Category Archives: Evangelism

Why Are You Giving Money to Your Church?

It is probably safe to say that money is the most thought about subject. We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy thinking about how to get money, what to do with the money we have, how to survive without money, and myriads of other questions. Money is not only the “root of all evil,” but also it is one of the factors that control our lives. If money guides much of our lives as individuals, then it is equally correct to say that money guides much of the life of our churches.

I’ve never done a survey, but I suspect the biggest complaint people have about the church centers around the issue of money. You’ve heard people say, “All that church wants is my money.” We frequently hear stories about church leaders abusing money given by members and living extravagant lifestyles.

I have an extensive background in studying and teaching biblical stewardship. Even though my views on the subject changed over the years, the importance of the relationship between the church and money is something I still strive to understand.church and money

The ability of a church to raise funds is strictly dependent upon the intended use of the money. For example, in the matter of capital-fund raising, everyone in the business knows it is easier to raise money for a new sanctuary than for a classroom building. The most challenging capital fund project for raising money is debt elimination. It seems that paying off debt doesn’t excite church folks nearly as much as getting a new worship center.

When it comes to raising money for other needs, missions tops the list. Inspiring people to give to share the Gospel, especially in the far corners of the world, is not that difficult. Another good fund-raising project is children. When I was a pastor if we had children who needed money to attend camp all we had to do was make an announcement, and the money would be quickly provided.

Once again I will pose the question of what your church would look like if you took money out of the equation. In other words, if your church had no money, zero income, what would happen?

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The Human History of Building Fences

There are only two things you need to know about Luigi – he lived in a small seaside village, and he was a painter. Not a house painter but an artist. He spent many days sitting on the hill outside his cottage, gazing into the ocean, and painting what he saw. One day it all came together for Luigi, and he painted the most amazing landscape ever seen.

Being proud of his accomplishment, Luigi hung the painting in the front room of his small house and invited his neighbors to view his work. They did, and they were amazed. The picture looked as real as if they were gazing out the back window toward the real ocean. They couldn’t keep quiet and kept inviting friends to see the amazing painting. It was apparent that Luigi could not keep the painting in his small front room, so he wrapped it up and carried it into town to the local museum.artist

The curator was not interested in Luigi at first, but once the painting was unwrapped, he immediately grabbed it and hung it in the prime spot in the museum. Soon there were long lines of people waiting to see the painting. But there was a problem. The painting was so real that people were tempted to touch it just to make sure they weren’t looking out a window or that the water wasn’t real.

The curator couldn’t have people touching the artwork, so he positioned a small fence to keep people back. Yet the attraction was so great that many would stretch across the fence and touch it just to make sure. So he moved the fence back a few feet but still folks would climb on top of the fence and stretch just to touch. The curator had to build a taller fence, and eventually, he put a clear Plexiglas shield in front of the painting. Eventually, he even put a cover over the top to make sure people wouldn’t try to throw a coin or something else into the picture of the ocean.

Now people could not actually see the painting, so the curator printed brochures that described the painting and provided it for the people to read as they stood in line. The painting was just as beautiful as ever, and people came to the museum from all over the land, but all they ever saw was a nice brochure and a good fence. Continue reading

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Our Church Adventure Continues

The adventure that Sharon and I began a couple of years ago continued today at a Lutheran church. We have attended Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Independent, non-Denominational (although not sure the difference between those last two) and of course Baptist churches during that time. In fact, this was the second Lutheran church for us.

The first was somewhat unusual. It is the closest Lutheran congregation to our house, just a few blocks up the street. Although I have studied a great deal about Martin Luther in college and seminary, I knew little of the Lutheran church today. I expected to encounter a formal, liturgical style of worship, which is something I typically enjoy.

However, this particular Lutheran church was no different than any other church we have visited that is enamored with what is known as contemporary worship. It began with the first beat of the worship team. The base was so loud and the pounding so strong that Sharon almost had to leave.jesuscommunion

The most unusual thing that morning was the announcement that the men’s Bible study group would be meeting next week at a nearby brewery. If you attend and pay the twenty dollar entrance fee, you will not only be able to participate in Bible study, you will also receive two pints of their finest brew. That part does sound like something Martin Luther might have enjoyed, but it is not something I have ever encountered in church before.

But the Lutheran church we visited today was nothing like that. It was extremely liturgical, which I had deduced from their website, and I was looking forward to the experience. Although the liturgy was a little different than what I expected that was not the most noticeable thing about our church experience this morning. Continue reading

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Celebrity Preachers

Perhaps you heard about the young pastor recently who preached a twenty-four hour sermon. This was not a case of the Holy Spirit falling upon the preacher and inspiring him to keep at it. It was a planned event. He actually designed and advertised the sermon as a means of promoting his new book. By all accounts, he has been a successful pastor, starting and growing a rather large congregation. He had just finished writing the book and felt like the message would “change lives.” Speaking as a writer who has published a few books myself, I agree that if you do not have something important to say that needs to be heard, don’t bother writing a book. To be honest, when I heard about this twenty-four hour sermon, my first thought was that I am glad I have lived long enough that people have forgotten all the dumb stuff I did in my twenty’s. Hopefully this young man will live long enough as well.

The underlying issue of this whole business is preachers performing some kind of stunt in order to attract attention and draw a crowd. It raises the question of celebrity preachers. The basic definition of celebrity is quite simple. A celebrity is someone who is widely known. We have raised the idea of being a celebrity to new heights. There are magazines, websites, and television programs that exist for the sole purpose of revealing insights about celebrities. preacher

It is a viscous cycle–do something that get’s noticed, appear in a magazine or newspaper, other magazines notice, people follow you around, do something else, everyone notices, get on more magazine covers, do something stupid, one last burst of notoriety, loose all your friends. The amazing thing is that so many folks are striving to be celebrities it is almost like a chosen profession for some – What do you want to be when you grow up? A celebrity!

I do not have a problem with celebrity preachers. The issue that concerns me is preachers who strive to be celebrities without realizing the cost. I think it is safe to say that Billy Graham was a celebrity preacher. He is very well-known all around the world. However, he became famous by preaching. His celebrity was a by-product of his work. I don’t know him personally, but I never felt like he sought out the celebrity status, although he certainly knew how to utilize it. There have been many celebrity preachers throughout history – Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield. It might even be correct to say that Jesus was a celebrity preacher in his day.  Continue reading

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An Open Letter to Church Leaders

If you are interested in a potential church member, here I am. My wife and I are prime candidates to be a part of your congregation. We are ready to be welcomed and put to work.

Both of us are experienced and quite capable. We were both raised in families where church involvement was at the hub of family life, and the subject of most conversations around the dinner table. I have served as a pastor for more than 15 years, and a church consultant for nearly 20 years.

Yes, I know you can do the math–that puts us in our mid-60’s. We might not fit the target demographic of your church, but I can assure you the problem is not with us. We don’t especially want to be a part of a senior adult ministry, and I think I am correct in saying that younger folks are comfortable with us so our presence won’t torpedo your ministry plans.OpenLetter

I will confess up front that you might want to accuse me of being too selective when it comes to church. I like to think it is because I have high standards. Either way, what I’m trying to say is I’m not interested in what you are doing simply because you tack the word “church” onto your legal papers.

For the past few years I have felt like we were living on an island all by ourselves, but I recently discovered I actually belong to a labeled category of people. Church leaders have long talked about the “unchurched.” Apparently there is another group of people known as the “dechurched.”

This term is used to describe those who have left the historic Christian faith. This group consists primarily of young people who grew weary of the church’s message that if you obey God your life will be blessed. They dropped out of church once they saw the fallacy of this message and began to experience the natural pain and sorrow of life. They were once a part of the church, but because their experience didn’t ring true with the church’s message, they walked away. Continue reading

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Christianity in the Bathroom

In response to an outbreak of transgender violence in restrooms, the North Carolina legislature recently passed a law requiring people to only use the public bathrooms designated for their sex as identified at birth. This new law has been the source of great consternation around the country, causing even more confusion surrounding an already confusing issue.

Apparently, if I’m a Christian, I’m supposed to be concerned about the people who are in the restroom with me. I get it. A parent should be cautious about sending children into the restroom alone. In fact, don’t do it until they are old enough to take care of themselves. That’s common sense that does not require an act of Congress. However, as an adult, I couldn’t care less about who is in the bathroom with me. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals during my life and everything I’ve got has been seen by a lot of people already, and I’m no worse for the experience. Bathroom

This is truly an example of bathroom discrimination, and I consider myself an expert on bathroom discrimination. I was not allowed to use public bathrooms until I was 40 years old, and it did take an act of Congress to end that discriminatory practice. All my life I have used either a wheelchair or walked on crutches. Wheelchairs didn’t fit through most bathroom doors until the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. I went through school, including college and seminary, without ever seeing the inside of a public restroom, men’s or women’s.

By the way, I was also limited by public restrooms when walking on crutches. Using crutches on wet floor tile is as dangerous as walking on ice. If you have been in a men’s public restroom you know what I’m talking about.

The bottom line is that I have little concern about bathroom etiquette as long as we all try to behave like adults. However, I am bothered by the preponderance of Christians who make things like this an issue. If you read my Facebook newsfeed you would think that every time someone uses a public restroom they are making a statement for or against Jesus. Passing laws to keep certain people out of the bathroom is not a spiritual issue!

Be honest. The North Carolina law is really nothing more than a statement that homosexuality (in any form) is immoral. To use a bathroom law to make this statement is just stupid. Transgender people exist, and they do need to use the restroom (their plumbing might be changed, but it is not eliminated). So what are they to do? Do you really want a person who looks like a man, dresses like a man, and identifies as a man to show up in the women’s restroom? Will that make you and your children feel safer? Of course not.

Will it make you feel more spiritual? Apparently so, at least for some of you.

Does it enhance the cause of Christ? No!

But here’s the thing for me. I already said I have little interest in bathroom etiquette (other than basic adult behavior), but I am bothered by Christians who constantly take up causes intended to slam or demean other people. It seems that Christianity has come to be defined in negative terms rather than something positive.

I grew up as a Baptist in Colorado, and there were not many of us at the time. When people learned that I was a Baptist, they would often say something like, “Oh, you don’t believe in drinking and dancing.”

While it was true that my parents did not use alcohol, and they didn’t dance (perhaps because my father had a wooden leg), I don’t recall either of those issues being a topic of discussion around the table. They taught me a lot about the Christian faith, but very little about being judgmental. However, it seems that today’s most common version of the Christian faith is highlighted by judgmentalism, and focuses on the negative. We are more interested in what people shouldn’t be doing than we are about what we should be doing.

Here’s my suggestion. Instead of boycotting Target because of the restroom policy, go down to the nearest Target, find someone who looks like they could use some financial help, and pay for their groceries. Or better yet, take them across the street to the Chick-fil-a and buy them a chicken sandwich. This would be even better if the person you chose was transgender, although I’m not sure how you would know.

In other words, get your faith out of the bathrooms and bedrooms of others, sit across the table from them, and share a meal. You might be surprised how much you learn about others, and even about yourself. It will also be a good start toward enhancing the cause of Christ.

 

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American Christian Refugees

Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Several years ago, my son Jeremy and I were on a Southwest airlines flight to Houston. This was back in the day when they had a few seats on the plane that faced each other. Jeremy and I were sitting face-to-face with a young man who was wearing a cap with the logo “No Fear” that you used to see often. It was a rough trip, and after the plane took a few sharp bounces and turns, the young man wearing the “No Fear” cap was scared to death. So scared that when the plane landed, he bolted from the rear of the plane and was first out the door. He needed a reminder of what he advertised on his cap. I remembered this incident when I began to think about the Christian response to the refugee issue going on today.American Refugees

There is a bunch of talk – wait, let me rephrase that statement: there is way-too-much talk about refugees. It all started when Islamic radicals began imposing stringent restrictions on other Muslim followers. The conversation gained traction a few months ago when news reports showed thousands of refugees headed toward Europe, highlighted by that horrific photo of a young child lying dead on a beach. Then, the entire discussion spun out of control when the terrorists terrorized Paris. Now we are faced with the issue of what to do with all the refugees.

However, my subject is not Syrian refugees, but rather American Christian Refugees. It has become obvious to me that as Christians, we are tempted to flee the Christian faith over issues like this. Hold on a second, before you click to another link because you don’t want to read an article about the American church losing members, I’m not talking about Christians who have quit going to church. I’m referring to Christians who are fleeing the faith because of fear. They are refugees from the faith, but many are still very active in church.

Once again, let me caution you not to jump the gun and assume I am speaking about atheists who are harassing and belittling Christians causing them to walk away from their childhood beliefs. Perhaps I am naïve, but I don’t see that as a problem. Most atheists are not evangelistic, and care little if we want to be religious. And most of us pay little attention to the arguments put forth by atheists.

The temptation to become a Christian refugee I reference is felt by church leaders, active church attenders, and even vocal defenders of the faith. If the posts on my Facebook page, the claims by politicians, and the stories in the news are anywhere near accurate, then there are numerous Christian refugees among us in America.

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