Posted tagged ‘Working together’

Helping Each Other Up The Hill

July 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                July 20, 2017


At Quaker Ridge Camp there is a peak high above the camp called Soldier’s Peak. Each year the kids at camp make the climb to the top where they encounter an incredible view of the wooded forest areas around it, and the other mountain peaks in the distance. Down below they can see the grounds of the camp and pick out the building they sleep in at night, the dining hall, the swimming pool, and other spots of activity.

But getting to the top is a struggle for many of them. They aren’t used to the hike, the elevation, and the physical exertion. Some begin the adventure with eager anticipation, but then realize it requires more than a video game controller and gradually lose their desire to reach the summit. Others begin to display the characteristic that usually rises to the surface when they meet a challenge that requires effort. They whine!

And then there are the Daniel Boone’s who blaze the trail, enjoying these moments in life to the fullest, ready to head across the valley to that next peak over that they can see after they reach the top.

And then there are the encouragers who want the whiners and the weak to accomplish what they know they will accomplish. They want all of their camp friends to make it up the hill, no matter how long it takes.

I was listening to our elementary camp pastor, Rev. John Mark Brown (Yes, he’s got half of the gospels in his name!) talk to his camp kids about the journey…kind of a debriefing session! He had been talking to them about what it means to serve in Jesus’ name…what might that look like? It was encouraging to me to hear a number of these young campers talk about helping each other up the mountain. That sometimes it’s not how fast YOU get up the hill that’s most important, but rather what each person does to make sure everyone gets to the top!

There’s a valuable lesson in there for all of us, not just eight, nine, and ten year olds. The church, when it is being the church, is a community of believers helping each other up the hill! And you know something! There are a lot of whiners who journey with us, and there are a few who are weak and aren’t sure they can go much further, and there are the trailblazers who look to run ahead and get to a location that will take the majority of the flock a long time to get to, and there are the encouragers who understand the celebration of having everyone standing on the peak…no matter how long it takes to get there!

It seems to me that the church needs to catch some of that understanding of the journey. It is a snapshot of what being in community with one another is all about!

The Entitled Church

March 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 March 23, 2017


     A few days ago I wrote a piece on the entitled church attender. I presented the idea that there are a lot of church attenders who mirror one of our cultural themes as they relate to the church. That is, there is a heightened sense of entitlement, and focus on what the church can do for “me”, as opposed to how I can join a community of believers in service and ministry for Christ.

An old friend of mine responded to that writing with another view that got me thinking. Having lost her husband in the last year she experienced a church that seemed to place its needs above her grieving. She had held a couple of positions within the congregation, and it seemed as if the church was more concerned with her continuing on in the work of those positions than it was in her journey of grief.

She was right on! The shoe is on the other foot this time! There are a number of churches who treat their servants like the Borax Mule Team. The focus is on getting things done, as opposed to being a community of believers who lean on others and are available to be leaned on.

We talked about it quite often in my years of pastoring: burn-out! The exhaustion of the saints and the pastor. It seemed that there was seldom good balance; that it was either the pastor burning the candle at both ends, or the twenty percent of the saints who were doing too much. Sometimes it was the pastor who drove “the mules”, and sometimes it was the church leaders who barked behind the pastor like an army drill sergeant!

Rarely were there situations where the rhythm of the saints and the clergy found a healthy balance.

And so my friend finds herself, after years and years of serving, now wondering about the church. Did it consider her to be like middle-management in a corporation? Did it really care for her, or simply care when it was convenient?

Honestly, that scenario has been played out too many times. Sometimes the church even uses the excuse of the Great Commission to minimize the importance of its messengers! “We’re all about Jesus, so put your pity party on the back burner!”

Entitled churches are simply gatherings of entitled church attenders who have control of the reins!

“Hahh, hahh!” says the guy with the whip riding behind the mules.

Caroling With the Methodists

December 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 19, 2016

     Cautiously they came up the seven steps into the sanctuary. There were nine of them, four adults and five bouncing kids. They hadn’t gotten two steps into the sanctuary before two of the Baptist women descended upon them with greetings and smiles. Today the Methodists were joining us! More specifically, the Methodist children’s bell choir was going to play for our service. First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church were situated just a block apart from one another in the hamlet of Simla, but worlds apart from ever joining together in some kind of activity. Today would change that.

The cold and snow kept a few of the faithful away. Henry and Mildred, our two ninety year olds, wisely stayed away. John was down in his back. A different John was on snow plow duty with the County. So nine United Methodists joined thirteen American Baptists for a time of worship, celebration, and laughter. The five-child bell choir, all related to one another, delighted us. After they finished their two songs they passed out candy canes to everyone…and then I passed out the candy canes I had brought for them!

Two small churches figuring out each other! At the end of worship the crock pots with chili were plugged in and most of us trudged down the snow-packed street two blocks to the full-care senior facility to sing for the elderly residents and, once again, to have the bell choir play. The two churches had collected pairs of socks that the children passed out to the residents, socks with brightly colored stripes and designs to bring a bit of color to the lives of some folks whose days were mostly gray and hopeless.

Two small churches walking together, becoming familiar with one another in a community we were all familiar with. Two small churches figuring out how we could join together to make a difference.

Back to the Baptist church we walked to enjoy chili and cinnamon rolls together. We gathered at the front of the sanctuary, joined hands in a circle of prayer, and asked God’s blessing on the meal and thanked him for the day we had enjoyed. Guests went first, savoring the aromas as they passed by the pots. One of the girls gave the ultimate compliment. She said, “This place smells just like Taco Bell!”

We sat together and enjoyed conversation about school, life, and farming. A story I had shared in my morning message resonated with one of the Methodists. He had been the high school basketball coach for 35 years and my story had focused on a basketball official that we both knew. Connecting points brought us closer together in our conversation.

At the end of the day everyone knew that what had happened that morning and afternoon had been a good thing.

Two small churches a block away, but no longer worlds apart.

A Culture of Making Threats

November 13, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 12, 2016


I remember my sister, Rena, getting upset with our parents when she was about ten years old over some important issue…like the shoes she had to wear, or not being able to go roller skating on a Friday night at two o’clock in the morning. She threatened to run away from home. One time she actually did, walking heavily across the kitchen floor and out the side door of our house. She proceeded to stand on the carport for a good five minutes before “coming back to family.” As an eight year old at the time I was a little bummed. I had figured out that either my brother or I would get her bedroom. Charlie and I had to share a bedroom.

A neighbor kid about my age would frequently threaten to leave the game we were playing, take his ball, and go home if things didn’t go his way. He was annoying, and after a few threats such as that, the rest of us would let him go. We would just figure out something else to play that didn’t involve his ball.

During my 36 years as a church pastor I encountered numerous people who would make threats. It was often clothed in a statement that began with these words: “If this doesn’t happen I’m going to…” The completed statement would come from a menu of possibilities such as “leave the church”, “stop giving money”, “resign my position”, or “make things unpleasant!” Sometimes we stood firm on our position or direction and other times, unfortunately, we caved in! One thing I learned over the years: A church never goes forward as a result of giving in to internal threats!

Threats and ultimatums are immature ways for society to react to a direction that not everyone agrees with. They are like a stubborn Beaver Cleaver refusing to eat the Brussels sprouts on his plate because he doesn’t like them. (Yes! I just saw that episode on DVD!)

     This week’s election result was going to cause unrest and anger no matter which candidate won. Let’s be honest! Even though Donald Trump won there were an abundance of people who voted for him simply because they did not want Hillary Clinton; and, on the other hand, there were an abundance of people who voted for Clinton because they did not want Trump. If a third option had been on the ballot that said, “Neither One!”, it may have been the victor!

So now we enter post-election emotions and unrest around the country. Neither candidate endeared themselves to people with all the negative ads they pumped millions of dollars into!

So now what? In my years as pastor I’ve told people that two events in the life of a family necessitate change. That is, when one of these events happens things will not stay the same as they were. The events are a birth and a death! When a new baby comes along things, by necessity, change! When someone passes away, by necessity, things change! This past election was a birth event for some and a death for many. In my saying that it also needs to be said that it would have been a birth and death event if Hillary Clinton had also been elected.

In either case, by necessity, things will change. Our country will draw closer together or it will become more fractured. There will either be a reaching to find common ground or there will be a continuation of threats. Washington, which hasn’t really been a very good role model in recent years, will strive to either row together or do a tug of war of wills.

In a culture of instant gratification and self-centeredness this optimist is not very optimistic!

Sand City

July 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 21, 2016


    A week of church camp is filled with incredible moments and discoveries. Quite often the adult counselors get surprised in delightful ways by the things their camper kids say and do. One of those happened with our elementary campers the past two days. In the midst of the sand volleyball court a few of the kids, and a couple of their counselors, started making sand creations. It started simple! A two story house about a foot wide and a foot long.

Then a second house…a few more houses to make it begin to resemble a village, and then a house that started to resemble an Aztec temple or a four-layered wedding cake…one of those!

A few more campers joined the fun, and suddenly instead of Bust, Colorado (Population 2!), the sand creation started looking like a city…and ancient city, since a couple of the artists started building a sand wall around it.

Then another sand city started to be built on the other end of the sand volleyball court! Not wanting to look exclusive and uninviting, a few of the first “sanders” built a sand road between the two sand cities.

This morning there were close to thirty campers and counselors digging in the sand…creating, working together, laughing, and talking. It was not a planned activity, but, instead, became a movement. What an experience to see knees in the sand sharing ideas on what the next building phase might be. I’m pretty sure they put a Sonic and a Starbucks in there on one busy sand street! Interestingly enough, no sand schools were built by kids who are seeing their summers come quickly to an end.

One of the high school counselors got wind of a plot that a few of her students her devising  about going through and destroying Sand City and “Sand City West” and writing “Godzilla was here!” in the sand. She talked to them about being encouragers instead of destroyers. She conveyed to them the fact that the kids involved in the sand creations and construction would be crushed by a few seconds of mischievous fun. They understood…and the Sand Cities got larger. A few of the high school students even “got sandy!”

It made me think of the violent acts that have left their imprint across the country. How easy it is for people to respond with destruction in mind…instead of coming alongside and working together. How easy it is to tear down instead of build up? Sad City is becoming too prevalent!

How easy it is for churches to tear down and destroy instead of building places of grace and compassionate love! There are too many Sad Churches! I am perplexed as to why!

The reality of the weather at our 8,700 elevation camp is a late afternoon rain storm. What took hours to build, we knew, would be flattened by showers. The wise leaders explained the situation to the young sanders. They suggested that since the kids were the builders that they should be the ones to have the opportunity to “disassemble.” The campers stood along the sideline of the volleyball court and on the signal moved forward like a swarm of locusts, breaking down the fragile creations.

Rain came a couple of hours later.

Today, I fully expect, reconstruction will take place. Like rebuilding after a major storm…one sand house at a time!

Harmony Church

January 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 8, 2016


I was leading a group of seniors in a study of 1 Peter yesterday. We were able to get through one verse in the ninety minutes together. The verse was 1 Peter 3:8. It says:

   “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…”

Harmony! What is that? We made the point…several times…in our discussion that harmony does not mean uniformity. We are not cookie-cutter followers of Christ. We are all unique, complex and simple, confident and cautious, narrow-minded and totally open-minded. Diverse, that’s who we are. Thus, the challenge of harmony is understanding that the body of believers will not always be in agreement on such issues as brand of coffee to serve, dress style preferred, how quiet children should be in worship, and what songs get sung. The interesting thing is that it is those petty issues that so often cause the most conflict. Perhaps that says something about the spiritual depth of a congregation that such topics of division revolve around whether donuts or muffins should be served?

Harmony is a sign of a church that gets it. Disharmony makes the news. Harmony is newsworthy. Strong personalities are a constant challenge to harmony. It isn’t that people with strong personalities are evil, but must be reminded that harmony does not mean giving into their ideas, thoughts, and demands.

Harmony is often forfeited for the sake of progress. What progress is often gets written on a stats sheet, like the church is the religious version of the Oakland A’s in  Moneyball.  Progress is the chafing rub to harmony. It has a way of becoming exalted and worshiped at the expense of all else.

Peter’s point to those he was writing to then, and to us now, is that those who are not of the church…are not on that faith journey with Christ, look with suspicious interest at the church. Why would these people gather on a Sunday morning week after week? What do they get out of it? What does it mean? What draws them together? Is there emotional support for those who are hurting, and relational stability for those who are lonely?

A lot of questions! And the harmony of the body of believers communicates that this thing we call a journey with Christ is real, it is authentic, it isn’t some kind of put-on!

Since most of the lives of Christ-followers is spent separate from one another, doing our own things, going about our own business, lack of familiarity with one another limits the hold of harmony. Crossing paths for a few moments at a worship service makes us acquaintances, but detours around harmony.

Harmony in the church is like a surfer trying to stay upright on the board as the waves push him forward. Harmony is wonderful, and yet that next wave…that next crisis…had the potential to send things crashing down.

In a world that seems to love to fight, harmony seems like the uncle who often gets forgotten to be invited to the party. And yet, harmony is a sign of a church that gets it!


Friday Night Fire Alarm

October 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 October 26, 2015


Bernice latched on to my dad’s hand. She had forgotten her cane. A ninety-three year old can’t be expected to remember everything! She got her housecoat first, but didn’t think about her cane leaning against the wall in her kitchen. Friday night fire alarms at 9:00 were a nuisance…and, more than likely, Leo, who lived down the hallway, had set it off because he wanted some late night fried bacon.

The various elderly folk slowly wandered into the hallway amidst the very loud and obnoxious sounds of the building’s fire alarm system.

“Leo’s been frying bacon again!” bellowed Bonnie! Bonnie had responsibilities to take care of. She assumed her role as “group captain.” She had six people that she had to make sure were okay. “Okay” meant she had to check them off on her clipboard which she clutched close to her chest as she strutted into the darkness.

The senior independent living complex had been through this before. It was the second time that Leo had given into temptation for late-night bacon resulting in the fire alarm sounding. the evidence of his crime could be seen in the smoke rising from the grease in the skillet. There had also been a 4:00 A.M. fire alarm a couple of months ago because of a system malfunction, to which Leo now used the excuse, “At least I set it off at a decent time!”

Bernice clutched my dad’s hand, one unsteady person teaming up with another shuffler. She was feisty and my dad did not refuse her. He had no choice. She commandeered his hand as soon as they walked outside.

Bonnie checked people off.








“Agnes isn’t coming.”

“Why isn’t she coming? I’ve got to check her off.”

“She doesn’t want to. She’s just going to stand on her balcony.”

Bonnie tried to hide her annoyance. It was a fire alarm and Agnes, ninety-five and counting, decided she was going to pout and not follow protocol. “These people!” she muttered to herself.


Leo stood in the distance smoking a cigarette. Smoking bacon in his apartment and smoking a Winston outside.

The fire alarm kept blaring. People were getting annoyed. There was a good movie playing right then on the Hallmark Channel and they were missing it. Senior citizens only have so much patience, and then they just do what they want to.

Bernice pulled her housecoat tighten to her body while trying to get some warmth from my father. Although my mom was six months older than Dad, it’s still awkward to see your dad holding hands with a woman six years older than him.

The alarm finally shut off and Bonnie assumed group control. People had to have her permission to go back inside. She held the clipboard of power.

“All right! You can go back in now. See everybody at breakfast! Leo, no more frying bacon!”

Leo there his cigarette butt down and crushed the life out of it.

Friday night fun! Although most of the residents gave Leo “the look”, they also admitted that it was nice to have a little fire alarm excitement on a chilling evening. Bonnie was proud of the fact that she performed her duties flawlessly, and Bernice couldn’t remember the last time she had held hands with a fine looking gentleman. She gave thought to buying Leo another pound of bacon!

What Sports Would Jesus Have Had Kids Play?

September 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  September 28, 2015


     Yesterday I officiated some 6th Grade Boy’s Basketball games. I don’t referee many youth games that are outside my church gym. I save myself for the high school and junior college seasons.

But our assignor needed help…and I was looking to shake some of the rust off so I put the whistle around my neck, donned “the stripes”, and laced up my shiny black officiating shoes.

It’s amazing how many parents get “demon-possessed” as they watch their sons play hoop. Accountant-types get crazy hair…psychiatrists display mental illnesses…pacifists reconsider their commitment to peace.

It made me consider what Jesus would have done? Better yet, what sports would Jesus have played? Even better, since Jesus is concerned about all children, what sports would he point the little ones towards…and which ones would he guard them against?

I’m tempted to answer that with two lists…the yes list and the no list…but I’m fight the temptation.

First of all, I think Jesus would have promoted team sports since the gospel is relational and his emphasis was on relationships. He emphasized to his disciples that they were to be on the same page…with him and with one another.

I think Jesus would have pointed people to the rowing team…synchronized, demanding, depending on one another. Jesus would have cheered the rowers.

Many sporting events in Jesus’ time were brutal…kind of like present-day ultimate fighting. The present-day of seeing someone get beat to a pulp is just gladiator flighting done in an arena with beer sales and public restrooms.

I would say that curling would be a point that Jesus would point kids to, but in the gospels there is that time he said, “…let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”

Instead I think “disc golf”, otherwise known as “frisbee golf” would be a favorite for him. The emphasis on staying on the narrow path would be emphasized.

Just as Jesus cleared the temple area of merchants and money-changers I think he would clear gyms of parents trying to relive their childhoods through their children who just want to have fun. Perhaps most sporting activities would be outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air instead of fortress gyms where people have to pay for the privilege of watching.

Don’t get me wrong! I think sports has great benefits and great teaching applications for life. That’s why I coach basketball! Kids can learn how to work together, how to play together, what is important and what is not nearly as important as some people say it is.

I think Jesus would encourage sports participation, but not selling out a child’s youth years to it.

Moses and Joshua Renewal

March 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      March 30, 2015


If I typed the letters “M” and “J” on this page many of you who are reading this would instantly think of Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. It’s the end of March…March Madness…basketball frenzy time…Spartans in the Final Four (My excitement is showing!).

But since I’m a pastor who has “been through it” more times than I can count “MJ” also has another meaning for me…especially since we just went through a Renewal Weekend at our church.

“MJ” is short for “Moses and Joshua.” If the church is to experience renewal it needs to be a “Moses and Joshua Renewal.” Moses was in the final part of his journey. Joshua was in the first half of his. For that time in the history of the Israelites…from wandering in the desert to crossing into the Promised Land…it took both men to bring the people along in the journey. It took the elder and the younger walking together to figure things out.

I firmly believe that renewal amongst the people of God is a multi-generational event. Back in the 1980’s a multitude of churches bought into the idea that growth was tied to attracting people who look like you. Racially, economic class, theological beliefs, and such! The last twenty years has resulted in a new twist on the church growth idea: churches growing because they are focused on one or two generations. Elders worship with elders. Youngers worship with youngers.

Here’s the thing! Moses needed Joshua’s energy, strength, and courage; and Joshua needed Moses’ wisdom, experience, and depth.

Some might raise the point that the generation that exited Egypt, wandered in the desert, tested the patience of God, and questioned their leadership had to pass away before the Promised Land could be reached. That’s spot on, but think about those years of wandering. How often did those of Moses’ generation share their experiences, their mistakes, their “If I could do it over again” moments? There is a recent song by the group “Mercy Me” entitled “Dear Younger Me.” It tells of someone sharing with a younger version of the desire to talk about past errors in order to help prevent the younger person from doing the same.

Church renewal is everyone on the journey together, not just those you like or don’t get on your nerves. What would have happened if Joshua would have decided that Moses was too archaic and traditional to stay with him, so he departed “to start a new ministry?” What would have happened if Moses would have decided he wanted to put down roots in the desert and told Joshua if he wanted to go any further that was his choice? Leave him out of it!

One thing that needs to be understood: Leaders are called to lead. Seldom are leaders called to leave.

Leaving is a contemporary version of satisfying the self. It’s the statement that our culture has bought into that says “It’s all about me!”, but simply clothes in a spiritual sweater.

What would happen if the people of God committed themselves to Moses and Joshua renewal?

Another MJ moment!

From The Fire, A New Kind of Community”

July 13, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        July 13, 2012



The fires here in Colorado Springs changed everything! In the midst of burned out homes, and neighborhood blocks that mysteriously now only have a third of the homes that were there a month ago, there has been the sprinklings of a new kind of community being born.

The community, however, is not new homes where charred remains lie. It’s not a new “development” with HOA fees, 30 year mortgages, and the sound of moving vans.

No…this new community is being born in the midst of newly created partnerships, shared resources, thousands and thousands of volunteers, prayer, tears, and a bonding together because of a tragedy that will, in some ways, change Colorado Springs from being a city filled with self-centered, personal agenda people to a community of people who are figuring out that the journey is to be made together.

Rich Blanchette, Annie Wamberg, and I went to the second meeting of the Waldo Canyon Long Term Recovery Group yesterday. We received an education in less than two and a half hours about disaster relief, available resources, what has been done already, but, most importantly, what is yet to be done. The “Yet To Be Done” is a long term journey that has the potential to solidify “community”.

Of course, it also has the potential to create a city of have’s and have-not’s. We are often people with limited attention spans. After the rest of the country returns to it’s routines, Colorado Springs will be dealing with clean-up, rebuilding, figuring out solutions of dilemmas that no one else cares about. What will build a city with character and caring is a citizen base that stays the course for the years that it will take to recover.

It was refreshing at yesterday’s meeting to see church representatives sitting beside denominational reps, who were sitting beside service organization people, who were sitting beside government agency reps. Catholics and Protestants working together, but also a representative from the Muslim community.

No political ads were voiced! No preference towards one denomination’s efforts! No “this is how we’re going to do it!” In fact, the sharing of past experiences from many of the participants was a guiding factor in helping this group figure out very carefully what our next step is.

On the sub-group that Rich and I are a part of called “Clean-up/Salvage/Trees/Mitigation” there are team members from Village Seven Presbyterian, First Baptist Church, Glen Eyrie (The Navigators), Mennonite Relief Effort, Salvation Army, the Director of Missions for the area Southern Baptist churches, and the two of us from Highland Park. The sharing of resources and the training of volunteers has already started. The Southern Baptist churches are sponsoring a training event in two weeks that will train volunteers in the task of “ash out” and “using a chain saw.” Other sub-groups were communicating opportunities and needs.

In essence, it demonstrated how a city can become a community. So many questions…so many situations…and we are prayerfully seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit for answers, wisdom, and new hope.

And God has prepared his church for such a time as this!