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

Programmed for Programs

Flag_crowdPart of the United States culture is excess. If bigger is better than more is best. We are people of extremes. We think moderation is synonymous with the status-quo. What we gain in initiative we lose in balance.

“Go big or go home.”

“If you’re not first your last.”

“If you’re going to be a bear be a grizzly bear.”

“If it’s too loud you’re too old.”

Our tendency towards extremes, at times, hinders our ability to communicate and discuss controversial topics. 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

Mental Illness

ltMentalIllnessBoth of my kids had friends in high school who attempted suicide. One of my kids had more than one friend attempt to end his life. Thankfully, no one was successful.

When I was in high school I didn’t know anyone who attempted suicide.

In over twenty years of pastoral ministry I have probably dealt with attempted suicides a dozen times. I have had people attempt to end their lives at youth camp and even on mission trips. Again, thankfully, no one has been successful.

Years ago, a young man in my church will killed in a single car accident. His family was convinced it was suicide, but there is no one of knowing for sure. Continue reading

Signs and Wonders

Katherin & Little Girl (Honduras 2013)I returned from Tegucigalpa, Honduras late Saturday evening, June 23rd. It is now Wednesday, June 26th and I am still processing all that happened and getting caught up on sleep, exercise, school work, and church work. It was a fantastic week and I am already looking forward to next year’s trip and team.

This was my 10th trip to Honduras and it ranks up there as one of the best. God did some amazing things in my life, the life of my team, and the lives of the Honduran people. No words can adequately describe everything that happened, but the phrase that comes to mind is signs and wonders. That’s right, in many different ways the week was a supernatural week. Among other things we witnessed… Continue reading