Mission to Peru–Why Churches Must Keep the Big Picture in View

The core dilemma facing many pastors today isn’t what style of music we use in worship, dealing with challenging people or responding to the shifting moral standards of our nation. It’s something more basic–how to keep our congregations focused on the big picture.   Almost every pastor I know wrestles with the same tension between institutional maintenance and missional investment. Institutional maintenance is a cumbersome phrase but simply means the time, energy and resources necessary to keep the institution going. And it takes a lot. Committee meetings. Conflict resolution. And the various “developments”–staff, budget and organization–that while never fully completed can’t be neglected.   Missional investment on the other hand […]

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Grandparents and FaceTime Are a Match Made in Heaven

Grandparents and Social Media go together like oil and water–except when it comes to FaceTime. That’s where we grandparents are more than willing to blend modern technology with our resistance to change.   I say “we” because of personal experience. Against our natural instincts, my wife and I have taught ourselves the ins and outs of FaceTime over the last three years as four granddaughters have made their appearance in quick succession. They all live on the west coast and we go see them as often as we can but occasional visits aren’t the same as living within driving distance. We grieve often over how much of their lives we’re missing.   FaceTime is the […]

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St Patrick’s Day–A Legacy of Parades, Parties or Faith?

St. Patrick’s Day is the granddaddy of all celebrations for people of Irish descent—and those who claim it for the day—but the historical figure behind the holiday has a greater legacy than parades, green beer and leprechauns. The real Patrick shows how one person of conviction sometimes can change a nation’s character.   No one expected Patrick’s life to turn out the way it did. Born in England during the fifth century, he was kidnapped at sixteen by a band of pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. Sold to a farmer who put him to work as a shepherd, Patrick was marked for the rest of his life by the […]

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Coach Dabo Swinney Proves that Nice Guys Can Finish First

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney—his team the national champion after Monday night’s epic beat down of Alabama—disproves the familiar saying about nice guys. Sometimes, they finish first.   Dabo was a question mark when Clemson hired him as interim head coach in 2008. While he had been an assistant coach since 2003, he had no previous head coaching experience. But when previous head coach Tommy Bowden resigned halfway through the 2008 season, the university was in such desperate straits that it was willing to take a risk.   The team turned around and after beating South Carolina later in the season, he was named permanent head coach. By 2011 Clemson was […]

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Seven Church Predictions for 2019

What can we expect to happen in churches in 2019?   The changes we see around us make that a hard question to answer. For example, national surveys like the Pew Foundation’s Religious Landscape Study reveal an alarming trend of Americans growing less interested in religion with each passing year. The same surveys show that younger adults raised in churches are dropping out in large numbers as soon as they leave home.   Reports are just as bad on the congregational level. According the Lifeway, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, between 6,000 and 10,000 churches will close their doors this year.   But there’s good news, too. Many churches—especially […]

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Whatever Happened to Christmas Pageants?

Churches don’t do Christmas pageants like they used to. Many have shifted instead to worship-driven celebrations of the season–and that’s a good thing. I’m not knocking Christmas pageants! Who can resist the sight of kids in bathrobes and cardboard shepherd crooks gathered around a homemade manger? When a 2nd-grade girl introduces the doll she holds as baby Jesus, her proud parents can’t pull out their phones fast enough to record the moment.   The simple pageants I remember from my childhood didn’t stay simple But in America bigger is better. The simple pageants I remember from my childhood didn’t stay simple. Through the decades of the sixties and seventies they […]

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Why We Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday—and I don’t think I’m the only one.   Not just for the food, although Thanksgiving dinner is the meal I look forward to more than any other. The smell of roast turkey sets my mouth watering. Sweet potato soufflé topped with crumbled pecans and brown sugar makes me want to shout hallelujah. Fresh cranberry relish is an addiction. And I can’t get enough of the gravy filled with turkey innards that my mother-in-law makes just for me.   But lots of holidays are known for their food—whether Christmas cookies or corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day or hot dogs on the Fourth of […]

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Churches in a Time of Rage

I had one thought about the hurt, anger and even violence during and after Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings: How does the church minister in such a time of rage?   If, as Andrew Breitbart observed, “politics is downstream from culture” then the Kavanaugh hearings proved that the divide between the right and the left in modern America isn’t just political. There’s a deeper rift that has to do with perspective, expectations and even with the immaterial parts of life that some call spiritual. What emerged as the hearings dragged on was already there and simply waiting for the right moment to erupt into plain view.   The sources of rage […]

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Church Planters Looking for a Costly Faith

Church planters have the most difficult job in ministry. They uproot their families, move to a place of spiritual need and figure out a way to gather people into a congregation. All while wrestling with logistical problems, financial need and the immature behavior that always goes with new believers. What they do isn’t for the faint of heart.   My wife and I were on the west coast earlier this week and saw what I’m talking about first hand.   The picture at the top is of Pam and me and two church planting families that our church sent out in the last 18 months. Pam and I are on the left. On the far right are Kevin and Jennifer. Trevor and […]

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How to Wait for a Hurricane

It’s 9:00 Friday morning and like everyone else around me I’m counting the hours until Hurricane Florence hits. This storm is so unpredictable that nobody really knows where it’s going or how much destruction it will cause when it gets there. The only thing any of us knows for sure is the anxiety that goes before it. Waiting like this can drive you a little crazy.   For the half million or so who live on the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts, the waiting is over. Florence is pounding onto land at this very moment and those in her path are even now battling wind and water. Many are […]

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