Friday, February 27, 2015

Pastoral Letter

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Friends,

This may be your greatest opportunity to honor Jesus and model something/Someone better for your particular congregation, franchise, community, state, nation, and world.

In a world that bruises, beats, batters, and butchers, you have an opportunity to show how people can come together, remain together, and move into the future together unafraid in/through/for Jesus.

Our world and, sadly, so many churches of all flavors/franchises like to divide, destroy, and...

They like to fight.

Not Jesus.

Not people who love Jesus.

And you, as elders and deacons and Sunday School teachers and pastors and members, are called, depending upon His grace, to pray and labor to imitate His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and agape.

This is your kairos moment - a divinely appointed time for you to show how you are different from the world and how Jesus keeps you together.

This is no time to quit.

This is no time to give up on each other or anyone, like you, trying to love Jesus by praying and laboring to love like Jesus.

Recently, I was told of a family who attended a public event in which there were several families who used to go to the same church and how they...

You get the picture.

What a terrible, awful, unfaithful, and...witness to Jesus!

Imagine - don't "reimagine" - how people apart from Jesus are repelled from Jesus by people who say they love Jesus while hating and divorcing themselves from others while making the unconvincing claim that Jesus heals, unites, bridges, and...

You get the picture.

When I first arrived in Belvidere over ten years ago, I often said, "Please do not tell anyone that I'm your pastor; because I don't want people to think you got your irascible, irregular, and irreconcilable behaviors from me...Please do not invite them to join us for anything until you confess, repent, and start acting out your faith instead of just mouthing it like you mouth meaningless litanies in worship...If you're not going to act like Christians, don't pretend that you are...If Jesus has not changed your desire to get along with each other and others and live lives of strong calm sanity, how can you have the audacity to tell others what Jesus can do for them that He, obviously, hasn't done for you?..."

Or something like that.

While we've still got challenges on the corner of L&M, it's a heaven of a lot better than it used to be since we stopped blaming Jesus for some "Christians" who, obviously, need lots more of Him in their confession, conduct, and countenance.

Take a deep breath.

Rap yourselves around Him in a Psalm 1 kinda way.

When necessary, remember we are the people of 1 John 1:5-10.

Be willing to admit your mistakes.

Be willing to say, "If I am wrong by the example of Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense, please tell me so I may confess, repent, and our relationships may be restored."

Be eager to share/ask/invite, "I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  I love you."

If not us...

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Blessings and Love!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DOA Clergy


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    I've survived undershepherding aka pastoral ministry for about four decades; and as you've read if you've been reading recent editions, I am more excited and enthusiastic for more than ever before.

    The overwhelming majority of my seminary classmates and peers and...have not and are not.

    If you scroll way down, you can read how I've survived.

    In short, it's been a Psalm 62 thing pour moi.

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    Whenever I write/talk about this kinda stuff, somebody thinks I'm having a self-pity party or something.

    Cynically, people assume I'm venting or "working out" some particular vocational, personal, or whatever challenge.

    Not.

    O.K., the ticket for using a cellular while driving and being afraid of you-know-who when it comes to the inspiration/indigestion regarding Je suis Charlie have kinda bummed me out.

    Yet, really, I've never really considered quitting, running away, cashing in, or trying out for the Yankees again.

    While I've had a few low moments since May 8, 1977 - most self-inflicted and some from the enemy through accomplices in sheep's clothing infiltrating church membership rolls - I've never had my joy in Jesus and His calling me to undershepherding distracted or even dissipated for more than 24 hours.

    Really.

    Again, read Psalm 62 and scroll way down for more about how I've survived...if you or someone you know needs some...

    Sooooooo I'm not writing this for myself or because I've ever considered throwing in the towel because of the enemy through accomplices in...

    I just know lots of sisters and brothers in similar gigs are quitting or considering quitting and there are some ecclesiastical superiors and congregational supporters who care and wanna help.

    Really.

    I'm fine.

    Buuuuuuut many peers are not and need your...

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    The Rev. Mick Snider wrote The Need for Ministry to Ministers that starts, continues, and concludes in the next section.

    I got it from one of Pastor Snider's friends who just happens to be one of mine.

    I got permission from both to share it with you.

    Pastor Snider is a Pentecostal Holiness pastor.


    Recently, he was, uh, forced out of his church; and now he is preaching revival and evangelistic services along with writing redemptive things like this.

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Abstract

Donald D. Snider, II: The Need For Ministry To Ministers

In the United States, research indicated 1,800 ministers leave the ministry each month.
New Horizons Ministries (NHM) is a regional ministry of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC). NHM provides training and leadership to ministers and churches in eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. The purpose of this project was to analyze the job satisfaction of ministers who hold either a Minister’s License or Certificate of Ordination with NHM and the IPHC in order to determine if they were at risk of abandoning the vocation of helping people through Christian ministry.

The research design for this project was a needs analysis in which a survey was used.
The data source was comprised of a sample size of 50 ministers and spouses who responded to a survey of 20 questions. The survey was administered by an ordained minister who assured the respondents of anonymity. The raw data was collected during an annual NHM Minister and Spouse Retreat in October 2008.

The results of the study concluded the data were reliable and the ministers experienced
reasonable job satisfaction and were not at risk of abandoning the vocation of helping people
through Christian ministry. Also, there was no significant difference in total scores between the ministers and their spouses. However, a major shortcoming of the study was that the data were collected at a retreat in which the participants may not have felt comfortable revealing their true feelings. With that shortcoming in mind, 3D sequential graphs and drill downs revealed the peaks and valleys view of the scores of the ministers and their spouses. Exploratory analyses, including an importance plot, a box and whiskers plot, and main effects ANOVA were conducted to show the seeming most significant responses. Suggestions for future research and hypotheses were given. This study was not to be considered as confirmatory.

To Continue Reading Please Click Here

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Scratching the Surface

of

Survival

(A Brief and Incomplete Guide for When You Wanna Quit)

He asked, “Does it ever end?”

He was referring to the disappointments, defeats, disillusionments, tests, trials, temptations, and tribulations of living in an increasingly mean, maddening, and miserable world, country, and…[Gulp!]…even church.

I answered, “No.”

Groote aka Kempis wrote a lot about that way back in the late 14th century (Imitation of Christ): “So long as we live in the world, we cannot be without tribulation and temptation.”

Sadly, “There is no order so holy, nor place so secret, where there be not temptations or adversities.”

Getting back to my friend’s interrogative and my declarative, “When one temptation or tribulation goeth away, another cometh; and we shall ever have something to suffer.”

Pointing to the only way to overcome all of the meanness, madness, and misery to which no one is immune, he counseled, “The beginning of all evil temptations is inconstancy of mind, and small confidence in God.”

Simply, Jesus saves…if we let Him.

Having survived it so far, here’s what I’ve learned about, uh, surviving it:

  1. Intimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the solid rock foundation that overcomes it.  Jesus punctuated His most famous sermon with that good news (see Matthew 5-7; especially 7:24ff.); echoing the Psalmist: “God inhabits the praises of His people.”  In other words, if we hang out with Him, we won’t get hung up by/on it;

  1. I paid close attention to the course on original sin; and learned to expect next to
nothing from most people because most people aren’t really into Him as evidenced
by their selfishness, control needs, greed, inability to serve unless leading, irascibility, irregularity, and irreconcilability that leave little room for Christlike traits like selflessness, unconditional favor, mercy, reconcilable intentions, redemptive passions, forgiveness, and other, again, Christlike traits;

  1. While expecting next to nothing from most people who don’t even try to overcome
the original sin in their DNA, I expect everything from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as promised throughout Holy Scripture and summarized by Psalm 62; and

  1. I know my speck-inspecting is limited by my log-wearing.  I must always be ready
and even eager to confess my sins against Him and His, repent from my sins against Him and His, ask forgiveness from Him and His, and pray and try to be/do


better as I receive forgiveness from Him and His.

Simply, Jesus saves…if we let Him.

Survival depends upon God alone.

Yeah, there are some folks who allow Him to use them in saving missions.

They get it/Him.

Praise the Lord!

They are the few who can say with the apostle, “It is no longer I who live but it is Jesus who lives in and through me.”

In short, I have survived it because of my increasing intimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, expecting nothing from most people, expecting everything from Him, and recognizing my own sins against Him and His that encourages my increasing intimacy with Him to survive the world, country, and…[Gulp!]…even church.

Simply, Jesus saves…if we let Him.

Are you still looking for a different way to do church?

Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?

Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?

Are you searching for something/Someone
real, honest, timely, and true to…?

Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
(Belvidere, Illinois)

Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.

And so much…
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Blessings and Love!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Mentors


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    The Rev. Harold F. Mante, my first mentor and home pastor before and through Confirmation Class through ordination, has been home with Jesus for many years.

    Yeeeeeeet, daily, I think of the best words of advice that he ever gave to me.

    First.

    "Jesus!"

    Second.

    "Be slow!  Be steady!  Be solid!"

    Third.

    "Never learn how to use the ditto machine!"

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    My covenant brothers and I spent a week with Jan and Eugene at their home on Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana back in October 2011.

    Eugene had just turned 80.

    I did not ask Jan's age and she did not offer it.

    While we're still "unpacking" that time, something happened to me beyond what was offered that rebirthed me soooooo much that I am more excited and energized for ministry in Belvidere, Illinois than I've ever been before in my entire life and ministry and retirement isn't remotely on my radar; which, I know, comes as a great disappointment to denominational jingoists and people still looking to satisfy their idolatries through religion only coincidental to a personal relationship with Jesus by the book.

    I'll never forget Jan's candid observation about organizational/religious irregulars, irascibles, and irreconcilables: "Some people are like farts in the elevator.  It takes just one.  Everyone suffers.  Nobody escapes."

    Eugene offered so much that keeps coming to mind; and, like my first mentor's continuing influence, some words are part of my daily compass.

    He is a man of "primary source" and explained devotional Bible reading as "more like sucking a lozenge than gulping down a meal."

    He had lots to say about leadership in the church; including,..."As we do less, God does more...Pastors should never force their boards to do anything...I never tried to get people to do anything...Let 'em fail...No expectations...Lead to the water...Let go...No force-feeding...Moderate but don't dictate...Don't attend committee meetings...Don't interfere with committees...Get out of the way!..Direct/Guide/Shape/Pastor only when asked...Motivational speaking is often a sly way of manipulating...You don't have to motivate Christians!"

    On worship: "Simple is profound...It's not entertainment...Be dignified but not stuffy...It's about relationships more than anything else...Just do it...My role was limited to preaching, praying, and presiding at sacraments."

    He remains convinced vision statements and goal-setting are a waste of time; urging pastors and boards to focus on nurturing identity as God's people: "It's not what you are doing that's important; but who you are in doing it."

    Over and over and over again, he said, "Get out of the way!" 

    Noting how pride often paralyzes pastoral/congregational ministries, he urged humility, trust, and submission in all relationships and especially with church boards and colleagues.

    We're still unpacking those jewels.

    While we'll never be able to catalogue or contextualize all of the blessings of that divine appointment, our lives have been forever changed for Christ's sake.

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    I've gotten lots of good advice/counsel over the years (check out the below for more); and if I would have integrated more of it into my life and ministry, I would have honored God and helped more people more often than I have.

    Trying to summarize all of it, it comes down to this.

    Father knows best.

    Our best mentors know that; which is why their best only repeats His.

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Blessings and Love!

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Scratching the Surface

of

Advice/Counsel

(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Good Advice/Counsel)

David: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.”

Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Jesus: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house of the rock…The house did not fall because it was founded on the rock.”

Paul: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition…not according to Christ…All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.”

Here’s another way of putting it: “The only advice/counsel worth our attention is advice/counsel consistent with Jesus as the perfect pattern for life and ministry according to the Bible as the unparalleled witness to Godly advice/counsel.”

Or as one saint said while echoing Paul’s urging (“Imitate me as long as I imitate Jesus!”),
“Always compare everything I say to God’s Word.  My wisdom is useless.  Only God’s truth is valuable…Evaluate everything any human says and weigh it against Scripture” (cf. Isaiah 5:20, Matthew 7:15ff., 1 John 4:1ff., and related texts).

Now that’s/He’s good/Godly advice/counsel!

Whenever you hear/read anything from anyone about following Jesus, pay attention to it/them as long as the ultimate source is Jesus by the book.

Within the aforementioned context, I’ve received some good advice/counsel over the years.

My parents have been helpful in many ways in a Proverbs 1:8 kinda way.

James Brown – a founder of one of the most persuasive renewal movements in the PCUSA – noted a reality for/in undershepherds aka pastors that inhibits/enables revival, “Nothing can happen through you that has not first happened to you!”  Or as a salty old missionary blurted, “You can’t give away what you ain’t got for yourself!”

Bob Imm – an elder in Pennsylvania – warned (slightly paraphrased), “Don’t get into a tinkling contest with a skunk!”  Or as a shrink for corporate executives in North Carolina explained, “You are not responsible for what others say and do; but you are responsible for what you say and do and how you respond to what others say and do.”

Harold Mante – my home pastor – cautioned moments after I was ordained, “Don’t learn how to use the ditto machine!”

Martha Young – the first African-American elder in a large North Carolina church – urged, “You love ‘em and let God judge ‘em; and love ‘em enough to tell ‘em that God’s coming back to judge ‘em!”  I like how Frederick Buechner observed, “A prophet’s quarrel with the world is deep-down a lover’s quarrel.  If they didn’t love the world, they probably wouldn’t bother to tell it that it’s going to hell.  They’d just let it go.”  I like how Mr. Rogers used to say, “I love you just the way you are and too much to leave you just the way you are.”

Hans Kung: “The agenda for the church is “to discover what is permanent…originally meant, before it was covered with the dust and debris of two thousand years…This is not another gospel, but the same ancient gospel rediscovered for today!”

Old priest to young priest in Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest: “Salt stings on an open wound but saves you from gangrene.”

Dorothy Haglage – a Kansas City elder and a founder of Presbyterian Elders in Prayer – “Tell people to tithe at least or you’ll be cheating them of what God can do through and for them.”

Here’s something that I’ve heard many times: “Sometimes it’s better to talk to God about some people than to talk to some people about God.”

When I asked a Trappist monk named Daniel how he could know so much more about the Bible than me considering I had so many more academic credentials than him, he responded with a smile, “I asked God what it means.”

A first hint of spending too many years in books about the book instead of the book itself came from seminary mentor John Robertson of Belvidere, New Jersey who seemed to beg, “Don’t separate yourself from God by degrees.”

Then there’s something that I’ve distilled from scratching the surface of the Bible: “Remembering you’re going to live a lot longer with Jesus than anybody else makes establishing life’s priorities a no-brainer.”

William Barclay was right: “The best that we have to offer is professional plagiarism; rephrasing, reminting, and reporting what’s already in the book so plainly and simply.”

Annnnnnnd here’s the best advice/counsel that I’ve ever received from the only One who really, really, really knows what’s best for me/you/everyone: “Come to Me.”

Jesus.

He is the perfect pattern for life and ministry from here to eternity by the book.

It’s like His Revelation through John in the third verse of the first chapter that provides the perfect path for everyone: “Read…hear…keep…the words of this prophecy.”

Jesus by the book.

The best because it’s/He’s the only Godly advice/counsel.

Are you still looking for a different way to do church?
Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?
Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?
Are you searching for something/Someone real, honest, timely, and true to…?
Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois!
Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.
And so much…

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Skulled


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    When Wingman bought Healer from Woodstock Harley-Davidson, some unknowing heads turned because the dominant accessory theme on his steel pony is skulls.

    Symbols, uh, symbolize beliefs generating feelings steering behaviors.

    Whether it's the black sails of Pirate culture or Chris Kyle's Punisher from Marvel Comics to let Islamofascistnutballs know raising hell will be resisted by lethal vengeance or bikers' skulled tats, Ts, and chrome, skulls have been displayed without shame to warn, "Don't mess with me!" 

    Or something like that.

    It's like our 81 friends say, "If you treat us well, we'll treat you better.  If you treat us poorly, we'll treat you worse."

    Surely, the dark side has used skulls to symbolize their evil beliefs and behaviors.

    There's no need to mention the use of skulls by some of the most despicable purveyors of darkness in history.

    Yeeeeeeet, skulls have been a significant symbol of Christian tradition representing existential calm enabled by eternal assurance.

    In other words, like people wearing crosses for the right reason of honoring Jesus by the book, symbols suggesting beliefs are efficacious/authentic when behaviors match the beliefs suggested by the symbols.

    The same symbol can mean different beliefs generating different feelings steering different behaviors.

    Maybe that's why someone said so aptly, "Don't judge a book by its cover.  Read it!'

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    This KD is about the light side of skulls.

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    On the light side of skulls are women and men of faith who are not afraid of death in a John 11:25 kinda way.

    Wingman: "I understand many folks associate skulls with evil.  I do not.  We all have one after all!  I think they look BA!  Not fearing death is meaningful to me.  Because of Jesus, I do not fear death.  I have that assurance through my faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.  I don't think I will be getting any skull tats soon; but I wouldn't rule it out.  If you get your Je suis Charlie and Star of David tat, we can go together to get inked for Jesus!"

    Read 1 Corinthians 15.

    A Christian wearing a skull symbolizes her or his trust in Jesus for life after life in a Revelation 21:3-4 kinda way that compels a life of gratitude in honor of Him by the book.

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    When you know you're going to live forever with Jesus, you're not afraid to die for Him in time.

    Time is a speck of sand on the beachfront of eternity.

    Assurances like Matthew 16:24-26 come to mind.

    I think of it this way.

    Remembering we're going to live a lot longer with Jesus than anybody else makes establishing life's priorities a no-brainer.

    Becoming more intimate with Him decreases our fear of anyone/anything else in a 1 John 4:18 kinda way.

    I was skulled when I finally got Matthew 10:28.

    That's when I bought a "Respect All Fear None" patch for my riding jacket.

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    Skulls can symbolize many different things for many people.

    True.

    It's also true that skulls have been an important symbol of lasting beliefs for Christians that have generated positive feelings steering noble behaviors.

    Christians are skulled when they don't fear death because of Jesus, don't fear anyone/anything else because of Jesus, and want everyone to know that strong calm sanity is available to anyone who invites Him into the heart as Lord and Savior.

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Blessings and Love!

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Je suis Charlie.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Living in Bizarro World


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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"Trying to be rational with the irrational is illogical; the ancillary being, being
wrong invalidates argument and being right does not necessitate it."

From the non-best-selling Fifteen Secrets for Life and Ministry
(Available from this website for any donation + postage!)

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    Bizarro World was created by DC Comics back in the 60s as an inverted parallel reality antithetical to the values of Superman, Lois Lane, truth, justice, and the American way.

    It has evolved.

    Looking at the globe, America, media, most churches, education, entertainment, and, uh, just about everywhere and everyone, it's the Freudian nightmare of inverted beliefs and behaviors being "reimagined" as normal and previously normal beliefs and behaviors being scorned.

    Example.

    Frightfully, eerily, sadly, and ominously, Europe is reincarnating Germany of the 30s.

    Bizarro World for real has incarnated itself in a political correctness that finds everything/everyone offensive that/who resists and rebels against beliefs and behaviors once discerned as, uh, bizarre.

    Example.

    A religion that, at minimum, degrades women and children and gays - It is a sick man's dream religion! - is not challenged by even liberated women in Europe and America because, uh, sigh, geez, gulp, uh,...uh,...uh,...I really don't know. 

    Example.

    People can get up in church meetings and totally diss Jesus by the book and the invitational, inclusive, welcoming, and agape ethics that He patterned and prescribed for harmony with God and each other and the remnanters who challenge 'em are considered offensive; meaning it's O.K. to offend Jesus by the book but not...

    We are living in Bizarro World, America, and...

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    I may be wrong; but I think there are three ways to respond to Bizarro World, America, and...

    Run away.

    Embrace.

    Confront.

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    I have chosen to confront Bizarro World.

    I may be wrong; but I think that's what Jesus would do.

    Uh, that's what Jesus did.

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    Bonus!

    Our youth wrote and produced this video.

    They get it/Him; and you may/can/should use it.

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video


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Blessings and Love!

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