church

You can’t come in.

blue and white sorry we re closed wooden signage

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I nearly wept tonight at a church council meeting.

This. Hurts.

And I am not angry at my council. These men, I think, made a prayerful and wise decision. I agree with them.

I still hurt.

Most of the meeting addressed one thing: When and how will we reopen the church? The virus has had us locked down for about two months. We miss each other. We miss worshiping together. We long to be together.

Legally, as of May 24th – about a week and a half away as I write this – we can gather again. Should we? If so, what precautions should we take?

And we wrestled. How do we best show love for God and each other? How do we care for each other in this time? (more…)

Remembering the Dance

grayscale photo of people raising their hands

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I’d forgotten how to dance.

As I looked over the congregation, it seemed… empty. And I didn’t care. Today I got to speak God’s Word. Today I got to be with the people God had given me to love. I announced the first hymn, and then I got to go play it. “In Christ Alone.” One of the congregation’s favorites.

As I played the piano toward the front of the church, I heard more people coming into the sanctuary. Pretty standard for us, really. We’re in Kentucky. Plenty of people show up five minutes late.

But as the song finished and I returned to the front of the sanctuary to lead worship, I saw that the room was nearly full now.

God had brought his people to worship him. (more…)

No Church For You!

Whew. Worship was canceled today. Kind of.

All week I’ve been struggling with dizziness. For the most part it was just an annoyance, but yesterday (Saturday) it was bad enough I canceled all my appointments. I was able to do plenty of office work, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I was frustrated. I don’t like being the one canceling. (Though, as has been noted, I rarely cry if someone cancels on me!)

And then… this morning.

I was hoping that the dizziness would be like most pastors’ illnesses: Maybe bad on Saturday, but fine on Sunday. Whether it’s God working to make sure his people hear his Word, or just adrenaline, I’m usually fine on Sunday mornings. When I got up this morning, that’s what it looked like.

Good. There’s lots to do today. Choir, then worship, then Bible study, and then a new member class. All of it good, but a lot to do and much more difficult if I can’t stand up because the world is spinning. (more…)

Gifts for Me

Christmas Card

She is alone much of the time. As I visit her, she tells me, “I haven’t left my room in over a month.” I know this woman fairly well. She may be in a nursing home, but she’s hardly sedate. She’s active with the other residents, playing games, solving puzzles, and sharing Jesus.

Normally.

Just about every time I visit, she’ll say, “Pastor, my neighbor doesn’t believe in God. How can that be? How can I tell him about Jesus?”

Her heart yearns for her Savior and yearns to share him, too.

But now she’s sick. It’s a new medication that’s simply not cooperating well. Hopefully it’ll be solved soon. In the meantime, she hasn’t left her room.

She hasn’t been to church in years. Her family stuck her in a nursing home far away. It was cheaper. But it’s so far away she physically can’t handle the drive to church anymore. It’s so far away pretty much no one visits her. It’s about an hour away by interstate.

And she longs to be with the congregation again. She misses the family of believers. (more…)

Why Christmas Matters

macro shot photography of christmas stockings ornament on a christmas tree

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He is risen!” I greeted the congregation.

They blinked at each other. They glanced nervously at the Christmas tree. They observed the chairs nicely lined up for the kids to sit in for the Christmas program. The Advent candles were lit. “…He is risen indeed?” they asked back. There was a nervous chuckle.

Some of you are a little confused!” I smile.

Cause you’re not supposed to say that now!” one of the members in the front row answers. More laughter now. (more…)

Am I OK?

Crowd

Today before worship one of my council members pulled me aside. “Pastor, can I have a second? I need to ask you a question. If you need to think about it before answering me, I understand. It’s about that paper you gave me.”

Ah.

About a month back, I made available to my council members a paper I had written on pastoral depression. It was meant to be a show of transparency: “Hey, I wrote this, and if you want, you can have access to it. It’s not an assignment or even something I’m asking you to do; it’s just something you can have if you want.”

And this man has read it now.

He pulls me aside, and very concerned, asks, “Is this a cry for help?” (more…)

This is Brave. This is Bruised.

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Jesus ain’t got no taste.* Jesus had low standards for who he invited to follow him. His disciples were a mess. The apostles in-fought. Prostitutes and tax collectors were comfortable bringing their friends to Jesus.

I am sick and tired of churches that have higher standards than Jesus.

I am not saying that I don’t expect Christians to grow. One of our problems is how little we seem to mature in the Gospel, to grow in its implications and live under the cross.

Nearly everyone I associate with agrees that the church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints. But then… then you mention that someone who was indeed guilty of one of “those sins” is coming to church, suddenly they stress out. When I talk about inviting “those” people in, it means disrupted meetings and messes and…

…why are we holding this gathering of saints-and-sinners to a higher standard than Jesus held?

The tension is growing. (more…)

It’s more than a locker room speech.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It was a time of amazing sports movies. Mighty Ducks was probably my favorite of them, but you probably know at least some of these great sports movies that have graced the silver screen: Hoosiers. Rudy. Miracle.

I read an illustration in Move Toward the Mess by John Hambrick, and I used it today at a congregational meeting. Shamelessly. (Pastors are the best thieves.)

On Facebook, I asked for the best locker room speech in a sports movie. I got a lot of amazing suggestions. Remember the Titans. The Replacements. Any Given Sunday. Friday Night Lights. A lot of them I couldn’t use because of language or simple time requirements, but then today at the beginning of the congregational meeting, I played this clip:


(more…)

Your pastor might have depression.

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So yesterday I presented a paper on depression in the ministry. I shared my story as part of the paper. All of it: My struggles with worth, with shame, with cutting, with laziness, all of it. I talked about the need for Gospel, the need to admit needing help, the need to have someone to talk to. I talked about needing Jesus, not “just” for salvation but for our infirmities and our sorrows, too.

And afterward, pastor after pastor approached me with thanks and asked for more.

What did your counselor do with you?”

How do you find someone to confide in?”

What kind of music helps you?”

More approached with their own stories. I won’t share them here for respect for their privacy, except to say that depression in the ministry is not unique to me. These stories shattered me. So many of my brothers thought they were alone and broken and had to hide.

This is a call to you. If you are not a minister or you serve on a ministry team, help your ministers. There are two huge ways you can do that: (more…)

Alone in a Church

“Why is it people I scarcely know know how to talk to me better than anyone at my church?”

She asked me that. She’s a young adult trying to connect at her home congregation. (Yes, I asked her permission to quote her, anonymously.) Her perception is that no one in her home congregation cares about her, nor do they care about their surrounding community. They insist on doing things the way they have always been, without any further examination. They don’t reach out, especially if it means breaking out of a very narrow comfort zone. And for her and her needs? A lot of shrugging. Connecting with her? Whatever.

She just came back from a conference where she vaguely knew… two people, I think. And she connected with them more and better than people she’s known her whole life at her congregation.

This is a problem. (more…)