Thanks

by Jared Johnson 

“I mean, what’s with the Christmas cups; it’s barely Halloween?”

I wouldn’t say it any differently myself. I teach Bible at a faith-based high school nearby during 1st hour and on Monday after Halloween a couple weeks ago, one of the students was commenting on his coffee cup, decorated with wintry/Christmas-y motifs. It seems to be our cultural default anymore to “skip” directly from the fright, decay and blackness of Halloween straight to a “gimme stuff” mode around Christmas – at least, culturally.

In between, of course, we’ll probably do something to deliberately celebrate Thanksgiving. AAA has been projecting 50+ million Americans travel around the Thanksgiving holiday in each of the past few years; it’s not as if we ignore Thanksgiving completely, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to surmise that we mentally jump ahead to Christmas and give little thought to Thanksgiving, besides how we’re going to tolerate an obligatory visit to the relatives.

I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving. In our family, we have deliberately celebrated with my mom’s family for the vast majority of the past 30 or so years. I consider myself fortunate and blessed that we, a family comprised 50% of preachers, would often meet in a church’s fellowship hall space and utilize their kitchen. And if it wasn’t a preacher hosting that year, we would meet at my grandparents’ house, and they were always deficient – at least in the world’s eyes – in the TV department, so watching the Macy’s parade or a football game just never became part of our pattern. Even now, the 4th generation – my kids – automatically associate Thanksgiving with travel, games, good food, laughter, cousins and second cousins.

I’m glad I live in a place with a long history of giving thanks on a holiday, both culturally and through official laws of the land. When we see a “Festival of Shelters” or “Festival of Booths” in Scripture, it’s functionally what we think of as Thanksgiving – a society-wide celebration of God’s blessing in light of harvest at the end of a growing season. Like our Thanksgiving, the ancient Hebrews didn’t completely ignore it, but it isn’t exactly preeminent in the biblical story either. It was established in Leviticus 23, revisited in Numbers 29 and Deuteronomy 16 and 31, and we see it celebrated during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 5, 7, 8), along with a deliberate corruption of it under Israel’s first king Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). We next see it overtly celebrated only after the exile period, under Ezra/Nehemiah, in the mid-400s BC (Ezra 3 and Nehemiah 8).

Giving thanks, as a culture-wide celebration in some fashion, has a very long history.

“Thank” and its various forms is used, depending on your translation of choice, about 150 times throughout the Bible.

At e2, we give thanks often – daily – for leaders of God’s Church. Thank you, elders, for faithfully shepherding God’s people that He has entrusted to your care. Thank you, staff, for equipping the saints who gather every week to worship the One to whom we all give our collective thanks.

Preaching, People, Ministry

by John Caldwell 

As I write this, I’ve been in the ministry for 55 years, and have been retired for nine years from the local church where I served most of that time. I love to preach, but preaching is only a small part of ministry. I’ve been asked literally hundreds of times what I miss most about located ministry. I have a standard answer which is partly tongue-in-cheek, partly serious: “I miss the paycheck, having an administrative assistant, the office equipment … and some of the people.” The truth is that I miss most of the people, people Jan and I came to know and love while serving in the same church for 36 years.

The first year in “retirement” I preached in 48 different churches. Several times, I’ve done interim ministries that lasted as much as several months. After preaching five Sundays in a row at the same church in northern Indiana, something happened that caught me by surprise. As we were leaving the parking lot, I got a lump in my throat, my eyes misted over, and I said to Jan, “I didn’t realize how much I missed it!” By “missed it” I wasn’t referring to the preaching, for I’ve gotten to do plenty of that. I was referring to the relationships. In just five weeks I had come to know each of the elders and many of the regular worshipers. I looked forward to our weekly visits. I had occasion to pray with, laugh with, and sometimes weep with a number of people before and after the services. My preaching also had added meaning as I was taking them on a spiritual journey week after week.

Yes, ministry is first and foremost about Jesus, but it is also about people: connecting people to Jesus, reconnecting people with Jesus, and caring for people in Jesus’ name. The older I get the more I find myself touched by the hurts and heartaches of people. I didn’t get into ministry to build a big church. I got into ministry because of God’s call upon my life and because I cared about people. But there was a time when I was so busy “building the church” that I’m not really sure I noticed all the hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failure and grief that are all around.

Now, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by it.

As the church grew and grew, the reality is that I had less and less time for people. Some of my mega-church buddies used to tease me about the fact that I still took a day a week to visit people in the hospitals and nursing homes. But that was my favorite day of the week because I dealt with people. And nothing ever gave me more pleasure or satisfaction than personally presenting the Gospel to a seeker and seeing the truth about Jesus bring conviction and conversion to their heart. To be candid, I have no idea how anyone can preach effectively, truly connecting with the people, if they are not personally invested and involved with the people.

Yes, of course every Christian is to be an evangelist, a care-giver, a servant. No, a pastor and staff cannot and should not try to do all the ministry in a congregation. But those involved in vocational ministry must both teach and model those responsibilities. As a matter of fact, we teach far more effectively by what we do than what we say. One of my favorite lines came from an aged preacher named Jake: “It doesn’t cost much to be a preacher. Anyone with reasonable intelligence and a fairly decent voice can prepare a sermon and deliver it. But … if you want to be a good pastor, it will cost you your life.”

Some time ago I got a text message from my son, Shan, an executive pastor at a huge megachurch. It came at 2:30AM as he sat at the bedside of a dying woman from his congregation. And I thanked God that my son gets it. In a day of celebrity and CEO preachers where communication ability is seen as the primary qualification for ministry, I pray that a lot of other ministers get it too.

Jesus Came to…

by Ken Idleman 

It is the month of November 2019, and as a Christian leader, an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, I want to be sure I am representing Jesus and His purpose faithfully. Here is the checklist against which I am measuring myself today as a shepherd leader…

  1. He came to serve… “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life…” (Mark 10:45). This was His calling and it is mine as a Christ follower. I want to have the mind of Christ. I want to look not to my own interests, but to the interests of others. I want to be a servant of the Servant.
  2. He came to call sinners to repentance… Jesus said… “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). In our present generation I know this has to be done with genuine concern and a spirit of humility, but I also know it must be done. Today, the lines have been blurred. The black and white of God’s truth has been reduced to a politically correct grey. I want to be bold to do what Jesus did in the way He did it.
  3. He came to give light the world… Jesus said… “I have come as light into the world…” (John 12:46). So many walk in darkness… stumbling, confused, lost… in some cases hiding from God or hiding out in order to victimize others. Without His coming our world would be a very dark place! And He said to his followers, “You are [now] the light of the world.” I want to be a bright spot in my corner of the world.
  4. He came to divide… “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Jesus warned that His loving Lordship would not be appreciated or embraced by everyone and that His cross would be an occasion for division in families and between friends. It was true then and it is true today that there are deep divisions between those who believe in Him and those who don’t. I am committed to help people find the bridge over this divide.
  5. He came to save us from hell… “For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). It is scriptural and it is rational, in a world so obviously dominated by the struggle between good and evil, to believe that a good God will punish evil and reward good, but in His mercy will save all who return His love. I want to be on a rescue mission with Him.
  6. He came to give us eternal life… “… whoever believes on Him [Jesus] will not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is stated in so many places and in so many ways in the New Testament. Like the thief next to him on an adjacent cross, one day we want to hear Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I want to go to heaven with my family and take as many others with me as I can!

Will you join me in a devotional act of recommitment to His call?

Rest

by Rick Grover 

I need a little niksen in my life, and I bet you do, too. And, no, that’s not a misspelling of “Nixon,” thank you very much.

Niksen is a Dutch word for doing nothing. It’s when you take a conscious stand against busyness and let your brain rest and recover. According to Olga Mecking in “The Case for Doing Nothing,” niksen “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, and better at coming up with creative ideas” (The New York Times, April 29, 2019).

It’s hard to do nothing, because our brains and bodies are always doing something, even when we sleep. Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee likens niksen to a car whose engine is running, but it isn’t going anywhere (idem). You set aside time where you have no plan other than to be. With burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases on the rise, intentional idleness might not be such a bad idea.

Sometimes we need to sit idly so we can think actively … and pray. But the idol of busyness keeps our thinking and praying at a minimum. We believe our busyness is a symbol of our status: the busier I am, the more important I must be. We want to prove our self-worth by the measurement of activity.

Nonsense. The busier I am may only prove I lack discipline and time management.

Not long ago, I gave our church elders a proposal for me to take a sabbatical. After looking through it, they responded with one critique: “Your proposal is too busy. We don’t want you coming back from your sabbatical more tired than before you left. You need to cut it back and build in times to rest.” Basically, they told me I needed to include niksen. I did, and they approved my sabbatical. And I am forever grateful for that gift of grace and that nudge for niksen.

Now, I’m trying to live that on a weekly basis. I’m trying to set aside one day every week for a sabbath. Shabbat, the Hebrew word for sabbath, means to cease, rest, desist. Or, as the Dutch would say, shabbat means niksen. I’m also trying to do a better job of implementing niksen on a daily basis, where I build into my schedule regular breaks. Studies have actually shown that regular breaks increase work performance and productivity (https://doi.org/10.1038/nn864).

Whether you are a minister or an elder, you need to set an example that rest is just as important as serving. If you try to lead from a tired soul, you will burn out, give out, and fall out from the role God has given you.  

I hope you will give yourself permission to take time each day to let your brain rest and recover and a day each week to exhale the stress and inhale the rest. Put down your smart phone, close your laptop, turn off the TV, and idly sit so that you can actively pray.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28, NIV).

When the Bible makes you facepalm 🤦‍♂️

by Jared Johnson 

I was teaching through the Judges in a high school class last year and told the students “the Bible is a soap opera.”  One student in particular was scandalized.  Of course, it’s infinitely more than that, but really, is there any other description for the 4 chapters of train wreck that was Samson’s life?  It holds nothing back describing our condition, nor God’s intervention.  His infinitely redemptive work is constantly on display – nearly always through our infinite ineptitude.

One episode from the early New Testament makes me chuckle.  I have no trouble seeing myself in the story.

A Jewish priest, Zechariah, went into the Temple to burn incense, when his routine was interrupted by the blindingly pure figure of an angel who appeared and stood next to the altar.  When the shock wore off, they had a conversation.  And when Zechariah didn’t comprehend the angel’s message, he got put in his place:

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel!  I stand in the very presence of God.  It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!  But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.”

When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.  And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 

When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony.  They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father.  But Elizabeth said, “No!  His name is John!” 

“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.”  So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him.  He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.”  Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 

(Luke 1.19-20, 57-64) 

Side note:  I have always been perplexed that Zechariah’s question (“How can I be sure this will happen?”) warranted such a harshly corrective response while Mary’s question mere verses later (“But how can this happen?”) was met with utter tenderness.  The Greek recordings of each question are quite different.  Two lessons are buried in that detail: 1) original language study is very important, 2) the impact of the non-verbals of communication are evident in the Bible.

Side-trip finished, I have no trouble seeing myself as the religious worker just ho-humming through his routine and wondering, in the face of such entrenched routine, how the astounding would come about.  I have no trouble seeing myself as the overly assertive neighbors who knew better than the parents what needed to happen with/to their child.

Here’s the part that makes me chuckle: Elizabeth burst their expectations, to which they responded by then asking Zechariah – natural enough.  But their next step makes no sense.  Zechariah went mute at least a few days before Elizabeth conceived John.  Zechariah got his voice back eight days after delivery.  Therefore, he had been mute about 10 months.  Mute.  Gabriel said he would lose his speech.  Zechariah could hear every detail he always had.  Zechariah probably took a writing tablet to market and synagogue and had one handy in the house from day to day.   He heard just fine.

So… when his neighbors – who had seen him interacting this way for almost a year by this point – wanted to get their point across at the circumcision, why did they use gestures?  He wasn’t deaf, but they were acting like he was!  He heard and understood them with perfect clarity, no hand-flailing required!

Isn’t that a great illustration of just how askew we get ourselves?  How often did Jesus answer questions that weren’t asked?  How much course correction did Paul give throughout the New Testament?  James had to admonish us to do what we hear.

That’s why we have multiple leaders of any one church – especially a plurality of elders.  Let’s listen with open ears and humble hearts to our brothers and sisters … and be ready to laugh at ourselves when we find ourselves “gesturing” at someone who can hear just fine. 

Drill Your Way to Christlikeness

by Rod Nielsen 

If you have ever been in military basic training, law enforcement academy, or if you tried out for sports you remember the drills you did over and over until certain behaviors became automatic. Even Typing or Key-boarding class used drills:

  • frf(space)
  • juj(space)
  • frf(space)
  • juj(space)
  • ded(space)
  • kik(space)
  • ded(space)
  • kik…

…and on and on through the keyboard until our fingers found the keys by muscle memory. We hated the drudgery of repetition, but the end result was that we knew what to do “in the heat of battle;” we knew how make a play in real time; our typing skills advanced to hundreds of words per minute.

Spiritual disciplines are like that. We practice them over and over, throughout our lives seeking to become mature, attaining to the full measure of Christ. We train ourselves to be the right kind of Jesus follower and do the Christ-like thing in every situation.

As leaders in our churches, Elders and Preachers, we know that our congregations want us to set the example. They watch us to see what a “good Christian” does. They trust Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” We want our brothers and sisters to become more and more like Jesus. For them and for us there is probably no better method of growing in Christ than to practice spiritual disciplines.

Through the centuries of Christian faith and practice, the search for God happens through the classical disciplines of spiritual life. These activities of mind, body, and spirit are the tools God uses to help us become like Jesus. They are how we follow Jesus in discipleship.

Richard Foster, author of the well-read book Celebration of Discipline wrote in the preface to its accompanying workbook, Celebrating the Disciplines that we are in a “double search.” We are searching for God and God is searching for us. God initiates the search. He plants a yearning in our hearts to know Him, but that does not make our search any less important. He invites us to seek Him.

In his book Foster discusses 12 separate disciplines. I do not in any way suggest that every Christian must follow this method of getting to know our wonderful God. I certainly do not want anyone to make a checklist of them. I suggest these as individual ideas that you can apply in your life that will help you in your spiritual growth. As you increase and strengthen your Christlikeness your example serves to teach and encourage members of your congregation who are looking to you for guidance and direction.

To lead our churches well it is necessary for us to follow Jesus well. I suggest to every Elder and Preacher: refresh your knowledge and understanding of spiritual disciplines and practice them in view of your congregation. You will grow in Christlikeness and your church will grow with you.

Elders’ #1 Job

by Jeff Metzger 

Here are three truths that should guide our elder leadership.

  • Jesus is our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
  • Jesus commanded a disciple-making mission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • The Holy Spirit created a disciple making culture (Acts 6:7).

What happens when we combine these realities?  We see Jesus is our only leader and he sets our very specific elder agenda. What does Jesus consider Job #1 for elders?  Disciple making!  Jesus clearly wants disciple making to live foremost in the heart of every one of us who are called elders in the Lord’s church.  Making disciples is the goal, the purpose, the reason, the why, the Job #1 of our stewardship as elders.  While we may do many things, everything we do should contribute to this primary thing. What happens when we prioritize disciple making as job #1?

  • Our priorities shift toward helping people find and follow Jesus.
  • We work on building a disciple making culture in our community.
  • A focus on weekend attendance shifts toward a focus on everyday obedience.
  • We invest more time in intentional relationships with people.
  • We equip and unleash other disciple makers.
  • We work hard to build a clear, simple, reproducible disciple-making system for our context.
  • Spiritual parenting becomes more important than people-pleasing.
  • Growing disciples becomes more important than growing attendance.
  • Allocation of energy and resources shifts toward changed lives.
  • Real disciple-making activity and results becomes the primary metric.
  • Growing disciples who make disciples that make disiciples becomes the consuming goal.

The understanding of our job as an elder in God’s church changes!  Suddenly God’s kingdom mission of making disciples and presenting everyone fully mature in Christ takes priority in your life and on your team. But we have a problem.  Too often we don’t see ourselves as disciple makers or spiritual parents.  Disciple Maker is not our primary self-identity or even a secondary self-image.  For too many of us who are called “elder,” being a disciple maker or spiritual parent is not even on the list of who we are!  If we are serious about pleasing Jesus that has to change.  Disciple making is Job #1!  Being a reproducing spiritual parent (2 Timothy 2:2) is God’s call for us. What do we do with this?

  1. Start with self.   Let Jesus define your identity.  You are his student, his disciple.  Your goal is to belong to Jesus, believe like Jesus, and behave like Jesus so you can be like Jesus while helping others do the same.  Look in the mirror and see a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples.  See a spiritual parent who has spiritual children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  This is who you really are in Jesus; it is who every Christian is in Jesus.
  2. Engage with others.  Challenge your fellow elders to join you on the disciple making pathway.  Decide together to make this a priority in your congregation.  Explore and engage with a growing national and international community of disciple makers like the one at www.discipleship.org.  The discipleship.org internet community, and others like it, is a portal to a great variety of resources and encouragement.
  3. Reset the agenda.  “Find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).  Make disciple making/spiritual parenting the primary agenda of your life.  Get trained.  You can do this!  And make disciple making the primary agenda item at every elder meeting.  Get trained.  You can do this!
  4. Invite the Holy Spirit.  Acts 1:8 makes it clear the Spirit is here with us to lift up and encourage witness for Jesus.  Ask Him to fill you and empower you every day to be a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples.  It really is Job #1!

As elders, we are the primary spiritual leaders of “our” congregations.  And in the way of Jesus, we lead by example (John 13:15).  When the church sees us spiritually parenting and not people-pleasing, they will notice.  When they watch us spending time with people to make disciples, they will do likewise.  When they see us in the baptistery, they will soon follow us into that water with their own friends and family.

Eternally Important Leadership

by Kevin Ingram 

September 11, 2001 is a day that, if we are old enough to remember its events, we will likely never forget. I remember it vividly. I was at work at Manhattan Christian College when my wife called and told me I needed to find a TV because a plane had just hit one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

I immediately went to our Campus Center and turned on a TV – just in time to witness the second plane hitting the second tower. I knew at that point it wasn’t an accident, it was intentional. America was under attack.

The saga continued to quickly unfold as a third flight targeted and struck the south side of the Pentagon and shortly thereafter, a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers attacked that plane’s hijackers. The twin towers eventually collapsed and thousands of innocent lives were taken that day.

Although deeply shaken by the events, I continued through my day. While checking my email later in the morning I received a reminder about our elders’ meeting that night at church; I was scheduled to provide the devotion to begin our meeting.

I kept up to date on the breaking news. Reports on President Bush’s activity that day followed him from the elementary school in Sarasota, Florida where he was informed about the attacks, to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska, and later returning to Washington DC. The news reported the President’s day would end in a meeting with the National Security Council. That meeting happened to coincide with our elders’ meeting in Manhattan, KS.

With the magnitude of the days’ events swirling through my mind, I thought about our elders’ meeting that night and how thankful I was to be in that meeting, and not in any of the weighty meetings happening in DC. I couldn’t imagine the depth of decisions that had been and were about to be made in response to such a terrible tragedy in America’s history.

As my mind shifted back and forth between the two settings, mindful of the kinds of agendas each group of leaders had before them, it hit me. The meetings in DC were very important; the National Security Council was discussing our nation’s security and the physical safety of the citizens of the United States and their decisions that night would have implications many years into the future. But the agenda for our elders’ meeting involved discussing the mission of our church and the spiritual safety of people’s souls. It sunk in quickly. Meetings in DC were important to protect physical lives. Our meeting in Manhattan, KS involved eternity.

As our elders’ meeting began, I shared the magnitude of our purpose that night. As shepherds of God’s flock among us in Manhattan, Kansas, we had decisions to make that involved people’s souls. Decisions made then and there didn’t just affect lives for days or years, but for all eternity. I reminded my fellow elders of the importance of our role as servants to the congregation. While we might not want to be a part of any meeting like those held in DC, the meeting we were in was, ultimately, more important.

The bottom-line reminder for me was the role of an elder is eternally important and must be taken seriously. Every elder must serve remembering the charge Paul gave to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” People’s souls are worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice, and ours as well!

Staying Mentally Sharp

by David Roadcup 

I have a small collection of pocketknives.  One of the things about using a knife for any purpose is the need to keep the blade sharp.  Whether a hunting knife, kitchen knife, or even a chain saw, the tool is effective only if it is sharp.
 
As elders serve at their posts, one issue to keep in mind is the need to grow and flourish in mental development.  Staying fresh in this area will provide new ideas and quality information to make us as effective as possible at our posts as church leaders.
 
Staying sharp mentally can be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. Stay in the Word of God on a regular basis. 

Filling our minds and hearts with Scripture on a daily basis feeds us spiritually.  It will also keep us continually focused on the right things.  Being in the Word will remind us about who we are and what our task is.

  1. Read good content. 

Reading valuable books, newsletters and articles on leadership, spiritual development, church growth, cultural trends and other important topics is vital to an elder staying sharp.  There are now more good books on church leadership generally and eldership specifically than ever before.  Information on growing healthy churches is available by the proverbial truckload.  Online articles, e-books, blogs, podcasts and other helpful sources of information are available to leaders in amazing abundance.  As leaders, “keeping our wells full” when it comes to reading is critical.  We grow when we read.  I have served with elders who did not like to read.  This is understandable.  I would encourage those who do not find reading enjoyable to consider various audio books as an alternative – books on media (tapes, CD) or purely virtually (such as Amazon’s subsidiary Audible).  Even though some leaders may not find reading pleasurable, I would encourage them to read anyway.  It is such a great way to stay sharp, find encouragement and stay on the leading edge when it comes to leadership.

  1. Attend helpful conventions and conferences.

There are several excellent meetings that would benefit someone who is leading as an elder.  Here are just a few:

  • Exponential (March 2020 in Orlando)
  • The Global Leadership Summit (August 2020, virtually)
  • Spire (October 2019, Orlando)
  • Catalyst (October 2019, Atlanta)
  • International Conference on Missions / “ICOM” (November 2019, Kansas City)
  1. Annual Elders’ or Elder-and-Staff Retreats 

Retreats are valuable and can produce excellent results!  Getting away from our normal environment, taking time from our routine and having the chance to plan, focus on critical issues and discuss solutions are some of the positive outcomes when Christian leaders gather in a retreat setting.
 
Jim, Gary and I all lead elder retreats as part of our ministry through e2.  In these retreats, the spirit and enthusiasm is high as brothers meet to fellowship, learn and to pray together.  We discuss topics such as “The Growing Spiritual Life of the Elder,” “Leading Effective Change” and “How to Handle Conflict in the Church.”  We facilitate exercises for leaders that strengthen relationships between elders and staff.  We make time for intercessory prayer together and fellowship around the table as we share meals and conversation.  It is an excellent experience together as the Lord meets us there with His blessing.
 
Keeping our edge sharp and staying informed through involving ourselves in the above ways will make us more effective in serving our Chief Shepherd.  God bless you as you continue to grow and serve! 

Cool Guys Don’t Say “Good Morning”

by Dick Wamsley 

I was taking my early morning ride on the way to a bike trail in central Illinois.  It was a beautiful, though typically humid, summer morning.  As I approached the trail, bordered on both sides by trees and brush, I did not see the young woman walking on the trail.  As soon as I turned from the road onto the trail, I had to swerve left to miss her.  As I passed, I said, “Sorry.  Good morning.”  She replied, “That’s okay.  Good morning.”  

Later during my ride, I saw a biker approaching me in the distance.  In a few seconds, I could see the rider was a young, good-sized athletic guy with sunglasses.  His t-shirt and shorts looked like they had been painted onto his muscular frame.  When he came close enough to hear me, I said, “Good morning” and gave a brief hand wave, as I always do when I meet someone on the trail.  He did not flinch, nor say anything.  He looked straight ahead and kept up his pedaling cadence.   I said to myself, “I guess cool guys don’t say ‘good morning.'”  

Later that morning I sat down at my computer and found the daily “Focus on the Family” newsletter.  One of the stories they linked was headlined, “Why lawmakers are cursing more now than ever,” from The Hill.  The article said in part that “Profanity — once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office — is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu.  And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before.  The research … shows a stark uptick in the overall usage of curse words by legislators on Twitter.”  (Link to The Hill story)  

These experiences remind me how social civility and common courtesy are waning in our culture and in some churches as well.  There is a growing lack of respect for elected officials, police officers, teachers, political candidates, those with differing opinions on social issues, pastors, parents … and the list goes on.  Instead of sitting down at a table and debating our differences, some choose to shout down and even physically attack those with whom they disagree.  

As Christians, and especially as Christian leaders, we are commanded in Scripture to: “live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18); to “Pay … respect to whom respect is owed” (Romans 13:7); and to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do[ing] it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).   

A recent blog by Thom Rainer was entitled, “Ten Common Responses from Fired Pastors.”  After listening to hundreds of fired pastors, here are three of the ten responses he commonly hears from them:

  • No one gave me a reason for my firing.  Rainer adds, “Though this comment may seem unfathomable, it is commonly true.  Pastors are often dismissed without any reasons.  They are then told not to say a word if they want a severance.”
  • No one asked for my perspective.  Rainer says, “Countless personnel committees and similar groups fire someone because of comments they hear from others.  They have no desire to hear the other side of the story.”
  • A power group pushed me out.  Rainer comments, “This reason often explains the [previous] response. The perspective of the power group or the bully is the only one they hear.”

(Link to Thom Rainer blog)  

Is it any wonder that a large percentage of those who enter vocational ministry leave it during their first seven years?  The apparent lack of civility and common courtesy is a “black eye” for the church as a whole and contradicts the command given at least 22 times in the New Testament to Christians, “love one another.”  

If the tide of social civility and common courtesy is ever to rise in our culture, people will need to see those traits in the church and especially in its leaders.  As Jesus said to his disciples and future church leaders, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).