images-4The word noble means: of excellent or superior quality. The word fraternity means: a group of people sharing a common profession.

If you are a pastor you are part of a noble fraternity. Senator John McCain, in his inspiring book, Faith of my Fathers, said “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.” It’s easy to feel alone when you are pastoring a smaller church. But you are not alone. You are part of a special community. The members of this community share the joys and the sorrows you face…they are your fellow ministers in the gospel, comrades, soldiers, a band of brothers/sisters.

Each week I interact with pastors across North America and overseas. I’m constantly impressed with the superior quality of the men and women who are pastoring our smaller churches. Most are overworked, underpaid and under appreciated. They are invisible to a culture that values and rewards size over substance, success over significance. Along with you they understand the challenges unique to the smaller church. They have been disappointed, betrayed, accused, abandoned, and attacked by the very ones they are called to love and pastor. Like Rocky said in Rocky Balboa, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up.” This fraternity of which you are part of is filled with men and women who keep getting back up. (I think I can hear the Rocky theme.)

Paul said, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews…” (I Thess. 2:14) Paul is saying: Thessalonians…you are not alone. Your brothers in other places are suffering and struggling just like you are. Be encouraged. Hang in there.

I want to remind you that you are not suffering alone. Draw strength and encouragement from knowing that you are part of a noble fraternity. They call the men and women who served in WWII “the greatest generation.” I think the pastorate is the greatest occupation. Humbly take pride in who you are, even if your church is smaller than many others. It’s hard to pastor, that’s why so few do it. You’re doing it! Keep at it! Keep getting up! You are part of a noble fraternity.

If you’d like you can follow me on Twitter @thinkmonk. No fluff, just good stuff.

UnknownFirst have your team watch this short video:

Next, ask the following questions:

1. What layers have our church taken on?

2. What can be done about this?

3. How would things be different if these layers were removed?

4. What other practical applications can we see?

5. What layers have you taken on as an individual?

Dirty-Harry-150x150I doubt that Lt. Harry Callahan had even an ounce of pastoral gifting. But if he did I’m sure his philosophy of counseling would have been, “Kill’em all and let God decide.” Normally I would not turn to someone known as Dirty Harry for advice on pastoral counseling but I have to admit that one of the best things I’ve ever learned about counseling I learned from this character played by the legendary Clint Eastwood. One line…one simple line: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Thank you Dirty Harry.

If you’re like most pastors you know that pastoral counseling can take up a lot of your time. Most would agree that this is part of your job. But the next time you’re ready to recommend Cloud and Townsend’s book Boundaries…make sure you’re comfortable with some boundaries of your own. After all, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

Be willing to admit if a person’s problem is out of your league. Yeah, I know you’ve got the Bible and you know how to pray for deliverance and all that, but some things are just best left to the professional Christian counselor. You can come up with your own list of situations you’ll pass off, but have your list and be willing to refer.

Don’t be too quick to agree to meet with a person long term. If the person’s problem is such that they need long term counseling…they probably need a professional.

Agree to meet with the person one time in order to adequately understand what it is they are dealing with and to be able to diagnose the best way to address it. Sometimes people think they need pastoral counseling when they need professional Christian counseling and vice-versa. Often times a person might think they need to meet with you for the next seven months when one or two sessions could be enough. I never agree to anything with the person who approaches me for counseling beyond the first meeting.

If your pastoral plate is already full, say so. I know we never want to turn someone away but there can be times when we say, “Right now I just don’t have the time to do counseling.” If you find yourself in such a time try to have ready a list of referrals (lay or professional) that you could give the person so that they can get help if they really want to pursue counseling beyond you.

Some ministers love counseling and some don’t. Some are good at it, some poor at it, and many somewhere in-between. Counseling comes with the job but sometimes it’s best to pass…or pass off. Don’t feel bad to refer someone to a professional. Don’t be afraid to admit that it’s out of your league. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you simply don’t have the time to meet with the person long term. And don’t forget the words of our good friend Dirty Harry: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

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UnknownHave you ever had some great idea, I mean, really felt God was leading you into some focus or direction for the church, but when it came time to communicate it to your congregation they just stared at you like zombies? Or maybe you have coffee with someone in your church because you think they’d be great at heading up some ministry. You lay out the need, explain the commitment and are overjoyed to hear them say, “Well Pastor, if you think I’d be good at it I’ll give it a try.” You skip away congratulating yourself on what an awesome recruiter you are. But then it happens…it might take a couple months, but it happens…they resign or end up needing so much handholding that you regret ever giving them the responsibility in the first place.

With both scenarios chances are your people didn’t have ownership. Ownership is when your people are as sold on and excited about an idea or project as you are. Ownership is important. Remember this rule: No ownership = zombies. And don’t forget, zombies, with very few exceptions, make poor parishioners. There are four steps to building ownership.

Step One: Be open to the fact that not all good ideas will originate with you or be carried out based on your conviction and enthusiasm alone.

Step Two: Be inclusive. Include people in the decision making process. If people feel like they’ve been included it is more likely they will feel they have ownership.

Step Three: Be willing to risk. If you include people in the decision making process you can bet they will come up with ideas you never thought of, many of them good, some of them bad. The temptation with bad ideas is for the pastor to quickly shoot them down. Usually it’s better to let someone try their idea and discover for themselves that it didn’t work than to see you close the door on it before they have a chance to try.

Step Four: Be patient. It takes time to create ownership. Chances are your good idea is something you’ve been kicking around in your mind for some time now. Give your people the same time to think, digest, object, brainstorm, pray. This might mean your implementation will be slower but in the end it will be more solid.

You can follow me on twitter @thinkmonk

Smaller churches lack the resources of larger churches. This does not mean they will not be able to provide meaningful ministry

to their members and community, but it does mean they will have to be more selective in what they offer.

In 1948, the first In-N-Out Burger was founded by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, California. Harry’s idea of a drive-thru hamburger stand where customers could order through a two-way speaker box was quite unique. In that era, it was common to see carhops serving those who wanted to order food from their car. Harry’s idea caught on and California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand was born.

The Snyder’s business philosophy was simple: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.” These principles have worked so well over the years that they are still the company’s fundamental philosophy. In-N-Out Burger has basically three items on their menus: burgers, fries, and drinks. There are no salads, no burritos, no chicken sandwiches. Think of the huge variety most other fast food chains offer. You would think In-N-Out made a mistake in limiting what they offer but they continue to be one of the most popular food chains in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

I think smaller churches need to follow the example of In-N-Out…do a few things well and, “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”

What do you have the resources to do? By adding more ministries prematurely are you running the risk of providing a poor product and equally as bad, burned out workers? It would be better to do a few things well than a bunch of things half-baked that burn people out.

If you can’t do multi-media well…don’t do multi-media.
If you don’t have the manpower (usually it’s womanpower) to do a full-on Sunday school program, don’t do one.
If there are not resources and interest for doing small groups…let it go and wait until the time is right.

You get the point.

Smaller churches need to copy In-N-Out not Dennys. Dennys offers everything you could ever want. In-N-Out…burgers, fries, and drinks. Since mission statements are so popular these days, perhaps your mission statement should be In-N-Out’s: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”

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1. The back door can be closed.Unknown

2. Teaching on stewardship results in increased giving.

3. If you work really hard you can grow your church.

4. Great preaching and great music will bring great growth.

5. People with a background in business are the best people to have on your church board.

6. “missional” is new.

7. Traditional church models are automatically ineffective.

8. Mission statements are really important.

9. Pastors of larger churches must know something pastors of smaller churches don’t.

10. Formal church memberships result in greater commitment.

11. If you have a clear and well-articulated vision your church will grow.

12. Outreach events result in church growth.

13. The “attractional model” isn’t working anymore.

14. In order for an older pastor to attract a younger crowd he need to look and sound cool.

15. If a church isn’t growing there must, must be something wrong.

16. Every once in a while it’s good for a pastor to insert a moderate curse word into his sermons. This will communicate that he is cool and contemporary, and radical.

17. Parishioners will follow the example of their pastor.

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I’ll be honest with you. If you haven’t been following my series (Belligerent), you probably won’t appreciate this conclusion as much as if you had. You might want to go back and at least read pt.1, 2, and 3.

I’ve been spending the last five months creating a case for ‘belligerence’ in the church. The church (not all of the church but some of the church) is too violent. We have become hostile, brutal brawlers towards those we disagree with politically or theologically. It doesn’t matter if it is the non-Christian world or fellow-Christians, we are too willing to draw blood.

It is my concern that there is too much violence from the pulpit, the pew, and social media and not enough peace from the pulpit, the pew, and social media. Because of this, I want to be part of a new peace movement within the church. I want to be part of a new anti-war movement among Christians. I want to promote non-violence between sisters and brothers, and this series has been my attempt to help those interested move in that direction.

This doesn’t mean that we will all agree. We can have opinions, strong opinions. We can hold to our convictions. I agree with Paul who said, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

But…when our opinions and convictions differ from someone else’s (whether they be followers of Jesus or not) we must not become belligerent.


When I read the words of Jesus and the authors of the New Testament I find myself challenged to evaluate my reactions to those who I disagree with. For example:

Because Jesus, in the ‘High Priestly Prayer’ of John 17, prayed three times to the Father that his followers “may be one”, I ask myself, “Are my words, attitudes and actions creating oneness or two-ness? By ‘two-ness’ I mean a division, my group versus their group.

One theme from the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is a different kind of priest than those under the old covenant. Did you know that the Latin word for ‘priest’ means ‘bridge-builder’?

Peter calls us a ‘royal priesthood’ (I Pet. 2:9), I must ask myself, “Are my words building bridges or building walls?

Three times Jesus told us to ‘love one another’ (Jn. 13:34, Jn. 15:12,17). Do my attitudes towards those I disagree with reflect love…or something less than love, or even contempt and judgment?

Paul added to Jesus’ reminder to ‘love’ by say in I Cor. 13 that love is patient. I must ask myself if my words and actions and attitudes towards those I disagree with reflect patience or impatience? Do I rush to correct, judge, or label someone who is different than me?

Paul said in Gal. 5 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I must ask myself if my words or actions or attitudes towards those I disagree with are filled with that type of fruit? I fear that sometimes I have fruit but it is rotten, worm-filled fruit.

Peter said (I Pet. 2: 17to show honor all people. Does my life reflect showing honor to those I disagree with?

Because Paul told Timothy, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…” (II Tim. 2:24-25), I must ask myself if my words or actions or attitudes towards those I disagree with are quarrelsome in nature, unkind, impatient, lacking in gentleness?


There’s always a ‘YEAH BUT.’

Yeah, but what about orthodoxy?
Yeah, but what about heresy?
Yeah, but what about bringing correction?
Yeah, but what about loving the sinner but hating the sin?
Yeah, but what about defending the truth?
Yeah, but what about Jesus turning over the tables in the temple?
Yeah, but what about holiness?
Yeah, but what about obedience?
Yeah, but what about speaking the truth in love?
Yeah, but what about balance?

What about it?

I believe there is a place for all the ‘YEAH BUTS’ but I also believe that we’ve been giving too much of a place to them.

Believe me, if I choose to not correct others or act belligerently towards those I think are in error there will still be enough correction and belligerence out there to get the job done. The ‘YEAH BUTS’ are alive and well, they aren’t going anyplace. Those who feel an obligation to fight are alive and well, they aren’t going anyplace. I’m not worried about a lack of the ‘YEAH BUTS’, correction, or belligerence. I want to be part of something different.

This series you’ve been reading is a call…a call to:

Peace without compromising our Biblical convictions,
Unity while accepting diversity,
Honoring all people despite strong disagreement,
Evaluating our words and attitudes and action in light of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5),
Letting someone else do the correcting,
Putting an end to the belligerence,
Being part of an anti-war movement.

That’s where I’m going. Do you want to come with me? Let’s join hands and go there together.







A member of my Small Church Pastor group page on Facebook asked a question and addressed it to “…his brothers in the ministry.”

A woman pastor lightheartedly responded, “Hey…what about your sisters in the ministry?”
The first pastor wrote back, “Sorry, no offense intended. It’s just habit I guess. I’ll change it.”
Another male pastor immediately said, “Don’t be so sensitive.”
Another female pastor took issue with the pastor who said, “Don’t be so sensitive.”, posting a rather lengthy, heated response   and calling for gender-neutrality language in our conversations.
A different pastor private messaged me to tell me that a woman in the group was pushing her feminist agenda.

“Wait. What? Where? I must have missed that.”, I told him. And then another comment appeared on the thread.

“Gender-neutrality language is a bunch of crap, PC crap! I hate political correctness! That’s what’s wrong with the church today. You need to take a chill pill.”

“Whoa Nelly”, I thought to myself, “That’s not cool.” I immediately private messaged the pastor to tell him that his response was inappropriate and unacceptable in our group. He left the group and so did the female pastor who was so upset.


In preparation for this blog I posted on my Facebook timeline and my Small Church Pastor group page:

Help me out: Give me a brief definition of PC (Politically Correct). Not an example but a definition. Don’t look it up in the dictionary. How would you define PC? If you give an example instead of a definition there is a good chance it will be deleted.

Why the last sentence? Remember, I’ve been moderating my group page for more than eight years. I’ve been learning a lot about some, not all, but some pastors. Some pastors can’t simply answer a question without adding their commentary. It’s the commentary or examples in response to a question like I posted that often lead to mean-spirited controversy on my group page and we are working hard at avoiding that. Despite my warning, a number of pastors still managed to give specific examples of what they thought were attempts at being politically correct. True to my word, those entries were deleted. Some pastors don’t like it when I delete things they post that I feel are a departure from our group rules. I would guess that about half the time when I feel a need to remind pastors privately of our rules they handle it really well. The other half of the time they get mad at me and leave the group.

Well, back to my question. Over fifty responses came in over the next two hours. I really didn’t expect that many comments. I also didn’t expect how passionate some pastors are about the subject of political correctness. If you listen to some Christians and some pastors you would come to the conclusion that PC is one of the biggest problems in our country and probably the main problem with the church today. I’m not sure. What if the problem isn’t that we are too PC but that we aren’t PC enough?


When I see the phrase politically correct, I first focus on the word political. Then I think of politics. Then I think of politicians. From there I think of things some politicians do or say in order to get elected. There is a dishonesty associated with it and a manipulation of the electorate.

Only one of the 53 responses to my question came close to mine: “Whatever phrasing or actions that will gain you the most (or cost you the least) votes.” Many of the comments were similar to these:

  • To go along with what the masses say instead of what is the truth.
  • The willingness to cast truth aside in order to not offend someone.
  • Not speaking truth
  • Setting aside all personal convictions to appease others.
  • It is a thought control tactic used by the liberal left which on the surface has the express purpose of not offending the disadvantaged and those who oppose Christian values, but which the unexpressed undercurrent is to silence truth and erode religious freedoms.

On the other side there were definitions such as:

  • Being kind and speaking in love.
  • Using language that isn’t offensive.
  • Choosing vocabulary for referring to people that is not based on prejudice nor intended to hurt or demean.
  • Choosing alternate, often unfamiliar language or practice, in an attempt to minimize actual or perceived offense toward a particular group.
  • A term that only people of privilege use to describe with disdain those who think differently about the power of language than they do.

I found it interesting to trace the origins of the phrase ‘political correctness’ or ‘politically correct’. I thought of sharing with you the history of PC and how it has evolved in meaning over the years, but that would digress from my point. When you have the time Google it, I think you will be surprised.

My point is that many Christians today are accusing other Christians of being PC. This indictment is usually accompanied by an air of contempt and belligerence. The claim is that certain believers, churches, and entire denominations have caved in to social pressure and have knowingly walked away from the truth of scriptures in order to better fit in to the non-Christian culture. Are there PCers like that out there? Probably, but I don’t know any of them…and I know a lot of Christians and Pastors and churches.

What I see happening is that there is a growing group of Christians who are trying to walk out their faith as closely to the example of Jesus as they can. As they attempt this they are becoming more kind, more accepting, more tolerant, more loving. They want to avoid offending others as much as possible. They love God. They believe in the Bible. Theirs is a different kind of PC, not ‘politically correct’ but ‘people compassionate.’ Do they get it right in every area of doctrine and practice? Of course not, but neither do those who are on the other side. Nobody gets it completely right.


Few would argue that the apostle Paul was not afraid to speak the truth, confront sin and doctrinal error. His letters are filled with examples. Recently while reading through I Corinthians I came across two passages that made me see how balanced Paul really was.

I Cor. 9:20 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  (NASB)

I Cor. 10:32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.. (NASB)

They say, “You can’t please everybody.” but is seems that Paul tried. Paul didn’t want to offend if he didn’t need to. Paul was trying to build bridges rather than walls in order that he might win people to Christ. I could imagine that if I said the same things Paul said in the above scriptures that some would accuse me of being too PC, a people-pleaser, that I’ve caved in to societal pressure.

I don’t want to call someone PC too flippantly, especially if my words accompanied by contempt and belligerence. I don’t want to accuse someone of being PC without talking to them and seeing their heart, their motives, their convictions. And if I happen to actually take the time to get to know the person I’m concerned about and end up not liking their motives, convictions and heart, if I still strongly disagree with them…I don’t want to attack or be offensive, I don’t want to be belligerent.

I think there is more PC out there among Christians than we imagine but it is not political correctness, it is people compassion.


Typically when I begin a coaching relationship with a pastor the first phone call is an orientation to coaching. I begin by sharing a little about my background. Next I explain my philosophy of coaching. Finally I talk about expectations, i.e. what I will expect from the coachee and what the coachee can expect from me. It is at this time that I will say, among other things, “You can expect complete confidentiality from me. I will never talk to anyone else about what we discuss in our calls. I want you to feel that I am safe, that you can talk to me about anything and it won’t come back to bite you.”

It is important to me that the person on the other end of the phone understands this. It’s important for a pastor to have someone like this in their life. Few pastors do. Far too many ministers have stories of opening up to someone they thought they could trust only to later regret being so transparent. This is one reason many pastors feel so lonely. They don’t have anyone they can talk to, really talk to, really and honestly talk to…that is safe.

I feel it a great privilege to be this type of person to so many who lead our churches. Because of this, pastors will open up to me about things they are afraid to share with their church leaders, their supervisors, or their colleagues. Such was the case with pastor Bob (not his real name).

My coaching call with Bob took place before the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage. Bob’s state was about to decide whether or not to legalize SSM. As was the case in so many states approaching a moment like this, tensions were high, rallies and demonstrations from both sides of the debate were happening regularly. The topic of homosexuality and SSM had never come up in Bob’s church before but now with the issue in the news and on the street Bob realized he would have to say something about it because so many in his church were looking to him for guidance.

Bob had always held the more traditional view that the Bible clearly condemned homosexuality. But Bob was also aware that there was a small but growing group of Evangelical pastors and authors who looked at the same Bible Bob did and came to the conclusion that either the passages typically used to condemn homosexuality and SSM, had either been misinterpreted or did not address monogamous, committed relationships between same sex attracted people. Keep in mind that Bob did not agree with this interpretation of scripture but he felt a need to at least hear the other side being presented by his brothers and sisters.

After Bob’s sincere attempt to objectively look at the arguments of those Christians who were in favor of full inclusion of homosexual believers in the church, I asked him, “So what conclusions have you come to?”

“I haven’t changed my position, but can I be honest with you?”

“About what?”

“I have to admit that the other side has some good arguments. They are not simply disregarding the authority of the scriptures like I use to believe. I guess I’d have to say that the topic is not as cut and dry as I thought. Don’t tell anyone that I said that.”


“What do you mean?” I said.

“If some of my colleagues knew I’d read some of the books I did I would get in trouble. And I can’t imagine what would happen if I admitted that the opposite side has some legitimate arguments.”

“So what you’re saying is that even though you still believe the Bible condemns homosexuality, your reputation would be damaged simply because you were willing to listen to the other side?”

“Oh yeah”, said Bob, “definitely. Dave, you’re the only one I feel safe to talk to about this. I know you’re not going to turn me in.”

(more laughter)

Bob is not alone. There are many conservative Evangelical pastors out there who feel caught in the middle. Even though they still believe that homosexuality is wrong they no longer believe that the Bible is entirely clear on the subject. They have come to understand and appreciate those who interpret the Bible differently than they do. But they are afraid to say so. Some have doubts about what they have always believed. But they are afraid to say so. Some have even changed their position. But they are afraid to say so. Some have told me that they are not exactly sure what God thinks of homosexuality but they are afraid to say so to anyone but me.

We’ve gotten to the place where you can be attacked or get in trouble just for thinking, or re-thinking, or questioning, or respectfully listening to those who think differently than the group you belong to thinks. You can be judged and slandered and ‘unfriended’ on Facebook (and in life, I know, it’s happened to me) for revealing that you appreciate certain authors or speakers. This isn’t limited to the subject of homosexuality and SSM.

Whatever denomination you belong to there is a good chance that there are certain theological distinctions held by your group that if you strayed over to a different position you would get in trouble and possibly defrocked. In some groups you would be attacked if you simply said, “I’m rethinking my position on…

Spiritual gifts
Women in ministry
Eschatology, to name a few.

Notice that my imaginary friend did not say, “I’ve changed my position on…” but only, “I’m rethinking my position on…” That alone is enough to be called into the principle’s office.

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, ‘The Bible is clear…’ or ‘The Bible clearly teaches…’? When I read my Bible I tend to see more clarity than I do vagueness but there are definitely some things that I see as gray while some of my friends see the same things as black and white. It seems to me that some things some Christians think the Bible is clear about are not as clear as they think. If the Bible were clear then why are there so many denominations and different opinions held by Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians?

There is a small but growing group of Christians who are caught in the middle. They don’t see black and white. They see gray. Not everything is gray to them, it’s not like they don’t believe in absolute truth or the basic tenets of the Christian faith, but some of the other things are gray to them. They have friends or fellow-pastors who see many things as black and white…but they see those same things as gray. This group doesn’t have as strong an opinion about some things other Christians have strong opinions about. And some in this group are afraid to admit this publicly. Rather than saying, “The Bible is clear about…” or “The Bible clearly teaches…” they would say, “I’m not sure what God thinks about…”

Do you see certain theological topics as gray while those around you see the same subjects as black and white? It’s okay, you’re not alone. Be humble and patient with those who see black and white. Remember…they could be right. I wish I didn’t have to say this but be very selective with whom you share your ambiguity. Ambiguity can get you in trouble.

Do you see certain theological topics as black and white? It’s okay, you’re not alone. Be humble and patient with those who see gray. Remember…they could be right. Work at being a loving, respectful, honoring and safe person for those who see gray. After all, we all are brothers and sisters in Christ. We all love Jesus. We all believe that the Bible is God’s word, it’s just that some of us see things as black and white and others of us see things as gray.

We may never know with certainty who is right and who is wrong until we die and take that required theology exam that will determine who gets into heaven and who stays outside with the rest of us C+ students.




I became a Christian in 1973. Because of some early Christian influences in my life, I naïvely believed that there were only three kinds of churches. There were Catholic churches. There were Liberal churches. And there were real churches, i.e. Evangelical churches. Let me say again, I was naïve, but this is what I had been taught.

I believed that the Roman Catholic church was a cult so I dismissed them and placed them in the same category as Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons. I disregarded the Liberal churches (keep in mind that I couldn’t have told you who they were but I knew they were out there) because they didn’t believe in the Bible and Liberal churches were nothing more than a religious social club. Did I mention that I was naïve? So the only thing that was left, the only churches that really counted were the type of churches that I went to…Evangelical churches.

Now fast-forward to today.

I still (kind of) think of myself as an Evangelical and attend an Evangelical church. I have a degree from an Evangelical university. Most of the pastors I work with in my coaching and consulting practice would be considered Evangelicals. But over the years I’ve had a growing group of Liberal pastors as clients. At the beginning of this series I mentioned that I am the founder and moderator of a large pastors group on Facebook. Pastors of every denomination and persuasion are welcome in my group. The stated purpose of our group is:

The Small Church Pastor group provides a safe place of encouragement, resources, ideas, prayer requests…and laughs between senior pastors and the spouses of senior pastors. This group does not allow challenging, debating, or attacking other denominations, pastors, or controversial issues that churches and pastors might disagree on. Our group stays away from discussing the meaning or interpretation of specific scriptures or doctrines Christians and denominations might disagree on.

This group is one of the few places on the Internet where Conservative Christians and Liberal Christians can come together and not get in a fight. We are not always successful, but we are learning and trying.

Progressives are the new Liberals.

Both my Conservative Evangelical friends and Progressive Christian friends may disagree with me on this but as I dialog with today’s Progressives I find very little that is new in what they believe in comparison to what most Liberals of yesteryear believed. But if you listen to some Conservative Evangelicals you would think that the Progressive movement has introduced something new to the story of Christianity in the world. If I am right, if Progressives are, basically, the new Liberals, why then are some Conservative Evangelicals sounding an alarm as if the building was just set on fire?

I have a theory. I can’t prove it. I’ve seen no scientific study to verify it. I don’t have enough money to commission Gallop to look into this. But I think the reason why Evangelicals are so concerned with Progressives is because of one significant way in which the Progressives of today are different than the Liberals of the past.

This is not true of all Progressives, but many Progressives today still think of themselves as Evangelicals. In the past, Liberals didn’t think of themselves as Evangelicals. Because of this it was easier for Evangelicals to dismiss them and relegate them to the category of ‘apostate church.’ The interesting dynamic today is that there is a growing movement of what is called Progressive Evangelicals. Progressive Evangelicals believe that one can be both Progressive and Evangelical whereas some Evangelicals do not believe this is possible. Therefore, many Conservative Evangelicals feel a responsibility to preserve the true meaning of Evangelicalism and sometimes attack and debate the popular voices of Progressive Christianity. It’s kind of like, as long as you weren’t claiming to be one of us (Evangelical) everything was okay but now that you’re using our title it’s not okay.

Did you know that most Progressive Evangelicals and most Conservative Evangelicals agree upon what it means to be an Evangelical? In addition to this, most Progressive Christians and most Conservative Christians agree upon the basic tenets of Christianity.

The Future of Evangelicalism in America

 I don’t think Progressives, whether they consider themselves Evangelicals or not, are a fad that will pass. I believe that Progressive Evangelicals are here to stay. I think Progressive Evangelicals will continue to grow in number. I don’t know if they will ever catch up with the number of Conservative Evangelicals but they might. If my prediction proves true I see only two possibilities:

1. Progressives and Conservatives will learn to respect each other, find common ground and do what they can to work together to reach people with the gospel without compromising their theological differences. We saw something similar to this happen between the Charismatics and the non-Chrasimatics. Or…

2. Progressives and Conservatives will become two totally separate and distinct camps at best ignoring each other or at worse at war with each other.

I, for one, am hoping and praying for number one rather than number two.

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