Monday, March 30, 2009

Membership - Part 3

"Survey said..."

I like that phrase from the Family Feud television show. I appreciate all of the comments regarding church membership. Some have posted on the blog and others have sent email. I have enjoyed open discussion with our staff, elders, and Area Superintendent over this past week as well. The Survey Said: the majority opinion from each of the above groups is that something needs to change. For the good of the local church we need more people engaged in membership.

The consensus of those surveyed was that membership should be limited to Christ followers who share an affinity with the vision and mission of our local church. That adhering to doctrine and testimonies is important to the body life of the fellowship and for the personal discipleship of the attender but should not be a stopper for membership.

One person suggested we could view church membership similar to how we credential our pastors. As a denomination we "record" what God has ordained and issue a license to pastors for public ministry. Likewise, through membership we could simply acknowledge the redemptive work of God in an attender's life and welcome them into fellowship.

All of this leads me to another question for discussion, "How then do we discern acceptability for leadership in the local meetinghouse if we are not screening for it in the membership process?" Is there a practical, effective way to identify spiritual gifts, and the biblical standards and qualifications that are required to lead or teach in a local church?

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Church Membership - Part 2

What Should be the Qualifications for Membership?

I think this question begs asking from yesterday's discussion thread. Should anything beyond a commitment and active participation in a local church be required for membership? What should the qualifications be?

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Church Membership

Is Church membership biblically based?

I ask that question out of concern for the local church. As district superintendent I see the statistics and membership is down across the board in our denomination. Not weekly attendance per se, but membership. Some might say, "So what's the big deal if attendees do not want to join the church? They still attend, serve and give their money, etc.!"

The "big deal" for our denomination is this, we are a "congregationally lead" organization. Power and decision making resides with individual members. Our system of government needs spirit lead members for discern the will of God and make decisions accordingly. If they choose not to participate then the system is incomplete, "broken," if you will.

Without the church body as a whole participating in this process "factions" or "special interest" groups/agendas can greatly influence to direction of the church. All the Evangelical Friends Church needs as a movement for Satan to beset the local church is for Spirit-filled saints to not participate in the governance of the church. In reality, all that it would take to change policy and procedure of a local fellowship is a dominant personality who has "kissed the Blarney Stone" (referring to someone with a silver tongue and can wield influence over those with weaker personalities) to present a "cause" and rally the troops for a majority vote, and it is a "done deal" in the Friend's movement. It could happen in the local church or at annual conference. In some ways, our form of government is fragile in this way.

So, we begin this discussion by restating the question, "Is church membership as we practice it biblically based?" Is it broke because it is not the will of God in the first place? As we read Paul's words in I Corinthians 12,"For just as it the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For from one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit (12-13)" is he saying that membership is universal through faith in Christ? Or is this an obscure passage that needs the support of the context of scripture for proper interpretation?

What say you on this subject? Is there a biblical basis for church membership? Maybe it does not really matter whether is is biblically based or not. Should it be?

Regardless, it seems like some change is needed in how we govern our affairs in the Friends' movement. Why do you think regular attenders are not joining the local church? How can we address the poor participation at called business meetings? I look forward to discussion on this topic.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Success - Part 5

"Do you ever wish we had a new word for “Christian?”

That quote is from an article called "Those who would be Christians," by John Fischer. Let me share it with you today and I look forward to your comments.

I bet there are a lot of people out there who would be Christians if they didn’t have to become a “Christian” to be one. If that sounds confusing, it’s because I’m not talking about true Christianity but about how the word “Christian” has been translated into contemporary American life and culture. “Christian” has now become commonplace. But what we think of when we use the “C” word is rarely what the rest of the world is thinking.

When they hear the word “Christian,” the average non-Christian doesn’t think of the church at large or of followers of Christ in all cultures, classes, denominations, races and nationalities. They are more likely to have in mind a kind of American cultural Christianity that is a composite of what has surfaced in the media in this country in the last 15-20 years—a stilted stereotype at best. Whether we like it or not, we have been branded, and the image is not a good one.

My wife is a marketing executive. She knows that selling products has to do with consciously branding them. For instance, LL Bean has come to represent Yankee honesty and value; Volvo has a worldwide reputation for building the safest cars; Disney is the undisputed expert at entertaining children (of all ages). These associations are no accident. They are designed by marketers to tie a personality or identity to a product or company aimed at a targeted market. Though the Christian brand may not have been the brainchild of a conscious marketing strategy, we are branded nonetheless by a stereotype that has little to do with truly following Christ. In short, Christians have been branded into an image that most non-Christians reject, even those who would be Christians. Truthfully, many Christians reject it, too, but few non-Christians know this unless they get close enough to our lives to see the difference.

The world hears “Christian” and sees a white, middle-class conservative on a political soapbox with an American flag in one hand and a Bible in the other. It doesn’t imagine a kid with dread locks and bones in his nose singing about Jesus. It doesn’t imagine an African-American pastor helping neighborhood kids get off drugs. It doesn’t imagine a body of Vietnamese Christians sharing a church with Hispanic believers in the middle of rural California. And, saddest of all, it doesn’t imagine non-judgmental people with compassion who are marked by their kindness to others and generous spirit of service and unconditional love. It is truly a tragedy that a merciful gospel that welcomes everyone is branded by an image that speaks for only a few.

I think as Christians, we have put too much into our media-based efforts to spread the gospel and not enough into our own lives and relationships. It has been these mass-market efforts that, to a large extent, are responsible for this branding of Christianity—one that is counter-productive to the gospel, driving away those who would be Christians because they can’t get past the brand.

As Christians, we are all bearers of Christ, and our lives become the proving ground of faith in the world. If the world rejects the Christian brand, it may not be such a bad thing, as long as real Christians give people something tangible to put in its place. That kind of witness can’t be found in a song or a TV show or a film series or even a seeker-sensitive church service. It comes over coffee or at the ball game, or while car pooling to work or working out at the gym. Personally, I think the world is full of people who would be Christians if they could just meet and get to know a real one in a natural, normal setting.

Christians need to be shaken from these stereotypes as much as the world needs to encounter the message free of them. To a certain extent we have cooperated with this branding effort because it has given us a false sense of power and influence, and it has enabled us to hide in a subculture, safe from a hostile world. Letting a brand dictate the gospel to the world seems potent, but, at the end of the day, no one is closer to the truth, ourselves included.

There is a place for a public representation of a Christian and the Christian point of view, but it will be in the relationships of our private lives where the reality of faith lives or dies. Those who would be Christians may not think they like Christians, but it’s only because they haven’t really met one yet. They’ve only seen and heard the brand. This is where you and I come in. (John Ficher, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding grants permission for this article to be copied in its entirety, provided the copies are distributed free of charge and the copies indicate the source as the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, ©2008)

What are your thoughts on John's article and how we can be more successful in the "courtroom" of public opinion?

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Success - Part 4

"Love: Noun it ... Verb it!"

When measuring our success as a Christian I think we need to develop a matrix that is framed in love because Christianity is a relationship and not religion, per se. The goal of Christianity is defined by Jesus Christ as "Abiding in Christ ... Abiding in love" (John 15). This is how God defines success in Christian living. This is the divine target, "the yardstick," if you will, that we must use to measure our success as a Christian.

When considering a "rubric" for our Christianity I like what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians in his first letter. He says, " not pass judgement before its time...but wait for the Lord to bring things to light... He will disclose motives and heart... then each man's praise will come to him from God" (4:3-5) NICE! God is the one whom we will answer to, so why not let Him dispense whatever praise we receive? It should be on His terms, not ours.

What are God's expectations for our success ... our daily focus? Consider four questions to this end. One, Are you being faithful? In Matthew 25:14-23 Jesus is telling the story that we know today as the parable of the talents. He concludes this section of scripture with the words, "Well done good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things ... enter in to the joy of your master." What could the "few things" be? Well, Jesus mentions "rest" and "joy," just to name a few. Maybe He wants us to stop striving to make the relationship grow and simply rest in His love and presence. Are you being faithful in this way?

Two, Are you bearing fruit? Be a fruit inspector ... Is the fruit of the Holy Spirit present in your life? Invite God to be your "husbandman" and prune and groom you into greater fruitfulness for His glory and the growth in ytour relationship with Him (Galatians 5:22-23). Don't sweat it ... just trust His leadership and direction in this area.

Three, ask yourself, "Am I fulfilled? Full of what? Joy, of course. Matthew 25:23 says that "faithfulness" leads joy; In John 15:11 Jesus said, "I have spoken to you so that your joy may be full; In Luke 10:17 we read where the 70 returned from faithful service "full of joy!" Let joy serve as a barometer in helping to discern your success as a Christian.

Four, "Are you making God famous with your life?" Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "To let our light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven." Whatever it is your sense God leading you to do in or with your life, let your motivation be to allow Jesus to shine through you! Shine Jesus shine. Fill this land with the Father's glory ... SWEET!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Success - Part 3

"Success is getting what you want ... Happiness is wanting what you get"

A friend made that comment Saturday at the Men's Fight Club. It reminds me of another saying I heard growing up, "Be careful what you ask for ... you may actually get it!" Jesus said, "For what does it prosper a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the process." If nothing more, each of these statements remind us of the need to stay focused on what really matters in life. To not major in the minors!

Dr. Robert Hughes said in my Survey of the Old Testament class so many years ago, "Good becomes evil if it keeps you from God's best." I like that statement as well. In fact, I think all of the above proverbs ring true when considering how we measure our Christian life.

I would suggest that being success driven in this area of life can actually be injurious if not kept in proper focus. When "results" become more important to us than the object of original desire "Jesus," we have stepped on to a "slippery slope" spiritually speaking, for sure. The pursuit of serving Christ can quickly overshadow our relationship with Christ if it becomes the primary focus of measuring our success as a Christian.

Pride always besets Christian growth. It sets us back relationally with Jesus and others every time. The Apostle Paul echoed this when he told the Corinthians that "knowledge makes arrogant" in his first letter (8:1). One can easily see how success can create a pecking order from which to judge others by. Humans seems to be prone to comparison anyhow. We tend to compete for trophies (literally or figuratively) and place them on display for others to view.

Pride can also lead to spiritual presumption if we are "trophy focused" in measuring our spirituality. If the "achievements" tell us where we place in the contest of Christianity then one might naturally conclude that the one who has the most accolades on display must be more spiritual and has acquired favor/recognition from God. Could anything be further from the teaching of Jesus regarding position in His kingdom? Yet, so many embrace this mindset.

I think some others dangers of inappropriately measuring our Christianity would be discouragement and frustration as well. These are "biggies" in the church today. Naturally if the ego is inflated by performance- based success then deflation must occur when the results are not met. No doubt we have all witnessed Christians with a "morale problem" for this very reason.

Often this kind of "hamster-wheel spirituality" leads to "spiritual driven-ness" or "compromise" in order to cope with unrealistic spiritual expectations. How sad. Clearly this is not the abundant life that Jesus gave His life for and longs for His followers to experience.

"Success is getting what you want...happiness is wanting what you get" I want Jesus. A relationship with Christ that is richer, fuller, sweeter. One that is growing sweeter as the days go by! What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Success - Part 2

How do you measure success in your Christian life?

That was one of the questions I asked the Men's Fight Club last Saturday morning. I think that is a valid question, don't you? If our spiritual life is important to us, we should have a way to measure it, shouldn't we?

I think it is hard for the average person to measure success without thinking in terms of numbers. We can quickly default to performance based faith if we are not careful and begin measuring our Christianity based upon how often we attend church, pray, complete acts of service, tithe, etc. All of these are good in perspective but success in our Christian life must be more than counting nickels, noses, and notches don't you think?

Jesus said "that he came to earth so we could experience abundant life" in John 10:10. Abundant life ... a dynamic, personal, "in real time" life with Jesus! How is that measured? I would assume just like any other intimate relationship ... framed in love.

Jesus asked His disciples one day, "Do you love Me?" (John 21:17). In His choice of wording Jesus utilizes the highest form of love we have referenced in the Bible - "agape." It is both a noun and a verb. One is a covenant-the setting of our will. A commitment. A promise of sorts. The other refers to action. It involves doing.

Any intimate relationship involves both. If we love someone we "noun it" and "verb it," so to speak. Success in relationship occurs when two people are committed to one another and intentionally study, identify and service the needs of each other. Through such commitment and service we stir one another to emotion. Through communication we share how the dynamics of our relationship impacts us emotionally. In so doing we become intimate. I like to define intimacy as "in-to-me-see." To see into and understand the heart of another is love at its best! It is something to strive for in relationship with Christ ... it is a goal to be achieved.

As we seek to define success in our Christian life it must begin with intimacy with Christ. Ask God to deepen your understanding in this arena. Commit to becoming more emotionally vulnerable with Christ. Allow the Spirit of God to bear witness to your success and do not rely upon your own understanding or the definition/expectations of others to negatively persuade you in your relationship with Jesus. What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 23, 2009


It's 3:30 AM and I am writing this blog ... how crazy is that? Actually I get up early most mornings and study however this morning I felt like blogging. The topic on my mind is success.

The question I posed at the Men's Fight Club on Saturday was "How do you define success in your Christian life?" The men seemed to responded well to this question and we had lively conversation while eating ham and eggs and sipping hot coffee in the Church Cafe... NICE! I love the Fight Club!

I would like to expand conversation on the question presented to the men on Saturday through this venue over the next few days. However, today I would like for us to consider the topic of "success" in terms of the renewal services we held at church this weekend. Specifically, "Would God consider them to be successful?"

Does God count "nickels and noses" like many church leaders do? If more than average numbers of people show up and the evangelist receives a good offering is that success to God? Does He measure success by the number of people who respond to a public call from an evangelist to raise their hand or who step forward to an altar? Or could success in God's mind be the simple fact that we did it? That we set aside time out of the normal routine of life to focus on Him and to collectively, corporately seek a deepening of relationship with Him, manifestation of His power, and a visitation of His glory?

What are your thoughts? How do you think God measures the success of renewal services? More importantly, do you feel like the services were beneficial to/for you? Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Revival - Part 5

Jesus said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful... enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23)

I doubt we will experience a mighty act of God without faith. What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen." In many ways we are backed against a wall and need a move of God. Yes, faith then would be seeing in our minds and believing in our hearts for God's deliverance through a mighty act.

But Jesus takes "faith" a step further. He connects "faith" with "joy" and "rest" in the passage above. In John 15 Jesus also said, These things I have done and spoken to you so that your joy may be full. Possibly then the faith we should demonstrate at this time is contentment (rest) and joy. As we center in Christ we have singleness of vision and passion. He is our heart's desire. The natural outcropping of this is joy (Galatians 5:22-23).

Tomorrow evening our weekend of renewal services begin. Until then let's demonstrate our faith by confessing our contentment and centeredness in Christ and joyfully express the realization of our heart's desire. Today we find ourselves in an interesting position, don't we? In some ways we are in a tight spot... backs against the wall, and in need of a mighty act of God. And yet, we have all we need in Christ Jesus. COOL!

Heavenly Father,
You have met all of my needs through Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. My cup is full and running over. The desire of my heart is Jesus. I will place my trust in our relationship and celebrate that I am with I AM. In Jesus' name. Amen

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Revival-Part 4

"Prayer is the key that unlocks the doors of heaven"

I have no idea who first made that statement. I grew up hearing it as a kid and I still believe it holds true today as well. Prayer is an important aspect to experiencing a mighty move of God.

One of my favorite stories from American church history comes out of the "Great American Revival" that occurred in the mid 1800's. Jeremiah Lanphier is credited for contributing to that great move of God. It is said that he was an unknown and obscure individual who had it laid upon his heart to pray that God would send renewal/revival to his country. After asking God "Lord what would you have me do for my country?" he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to rent a room and put up an announcement that there would be a prayer meeting held there at such-and-such location every week at a certain hour.

History says that Jeremiah went there on the advertised date to pray and not a single person was there. So he began to pray. A half hour later two more showed up. Within an hour there were six praying with Jeremiah.

The second week came around and there were fifty people stop by to pray. Then it grew to one hundred. Others soon started other prayer meetings and before long there was hardly a street in New York City that was without a prayer meeting. Before long merchants were closing their shops in the middle of the day for prayer. People were offering up petitions everyday and God was on the move!

Then it happened... All of the sudden the Spirit of God fell on the people. They began to repent of sin and center their lives in Christ. Not one or two at a time, but hundreds! Soon it spread throughout the northern states and it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million centered their life in Christ in the span of three months.

Wow! These are real facts. Church history proves time and time again that God responds with mighty acts when His people pray. What God has done in the past should encourage us towards prayer today.

"Blessed are they that put their trust in the LORD" (Psalm 2:12). Be a PUSHY person this week... Pray Until Something Happens!

Thanks for stopping by...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Revival - Part 3

" do you know that God has not raised you up for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

This passage reminds us that the "mighty acts of God" were carried forward often times by insignificant instruments. A small stone in the sling-shot of a little shepherd boy; Gideon's clay pots and trumpets; Joshua's walking around the walls of Jericho; Hezekiah's singing; on and on the examples go, one after another. Even in Esther's situation, the Jews were about to be killed when Mordecai spoke the above words of challenge to her. Why, who was she to go before the king? Shouldn't God's deliverance come through a more suitable source, one might ask? There seemed to be so much hinging on Esther's willingness to be used as God's instrument of glory for such a serious time as this, don't you think?

No, not when you realize that God is in the business of displaying His power through "the least of these," the humble of heart, the most insignificant of instruments. For in human "weakness, He is made strong," the Bible says. This should serve as an encouragement for us today and elevate our expectation for this coming weekend!

Perhaps God wants to do a new thing - a mighty act - and He may desire to do it through us... YES! Let's believe that God has raised us up for such a time as this. That He wants to employ us as the ones whom He will perform His "mighty works" through this weekend! Will you answer the call? Will you make the commitment? Will you consecrate yourself as an object of/for His glory on earth? What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Revival-Part 2

"Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it shall come forth; shall you not know it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

In the context surrounding this verse God is telling His people they should not live in the past as though the only deliverance He could produce was from Egypt. That He is more resourceful than what was demonstrated through the ministry of Moses. God is also pointing out that He is not like the idols worshipped by the surrounding nations, locked in to doing the same thing over and over again. No, God is telling His people that His resources are infinite and that He can/will deliver them in new ways. NICE!

I not only find encouragement through the resourcefulness which God alludes to in this passage but also through His use of the words "Behold" and "Now." The words remind me/us that "revival" (mighty acts of God) are sudden. Some things in the church grow gently, progressive, in a "step by step" manner. Not happens suddenly! What would a spontaneous act of revival look like to you? What would you expect to see if God preformed a "mighty act" in your church?

Often times the "mighty acts of God" occurred in the Bible when people were backed again the wall with no human means of deliverance. Then "suddenly" God manifest His power, revealed His presence and delivered His people. Do you feel like we are "up against the wall" in our church? What are the things we cannot do for ourselves at this time?

As we approach this weekend of special services with evangelist Gary Wright I ask for you to consider three things: One, pray for God to perform a "mighty act" in our midst this coming weekend. Two, expect God to bring spontaneous revival upon WHFC. Three, as an act of consecration to Jesus attend all of the services: Saturday night, Sunday morning and evening.

"Behold" and "Now" ... NICE!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 16, 2009


We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us so, what mighty acts you did in their days, in the times of old (Psalm 44:1)

Sacred literature and church history both record the mighty acts of God. We read them with astonishment and we look back upon them as substantial matters of history. They are viewed as "turning points" when God showed up and made a difference in people's lives and circumstances. By faith we believe that the wondrous things God did in the "times of old" by grace He will do again, in our time.

As we look towards the weekend renewal services with evangelist Gary Wright I wish to focus on the topic of "Revival" in this week's blog. We need a mighty rush of God's grace at Willoughby Hills Friends Church. We are ripe for a miraculous outpouring of His precious Holy Spirit.

This week we need to pursue Christ-centeredness in our attendees and strive less for Christ-likeness. Christ-centeredness speaks of heart devotion and consecration of life whereas Christ-likeness references human effort and rigorous discipline. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of Christ-likeness. The Bible speaks frequently of buffeting ourselves for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. Pursuing Christ-likeness is a part of our daily maturation and reasonable service of duty.

However, the "mighty acts of God" typically comes from our "centerness in Christ." The times when we rest in Christ, when we cease to strive and call upon His mercy and grace. There are limits to our human effort. As a church body we "labor in love" for one another as instructed by the Apostle Paul and "serve up Christ to our community" as taught by Jesus in Matthew 25. But, as demonstrated by our Lord there is a time for rest. Let that time be now. This very week when we seek the mighty acts of God.

What is the difference between Christ-likeness and Christ-centeredness to you? What does it mean to be Christ-centered in "practical terms" this week? What are the "mighty acts of God" you need to see in your life and church today?

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trials and Temptations

I just returned from the Saturday morning Men's Fight Club. We meet at 7:30 am every Saturday in the church Cafe' to study the Bible and encourage one another. Our name is derived from Nehemiah 4:14, "Do not be afraid of the enemy, remember your Lord is great and awesome. Go fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes!" I am encouraged each week by the men who come out at such an early hour on their day off to learn the fundamentals of Christian warfare.

Today our study began in the book of Job. Several questions surfaced as we read the text. Let me share some of them with you and hopefully you will be able to add fodder to the discussion as well.

First, "God told Satan, have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil"(1:8). God speaks very highly of Job, does He not? My question is, "What would God say about you?"

Second, in 1:6-7 the text states "that Satan presented himself before the LORD and God asked, where have you come from? From roaming the earth, and going back and forth in it." The question: does Satan still have face time with God today?

Third, there is the statement from verse eight, "Then the LORD says to Satan, have you considered my servant Job?" The question: Does God still strategically (intentionally) use Satan in the maturation process of men's lives? Does God summons Satan as a resource to foster Christ-centeredness in a man's life? What say you to these questions?

I think often times we miss growth opportunities because we are "fighting the devil," so to speak. Our mental and emotional energy is spent on trying to figure out why God is permitting Satan or circumstances to go a certain way; spiritually we can become exhausted binding the Devil and battling demons in prayer and in keeping our faith up; educationally and physically we can often times give ourselves to extremes in strategizing and thwarting the plan of Satan or attempting to prevent crisis from coming in our lives that it distracts us from the teaching/growing moments with God.

Maybe the lesson for us from Job is, we give the Devil too much credit for orchestrating the pain and trials in our lives. Maybe the only real influence he has in our day to day existence is what God has intentionally planned to conform us into the image "likeness" of Jesus Christ?

I think "Hell" for Satan today could possibly be (1), not being able to do what he wants (kill, steal and destroy) and (2), in knowing that God is using him (Satan) for the good of His people. Did not the Apostle Paul say something about "God using all things for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose?" (Romans 8:28-29)

Let's keep Christ preeminent in all things! I hope to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pastors- continued

I have two questions for your consideration today.

First, let me contribute more to yesterday's discussion. I just read an article titled "Pastor Burnout: Combating a Church wide Epidemic" published by the Christian Broadcasting Network. It says, "What might be called a spiritual virus is stalking the homes and pulpits of America's pastors. Each year, thousands of clergy walk away from their ministries, suffering from burnout brought on by frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations ... The clergy is like the Titanic - it is sinking fast. Fifteen hundred ministers every month drop out of the ministry. That's an epidemic. Even more sobering is that nearly 6000 Southern Baptist ministers fall victim to burnout, depression, marital problems, and even suicide."

Obviously something is definitely wrong and it is not just with those in professional ministry. We need an overhaul and it must occur in our organizations. Somehow we need to reconcile the "Good News" with the current "bad news." The good news that God is in the business of healing broken people. The bad news: participating in sharing the good news is creating broken people. How crazy is that?

I guess we can conclude that we (the organized church in America) is not doing the work God's way. What needs to be transformed? Where are our values, priorities and the way we do business wrong? That's question number one... what say you?

Question number two, I am conducting another poll. This time I am asking you to think like the Devil...(ironic, don't you think?). No seriously, imagine you could look into hell and observe Satan and his demons plotting the the destruction of your local church. What kind of things do you think you would hear? I have received several suggestions so far and would really like to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


This month one of my goals is to contact all of our pastors in the district and pray for them and seek to encourage them where I can. Whether it is in my volunteer work as a District Superintendent or under the employ of Willoughby Hills Friends Church, the most important responsibility I have is to care for our pastors. Statistically, the pastorate is a difficult vocation. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you... for My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). Really? Easy? Light? Why does this not seem to be the case for pastors?

Barna reports that "every month 1300 pastors in the U. S. are fired or forced to resign. Within ten years 40% will leave the ministry discouraged for another line of work. Eighty percent say their work has a negative impact on their home life. Seventy-five percent struggle with their finances and feel they are underpaid compared to other professionals in their church or community. Fifty percent feel they suffer physically from stress and sleepless nights over the problems and expectations of the people in their congregations" (taken from the book I am reading this week by Don Cousins, Experiencing LeaderShift,pages 43-54).

These are difficult times for pastors. They struggle with discouragement and burnout on a daily basis. Unfortunately very few in the church, including lay leadership, understand these dynamics. They cannot identify with the problems pastors face or the burdens they carry and actually minister to their need.

It is my job to protect and support the pastors under my care. I cannot get caught up in the labor of administration or the pressing needs of the church and neglect the precious men and women God has placed under my umbrella of responsibility at this time. Please join me in praying for our pastors on a daily basis. Please consider how you can bless them, encourage them, and care for their needs while they shepherd the flock of God.

Something has got to change for the sake of pastors in the USA. We need an overhaul of sorts. It can begin with us moving towards our pastors with empathy, love and prayer. What else can we do? Please share with me your thoughts...

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"To evangelize or not to evangelize? That is the question..."

Last week I posed the same question in three different venues and surprisingly received the same response. The question: "You are God for a day and your job is to decide who gets into heaven. Your first case is a primitive man from Africa. He never heard of gospel message or even the mention of Jesus' name. Yet he was a good man. Loved his wife and kids, cared for his neighbors, and was an all around good guy. Does he get in?"

Most of those whom I polled said "Yes, he's in!" Some determined he had a good heart and would receive admission accordingly. Most of the others said he would be admitted into heaven out of a state of innocence. Stating that God would not hold him accountable because he never heard the claims of Christ. Only two of those I polled said "the man was going to Hell because he did not confess Jesus Christ as Lord and seek forgiveness of sins." Do these results surprise you? They did me. I would have thought more would have chosen a traditional "narrow road/gate" approach as spoken of in the gospel of John.

All of this is leading to a question and pointing out discussion Willoughby Hills Friends Church will need to have regarding what evangelism and altar calls will look like in the years to come. If I understand the trends of my industry then the results of my little poll is in step with mainstream Christianity today. The process of salvation is under construction and is being redefined to fit a post modern society.

So the question I raise as fodder for discussion is this: "Why evangelize if it means destroying someones innocence and possibly condemning them to Hell?" Why give a public invitation at church to confront one's personal sin and repent if it could hurt as much as it helps in some instances? Should evangelism be limited to non-public venues where the "fishers of men" can discern the leading of the Spirit and the preparedness of the hearer? What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Truth-based Discipleship & Evangelism

As I mentioned a few days ago, in our "three year plan" Willoughby Hills Friends Church will need to address greater effectiveness in the areas of discipleship and evangelism. I wonder if this will require a paradigm shift of sorts? A change is perspective?

Often times churches from the holiness tradition appear to be sin-based in perspective when undertaking these two key areas of ministry. Sometimes the reason for world evangelization is because people are inherently evil thus they need a crisis moment, "a confrontation," if you will, with personal sin and the Gospel. Likewise, discipleship can often become little more than sin avoidance through rigorous exercises in spiritual discipline.

Though I believe both of the above are important in proper context to the maturation process of a Christian, sin should not be the primary focal point of our evangelism or discipleship. Yes, people are sinners and need a Savior but sin based programming will not motive people long term to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to be "truth based" in our approach.

When I speak of a "truth based" approach to discipleship and evangelism I am thinking of the fact that all men are created in the image of God, and God is good. The fall of humanity in the garden of Eden did not eradicate the goodness of God that every human being inherently possesses. Instead of saying to others, "Your evil, deal with it, turn or burn" let's expose the good qualities in people and encourage them to "grow in those divinely manufactured properties."

This "truth-based" approach to discipleship and evangelism does not eliminate the need for a "crisis moment" with the claims of Jesus Christ, it simply changes the focus. Instead of telling someone they need to encounter Jesus before they can "be good," let's identify and celebrate the good "God like" qualities that already exist in people and share with them how through a relationship with Jesus they can experience the full manifestation of these divine properties. Let's "atta boy" the behaviors of man that reflect the imago dei, "the image of God" in man and then share how experiencing the fullness of Christ can loose one from the tethers of sin and provide the means to be the very embodiment of Christ in the world today.

What say you? Would this approach require a paradigm shift for WHFC? What might a "truth-based approach to discipleship and evangelism look like over the next three years? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sinless Perfection?

"Dilige, et quod vis fac"

In the philosophy of St. Augustine, loving God results in the will always conforming to God's will. Thus the statement "Love, and do what you will" (dilige, et quod vis fac). By this Augustine meant that when we truly love God we will act in a manner that pleases God. When our will is set on God alone, what we want to do - what pleases us - is nothing else than what God views as right. When we love God, we can indeed do as we please. (Grenz, The Moral Quest. p. 139)

What do you think? When a person's heart is perfected in love for Christ does it restore one's innocense with God? Can one live life without concern for what is right or wrong, or the need to discern between good from evil? Is there such a thing as a state of sinless perfection in man's relationship with God where unconditional acceptance is extended to man by God?

What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Disciple Making

As I mentioned earlier this week one of my goals for 09 is to spearhead a three year plan for Willoughby Hills Friends Church. I would like your feedback on what areas of ministry we need to address. Please send your thoughts and ideas my way either through the blog or email (

One area of concentration we must address in the three year plan is discipleship. Sometimes I think that our large program driven structure can actually create more obstacles and distractions to becoming Christlike that it removes. I concur with Hartgrove's comment in his new book, New Monasticism, that "the greatest enemy of intimacy with God can be service for God."

Big and active is not always best when maturing people for Christ. Clearly discipleship and evangelism "cannot be massed produced or commoditized. One size fits all programming will not work" (Keith Meyer, community life/discipleship). I do not think that means WHFC needs to sell its 10 million dollar complex in the "burbs" and locate elsewhere in smaller venues. Nor do I think it means we should abandon our effort to draw a crowd each week in corporate worship. However, I do think it means that we must be more realistic in perspective regarding our effectiveness in disciplining people and more intentional and relevant in our approach. Experience proves that 1200 attendees will not become spiritual mature just through preaching, programming, and busyness.

I think the same clarification is needed at WHFC regarding evangelism as well. I will address this subject at a later time and solicit your feedback. But, my suspicion is that some people still believe that our primary thrust for evangelism should be the Saturday night and Sunday morning venue. I think we should expect people to come to Christ in our worship services but our venue for evangelism must be expanded in principle and definitely become more intentional in focus beyond the walls of 2846 SOM Center Road.

Back to discipleship, Jesus seemed to have two strategies. One for the crowds He attracted and another for His disciples in small group settings. We must model this approach and encourage people into intentional smaller relational groupings. Possibly our only curriculum we use for intentional discipleship should be what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said would lead to the restoration of the church. An "uncompromising attitude of life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ" (Keith Myers) What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Educating Children

Questions, questions, questions. Every time I turn around it seems like someone is asking questions... I love it! One of my favorites from yesterday was, "What's your position on schooling children? Should children attend a Christian school if possible?" My answer is "YES!"

By all means I believe parents should send their children to a quality Christian school unless otherwise directed by the Holy Spirit. Lisa and I made a conscious decision to educate our three boys in a public venue only because we felt that was God's leading for us at the time. I have no regret for following His direction. My boys had a very successful K-12 experience and are competing well for the Kingdom of God and professionally today.

However, I would safely assume that our leading of the Holy Spirit to educate our children in a public school venue is not the case for most Christian parents. So, unless God specifically calls them to educate their children in a public school with specific objectives in mind, or to wrestle with the rigors and challenges of Home Schooling, the best a parent can provide for their children's social, emotional, spiritual, academic development is a "quality" Christian school experience.

I believe our parents at Willoughby Hills Friends Church should ask God to speak to their heart regarding this matter. I John 2:20 states that God has given us an "unction," and anointing of the Holy Spirit to know what is true. Unfortunately I think many parents make their decision based upon economics rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit. Those are my thoughts. What say you?

I am pleased that we have a "quality" Christian K-12 school meeting in our facility. More than 400 students meet at WHFC daily to "grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." If you want to explore how our school can minister to your family give Cornerstone Christian Academy a call at 440-943-9260.

Thanks for stopping by!

My 360 Evaluation

I had around thirty people participate in my annual review this year. It was great! I would like to thank each one personally for their comments however their names are kept in confidence by our Spiritual Life Elder. My evaluation revealed some keys areas which I can improve on this next year. Here are some of my goals based upon this year's 360 review.

One area I need to address is communication. The review shows I need to have better communication at the staff, elder and congregational levels of Willoughby Hills Friends Church. To this end I plan to incorporate the following:

Staff: Include more discussion at staff meetings regarding the elder’s activities. Also, I will send out a weekly email update for staff to in an attempt to keep our leaders better informed.

Elders: The office will email the elders and staff weekly updates of the hospital list and other urgent information.

Congregation: I will blog information specific to my role for the congregation to read and respond to weekly.

Another area of concern that I need to address from my evaluation is to present a friendlier and more out going demeanor to others. From now on I will make myself less accessible to the Care Team to greet our first time guests and make a concerted effort to engage the general population before and after key service times and activities. I ask that leaders respect my need to interact with people on Sundays and contact me during the week to discuss non emergency concerns, etc.

In addition, I will begin dressing down on Sunday nights. Rather than wearing a suit I will dress more casual hopefully to give others greater feelings of warmth and friendliness towards me. Please feel free to approach me with others suggestions on how I can improve in this area.

A third area of concern for the review is for better long range planning for the staff and church. Currently our staff is submitting annual goals and monthly objectives for planning, measurement and accountability purposes. However, to increase the effectiveness of our overall ministry I will need for Commissions to begin doing the same. Over the next few months each Commission will need to begin the discipline of developing annual goals and submitting monthly objectives to Administrative Council.

Also, throughout the remainder of 2009 I will spearhead the development of a "Three Year Plan" for the church. I will need full Administrative Council’s participation in this project as well. My goal is to have our Three Year Plan ready to present to the Congregation next January.

I look forward to your feedback and suggestions....

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"At Will" Calls

As I mentioned yesterday on March 15 the membership of Willoughby Hills Friends Church will vote on pastoral calls. Our pastors receive an "at will" call that can be renewed annually. What is an "at will" call?

At-will employment is a doctrine of American law that defines an employment relationship in which either party can break the relationship with no liability, provided there was no express contract for a definite term governing the employment relationship. Our hope is that our pastors will serve out a full pastoral year (July 1-June 30)but we want to provide them with the freedom to follow the Spirit's leading at anytime without negative repercussion from the church. It also provides the church with the flexibility to to adjust its budgetary needs during uncertain economic times should the need arise.

The lines of demarcation for the "at will" call of each pastor is based upon their job description. This week our Administrative Council will consider the individual job descriptions of our pastors and then send a recommendation on to our membership for action on March 15. I will include a copy of their job descriptions for your consideration as well. Enjoy and please pray daily for these great servants of God!

Pastor Greg Beirbaum
Greg will continue to serve as our teaching pastor. This will also include oversight to the mechanics of worship service structure, creativity and flow. In addition to this he will give oversight to the Connection Ministry in Pastor Randy’s absence, The Well, Neighborhood Networking, Upwards Basketball and sit on the Elder Board. He will also continue to be our “face” in the community by actively pursuing relationship with other pastors and church leaders.

Pastor Jim Davis
Jim will continue to serve as our pastor of teens. In addition, he is commissioned to solicit greater parental participation in the lives of our youth and programming and develop leadership and programming to the single young adults in our church and community. Jim will continue to serve on our denominational Youth Board and ministries and offer consulting services to other youth workers in our community and district Friends churches upon request.

Pastor Tom Fowler
Tom will continue to be an extension of our hearts and the compassion of Jesus Christ as our visitation pastor to those in the hospital, nursing homes, rehab centers or otherwise home bound. Tom will continue to compile our weekly prayer list, communicate to elders and staff when attendees are admitted to the hospital, conduct the majority of our funeral services, and give leadership to our Mercy Ministry. Tom plans to begin a new outreach for those suffering from grief and loss this coming December called a “Blue Christmas Service.”

Pastor Jim Belt
Jim will continue to serve as our Facilities Director and give oversight to Senior Adult Ministry. His facility duties involve coordinating the use of rooms between Cornerstone Christian Academy, Quaker Care Day Care, and WHFC ministries, providing maintenance services and repairs to buildings and buses, overseeing the leasing of our rental homes, providing scheduling and oversight of the custodial staff, developing, evaluating and implementing our security operation, keeping us in compliance with State of Ohio and local fire and health codes, and overseeing the energy management system. In addition the maintenance of the sound, lighting, and video systems fall under his supervision with Greg Saive reporting directly to him. As Senior Adult Pastor, Jim leads a Sunday class, schedules monthly outings and weekly gatherings, leads our Griefshare ministry and provides consistent spiritual care and emotional support to our mature seasoned adults. In addition to all of this, Jim will assume responsibility for Sunday evening worship when Pastor Randy’s tenure ends in the near future.

Pastor Walt Scheiman
This next year Walt will continue to give leadership and oversight to our Single Adult Ministry. This includes counseling, teaching, and running outreach programs and coordinating weekly activities. In addition he performs all of our I.T. functions and needs through the church. Walt conducts weekly ministry at a local care facility as well. Throughout this next year Walt has been commissioned to develop leadership and programming for singles in the 25-35 year age range. He will also assist Jim Belt and me in developing an “Empty Nester's” (Prime Timer’s) ministry.

Pastor Adrian Halverstadt
The Spiritual Life Commission and Elder Body recommend I return as the Executive Pastor with the primary task of providing oversight and direction for the church and staff. I will continue to work closely with the Elder Body in the administration of the church, assist the President and Board of Cornerstone Christian Academy in implementing their vision at WHFC, Chair the Quaker Care Day Care Board as well as oversee the daily operations of the Day Care, serve as the staff advisor to Dennis Anthony and the Family Life Team, preach in Greg absence, lead the Sunday evening Bible Study, and serve on a volunteer basis, as the northern Ohio District Superintendent and member of our denominational Executive Board per the General Superintendent’s request.

Additional Staff (not voted on by the Congregation)
Lynn Pierce
Lynn will continue to serve with part time compensation as our Women’s Ministry Director this year. She currently volunteers as our Children’s Ministry Director, and Internet Webmaster.

Bill Ruff, Clerk
Bill will continue to serve as our volunteer Church Administrator. His primary responsibility is/will be to ride herd over me. :-)

Ed Kompik
Ed will continue to serve as our Maintenance Supervisor this next year. His primary responsibility is to maintain the campus facility and grounds enabling WHFC to fulfill her vision, mission and objectives for the glory of God. To this end, Ed monitors and schedules the maintenance and preventive maintenance performed by employees and sub contractors, specialized repairs to the equipment and facilities, and maintains the church’s rental properties. Currently Ed is developing a “maintenance procedure manual” and detailed records of the buildings and grounds.
Ed is directly accountable to the Administrative Pastor and indirectly to the Trustees. As with all full time staff Ed provides weekly updates at staff meetings and submits monthly SMART goals through Administrative Council reports. This year Ed will be work closely with the Trustees in developing annual objectives in his areas of concentration.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 2, 2009

360 Degree Evaluations

At Willoughby Hills Friends Church we use annual "360 degree evaluations" to assess and improve the effectiveness of our leaders. It is a feedback tool that gives peers and lay people the opportunity to rate and evaluate staff. Most of the feedback addresses behaviors people observed throughout the year, many of which our pastors may not realize they exhibited to others.

This method is different from our previous administration who used a standard “top- down” appraisal, where staff was generally just evaluated by the senior pastor. I felt this unilateral approach was dated in approach and effectiveness and did not provide constructive feedback for our pastors from their peers or the laymen who serve under them.

There is great value in the feedback our pastors receive from the people they serve with each week in ministry. They are the ones who experience the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of ministry with them. Their feedback and perspective on staff performance is invaluable. Thus, the evaluation process is designed to be reflective and not punitive in purpose.

My hope is that our “360 evals” will help our staff grow in their position and in the likeness of Jesus Christ. It should reveal areas where additional training or professional development is necessary. The comments in the review are compiled and shared with our pastors to consider but the names of those filling out the questionnaires remain in confidence.

Hopefully the “360 evals” demonstrate to our staff and church body that we value open communication and seek to better our performance for the good of this local body and for the glory of God. I hope our laity can see how their feedback, whether positive or negative, is appreciated and used for professional improvement and character development. And, I hope they will be more apt to “speak the truth in love” when they feel something needs immediate attention in the ministry of our staff.

What about you? You do not need to be a staff member at WHFC to benefit from a “360 degree evaluation!” Go ahead and give it as try … “I triple dog dare you!” It will tell you how others perceive you, which we all know deep down inside is good for our personal development and growth in Christlikeness. Feel free to contact me for more information on 360 evaluations if you like and be sure to join us on Sunday, March 15 at 6 PM for the recall vote of our pastors.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pastoral Calls

Willoughby Hills Friends Church has a congregational form of government which means ultimate power resides with the membership. The membership approves yearly budgets, sets policy and appoints leaders to govern their affairs. On March 15 the membership will discern God's will regarding pastoral staff and vote on whether or not to extend one year "at will" calls based upon my recommendation.

Last year due to a decrease in weekly giving we had to adjust the budget and issue a final call to one full time pastoral staff and four part time supporting staff members. With God's help we were able to finish 2008 in the black and at this point we are meeting our 2009 budgetary needs. As of this time I am recommending the recall of all existing staff personnel except for the ones referenced above.

Recently I have been asked, "How I determine who will be recalled?" My answer, the recall process is both an art and science. It is an art form in that it involves relationship. The decision is not made in a vacuum but rather is vet through key leaders such as our elder body and overseers. Also, before a recommendation is presented for a Congregational vote it is passed through our Administrative Council as well.

The recall process is also "artful" in that it involves prayer and fasting. Decisions of this magnitude cannot be made emotionally by myself or others. We need God's direction. Through prayer God centers and unites the hearts of His people. Fasting aids us spiritually in separating ourselves from the distractions that would normally hinder our ability to discern God's will.

The recall process is scientific in that a system is utilized. Each year I systematically conduct a review of our staff commonly referred to as a "360 evaluation." I will share more about the "360" tomorrow but the "skinny" today is, the 360 includes a written evaluation of the lay leaders who serve with our pastoral staff (generally these people are selected by the person under review), other staff members, my self, elders, and in some instances our Spiritual Life Commission. The 360 also includes a "personal assessment" completed by the individual pastor. Along with the "360" data, our leadership gives consideration to performance, goals, vision, style, creativity, attitude, and the strength of individual job descriptions verses the current needs of the organization.

Once all the scientific data is gathered and sufficient fasting and prayer has occurred, we lay it all on the proverbial spiritual "fleece" before the Lord. At WHFC we believe this is Christ's church and He is the Head. That God still speaks today and His people can discern His voice. What are your thoughts on this process?

Thanks for stopping by!