From Mount Pisgah’s Lofty Height

The story of Moses and the great wilderness transition comes to an end on Mount Pisgah (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). Like all great stories, it is bitter-sweet. The future lays before Moses. He can look into the Promised Land, but not enter. His role has been to guide the people out of slavery and through a transitional period. I’ve always felt that those who look for some sin to be the cause of Moses not crossing the Jordan, miss the point. Most of the world’s greatest leaders were given boundaries. Winston Churchill led Britain through World War II, and then was promptly voted out of office.

Last Sunday in Pentecost
Sunday, October 26, 2014

Economic Culture

On two occasions, I have pastored congregations whose people and leadership had less expendable income than the average resident of the the state. I noticed that when I went to meetings, I was the only person with a calendar. It was part of the culture of both of these congregations, to focus only on the present. I had a hard to time drumming up interest in planning programs that occurred in the future. A Zen master might praise these people for being mindful and living in the moment. Imagine how frustrating I found it.

 

Your churches economic culture effects its temporal focus

Only God can make a Pomegranate

The Lord God led the people for forty years in the wilderness in order to bring them to the only land in the Middle East that doesn’t have oil. Still, it was a pretty good Promised Land. It had pomegranates and figs. It had copper and affordable housing. But, what Deuteronomy 8:7-17 fails to mention is the location. They say that the three most important assets of any piece of real-estate are location, location, and, Location. Palestine had that in spades.

 

Pentecost 24
Sunday, October 19, 2014

Four Kinds of People on the Church Landscape

Every church deals with four kinds of people: Faithful, Snackers, Near, and Far. To be successful, you need to tailor your evangelism and mission to meet the needs of each group. You also need to be brutally honest about your programing and budget. It’s very easy for the Faithful to consume all of the resources to the exclusion of the other three people groups.

The four groups are:

Homer Simpson is your typical church snacker

Love the One You’re With — NOT!

A Crosby, Stills, and Nash song used to advise that when you’re down and confused because the one that you belong to with is far away, you ought to just, “Love the one you’re with.” In Exodus (32:1-14), God’s people get discombobulated because Moses is up the mountain and God seems far away.  There are times in our lives when we find our primary relationships thinned out and fuzzy. It may be that our spouse is traveling or working a different shift. Face time disappears. Every word between us is miscommunicated.

Pentecost 23
Sunday, October 12, 2014

Not Every Church Problem is a Nail

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Denominational officials have a very limited tool box. They can credential new clergy and defrock inept ones. They can move pastors from place to place (or make suggestions if it is “call” system). They can keep both the congregation and clergy persons informed about policies and best practices. Given this tool box, every church problem looks like a leadership issue. The nail that fits the denominational official’s hammer is a church that will do better, if only they have the right pastor. But, what if governance of the congregation is dominated by a group of dysfunctional lay leaders?

A small tool box limits your ability to see solutions

Hanging Ten

I have a solution to the controversy about displaying the Ten Commandment in public places, particularly courthouses. Put up only the second tablet. Traditionally the Ten Commandment (Exodus 20:1-17) have been divided, with commandment one through four on the left (or right if you are speaking Hebrew). These are the “crimes against the Lord God.” In a pluralistic society, such as ours, we have no right to expect everyone to call the same god, Holy. The second tablet of commandments deal with our crimes against each other. These six seem appropriate for the walls of our courthouses, as well as, the schools were we teach our children about civic responsibility.

Pentecost 22
Sunday, October 5, 2014

Authority?

I warned our dog, Bella, that she’d be in the blog this week. She didn’t care. She prefers to be stubborn. The current problem involves antibiotic pills that I am hiding in her doggie treats. I say, “Trust me.” She doesn’t. She eats the treat and spits out the pill. We argue. She growls, “Who made you an authority over me?” It’s the same place Moses was in as he led people across the wilderness. People were grumbling because Moses picked camping sites without regard to water.

 

Pentecost 21
Sunday, September 28, 2014

Your Church: A Sailboat or a Submarine?

In San Diego there’s a boat museum with three old submarines tied to the dock. I was visiting the Russian Whisky Class submarine from the 1970s, when I noticed a beautiful sailboat tacking against the wind in the harbor. What’s the difference between these two boats? The sailboat is dealing with wind and current. It is taking risks. The Russian sub is securely fastened to the shore. It is a museum piece. I find that when I talk about the church in the postmodern world, the image of the sailboat resonates with only a few church leaders. Most pastors and lay people would prefer to have their house of worship firmly entrenched in tradition.

This sub is a museum piece

Selective memory

I have a special “Macro” lens for my camera. It’s job is to selectively focus on little things. If I want to get a broad picture of the landscape, I need to switch lenses. We all suffer from selective memory. Even when we talk about our day over dinner, we selectively focus on the things most likely to make us feel that we deserve that second desert. Most of the arguments that we have with our loved ones, involve a heavy dose of selective memory. So too, the conflicts that arise in church.

 

Pentecost 20
Sunday, September 21, 2014

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