Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why I Don't Feed the Homeless on Thanksgiving/Christmas


There are two times a year that many people (not just Christians) feel the urge to feed the homeless. Today is one of those days that I hear many people taking some time out to feed, as one person put it “those not as blessed.” No doubt this blog title has raised some eyebrows. Before you write this blog off...please allow me to explain.

My first reason is quite simple. It is my opinion that we make it out to be a photo op. There is no doubt at Thanksgiving we ought to reflect on what we truly are thankful for, to count your blessings. Some find it necessary to go and serve homeless people in order to find out just how blessed they really are. People who go to serve find out quickly that those they are serving may be in fact more blessed than they are. For a week or so prior to serving some may put together baggies full of supplies to hand out to homeless people. This is not a very well thought out plan however. What if next time I see you, I tell you how much you smell? Oh, I won’t say it directly to you but I will hand you a bar of Irish Spring and breath mints. My friend, Pastor Bob Beeman who feeds the homeless in Nashville every day said this...

“Our homeless friends receive so many "Christmas bags" every year with toothpaste, shampoo, etc. We find most of them in dumpsters and on the sides of the road. So many churches do this on Christmas, and it is over saturation. Why?  THEY ARE HOMELESS!  They don't have any place to store surplus items, and so much in the bags are things they cannot use. But, of course, the rest of the year they are digging through garbage cans trying to find these items.”

My second reason for not feeding the homeless is I have no rapport with them in my area. I believe this is okay however. We all have our ministries which makes the body of Christ unique. Often times people will show up to a soup kitchen, etc. on a holiday with big smiles “simply wanting to bless those less fortunate in Jesus name” and they are met with a cold response. Some that were there to serve may even walk away and mention how ungrateful those “less fortunate people” really are. Let’s think this through for a minute. No matter what social class you are at in life, there is always someone who has more than you do. What if one of those with “more” began serving you and even wanted a picture of them handing you a nice fillet mignon dinner? You may give a homeless person a bag of hygiene products or a warm plate of food and want a picture doing it...what if someone with more gave you something you didn’t have. Not only gave it to you but took a picture and put it on Facebook with the caption “helping out the less fortunate”? This kind of makes a person think differently. Like Pastor Bob Beeman’s “Bridge Bunch” and other ongoing homeless ministries...they have rapport with the people they serve. Day in and day out they show up and built lasting friendships with this great group. It tends to shoot down someone’s dignity when a person out of the blue (because it is a holiday) walks up to them...hands them food and is not seen until the next year. 

"The Church usually forgets that people are homeless 365 days a year, not just on Christmas and Thanksgiving. And, quite honestly, if they truly had a burden for homeless people, they would be involved throughout the year, and make these two days of involvement a little less of a photo opp." ~Pastor Bob Beeman

Isn’t it odd how some will need to do something for the homeless in order to get a proper grasp on how thankful they are? What is even more crazy is the very next day many will spend epic amounts of money on Black Friday sales. It always has been my assumption that one of the biggest ways a person can help a homeless ministry or soup kitchen is by simply writing a check. These ministries have functioned for a long time without the person that shows up on holidays. With that in mind...why not write a check? Perhaps if we lived with a proper perspective of thankfulness we would not need to degrade someone else's dignity to inflate our ego. I make no excuses as to why I do not feed the homeless on the holidays. Early in the spring of this year I took a group down to Pastor Bob Beeman’s ministry.....why? Because we decided as a church to support this ministry and I wanted them to see it first hand. It really does have a way of changing a person. If you or me are not willing to help out regularly we ought not degrade those being fed by showing up once or twice a year only to make ourselves feel good.  Christians ought not to show up once or twice a year to not only feed but maybe LEAD SOMEONE TO THE LORD! Those not regularly helping ought to do these ministries that function 365 days a year a favor and simply send money and pray. If you are not sure where you can invest your money, may I point you to “The Bridge Bunch”?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Missionary Fast Track Fundraising

This afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with a missionary friend for lunch. While enjoying some good conversation and catching up I was asked the inevitable question “What have you seen that catches your eye that missionaries are doing?” Sometimes I am even asked what I might do to get peoples attention or raise funds if I became a missionary. First of all, I responded by saying you need a social network presence. For me, it would be Facebook. If I had to raise funds however...this is how I would do it. This is a freebie. 

Kickstarter.com is one way to do some serious fundraising in a short amount of time. I am quite shocked that I have not seen this being used by missionaries to raise funds these days. If you are not familiar with this website you really ought to visit it. It provides a funding platform for those wishing to raise money towards a goal. According to “Kickstarter”...

Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they're ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.
Every project creator sets their project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.”
It really is quite an extrordinary concept. I have this seen this most successfully used with many Christian bands wanting to put out a new CD. These groups will set a financial goal of lets say 15,000 dollars for their project. Next they will set the timeline for raising the funds which usually is about 30 days. They will record a video to play on their intro page and also set rewards for those donating. An example of a goal would be $50 you get the new album. If you give $200 you will receive a t-shirt and CD. If you give $1000 you will get your name mentioned in the CD cover and meet the band. On and on it goes with some of the biggest goals being a private concert. I have seen many bands hit their mark. The same applies for artists, etc. 
Needless to say after seeing these results and personally knowing a few artists who have successfully hit their goals it got me thinking about “What if I was a missionary? How could I leverage this powerful website?” Their website states...
“We allow creative projects in the worlds of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. 
Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it."
I am quite confident that as a missionary one could easily come up with a project out of all they are endeavoring to accomplish. Perhaps if a missionary could not define what that project was they could simply look at the examples on the website and make something happen. What I would do personally is set a monetary goal as the amount needed for a year on the field. Say that amount is $18,000, then I would post that to be reached within 30 days. Next I would put in place the reward levels. If someone gave $10 they would get a personal letter of thanks. $40 a picture of that donors name written on a board held by a national (wherever I may be going). As we get into bigger money like $100 then I would record a personal video message with a person who speaks the native language while I translate it. Let’s say I am a missionary to Sweden. I am going to assume this is a place that people would like to visit. For me personally, I am of the belief that because seasoned missionaries travel internationally so much that they can become a bit out of touch with those who do not travel much. There are many people have not traveled out of the country...perhaps even out of their own state. With that in mind, I would make a bracket of let’s say $3000 or $4000 dollars. Now the key to reward levels is to give them all of the rewards from the other brackets. With this big donation level I would personally consider a $3000 donation a $2000 donation. Why? Because I would take a thousand of that money and fly the donor out to where I am on the field. Just this morning I checked what a flight would cost from Milwaukee, WI to Stockholm, Sweden...it was $867.00. This would bracket would give the donor a chance to see what that missionary is doing and have a bit of a vacation as well. Personally I would not call it a “missions trip” but rather a vacation with free stay at the missionaries home. Imagine a church with a little cushion saying they will take on a missionary for a year. Perhaps their total giving could come to $3000 and the pastor convinced the missions board to give it all at once via Kickstarter. Do you see where I am going? The missionary gets funded...the church is doing it’s part and pastor gets a free vacation. All he has to do is spring for his wife to go. This is the same concept I used ALL the time in youth ministry. If we did a fundraiser and hit $1000 I would only consider it to be $800 because I have to buy the winner an X-Box 360. The ministry still comes out ahead though.
This is how my mind is always thinking though. If I were a missionary this is how I would roll and see what happens. What would happen if the goal is not met within the 30 day time frame (or whatever time frame you choose)? That is easy. No one is charged and though you do not collect anything, you continue on with what you were doing before. The beauty is that those who give won’t be charged until the deadline day. So if a church/individual did make a donation or thought about it...they would have that full time before it was charged to them. 
So...for what it is worth...fundraise away!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He Shares the Same Story With Many


This morning I was listening to a radio show while waiting to get some information on my truck. The talk show host brought up the whole scandal currently unfolding with General Petraeus. Here is the latest from Yahoo! News this morning.

“On the surface, the case so far involves the FBI; a slew of allegedly inappropriate emails (between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell; Allen and socialite Jill Kelley; and allegedly threatening ones Broadwell sent to Kelley); the FBI agent who started the probe, who's now being investigated for sending "shirtless" photos to Kelley; and, as reported by the New York Post on Tuesday morning, a child custody battle involving Kelley's twin sister that allegedly concerns both Petraeus and Allen.” 

The news broadcaster mentioned that Kelley must be some kind of a siren that these men are sending these inappropriate emails to her. Perhaps they are engaging in an affair as well. This broadcaster went on to say “What is it about Kelley that are drawing these men to her?” I simply responded...she has a vagina and probably listens/respects these men. This was met with some laughter from the other guy I knew waiting. He responded...”You know...I think you have a point.” 

Shaunti Feldhahn made an interesting point in her book “For Women Only”. She mentioned that nowhere in scripture does it say, “Women, love your husbands.” Scripture only says, “Respect your husband.” When that respect is gone from a guys perspective...no amount of romance, kind words or fancy lingerie will make his wife desirable. The same could be said of a man who does not show and say, “I love you” to his wife. Does this make his or her actions to engage physically or emotionally with a person of the opposite sex ok? Absolutely not, and I would love to believe that everyone abides by the fruits of the spirit. I am not so naive to believe that, however, as we have feelings, needs, and wants that tend to get satisfied in one way or another. 

You see Proverbs 18:22 is a fantastic piece of wisdom literature. This passage states, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” When a husband and wife are (as a whole) living unselfish lives and truly wanting to meet each others needs then they find their fulfillment in each other. When the wife isn’t a mom to her husband and the husband isn’t a dad to his wife then there is mutual respect. Their spiritual, mental and physical needs are all met. Would I be so naive as to say everyday is filled with birds singing, children listening, and where everything is peaches and cream? Absolutely not. The good days must outweigh the bad however. What are you doing to make that happen? Notice I did not say what is your spouse doing....what are YOU doing?

Before I was married I would attend the occasional marital teaching, usually at a silent prayer retreat I used to attend. The retreat director and another pastor at a large conference made similar comments when they said, (forgive me for not wording it exactly) “There is always someone else out there willing to meet your mates needs if you don’t.” Perhaps the thought of this might sound offensive, but I think it ought to. There are many men who simply put up with their lives but deep down inside there is a need to be emotionally, spiritually, and sexually fulfilled. The same can be said of a woman. There comes a point in a persons life where, if the needs are not being met they might find it in other places. It may not be to the extent of an affair but it could come out in other ways. 

I will not pretend to know what Gen. Petraeus’ home life is like nor the FBI agent’s. Personally I have not heard one news story about his home life which is simply fine. These things ought to remain private. Looking at this story unraveling though a I cannot help but to think what might have been happening. Was his wife talking badly of him? Did his wife always make him to feel like the 5th wheel on a cart? Did she deny or give sex as a control tactic? Perhaps the general was working so much that he hardly took time to be romantic to his wife. Maybe he didn’t make it a priority to simply ask his wife “How was your day”? The excuse from a guy “I am not the romantic type” is a bundle of garbage...a guy needs to at least try and be romantic. I hear from women and men say all the time, “Valentines Day...it’s just another Hallmark holiday.” What they say is one thing and what I hear is another. What I hear is, “My husband/wife hasn’t celebrated that holiday in years, decades, maybe never and I have learned to write it off and become cynical about it...perhaps jealous.” There are so many different scenarios that could be gone over as to why this scandal with Petraeus came to a head. 

Looking at this story will make anyone sad. These issues are not limited to just a certain group of people. We must all have our guard up against such dealings. The question as we look at this story unravel is simply this, “If I am married what am I doing unintentionally to take my spouse down this road where this could be the end result?” Perhaps you just got offended by that question “HOW DARE HE EVEN ASSUME!” Have you seen the scandals in the news over the past 3 decades? Some of the most unlikely people have crumbled. The questions we ought to ask daily as a husband or wife are, “What am I doing to keep the love alive? What am I doing to keep the romance going? When we have those less than glamorus days...do I linger on them or do Imove on with a new zest for the day(s) to come?” When we can ask ourselves these questions and safeguard our relationships...we can hope and pray these things never happen to us.  Instead of judging this man we ought to pray for him and all that are involved. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Who You Aren't Isn't Interesting"

“Who you aren’t isn’t interesting” this is a quote I heard while attending an event called “Two Days With Rob”. Yes it is Rob Bell that I am referring to. If that is going to make you write off this blog then I pray you are healed. 

This quote really has gotten me thinking quite a bit lately. I posted this quote on the “That’s Not My God” timeline on Oct. 26th and mentioned that the blog explaining this quote would be up soon. So here it is.

At first when you hear this quote it may throw you a curveball as it is one that makes you think twice. It is not a cliche corny phrase like “Let go and let God”. Those kind of quotes and sayings are like an old Chris Farley movie...you can turn your brain off and know what it is saying. This quote, however, throws your brain into quite a cerebral tizzy. It sounds oh so good and true but yet somehow in the church world we need to be an ever changing being that never really truly measures up but somehow we keep striving to be PERFECT. Enter Christian burnout and abandonment. 

Whether it is coming to grips with who you are, opening yourself up to a friendship, etc. I simply am not impressed with who you are not. This would be like me applying for a new church position somewhere and say I have surfed with Rob Bell (though I was on the beach and my wife surfed), I sat under his tutelage, Ted Haggard and I are regular buds that hang out often and we share ideas with each other, Carman and I are buds (I got my picture with him once)....it is all non-sense. Rob Bell and I are acquaintances but we don’t “hang out”. Ted Haggard and I do not get together every day even though we are friends and no Carman does not know who I am. This is what it is like for people to embellish a story so that they may gain favor and become someone they really are not. How many times have you heard someone say they speak at summer camps when in fact it is one time? When people paint a false picture of themselves or embellish the story it will ALWAYS turn out with people becoming disappointed. It is almost like lying on a resume to get a job, only this is with friends.

Who you truly are is what really matters and makes you interesting. We read in 2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”  Why? Because when people see you for who you really are no one is disappointed later.  When I sit down with someone I want to know the good the bad and the ugly. Why? Because there is that side of me as well. Why did Paul make this statement in 2 Corinthians? He was a very scholarly man who knew the Torah inside and out and perhaps with the reputation he had it made him very unapproachable. By being transparent in this way perhaps this opened the door for others to conversate to him about what is going on in their life. After all he did say quite often “Grace and Peace to you”. 

“Who are you aren’t isn’t interesting.” Who are you?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrate Yourself

Dr. Dre Beats...My gift to me for Pastor Appreciation day.
How do you celebrate yourself? This is an important question to ask. I mean how do you really celebrate yourself? If you are a nurse there is nurses day. Do you celebrate that? If you are a boss there is boss's day. Do you celebrate that? If you are an administrative assistant there is administrative assistants day. Do you celebrate that? When you reach a victory in your life such as a weight loss goal, a job promotion, knowing that you made the right decision...do you celebrate that? The lucky ones will work for a company that celebrates these days for them. Many more employers do not celebrate these days. For them it is just another passing moment, another day to clock in and because it doesn't pertain to them they simple blow past it. How do you work through those times?  Jesus talked about "love your neighbor as yourself" and the question one has to ask them self is how much do I love myself? At the cost of being to vain I think it is an appropriate question.

How does one exactly love them self? A good place to start is simply asking, what is my love language? If it is "Words of Affirmation" then I suggest surrounding yourself with TRUE friends that build you up. Friends that don't suck the life out of you but rather ones that as much as they like getting encouragement, they can also give it to you. Perhaps if your love language is "Quality Time" then you should go on a vacation, be it a day or four. If your love language is "Receiving Gifts" if you are not being shown this...then treat yourself! One veteran youth pastor, Jeanne Mayo would call this retail therapy. Is your love language "Acts of Service" then surround yourself with friends that will truly be a friend by doing something for you. The important part on this point and the others that involve friends is to reciprocate. What about "Physical Touch"? Sometimes all we need to celebrate is a simple hug or pat on the back saying "good job....I so appreciate you". I am willing to guess you fall into one of these categories.

Last month was a special time for pastors. I always find it interesting in the world of social networking that people want to celebrate all kinds of days. Most of them relate to their profession. When it comes to pastors, for some reason, people will say "well...your reward must be knowing you are shepherding a large family! You will receive an extra blessing for that." The classic line I got when Tracy and I adopted because we are not successful with having children naturally is "You can rest assured that you are raising many children in your church." Yeah...that is a classy response.  Imagine if your boss told you, "I so appreciate all the secretarial duties you perform. I just know good things are going to come your way." Well in a moment of transparency that simply doesn't cut it and at that point it is no fun to celebrate after the fact. Many pastors rightfully celebrate and brag about the cool thing their church did for them and their family for pastor appreciation day/month which is October. Perhaps it was a gift, sending them on a vacation, taking them out for dinner, etc. There are many MANY more pastors that private message me with their concerns and hurts. These pastors know they can confide in me and began wondering if they really are loved as the pastor. I have had over 20 message me wondering if they really are appreciated...THIS BLOG IS FOR THEM. You need to celebrate yourself! You are worth celebrating!

My love language is "Receiving Gifts". Those that know me know this. I love to hear what other peoples love languages are as well. In my marriage I know exactly what my wife and kids love languages are because when you speak them....you reap big rewards. So how did I celebrate Pastor appreciation month? I treated myself to a new pair of "Dr. Dre Beats" headphones. Yep...when I was in California I saw many people wearing them on the plane. People were talking about how great the sound was and I thought it would be cool to have a pair of those in my office as I love music. So...yay me!

You have to take care of yourself. If you don't you simply will become burned out and drudge through life. It's not vain...it's wise. Learn from the master who taught how to take care of yourself...Jesus.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rich Keep on Getting Richer


Inevitably around any election time you hear some common phrases being thrown around.  Some with educated thought behind them and others that, if really thought through, make no sense at all. One phrase that I have heard recently as we are wrapping up another presidential election process is “Well, I guess the rich will keep on getting richer and the poor will keep on getting poorer.” This is one statement that always made me raise an eyebrow.  I must admit that in my early 20’s I thought there was a ton of validity to this statement. However, now that I am in my late 30’s and have since served on a few boards with “rich” people, my opinion has changed.

I find it interesting that when we hear something repeated enough times and we do not do the hard work of researching it's validity, we end up believing it.  This slight of hand trick happens in many pulpits on Sunday mornings and it even happens from political powers with the large stages.  So we hear something and when it is repeated enough we begin to believe it.  "Those rich people...all they want is more money and toys!"  Let’s think about this.

I have a dear friend who is a successful business owner.  This man and his wife are strong people of faith and truly have the gift of giving.  This is a spiritual gift you know.  A gift that intimidates many, including pastors, which ends up stifling these people from flowing in their gifts at times.  I digress on that.  My friend, whom I look up to, gets me thinking about that whole “the rich keep on getting richer and the poor keep on getting poorer” saying.  When one begins to logically think this through we must ask the question, "How did they attain that level of income?"  Like you and me, this person must have a job...some steady flow of income.  When a person is well to do it is usually because they have broken the mold, an iconoclast if you will (shameless plug for the next message series).  They are business owners and have a great business mind.  One cannot help but think that if they have that kind of income that they cannot be doing it on their own, they need help.  Interesting isn’t it? For them to get to this level they must have employees which is now offering other people hope, purpose and an income as well.  So while while it is true the person at the top is being well compensated...I promise you that many would not want the daily schedule these and many other “rich” people have.  Many could not handle the pressures of dealing with employees.  I see plenty of complaints on social networking sites when the kids are acting up or one fellow co-worker is making it a bad day.  Now try to take into account these daily dealings and compound that on the stresses of being a business owner.  There is an old saying in business “The customers are always great...it’s the fellow employees that will make you crazy.”  How would we cope in their shoes?

Whether it is a Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, or any other wealthy person, we must look at them and simply say “Thank you.”  You may not be directly employed by these people, however people are employed by them which helps all of us have a restored hope in humanity.  I have discovered that many who live off the government will complain about “the rich getting richer” when in fact it is these people who pay in the most so that those living off the government may continue to be able to do so.  So will the rich keep on getting richer?  Probably.  Will the poor keep on getting poorer?  That is up to the person who thinks they are poor. If you think you are poor, what are you going to do about it?  Pursue schooling?  Make a move for a new job?  Work harder at your job so you can begin to climb the ladder?  The choice really is yours and mine to make. 

Next time we hear that phrase, lets take some time to really think it through and be thankful for the “rich” people.  I know for the city that I live in...if it wasn’t for the “rich” people or, as I call them, the pillars of the community then there would not be much of a city.  A city cannot survive off little cafes and cute gift stores as nice as they are.  There must be those who see the bigger picture and invest, hire, and have that God given talent to help many others. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Physical Health...Onward to My Mental Health


Let me ask you a question.  When a person has a graduate degree and works in a certain field...what do they usually get each week?  In my experience with my acquaintances it is a two day weekend.  Now let me ask you what many pastors/staff members do not get each week.  I am pretty sure you know the answer to that question.  If you are not able to read between the lines the answer is a two day weekend.  Why would I mention this to start a blog?  Let me explain. 

Today was a milestone for me in my physical health.  Though I have 10 pounds to go until I hit my weight loss goal, I can look back and celebrate the 20 that I have lost so far.  I have not been at this weight since I was 22 years old.  When I hit my ultimate goal I will be at the same weight I was when I graduated.  Something I have been thinking about though quite a bit was confirmed for me at a conference I recently attended which is that of improving my mental health.  It makes so much sense to me.  Now that my physical health is doing very well it would only make sense to work on my mental health as well.  You do not have to look very far in the scriptures to understand that we are fully integrated beings and that we are very spiritual beings as well.  So...it goes without say that if my physical health has improved and I am being more productive, if I improve my mental health as well that it will also enhance who I am as a husband, father and pastor.  How will I do this? Let me break it down in 2 steps for you. 

1. It will be my goal to have a “sabbath” each week.  It’s funny that many pastors take Mondays off as it is the “hangover day” from Sunday.  This will start to be an office day for me so that when I feel more at the top of my game (Friday) that will be the day I am now off.  Many of us wait until we are completely fried or burned out before we take a day off or go on vacation.  What happens is that it takes a few days to get out of the slump and by then it is time to go back to work.  I am choosing to take my day off when I am not in a slump and I am more at my best so that I can give my family the best.  On Fridays, I will not be on email...Facebook...and will be VERY selective on who I answer the phone for.  If it is church related at all, I will not answer.  I will also have Saturday off as well so that I can have some normalcy in my life and that my family can have normalcy as well.  I will be quite ruthless in keeping my days off as I will dive headlong into all the other days.  If I say no to you or someone else for any reason...it is simply because I am going to truly value these times with family.  Will there be a day when something will come up?  Absolutely.  These things happen and I will roll with it.  As a whole though, I am sticking to this. 

2. If you know me then you know that I love social networking.  It has become more and more apparent though that if one is to get a good nights sleep then one should stay off Facebook/email after a couple hours before bedtime to be in the right mindset for good rest.  I have had plenty of those times where it is 10 or 11 p.m. and I read something on email, a blog comment, or email that gets my brain running once again.  Please know that if you send me an email, etc. after 9:00 p.m. I will not be on any social networking site or email.  If I am on my computer or iPad it will be because I am either studying and putting my message together or reading a book on my Kindle. 

When someone takes steps to improve their life by setting up boundaries it can inevitably get some people upset with you.  It is quite interesting though that thousands have read the book “Boundaries” and yet may lack setting some up.  I completely understand as I have and probably will continue to be that person.  What I am excited for is a refreshed zest for life and ministry while taking care of my whole being.  There is no need for concern that I have flipped out or am totally stressed.  This is not the case.  In fact, I am in a great place and couldn’t be happier with the direction of Radiant Fellowship.  I will say that by doing this I am setting myself up for things to come which I am anticipating to be good.  Will you help me stick to my two steps?  How can I help you find some peace of mind?  I would love to be a sounding board for you should you ever want to chat.  Here we go onto a new page in life. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

7 Years as Pastor


This past Sunday marked yet another milestone for me...7 years as the pastor of a great church here in Waupaca, WI. It is hard to believe that it went that quick and yet so slow...does that make sense? I have actually been on staff at this church since February of 2004 but with the less than flattering start, I have decided to write-off my time as the youth pastor. It really is a shame that such a great little church had to “re-start” only a year and a half after it launched.

I look back at one of the roughest times in my life when in August of 2005 I was asked if I would like to pastor this church that had 8 people and a mortgage. It truly was my desire to quit the ministry all together at that time. With some thought and prayer...I did get excited about being the pastor of this church that would have to be re-started. Like any new/naive pastor would, I hoped that it would have exploded with growth. Little did I know many years later the physical growth would have been slow and steady but the spiritual growth is exploding.

A pastor really could not ask for a better church of people that “get it”. I look forward to many many more happy years pastoring this church with the awesome staff and volunteers it has. This is the year that I can say, I have been in Waupaca as long as I was on staff in Milwaukee. It really does something when you know you hit a milestone. Here is to many more happy years as God continues to direct and guide this great family. I am not sure I would have made it this long without the support of my wife, Tracy. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Dark Times

Allow me to be completely transparent for a moment...

“Sometimes I don’t want to be on this journey anymore...I don’t want to be a hurt person, I don’t want to keep rehashing my old wounds.” This was part of my prayer this morning after I got my first box of my new books in the mail today. One ought to be excited about such a delivery and perhaps I was deep down...however, I had a different idea where I would be today when I was 22 and just starting out in vocational ministry. Many staff pastors get to look back at their “career” and still remain friends with those they worked with. I do not have that luxury. All the men I was on staff with really were great people early on and now none of them are in vocational ministry today. Fact is they all have had moral failings. It’s funny but those wicked storms quickly calloused me and yet softened me. They made me calloused towards the political games church members/boards/staff can play. Yet I find myself completely softened toward those who need grace extended to them. I now live in the trenches with those who have been hurt by the church regardless of their lifestyle, etc. Today I was told that perhaps it is time to move on. I understand this to a point but am not sure I will ever leave this place. I want to, but I don’t. As one older pastor who was a guest on Focus on the Family told me “You have seen and endured more things by the time you were 30 than most pastors will see in their entire career.” I DID NOT WANT THIS!
I felt (and still do at times) robbed of what could have been. Because of a few peoples decisions and the way politics played out, I started down a different course. There was a day when I was new in ministry and it was my hope to someday be on staff either as a youth pastor or lead pastor of a traditional church that was larger and believe it or not...straight lined Assembly of God. I WANTED THE TRADITIONAL!!! This was not the path God had for me back then, however, God has a way redeeming all situations. In the words of my friend, Arden Adamson who was the district superintendent for the Assemblies of God for the Wisconsin/Northern Michigan District “I am not sure why you had to go through what you did...but I am glad you survived to help this church and others now.” This was told to me when things unraveled quickly at the church I moved to in Waupaca.
Why me? This was my prayer today. I was reminded of a scene in Thornton Wilder's play "The Angel that Troubled the Waters" which to me really captures the essence of my life and perhaps yours?

The scene is a doctor comes to the pool everyday wanting to be healed of his melancholy and his gloom and his sadness. Finally the angel appears. The doctor, he's a medical doctor, goes to step into the water. The angel blocks his entrance and says, "No, step back, the healing is not for you." The doctor pleads, "But I've got to get into the water. I can't live this way." The angel says, "No, this moment is not for you." And he says, "But how can I live this way?"

The angel says to him, "Doctor, without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve."

And to me the theme of that story is the theme to my life. All grace, all light, all truth, all power are communicated though the vulnerability, the brokenness, the utter honesty of men and women who have been shipwrecked, heartbroken, broken in the wheels of life. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve. And to me, the power of my life lays in the power of my brokenness, the power in my unblinking honesty, my sincerity.

So...what was is now gone. I realize some view me as “that pastor” but I am not sure one can go through so much and not be a bit out there (THE BOY AIN'T RIGHT!). I am thankful for the ministry I do have today. It is an honor and a joy to meet with people that have gone through difficulties in the church machine and now need someone who understands. I am fully okay with where the Lord is leading me and Radiant Fellowship. My personal desires, dreams, aspirations are gone. I have learned that I must go where God is leading me. It really is rewarding and I am doing things I never would have dreamed. My slump today was nothing new and I am quite positive it will return even though I have the nickname "Saint Sunshine." 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Got 99 Problems But the Chick Ain't One!

A few from the Facebook page “That’s Not My God” have asked me for my thoughts regarding the whole “Chick-Fil-A” debate. I was hesitant to do such a blog because this can be a very touchy issue. What made me decide to do this blog however was the way people lump the Christian community together as a whole. This is a naive and ignorant approach. Personally I think both sides fighting over this issue is not very flattering. I am reminded of Proverbs 20:3(NIV) "It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." Lord knows I have looked like the "fool" plenty of times. On that note I have two opinions on the matter and with the prodding of quite a few people here they are.

1. One of the things I so enjoy hearing around election time is “Democracy is alive and well.” This comment usually circulates because the candidates (in this case the presidential ones) have very strong opinions about what they believe. Another interesting stance we see over and over, be it at our nations capital or in our own cities, is the right to exercise free speech. One of my favorite places to submit writings to is “EXpressions Journal.” This is a liberal underground newspaper that has come to welcome my writings. They post them and, in fact, are on file in the national archives. Out of all the articles I have submitted to them, only one person wrote me a nasty email. Guess what? It was from a fellow Christian. What makes us such a great nation is the right to have an opinion. What makes us unique is to have our own stance on what we believe in. If “Chick-Fil-A” wants to take a stance on a topic then I say go for it...this is the America we live in. Will it always be a popular stance? No. I would have to say from a business stand point it is a poor choice. However, if a person has strong personal/Christian convictions about something then I say go with it. Personally I do not see many restaurants, stores, etc. waving a rainbow flag on their building catching much flack from the rest of the community. Perhaps they do from some Christians but again...not the group I would want to be lumped in with. I would only ask this to the owner of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy...who designed the clothes you are wearing?

2. I want to ask the question, how long will the church keep bashing the gay community? However, I quickly realize that would be pointless. Let’s be honest...it will never end. It would be great to say that Christians could/should love everyone with no agenda but once again...I would be living in a dream world. If in fact a person was to take the stance of the gay lifestyle being a sin issue...it would still not be right for a Christian to call that person out. We simply do not have that right as Jesus talks very plainly about taking the plank out of our own eye before removing the speck from someone else. Personally I do not think this should even be an issue. As Christians we are called to love people. If we are called to love people then why is there so much hate? Perhaps this is the age old question. I find it funny how many overweight people call the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans-Gender) community sinners. It is also interesting how many in the gay community teach/preach tolerance and yet can be some of the most intolerant people I know as it pertains to Christianity. Once again...NOT ALL CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO BE LUMPED IN TOGETHER (and I am positive the same can be said about the LGBT community). I find it much easier to take the stance that we are both flawed people. Neither one of us have a right to call each other out on anything, therefore, it is simply easier to love each other rather than try to prove who is right and who is wrong. I shared my viewpoint on this issue at Lifest a few weeks ago. I simply believe that IF anyone has something that needs to change...it will not happen by me or someone else forcing them. We simply must let the Holy Spirit do what we cannot.

At the end of the day perhaps the bigger issue at hand is how fast food is bad for a person. Maybe the topic ought to be how the chickens farmed out to Chick-Fil-A could be potentially mis-treated. There really could be an ongoing list. All that I know is that we have become a very politically correct society which is tearing apart our great nation of free speech and democracy. I honestly cannot understand why someone would want an apology from a business owner if they take a hard stance on a certain subject. This is the luxury you get being the president of a business. I am not saying his stance is the correct one but nonetheless this is a privilege he gets to have. It could help his business but it could also hurt his business. In the words of the great philosopher, Bobby Brown...”It’s my prerogative.”


In the words of Jay-Z (kind of)...I got 99 problems but the Chick ain't one. So...off to being more productive and move pas this petty debate. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Help Me Understand Something


Help me understand something. You do not have to look around very long to find groups of women that want equal rights. If you look around a little more you will find individual women that want equal rights as well. At any given time a group of moms will be fighting for the right to breast feed in public. There are so many women out there that are tough, it shows in the sports they participate in. From basketball to roller-derby it is safe to say there are some tough women around us. If you look back in history there has been hurdle after hurdle that women have had to jump. For a great detailed list I would suggest going to http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html/. Let me clarify that I whole heartedly support women and their endeavors. We ought to be equal but please help me understand!
Undoubtedly you are wondering what exactly am I talking about? The issue at hand that I have been wondering about and am now letting ride in a blog is simply this. Why would a lady ever consider being a part of a church where they are required to dress or look a certain way? Why would any woman even consider going to a church where they are not allowed to preach, teach or serve on a board? This simply boggles my mind. Some of the strongest women I know will attend a church where they are “whipped into submission.” This simply does not make sense to me and reeks of the teen years when girls would date a guy that treated them like garbage and yet “I just love him.” All the rational thinkers are left scratching their head asking the simple question “why?” 
According to CBE International, they put together a list of denominations that do not affirm women. Here is that list.
Evangelical Free Church of America
Evangelical Mennonite Conference
Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches
Mennonite Brethren Churches
Anglican Catholic Church
Anglican Province of Christ the King
Christian Episcopal Church
Southern Episcopal Church
United Episcopal Church
American Baptist Association
Primitive Baptists
Apostolic Lutheran Church of America
Church of the Lutheran Confession
Concordia Lutheran Conference
Evangelical Community Church-Lutheran
Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Lutheran Ministerium and Synod
Great Commission Association
Church of God Mountain Assembly
Pentecostal Church of God
Apostolic Christian Church of America
Christian & Missionary Alliance
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Bible Presbyterian Church
Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Presbyterian Church in America
Presbyterian Reformed Church
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
Now I must admit this seems very forgein to me as a kid raised in the Assemblies of God. It is a denomination that affirms women. Some of the best messages I have heard preached/teached came from women. I cannot imagine life any other way. 
Oh, I suppose we could go on a rant about the apostle Paul telling women to be quiet in church but there is no basis for that. It was a passage of scripture strictly for a cultural moment in time. 
So...onward we go in a world filled with paradoxes. Many thoughts I try to wrap my head around. If it ends up I cannot, then I move on. This one though I simply cannot let go. In a world filled with women that perhaps more so than at any point in history have a strong will, drive, personality (all of which are not a bad thing) I am left wondering...why would any of them subject themselves to a denomination that would either quiet them or not allow them to lead?
If you look at this list and simply do not believe it, I would simply ask you to consider this question. When is the last time you saw a female board member at your church? Why haven’t you heard any good teaching/preaching from the pulpit on a Sunday morning from a lady? You have to ask because this issue is not usually advertised within the denomination. This kind of issue is usually revealed when one of you women are “out of line” and try to “lead” in some kind of capacity. 
I think T.D. Jakes said it well when he wrote the book, “WOMAN THOU ARE LOOSED!” The Bible is the best book to go to and realize...wow...God used women ALL THE TIME.

Friday, July 13, 2012

From Royal Rangers to Lifest

Counsel Fire at Royal Rangers 50th Anniversary Summer Camp

Once again I find this summer being one of firsts. Have you ever gone through those seasons in life where you are experiencing new things over and over again? This can be good things or situations you would rather not have had to deal with. For me I can say it has been good...let me explain why. 
It was the spring of 2010 when I received an email asking me to be a guest speaker for a special event. It was an event that I was very familiar with and had a great passion for. This event was for the Royal Ranger 50th anniversary summer camp. Now back in the day it used to be called “Pow-Wow.” I was very interested in being the speaker but had to wait 2 years. It was scheduled for June of 2012 which has now passed. What a great time to be able to speak to hundreds of boys and show them exactly where I asked the Lord into my heart 29 years ago. It was a truly humbling experience but a very rewarding one as well as over 40 boys came up to ask Jesus into their hearts the first night. 
Yesterday, I experienced another first in my life as a pastor. I began a ministry two years ago called, “That’s Not My God.” This is a ministry for people to talk about all things Christianity. More and more I am finding out that there is a pool of people like myself that at one point or another have been hurt by the church or spiritually abused. This results in burn-out and no desire to return to an institutional church setting ever again. For these people it is my desire to show them that church really can be a beautiful thing if they are willing to give it a try once again using great discernment. For the others a part of this great forum...it is simply awesome to enjoy good conversation and hopefully grow from each other. 
The reason I bring that group up is that since I began “That’s Not My God” I have spoken twice at Cornerstone festival with week long series. Yesterday I got to teach at Lifest in the Life Promotions tent. What a great time with a little over half the tent full. It is my desire to bring a message of grace to people. What a refreshing time as people were coming up one after the other asking me how they can bring their friend/relative to church when they know they will not be accepted. There were many other deep questions. 
It really is exciting to see all that is going on which God is doing. I am on the brink of a new book coming out as well. This is going to be a very real writing on my experiences of the past as a youth pastor/pastor and how all situations can be redeemed. I share all of this because I simply am trying to be open to what God wants me to do. I would encourage you to do the same. You never know what will happen in your life unless you are willing to take a step of faith...go for it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Missions Trip Junkies

One of the aspects of Christianity that self admittedly I get, but don’t get are short term missions trips. Summer time is usually when people begin to venture out from their homes to places either stateside or in another country. Perhaps some may even feel a bit more superior to others if it is a third world country that they will be visiting and doing "missions". Let me clarify that I do believe there is a place for a missions trip. However, like anything, I think too much of a good thing can be bad...let me explain. Perhaps this is a topic a Christian should just say "yay...missions trips!" However, God gave me a brain and I have thoughts. 
Recently on my vacation to, Ambergris Caye (Belize), I noticed an interesting trend about the people on the final lag of our airplane extravaganza. If you are flying to Belize you are either on a missions trip or on vacation. I sat next to a hand and wrist surgeon. He began to tell Tracy and I how he along with other doctors go to Belize for 2 days and volunteer the skill and material to do surgeries and check-ups. This got me so interested because this guy went on to say “I will probably do 22 or so surgeries today alone.” This is incredible because it truly is helping a person with something they do not have. This guy was being the hands and feet of Jesus. As we were waiting at our gate however there were those who were simply going on a missions trip to get out of the country and obtain a “world view”. What do they have to offer people in poverty or physically sick? Corny human videos and horrible clown make-up along with poor puppet skills. However, they do get great pictures with the nationals in whatever country they are going to. Anyone of these pictures could possibly be captioned..”And here I am at the zoo with......” These pictures make for great conversation but at the end of the day...what did you do for that person? It seems they go on these trips to get their spiritual "fix" each year. This person goes from one year to another helping out on missions trips but back home...not so much. 
This picture that I posted was one I took while in the Miami airport. This was a group that was simply on a “missionary tour”.  One of the young adults said...and I will never forget, “all the places mentioned on our shirt...it is more of a funded vacation which is why I am going.” The phrase on the front of the shirt said “remove yourself from the mediocre”. This got me thinking and confirmed a few thoughts I have had. I have four thoughts about missions trips whether for an adult or teen. 
1. Many do use missions trips as a way to “remove themself from the mediocre.” However, what is a missions trip going to accomplish? It is like a person that looks at a billionaire and says “If I was as rich as them I would give away 90% of what I have and live off the 10%.” NO YOU WOULD’NT! If you are not doing that now you will not do it then. A person that is mediocre at best is going to come back mediocre. Usually a person that is motivated or even slightly motivated stateside is going to be even more motivated when they get home from a missions trip. 
2. “I just felt God use me so mightily while I was over there. I wish I felt that back at home.” Yes...you are correct...but why? I am of the belief that more times than not scripture talks about “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive POWER to be my WITNESSES.” Guess what...it doesn’t take a whole lot of guts to live for Christ in the states. Believe it or not...it does not take a whole lot of HOLY GHOST POWER to stand at a flagpole and pray. It really doesn’t even take a whole lot of hours in prayer to be a Christian at work. However, when you are in a foreign land and talking to a complete stranger (tribe, language barrier, etc) about Christ It takes the Holy Spirit. For, Joe Christian to step into an underground club in Norway...you may rely quite a bit on the Holy Spirit. It really does take power from the Holy Spirit to begin a new ministry in which you are not ministering to people within the church or those you are comfortable with. It really is a cycle isn’t it? Holy Spirit comes on you with power to be a witness. Next, you go out to be a witness and you truly feel the Holy Spirit using you and giving you the correct words to say. As you “minister” to that person you feel more of the Holy Spirit. When we stop being used where it takes reliance on the Holy Spirit...perhaps we cease to feel that empowerment. This is where many church goers fall...they don’t feel that freshness of the Holy Spirit, a freshness and excitement for God. Why? because quite honestly you really don’t need it when you are living a same old same old day to day life. DREAM...GET EXCITED...DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
3. This is a short one. Question to think about. For those that are so passionate and willing to dig in and be used anyway possible on a missions trip...is that same passion being used back here in the states? Is that same excitement being used to volunteer at a non-profit (bell ringer, Red Cross, soup kitchen, church, etc.)? Perhaps the reason why a ministry isn’t going that you could get plugged into is that you are the one who should start it. Okay...I turned up the heat a bit here...I will cool down now. 
4. For a person that is missions/ministry minded it will confirm for them probably what they already know...you feel closest to God when you are serving people. This passion that you feel on a missions trip will probably come back with you. Perhaps you may even learn some things that you will want to apply when you are back home.
I guess for me I have seen to many teens/adults go on these trips and see no change. They simply came back with the warm fuzzies and had a funded vacation. Would I be so naive as to say “all of them”? No...but it really is disappointing even with some teens/adults that we have to rely on a missions trip to jump start our excitement to serve when the possibilities are endless at home. Get involved and do something here and have that feeling all the time. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Brutal Pastoral Transparency


Yesterday, I received an email from Pastor Ted Haggard requesting my presence at a round-table discussion he is having in Colorado Springs, CO. He would like my input for this group "in developing a more formal theology of restoration and healing for the Evangelical church." I thought this was great. I am so honored he would ask me. Perhaps I may be able go out there depending on other speaking engagements and the plethora of weddings I am officiating this summer. Lifest is the main date not working with the Ted Haggard invite.

As Ted and I spoke he asked how Radiant Fellowship is doing. I mentioned we really are seeing a lot of favor in the city. However, like other churches, the finances can be a little touchy. He fully understood as he is starting a new church. Being a pastor can be an interesting position...one that I love none the less. I find it interesting that some can be so concerned/interested/morbidly curious about how the pastor is living. Over and over I hear of pastors lives being pried into. Why? Does this happen at other places of employment? I wonder what would happen if any pastor sat down with random people and began asking them for all the details on how they live. That could be an interesting conversation. 

Since the last email I felt God prodding me to send out another email to maybe answer questions. Questions that are common to clergy today. No doubt some within this mailing list wonder, and so I am (this one time only) going to spell out how Tracy and I live. There are many on the church mailing list that don't attend the church but still like to be informed of whats going on. You should know me by now as being BRUTALLY transparent and so I will be with this email. Probably to the point that you may be embarrassed that I am sharing such detail about my life. The reason is that people can make assumptions on how the pastor lives and gets by ESPECIALLY if he is not taking a paycheck once in awhile. I will do it in numerical order as I have heard people ask these very questions in other churches. It is my belief that people at Radiant Fellowship or on the mailing list are loving and understanding. Perhaps if we are really hung up on the personal lives of people and how they live...we need a hobby.

1.           Question "If the pastor gives up his paycheck now and again...how do they survive?" Well...let me first say it is not by credit. Tracy and I only owe on our house and my truck. I personally do not believe credit cards to be a good thing. I don't believe debt is a good thing for boats, etc. Most of my kids clothes are either hand me downs or from the clearance racks. We were raised that if the clothes still fit for the next season...we can use them again. I can tell you that everything in my wardrobe is from sale/clearance racks. Even when I walk into an "Old Navy" which is already reasonably priced...I only shop the clearance/sale racks. Same goes for Kohl's. The only thing I pay full price for is my blue jeans.  When you have a 36" inseam you have to pay full price because that is a whole lot of material (please don't ask about my waist size lol). I have been told that my black suit coat must have been big bucks. Well...actually I only paid $10 for it. I may give up a paycheck now and again but it is usually when we have a little extra income or it is an extra paycheck month with Tracy's work. Personally, I think there is something scriptural about "sacrificially giving" to the church. I believe in this church...it is not a hobby for me. It is a way of life. Oh...btw....Tracy works. We are not the pastoral family where the wife stays at home hoping to squeak out some kind of life on a pastors income. Giving up an extra paycheck? Yeah...my father blesses me for that.
2.           "The pastor has an iPad!" You know what? We actually have TWO OF THEM, OH MY!" Now believe it or not this is a common question in many churches. The last conference I attended just about every pastor had some sort of a tablet PC. It was staggering how many talked about the flack they got for using one in their church. Let me explain this. Yes...I have an iPad that I bought. It has made my life exponentially easier. Many people view the iPad as an entertainment device. Perhaps to some it is. For me it is huge for productivity. "Well Tracy has one as well! Now I know they are in debt." Well, fact of the matter is I get paid $600 to speak at Cornerstone (how is that for transparency? A pastor sharing what he makes). Because Tracy has given up our anniversary trip (2 years in a row) in order to support me in ministry (because that is what a spouse does) and go to Cornerstone with me...I took my honorarium and bought her one for the 8+ hour road trip to Cornerstone last year.
3.           "It sure seems pastor goes on lots of vacations. Now I know they are loaded!" I had a lady in the church who thought that. She is no longer with Radiant Fellowship which is fine with me. If a person is going to think that way about the pastor then they are jealous. Remember the words from scripture? "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." I believe a person who says that kind of stuff sincerely has no idea at all what a pastor does which makes a little vacation now and again great. Yes it is true I just went on a cruise in December. Can I tell you that it was planned a year in advance? When you plan a trip that far out it makes it a bit easier to save up. Especially when the tickets are only $346.00 which includes all your meals but not flight. The flight was only $225.00 which is really a good price. In regards to my 10th wedding anniversary to Belize in a couple of weeks. Those that would potentially balk at his really need to hear that we are only paying $125 for the week at my cousin's condo. This does not include airfare but none the less, when we are there we live off mac n cheese, pizza, fruit, etc. We are not extravagant travelers. Even when we vacationed to New York we at at pizza joints and hot dog carts. We also saved hundreds by staying in New Jersey and taking the free fairy boat over to Manhattan. We cook most of our meals in our room. "What about your past trip to Grand Cayman Island?" Again...using my cousins timeshare. It is only a couple of hundred dollars to use the place for a week. Oh...and the camper? It was next to free and requires a lot of sweat equity to get it where we want it. Afterall, it is from the 1970's. 

The fact of the matter is that I could go on and on with issues, I along with other pastors have to face. It really seems to be interesting that people have such an interest in the pastor's personal life. There was a book written awhile ago (available on Amazon) entitled, "What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew." The chapters are as follows...
1.           I Am Not Superman
2.           Sometimes My Spiritual Life Suffers
3.           Ministry Has Taken a Toll On Me
4.           My Wife and Kids Need Your Grace and Support as Well
5.           This Bivocational Thing Isn't Easy
6.           If You Knew How Frustrating Ministry Can Be
7.           Sometimes I am Overwhelmed With Anxiety
8.           Your Difficult Now and Then
9.           I Want Our Church to be In the World, Not of It
10.       Preaching to You is the Hardest Thing I Do
11.       I am Concerned About Evangelism
12.       There's a Reason I am Still Here

I have to admit that not all of those chapters apply to me but the following do (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12). 

A friend once told me this "churches are much like a country club. People become a member and right away think they run the place." One of the toughest things to deal with are people who like to give anonymously in a church. Now don't get me wrong...I love them! However, with anonymous gifts comes a whole lot of speculation that the pastor has to deal with. I wonder sometimes how many think about how we can spend so much money on tech stuff for the church. Quite honestly I have heard people say that. The funny thing is that from the new projector, the soundboard, to all the wires and boxes, etc. It was all anonymously donated by people that believe a church ought to have good sound. What about the equipment you see on the stage and in the sound booths? Radiant Fellowship only bought the subwoofer, speakers(back when the church first got started) and a few microphones. The rest was donated. What about the streaming computer feed and that fancy new sound booth? Donated. All the funds were directed at that project by a few couples I consider family within the church and an online viewer in Shanghai, China. 

When I hear of a pastor struggling to prove himself to his church I do everything I can to encourage him. One pastor called me asking for advice, he said "I had to buy a new car this week...the old one died. Do you know of anyone around that I can borrow an old car from? If my church finds out I got a new car...well...I simply am not ready for that." What a sad state of affairs! What kind of Christian does that? Are we not supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice? In my experience SOMETIMES the one(s) that talk the most are the ones who don't give hardly anything. 

No doubt there are those on this email list...perhaps in the church who have thought these things. Can I just say, I love hearing how the Lord is blessing your life...I truly mean that. I want to hear the great things going on. If you get a new car or a fun boat...I want to rejoice with you in the passenger seat (I do expect a ride lol!). If a guy gets a new motorcycle though, I do not expect a ride...that would be a clear violation of man rules. I simply hope that I was able to help people process through what a pastor goes through in their personal life. Want to give this pastor a little extra steam each week that no amount of funds will take care of? A simple email, phone call, Facebook message will do that. 

Every church has it's hurdles to jump over. Times do get tough but we work through them and get on top of it. Will another hurdle come a year or two down the road? Sure. As family though we hit it head on and let God be God.