Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving is Coming! Is it time to Rethink Christmas?

Thanksgiving and Black Friday always seem to ramp up the "keep Christ in Christmas" battle.  I can understand folks wanting to acknowledge their faith. However, the aggressive tone of some does nothing to make the Christian faith attractive to others. And I am not sure it helps strengthen our discipleship either.

My denomination, the United Methodist Church, has a Rethink Christmas campaign out which might help Christians experience a more powerful holiday season this year.  If you want to know more, then go to

If you feel the need to fight the battle for Christmas, perhaps there is a battle that helps others instead of alienating them.  Maybe there is something worth fighting for this Christmas.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Easter People in a Lottery World

I recently ran across this story from the Associated Press:

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) - A U.S. church that gave away $1,000 to fill more pews last Easter Sunday says it will do it again this year.

Lindenwald Baptist Church in Hamilton draws names to award $500 each to a member of the congregation and a guest.

Pastor Randy Moore tells The Journal-News of Hamilton that the southwest Ohio church had hoped for 1,000 worshippers last year, when it made the offer for the first time. It packed in 1,140 - more than double the usual Sunday attendance of around 500. Moore says a crew had to direct traffic in the parking lot.

Easter falls on April 24 this year. The pastor says given the economy, the church will continue the cash giveaway to provide a financial as well as a spiritual blessing on the holiday. (©2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

I read about this church last Easter. It was not the only church that offered the lure of cash to get more folks in its doors. While it's easy to self-righteously look down on churches that offer such gimmicks, their leaders will argue that these promotions allow them to share the Gospel with folks who otherwise would not hear it. In fact, the church in the above article claims that 36 people accepted Jesus during that Easter Sunday service. They will also suggest they are providing a financial blessing as well as a spiritual blessing to two fortunate people.

As distasteful as offering money to get people in the pews may seem, an investment of $1,000 yielded over 600 visitors, 36 new Christians, and nationwide publicity. I suspect more churches will follow their lead this year.

At the very least, I have some serious reservations about this strategy but it would be a mistake to dismiss the efforts of Lindenwald Baptist Church. So, what can we learn from this?

I believe it is wrong to use money to lure people into church because it contradicts the Gospel. Over eleven hundred people came to church and only two came away with $500. What about the other 1,138 people? How many came to church desperately needing $500 but did not win? How many left that church on Easter Sunday feeling the disappointment of losing the lottery rather than the joy of the resurrection? Do the ends justify the means?

Jesus Christ's victory over death on Easter morning teaches us that no one need walk away empty-handed. God's grace is available to all who accept it. There is no drawing for the grand prize -- it is freely given to all. And accepting Christ is not the

However, Lindenwald Baptist Church did create excitement in their community and brought more people into their church. I am in no position to judge the sincerity of their evangelism efforts even as I question their methods. Give them credit for doing something, anything.

Other than a free lottery, what can Christians do to create that kind of excitement in their churches and communities?

Inviting your neighbors and friends to worship with you on Easter (or any) Sunday is important. Share with others what your faith and your church home mean to you. Let them know God riches are given freely to all who will receive them.

Perhaps where we need to start is by living our lives as people who have been given something greater than the world can give – the gift of a savior. If our lives reflect the glory of God, that light will shine a path for people who are seeking something greater than the world can give them. Handing out cash is appealing. Who wouldn't want to have $500 to fall into their hands? Yet I hope we truly believe that what God has given us is more valuable than that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Haircut Long Overdue

It all started because I was too embarrassed to reschedule an appointment.

I am a walk-in kind of guy when it comes to haircuts. When I need one, I usually go to a salon or barber shop that does not require an appointment.

When I moved to Franklin, there was a national chain salon that took walk-ins. For about six months, I was a regular customer. Then one day, the shop went out of business and I needed someone else to cut my hair. Liz worked at one of the locally owned and operated salons where my wife gets her hair cut. However, I couldn't just walk in. I had to make an appointment.

Liz cut my hair for almost two years. At first, I got my hair cut on Mondays since I normally take that day off. When the owner decided to close the shop on Mondays, I scheduled my appointment first thing in the morning so I could head to the church at a reasonable time. Often I would forget. On my way to Saint Andrew's it would hit me somewhere around the intersection of US-58 and US-460 -- "Oh, no. I forgot my appointment."

I would call Liz and apologize. She was always a good sport about it and we would reschedule. After my third or fourth time absence, I became known as "The Person Most Likely to Miss an Appointment." One day as I sat waiting to have my hair cut, one of the other stylists asked Liz if her nine o'clock stood her up again.

That was kind of embarrassing but I deserved it. After all, a missed appointment is lost income for a stylist. I would try to make up for it by giving Liz a more generous tip but I still felt bad.

Then last October I did it again. I forgot my nine o'clock appointment! I called Liz to apologize but did not reschedule since my planner was not handy.

Several weeks passed and I really needed a haircut. But I kept putting it off. A few more weeks went by. I decided I was going to let my hair grow out. Maybe even let it get long enough to tie back or even braid it. (I know it sounds silly because I feel silly just typing these words.)

Susan was supportive at first. However, by February my hair was curling up in the back and I could not get it to stay straight. Susan was not thrilled with my new look. I did not care much for it either but I thought that maybe in another two or three months I could pull it back.

Three more months passed – eight since my last haircut -- and I could not take it anymore. When I took my car to a quick-lube for an oil change on a recent Monday morning, I walked into the hair salon inside the Franklin Wal-Mart without an appointment and got my long-needed hair cut.

I went eight months without a hair cut because I was too embarrassed to call Liz. I convinced myself that I did not need my hair cut and I would let it grow. I was only fooling myself.

Sometimes we treat God the same way. Our pride or, perhaps, shame prevents us from coming clean when we regret something we have done. Then we convince ourselves there was never really a problem. We go on living as if everything is alright until one day we discover the truth and get right with God again.

I am glad God is patient and waits for me to get right with Him when I mess up. I don't need to carry around that pride or shame. I can always come clean without fear of judgment. God encourages me to live my life with integrity.

Turns out that Liz is pretty forgiving as well and was glad to hear from me when I called. I have an appointment for her to cut my hair in May. She suggested that Saturdays might work better for me. I hope I don't forget this appointment.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Congrats to the Altavista High School Colonels!

The Altavista Colonels won the Virginia State Group 1, Single A Football Championship today by defeating J.I. Burton High 27-7 in Salem, VA.

As a proud graduate from the Class of 1979, it's hard to believe the words "football" and "championship" apply to the Colonels. I played on the 1976, 1977, and 1978 football teams. We were awful. I think we won a total of 6 games during my three years.

I remember in 1976 we were about to play Brookville High School. We were the underdogs and "Rocky" was playing at the Vista Theater. On the Thursday night before the game, most of the team went to see the movie together. We came out of the theater determined to give the Brookville Bees a game. The next night Brookville crushed us 40-0 if memory serves.

How times have changed. Congratulations, Colonels!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Have You Put up Your Christmas Tree?

Christmas is two weeks away and we have not put our tree up yet. You might think a Pastor's family would be among the first to decorate for the holidays. Not so!

While I enjoy the end result of Christmas decorating, I don't look forward to pulling everything out of storage. Since our kids are no longer children, there's very little pressure from them to get it done anymore.

Maybe it will get done this weekend. But I have two messages to prepare for Sunday, a funeral visitation, and a funeral to prepare for Monday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welcome to Living In Oblivion

I stole the title of my blog from an obscure 1995 independent film starring Steve Buscemi. Steve Buscemi is my oldest daughter's favorite actor. On her 16th birthday, she held a Steve Buscemi film festival at our house with her best friends. Living In Oblivion was one of the featured films.

I think the title gives a pretty good description of life as an American Pastor in a mainline Christian denomination today. I am called to this life fully knowing that the world around me finds the work of a pastor increasingly irrelevant.

Anyway, I have no idea where this will go. Maybe no where. We shall see.