A Refreshing Sabbatical

Our sabbatical ended yesterday, and I am so glad to be back at work with new perspectives, deeper appreciation for God’s blessings, and a renewed awareness of my call.

I’m so grateful for the CIL family that made this time possible, and I look forward to loving and serving this faith community with more effectiveness in this next era of ministry.

Why all the effort on Sunday?

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As I am reflecting on our fantastic Easter services, I am amazed at how many committed people it takes to provide a church experience in the 21st century. I cannot adequately thank all the people who contributed sacrificially to make our celebration successful.

For all the important and accurate critiques of the modern church, this is our culture, and people in the United States are accustomed to worshipping in a particular manner. So, a successful service requires elements like professional childcare, skillful music, a comfortable building environment, a humorous and academic sermon, time efficiency, artistic expression, marketing, and strategic relational connections – to name a few things. These characteristics require great forethought and strategic planning. I have found that no matter how far ahead you think and work hard, there are always things you could have done better.

Still, unlike many award shows, concerts, or cultural events, we do this every week. Easter Sunday is special because Jesus has made every day special. The amazing volunteers at CIL and other churches will continue to bring it every week. Why? He is worthy of our best every time!

Reflections on George H.W. Bush

bush_prez_0I am quite an admirer of George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), and think of him fondly on the news of his death. I always liked Bush, but when I was younger I was not overly enthusiastic about his leadership.  As time has progressed, my appreciation and respect for him as a leader continued to increase, until he has developed in my mind – for too many reasons to put in this post – as one of my favorite historical leaders.

He produced cooperation.  He was strong against tyranny.  He was compassionate towards the disadvantaged.  He was very human and very American.

Thirty years ago, Bush stated “We need a kinder and gentler nation.”  We needed that cultural challenge then, and it still calls to those who will listen today.

Thanks, Eugene

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Eugene Peterson died last month (October 22, 2018) after a long life of service to the kingdom of God.  He was an author, scholar, and pastor.   I never met him, but his writings marked my ministry greatly.

51ltEQZuJVL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_His 2011 memoirs titled The Pastor, came into my life at just the right time.  One of my pastors – Ronnie Meek – asked me to read Peterson’s book. It was a time of internal struggle with my call, and disillusionment with the modern definition of a pastor that I was watching destroy several of my colleagues while eating away at me.

In December 2011, Beth and I were exploring Chicago (see picture).  As I followed Beth around Michigan avenue, I carried Peterson’s wisdom with a 1stedition Kindle Reader.  Page after page, chapter after chapter, Peterson’s enjoyable stories and thought-provoking phrases chipped away at my hidden obsession to be to be a super-star religious leader.

In Peterson’s stories, I noticed my story in a new way.  As he wrote, “I was a pastor long before I knew I was a pastor; I just never had a name for it.”  God used this book to bring me back home to God’s call.   Since that time, I have referred back to passages in The Pastormany times to re-center my call to this exhilarating, boring, spectacular, ordinary, complicated, privileged call to pastor God’s people.

the pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God—this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.” – Eugene Peterson

Third Thursday with Dan Scott

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*Attention Nashville area pastors*

For many years I have been part of Third Thursday – a gathering for pastors at Axis Church in Nashville (1423 2nd Ave N). This eclectic group comes together for Friendship, Training, Discussion, Coffee, and Networking. All pastors are welcome!

On Thursday, August 16th we will meet at the Axis Church at 9am, with the discussion starting at 9:30am.

DanScott-tieMy dear friend, Pastor Dan Scott of Christ Church Nashville, will be leading the discussion on “The Pastoral Call for the 21st Century Pastor.”

If you have never sat under Dan’s ministry, make a point to join us. Pastor Dan has influenced my perspective on pastoring and the church’s role in culture profoundly. He is such a gift, and I hope you take advantage of this opportunity.

(PS— If you come, please do not park in the red barn’s parking lot)

Taking my Sabbath

I’m so grateful for a congregation that allows me to have a Sabbath each Friday, so I can reflect, recharge and recreate. Everyone in our church is so respectful of my time. Still, I want to serve people as much as I can. This quote is helpful when reflecting on the rhythm of ministry and rest.

“A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” – Elton Trueblood

Thanks Billy for not disappointing us

Billy-Graham-on-white-house-lawn-1950

I joyfully mourn the loss of Billy Graham upon his death today.  As I grew up in the Christian faith, I often heard, “Who is going to be the next Billy Graham?”   Well, there will not be another Billy Graham. That does not mean Graham is set apart as better than the rest of us.  Like Elijah, Graham “was a human being as we are (James 5:17).”

There will not be another Billy Graham because of the dramatic changes in our American culture (future blog to come).  Graham was known as America’s pastor, but America does not want to be pastored anymore.  I studied Graham’s life pretty extensively, and like me, he was not perfect.  Still, Graham knew how to handle earthly power over multiple decades in a way that honored God and lifted the reputation of Christianity.  (The above picture is of Graham and friends on White House lawn in 1950 – he was close to power at such a young age). We are all so grateful this prominent star maintained his morality.

He was committed to evangelism, and turned down lucrative offers in entertainment to stay focused on the ministry.  I particularly admire Graham’s outspoken opposition to nuclear weapons.  In 1979, he spoke against nuclear proliferation at a time when Christians in America almost blindly supported the build up of these weapons.

In Christianity, we are always looking for the next hero, and we are usually disappointed by them somewhere along the way.  Thanks Billy Graham for not disappointing us.