I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything.
November 2014 marked the month of my 32nd birthday and my first week as Lead Pastor of what was then known as Thornville Community Nazarene, in Thornville, OH. I would take the position as bi-vocational, being on a plane three days a week for my corporate job, with the hopes of growing the position into something that might be full-time in the future.
Fifteen adults greeted me that day for my first service, though 30-35 would come in and out of the building during that first month. The church was in decline, in crisis, operating in the red, irrelevant—you throw out the title and it fit. In a town of 1,000, this church once had 200 people in the late 1990s, but then went through two splits and had averaged 25-30 people for over the last decade in a KJV-only environment.
When I sat at my first board meeting with the leaders of the church, I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything. After they said they were okay with this, I repeated the question, being sure that they knew that I really meant it and qualified the statement by saying that if we were not getting the desired results, then everything had to be up for discussion.
They consented and off we went. I took lesser pay so we could hire a part-time youth pastor. Praise music from the 1980s and 1990s quickly transformed into the likes of Hillsong, Bethel, and Elevation. We put up a new sign, changed the name of the church, and overhauled the foyer, sound system, sanctuary, and the landscaping. We took down every single decoration, award, plaque, and memento that might remind anyone of who we had been.
One of my favorite memories from this time was when the gatekeeper ...
We have an obligation as leaders to have a plan in place to resolve conflicts in the healthiest way possible.
Conflict is inevitable. Even in a healthy marriage, family and church.
Like healthy marriages and families, healthy churches don’t avoid conflict, but they deal with it well.
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for more than 35 years. In the early days, I dealt with more conflict than in recent years. Not because the early churches were bad, but because I didn’t know how to deal with conflict as well as I do today.
Unfortunately, I learned how to deal with conflict the hard way – by making mistakes.
Through those mistakes, then through watching and learning from other churches, I have discovered 6 principles that healthy churches use to deal with conflict well:1. Healthy churches know that conflict isn’t fatal
A strong and healthy human body is able to fight off disease better than a weak and sickly one. It’s the same in a church.
When the church is healthy (not perfect, but healthy) they know that a disagreement between members or staff is like an occasional bought of insomnia or the common cold in an otherwise healthy adult. It’s unpleasant, but it will pass if we deal with it correctly.
When we feel like every conflict is a disaster in the making, we will either refuse to acknowledge them (thus driving them underground only to be bigger and badder when they come back up), or we’ll press the panic button every time a staff member tells the pastor “I may have a better way to do that” and never hear anything fresh and new ever again.
Both ignorance and panic are dangerous.
A healthy church knows that disagreements are normal and survivable.2. Healthy churches reduce the number of conflicts through better team dynamics and communication
Dealing with problems while they are small ...
If you’re a small church pastor who’s been frustrated with your inability to gain control of the church, stop trying. There's a better way.
If you’re a control freak, I have one word of advice.
Don’t become the pastor of a small church. (Actually, I’d advise you not to pastor any church. We have enough control freaks in the pulpit already.)
It’s a common misperception that the smaller a church is, the easier it will be for the pastor to control.
The only people who think this have never pastored a small church.Small ≠ Controllable
Small churches can be wonderful places in which to serve, worship, fellowship and minister. But because of their size, denominations will often put younger pastors in small churches, thinking they’ll be easier for the novice to lead. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Due to many factors, including the sociological phenomenon called The Law of Large Numbers (which I describe in some detail in my book Small Church Essentials) small groups of people, including small churches, actually behave less predictably than big groups of people (including big churches). This generally makes them harder to manage than most of their larger counterparts and absolutely impossible to control.
Here’s why. Because there are fewer people in the small church, the interplay of the unique personalities of church members has a huge impact. Much more so than they do in big churches.
Making sense of – let alone controlling – the complex and elusive web of personalities and relationships in a small church is much harder than planning a sermon series, hiring staff members, or casting a vision for the future.
Also, history plays a stronger role in established small churches. Traditions are more firmly established. And if the small church is also in a small town, the complex relationships of the dominant members can ...
But as I poured out my anger on the world, Jesus was waiting to pour out his perfect love.
I was born and raised in a Christian home. My great-great-grandfather was Louis Talbot, a famous author, one of the founders of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, and a preacher who worked closely alongside Billy Graham.
Yet despite this lineage of faith, I grew up as a “moralistic therapeutic deist,” in the language of sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. I believed loosely in a divine mind that created the world, and I believed that this being would want us to be good and nice to each other. But I knew this “thing” wasn’t especially involved in my life.
I attended my family’s church until I was 11 years old. In that time, I acquired a certain cynicism about religion and ministry. The word religion, at its root, means “to bind back,” and I witnessed person after person trying to somehow work back to God through good deeds and moral effort. In many ways, ministry became an idol in my home, and it often kept us from being a close family. Good things, like serving others, inevitably became “God things.” Our home life was emotionally arid and devoid of intimacy, and I grew to hate whatever god would allow this.Anger and Depression
By the time I was 12, my mother sought to get us plugged in with the local Baptist church youth group. She desperately wanted me to be around Christian friends. I went to youth group begrudgingly, all the while growing increasingly bitter, angry, and repulsed by the idea of a god. My anger drove me headlong into pornography.
Around age 17, I began my first serious romantic relationship. But this girl quickly became my idol. It only took a few months before I was pouring my anger onto her. I became what I ...
Both officially and unofficially, leaders of America’s largest Protestant denomination turn their attention to better responses to sexism and abuse.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a lot to talk about at its two-day annual meeting kicking off today in Dallas. This year, amid the standard business of elections, entity updates, worship sets, and messages, leaders of America’s largest Protestant body have brought unprecedented attention to the women in its churches and its pastoral response to abuse.
2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women attending the SBC annual meeting as messengers. At least two proposed resolutions up for consideration directly address the role of women in the complementarian denomination. But unofficially, the conversation is much bigger than that.
Many have awaited this national Southern Baptist gathering—the first since what some have deemed the #MeToo movement’s entry into evangelicalism—as grounds to engage an issue its leaders can no longer downplay.
At the start of the year, Southern Baptists watched as a decades-old, unreported sexual assault at a Houston Baptist congregation led to the resignation of two pastors, including the perpetrator Andy Savage, who went from being infamously applauded by his congregation to apologizing for his past immorality in a matter of weeks.
Months later, Executive Committee president Frank Page vacated the SBC’s top leadership role over an inappropriate relationship. And in recent weeks, longtime SBC figurehead Paige Patterson was forced out of his presidency at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over his mishandling of abuse allegations after weeks of controversy over his past remarks toward women.
Like Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler, who wrote last month that “judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” ...
People are not on the bus to get you to your destination; they are the destination. People worshipping Jesus and sharing His love with others.
One of the biggest frustrations faced by small church pastors is a lack of resources, including so-called human resources. “If only I had more money, a better building, more people or the right people” we complain, “then we could really get something done at our church.”
There are so many problems with that mindset, starting with the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” people.
In God’s eyes there are no “right” people or “wrong” people, and there shouldn’t be in our eyes, either.
To address this issue, here’s an excerpt from my new book, Small Church Essentials, chapter 5, “Why Is My Church So Weird?”Sometimes It Takes The Wrong People To Change The World
There’s a great scene in the movie Apollo 13 in which the engineers are trying to figure out how to get the crippled spacecraft and its three astronauts back to earth safely.
They’ve just discovered that the air filtration system is overtaxed, causing the carbon dioxide levels to rise dangerously high. If it’s not fixed soon, the astronauts will be poisoned by their own breath. But, because parts of the ship have been damaged and abandoned, the remaining filters are square, but the holes are round.
One of the engineers takes a box of material, dumps it on a table, and tells the others, “We gotta find a way to make this [he holds up a square filter] fit into the hole designed for this [he holds up a round filter] using nothing but that [points to the material on the table].”
There’s no sense complaining about wanting something they don’t have. No amount of planning, effort, or faith is going to put an item on Apollo 13 that isn’t ...
How predatory behavior goes undetected in congregations.
A man who had long sexually abused children sat in front of his pastor, wanting to confess his crimes. He began cautiously, mentioning that there had been accusations against him. He got no further, as his minister broke in, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” the minister said quickly. “You’re the last person I’d believe that of. End of conversation.”
This true account was shared in Anna C. Salter’s 1991 book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders. As a psychologist who has spent over 20 years working with and studying victims and sexual offenders, Salter says that “many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”
Rachael Denhollander, the courageous attorney who invoked her faith in her statement during the trial of her abuser Larry Nassar, warns, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.” Shortly before Nassar’s trial, she lost her church because of her advocacy for other victims within evangelical churches. Her story is an example of a culture found in some churches that disregards victims.
Unfortunately, the community where sexual offenders belong (whether in the church or out)—and within which they abuse—allows them to get away with their crimes. A key outcome of the #MeToo movement is a growing sensitivity not only to predatory behaviors but to a culture that ignores victims. In May, uproar over a scence in the children’s movie “Show Dogs,” which included grooming behaviors, caused the studio to remove two scenes after the release.
Evangelical churches can also grow in understanding ...
Therapist Hermeisha Hopson offers a clinically informed, scripturally sound approach to treating #MeToo victims and other survivors.
At times, the magnitude of suffering in the world can seem too much. In the past year alone, we’ve been confronted by headlines of gunmen massacring concert-goers, church members, and children; entertainment executives preying upon women; a sexual predator molesting upwards of 300 girls; and police officers violently responding to unarmed civilians—and these are just the stories that have made national news. In our personal lives, too, we sometimes see firsthand accounts of domestic violence, child abuse, and other traumas.
As the church, we’re called to mourn with those who mourn and comfort the afflicted, but it’s not always easy walking this journey alongside our friends and family. Hermeisha Hopson, a therapist and licensed social worker with a biblical counseling background, is intimately familiar with the work of coming alongside survivors. Hopson runs Refuge Counseling and Consulting Services in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and has over a decade of clinical experience with severe trauma victims.
She recently spoke with CT Women about how to equip churches, families, and individuals with a scripturally sound approach to trauma treatment.
How do you define trauma?
It’s any sort of disturbing experience that produces an overwhelming and unmanageable emotional response. Trauma covers a gamut of things—from a loss of a pet to the loss of a loved one to childhood sexual trauma. Often, folks struggle to concentrate, or they experience sleep problems and nightmares. These are cues that the situation has become unmanageable and that it’s not something that they can just bounce back from.
How did helping people suffering from trauma become a personal passion?
I’ve personally experienced ...
"You are the green berets in the Kingdom. You're on the frontline. You're doing the job that is often thankless but is perhaps most important."
William Vanderbloemen is the CEO and Founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group. a recruitment and consulting firm for churches. Previously, he served as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Houston. Recently, William interviewed me for his podcast and I interviewed him for this blog post.
In this interview, William expresses his appreciation for small churches and their leaders, talks about the importance of a church’s underlying culture (from his new book, Culture Wins), and offers some great insights from his experiences with hundreds of churches of all sizes.
Karl Vaters: You work with churches of all sizes. For many people, the advantages of big churches are obvious. What strengths do small churches have that they should lean in to?
William Vanderbloemen: Small is a four-letter word. People talk about small churches, and they don't remember that what they mean by saying small is actually the average, normal church in the United States, with 100 or 150 people gathering on a weekend. One of the major strengths this type of church brings to the table is they are much more resilient to a change in leadership than a large church.
One time I heard it said that when a small church loses their leader, it's like a cat with nine lives. They'll be fine. They bounce back. If a large church loses their leader, it's like a beached whale, and they have a hard, hard time getting things right again. Resiliency is a huge strength for small churches.
Another great strength of the small church or normal church is that normal churches can gather around one or two specific causes, own that cause, and then make a significant difference in its city. We have a normal-sized church here in Houston who has made it their ...
New details of mishandled sexual abuse allegation lead to Southern Baptist seminary president emeritus losing honorary title and on-campus residence.
A week after trustees voted to immediately shift Paige Patterson to “president emeritus” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), the board’s executive committee has stripped the Southern Baptist stalwart of all “benefits, rights and privileges.”
In a statement announcing Patterson’s termination, the committee stated today that it had confirmed information regarding reports that he mishandled a sexual abuse allegation while president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
Last Tuesday, a former SEBTS graduate student told The Washington Post that after she reported her rape to Patterson and fellow seminary officials in 2003, they failed to notify authorities and the former president encouraged her to forgive the perpetrator. Patterson did not respond to the claims, but SEBTS launched an internal review of its own.
Best known as the leader who orchestrated the “conservative resurgence” in America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Patterson spent decades as a revered and seemingly untouchable denominational figurehead; previous controversies had come up, but had not threatened his position or reputation until now. His case has been widely viewed as a prominent example of the fallout of the #MeToo movement and how it has changed expectations for institutional leaders.
The same day as the former student’s story broke last week, following a 13-hour meeting of SWBTS’s board of trustees, Patterson was ousted from the presidency he’d ...
Evangelicals, we can no longer say sexual misconduct is just a Roman Catholic problem.
The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.
But the issues are far deeper and wider.
Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries.
We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority.
When people said that evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible—even to me. I have been president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years. I did not see this coming.
I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation ...
Hard times require honest conversations.
Three weeks ago, I published an article that called on Paige Patterson to do the right thing for the Southern Baptist Convention and retire.
I’ve not written much more on this, because my focus is not on Paige Patterson; my focus was on the message that was being sent to (and about) women, and what was best for the SBC.
In my article, I wrote, “If Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation. Every news story will point to that moment, tie it together with the accusations against Paul Pressler, and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously. And it’s not just a public relations crisis. It’s a message to women that we must not send.”
We have not even reached the SBC annual meeting, but since I wrote that article, Paige Patterson’s response has already created the incalculable damage about which I wrote. When he stated that he “[had] nothing to apologize for,” the future I feared became the present we watched unfold.
The SBC sent a message to women we did not want to send, about their value and our view of our friends and coworkers who are women, showing that, for many, it was not just a message, but it was reality.
The damage has been stunning.
But, thankfully, SBC women spoke up. They said, “Enough.” They led.
SBC entities (like Southwestern) are governed by trustees, who volunteer their time for an often thankless job. When people ...
Decision follows Southern Baptist leader’s apology to women for past comments.
He clarified. He defended. He apologized. And now, after weeks of controversy, Southern Baptist icon Paige Patterson is no longer president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).
School trustees announced early Wednesday morning that Patterson, one of the most powerful and influential figures in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), had become the seminary’s president emeritus overnight, appointing theology dean Jeffrey Bingham as interim president.
After deliberation that went on past 3 a.m., the board voted him into paid retirement, complete with an on-campus home where he and his wife can live as theologians-in-residence.
“After much prayer and a more than 13-hour discussion regarding challenges facing the Institution, including those of enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity, the Board determined to move in the direction of new leadership for the benefit of the future mission of the seminary,” they said in a statement.
Patterson becomes the second president in SWBTS history to be forced out of the role. The only other was Russell H. Dilday, who was dismissed in 1994 as part of the Conservative Resurgence, the wave of denominational leadership changes orchestrated by Patterson himself.
Decades after his rise within the SBC, the 75-year-old recently ended up in the center of #MeToo-era criticism targeting his approach to abuse, divorce, and women, which led to bigger questions over his efficacy at the helm of its second-largest seminary.
The board affirmed that Patterson had ultimately complied with reporting laws on assault and abuse. The outgoing president spent a few hours meeting with the trustees and with his own leadership cabinet during the long, contentious session ...
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re maximizing growth, you’re also maximizing success.” (Bo Burlingham, in Small Giants)
Better churches become bigger churches. Right?
That’s been the rule of thumb for businesses, too. And it’s no more true there than it is for us.
As it turns out, constant growth doesn’t work for the majority of churches or businesses. Yet they can still be successful at what they do.Small Giants
This week, I finally got around to reading Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead Of Big (how could I resist, right?). Written more than ten years ago, it followed 14 companies that chose to limit their growth for a variety of reasons.
Some limited their growth to keep it more personal and intimate, some because a smaller size fit the skills and goals of the leadership, some because they felt it was the best way to maintain quality control, and so on.
But they all had one thing in common — an obsession with making their business better, combined with the belief that staying small was the best way for them to do that.
But how do we keep getting better if we’re not getting bigger? And what does this have to do with church and ministry?
Even if you want your church to grow but it isn’t, you still have a choice about helping the small church you lead become better.Your Church Has A Choice
Not everything (or even most things) in Small Giants applies to the church world, but what does is quite striking. Let’s take a look at a few of the takeaways from Burlingham’s work that can readily be adapted to what we see in church leadership. (Note: all parentheses are mine.)
“Virtually every mass-market business (church leadership) bestseller … has concentrated on the people in and the practices of large public companies (big churches). … ...
Christian men helped me end a violent marriage. Their voices matter now more than ever.
A few weeks ago, Paige Patterson’s comments on domestic violence went public, setting off a Twitterstorm of condemnation and support. Thousands of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) women have since called for his resignation. For the many women who were willing to sign their names to the statement, there are dozens of others suffering in silence who will never come forward.
I know, because I was one of them.
I was raised as a Baptist pastor’s daughter in a small town in Indiana. I spent most of my youth sitting in the front pew, listening to my dad’s sermons. After graduating high school, I married my high school sweetheart, and together my husband and I continued to be active in my dad’s congregation. From the outside, we were part of a perfect, multi-generational Baptist family. Behind closed doors, however, I suffered physical, emotional and spiritual abuse at the hands of my husband.
After years of soul-crushing torture, I gained the courage to walk away from my marriage. We had tried multiple rounds of counseling, but the abuse was relentless. After crying out to God for help, I clearly felt him release me from my marriage, so with the loving support of my parents, I filed for divorce.
Soon after, I was called to a meeting with our church’s deacons, who informed me that I would undergo church discipline for my decision to divorce. One even said, “If you do this, God will never use you.” My ex-husband received no reprimand for the abuse, though he didn’t deny it. By contrast, I eventually had to withdraw my membership and move away, and my father was fired as the church’s pastor for his role in supporting me.
I would like to believe that my story is an anomaly. But these ...
What makes a college “evangelical” or “fundamentalist?” The dividing lines weren’t always so clear.
Let’s say you attended Wheaton College, Gordon College, or Biola University. Or perhaps you’re an outsider who just thinks highly of those schools. If so, you might be turned off by a book that groups them together under the label “Fundamentalist U.” Don’t be.
Adam Laats, professor of education and history at Binghamton University and author of Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education, knows the difference between an evangelical and a fundamentalist. He knows, too, that it can be very hard to tell that difference, especially before the 1970s. Using the example of Wheaton, Gordon, and Biola (along with Moody Bible Institute, Bob Jones University, and Liberty University), Laats attempts to identify the distinct nature of non-denominational, fundamentalist-evangelical higher education in the 20th century. And he succeeds admirably.Peculiarities of Definition
Fundamentalist and evangelical colleges have long grappled with many of the same issues faced by other institutions of higher education: the early 20th-century academic revolution, changing standards of accreditation, a post–World War II boom in enrollment fueled by the GI Bill, the moral upheaval of the turbulent 1960s, and the rise of campus protests.
But fundamentalist-evangelical higher education has also dealt with a distinct set of challenges: how to train missionaries, how to maintain codes of student conduct in keeping with fundamentalist mores, whether (or how) to remain true to dispensational premillennialism, how to maintain doctrinal purity, and how to quash leftist radicalism in favor of traditional and conservative Americanism. As Laats observes, “[Fundamentalist colleges] expected to do all the ...
A congregation's financial reality should never be ignored, but it should never be in charge.
Money is in charge of too many of our churches.
So many good congregations want to do great ministry, but their limited finances cause them to make too many decisions based on what they can or can’t afford, instead of what God is calling them to do.
It’s a trap that may seem impossible to get out of. But there is hope.
In today’s post I want to tell you about a decision our church made over two decades ago that has been a great starting point in allowing us to follow God more and money less.
Here it is.
Our church will never make a decision about doing a ministry based on what we can or can’t afford. Because if we pencil it out, we’ll never be able to afford it.
(This is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)Put God In Charge of Ministry Decisions
Don’t let money make decisions for your church. Let the mission lead.
Ask yourself this question: What is God calling our church to do?
Open a food bank? Be an evangelistic center? Support missions? Plant other churches?
Then do it!
You don’t have enough money to do it? Do it anyway, by starting with the parts that don’t require finances.
- Assemble a team
- Do research
- Look for strategic partners
- Use the currency of time
- Put a work day on the calendar
Start small, if you must. But, by all means, start!
Never give money the power over whether-or-not to do any ministry. Just figure out how to do it in a way that is financially responsible and feasible – what the Bible calls good stewardship.Money Should Be One Of Many “How To” Factors
When our church decided we would never let money be the deciding factor of whether-or-not to do a ministry, that didn’t mean it would be ignored, either.
Instead, we use it as one ...
As pastors age, they can prepare so that the transition of leadership in their churches passes smoothly and their churches are set to stay on a healthy trajectory.
Church succession can be a sticky subject and sometimes involves a lot of awkward conversations. But it doesn’t have to. As pastors age, they can prepare so that the transition of leadership in their churches passes smoothly and their churches are set to stay on a healthy trajectory.
A variety of reasons for change
A number of things can make it difficult for pastors to step down or retire as they grow near retirement age. These can range from a deep attachment to the church and a reluctance to relinquish their leadership of it, to fear of change and a resistance to enter into a season of retirement, to the need for financial security.
This last reason can come from a very legitimate need. If they have been serving at a small church, they may have no means of retirement and only making ends meet. We need to find a way to ensure these pastors are cared for while the church is allowed to continue to grow into the next season of ministry and mission.
Too often, many churches reach a point where people say, “I wish that pastor would retire.” We never want to overstay our welcome. For example, we’ve all been in situations where we invited people over and have had a great time, but then they stay a bit too long and we yearn for them to go home.
Wishing a pastor would retire is not a great start for a smooth transition of launching the church into a healthy future. When the congregation starts to long for a pastor to retire, but the pastor refuses to recognize it, it creates an uncomfortable situation. Someone trusted must go to the pastor and lovingly speak into their life, encouraging the pastor to step down.
Note that this does not mean when pastors enter their 60s we simply ship them out. It is not uncommon, ...
Together we can reach the world.
One-on-One with Lon Allison on Billy Graham and Cancer
Ed: Not too long ago you were diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer and have been receiving treatment. How has this impacted your faith and the way you view God?
Lon: I really didn’t know how my faith would be impacted by the news of a terminal cancer. My wife Marie, our children, and I had never faced something like this. I can now say five months into the journey that my faith is stronger than before my diagnosis about 90% of the time.
I have clung to two truths to sustain me. First is the sovereignty of God: “The Lord has established his throne in heaven. His Kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). The second great truth is his love for me and my family: “And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:17-19).
The sovereignty of God means he has authority over this situation. He has allowed this cancer to strike me. He can cure it in a nanosecond, or allow it to grow within me. He is in charge, and I deeply desire he be glorified through it.
The love of God reminds me of his goodness lavished upon me and mine with his love. He is not a tyrant God, nor an absent God. His love is always present and extravagant. Those twin doctrines sustain me. Marie and I feel we are in a bubble of grace. The news about my body is not good, but our hearts and spirits are for the most part buoyant.
The prayers of God’s people are a rich faith building support. I don’t always pray well about it, but they do. I also want to add that the promises of God mean more to me than ever. My journal is loaded ...
A church building doesn’t have to be big, fancy or cutting-edge. But it needs to facilitate the mission.
Every 30 years?
Yes, those are the stats, according to a church renovation expert I heard at a recent conference.
By the time his company is called in to help a church renovate their sanctuary, lobby, exterior or anything significant, it’s been three full decades since any part of their facility has been updated in any meaningful way.
That’s. Too. Long.Updating On A Budget (Or NO Budget)
I’m aware of how costly it is to update church facilities – especially in a smaller church that may not even be paying the pastor. But there’s an alternative to waiting thirty years to do anything, then breaking the bank to overhaul everything at once.
Look around your church building and ask this simple question. “What part of our facility is currently the least effective at doing what we want it to do?”
Then fix that.
One piece at a time.
Paint, repair, clean, update, declutter.
That last one can have big impact. Toss the clutter.
Most church buildings can undergo a significant upgrade without costing a penny just by getting rid of the build-up of excess stuff that regular attenders fail to see, but that newcomers have to wade through. (I recently heard about a church that had an upright piano stored in the men’s room, of all places!)Make Your Building More Ministry-Friendly
Church buildings should serve the ministry. So take the part of the facility that’s doing the poorest job of moving the ministry forward and upgrade it.
Not everything at once. One part at a time.
Then, after that’s done, look around again and ask “now, what’s the least effective part of the facility?” and get to fixing that.
If you do that regularly you’ll never find yourself in an ...