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Karl Vaters

Karl Vaters

Pivot is a Christianity Today blog by pastor and author Karl Vaters. He writes about church health and innovative leadership from the perspective of small church.
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Motivation is hard. And comfort food feels so good. But it's more important now than ever to stay healthy.Lately, it’s hard to remember what day it is.Without the usual markers, one blends into the other in a confusing emotional haze.My sleep is off, too. And with my sleep goes my ability to think and lead clearly.You too? Yes, me too.So how can we stay stable and sane in the middle of such uncertainty? Here are a few ideas that are especially helpful for pastors and other leaders:(This is a companion piece to an earlier article, When You’re Trying To Lead Others, But You’re Barely Holding On.)1. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to othersIf a friend or church member told you they were mad at themselves for not being able to function at peak performance during this crisis, what would you tell them?To get over it? To work harder? To stop whining because people are depending on them?I sure hope not.I expect you’d go easy on them and help relieve their feelings of guilt. You’d sympathize. You’d emphasize their need to rest, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.That’s good advice. We need to talk to ourselves the same way.2. Be vulnerableThere’s nothing wrong with letting the people you lead know what you’re feeling. You’ll notice I started this article that way.“But won’t they have less respect for me if they see my weakness?” Not unless you’re in a completely toxic environment.Chances are, your cracks are already being seen by the people who know you best – even over a video chat. Being honest about your challenges instead of working so hard to hide them might provide a great deal of relief for them, too.It’s hard to believe we’re in this together when the leader seems invincible – or, even worse, when ...Continue reading...
We haven't ceased to be the church. We'll never cease to be that. But I miss the gathering.It’s been a month.Four full Sundays of worship at home.And with every week that goes by, I realize more than ever how much I miss it.No, not the building. You can have the building.Not even the event. You can have that, too.I miss the people.I miss gathering as the church.Active, But SeparatedSure, the church is still alive and well. More than ever.We’re checking up on each other. Making grocery runs for our seniors. This evening, some friends dropped by with donuts, then stood at the end of the driveway as we chatted from the door for a few moments. We’ve never done that before.So the church is engaged, active, worshiping and caring for each other.But I miss the gathering.Deeply.The Emptiness Of AbsenceI miss being in the same room, worshiping, singing, serving, laughing, praying, and receiving communion together.That’s the part that hurts.The part where I feel an emptiness.It’s not about the building or the event. It never has been.It’s about the people.God’s people.Gathered.Going To Church MattersYes, it’s true that we are the church. That’s what matters most.But it’s becoming ever more clear that the going part is a very close second. And an essential element of being the church.Going to church matters. A lot.Gathering as the church is as fundamental to my faith as it can possibly be.No, we haven’t ceased to be the church. We’ll never cease to be that.But I miss the gathering.What a celebration it will be when we’re gathered again.Continue reading...
A lot of people in positions of leadership are working hard to fight off feelings of helplessness right now.This is harder than I expected.No, I’m not sick. And none of my loved ones are. So, for those of you who are sick or who are dealing with the illness or (God forbid) the death of a loved one, I cannot imagine your burden.But even for those of us who are simply being asked to stay home, this is proving hard in some unexpected ways.If you’re in a position of leadership, your feelings may be very confusing right now. Even erratic.Not What We ExpectedI’m used to knowing what to do. And helping others know what to do.If you had told me a month ago that I’d be sitting at home for weeks without feeling sick or having anywhere to be, I’d have thought “Wow! I’m going to get so much done! I’ll have a rough draft of that new book knocked down! I’ll start a new podcast, and who knows what else!”But I’m not. Not to the degree I expected, that’s for sure.Barely Hanging OnSome days it feels like I’m barely hanging on, myself.But I feel a responsibility to lead. To help. To bless others.In fact, I don’t just feel that responsibility, I have that responsibility.And yet, how do I do that when each day feels like it runs past me in bits and pieces? Barely able to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time?Give Yourself A BreakI know I’m not alone in feeling this.Right now there are a lot of people in positions of leadership with similar feelings of helplessness.So, in the few minutes I can concentrate long enough to write this, let me offer a short word of hope.Give yourself a break. I plan to.Slow down.Don’t push.Relax.Stay healthy first.It’s okay if you don’t have the answers right now. None of us have clear answers ...Continue reading...
Here's a simple way to help online churches reach even more people through YouTube.We’re all doing church online now.If your church is new to this, and you’re putting your church on YouTube, your YouTube URL looks something like this:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3iMLx7Dyfi3T097D7VEnAWhat you want is something like this:https://www.youtube.com/GodsGraceChurchIt makes the church URL easier to remember and find, helping us reach more peopleSo how does a church get there?How To Qualify For A Custom YouTube URLAccording to YouTube, there are four steps to qualify: Be at least 30 days old Have an uploaded photo as a channel icon Have uploaded channel art Have 100 or more subscribersThe first three you can do on your own. The fourth one you need help with. And that’s why I subscribed to over 100 Church YouTube channels in the last few days.Over the weekend, I asked our church members to subscribe. Then, on several social media sites, pastors did a URL exchange. I subscribe to yours, you subscribe to mine.In less than 24 hours, our church’s YouTube site went from 52 subscribers to over 100!Then What?After you qualify, here’s how to change your church’s URL (copied from YouTube). Sign in to YouTube. Click your profile picture in the top right. On the left side, click Settings. Then, also on the left, click Advancedsettings. Under "Channel settings," select the link next to You're eligible for a custom URL. You'll only see this link if your channel is eligible. In the "Get a custom URL" box, you'll see the custom URL(s) you've been approved for. You can't change the part in the gray box, but you may need to add a few letters or numbers to make the URL unique to you. Carefully read and understand the "Custom URL Terms of Use" and select the box to agree to them, then click Change URL.Continue reading...
While necessary right now and important in the future, we can't close our eyes to the downsides of online church.It’s a whole new ballgame.In a matter of just a few weeks, churches all around the world have a new standard for measuring ministry success.And I’m trying not to be cynical about it.So here’s my best shot at a non-cynical (but certainly skeptical) take on this.What’s Good About Online ChurchI’m grateful every time I hear that a church now has as many or more people watching their online services than they had attending their in-person services.Better that than a drop-off of numbers, for sure.But let’s be honest about what’s happening here.Recently, there’s been a lot of helpful information about how engagement is a better metric than attendance. I fully agree with that assessment.But if engagement is a better metric than attendance, eyeballs on a screen is a worse one. At-home viewers are far less engaged than bodies in the room ever were.Online And DistractedWe all know how online viewing goes.We watch while we’re cooking, eating, chatting, Tweeting and working out.Even if we lay all of that aside, people who sit at home and watch a screen are far less engaged in the experience than when they were in the room together.An Incomplete MetricObviously, that’s all we have right now. And I’m truly grateful we have it.Even when we’re able to meet together again, keeping an online presence will be an important way to reach new people and keep connected with absent members.But.Let’s be careful not to replace one incomplete, even unreliable metric (attendance) with one that’s even less reliable (online viewership).Online church is here to stay. Our congregation does it, and we’ve learned how to do it even better because of the necessity of this ...Continue reading...
If you want to make a real difference, don't get bogged down in the details of video streaming.Just about every church is live-streaming their services now.Necessity being the mother of invention (and adaptation), we’re all doing what we have to do.Churches with pre-existing live-stream technology are learning how to conduct their service from an empty room, while those who haven’t live-streamed before are learning the basics – fast.But let’s face two facts about churches that are new to the live-stream world:1. Most first-time streamers are my friends in small churches.2. Most of us aren’t doing live-stream very well.But that’s okay.Here’s why.You Can’t Live-Stream Your Most-Needed MinistriesWhile it’s important to make a Sunday experience available to your church members, a high-quality live-stream Sunday service is not the most significant way you can serve your church or your community over the coming weeks.Top-notch video production is not what the typical small congregation expects or needs from their church leaders.Especially now.They just need to hear from their pastor, their Sunday School teacher and their friends.And not just on Sunday morning.Do What You Do BestIf your service is being live-streamed, keep it simple and do it as best you can, then move on to doing the kinds of ministry you do well.Go old-school.Regular text messages or phone calls to check in on people will mean more than seeing you on a computer screen once a week.Recruit some younger, healthier volunteers to find and bring needed supplies to those who can’t get out.Those kinds of small, simple, low-tech ministries will be of far greater value than how you frame a video shot.What We’ll RememberAt some time in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to gather ...Continue reading...
This is not a call to trust our leaders. It's a call for leaders to be more trustworthy.The most important aspect of leadership is not competence, communication or innovation.It’s integrity.When we can’t trust our leaders, life can turn really bad, really fast. Even deadly.We’re seeing it in real time right now. The current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis will be made better by our ability to trust those in leadership or made worse by our lack of ability to trust them.Let’s pray that the weight of it will lean heavily toward trust and trustworthiness.A Call To TrustworthinessThis is not about any specific political or church leader. Right now, there’s plenty of distrust – and good reasons for it – on all sides.This is also not a call to trust our leaders. It’s a call for leaders to be more trustworthy.When they’re not (when we’re not) people die.In other times, when life is moving along relatively normally, untrustworthy leadership is a cause for debate, ridicule, even mockery. But when things go bad, lack of trust in leadership gets people killed.Earned DistrustIn the current crisis, for instance, there were many people, early on, who doubted the necessity of self-quarantine – and some who still do. Why? Often because they doubted the truthfulness of the people giving them this information.From politicians, to medical, religious and educational leaders, everyone has earned some degree of distrust from us.And I do mean earned. Distrust is not primarily the fault of the followers, but of the leaders who have given us plenty of reasons not to trust them.How To Regain TrustIf you are in a position of leadership, now more than ever we need to be able to trust you. And there’s only one way to do that.Be trustworthy.Do the right thing.Every time.Continue reading...
If you're not sure, don't post it. You'll never regret the joke you don't tell.(Photo: Justin humorously explains social distancing, but laughs so hard that he and Manuel forget not to touch their faces.)Humor is gift from God.Truly.The ability to laugh, even (especially?) during a crisis is an important way to find relief and share community.But knowing the line between what’s funny and what’s distasteful can be hard.So, are there any guidelines we can follow to help us share humor in a responsible way during the current season of difficulty?Here are a few pointers:1. Run it by someone else, firstBefore posting or re-posting something on social media, ask a trusted friend if you should.If they cringe, quarantine the joke between the two of you.2. Laugh with, not atThere’s enough dividing us. Use laughter to unite.Social distancing is for geography, not humor.3. Keep it light-hearted, not edgyWhile insult comedy is a valid form of communication, it’s hard to do well. It should be left to the professionals. Especially when people are ill or at risk.Default to the light-hearted, not the edgy.4. Use it to instructHumor has a way of cutting through people’s defenses so they can hear something they might otherwise be closed off to.For a great example of using humor to instruct during this crisis, check out the Don’t Be A Spreader video from Max and Mel Brooks.5. If you're not sure, don't post itYou’ll never regret the joke you don’t tell.Continue reading...
This is a serious and difficult time. Quarantines are hard. But we can do more than endure, we can step up and be strong.Over the next few weeks there will be a lot of people quarantined in their homes in an all-out attempt to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).This is cause for concern, but it need not be a cause for fear. Especially if we prepare well for it.But what exactly can we do while isolated – either alone or with family – for days or weeks at a time?A lot of people are already adding to their TV-watching queues. That’s not wrong – I plan to watch some TV and movies myself. But if that’s all we do, we will have added to the problem by squandering our time.Fighting Fear By Fighting BoredomStaving off boredom may seem like a trivial issue. And it is certainly not as severe as the medical and financial challenges many are facing. But it is not trivial.Fear is a very real issue right now. And fears tend to grow when we’re passive, but diminish when we’re active.So let’s keep busy. But not just for the sake of busyness. Let’s use this as an opportunity to do activities that add value to our lives and the lives of others.Here are a few ideas:1. ReadStart with the Bible. Depending how long this goes, you might cover a lot of territory, or go really deep into a book that touches your heart.Also, you can catch up on books that can teach you something new.Enjoy a novel or biography.Join an online book club with friends, or join an existing site like Goodreads.2. WriteProcess your thoughts, feelings and ideas in a journal or diary.Blog.Write a book that someone else might want to read. I can tell you from personal experience, there are more people who want to read what you have to say than you might think.Send cards or letters to friends.3. CreateThis would be a great time to ...Continue reading...
We should all look forward to the day when churches of all sizes are able to gather again.As of today, the CDC has recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled for the next 8 weeks.Small church win, right?Wrong.No one wins in this.No “I told you so’s”As a long-time proponent of the value of small churches, you might think I’m tempted to issue an “I told you so” about small churches being better than big churches.I’m not going to do that.Because it’s not true.We Need Churches Of Every SizeI’ve never told anyone that small churches are better than big churches. I’ve never even hinted at it.In fact I’ve repeatedly stated that small churches are not better than big churches, and big churches are not better than small churches.As I’ve always said, the body of Christ needs churches of every size. That is especially true now. We need the resources of big churches and the relational pastoral voice of small churches.One ChurchIt’s a difficult time for everyone.That is why, now more than ever, we must show the world a united front.Even while we can’t gather together for church, we must band together as the church. Big churches, small churches and the people we all serve.Loving Our NeighborsThe CDC is giving us wise counsel in these recommendations about group size.Even if you’re able-bodied and unlikely to be in danger, following these rules is the best way to minimize the likelihood of passing this illness to those who are more vulnerable than you.It’s simply “love your neighbor” in a different form than we’re used to seeing it.Be The ChurchI look forward to the day when large churches are able to gather again.I will celebrate that with them.Until then, I will pray that my fellow ...Continue reading...
The church is always at our best, not when things are going well, but when we respond in a Christ-like manner to a difficult circumstance.Did you just find out that your home church won’t be holding public services this weekend?If so, you’re not alone.Your church leaders aren’t panicking. At this point, especially if your church is large, this is a responsible decision.The current global health crisis is causing congregations all around the world to make the difficult decision to close their buildings this weekend – including the church I serve. And they may be closed for several weekends to come. (If your church is meeting, that does not make them irresponsible – especially if it’s a smaller congregation. That’s a choice each location needs to make for themselves.)But if we don’t have a church to go to this weekend, what should we do?Whether you’re on your own, or with your family, here are several ways you can participate in a faith-building worship experience this Sunday from the comfort of your own home.1. Watch An Online ServiceIf your church offers this alternative, take advantage of it. In fact, there are a lot of churches that don’t normally offer an online experience who are doing it now.If your church doesn’t have an online alternative, that’s okay. Find an online church experience that you can be blessed by until your church opens its doors again.2. Listen To Worship MusicWhatever your preferred music style is, there’s an app for that.From YouTube, to Spotify, to Pandora, to your phone playlist or even hauling out the old CDs, it’s great to spend time listening and singing along to your favorite worship music.3. PrayerAs the church, we should always be praying for each other and for the world around us. Especially now.Pray especially for the following: The elderly and illContinue reading...
Here's an excerpt from my latest book, a practical, principled plan for your church to get one step healthier.Today is the day! You can now buy a copy of my newest book, 100 Days To A Healthier Church!Here’s an excerpt.Chapter 2: What Can Be Done in 100 Days?Turning a church from unhealthy to healthy is a daunting task.It starts by working smarter, not harder.Here’s an example.The Paint Can: A ParableIn the 1990s, I led a small group of church members on a missions trip to Bucharest, Romania. The country was just a few years removed from one of the most oppressive, violent and evil regimes in modern history.One afternoon we were taking a short break in our hotel. While we were talking, a hotel employee was painting a wardrobe in the hallway—one of those portable closets they use in Europe, like the one in C.S. Lewis’s classic book. But there was something about the way he was doing it that was strange.The employee would brush on a few strokes of paint, disappear into the hotel room for thirty seconds or so, reappear to brush on a few more strokes, then disappear again. This kept repeating. Why?Then it hit me.Although the wardrobe was in the hallway, the can of paint was in the middle of the hotel room, so the painter was walking into and across the room for every single dip of paint! But why would he do that? Probably because that’s where everything was placed when he arrived. This painter was nearing retirement age, and he had been raised under an extraordinarily repressive regime in which you kept your head down and did the job you were given, no questions asked. Conformity was rewarded, and innovation was frowned upon.This painter was taking three or four times longer to paint the wardrobe because he had been socially, mentally, and emotionally programmed by a corrupt system not to think for himself. ...Continue reading...
Can you take this short survey to help us understand more about small churches and their leaders?Most churches in the world are small. As many as 90 percent are under 200, 80 percent under 100.Is this because the pastors of those churches haven’t mastered church growth? Or could there be other factors at play here?These are valid questions, but they have surprisingly few solid answers because very little research has been done about them.Sure, you can find a lot of good material about how to break through numerical barriers, but what about the vast majority of churches that not only stay small, but it seems like that’s how they and their leaders serve at their best?(If you want to jump right to the survey, click this link.)More Small Church Metrics Are NeededSeveral times over the last few years I’ve written about the limits of using metrics to understand the health and strength of small churches and the people who lead them. Here are links to a couple of those articles: Measuring What Matters: The Challenge of Church Metrics Effective Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results Aren’t Typical ResultsIn addition to those I also sent up a flag asking for help, with Wanted: An Effective System for Small Church Metrics.Now someone is stepping up to answer that call.Are There Small Church Pastor Personality Traits?A small church pastor named Jean Morgan is writing a Master’s thesis based on researching this idea: Are there certain personality types that are more effective for pastors in a small church environment than in a big church setting? And, if so, what are they and how can we understand them better so we can serve the church in the best possible way?In other words, is it possible that church size has less to do with the pastors’ skill set than it has to do with how God built us? And ...Continue reading...
Whenever you're attempting a big change, it is essential to build intentional time and space for rest.Doing new things is scary. For some.Doing new things is exciting. For others.But even if you fall more into the second category than the first (as I do) doing something new is always exhausting.And it’s more exhausting when you’re attempting to change something you’ve been doing for a long time. Which is why change gets harder as you get older.Changing your clothing style from last year’s trends to this year’s trends? Easy (I assume).But changing your church’s worship style, facility or organizational structure after it’s been in place for decades, possibly generations? Not so easy.Even if you know change needs to happen and everyone is on board with it, never underestimate how exhausting change is going to be – and how much that exhaustion will slow people down, make them second-guess themselves, or even want to abandon the entire process mid-stream. Including you.This is why, whenever you’re attempting a big change, it is essential to build intentional time and space for rest.The best way I know to do that is to decide in advance what long-term aspects you will never change, then utilize those permanent markers as your support system to help you tackle what needs to be changed.Find places you can rest, like relationships, core theology, foundational traditions and so on.Even Desired Change Is ExhaustingI’ve discovered this recently in my own life and ministry.I just turned 60. My decades happen to match the calendar decades with only a six-week difference. In the 2010s (my 50s) I experienced a complete upheaval in the way I worship, minister and work. More than in any previous decade – including the decade I started in ministry, got married and had our kids. ...Continue reading...
I don't know what's coming, but I know who does. And his vision is always 20/20.How many of my fellow pastors are prepping their 20/20 vision statements right now, I wonder?It reminds me of what happened in 2010. Back then, there were a whole lot of churches, ministries and individuals promoting their 10-year plans for their 2020 vision.The idea of having a ten-year plan is nothing new. But doing so at the start of a new decade has extra appeal. And this year it feels almost poetic to have a 20/20 Vision, just like it did in 2010 looking a decade ahead.Well, 2020 is upon us.If you had a decade-long 2020 vision statement, how did it turn out for you? I’m guessing that if you can even remember it, your life, ministry and church look nothing like you expected.I’ll get to “why” soon, but first let me tell you a bit about my decade.Why I Didn’t Create A 2020 Vision StatementI didn’t write up a decade-long 2020 Vision Plan in 2010.Not because I‘m better, worse, or even different from anyone who did, but because, as 2010 was approaching, I was barely starting to come out of a long, deep tunnel of ministry failure and despair.I had spent much of the previous decade striving for goals I had set for myself and the church I pastor, only to see them crash and burn with no hope of being reached by 2010. And I had no desire to write out a new set of goals for 2020, only to set myself up for failure again. At least, that was my emotional and mental state at the time.If I hadn’t been in such a funk and I had decided to write a 2020 Vision statement, I have a pretty good idea where I’d be right now. In the same place I was in 2010. Wondering what had gone wrong with all my well-laid plans.How do I know that? Am I the world’s biggest pessimist? No.Continue reading...
Leaders will attend and volunteer at churches where they are honored as people and where their hard work and leadership skills are recognized and valued.Volunteer leaders are the backbone of the church.This is true in churches of all sizes, but especially in small churches which may be led exclusively by volunteers.After all, volunteers can quit at any time. And when they do, it actually frees up more of their spare time. So we need to give them good reasons to stick around.Here are 10 of them:1. Tell Them WhyThe days when church leaders did what they were supposed to do merely from a sense of obligation are gone. Good riddance.People – especially leaders – want to know why something needs to be done. And they should know. Leaders can’t lead without knowing why.Oh sure, you can get away without explanations for a while, or on small projects. But for the big things – the things that matter – good leaders want and need to know why.When leaders know why they’re doing something and buy into that reason, not only will they give more of themselves to it, they can lead others in it. It also allows them create great ideas that can make a good idea even better. Now that’s good leadership!2. Listen More than You TalkPastors and preachers are taught how to speak. But we’re seldom taught how to listen.As a pastor, I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. (I know, it’s not much of a stretch). I want people around me who know more about their area of expertise than I do. Pastors who do all the talking don’t get smart volunteers, they get mindless followers. They might attract crowds, but they don’t make disciples.When church leaders know that their ideas, concerns and feelings are being heard, they make stronger commitments to God, to the church and to other leaders. And they become better disciples, leaders ...Continue reading...
Never let the excitement of higher attendance or the discouragement of lower attendance divert you from your church's primary goal.On any given Sunday, even the smallest, simplest church service juggles an amazing array of complex issues. Set-up to tear-down Relationships to administration Spiritual to emotional Planned events to unplanned interruptions and more.But too often we reduce the value of this beautiful, multi-layered gathering of believers, seekers, skeptics and hypocrites to one overly-simplistic metric. Namely, how many people showed up?More Than NumbersCertainly, almost every pastor and church is grateful when church attendance is on the rise – myself included. And appropriately so.It’s not that attendance figures don’t matter, it’s that too many of us have made those numbers the primary, sometimes exclusive focus of our attention.This is misguided at best, idolatrous at worst.We’re Not Selling WidgetsIt reminds me of a complaint I often hear from fellow authors and artists about their publisher or promoter. Sometimes they feel like no one who works with them is concerned about the quality of their work, just how many units they’re selling.Certainly authors, musicians and other artists care about reaching a bigger audience, too. But the size of the audience doesn’t matter if the work is shabby.Unfortunately, a lot of church leaders are guilty of falling into the same trap – expressing more concern about the numbers than about the quality of the experience.10 Better QuestionsSo how can we gauge the value of a church service? If we pay less attention to attendance, what should we pay more attention to?My answer to that is “almost everything.” Yes, almost everything else happening in a worship service is more important than how many people are in the room.For now, here’s a quick ...Continue reading...
We need to change our methods for the same reason I type using single spacing – because bad methods get in the way of the message.The church won’t change the world by adopting new methods. We won’t even save the church that way.What will change the world is a praying church. A loving church. A worshiping church. An outward-reaching church. A Jesus-centric church.The Great Commandment and the Great Commission are all that matter. They haven’t changed in 2,000 years because they don’t need to.But.I’m going to use new methods anyway.To understand why, here’s an example of necessary change from the history of typing. Yes, typing.Double-Spacing (A Real-Life Parable)If you’re my age (born in 1959) or older, you were probably taught to double-space between sentences when typing. Why? Because our teachers had been raised in an era when most typewriters used monospace font, with every letter taking up the same amount of width on the page.Those old typewriters left huge gaps of white space on either side of thin letters (like i), while wide letters (like m) were squeezed together. Double-spacing was needed after each period to made sentence breaks clear, aiding in readability.That all changed in the 1950s and ’60s, when typewriters with proportional spacing became popular. Thin letters took up less page space, while wide letters used more, with uniform gaps between them. Those new typewriters also provided just the right width between sentences with just one touch of the space bar. Suddenly, double-spacing was not only unnecessary, but the big out-of-proportion gap they created made documents harder to read, not easier.But old habits die hard.Since most people were never taught why double-spacing was needed on the old typewriters, they didn’t understand the need to switch to single-spacing. Double-spacing ...Continue reading...
We should seek truth wherever it may be found, because we serve the author of all truth.Christianity has always been a faith in pursuit of the truth. Because of that, we’re not afraid of solid scientific research. In fact, we support it.After all, our faith rests, not on a set of ideas or behaviors, but on a verifiable historical fact, the bodily resurrection of Jesus.Plus, the library of books we rely on (also known as the Bible) is filled with names, dates, places and events that correspond to other historical and geographical sources.Remain EducatedHere's a case in point, from a very recent CNN article entitled, Scientists hope to digitally unravel scrolls charred by Vesuvius with light 10 billion times brighter than the sun.The article describes how a team of scientists from the University of Kentucky are using extremely cutting-edge technology to read a scroll (as seen in the above photo) that was buried and preserved by Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The scroll is too fragile to unroll, but this technology will hopefully allow them to read it anyway.W. Brent Seales is the head of the University of Kentucky's Digital Restoration Initiative and is also a Christian. According to CNN, Seales “hopes they might end up reading an early Christian text, which could have been written in the same time period as the eruption of Vesuvius. Regardless, he says the overall academic effort to ‘remain educated’ motivates the quest.”This should be an encouragement to everyone who gets discouraged, as I sometimes do, with the anti-education bent that is too often displayed by some fellow believers.Remaining educated about the truth has always been a primary characteristic of serious Christian thought. And it must remain so.The Truth Will Set You FreeAs believers, we should never be afraid ...Continue reading...
Saying “no” to some good things so you can say "yes" to other good things is an essential step in being effective.So you’ve found something you care about.You’re involved. You feel like you’re making a difference.Then you post about it on social media. Not to brag, just because that’s what you do with causes you care about.Most of the responses are positive and uplifting, but there are one or two who snap back at you with “Really? You’re doing that? Well what about …?” and they name another cause similar to the one you’re involved in. “Don’t you know if you’re involved in your thing you’re supposed to be involved in my thing? If not, you’re a hypocrite!”You Can’t Do EverythingIt can be about anything, and from any political or theological viewpoint. Concerned about racial injustice? Then you’d better get in line about women’s rights, too. Raising money for an abused women’s shelter? How can you not be helping out at the equal pay rally? Does your church support overseas missions? Then you’d better support the local soup kitchen.(Or vice versa on any of those.)One of two things typically happens when we experience pushback like this. First, we try to make everyone happy, only to burn ourselves out doing too much. Second, we shy away from doing anything because it’s easier to stay under the radar and not be criticized.But that’s no way to live or do ministry.Instead, we need to have the courage of our convictions and stay in the lane where we can have the most impact.In fact, saying “no” to good things that aren’t your thing is an essential step in being effective.But Do SomethingIt’s okay to care about one thing without stepping up for everything.For instance, our church supports a ...Continue reading...
Size is no longer considered a sign of health by the average church member or spiritual seeker.There are very few pastors who would say that bigger churches are inherently better than smaller churches. But most pastors believe it would be better if their church got bigger.Not only do most pastors want their churches to get bigger, they believe it’s worth an extraordinary expenditure of time, effort and money to make numerical increase happen.Most of our congregation members don’t agree.This disparity between pastoral desires and congregational expectations is a relatively new phenomenon. There are a lot of pastors who haven’t caught up with this reality.Most of their church members don’t agree that getting more people in the room is necessarily better for their church. And it’s not because they’re not concerned about evangelism. Something else is going on here.A Generational Shift Regarding Church GrowthLess than a generation ago, if a pastor promoted a building campaign, almost everyone in the church would step up. They’d get excited by it, give extra offerings for it, and see it as a positive sign of health for the church.It was unquestioned – if your church was healthy, it would grow, and if it grew it would need bigger buildings.It’s being questioned now.Certainly there will always be people who love a crowd and who will follow the next big thing. And there will always be churches that appeal to them. There are also churches that attract large crowds for healthy, life-giving reasons.But size is no longer considered the obvious sign of health that it used to be. At least not by the average church member. And certainly not by the spiritual seeker.Bigger is no longer considered better, and things that get better are no longer expected to get bigger as a result. ...Continue reading...
Don't just teach us what you know, teach us what you're learning.We’re all trying to understand the most essential elements of our existence.Life, love, faith, family, church... and toilet paper rolls (under or over?)No one has it all figured out.This is why teachers need to start from an attitude of humility. Especially if we’re not just teaching facts and figures, but the more complex issues of life and faith.Even (particularly) as followers of Jesus, while we know the one who has all the answers, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we’re not him.The most effective teachers, preachers and storytellers don’t just tell people what they already know. They share what they’re learning.The attitude of a great teacher is less “learn from me” and more “learn with me.”Why “Learn With Me” Is BetterTelling people what we know (“learn from me”) puts a distance between the teller and the hearer. It’s an uneven, imbalanced situation between haves and have-nots.But if you build on what you know by inviting people into what you’re learning, the gap gets drastically reduced. When we’re all learning, we can relate to the struggle and joy of mutual discovery.Learn from me is static.Learn with me is dynamic.Learn from me is a command.Learn with me is an invitation.Learn from me is about information.Learn with me is about relationship.Learn from me closes down conversation.Learn with me welcomes questions.Learn from me is limited and limiting.Learn with me is unlimited and freeing.Learn from me is based on the past.Learn with me is focused on the future.The Best TeachersThe most compelling teachers, leaders, pastors and mentors don’t take the superior stance that “learn from me” implies. ...Continue reading...

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