Monday, November 9, 2009


The other day I tweeted about a revamped TV series from the 80's. It was a very cool modern adaptation of the old series with new themes like "sleeper cells" and "media manipulation". My tweet was stright-forward, that I liked it and the new "greatly contextualized" script. A good friend responded by asking if "contextualized" was even really a word. And of course...that got me thinking...

Wikipedia defines contextualization as: "Contextualization is used in the study of Bible translations in relation to their relevant cultural settings. Derived from the practice of hermeneutics, it sought to understand the use of words borrowed into the Hebrew Scriptures, and later their Greek and Latin translations." It goes on to explain that since the 1970's the word has been secularized and much more widely used. So here is my thought.

Have we over-contextualized the Faith in our efforts to have meaningful application? I'm not talking about relevance, but about true meaning. Go pick up just about any devotional book at your local retailer and you will find your daily inspiration summed up in one or two verses. Most often not even a full passage is listed, much less enough of the text to provide ample meaning. True hope is not found in looking for inspiration, but by searching for depth and understanding. We have truly become lazy Christians. We are content to find our understanding through our pastor's quips and quotes, and not connecting the scriptures ourselves. I often hear people speak of reading the passages cover to cover, which is a great practice, but few speak of finding the meaning the author intended for the text. Why were these words included? Who was he talking to?

I know that I say this at the risk of sounding like a professor or an over-achiever, but we are lazy. Schools in Jesus' day required a memorization of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) by the age our children would be heading to middle school. Jesus didn't quote the scriptures because He was of a Divine nature, though He was. He quoted them because he learned them the way every other child who sat beside Him at school did. Think about it. Jesus quoted the Old Testament text with everyone He came into contact with. He was memorizing to berate people, but to show Himself as one who had a knowledge of God's plan.

I truly understand the need for some contextualization. Topical messages and illustration do help connect our disconnected society. However, I believe we can contextualize "in context" to God's word. Find the authority behind the words of God. It is far more than an inspirational text.

So remember this the next time you pick up your devotional. If you feel inspired by a verse out of context, imagine how empowering the Truth will be!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Go To Hell

Now that you think the preacher guy has gone all liberal on you, take a few minutes and read past the heading. My hope was that the title would just get you to read a little further down the page. Obviously it did.

Yesterday I was having a conversation via tex with a local friend in ministry. He was sharing some ideas about how to fix a few issues we had with an event here in town last week. Truth be known, he and I share a lot of the same frustrations. We both moved here from the outside, we are not native Malvernites. Our perspective is quite different and rubs many local "good ol boys" the wrong way...which I must honestly admit I like.

Last wednesday night we hosted what was quite possibly the largest inter-denominational/multiethnic ministry event in the history of our town. This place is divided...especially when it comes to church. I would dare say that the largest multiethnic congregation in town is our youth ministry. That is sad, considering that our denomination has its roots here, and there are several other large churches quite capable of being multiethnic, but simply refuse. It is like stepping back in time.

I have heard the stories. I have heard the excuses. I am just frustrated with the cowardice of the church not to step up and be the leader it was called to be. We are too afraid of losing a major contributor or offending part of the "family", so we sit idly by and let our neighbors of a different race go to hell. Essentially, that is what we are telling them..."go to hell." We have lost a sense of compassion and replaced it with comfort. Jesus was the master of multiethnic ministry. He was always reaching out to people not like Him, people who were not supposed to socialize with Galileans, much less a Rabbi.

I was excited to see the cross burning bigots down the road get a stiff prison sentence for their hate against a local interracial couple. I can't wait till this arrogant Justice of the Peace in Louisiana gets removed from office and has charges filed for refusing to marry a couple from different races. His excuse was that he wanted to protect the they don't have yet. Truth be told, he was protecting the kids from more racist bigots like him. The scary thing is, ask the cross burning hate-mongers or the self-righteous Justice of the Peace and they will more than likely all claim to be...wait for it...christians. Think again.

I am proud of our students. They put aside their race, denomination, socio-economics, and even school mascots to gates under one banner, the banner of Christ. Last Wednesday, and estimated 300-400 students came through the gates at the football field in Malvern to worship together and bring their friends to Jesus. Sixty-seven students did just that, accepting Jesus and the Lord of their life, including one young lady here as an exchange student from Germany. She is coming out to our youth service Wednesday night.

There is hope for the future. The lines of discrimination and hate are slowly eroding in this generation. Join with us and continue to pray for our communities, states, and nation to truly be one under the banner of Christ.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Conflicting Thoughts on History

As a church, we just celebrated a milestone anniversary. Our church just turned 100 years old, which is older than our fellowship itself. I have always been a history buff, and have been a good student of the history of our fellowship for many years. Serving in the town and church of our first denominational leaders has been an interesting twist to the perspective I have on our history as a fellowship.

In general, our early church leaders suffer local persecution for their efforts to operate in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They were perceived as deceptive and dangerous. Pentecostalism was widely rejected by those unwilling to experience for themselves, and thus the leadership of the movement was unjustly treated. There were those who picketed and published, berated and boycotted the movement in its early years. From that perspective, we do genuinely owe them a great debt. They refused to let their faith be influenced by their experiences and perpetuated the greatest missionary work our planet has seen.

My indifference happens because many in the leadership of the movement also established a divide that is still evident today. The racial divide in our fellowship has been both divisive and devastating. Early leaders did not treat minorities with respect or equality. This is well documented and not new information. In fact, just a few years ago, the former General Superintendent issued an apology to other ethnic organizations for our approach and treatment of combined fellowship. The truth is, the minority driven denominations in Pentecostalism were formed before we as the Assemblies of God were. WE SHOULD BE ONE.

In our small town, still today there is an undercurrent of distrust. No one really discusses it, but it is there. Minority churches and majority churches can share the same doctrine and build a block apart. We have missed some great opportunities to reach minority America by issues of our own creation.

I wonder what those early leaders would say if they could see my student ministry today. Our makeup is 70-80% minority! Our strength is those they would not accept. I believe our greatest contribution toward the next hundred years will be realized by how well we bridge the chasm created by the river of our own ignorance.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just the Facts Please

I once had a pastor who told me he did not hire anyone that salted their food before tasting it. In my confusion, he went on to explain that he did not want to hire someone prone to making decisions without all the information. I doubt very seriously that my eating habits have little to do with my decision making processes, but I do see the point.

In our tech savvy age, people can open up a blog like this one and complain and twist stories and facts to rally people to their causes. It happens every day. I read one National Football League bloggers report on how he was not allowed to have a computer or phone on while in team facilities. My home state college team did not allow phone calls or texting during practices that were open to the public. People live in fear that facts will be skewed, information released that is private, or that an expose will be written that puts them in a negative light.

If there is ever a time for informed decision making, it is now. That is not to say that information will not be twisted. It will however allow for a clear conscience for the leader. I can know that regardless of the perception, I used the information at hand to make the proper decision. Sometimes the unpopular decision.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Competition or Lifestyle?

Right now I have a lot of friends and former students in Orlando competing in the National Fine Arts competition. I am at home holding down the fort because our group just didn't score high enough. That is another story for another day, because I feel like several entries should have qualified. Ask me, I'll tell you all about it. I'm not too worried about being politically correct. However, that is not the issue at hand.

As I spend time with other youth pastors, especially the veteran guys, I hear growing complaints about the FAF competition and all that is involved. Even in my own district I heard "why raise money to fly halfway across the country to impress people you don't know for five minutes?" One friend even blasted the event as teaching kids how to "play the ministry game". If those are truly the problems with the program, then it is no fault of the student as to the state of the event.

FAF serves as a means to mentor students in ministry, to give them a hands on opportunity to get involved and to try their hand at different aspects that could greatly enhance the ministry at their home church. I am sure the intent is not as much about competition, though I love to compete. It is about ministry. If students are "playing the game" it is the fault of the leadership at the individual church. If leaders do not continue to mentor and develop these students year round, it will be of no long term benefit.

Once again, the complaints of the masses usually boils down to someone "finding an easier way." I am amazed how many ministers want to carry a leadership position without doing any work. We have come a long way from when David refused to take some land for free, even for ministry. His sentiment was, "I will not give to God that which costs me nothing." All to often that is all we give to God. We want everything for nothing, in the name of ministry, of course. Need we remember that the land David was after was not for personal gain and that he could have simply claimed it because of the title he carried?

Though the title you carry may come with privileges, such as a week in Orlando ministering with students, you must be willing to make the sacrifice. Cheap and easy ministry produces cheap and easy parishioners. If we fail to connect these students into lifelong ministry is is ourselves we have to blame for the condition of the church. Find and develop talent. Never do ministry alone when you can take someone along with you. Besides, studies say you'll be gone soon anyway. Stay around a while and get something done.

Ministry is not an event or a competition, but a lifestyle, and FAF provides a training ground to critique and develop young talent.

Click on the streaming link below to view a short video on the Fine Arts Festival mentioned above.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Easy Chair

If you noticed, I haven't posted in a few weeks. It's been fireworks season here in Arkansas, which means some of the most labor intensive, long hour days of my year. Honestly, it is brutal. Add to that the heat wave raising the south and you have a wonderful combination. With the heat raising over 100, and the heat index (which is what really matters) reaching 110, it was hard to get the necessary support staff to ease the situation. I know I have painted a pretty grim picture, but the truth is, it is tough. Through the whole process I hear of other leaders saying how they "hated doing fireworks", "it was so much work", and "we quit because it was too much!"

This is my response to those complainers who complain about doing the work, then complain about their budgets and missions giving.

Who called you to the easy chair?

Really. I mean, my calling was never to the path of least resistance. I wasn't called to the grey area of average. There is no entitlement card that comes with experience. After 16 years of student ministry, I was excited to inherit a project like our fireworks tent that was proven a success. in fact, we have set new sales record both years I have been in Malvern.

I constantly keep the project in front of our team and congregation to be held accountable in our efforts. We will not work half heartedly. We were short handed and over worked for over two weeks. Our families had to come see us for a few minutes each day just to keep in touch. On top of it all, we wore yellow shirts every day for two weeks!

We make the larger portion of our budget for the year, besides funding two great missions works with our efforts. We put on a giant fireworks show for our community drawing over 1000 people in our rural town.

Have fun in your easy chair. Just know, that is not where God called you to.

Link to the Malvern Daily Record Story about our group:

Link to the Front Page Pic:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Are we Robbing from the Future?

Days on end of Fireworks and making money for missionaries. As much as I love this, I wonder if it creates the lasting goal of developing a heart of missions giving in my students. I wonder if we have become so event driven that we have neglected the personal aspect of giving. In reading Scotty Gibbons book "Overflow" I question the plight of my, and many other leaders students. What happens when they graduate and move on? We already see an enormous drop off in church attendance in the transition years, so what about giving. Of those who stay true to their faith, do they continue to give?
I am sure that fundraising events are always going to be part of what I do, but it will not be all we do. Giving must be learned at the intimate level. I've failed there before. And there are still times I have to correct myself. But a giving lifestyle should just be part of the DNA of the believer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


PJ Productions is now somewhat official, at least to me it is anyway.  The PJ Productions site is now up ( and the first workshop has concluded with very positive and optimistic feedback.   I have to admit, I was really nervous going in and promoting this whole launch.  But this is the thing:  if I just keep doing the same thing, I'll always be doing the same thing.  (gee, I bet you are now wowed with my theological processes)  

I have always been known as the type that is up front, obnoxious, and probably not too serious. Truth is, some of that helps me deal with my insecurities.  But in turn, it does tend to create a stereotype.  Now, as I see and feel God moving me in certain directions, the stereotype has created some hurdles that I must clear.  Don't get me wrong.  People are not lining up to point fingers and make jokes, but there is a degree of trust that has to be earned.

Starting out in ministry, my wife and I both felt God placing some specific things in our heart. Not and agenda, but rather a destination.  Part of me wants to identify with Joseph, knowing something is coming that no one else sees.  Then, I begin to think that such thoughts are arrogant, misplaced, or just totally...laughable.  I have tried to protect my dream, only letting select people know so they can mentor and challenge me to make the changes necessary for the journey.  

In my dream, I am not seeing the haystacks bowing down or any of that.  (not sure what I would do with a bowing haystack)  I just have this renewed sense of urgency.  God is leaning on me to move out of my comfort zone, and kind of make myself vulnerable for people to...laugh.  I find it interesting how I have always used humor hide insecurities, but now I'm afraid people might laugh at me, not recognizing growth and depth that God is leading me in.  

You know, I believe God will still see this through as I do my part.  That is why I am choosing to be proactive.  No more sitting and waiting for God to do my part for me.  I'm putting myself out there.  

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Defining Moments

I watched American Idol faithfully.  I was an AI stalker, and with good reason.  The guy that eventually won is from a small town in Arkansas and many college student from our church know him.  In fact, he sang at a wedding last year at our church, on our stage, with our awful sound system.  How cool is that.

Kris had his defining moment out there for the world to see.  We watched as the so called underdog knocked off the prodigy.  He even had the big inspirational song, pyrotechnics, and confetti to boot.  Now the season is over, his family back to rural america, and Kris and his very new bride are touring the planet.  Sounds kind of cool.  What a life changer.

On the very night that Kris had his defining moment, a young girl in our youth ministry had hers.  She comes from a broken family that is far from functional.  For some reason, I've just had a soft spot for this young lady, even though she has given me plenty or reasons not to.  (including theft while on a trip)  Shared my heart that night, and talked about depression, suicide and cutting.  (  God was working in an amazing way that night.  Several student who were contemplating suicide found hope, cutters found healing, the those struggling with depression found new meaning.  It was a great night.  

One of the unique features was that several kids wanted to talk, up close, one on one.  This young lady was one.  She began to talk about home and the issues there, and about being expelled from school.  (mixing in a few colorful adjectives along the way)  At that moment I saw that young lady sitting in a wreck home, fatherless children, drugs and alcohol running rampant.  Then a second image appeared, and it was her, with a loving husband, beautiful kids, and she was speaking to other students.  I shared that with her, prayed, and let her know that I really believed in her and we were going to see her through it.  She looked up at me, with tears in her eyes and said, "I wish you were my dad."  Now I am sure that you have already jumped ahead to say this was her defining moment, but you would only be half right.  It was mine as well,

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friendliness vs. Relationship

It has been a bit since the last post for several reasons, but will not discuss all of that.  Over the last few weeks I have been developing an idea on relationship perspectives.  Where I am at now, people are genuinely friendly.  Sure, there are the church scabs, (people who refuse to heal from the past wounds) but for the most part, people are friendly.  In the south, we just refer to it as southern hospitality.  If you don't know what that is, just work for a yankee for a while.  Sorry DA, not throwing you under the bus here, because i think you get it, but southerners just know hospitality.  Love ya, bro.

The problem is this:  there are few quality relationships.  Relationship has been replaced with friendliness, and that is only a superficial connection.  It won't weather the storms and can be easily replaced.  Value is lessened.  Everyone is your postman.  They see you regularly, know you by what they can read on the outside, and are not interested in the dogs in your life.  

I have people with whom I have a genuine relationship.  We know each other well.  We know our faults, of which I have plenty, and they still hang around.  Even if my dog has bit them in the past, they heal the wound and come back.  Beyond that, I seek out new relationships.  Now I find myself connecting with a newer, younger generation of leaders because of the whole reverse mentoring paradigm.  (see previous posts)  Without the depth of relationship, we will remain superficial and self-centered.

This carries over to our spiritual life as well.  We have all heard the phrases thrown around in Christendom about a "relationship" with Christ, but seldom see it modeled.  I believe, in part, because relationship is personal and private.  We don't wear relationship on our sleeve.  I don't tell of my wife's secrets to the world.  It is part of our relationship.  It's the depth and value of who we are together.  When I pour out my insecurities and failures to God, He doesn't need to tell you.  That is relationship.  Friendliness is fantastic, but relationship is forever.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reverse Mentoring

My friend Steve just posted on his Facebook about how the church in India, where his is currently visiting, is grasping and discussing the concept of reverse mentoring.  How does it work to see a struggling church in a distinctly non-christian country grasp leadership concepts that the western church has ignored.  Where I serve now, few churches have true team oriented leadership that thrives on feedback.  For the most part, it is the "top-down" leadership model that functions rarely and only if weaker leaders are hired into staff positions.  

Micromanagement without feedback breeds discontent.  Discontent is the world where most staff  members I know are forced to live.  Divine calling is thrown out the window. Organizational policies supersede God's call to any ministry outside the realm of Senior Pastor. If God has called you to a specific generation or ministry field, you will no doubt experience insecurity and disrespect.  Daily it seems leaders fall by the wayside, choosing instead a secular life, often devoid of God entirely.  How sad that often it is God's people, even God's elect, that push great potential over the edge.  I am not making excuses for those who choose moral failure or to simply quit.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I hope I didn't contribute to the exasperation of another leader, though I am sure in my bull-headed nature, I have, either through disrespect or even neglect.  

It is all I can do at times to keep myself focused on the call.  Disillusionment with ministry can creep in fast.  It is a battle, however, worth fighting.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Overrated Optimism?

I have this friend named Eddie.  No seriously, I really do.  And he is always this little beam of sunshine.  He has been an influence in my life for many years, and encouraged me through some really tough times.  I saw Eddie again this weekend.  We were at an event, and quite honestly I was pretty agitated bout some of the goings on before we ran into each other.

We met up later in the day, and he asked his favorite question, "How is everything going?"  I proceeded to pour out my frustration and discontent.  

Eddie, just hugged me.

His words were, "there is so much more that is important..."  Really?  Is ministry to the point to where we are all expected to put on a happy face and fall in line?  Our event was chaotic and ill prepared.  Mediocrity from mid level workers was eroding the purpose of the meeting.  Well prepared invitees, several whom I brought, were negatively influenced in the process.  

I would love to be part of an element of change.  Not some radical revolution leader, but someone who can help get people to put on the eyeglasses of realism and understand change must come.  We cant lead a future generation of leaders with failed ideas of our generation.  By putting on the "required happy face" we allow the proponents  of mediocrity to continue in their journey to the land of average.

Don't get me wrong.  I need Eddie.  He gives me balance and perspective.  But I can't be Eddy.  I don't want to be Eddie.  If God has called to to lead, I must lead with the skills (and calluses) that He has given me.  Have we forgotten that the New Testament was written by those who broke from the norm, made the religious establishment unhappy at times, end reached their known world in an unheard of 30 year span?  I feel we have exchanged our passion as leaders for the comfort of establishment.