Movies > Books?


I read. Maybe just a little.

If you pay attention to what I post, you know that I’ve been averaging a book a week for over a year now. And these are the books I read in pursuing being a better pastor! I also read plenty of books for fun, and over on my other blog I’ll be writing about the year’s worth of books in a few weeks. Most of my continuing education comes from my personal reading and various conferences.

But this week I haven’t been doing much professional reading. Instead, I’ve been watching movies. (more…)


Pushed to Share the Gospel

A future of worship?

She wants to go to my church. She can’t.

It’s not the normal excuse. “Oh, well, I just keep forgetting to get up.” Nope, she’s actually awake early enough.

“I don’t have a ride.” Nope; I always offer rides to anyone who gives that excuse (And it’s always something else then). I actually can’t give her a ride.

Nope. She’s going to college a number of hours away, and a good distance from the nearest church she’s in fellowship with. She really can’t get to my church. She doesn’t have a car. And even more… she wants to be in on our evening service, the discussion-based service we’ve been running since late May. (more…)

Terror in a Text

Terror gripped my heart. My phone chirruped its little alert: I had a text.

In the last few weeks, I’ve ticked off more than a few people. Fires rage around my little congregation.

One member of the congregation threatened to physically assault another member of the congregation when they next saw each other. Oh, that happened to be at church the next Sunday. I called her on it. She’s refusing to speak to me or show up in church now. Because how dare I tell her that threatening assault is a sin?

I tried reaching her earlier today. She didn’t respond then. Could this be from her?

Grandma kicked out her daughter and grandson. Why? Well, because. And when I call her on that, she hangs up on me. (“You always take their side! And don’t you bring Christ into this!”)

Is this her grandson, against asking me what to do and ignoring me as he has for weeks?

Daughter that was kicked out tells me, “Don’t tell her we’re safe. I want her to suffer.” I call her on that. No, I will not intentionally deceive nor hurt another. Daughter is now mad at me.

Is this her texting back, raging again?

A woman in the congregation is so angry that I dared say, “God will not give you more than you can handle” is not in the Bible, and in fact is false theology. Lifelong member accusing me of trying to tear her away from God.

And now my phone chirrups again. Yes, I have a text. (more…)

Sunday morning, and not present in the body

Early on in my ministry here, I threw a softball to my council to see how they would react to a little responsibility. I knew that a large chunk of my council were very concerned that I take care of the shut-ins (those members who for health reasons are unable to attend normal Sunday morning worship). I knew that I should be able to visit them in their homes on a monthly basis, barring emergencies (and I have indeed kept that schedule). However, as I presented this to the council, I told them, “They have the desire to worship with other Christians more often than once a month. We can serve them better. What are some options? Bring me some ideas.”

It felt like this: They knew they were other people, but they only worshiped alone. We can do better for them!

Now, my intention was to get a group of elders started – some men to visit each shut-in once a month on weeks that I wasn’t making my visits. However, I wanted them to come up with whatever idea they came up with so they could own it. Well, I didn’t get my wish of an elder. I got something… unique.

An early idea that they proposed was to simply record the worship service and deliver the recordings. A fantastic idea many congregations implement, but it wasn’t really practical for us. Our shut-ins have a wide gamut of technology; over here is a couple that still haven’t made it to the VCR level, while over here is another shut-in who Skypes with her great-grandchildren. We considered by mp3 players for each shut-in and training them how to use them.

Despite the stereotype, there are plenty of old geezers who can geeze on the internet breezily!

Then one of the councilmen had an ingenious idea: no matter what level of technology they were at, every single person had a phone of one type or another. Why not have them call a phone number and listen to Sunday morning worship live?

As I considered, I found a lot to like with this plan. When watching television or any recorded media, we tend to be docile. We’re not interacting with what we see; we’re merely sponging it in. But a telephone – now here’s something different! We’re used to interacting! And it’s live – it’s not merely a recording, but something that’s happening right then. A person doesn’t prepare for watching a recording; a person might prepare if they have to get up in the morning to listen in.

So, we pursued the options. Ideally, we’d find a way to patch our microphone system directly into the phone line for the hour-or-so every Sunday morning. No dice; at least not in any inexpensive way. We did find an inexpensive service for conference calls, though. It would mean I’d have to wear a Bluetooth during the service. That would take some getting used to and necessitate I use the lapel mic instead of the one that hung off my ear, but I could handle that. The system was easy to use for both our tech staff to set up as well as the shut-ins at home. Let’s give it a go!

I don’t look nearly so dynamic as this guy. Nor as well-groomed. Nor as cheesy, I hope.

Yesterday was the third week straight of this new program. Our tech staff (generally confirmands and recent confirmands) have gotten the hang of it; the hardest part is them talking on the phone to welcome the callers. I’ve heard from our shut-ins that they’re loving the program. They’re feeling like they’re part of the congregation again! They not be present in the body, but they are listening and participating!

I’ve made a big deal since getting here that we’re family. Here we simply see one of the ways that plays out: even if you can’t be here in body, you’re still a member of the family. The congregation has accepted the Bluetooth; I’ve not heard a single negative about it in a congregation that can get pretty darn vocal about change. I’ve heard nothing but positive from the shut-ins.

There’s one unexpected side-effect from all this; not only are the shut-ins able to join us for worship, but they’re fellowshipping! I’ve encouraged them to call in at least ten minutes before the service starts so we can sort out any bugs if they pop up. During the time before the service starts, they’re talking to each other on the phone. They’re sharing each other’s’ lives – granted, it’s not in a deep way, but it’s more than they’re used to! They’re encouraging each other and enjoying being part of the family – not in a mental or spiritual way, but now also in a way they can experience firsthand.

The system isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. Because I wear the Bluetooth, when it comes to singing, the shut-ins only hear me and not the rest of the congregation. That’s… disconcerting. I wouldn’t want to hear me singing solos for all the music! We need to find a way to fix it, but this is an inconvenience and certainly not a deal breaker!

And the neat thing about all this? I simply made a need known. I said, “Hey, let’s see if we can serve this one portion of the congregation better.” And the men took this and ran with it. They thought of the solution. They compared ways to reach the solution. They made sure it happened. I made a problem known and released the men to fix it.

They succeeded.

I need to do this more often. I need to simply let the men go on a mission they believe in. I plan to practice that with some events coming up, but this success shows me that it can be done in this congregation with these people.

And the result is that even more of the congregation is blessed. Awesome!

Good job church council!

Stupid Blessing.

This is not how my cell broke, but how awesome would it be if I could say that?

This week marked two firsts for me.

First, I realized how dependent on technology I am in my ministry. I do a fair amount of texting with my teens, I call my members as I drive around town, and I make appointments using my phone on a daily basis.

And now, my cell is kaput.

I’m getting a new one (hopefully arriving today… hopefully… hopefully…), but for the past week… well, let’s just say I wasted a lot of time going back and forth and trying to get stuff figured out. It was annoying, to say the least. I lost some important calls. I had to apologize to numerous people. More than one teen has asked me what the heck is going on since I’m suddenly ignoring them (or, rather, simply not getting the texts!).

It’s the dumbest thing ever, how so little an object can control how a ministry goes. If James wrote today, I think he might have written this: “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the cell phone is a small piece of technology, but it makes great boasts.” (A slightly changed wording of James 3:3-5)

So, yeah. Stupid technology.