Church Planter Profiles

I love to write, and I love church planters.  I’m going to write a series of church Planter profiles as i meet them.  These are profiles of church planters, church replanters, and those involved in church revitalization.  In most cases, I’ve been able to interview them over the phone and in some cases I’ve been able to interview in person.

It seems we are constantly hearing about troubled churches, or churches that have died.  I hope you take encouragement from the stories of these who are joining God in new works across our continent.

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Five Realities that Derailed Roy Moore

We’ve seen all the headlines, and we’ve heard all the accusations. Senate candidate and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, is being accused of sexual harassment by numerous women. The women claim the harassment took place while they were teenagers. Moore gave an interview to Sean Hannity where he offered contradictory and ambiguous statements, failing to convince Hannity of his innocence.

This post is not going to debate his guilt or innocence. I believe he was headed for a political crash landing even before these allegations. Here are five realities that have derailed Roy Moore. These realities should serve as warning signs to all of us. They can derail our careers as well.

  1. Arrogance: This reality should come as no surprise. Mr. Moore has a history of arrogance. He first appeared in the news in 2003 when he defied a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judiciary Building. The evangelical community cheered Justice Moore’s defiance, yet failed to recognize the arrogance of his actions. He was subsequently removed from the Alabama Supreme Court. Arrogance rarely affects only one segment of our lives. It is not surprising to hear that Moore has lived an arrogant lifestyle. Arrogance leads to the second reality.
  2. Poor Choices: We all make bad decisions, but there’s a difference between bad decisions and a legacy of poor choices. If the accusations are true, choosing to date women 14 years younger than himself was a very poor choice. Then, choosing to run for national political office, knowing this activity could come to light, was another poor choice. We have to be careful not to get sucked into a vortex of poor choices. We will make bad decisions, but a lifestyle of poor choices will come back to haunt us.
  3. Self-worship: This reality also stems from arrogance. Mr. Moore claims Christianity, but his rhetoric does not reflect Christ. His rhetoric, at times, gives glory only to Roy Moore. We worship God and serve Him only, not ourselves. Our world is searching for Christ, not another human being. We can not afford to train the spotlight on ourselves because we are not capable of solving humanity’s greatest problem: our sin problem. Mr. Moore desired the spotlight, and now he has those bright lights, and we see what the lights have allegedly revealed. Let us glorify God and not ourselves.
  4. Victim Mentality: Throughout this scandal, Moore has consistently played the role of the victim. His portrayal has not convinced me of his innocence. I wish he would admit his guilt and apologize. That would result in his exit from the campaign, but it might salvage some semblance of his reputation. We, as believers, are never victims. We are victorious through the blood of Christ. When we have done wrong, the best course of action is repentance. The best course of action will always be repentance.
  5. Friendlessness: This reality is devastating. It appears that Mr. Moore had no one around him to tell him no. He appears to have had an absence of true friends. True friends speak truth into our lives. True friends tell us no when we are making poor choices. True friends will tell us that we are arrogant. I am thankful for true friends. If you do not have someone who speaks truth into your life, no matter how painful, you are living dangerously. Your fall may not be played out in the glare of the media, but it will be just as devastating to those around you.

I’m trying to put myself on a pedestal. I’m a sinner just like Mr. Moore, but I do want to learn from his situation and keep these five realities from invading my life, lest I fall. I hope you do too.

A Must Read

From time to time when I find articles that impact me, I’ll post the links here. I’m not a big fan of The New York Times, but this article about 26 Nigerian girl’s found dead at sea hit me hard. We don’t hear much about human trafficking, but it is a world-wide epidemic. Let’s take some time this morning to pray for the families of these girls and for those who serve in ministries like Restoration House in Kansas City, trying to rescue women and girls from this evil. You can read the article 26 Nigerian Girls Found Dead

What I want to be when I grow up

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  In October, I went to Nashville with a friend of mine to attend a conference about succession, particularly ministerial succession.  The underlying theme was, finishing well.

You might think, why does a 37 year old minister need to worry about finishing well or ministerial succession?  I’ll admit, the subject barely crossed my radar until that weekend.  Finishing well is not something most 37 year old ministers spend much time thinking about.

I’ve noticed five realities as I’ve deliberated on finishing well, and what it will take for me, when I grow up, to finish well.

  1. It’s hard:  There will be people who read this blog post and think, “he has no idea about finishing well”.  Those people would be right.  I am still young, but it looks like finishing well is really difficult.  I’m noticing that many people who I’ve respected and admired in the past are having trouble finishing well.  These are men and women whose faith is undeniable.  It’s heartbreaking and humbling to watch because I think to myself, “if these people have trouble finishing well, what’s in store for me?”  Is it as hard as it looks?
  2. It’s worth the sacrifice:  I’m preaching Hebrews chapter 11 Sunday morning, and those guys were all about finishing well.  Samson, as messed up as he was finished well.  I also know a pastor who appears, from what I’ve heard, to be finishing well.  In the lives of those in Hebrews 11 and in the life of this pastor, there has been incredible sacrifice, but finishing well, in every case, seems to be worth the sacrifice.  Paul, who would have been mentioned in Hebrews 11 had he been dead when Hebrews was written, wrote to timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” and this next phrase is why finishing well is worth the sacrifice.  He writes, “There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”  Yes, finishing well is worth the sacrifice.
  3. Finishing well requires selflessness:  In many cases, when I see someone not finishing well, it’s the result of selfishness.  The pastor I’m observing is not perfect, but I know, from personal experience, there is not a selfish bone in his body.
  4. We cannot finish well alone:  Paul was not alone when he finished well.  He had companions with him all the time.  We never read about Paul being alone.  We read about Paul wanting the company of others, or certain individuals, but we never read about him doing anything alone.  It seems that those who are stumbling towards the finish line, be it i ministry, or just life in general, are doing so because they’ve isolated themselves.  When I have not finished something well, it was due, in large part, to me trying to accomplish something on my own.  we cannot live our Christian lives alone, and that includes finishing well.
  5. Some hang on too long:  No, I’m not writing that some people hang on to life too long.  I have noticed that some people hang on to ministries too long, and part of finishing well is knowing when to finish.

I write this post not as a commentary from a young man on what older people ought to be doing.  I’m certainly not writing to lecture anyone on finishing well.  These are just the observations from a young man.  I have a desire in my heart to learn how to finish well, and my generation desperately needs men and women of faith in the older generations  to show us how to finish well.

Polycarp, now there’s an old guy who finished well.  historians say that when persecution broke out in Asia in the middle of the second century that Polycarp was hauled before the proconsul.  They pleaded with him to renounce Christ and claim that Ceasar was God.  Polycarp would not betray his God.  They dragged him to the arena and again pleaded with him to renounce the name of Christ.  They didn’t want to martyr him, but Polycarp had this to say, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my Savior and King?”  He was subsequently burned at the stake, but as the flames rose around his body and as the heat intensified, he was looking towards that crown of righteousness that was laid up for him.  He finished well.  I pray that we all will seek the wisdom and direction from God to finish well.

5 Reasons To Love Our School

I love our school.  I’m not afraid to admit that.  Our school is not perfect, but I love it.  Here are five reasons to love our school.

  1. They admit their mistakes:  I have, on more than one occasion, had a teacher admit to me that they made a mistake.  That takes humility and strength of character because, let’s face it, admitting mistakes in this day and age can get you fired.  I don’t expect our teachers to be perfect, and when my child brings home an uncharacteristically bad grade, I appreciate a teacher admitting that the bad grade was her fault more than it was my child’s fault.
  2. They don’t yell:  I’m not saying there’s never any yelling done at our school, but their first disciplinary instinct is not to yell.  I have been to schools where the first disciplinary reaction is to yell at the kids.  That’s not a good environment for the faculty or the children.  I was at our school last week helping with a game at the fall party.  There were two children who got upset during the game.  Did their teacher yell?  No she did not.  One teacher, in fact, hugged one of the kids to calm him down.  I’m sure there are times when raised voices and yelling are necessary, but it’s nice to walk into a school and feel like my children are in a calm environment.
  3. My children are being well-educated:  My children are getting the education they need, and they are succeeding.  Could they get a better education somewhere else?  They probably could get a better education somewhere else, but the fact remains that I feel that my children are being well-educated, and will be successful going forward because of the educational investment of our school.
  4. They’re being encouraged to read:  This goes hand in hand with reason number three.  My children are being encouraged to read and to read all the time.  Do you remember the Arab spring of 2011?  Many observers theorize that the Arab spring grew out of greater literacy rates among the millennial generation of Arabs.  There were more Arabs that could read, and that opened up a world of discovery.  Reading opens up a whole new world for anyone.  My children are probably not going to be professional athletes, but they will have our school to thank for fostering in them a lifelong love of reading.
  5. Our School Cares:  Our school genuinely cares about the children they teach.  They certainly don’t teach for the money, but I believe they teach because they genuinely love children.  I’ve been in meetings with our principal and our teachers and I’ve seen the caring first hand.  I’ve seen the pain etched on the face of a teacher when describing the struggles of her students (note: I’ve never had a teacher or administrator use the names of any children when describing kids’ struggles, only general descriptions)  I’ve had a teacher or two call me and ask if I was going to be home because she mistakenly sent my daughter home on the bus instead of keeping her after school.
  6. I know most of our teachers:  This is a bonus sixth reason.  I know most of our teachers from the community.  This is just a by-product of living in a small town, but it’s a nice bonus.  It’s an excellent benefit to be able to see and interact with most of our teachers in the community.

I don’t know if any of our teachers or administration are going to read this.  I hope some do.  I know that not every parent will agree with this post.  I don’t expect you to.  This is simply the opinion of the father of four children who loves their school.  If you are reading this and you are a teacher or administrator at our school, you are doing an incredible job.  I hope you hear that often.  My family and I thank you, and look forward to many more years at our school.

5 Reasons Pastors Should Not Endorse Candidates From The pulpit

The current tax reform bill under consideration by Congress would give ministers the legal right to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.  While Congress may grant this right to pastors, I do not believe we should exercise said right.  I wrote about the tax reform bill Here.

Before I get to my reasons, I want to make a clarification.  I am not advocating that pastors refrain from involvement in politics.  If you ask me who I voted for, I will tell you and I will probably tell you why I voted the way I voted.  Pastors, just like every other American citizen have the right to express their political opinions.  I am confining my arguments here to the time spent preaching.

Here are my five reasons:

  1. There are more important issues at hand:  Our goal is to see life transformation as people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s the issue at hand.  There are also marriages in trouble that need the life giving power of Christ.  There are families struggling.  There are people struggling with depression, and all of these situations beg for the transforming power of Christ.  When compared to these issues, political endorsements are significantly lower on the list of priorities.
  2. Political endorsements potentially alienate:  We have to understand that not every Southern Baptist sitting in a pew on Sunday morning votes Republican.  When we endorse from the pulpit, we run the risk of alienating some of our congregants.  When they become alienated, they might leave.  Are we comfortable with people leaving our church because we endorsed a certain candidate?  What happens when they leave?  Do they go to another church or stay home?  Do they get to hear the gospel?  I will gladly give up my right to endorse a candidate from the pulpit if more people get to hear the gospel.
  3. Political endorsements tie us to the candidate:  With all due respect, all the religious leaders who endorsed President Trump during 2016 are now tied to his administration and his actions.  Do you want to tie yourself to an imperfect political candidate?  We have enough troubles of our own without linking ourselves to someone else who will, if history is any guide, inevitably have troubles.  We have no idea what skeletons each candidate has in his or her closet.  Why take that risk?
  4. The wrong endorsement could get a minister fired:  I followed a minister on Facebook who was vehemently opposed to President Trump in 2016.  He all but endorsed Hillary Clinton.  His problem was that most of his congregation were Trump supporters.  He resigned in 2017.  He and his church had other problems, but his tacit endorsement of a candidate who was loathed by a majority of his congregants probably did not create the kind of pastoral relationship necessary to lead well.  Is endorsing your preferred candidate worth your job?  Is endorsing your preferred politician worth relinquishing your influence and potential gospel impact?  What if you endorse the Republican candidate in one election cycle, but then endorse another candidate in the next cycle?  What if you fail to endorse the preferred candidate in the next cycle?
  5. Endorsements from the pulpit are unnecessary:  If we have the kind of relationship we ought to have with our congregation, then they should already know who we are supporting.

We should always take a stand for Biblical values in our country.  We should always encourage our congregants to exercise their right to vote.  If Congress passes this tax reform bill into law, the right to endorse a candidate from the pulpit will be a victory for religious freedom, but I do not believe we should exercise that right.  There are too many potential pitfalls.  Paul wrote a reminder to all of us in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.  I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  May that be true for all preachers of the gospel.

A Surprise

In case you haven’t heard, the Republicans’ tax bill will allow pastors to endorse candidates for political office from the pulpit.  William Thornton has written a short post about this provision here.

Here are two links to this report:  Washington Post, and The Hill

This caught me by surprise, and I’m sure it caught most everyone by surprise.  Tax reform is just not something we follow on a daily basis.  I knew there is a proposed tax bill, and I know the Republicans need a legislative victory before next fall’s midterms.  I did not know they were considering legalization of candidate endorsements from the pulpit.

I did some thinking and here are my five realities about this proposed provision in the tax reform bill:

  1. It will not last long:  This is a nice provision, but it will not last long.  There will be another president, probably a Democrat, who will propose tax reform and nix this provision.  If the next Democratic President doesn’t nix the provision through legislation, he will nix it through executive order.  It will be an easy order to sign to fire up the base on his or her left.  I’ll also be surprised if this provision makes it into the final version of the bill.  If it was thrown in to appease a group of legislators on the right, then it can just as easily be negotiated out of the final draft.
  2. It will not change much:  The truth is that certain churches have been allowed to endorse candidates from their pulpits for decades.  I’ve never heard many complaints about this reality, save the occasional pastor who wants to whine that he’s not allowed to endorse his preferred candidate.  There are even churches who have had candidates speak from their pulpits, and the IRS has been very relaxed in enforcing the law.  Churches will continue to endorse political candidates, and those of us who have never endorsed a political candidate will probably not endorse anyone.
  3. This will be a victory for religious freedom:  If this provision makes it into the final tax reform bill, it will be a victory for religious freedom.  The ability to legally endorse candidates from the pulpit may not change the content of our sermons (it shouldn’t), but it does hand Christians a victory in our fight for religious freedom.  Religious freedom has been under a relentless attack from zealous critics.  It would be encouraging to have a legislative victory.
  4. We should not endorse candidates:  This legislation may give us the right to legally endorse candidates, but we should not take advantage of this right.  I’ll write another blog post detailing why I believe we should not endorse political candidates.  There will be others who believe we should take full advantage of this legislative provision.  They have that freedom, but I believe it is a dangerous practice to endorse a candidate for office from the pulpit.
  5. Is the Tax reform bill good:  The bill being proposed is about tax reform, not about religious freedom.  Is the tax reform bill a good piece of legislation?  Is it well written?  Is it what’s best for the most Americans?  What will the other provisions do to our economy?  I’ll glad give up my legal ability to endorse a Presidential candidate from the pulpit if the other provisions in this legislation are going to plunge us into another recession.  What will this bill do for middle class Americans?  Are there other proposed provisions in this bill that we don’t know about?  Let’s not lose focus on the purpose of this legislation because of a throw-in provision that marginally benefits us.

Those are my five realities about this proposed legislation.  I’ll be watching to see if this bill passes in tact, but it probably will not change much about my ministry.  Do you see anything in this provision that I’m missing?