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5 Lessons From 20 Years of Church Ministry

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It's May and that means Graduation Season! This has me reflecting on my own journey towards a college degree, and the 20 years that have passes since.  In May of 1998, I completed my degree program at Mid America Christian University in Oklahoma City.  Commencement brought to a close 11 years (I graduated High School in 1987) of on-again-off-again college attendance, having pursued 4 different Majors in 3 different Universities, in 3 different states. During which I time I got married, worked full-time, and our first child was born. Not the recommended way of earning a degree... which I finally received my B.A. in Pastoral Ministry/Bible that May.

Upon graduation, I continued to do pulpit-fill (which I had begun to do in my senior year) at a few small churches in rural Oklahoma. A few months later, I landed a full-time position as Youth Pastor at Red Fork Church of God, Tulsa, OK. After serving there almost 6 years, I accepted the call to serve as Associate Pastor with Coral Sprin…

Lilies don't bloom somwehere else (a Church Planting post)

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Spring is upon us, and many of the wonderful things I have planted in my yard are coming to life. Lilies are popping up, pear trees are blooming, and blueberry bushes are starting to bud. In all of this activity, one thing is certain - everything that blooms will bloom where it is planted.

It also happens that we are almost 2 years into our church planting journey, and I'm discovering that "bloom where you're planted" doesn't always transfer to people. It turns out some people simply won't bloom here.  Some will join the journey, put down roots, make commitments, and then decide to move on. Lilies don't do that. But a church is much harder to plant than a garden.

Several years ago, I learned a valuable lesson that I find increasingly valuable on this roller coaster called church planting.  I was Lead Pastor of an established church. As happens too often (even once is too often in any church that claims Jesus as the subject), things happened and words wer…

Preach on, Ladies!

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Recently, the religious community has been in a renewed upheaval due to something a well-known preacher wrote/said about women in positions of church leadership.  I typically stay away from debates and arguments, as I see they rarely (if ever) help further the mission of Jesus for His followers.  I write this blog post, not necessarily as a response, nor an argument, but simply an acknowledgment of where I stand.

Complementarians hold a theological view that men and women have different, but complementary, roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is in this camp where women's roles in church are to complement (work together with) men's roles, however the roles are clearly defined that women cannot preach/teach or be in senior leadership. Unfortunately this has led to a view that women's roles are secondary to men's.

Egalitarians hold a theological view that all people are equal, and that men and women have equal standi…

Life is Fun

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A friend of mine posted this question today on Facebook: "What is the opposite of godliness?"

There were a lot of really great answers, but one struck me more than any other: "fun."

A person legit defined the opposite of godliness as "fun."

I think we have a different view of God, and what it means to be godly.  Actually, in my view of God as a creative joy-giver Who has our best interests at heart, I don't think this person knows God at all.  Their deduction that the opposite of godliness is "fun," shows they may know a thing or two about God, but that's not the same as knowing God, is it?  Not even close.  Not at all.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience and observation. I seek to draw closer to God daily, to know God better, to walk with God closer... I believe godliness is to be the true self.  Godliness is being who you were created to be.  As the Genesis story puts it: "in God's image."

In the creation, …

Parents DO Understand (Sometimes)

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One of the biggest challenges I have found as a pastor is parenting. If you know me, you know I've become "family before ministry" over the past 15 of my (almost) 20 years working full-time in vocational church work. In all honesty, the first 5 years I didn't have my priorities right.  Still, parenting is definitely a challenge, although I love being a Daddy.  I would say this is probably true no matter what your profession is.

For Shelly & I this challenge includes the reality that the youngest of our three boys is autistic. He is low on the spectrum, and highly functioning, which for us only heightens the challenge of understanding how to handle the day-to-day quirks, frustrations and occasional (these days) meltdowns.

This week, was the school Christmas program.  We thought it would be fun for him to wear something festive (like his older brother).  Having no "Christmas attire," Shelly printed out a Santa-style pattern to iron-on one of his t-shirts…

Staying Lit

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I prefer green.  Trees, plants, the lawn... green energizes me.  Brown makes me lethargic, like I want to hibernate.  While there may be something to that thought, hiding under the covers of my bed for 3 months isn't a real option.

So, this time of year, as the leaves are falling, I find myself in the perpetual motion of raking and burning, and raking and burning... in order to briefly enjoy the green of the grass once again.  Also, I am thankful to live in a climate where the grass stays green(ish) year round.

Yesterday as I did this, I was having a hard time setting the leaf pile on fire. It hasn't rained and they weren't really wet.  But the leaves were damp.  The morning dew had left the leaves just damp enough that they just would not catch fire. So I decided to try a small piece of "lighter pine" that we use to start fires in the fireplace.  It worked!  The lighter pine lit as readily as ever, and burned long enough and hot enough to set the leaves ablaze…

The Life & Times of a First Time Soccer Coach

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It was never my intention to coach a soccer team of 15 high-energy, easily-distracted 6 & 7 year olds.  All I had on my agenda was getting my 7 year old, Jericho, into a sport and to support him by being present at every game and practice.  And so, in filling out his registration form, I marked "willing to help/assist the coaches of the team."

The league directors lit up when they read that: "Oh, you know what - we need coaches in this age group!"

After declining their invitation, I reiterated that I would help whoever the coach was in any way that I could - even as an "assistant."  I mean, I really like soccer.  I watch it occasionally through the year, and always watch every World Cup and Olympic game that I can. But, I confess, I don't know all the rules nor how the positions are played.  How could I possibly be any kind of soccer coach?

A few days later, the call came. "We still don't have a coach, and you're the only parent who …