How Families Can Get the Most out of Church

  This picture hangs on the wall of my office at church. I love it because it shows so clearly the tensions that church often creates within our families. Mom and her daughters are on one wave-length while her son and husband are obviously on another. I’ve been a pastor for thirty years and in that time I’ve seen just about every way churches and families can relate to each other. Not all of them fit into the Rockwell vision of idealized America, but all of them do demonstrate how complicated family life and connection with a local church can become: ·         I’ve known many families who thrived in their […]

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Five Steps for Leading Your Children to Faith

My son Will is home for spring break. As usual, we spend a lot of time talking about his college studies, his future plans and whatever new ideas he has for how to spend his free time (I’m not always on board with him on some of those). We also talk a lot about faith. Just like his sister and her husband, Will has a deep and authentic relationship with Jesus. My wife and I take no credit for this. We did the best we knew how in raising our kids, but faith in Jesus is a mysterious and deeply personal experience and parents can only do so much. In […]

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Five Steps to Starting a New Worship Service

I believe in multiple worship services. At our church, we now have five Sunday worship services. Four are on Sunday morning and include two large services in our Worship Center, with a blended style utilizing a large choir and orchestra. The two in our fellowship hall are contemporary, praise-band driven with one of those including a simulcast sermon. The one on Sunday evening I describe as “classic” Baptist worship, using a hymn book and singing familiar hymns. Our church does all this—as do many others—because we’ve found it’s the most effective way of reaching people with the gospel. A new worship service works the same way a new Sunday School […]

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Prayer, Healing and Our Miracle-Working God

Before Christmas I developed a voice problem. I noticed my voice growing weaker over the course of several Sundays, a trend that grew so bad that I finally sought out a specialist. He took a look at my vocal cords and immediately saw my trouble. I had a nodule—a callous—on one of my cords, caused from overuse. He got my attention when he said that surgery might be necessary but maybe a period of vocal rest followed by voice therapy might help. Try that first, he said.  My condition wasn’t life-threatening by any means. It was, though, scary. A preacher without a voice can’t do much, and as the doctor […]

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Should Southern Baptists change their name?

I love Southern Baptists, but sometimes I just don’t know what we’re thinking. Yesterday’s official press release just confused me more. After months of study and work a special task force released their findings regarding changing our denomination’s name. The new name doesn’t address the basic issue. Instead it just makes it worse. Here’s what I mean. Several years ago, what was then known as the Foreign Mission Board changed their name. The leadership realized that the name came across as condescending to the international community and had a negative impact on the board’s purpose. So they changed it to the much more appropriate International Mission Board. That was a […]

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President Obama's threat to religious liberty

Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan gets it exactly right. President Obama’s administration is in fact attacking the principle of religious freedom in his recent requirement that Catholic institutions provide for contraception in the health plans offered to their employees. Dolan apparently understands better than the President that when the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” it means what it says.  You can view the excellent interview Archbishop Dolan gave recently on the Today show at: http://youtu.be/8EzFmvR5Rq8 I’m a Baptist, and birth control isn’t a major point of conscience for me. While I don’t support contraception that amount to […]

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Why the Super Bowl Matters for Churches (Part Two)

  A couple of days ago I wrote about Why the Super Bowl Matters for Churches (Part One) and looked at three key areas. First was the sheer entertainment value of the Super Bowl. But in churches, we have to make a basic choice between entertainment and authenticity. Second, I tried to make a point about celebrity leadership and how the quarterback-driven NFL isn’t a great model for local churches, even though the trend is in that direction. And the third way the Super Bowl Matters for Churches that I talked about last week was in the dangers of branding as a means of promoting ourselves at the local church […]

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Why the Super Bowl Matters for Churches (Part One)

Super Bowl XLVI (I’ve no idea what this Roman numeral actually represents but neither does anyone else; it’s just so cool to use it) is in the books. Following last night’s New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots, the NFL season is officially over, at least for a few months.  It was a pretty boring game. Both teams were cautious and seemed to play more to avoid losing than actively working to win. Little down-field passing. Few blitzes. Despite having two of the league’s elite quarterbacks, the focus was more on ball control than anything else. Only one turnover, and it didn’t matter. All in all, not […]

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“Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus”–Five Lessons for the Church

The hottest video on the planet right now is by a young, West coast performance artist named Jefferson Bethke, a Christian. Bethke’s video, “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” went viral a couple of weeks ago and has been viewed by over 17 million viewers with more watching it every day. It’s taken the nation by storm and, especially, younger believers are so enthusiastic about it that they’re adopting it as their personal guide to the Christian faith. Bethke begins by asking, “What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?” then moves quickly to an indictment of traditional church in general: “If religion is so great, why […]

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Church Leadership 101: Five Keys for the Effective Pastor

Leading a church is one of the most rewarding and frustrating, difficult and easy, convoluted and simple, spiritual and pragmatic tasks anyone could ever attempt to do. Today’s pastor is expected to be a good preacher, a sensitive counselor, an able administrator, an insightful teacher, an excellent fund-raiser, a visionary strategist, a saint, an effective volunteer recruiter, a mediator in marriage and family disputes, a conflict-resolver within the congregation and an expert in organizational development. All this in an environment that is increasingly secular and disinterested in spiritual things. Local church ministry today is like when you ask your daughter about her relationship with her boyfriend, that both you and […]

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