File this one under “Continuing Education.”

As most of you know, in 2013 I resigned my beloved church of 14 years and relocated across the country to my ancestral homeland in order to focus on writing. Then, six months ago (March 2016) The Lord made it clear to me and our church that I was to pastor again.

What I have learned is that things changed while I was away.

I don’t mean away from Texas, I mean away from day-to-day ministry.

One of the things I have learned, the hard way, is that email is dead.


When I was in Port Orchard, we relied upon email for almost everything. It was efficient and cost effective. I think my love for email was bias. When I arrived in Port Orchard in 1999, they were very much in the technological word of 1985–One computer used only for printing the bulletin, no internet connection on site, and certainly no email database. I was opposed early on with the typical “What about people without a computer” and I told them that “We will still use snail mail for those folks if they request it, but soon everyone will be using email for just about everything.” I think people 30 and under view email the same way I think of a fax machine–as something akin to an abacus. Nevertheless, it is hard to let go of a beloved method.

I was right, of course. Right up until I left email was our primary mode of communication. It was more vital than our website, the app we built, Facebook, Twitter, or text messaging. We had email distrubition lists for every group, sub-group, and ministry in our church. It was wonderful. It was easy. It worked.

That is not the case in my new environment. True, some of that might be location, but I suspect it is a cultural shift. Almost no one emails anymore. Most people don’t check their email more than weekly. The only thing email is useful for now is to send a document–and the only way that works is if I send the person a text message saying, “I sent you a document, check your email.”

Email is dead. Text messaging is alive and well.

This fall will find me trying to figure out how to be non-intrusive about the use of email and communication, particularly with worship guests. Again, for the past decade my modus operandi has been to send guests an email first thing Monday morning. That will not work anymore. A phone call is, I think, a little too pushy and needy. But a text message, that seems to be the zeitgeist of the age.

Just text me, everyone says.

Text messages fit our desire to absorb information quickly and move on. With our phones we don’t have to log in, clear spam, or use an bulky app. It is intuitive. It pops up on the screen. It waits until I’m ready to answer it.

This is different for me as a minister. In 2013 text messaging was certainly around, but it was something we mostly did amongst close friends and family. Remember? It would never have crossed my mind to text a receipt to someone, to text a customer service issue, to text a stranger, to text a business, an airline, or anyone I didn’t know very well. But that has changed, dramatically.  We text everyone all the time about everything.

I wonder how the Apostle Paul would have used text messaging . . .



img_mouseover3Yesterday was Pentecost in the Western calendar. For me it was an enjoyable experience because I was able to play the role of theologian during the sermon, which is always fun for me. For the most part I gave an exposition of Acts 2:1-13. One of the things I didn’t do was go into a deep discussion on the imagesHoly Spirit in the context of ministry today. If I did, I would have used this amazing quote from theologian Hans Küng in his magnum opus On Being a Christian (p. 468–Doubleday 1984).

We cannot overlook the fact that any talk of the Holy Spirit is so unintelligible to many today that it cannot even be regarded as controversial.  But there can also be no doubt that the blame for this situation may be laid to a large extent on the way in which the concept of the Holy Spirit has been misused in modern times both by the official Church and by pious individuals.

When holders of high office in the Church did not know how to justify their own claim to infallibility, they pointed to the Holy Spirit.  When theologians did not know how to justify a particular doctrine, a dogma or a biblical term, they appealed to the Holy Spirit.  When mild or wild fanatics did not know how to justify their subjectivist whims, they invoked the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was called in to justify absolute power of teaching and ruling, to justify statements of faith without convincing content, to justify pious fanaticism and false security in faith.  The Holy Spirit was made a substitute for cogency, authorization, plausibility, intrinsic credibility, objective discussion.  It was not so in the early church or even in the medieval.  This simplification of the role of the Holy Spirit is a typically modern development, emerging on the one hand from Reformation fanaticism and on the other hand from the defensive attitude of the great Churches, seeking to immunize themselves from rational criticism.



images from and


This going to work every day again has been a difficult adjustment. The biggest adjustment has been reacquiring some skill sets that I previously had mastered, but lost due to atrophy. It is true–use it or lose it. Here are some things I need to work on:

1. The important skill of remembering to turn your iPhone to airplane mode if you intend to use it to read scripture during a worship service. Easter Sunday it was still dark (and rainy) when the sunrise service began, so I thought myself clever using my iPhone to read the scripture because of the backlight. In the middle of Isaiah my phone asks me if i want to update. I tell it no. It asks if tonight is good. Rather embarrassing.

2. I had forgotten how hard announcements are. I flubbed them up royally yesterday, and even had to rearrange on the fly. Once upon a time announcements were seamless to me and I spoke the language of “put on your calendars” and “you will not want to miss” as if it were my mother tongue. Now I stammer and stutter all the way through.

3. Time management is the hardest. I grossly overestimated how much time I had between small group and worship service yesterday.

Another skill to reacquire is keeping my eyes open while preaching.

The result was we started everything several minutes later than we intended, thus pushing everything late.

4. Temperature control, for me, is vital. If I get too warm when I am preaching my throat gets hoarse, I cough, and then I feel myself losing energy. That happened yesterday because I did not make certain the thermostat was set at the right temperature. By the time I left the building, I was in need of hydration and a throat lozenge. I used to be on top of things like that, but somehow along the way I’d forgotten.

5. I didn’t make it to the back of the building quick enough on any of the first three weeks. That has got to change, because I have found, through the years, that a lot of pastoring happens at the back of the door after a worship service.

There are other things I’ve got to re-learn, but these are the ones that are bothering me on this Monday morning.


This is Derek Elkin’s official image.

Derek Elkins wrote today’s blog post. Derek and I are both founding “Bards” at where we write and publish, along with many others. He sent me this yesterday as a reflection on a troubling situation he’d observed at a distance. Check out Derek’s Amazon page by clicking here.


So, it’s happened to all of us at one time or another as Christians. Some friend of yours finds a discrepancy or something the pastor or staff of your church has done that is either what they consider unbiblical or just rubs them the wrong way. They want to leave the church. They want to shout the pastor’s sins from the rooftops to anyone that will listen. What do you do?

First, don’t get involved in spreading gossip. If someone has a problem with church leadership, it may be that they are telling you to get you on their side. But the problem is that in church conflict it’s not us against them: it’s everyone against Satan. He wants disorder. He wants chaos. He’d love it if we were at each other’s throats because then we’re ineffectual and doing his job for him. Satan doesn’t have to fight if we’re too busy tearing ourselves apart.

Second, encourage them above anything else to go to the other person and talk directly to them. After all, what’s the most important thing?  We need to bring glory to God in every circumstance. His image is far more important than proving ourselves right. His glory is more important than making sure we get a fair hearing. It’s better that I get smacked down seventy-seven times than I drag God’s name through the mud.

Third, make sure we all get the logs out of our eyes. In other words, let’s make sure that we’re right with God before accusing someone else of being wrong. If you keep encountering conflict after conflict, maybe the problem is you.  Don’t even start to accuse someone else of wrongdoing until you’re absolutely sure that it’s not you that’s at fault. What’s the point of starting the Matthew 18 process if the real problem is not being addressed?

Now, all of this works toward the Matthew 18 principle until we get to the point that we can’t just throw the pastor or a leader out of the church if we’ve confronted him and brought along another and he still doesn’t repent.  Is it our position to remove leadership anyway or is that more the right of the One who put him there in the first place?  And we also have the command that we must place ourselves under those God has placed over us. How do we reconcile and where do we go from there…after we’ve examined ourselves, prayed fervently and we have no other options?

Speaking biblically, David had some big problems with an authority figure and he waited until God took care of the matter. Of course, he did a lot of running away in the meantime while he waited for God to bring judgment. But if that’s how the man after God’s own heart acted, who are we to say it’s wrong?

We also have the example of Paul and Barnabas who got into a pretty serious argument over the usefulness of one of their helpers. They parted ways but continued to serve God and increase His kingdom. Basically they compromised and parted in a way that didn’t drag down God’s name. It’s a little thing we call compromise and keeping the God thing the main thing.

Now sometimes God uses conflict to push people into different ministry paths. In my mind, it’s probably a last resort thing as I’m sure He’d rather people just did what they were supposed to in the first place. But sometimes God uses conflict to incite other ways to reach people or serve Him that wouldn’t otherwise be reached or served. Sometimes leadership start to think that their church is the only one that can accomplish God’s will or sometimes those God called to ministry don’t want to leave the comfort behind. It happens. Just don’t cry too hard when God has to shake things up a bit. After all, you drove Him to it.

It’s important to remember that conflict can be a good thing. It can extend God’s kingdom, it can help us understand another’s point of view, or it can bring about much needed change and a new fervency to seek God. But conflict that puts God or the church in a bad light is never a good thing. Remember, it’s not about what’s best for us, it’s about what’s best for God.