Thursday, February 10, 2011


I kinda like lists, don't you? Lists a straight to the point and are bare bones information the kind I prefer anyway. I thought I would share a list with you of things I am learning about leading churches. I don't claim to know much at all - honestly - In fact about the time I think I have found some answers life has a way of changing all the questions. So, look over my list and help me, at least, learn to ask the right questions. Have fun

Things I am learning about leading churches:

About the organization itself:
• It is amazing what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit
• Churches don’t have money problems - they have heart problems
• Knowing what a church wants to do is more important than what it costs (Vision drives giving)
• There is always tension between convenience and growth
• If you don’t change it – it will die

About the pastorate:
• The single most important thing you can do is love your wife
• Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry
• Church is all about relationships
• Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t
• Leading a church is a horribly wonderful thing to do with your life

About preaching:
• Keep preaching off the high shelf and down where people can reach it
• Turn everything you possibly can into a story
• People need love, hope and grace. Don’t beat them up when you preach
• Seldom do people complain when you preach a sermon that is too short
• You can’t disciple people from the pulpit. Lead them to be self feeders
• Never underestimate the importance of preaching – give it your best

About vocational staff:
• Hire staff for their love of people over their talent
• The right staff person expands ministry, but it does not make it easier
• Hire coaches not players, and then as few as possible
• Maximize volunteers as long as possible - then wait several years before hiring
• If you have to look for a staff person to fill a position you may not need the position

About your emotional stability and spiritual growth
• The work of the church around you can destroy the work of the Lord in you
• Don’t take yourself too seriously
• All leadership positions are interim – including yours!
• Respect comes from inside not from your title
• Develop an identity outside of the church
• It is very hard to be close friends with people who call you pastor
• Don’t take to heart what people say about you whether good or bad
• If you can do something else and be fulfilled don’t pastor a church
• Being a pastor is just a job – a great one, but still just a job

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome back to the woods

Welcome back to the woods

Summer has a dark side. Don’t misunderstand me, I love summer. I love sitting on the front porch with a steaming cup of coffee in the morning watching the world wake up. I love the smell freshly cut hay and restful green overtaking the ugly gray and brown of winter. The woody smell of smoke from the grill makes your mouth water as you anticipate the unequalled taste of burgers and cold, sweet iced tea. What’s not to love? I know the days are longer and the water warmer, but there is a problem with summer – Chiggers. Bug people tell us that Chiggers are small arachnoids (spiders). My wife has a rule for spiders. They can exist around her as long as they stay hidden. If she ever sees one her pacifism ends, the rules are broken and all bets are off. Her gentle nature is overwhelmed by a rage seen rarely except at bull fights or when white sharks attack. When spiders come out to look around and are seen by my wife they have to suffer the full penalty of breaking her spider rule – death by whatever means available. Ok, so Chiggers are spiders. So what? Well, I am told that more men were put out of action in the civil war battle of Wilson’s Creek by these, little-red-bugs-from-hell, than battle damage. The southern soldiers were very familiar with these little skin eaters and came prepared, but the northern boys were unfamiliar and completely outmaneuvered by the little wood devils. History remembers that the hospitals in Springfield treated more bites and poison ivy rashes than bullet wounds. In mid October Mother Nature hangs out her multicolored fall welcome sign. It says, Ok, the woods are open again. Come back and play. The woods know that men and chiggers can’t play well together. There is the law of impenetrability which says that two objects cannot exist at the same place at the same time. Never is that law more poignant than when chiggers are involved in the equation. I used to think about the questions I would ask God when we get to meet face to face. One deep cosmological thought I have always pondered is why did God put Kansas between Missouri and Colorado? Now I have a second; why did God make chiggers? As far as I can tell they serve no ecological or biological purpose. Their existence is truly an enigma. Where do they exist on the food chain? Is there any positive reason for their existence? About the time I think I have a small corner of God’s design figured out I have to deal with the ever recurring question of the chigger. One thing about hosting a chigger is forever true. After it has eaten it is impossible for boredom to exist. You always have something to do. Ok, the chiggers are leaving and the woods are open for business. Get out there and enjoy. I know they are gone, but I am still going to spray on a little repellant.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back in the cattle business

Back in the cattle business

I had always planned on getting back into cattle when I retired, but I never expected retirement to burst in on me so suddenly. So after four months it dawned on me now is a good time to get back in the farming game. The problem is that cattle prices are very high. My favorite business strategy is buy high and sell low, so this may work out well. Anyway, I went to the sale barn today to have a presence in the barn for the Lord and the Cowboy Church on Wednesday the sale day. I sat down and a friend of mine named Coy Dan Blakemore came and sat beside me. We talked about Cowboy Church and of his up-coming trip to Alaska and our school reunion. Later we returned to cattle and I mentioned to him I was thinking about buying some old broken mouth cows (Cows with less than perfect teeth) and raising some calves. He said, he was selling exactly what I was looking for and we made a plan to meet at his farm later in the day to look them over. To cut to the chase we agreed upon a price and he delivered 8 cows who are supposed to calve in September. The idea is to get the calves on the ground and when the pasture is gone this winter to sell both calves and cows. Ideally the cows will sell for what I paid and the calves will be profit. If cattle prices fall I can keep both through winter and sell next spring when prices usually rise. The cows are big, black cows who really look good for Sr. Citizens. I will have to take really good care of them and supplement their grass diet when the calves come to keep their body weight up. I remember with great joy our former herd. We loved to see the new born calves romping and playing. We kept the calves for five years and were so blessed that we never lost an animal or even missed a pregnancy. We can only hope and pray that we are as fortunate with this group.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Onions, float trips and cowboys

June installment

I have been preoccupied with spring and have not posted a blog in a while. I thought I would take today (a rainy Tuesday morning) to get back to it. One of the most interesting things I have been involved with lately is a three day float trip down the Buffalo River in Arkansas. The summer Killingsworth float down the Buffalo was trouble and rain free. It was as good as floats can be. The scenery, clean water, nature sounds water of frogs and Whippoorwills and the amazing gourmet food packed by Valerie, Gail and Vickie made the experience a pure joy. Our grandson Jason was on his first float trip and his reluctance to experience things soon turned into a mad dash into the next adventure. He amazed me at his courage, endurance and spirit. His mother insisted he ride with me assuming he would be in the safest canoe, but the only canoe that turned over was mine. I was honored by the confidence Keri placed in me, but Jason would have been safer in any other canoe it turns out. Jeremy loves to tell how Jason was being swept away by the current and cried out for help. Jake swam to him and restored him to safety and insisted that he float down the current again just for fun. It was just a few moments later that Jason said, “Oh, do we have to go – I want to do it again”. His experience changed from panic to pure joy in the same fast water in a matter of minutes. Watching him go from fear to fun made the trip for me. He did things we have agreed to tell his mother about in 5 to 10 years.

Summer is settling in now and the garden is amazing again this year. The rains have come as if on schedule and because of my semi-retirement I have been able to stay ahead of some of the weeds. I have never been able to raise onions of any size. I lamented the fact to an Amish gardener and learned the secret to raising big onions. I expected to hear of odd mixtures of chicken and horse manure or of some secret concoction used only by garden insiders, but she said, ”Plant Vidalia’s and put a lot of Miracle Grow on them. So I bought some Miracle Grow and was she ever right! I have the biggest onions I have ever raised. Now I have to admit I was a little taken aback when I heard her secret. I thought she would be all organic and stuff, but you never know! You never live long enough to learn everything.

Speaking of learning – I have learned something else recently. Simple is best! I am completely amazed at the simple power, growth and strength of the Cowboy Church. I never dreamed it would become what it has. I would have thought in years to come that it might reach a couple of hundred people, but at a recent event over 500 people attended. Each week around 500 people attend one of the three services and this is summer. I expect to see even more in the fall.

This summer I am preaching through the book of Acts and I see many similarities between the early church and the Cowboys. We have nothing and God is powerful among us. We meet in a barn and God shows up. I have challenged the Cowboys to give 50% of our income away, and put it back in the community where people have needs. They have bought in to the challenge and are giving with such abundance we are not being able to keep up with our goals yet. Recently a man who had not been in church in 60 years started attending. His life change is observable and contagious. This man had to have surgery recently and while he was in the hospital some of the cowboys (one of whom had only been attending for 3 weeks) went to his home and installed a new commode for him. The unity, generosity and joy among the Cowboys out-distance everything I have ever witnessed in my ministry. There is something to be said for simplicity and dependence on God. I was ready to give up on the organized church, but the cowboys have salvaged me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A boat

Someone said that a boat is a hole in the water into which men pour money. This is a rather accurate description of a boat. Another wise man commented that the two happiest days in the life of boat ownership is the day you buy the boat and the second is the day you sell it.

I dearly love to build wooden boats. I have built several through the years and have found it very satisfying. One of the first boats I built is on a web site called Uncle Jon’s if you want to see some pictures of my boat builds. I am now building a sneak boat. In reality it is a flat bottomed canoe or pirogue that I dream of using on small streams/creeks and snagging smallmouth bass, blue gill, black perch and goggle eye. I grew up fishing in small creeks and fell in love with them. Later my fishing focus naturally evolved as Stockton Lake became an amazing fishery and it was close to home. Now that I have time to rediscover who I am it occurs to me that I never really did like lake fishing as much as I did the stream experience and plan to return to my first love. Creek fishing engages all of your senses as you sneak into the fish’s kitchen and offer your subtle substitutes. Lake fishing is a communal sport with people all around. Creek fishing is done best in isolation. In isolation one can even think important thoughts and maybe even hear the voice of the Maker. I could go on about creek fishing and probably will in later blogs, but for today I want to talk about wooden boats. So forgive me when I don’t close the blog by saying something like, “I hope to see you on the creek”, because I really hope I don’t see anyone when I am on the creek.

I plan to build this canoe/pirogue as light as I can. I hope to keep it under 50 pounds so I can drag it behind me as I wade and load it easily into the truck. I am building it out of ¼ inch plywood and joining it all together with fiberglass cloth and resin. I plan to paint it camouflage so I can use it as a blind/hide as I fish, hunt and take photographs from it. I am now in the design and construction stage and will blog a picture of it when I get it finished.

I have not yet attached photo’s to my blog and if I can I will do so to show off some of the boats I have built so far.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The bear

My car is in the shop having a little body work make over to correct a bent bumper and some sheet metal that resulted after a utility pole moved behind me as I backed up. The reason the truck being out of commission is germane to this blog is that my dog Dakota usually rides in the back as we drive to the trail head. Dakota, in typical dog-like fashion, never misses an opportunity to do the dog-thing and roll in the foulest smelling thing she can find. And, yes, she stinks to high heaven. Since the truck is out of commission at the moment the only other option for taking Dakota is riding in the back seat of Gail's car. The smell takes that option off the table. Ok, back to the bear. I decided just to walk to the trail head. This decision put me and Dakota way behind Joe and Lois Grantham on the trail. When we met them after their turn-around they were somewhat shaken because they saw an animal on the trail they did not expect. It was not a dog, nor a hog the long-time natives to the area declared. It was too big to be a ground hog or a coon. After going through a process of elimination they believe it was a cub bear weighing in at 70 to 80 lbs. If Dakota had been in her normal position on the trail they would have never witnessed the rare bear sighting because she would have been far ahead of us and would have dispersed the bear before we would have been aware of its presence. I didn’t see the bear although Joe believes he got a glimpse of it the next day far in the distance. Isn’t it odd how little choices make so much difference in our lives. If I had not backed into the utility pole I would have driven Dakota to the trail, she would have been out in front in full attack mode and we would have never seen the bear. Philosophers and theologians have spilled much ink over such musings in the past. I think I will leave the heavy lifting to them and just look for bears.