The one fact that no one can dispute is that fewer people today are interested in organized religion. Most Americans don't want to pay for some religious monstrosity or attend a Crystal Cathedral. To put it in biblical terms, they have forsaken the Temple that Herod is building in the city, and gone looking for  the burning bush. They are a generation like the one that met John the Baptist on the border of the wilderness and accepted his casual dress. They long to gather on the hillside and hear Jesus tell them about the Kingdom of God and how it is relevant to daily life. 

The Flat church puts you (and others) in the driver's seat

What would Lazarus say to Thomas

The disciples said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” John 20:25

The day after Easter and everyone is talking about somebody who broke their leg and baseball’s opening day. What have you been talking about this week? I have to confess that I have been meandering through the mundane, mostly. Mary Magdalene has been on my mind, however. She doesn’t ‘bury the lead,’ like one Easter sermon that I heard. She doesn’t talk about the little resurrections that we experience every day or how spring feels Easter-like. She says, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

 

Easter 2
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Speaking of Death and...

[The women] came back from the tomb and told all these things to [the men]

I remember my first funeral, it was Flo Chisholm. I was a halfway through Dr. Zeigler’s dreaded Systematic Theology student pastor who had just been hired to drive the hundred miles from Bangor to Danville and bring the word. Flo was beloved by the whole congregation and they spoke her name in a worried tone during the morning prayers. I visited her as she lay upon her rented hospital bed, parked in the living room. For a month of Sundays, I chitchatted and she gave me wise insights into life as it is lived in a quiet Maine village. The last of those Sundays I arrived in a new three-piece navy blue suit with a reversible vest. She appreciated it and I said, “Yep.

Easter
Sunday, March 31, 2013

Perhaps this year we (in the North) can add a tradition to our Holy Week of  constructng liturgical snowpersons. This one reminds me of Psalm 22

Zig Ziglar says that every sale [of a product] overcomes five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust. This list deserves our attention; witnessing involves selling the church and our Lord. The five barriers translate easily into five problems that every congregation has to solve. For the average congregation trying to sell the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their unchurched neighbors, Ziglar’s list is in a rising order of importance. 

 

Motivational speaker, salesman, Zig Ziglar

Shifting Gears

Let the same mind be in you...

The night before Palm Sunday, Jesus was in Bethany and Mary came to anoint him (John 12:1). In the novel that I am writing about Holy Week, I have Mary proclaiming that Jesus is King. Her perfumed oil wasn’t just given in thanksgiving for her brother’s life, but was a well timed political statement. She does this public act, just a short walk away from Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate, where the Messiah (anointed one) is expected to enter. She does it knowing that the thousands of pilgrims camping nearby, know of Jesus’ miraculous power and will rally to bring him to his throne.

 

Lent 6
Palm Sunday
Sunday, March 24, 2013

In his book “Leading Change,” John Kotter makes the point that nothing changes in an organization until a sufficient sense of urgency has been established. You can have the right people in leadership and a clearly communicated vision, but if a “plenty of time for us to consider this later” attitude prevails, needed change will never occur. This is the missing step in most church goal setting processes.

Your church's next small group could be in a prison or nursing home

There’s an old story about a Maine Lobsterman who was caught in a bad storm at sea when the engine on his boat suddenly quit. Anxiously he fiddled trying to restart it. All the while, he heard the waves crash upon the rocky shore. Soon, he’d be dashed to bits. He prayed, “Lord, I have never asked you for anything in the past. If you rescue me this one time, I promise not to be bothering you again in the future.” 

Lobsterman in a Storm

What a difference a day makes...

‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’

Today I picked up a book about how blogs are changing the world. The book began with the story of 9-11-2001, as it unfolded in the blog-o-sphere. It was a day that changed many things in America. The day before 911, web pages that provided news content were valued less than the paper they weren’t printed on. In January of 2000, Time Warner had spent half a gazillion dollars to purchase AOL.  In March of 2000, the dot.com stock market bubble burst, making AOL practically worthless. Everyone associated with posting news on the web slinked off the stage in disgrace. On 911, all that changed.

Lent 4
Sunday, March 10, 2013

About fifteen years ago, at a church I was serving, a group of forward thinking people came to the church council seeking to start a contemporary worship service on Saturday night. They needed funding for equipment and music. They knew that there was money in the Ford Endowment fund, which was designated for music and worship related expenses. Several in the church council objected, saying, “We knew the Fords. They would be dead set against this kind of thing.” I spoke up and said, “If we are going to resurrect the Fords for the sake of this meeting, couldn’t we at least resurrect them as young people?” The point was taken and the vote went in favor using the funds to support the new worship service.

Neil Clark Warren, founder of E-Harmony

Moses

Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. He thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight..."
“Earth is crammed with heaven, And every bush is aflame with God But only those who see, take off their shoes The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Lent 3
Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reality Check 101 is a book or ebook containing three basic teaching chapters and five tools to help your congregation discern a better future. It is also an ever growing body of resources, free-to-copy small group handouts, powerpoint, and media files available at www.notperfectyet.com.

Print workbook - 267 pages - is available from Amazon.com for $15.85

eBook is $7.85 from Amazon (kindle) and Smashwords (epub, nook, ipad).  Print ISBN: 978-1484152966         epub ISBN 9781301924554

The three teaching chapters teach:

Reality Check workbook

Seeking God for God's Sake

He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...

Psalm 27 does an odd thing, it has a number of high security phrases like, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life,” and “set me high upon a rock.” It appeals to the fortress mentality of our faith, as if to say that is the reason for religion. It being Lent, I was struck by the wilderness and the 'seeking God for God’s sake' quality of the Psalm. David is saying, I only want to seek the Lord’s face, nothing else matters. What David really found in the wilderness wasn’t security from madman Saul, but the mystery of God in the night.

Lent 2
Sunday, February 24, 2013

Old technology doesn’t die, it just becomes irrelevant. Think about it, everything from the telegraph to the trebuchet still exists. When humankind moves on and leaves an old way of doing something in the dust, it doesn’t get rid of the old. Things that are irrelevant, are simply parked in a back ally. This is my chief concern as I write a weekly blog for leaders serving mainline denominational congregations.

Monopoly Iron

Churches are in the communication business. We tell people about Jesus, explain the relevancy of the Bible, communicate prayer needs and joys, publish the where and why of our fellowship gathering, and beg people to give. Few things have changed so dramatically in the last thirty years as the ways people communicate and how they prefer to receive information. From the time of Martin Luther down to the time of Martin Luther King, people went to the church and looked at the church door or church bulletin to see if there was anything happening this week. Today, those that faithfully read the bulletin or the church newsletter are few and gray. Even the idea of regularly going to the church building or calling the secretary for information seems quaint. 

Drupal CMS Website screenshot

The Nature of Our Nation

A wandering Aramean was my father...

The Old Testament scripture that calls us to confess, “A wandering Aramean was my father...” seems a strange place to begin Lent. I always associate Deuteronomy 26 with Thanksgiving and turkey, but it makes a cool contrast to Luke 4 where Jesus is starving in the wilderness. Lent is a good time to wrestle with the big questions of life and to fast for long enough to get a more spiritual perspective on it all.

 This Lent, lets begin by traveling outside the walls that usually separate church and state and pray a hungry prayer for our political circumstances. There are three questions that we need to ask about our community and nation.  Deuteronomy 26 provides an unexpected answer to each:

Lent 1
Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bill Kemp is the author of nine books including Holy Places, Small Spaces: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church (Discipleship Resources, 2005), The Church Transition Workbook: Getting Your Church in Gear (Discipleship Resources, 2004), and “Going Home: Facing Life’s Final Moments Without Fear,” (with Diane Kerner Arnett, Kregel Publishing: March, 2005).

Bill taking pictures

The Spirit of God is Upon Me

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Who Does Jesus Target?

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)

Epiphany 3
Sunday, January 27, 2013

Light Misunderstood

...the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

“What is light?” I asked my father.

“Well, that depends upon what you need it for.”  My father was somewhat an expert on the subject, having worked on optical design, first for Sandia Labs, and then at Goerz. “When you design a lens, light is like the waves that you see upon the sea. All of the colors of the rainbow are but different lengths between the peaks and troughs of light’s waves. But when you take a closer look, pondering the smallest bits that fall like dust upon a photocell or a roll of film, then you best remember that light is really a particle.”

Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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