children class.

The fine people at LifeWay dug it up in their vast archives for me. It makes me so happy to see it.

VBS materials have come a long way since 1987.

Thanks LifeWay for making great VBS materials for years.  And thank you Ms. Sharon Brown for sharing the Gospel with me for the very first time in 1987.

My First FIFA World Cup

My first FIFA World Cup exposure was in 1994.  The World Cup was hosted in the US.  I was quite intrigued by the  the new popularity of soccer in the States.

I had never watched soccer much.  Didn’t play it in my high school.  Actually our community didn’t have any soccer fields or leagues.  I had played a Nintendo version of soccer, but that was about it.

Watching those crowds cheer and sing and bang drums was very exciting to me.  Seeing people from all over the world descend upon these stadiums and cheer their brains out was inspiring.

#7 Del Piero

Since that first exposure, I have kept up with futbol.  I attended a couple MLS games while living in Dallas.  I bought and viciously played FIFA World Cup on my PlayStation (always using Italia as my national team and Roma as my club team).

I traveled to Naples and Rome in summer of 2006, I saw the anticipation of an Italian bid for the cup.  They did win the cup and I was so excited for them.  My son actually has an Alessandro Del Piero jersey hanging in his closet.

All this to say, once your hooked, your hooked.  I will watch every match I can for the 2010 World Cup.  There is nothing like this in the world.  I believe the World Cup is so much larger than the Olympic because of the intensity of the game.

For a few weeks the attention of nearly every nation on the globe will be centered in South Africa to watch men play the most beloved sport in all the world.  I hope to go someday to experience the craziness first hand.  I think I will add that to my bucket list.

Go USA! Vive Italia!

Update on Theology 4 Kids

We have had an interesting summer already with our book Theology 4 Kids.

Just to fill everyone in.  I, along with my esteemed colleague Dr. Jarvis Williams are writing a book called “Theology 4 Kids.”  Basically it is a book to help parents and teachers teach the deep doctrines of the Bible to gradeschool and preschool aged children.  We tackle 21 of the hardest doctrines like the trinity, God’s holiness, redemption, God’s sovereignity, etc.

B&H Academic initially showed much interest, but has since viewed the book as more for parents and less for future pastors and seminary students.  Their market is seminary and Bible college classrooms, which might not fit our book’s audience the best.  The other side of B&H Publishing (called Trade) is very interested in the book, but has no room for another parenting book this year.  Two others are already in progress by more notable writers.

So we are re-working the proposal and planning to ship it to a few other publishers to see if there is any interest.  If not, we will stay with B&H and try to wiggle in a spot in the publishing plan for 2012 or 2013.

Like I tell my boys all the time when they ask for something, not emphatically yes or no, but “We’ll see.”

My First Book…Maybe

A while back I shipped out a book proposal to B&H Publishing on the Millennial generation. I never got any feedback and I wondered why.

Well, now I know why. This summer Dr. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, and his son Sam Rainer will be publishing their own book on Millennials.  Also Dr. Tim Elmore, author of “Habitudes” and nationally-known speaker and former consultant with Injoy, will be publishing a book called “iGens” on Millennials as well.  I guess I was too late to the game to get any callbacks.

But I am working on another “secret” book proposal now.  But this time I am bringing in some other contributors to help me with the book.  The audience for the book is Christian parents who want to teach theologically-rich content to their gradeschool and preschool aged children as they serve as the primary disciplers of their kids.

Dr. Ware's Book

As a parent of two preschool boys, I am constantly trying to find ways to explain big theological doctrines to my boys’ little hearts and minds.  Dr. Bruce Ware and his book “Big Truths for Young Hearts” has been my motivation.  I loved his book and wished he had gone one step further.  I wished he would have included activities, object lessons, projects, and illustrations to do with your children in teaching them theology.

Our new book will do just that.  It will include a brief scriptural overview of the doctrine (i.e., communion, God’s sovereignty, Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, Jesus’ return, etc.), then provide parents with specific instructions in how to communicate these ideas to their children using age-appropriate language, and then conclude with 5 – 10 ideas of how to practically teach these concepts to children through learning activities and spiritual play.

I think this sounds like a winner.  Now only if we can find a publisher willing to pick up our book?  More info to come…I hope.