Thinking Out Loud

November 18, 2019

Earning a Living from Child Sponsorships

I had a discussion on the weekend in which the name of particular regional music artist was mentioned in reference to the issue of high-profile charities having an outrageous percentage of their income going to fundraising and administration.

It was in some respects a continuation of a conversation we’d had in the summer concerning another singer who is largely in the same situation, but I’ll write the next paragraph as though it applies to the one, though it applies to many, many more than this, and possibly quite a few where you live if you’re in Canada or the U.S.

This artist has never written a popular song. Never had a hit album. Never toured much except in connection with the charity. Has only done television with ministries which tend to also invite (and perhaps only invite) musicians who do this same charity circuit.

But apparently he is able to make a comfortable living doing this. Heck, my wife and I, who have much more realistic expectations — we still have the same sofa set in our living room after 32+ years, sitting on the same worn-out carpeting — would have really appreciated the same level of performance and income opportunities back in the day.

This pastor said there is an army of people who either speak or sing who can earn $100 for just a passing mention of a certain charity.

“Can I mention [name of charity]?” he was asked.

His answer was skillful.

“Certainly, as long as you tell people you’re being paid to mention them.”

We looked at this issue before in terms of the commissions paid to these musicians for setting up a child sponsorship booth in the lobby outside their full concerts. It was the similar to the deal that Family Christian Stores had, as outlined in a 2015 article in the Detroit Free Press:

Family Christian has also benefited from customers who sign up to sponsor a third-party group called World Vision, which provides food, clothing and shelter to impoverished children throughout the world.

The chain solicits sponsorships from its customers and receives a $150 fee from World Vision for each customer who signs up and pays the monthly fee, according to records obtained by the Free Press. Family Christian receives another $35 if the customer signs up for automatic payments.

That prompted me to do some math:

The sponsor is paying World Vision $35 per month per child. That means that for the first 5.28 months, the organization has yet to break even. It’s really into the 6th month that the sponsor’s donation is free and clear, but of course there are also overhead costs in that $35 that we don’t know. 

The person I spoke with yesterday had different, perhaps older numbers in terms of the monthly donation, but shocking in terms of what happens beyond the artist being paid a bounty for each sponsorship brought in.

“Out of a $22 monthly fee;” he told me, “The child is seeing about $1.”

He also told me stories of being on a board for one such organization which thought nothing of flying everyone first class to Europe, staying in five star hotels, and eating at the most luxurious restaurants. When his eyes were opened, he quickly resigned. It’s seems almost sinful. No, delete the word ‘almost,’ there is a definite corruption associated with this, which only multiplies when you consider the socioeconomic level of some who are giving quite sacrificially.

If people only knew…

…I want to end this with something redemptive.

The context of our conversation wasn’t, ‘Let’s bash some major charities,’ but was about what I call the second tier of Christian organizations available to support. (Our recent series on four of Canada’s best charity secrets contained two which are able to issue receipts, and of the others, the orphanage is in such dire need I would hope some in the U.S. would want to give irrespective of tax advantages.)

These organizations are easily located by asking someone ‘in the know’ if they can help you find people who are doing effective ministry, either on the domestic front or overseas, who don’t have a lot of profile.

Your money doesn’t have to be squandered on opulent offices, insane overhead costs, and commissions to concert artists.

It can be given to meet real needs. One of the organizations I profiled has its entire staff working in a corner of another charity at second-hand workstations sitting on used office chairs. Another is based in someone’s house in middle class suburbia.

I have no less confidence in them because they don’t appear successful. Success in feeding and clothing and housing the poor has a much different metric.

Give wisely.


In an article from October, 2015, we looked at three indicators that can be warning signs of a charity which has grown too fat:

I’m not sure that people in the Early Church or especially the Persecuted Church would worry about the “Too Low” category; they would rejoice that you had a location to work from; that you had some paid staff. But that’s what I wrote at the time.


I attended a fund-raising event a week ago which had the same familiar-looking child pictures and profiles spread out on a table, but instead, they were asking you to take one and pray for the child in question.

How refreshing.


Can’t take the time to investigate which organizations would fit comfortably into that second-tier category I mentioned? There are foundations out there which exist to support these charities. They’ve already done due diligence. I have contact info for one in Canada, and I’m sure there are many in the U.S. I hope to write about this at some point in the future.


Here in Canada organizations must file a tax return for the organization. These are public and are posted online. In the U.S., some organizations are incorporated as “churches” and the same level of transparency is not required. While having these details doesn’t tell the whole story, it will give you an idea of the scope of the organization.

November 15, 2019

Dammit Isn’t God’s Last Name

On the last Friday night of the month, Youth Pastor Wayne Wyatt would suspend the normal Youth Group format in order to have either a sports night or a music night. For the music nights, he would book a band that was known either locally or regionally, but this week was an exception.

“We don’t really have a name;” the guitar player told him.

Wayne preferred to use bands that had played other area churches so he could contact the youth pastors there and get recommendations, but these guys were friends of Brooke, and her dad was the church board Treasurer, so he figured he was on safe ground.

The kids mixed around the room. There were snacks at the back. Colored lights. It looked like a dance, except nobody was dancing. No one ever did. There were about 60 teens when the night started, but a few songs in there were closer to 80 in attendance.

The guys in the band were well-dressed and polite. They started with a Switchfoot song that Wayne knew, and then a cover of song by Skillet.

For the third song, the guitarist started out with, “We’d like to do one of our original songs for you now. My grandpa had a song he liked that went, ‘He’s more than just a swear word, more than just an I-don’t-care word,’ and I know that for many of us we hear people say God dammit all the time and–“

At this Wayne stopped what he was doing and wondered where they were going with this.

“–or we hear people say ‘Oh my God,’ and we forget to give respect to God’s name. So we’re gonna do a song called ‘Dammit isn’t God’s last name.'”

They cranked up the introduction,

You see in on your screens
and you hear it in the street.
They’re using God’s name
In a way I won’t repeat.

Wayne turned away from the stage. So far, so good. He spoke with a couple of the teens while the verse continued, but then the chorus got his attention.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

It wasn’t the type of lyric their guest bands would usually perform, but he figured the song was a one-off and he’d try to relax. A group of guys wanted to know the deadline to sign up for Snow Camp and two girls wanted to know if they were doing a car wash in the spring because they had some ideas. But then, moments later, there it was again.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

Some of the kids were singing along. When the chorus came around for a third time — he wondered if this song might ever end — he looked closely and they seemed to be enjoying saying ‘dammit’ all too much.

But then the band went into a bridge that consisted entirely of

Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit

On the third repeat, with all the kids in the group shouting the word back to the band, he decided enough was enough, and started walking swiftly and intentionally in a direct line to the stage.

But his path was blocked by a girl who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

“Pastor Wayne,” she said, “You have to come quick; Carly’s fallen in the restroom and she’s hurt really bad.”

Injuries are every youth pastor’s worst nightmare, so he changed his path and started walking toward the hallway. As he picked up his pace, several things occurred to him at once. First of all, he knew the kids really well, and he didn’t know anyone named Carly. For that matter, he didn’t know the girl who had summoned him. And how could he just walk into the women’s restroom?

The sound of the band was wafting from the youth multi-purpose room.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

At least they were back to the verse. Or other chorus. Or whatever it was. His head was spinning. At that moment, Ted and Belinda, the official youth group sponsors appeared in the hallway. He quickly called out to them, “There’s a girl hurt in the restroom.”

They were on it. He could return to his other issue. The band was back to the bridge and the kids were shouting a frenzy.

Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit

In the hallway on his right was the electrical panel. He opened it and identified two breakers. One would cut the power to the stage and the other would cut the power to the wall receptacles, where the band’s mixing board was plugged in and all the colored lights. Some of the group’s electronics would need several seconds to reset. That would give him time to have some words with the band members.

At the same time as that happened, he looked down the hallway and saw Belinda emerging from the women’s restroom. She shrugged her shoulders. There was no one hurt inside.

Wayne switched the breakers and according to plan, the sound went quiet. Unexpectedly, the light in the hallway went out as well. He decided to give this ten seconds, and in that short span of time, while everything around him was physically void of light, the lights went on inside him.

He felt he’d been set up booking the band. He realized the girl who told him to book the group didn’t really like the job he was doing as Youth Pastor. He realized the other girl, who had told him that the fictional Carly needed rescue had been training her eyes on him, waiting for the moment he would try to shut down the performance of ‘Dammit’ so she could distract him.

Eight, nine, ten. Ten seconds. He threw the switches back on.

When he did and the lights in the hallway came back, there was Brooke and standing next to her was her dad, the church Treasurer and head of the hiring committee which had brought him to the church in the first place. Both were scowling.

He looked deep into Brooke’s eyes for something that would answer the question as to why he’d been set up. But instead, the mystery girl emerged and inadvertently brought with her a brief moment of comic relief.

“It’s too late, Pastor Wayne;” she said with a straight face; “Carly’s dead.”

 

July 18, 2019

Canada’s Best Kept Charity Secrets (2): Engineering Ministries International

This week we are highlighting the work of four Christian organizations based in Canada. Even though our readership is three-quarters American, I wanted to give visibility to these groups. The group featured yesterday and the one featured today have American offices, so people on both sides of the border can make donations and receive a valid income tax receipt. In the case of the organization featured below, they are based in Colorado Springs, CO, but it was through the office in Calgary, Alberta that we first came into contact, so they are truly, one of Canada’s best kept Christian charity secrets.


I’m a working on a building
I’m a working on a building
Hallelujah
I’m a working on a building
For my Lord, for my Lord

~Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys
(click here to listen!)

eMi logo

In January of 2015, my oldest son began a new chapter of his life, doing a 16-week internship with a Christian organization that nobody we’ve spoken to has ever heard of, but once you get the concept, you would be more concerned if nobody had thought of it.

Here’s their purpose statement from the landing page of their website:

Engineering Ministries International (eMi) is a non-profit Christian development organization made up of architects, engineers and design professionals who donate their skills to help children and families around the world step out of poverty and into a world of hope.

Poverty is a key element of the projects they choose. As much as you’d like to get all your engineering and architectural drawings done cheap for the new gym and fellowship hall at Church of the Affluent Suburbs, I don’t think they’re going to be able to help you. But they do have a host of mission organizations they’ve served since 1982 working on over 1,100 relief and development projects in 90+ countries; with many of the relationships developed alongside ministries such as Food for the Hungry, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and Samaritan’s Purse.

So, in the case of the project my son was involved in, they designed a building for an orphanage in Haiti that at the time housed ten kids and desired to expand to a goal of future growth to 75 beds, plus a chapel, plus a school that will be profitable. All on land they already own. eMi works with organizations in partnerships like that.

This wasn’t a paid internship for him. He actually paid them, about the equivalent of another full year of school, for a time frame involving a single semester. But they picked up travel and living expenses for his week in Colorado Springs (where their world headquarters are) the time working in the Calgary office (one of five satellite offices) and a trip to Haiti to see the project site and meet the key players there. Their finished drawings were given to a local construction company that built the first phase of the facility to their specifications. (Check out the scope of this project they consulted on in 2009.)

How did we hear about all this? We ran into eMi at an annual event in Toronto called MissionFest, which I’ve written about elsewhere, a sort of trade show for mission organizations. Since I know a lot of people, I pitched a number of options to him, but he set the bar really high in terms of the type of Christian organization he wanted to work with, and eMi met his criteria. His degree is in Electrical Engineering, but they taught him some of the Structural Engineering principles and the whole thing will count toward his professional designation.

I should also add that to the best of my knowledge, eMi is always looking for Structural Engineers and Civil Engineers, especially on the short 8-day field trips. If that’s you and your schedule allows you some travel time; or you’ve taken an early retirement, you might want to get to know these people. Same applies to architects and surveyors.

I once heard it said that Youth with a Mission was the Evangelical world’s best kept secret. I’d like to nominate eMi as a runner up. When you think about the concept, this thing gives new definition to meeting a need.

As I get to know this organization better, I expect to be writing about them again. For my Canadian readers there’s eMiCanada based in Alberta, and for my UK readers eMiUK is based in Oxford.


Tomorrow: Unlike most eMi volunteers, he ended up getting involved with the charity they did the work for, right up to last weekend (July, 2019). Tomorrow we’ll introduce you to that charity.

July 8, 2019

Talking to People Who Reached Out to You First

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:34 am

“Blogging is so 2010.”

That was a line in a newspaper article I read on the weekend. It could have been worse. At least they didn’t say, ‘so 2005.’

A friend would periodically tell me about discussions he got into on Reddit.com. Great, I thought, Isn’t there already enough arguing going on at Twitter?

Still he got me scanning r/Christianity and r/Religion and over the past year a handful of the stories that appeared on Wednesday Connect came from those sources.

On the weekend, I could stand it no more. I couldn’t keep lurking in the shadows, chomping at the bit to weigh in on various topics.

Someone was asking a question which I felt somewhat qualified to answer. They’d received a fairly good number of answers, but I thought something was missing. I even did Ctrl+F to make sure the keywords weren’t somewhere I was missing.

I pulled the trigger.

Create account.

Nobody on Reddit seems to use a real name. It’s all pseudonyms. The first three I picked were taken. I thought of just using ‘paulthinkingoutloud’ but decided to distance my responses from what I do here.

God has people out there. Just because there’s an information gap in one particular set of answers doesn’t mean I need to take this on like it all depends on me,.

I posted to three other topics. On one, the information I shared wasn’t necessarily a great fit, given where it turned out the person was located. I looked this morning at the page and nothing particularly jumped out at me.

Still, I go back to where I was a year ago. I often said after my friend first introduced me to the site that if a Christ-follower was just sitting at home each day staring at something mindless on their screen, and they wanted to have a significant online ministry apart from blogging, or Facebook, or Twitter, then Reddit would be my first choice.

I just didn’t take my own advice. I thought I had my hands full with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and MailChimp.

Reddit is different. It’s not like “broadcasting” on social media, which sometimes feels like spitting into the wind. People are asking for advice. Your answers are going to slowly disappear into the back-catalog of the forums, but for a few hours at least, you can interact with a wide diversity of people on faith-focused subjects in something closer to real time.

Maybe one or two of you will decide to join me.

 

June 24, 2019

What Normal People Do

Filed under: Christianity, Church, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

On Thursday last week I replaced the slats in this rocking deck chair as the ones facing skyward had weathered to the point of disintegrating.

This probably seems unremarkable until you consider it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve come close to doing anything that resembles what normal people do. I also did the caulking around the bathtub the same day. Look at me! The home improvement guy!

The reason this behavior is uncharacteristic is because 24 years ago this September, I walked away from a work-from-home situation and started being the face behind a Christian bookstore, that later grew to a chain of three stores. It was all-consuming

Over 12 years ago, I began the blogging activity — starting with a short-lived faith-focused blog at USAToday — that would also consume much of my time. Later, that morphed into five blogs, eventually settling down at three, two of which had daily (as in 365) content until recently. (I’m still committed to doing C201 daily.)

So I’m not a fix-the-deck-chair type of guy. I had to ask my wife where some of the tools were located and needed some up extra help when it came to changing the drill bit in the cordless drill. Sandpaper? I get the principle, but I’m not certified, so to speak, on that piece of equipment. Plus, I get flustered. I can take something like applying wood stain and make it complicated.

I suspect it’s the same for many people in ministry. The weirdness of the schedule and perhaps a sense of having to prioritize spiritual things can easily result in not doing what normal people do. Around the house. With the car. Involving the kids. Especially with the kids.

It actually felt strange having done something like this. I keep looking at the chair and thinking I want to finish the other half now. Those slats aren’t weathered and don’t need to be replaced just yet, but it was just the pride in having done something like this.

Can anyone identify with this?

April 13, 2019

Stories Can’t Change Lives if No One Reads Them

Filed under: books, Christianity, ministry, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

This “Bible Book Store” serves as a generic stand-in for our own. (I’m surprised Shutterstock doesn’t own this picture by now!)

Each week I work two days at the Christian bookstore that we own. By taking the two day shifts and working without pay I make it possible for the store to remain viable financially in a smaller market. Even so, the store is continuing to lose money. After filing this year’s tax return I fully expect Revenue Canada to tell me I either need to start working more weekly shifts or I need to shut it down.

The primary work that I do is done on my laptop at home. I don’t bring my computer to the store nor is there really a decent place to set it down — the store is that crowded — nor can the store afford Wi-Fi. Some work I do at the store consists of everything from merchandising and receiving shipments to emptying the trash in the washroom.

Business has been slow lately so I often pick up a random book off the shelf, open it somewhere in the middle and start reading. This time the book was Love, Skip, Jump, a 2014 book which Shelene Bryan did for Thomas Nelson.

She’s a good writer. The place where I had landed was a story about her volunteering to organize a community barbecue in a neighborhood in East Los Angeles she had always been told to avoid.

It was a moving story. There are similarities in it to situations that my wife has found herself in over the last decade in terms of ministry to the disadvantaged. At one point I got goosebumps as I was reading. At another point I felt tears welling up. Remember, I was only reading one chapter.

The book is a $4.99 bargain book in our store. It got chosen for stock among the hundreds and hundreds of books which have remainder status each year because the foreword was by Francis Chan who turned out to be Shelene’s pastor at the time. I don’t know that we’ve ever sold any copies.

I’m not sure where all of these books will end up after we close the store but it occurred to me that hers was a story which was moving me to tears but no one in my community might ever read. I thought how sad a situation that was; that such a powerful story is just sitting here for the taking at a reasonable price and yet no one will ever see or hear of it.

I don’t have a happy ending to this, I just think it’s unfortunate that we live in a part of the world where we have such a glut of print resources; instead we spend our time watching cats on YouTube.

Part of the reason I had time to pick up the book off the shelf is that over the winter I’ve had a real sense that we’re not immune from the circumstances affecting Family Christian Stores or LifeWay Christian Stores. Our store is also dying and there is a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to its death.

Amazon didn’t help the situation, but I remain unconvinced that the part of the market that it stole is actually represented by an equal amount of sales of the same types of products. My guess is that what many unsuspecting Christians are buying from them is a dog’s breakfast of doctrinal ideas.

As I write this my seven hour shift at the store is half over. So far I’ve had one customer and she is usually there waiting for me to open every Friday morning. I know the day can turn itself around, but sometimes it’s hard to pray; the reality seems to be so far removed from the desire.

When the kids were young we would have prayer time which would always include, “Please help the store to do well so that we can pay all the bills.” I realize now that’s not really the right goal. Through shrewd management we’ve been able to enter a situation where we actually are able to pay all the bills, but unfortunately cash position in and of itself is not an indicator a profitability.

My new goal would be, “Lord, please help us to be busy in the store so that the many stories contained in those books can be told to more people.”

April 8, 2019

Credit Where Credit is Due

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, ministry, testimony — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:04 am

This dog also led Kevin to Jesus. Source Café Press.

It’s always interesting when people you know from a fairly fixed context show up at a funeral for someone you knew from a fairly different fixed context.

“How did you know Kevin;” I asked.

“Actually, I led him to the Lord.” It happened in the town park, apparently.

Later in the funeral service itself, a speaker who had been previously scheduled got up to pay tribute to Kevin and explained how he met him at his apartment through a mutual friend, and as they talked about different things, he led him to the Savior.

After the service was over, a woman who I’ve known for years explained how she had led Kevin to to the Lord on a bus in which they were both travelling.

I wanted to ask her if she’d even been listening to the man who had spoken one of the tributes, but decided not to go there. I’ve run into her since and she certainly affirms her version of things.

My wife said later that Kevin had a ministry to people who had the gift of evangelism.

(Think about it.)

I have no doubt now as to Kevin’s eternal state. He certainly met the Lord on many occasions and accepted him as Lord on an equal number.

I mean why would anyone lie about a story like that?

 

January 26, 2019

Preachers and Evangelists: Then and Now

Increasingly, Twitter is becoming a long-form medium. It’s not just the 140 vs. 280 character thing, but with the use of threads, writers can present rather extensive essays.

Every once in awhile I find threads which I think are worthy of being preserved somewhere more permanent. The writer may have envisioned something temporary — a kind of Snapchat prose — but the words deserve greater attention. So as we’ve done before — Skye Jethani, Mark Clark, Sheila Wray Gregoire, etc. — we want to introduce you to a voice which is new here.

Dr. Steve Bezner has been the Senior Pastor of Houston Northwest Church (Houston NW) since January 2013. Steve is married to Joy, and they have two teenage sons—Ben and Andrew. This originally appeared on his Twitter account on January 24th.


by Steve Bezner

Here’s a surprising tidbit: Paul apparently was not very impressive in person. His speaking ability was just so-so. His physical appearance was nothing special. And he had some sort of physical ailment. (I’m guessing weak eyes based on context clues.) But it gets worse.

There were other, more dynamic leaders in the ancient church who would speak at the churches Paul started after Paul left town. And the people would be amazed at their abilities–their charisma, smooth words, and physical appearance.

And those churches would abandon Paul.

Paul refers to these individuals sarcastically as “super-apostles” in 2 Corinthians. They apparently also went to Galatia, as they were working to preach a different gospel from the one Paul had brought. Some even tried to follow Peter or Apollos (friends of Paul’s) over Paul.

Paul didn’t have the best appearance. Or speech. Or personality. He was quiet and meek. And the people in the early churches preferred the loud apostle. The strong apostle. The one that could “hold a room.” The one that was impressive.

Sound familiar?

Paul did, however, have principle. He refused to take money when he did not need it. He pushed into new territory to take the gospel, while others simply rode his coattails. He faithfully raised up new leaders like Timothy, Titus and Silvanus. He painstakingly worked on theology.

Many pastors I know are like Paul rather than the (appropriately) unnamed “super-apostles.” They have been called. They grind away in obscurity. They take less money than they could make in the private sector…or work another job. They faithfully disciple. They study Scripture. They do all of this knowing full well that there are other pastors out there who will always gain more notoriety.

Others who are louder.

Others who are more opinionated.

Others who always speak while they are processing.

Others who seem to somehow end up in the spotlight.

These pastors may not be the greatest preachers in the world. They may not know the best leadership practices. They may not have the most clever responses to the latest issues on social media. And, if they are honest, they tire of being overlooked for the “super-pastors.”

But Paul’s letters are encouraging. The man who was not the greatest preacher or leader is read 2000 years later. We do not even know the name of Paul’s “super-apostle” competitors. Faithfulness and skillfulness, over time, bears fruit that some never experience.

So to those “normal” pastors: Take heart. Stay true to the Scripture. Hold fast to your convictions. Teach, love, preach, pastor, and do so knowing that you will reap a harvest of faithfulness that is often unseen. Your ministry is worthwhile, even when it feels pointless.

To sum up pastoral ministry:

  • Loudest is not best.
  • Opinionated is not best.
  • Impressive is not best.

What is best?

  • Faithfulness to Jesus.
  • Skillfulness in the field where you are planted.
  • Raising up followers of Jesus.
  • Teaching Scripture and theology.
  • Playing the long game.

Do not strive for the blessing of the “super-apostle.”

Strive instead for the acclaim of Jesus:

Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

January 21, 2019

Eyeing the Competition

While 99% of the people in Pastor Reynold’s congregation met with him at the church or in a coffee shop, Olivia was good friends with his wife which gave her somewhat unfettered access to the pastor at his home.

Dropping in one day while Mrs. Reynolds was out, they stood at the front door and talked for five minutes, and as usual, Olivia was going on and on about the latest podcast she’d heard from some U.S. preacher. “You should check him out sometime; it was absolutely awesome!”

It wasn’t just her; there were a bunch of twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings in the church who seemed to trade teaching links the way his generation traded baseball cards. It was as though everyone is looking for the next big thing.

Finally he decided to state the obvious, “So did you like my sermon this week?”

“It was okay.” She seemed to be reluctantly volunteering that assessment.

“Would it be better if I got some skinny jeans?” he asked her, but she just laughed.

So he tried it another way, “Would it be different if I had a podcast?”

“You do have a sermon podcast; the tech team posts your message every Monday.”

“Oh right…” at which point he had to admit to himself that he’d forgotten that; in fact, he’d never even been to the page where the sermons were posted.

Olivia got a text back from Mrs. Reynolds saying she wouldn’t be home for an hour, so Olivia texted back that they’d meet the next day instead.

Pastor Reynolds went back to his computer and tried to find an email he’d received several weeks ago from Jordan, Olivia’s husband. Jordan had recommended that the pastor watch and listen to a particular speaker but the email had sat ignored.

“Where did he say that guy was from?” the pastor asked himself. “Bismark? Boise? Bakersfield?” He found the email, clicked the link and started listening. He’d set the expectation bar quite low and wasn’t prepared for what he saw and heard.

After about four minutes, out loud to no one besides the cat, he said, “Oh my goodness… this ain’t the kind of preaching I was raised on.”

It was actually two hours before Mrs. Reynolds came home, and by then Pastor Reynolds had heard three sermons by three different next generation preachers, and had scrawled two pages of handwritten notes…


…Every healthy church has people of different ages who are being influenced by speakers and teachers online from their generation.  Someone who loves Charles Stanley is unlikely to develop an affection for John Mark Comer and vice versa. A fan of David Jeremiah is unlikely to convert to a steady diet of Judah Smith. A daily listener to Chuck Swindoll is unlikely to abandon him for Levi Lusko.

The point of today’s story however is that pastors would do well to invest some time listening to those teachers who are influencing the people in their congregation. People like Olivia can’t get to John Mark’s or Judah’s or Levi’s church. If they live more than an hour from a major city, they might not even be able to get to one like it. Pastor, they worship at your church and they’re part of your congregation.

But they have these other influences, just as certainly as the older people take in In Touch, Turning Point and Insight for Living. Furthermore, the older members of the church often listen to these radio and television preachers on a daily basis, whereas they only come to church once a week. Media preaching has a greater impact on many churchgoers than what takes place at weekend services.

Shouldn’t pastors take some time every once in awhile to check out what it is people are hearing? In the story, Pastor Reynolds announces to an empty house not that the message is ‘Heresy!’ but rather that the communication style is exceptionally different; greatly engaging. The pacing is different; there’s less shouting; the messages are longer but the times seems to fly by. He makes notes.

I think the practice of listening to the group of rising pastors and authors should be part of a pastor’s occasional routine. I know people in vocational ministry are busy and groan under the weight of all the books people in the church tell them they should read, and podcasts they should watch or listen to, but if someone in your congregation is overflowing with excitement about a spiritual influence in their lives, wouldn’t one would want to know what it is?


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June 19, 2018

Empire Building


Empire Building

One thing my wife and I totally agree on is our disdain for Christians who are constantly trying to promote themselves or their organization.

I’ll admit if you’re a charity you need to do some fundraising, and if you’re a musician you need to sell some albums and book some concerts in order to survive. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Rather, there’s an underlying attitude that you simply know it when you see it. It loudly proclaims, “It’s all about me;” or “It’s all about my little empire.”

And it’s sad.

Kingdom Building

The only good thing about empire building is that it provides a healthy contrast for the times when you meet people who are all about promoting and building God’s kingdom.

It’s beautiful when people walk in an attitude of humility and simply trust God with their own projects in order to focus their primary energies entirely on seeing his will done in the earth.

…I was reminded of this song, and this particular version of it includes the lyrics. As Greg Boyd famously ended his services with this benediction for many years, “Now go and build the kingdom.”

Just make sure it’s the right kingdom.

 

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