by dave jacobs

Etymologists tell us that the word ‘minimize’ first appeared in literature in 1802 in the writings of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Mr. Bentham before but he is regarded as the founder of ‘utilitarianism.’ Utilitarianism is the doctrine that says actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. At first read this doesn’t sound too bad but I’m sure if you think about it more Utilitarianism seems like a scary foundation to build a society on. 

Not only does Utilitarianism scare me, my ability to minimize things that shouldn’t be minimized scares me. Often times our failures with plans and people can be traced back to something we minimized.

If something isn’t important to us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t directly affect us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t make sense to us we tend to minimize it. If we don’t agree with something we tend to minimize it. This is how we get into trouble. This is how we hurt people. When we make something small that is big to someone else we become small in their eyes. 

It’s not always our fault when we minimize. 

It’s hard, if not impossible, to read someone else’s mind. Something could be a big deal to a person and we’re completely unaware of it. This is especially true when a relationship is new and you are still getting to know each other. Think of it as unintentional minimization. The best response at a time like this is to simply apologize. 

Another reason why we can minimize and it not really be our fault is that it is impossible to predict the future. If you are a leader or a pastor you are constantly planning and preparing for something. When ideas fail, many times it’s because we minimized something or underestimated how important something was to the overall process but didn’t see this until it was too late. This is inevitable. We’d all make better decisions if we had better information and were able to discern correctly those aspects of the plan which were truly important and those that were not. 

***

So we’ve seen that sometimes it’s our fault when we minimize and sometimes it’s not. Regardless, when we minimize things that should not be minimized we get into trouble and hurt others. 

Here are some questions that might help minimize minimizing. 

In any planning process, whether it be just you or with a group, before you announce or implement your plan ask:

  1. If there were any components to this plan that we might be minimizing what would they be?
  2. Who will this be a ‘big deal’ to?
  3. Do we know anyone who might be more objective and able to help us see things we might be minimizing?
  4. In our personal relationships we might ask, assuming we are smart enough to think before we speak:
  5. In what ways might I be minimizing this?
  6. Can I recognize any self-serving reasons I might have for conscientiously or unconscientiously minimizing this?

Never underestimate you’re ability to minimize. 

by dave jacobs

If you wear sunglasses indoors everything is going to look darker than it really is. 

“Somebody needs to turn on the lights.” “No, idiot, take your sunglasses off.” “Oh, you’re right. Never mind.”

Even if you’re not literally wearing sunglasses you’re wearing sunglasses. There is a tint through which we view and respond to life. Everything we read, write, think, say, and theologize about is filtered through who we are, how we were raised, the context in which we lived and are living.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me share with you my personal lenses. It’s like I have multiple sunglasses each with a different colored lens. 

Maybe you’ll recognize some of these in your own life. 

1. I view life through a male lens 2. I view my world through a white male lens. 3. So I am white, a male, and I’m part of what they call the “middle class.” 4. In addition to the above, I have a western lens, or filter, through which I see things. But even my ‘westernness’ has a subgroup. I am a westerner from North America. 5. I got my start in conservative churches, therefore I have been shaped by this lens. 6. Not only do I have an conservative filter, I have always been part of Charismatic churches, another lens. 7. I see life through my lens of being married. 8. Finally, I look at life through the lens of a Pastor. Well to be honest I was a pastor. For thirty years, in five different churches, I was a pastor until 2006 when I retired and began Small Church Pastor. Now I coach and resource pastors. My days are pretty much filled with talking to pastors, so that, coupled with those thirty years means I still see things through the lens of a pastor. 

Someone once said that if you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. If you are a pastor every person looks like a sheep, or at least a potential sheep. If you are a pastor every church member looks like a volunteer or a tithe or a discipleship-project or a potential leader or an obstacle. I know, I know, we’re suppose to see them as beloved children of God…and we do that as well, but it is easy for us to forget. 

Pastors eat, drink, and sleep, church. And because of that many eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little. (I can’t prove the ‘drink too much’ thing but you get what I’m getting at.)

So…I am a married white male who is middle class and raised in a western country, i.e. North America. I’m a Charismatic. To top it all off, I was a pastor. All of this has shaped me into the person I am today. These eight pairs of sunglasses affect the way I interpret my Bible. These eight lenses affect my politics and values and perceptions of people. These eight explain why I think the way I do. I must never underestimate these lenses. 

What sunglasses do you wear and how do they influence you? Think about it.

Some time ago, after meeting with some friends, Ellen and I were driving home and about thirty seconds into the drive she said, 

“You’re so funny.” “What?” “The older you get the more your stories change.” “No way.” “Yes way.” “How?” “Well first of all, you’ll take two different stories and turn them into one.” “No way. What else?” “Well, the older you get…” “Would you stop saying that?” “The older you get the more you embellish your stories.” “Embellish? What do you mean?” “You exaggerate.” “No way.” “Way.”

I know that when she proofreads this chapter she’s going to tell me that this story was exaggerated. 

I have a saying, “Pastors don’t lie, they just exaggerate.”

-If a pastor says they have a church of about one hundred it might mean eighty-five. -If the turn out for the all-church prayer meeting was “pretty good” that could mean the pastor, his wife, and the church prayer-warrior, sister Agnes. -A “Men’s Ministry” can mean two guys who meet for coffee at Denny’s every Thursday morning.  -The “church staff” can fit in the front seat of a car.

Usually we exaggerate up rather than down.

But pastors aren’t the only ones that exaggerate. We all have a tendency to exaggerate. 

***

So what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong about exaggerating?

First of all, exaggeration is a form of lying. It might be a ‘little lie’ but it’s still a lie. Exaggeration has just enough truth to it for us to feel comfortable doing it. But still…it’s a lie. 

Exaggerating affects your credibility. Have you ever known someone who is always exaggerating? Doesn’t knowing this make it hard for you to take them seriously? It’s easy to dismiss someone who has a reputation for exaggeration. If you don’t want to be dismissed then be careful about exaggerating. 

Hyperbole is a figure of speech used by writers but exaggeration (the Greek word ‘hyperbole’ means ‘exaggeration’) is purposefully used to drive home a point. The writer doesn’t intend to be taken literally. 

If I say, “She’s as skinny as a toothpick.”, you know I’m using hyperbole, unless I’m describing Twiggy. If you remember Twiggy you’re as old as the hills. There, I did it twice. 

Disgruntled church-goers often use hyperbole’s close cousin ‘Exaggeration’ to drive home their point. They may or may not realize they are exaggerating but you can bet your left arm (I did it again) they want whoever is listening to them to take them seriously. When I was pastoring it used to drive me crazy when people exaggerated.

-“Pastor, a lot of people in the church feel this way.”, which usually means the person talking to you, their spouse, and maybe one other person. -“Pastor, our church is filled with cliques.” “Really? Filled? Wall to wall cliques? Packed like sardines filled? I agree, something smells and it’s not sardines.” I never said that, but I wanted to.  -“Why is everybody leaving?” “Everybody? I’m not leaving. I suspect you’re gonna leave, but everybody else? I don’t think so.”  I never said that, but I wanted to. 

If it drives me crazy when people exaggerate then it probably drives people crazy when I exaggerate, unless they never find out. 

***

I asked Ellen why she thinks people exaggerate. We concluded it can be traced back to pride, insecurity, and the need for acceptance. It’s hard to separate these three. 

My pride makes me want to appear better than I really am therefore I’ll exaggerate. If I feel insecure around someone I will exaggerate in order to bring myself up to their level. If exaggeration will win me the acceptance of others then so be it. 

Well I’ve said what I wanted to say. This is a good place to end. Besides, I’ve got about a hundred calls to make today. 

Questions for reflection: 1. Why do I exaggerate? 2. Under what circumstances do I tend to exaggerate? 3. What might I look out for that would warn me in advance that I’m about to exaggerate? 4. Who do I know that has a tendency to exaggerate and why is it helpful to know this?

The dictionary on my phone tells me that ‘fatigue’ is an “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  A lessoning of one’s response to or enthusiasm for something, typically as a result of over exposure to it.”

When I was journaling I identified three areas that I recognize fatigue in my life. Ready for some honesty?

I have Trump-Fatigue. It doesn’t keep me up at night but it does poke at me, especially when I watch or read the news. Sometimes it’s best not to watch the news.

I have Corona/Shelter at Home-Fatigue. It’s not too bad because I’ve always worked from home. I’m an introvert so I like staying home and being with Ellen all the time. I’m not sure Ellen likes being with me all the time. Kidding…kind of. But more so my fatigue is over the deaths, unemployment, suffering and the division this is causing in our country.

I have Aging-Fatigue. I turn 62 this year. I often am reminded that my road ahead is much shorter than the road behind me. Death is coming and there is nothing I can do about it. How’s that for a bright and positive attitude?

Is stress the same as fatigue? Maybe, but stress seems to me more temporary while fatigue lingers. Both can change you for the worse, or the better. One must be aware of, and on the lookout for them both because they can bully us into becoming who we don’t want to be and into thinking in ways we don’t want to think, and saying things we don’t want to say.

On my Small Church Pastor group page on Facebook I have seen the fatigue building among the pastors who make up this group.

For some pastors, preaching to a camera week after week is fatiguing. Preparing an online service week after week is fatiguing. Not being able to visit people in the hospital, or home visits is fatiguing. The church struggling with finances because of the virus is fatiguing. Staying on top of needed phone calls week after week is fatiguing.

If you are a pastor you probably could add to this list.

Here are some suggestions for reducing fatigue:

  • If this season of life has brought you stress or fatigue, admit it. Name it for what it is. Be able to say, “I’m fatigued.” There is something helpful in honestly calling it what it is. 
  • Identify exactly what fatigue looks like or feels like for you.
  • Bring these things to the Lord asking Him to reduce fatigue in your life.
  • Talk to a trusted friend about your feelings for support and prayer.
  • Identify fatigue-reducing practices that you have benefited from in the past. These might be things like going on a walk, scripture meditation, sitting out in the sun, talking to a trusted friend, taking a nap, or taking a nap. Did I mention taking a nap?

****

When I was journaling about fatigue in my life I felt the Lord remind me of these two verses: 

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Hang in there. This won’t last forever.

by dave jacobs

Has this ever happened to you? You come away from a meeting (either with a group or an individual) feeling that things went pretty well only to later find out that you were misunderstood? You think to yourself, “I don’t know how I could have been more clear.” 

Communication is risky. Every time we talk or write there is a chance that we will not be as clear as we think we’re being, and that point of vagueness can result in a false or incomplete impression that can frustrate our relationships and ministry. 

Every time we preach we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we lead people we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we write we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Be careful when you preach, when you lead, and when you write.

The longer we have to mull something over the greater a chance there is that when it comes time to communicate we will leave something out. Have you ever proof-read something you wrote and discovered that you left a word out of a sentence? How does that happen? I think that in your brain you know what you’re going to say (it is clear to you) but your writing gets ahead of your brain and you leave something out.

When Ellen was proof reading my first book (Mile Wide, Inch Deep), more than once we had a conversation that went something like this:

“This doesn’t make sense.” “What doesn’t make sense?” “Chapter seven, paragraph five. It doesn’t make sense. I know what you’re trying to say but I’m not sure your readers will.”

(Me hastily reading chapter seven, paragraph five with slight irritation)

“How is that unclear?” “It is. You need to rewrite that.” “Well, it’s clear to me.” “Well…if you’re going to be the only person that reads the book then leave it alone.”

(At which point I return to my office, look more objectively at chapter seven, paragraph five, admit that Ellen was correct, and rewrite the paragraph.)

Finally, be careful when you’re leading a meeting, especially if in that meeting you will be explaining or promoting new direction for your church. In my coaching practice I help pastors to identifying goals and strategies that help them fulfill the mission God has given their church. It’s not unusual for us to work for a whole month, sometimes longer, on certain plans and the means by which they will communicate the plan and generate ‘buy in’ or ‘get everyone on board.’ Some call this ‘vision casting.’ I call it a great opportunity to be vague and all the while think you are being clear. 

Vision casting is risky because the one doing the casting has usually spent a long, long time developing the vision. This goes back to what I said earlier; the longer you have to mull something over, the longer you have to think about something, the greater chance there is that when it comes time to explain the idea to others you will leave something out. It’s all clear to you but something breaks down when it travels those few inches from your brain to your mouth. 

Speaking, writing, and leading…these are the most common times when we can be vague. To minimize vagueness ask yourself questions such as these:

– What point(s) of mine really needs to be clear? – If there is anything in what I’m about to communicate that could be vague, what is it? – Would it be helpful if I used notes? – Am I prepared to ask those I’m communicating with for feedback on areas where I may have been vague? – How helpful would it be if I rehearsed my talk or presentation? – Have I prayed for God to help me be clear rather than vague? – Does my audience contain some who have misunderstood me or found me to be vague in the past? Should that affect my approach? – What can I learn from past vagueness that will help reduce future vagueness?

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Dave’s Latest Book:

Author George Santayana (1863-1952) said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In 1948 Winston Churchill stole Santayana’s words and made a slight change, “Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.” And I say, those who ignore their past will fail to understand who they are and why they behave and think the way they do. 

Never underestimate the effect your past has on your present and your future. 

Last year I turned sixty-one. The road of my past is now far longer than the road leading into my future. Now I’m not saying that I’ve been ignoring my past but it is certainly true that the last year or two I have been looking more seriously at the effect my past, and more specifically the negative parts of my past, has had on shaping me into the person I am today. 

I had some traumatic experiences as a child that, I believe, planted seeds of fear in me that I am still dealing with today. A friend of mine in Elementary school had a brother who accidentally fell off a cliff while hiking, and died. For some reason this really freaked me out. I can still remember sitting in the back of our car while my mom was driving and all of a sudden sobbing uncontrollably. My mom pulled to the side of the road and asked me what was wrong. I told her about my friend’s brother and that I was afraid that I was going to die. She tried her best to reassure me. 

On another occasion I was traveling with my Dad and Mom in the car and the traffic came to a crawl. Up ahead was an accident. As we slowly passed the crash, a group of bystanders were flipping the overturned car back on it’s wheels only to reveal the mangled, bloody body of a person. I’d never seen a dead person before, especially in that condition. 

And then there was that time with my brother. I only have one sibling, Gary, or at least he was called Gary back then. He would change his name shortly after leaving home at the age of eighteen and would forever be known as Jacob Mills…it’s a long story. We wanted to go into the entertainment business, which he did, and I guess that Jacob Mills sounded way more cool than Gary Jacobs…which it does. Anyway, Gary is five years older than me, and at that time he was becoming a bit of a hippie. His bedroom was way cool. He had posters and blacklights and beads hanging from the ceiling. There were shelves with knickknacks and a few bottles filled with colored water. I never understood what those bottles actually contained. One day while Gary was gone, I unscrewed one of the bottles and took a sip. Just as I did, Gary walked into the room:

“What are you doing?” “Nothing.” “Get out of my room.” “Okay.” “You didn’t drink that, did you?” “No.” “Good, because it’s poison and it will kill you.”

I ran out of his room and into the living room where my parents were watching television.

“I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.” My Dad said, “What in the hell are you talking about?” “I drank poison. I’m gonna die.” “Where’d you get poison?” “In Gary’s room.” “GARY, GARY, GET OUT HERE!”

I think that’s about the time when Gary left home.

It’s a funny story now, but it wasn’t funny then. 

There have been times in my past when I have been honest with some friends about having changed my theology on certain controversial things, only to have them turn on me and put an end to our friendship. Because of this, I am cautious about being totally honest with people.

There were times when I was pastoring that were so hurtful to me and Ellen, that now, when asked if I ever think I will return to the pastorate, I throw my head back, let out a loud and prolonged laugh, followed by a firm, “No way!”

But enough about me. What about you?

There have been good experiences from your past that have had a good and lasting effect on you. And, there have been bad experiences from your past that have had a bad and lasting effect on you. 

  • If you’ve been betrayed then you might have a hard time trusting people.
  • If you have been lied to, then you might have a hard time believing people.
  • If you have been abused, then you might have a hard time feeling safe with people.
  • If God has disappointed you, then you might be consciously or unconsciously, keeping Him at a distance. 

Some people seem to be less effected by the bad things from their past than others are. But just remember, just because it doesn’t seem to you that you’ve been effected by your past does not mean that you haven’t been effected by your past.

I can’t imagine anyone reading this chapter and disagreeing that our past can effect who we are, how we think, and why we behave the way we do. The real point is this; never underestimate the effect your past can have on your present and your future. 

Often times a trusted friend or a professional counselor can help you make these connections. Be willing to do the hard work of asking the hard questions about your past in order to move more freely in your present and into your future. 

People are easily offended and sometimes we can be easily offensive. You put those two things together and you’ve got trouble.  

The writer of Proverbs put it this way, “It would be easier for you to break into a fortified city than to regain the trust and loyalty of someone you have offended.” (Proverbs 18:19)

I know, I know, some of you might be thinking, “But speaking the truth will offend people. The gospel is offensive: I Corinthians 1:23 and Galatians 5:11. Besides Jesus offended people: Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:3.” 

That’s not the type of offense I’m talking about. I’m referring to offense that is not necessary, offense that could be avoided. 

There is an offense that comes because we’ve said or done something stupid or insensitive. 

I remember listening to a pastor at a conference say, “The only way not to offend people is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” The people around me burst into applause and cheers but I could not help but think that some had interpreted this as permission to offend.

Think about it, why would I want to offend someone if I didn’t need to? Four times the Bible tells me to avoid offending or placing a stumbling block before someone: I Corinthians 8:9, 10:32, II Corinthians 6:3 and Romans 14:13.

***

Despite my greatest efforts not to, I will still occasionally offend people. In order to keep being offensive to a minimal I need to ask myself these four questions:

  • How might my words or actions offend this person?
  • Do I care if I offend them?
  • Should I care if I offend them?
  • Can I achieve my objective in a way that might be less likely to offend?

A good rule to live by: If you have to ask yourself if what you’re about to say or do will be offensive…it will probably be offensive.

What should I do if I have discovered that I have offended someone?

  • Resist the temptation to become defensive and justify my actions.
  • In prayer and quiet reflection ask the Father to show me how I contributed to the offense.
  • Apologize without any explanations or qualifiers. Here are some examples of poor apologies:

“I’m sorry that you were offended but…”

“I apologize but…”

A good rule to live by in regards to apologizing: If you use the word ‘but’ you’ll come off as a ‘butt.’ What’s an example of a good apology?

“I’m sorry that I… PERIOD!” No butts

You might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, but it wasn’t all my fault. They needed to hear this.” You might be right. However, you will probably have an opportunity to revisit whatever it is you think they need to hear. Do your best to clear the air and approach the matter another day in another way. 

A good rule to remember: An offended person will not objectively listen to anything you have to say to them. 

***

A good friend emailed me with a fascinating tidbit: 

“The Greek word for offense is the word scandalon.  It’s where we get the English word scandal from.  Interestingly enough, the small metal piece on a mouse-trap where you put the cheese is called a scandalon. The picture is obvious … offense is a trap.  If you take the bait and become offended, you are the one who ends up being trapped.”

I couldn’t help but turn this around by thinking about how many churches have been trapped in stunted growth, conflict, and disunity because one or two offended people in the church slowly spread their toxic attitude throughout the fellowship.

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My Latest Book Just Came Out!

Second Thoughts: 100 things small church pastors need to reconsider.

From the back cover:

I was a pastor for thirty years before I retired and began coaching pastors. I’m now into my twelfth year of working with ministers and church leaders. The older I get, and the longer I do what I do, the more I find myself having second thoughts about how we do church. And not just church, but how pastors think. It’s not that I am worried that we’ve got it all wrong, but maybe there is another way to look at things. Maybe it would be helpful for us to reconsider things. Maybe the way we run our churches made sense at one time, but now there might be a more effective way to do it. Maybe there are things that fill our minds as pastors of smaller churches that aren’t doing us any good. We need to rethink, reconsider, challenge our approach to ministry and our role as a pastor.

You can find your copy

by dave jacobs

About five years ago I fell down our stairs. Not from the top all the way to the bottom, but about six steps…I think, I can’t really remember. I was alone. It’s not good to fall when you’re alone. It’s best to fall when people are around but it’s hard to schedule things like falling. As I lay there on my back I had a conversation with myself…because there was no one else there but me.

“Okay, stay down. Don’t get up yet, maybe you’re about to pass out. You don’t want to fall a second time. What’s that pain in my foot? Don’t look, you might see a bone. You’ve got to look. Okay, you can do this. Don’t get up but take a look.”

Sure enough, my foot was twisted in the wrong direction. 

“Okay, you’ve got to try to stand up and see if you can put pressure on it. No don’t! What if my foot just flaps back and forth? Well you just can’t lay here until Ellen gets home. Why not?”

I grabbed the handrail and slowly pulled myself up. I could put weight on it…kind of. 

“That’s good, it’s not flapping. But you’re hurt, you need to see the doctor. Wait, I can’t drive, especially since I don’t have a car. I’ll call Ellen. Oh please God let my phone be in my pocket. No, don’t call Ellen. No need to worry her. Call Mark (my son), maybe it’s his day off. He might make fun of me but I know he won’t be worried.”

Mark did come. Mark did take me to the doctor. Mark did make fun of me. I slowly recovered. 

Here’s the thing. I’d gone up and down those stairs for seven years and never fallen. Had I become reckless? Was I overly confident with my stair-climbing and decending? 

Never underestimate your ability to fall.

***

I’m sure by now you’ve realized that this isn’t about falling down stairs.

Most of us are familiar with Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks they stand be careful because it’s times like this that overconfidence can lead to a fall.”

I have a hard time believing that I could be unfaithful to Ellen. But then I’ve known pastors who committed adultery and I’m sure there was a time when they thought the same thing. 

Given the right circumstances, or the right combination of circumstances, I believe we all could be vulnerable to falling. Here are some examples of circumstances or situations to watch out for. 

You might be prone to a fall when you are not ‘self-aware.’  

You might be vulnerable to falling if you have a tendency to minimize.

You might be headed for a fall if you are on a winning streak. 

You might be at risk for falling when you are tired.

You might be more likely to fall when you are stressed out.

You might be susceptible to falling when you are spiritually dry. 

You might be open to a fall when you are bored, angry, hurt, or lonely.

***

Unless you are a stuntman, an athlete, or a skydiver, you’re not planning on falling. The reason why these people seldom hurt themselves (or at least don’t hurt themselves more than they do) is that they’ve taken precautions and they know how to fall in the safest way.

We’re not interested in falling safely. We don’t want to fall at all. And even though it’s unlikely that we will be able to go through life without falling there are things we can do to limit our falls.

1. There’s no need to be paranoid but also don’t be lackadaisical. You can be so focused on avoiding sin that you miss out on the joy and peace of walking with Christ. 

2. Practice faithfulness in little things. Most of us will probably never go out and rob a bank. But many of us have felt comfortable with telling a ‘little white lie.’ Jesus reminded us that people who are faithful in little things tend to be faithful in big things too. (Luke 16:10) It seems that the accumulation of small falls can add up to a big fall. Take seriously the small stuff.

3. Preventive prayer. We’re all familiar with that portion of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ that says, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 

4. Cultivate self-awareness. Consistent times of prayer, meditation, and reflection provide the Holy Spirit opportunities to show us who we really are, and what’s going on inside of us. We might not always like what we see but it’s imperative that we do. 

5. Find a trusted, safe, honest friend who we can share our weaknesses and temptations with and who will hold us accountable.

Never underestimate your ability to fall.

______________________________________________________________________________

My Latest Book Is Out!

Second Thoughts: 100 Things Small Church Pastors Need to Reconsider.

From back cover:

I was a pastor for thirty years before I retired and began coaching pastors. I’m now into my twelfth year of working with ministers and church leaders. The older I get, and the longer I do what I do, the more I find myself having second thoughts about how we do church. And not just church, but how pastors think. It’s not that I am worried that we’ve got it all wrong, but maybe there is another way to look at things. Maybe it would be helpful for us to reconsider things. Maybe the way we run our churches made sense at one time, but now there might be a more effective way to do it. Maybe there are things that fill our minds as pastors of smaller churches that aren’t doing us any good. We need to rethink, reconsider, challenge our approach to ministry and our role as a pastor.

Get your copy here…

We tend to read, and listen, and think within the comfortable and familiar confines of our group who think like we do. And if we do wander into a different group, a different perspective, it is for the purpose of debate or in an attempt to win them over to our way of thinking.

They say that fish don’t know they are swimming in water. Water is all they know. My Christianity was shaped in a certain pond.

I was converted (1973) into the pond of Evangelicalism. But under that umbrella were subcategories, not just Evangelicalism, but conservative Evangelicalism, not just that, but Charismatic Evangelicalism, not just Charismatic Evangelicalism but the Calvary Chapel expression of Charismatic, i.e. mellow Charismatic, or like I used to say, “Charismatic-lite.” In this pond swam fish who were complementarians, believed women couldn’t pastor, believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, worshipped to contemporary songs instead of hymns. The pastors wore jeans to church. There were many other distinctives to the water I swam in and the fish I bumped into. But for the most part we all thought the same and were suspicious of and had no real need for or interest in other ponds. After all…we were right and they were wrong.

It’s easy to forget that we think the way we do in large part because of the pond we were raised in. Our ‘churchianity’ and our theology were greatly shaped by the water we swam in.

For some time now Ellen and I have allowed ourselves to wander outside of our pond. You don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve discovered many things we didn’t know, legitimate perspectives different than our long-held ones. And along with this have come attacks, not because we have changed our thinking (and there are some areas in which we have) but simply because we were willing to wander into waters different than those we had always swam in. Some think that a willingness to wander is a sign that you are lost, but we don’t feel lost, in fact, we feel more ‘found’ than ever before.

Allow yourself to wander. 

When was the last time you read a book or blog written my someone who has a different theology or perspective than yours? For example, this year my reading is focused on female authors, authors of color, and writers of different people-groups other than mine.

Give yourself permission to wander. Think and rethink about the convictions you have. This is nothing to fear. This doesn’t mean anything will change…but it might. There are many ways in which I have changed because I have allowed myself to wander. I think this is progress, not regress.

Not all those who wander are lost. Thank you Tolkien.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I became a Christian going into my Sophomore year of High School in 1973. For the first year of my new found faith I attended a United Methodist church. After that I eventually landed in a non-denominational church that was basically a Calvary Chapel church that had yet to call themselves a Calvary Chapel church. The Calvary pastors had, and still do have, a reputation for being great expository and book studies preachers. I would learn to become one myself because of listening to their founder, Chuck Smith, teach through the Bible on cassette. Those were the days of cassettes. You young’uns have no idea what I’m talking about.

Calvary Chapel churches taught a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. So…I believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. In fact, it would be years before I discovered that not everyone believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, with the exception of those “liberal churches”, whom I was told didn’t believe in the Bible anyway so I didn’t need to pay any attention to them.

One day I was perusing the local Christian Book store and I found a book that laid out the four most common interpretations of the end-times. I never knew that there were intelligent, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people that looked at the same scriptures I did but came to different conclusions!

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Now before you go any further, take a few seconds to stop and think. Identify an important theological position you hold that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people can’t agree on. Wait for it, wait for it…got it? Okay, hold that thought.

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Have you ever noticed how often you hear some Christians or pastors say, “The Bible clearly teaches ___________?”

Now I happen to think that there are many things the Bible clearly teaches, but in regards to those important and controversial theological subjects that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians disagree on, if the Bible was clear on those things, there wouldn’t be disagreement. Think about it, we owe the existence of denominations to the fact that the Bible isn’t always clear.

It all comes back to Biblical hermeneutics. We all believe in the same Bible, we all love Jesus, but we often look at the same passages of scripture and come to different interpretations.

Apparently the Bible isn’t clear about ___________.

It’s okay to say, “I think my interpretation makes more sense.”

It’s okay to say, “I’ve tried to objectively look at the different positions on this and my position is ____________.”

It’s okay to say, “The Bible seems clear to me about ______________, but some of my Bible-believing, Jesus-loving sisters and brother disagree with me.”

It’s okay to say, “I might be wrong about this…but I don’t think I am.”

It’s not okay to say, “The Bible is clear about _____________.”

It’s not okay to say, “Any Bible-believing Christian will agree with me.”

It’s not okay to say, “Bible-believing churches don’t believe _____________.”

The Bible is not always clear, and I’m comfortable with that. I hope you are as well.

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