Pastor Appreciation Month: One Pastor’s Perspective

Thanks to James Dobson, H.B. London and the Focus on the Family organization in the early 1990’s, October has been known as Pastor Appreciation Month. Here’s what this pastor appreciates.

I appreciate church folks who…

Love unconditionally (They love each other, love their neighbors, love their enemies, love sinners, love saints, love adherents to other religions, love those with no religion, love everybody even me. No conditions.)
Pray frequently for their pastors and church.
Give generously.
Read their Bible often.
Reflect Jesus in their attitudes and actions.
Are kind, honest, and dedicated.
Allow the pastor’s spouse and children to be themselves.
Use social media to spread goodness not gossip.
Understand that pastors (like everyone) are not perfect and are quick to give the benefit of the doubt and offer grace even when the pastor blunders.
Uplift, encourage and cheerlead the good things happening in the church.
Recognize that they haven’t arrived and are growing and striving to know God more and more.
Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
Clean the church as if they were cleaning it for Jesus, himself
Refuse to judge their pastor based on a disgruntled squeaky wheel’s blather, but form their own opinion based on his/her personal interactions with the pastor.
While sitting on the church board, understand that leadership is about godliness, commitment and servanthood.
Work behind the scenes for God’s glory not their own.
Greet church visitors like family.
Brag on Jesus all the time.
Offer to babysit the pastor’s kids—so the pastor and spouse can go out on a date (of course, my boys are in their twenties, married and rarely need a baby sitter these days).
Regularly invite their friends to church and share their faith.
Come out on mission work days just as eagerly as they show up for fun days.
Make the tastiest pot-luck entrées (Lemon pie? Yes, please!).
Refuse to utter discouraging but pious sounding clichés like: “I’m not being fed,” “We have never done it that way before,” or “We are looking for a more spiritual church, but it’s not about you, pastor.”
Hate to miss Sunday church services and rarely do.
Love a good joke and are quick to laugh at themselves.
Encourage young adults to fulfill their potential in Christ.
Ask questions like: “How can I help?” and “Where do you need me?”

But most of all, I appreciate that God has called me into pastoral ministry where every week I get to proclaim the goodness, mercy, grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and serve alongside some of the greatest people in the world!

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DO NOT come to Spiritual Renewal services if…

Sunday begins our Spiritual Renewal (revival) Services with Dr. J.K. Warrick, General Superintendent Emeritus in the Church of the Nazarene, but DO NOT come to Spiritual Renewal services if you…

Relish sitting in a chair muttering to yourself, “I am not being fed spiritually.” (Think of Spiritual Renewal as a Smorgasbord for your Soul. If you like feeling empty and spiritually dead, then stay home.)

Hate good preaching. (Maybe you come to church to catch up on your sleep. The pews are comfy. Your life is hard. If you think of church as a drug free alternative to melatonin, then DO NOT come to Spiritual Renewal. JK Warrick is a great preacher!

Like making, planning, and cleaning up after dinner. (Meals are being served Monday through Wednesday prior to Spiritual Renewal Services beginning at 6PM. Just come, eat and stay for the services. If you really like washing dishes, please DO NOT come).

Love to pay for your meals. (The meals described above are FREE. No joke. FREE!).

Are annoyed by excellent music. (If your musical preference is off-key, out-of-tune singers, bad musicians and worse lyrics, then DO NOT COME to spiritual renewal services. John Nicholas and the Woods Band will be leading and they are terrific!)

Enjoy watching your kids turn into couch potatoes. (There are special services for all kids 5th grade and under. But if they attend then they won’t be watching any important life-changing You-tube videos of cats sleeping. Their couch potatoness will be negatively affected by Spiritual Renewal Week).

Plan on never joining with God in His mission for our world. If you have won the Genesee County Person of the Year Award twelve years in a row for your service to the community, then maybe you need not come and discover God’s plan for your life.

Have Isaiah 42:20 as a life verse. (It reads: “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” If you are thinking of coming to Spiritual Renewal service, but refuse to listen or hear from the Lord, please DO NOT waste your time).

Are Prefect (If you are perfect and have no areas in your life that need to be addressed, have never ever made a mistake, memorized every word in the Bible, always follow God’s word perfectly, have every single relationship in your life in perfect alignment with the Lord; think that you should be placed on a pedestal with a sign reading: THE PERFECT CHRISTIAN— then DO NOT come to Spiritual renewal. Spiritual renewal is for people who know that God is not done with them.).

PLEASE COME to Spiritual Renewal Services if you are hungry for the Lord. If you love when God comes upon a service and His presence is so real. Come to Spiritual renewal if you are dealing with tough issues and heavy burdens. Come to spiritual renewal if you are just dipping your toe into this “faith thing” and you’ll discover that faith, holiness and healing is for you. Come to Spiritual Renewal services! You will NOT be disappointed, and your dinner is free!

What Mission Outreach (aka Faith Promise) Means at Central Church

Mission’s Outreach (aka Faith Promise) Sunday is this week. It’s the Sunday we bring in a great missionary speaker (Check. Lindell Browning is our speaker, a great Nazarene missionary in the Middle East. You’ll love his preaching!). We also raise money for all of our mission efforts for the coming year. We hope people will pledge over and above their tithes. Over and above? That’s right. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is practically unbiblical at least according to Peter. Our Mission Outreach (aka Faith Promise) giving is the “offering” portion of “tithes and offerings.”

Personal Request: Given that a preacher just mentioned the word “offering” you’ll be tempted to delete this little note faster than you can say “Get Your Hand off my Wallet,” but please read on.

How do you know what you should pledge? Honestly, that’s between you and the Lord. What is it worth to you that people around the world and in Flint hear about Jesus? Before you answer that question, did you know according to this week’s NMI Prayer Mobilization Line, “There are 7,035 people groups in the world that are identified as unreached or least-reached with the gospel, in which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize the people group without outside assistance.” 7,035! Did you know that through our Convoy of Hope Community Event last Saturday we served 3,328 people and prayed with 1664? There are needs around the world and there are needs around the block. Central Church is trying to meet needs both globally and locally. We need your help!

What type of sacrifice could you give to start whittling down that number of unreached people groups or advancing the gospel in Flint and Genesee County? What could you give (over and above your regular tithes) to make a difference for Jesus?

Here are a few examples:

Giving up a Starbucks coffee a week ($5) would mean a pledge of $250.
Giving up a Five Guys lunch (and eating PB & J instead) a week ($10) would mean a $500 pledge.
Giving up a Dinner and Movie with your spouse (Netflix and Little Caesars is cheaper) once a month ($100… by the way, you eat at fancy restaurants) would mean a $1000 pledge.
Giving up that dream of a Tesla and buying a Buick would mean a $5,000-$10,000 pledge (C’mon this is Flint; Elon Musk doesn’t need your money anyway).

Jesus said, “Go into all the nations and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19). He said, “and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Paul asked these questions: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:14-15).

You get the idea. Missions is important, but it doesn’t happen without our giving and sacrifice. Bottom Line: Jesus gave us the orders. We must tell our world that Jesus saves! We must disciple and baptize people. We must be about this high calling or going and sending others to accomplish this mission. This is our opportunity and our duty, Central Church! Please pray, discuss with your family and pledge to give to our mission efforts this year.

Thank you in advance for what you are going to do!

What the Bible says about the UAW strike of General Motors

Flint is a General Motors town. General Motors was born in the city of Flint and so was the United Auto Workers Union. There are more GM retirees living in Genesee County than any other county in the country. The truck assembly plant is less than a half a mile down Bristol Road from Central Church. So when the UAW strikes General Motors, it effects our city, many of our friends and families and our church.

I’ve checked the scriptures regarding strikes and while the word “Strike” is used 95 times in the Bible. None of those instances involve picket signs. I’m fairly certain that Zechariah 13:7 is not a call to arms for the sheep of the world when the prophet states: “Strike the shepherd.” Although it makes for a fun mind game (in Far Side comic fashion) to think of sheep holding little picket signs shouting, “Hey, Hey, Ho Ho! The Shepherd Man has got to go!”

Likewise, the Bible never mentions Chevy, Ford, or Chrysler. Although it does say in Acts 2:1 that “the believers were in one accord.” I’m fairly certain that reference is not about Honda vehicles (but says more about my affinity to old, corny jokes).

That is not to say that God does not care about workers and management. He does. Of course, there were no factories in the Bible times. It was an agricultural society. Yet the Bible talks about justice when it comes to workers. The book of James states, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” (James 5:4) 1 Timothy 5:18 says, “The worker deserves his wages.”

The Bible speaks to a number of feelings that can arise during a strike:

When anxious and uncertain: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

When discouraged: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God. Psalm 42:5

When worried: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

When getting upset: Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity. Proverb 14:29 (The Message Version)

During the strike and after the strike: Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

Remember during these days to pray for the families affected by the strike. Pray for the negotiations. Pray for a speedy end to the labor stoppage. Pray for General Motors management and safety for those walking the picket lines. Finally, my friends, these words are good no matter which side of the negotiation table you sit: May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father. Colossians 1:11.

Grace and Peace!

Do What Jesus Did

Do you remember back in the 90’s when the rubber WWJD bracelets were all the rage among church folks? WWJD, of course, stood for What Would Jesus Do (not Wild Weekend of Jack Daniels as some college students tried to change it). What if we didn’t simply surmise what Jesus would do, but actually did what Jesus did? What if our bracelets had the initials DWJD (Do What Jesus Did)?

So, what did Jesus do? Maybe better stated what did Jesus do often that we can do too? Of course, Jesus did many things (heal the sick, duke it out with the Pharisees, eat dinner with tax collectors and other sinners, etc.) but the only reference to Jesus doing anything “often” is in Luke 5:16 that says: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Hmmm… the person who arguably needed to pray the least (remember Jesus’ business card reads: Jesus, Son of God), often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Maybe if you and I (who by definition need to pray considerably more than Jesus) prayed more, we’d see more of God’s power at work in us and through us.

Do not hear me say, “You need to pray more!” Instead, hear me saying, “I need to pray more.” I do. Ask my wife what I do “often” and she’d might say, “Rob often watches sports.” Ask my neurologist and he’d say, “Rob often has migraines.” Ask my boys, and they’d say, “Dad often tells us how nice Michigan is in an effort to get us to move.” But I want to be known as praying often. I don’t think I’ve reached the “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) threshold, but I’ve decided to pray more lately. It’s been good. Really good.

It seems so simple. If we truly want to be more like Jesus, then we would do what Jesus often did. We’d pray more. We’d all pray more often than we currently do. As we pray more, we’d probably see different results in our evangelism, mission efforts, if you’re a preacher in your preaching or teaching, in our families and in our lives. Let’s start a campaign to begin wearing DWJD– Do what Jesus did.

What Loyalty to the Church of the Nazarene means…

Except for the two years as a seminarian when I served as a youth director at a Presbyterian church, the only church I have ever regularly attended is the Church of the Nazarene. All of my siblings and their spouses have attended Nazarene colleges. All of my parents’ grandchildren and most of their grandchildren’s spouses have also attended Nazarene colleges. As a baby, I was wheeled in a stroller to be dedicated in a Church of the Nazarene, and they’ll probably roll my casket into one when I die. The only way we Princes could be more Nazarene is if we were born in Pilot Point, Texas and named our dogs “Phineas,” “Schmelzenbach,” and “Wynkoop.”

My loyalty does not mean that I think the Church of the Nazarene is perfect. It clearly isn’t perfect. It can’t be perfect because every four years we have a General Assembly where there are over 200 proposed changes for our manual and by-laws. It can’t be perfect, because I know of too many leaders (pastors and laypeople) who have failed. It can’t be perfect, because I am credentialed elder in the Church of the Nazarene and I am not perfect.

My loyalty does not mean I view the Church of the Nazarene through rose colored glasses. Clearly, we have work to do. Our numbers in the USA/Canada are headed in the wrong direction. Our clergy are old and getting older (myself included). Many churches are staring at financial crises as older, tithing members die off while their younger counterparts aren’t giving at the same level. Every district has several churches in hospice, ready for last rites. There are too many hypocrites, bullies and carnal members filling the pews and pulpits. Our methods don’t work like they once did. Our views are too partisan. Our love is too conditional. Our mission too convoluted. Our comfort with the world is too cozy. I get it. I’m not oblivious to the challenges we face. To modify astronaut James Lovell’s famous quote, “Lenexa, we have a problem.”

Loyalty in response to these and other challenges means not grumbling, quitting or sticking our heads in the sand. Instead, it means it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Love God and our neighbor. Proclaim the Good News. Make Christ-like disciples. Reach the unreached. Serve the troubled. Be the church that P.F. Bresee and so many others dreamed we could be— the church that wears well the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene!

Thoughts on Marriage: When Opposites Attract

Usually I am a glass is half full guy. Sometimes it’s mostly full. For my wife, Karla, it’s half empty. Sometimes it’s mostly empty.

I like all vegetables. I think they are pretty. Karla says vegetables are for eating not for looking. Learning this news, I said, “In that case, I don’t like all vegetables very much.” She loves eating vegetables.

My favorite time of the year is fall. It means football is back. Baseball is still going. Basketball will soon be starting. Karla hates fall. It means football is back. Baseball is still going. Basketball will soon be starting.

I stand on a platform and speak to hundreds of people each week. Karla would rather stuff a wireless microphone up her nose than set foot on a platform, let alone speak publically.

I like adventure as long as it means staying on the ground and doing nothing dangerous. Karla has been known to skydive from 14,000 feet. Once she signed us up to zip line without thinking that I’d rather stuff a wireless microphone up my nose than go zip lining through the jungles of Mexico.

My point, frequently (but not always) opposites attract. Karla and I are opposites in some things, but we are likeminded in important matters (God, priorities, money, etc.). All marriages (whether the couple is as opposite as can be or peas in a pod) require work. Even when two people love Jesus, they still need to invest time and effort in their marriage; think of the other person’s interests above their own and genuinely strive for the other’s betterment.

One of the oldest observations in the Bible states, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The successful marriages are the ones that figure out that two different people must become one. Oh, not in everything, try as I might, I’m fairly confident that Karla will never become a baseball fan, and I am equally confident I will not be eating zucchini any time soon. Still, the happily-ever-after couples put Jesus first, their spouse (not self) second, work to be of one mind in the important things of life and never have your spouse so frustrated that he/she wants to stick a wireless microphone up his/her nose.