Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 217: Clueless About Culture

Last week I received a message from a someone in my facebook group that told me "this past Sunday my pastor asked me what twitter users were called. I told him 'a tw@t'. I felt kind of bad for him that Sunday, you see, he was going to tear down social media in his message and told the church...'I think Facebook is one of the tools of the devil and I certainly don't want to be a TW@T with Twitter.' I felt bad about that yet chuckled as did about 20 other people who heard the pastor say that word. He is so out of touch so I knew he wouldn't catch on." Though I don't condone this, I do find it slightly humorous.

One of the issues that I notice to be of great importance to any pastor/staff pastor is to stay current with culture today. Now I know right away that statement raises an eyebrow with those reading this. I suppose one could throw the scripture at me in Romans 12:2 which says " Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." which really is an ignorant understanding of scripture if you are going to use this verse to defend not being culturally savvy. All one would have to do is read the Apostle Paul's work and see where there are quote marks. Many times Paul is quoting pagan leaders/authors. Jesus uses examples that were relevant to his time. On and on we see examples of people in the bible being culturally savvy. Sadly though we see many that share in our churches as socially retarded people. If they are not in their bubble of Christian friends/small groups/church families and not talking about Kirk Cameron's latest movie...they have nothing to carry on a conversation with which ends with them judging what they do not know. Talk about "Fireproof" and they are all over that movie. If you bring up "Clash of the Titans" than a debate about Greek mythology takes place which usually ends up in tearing the movie apart and any who have watched it.

A couple of years ago we had a guest speaker in at our church who in the middle of an annoyingly long message says, "but you kids just like to listen to your music...Guns N' Roses and Def Leppard." Just like the true story that I opened with, when a pastor makes that kind of error or is culturally irrelevant like the comment in this paragraph I guarantee you that more people will remember that than the rest of your message. One of the best compliments I have received as a pastor from a person who genuinely meant it was when she called me a "worldly pastor". She did not mean it in a negative way but rather a positive way. For me it is a gimmie that you have to be steeped in the scriptures to deliver a message with truth and integrity. However, just like Paul, Jesus, and others in the bible...it is important to remain culturally relevant. I am not sure where this idea came about that we have to only use the bible in our messages. Yes that should be the anchor but if in new testament times people said, "you can only preach from the Torah" then we would not have some of our most profound messages today. The bible only adds richness and depth to our examples we use from culture. Preach a message only using pop-culture and it will fall flat. Preach a message using pop-culture infused with scripture...YOU HAVE A WINNER!

Am I saying you have to be a pro on everything out there? NO WAY! It would be almost impossible to do so, however if you are going after a certain topic in a message...do some research. Do you want to know what is popular today with music? Go to iTunes and see what is being downloaded the most, go to the billboards website and see what is popular. The same can be said for books, etc.

Here are some ways I stay up on pop-culture, perhaps this may be a help to some.

1. If you are a iPhone or Android user I would suggest the "People Magazine" app. This will let you know a lot about what is going on in the entertainment world. Other good apps would be "Fox News" or "CNN" and "New York Times". These help so you can stay current on events happening today when you engage people in conversation. These things can also help you find a direction on where to go with a message.

2. Subscribe to magazines. When I was a youth pastor I subscribed to Rolling Stone to see music trends. Music is such a big part of tees lives so I thought I better keep up.

3. Daily I will go to yahoo.com and in the upper right you can see what is currently trending in news and entertainment on yahoo.

4. Blogs! I cannot say enough about blogs...start reading them and find what is out there. You will find new insight and perspectives on things that will fuel your sermon or confirm things.

5. Local newspaper: This is an important one on a local level to get a feel for what is going on in your community. There are some great ways to use the local paper as a pastor.

6. I would have to say this last one would be Facebook. A person can get a good read on what is going on which can give you as a pastor some direction as you see what people are dealing with from day to day. You will be able to help others and others will be able to help you in this social network.

I understand that sometimes as pastors we don't want to look "worldly" so people don't wonder about us. How many times have you heard a youth pastor/pastor say, "there was this scene in a show on MTV. NOT THAT I WATCH IT...A friend told me." It will enhance your ministry if you at least stay current with what is going on. I recall a few months ago when a church talked about me in their message (it is seeming to become a regular occurrence). This pastor said something to the affect that "this Pastor Bob is going to be doing a message from Pink Floyd...a heavy metal band from the 60's or 70's). Many people listened to this guys message and all they could say was "since when was Pink Floyd a heavy metal band?" Even if a pastor does not care to know all the ins and outs of a certain thing, if you are going to talk about it at least educate yourself on it. It was Jesus that said, in Matthew 10:16 to be wise as serpents but gentle as a dove. When we become wise on culture (not saying you have to live out everything you here, read, look at, etc.) you will have some credibility with people. When those in bible times knew how to relate to people by using terms, quoting authors, etc. while they spoke, I am quite confident they captivated their audience. This way the church knows you did your homework and you won't end up calling yourself a "TW@T".

Day 216: Weddings

There are a lot of things a pastor gets to do each year. Many of the fun things would include Sunday mornings, meeting with people, being asked to be a guest speaker and one of my favorites....weddings! I think so far I have done 31 weddings since I became a youth pastor in 1996. I have only done one funeral...still a green horn at those. I am thinking back to all of the weddings I have done and think only two ended in a divorce. Last year I got to do a few here in Waupaca that were so much fun, elegant, and beautiful. I am telling you that if you want a great backdrop for a wedding then come to Waupaca. Between the Red Mill and Spencer Lake Christian Center and a few people's backyards (lol) this really is God's country.

This year I already have two on the docket and in 2012 I have two lined up as well. One of those weddings consists of my sister-in-laws friend's wedding. The other is such an honor as I get to do another wedding for a kid that was in my youth group back in Milwaukee. She won't mind me mentioning her name, Jessica grew up at the church I youth pastored at. When I came on staff she was 8 or 9 years old and eventually grew up to be in the youth group. A few weeks ago she asked me on facebook if I would consider doing her wedding. This is a no brainer for an old youth pastor even if it is a drive...what an honor for any former youth pastor to do.

Being a pastor or staff pastor at most churches really is an awesome thing. The stories you hear of those who had a difficult time are really few and far between. I fall into that category and have many dear friends that do as well. If you can get on staff though where the atmosphere is great the people you are working with are real then in the words of Reggie Dabbs "I cannot believe I am getting paid to do this."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 215: 10,000

I am excited and yet humbled to know that this blog is just over a hundred hits from 10,000 hits. I am thankful for so many great readers and those who try to derail me. From topics like surviving in ministry to giving my opinion on what works for my wife and I as parents in ministry, I get many different responses. I think what makes a blogger laugh (just a bit) are the ones who take what a blogger writes and posts it hopefully to shed a bad light on the author. This happened just this week…and the week before, etc. What is always amazing to me are the couple negative responses I get as a result of those posting to other websites and the overwhelming response I get from those who read it on websites this is posted to. Some people are just very uncomfortable when someone is willing to be transparent and share their own opinion. I have gotten messages this week that people are praying I repent, etc. The good emails though FAR outweighed the negative comments.

Really, I am humbled by the amount of pastors and those in ministry that email me to thank me for the encouraging words. I am what they call a "first generation" pastor which means I am the first of my family to go into ministry. I have a saying that I am a P.K. which usually stands for Pastor's Kid but for me it stands for "polishers kids". My dad was a polisher for Harley Davidson and I was raised going to church by my mom and dad which helped me become a pastor. This is why I may not be the most politically correct pastor when it comes to blogging but I can tell you I am probably the most transparent. Whether you are reading my blog because you enjoy it or hoping that I make the announcement that I am going to stop blogging....Here is to another 10,000 hits on this blog. God is good!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 214: Time to Get Ready

This afternoon I am officially kicking back for the first time in a long time. I get asked here and there if I get a lot of free time since my office is at home. The question is always NO. Anyone that has been a pastor for any amount of time knows how demanding your schedule can be. Each day brings with it a menagerie of things to do. A pastor is never just locked into one thing all day that they get to focus on. With my wife being a Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit nurse she works the day shift and I therefore have evening hours in my office. While Tracy is at work each day I am home with the kids. We play, run errands, etc. which is a great thing for me and the kids. We do make it a point though to have dinner with the whole family every night and a date night (with the kids more times than not) at least once a week. I threw that line in there to clarify to my new mom audience that may be reading ;-).

This morning though started off with some snow removal and playtime with the kids out in the white fluff. I was so happy to see James tackle his first snow bank and run through some really deep snow (for a 2 and a half year old). Now that the kids are sleeping I am getting ready my material as I am going to be a seminar speaker at one of Christian music’s largest and oldest music festivals, Cornerstone Festival! It really made my already awesome week when I got an email from this festival asking for all of my bio information. This is going to be a lot of fun!

There is a lesson to be learned here though if you are a pastor/staff pastor wanting to be guest speaker at an event. When I was asked be take over teen time at a family camp here in town, the first year we had 15 teens. Fast forward 4 years and we were up to 140 teens attending. This was a lot of fun but when you are looking at a 6-7 day event, you are now planning 12-14 youth services (two per day). The same goes for Cornerstone Festival…it is going to be a great time. I have to realize though that I am doing two sessions a day talking about my experiences in ministry. The first session of each day will be me teaching. In the afternoon I will do a second teaching, God willing I will have a different guest with me to expound on what I am teaching that day. It is valuable to get input from those who see so much as they travel from church to church. The challenge for me on this event is that the teachings will be on a more collegiate level which I love, but I must be ready if given such an awesome opportunity. I would challenge anyone that does this kind of thing to put the time necessary into it. Whether it is a camp or a festival…those who are paying to attend deserve to hear your best.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 213: Driving Them FROM Church

Today was (I cannot say subtle reminder) a HUGE reminder why many hate the idea of going to church. It is no wonder there are books out there with titles like, "They Like Jesus but Not the Church" and "Lord Save Us From Your Followers." If you know me than you know that I am always up for a spirited debate or discussion. Don't believe me? Wait until you see what I have planned next for Waupaca...it has to be a God thing because I am freaked out about it. Today however I posted a blog about parents going on vacation or getaways without the kids and how healthy that can be IN MY OWN HUMBLE OPINION. You would have thought I told parents to take their kids to the local orphanage and drop them off. Whenever a conversation goes from kindly disagreeing like the facebook group I started to all out personal attacks I will drop the comment side of the blog. I will and reserve comments for those of you who are on my facebook or a part of my facebook group.

I am not joking...a blog most times is simply a person's opinion. When a person states their opinion it always means they are entitled to it. It is fine if someone wants to disagree but when it turns downright ugly then even I have to delete comments. This is why it reminds me of people not liking the church, if you don't think like we do, dress like we do, do the things we do, people over time will become more and more rude to you. Sometimes if you are like some of the people that weighed in on my vacation blog...you are just a horrible person from the get go. This happens all to often in the church. To be completely honest if some of these people that weighed in with less than flattering words were to talk in person...they may not be so bold. For those who twist my comments to now throw back at me...there is one person who did that in bible in the very first book...his name was Satan. Just sayin.

Church should be a place where everyone is welcome and I consider blogging to be the same. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but when some crazy person decides to blast you both barrels it really shows the true character of that person. That is when I end the conversation because as Proverbs 26:4(NIV) states: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him." Fact is that if I left "commenting" on I would get blasted for quoting from the NIV in stead of KJV. Then we wonder why some churches are not growing...how can they with people like these attending UNLESS they are one of those who are bold behind the keyboard but in person they back down from conversation. hmmmm. I have seen this...they shoot emails at me, report me to my "higher ups", etc. When we see each other they avoid me which is why I make EVERY EFFORT to say "hi" when I see them in person.

A word to pastors/staff pastors/soon to be pastors. You have to develop thick skin to be in ministry but you don't have to take everything. You do what you need to do in order to moderate the personal attack comments towards you. It is okay!


Here is what two ladies told me on facebook after the explosion of my last blog:

"Bob as a mom of 5 and now a grandma, I thought your blog about getting time alone was so well said. It's very easy to get so wrapped up in all of the everyday stuff involving parenting that you can easily lose sight of what brought two people together. And I can tell you that grandparents love being able to invest in their grandchildren's lives. And even with Grandparents half as cool as James and Emma have, the kids I am sure look at it as their own vacation also."

and

"Haha... I learned today how crazy touchy and emotional people can be about parenting... I put up a link and a comment about bad parenting and someone flipped out. Someone also flipped out when I made a comment about homeschooling.... I think a lot of people (sadly, mostly of my gender) are totally incapable of separating emotion from reason. Yep... I apologize on behalf of the weaker minded people of my gender. ;)"