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Tired of Church Fundraisers?

Talbot Davis is a friend and colleague I’ve only met through his writings, but I think we’d enjoy sitting down for coffee together. Maybe we’d hop up after about 2 minutes because we were both in Zoom Mode that day. More probably we’d be there at least the rest of the afternoon because we couldn’t shut up and both of us have a lot to say.

Here’s a recent example from him of why I think our coffee would take us up to dinner and  into the evening —


Several years ago, a District Superintendent in the United Methodist Church (if you are unfamiliar with that position, it is sort of an Executive Vice President who supervises the pastors and reports to the Bishop) shared these words:

“If churches would advertise the worship of God half as much as they advertise their barbeques and chicken pie suppers, a lot more people would know about Jesus. I have been amazed at how many churches don’t have signs up about when worship services are, but, when it is time for a fundraiser, they advertise to beat the band.”

Yet another reason why we don’t have Consignment Sales, Craft Fairs, or Spaghetti Suppers to raise money at Good Shepherd.

We don’t need fund raisers in church because God already gave us one that works just fine, thank you: giggling generosity when it comes to the giving basket & Sunday morning offering.

Teach that, live that, celebrate that, and your church can have freedom from the tyranny of next month’s effort to raise the money that people should be giving.

And that, my friends, is why I practice and preach tithing.

Side Note: I’ve been amazed that some of the same people who are in favor of a simple Flat Tax with the government come to church and strain at the gnat of “should I tithe on my net or my gross?”

As you might have heard me say, it’s a credit card commercial that asks  what’s in your wallet….God asks what’s in your heart.

See you back here tomorrow.


Beyond Listening — part 2

Do not merely listen to the Word.
Do what it says.
James 1:22

Kim and Jim Thomas are real life friends and colleagues. Our paths crossed repeatedly when we were in youth ministry at the national level; lotta good stories from those days.

One of their songs says  —

I will not a hearer only be

I will be a doer then they’ll see

— but how can that happen?

Here’s how: the next line of their song is —

I’m walking in His shoes

— By both the grace of God and our own feeble efforts, today and beyond may you and I not “hearer(s) only be.”

Let’s be “doer(s)” of the Word as well.

Why? So that “then they’ll see” and even experience the difference Christ is making in our daily lives, and can make in theirs, too.

How? By “walking in His shoes.”

So what’s your first step gonna be?

I’d love to hear from you as always, and I hope to see you back here tomorrow.



Beyond Listening— part 1

Do not merely listen to the Word.

Do what it says.

James 1:22

Martin, our seven year old puppy, loves to listen.

We can say, “Sit” and he listens.

We can say, “Down” and he listens.

We can say, “Here” and he listens.

Sometimes he will even do what we’ve said.

Wait. That pattern seems familiar. Sounds like what I’ve been known to do in response to God’s Word.

Anybody else?

See you back here tomorrow.

Justice, Reconciliation, and More: Bill Warner

Bill Warner was a colleague I wish I’d gotten to know better. I’m guessing you’ll wish the same thing when you finish reading this today. 

The bulk of what follows was written by real life friend and colleague Bob Morewell.  It’s introduced by his wife, Nina, and it’s with the gracious permission of them both that I share this with you here —

Still a bit heart-sore after the funeral of Bill Warner [Tuesday, October 9th, 2018]. It was at his home that I met Bob, and the rest, as they say, is history. Here are Bob’s remarks from the funeral yesterday:

The first time I ever took to this, or any other pulpit, was at Bill Warner’s invitation. The next time I preached from here, it was my mother’s funeral, which Bill and Normagene attended. My Mom and Bill often worked together and shared a ferocious commitment to caring for the dismissed, the discarded, and the dispossessed. The least of these….

It was that commitment which brought him here. He was moved to Carbondale after receiving death threats while serving in the violently racially polarized community of Cairo where he made a bold stand for justice and reconciliation. Concepts which everyone lauds, until they are called to face themselves and make difficult changes. Bill Warner was always such a prophetic voice, even when it cost him. Because that’s what prophets do when they truly follow Jesus.

It was that fearless honesty which I admired, and which inspired me to follow him into the ministry.

He gave it his all, even though the church was not always grateful. Following the death of Stephen and their home burning down, one member of a church he was then serving, whose concept of the Gospel was a gaggle of graceless rules and fiery threats, suggested to him that the terrible misfortunes which had befallen him were somehow the work of a god who was displeased with his less pharisaical take on the message of Jesus.

His response, though blunt, was probably more gracious than many of us could have conjured from such pain. He simply responded, “Then you’re saying God is a murderer and an arsonist?”

That was NOT his God. Not a god of petty vengeance, but a God of expansive, redemptive grace.

Bill Warner took the Gospel both seriously and joyously. He could be painfully honest but also delightfully funny and goofy. Purveyor of corny jokes and puns he knew were dreadful (some of which he got from my father-in-law). He also drove the most ridiculous car in history. Did you see the Iseta?!?

He understood the holy and could be thoroughly irreverent. For those of you familiar with the comedy series, I’m sure you will not be surprised that he and Normagene introduced us to “The Vicar of Dibley.”

He was unfailingly kind. Passionately interested in the world, long after many people of his age fall into disinterest and detachment. He possessed a keen mind, as well as a great heart, and he gave them both to God.

Now, he has brought me back to this place. The last funeral I attended here was with him, for Normagene, 25 years to the day after my mother’s. And, here I am again in this pulpit where he first placed me. His influence and his spirit abide. And his work goes on.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank you. We’ll take it from here.

  By the grace of God, may we indeed “take it from here.” Amen.

God Never Says This

Brad Kalajainen, a real life friend from college and a colleague, reminds you and me of this great line, author sadly unknown —

God never says “Oops”

— I say PHEW and Amen, how about you?

Retire TO

Retire TO something, not just from something.

Ron Dickinson is a real life friend and colleague who retired before I did.

Like innumerable others, whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s a role model in this chapter of life.

For example, consider what he wrote recently and has graciously given me expressed permission to share with you here —

I find it easier to blame others than to take responsibility for my own actions.

— Yup, that’s true for most of us, most of the time.

But if we let him, Ron reminds us of the reality that in retirement we no longer have the luxury of pointing at the person down the hall, or to a supervisor, or someone who didn’t follow your directions; for the Retiree, those days are gone.

So what was always true, but avoidable for some, smacks the retiree in the face: “Each of you must take responsibility,” says Galatians 6:5.

There’s good news ahead. See you back here.

Expect Better

Lauren Padgett is a real life friend and colleague, and it’s with her gracious permission that I share with you here something she recently wrote

There has been much on my heart and in my mind and soul for quite some time now. I feel the urge to share because some of you may have similar experiences.

In light of so many of the current climate in politics regarding women, regarding children, regarding immigrants, regarding differences, regarding my own denomination of The United Methodist Church, not only am I tired of all that divides – I expect better.

I expect better because I was taught to believe and work for something better.

I expect better because I want to be a part of something that matters.

I expect better because others deserve hope and a better way of life.

I expect better because I want my grandson to have better and be proud of what he takes part.

I expect better because I believe in a Creator who has compelled me and others to strive to work for a Just Day and a Just Tomorrow for all of Creation, not just cisgendered-white American born men.

I expect better than 27 years ago with Thomas-Hill.

I expect better than schism over slavery, Central Conferences, and volcanic fissures of Colonialism, power and greed that still seem to be ignored for the sake of the “gospel message.”

I expect better when we talk about the all powerful inclusive love of God that transforms lives and hearts. Lord God, may I be one transformed.

I expect better.