Church of the Week: Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral, Bardstown, Kentucky

This week's church of the week is one I have passed numerous times, as it is located in Bardstown, Kentucky, just north of the Abbey of Gethsemani, where I have for ten or eleven years gone on prayer retreats.

In 1775, Catholic settlers, mostly of English and Irish descent, began emigrating chiefly from Maryland to Kentucky, an outpost of the crown colony of Virginia. The first missionaries came around 1787. In 1808 the four new Catholic dioceses, created at the request of Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, included Bardstown along with Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The new diocese of Bardstown covered almost the entire Northwest Territory, south to New Orleans and as far north as Detroit.

In 1811, three years after he was appointed, the French priest Bishop Flaget arrived at Bardstown, traveling down the Ohio River by flatboat and overland from Louisville by wagon, accompanied by a group of seminarians. Bishop Flaget was able to build a small brick church near Bardstown, named St. Thomas (also on the way to the Abbey). Soon he was consumed with the idea of erecting a cathedral of majestic proportions. Since most of the settlers were very poor, people contributed their materials and their labor as carpenters and masons to build the cathedral. Bricks were baked on the grounds, and solid tree trunks cut from the wilderness were lathed in a circular pattern to form the stately columns supporting the building.

The Cathedral was consecrated in 1819, though the interior was not fully completed until 1823. When the Episcopal See was moved forty miles away to the fast growing city of Louisville in 1841, St. Joseph's became a parish church, hence, the title "proto-cathedral." In 1995 Bardstown was named a titular see by the Vatican for its contributions to Catholic Church heritage in America. Once again, Bardstown, only one of three titular dioceses in the U.S., has a bishop, though in an honorary capacity.

It is a beautiful church, inside and out, and contains fine paintings and other gifts from Europe donated by Pope Leo XII, Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies, and King Louis Phillippe of France, among others.

Sunday Night Rejoicings

If you had told me five or ten years ago that I'd be worshiping each week with my son, daughter, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law, I would have considered it unlikely. At that time the lovely Robin and I were trying to accustom ourselves to the likelihood that our kids would probably be living in New York or Nashville, LA or Chicago, by the time they married and gave us grandchildren.

But this morning--a day like most others, except that I was feeling sick from some bug, so spent my time other than when I was preaching in the "green room" backstage, instead of greeting folks and so on before and after the celebrations, so as not to infect anyone else--I was led in worship by my son and daughter-in-law, while my son-in-law ran sound (that's his photo, above), and my daughter worshiped. And tonight, at The Third, it will be much the same, except with Aubrey probably helping with coffee preparation or child care (or both). Oh, and because my grandson Miles was also under the weather, this morning, the lovely Robin (who volunteers every other week in children's ministry) provided "Mimi-quality Childcare" at Aaron and Nina's for all three grandkids, to help facilitate her kids' ministry of the morning.

How blessed am I? That on such an otherwise crappy Sunday--our worship pastor heading to Texas for a funeral, our youth pastor sick, me sick, my grandson sick--to have my family all involved not only in the worship of the King, but in SERVICE to the King! Oh, my.

Then, to top it off, in spite of my resolve not to get close enough to others, in greeting or prayer counseling, etc., to be asked to talk to and pray with a first-time attender who prayed to receive salvation in Christ! It just doesn't get any better than that.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

Living in the Overlap

"The only Gospel Jesus ever proclaimed was the Gospel of the kingdom."

Those arresting words ought to give us pause. And they ought to encourage every Christ-follower to read Steve Schaefer's book, Living in the Overlap. The "overlap" of the title is that period we all live in, between the coming of the kingdom of God and its ultimate and final fulfillment in the Day of the Lord at the end of time.

Schaefer shows that many of us--and most Christians throughout church history--have been missing much of Jesus' message and its impact on our lives by not living in light of the kingdom of God. After laying out the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament fulfillment of those prophecies, he goes on to show how living in light of the kingdom can affect our prayer lives, our health, our relationships, and more. "Living in the overlap," he writes, "means appropriating and enjoying the 'already' blessings, while being motivated and encouraged by those that belong to the 'not yet.'"

Living in the Overlap is thoroughly biblical and filled with engaging quotes, entertaining anecdotes, and helpful diagrams that illustrate the author's case, along with a final chapter that encapsulates all the book's information into an enlightening biblical narrative. In addition, the website offers many helpful resources, including interviews, excerpts, and ordering information. The book is available also in ebook format for the KIndle.

I Just Got Behinder on My 2011 Reading

Christianity Today's annual book awards have been anounced. Go here for the eleven winners, among 427 submissions.

Dancing with God Starts Tomorrow!

I'm so looking forward to the new series we start tomorrow at Cobblestone, entitled, "Dancing with God."

It will run for six Sundays, and will cover the topics:

Entering the Dance
Learning the Steps
Finding the Rhythm
Following the Leader
Dancing in the Dark
Dancing with Abandon

It's a perfect followup to the "ReFuel" series we finished last week, and a great preparation for the Lenten season, which begins with Ash Wednesday, the Wednesday after "Dancing with Abandon."

What Are You Reading?

My current reading. I included my iPad in the stack, because on it I'm reading the novel, Stalina, by Emily Rubin.

Word from the Wise (If Billy Graham is Wise Enough For Ya)

I read this on Todd Bolsinger's wonderful blog. Christianity Today interviewed Billy Graham, and asked, "If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?"

BEFORE you read what Billy said, take a minute. What do you THINK he would say? What would YOU say after roughly seventy years of amazingly effective ministry?

Once you ponder that, read what the Reverend Billy Graham said:
"Yes, of course. I'd spend more time at home with my family, and I'd study more and preach less. I wouldn't have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn't really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.

"I also would have steered clear of politics. I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now."
No lesser an authority than Billy Graham said, basically, "less preaching, more family, more study. Less politics."

Let those who have ears to hear....

The Church's Anti-Apologetic

I've studied apologetics (i.e., making a defense for the Christian faith). I've preached on it. I've written books about it.

But I think the most influential apologetic we exercise in the church is actually an anti-apologetic. That is, it persuades the world to pay no attention to the church or to the Jesus we claim to follow. What is it?


I am frequently appalled at how blase we Christians are about Jesus' commands to forgive others (he went so far as to say, "If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15).

Unforgiveness is rampant in the church. It is epidemic. We seldom forgive each other. Pastors don't forgive their church members. Church members don't forgive pastors. Husbands don't forgive wives, and vice versa. Parents don't forgive kids, and vice versa. We're even unforgiving toward people we don't know, such as fallen Christian artists and pastors. And some of us even carry on as though our unforgiveness is righteousness. It's disgusting.

Honest to goodness, I think "Christians" are WORSE at forgiving than the world. Seriously, I think I have been more often and more readily forgiven by my non-Christian friends and acquaintances than by my brothers and sisters in Christ.

How can this be? Have we not experienced the forgiveness of God in Christ? Do we not believe the words of Jesus, that our Heavenly Father will deal severely with us if we do not forgive each other from the heart (Matthew 18:35)? Do we not see that unforgiveness makes us at least as unrighteous as those we're holding a grudge against?

The people around us are surprisingly perceptive. They look at the conduct of the Church and rightly wonder, “If forgiveness is so great, why aren’t you doing it?”

What's Your Ministry Story?

Here is David Tonen, about the new Ministry Story Podcast he has launched:

This weekly audio resource is targeted to pastors and ministry leaders so they can discover tools and techniques that will assist them in communicating the message of Jesus and the specific ministry story of their local church with greater effectiveness, impact, and excellence.

Here it is.

Worship That Sets Captives Free

My friend Joe Bassett posted this yesterday on his blog. AWESOME words. I had to share it:
“…All at once the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:26

(a continuing series of blog posts drawn from the Worship Concepts Network conference series AWE: Authentic Worship Experience)

Yesterday we looked at what worshipping “in truth and spirit” looks like; that thing you can’t worship without is the thing that you worship. In short, if all you need to worship is God, then He is who you worship.

The inevitable outcome of AWEsome, authentic worship is freedom. Not just for the worshipper, but for everyone around. When Paul and Silas worship in truth and spirit it’s not just their chains that fall off, it’s not just their prison door that opens. Everybody that witnesses their worship is set free.

But also notice that just as Paul and Silas’ worship was not dictated by their condition (see yesterday’s post), neither is their freedom or any of the other prisoners’. We would think that the former prisoners would immediately break for the door, but they sit tight. We don’t have any evidence that Paul or Silas had to convince or manipulate them to stay. God’s presence was there. How do we know? The Bible tells us, “where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am.” (Matt. 18:20) There is nothing more compelling for the “captive set free” than the presence of God, regardless of circumstances. They didn’t want to leave.

Further on in the story we see that the jailer is ready to throw himself on his sword. But even the captor is set free that night. And not just him, but his entire family.

What’s the outcome of your worship? Are you set free in worship? Are those around you set free? In the AWE conference we talk a lot about bearing fruit; “that a grape doesn’t have to try to be a grape, if it’s attached to the vine, then it will be a grape” and other ideas like that. You can tell if your worship is in “truth and in spirit” by the fruit that it bears. Don’t try to have worship that sets captives free; that’s just manipulation. Worship because you are free, free in Christ regardless of your circumstances. When the captives around you see AWEsome worship of the One who will set them free, then they’ll be set free, too. Free indeed.

That’s why worship.
Many of us, maybe most, are still growing and learning what worship is. But Joe is absolutely right: "that thing you can’t worship without is the thing that you worship." If I can't worship without hymns, God is not the true (or sole) object of my worship. If I can't worship without drums, God is not the sole object of my worship. If I can't worship without a cross in the sanctuary, God is not the sole object of my worship. If I can't worship without music, without a priest, without familiar forms, without a guitar, then I have much to learn about worship, and much to change in me. There may be enhancements to my worship, but if the lack of them is an impediment, then God is not the sole object of my worship.

Find Your Soulprint

"There has never been and never will be anyone else like you. But that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you."

So begins Mark Batterson's latest book, Soulprint (Discovering Your Divine Design). It's not a self-help book, he says, because "Self-help is nothing more than idolatry dressed up in a rented tuxedo." But it is a self-discovery book, in which Batterson (and King David, whose story it follows) helps the reader discover his or her unique identity and destiny, promising "it’s never too late to be who you might have been."

Soulprint is filled with the sharp insights and memorable phrases that characterize a Mark Batterson book, springing from the most memorable scenes in the life of that most memorable story, the life of David, the shepherd-King of Israel. After the opening chapter, Batterson organizes the book around five memorable scenes from David's life: His battle with Goliath, his saving of Goliath's armor (as a "lifesymbol"), his encounter with King Saul at the En Gedi, his dancing before the ark of the covenant, and his sin (and repentance) in the incident with Bathsheba. The book concludes with a final chapter entitled, "The White Stone."

For my money, I love books about David, the man after God's own heart. And I love Mark Batterson's writing. So it doesn't get much better than reading Mark Batterson writing on David.

And, like all of Batterson's books, there are many quotable portions to remember. Here are some of them I marked and hope to remember and return to often:
David decided not to don Saul's armor or brandish Saul's sword for one very good reason: he wasn't Saul. David decided to be David. And we're faced with the same decision. There comes a point in all of our lives where we need the courage to take off Saul's armor (p. 15).

In God's grand scheme, it's never about orchestrating the right circumstances. It's always about becoming the right person (p. 26).

The bigger the opportunity, the longer it takes. The reason we get frustrated is because we think big without thinking long. This is a recipe for disappointment. Reevaluate your timeline. And be encouraged when it takes longer than you expected. That simply means that God wants to do something immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine (p. 30).

It's not insignificant that Scripture records the actual weight of Goliath's armor: 125 pounds, 15 ounces. David probably didn't weigh much more than that! (p. 50).

One dimension of stewardship is memory management. Like optimizing the hard drive on your computer, sometimes your memories need to be defragmented. Instead of keeping a record of wrongs, for example, certain memories need to be deleted. And you need to create a mental folder where you cut and paste the blessings of God (p. 56).

One of my earliest and strongest memories is the first time I rode a bike. Part of the reason the memory is so strong is because I've heard my parents tell the story so many times. And that is one of the jobs of parents. They manage their children's memories by the stories they tell, the keepsakes they save, and the pictures they take (p. 57).

What we think of as the goal isn't really the goal. The goal is not accomplishing the dream God has given to you. The dream is a secondary issue. The primary issue is who you become in the process (p. 69).

Integrity won't keep you from getting thrown into a fiery furnace, but it will keep you from smelling like smoke (p. 83).

One of the most important decisions you'll ever make is who to offend. Trust me, you'll offend somebody. But make sure that somebody isn't the Almighty! (pp. 85-86).

No one likes to be embarrassed. In fact, we do everything within our power to avoid embarrassment at all costs. But we need to be embarrassed for the same reason we need to fail: it keeps us humble. And humility is the key to fulfilling our destiny (p. 93).

I'm no longer surprised by sin. What does surprise me is the person with the rare courage to confess. My opinion of people, when they confess their sins, never goes down. My opinion always goes up, simply because they are able to admit what the rest of us deny (p. 121).
I hope you see what I mean. Soulprint is a book well worth reading, and well worth heeding.

(This book was provided for review by the publisher, Multnomah Books)

Church of the Week: Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg, Germany

This week's church of the week on the Desperate Pastor blog is the Church of the Holy Spirit (aka Holy Ghost Church) in Heidelberg, Germany.

The lovely Robin and I saw this church on our recent tour of Heidelberg, hosted by new and dear friends. It's a massive, impressive church with an intriguing history.

The first known historical mention of this church was in the year 1239. In 1398, Prince Elector Ruprecht III (King Ruprecht I of Germany) laid the cornerstone of the present-day church. The chancel was finished in 1410. The nave was completed in 1441 and the tower after 1508. In the early eighteenth century the tower roof was redone in the Baroque style. The chancel was once used as a final resting place for Prince Electors. However, their tombs – with the exception of Ruprecht III’s – were all destroyed in 1693.

Until 1623 the church’s galleries contained Europe’s largest collection of handwritten books and documents, the “Bibliotheca Palatina.” After Heidelberg was conquered by Tilly, it first passed as war booty into the hands of Maximilian of Bavaria, who gave it to the Pope in Rome as a gift. From 1705 to 1936 the Holy Ghost Church was divided into two parts by a wall through the middle. Protestant (Lutheran) services were held in the nave, and Catholic – and later Old Catholic – masses took place in the chancel. Since 1936, the church has been exclusively Protestant.

According to our hosts, Phillip Melanchthon, the reformer and contemporary of Martin Luther who was admitted into Heidelberg University at age 12, preached did (I think) Luther.

While we didn't have time to enter the church (I borrowed the photo of the interior), we admired it from all sides and vantage points during our tour of Heidelberg.

Sunday Night Rejoicings

Today was a different sort of Sunday for me. I had the joy and honor of returning this morning with the lovely Robin to The Salvation Army Center Hill Corps in Cincinnati/Finneytown, where she and I ministered as corps officers from 1983-1987. We reunited with old friends (SO good to see them all!) and enjoyed warm and welcoming fellowship. I taught on "Recovering Your Spiritual Vitality," from 2 Kings 6:1-7, and what a joy it was to share that word. I believe God used it, as he used the worship and fellowship of the morning to bless me.

After a sumptuous lunch with scrumptious friends (yeah, I don't know if friends can be scrumptious; just work with me here), we returned home and then at 7:00 JUST made it in time for the start of "The Third," Cobblestone's Sunday evening high-octane worship experience.

Con Brio did an amazing job leading worship. As our worship pastor, Sharla, blogged today (I poached the photo above from her blog), "they played with excellence as they usually do...and wow, let's talk about the girls today, Nina and Andrea, they both knocked their songs, "We Cry Out", "Rooftops", and "Rain Down" out of the park." What a blessing.

Andrew Holzworth brought a great message, the second in the series, "Follow the Leader," and as always this growing group of (mostly) young worshipers just filled the place with warmth and worship that does a pastor's heart good.

I hope the church was blessed and encouraged today, as we attempted to show the whole Body some of the excitement and joy that characterizes The Third, week after week. And I hope the leaders of The Third were encouraged by everyone's response; they are so sacrificially faithful and faithfully sacrificial, week after week, to share God's love. How I thank God for them all.

I already can't wait to be back in the saddle next Sunday as we begin a brand new series at Cobblestone.

Leaving Churches (Pt. 3, For Those Showing Up At Our Church)

From Scott Hodges' blog, a followup to two previous posts I re-posted here:

This is the third and final post on the topic of leaving a church. Part 1 was for my pastor colleagues. Part two was for those who are considering leaving a church.

This post is what I’d say to those showing up at our church from another church:

Do your best to leave your expectations at home. i.e. Don’t expect our church to be like your last church. Trust me, it won’t be! We’re different. Not better…but most definitely different. Approach your visit to a new church with an open heart and mind. If God is calling you to be a part of a new church, then chances are….He’s wanting to do something NEW in you.

Don’t have a “shopping” mentality. Don’t “shop” for a church like you would a new car or home. The problem with that approach is that it looks first at what’s best for ME. A church is not a health club. In fact, ultimately the “church” is not the building or the pastor – it’s the PEOPLE. It’s YOU. So ultimately, church should be seen as something we “are” much more than as a place we go to simply consume and have our needs met. So rather than first asking “What’s in it for ME?“ Instead, ask a different set of questions. Questions like:

What are some ways I could imagine God using me to serve and contribute in and through this church?

Does my heart resonate with the DNA and culture of this church?

“Does this place value children?” “Are there potential opportunities for my family to get to know other families who are at our same stage of life?” “Are there other singles people here?” (Depending on your stage of life.)

(Side note: just because there may not be a large number of others like you doesn’t automatically mean it’s not the right place for you. God might be bringing you to a church to help start building and bringing more people who are in yoursame stage of life….or to learn from people different from you.)

Is this the type of place I can invite my friends, neighbors, and loved ones without hesitation?

Is this place and are these people empowered to be real and authentic?


Stop looking for the perfect church. Churches are led and filled by men and women. Humans. This means that churches will always be a bit messy. People tend to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. Trust me, it’s not. There will be challenges and opportunities for offense everywhere you go! But listen… that’s one of the greatest values of community – learning to work through the tough challenges of human relationships.

Look beyond methods. If all you do is buy into methods, then what happens when those methods change? Go beyond the methods! Look at things like the church’s mission, DNA, culture, core beliefs, values, etc… Look beyond the preaching and “style” of music. Are those things important? Yes. But “style” and “methods” change! Or I should say…SHOULD change. Remember….the only thing that’s sacred is God’s mission. A healthy church will constantly be changing and tweaking the externals. Look beyond those.

Bottom line folks: I believe that starting well is heavily dependent upon ending well.And yes, sometimes it’s difficult to leave well. And I know there are even some pastors who really make it tough to leave well. But just remember… are only responsible for yourself. So at least do your part. And do it with a ton of integrity and Spirit leading. If you do that, I believe God can and will honor that.

Praise Publicly, Correct Privately

Remember Leadership 101? Okay, so maybe you never took a course with that title, but I am constantly amazed by how many people in the working world seem to show by their behavior they never even showed up for that class.

Yesterday I was waiting in line to be served at McDonald's (hold your jokes, please, about this Fortune 500 company. Also hold your jokes about my waistline. Or my gourmet sensibilities. Just hold all jokes, okay?). The restaurant manager, standing behind the two cashiers (who were waiting on customers) and yelled, "Does anybody know why Christine keeps leaving her register all the time?" Before she had finished yelling, Christine (not the real name) appeared, and I saw her try to address her boss quietly and explain she had been in the washroom. The boss didn't even meet her gaze, and walked away.

Now, look, I know that such passive-aggressive behavior as that manager displayed can be found everywhere. And maybe Christine is a total ninny. Maybe the manager had a point.

But it doesn't matter.

Lesson 1 (or close to it) in leadership is "Praise Publicly, Correct Privately." There are exceptions, of course, but as a general rule, there's good reason for it. All sorts of good reasons.

Praising an employee publicly reinforces the vision and mission of the company. It encourages positive behavior and results (unless you're showing favoritism).

Criticizing privately prevents embarrassment (or, in the case above, humiliation) and cultivates respect for you, the leader. It also gives the opportunity for explanation (sometimes, you'll learn while 'correcting' an employee that things weren't quite the way you thought they were, and correcting in private actually saved YOU embarrassment).

And NEVER just walk away when an employee is trying to apologize or explain. That's so rude and counter-productive, I don't even know where to begin.

Always try to remember: as a leader, YOU have to set the tone, and model acceptable behavior. If you are rude or dismissive of your employees, they will very likely go and do likewise...even to you.

Spiritual Leadership

Samuel Logan Brengle was an officer in The Salvation Army who became known worldwide as that movement's "apostle of holiness." He was uniquely effective as a preacher and advocate of spiritual passion and purity. His books--Helps to Holiness, Heart Talks on Holiness, When the Holy Ghost is Come, The Soul-Winner’s Secret, Resurrection Life and Power, The Way of Holiness, The Guest of the Soul, Ancient Prophets and Modern Problems, and Love-Slaves--have influenced millions of people, including me. Here is what this spiritual greatheart wrote on the subject of spiritual leadership:
Spiritual leadership is not won nor established by promotion, but by many prayers, tears and confessions of sin and heart-searchings and humblings before God, and self-surrender and a courageous sacrifice of every idol and a bold and deathless, and uncompromising and uncomplaining embrace of the Cross and an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified. It is not gained by seeking great things for our selves (Jer. 45:5), but rather, like Paul, by counting those things that were gain, loss for Christ. Hear him: "What things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ. (Phil. 3:7, 8.)

That is a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would be not merely a nominal, but a real spiritual leader of men -- a leader whose power is recognized by three worlds and felt in heaven, earth and hell. Moses gained this spiritual leadership among Pharaoh's palace halls and Sinai's solitudes and fastnesses, when he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."

Spiritual leaders are not made by man, nor any combination of men. Neither conferences, nor synods, nor councils can make them, but only God.

Spiritual power is the outcome of spiritual life, and all life, from that of the moss and lichen on the wall to that of the archangel before the Throne, is from God. Therefore let those who aspire to this leadership pay the price, and seek it from God....

Neither conferences, nor synods, nor councils, nor commanders, can make a man acceptable to the people, however long his service and varied his experience, if he has lost the spirit of prayer and faith and fiery-hearted love, and the sweet simplicity and trustfulness and self-sacrifice of his youth, and is now living on past victories and revelations and blessings. But fresh anointings of the Spirit and present-day experiences will make him acceptable, though his eye be dim and, his back bent, and his voice husky with age (The Soul-Winner's Secret, chapter 5).

God Didn't Make a Mistake

I enjoy Tony Evans's preaching, though I often feel badly for his vocal chords. This week's vid is a short excerpt from a fine preacher:

Should My Church Advertise on Facebook?

Wow. Here's a very informative and thought-provoking post from Justin Wise (original post here) on Facebook advertising for churches:

Let’s face it, you need to tell people about your church. As much as we’d all like to think our church is the exception to the rule, it’s not. In order to get people coming in, you have to get the word out.

Traditionally, church planters and church marketing departments have gone about using the traditional methods to get the word out about their services. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. Truth be told, there’s noreal way of knowing. (How do you measure the ROI of a direct mailer aside from asking every person who comes to your church how they found out?)

I realize I’m over-simplifying general marketing practices, but it’s for a point. With the advent of Facebook ads, churches have an affordable and measurable way to let the general population know about what’s going on in their church.

You’ve all heard the statistics. So have I. But they bear repeating to illustrate what we’re about to cover.

  • Facebook has over 500 million registered users. If it were a country, that number would put Facebook as the third largest in the world.
  • There are over 200 million active daily users. what’s the difference from the stat above? It means that 200 million people are logging on every day to do something on Facebook. Think of it as the difference between your church’s membership role (registered users) and weekly attendance (active daily users).
  • Each of those 200 million daily users are spending and average of 56 minutes per day on Facebook.
  • Lastly, Facebook accounts for approximately 21% of page views on the web. Yes, the whole Internet.

That’s a lot of eyeballs.

You can see why Facebook ads is such a big deal. Mark Zuckerberg and company offer one of the largest global audiences to their user base and they offer it at an affordable rate. And you can try it for free. Stick around to the end for a discount code.

Facebook Ads at Church: A Case Study
For our church, we wanted to test the waters with Facebook ads by promoting our Saturday night service. It’s traditionally one of the lower-attended services and typically brings in a younger crowd. A perfect demographic to give the ads a try.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Log on to
You’re given the option to start a new campaign or manage a new one. Since we’d never created an ad for our church, I chose to create a new one.

The other thing you should know is that you can add as many administrators to your advertising page as you’d like. So if you create the ad and move away to Budapest, your church is not beholden to come to you every time they need a change made to the ad page. Before you start out, you may want to choose one or two other people on staff who can help you manage your ads. This is not unlike administering a Facebook fan page.

2. Write Your Copy

Clear and concise copy. Don't make people guess.

This might be the most important part of the ad. You need to communicate a strong, inviting and clear message all within a space smaller than a tweet (135 characters.)

If you’re not a writer, grab someone on your staff or in your church who is. Identify what the message is you want to communicate to the people who will be seeing your ad (we’ll cover that in the next section) and make it pop. If studies are correct, you’ll have about 2-3 seconds to grab someone’s attention. That’s it.

For our ad, I chose a very simple and clear call-to-action:

Grab a friend for 5 pm worship on Saturday night!

I chose the words “friend” and “Saturday night” strategically, as we’ll be broadcasting this ad to people who aren’t currently connected to our church’s Facebook fan page.

3. Choose Your Demographic

Set the parameters and see how many people you'll reach.

This is where the functionality of Facebook ads really shines through. This is where you’ll be deciding who sees your ad and who doesn’t.

Because of the large user base, Facebook has access to literally every demographic you can think of:

  • Geography
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education level
  • Marital status
  • What fan pages and groups the person is or is not connected to
  • And on, and on

We chose to narrow ours down to people who lived within 50 miles of West Des Moines (where Hope is located), who were between the ages of 18 and 45, and whose friends were already connected to our church’s Facebook fan page. Facebook provides a “reach counter” and with these parameters, we had access to over 190,000 people.

Not a bad reach.

4. Set Your Budget and Tweak as Necessary

CPM and CPC. Click the question mark if you get confused.

This functionality is why I love Facebook ads so much. Not unlike AdWords, Facebook allows you to set your budget to whatever you’d like to pay. You can do this in two ways:

  • Pay for impressions (CPM) – This is how many people actually see your ad.
  • Pay for clicks (CPC) – This is how many people actually click on your ad and go to wherever it is your ad directs them to.

I chose CPC for this ad because I want to gauge the effectiveness of my ad and tweak as necessary. I have our ad sending people to our Facebook fan page when they click it. I’ll know at the end of the ad campaign if we’re effective if “likes” go up on our fan page and if more people attend our Saturday night service. It’s that simple.

Of course, as the campaign proceeds, I can tweak the ad as necessary. If I’m finding that people aren’t responding well to the ad, I can change the image, the copy, the demographic I have it restricted to—whatever. Changing an ad midstream is as easy as creating one. Facebook really makes it simple.

Final Thoughts on Facebook Ads
If you’re in a church that has a small budget for marketing, you need to give Facebook ads a try.

If you’re in a church that has plenty of exposure locally but you want to expand the reach of your online campus, you need to give Facebook ads a try.

If you’re in a church that’s trying to reach people with a pulse, you need to give Facebook ads a try. Notice a theme?

If you give this a shot and run into problems, please feel free to get a hold of me and I’ll do what I can to help. Whether you’re a Facebook beginner or a seasoned pro, Facebook has made it easy to let the world (yes, world) know about what your church is up to.

Controlling Leaders

Ron Edmondson's blog is one I read every day. He is a pastor of Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. All his posts are good, but this recent post on controlling leadership is worth repeating:
One of my pet peeves in leadership is the controlling leader. I recently wrote some warning signs that indicate a leader may be one. You can read that post HERE, but I keep seeing the type. Controlling leaders are in every type of organization, including in the church. (I also wrote about the difference in leading people versus controlling them HERE.)

I recently saw a controlling leader firsthand while working with another organization. It reminded me of the main reason I’m so opposed to controlling leaders is that it is counter-productive to healthy organizations…and I love healthy organizations.

In fact, here are 3 results I see in teams and organizations with a controlling leader:
Leaders leave – You can’t keep a leader when you control him or her…at least not for long. Leaders need room to breathe, explore and take risks. Controlling leaders stifle creativity and a real leader will soon look for a place to grow.

Followers stay…many times…But they are often miserable – There are people wired to follow a controlling leader. If i were using counseling terms is call it co-dependency. Sometimes due to fear of venturing out on their own or because of a false sense of loyalty they stay, but the controlling leadership makes them

Organizations stall - Controlling leadership always limits the organization to the strengths, dreams and abilities of the controlling leader.
Dear leader, take it from a leader who has to discipline himself not to control, controlling leadership simply doesn’t work. Have you learned that principle?

Church of the Week: First African Baptist Church, Savannah, GA

Eight Leadership Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This post is a YEAR OLD, from Martin Luther King Day 2010! But it's a great one, by one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Hyatt:
My wife, Gail, and I watched the speech again on Saturday. It’s less than eighteen minutes long. However, it is profoundly moving. By the end of it, we were both in tears. I urge you to take time on this day to watch this speech and experience what this commemoration is all about.

While the speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric, I believe it also provides eight insights into what it takes to be a truly great leader. (You can read the full transcript here.)

Great leaders do not sugar-coat reality. This speech came at a critical point in the civil rights movement. Dr. King did not pull any punches. He faced the most brutal facts of his current reality. Referring to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, he acknowledged,
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
Great leaders engage the heart. While logic may compel the mind, stories and metaphors move the heart. This is the difference between offering information and inspiration. To cite but one example in the speech, Dr. King states:
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”
Great leaders refuse to accept the status quo. In fact, I would say that this is the defining characteristic of real leaders. They are not passive; they are active. They are unwilling to acquiesce to their circumstances. Dr. King continues:
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
Great leaders create a sense of urgency. They are impatient—in a good way. They refuse to just sit by and let things take their natural course. They have a sense of urgency and communicate it. Dr. King says,
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
Great leaders call people to act in accord with their highest values. It would be easy for the civil rights movement to change tactics and resort to violence. Some did. However, like Nelson Mandela did when he became president of South Africa, Dr. King called his people to a higher standard:
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must ever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Great leaders refuse to settle. It would have been easy for Dr. King to negotiate a compromise, to settle for less than his vision demanded. But he was stubborn—in a good sense. He persisted, and his called his followers to persevere:
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Great leaders acknowledge the sacrifice of their followers. They notice the effort their people have expended. They verbalize and affirm it:
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”
Great leaders paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow. Leaders can never, never, never grow weary of articulating their vision. They must be clear and concrete. They have to help their followers see what they see:
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
I have only scratched the surface. This speech is full of lessons and deserves careful study. I would encourage you, in the spirit of this holiday, to sit down with your family and watch the entire speech. It is less than eighteen minutes long. It will change forever the way you understand Martin Luther King Day.


What a blessing it was to worship this morning at Cobblestone Community Church! I attended with my father (who has been almost four weeks now in residence at Westover Retirement Community in Hamilton), and am not sure I could have been more blessed.

How many men have the honor and beauty and joy of sitting next to their ninety-year-old father in church while their twenty-seven-year-old son leads him in worship...and then following the celebration be embraced with excitement by their three-year-old grandson (proudly holding a fishing pole--with a magnet as a 'hook'--from his Bible lesson of the morning!)?

And I nearly climbed out of my skin into the seventh heaven in singing "You Won't Relent," "Let the Worshipers Arise," and "Oh, How He Loves" this morning!

Pastor John Johnson delivered the final installment in the "ReFuel" series, and BOY was it good! I had never before considered the choice of Jesus' metaphor in Revelation 3:20 in quite that way. Matter of fact, I hear him knocking right now...just in time for an evening snack! :)

So I'm definitely refueled tonight. My tank is full. I'm so blessed to be part of such a wonderful church that provides such amazing worship and teaching and fellowship and opportunities for service.

25 Actions You Can Take Now to Boost Your Energy

Michael Hyatt recently posted on his blog (if you're not reading it yet, start reading it NOW....or after you finish reading this post), "44 Actions You Can Take Now to Boost Your Energy," in which he listed things that typically energize him. I'm nowhere near as smart as Hyatt, but I thought I'd take his cue and list the things that energize me (which, I think it's important to mention, are not necessarily the same as things I enjoy doing...though they can be), in the hope that between his list and mine, you might find a few ideas to run with. So here is my list (in no particular order), with thanks to Michael Hyatt:
  1. Take a brisk walk.
  2. Read something inspiring.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Go to a used book sale.
  5. Get a good night's sleep.
  6. Organize something (closet, garage, drawer, etc.).
  7. Listen to 70's music (but not disco).
  8. See one of Shakespeare's plays.
  9. Do something surprisingly nice for someone.
  10. Worship.
  11. Spend time outside.
  12. Chop wood.
  13. Have a leisurely dinner with the wife.
  14. Cancel a meeting.
  15. Plan a vacation.
  16. Pray (especially prayers of thanks).
  17. Pay someone a compliment.
  18. Give something away.
  19. Take a shower.
  20. Get a massage.
  21. Get lost in a great story (book or movie).
  22. Clear your schedule.
  23. Do a little reading at Starbucks.
  24. Read a book to a kid.
  25. Browse through family photos.
Those are 25 things that work for me. What about you? Leave a comment below.

Thematic Reading

Three or four years ago, I stumbled on an idea that has greatly enriched my reading: thematic reading. That is, each year I'll choose two or three books to read that are related in some way (theme, character, nation, etc.).

For example, a few years ago, I read two classic novels back-to-back, which were fascinating to compare and contrast: Jane Eyre (Bronte) and Rebecca (du Maurier).

The next year I re-read a personal favorite, Robinson Crusoe, and followed it with two other books: the nonfiction In Search of Robinson Crusoe (Severin) and the very imaginative novel, Foe (Coetzee).

That same year, I read three books relating to Islam: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid), Infidel (Ali), and I Dared to Call Him Father (Sheikh).

More recent examples were:
  • two books on Nazi Germany: the nonfiction The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer) and the novel, Fatherland (Harris).
  • three books whose relationship should be obvious: Psalms for Praying (Merrill), Praying the Psalms (Brueggemann), and Psalms of My Life (Bayly).
And already this year, I've read two books dealing with hostage situations: A Rope and a Prayer (Rohde/Mulvihill) and In the Presence of My Enemies (Burnham), and plan to read FOUR other pairs of related books:
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Barnes) and Madame Bovary (Flaubert)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (Frady) and Hellhound on his Trail (Sides)
  • Something Rotten (Fforde) and Gertrude & Claudius (Updike)
  • Arthur & George (Barnes) and The Sherlockian (Moore)
Of course, many of us read thematically because we concentrate much of our reading on a particular field or topic: leadership, perhaps, or church planting, and so on. But I've derived so much fun from intentionally choosing books that relate to each other, I'd love it if you would try it...and let me know how it goes!

Hard 2 Follow?

Here's some good advice from the blog of Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC:
A common leadership saying is that a leader can only lead people as far as they have gone themselves. I couldn’t agree more.

But there’s one facet of this truth that we need to be careful of, especially when it comes to the way we communicate to inspire and motivate the people we’re leading.

A person walking ten miles ahead of you is a hard person to follow.

It’s one thing to say you’ve been ten miles ahead and you’re going to lead them to the destination. It’s another thing to tell people I’m ten miles ahead, come find me.

Leaders lead the way. Leaders should inspire people to raise their game by their life and what they say. Leaders can only take people as far as they have gone themselves.

But they also have to live and communicate in such a way that the people following them believe it’s possible to get to where they’re going.

For example, if you’re a pastor, you might think that it’s going to be inspiring for your people to hear that you’re like Martin Luther and wake up at 4am to spend three hours in prayer. Good intentions, but that might not inspire people. It might actually make them want to stop trying at all. They’re already having a hard enough time praying for 5 minutes a day.

What you need to do is be a person who can challenge them to move from 5 to 10. And then 10 to 15. And so on. You’ve already been there, so you can inspire them to get there. But it’s also something they’ll believe is possible.

In your leadership, aim to be an example that people can aspire to while still being a person that people can relate to. Then you’ll be able to lead people to where you’ve been.

Spiritual Depression

A couple years ago, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a serious depression. I've written elsewhere on this blog (here, in one of my most-read posts) about some of the things that helped me escape that place. One of them was this book, by the great preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, is comprised of twenty-one sermons originally preached in a series at Westminster Chapel in London. Dr. Lloyd-Jones calls upon both his pastoral calling and his prior medical career in these highly readable and surprisingly (for me, at least) helpful chapters. Amazingly (for the time when these words were spoken, and first published), Lloyd-Jones does not over-spiritualize the answers to depression. He grants that there are physical causes that lead to depression, but deals primarily with "spiritual depression," which he says can be overcome by applying Biblical truth.

One of the most helpful moments in the book to me was when the author, taking his example from the psalmist, who can be found "preaching" to his own soul, advised preaching to ourselves. He wrote, "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?....The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted?....'Hope thou in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way" (pp. 20-21).

It should be obvious, of course, that for a person who is in the throes of clinical depression--as I was--this book by itself is no panacea. But together with proper diet and exercise, wise professional counseling, prayer, and other forms of treatment, it can be a great help. And not only for the person who is depressed; it is worthwhile reading for every God-loving soul...but particularly for those (like pastors) in the helping professions.

Different Drummer

I've already told our drummers at Cobblestone, they have my permission to drum like THIS GUY:

Church of the Week: Four Churches of St.-Marie-Aux-Mines

This week's church of the week is actually four, which the lovely Robin and I visited on our 2010 walking tour of St.-Marie-Aux-Mines in the Volges Mountains of France. We came to this beautiful village in Alsace-Lorraine because we knew it to have been at one time the home of our ancestor, Jakob Hochstetler.

The Church of Sainte Marie Madeleine (Mary Magdalene), a Catholic church at the center of town, was the subject of last week's church of the week. It was the first church we found on our walk through the town.

We also discovered the Eglise Lutherienne des Chaines, built in 1846, which seemed to be shuttered.

Down the street was the 1848 St. Louis Church (the 1840's seem to have been a great time for churches in St.-Marie-Aux-Mines).

The final church we found was the Temple Reforme, or Reformed Church, I take it, which dates to 1634. This seemed the most likely to be active, other than the Catholic Church. Interestingly, it seems likely to be one of two buildings we saw on our visit (the other is a hotel and restaurant) that would have been standing when our ancestor lived here.

We were saddened at the seeming inactivity of these latter three churches, which at one time of course must have been thriving and perhaps even evangelistic. In any case, they reminded us to keep the fires of our faith well-tended, lest they dwindle and die.

Spiritual Leadership

Many writers have written books that can be fairly deemed a "classic." Brother Lawrence. St. John of the Cross. The guy who wrote Beowulf. But it's much rarer for a writer to pen more than one true classic. J. Oswald Sanders is one of those.

Sanders's book, Spiritual Leadership, ranks with his Spiritual Maturity as a true classic of Christian literature. In fact, I think if I had to prescribe just one book on leadership for pastors and Christians in general, it would be this book.

Sanders methodically and artfully charts the path of spiritual leadership, drawing from Biblical examples like Peter, Paul, Nehemiah, and Moses, as well as more modern voices like Wesley, Tozer, and Ockenga, among many, many others. His chapters on "Prayer and Leadership," "The Leader and Time," "The Leader and Reading," and "Perils of Leadership" were high points for me.

On the whole, the book is one of the few in my library that I have read--and plan to read--repeatedly. It bears reading and re-reading. And, with a fine updated version by Moody Press (adding study questions as well), it should be required reading for every Christ-follower for, as Sanders says, "every Christian is a leader, for we all influence others. All of us should strive to improve our leadership potential" (p. 109).

I Praise God for These Muslims

This is a wonderful story. After the New Year's Eve suicide bombing of a church in Alexandria, Egypt, Egyptian Muslims had promised to act as human shields for the Coptic Christians in their Christmas Eve mass (Copts, like some other Orthodox Christians, celebrate Christmas on January 6), and they were true to their words:
Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had a been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

Free Tools to Change Your Life and Work Forever

A great post from offers free tools found on the web. Some are for personal productivity, other for Bible study, and more. We've been using several of these at Cobblestone already, but a couple other were new to me. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.

Leaving Churches (Pt. 2, For Those Thinking of Leaving)

This is the second of three blog posts by Scott Hodge, lead pastor of The Orchard in Aurora, Illinois, on the subject of people leaving the church. Tomorrow he will post the third installment, directed at people arriving at a new church. I'll repost that one sometime tomorrow, but visit Scott's blog, anyway. Here it is:
To those thinking of leaving the OLD church.

Offense is never the right reason to leave a church. Leaving a church with offense in your heart is dangerous to your soul. Work it out. That’s the tough side of community that we don’t talk nearly enough about. Often times, it’s through the working out of hurt, pain, or offense that we become more closely connected in our communities. It grows and matures us.

Don’t just disappear. People do this all the time. POOF! They’re gone! (And often times they get offended when the church they left doesn’t desperately chase after them when they’re gone.) Look, if God is behind your decision, then trust that He will give you the courage and strength to have the (yes, somewhat uncomfortable) conversations needed to do it well. Finish your commitments. Connect with your leader through the process. Ask them to pray with you about what you’re feeling. Give God an opportunity to make it seem right with them too.

Don’t look for reasons to leave. If you are….trust me, you’ll find plenty of them! If God is calling you to leave, you don’t have to wait until you find a tangible reason to do so. Sitting around waiting for a “reason” can turn you into a nasty, judgmental, and negative person. It’ll hurt your soul and probably others too. In fact, if you’re walking around looking for reasons to leave, then I’d suggest looking at the inwardly condition of your heart and soul.

Don’t be negative. I hate hearing people talk negatively about the church or pastor they just left. Chances are, those same people will be standing in front of my pastor friend down the street saying the same thing about me in a matter of months. If you feel like you need to talk negatively about the pastor or church you’re leaving, chances are……you are the one who needs to change first.

Show Gratitude. Take time to say ‘thank you’ to the pastor and leadership of the church you’re leaving. If you stayed too long and are offended, that’s your fault – not theirs. When someone takes the time to send me an email or letter saying ‘thank you’ for pouring into their lives as they transition to a different church, that’s huge! I have a ton of respect for people who do that.

HOW you do things is just as important (if not even more important) as WHAT you do.

Leaving Churches (Pt. 1, for Pastors)

Scott Hodge, lead pastor of The Orchard in Aurora, Illinois, has been blogging about people leaving churches. His first post was directed to pastors. The second was aimed at people thinking of leaving their church. The third is for people arriving at a new church. They're good. I'll repost them here, but visit Scott's blog. There's a lot of good stuff there.

If there’s one thing we all know about our churches, it’s that people come…..and sometimes people go. For lots of reasons. Most pastors really struggle with this. At times, I have too. But, taking it personally or internalizing it as some sort of failure every time it happens is a miserable way to live. And frankly, it’s also probably a sign that you’re taking too much ownership for something that isn’t yours to begin with.

And besides…you know as well as I do that your church will never be the right church for everyone. In fact, trying to be will pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up reaching no one. Actually, you will. But trust me, you don’t want them.

Pastors…the best thing you can do is to just be very clear (right from the beginning) what your church is all about. The clearer you are about that, the sooner newcomers will be able to make a decision as to whether or not your church is a good fit for them. But listen…don’t be arrogant about it! Don’t say it in a way that makes your church sound like it’s “better than all the others” and therefore “it’s not right for everyone….because we’re so bad a$$.“ No….if you do that, you’re just an ass.


The Highway to Strength in Ministry

By way of Ray Ortlund's blog comes these words from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
“And do we not often feel weak in the sense of utter unfitness for being ministers at all by reason of our own sinfulness? Paul said of his calling to the ministry, ‘Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!’ We can say that too; yet sometimes we feel as if we would speak no more for Christ, and we should sink into silence were it not that His Word is as a fire in our bones, and we cannot refrain. Then we think we will go away into the far west, and in some log cabin teach a few children the way of salvation, for we do not feel fit for anything higher. Our shortcomings and our failures stare us out of countenance, and then are we painfully weak. But this also is the highway to strength: ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.’”

C. H. Spurgeon, An All Round Ministry (Edinburgh, 1978), page 216.
(The photo is of Spurgeon's personal library at Westwood, his family home, containing 12,000 volumes)