Time to have the funeral

December 31, 2014 — 7 Comments

2015-aheadThis is a difficult post to write because it’s about something near and dear to my heart: the local church. And it impacts far more congregations than we’d probably want to admit.

Having served on staff for many years in Christian churches and ministry organizations, there’s a pattern of dysfunction that must be addressed. I look around and see so many churches struggling to be effective in today’s environment. While the reasons are often numerous, one in particular seems to wreak havoc, especially in terms of unity and momentum.

It goes beyond worship styles and preaching styles. It has little or nothing to do with denominational ties or affiliations. And it’s not something that prayer alone can fix.

A closer look, usually including honest conversations with members and staff ministers, often reveals that the key problem is a failure to appropriately move through the stages of grief. Whether related to a specific ministry — or a specific minister — drastic change, even over a period of years, can bring feelings of shock, denial, anger, sadness and despair. However, acceptance of the new reality is extremely difficult for many people, particularly those who place great value on tradition and history.

Inherent in the much-needed acceptance stage is the important process of recalibrating life and perspectives in light of the loss, whether real or perceived. This lack of emotional recalibration is potentially paralyzing and poisonous to the health and growth of a church.

Let me explain. Continue Reading…

A simple Christmas

December 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

a simple ChristmasThe older I get, the more I appreciate the simple things in life.

We live in a complicated world, full of chaos, tension, and stresses of every kind. And with our always-on, constantly-connected technology, we are bombarded by news, text messages, emails, and alerts all day every day. It’s easy to feel dazed and overwhelmed by the relentless noise that has come to characterize so much of life.

This Christmas season I’m striving to focus more on the simple things, the simple joys of time spent with family and friends.

Simple conversations.

Simple family games.

Simple meals.

Simple memories.

Isn’t it fascinating how cluttered and complicated we’ve made Christmas. It’s not supposed to be about stuff, no matter what the endless commercials suggest. Do we really need bigger and better? Do we really have to have the latest update? Do we really feel more special, important, (insert your own adjective here) — because of the amount and quality of stuff we accumulate? Do we even remember what stuff we received as gifts last Christmas?

I’m reminded of the wise and true words of Jesus as recorded in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

So, let me encourage you to join me in seeking ways to give — not just money and material things — but your time, talents, love, compassion, and grace, wherever you find the opportunity.

If you have children and grandchildren, are you teaching them through your own actions and priorities what is most important in life?

This Christmas season, I hope you’ll be drawn anew to a simple baby in a simple manger in a simple town.

His name is Jesus. And He was — and is — the hope of all the world.

IT’S YOUR TURN!
How do you keep a focus on the simple things that make Christmas so special?