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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What I’ve Learned about Empty Nest as a Military Parent

Empty nest is the challenging season of life that parents go through when their children leave home. While it’s a mixed bag of emotions under any circumstances, many military parents have an especially hard time of it because the distance between them and their adult children isn’t measured so much by miles as it is by experience.   My wife and I are part of that group. Since our son recently deployed for the second time, after moving with his family to the west coast, we’ve been thrown into the empty nest years with a vengeance and are learning first-hand how great the distance can be between parents and their […]

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Time Out: When Pastors Take a Break

I return to my church this morning after a month-long break, so it’s a good time to do what the Army calls an after action review. That’s when you debrief what happened, why it happened and how to improve next time.   It’s cheaper for a church to give its pastor a few weeks off every five years than to bring on a new one every seven What my church and I agreed to was a sabbatical—time off for personal renewal—something many churches are adopting as a way of keeping their pastoral leadership fresh and on point. I blogged about two previous sabbaticals here and here. The expectations of pastors are so […]

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Reset–When Pastors Go on Sabbatical

The last Sunday of June my church told me to go away and not come back until August.   Before you think this was just another congregation running their preacher off or one of those dysfunctional relationships where two conflicted parties needed a break from each other, let me assure you it was just the opposite.   My church–a gracious and generous congregation–gave me the month of July away from my pastoral duties as a sabbatical, a planned time away from my pastoral responsibilities. They do this every five years for our ministerial staff and speaking for all of us on the ministry team, it’s an incredible gift.   “Sabbatical” […]

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