Posted tagged ‘commitment’

Yelping The Church

July 1, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 30, 2019


My wife is a “yelpster”! She uses Yelp to see what people have said about restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, and businesses. On vacation we choose the eating establishment on the basis of what the Yelp reviews tell us. Sometimes we’ve been thankful for what the review has said and we’ve experienced. Other times we’ve wondered if the reviewer was at a different restaurant than the one we went to.

It’s amazing how one customer can talk about a restaurant in such glowing terms and another person can give a review that makes it less appealing than the school cafeteria. One gives it five stars and the other one star. Amazing the difference!

I noticed that people can now give church reviews on Yelp. The Bible refers to the followers of Jesus being “the salt of the earth”, but a person needs to take the Yelp church reviews with a grain of salt. One review talks about how friendly and welcoming a church is and that they have coffee and snacks available. Another talks about the biblical application to everyday living that the sermon emphasized. Still another talked about how great the music was, almost like being at a concert.

OR there were reviews that criticized the music, trashed the sermon, made fun of the pastor, lambasted the greeters for not greeting. And these were reviews of the same churches where reviewers had experienced almost divine encounters. 

Yelp is the new proclaimer! So when you invite your new neighbors to come to Sunday worship with you they may very well say that they will talk it over and get back to you…and then bring your church up on Yelp for the decision. (Church strategy: Have its members flood Yelp with great reviews!)

Here’s the thing! Yelp is all about the customer…where she can get the best service, where the best steak is served, where a trustworthy mechanic is located…it’s all about the buyer, the customer. How many times can I write that word…customer?

The church is all about the Christ. For many of us our “custom” has been to worship on Sunday morning as a part of a congregation where the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and worshiped. That’s our custom, but we aren’t customers.

It’s a sign of how the proclamation of the gospel has been altered when we get the idea that we’re looking for the best deal, the best music, the greatest preacher.

I get murmurings and open admissions from so many people- followers of Jesus, mind you- who talk about swapping churches, changing churches, trying a different church, as if they are changing their bed linens. There’s no connecting commitment, no sense of being a part of a spiritual community. In fact, “community” is seen more and more as existing in other places and other groups- the school they teach at, their softball team, the Starbucks they hang out at, the folks they watch the football game with. 

Perhaps Yelp is just another analyzing method for showing what the church no longer is. 

Getting Followers

January 15, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    January 15, 2019


Getting a book published these days is as complicated as that Latin final exam I flunked back in college. I was better at “Pig Latin” than I was at Latin, but the college didn’t offer that alternative. 

I’m better at writing than I am at doing all the other “stuff” that publishers are looking for, like establishing your “platform” and summarizing your 100,000 word book in one paragraph. They use words like “hook”, “genre”, and “synopsis” like they were jelly beans that are so easy to pop into your mouth.

Another element they’re looking at is how many “followers” you have! Who reads your blog (Like you are right now!) and how many people would be interested in your book?

And so the quest for more followers happens! Getting followers feels a little bit like panhandling! There’s some pleading involved. All I can say is “I think you’d enjoy reading my blog, so please, please, please be one of my followers!” And on the other side of the sign the words “God Bless!” It’s not like I can offer a discount or a tip on what stock to buy. Almost all of my followers have some kind of relationship with me. 

Jesus had a few disciples and a number of followers. Disciples left their fishing nets and tax collecting table to follow him. There was no turning back. They were all in. Followers listened to his teachings and then returned to their homes and work. They were interested, but their levels of commitment differed, some all in and some Sabbath attenders.

Sounds a bit like church attenders! There are those who are all in with the church’s mission and ministry and others, sadly the majority, who have one foot in and one foot out. They are “the interested”! But they are also interested in sushi, Hallmark movies, and clearance sales at Dilliard’s. 

Commitment is another matter! What are they committed to? Very little! Their interests are fluid and their commitments are minimal! 

So I’m trying to attract followers, who I know are kinda’ following, to impress publishers who will then see that I’m worth being committed to! 

Did you follow that?

65 Years of Journeying

August 13, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              August 13, 2013

     Today is the 65th wedding anniversary of my mom and dad. Not many people can say they’ve been married to the same person for 65 years. It’s one of those things that people respond to with wide-open eyes of unbelief and ask “How long did you say???”

My mom and dad “lasted” this long because…because…here it comes…they loved each other and love each other deeply.

The problem is that few people today know what ingredients go into a recipe for love. It’s not always the warm fuzzies that people think it tastes like.

Let me tell you what I believe has gone into my parents’ marriage.

The Salt of Shared Pain- I remember hearing conversations of loss. When words left their sting on my mom, my dad would be the listening ear, the agent of comfort. As they went through the difficulties of losing parents and siblings to death they cried on one another’s shoulders. Pain can often be lonely business. It can cause us to retreat into a place of isolation, but Mom and Dad walked through it together.

The Cinnamon of Intimacy- My parents did not shy away from embracing or kissing one another in front of their three kids. One of the things I remember my mom saying to my dad quite often was “Kiss me, Slobber Lips! I can swim!” I crack up when I think about that still. They conveyed through their hugs and words that they loved pne another. It seems that this usually happened right after dinner, which takes in the next ingredient.

The Sauce of Servanthood- I don’t remember that dinner was the responsibility of just one of them. Although my mom did most of the cooking, Dad would be involved in setting the table, or washing the dishes (unless it fell to one of the kids). When we had mashed potatoes he always got the assignment. Whenever we had liver and onions, not one of our favorites, he was tasked with the cooking. If it was fried chicken or cooking a pot of garden fresh green beans, it was Mom’s turn to shine. The smooch after dinner was almost like a kiss of appreciation and partnership. They had finished the day of work and home duties together.

The Cream of Commitment- Like cream in a soup that filters through the whole batch, my parents committed to one another…for better or for worse…for richer, or, for most of the time…poorer…in sickness and in health (That is the everyday journey right now!). I had never heard of the word divorce until my Uncle George got married. And then when he got remarried to someone else I didn’t understand it, because Mom and Dad were always together. It didn’t matter when the income was barely able, if possible, to meet the bills. It just meant a couple of more meals of beans. I can’t even picture one of my parents not being there, because they have been…for sixty-five years!

The Vanilla of Spirituality- Some people see the word vanilla and they think it indicates blandness, dullness, but the ingredient of vanilla is precious. In lay terms it’s expensive! My parents marriage has been a dance with God. I’ve never known a time in my life when I didn’t go to church…except for about a year in college when Bedside Baptist gained a new member, and I was enjoying the Sunday morning messages delivered by Reverend Sheets. I was raised in church, but my parents modeled Christ-like behavior and lives. My dad’s meal-time grace was heart-felt. Mom’s involvement in choir and a women’s missionary circle were exercised expressions of her Christian walk. They sat in worship together Sunday morning and Sunday evening. I wanted to be a Methodist growing up because I knew their children were home watching Walt Disney while I was sitting in a church pew. Mom and Dad always sat together in church, side-by-side, unless they had a kid between them that needed to be “secured!”

The Sugar of Simplicity- Mom and Dad were not defined by their possessions, their home, the cars they drove. They seemed to like American-built cars back in the day, but that didn’t matter that much. Whatever they had they took extremely good care of it. Vacations were spent back on my grandparents’ farm in Oil Springs, Kentucky, and that usually meant helping Mamaw and Papaw Helton with some of the farm chores. Relaxing was sitting in one of the front porch swings watching the occasional cars drive past. That simplicity, however, was special. Watching The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night after getting home from church (still a little disgruntled about the Disney thing!), while eating popcorn…that was a picture of our family. That was special and meaningful.

The recipe has several other ingredients that have been put into he soup, but, I guess what I’m saying is that my parents’ 65 year marriage shouldn’t be the oddity. Is it wrong to think that it should be the norm?

Would the world be a little less chaotic and topsy-turvy if my mom and dad weren’t see as being unusual?

Running The Mile Twenty Days In

June 20, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 20, 2013


Today is my twentieth day in a row of writing a post for my blog, Words from W.W. I wish that I could say that I’ve found my groove, but the life of a pastor has no groove. The last four nights have found me in four different locations for either meetings or group activities. Carol and I had dinner last night at 8:30. Tonight we had to eat separately.

The only consistency so far in my thirty day writing challenge is that I’ve written each day. Diana Stucky, my administrative assistant, has been great in sending my words out to our congregation. Sometimes she gets the article in the late morning (Seldom!), and sometimes she gets the words in the evening (Often!).

Day 20 means I’m two-thirds of the way. The last week will be a challenge in that I will be in the Dominican Republic, but I’m hopeful that I can post something about our mission experience there each day.

Two-thirds of the way is the point of commitment. If you quit now everyone will wonder what your problem is. They will just shake their heads in a kind of pitiful disgust at your inability to finish anything.

I was a miler back in high school. Lap three was the hardest lap of the four lap race. Lap three was about guts and not feeling sorry for yourself. As a runner I could tell if an opposing runner was beat by the facial expression during the third lap. If his look said “Somebody feel sorry for me”, or he seemed to be looking for his mommy, the race was over.

The third quarter mile was about maintaining a fast pace when your legs feel like jelly.

It seems that there are a lot of sprinters in life trying to run a mile. What I mean is they burn themselves out in the first few moments of an important leg of their life journey. There’s a beginning sense of excitement and exhilaration about this new venture, or pursuit of a new calling, or launching of a new idea.

And then a few strides into the journey reality hits that this is not going to be the piece of cake that the person thought it was going to be. Sprinters are about cake. Milers are about oatmeal (I’m not sure where that came from! It just came out of my mouth.)

The Christian journey is a long-distance run that takes in beautiful landscapes, but also desolate desert. It’s easy to sprint in front of the beginning cheering masses, but commitment is required to get you through the periods of aloneness and depression.

The third lap is when people take a hike and never come back, but it’s also when the committed stays the course.