Thinking Out Loud

May 19, 2017

Church Continuity, Summer Shutdowns and the Lake House Mentality

There was a time I thought this was more of Canadian thing, but apparently it happens in various types of churches: Big and small, urban and rural, independent and denominational, established and recently planted. We call it ‘Summer Shutdown.’ Simply put it means that many of the programs of the church start shutting down at the end of April and don’t resume again until after Labor Day (that’s the week after the August Bank Holiday for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down various children’s programs has to do with competition from evening sports programs, particularly kids baseball and soccer (that’s football for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down the Thursday morning ladies prayer time totally escapes me (that’s ‘totally escapes me’ for you Brits.)

This phenomenon seems to be more pronounced in North America, but here in Ontario it is coupled with something called ‘the cottage mentality.’ Perhaps where you live the term cabin is more prevalent than cottage. Or the lake house. It means that if it is the weekend in June, July, or August; one is officially at their summer cottage, even if they don’t actually own one. This means that the summer shutdown becomes evident even in the Sunday morning programming of the churches here.

To me, this just leaves a lot of people detached from other people; it leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness; it leaves them with more inactivity; and it leaves them increasingly disconnected from their local church. As I wrote recently,

Imagine the greatest institution the world has ever seen suddenly shutting shop. Imagine a movement so powerful that nothing can stop it dispersing its followers for an extended holiday. Imagine the Church of Jesus Christ simply not being there for the hungry, the thirsty, the needy.

It waves the white flag of surrender to the calendar, the school year, football games, and the arrival of hot and humid weather. It gives up because so-called “key leadership” decided to spend weekends at the lake. It broadcasts the message that summer ministry simply isn’t worth the bother. It says, “There’s a big game being televised so probably nobody is going to show up anyway.”

I remember one woman returning to church in September after an absence of at least 90 days, announcing to all nearby that she was back and ready to help “whip this place back into shape.” That did not go over well among those who had been faithful throughout the warmer months. She wanted to pick up the pieces and create a fresh start, when in fact the church had a colorful and vibrant ministry during the weeks she was at the cabin enjoying the sunshine, the barbecue and the swimming.

The loss of continuity here is gigantic. I have however noticed that among some megachurches the programs just become so overarching that it is impossible to curtail them in the summer months. This may actually be a major positive attribute for megachurches at a time when people are so quick to emphasize their negatives. But then these same megachurches will have a weekend where the simply shut down everything altogether. Everything. The doors are locked. For you mainline Protestants, think of it as the non-Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Can you imagine a Roman Catholic church not having the mass the week after Christmas? Or a long weekend? No. Neither can I. Where did this day-off-mentality come from anyway?

Two years ago I wrote on this subject with respect to a church which also shuts down the week after Christmas:

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

We did attend a local church since moving to this small town where the Sunday School ministry didn’t really miss a beat in the summer. I noted their dedication. It was like they believed in a God that doesn’t take three months off each summer. Last year however, they succumbed to the influence of what other churches are doing.

So here’s to those local churches who provide spiritual nurture at full throttle during the holiday months. Good on ya. People are hungry for more of God’s word and teaching, and also opportunities for fellowship twelve months of the year. I’m willing to bet there are stories of spiritual starvation that take place when ‘spiritual providers’ take off. I’d like to start a crusade to fight on behalf of those who are simply not looking forward to the next few months of meetings suspended until the fall. Some of those are hurting and some are lonely.

The people making the decision to curtail programming or shut down a particular weekend are usually well-connected and have lots of social activity planned for the time they are away.

For many large churches, it’s all or nothing. They can’t do small church anymore. Think about it:

The modern megachurch simply cannot offer an alternative service in a smaller room in the church where Mrs. Trebleclef will play some well known choruses or hymns on the keyboard (or Mr. Coolhair on the guitar), the head of Men’s Ministry will speak, and then we’ll have a coffee time in the atrium. That would be a simple service. It would involve said pianist, the person giving the short devotional message, and the person to make the coffee, as well as someone to unlock the doors and check the restrooms before locking up. But that’s not the brand these churches want to offer. You can’t have a simple, grassroots service like that. Better to have locked doors.

So where do those KidMin, worship and parking volunteers come from on Christmas and holidays? They don’t. You change up the brand image for the sake of one Sunday and using a skeleton staff, offer something for the people who really need to be connected. Maybe not Mrs. T. on the piano. Maybe it’s a film. It might involve a guest speaker or guest musicians. Perhaps it’s a shorter service. 

Sadly however, this is not going to happen. ‘It’s not how we do things.

Wanna buck the trend? Light a candle! Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events. Can’t lead a Bible study? Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen. There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can’t lead a Bible study? Don’t do anything fancy. Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one. Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer. And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church. Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.


If you feel like you’ve read this before here, you have. This is a recurring, annual Thinking Out Loud rant. But this time around the rant you’re reading is a mash-up of four previous articles with additional content.

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November 4, 2016

Small Group Leadership is Like Playing Mini-Me to Your Pastor

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

small group

Different churches have different takes on the nature and title given to people who lead home church meetings or what are more widely called small groups. There’s no denying that this is an awesome responsibility, as these cells are a microcosm of the larger congregation, and some churches confer a lay-pastoral authority1 on those who take the helm.

If you’re the one getting the discussion started, or asking someone to get things going by reading a key scripture passage, or even leading off with an open question like the one in my wife’s study on Melchizedek, “Do you have a friend with an unusual or very long name?”2 then you have to be open to surprises.

So how would you deal with these situations? 


█ Derek finds it difficult to open up at the weekly group Bible study. He is naturally shy and insecure, so over the last few months has found it easier to have a couple of shots from the liquor cabinet before leaving home. Fortunately, Derek lives two blocks away and walks to Phil and Karen’s house. Lately, it’s been obvious that Derek’s on a bit of an artificial high when he arrives. He pets the cat now and says, “How’s my little furry lurry friend?” Formerly he made it clear he hates cats. And sometimes his breath is a giveaway. Should Phil and Karen

  • offer Derek a breath mint as soon as he arrives?
  • have a word with Derek about his shyness and insecurity?
  • lock up the cat before group members arrive?

█ Belinda is the stereotypical one-issue candidate. All of the issues of life — including things facing the Corinthians and Ephesians in recent Bible studies — could be resolved if Evangelicals would band together to impeach President Obama. She makes this point at least once a week in the discussion time, and should the opportunity not arise, she works it in as a prayer request. Everyone in the group is torn between tearing Belinda’s head off, or simply giving up trying to restrain their laughter. Should the group leaders,

  • remind Belinda that Bible studies should be apolitical and keep on topic?
  • give Belinda 10 minutes to let it all out, on the condition she never mentions it again?
  • remind Belinda that as a Canadian in Kentucky on a special work visa, she can’t vote anyway?

█ Thomas has serious ADD and ADHD issues. His mind wanders off at the worst times, which is unfortunate because Jim, the group leader, often will throw out a question and then ask a specific person what they think about the topic; as in, “How do you think the people felt when they heard this, Thomas?” Should Thomas, when he has no clue what the question was, simply respond

  • “Jesus”?
  • “love”?
  • “squirrel”?

█ Marita has the gift of evangelism. Realistically, she does have a good impact in the community and her workplace and has often invited friends and co-workers to church services with life-changing results. The problem is that she brings her gift to the Bible study group where, most clearly, everyone is already among the saved and committed. When she asks you “if you know for sure where you’re going when all this is over” should you say

  • “We have some pictures that are ready at Wal-Mart, and they’re open tonight until 10:00.”?
  • “That sounds like something I need to do;” and allow Marita to lead you in the sinner’s prayer?
  • “You know Marita, you need to share this with Derek. He has a drinking problem, you know.”?

█ Brandon never remembers to bring his Bible. Before group starts he downs three cups of coffee and about half of all the snacks on the kitchen table. Part way through each study, he excuses himself to use the restroom which is located just off the room where the group meets. Ten minutes later he returns, and about ten seconds later, it is apparent that he has sprayed copious amounts of air freshener which is now wafting in and choking those who have asthma and those that don’t. Should the leaders

  • refer all bathroom breaks to a location further away in the house?
  • find a way to ration the snacks before each group meeting?
  • lock up the cat before Brandon arrives?

Small group leadership is never easy, but through helpful quizzes like this one, we believe we can provide you with the decision-making tools you need to further your ministry.


1I just made up that term. But some assemblies call them “home church pastors” so the job carries some responsibility and authority. In other churches, the small group pastors are the elders.

2This was an actual open question in the Serendipity Bible study she was leading.

The graphic used to accompany today’s article was hijacked from this source, where you’ll find a humorous 2-minute video.

May 8, 2016

Churches that Post “Gone Fishing” Signs on the Front Door

Then turning to His disciples, Jesus said, “Okay guys, I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to maintain focus during this sticky weather, especially since air conditioning won’t be invented for at least another 1,900 years. So whaddya say we take at least eight weeks off, and then we’ll meet up at Bethany and start planning the fall season.”

Imagine the greatest institution the world has ever seen suddenly shutting shop. Imagine a movement so powerful that nothing can stop it dispersing its followers for an extended holiday. Imagine the Church of Jesus Christ simply not being there for the hungry, the thirsty, the needy.

That’s essentially what many of our North American churches do in June, July and August.

And it’s wrong.

It waves the white flag of surrender to the calendar, the school year, football games, and the arrival of hot and humid weather. It gives up because so-called “key leadership” decided to spend weekends at the lake. It broadcasts the message that summer ministry simply isn’t worth the bother. It says, “There’s a big game being televised so probably nobody is going to show up anyway.”

Sorry, we’re closed.

It turns out this is a topic on which I have both strong opinions and raging passion, because I’ve written about it here twice; in an April, 2008 post, Loss of Continuity, and a May, 2009 post, Summer Shutdown Mentality.

While both posts did some darkness-cursing, they both did some candle-lighting as well; first in 2008:

I have however noticed that among some megachurches the programs just become so overarching that it is impossible to curtail them in the summer months. This may actually be a major positive attribute for megachurches at a time when people are so quick to emphasize their negatives.

We did attend a local church since moving to this small town where the Sunday School ministry didn’t really miss a beat in the summer. I noted their dedication. It was like they believed in a God that doesn’t take three months off each summer.

And then in 2009:

Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events.

Can’t lead a Bible study? Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen. There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can lead a Bible study? Don’t do anything fancy. Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one. Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer. And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church. Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.

Just this week, I had a conversation with someone who is operating in a kind of spiritual paralysis because she thinks she needs her pastor’s permission to invite a few friends over for a faith-based discussion; that she needs her church board’s permission for a few Christian friends to pool some money to sponsor a 10-year old girl’s week at a Christian camp.

As the Nike advert says, “Just do it.” 

More recently — well, 2013 actually — David Murrow wrote about another factor: Huge structures we call megachurches are already grossly under-utilized without closing down for a week.

Most church buildings are owned debt-free. Many of these churches sit empty 160 hours a week. And they’re half-empty on Sunday.

The summer is actually a time of great loneliness and isolation for many people. Here’s the conclusion I drew in 2008:

I’m willing to bet there are stories of spiritual starvation that take place when ‘spiritual providers’ take off. I’d like to start a crusade to fight on behalf of those who are simply not looking forward to the next few months of meetings suspended until the fall.


Related: North Point takes Memorial Day Weekend and Sunday after Christmas off in 2015. Excerpt

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

June 5, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

Be sure to read the post which immediately precedes this one, about Calvinist propaganda for kids… And now for another day on the links…

  • “If a church tells the Scouts they are no longer welcome to use their facilities a whole bunch of kids, most of whom are not gay, are going to get one clear message: You’re not welcome at church. Fighting the culture war has already hurt the Christian image, as we are much more recognizable for the things we are against.” Before your church has a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, take 90 seconds to read this including the updates in the comments.
  • And speaking of people we make unwelcome in the church, here’s a story like no other: A particularly buxom young woman (i.e. size DD) unravels a sad tale of a lifetime of being marginalized by the local church.
  • Another great, concise (about 12 minutes, I think) sermon by Nadia at House for All Sinners and Saints on Hope. Realistic church motto: “We will disappoint you.” Click this link to the text, then click the internal link to listen, then click back to follow along as you listen. 
  • 30 Churches in Holland, Michigan are covering their individual church signs this week with burlap on which is painted “One Lord, One Church.” This is a movement designed to promote unity between the denominations.
  • The White House has issued a statement pressing the Iranian government for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, but Iran does not recognize his U.S. citizenship
  • Yesterday’s Phil Vischer Podcast was the best so far! Phil and panelists Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor are joined by anthropologist Brian Howell discussing short-term missions.
  • Teapot tempest or major issue? A Methodist pastor refuses to stand for God Bless America. Hours later, The Washington Post has to run a separate article to showcase all the responses the first article got.
  • For the pastor: A different approach to mapping out your fall (and beyond) adult Christian education program
  • Also for pastors: What to teach about tithing? Andy Stanley teaches percentage giving. But as Jeff Mikels points out, some people don’t like that concept.
  • The K-LOVE Fan Awards are out! Guess what? They like Chris Tomlin. Wow, there’s a surprise! See the winners in all nine categories.  
  • If you don’t mind wading through a lot of posts to unearth some classic wit and wisdom — and several bad worship team jokes — there’s always Church Curmudgeon’s Twitter feed.
  • Rob Bell is on the ‘cover’ of Ktizo Magazine, an e-publication built just for tablets.
  • Porn is an issue for women, too.  Maura at the blog Made in His Image shares her struggle and suggests that step one is sharing your struggle with another person.
  • Also at the same blog: Christian women, should you buy that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polkadot bikini? Rachel says its a matter of exercising God-given responsibility.
  • We mentioned the blog Blessed Economist once at C201, but I’m not sure if we did here. It’s economics — the real thing, not personal finance — from a Christian perspective. Here’s a short piece to whet your appetite, there are some longer case studies there as well.
  • A friend of ours who graduated recently in film studies has posted a 17-minute short film about a band of orphans Fleeing through the wilderness of post-apocalyptic British Columbia in search of food and shelter who take refuge in an abandoned church and face a horrifying choice.
  • Also on video, a group of high school teens at Camp Marshall got together in 2011 to produce a rather artistic video of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing that serves as a music video and a camp promotional video
Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn't very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn’t very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

December 5, 2011

Celebrity Guest Post … Sort Of…

Celebrity Christian Blogger

I’ve noticed recently that while a number of the more prominent Christian bloggers have people do guest posts at their blogs, you don’t see these same celebrity Christians anywhere in the rest of the blogosphere.  So I thought it was a particularly unique opportunity when I uncovered this ten minute video was available to add here — until the blog police catch up with us — by Jon Acuff at the always witty and insightful Stuff Christians Like, though proper blog etiquette dictates that all of you will now click over and watch it there, right?  Please do, since SCL is now copyrighted by the sales and marketing division of Dave Ramsay’s organization, and we don’t want to upset them just in case we need some investment advice moving forward.

Seriously, this video was actually produced by lifechurch.tv as the first in a series of four for high school students, though the hope is that its content will be suitable for people of all ages who find themselves in the middle of a “desert road” experience.

May 27, 2010

Most Powerful Institution in the History of the World to Close Next Week

Then turning to His disciples, Jesus said, “Okay guys, I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to maintain focus during this sticky weather, especially since air conditioning won’t be invented for at least another 1,900 years.   So whaddya say we take at least eight weeks off, and then we’ll meet up at Bethany and start planning the fall season.”

Imagine the greatest institution the world has ever seen suddenly shutting shop.   Imagine a movement so powerful that nothing can stop it dispersing its followers for an extended holiday.   Imagine the Church of Jesus Christ simply not being there for the hungry, the thirsty, the needy.

That’s essentially what many of our North American churches do in June, July and August.

And it’s wrong.

It waves the white flag of surrender to the calendar, the school year, and the arrival of hot and humid weather.    It gives up because so-called “key leadership” decided to spend weekends at the lake.    It broadcasts the message that summer ministry simply isn’t worth the bother.

Sorry, we’re closed.

It turns out this is a topic on which I have both strong opinions and raging passion, because I’ve written about it here twice; in an April, 2008 post, Loss of Continuity, and a May, 2009 post, Summer Shutdown Mentality.

While both posts did some darkness-cursing, they both did some candle-lighting as well; first in 2008:

I have however noticed that among some megachurches the programs just become so overarching that it is impossible to curtail them in the summer months.   This may actually be a major positive attribute for megachurches at a time when people are so quick to emphasize their negatives.

We did attend a local church since moving to this small town where the Sunday School ministry didn’t really miss a beat in the summer.   I noted their dedication.   It was like they believed in a God that doesn’t take three months off each summer.

And then in 2009:

Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events.

Can’t lead a Bible study?   Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen.    There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can lead a Bible study?    Don’t do anything fancy.   Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one.   Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer.    And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church.    Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.

Just this week, I had a conversation with someone who is operating in a kind of spiritual paralysis because she thinks she needs her pastor’s permission to invite a few friends over for a faith-based discussion; that she needs her church board’s permission for a few Christian friends to pool some money to sponsor a 10-year old girl’s week at a Christian camp.

As the Nike advert says, “Just do it.”

The summer is actually a time of great loneliness and isolation for many people.   Here’s the conclusion I drew in 2008:

I’m willing to bet there are stories of spiritual starvation that take place when ‘spiritual providers’ take off.   I’d like to start a crusade to fight on behalf of those who are simply not looking forward to the next few months of meetings suspended until the fall.


January 30, 2010

Who Exactly Is Teaching The Women in Your Church?

Other bloggers can talk all they want about John Piper, Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Francis Chan,  etc., but I work in a Christian bookstore and in that environment, only one name mattered this week: Beth Moore.    Her So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us (Tyndale, 2010) is out in hardcover at $24.99 US this month and has captured the top spot on a couple of the Spring Arbor overnight Top 100 charts this week.

Before going further, I have to ask:  What’s with the United States and all their hardcover releases?   I thought y’all were in the middle of an economic downturn?

Okay, the question is rhetorical.   When it comes to Beth Moore, money is no object.   Almost all her book titles have released in hardcover, a situation she shares with her slightly more charismatic friend, Joyce Meyer.   Neither one of these women have any problem sucking money out of the pockets of their fans.

In fairness though, while Meyer may not be able to control everything her publisher does with her hardcovers, she apparently does give away many of her teaching DVDs and CDs to ministry organization.

With Moore, the commercialism is more overt.   When Moore isn’t writing general book titles for publishers such as Tyndale, she’s producing another small group Bible study for Lifeway.    I gotta be honest here, I have a hard time even typing Lifeway into a sentence, and I just about retch saying it out loud.

Lifeway is the most ingenious money sucking device ever invented by Baptists, and trust me, they’ve invented several.    My anger knows no bounds in this, but fortunately it’s righteous anger, so I can rationalize it in large amounts.

Here’s how the scam works:   Lifeway, a producer of dated Sunday School curriculum decided long ago that there was far more money in delineating its non-dated adult small group material as curriculum also, and sells it to distributors at what is called a short-discount.    Your favorite Christian bookstore or online vendor is simply not making a lot of money on it.   So who is?

Often, such as in the case of church choral and orchestral product, or certain esoteric Bible translation materials, the discount is shortened to keep the price affordable.    But with many of Moore’s DVD teaching sets retailing at $250 US, that simply isn’t the case here.

Years ago, Serendipity House held back products from distribution — selling them only through their own system — to cover development costs.   That’s not the case here, either.   The retail prices of the study guides — almost always $19 US and coyly termed “member books” — usually cost participants twice the price of any other DVD-related participant guides and more than cover any possible development costs.

But the price is minor when you factor in the volume.   Moore and Lifeway together are selling thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of these things.   The Lifeway anchor store we visited in Nashville had a staff member assigned solely to this one aisle of product, and when he went to lunch someone else covered for him.   The appetite of Christian women’s groups for Beth Moore knows no bounds;  not denominationally and not geographically.    James MacDonald, who won’t let the wives of any of his staff members do anything other than be stay at home housewives, included her on his Downpour tour.    She’s ubiquitous; able to boldly go where no woman has gone before and command fees that no one has ever charged before.

And what qualifies this person who is teaching our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and girlfriends?

She has a degree in political science.

Okay, let’s be fair,  she also has an honorary doctorate in humanities from Howard Payne University (no I haven’t heard of it, either) a Baptist (surprise) university located in Brownwood, Texas (surprise) whose basketball team won a national championship in 1957.   According to Wikipedia she went to a Biblical doctrine class (whoo hoo) and then started a women’s Bible study that grew to over 2,000.    But when it comes to earned education, their report stops with this:

She has a degree in political science.

Joyce Meyer?   She claims an earned degree from the non-accredited Life Christian University, and also has an honorary degree from ORU.   She doesn’t have $250 DVD teaching series, nor do her various publishers and DVD creators stiff Christian bookstores with a short discount.   And I’m willing to give her points for growing up in adversity and having attended the school of hard knocks.

But the private jet always comes up in conversation.   You gotta be careful here, however, since the counter argument is always to look at the places she travels in a year and then compare the cost (and time) involved in commercial flights.     I’m willing to let her have the thing.

I’m not so willing to concede on the luxury homes or the lifestyle that goes with them, regardless of how much money she gives away.   There are casinos which payout 94% of all they take in.   That’s nice.   It’s the 6% that bothers me.  Check out this estate plan:

Here’s the extended photo caption for this picture by Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Joyce Meyer Ministries bought these 5 homes for Meyer and her family. The Ministry pays all expenses, including landscaping and lawn care, property taxes and rehab work. Meyer, her husband and each of their four married children live in the homes, free of charge.”

  • (1) Principal Residence of David and Joyce Meyer
    Bought: April 27th, 1999
    Purchase Price: About $795,000
    Square Footage: 10,000
    Cost of Improvements: $1.1 Million
    Features: 6 Bedrooms, 5 Bathrooms, Gold Putting Green, Swimming pool, 8 Car Heated and Cooled Garage, Guest House with 2 more bedrooms, Gazebo.
  • (2) Residence of: Daughter, Sandra McCollom and her husband Steve
    Bought: February 12, 2002
    Purchase Price: $400,000
    Square Footage: About 5,000
    Cost of Improvements: About $250,000
    Features: 4 Bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half Bathrooms, All-Seasons room, Prayer Room, Media Center and a Home Office.
  • (3)Residence of: Son, David Meyer and his wife Joy Meyer.
    Bought: June 18, 2001Purchase Price: $725,000
    Square Footage: 4,000
    Cost of Improvements: Unknown
    Features: 2 Story Colonial, 4 Bedrooms, 2 1/2 Bathrooms, 2 Garages and a Utility Shed
  • (4) Residence of: Daughter, Laura Holtzmann and her husband Doug
    Bought: March 7, 2001
    Purchase Price: $350,000
    Square Footage: 2,358
    Cost of Improvements: $3,000
    Features: 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms with a Fireplace.
  • (5) Residence of: Son, Dan Meyer and his wife Charity
    Bought: Mar 13, 2000
    Purchase Price: About 200,000
    Square Footage: About 2,000
    Cost of Improvements: $33,000
    Features: Brick Ranch With Full Finished Basement
  • [Read more here] (Last updated 1.11.09)

    Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.   Here’s some alternatives for you to consider:  Donna Partow, Luci Swindoll, Elizabeth George, Thelma Wells, Lysa TerKeurst, Liz Curtis Higgs, Shaunti Feldhahn, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Stasi Eldredge, Lisa Bevere, Stormie Omartian, Jill Briscoe, and the list goes on and on.  (DVD and/or workbooks are available for study material for the majority of these authors; all at lower cost than the aforementioned Ms. Moore.)

    In conclusion, Moore and Meyer are teachers that lead and inspire the women in many, many churches; and many women either dream or consciously want to emulate Meyer or Moore.   In Moore’s case, a denomination holding solidly to the premise that women should not pastor (see link below) has no problem ceding the responsibility for much teaching to a woman whose only earned degree is in political science.   In Meyer’s case, it’s often both men and women who enjoy her teaching, while she herself enjoys a personal life of excess.

    Related article in this blog:  Lifeway Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy – 09/28/08

    UPDATE: April 4, 2011 — After more than a year of taking a lot of heat for this particular blog post, I’ve decided to close comments.  I appreciate the replies to this article, which is the closest thing I’ve ever done to anything investigative, but I really don’t have a vendetta here, and I carry both Joyce’s and Beth’s products in the two bookstores I do buying for.

    I’ve defended my reasons for running this and leaving it up in various responses to the comments. Please read them. I’ve tried to make it clear my goal was not to wound or hurt anyone.  Still, some writers have made it their goal to judge me for posting this. I’m sorry we don’t know each other better.

    I think the replies, 37 as of now, show the variety of opinions people have on this issue. Also, I need to suggest that for some, the “wrongness” or “excess” of any preacher’s housing, if any, will diminish as the U.S. climbs out of recession.

    I’d also invite you to read a follow up piece that appeared here several months later.

    Finally, I would want to remind you that a great many people found this because they were indeed searching for pictures of Joyce’s house.  I really don’t know why. And I also want to reiterate that the main issue concerning Beth had to do with the politics by which her products are sold.

    For the record, I am in favor of women as elders, women in ministry and women as pastors. But I would like to think there was a solid theological education underpinning that role. However again, I would also like to say that education isn’t everything, and that the main criteria noted with the disciples in Acts was that they were seen to have “spent time with Jesus.”


    July 23, 2009

    Free Market Small Groups: National Community Church

    In a few weeks churches will be starting to promote the fall season of small group ministry.  In the part of the world where we live, the dominant model is one where the pastoral leadership determines a course of study for the whole church, regardless of when and where the group meets, often consisting of material based on the sermon the previous Sunday.    So I was intrigued by a comment in the book unChristian by David Kinnaman, where guest Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington says something to this effect:  ‘We have a free market approach to small groups.’  I wondered how this plays out and asked them for further clarification.   Does it always work out or are there liabilities?   Heather Zempel, Discipleship Pastor at NCC was good enough to write back and include a link to her blog, where she defines “Free Markets” more clearly.   You can link here to read the article as it appeared in 2006 at her blog, Wineskins for Discipleship, or simply read it reproduced below, with a special greeting from Heather.

    I’m the discipleship pastor here at National Community Church… The bottom line is this: we encourage our leaders to get a vision from God and run with it. We don’t have a structure and a system that we ask leaders to come serve. We don’t have a set of curriculum we ask them to cover. Instead, we encourage them to leverage their gifts, abilities, interests and influence to create community and make disciples.

    I view my primary job as not to give our leaders direction on what to do or study in their groups but to discover and excavate the God-given disciple-making DNA he has placed inside our leaders and then equipping them, encouraging them, and empowering them to go make disciples.

    Free Markets

    A free-market small group system allows for a high degree of relational connection and creativity by allowing leaders to turn their existing relationships, gifts, interests, passions, and hobbies into disciple-making small groups.

    Oswald Chambers said, “Let God be as original with others as he was with you.” So why do churches force people into little clusters that all look alike, slap the label “small group” on them, and then promise that they will grow exponentially in their faith as a result?

    For any small group or discipleship program to be successful, you need leaders who burn white hot with a vision for making disciples. That’s why we implement a free market small group system at NCC. We believe discipleship happens best within the context of shared interests, and it flows naturally out of leaders who are driven by a passionate vision from God.

    Too many churches establish a vision and a small group model and then ask their leaders to come serve that vision and model. At NCC, we have reversed that by encouraging leaders to get their own vision for discipling others and then equipping them to do it in whatever relational context they find themselves. The NCC vision for small groups is specific enough to give direction and focus, but broad enough to give latitude for leaders to get their own vision from God and run with it. Leaders are motivated when they see where their passion meets a need.

    We only have 2 basic requirements for NCC small groups. One, there must be opportunity for connection and relationships (relational). And two, discipleship should be the primary purpose (missional). And of course, the leader must also meet the leadership deployment requirements as specified by NCC to be an officially recognized NCC group.

    We want to encourage innovation and creativity. We believe that God has designed each person uniquely, and he can use that uniqueness as a catalyst for disciple-making.

    Examples of some groups that have come out of our free market system include:

    • Fantasy baseball
    • Spiritual warfare
    • Sign language
    • Inductive Bible Study
    • Acting
    • Evangelism
    • Running
    • C.S. Lewis’ Writings
    • Women in Leadership
    • Weight Training
    • Church History
    • Crown Financial

    For more reading on this particular topic, see the following resources:

    Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Ted Haggard)

    Small Groups That Buzz (Heather Zempel)

    • So how are leaders and topics for small groups (cell groups, house church, etc.) chosen where you worship?
    • Does your church allow a free-market approach to midweek groups, or is the course contented dictated to house leaders by senior leadership?

    May 13, 2009

    Summer Shutdown Mentality

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:56 pm

    simpsons_church_sign_closed_for_summerI was glad to see that author and pastor Mark Batterson is reporting on his blog that he’s leading a summer discipleship group for dads during the summer.   Glad because it flies in the face of a mentality that says everything should shut down for the summer.

    Here in Canada, we have what is called a “cottage mentality.”   Even if you don’t own a cottage, technically you are “away” during the summer.    Some programs here shut down during the last week of April and the first week of May.

    To me, this just leaves a lot of people detached from other people; it leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness; it leaves them with more inactivity;  and it leaves them increasingly disconnected from their local church.

    Light a candle!   Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events.    Can’t lead a Bible study?   Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen.    There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

    Can lead a Bible study?    Don’t do anything fancy.   Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one.   Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

    Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer.    And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church.    Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.

    Postscript:   If you really want to do the summer in style and you’re not leaving the city yourself, consider upgrading the coffee to a dinner and showing the ten weeks of the H2O discipleship program.    Great videos, with all the content of the Alpha program, but with superior dramatic production values suited to a media-savvy generation.

    Okay, so this is not the first time I wrote about this.  I guess I’m quite passionate about this topic.   I call it righteous obsession.   (Which would be a great name for a CK product.)

    March 19, 2009

    Buckhead: It Ain’t the Name of a Hick Town

    Filed under: Christianity, Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 pm

    Flash back about 3.5 years, and I was doing a church plant in the downtown part of an adjacent city, using resources recommended to me produced by Andy Stanley and the people at North Point Community Church.   It was then that I noticed Andy making reference to their satellite campus at Buckhead.

    Buckhead.  The name conjures up a sort of a hick-town image, especially if you say it with a deep south accent.   Later, I learned that Buckhead is nothing of the sort.  If anything, it’s one of the most affluent parts of the U.S., and as I type this, I am staying in Buckhead, though even the hotel manager admits there is nothing much to do here.   It’s too not-downtown to have the attractions of restaurants and nightlife, and too not-suburbia to have the strip malls or big box stores.

    bc-rendering-low-resBut yesterday, we visited Buckhead Christian Church, which is the full name on the sign.  (Not the sign that tells you not to park across the road or your car will be booted with a $95 penalty.)

    Buckhead — the church — is located in a very modern, very sophisticated business park.  Just finding  it was challenge enough.  We were blessed with the presence of Susan, who gave us a tour of all four floors.   That’s right, while most churches spread outward on their piece of land, Buckhead is built vertically; elevators are a part of the experience if you bring your kids.

    And it’s concern for the spiritual welfare of kids that occupied a good part of our tour as it occupies a good part of the building’s floorspace.   (Not to diminish the auditorium, which seats 3,250 or so.)    Maybe it’s just that we’re from Canada, but I have never seen a Christian Ed. wing like this one, and remember we’ve been to Harvest, Mars Hill Michigan and Peoples in Toronto.   It’s big, it’s fully appointed with expensive sound and lighting equipment and it’s decorated with lots of love and detail.

    However, and this is a big however, it’s also designed to be used for just a few hours on Sunday morning.   Given the cost of building and maintaining the place; it’s a very, very costly dedicated facility.  To paraphrase a title of one of Andy’s books, How much is too much?  Maybe there’s no limit on the value of bringing kids into the Kingdom.

    Just don’t use the S-word, or more accurately, the S.S. word.  (Sunday School)  Like Willow Creek, which we’ve also been to, the children’s program dismisses the kids to “small groups” which is the same term used to describe the adult ministry that hopefully many of them will funnel into.   Susan said that about 50% of the adults attending on Sunday mornings are part of a small group.

    It was an awesome tour of an amazing facility which, like everything else we’ve done in Atlanta, ended up at the gift shop.    I bought a couple of Andy’s DVD sermon series, but would have liked to take about a couple of dozen of them.

    Footnote:  My Canadian friends may be surprised to learn that no weddings are performed at North Point or Buckhead.   The “church wedding” can still happen in another house of worship, but many use an outdoor or neutral setting.

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