Welcoming Truth

My Sermon at Davison Free Methodist Church

lifeverse welcoming truth sermon dfmc

image: Davison Free Methodist Church

This past Sunday I spoke in both services at the church I grew up in and where I worked for eight years when I first went into the ministry. I didn’t know at the time that the service was going to be streamed on Facebook Live, but was pleasantly surprised to see it.

Below you can view that sermon if you want to, it starts about 26 minutes into the service.

I promise you, whether you are religious or not, there is much to learn here. I hope you don’t overlook it simply because it’s a message I preached in church. It has universal applicability and that was the whole point of preaching it in a church to begin with. I hope you enjoy it. It was a blast.

 

What I’ve Learned Since Leaving the Ministry

ministry

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On June 12th (2016), I officially retired from the ministry after being a pastor since 1994. It’s still very new, this being a layman business. But I love it. In fact, I don’t miss the job one single bit. I do greatly miss the wonderful people in my former congregation at Wildwind Community Church, but those are human beings. I reiterate — there’s nothing I miss about the job. That doesn’t mean it’s a terrible job or anything, but it had been getting increasingly difficult and stressful for me for several years before I left. It was past time for me to be done, and I’m sure that’s why I don’t miss it.

As new as the experience is of not being a pastor, I am learning some important things about myself and I want to share them with you because maybe at times you’ve had some of these feelings yourself. If I can help you normalize them, feel less guilty, or otherwise not worry too much about them, that’s valuable to me.

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Things I’m For

My Ideal World

things I'm for - lincoln determine a thing shall be done

I’m for equality, for justice for all, for caring about other people above asserting our own rights, for defending what’s good for most people rather than for 1% of us, for an end to bigotry, for kindness, for compassion, for courage, for an absolute commitment to, and unwillingness to shirk from, intelligence, for the idea that formal education by no means makes our ideas better than anyone else’s but it’s a good start, for all of us banding together to give no quarter to anyone who hates or fears people different from them, or who in any way believes other people to be less worthy of love and compassion than themselves.

I’m for the truth, however it presents itself, whether or not it agrees with my politics. I’m for being willing to change our minds. If you’re not interested in and open to the truth over your own political ideology, there are other pastors/writers who can deal well with you, but you’re not in my wheelhouse.

I’m for caring about the things Jesus cared about more than the things Ronald Reagan cared about, and for understanding the difference.

I’m for a world where everyone knows that another person living the way they want to live doesn’t in any way keep anyone else from living how they want to.

I’m for people pursuing God out of curiosity, courage, love, or interest, but not out of fear. I’m for a world where the only theology we care about is the theology that springs from compassion and loving others, so theological statements and doctrines are only useful when they help us to do that. I’m for a church and a world where love is the law, and it’s enough.

I’m for an end to violence of every single possible imaginable kind — emotional, spiritual, psychological, physical, social, verbal, economic, and I’m for searching myself to see where I might be perpetrating some of this violence unconsciously, and then doing what I have to do to address it.

I’m for a world where no one, ever again, says, “I love you, but…”

I’m for not towing the party line, whether that means me not towing it for the church when the church is wrong, cops not towing it for cops, teachers not towing it for teachers, whites not towing it for whites, gays not towing it for gays, blacks not towing it for blacks, for everybody being willing to learn to identify and root out the sickness in our own houses. I’m for seeing problems, naming them, and working to fix them.

I’m for religion that opens up questions and mystery, rather than making us certain and self-satisfied.

I’m for reading both the Bible and the Constitution openly, not in letter but in spirit, trying to discern what general point was intended and how that applies to us today, for wrestling with old documents and using them as guides, not as templates.

I’m for people taking personal responsibility, so saying things like “I am responsible for the world being the shitty place it often is,” and “I’m responsible for traces of racism, greed, and lack of empathy in my own heart.”

I’m for all people being considered worthy of basic love, respect, and humanness, even including bigots, as long as they don’t spew their bile onto other people.

I’m for the idea that America, in fact the world, isn’t a good place until it’s good for all of us.

Most of all, I’m for taking another step — today — to be the change I wish to see in the world.

The Church’s Schizophrenia

the church's schizophrenia

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What is Schizophenia

Before I talk about the church’s schizophrenia, I want to make sure you are clear on what schizophrenia actually is.

Schizophrenia is a severe thought disorder that affects every aspect of the suffer’s life. It causes them to perceive themselves and the world incorrectly, to see things, hear things, perhaps even smell things that are not real. They will often attribute devious motives to people. Delusions of reference are common, where they believe random events are personal messages, or have personal significance.

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Is it time to break up with your church?, prt. 2

time to break up -- scissors cutting heart

image from 123rf.com

…continued from a previous post

5. It may be time to leave now

If you feel that because of all the money you have given, or all the time you have spent at the church, you deserve more power and recognition, and you are resentful that you are not getting your due, it is time to break up. In this state you are toxic, and the sooner you leave your church, the better off your church will be. No church has any use for people who feel entitled. Churches for too long have been way too accommodating of selfishness and immaturity among their people and this has often made church an uncomfortable place for everyone else. Pastors, be more gracious with addicts and those who commit the “hot sins” like adultery, and much less tolerant of gossips and people hungry for power — even, and especially, when those people are your closest friends.

6. Every spiritual journey is a journey to find truth, face truth, and follow truth. Your pastor has a responsibility to model this for the congregation.

If he does not, it is time to break up. You deserve the chance to learn from your pastor’s mistakes. If your pastor acts superior, never talks about times when she falls short, or struggles chronically with certain issues and refuses to admit it and move through the truth journey, it is time to break up. If your pastor is constantly critical of you or others, chronically insensitive or harsh, frequently manipulative, speaks unkindly to you about others in the church, is chronically angry, or is lacking in grace, it is probably time to break up. A pastor like this may have a basically good heart, may even be moving the right direction, but is simply lacking in maturity. Though being immature is not a sin, immature people should not be leading others.

Our congregations often accept immaturity in their leaders because immature leaders are unable to produce maturity in their followers, therefore followers simply do not know what to expect. As a result, they end up expecting perfection where no one can be perfect, and not expecting things that are actually doable, like basic integrity, honesty, grace, kindness, humility, and love. If your pastor seems to be drastically lacking in those qualities (and I mean drastically — we all deserve some slack!), it is time to break up. If you cannot respect your pastor as a human being, then you certainly have no basis on which to respect her as a Christ-follower. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT continue going to a church led by a pastor who consistently acts immaturely or reprehensibly and tries to cover it by insisting that they are under God’s authority. That is spiritual abuse and no one who abuses others is under God’s authority, and this is true regardless of what board, or committee, or conference/district team of people put him in charge.

7. Finally, there will be times when you feel very strongly that the church you are in just is not right for you

Someone in my church once approached me and told me that though he loved Wildwind, he felt someone else in his family really needed a particular type of ministry Wildwind didn’t (and doesn’t) offer. He took the time to explain this to me, with love, and though I will always miss that family, I respect what he did and I believe he probably did the right thing. I will always consider him part of Wildwind’s extended family.

If you ended up reading this series before my other one called How to break up with your church, I strongly encourage you to read that series if you come to the conclusion that indeed it is time to break up.

Question: What did I miss? Any caveats you would add?