Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 58: Cornerstone Update 4 of 9

This morning at C-Stone, Tracy and I kicked off the “official” start to Cornerstone with a teaching by a lady that I have never heard of. It was an interesting take on the issue of idolatry. Her point was the fact that we blame non-Christians for this and many times we think it is an ugly thing. However, her point was that as Christians we can be just as guilty of making an idol out of Jesus, God, and Christianity without even knowing it. This may come up in a message some time. Hmmmmm.

The big thing that I took from this teaching was how churches can preach freedom in Christ but really remain caged due to its beliefs and doctrines. I would be the first to say that a church does need bylaws, etc. In a lawsuit happy world…it is the bylaws of a church that will stand up in a legal battle. However, regarding beliefs….a church must be careful not to take this living, breathing and full of life message of a resurrected Christ and cage it up under the name of “doctrines.” Any church that has these (myself included) must make sure there is room to experience the giver of life. Remember when Jesus came walking to Peter on water? They were left wondering who that is and they were ultimately saw it was Jesus. He was just coming at them in a way they may have never experienced before. We have to be open as Christians to see Jesus in new ways. Sitting here at Cornerstone you see Jesus presented in many different ways but 90% of the time I am reassured it is Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 57: Cornerstone Update 3 of 9

I would like to thank all of you that have been praying for Tracy and I while we are here at Cornerstone. People ask what the difference is between this festival and the rest of them. The answer would be this….constant double bass petals, growling, screaming, etc. This music festival airs on the heavier side of Christian music with PLENTY of room for abstract thought. Even as I am typing this blog in a nice air conditioned press trailer it is vibrating with the potential sounds of Living Sacrifice warming up. However, I can look out the trailer window and see Switchfoot setting up….this is a beautiful thing. It is Woodstockish in the way that the well dried up and no one has showered for two days but hey….Jesus lived like a hippie so why can’t we (for a bit).

Last night was the first time I was introduced at the Sanctuary tent…this was completely impromptu but what a joy it was! It was totally a dream come true that God would use me in this capacity. Tonight I look forward to sharing a message with the tribe and skyping in Pastor Bob Beeman to say hi at Cornerstone. I guess you could say I am introducing the skype service at Cornerstone lol.

Thanks again for your prayers….I really do appreciate all that God is doing with Sanctuary International and the doors that God has opened for me. Quite a few have come up and said “Hi” and that they know me from “That’s Not My God.” I look forward to sharing with you what God is doing in the lives of people through the times of ministry.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 56: Cornerstone Update 2 of 9

It seems day 1 and 2 updates will merge into one blog, given the fact we got our campsite last night at 10:30 p.m. after a serious stocking up extravaganza at Wal-Mart about 33 miles from here. By the time we got settled in and unloaded with the tents up, it was 2 am. This morning it was great to wake up to a bright sunny morning realizing we pretty much have the mac daddy campsite. It is located up on a hill and under trees.

To say it is refreshing to be back at Cornerstone Festival would be an understatement. People have been asking me, “What is it about Cornerstone that made you want to go back so bad? What do you like best about it?” Everything about this place is FREEDOM! It is freedom to be who you want, dress how you like, and listen to who you like. Any denomination or fellowship walls are torn down here…we are all just the body of Christ (the church) here. Tonight I can go to a generator stage and listen to some new band scream out a set at a concert and then go catch Glen Kaiser performing a blues jam. In days to come I can go listen to Demon Hunter and afterwards catch a show with Iona, then learn about the things that make up a filmic urban legend based off the 1974 movie of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think I will sit the last one out, lol.

Bottom line? I think this is a place people should come to really enjoy a boost to your spiritual batteries. I guarantee that you will not leave the same (for the better).

Please pray that Tracy and I have a safe time down here and that my time of ministry at the Sanctuary tent goes well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 55: Outreach

Tonight my wife had the idea to get some Dairy Queen blizzards…if you know me than you know my weakness is DAIRY QUEEN BLIZZARDS! As I went out tonight I drove by the recreation center in Waupaca and saw the ocean of teens swarming this place to play sport, hangout, get in trouble . I got a little sentimental at this point because of my roots in Waupaca and this is the place I began to do outreach in my youth pastor days.

In 2003 I was asked to come to Radiant Fellowship to be a part of this new church plant. From December 2003 until May of 2004 I commuted to Waupaca every weekend (4 hour drive round-trip). Tracy and I would do church in the morning and than in the evening have youth group (Epicenter Student Ministry). One of the first things God led me to do was find out where the teens in this city hang out. If you are familiar with Waupaca than you know back then they hung out at “The Armory” on Friday and Saturday nights. We got together with the 5 or 6 teens in our youth group and said, “We need to be there and tell them about this new youth group!” I loved the response of the teens…some were happy and others were freaked because that is where “Those kids” hang out. The first night we went I had 120 cans of Mt. Dew with youth group invites attached to them. We pulled up to the place, cranked the car stereo, opened the back of the car and within MINUTES we gave away all of the Mt. Dew and invites. After a few weeks of doing this I along with my wife could walk into this hangout on any given weekend and be accepted by this group. It got to the point people missed us if we didn’t show up. We always had Mt. Dew with us and really just began to talk and listen to this group of 100+ teens just hanging out, playing sports, smoking and sometimes you would catch a waft of pot through the air. WE WERE DOING MINISTRY!

After about 6 months of doing youth ministry we saw the youth group grow to 25+ regulars at youth group and 90+ at the outreaches we hosted (concerts, dodge-ball tournament, basketball tournaments, Lan-Parties).

This place is an untapped resource by churches that Radiant Fellowship reached out to and no one since. I think God just moved on my heart once again….hmmmmm.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I think it should be a requirement of all churches to require their Pastor to go on vacation at least once a week. Vacation should truly be a time that you can let your guard down, turn off the gadgets and let you be reintroduced to yourself. For me the vacation this year to Cornerstone Festival begins when I have the truck loaded up and my wife and I begin the descent down from the great white north. I look forward to hearing all of the bands from Glenn Kaiser to ARE YOU KIDDING ME…LIVING SACRIFICE!!!!!?? The most anticipated concert for me on this trek will be Iona.

There is something to warn you about though when you go on vacation. There can sometimes come a point in a vacation when you have had enough. When you get to that point I would encourage you to fight it and really settle in to enjoy the rest of your stay. Perhaps you will be missing kids, home, or maybe even work. I would emphasize that you stay locked into vacation mode until the day you leave so that when you do finally get home, your batteries will be renewed and you will refreshed.

I heard this saying once as I went on a Jesuit silent prayer retreat. The retreat director told me this, “don’t leave before you go.” Think about that for a minute. When I get to Cornerstone I will turn my brain off, get my campsite ready, enjoy some great concerts and teachings but most of all let God return me to my breathing and become mentally sane once again. Whether a vacation is just a campsite down the road or a tropic paradise...if you are on staff at a church..YOU NEED A VACATION!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 53: Dreaming

Are you a dreamer? If there is one type of person I really enjoy hanging out with it is the dreamers. These are people who despite cash flow, personal abilities and more they still dream big. They look at something large and say "what can we do to make this happen?" In the church world we need these types of people. Nothing irritates me more than the ones who think critically all of the time or don't think they can pull something off.

When I attend seminars at other churches and see something I like (it is safe to assume it is usually at a larger church given Radiant Fellowship's size) I don't think...someday when we get bigger. I begin to dream about what it would look like on a smaller scale. This helps keep ministry fresh and exciting. Whenever we hit a place in ministry and begin to think we will just coast for a few years because nothing needs fixing is the time we need to begin dreaming again.

Keep dreaming and believing God for new, fresh and great ways to make an impact where you serve.

Day 52: The Book

It has been a long time since I talked about the book I began writing entitled "Things They Didn't Teach Me in Seminary." I look at the last update and it was sent out in the fall of 2008 to people I was sharing the dream with. There is ALOT that has happened since then. For starters I became a dad which I am sure you know. I still pastor at Radiant Fellowship and since began a new online ministry entitled "That's Not My God." It is a ministry to engage people in conversation on dealing with past hurts in church and theological teachings that are not biblical. Since this ministry began a couple months ago over 580 people are actively engaged in it.

The biggest thing I have learned is that God's timing is not my timing (no mystery right?). There were times I began to wonder if this book would ever be finished and I am VERY PLEASED to inform you that it has been picked up! The one thing I can tell you is that maybe it took this long for the technology to catch up because it is going to be released exclusively on the Amazon Kindle to start. The go live date will be January 1st 2011! If you do not have a Kindle I can tell you if you go their website you can download the app free for computers, smartphones, ipod or ipad.

It has been a long time coming but my sphere of influence has grown immensely because of what God is doing. Perhaps the reason why it has taken so long for this book to move forward is because of all the new people I now know. With the facebook group "That's Not My God" over 580 people are currently a part of this group. There are 200+ people that subscribe to the podcasts of Radiant Fellowship and "That's Not My God." There are many more that read my daily blog God has been working to bring together a great group of people.

Beginning this Sunday afternoon Tracy and I will venture to Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, IL. It is a music festival much like Lifefest (only better hehe). There are of people in attendance to hear many bands including David Crowder Band, Toby Mac, Switchfoot, etc. I have been asked to share the evening message at the Sanctuary tent each night during this event. I AM TRULY HUMBLED as this was an event I attended many times in the past.

The same ministry that has asked me to share at Cornerstone has also asked me to fly with them to Switzerland in March of 2011 where a big music ministry event happens (let the fundraising begin!).

I look at all that is going on and cannot help but think that God has enlarged my territory (prayer of Jabez) to have a great launch to this book and ministry.

I appreciate your prayers as we move forward.

Thank you for believing in me and this endeavor! I look forward to wrapping this up and sharing it with many!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 51: Church Boards

Since this blog really is talking to pastors or pastors to be I will talk about an issue that can drive pastors crazy (church leadership take note). The issue is power-trips within the lay leadership (sometimes pd. staff). A friend of mine that is 20 years older than me and a savvy Christian business owner told me this, "Churches are allot like country clubs....people become a member and they think you own the place." This can be very taxing on a Pastor to know there are people in the church like this. Did you know the average pastor will leave a church because only 5 disgruntled people? These kind of people view church as a chess game. Some may think if I get in good with the pastor or the pastor's wife....I will be able to do and control more things. Some in places of leadership are so power hungry that if they are not kept in the loop of every detail they go crazy. This has been seen over and over again in churches. I would say that a board member who is like this and feels the need to micro-manage ministries or the church is a board member that the pastor (typically the chair of the board) needs to ask step down.

I have seen churches that repeat things over and over again. A couple of times I thought it was merely the pastor that did not want to stay or had very little freedom to function. What I soon began to discover is that it sometimes is the head board member calling the shots therefore making the pastors stay a living hell causing that person to burn out and leave. When this happens the board/church/membership is left wondering "what happened? Did we do something wrong?" I would say "YES!" Time to switch up the leadership!

I have been asked a couple times, "have you considered putting in your resume at this or that church?" Usually the ones they ask about are ones I know things about and would rather not. My days of restarting churches are over. I am here to stay at Radiant Fellowship. Typically my response to people asking me the question about applying at churches like this is "I hope that church would be ready to sell its building and move into a rental space if the building is not paid off. The reason being is that I would flush the whole board and those in leadership that have been a pain in the churches history and start over." Unfortunately this is what it would take in some churches if the place is going to grow larger or prevent shutting down.

For every board that is awful though there are ten good ones. The best thing a church can do to ensure longevity from their pastor is make it a pleasurable experience for him/her. When a church realizes that God is the head of the church and the pastor is the one he placed there...the board will take the approach of "what can we do to make this happen" instead of..."Why wasn't I involved in this decision" or "you need to run this by me before you do that." A board or board member that micro-manages thing is a board member that needs to leave.

But I digress....

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 50: My Family

Tonight will be kind of a short blog. I think I have made it clear that 2009 was a year I almost went crazy. Going from a family of just my wife and I to a family of four because we adopted really took it’s toll on me. We went from a family of two to four in four months. Last year when I could get away to class in Milwaukee or a conference I really soaked in the time away. This trip that I am on is different though. I have gotten so used to having my kids and wife around that when I am is boring. I am looking forward to getting home and seeing my family. This puts a little skip in my step as a dad and pastor to know I have a family that loves me and I love them. I am still crazy...not sure that will ever change but with God’s help he got me through 2009 so that I am well adjusted for the future. That is for another blog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 49: Missions

Today I had a couple of conversations about the issue of missions both home and foreign. I do realize this is a sacred cow and I really appreciate all these people do. One person asked me the question, "so do you think there are missionaries that are simply living in another area while churches fund them?" You have to understand that I do not get offended with these kind of questions. Instead of getting irritated I enjoy the conversation. My response was a simple "I think so". It certainly does not seem to be a problem but hearing stories from different organizations...yes there is the occasional case. What really gets me is some people taking their kids on the missions field and they pay more attention to the mission than their family. I heard of one missionary that left the states with a depressed kid on their hands because of the move. After a few months their child was diagnosed clinically depressed yet they stay on the field. Is this really God's plan? To put ministry before family?

Overall we agreed that missionaries are good and necessary but, in newsletters the "look at me" photos and family pics are okay but we really want to know what you are doing to make a difference. To see pics of the missionaries doing ministry and not just attending conferences is what makes supporters smile otherwise it just seems like a travel brochure. If I was to send out a newsletter it would have one line across the bottom...follow our family on facebook or at this blog. That's it.

The other issue we raised with this leadership group is at what point does a church say "we are a mission as well and need to take care of ourselves in this down economy so we can do ministry here." Occasionally I am approached with "what are you doing to support state-side missions?" One time (perhaps sarcastically) I said, "we are doing ministry." Seriously though isn't it true that churches should be doing ministry and therefore would be considered missionaries? Our church does "Church at the Pub" and for some of us, this is like going to a foreign land because we were not raised in that. To reach our community takes funding....this is stateside missions at its best. I may hit up churches in the US to share my dream and meet with their mission board to raise funds for the church I pastor lol.

Honestly, missionaries do have a special place and need prayer and financial support. It just seems sometimes funding needs to go to these places for this or that when in fact if you are a part of a outward focused church...much of the funding can go towards these efforts on the home front. It comes down to a healthy balance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 48: Tag Team With My Friend Brad

In one week I will be "tag teaming" a message at our church with my friend Brad Mattrisch. For those that are not savvy with this, it means that I take a point in the message than Brad takes a point in the message. I am pretty excited about this...I have tag teamed a message with my brother, my wife, and my good friend Mike Barden. This will be the first time I have done this with Brad. It will be a different experience for me on this one. The first time I heard Brad speak was at my church where I let him share a message on overcoming difficulties in life. See Brad has cerebral palsy and can talk to this issue in great length.

Brad is someone I chose for this message because he is a credentialed pastor and has made Radiant Fellowship his home church along with his sister (she is okay) lol. The thing I like about Brad is his witty sense of humor, love for life and God and the wealth of experience he brings to the table. Brad and I will be talking about giving God your best in life. We all have God given abilities and when we use them, we should use them proudly. Brad has been an inspiration for me in ministry and has challenged me as well. He is a person that truly does give God his best in life!

So how will this work? First of all, if you have not heard Brad share before I would HIGHLY encourage you to be at Radiant Fellowship on June 27th. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what Brad has to say but thanks to technology all of his words are on the power point so you can follow along. Brad has spoken for many different events and written articles for the Pentecostal Evangel magazine as well. There is a ministry that Brad is involved with called "Special Touch Ministries" that works with physically and mentally challenged people. This is a ministry you need to learn more about if you don't already.

I am really excited to be doing this with Brad and I am sure from his past in ministry and mine that God will challenge people in new ways. I know Brad has challenged me after hearing him for the first time. If you are a pastor and looking for someone to share at your can't go wrong with Brad. I love this guy and would let him fill-in for me anytime I was gone. I can only imagine the laughs and conversation we will have that Sunday at church. We may be drinking Mt. Dew and eating doughnuts while we are teaching but hey...that is one of the perks of being the pastor ha ha ha.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 47: Cornerstone...Back to my Family Camp!

In a few short days my wife and I will be heading to Bushnell, Illinois for Cornerstone Festival. We have begun our daily menu and packing plans. This is a Christian music festival that started with Jesus People USA and grows stronger each year. The last time I attended was back in 94-95 and about 25,000 people were in attendance. I had to stop going the year I became a youth pastor. Growing up in the Assemblies of God it was kind of the thing to do to go off to Summer Camp at Spencer Lake. The only problem was I went once as a teen and disliked it. It seems if you were not into sports or hooking up for a one week wasn't for you. Sure there are allot of good things about it, but let's face it...allot of youth groups and camps have to do with sports. I am a geek. The two don't mix in school and they won't at summer camp either.

When I became a youth pastor the first thing I asked was to not take the teens to Spencer Lake, but rather take them to Cornerstone Festival. What a great place with teaching, worship, and many of today's big name Christian artists. This year some of the big names include Toby Mac, David Crowder Band and many more (which I won't be seeing). I will be attending the smaller stages where the good music is lol (Iona, Living Sacrifice, GKB, etc.). Needless to say this idea was shot down IMMEDIATELY and I had no chance of making this happen. It was like this for 9 years and when I became the lead pastor of Radiant Fellowship, I was asked to remain a part of the family camp which is for the entire family. It was great seeing the youth portion grow from 12+ teens meeting once a day for a few minutes to 140+ in morning and evening services. I brought in a full worship team for the week and different Christian rock and hip hop groups from all over the USA. It was basically an hour and a half youth rally two times a day. It was fun and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve...however the whole time I was thinking I am one step closer to my dream and that is to share a message with the adults in the "CAMP SANCTUARY". Well, that never did happen. I ended up kind of bitter from it and quietly left family camp after an awesome run where things exploded quickly for the teen service. It was funny to see adults attending the teen services throughout the week.

You is funny how God works. This year I am going back to my favorite family camp...this year I am going back to Cornerstone Festival! There is something truly life changing about this place. Those that attend I am sure would tell you the same thing. This year I have been asked to speak at the Sanctuary Tent with a message God has given me to share. This is not just one night either, this is throughout the week! My dream did come true! I wanted to be a speaker at a family camp and I never dreamed God would have placed me back at the camp I enjoy and hear from God. A camp where geeks (and jocks) have things to do. I have even been asked to be an official blogger for the event. This is a camp with 25,000+ people attending and for some reason God laid on Pastor Bob Beeman's heart to have me share in his absence. I am truly humbled!!!!! This is going to be the start of a great family tradition. My kids will grow up knowing what Cornerstone Festival is. When we camp by the Jesus Movement people, they will hear stories that will encourage them. This year it is just Tracy and I going due to the kids ages. Next year? I think the kids will begin to attend as well (unless Grandma says "no" and keeps them that week).

Camping for a week in a tent while cooking meals on a camp stove enjoying great teaching, great bands, and I get to share messages on my heart is going to make for one AWESOME week! God.....thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 46: Howard Stern vs. Bret Michaels

"During his comeback concert in Biloxi, Miss. over the weekend, recuperating rocker Bret Michaels hinted that he might replace the just-departed Simon Cowell. "I don't know if it's true, but I could possibly be a judge on American Idol," he told fans."-US Weekly

Alright, so here comes a controversial blog your way. This one does not have anything to do with pastoring but rather my opinion on an issue so near and dear to a pop-culture kind of guy. A few months ago I stated on my facebook why Howard Stern might be a good judge on American Idol. I cited the fact that you don't get to the level of radio show host he is without knowing music. You don't become the number one morning show guy on K-ROCK in NYC by not knowing music. Pretty much if your band got played on K-ROCK you were going places. Howard Stern help discover Bon Jovi and other groups. I caught allot of heat for this because some stated how immoral he is. Perhaps he is, perhaps he isn't in the realm of who else might be considered for American Idol.

The latest buzz is that Bret Michaels (lead singer of Poison) might take Simon Cowell's spot. The question I am raising is why isn't everyone that raised a stink about Howard Stern being a possible judge not doing the same thing with this guy? Because he had a brain hemorrhage? I would contest that this guy is far more immoral than Howard Stern is. Come on folks, this is the same guy that if you were raising a kid in the 80's in a good moral home you did not want your kids listening to or watch their videos on MTV. All you would have to do is check out this link. Here is a guy that has a sex tape circulating around and brags about the thousands of women he has been with. He has two kids and no wife according to Howard Stern has three kids from his first marriage. Yes he got divorced but before we rush to judgment about him getting divorced...have you been? Has someone you know been divorced? He has remarried and according to pop culture magazines, etc. he is faithful to her. But, because Bret Michaels had a brain hemorrhage he is now elevated to a good guy status? Just saying. Rock of Love (cough cough).

The thing people tell me about American Idol and my thoughts about Howard Stern is that they don't want anyone to corrupt this good family show. Well, that has already happened by some of the singers and their voices lol. Seriously though there is already a lesbian on the this family show who knows nothing about music in the capacity of making these young people an American icon.

So what am I getting at with this blog? I am not condoning Howard Stern though I think it would spice up the show because he is much like Simon in that he is not afraid to tell it like it is. He would get my vote. Don't worry it is not like FOX would allow him to pull shenanigans on the show that he does on his Sirius/XM show. That is why he left terrestrial radio...because the FCC fined him left and right. They would monitor his every step on this show. The thing I am getting at is that if we call out one person, let's do our homework and find out about these other people they are thinking about as well and then have an informed argument about these things.

I vote for Will Hung to be a judge!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 45: Toughest Critic...Pastor

One of the difficult things about being a pastor is the public speaking aspect of it. If you are not into speaking publically… will find ministry to be a tough fit. The toughest critic in the ministry is you. Some pastors will say Mondays are the best day to take off, some would say Fridays. The reason some say Mondays are not good is that it is natural for a pastor to sit back and critique how the Sunday service went. This process usually begins Sunday afternoon and carries on through the next day. This can be a very uplifiting or depressing time for a pastor. A person should take no offense when their pastor will not answer the phone, emails, etc. on his/her day off. The Pastor is in one aspect running a business which is the hard truth about churches (which means thinking about funds, staff, etc.)….even bigger is the fact that we wonder how the message was received. What did that person think about it, what did that person think about it? Was everything clicking……what is God doing!?

Today after church I began to assess the morning service. The worship was awesome, the kids ministry was great and then there was the message. One of the most humbling thing a public speaker can do is listen to themselves on a recording and I just know when I listen to it….I left people wondering with the question “what?” Perhaps I am looking into things to far but I think it is healthy to strive for excellence in all areas of the church. This is probably not something you will hear from every pastor but occasionally there are Sundays in the life a church where you can point out the weak spot in a service. Today I feel my speaking was that link.

I praise God that despite who we are he still works through all things. I did get an email this afternoon from someone who really enjoyed the message. This served to prove a point to me. Even though as a pastor we can be our toughest critics…God still take the messages we give and uses them to touch the lives of people. I take Monday's off and it will be a time to renew and reflect.....onto a new day!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 44: Pay it Forward

Back in October of 2000, a film came out that I am not sure was a big box office hit but had a phenomenal message in it, a message that would apply to anyone today. I guess I am coming from a biblical/moral viewpoint on this. In this movie, a little boy (Haley Joel Osmond-pre puberty) does a class project which he believes that if you have something good done to you, then you should repay that favor to 3 other people, thus the title of the movie "Pay it Forward." This is a principle in which you are not to keep on taking and taking but rather, when someone does something good to you or "blesses" you in some way, then you are to pass it on to 3 other people.

What got my wheels spinning on this thought was when I was riding around Waupaca last week and looked back at my years in Milwaukee. I thought of the many organizations, non-for profit programs, and ministries that are always out to help those who are in need (ie, food and clothing banks, shelters, soup kitchens, etc.). I asked my wife this simple question the other day in the car when we saw such a place with many people going in and out, "What are they doing to pay it forward?" It is always a concern of mine when people get blessed in many different ways and do nothing about it other than take more and more. I find this happening in my life from time to time when something good happens to me whether a financial blessing, a gift, those small things that are unexpected. It is then I must sit back and say to myself, "I am so happy about what just happened that I must pay it forward to someone else."

The life of a Christian is serving people, the life of a person who may not be a Christ follower, but a morally upright person, is to help your fellow man. In fact, it is summed up in a little rule…the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So, when you are helped in a way that benefits you, what are you going to do to pass it on? Maybe it is someone who is in dire financial straits and frequents a food or clothing bank. To pay it forward may not be in a monetary way, but rather volunteering at a church or city function. Maybe it means helping a neighbor across the street because someone has helped you. The moment we begin to take from others and take these things for granted, thinking "the world owes me", it is probably the moment we should take a step back and say, "I do not deserve this at all, the government owes me nothing for my choices in life and I will choose to be grateful for the organizations that have chose to help me and pay it forward by doing something good today for someone else."

It is this attitude of gratitude that will change our world that we live in and make it just a little bit of a sweeter place to live.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 43: God is Cool

Not a whole lot to talk about tonight. If you keep up with my daily blogs you know one thing for sure...grammatically I struggle a bit. My wife on the other hand when I do church publications, etc. she is always willing to lend a hand in proof-reading my material. When it comes to the daily blog though...she is a RN in the NICU and I choose not to bog her down with proofing everything I write. This is the amazing part.

Apparently Cornerstone Music Festival can see through my occasional errors and have asked me to be one of the bloggers for the upcoming festival at the end of June. I am really excited about this! Once again it is just a way I picture God smiling at me and saying, "go ahead and have some fun with this." You know, God is pretty awesome! Is there some deeper meaning or direction as to why I have been asked to do this? Probably not...maybe God is just thinking, "That Bob guy....he might dig doing this since he will already be there."

Thanks God!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 41: Weak Excuses

In the life of a pastor you get to know many people in relatively short time. I think of Radiant Fellowship and the many people that have come and gone through-out the years. There are some that I wish would have never left and there are many that I am glad they are gone. Since the start of Radiant Fellowship and the restart of it one year after it started...only two families stuck around. The rest have left. Basically the church grew to about 40 and then deflated to 5 which is when I was asked to restart it. This August will mark 5 years since I was asked to become the pastor of Radiant Fellowship and since then God has brought it to about 80 some people (not to bad considering the black eye it had).

The issue I want to address though in this blog is the excuses people make for leaving a church. Here's the deal. Many people become disgruntled with churches for whatever reason. A big part is that the ones that come and go usually do so because they cannot get their way and therefore will go where they can. What happens though where people go to a church that accepts everyone that gets their way is that it will eventually implode. A friend of mine told me "churches are like country clubs, people become members and right away they think they own the place." What happens though is that you get adults that make every excuse under the sun why they are leaving.

If a person feels they want to go somewhere else, all they need to do is talk to the pastor. I have heard many excuses for people leaving. Some even blame why they are leaving on their kids wanting to go somewhere else. If you plan on leaving a church, do the pastor and staff a favor and share honestly why you are leaving. As long as you are going somewhere else, it isn't great that you are leaving but at least you are going somewhere else. What I have found though is people make excuses like this and never really end up going anywhere. Perhaps they even struggle with going back to the church they originally left because all of a sudden things weren't so bad now that they had a chance to see other places.

No pastor wants to see anyone leave a certain church but it happens. I would encourage people to be honest be it an email or phone call so that the church can learn from it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 40: Welcome to Church NOW PUT DOWN THE CIGARETTE!

Today I accidentally ran across a sign posted on a church that said, "No Smoking Allowed on Church Property." I will be honest to say that I was let down. I was not let down because I smoke (I have a funny story about the week I tried starting) but rather for those who read that sign and are turned off by it. It is no secret that anytime someone has a hang up be it smoking, drinking, cussing, over-eating we tend to get defensive when someone talks about it. I think it is safe to say the person doing these things already know they should stop. I remember my uncle Bill in East St. Louis Illinois looking at me barely able to talk and said "Boy, these damn things will kill you!" He continued to smoke his cigarettes. Me being an 11 or 12 year old will never forget that.

My concern is that when someone is smoking and walks up to a church and sees that a few questions may begin brewing...

1. Would you prefer me be hypocritical and say "I don't do that" and then have a smoke on the other side of the street or in my car? Would you prefer me to be real or fake?

2. If I cannot smoke on the church grounds...can that person cuss or that couple continue to have an affair or that person continue to misuse the benevolence funds and lie about it?

3. If I cannot smoke here, please tell me what church I can, because so many say "COME AS YOU ARE!"

As I told one of my board members after church one day as the smell of smoke came into the church, "You smell that? That is the smell of ministry." I am all for having no smoking signs inside of the building for health and courtesy issues but to say "no smoking allowed on the church property" is probably something that would make Jesus a little upset.

I am thankful that the God I serve and love extends to me the grace that though I don't smoke there are many other hang-ups I bring on the church property that are actually sinful unlike smoking.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 39: My Wife

Today Tracy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I cannot stress enough that behind every good pastor is a good spouse. I say spouse because both men and women can be pastors. I am quite confident that my wife has a special place in heaven when it comes to being a supportive wife. Tracy knew since she was a teenager that she wanted to be a pastor’s wife. To this day Tracy and I have yet to raise our voices in a full out argument. We have had our disagreements but what family doesn’t? These past eight years have been great in our marriage. We have been everywhere and done a lot of things. Three times to Grand Cayman Island, New York 4 or 5 times, out west, Tracy has been to Argentina, Florida multiple times and this year includes a one week camping trip to southern Illinois and a week in Washington DC.

Tracy came from the picture of stability in churches and to this day is a church I admire. It was over one year later that Tracy saw me go through a storm in my ministry career. She had a crash course in the ugly side of church politics and how ugly boards can be. Just a year later she saw me go through another thing at the church here in Waupaca where I question if the former staff were even Christians. We had a staff meeting (our last one with the old team) that left my wife crying because of the verbal pot shots taken at me. Thank goodness for good friends that went to bat for me. There was a time that I wanted to drop out of ministry and not be a pastor anymore…it was Tracy that kept me going and encouraged me daily.

I have seen people drop out of ministry because their spouse is not supportive. If you plan on going into ministry…it is very important your spouse is just as excited as you. I am not saying they have to work with you on everything. My wife is a registered nurse and works full-time. She helps and supports me in ministry but does not do my work. I have seen some pastors that if it was not for their spouse…their ministry would be completely unorganized and blown apart. We have the understanding that she has her work, I have mine and we do them. It really makes me a better pastor because it causes me to be well rounded in organization and pastoral skills. I know of one senior pastor that I mess with….his wife basically does everything except preach so I ask, “so who does the church make the check out too?” lol. No matter how you do it in ministry…make sure your spouse is supportive.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 38: Lesson 3 of 3 in Church Politics

In the last part of this series I want to take a moment to blog about ministry jealousy. This concept may be strange to some but unfortunately it is alive in some churches. In the book "The 48 Laws of Power" author Robert Greene suggests "Never Outshine The Master." In a perfect world we would like to believe if a ministry grows in a church that becomes a "spotlight ministry" the senior pastor would be excited. This is not always the case.

What happens in some churches where the senior pastor is insecure is the worship leader, youth pastor, etc. will have a ministry they are extremely passionate about and it grows. For a music ministry...more and more people will want to be on the team and soon artists are attracting artists. What happens is people come into the church and say hi and hang out more with the worship leader than they do the pastor. If you are a youth careful! It is no secret that you can grow a youth ministry rapidly in any city. While in Waupaca as a youth pastor our youth group started with 5 kids in a new church plant. Within 6 months the youth group was up to 25 kids coming to youth group and 80+ coming to our outreaches. While I was in Milwaukee the church was running just over 100 people and the youth group in its hay-day was up to 80. This does not always bode well with the pastor. I am glad to say that while youth pastoring in Waupaca I had TOTAL freedom and support to go after it. In Milwaukee...things did not go so well after we bought a new building. We had to switch to a night that did not work well for the teens and within weeks the youth group dropped to 12-20 kids on any given week.

Now that I am a lead pastor I have a worship pastor on staff that knocks it out of the park. Anytime you have another leader in the a pastor you must be confident in them and yourself. They will support you and you support them. We have a great youth director at our church as well and you know what? Yes...teens will come to them first and youth sponsors because that is who they do ministry with the most. A lead pastor must be okay with this! I recall starting a college group because those getting to be older in our youth group did not want to leave...I can't blame them...we had allot of fun and many of them are still in ministry. But the powers that be felt we were starting our own church and had some very strict constraints put on it. It is my assumption that any progressive thinking pastor would look at a rapidly growing college ministry and say..."WOW, what can we do to facilitate more growth and if it should be...let's start another church!"

Sadly, rule #1 in "The 48 Laws of Power" can sometimes be true. Don't let it derail you stay true to who you are and see your ministry grow because God has blessed you with what it takes to see it go. If you are in a spotlight ministry...encourage your pastor and keep encouraging people you are leading to look at the church as a whole body.

Day 37: Lesson 2 of 3 in Church Politics

One of the larger issues in my church politics series is that of pastoral changes. I have been through two transitions and have taken note. It really should be expected that if you go through changes in less than flattering ways…a person is going to talk about it. The biggest lesson I have learned through these changes is when the pastor leaving or a board asks a staff member to become the “interim pastor” they in fact really don’t mean it.

When a person pastors a church they make decisions. It is assumed they will do what is best for the church and not have to run everything through the board. The church that makes their pastor run every decision through the board is a board that needs to resign and get new people so the pastor can truly pastor that church. Do you wonder why a church tends to repeat it’s history? Look at what remains the constant through the changes. It isn’t the pastor because they are coming and going. Perhaps one should look at the board. What I have discovered though in my own experiences and hearing many others is that when a board wants an “interim pastor”…what they really want is an “interim speaker.” I cannot quite figure this one out however. I have two thoughts that are strictly my opinion. The first would be the board sees this as their time to make the church what THEY want it to be and therefore will not allow a staff member to make decisions (I have a letter in my archive to prove this point). My second opinion is the pastor that left is still pastoring that church. One of the classes I took to become a pastor is “Ministerial Ethics.” In this book it talks about when a pastor leaves they are to sever ties in a controlling way. That does not always happen. This makes the next pastor or interim pastor’s job one that causes staff members become very disgruntled. Keep in mind this is political; to the average church goer…they will know nothing about this. It usually is the staff that knows about this but either won’t say anything about it or are just too afraid to say something about it. This happens all the time and I know of one such instance as I am writing this blog.

It really is a vicious political game isn’t it? If a church goes through transition…you can only hope and pray that it is done ethically. If your church is going through change and you are a member of that church and left wondering what is going on….you have every right to ask, question, etc. If you are a staff member and going through something like this currently, use wisdom. This may be a time that a private agenda is going on and if you are “bad for business” because of your popularity or outspoken views… can expect to find another position. Roll with what is going on and everything will be fine, buck the system, question, ask…basically try to have some kind of input and you can expect to find a new position.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 36: Lesson 1 of 3 in Church Politics

I have been thinking quite a bit about how church politics can kill a body of believers. After a couple of days in a row I have been exposed to some stories of “church politics.” In my opinion there are three things that I would tell any pastor or pastor to be to watch out for. This blog will be in three sections spanning three days.

Today I want to hit on the topic of zealous first time visitors. When I was still a rookie in ministry I always thought it was amazing. You know…the people that come to visit and give big right away. They usually catch the pastor’s attention after the first visit and tell them how great the church is AND THEN….they say how they don’t agree with some things, “but I am not telling you how to do things.” After a few weeks of giving big they move in for the attack and ask some pretty bold things. They tell you what needs to change, etc. This is not always the case but I have seen it many times. It is sad when you have a new person visit and right away because they give big that it is a red flag. Now I am not saying this is the norm but pretty close to it.

So how do I process it? When this kind of thing happens and a person thinks because they are giving they can run the place….I have to say no. My friend who is a business owner in Waupaca told me, “You know…churches are like country clubs. People become a member and right away they think they can run the place.” I would rather say no to something off the wall than say yes and have a miserable church experience. These types of people go from church to church until they are free to have a power trip. Once the pastor says, “no” or disagrees…they leave and go to the next church. It is a vicious cycle. I would rather have these controllers out of the church and work on a tighter budget then say “yes” and wonder why I ever did that.

When I was asked to pastor the church I am at, I remember the head hancho of the Assemblies of God district for our state told me, “you have tough times ahead of you…but you are the pastor so pastor the church.” FYI….just because you are a church does not mean you have to rollover to those wanting to pull a power trip. Keep the church alive and vibrant!

Tomorrow night in my church politics series I will talk about pastoral changes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 35: Totes

Today my wife and I were re-organizing our basement by adding shelves. We were stacking boxes here, putting totes there (Tracy has a thing for totes) and I ran across two totes that I forgot about. These are totes that are dedicated to our kids. In 2008 we had a 9 month old boy move in with us and four months later his biological sister was born, we brought her home right from the hospital. We adopted our two children. Today James is 2 years old and Emma is one. One important thing we have done is set two totes aside. In these totes we place things that they will find memorable as they grow older.

In James’ bin we have the clothes he wore to our house the day he was delivered to us. He also has gifts he received from his biological parents and relatives. The same goes for Emma, she has many things in her bin as well. This collection will grow through the years and when they turn 18 they will receive these totes to own. As they look through these items it will help them look to remember their past, where they came from and where they are going.

It is very important that in our own lives we have totes. Be it a mental tote that we keep in the backs of our minds or a file in our desk that helps define who we are today. In my mind I have very sharp recollection of things that I have experienced in life. Many times I have heard “wow, you have a good memory. You remember things others have forgotten about.” In my desk I have a file entitled, “momentos.” This file contains articles that written about me in different magazines, notes both good and bad from people throughout my life, and even letters I got from a board where I served that “tried” to set me in my place. These are all things that have shaped me who I am today.

It is important we don’t forget where we have come from. This is important so we learn from the good and bad and go forward with purpose truly knowing who we are defined by the good and bad in our lives.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 34: The Crazies

Yesterday as I was cruising in Waupaca which takes all of 10 minutes to get from one side of town to the other I saw this vehicle and trailer parked just off Main St. After living in Milwaukee for 29 years this car reminded me of "The Milwaukee Religious Wagon" which does have its own facebook group. This car really got me thinking how unfortunate it is these things get the label of "Christian" and have to be associated with the "normal non-crazy Christians."

Let me expound on this point. My brother Jake and I worked in a factory together for quite a few years. People on the plant floor found out that both of us were working towards being a pastor yet 90% of the workers enjoyed working with us regardless of what we were doing. The other 10% were just kind of in their own world and did not not like us but just did their own thing. I would have to say we were far more effective in reaching people than some. By some, I mean the ones that got hired through the temp agency that worked at the factory. Some of these "Christians" would come in cranking their Christian music through their headphones, have Jesus bumper stickers on their toolboxes and tell people how bad they were for doing certain things. Both my brother and I got fed up that we had to be associated with them.

Here's the point. I think....okay I know a person does more damage than good when doing these kinds of things. The Milwaukee Religious wagon is a joke and that is what people view it as. This person with bumper stickers all over it from Christian sayings to pro-life stickers everywhere...come on, don't they see they are destroying the body of Christ? Those stickers in and of themselves are not bad when you use one, maybe two. I think it is out of control when from the looks of it, they are using these stickers to hold this trailer together. The overzealous "Christians" with all of this junk on their cars and ones that are just mean to are a joke and that is how people view you. Christians may see these as Pharisees.

I read through the new testament and I don't see where Christians (including Jesus) were insulting and obnoxious to their audience....certainly not to unbelievers. Really the only time sarcasm and pointed statements were made was when addressing Pharisees. That is why I have such a difficult time and perhaps throw-up in my mouth a little when I see quirky church signs like "Stop, Drop, and Roll Won't Put Out the Fire in Hell" or "Eternity...smoking or non-smoking...your choice" etc. They disrespect peoples intelligence and turn people away before they even set foot into a church.

These kind of people need to stop what they are doing so us normal Christians don't get lumped into what the crazies are doing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 33: Late Night Outlines

Wednesday night after church is when I like to spend time in my office to begin putting my outline for that Sunday in its final form. Before you pass judgment on me as to why I am in the office so is because my wife works during the day while I watch the kids. When Tracy gets home I go to the office.

This week I am talking about finding peace by examining the 23rd Psalm. This study has revealed to me how ignorant the question is "so how is your spiritual life?" It is interesting but there is no Hebrew word for spiritual...because that would indicate some things are not. We are fully integrated beings that our souls are connected with our outside and it is God's desire that we are reconciled as one. Interesting isn't it? This may not be your average teaching on this portion of scripture but one I am sure you will find great peace in.

By taking a look at the 23rd Psalm it is my hope that many people at church and those that listen to the weekly podcast will find a new way to relax and renew. The Lord is my shepherd.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 32: Presenting the Holy Spirit

Today I revealed to the worship leader at the church I pastor that in July I will be doing a three week series on the Holy Spirit. This is a tough topic to cover as there are a lot of different factors that come in to play. My biggest concern in talking about the Holy Spirit is that too many times when you hear teachings on this in certain denominations it is done in a fake, cheesy, kind of way. Just “Youtube” Robert Tilton and see what I am talking about.

I recall being a youth pastor and attending a mass youth event where the speaker presented the Holy Spirit in a less than biblical way. There were youth pastors and youth groups walking out. This issue can be forced in ways that if the pastor can just get a person to speak in tongues (even if it is made up) they feel happy and accomplished. I recall people telling me once that they just did what evangelist wanted them to do to shut them up so they can go. That is not the way I want to present the Holy Spirit…perhaps it will be more of a presenting and teaching and let it grow in the people that hear. In other words…a teaching on the Holy Spirit without the hype of emotionalism/manipulation and let the people hearing mull it over in days and weeks to come.

There are many issues in Christianity that are just way to powerful to find resolve by the end of one service or series for that matter. I do believe the Holy Spirit is at work in a person and compels a person to come to Christ. This could however be one of those topics where you don’t always find resolve right away. Things that I have issue with or struggle with is the fanaticism that can sometimes come with this topic. Different issues like being slain in the spirit….this raises an eyebrow for me. I have seen it before and can’t help but think this happened only a couple of times in the bible. Yet you see people get caught up in a “revival” and mass amounts of people fall. I recall having a conversation with some staff pastors at Brownsville church where the revival happened in Florida, they would get so disgruntled with people that did fanatical things. We have to watch out how we present such a powerful thing in churches. This will be a subject I will wrestle with for some time in order to present this topic in a real way.