August 1st, 2012 | 2 Comments »

If you live in Central, TX, you don’t want to miss IGNITE at The Vine Church tonight. IGNITE is a worship experiment. We’ll begin at 6:30, but you can come at 5:45 to share a meal with us.

Here’s an excerpt from my comments tonight:

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Posted in church, words, writing
July 17th, 2012 | No Comments »

I first discovered the sermons and writing of Barbara Brown Taylor about 9 years ago when I read The Preaching Life. Recently I been looking back over the book. Here are some great words from her:

“If the preaching they hear is effective, it will not hand them sacks of wisdom and advice to take home and consume during the week, but invite them into the field to harvest those fruits for themselves, until they become preachers in their own right. Preaching is not something an ordained minister does for fifteen minutes on Sundays, but what the whole congregation does all week long; it is a way of approaching the world, and of gleaning God’s presence.”

Posted in books, ministry, preaching, words
March 14th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

As parents of two daughters, Rochelle and I are on a constant journey to raise them to become strong, loving, and God-dependent people. To that end, I recently went to hear Barbara Coloroso speak on her book Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline, which I promptly bought. Barbara is an internationally recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice. Coloroso begins in an unlikely place for the 21st-Century, whether or not we – parents, schools, teachers, etc… – are praising kids too much and addicting them to rewards.

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February 22nd, 2012 | 16 Comments »

I was slightly taken aback when one of our church members – a friend and supporter of mine – joked to her husband that she listens to me 40-minutes every Sunday. Trust me, no one knows better than I do when I stray over my allotted time. In fairness, my sermons are typically about 30-minutes, not 40. A co-worker complained to me once that a particular sermon was 38-minutes (I could tell she had only checked the time stamp on the podcast and hadn’t listened to it. There was more recorded than the sermon and she hadn’t been in worship to hear it the first time. That sermon was 30-minutes). However, she was right in that my sermons are longer than (1) I was trained to make them, (2) have typically preached them in the past and (3) than I grew up hearing others preach their sermons.

What’s more, I’m not the only one who is preaching longer. I examined the podcasts I listen to weekly and began paying attention to the length of the sermons.  I also paid closer attention to the communicators I watch online in the early hours of Sunday morning. In addition, I talked to local preachers and perused all types of church websites and I  noticed something: Hardly anyone preaches 20-minutes sermons anymore! As a matter of fact, recently we had  a family join our congregation only to leave a month later. When I encountered the husband one morning in BestBuy, he reluctantly confessed he left because of “the teaching.” Surprised by his bluntness, I stepped back. He continued, “Sorry, Pastor, It just wasn’t enough. I need an hour of teaching; 50-minutes at least.” Oddly, while attention spans in America may be getting shorter, sermons are getting longer. And there are 4 reasons why!

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February 8th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

This weekend I’m presenting at the Renew Conference in Fresno, CA. Jason Locke, the very capable preaching minister there, left the field wide open in terms of what I could present. That’s always a mixed bag. If you’re assigned a topic and flop, at least you can tell yourself you were put in a corner – which, my wife tells me, no one ever does to Baby. But I digress.

I’ve opted to talk about pastors and churches as community leaders for the common good. For two years I’ve served as a board member for the Peninsula Clery Network, most recently as President. Our goal is to connect clergy to one another and with civic and governmental officers and agencies. Surprisingly I have found that most Christian clergy have no imagination that their vocation connects with civic and community leadership. We do not see ourselves as community leaders. I can conceive of several reasons for this. Among them:

  • Most congregants just want their ministers to care for them and their needs. Anything else is a waste. “We’re paying you, Buddy.”
  • Ministers have a profound time crunch. In any week they have multiple public presentations, an organization to run, staff to oversee, visitation, and, ahem…blog post to write (late at night, of course).
  • Ministers have believed that the state actually wants separation of church and state. Trust me (and I’m in California), local, state, and federal municipalities are dying for congregations to take leadership in their communities. Don’t believe either the mainstream or conservative media hype about this. It’s just false!

Churches and clergypersons have been decentralized as community leaders and we did it to ourselves. Not to put too fine a point on it: We abandoned our cities to work in our churches and now both are in decline.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is my hero. Though rightly remembered as a Civil Rights leader, King’s fundamental self-perception was that of a preacher. When King arrived as the boy-preacher at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, he did not come to start a movement; he came to preach. As a matter of fact, when he arrived he brought in hand a 39-Point plan to turnaround the congregation. In it were such revolutionary items as buying a new pulpit. What’s more, king saw himself as simply carrying on the family business. His father was a pastor, his grandfather was a pastor, and his great-grandfather was a pastor.

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