What keeps a person going? How does one find the spark that never goes dark? Why is it that many of us retire before we really see the full fire ablaze in our lives? I have always been amazed at the men and women who will not be dissuaded nor allow themselves to become disqualified; they stay in the race till the last lap.

When I was twenty, I joined my first church. It was a Spirit-filled Lutheran Church. It was wonderful! Pastor Mirly was just as comfortable with a bunch of long-haired, tee-shirt wearing college freshman as he was the adults who wore mink, nice suits, and drove expensive cars. But then there was, Father Sherry. A retired Episcopalian priest who had outlived 3 wives and was the designated Scripture reader for our college folk service at 7:30AM on Sunday mornings. Into his late 80’s, still full of life, gleaming blue eyes, shoulder length gray hair, maybe 5′-2′, and more a man than just about any person I’ve known. The minute I met him, I had mad respect for him.

He would gather with us, teach us the bible, pray for us, rebuke us, encourage us, laugh with us, and was always for us. What is it that compels a person like Father Sherry, Pastor Mirly, or my friends Linus & Sharon Morris who continue to travel, share their faith and train up leaders around the world well into their seventies?

All I know is…I want it. God has given me the wonderful examples of what it is like to endure, and to do it with joy. Could anything be better?

On this Easter, I remember, and give thanks for them. And God…if you could give me a little of what they had, it would be swell!

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“Legions of the Unjazzed”

I am a surfer. I don’t mean I have “been” a surfer, or surfed a time or two. No, I am a surfer (humor me, it’s important). I have been surfing for 52 uninterrupted years. As I type this, the surf is going off, and I plan to be in the frigid 50F water very soon.

While reading a book on preaching I came across a quote by one of the most well-known surfers in the world. Well, well-known to serious surfers. Phil Edwards. Born in 1938 he moved to Oceanside, California around age nine making a name for himself at Killer Dana, and especially in 1961 when he was the first to surf Pipeline in Hawaii. I was floored to see a quote from my childhood hero in a book on preaching, but it bears repeating:

“There is a real need in all of us for controlled danger. That is, there is a need for activity that puts us on the edge of life. There are uncounted millions of people right now who are going through life without any sort of real, vibrant kick. I call them the legions of the unjazzed.”

Don’t be a part of the “unjazzed.” Now, go get your Friday.

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“Lost in Transition…Oh, crap, I’m an old pastor!”

There is a lot of talk about “transition” in the pastorate right now. In my tribe, since the first generation of pastors are now much older, there is an emphasis on making room for the younger ones to begin taking the reins. Lance, a fellow pastor and friend, made the comment, “Crap, what about me?” What about the older, seasoned, veterans…do we just fade away? It’s a touchy subject, I won’t lie. At times the discussion sounds like agism, but then again, maybe I’m just old. There’s no shortage of pundits who will gladly tell you exactly how to make the shift. For those of us who have planted churches, and served in those churches for decades, it is especially sensitive.

Transition…change from one form to another. I like the definition, “evolution from one form, or stage to another.” Synonyms are, “changes, conversion, development, evolution, growth, passage, progress, shift, realignment.” For those of us in the midst of this maelstrom, don’t forget you don’t just transition “out,” but “into” something.

Some people will claim to know exactly what an elderly (oops…I mean slightly older) pastor should do. Unfortunately many of them have never pastored churches they founded for 20 or more years.

Here’s my 40 years plus of feelings, sweat, prayer, and now, wondering what the “final run” will look like. And, yes, keep in mind I have not made the transition yet. So, this is an opinion piece based on my perspective this side of the evolution:

1. No one can tell you exactly, precisely, what to do in your circumstances – I know this sounds like you shouldn’t get counsel. That’s not what I am saying. Get counsel. Read, go to conferences, gather research, & most of all find someone in a similar situation. But you my dear pastor friend, you are the man/woman, who will need to decide how your pursuit of the next dream will look. Ask God for wisdom. We are all different. My first pastor was in his mid-eighties. I was twenty.
2. Find a good coach/counselor – I have been meeting with someone for almost 2 years now that asks me the right questions in order to help me discover what God is doing in me, and wants to do in the future. It has been invaluable. I’ve learned that the older you get, the more specific your gifts get. You can’t spend your time & energy on everything, but must zero in on the main thing. If we can’t make that transition, we will certainly be miserable, & make everyone around us miserable as well.
3. Read the Bible & listen to the Holy Spirit – Culture is sometimes louder than Scripture. Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, John, none of these guys had a retirement plan. What they had was a “calling.” When Jesus drafted you, it was for eternity, not 30 years. Navigate these waters with Scripture in mind, & a keen ear to what the Spirit is saying. Paul had a Timothy, do you? Still, Paul ran his race to the end. Be careful in allowing thoughts to nest in your mind like, you are inconsequential, outmoded, a relic, a has-been, you’re in the way so get out of the way. Pray, pause, & plan. Remember, it’s a calling, & He’s still calling you forward.
4. Consult your leaders – If you are blessed enough to have men/women on your board, as elders, who love you and the church you have poured your life into for many years, they will only want the best for both, you and the church. They can help you discover how to approach this. They will know it is very personal for you, and want to help you find what God is up to.

I can’t say this enough, it is not about getting out of the way. It is about finding your way INTO what God is doing. We don’t quit, drop the mic, and walk off the stage. We finish our race, do what we were called to do when we first dreamed of starting the church. You still love it, you’re still responsible for it, so cross the line, before you recline. And remember this…it all begins with a conversation. Everything doesn’t have to happen ASAP.

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Reflections of Vineyard Leaders Team Meeting 2015

Thoughts on 2015 Vineyard Leaders Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale:

I always look forward to gathering with our tribal elders each year. This year had an extra bit of oomph, if I may call it that. The reconnecting is on all of our minds for we are spread out across the nation & rarely get to spend time together. I consider it a wonderful honor & blessing to be able to attend as an Area Leader. Humble, joyful, generous, all terms I would use to describe this group of men & women. But there is also a deep passion & commitment to seeing the Kingdom come on the earth, as it is in heaven. So, here’s some numbers, info, things to celebrate, if you’re a part of the Vineyard. If you’re not, then please pray for us as we partner with all our fellow followers of Christ in joining what the Father is doing on the earth:

* Reminded that we are about 3 things – Presence of God, Proclamation of the Gospel, Practical Application
* “Just do & say what the church has been doing & saying for thousands of years.”
* “Preach the Good News over & over again.”
* “If everybody who goes to our church are Christians, well that would be a scary thought.”
* “The only thing you really have to bring to your town, your city, is the Gospel.”
* “I want to contend for the lost tonight.”
* William Booth’s (Salvation Army founder) vision was read [http://www.sermonindex.net]
* “Lost” means something valuable is missing, something worth the search, the sacrifice & cost to find.
* Jay Pathak shared with passion & tears his desire to see his neighbors come to know Christ.
* One of the most touching times was when it was declared that we do not control the seasons. However, for the Vineyard, winter is over! “See! The winter is past; the rains are over & gone.” Song 2:11 Spring follows winter, which is a season of work; of planting, sowing, tilling the soil. It’s time to go to work church!
* We are called to be witnesses to God’s lavish love.”
* We heard of a 79 year old church planter & a revival among children; 4 year olds praying for healing & God doing it!
* Children can make a difference in this world now!”
* “What if our (older Vineyardites) ceiling became their (children in Vineyard) floor?”
* Rick O., says, “What I hear from this generation is,’Do you see me? Do I matter? Do you want me?'”
* Becky O., says another revival is coming & this one will include the children.
* 183,500 Vineyard church members in US (last survey)
* 567 pastors
* 77 area leaders
* 16 regional leaders
* 16 executive board members
* 1 national director
* 567 churches in U.S.
* 2,400 churches around the world
* Many of us older pastors have seen, experienced revival before. One pastor said,”I’ve seen it on the front end as a young man, I believe I will see it on the back end as an old man.”
* We heard so many amazing testimonies of children coming to Christ, millions in short periods of time coming to Christ in other countries, Muslims watching how loving & committed the church was to their safety & well-being, that they came as a group to join the church.
* “It’s not the knowing it, it’s doing it that will change the world.”
* “It’s not about gender, it’s about gifting.”
* “The young want us to mentor them.”
* John Wimber quote,”The most important thing a pastor does is…keep the doors open!”

My personal takeaways?
1. The winter is over. Time to sow, water, get in the fields & go to work in our local churches & globally.
2. I need to stop being so concerned about form, be more concerned with people. Stop being overly concerned with “how” & get seriously concerned about “who.”
3. I wrote this in my journal, “We pastors feel lost because we have lost our love for the lost. We wander around testing out forms all the while becoming deformed in our hearts, when it comes to making the main thing, the main thing. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, not my cool form of church. Preach the Good News!”

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Mom & dad’s small group

When I was very young I would hear this beautiful music playing from our den-Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Patsy Cline, Duke Ellington, so many great artists. I would sneak a peek around the corner and see maybe, 5 couples dressed very nicely, dancing. My home was turned into a very intimate dance hall for friends. I could hear laughter, the glasses tinkling as toasts were made, and as I slipped back into bed I took with me a smile. Everyone seemed so happy. It’s taken decades for me to appreciate that scene, and to realize it was the 50’s-60’s version of a Small Group. They met regularly, they were the best of friends, and always willing to help one another.

Through the years some drifted off, some tried businesses together and it didn’t work, so the friendships were part of the fallout. It’s not unlike the experiences many of us have had with our church small groups – eventually we don’t feel as loved, we have a spat with someone, we feel slighted, something happens to fragment the group. I understand that with the group I grew up watching. I even understand that struggle within our church groups. But shouldn’t we, those who trust in Christ, have more at our disposal, a different type of “glue” than my parents’ group had? Isn’t the world, regular folk, expecting and somewhat rightfully so, a different type of gathering from us?

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Looks to me like not only do we have a resource my parent’s “small group” didn’t have, God expects for our community to live it out successfully, with His help.

Let’s try “the dance” again; once again with old friends and new. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with the grace of forgiveness, and an anticipation of a growing love for God, and one another. You won’t be dancing alone.

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Merry Christmas!

Been awhile since I’ve been on here. I love to write, but I haven’t made the time for it when it comes to a blog. I hope to do better in 2015. I have lots of thoughts to run by any of you still around. Many blessings as you enter a New Year, with so many opportunities.

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Just how to Write the Introduction of an Article

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3 Things Every Pastor Should say…Regularly

1. “I love this life!” – Not everyone gets to be a pastor. It’s a unique job (calling), a blessed, wonderful, honorable, exciting and yes, challenging life we lead. Go ahead and say it…”I love it!” It’s okay.

2. “I love God’s people!” – When we rag on the local church, we rag on someone’s wife. And it’s not just anyone’s spouse. So, go ahead and brag about your Lord’s beautiful, spectacular spouse. Jesus knew what he was doing when he called “her.” Compliment His choice.

3. I love God’s direction for my life!” – I guess this is the summation. Look back across the time you have spent pastoring. For me, that’s been well over 35 years. It’s tempting to think, “I wonder what life would have been like had I stayed in business? Or stayed with that utility company and was retired with great benefits now.” But what about the adventure of seeing thousands touched by the Gospel; hundreds serving in local churches; all the marriages that are still hanging in there; the young church planters and pastors who have started new churches, what about that? What about the fellowship you have with that special group known as local pastors? God knew what he was doing when he called you. He still knows what he is doing. Go ahead…thank him…and do it regularly.

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3 Things to Never Say As a Pastor

1. “I can’t take this anymore.” – Yes, you can. You can take as much as God sees fit to allow you to take. If God has called you, he has equipped you. Just because it gets tough, even sucky at times doesn’t mean you are not making a difference. Get with another pastor friend, dump it out…scream it all out, but come on, I’m talking to you (oops, got carried away there); Only God can call you off. When He does, then that’s it, but until then…

2. “I hate people.” – No you don’t…you hate some people. Just kidding. The church of Jesus Christ is people. That’s what this is all about. Beautiful, broken people come to our churches with all their baggage and pain hoping for some respite. Just remember, God loved people so much he gave all he had to do the work of reconciliation, and now he has sent us out to do the same. Yes, some will try to crucify you, but you aren’t the first…nor will you be the last. People are worth it.

3. “No one appreciates me” – And………….. just sayin’. I think it’s funny that a “Pastor Appreciation Day” had to be invented. Like that would automatically create appreciation in the hearts of those we try to pastor. Again, we didn’t get into this for appreciation, but because of the call. Jesus appreciates you, dear pastor. Look ahead of you. In that long line out front is the Apostle Paul, John, Peter, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the person who introduced you to Christ. Now we get to stand in that line. You are not alone and because of your dedication there will be a long line behind you.

You can take it because God has called you.

You don’t hate people. You love them. That’s why it hurts so much at times.

You are appreciated by more people than you realize. Don’t let the few destroy the good. Journey on.

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Recently I spent some time thinking about time. It was a timely reflection. Here is a quick synopsis of my ruminations:

1. You don’t find time, you make time – everybody has the same amount of time. I will not find, discover some hidden time I didn’t know I had. I will have to take the 24-hours I have and make use of it. There’s no more time coming.

2. Every “yes” to someone or something is a “no” to someone or something else. You only have so many “yeses” in you. Spend them wisely because when they are gone, so are the opportunities for other things.

3. If you don’t learn to say “no” you will never learn to manage your time well. Yes is easy…no is hard.

Oops…my time is up!

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