More of My Thoughts on Syria

india1Question: If, as I stated in my last post, my mission in life is to proclaim the kingdom of God; and if my allegiance to God’s kingdom supersedes my allegiance to any political ideology; does that mean I have the responsibility to think about how my country’s decisions affect believers of other countries that could be harmed because of the actions of my country?

I think the answer is yes, and that affects how I view the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Palestine, and now Syria.

I have several friends who grew up as Christians in Baghdad. Their families had to flee because of religious persecution. Persecution that got worse once the United States got involved.

Everyone agrees, even my Iraqi friends, that Saddam was a bad guy. But under his regime there was a degree of religious freedom that evaporated when he was toppled. Here is my understanding from Christians who lived there during that time: Saddam used Islam to his favor. But he was such a bad guy that he controlled most of the fractions within Islam with an iron fist. In other words, if he told the Taliban to leave Christians alone, they were left alone. Saddam used Christians in his country, especially in Baghdad, because they were highly educated, good citizens, and excellent businessmen. Saddam even had Christians in his cabinet. Continue reading

Pastoral Burnout

I recently posted two articles on Facebook about the difficulties of pastoral ministry. The first article was titled Statistics On Pastors. The second was titled, Clergy at Higher Risk of Depression and Anxiety. I meet weekly with a group of pastors and these articles were part of our discussions recently. All of this got me thinking about a chapter I wrote in a book a few years ago. The title of the book was, Nelson’s Church Leader’s Manual. My chapter title was “Dealing with Burnout.” Please take the time to read this and pass it on to all of your pastor friends (and enemies).

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burnout 2One Sunday morning a pastor friend of mine stepped behind the pulpit to delivery his weekly homily. Up to that point it had been a normal Sunday. The choir sang, announcements were made, and an offering was taken. My friend stood poised and opened his Bible to begin his sermon when something happened that shocked the entire congregation. He paused, as if searching for his prepared remarks, and then said, “I have had enough. I can’t take it anymore. I quit.” He then walked down the center aisle and out the building, never to pastor again.

When I first heard about my friend, I felt sad and a little sorry. However, I must admit, there was a part of me that also felt admiration. I small part of me thought, “Wow. I wish I had the courage to do that!” I dare say I am not alone. I bet a lot of church leaders have fantasized about telling the congregation how they really feel and then exiting the building.

I have no doubt that what caused my friend to do what he did, and what caused me to think what I thought, was burnout. Burnout is when you are emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted as a result of prolonged stress from feeling overwhelmed, under-capable, and unappreciated. Burnout is the job hazard of pastoral ministry. Burnout reduces your productivity, saps your energy, and robs you of the joy and motivation that led you into ministry in the first place. Everyone has a bad day now and then; and everyone periodically feels overwhelmed and under-appreciated. But burnout is when you feel that way for a prolonged period of time. Continue reading

What’s Up With Millennials?

millennialsThere has been a lot of talk in the church world lately about Millennials and why they are leaving the church. The Millennial Generation refers to those in the United States born between 1980 and 2000. They are the least religious generation in American history and they are leaving the church in droves. According to Barna Research, 43% of millennials drop out of church before age 30; 59% have dropped out temporarily; 50% report not being has committed to church at age 30 then they were at age 15. Some estimate that 6 in 10 millennials who grew up in church will abandon church by the age of  30.

Reasons given for their departure range from differing political ideologies, attitudes about sexual preferences, social justice concerns, intellectual integrity, and a simple lack of commitment.

I think the reason is simple: Millennials are dropping out of church because they never really went to church in the first place. Continue reading

Messy Church

2012-11-30-Sun-Country-524x248First was Purpose Driven Church.

Later came Word and Power Church, and Total Church.

Still later, Simple Church.

More recently there was Church Zero.

I have read them all.

All are worth reading.

But none really apply to my church. Continue reading

My Take

Even though no one has asked for it, here is my take on the decisions made by the Supreme Court this week:

Our government is secular not spiritual. As such, decisions are made based on humanistic philosophies, not biblical principles. That’s just the way it is.

Equality before the law outweighs morality before God. Why? Because a secular society cannot legislate morality.

Our country, while based on Judao/Christian principles, was never intended to be a “Christian” (theocracy) nation.

Nothing has really changed.

God is still sovereign.

Striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act may have a greater, negative impact on democracy than any thing else the Supreme Court did (please read that again carefully). The reason I say this is because, like it or not, same-sex marriage is a done deal; striking down voting rights is a huge step backwards.

Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life.

My passport says “United States of America” but by real citizenship is in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s time for the church to be the church and for Christians to be disciples. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. It is the kindness of God (not judgmental attitudes of believers) that lead people to repentance.

What do you think?

Ok, here is something that has been on my mind lately and I would really like your opinion.

There is a lot going on in our country. It seems every day there is another “crisis” that we, as the body of Christ have to deal with. It seems our freedoms are being taken away and our rights as Christians are being attacked. Or at least that is the impression I get from all my conservative Christian friends. People, who call themselves evangelicals are complaining about how bad the government is and how horrible the present administration is and on and on.

Last Thursday was the national day of prayer in which tens of thousands of prayers went up for revival and for our country to return to God.

Yet, I don’t know a single Christian who believes a theocracy to be a good idea.

So, here is my question: Where do we draw the line between praying for God’s blessings on our country and becoming a theocracy?

Where do we draw the line between being a democracy (representative, constitutional democracy) and being a theocracy?

Where do we draw the line between being a “Christian nation” and becoming a theocracy?

When does talk about God and Jesus and Christianity and any other religion burden the public square and public discourse?

I am seriously wanting your opinions and am not trying to stir anything up. There are simply some questions I have asked myself lately.

What are your thoughts?

Counter-Culture and the Kingdom

The other day I flew into Raleigh, NC. It was a sunny day and a very smooth flight. I am sure most of you have flown and have noticed how, from the air, all the neighborhoods look the same. The streets are laid out the same, the houses look the same, and all the yards are the same size. It’s all neat and orderly and plain and dull. As I was flying over these neighborhoods I could not help but sing to myself:

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses

All went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes

And they came out all the same,

And there’s doctors and lawyers,

And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course

And drink their martinis dry,

And they all have pretty children

And the children go to school,

And the children go to summer camp

And then to the university,

Where they are put in boxes

And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business

And marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

 (Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990) Continue reading