$400,000 Camel Doesn’t Pass the Common Sense Test

As I have said very often, “Common sense is now a super power and a gift that very few possess.”  It’s an interesting experiment and one that can lead your blood pressure to rise but take a look around and you will see those who are supposed to be pretty smart people making decisions that fail to pass the Common Sense Test!  Here’s an example:


“The State Department plans to spend $400,000 in taxpayer dollars to purchase a camel statue for the new American embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.  The sculpture by artist John Baldessari depicts a fiberglass camel staring into the eye of an oversized needle in play on a passage from the New Testament about the difficulty the wealthy have in entering heaven, BuzzFeed reported.”

Fox News reports, “The department came under scrutiny in December after commissioning a $1 million sculpture to be installed at new building at the American embassy in London in 2017. The purchase was defended as a “good use” of the agency’s resources.”

Last Year, The Washington Times reported “that department spent about $180,000 on alcohol in September and $400,000 in all of 2012, three times the $118,000 spent in 2008.” Records obtained by the paper showed that alcohol spending went up at American diplomatic posts around the world. The purchases included nearly $16,000 for bourbon and whiskey in Moscow, and more than $22,000 for wine in Tokyo.”

For full disclosure:  I’m not a math wiz, I haven’t taken a Dave Ramsey course, and my wife controls the checkbook in our house and I get an allowance just like the kids.  Yet, with all my lack of financial training and expertise, I am at a loss to find any common sense in this.  Here’s how I look at it:

1.  Our national debt is 17.5 Trillion.  In 2008 (just six short years ago) it was 10 Trillion.  Our debt has almost doubled in 6 years!

2.  Our debt increases 2.73 billion each day.

3.  That means that each person in the US owes $55,130.32 or each household is responsible for $142,787!

I know up against 17.5 trillion $400,000 for a camel sounds like a good deal (I’m joking).  Where is the common sense?  Where is the one person who says, “I don’t think this is a good idea!”  I’ve got this visual image in my mind of a group of people sitting around a table and one person says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea!!  Let’s get a camel and put it outside the embassy!”  Person 2 “Sounds like a great idea, how much will it cost?”  Person 1 “We can get it today and today only, if we are one of the next 5 callers for only $400,000 to the American tax payer!!  Person 2: “Great, hurry up and call!  We’ll send the check!”

Okay, how does this relate to me?  Ordinary couple who has a combined $20,000 in credit card debt and they come to me as their pastor and say, “We’re getting married and have our wedding and honeymoon planned for only $12,000.  My response as their pastor is going to try and talk some sense into them.  Who is the common sense person speaking to the people making decisions in the State Department?  When does someone from the Executive branch say, “Whoa, this doesn’t make any sense.”  Where’s the leadership?  Where’s the responsible one.  Isn’t there anyone who can make the point, “We’re cutting our military and at the same time also buying a $400,00 statue of a camel? This doesn’t make sense!”

And we wonder why we are in the financial shape we are in…sad.

Categories: John Personal, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often

This is a great article by Carey Nieuwhof who is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting. !

7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often.

Everywhere I go, I talk to pastors who are experiencing the same thing.

People who attend church are attending less often.

People who used to attend every week are attending 3 times a month. People who were around twice a month often now show up once a month. And attenders who used to come once a month are showing up half a dozen times a year.

This is true of rapidly growing churches, mega churches, mid-sized churches, Bible churches and churches like Connexus (where 60% of our growth is from previously unchurched people.)

You can get mad at people…but that’s not really that helpful. If all people get is judgment or ‘should have done better’ when they show up at your church, why would they keep coming? You don’t line up to be judged either.

There are fewer and fewer of us every year who

Feel guilty when we miss a Sunday (I do…but I’m a dinosaur…I know it)

Have a natural instinct to head to a gathering of Christians on the first day of the week

Miss church when we can’t get there

Some church leaders I know wonder whether people will even attend physical buildings a decade from now. I believe they will, but maybe not in the droves people are even today.

So what’s going on? And how can you ‘compete’?

Well, culture is changing (in my next post I’ll talk about the changing characteristics of unchurched people).

But two of the biggest factors that used to drive attendance in the last 20-50 years are now reproducible online.

Two decades ago:

If you wanted to hear great preaching, you had to go to church. Podcasting and online campuses have changed this.

If you wanted great music, you had to go to church. Okay, maybe church music wasn’t that great 20 years ago. But somebody liked it. Now, for $20, all your favourite songs are on your phone wherever you go.

So what do you do?

Is the battle lost? Not at all.

Here are 7 ways to respond as people attend church less often:

1. Create an Awesome Online Presence. Launching an online campus is a goal for us, but between Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, app, website and blog, people can pretty much stay connected. And even giving to church online has never been easier. (70% of our offering comes in online.) Many people tell me when they’re not physically present they stay in touch via all of these media. Don’t judge your people for not being there, help them stay connected instead.

2. Elevate Personal Relationships. Somehow facilitating a personal relationship is easier and more effective in person. Churches that value personal relationships (even for thousands of people through groups) will always attract people who value personal connection (which is, I think, almost all of us).

3. Love People. Can you love fully love people without being fully present? Do human relationships go to their deepest level in person? I think so. 2 in 5 married couples meet online today. But even those 2 in 5 couples who meet online don’t stay online…they get married. Love can be expressed online, but its fulfilment happens deepest through personal contact.

4. Create an Irresistible Experience. There is something that happens when you are in the room and in the moment that doesn’t happen watching on line. A live concert is never quite the same as watching a song on YouTube or even a concert in full HD on a kicking home theater system. Church is more than the sum of its parts…between the preaching, music, creative elements, human interaction and hall way conversations. You get much of it online, but not all of it. At least not yet. (By the way, if your church is boring, you’ve already lost the battle. Start there.)

5. Offer Offline Surprises. Do something fun in the parking lot, foyer or service that you don’t podcast. Create some fun moments. Last year we handed out an awesome Canadian treat - gourmet butter tarts – to everyone who attended on a particular long weekend. People who missed it were completely bummed.

6. Create a Culture of Serving. Online church doesn’t allow many serving opportunities. When you get up early to set up and tear down, lead a 2nd grade small group, greet people with a smile, serve on the production team, or serve meals to the homeless, somehow you find a place in service of a goal greater than yourself. Make serving guest and others outside your community part of your culture.

7. Prioritize Kids and Teens. Parents can catch a podcast or watch online, but kids really miss out when parents miss. To be with their friends who are running in the same direction, and to have another voice (small group leader) who knows their name, favourite food and hopes and dreams saying the same thing a loving parent would say, is so far unreproducible in the online world. I believe that when the parents miss church, the kids are the biggest losers. The more you prioritize families, the more families will prioritize Sundays.

The shift in our culture is probably irreversible to some extent. But you have something unique to offer – online and offline.

What are you learning about shifts in attendance and the things that you can help people with offline and online?

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Leaders Who Gather Rather than Develop

John Maxwell writes the following:

There are 7 major differences between leaders who gather follower and leaders who develop other leaders:

  1. Leaders who gather followers need to be needed; leaders who develop leaders want to be succeeded.
  2. Leaders who gather followers focus on people’s weaknesses; leaders who develop leaders focus on their strengths.
  3. Leaders who gather followers focus on the bottom 20%; leaders who develop leaders focus on the top 20%.
  4. Leaders who gather followers treat everyone the same; leaders who develop leaders treat people as individuals.
  5. Leaders who gather followers spend their time, leaders who develop leaders invest their time.
  6. Leaders who gather followers ask for little commitment; leaders who develop leaders ask for great commitment.
  7. Leaders who gather followers impact this generation; leaders who develop leaders impact future generations.


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Add Growth or To Multiply?

Leaders who develop followers grow their organization only one person at a time but the leaders who develop leaders multiply their growth.  The reason is for every leader they develop, they also receive all of that leaders followers.  Add 10 followers and you have the power of 10 people.  Add 10 leaders and you have the power of ten leaders times all the followers and leaders they influence.

Paul was the master of explosive growth.  His strategy is as effective today as it was 2000 years ago.  What did Paul do?

1.  Attracted and Equipped People

No longer can we depend on the things we’ve always been doing to keep attracting people.  Today’s person (men, women and youth) have different interest, struggles, and positions in life.  To attract them, we must engage their interest, struggles and positions in life.  If we don’t, we will never have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

We must also equip people to do Kingdom ministry.  This can take many forms.  How would you go about equipping someone in your group to be tomorrows leader?

2.  Found and Mentored Emerging Leaders

Union’s future leaders are in our church today.  It’s part of our job as current leaders to find them and prepare them for when we hand off our positions of leadership to them.  Too often this has been done without any mentoring and it has often been met with diastorous result. We must be intentional about mentoring our next leaders.

3.  Created New Organizations

Paul didn’t hoard the leaders he developed.  He sent them out to multiply.  What does this look like in at Union?  Developing new small groups.  I’m so excited that we now have 3 womens groups meeting: The UMW circle that meets on Thursdays, The LNO Group meeting at the Mexican Resturant for our 20′s-40′s age group, and the Healing Hearts group.  The men are meeting in huddles now,  a Bible study, and the monthly men’s breakfast.  All these groups encompass different people.  We can no longer have the idea that we can make a group where one size fits all.

Have you ever wondered why in Chelsea we have a McDonalds, Burger King, What a Burger and they are now building a Wendy’s?  After all, they all serve hamburgers?  Because people have different tastes.  Same is true for small groups within the church.  Same gospel just prepared differently for people with different taste.

4.  Engaged in the On-Going Development of Leaders

We can never stop developing our leaders.  We must begin a culture of expectation that leaders are continually growing and developing.  What does this mean?  Having classes, workshops, retreats and seminars specifically purposed in giving our leaders tools and resources they need to succeed.
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Church Leaders

Last night our Bible study took a look at 1 Peter 5:1-4 and discovered some great leadership advice.  It’s important that leaders within the church are worthy of being followed.  Here’s what a leader is called to be according to Peter:

1.  A MINISTER:  They are to shepherd their flock.  This includes feeding, grooming, and protecting from things that would destroy them.

2.  A MENTOR:  Not lording over people but investing in the flock with your time, energy, skills.  One of our jobs as leader is to replace ourselves and by mentoring others, we are preparing them to be the future leaders.

3.  A MANAGER:  Having over site of those who have been entrusted to our care.

4.  A MODEL:  Be an example of someone who is growing in their faith.  Leaders are those who can demonstrate how to live.

We’ve all seen people in leadership positions who have failed at one or more of these and when that happens it can be catastrophic to the organization.  I’m not saying our leaders are perfect at these, but they must first recognize this is what a leader is and growing daily in these roles.

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Guaranteed Appointments Eliminated

Guaranteed appointments for Elders in the UM Church has just ended.  Click HERE to read more.  And I have noticed an increase in Facebook chatter responding in a negative way, which I don’t understand.  Let me explain…

I worked in the corporate world (or as some church people call it, “The Real World”) from 1993-2002.  I worked for several companies including

State Farm Insurance

State Farm Insurance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automatic Data Processing and State Farm.  These were both very “good” and high paying jobs. They also had one thing in common…I was expected to produce and be effective.  If I was not effective and did not produce, it was not long until I knew I would be out of a job.

I was a Fire Claim Representative for State Farm.  I was trained for months before going into the field.  I was sent to Bloomington for 3 weeks one January to learn the policy.  [Believe it or not, if someone failed the policy exam, they were escorted back to the hotel, watched while they packed, put on a plane and sent home (without a job).] When someone’s house burned or was damaged and they filed a claim with insurance, I went out and assessed the damage, took measurements, wrote an estimate and then issued a draft.  I usually worked about 30 claims per month.  Each of those approximate 30 claims had the possibility of being re-inspected by someone. (The Farm actually has a “re-inspector” position and all they do is go out and make sure you did the claim according to standards.)  The re-inspector retook all the measurements and gave us a 1/2″ allowance to be off.

Each quarter, every Claims Adjuster had a performance review in which our re-inspections were reviewed with management.  These quarterly performance reviews determined if and how much of a raise we received.  If the adjuster had consistently bad reviews, it would result in termination.  In other words, my job security was performance based and not guaranteed!

I was dumbfounded when I entered into the ministry and discovered that not only did pastor’s NOT have performance reviews to see what kind of job they were doing but also had GUARANTEED APPOINTMENTS.  We have one of the most important duties and we are not held accountable???  I really could not believe it.  However, in the pulpits, most ministers will preach on accountability yet we don’t seem to want anyone to hold us accountable.

I have and have always had (gonna make some of my teacher friends mad) a problem with tenure.  The biggest problem with tenure is mediocrity.  You have a job regardless if you do it well or not.  (I know some are going to say that it prevents teachers/preachers from being fired over what they say or teach, but let’s be real!  We have way more problem with ineffective teachers and preachers!!)  Can the system of Performance Based Employment be tainted? YES.

To be effective and fair, the United Methodist Church is going to have to institute the following or something close:

  • Clearly defined performance goals so the Bishop, DS, BOOM and Clergy are on the same page.  These goals need to be individualized for each clergy because every church is different.
  • Regular performance reviews.  These means the Bishop/DS/BOOM or other is going to have to be in the business of every local church and pastor on a higher level and more routine level
  • Develop policies for helping pastors who are not performing to expectations and a process leading to termination if expectations are not met.
  • A check and balance system so that one person cannot just arbitrarily fire a pastor.

I know this can be strange and somewhat scary. I like knowing that I’m going to have an appointment no matter what! But tenure/guaranteed appointments are not the answer.  This leads to ineffectiveness, mediocrity, laziness and the stats of the UM church don’t show we as pastors are doing our jobs in reaching great masses of people for the Kingdom.  Right now as it has been, a pastor can go play golf 5 times a week, preach on Sunday and be guaranteed a pulpit.  That’s the larger injustice.

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Growing Generosity by Julie Holly

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19

When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves.  This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us.  And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus

When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation.  It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up.  The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same.  When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.

There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.

One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s.  She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years.  She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”.  That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.

In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first.  We need some beginner steps, like…

  • reading what the Bible says about giving
  • praying and seeking God’s guidance
  • giving a little something to see what it is like
  • talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing

And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it.  We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe.  Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith.  We will become generous followers of Jesus.

Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address: http://pastorchickword.blogspot.com

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Friends, John Wesley, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Important Invitation

“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” -1 Chronicles 29:11 (NRSV Translation)

This verse is part of King David’s ongoing acknowledgement of God’s great works in the world. It is a beautiful passage of praise and thanksgiving that comes from David’s joy in laying the financial foundation that will be used by his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem. David lifts up this blessing to God, telling the almighty that “all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.” We say that a lot, don’t we? We repeat that mantra, that all good things, all blessings, everything comes from God. In fact, I just said it a minute ago before the offertory. The question for us this morning is, do we believe that? Do we believe that everything we have, all our possessions, all our stuff, all our money, really belongs to God? And if you do indeed truly believe that, the next question is, does your life reflect that belief?

Whether you realize it or not, you probably DO believe that God can make a difference in your finances. I would argue that MOST people really do believe that God can affect that financial future, the problem is that most people don’t live into that belief until their finances are in shambles. It’s only when the bottom drops out and our finances are in ruins that we find out we really DO believe this. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and experienced this prayer in my brief time as minister:
“Dear God, my house is in foreclosure, I’m filing for bankruptcy, I spent my 401K, I am in midst of the worst financial hardship I’ve ever experienced. God, I need your help. I want to give you my life, everything I have, my whole life.”

To which God responds, “But you don’t have ANYTHING. Where were you 6 months ago when you had something to give?”

God doesn’t really respond that way, thankfully. But the question becomes, if you believe that God can have a hand in your finances at rock bottom, wouldn’t it make sense to invite him into your finances now, when things are good (or okay, or at least not ridiculously, terrible)? What is the point of waiting? Because God doesn’t force his way into your bank account or your wallet. You can make sure that God is never involved in your financial future, but I will bet that at some point in time you’re going to ask him in. How about now?
God wants to be invited.

But there is a risk when we invite God into our finances. I use that word invitation with great purpose. When we acknowledge that all things come from God and ultimately belong to God, when we INVITE him into our finances, there is some change that is required. It’s like any other invitation. What do we do as a church when a guest comes in? We do our very best to make them feel comfortable and welcome. I like to think we put the guest before the member here at Morningstar. And I imagine the same is true at your house when you welcome a guest for dinner or stay with you. We re-orient the way that we think and we put the guest first.
In our house, I’ll straighten up before a guest arrives. Then Denise will come behind me and re-straighten all the stuff I thought I had straightened. We plan meals and buy better food than we normally eat. We ask if they need anything? Can I get you something to drink? Are you comfortable? And we’re trying to teach our daughter Maggie how to treat guests. She’s still learning. When someone comes over, they get to choose the game we play or the movie we watch. The guest gets to choose!

And it’s the same when we invite God into our financial lives. It’s God’s choice what we’re going to do first. And here is what God chooses. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:31-33 (page 6 in the New Testament).
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What is the first thing Christ tells us to do? STRIVE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Kingdom comes first. Be generous, help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of the widow, the orphan, the alien, care for the least of these, share the Good news. The whole shebang. That is what God wants when we invite him into our finances. And that might sound selfish, but Jesus adds this promise to the end: When you make the Kingdom of God your priority, He will take care of all your other needs. Clothing, food, drink . . .God will take care of those things. It’s a pretty amazing promise. Andy Stanley says it this way, “Here is God, the creator of the universe, who is willing to lower himself and enter into a symbiotic relationship with you and me. When we invest our lives bringing about the Kingdom of God, God promises to take a vested interest in our well-being.”
Now, here’s dangerous part of making this invitation. There is a reason why God has a vested interest in your well being and will continue to provide you with food, and water and a place to live, so long as the Kingdom is your first priority. When you invite God in, when you place your trust in Him and give generously, you are inviting repeat business. If a restaurant or a business gives good service, what do you do? You go back again and again. God remembers the loyal, the capable, and obedient. When you act out of a spirit of generosity, God will be back with another opportunity to give. But so long as you make the Kingdom your priority.
When you invite God into your finances, when you make His Kingdom your priority, more and more you will find that the obstacle of your fear is no obstacle at all. Because you have something you can trust in more than money, something stronger than your fear.

* Some parts of this devotional were greatly influenced by the preaching and books of Andy Stanley, so much so, that there may be some un-credited portions! Apologies to Pastor Stanley if I butchered or unintentionally took credit for any ideas that were his.

This article was written by Rev. John Mullaney.   John is the Morningstar United  Methodist Church’s pastor, and was appointed to the church in the summer of  2008. John’s passions include preaching, pastoral care, and  creating meaningful times of worship. John and his wife, Denise, who is also a United Methodist minister, have  two daughters, Maggie & Lucie. They live in Chelsea

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Stewardship Article by Ron Schultz

The line was long as people moved toward the altar to leave an offering.
Some put in large , impressive amounts of money. One poor widow stepped forward and gave two small copper coins.  Jesus declared to His followers that the two copper coins from the poor Widow was more than anyone else had given.

Wait a minute! How can two small cooper coins be counted as more than the other offerings? Wouldn’t a check for $500 be counted as more than two copper coins in your offering plate?

Jesus says everyone gave out of their abundance that day except the poor Widow. Everyone gave from a heart that said, “out of all that is  mine I will give this to You God.”  Everyone except the poor Widow. She gave from a heart that said,”all that I have belongs to You God. Take what is Yours and I trust You will take care of me.”

Stewardship is the act of managing faithfully things that belong to someone else. Followers of Jesus believe that everything belongs to God.  When it comes to money, it too belongs to God. We have simply been chosen as stewards to manage varied amounts.

Each week,  many of you wonderful followers of Jesus at Union, the Church at Chelsea Park, demonstrate faithful stewardship. Your faithfulness makes ministry happen in your community and around the world through our system of apportioned connectional giving! I continue to be amazed by your stewardship efforts and the way God takes care of you.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for trusting us to manage things that belong to You. Give us the faith to always put in Your two cents worth. Amen.”

This article was written by Ron Schultz.  Ron is the District Superintendent of the South Central District in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Ron graduated from Emory University, Candler School of Theology in 1983 and received his Juris Doctorate from Birmingham School of Law in 1994.  Ron is married to Robin Schultz and has 4 children.

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10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad

10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad.

Here are 10 Ways we can live above life’s circumstances:

  1. Be clear about what defines you:

    Make sure know who you are, understand that you were created with a purpose, be crystal clear about what makes you tick.

  2. Live according to values that stand independent of circumstance:

    Stand on the solid ground of faith. Own the fact that you are a part of something greater. Build a life around values such as service and love and compassion.

  3. Practice living above circumstances before things get difficult:

    The time to learn how to step outside of circumstance is when things are still going well. Make sure that you’re not being sucked in to a reliance on the wrong values. Don’t put your eggs in the wrong baskets. Learn the difference between values that last and things that will ultimately let you down.

  4. Understand that relationships count:

    Make the choices that value relationships ahead of the bottom line. Spend time with your children. Engage your marriage as a priority not an afterthought. Honor your parents and friends.

  5. Be the best husband in the world!

    It’s a lot easier to deal with a lost job, or a financial challenge, or a difficult child when you are confident in your relationship with your wife.

  6. Invest in things that are timeless:

    In your monthly budget, how important is charitable giving? Do you give your leftovers or is self-sacrifice involved? Be generous with what you have and you won’t miss it so much when it’s gone.

  7. Do not look to other people for validation:

    Learn to rely on what you know is wise rather than the opinions of those around you. If you need to purchase trendy items, or drive the right car, or wear the correct clothes in order to feel validated, then your sense of self-worth is going to depend on things that could (and will) easily disappear overnight.

  8. Develop a clear vision as to where you are going:

    Understand your purpose in life, and develop clear goals that come directly from your heart. Your vision is more enduring than the temporary ups and downs of circumstance.

  9. Learn to distinguish between the temporary and the eternal:

    When we understand what parts of our life line up under “temporary” and what parts can be listed as “eternal,” then it’s not so hard to be philosophical when the temporary stuff threatens to overwhelm.

  10. Be reasonable:

    Keep a sense of balance. Ask for help from those around you. Don’t think you have to be the strong and silent one. Remember to live in community. Let yourself be loved and cared for.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, John Personal, Leadership | Leave a comment

20% More?

Studies over several decades asked American families if they were happy. A large majority said No. “What would you need to be happy?” the study asked. The answer was about 20% more in income.

Stop for a second. Are you happy? If not, how much more would you need to be happy? More than 20%… or less?

The studies then did the tacky thing of following up on the surveyed families. They came back to them years later when they now were making at least 20% more — in ‘real’ money, not just due to inflation.

Are they happy now? “No!” What’s wrong? Well, we need 20% more.
It’s somewhat easy to figure this out. Our needs expand as the family grows. We didn’t really “need” this much years ago, but now we do. OK, well, it turns out that our ‘needs’ expand even after the kids move out. It depends on our definition of what are our ‘needs,’ you see.  I need This-and-That. After I get This-and-That, I’m not deeply satisfied because, in the meantime, somebody convinced me I need That-Other-Thing that ‘they’ have.

Psychiatrist Robert Coles, in his dealing with envious patients, wrote:
“Envy comes naturally to us, since we are limited in our distinctive ways, and so others (limited in their own ways) can seem so strong, so lucky, so blessed. We are bombarded so heavily in this secular world with invitations, suggestions, possibilities, and promises that we are bound to feel inadequate in their weighty presence, as we see them given life in others. Hence our wish to be those envied others, our anger that such has not come to pass.”

The happiest people you know are probably not the richest or the most famous or those who pay close attention to what others have or those whose every ‘want’ has been transformed into a ‘need.’ Nor are the happiest people those who pursue happiness — which is the surest way to never know happiness.
Happiness sneaks up on people while they’re doing other things, like caring and serving and enjoying the presence of loved ones or of God’s creation. Happiness is not stalked and trapped; it is welcomed.

 -Mitchell Williams is the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Cullman, AL.  Mitchell was raised in Birmingham and spent a lot of time growing up at Camp Sumatanga. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University (Theater) and a Masters of Theology from Southern Methodist University. He and his wife Jodi have two grown sons (Charlie, a Marine Sergeant, and Drew, an engineer) who both married very well and each have a son themselves. Mitchell has pastored for thirty years including nine years at Asbury (Birmingham), six at Aldersgate (Huntsville), and nine at Central (Decatur).


Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Transforming “I Will”

On a clear, cool Fall Sunday morning a young family makes their way to the altar of a local United Methodist Church.  They had been attending the services for three months.   After conversations with the pastor, and prayerful consideration, they made the decision to become members of the congregation.  As they approached the chancel rail of the church the pastor met them with a smile.  He asked them to face the congregation as he introduced them.  Then he asked them to re-affirm their commitment to Christ by remembering their baptism, and promising to be loyal to the the United Methodist Church by doing all in their power to strengthen its ministries. [UMH, page 37-38]  After their re-affirmation of commitment to Christ and the church, they were asked the traditional question that is asked of all who join United Methodist congregations.  “As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?”  (UMH, page 38)  Their response was the same response every United Methodist has given as they began their discipleship journey.  “I will.” 

Each time a new member makes that commitment in our congregations, we as United Methodists, are challenged to renew our commitment and join their voices with a resounding, “I will.” 

It all begins with the promise:  “…will you faithfully participate in ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”  Your response of “I will” is the first step in an incredible Wesleyan journey to fulfill the core purpose of your congregation.  How can each person faithfully fulfill their church’s mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ?  They begin in prayer, and continue by being present in study, worship and fellowship.  They celebrate their giftedness from God by being faithful financial disciples.  They become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world, and proclaim the word of God both spoken and lived out in a world that hungers for the love of God.

Conversations about stewardship and giving are viewed by some in the church as taboo.  If giving is mentioned only once or twice a year in a congregation, there is often an admonition that “all we ever do is talk about money” at church. Giving is often viewed as “too personal” to be discussed at length in the church.  By making stewardship and giving a forbidden subject Christians give money a mysterious power outside the bounds of theology.     In essence it is given god-like tendencies.  The truth is that stewardship is more about spiritual growth than financial strength or weakness.  It is time that modern Christians celebrate their role as financial disciples of Jesus.

The celebration of financial disciples begins by establishing a healthy theology of stewardship or giving.  Everything we have comes from God, and living out that giftedness in the world is vital to responsible discipleship.   Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke were both a truth and a challenge.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34, New International Version]  The treasure that a Christian posesses is a gift from God to be activated in love from the heart.  The theology of giving is best lived out in the church in three ways.  First, as an act of worship.  Both the Old and New Testaments talked about the offering of our gifts in the context of worship.  Most of those vignettes were in the temple, and were clearly acts of corporate worship.  Secondly,  giving is an expression of faith.  Not only does the Christian recognize the generosity of God in the bountiful gifts they receive, but also in the giving of those gifts they faithfully fulfill God’s purpose in the world.  Finally, stewardship and generosity are a spiritual discipline.  It is easy for modern Christians to have a serious disconnect between faith and money.  A healthy theology of giving helps us remember that our stewardship is about spiritual growth.  William Sloane Coffin began a stewardship sermon at Riverside Church in New York City with the following introduction:  “I have not come today to raise money for the church, I am here to remind you who you are.”  Stewardship and giving are not transactional.  Giving should be transformational for the church, for the world, and most of all of the faithful financial disciple of Jesus.  “I Will”,  these two simple words in response to God’s call in our lives can transform our lives, our church, and our world for Christ.

Article written by Rick Owen.

Rick has over 35 years of experience working with churches and non-profit boards. His passion for visioning, strategic ministry planning, functional- and gift-oriented board structures, leadership development, and the creation of cultures of innovation are refreshing in the world of churches and institutions. He is an experienced teacher, preacher and presenter in a variety of settings. He has served as a minister in churches from 15 members to 4,500 members; he has taught philosophy, ethics, Old Testament and New Testament on the college level, and currently works with leaders, boards and pastors as a strategic ministry coach. He has served on a number of church-related and community boards, and is committed to the vision of empowering people to live out their vision and purpose.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wesley’s Sermon: “The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.


  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.


  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.


  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.


  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.

Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, John Wesley, Leadership, Quote | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Goals for 2012

“Don’t ever be impressed with goal setting; be impressed with goal getting. Reaching new goals and moving to a higher level of performance always requires change, and change feels awkward. But take comfort in the knowledge that if a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then it’s probably not really a change.” John Maxwell

I’m a huge goal setter.  I believe in knowing where one is going because if you don’t how will you know when you get there.  Setting goals provides you with direction for your life.  It’s like setting out on a trip and not having a destination.  How will you know if your going in the right direction?

So, each year I make out a list of goals for the next year.

  • I share my goals with others.  Much harder to abandon when many others know about it.
  • I write them down.  Writing them down makes them real.
  • I post them where I can see them everyday. (Mine go on the bathroom mirror).
  • Track the progress.
  • If it is a big goal, then I will make small step goals to track the progress.
  • When you accomplish the goal, share it with others and celebrate!!

So, here are my goals for next year.  I invite you to hold me accountable and ask how well I am doing in accomplishing them.

  1. Lose weight.  I’m now at 189 and my goal is to reach 179 by June.  This would be 2 pounds/month.
  2. Lower my cholesterol.  Don’t know the exact numbers but will be talking with my doctor to set the numerical goal.
  3. Follow our family budget.
  4. Exercise 5 times per week.  Walk 30 minutes 3 times per week in January, 45 minutes in February 4 times/week, 1 hour in March 5 times/week.  10,000 steps/day (Jan-Feb); 15,000 steps (March and April); 20,000 steps/day in May and June).
  5. Weekend camping in camper 1 weekend/month from March to October.
  6. Read 8 novels and 8 books that are Spiritual, Self-Improvement, or Leadership.
  7. Hike Vicksburg National Battlefield.
  8. Plan and date a family trip to the Grand Canyon for 2013.
  9. Attend 1 John Maxwell event.
  10. Achieve Basic credentialing with ICPC (Police Chaplain)

These are my personal goals.  I will be setting additional goals that will cover Church and Ministry.

Categories: Common Everyday Stuff, John Personal, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The New Traditional Church

Wow, this is a very thought provoking article by Tony Morgan.  I hope you will take a moment to read.

The New Traditional Church | TonyMorganLive.com.

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6 HUGE Mistakes a Pastor Can Make

I’m now coming up on my 10th year in ministry and I’ve discovered some mistakes (some I’ve made and some I’ve seen) which can greatly limit a pastors ministry.  Here is what I have found:

  • Mistake 1.  Micro-managing your staff/volunteers.  If there is a need to micro-manage because the job may not get done correctly, then why are they in that position to begin with.  However, most micro-managing is the result of a Pastor’s own lack of self-confidence.  Pastor’s must get over themselves and get out-of-the-way of others.
  • Mistake 2.  Not Empowering staff nor congregation to do ministry.  Many pastors are not handing over the reigns of ministry to the laity.  When you don’t empower others for ministry, the ministry is limited/held back according to what YOU can accomplish.  When others are empowered, the ministry will grow exponentially.  A large role of the pastor is to train others and empower them to do ministry.  I tell me congregation that when someone is sick and in the hospital, I hope I’m the last one to arrive because everyone else has beaten me to the hospital.
  • Mistake 3.  It’s All About Me!  I call this the “Glory Hog” and they want all the glory to themselves.  “Did you see what Pastor_______ is doing at XYZ Church!”  is what they strive to hear.  Ministry is not for our glory but for the glory of God.
  • Mistake 4.  It’s Gotta Be My Way:  A true recipe for failure.  You’re only a leader if people are following you.  This is not a dictatorship and yes there are times when a pastor needs to hold his/her ground especially when there is a doctrine, theological, or moral issue.  BUT some compromise is more often the case.
  • Mistake 5.  Not Maintaining Confidentiality :  Un-ethical/damaging/heartless and DUMB.  The only time confidentiality should be broken is in the case of abuse or fear for someones life.
  • Mistake 6.  Not Setting Goals and Informing Congregation: If a church does not know where it is going and the direction it will be taking to arrive at its destination, how will it know when it arrives?  These goals cannot be the personal secret of the pastor.  Sharing these goals can/should motivate the congregation to achieve the goals IF they are in line with the vision of the church.
Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

7 Ways Satan Attacks the Church

“Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing,” says Ron Edmondson.

via 7 Ways Satan Attacks the Church.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership | Leave a comment

5 Christmas Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

How can churches maximize Christmas.  Let’s face it, there are many who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.  Here is a great article about how to avoid planning mistakes.  Good for everyone to read.

5 Christmas Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them).

Categories: Church, Leadership | Leave a comment

5 Biggest Changes In My Life

Everything in life is about change.  It’s a fact.  If there is life, there is change however, that does not make us like change any better.  I have found that anytime there is some sort of change in my life, it’s carries with it nervousness, anxiety,  hesitation, a un-sureness about the future and wondering if this is the right move.  Even when I know it is the best change possible, I always have those feelings.

  1.  Leaving for college: I moved from Pearl, MS and over 300 miles from home.  The furthest I had ever spent the night from home was on a mission trip and that was only for 1 week.  I would be moving to another state and it scared me to death.  I knew Samford was the college for me and I wanted to go, but wow was this a big change.  I’ve lived in Alabama now for 20 years.  1 year longer than I’d lived in Mississippi.
  2. Going into the ministry:  This was a huge LIFE CHANGE for me.  It was this time that I truly realized my brokenness.  I asked questions like, “How am I going to do this?”  “How can I preach a new sermon every week?”  It was also at this time I began to realize that I couldn’t and this would probably be the first thing in my life that I was not able to accomplish by my own resources…I had to rely on God.
  3. Moving to Decatur for my first appointment:  Accepting the call to preach meant that I would now be itinerant and where I lived and work would not be my choice but that of the Bishop and the Cabinet. Pastor Move Day of 2002, I moved to Decatur leaving behind my first home that I bought, my friends, my job, my financial security and my church. It was hard and scary and at the same time exciting and the feeling that I was finally doing what I was supposed to do.
  4. Getting Married:  I had never met a person like my wife.  Excluding my relationship with Christ, she is the best thing that has ever happen to me.  On the morning of the best day of my life, I was scared and my anxiety was at an all time high.  I was going from being single with my biggest responsiblity was my black lab Reagan and now I was not only a husband but a father.  Life was no longer just about me.  Been the second best decision I’ve ever made.
  5. Having another baby:  Jill and I were getting really close to the age where her doctor said it became more dangerous for her to get pregnant.  We were under time constraints.  Could we afford to have another child?  No.  We will have 2 in college at the same time (didn’t know it was going to be 3).  A lot of prayer and thought but we finally decided to move forward and it has been an awesome privilege to be Graden and Sophie’s dad.

Change is inevitable in life, make the best decisions you can and realized that even before the best changes, there is fear and anxiety.

Categories: Faith Journey, Family, John Personal, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’s The Leadership?

The news is reporting that years ago, a Penn State Grad student witness a former coach abusing a child.  Reported it to Coach Paterno.  Nothing has been said and now the grad student is a coach at the school.This seems to be an incredible lack of leadership (not saying anything about the lack of morals) exhibited in this situation.

If the accusations are true, Coach Paterno should be held criminally responsible.  As a pastor, I have a great deal of contact with children and we are trained that one of the very few times we break confidentiality is when there is the possibility of abuse.  We cannot keep that to ourselves.  Why would Paterno keep this information to himself (if he truly did)?  We can ask the same question as to why most people have the first reaction that the accusations are true.  The power of the football god.

Football has taken on a god-like status and Football is a LOUSY god!!  Being from Alabama, I live in the college football capitol of the world.  There is no other rivalry that comes close to that of Alabama/Auburn.  It’s so bad that just this past year, an Alabama fan poisoned trees that are a tradition at Auburn. This man did not even go to the University!  How can one be that loyal (and I use that word lightly) or CRAZY regarding a school where you have never paid one semesters tuition?  Football has become a god.

In Alabama, people plan church, weddings, vacations, and family gatherings around the schedule of college kids chasing a pigskin.  Strange but true.

How did Coach Paterno have such a lack of leadership?  Simple, football is more important than the children who were hurt..

Why did a man who witnessed child abuse remain silent and take a staff position on a team that covers it up? Simple, football is more important than the children who were hurt.

Quite a sad commentary.

Categories: John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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