Posted tagged ‘church drama’

Hitting The Hole of the Church’s Mission

September 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         September 21, 2017


I wiped the cobwebs off the golf clubs and went, along with my friends Mike Oldham and Reggie Fletcher, out for a stroll around the golf course this past Monday. None of us were going for our PGA tour card. In fact, even though it was September 18th it was the first round of the year for all three of us.

None of us were on our game. When you play one round a year you don’t have “a game”! I was hitting the ball okay, mostly keeping it out of the rough, sand, and water. You need to understand something about my golf play. I don’t get upset if I hook it, splice it, miss it, or even hit a shot off the tee that doesn’t make it past the women’s tee. I also don’t get that excited about a good shot. I just enjoy the experience, the sunshine, and the fellowship.

The interesting thing, however, is that all three of us had a hard time putting the ball in the hole. The little white ball- or, in Reggie’s case, pink ball- went to the right of the hole, the left of the hole, rimmed around the hole, and short of the hole. To putt the ball in the hole was like trying to get a Cleveland Browns’ quarterback to throw a touchdown pass! Or, I should say, a professional quarterback of any Ohio NFL team!

We laughed at our ineptness. It wasn’t that we were trying to miss, but missing was the only thing we were consistent in doing.

And it hit me that the mission of the church often goes that way as well! The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. It’s as simple as seeing the hole on the seventh green, and yet the simplicity of the mission is complicated by our ineptness in hitting it. We veer to the left to focus on discipline problems in church members, or we veer to the right to emphasize a sub-point of a doctrinal belief. The church hits a budget issue and pulls up short of the mission. It misreads a downhill slope and winds up twice as far from the hole of the mission.

I kept asking myself how I could be on the green of a four hundred yard hole in just three strokes, but then have to putt the ball three times before it went in? How could I come so far so quickly, but then fail so easily?

In terms of the church hitting the hole of its mission, the closer it gets to completion the greater the chance of having the mission derailed. In my years of pastoring churches I experienced this multiple times. It might be rephrased as “gaining momentum”, but it seemed that as we headed towards the hole of the mission something or someone would cause us to veer to the side. Squabbles, crises, disagreements about the music we were singing in worship, arguments about the children’s ministry, division about how much ministry should be done outside the walls of the church compared to ministry within the walls…there always seemed to be something that took our ball off course.

For the church to hit the hole of its mission a couple of things are important to remember. One is that it must read the green. Sometimes what seems to be the case is not the case. That little ridge on the right wasn’t seen, or that break on the left wasn’t probably diagnosed. I can remember a few times when I thought we had consensus on a certain direction only to have it derailed by a portion of the congregation who didn’t want to say anything to begin with, but then decided to speak up as the ball was rolling towards the mission. Some of those situations were simply because I didn’t read the breaks, or misread the situation. Others were because of a passive resistant group who simply wanted to stonewall the direction. When the church misreads the green it must recalculate the direction from a different point.

Second, the church must admit it missed and aim at the mission once again. In golf there is a definite difference between professional golfers and weekend duffers. Churches are kind of like that, also! There are churches that are better at reading the obstacles and distractions that will keep it from staying true to the mission, but there is not a single church that always reads the situation correctly. Since grace it vital to who followers of Jesus are, grace must be a part of the journey. When I putted my ball and it went three feet to the left of the hole I had to be willing to start from a different point and continue my quest. It’s the same for the Body of Christ. What needs to be changed to have the next attempt be better aimed at the hole of the mission?

The game of golf is the great revealer of failure. On Monday my frequency of failing was in abundance. Perhaps my once-a-year visit to the golf course had something to do with my game being haphazard! There may be a life lesson there for once-a-year worship attenders as well, but I won’t go there! I’ll just veer off to the left, so to speak!

Dog Lovers And People Who Walk By

September 7, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 7, 2017


At Starbucks this morning a woman walked her dog up to the restaurant, leashed him to a chair right outside the entrance, and went in to get a cup of coffee. The canine lay down and waited. I watched with interest as a number of people entered and exited the business. Several of them noticed the dog and, with smiles on their faces, bent down to give him a few strokes and pats…a few moments of dog lover’s affection!

Others walked in and out and either didn’t notice or didn’t care. They had places to go, mobile orders to pick up on the counter, kids to get to school…life to live in other places!

Dog lovers are passionate about their “best friends”. You’ve got to be passionate if you’re going to walk him with a plastic bag in one hand and the leash in the other, while allowing him to lift his leg at every tree or bush he comes upon. If you’re willing to pick up your pet’s poop you are passionate!                      

My neighbor up the street has three Yorkshire Terriers. Three! He is often out in front of his house with his “three ladies plus his wife”. They have a bond, and I’m sure that when one of them passes on Ralph will experience deep grief. If the loss of someone grieves you…you are passionate about that person…or pet!

So what about being passionate about following Jesus? There are many of us who are, and many others who, like the dog at Starbucks, just walk by and don’t notice. Jesus followers smile at their Savior and get caught up in the journey that makes a difference in their life and life pursuits. Those who don’t know Jesus walk by with minimal interest. Many of them see the passion of Jesus followers as being comparable to dog lovers who have to pick up their pet’s poop. In other words, if you’re not in love with Jesus why would you want to mess with it?

Let’s be honest! Many of us have enough drama in our lives as it is. Why would someone want to add the drama of church to it? Some of the deepest wounds come in the midst of people who are deeply involved in churches.

And yet…with passion comes drama! If Fido doesn’t get his walk, or he rips up a pillow in the living room when unattended, or it seems that there’s something wrong with him health wise then the drama gets elevated in the house. Amongst people who are passionate about Jesus drama and intensity go up when things like injustice, the death of one of the saints, or a crisis of disagreement surfaces.

Passion holds hands with drama.

A dog gives a dog lover someone to walk with. Jesus gives me someone to follow. Now, if I could just convince my wife to let me have a dog that I could walk as I follow Jesus!

The Warts, Pimples, and Beauty Marks of a Church

April 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 10, 2016


There is free photo editor available for computers called “Picmonkey.” It allows a person to touch up a photograph and make blemishes disappear. In effect, it brings the picture of a person’s face to perfection. It hides the imperfect.

If there was a “Picmonkey” that churches could use to cover up its imperfections it would be used as much as, or more than,  the communion wine! A primitive form of it appears in the newspaper one day each week on the religious services advertisement page. Church slogans and pictures of smiling faces and praying people appear there to convince the reader that spiritual awesomeness is ready to be had at that location.

But the truth of the matter is that every church has at least three things: warts, pimples, and beauty marks. Forms of “Picmonkey” are often used to hide the warts and pimples and accentuate the beauty marks, but, believe me, the blemishes are still there under the make-up.

“Warts” are those things that just are! I’m speaking two Sundays a month at a very small congregation in a small community about forty-five minutes away from the city. Their pastor resigned in a bit of a church dust storm last fall. The congregation is a great group of people in a dated building trying to move forward. One of their warts is the placement of the women’s rest room. It is halfway down the stairway to the basement. Halfway! It is a wart that just is. There aren’t many women’s rest rooms that are halfway down a stairway, but, in this building, it would not easily be relocated, so…it just is!

A lot of church warts are related to the structure the congregation meets in. The church I pastored for many years had a leaky baptistry! Not a good thing for a Baptist church! Whenever we had a baptism we would have to bring in the fans for a few days afterwards to dry out the carpet. For $125 we bought a livestock watering trough that was smaller than the baptistry so it could fit right in the midst of that space. The leaky baptistry is still leaking, but the trough takes care of the problem. It was one of our warts that was humorous in some ways, and frustrating in others.

Every church has its warts. Some are more visible than others. Some warts are the result of gifts given to the congregation years before that have now become part of the congregational facial imprint. Some warts are even people- the person who talks non-stop in a small group, the man who falls asleep every Sunday during the sermon and starts snoring. The warts of a church aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are! They are like Cindy Crawford’s facial mole. It just is, and now we wouldn’t recognize her without it.

“Pimples” are those tensions in a church that are often under the skin and not readily visible. They aren’t pleasant, and have a tendency to rise to the surface after a while and, forgive me, spew on others. A number of years ago there was a situation where a young unmarried woman in the congregation I was pastoring became pregnant. There was an evident tension between those who did not want to help put on a baby shower for her, and those who wanted to express their love and caring to her as she went through this. Those on one side thought that putting on a baby shower would be condoning pre-marital sex, while those on the other side felt that the young woman needed extra support and encouragement during this time and, after all, the baby was coming! Those who visited our congregation probably weren’t aware of the tensions, but the stakeholders were! Every church has its pimples!

Pimples exist in areas of a church where there are territorial battles, like the organ doesn’t get used any more, but those “cotton-pickin” drums do! Or a pastoral search committee is divided in its support of a potential candidate. Some of the committee see the candidate as a visionary for the future, while others are afraid he/she will change “their” church too much.

Pastors and congregations often become a festering pimple that is in danger of becoming a cluster of blemishes. Like adolescent faces it takes time and effort to slowly let the zits run their course and be healed.

And pimples can arise in the most unexpected places, like what is served at the coffee fellowship time each Sunday? Folger’s (which was good enough for my parents and also for me) or Starbucks (Quality matters!)?

And then there are the beauty marks…the equivalent of cute dimples and stunning eyes! A church’s beauty marks are present regardless of what the board and committee structure is. In fact, the beauty marks usually are present outside of a committee’s decisions. For example, every church has certain people that are the embodiment of Christ. The church is enriched by their presence, not because of the things they do and the ministry positions they fill, but simply because of who they are. They are the unofficial spiritual mentors.

Sometimes a beauty marks is something distinctive about the building. One church I was Associate Pastor of had an incredible stained glass window in the sanctuary that was wondrous to gaze at. The way the light hit it seemed to make it come alive. For me it still is the most awesome stained glass window I’ve ever seen, and people from the city knew about that church’s “beauty mark.”

Every church has its beauty marks!

Warts just are, pimples need attention, and beauty marks cause gratitude.

A church with too many pimples needs to invite in a spiritual dermatologist. A church with a lot of beauty marks should bring attention to them and not take them for granted.

And the warts? Live with them and avoid the temptation to cover them up with “Picmonkey” touch ups!