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Opportunities for the “Very Old”

This was part of the text for my Bible study lesson this past Sunday:   In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:5-7, NIV)   As I read Adam Hamilton’s commentary on this passage, I was pleased that he devoted a significant portion of his comments to the contributions that the “very old” are still able to make to the work of the Kingdom.   In reality, Zechariah (and Elizabeth) were probably at least two decades younger than I am right now.  As a priest, Zechariah would have been expected to start giving up his duties at the age of 50.  Of course, if someone reached the age of 60 in the New Testament world, their longevity was not only exceptional but seen as
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The Church will Prevail

And   I   tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock   I   will   build   my   church , and the gates of Hades   will   not overcome   i t.(Matthew 16:18, NIV)   I probably spend more time on social media than I should, but I find it a good way to keep in touch with how my friends at the grassroots feel about the church—both laity and clergy.   A big theme I pick up goes something like this: “The church is in decline and is losing its influence.  I just hope it lasts one more generation for me and my family or until I retire from ministry.”   Such thoughts are not new.  There have been many times in the last two thousand years when the church has been counted out. Even so, it is still here.   Perhaps we should clarify some terms.  What do we mean when we use the word “church”?  The Church (big C) was established by Christ.  In theological terms, when we use big C for church, we are talking about the Church Universal—all believers, in all expressions, in all times.  When we use the t

Our Five-Year Plan

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”   Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14, NIV)   As you can imagine, I receive newsletters—both hard copy and digital—from several churches on a regular basis.  This week I received one online that invited me to click on a link and view the church’s Five-Year Plan. So I did.   I was impressed by the Purpose Statement and Guiding Principles identified. These were Kingdom-oriented and life-giving.  The themes identified were clearly based on conversation and dialogue within the congregation.  But then I turned to the goals.   Let me be perfectly transparent here:  Goals written with a horizon of over a year are useless. Here’s why.   In the next year, we may face an economic recession.  We may be faced with another worldwide pandemic.  The war in

Review: The Innovative Executive: Leading Intelligently in the Age of Disruption

In our disruptive context, many see innovation as a priority for survival.  In The Innovative Executive, author Bella Rushi goes a step further and argues that innovation can also provide sustainable growth.   Writing from her broad experience with both life sciences and consumer products company, Rushi seeks to address these three items:   What do companies need from their leaders today? What can we do to uncover new possibilities to go to market and to create new processes and new customer experiences? What is the real challenge companies face when it comes to innovation?   The three levers she identifies to address these questions are:   Rethinking Your Business Model Innovation and Collaboration Making the Most of Your Technology Spend   She provides insights and illustrations in each area, but I was particularly taken by the Innovation and Collaboration section.  She shows understanding of the Design Thinking approach by recommending that companies combine “big data” and an anthro

Learning about Community

Old Testament Reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV   9  Two are better than one,     because they have a good return for their labor: 10  If either of them falls down,     one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls     and has no one to help them up. 11  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.     But how can one keep warm alone? 12  Though one may be overpowered,     two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.   New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:11, NIV   11  Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.     Sometimes we must unlearn old things so that we can learn new things.   One of the things I had to unlearn was that scripture was not just written for me but was created in community and directed toward communities.   In regard to the Hebrew Bible, I knew pretty early that most of the content was directe

Do Metrics Matter?

A pastor friend recently noted that he had stopped submitting his church’s annual report to the denomination.  He said, “ {They want] metrics that no longer matter and are irrelevant. [The report] doesn’t ask how many Muslims have become Christians, number of internationals reached, Facebook or YouTube views, website hits.”  All of these are important metrics in his context and in a post-COVID (?) world but the denomination is not asking about those things.   We all know the measures requested in these reports:  number of Baptisms, Sunday school attendance, worship attendance, resident members, etc.  So, do you include those attending services online in worship attendance?  What about the couple who now live in another state but are still members of the congregation and continue to send their tithes to the church? What are the measures of a successful ministry to the unhoused?   It is not that metrics—the things we measure—are unimportant.  I believe the adage, “What gets measured gets

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Let me be very clear.     I am a former Southern Baptist who attended Southwestern Seminary.   When I was a young minister, fellow alum Rick Warren was a role model for pastors.     He was not only a challenging teacher and preacher, but he was emerging as a successful church planter with Saddleback Community Church. It is now one of the largest congregations affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.   My respect for Warren as a pastor continues.  I have a couple of his books on my bookshelf.  Due to some family experiences, Warren has been a strong champion for Christians to address mental health issues.   He championed evangelicals fighting AIDS overseas.  In recent years, he led the Saddleback church to ordain three women as staff pastors. His successors in pastoring Saddleback will be a married couple with the wife recognized as “teaching pastor.”   Even so, Warren misses the boat on some key issues.  As the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention mulled over wheth