Reversing Church Decline

Reversing Church Decline

Noah loves balloons. Every so often, we will purchase some for him, especially around his birthday, that he can enjoy and play with.

Sometimes it is my responsibility to blow up the balloons. With my asthma, I don’t always have the lung strength to blow them up myself. I am thankful for the ability to purchase small tanks that allow me to blow up the balloons that, in turn, give Noah some joy and pleasure.

One of the things about balloons is that over time they lose air. You don’t always notice it happening, but air can seep through the balloon and, thus, shrink its size. Sometimes, it takes a while to notice that the balloon doesn’t have the same amount of air that it did before.

I believe sometimes the church is just like a balloon. Sometimes we don’t always recognize issues or periods of decline until it is entirely noticeable. When we begin to notice issues or decline when it is reached the point that ignoring it any longer would harm the long-term operational structure of the local church.

The truth is that the church has often struggled with issues. As well, in many ways, we have been in decline, as a Methodist movement, for a more than just a handful of years. By percentage of the population, by some accounts, we have been in a state of decline since the 1880s. It was easy to miss for a long time, because the church was able to maintain its funding and support levels.

That isn’t the case, currently. Continue reading “Reversing Church Decline”

Enough With Church Politics

For three years, I worked in public policy and gained first-hand experience to the growing polarization that exists in our nation. I went into it, perhaps, with a bit of naive hopefulness believing that everyone would work for the same common principles, especially since we were an issue-oriented group. What I often saw was how some were more interested in defeating the “other side” than about promoting the cause or working towards a consensus.

That experience led me to make one of the most common statements I share about my time before going into ministry: I give thanks to God I had some political experience, because it has helped to find my way through church issues.

It is sad for me to admit that being in politics, even as a staff writer for a higher education policy group, was one of the best training grounds for ministry, because it gave me on-the-field perspective regarding the polarization that exists in the church today. The church, especially my own United Methodist Church, is suffering in the United States because we often reflect of the same political polarization that has crippled Washington, D.C., and state houses across the nation for a generation. We are more interested in winning political arguments than we are about “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Continue reading “Enough With Church Politics”

Who is the Greatest President? (2017 Edition)

In anticipation of Presidents’ Day, C-SPAN released its updated list of the greatest presidents. The list was based on a survey completed by historians, professors, and media professionals. It is an interesting list, and like all surveys is subjective based upon the viewpoints of the individual’s ranking bias (conservative/liberal, strong government/weak government, etc.).

The list made me think of my own list that I put together five years ago and the need for it to be updated to reflect the end of the Obama Administration. That list, and the one that will follow, was my own reflection based on my studies of the presidents.

It is fair to list my biases at the start of the listing. I favor the long-term influence of a president over historical popularity. I also look at leadership competencies in the realm of whether the individual was able to motivate the nation to a purpose, was driven, and took control of the issues. Lastly, I want to look at whether the individual was effective in dealing with those issues that faced them.

I also believe it is worth noting that modern presidents are hard to rank. That is because the emotions (both positive and negative) drive a lot of our views on the effectiveness of a particular president. I have argued that it takes a generation to truly get a good perspective on an administration. I am beginning to wonder with the advent of social media that it may take multiple generations to evaluate presidents in this Technology Age.

That being said, here is my list of the greatest presidents … 2017 edition: Continue reading “Who is the Greatest President? (2017 Edition)”

Reflections from a Native West Virginian on the West Virginia Floods

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel to West Virginia. I grew up in the Mountain State, a native of Shady Spring, and a graduate of West Virginia University. So, when the state experienced some of the worst flooding in its history there was only one thing to do: Act.

The church where I serve as the pastor, Claylick United Methodist Church in Salvisa, Ky., rallied to be a blessing to the people who I call my people. I cannot thank them enough for their love and connection to people beyond our own neighborhood. We took an entire carload of supplies to the state and will likely take more in the days to come. It is the least we can do to give back to people who are hurting.13501569_10153656035981272_2276381847571286993_n Continue reading “Reflections from a Native West Virginian on the West Virginia Floods”

Sunday Sermon: The Last Words of Jesus – Father, Forgive Them

This morning, and for the next five weeks, we are going to be at the cross on Golgatha’s hillside. We are going to immerse ourselves in a moment that has changed the world and continues to change it today. We are going to experience Jesus’ final moments before his death.

The way we are going to do it is by looking at the seven phrases that were said by Jesus in the hours that he was on the cross. Each of these phrases are powerful and express what was on Jesus’ heart and soul in those final moments. They are also words that would have been extremely difficult for Jesus to say. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: The Last Words of Jesus – Father, Forgive Them”

Sunday’s Sermon: Resolution 2015 (Giving)

New Year’s Day has its varied traditions. Many of these traditions are cultural and regional in nature, such as eating black eyed peas or putting a coin in cabbage. Some of these traditions are centered on the idea of seeking good luck and fortune for the new year. Personally, I never understood how one could gain luck through eating cabbage or black eyed peas.

Among those traditions is one we are most familiar with and, perhaps, one we participated in a few days ago. That is the new year’s resolution. The idea that we will resolve to do something different in the new year that we did not do not as much in the previous.

Problem is that it seems we just recycle previous resolutions. Our resolutions often cycle around the common themes of losing weight, saving more money, and finding more ways to relax. Resolutions, though, that are appropriate coming out of a season of heavy eating, tons of purchases, and stressful calendars. For the record, my resolution for 2015 is to find more time to relax and not to stress about the little things in life. We’ll see how long that lasts. Continue reading “Sunday’s Sermon: Resolution 2015 (Giving)”