It’s You, Not Me: Why More & More Ministers Are Leaving Churches of Christ

Late last year, I wrote the post below. It was my most read ever.  I still receive hate e-mail and blog posts responses about it. I’ve reached out to every negative blog responder I’m aware of. None have responded. What I thought was a simple report of what I was hearing, was interpreted (by some) as an attack on the church. It was anything but.

Enjoy.

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If you worship in a Church of Christ (my tribe), your church might be primed to lose her minister. And the next one. And the one after that. Quickly.

First, a bit of explanation for non-Church of Christ readers. In my “non-denomination,” the local church selects individual men and women to serve as her ministers / pastors / preachers. These folks may be trained or not. Theologically adept or not. Qualified or not. It’s up to the church.

Since each congregation is autonomous, churches can dismiss their ministers at will.  Likewise, ministers can pick-up and move at will. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow! That sounds like a lot of turnover.” Congratulations, you’re right. You’re so right that when Church of Christ ministers get together with colleagues, conversations typically begin like this: “Are you still at ________________?” We anticipate moving. What can I say? We’re mobile.

While pastoral (yeah, I just used the “p” word) turnover is high among most Christians denominations, many Churches of Christ, I feel, are at unprecedented risk of chasing away the most gifted and best trained leaders in her midst.

Why am I concerned?

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You’re Worth Your Investment

You’re going to fail if you don’t bet on yourself.

This past week I heard the story of Reginald “Reggie” Hudlin. Hudlin is a screen-writer, director, producer, and former CEO of BET. He is also a graduate of Harvard University, but he was born and raised in East St. Louis, one of the most dangerous cities in the country.  Hudlin’s most recent credit was as producer of Django Unchained and his first was House Party.

As you can see, Hudlin possesses an incredibly creative mind and has accomplished much in his field.
Hudlin tells the story of selling his very first script. The script was hand-written on legal paper, but that wasn’t all that strange at the time. As a struggling creative, Hudlin caught the bus and bummed rides with friends to get to and from pitch meetings and to connect with artists and studio executives. He was broke and did whatever he had to do to make rent. Then, all of Hudlin’s hard work payed off. He sold his first script. He only made $2,500, but for him that $2,500 was a fortune. But now Hudlin had a choice to make. He’d made enough money to either buy a used car or purchase a computer. 

 

Hudlin went with the computer.

As convenient (and fun) as it would be to have a car – or even to spend the money celebrating with friends – Hudlin opted to invest in himself. He says, “I figured with a computer, I could sell a lot more scripts.” He bet on himself. He invested, not in his comfort, but in his goals.
My life as a pastor and BeachBody coach gives me a front-row seat to people saying they want to make changes or move ahead, but we typically don’t mean it. We often fail to realize that making changes means investing in ourselves. When the next step cost money, time, or more effort than we first imagined, we bail, quit, or try to opt for the cheapest option.  Then we turn up shocked when investing nothing and doing nothing got us nothing.

Truthfully, though, those who invest in their goals are the people who meet them.

Suppose you want to grow spiritually, what lengths are you willing to go to? Will you spend money on those books, that retreat, or the time and money to find a spiritual director?  Will you wake-up earlier or delete unnecessary events from your calendar in order to carve out focused time with God?If you want to get fit, are you ready to revamp your nutrition, work with a coach, and pay the monetary and physical price?If you have goals, how does your life reflect movement toward those goals? And I say this so that you’ll know this: You can do anything!

All it takes is a willingness to invest in yourself. I think you’re worth it.

Tell us, what one thing can you do TODAY to invest in yourself?

The Romantic Part: Why You May Be Missing The BEST Of Marriage

Life is mostly filler!

Hold on to that sentence. I’ll get back to it in a minute.

My wife, Rochelle, and I aren’t wealthy, but we have always been rich in friends. My love for my friends has given me a love for movies about friends. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I recently watched another film about a group of friends, Friends With Kids.

Friends With Kids is a story about best friends and their “Friends”-esque companions in New York. Besties since college, Jason and Julie, have watched their clique enter adulthood, marry, and have kids. From the outside looking in, Jason and Julie have surmised that marriage and kids stink. It’s not so much marriage or kids; it’s marriage AND kids. Jason and Julie believe love, happiness, and kids are all available, but you can only have two of the three.

Traditional family life requires too much strain. Too much duty. It asks too much of one person. The same person who is your exclusive sexual partner, is also your business partner in the family company, is also your primary source for companionship, is also…is also…is also….

What if, Jason and Julie ponder, you could have a kid with someone you trusted and knew, but were able to keep a different, more adventurous love, dating, and sex life?

They give it a go. They have a son together, Joe.

It all seems to work fine, initially. But after two years, the wheels come off. Both Jason and Julie start dating other people, parenting responsibilities begin to mount, and their group of friends openly question the wisdom of bringing a child into a untested and rickety system. What’s more, Julie – even though she’s dating – discovers she loves Jason. Like real, boy-girl love, not just friendship.

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Revising Yourself

Few things are as bad as wanting something to be done and over and knowing it’s not. Worse still is the knowledge that your project is miles from conclusion. Writers, in particular, know the anxiety and exasperation of wanting a project finished, but staring in the face of unwanted edits.

I used to hate being edited. Each note, slash, and comment stung of rejection and humiliation. I couldn’t see, then, how editors were helping me clarify my point and bring readers a more robust experience. It felt like criticism. Over time, I learned that rewrites were part of the process and, paraphrasing Anne Lamott (or someone I’ve read about writing), “There are no great writers, just great re-writers.”

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Embracing this truth freed my writing (and life). It gave me courage, purpose, and voice, because I knew from the outset that I’d be changing, restructuring, and re-crafting whatever first splashed onto the page. When my heart (and ego) extended hospitality to rewrites, my heart grew larger while my ego grew smaller.

For a year now, I’ve been telling people “I’m almost 40,” which was a ready tonic for the days I was disappointed in my 5K splits. This past Sunday, I finally turned 40. I’m out of “almosts.

Turning 40 delivered parcels of reflection the last few months. I (finally) like who I am (I think). For the first time, I’m comfortable in my own skin and happy about where I am in life. The reason? Rewrites.

I’m simply not the same person I was at 20 or 30 or even 35. Steadily, my life has been revised, sometimes by me, sometimes by others. More importantly, I’ve come to expect edits, which means I anticipate being wrong about much and the corrections that could refine me shouldn’t be avoided.

Life, I’ve found, should be lived in a constant state of rewrites.

The most miserable people I’ve known are those who decided their lives were a finished product. They are the “we’ve never done it this way,” and “I don’t like it if it’s ‘new’” crowd. I once worked alongside a woman who had done the same things in the same way for over 20 years. Her work had become a “just add water,” unsurprising powder that avoided criticism through the power of inertia. Her lack of growth cornered her into a position of attacking anyone who suggested alternatives, regardless to there benefits or ease to her.

I can’t think of a more horrifying prospect than imagining the first draft of me will be the final draft of me. Writers and speakers habitually edit and reconstruct. They rewrite until it’s impossible to redraft anymore. Not until the speech is given or the words printed do they cease their refinement.

Don’t you want your life to be like that? Don’t you want to live the kind of life whose story cannot be told until your death, when you can make no further rewrites? Don’t you want to grow and develop, to venture into new territory, and try your hand at new challenges until it is physically impossible to do so?

That’s a life in rewrite. A life being purified because it’s a life not yet done.

Thank You For Loving!

Today is Loving Day!

Mildred Loving, born Mildred Jeter, began dating her husband, Richard Loving, when she was just 11 years old and Richard was 17. In the early years of their marriage, Mildred and Richard were arrested several times together. The reason? Mildred was black and Richard was white. In 1958 it was illegal for them to be married in the state of Virginia. Apparently, Virginia has not always been for lovers.

Threatened with  imprisonment, the Loving’s changed history when they challenged the Constitutionality of Virginia’s marriage laws and in 1967 won the day when the Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. From that day forward, every state, including those in the south which had laws forbidding it, were required to recognize interracial marriage.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

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