Archives For pastors

Lots of people have been burned by church.Pulpit

I probably cannot think of too many more popular topics for bloggers and Christian writers.

Here’s what’s wrong with the church.

Here’s all the ways the church has offended me.

Here’s how the people who go to church are hypocrites.

I get it.

I really get it.

Because I’ve been in church leadership.

The thing about being hurt by church, being offended, being burned, is that I’m not sure how many people ask themselves “who has been burned the worst by church?” We assume that our experience is the worst. We think that our crisis of faith was the deepest.

But I can tell you something. I can tell you who has been burned the worst by church.

It might well be the guy standing up front.

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Way to "engage" with the culture.

Way to “engage” with the culture.

Over the last few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with plenty of Christians trying to discern how the church will “respond” to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

Most of the responses are based on fear.

Most of the responses belie an “attack and defend” concept of the church.

There are plenty of Christians who think the American church is on the ropes, that we are very close to becoming a persecuted minority. Soon, pastors will be forced to perform weddings they do not agree with, churches will lose their tax exemptions, and perhaps even worse consequences will occur. Cultural influencers publicly cry that there are thousands of pastors willing to “die” for this cause.

And you know what I can now conclusively say?

All of these responses, based on fear, defensively postured, conceptualized as “attack and defend” are kind of pathetic.

And if your church is responding this way, it’s kind of pathetic too.

Here’s why.

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What is your personal currency?

In the "influence economy" of the modern church, "1%" leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

In the “influence economy” of the modern church, “1%” leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

You know, the thing that you strive to collect, to store up, to hoard. That stuff that drives you to do one more thing before you go to bed. The thing that gets you up an hour earlier in the morning. The thing that keeps you up at night, worrying that you don’t have enough.

The American church has done a pretty good job of convincing us that money is not our personal currency. (I suppose it’s easy to tell ourselves that money is not that important to us when we have quite a lot of it, relatively speaking.)

No it’s not money that we are grasping for. Go to churches, go to conferences, go to seminars, read the books. What is the core of what church leaders are peddling?

Influence.

The church has figured out how to make the pursuit of influence sound noble, righteous, even necessary. Now, all of the books are written and all of the conferences are led by guys who obviously have a lot of it. A lot of people listen to the guys at the top. And so they tell us how we too can have it all.

When we talk about our church’s “relevance,” try switching in the word “influence.” There will be almost no difference.

When a conference speaker is discussing “impact,” just sketch the word “influence” in your notes.

When a pastor is talking about “evangelism,” just imagine the word “influence.”

It is influence that, well, influences most of our pursuits. And I have to admit that for most of my adult life, I have been no different. I have hungered and thirsted after it. I have wanted people to give me attention, to do what I say, to respect my opinions.

What I’ve found is that there are a lot of problems with influence being our personal currency.

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Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation…

The most post-Christian place in America...

The most post-Christian place in America…

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33%. Albany, NY is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, TN ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

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What makes a leader? 84c4cc353a9e4eb003711dd7957b854ed4fc0ab9a0ffe939eaa67554a4404ec9

What makes a pastor?

You’d think we would know the answer by now. There are endless books, websites, conferences and resources devoted to the subject. We are obsessed with leadership in the American church.

And yet…

We watch, yet again, the rise and fall of a prominent leader. Sooner or later, another leader will fall. Even in our churches (or maybe especially in our churches), bad behavior is tolerated at the highest levels. Egos are allowed to run wild. Maybe you are experiencing this in your own church. The fact is we have brought this on ourselves. We promote people with huge egos to places of leadership where they do not belong.

I have no doubt that most of our churches are led by humble, godly men and women. But I also have no doubt that the “Christian leadership industry” is trying to sell us something.

They are trying to sell us a new kind of leader. They are trying to sell us the kind of leader we do not need, and convince us that this is the kind of man we need at the helm. The definition of “leader” and “pastor” has radically changed in the American church. Anyone who says the American church at large is interested in creating biblical leaders must be joking.

Don’t believe me?

Think about what our idea of “leadership qualities” is.

Then go to your Bible.

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What does Joel Osteen know that the rest of us don’t?joel-osteen-and-wife1

If you are not one of his fans, you would probably answer, “Nothing.”

There has been quite a little bit of chatter as of late about Victoria Osteen finally “outing” herself and her husband and the gospel they are really preaching. She summarized their philosophy by saying that when we obey God, we do not do it for God, but for ourselves. We do it because God’s greatest desire is for us to be “happy.” So this whole exercise of going to church, reading our Bibles, being Christians is not really for God, it’s for us.

Well those statements set off a little chain reaction among quite a bit of blog-land. “Finally,” we said, “at least we know what they really believe!” At least one mega-famous pastor is being honest about the false gospel he is preaching.

But wait a minute.

Take everything that you might believe about the Osteens, their church, their gospel, their wealth or their haircuts. Take all of that pent up frustration and wad it up into a big wet lump in your throat.

Because despite all of these things, as loathe as we may be to admit it, much of the evangelical church can learn something from the Osteens. We might even learn something about ourselves.

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