Houston Harvey Relief

I’ve contact some of my friends who serve in various churches in the Houston area, first to make sure they were okay and second to find out what we as Tapestry can do to help. As I paraphrased Shakespeare to my friend J.T. (blessed be his name) “Tapestry may be small but we are fierce”. In other words, we may be a small church but we give wonderfully.

When you see the yellow hats yellow shirts you are seeing the SBDR

Thus far the pastors I have messaged have said they are in the rescue phase and what they really need are boats and places for people to stay after they were rescued. The rebuilding won’t begin till the waters recede. Therefore, my number one recommendation is still that you give through the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief agency. You can do that here (https://missionaries.namb.net/projects/full/hurricane-harvey-response). When you give to the SBDR you will be providing immediate help as well as resources later on. The SBDR will stay in the area for a long while and will feed a ton of people. In addition, they will help with mudout work, chainsaw crews, laundry facilities, shower trailers and more. If you are interested the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention (of which we are a part) is already planning on sending some SBDR groups down. Some of us have been trained by the SBDR and more of us can be for the future.

Next I am going to recommend that a list some local organizations. Giving local is a great avenue because the local groups will be there once the immediate emergency need recedes. The national groups will leave. The local groups won’t. These local groups are the ones who will be dealing with the long term repercussions of the flooding.

Here’s the list”

Galveston County Food Bank: http://www.galvestoncountyfoodbank.org/

Corpus Christi Food Bank: http://www.foodbankcc.com/

Houston Food Bank: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/donate/

Texas Diaper Bank: http://www.texasdiaperbank.org/

Austin Pets Alive is a no-kill shelter taking in Harvey pets: https://www.austinpetsalive.org/hurricane-harvey-evacuatio…/

Portlight is a local grassroots organization that provides disaster aid to the disabled specifically: http://www.portlight.org/home.html

The Coalition for the Homeless is an umbrella organization coordinating shelters and orgs across the city: https://www.homelesshouston.org/take-action/donate/

https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood/flood-donation

HT to  Chad Schoonmaker via Megan Kelly for the list.

Some of these local groups will begin to put out wishlists of what they need. When I see them I will post them. If you see any please pass them on to me.

Let me end with a plea to not give to just anyone who calls you. It saddens me to acknowledge the fact that when some are in serious need there are others who just see the need as an opportunity for their scams. There are going to be people who use the misery of the people of the Houston area as an opportunity to scam those who like to help people in need. Don’t give money to groups you don’t know or ot that isn’t recommend to you by someone one you trust. There are phone calls and emails going out now pleading for money to help Houston, and some of phone calls and emails are just scammers taking advantage of the fact that we like to help our fellow human when we see genuine need. Don’t stop helping, but be wise. Never let the scammers keep you from giving because it is better to be scammed than to turn your back on a genuine need. Still I would rather our money and resources go to the right places so be smart. Gentle as doves and wise as serpents.

The Tapestry Leadership Team will be discussing what we can do as an organization, but there is no need for you to wait on us. Give and give well … my small but fierce friends. :)

Kicking To the Middle

I really enjoy reading and listening to Malcolm Gladwell. “Insight porn” is the name I have heard used regarding his genre of writing, since the thrill of similar books seems to be the “aha” moments that happen through such books. Gladwell references in several of his works a study ((This study is from Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame – you can hear the Freakonmics episode on this study here.)) studying what area of the goal a penalty kick is most effective and where most soccer or football players will kick a penalty kick or which area goalkeepers will dive to attempt the block. This study indicates that the most likely chance of success for a penalty kick is kicking the ball to the middle of the goal rather than to either one of the sides. Want to guess where most players kick the ball or guess where the goalkeepers usually go for the block? If you said “not the middle” then you are correct and you win the prize((sorry to tell you that there is no prize)).  Gladwell speculates that the cost of looking like you aren’t trying as hard or looking foolish is greater to the players than the reward of the increased likelihood of a goal. Therefore the players kick to the sides rather than the middle where they are more likely to score and thus do a better job.

I bring this up because I struggle with the same thing every now and then.  Sometimes I am more concerned with looking like I am working hard than actually working hard. The current specific instance occurs within one of the companies that I chaplain for, but I could also list pastoring and other situations if I felt the urge.

The best and most meaningful conversations I have in one of my companies consistently happen in the break room. I’m not sure what it is about the physical structure of the building, the culture of the company, or my own behavior but every time I take a book and sit in the break room really meaningful conversations about serious needs happens. I joked with the head of the company that I should just announce my presence and go straight to the break room instead of doing my rounds. So why don’t I do this?

Well because of my own fear of looking like I’m not doing anything. I know that I am a more effective chaplain when I sit in the break room, but I believe I look like a more effective chaplain when I am walking around the company. If I were in a signalling mindset at the moment I would say that I was more concerned with signalling that I am an busy than I was actually being effective. That’s why I am posting this here and I have discussed this with the head of the company. I am trying to be more concerned with being effective than I am with looking effective. The plan is set. All I need to do now is pick a book and go to the break room. I am going to be more concerned with being effective, than looking effective.

Karate Chop The Fear That Keeps Us From Helping Refugees

Yesterday I posted about a list of what you should do every day that I am presently really digging. Johnny Karate’s 5 Karate Moves to Success. Today I’m going to write about one of the things that I believe those of us who claim to follow Christ should karate chop.

Before I begin let me say something that I say at Tapestry pretty frequently. I don’t talk about politicians at Tapestry but I do often talk about politics. Politics are about the policies that our government supports or avoids. My friend, Clint, would say that basically “everything that happens in life is politics”. I would say everything is theological but I understand the similarity and Clint is a really smart guy so I’ll support him on this statement. Policies are issues that the church should be involved in because they involve how we act and operate as a citizenry and country. They reflect our values as a people. It is my opinion that talking about politicians at church, or as a chaplain, diverts me from the mission I have been called to work toward, but talking about policies (i.e. politics) helps to promote that mission. I believe this leads to followers of Christ being a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians because we will become more concerned with getting certain things done than we are with which of the various parties gets credit for the completed actions.

So let’s talk about Christians allowing their fear to determine how we treat refugees and for that matter immigrants also. If you are a follower of Christ you have given up your right to allow fear (other than the fear/awe of God, but that’s a different thing) to determine your actions. You gave up that right when you declared Jesus as Lord. To declare that Jesus is Lord means that He has the right to determine how we lead our lives and we have agreed to follow His directives. If you don’t recognize Him as Lord that’s another matter, but if we declare Him to be Lord then we have no right to allow fear to keep us from doing what He wants. That’s why so often his messengers (the meaning of the word aggelos, ἄγγελος, angel) begin their messages from Him with the phrase “do not be afraid” ((Luke 1:30 is just one example)) .

And the thing is we know how He wants us to respond to those in need and the foreigners in our midst. Scripture makes this very clear. There are too many references to list here ((Relevant Magazine has a good online article describing what the Bible says about how we are to treat refugees.)) but I think Deuteronomy 10:19 does a good job of summarizing the intent of them. It states, “and you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Love! That is the command we have been given by our Lord. We are to love the foreigner and there is no debate about it. As the wonderful contemporary theologians DC Talk reminded us “love is a verb” and therefore we need to be active in our love toward the weak.

Jesus continues the thought of the Old Testament in His parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. I have mentioned this parable on the blog before and I am pretty sure that I reference in conversations around Tapestry about once a month. Basically Jesus says in the parable that we better be on the look out for Him in the personages of those in need. The way we respond to these “least of these” is our response to Jesus ((Matthew 25:40)) .

Please noticed that I haven’t spoken about any of the political parties in this post. Neither of the two primary, dominant, political parties has done that great of job with refugees and immigrants. My friend, fellow pastor, and immigration lawyer, Scott Hicks recently posted an article referring to former President Obama as the Deporter-in-Chief on the same day that he advised immigrants to avoid Butler County, Ohio because of President Trump’s executive order concerning immigrants. Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ should demand more from all our politicians rather than thinking our party is doing a good job with refugees and immigrants. We should be concerned with treating those who are different from us in a Christ like manner, not just concerned about whether our party is in power or not. Like I said earlier we should be a “thorn in the flesh” of politicians and we can’t do that if we allow our fears to keep us from doing what we have been commanded to do by our Lord.

As I was just reminded by the excellent religious commentary “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” ((Yep Pam and I are watching the first episode as I type this post)) the Hebrew word miṣwāh means both “command” and “blessing”. For those who claim to be disciples of the messiah doing what God has commanded is not just obeying our Lord but is also the giving and receiving of a blessing. Jesus described this by stating “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” ((Luke 11:28)) To do the will of God is a blessing, as we can’t let our fear overcome us and keep us from the blessing of the command of God.

We can and should have serious debate about how best to care for refugees and immigrants, but if you are a follower of Christ you cannot allow your fear to keep you from jumping in to help the weak. We need to karate chop our fear.

N.T. Wright on Philemon

For some reason I have mentioned and briefly discusses Paul’s letter to Philemon. This is probably because I have been leading Tapestry on Sunday’s the Paul’s letters to Timothy and therefore I have been thinking a good bit about Paul. Anyhow, it is a short and great book that is full of social justice. In this case, how the gospel of the kingdom of God was going to lead to the abolition of slavery eventually – they path was set and it was a matter of time and followers of Christ recognizing the direction of God.

Anyhow, today N.T. Wright a writer and thinker that I respect a great deal announced that he is offering an online course on the letter to Philemon for free. Here’s the link. I’ve signed up for it and would love to hear what others who sign up also think about what we learn.

Burnout and Parker J. Palmer

Pam has recently turned me on to the writing of Parker J. Palmer. Last week I read his book “Let Your Life Speak” on a Christian understanding of vocation. There are a lot of quotes from Palmer that I could share because it is an excellent book, but I thought I would share this one concerning burnout.

Palmer writes in his book:

Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess-the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.

This quote fits in nicely with one of my understandings of idolatry. Idolatry does not only lead to us worship a false god but it also destroys the very thing that we try to worship. The object that we are wrongly worshiping was never meant to have that much meaning placed upon it. The idol can’t handle that pressure and is thus destroyed by it. It is the irony of idolatry that it destroys the very thing worshiped.

Palmer’s description of burnout has a similar focus. We burnout not because we give too much but because we don’t actually have what we are trying to give. I can’t actually be someone’s messiah. I don’t have that ability in me. Therefore, when I try to be someone’s salvation all I do is let them down and burn myself up because it is too great task for me. When I recognize the abilities and strengths that God has given me and function within them I function well. When I step out of those abilities and strengths and don’t refer to others, or more importantly to Him, when the time is needed then I push myself into situations that I am not capable of handling.

I see ministers do this regularly. We want to help our parishioners and someone view referring them to someone else as a weakness. Then we start to take on things we never should. I am a trained pastoral counselor and pastoral theologian. To be honest I think God has gifted me as a pastoral counselor and thus I believe I am pretty good at it. Yet, that doesn’t mean that I have the same skill set as a trained counselor. They have experience and training that I do not and I have training and experience that they do not have. I have to recognize this and refer to them when a referral is needed.

When I was a youth minister one of the things I regularly needed to refer on was cutting. It was just something that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. The best thing I could do to help the teens that I dealt with was walk them, and their parents, through the process of finding someone who could help. I wasn’t leaving them to fend for themselves but I also wasn’t trying to give them something that I didn’t posses.

This is part of why for me counseling situations typically don’t last more than sixish sessions without me referring someone to other help. I don’t want to try and give someone in need something that I don’t posses. To do so wouldn’t be any good for them or for me.

It Was A Long Day Today

I am regularly with people when they are in the midst of pain. I’m not sure that I would say that it is a typical part of my normal day, but it is definitely a common part of my week. Most of the time I just bear with it and feel honored that I get to be a part of God bringing comfort to someone who is hurting. I would never say these circumstances are something that I have grown used to, because the pain is always visibly fresh for those going through it and I can feel it with them. Still being with people during their most difficult most is a part of being a minister and it is a role that I am privileged to get to play.

Still I have to say that the most difficult pain for me to be with someone during is the pain of a lost pregnancy. Other circumstances might affect other people more powerfully but there is something about the loss of the baby that you have been hoping for that really gets me. The only time I have ever completely lost it as a minister in the midst of someone’s pain was once with two church members who were going through the delivery of their still born child. I just sat there and sobbed with them.

I feel like fertility issues taint hope and I think that is part of why the pain affects me so strongly. Anything that is able to turn a period of hope into a a period of dred is horrific. I believe that infertility issues do just that. They attempt to destroy the hope that should be involved in the possibility of new life.

I really like some of what Miroslav Volf has written concerning the struggles (including his personal struggle) of infertility. You can read one of his articles here titled “The Gift of Infertility.” He talks about the pain of his familiy’s struggle to have children and how the adoption of his boys didn’t do away with but changed the pain. Without the pain and struggle he wouldn’t have had his boys who he now couldn’t imagine being without. I believe his thought helps to show how God can overcome and transmute the pain of miscarriages & infertility. I love that word transmute because it involves taking something and turning it into something else. It recognizes the real pain but says that God is able to change the nature and substance of that pain into something else. Something good.

Still I would never bring up Volf’s words in the actual moment of the pain because I believe the pain is too raw when you are in the midst of the D & C or the realization of the loss of the baby you had been hoping for. In the moment I am just there to share the pain. No words. Just presence. I think being with them in the midst of their struggle helps but they would have to be the ones who say if it actually does help or not. I believe we can face most things when we know we aren’t alone. Seems like that is a part of the gospel of Christ. Still for some reason sharing the pain of infertility taxes me more than any other pain. If it helps those who are going through the actual loss then whatever it taxes me is worth it. Their struggle is what really matters.

It was a long day today but an ever so much longer day for those whose pain I shared.

31 Days/2 – Gift Payments

I think better when I am doing two things. The first is that think better when I am regularly involved in challenging conversations with those I love and respect. Pam and I have the best, challenging, conversations. Really you should hear our bedtime conversations. They usually involve us sharing a quote with each other from whatever we are presently reading and then discussing that subject with each other. It is wonderful “pillow talk.” I do the same with friends around coffee or lunch (except that isn’t “pillow talk”, because that would just be plain weird. This is one of the things I loved about working at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. I was in an office suite with people who held the best conversations. Over the past seven months I haven’t had as many such conversations with friends. Life was hectic and I was doing my best to just to stay a float. Thankfully one of the reasons for the busyness has ceased and life is back to at least a sense of normality.

The second thing that helps me to think better is writing on my blog. I’m not a great writer (just ask Pam who generously read all my M.Div & D.min papers and corrected them), but I do believe that regularly writing something on the blog helps me to think deeper about the things going on around me. It helps me to observe the world, rather than just walking through it. I write about the things that I have spoken with Pam and others about and things that I’ve seen or heard about that make me wonder. That’s where I believe my problem has been lately. The thing that I have been thinking about and talking with Pam the most about over the past six months is something that I don’t believe I can write about at this moment. I’m not “vague booking” here. I’m talking about my dad’s cancer. It just isn’t my place, at the moment, to write down any of my thoughts concerning his illness.

What has happened instead of writing about this is that I have basically stopped posting anything on my blog. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years and I don’t want to stop writing on it. I enjoy posting things, from the meaningless to the at least meaningful to me. So I have decided to steal form my genius wife and do one of the 31 days things that she does with many others each year. The goal is to get me back to writing about something. I believe it would be stupid of me to try posting 31 days in a row after basically not writing anything for months. Therefore, I am going to try something every other day. We’ll see how that works. This will still probably be too much after this break. Succeed or fail, hopefully the attempt will help me to get back into the groove of writing something regularly.

Today’s post has to do with this photo of Thule Commuter Bicycle Panniers.

IMG_20150920_163317

 

 

This is what I received as payment for the wedding I officiated last Saturday. I use italics on the word “payment” because I tell members of Tapestry that they don’t need to pay me anything for doing their wedding. I ask that they cover my expenses if the wedding is somewhere other than the Point region, but other than those expenses there is no need for them to pay anything. You see, I LOVE doing premarital counseling. I really enjoy helping couples think through what a good marriage looks like. I regularly tell young couples that I don’t care that much about the ceremony (really I’ll do anything they want as long as it is moral and ethical) but I care a great deal about their marriage. So I focus on the marriage instead of the wedding. I usually do around five 1 1/2 hour sessions of premarital counseling (if you want to see what we normally talk about you can view them in reverse order here). I don’t want to ask young couples who are a part of Tapestry to pay for that, nor do I want to ask them to pay for the time writing the ceremony or doing the ceremony. So I do the opposite. I ask them not to pay me anything and tell them that I am doing their wedding as a friend.

But most people still want to give me something to say thanks. I’m okay with that. Saying “thanks” is a great thing. So what has often happened are gift payments for me officiating the weddings of people connected to Tapestry. I LOVE this.

First, I love it because it is so much more relational than a check. The gifts usually reflect who the couple is and also my relationship with them. Take the above photo above as an example. This is a couple who loves to bike and with whom I have had a lot of conversations concerning good quality bicycle panniers. They have loaned me various panniers for me to try out, in hopes of me determining the next set of bicycle panniers I should purchase (when you have two kids who like to bike you tend to “lose” any nice bicycling equipment you might own). When they gave these panniers to me I smiled so much that my face hurt. I have received many such gifts. From journals, to Chuck Taylor All-Stars, to a single fishing lure that had a World Vision fishing kit sponsorship attached to one of the hooks. These gift payments are some of best pay I have ever received, because they reflect a knowledge of who the couple is and who I am. They are so much better than a check.

The second reason I love these gift payments is because they make me feel like an old time, small town pastor. Seriously, it is like someone stopping by the house and saying “Pastor, I want to thank you for that ceremony and thought you could possibly use some eggs or a slab of beef.” It really floats my boat because I think gift economies are pretty cool and very inline with the kingdom of God. One day I hope someone gives me a chicken or a goat … though I have no idea where I would keep such a payment.

Anyhow the above bicycle panniers have been used multiple times since the wedding last Saturday and I am very thankful for them.

Being Offered A Beer

While I was not raised in church, when I became a follower of Christ I pretty quickly became a part of a Southern Baptist church in Alabama. There is a lot of a specific culture that goes along with such churches. To be honest it is easy to criticize much of that culture because I have been on the inside of it and still have a lot of links to that culture (after all, I am a Southern Baptist minister). Yet the reality is that with all the flaws of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) it still represents so much of how I understand the good news of the kingdom of God. I am a fan of Southern Baptists . I love the racial diversity that is now so much a part of who we are, even though we started out with very undiversified rationales. I also love the diversity of styles of church that are manifest because of the fact that Southern Baptist believe in a very limited number of essentials to faith. These essentials are known as the Baptist Faith & Message. Anyhow there are many others things that I could mention that I love about Southern Baptist but that isn’t the point of this post. ((For example, the Cooperative Program. I love supporting mission work through the CP.))

Instead this post is about something that isn’t Southern Baptist belief but is generally SBC and Evangelical church culture (at least in the South). Te cultural element I am writing about has to do with the reality that as an Evangelical minister I was rarely offered a beer by the people I spent time with, until I moved up North and started a church from scratch with people who weren’t raised in church or at least in a Southern Baptist church. This isn’t a condemnation on the church (well maybe it is, but I’ll let you decide that), rather it is me jumping on myself. The Baptist Faith & Message has nothing in it concerning drinking alcohol. There’s a pretty good reason for this and that reason is that there is nothing in the Bible against the responsible use of alcohol. Yeah there have been SBC resolutions about alcohol, but if you know the way Baptist churches work (the local autonomy of the church is very important to us) then you know as Granny Hawkins from “The Outlaw Josey Wales” would say that those resolutions are worth “doodly squat.” ((Interestingly looking up the Granny Hawkins quote I saw a quick link to the etymology of “doodly squat” and basically since doodle and squat are both slag terms for excrement the phrase “doodle squat” is basically crap squared. Not important, but it made me laugh.)) They are words that make someone feel good at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting, but don’t have any effect on the churches (though they do have some effect on the convention employees). The point is that a statement against alcohol isn’t a part of basic Southern Baptist faith, though it generally is against typical Southern Baptist culture.

And being engulfed in that culture is why I believe I wasn’t offered a beer. Not because people in the churches in which I pastored didn’t drink beer, I know that many did, but because people in the churches I ministered within knew the basic Southern Baptist culture and therefore knew that you shouldn’t offer the church’s pastors a beer, even if you had them in the fridge. The reality is that in every other church I have ever ministered in the nature of the ministry required me to spend the vast majority of my time with people who were already in the church, thus knowing the basic Southern Baptist culture and therefore not offering me a beer.

The fun thing is that I don’t even like the taste of beer. I much prefer sweet tea and Diet Coke. My Diet Cokes not only tickle my taste buds, but they also usually come with free refills, and that tickles my cheapness “taste buds”.

Now up here in Wisconsin when someone finds out that i don’t like beer they generally respond by saying “that’s just because you’ve never had a good beer” and then they offer me whatever beer they prefer. I’ve tried a lot of  different beers since moving up to Wisconsin and the result has been that I am even more sure than ever that I don’t like beer. Thus I still don’t drink alcohol but I am now regularly with people who don’t think anything of offering the Southern Baptist preacher a beer. That wasn’t true at one time in my life in ministry.

That’s real the point of this post and it is about me no one else. I don’t know if all my friends who are Evangelical/SBC ministers are regularly around people who aren’t so entrenched in the culture of their church that they would never offer their “preacher” a beer, or not. ((This excludes my friends who are Lutheran, who are probably offered a beer at ever church potluck.)) I suspect some are and some aren’t. What I know is that until I moved to Wisconsin I spent most of my time around “church people.” People who knew the cultural expectation and weren’t going to even acknowledge the existence of alcohol, let alone offer me a drink. I loved and still love these “church people,” but the reality is that I should have been spending far more time than I did with people who weren’t “church people.” I regret now that I didn’t spend 70-90% of my time around non-church people. While I know God did some good through the ministries that I was fortunate enough to lead, I do wonder how much more good would have been done if I was around people who were constantly asking me if I wanted a brewski.

I think this is one of my new measures whether I, as a minister, am spending my time with the right people or not. If I am not regularly being asked if I would like a beer or something else, ((I have been offered pot at least twice in the past year.)) then I am probably not spending my time with the people I need to be with. Waitresses and waiters don’t count. That would be cheating. I think this may be my new question for my friends who are Southern Baptist ministers, or if I ever get to ask a question of a SBC candidate for president of the convention, or if I ever have fellow staff members at Tapestry. We’ll begin the meeting by asking “When’s the last time you were offered a beer by someone you were spending time with?” If it hasn’t been recently then I’ll ask “Are you sure you are spending your time in the right manner?”

Ministry Poker Chips

One of the most memorable lessons in ministry I was ever taught came from a conference I attended where Leith Anderson spoke about poker chips. This wasn’t the illustration that I was expecting to hear at a meeting full of ministers, but it was brilliant and I have tried to minister by it since I learned the lesson from Dr. Anderson.

Leith said that whether a minister realizes it or not each minister has an account of “”chips” that determines whether or not the people in the church will trust and follow him/her. Those chips are given by the parishioner and earned by the minister’s actions.

Wear a nice suit during your introduction to the church, earn a chip. Preach a great message during your first weekend as a minister at the church, earn three chips. Preach a good message when a parishioner invites a friend to church and the friend brags about the message, earn five chips. Preach a bad message that goes long on top of being bad, lose seven chips. Forget to visit someone’s great Aunt Gerdie when her dog is sick, lose five chips. Visit Aunt Gerdi when you are sick and everyone thinks you should be in bed, earn ten chips. Visit her on your birthday and earn twenty chips.

5c0bda3f764f8a5414d81c696fd10284-never-trust-a-trust-fall
An account of “chips” tell people they can trust you.

The point is that all these small events are adding or subtracting “chips” to the trust account of a minister. Over lots of time and lots of small events and trustworthy moments a minister build up a substantial account of chips and that equals a substantial amount of trust. You get to make big changes and survive big mistakes when you have built up a lot of trust.

Unfortunately, many ministers want to make the big change without ever spending the time building up the chips in their account to enable people to trust them with the change.  Then when things go wrong they often blame the church, rather than considering if they had built up enough chips to make such a big change. After all, Jesus told us to “count the costs” (Luke 14:28). You need to consider if you have the resources to finish the change that you are leading the church through. If you don’t have the resources of trust then spend time building them up before you start that big project. Sometimes parishioners think “You’ve never had a conversation with me longer than 30 seconds, why should I trust you when you say we are going to make big changes in the church?” Build up your chip account and that opinion very well may change.

One of the other things that Dr. Anderson said concerning these trust chips that really struck me is that the best ministers learn that they receive a greater number of chips if they learn to give away their initial chips. What does this mean? Here’s an example.

“Pastor, I really appreciated the Tenebrae service. It was very meaningful.”

“Thanks, I appreciate you saying that. You know George & Brenda really brought the whole thing together. They put a lot of work into the evening to make sure people connected with God. Could you tell them how much the night meant to them?”

There are some that you need to guard your chips from.
There are some that you need to guard your chips from.

See that is sharing the chips, also known as directing credit to other people.  When a minister makes sure and points to others, that is a chip multiplier. It shows parishioners that the minister isn’t just going to bogart all the attention and credit for him/herself. I’ve known a few people who you had to watch out for, because they were not only trying to selfishly make sure all the credit was directed toward themselves but they might also try to steal your trust chips for themselves if they could. I learned very quickly to guard my chips when I was around them.

Anyhow you can, and should, read Leith Anderson do a much better job of discussing this HERE.

Pastor or Preacher

As a pastor I typically have one of three interactions with people when they want to schedule a meeting with me to talk about something important.

  1. Someone without a church background typically just says “Hey can I talk with you  sometime?” Simple, and straight forward. I like this.
  2. Someone who has previously been a part of the church world and has consistently heard stories of how busy pastors are (often from the pastors themselves) will usually approach me by first saying “I know how terribly busy you are and I promise not to take too much time, but could we meet sometime?” I know these people are trying to be nice, but it crushes me that often their experience has been that pastors are too busy to be bothered. This isn’t the person’s fault. It is the fault of a misconception that has gotten into ministry. The idea that busyness, either real or perceived, is some how honoring to the God Who actually said that keeping the Sabbath is how He wants to be honored. ARGH! It drives me nuts.
  3. Someone who is involved in Tapestry and wants to talk just usually asks “What time are you going to be at Emy J’s tomorrow?” I think they know that I am there because I want to be available to them, and if for some reason I actually am too busy to talk at a certain moment I will be honest with them, tell them I can’t talk right at that moment, and then immediately schedule another time. I love this.

This is one of the things I love about chaplaining too. People assume that I am there for them and therefore they aren’t an interruption. If I ever reach the point that I am too busy to be involved in what God is doing in individuals’ lives then please don’t call me a pastor. I might be a preacher, teacher, or speaker but I won’t be a pastor and shouldn’t be called one. Pastoring implies shepherding and shepherding involves intimacy with people.