Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category


Oh Please!! Dr. Dobson Reacts to a Speech by Barack Obama

June 25, 2008

I was just reading Scot McKnight’s blog and he had a post about a Focus on the Family episode where Dr. Dobson was commenting on a speech by Barack Obama where Dobson’s name was used.

Now, I don’t agree with everything that Obama supports, and I don’t even know how I am going to vote in the Presidential election (yes, I still get to vote even though I don’t live in the States… I’m still a US citizen). In listening to the Focus on the Family broadcast, though, I was taken aback at how Dobson and his co-host chose to interpret what Obama was saying. Their claims did not match up with what Obama was saying in the clips they played. Many times Dobson said that he wasn’t trying to be defensive, but that’s exactly what he was doing. I don’t even understand why Dobson was so offended by Obama’s mention of Dobson in a speech that happened two years ago! Obama was slamming him in any way or equating him in any way with anyone or anything as Dobson was claiming. Obama, in actuality, was giving tribute to the influence that Dobson has on a certain view of evangelical Christianity. Also, Dobson took other comments way out of context and seemed to be very paranoid in how they viewed what Obama was saying. What I gathered from the clips in the speech was that Obama was simply saying that Christians can’t just influence the political process by pointing to themselves and the Bible and saying they are right and everyone else is wrong. Even Evangelicals disagree on what is essential and what is non-essential. Plus, there are more than just Christians that live in the States and we have to meet those people on some common ground before imposing a set of values on them simply on the basis on having a sense of a greater revealed truth.

Dobson’s reaction to Obama’s speech, in my opinion, is doing a disservice to followers of Christ. He has done exactly what he accuses “the media” of doing to him: pulling sound bites out of context and misinterpreting them. We need to stop being a paranoid people. We need to stop being afraid of what is being said and the questions that are being asked. We need to engage the conversations around us intelligently and in a way that encourages dialogue. We need to stop insisting that we are right and admit that sometimes we are wrong and narrow minded. It’s not about being right. It’s about meeting people where they are and pointing them to a more full life following Christ. It’s hard to do that when we are whining about how right we are.

NOTE: I just finished reading Obama’s speech that is talked about in the broadcast. While I may not agree with all of what Obama was saying, I do think that Dobson misrepresents the spirit of the speech. I do think, though, that much of what Obama brought up about reconciling religion and politics is well worth thinking over and valid. If only more people would be so willing to put their views under scrutiny and be as authentic as he seems to be.


Rethinking our assumptions

June 24, 2008

We were on our biannual staff retreat last week. One of the passages we looked at for our discussion times was Micah 3.

In essence, Micah is blasting the Israelite leaders for assuming that they are following God when they really weren’t. The passage uses some very strong language to suggest that they should’ve known better, but they really thought they were following God.

How many times do we assume that we are following God when we really aren’t? How do we know? I mean, Micah then goes on to say how he is following God. How does he really know? OK, he was a prophet, but still…

I think many times we go about our lives assuming that we are following God and doing what he wants. We assume this because things are going well: no major bumps at home, church programs are running well, house over our heads, etc. We, then, take less risks and seek out calmer waters rather than jumping into a potentially dangerous adventure.

I wonder if we’ve done the same thing with children’s ministry. What if we are simply assuming that the way we do children’s ministry is THE WAY it’s supposed to be done? What if we are so used to thinking that we are hearing from God that we are completely missing “it” when it comes to children’s ministry? Some of us will point to “family ministry” and say that is the answer… What if it isn’t? Is there something else that we are missing?

Just some random thoughts and questions I’ve been mulling over. What are you doing in children’s ministry? What are your ultimate goals? What are you doing to evaluate whether or not you are actually hearing from God about children’s ministry?


Ministry Focus

June 5, 2008

(photo by Balakov)
I was in a conversation with a children’s pastor a while back who was looking for good web content to put into his website so kids would come visit. My question was, “Why?”

Why are you spending time, and lots of it because websites take TIME, putting a website together for kids to go to? That time and money can better be spent elsewhere… like equipping and empowering volunteers to reach children and families. His answer? “Yeah, I know… but I want a place for kids to be able to access Christian content. Aren’t we supposed to provide as many opportunities for kids to encounter Jesus?”

Why do we children’s ministers continue to fall for the myth that the more opportunities we have out there for kids to interact/hear the Gospel the better?

Oh, I know that we all know that we need to simplify and focus on only what we do best. But most of us never really do that. We claim that we need all our programs (and more) and that we do all of them well!

We need to start being more honest with ourselves and realize that we can’t do everything we do well. We can only do a few things well, and we need to focus on those.

Imagine what we could do if all of our resources (time, volunteers, money, creativity) were used on only one program or initiative… Imagine focusing on the one thing that you do better than anyone else…

Imagine what we could do if each of us took those flashlights called children’s ministry and focus those lights into laser beams… Talk about making a lasting impression.


Leadership Lesson from Target

May 26, 2008

Last week, I was on a trip with a friend to see RUSH. I had not really known music from RUSH, but my friend was a big fan and had requested this concert from his wife as his birthday present. Since his wife doesn’t like RUSH and I am up to adventures, I got to go. It was a lot of fun.

On the way home, we did some shopping. Yes, I know… men and shopping? Anyway, we stopped at Target. I wanted a Senseo machine (best cup of coffee ever!) and my friend needed a toaster. While were were looking for stuff, we needed an associate to help us with something. We used one of those service stations where you pick up the phone and someone gets paged to help you. I like Target’s automated system. It pages everyone with a walkie talkie to come to wherever you paged them from.

Within 20 seconds, there was someone to help us. She was having trouble canceling the page, so there was a second page over the walkie talkies. Withing 10 seconds four more associates showed up! Wow!

Now, I know this might not be true of all Target stores, but for this Target, I know that it is the norm. My wife and I had just been at this same Target days previous and had a similar experience.

The cool thing at this Target is that not only does someone come to help you, but that person is empowered to answer your question and help you in any way they can. I couldn’t help but wonder at the culture that this Target had created. When a page is sent out, people don’t just assume that someone else will get it. If they are near the area, they go. Then with the second page, it seems as if all “senior” associates drop what they are doing and rush to the area that they are paged to. I felt important.

Now, I know that these people are paid to do what they do, but someone had to create that culture of service and taking responsibility for the entire store and not just their little task. It made me think about what I am doing to try and create a culture of volunteers who care about the entire church and not just their class or task that is assigned to them. Not only care but are empowered to do something. I was reminded that I need to keep communicating with my volunteer team. I need to tell them stories of what is happening all over the church. I need to keep the vision of the church before them as much as possible. I need volunteers to hear my heart consistently.

What are you doing to empower your volunteers? How are you creating a culture that cares about the big picture? Creating culture takes time… years of time. Keep at it. It’s worth it.



May 13, 2008

(photo by Pulpolux !!!)
I was talking with one of the staff here at Redwood about being in vocational ministry and the tension between work and home. He said something that got me thinking. He said, “I like to think of it in terms of equilibrium rather than balance. Equilibrium is just more dynamic.”

Both he and I are from a science background, so that really hit a chord with me. For those of you science nerds out there, Wikipedia defines dynamic equilibrium this way:

  • “occurs when two opposing processes proceed at the same rate. A reversible chemical reaction will be at dynamic equilibrium when the rate of forward reaction is equal to the rate of the reverse reaction. Whilst at dynamic equilibrium there is no change in the concentration of either the forward or reverse reactions. The word “dynamic” indicates that at equilibrium both the forward and reverse chemical reactions still occur rather than the reaction halting once equilibrium is reached.”

In other words, equilibrium doesn’t mean things get balanced and then nothing changes. In equilibrium stuff is always moving back and forth. The key, though, is that the net effect over a long period of time is zero. One side of the equation doesn’t end up being heavier than the other.

I think that if we approach work and home that way when it comes to vocational ministry, it allows us the freedom to define how much we spend at work and how much we spend at home in terms of what our values and priorities are rather than in number of hours from week to week. Personally, my values are that home life will win over work life in the end. That then allows me to work more hours at work when certain situations require that of me because I will take advantage of those times when work isn’t as demanding to spend more time at home so that net effect in the end is that home does win over work.

This then becomes a good guage of if you are spending too much time at work (or at home). If the equilibrium that you have set up for yourself becomes out of whack over a period of time, then you know you have to adjust one side of the equation or make a radical change.

How do you deal with the demands of work and home when in vocational ministry?


Do Something About It

May 2, 2008

Earlier this week our staff went for breakfast. While I was paying, one of the guys pointed out the bag above. They had those individually wrapped toothpicks available for people on the counter. I imagine that they had found lots of those little plastic wrappers all over the place, and someone thought, “Hey! Why don’t we just stick a bag near the toothpicks for people to dump their wrappers in?” I should’ve asked the cashier, but I wonder if they have less toothpick wrappers laying around the floor now.

Now, I’m sure employees and owners complained about the toothpick wrappers on the floor. The thing is… someone did something about it. It got me wondering about the things that I complain about and do nothing about. Sometimes I do nothing out of laziness. Sometimes I do nothing to avoid conflict. Sometimes I do nothing because I put off doing it and get too busy to go back and do something. Sometimes I just hope that someone else takes responsibility for it and takes care of it themselves. Whenever I choose to do nothing, the outcome is almost always the same: Nothing changes… nothing gets done… and I am still complaining about it.

I think Nike is on to something with their tagline: “Just do it.” Stop complaining. Do something about it. It doesn’t have to be perfect or complicated or sophisticated. Just take care of it.


Shh… Just be quiet…

May 1, 2008

I was just recently at a conference where we were challenged to be quiet to listen to God. It was preceded creatively by text on a screen that we read through as if the screen were doing a monologue, so we were forced to be quiet before given the challenge to be quiet and listen to God. I really liked it and the way it was done. In the midst of all the busyness and excitement of being at a conference and having listened to general sessions and breakouts the previous two days, we were challenged to put all that aside and just listen to God.

The funny thing about this exercise was how many people, all of a sudden, had to cough. We are so conditioned to not have quiet that unconsciously some people filled in the silence with a cough. It was contagious! One person coughed, then another and then another. It wasn’t a cacophony of coughing. It was just a smattering of coughing, but it was interesting nonetheless. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, you should’ve been concentrating on God rather than listening to the coughing!” You’re right. I, too, struggled to just be quiet and listen to God. I think we all, especially those of us who are leaders, need to practice silence more often.