Tag Archives: church

The Problem with the Pews

A potentially dangerous situation has developed in the church sanctuary. The pews, which are as old as the church building, have begun to dry out.

This loss of moisture, and the subsequent loss of weight, has led to the distinct possibility that they might float free. This presents the possibility that during worship, a free-floating pew could damage a member or guest. Further, it is believed that even if a member or a guest were able successfully to dodge an oncoming free-floating pew, the evasive action would certainly disrupt the spiritual tranquility of the worshiping dodger.

The problem was brought before a committee in the latter part of last year. The committee first considered using steel cables to anchor the pews to bedrock, which is 247 feet beneath the church. After receiving the cost estimate of $145,912.77 and extensive consultations with engineers, this idea was abandoned. The committee, after deliberating, deciding that adding weight to the pews would be a better solution to the problem. The committee considered using brass scrap or lead ingots but they proved to be too expensive. Pig iron was found to be cheaper, but it, like brass and lead, had a certain lifeless quality.

The committee searched for a medium density object which was both sparkling and vibrant. After sifting through all of the possibilities, the committee has opted to use warm bodies to weigh down the pews, and the committee is asking the membership to provide the necessary weight. This can be done by coming to church and, if possible, by bringing a medium density object (in the form of a friend or neighbor) with you.




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Memoirs & A Message to Remember

Sometime yesterday, a link was sent to me for the Memoirs section of the Annual Conference (Western PA) 2013 Journal . I have always enjoyed (that’s not quite the right word) and appreciated reading the stories of faithful men and women, clergy and laity both, who have now received their eternal reward.

The memoir for Dave Panther, who had served most recently in Butler, shared an excerpt from his journal, which was also read at his funeral. It challenged me on this Friday morning.

At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212, water boils – produces steam – that can move engines. One degree is the difference between hot and boiling. One degree can make all the difference. How does the church go from hot to boiling? What is the one degree that takes the church from “stirring” to “steaming”? What is the one degree that turns the wheels of machinery? System. Strategies. Plans. Consultants. Books. Research. What is hot – what is not? Acts – the early church had No consultants, No books, No early pioneers, No system, No research. – Yet one simple strategy…. Trust the spirit. Pray – listen – trust – act. Their steps were bigger. Their courage; much more. The risk: their lives! Pray – listen – trust – act. O God – I pray to you today – help! Help me to know where you are leading, where you are working! People watch me…. Please do not let me drown in doubt – or be swallowed up in fear. Help. …That one degree – it is You. You can make the difference between Hot and Boiling. I desire your spirit to take me to the next level – I desire your spirit to take our church to the next level.


Check out the entire memoirs section here.

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Resurrection Sunday

This morning I was faced with a question of “What was a favorite moment of 2013 so far (as a pastor)?” After thinking for a few moments, this was my answer:

At the end of our Easter worship service I asked for folks to be praying for our 4 yr old grandson who was about to have surgery that next week. And I referenced the healing power of God and shared how my sister-in-law (that the congregation has been praying for) had actually ‘coded’ that week at dialysis and was literally brought back to life. If God can do that, then we can expect him to give REAL help as we face the things in our lives!

As I finished, a lady in the back row stood up and called for a nurse. I looked back and saw a man who looked unconscious and unresponsive and I saw his face dark and blackish. Four nurses and a retired doctor headed there and I simply started praying. I heard one nurse later say that she was convinced that he was gone. Less than a minute passed before he just started having color again and ‘woke up.’ And this was BEFORE they could even get him out of the pew to the floor to try CPR or any other intervention!

Easter is well called: “Resurrection Sunday!”

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Church Signs… Funny or not?

Please check out this video and then read my response. I’m interested in having some conversation about my concerns.

The Funniest Church Signs!!!! from churchsignslol on GodTube.

I enjoyed some of these. But I wonder if I’m SUPPOSED to be enjoying them. (Not that there’s something wrong with my enjoyment, but rather shouldn’t the public sign of a Christians church offer hope and invite the non-Christian into relationship with HIM? Signs that only a Christian insider can understand are probably lost on the ones we say we’re trying to reach? And signs like “God doesn’t believe in Atheists” and to the “dyslexic atheist” seem to be a deliberate snub or mocking of the atheist. And I was appalled to see a United Methodist Church sign mocking victims of natural disasters and blaming them on God. How does that do to help them receive the REAL message of Christ?

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Babies crying during the sermon: A response

Earlier today, I ran across a blog post by Jon Acuff regarding babies crying during the sermon. The link is here.
Babies crying during the sermon. | Stuff Christians Like – Jon Acuff
I was so disturbed, I actually left a comment. (Not something I would normally do, by the way.)

This is what I wrote:

The gospels DO seem to record that some parents took kids with them when they went to listen to Jesus. And when Jesus recognized that there were adults (disciples) who were trying to keep them out of the way, Jesus SCOLDED them!
As a pastor, I LOVE that there are kids in church. The church I’m in right now does have a kids church about 1/2 way through the service, but not everyone sends their kids. And yes, there has been a crying baby a time or two. And my response is always “I believe the church assembled NEEDS to be able to hear the sounds of life! It is a pity to have a church that cannot hear them!’
If the message we are sharing is really all that important to real life, then that message better be able to withstand normal sounds of life. Including a baby crying.

Now that my blood is boiling, I’d like to know what some others do and what you thought after reading his blog posting.

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My hope for the Church

Christianity Today has posted a question and invited ALL to respond. Check it out at 


Meanwhile, here is my entry:

I know it’s a strange analogy, but I hope the church can become more like a bar. Now hear me out, a bar is perceived as a place where people, for whatever reason, can go to be refreshed, be able to “let their hair down” and be real, and a place where there seems to be no judgment. You can be honest about your problems and still be accepted in that place of business.

On the other hand, so many report their distancing themselves from the church because they feel judged, unlistened to, and a sense that you have to have everything in your life cleaned up before you can be a part of the church. And the perception is that the church is the last place where you would go to be free of your burdens, your problems, or your hope.

So what if the church really was more like a bar? What if it was the church where everyone new your name and really welcomed you. What if it was the church where you could go and not have to wear a false mask? Where you could open up about your problems and concerns? What if the church were the place where people didn’t feel they were being judged?

My hope for the church is that WE, rather than some bar, become that place of honesty, of welcome, of acceptance, of listening, of freedom, and of hope!

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Thankful in All Things

Last night, I was the preacher for the Lakeview Ministerium’s Community Thanksgiving Service at the Oak Grove Church not far from Clarks Mills. I repeated (!) a sermon I had used in 2006… Turns out the Bible hasn’t changed since then!

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Thankful in ALL Things
Philipians 4:4-8

Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. It’s one of the most peaceful, deeply spiritual holidays for me. Yeah, I know Christmas and Easter are the biggies in the realm of religious holidays, but this one is SPIRITUAL…. there’s no big religious festival, no ritual, no special call to worship prescribed in some book. In the Revised Common Lectionary there’s not even a special Thanksgiving set of passages like the other religious days.

It’s not a religious holiday, because it’s not one prescribed by the church… not the church throughout the ages, not the Roman Catholics, not the Eastern Orthodox churches, not the Protestant churches, not even my own United Methodist Church.

But it is a spiritual holiday… and for me it is a Holy Day.

Why? Because it calls each of us to consider our lot in life and to be thankful…But not even to just be thankful, but to go beyond being thankful and actually give thanks.  It’s wonderful to be full of thanks, but you gotta do something with all of that thanks or else it means nothing except a warm feeling.

With Thanksgiving, as we have it here in America, our government asks us to give thanks to God….yes, I said the government asks us to give thanks to God.  They may not highlight that aspect, but that’s where it comes from isn’t it?  You go to Canada and this week is not Thanksgiving week. You go to Mexico and this week is not Thanksgiving week.  You go to Britain and this week is not Thanksgiving week. You go to Israel, the one place where God’s religious holidays are still observed, at least in part, and you’ll find that this week is not Thanksgiving week. Only in America, where we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD.

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?  If I ask school children, they might tell me stories of pilgrims and Indians and a cold winter and then a fruitful harvest and a big feast with plenty to spare and the pilgrims proclaiming a day to give thanks to God.  Yep.  That’s part of what we remember this week.

After that first harvest was brought in, it was the Governor of the colony, William Bradford, in 1621, who proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer.

It was an American President over two hundred years years later that asked us….”to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November.”  And he did not ask us to just to be thankful, but listen to President Lincoln’s actual words about this day. He wanted us to have a day of thanksgiving: “…as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens…”

And every year since then, whichever President is in that office has asked us to do the same thing. And so we celebrate Thanksgiving… and we give thanks and praise to GOD, because our governmenthas asked us to.

Separation of church and state? Yeah, right.

Now, before you think this preacher is getting too strange, I just want to clarify something here.  I am not complaining that the government calls us to prayer.  I happen to like that a whole lot. 

(Although I’m not convinced that even us Christians use it as a day of prayer and giving thanks.  Unfortunately for many of us, if you watch us on this Thursday, you would think the day should be called THANKS-PIGGING, instead of Thanksgiving.)

My concern is much more Christian…. not governmental.

You see, I am afraid that since we find Paul and others reminding us so often to “give thanks” and then even the government of the United States has to set aside a day for us to give thanks, that maybe it is a sad indicator that we, the Christians, instead of entering the gates of our Lord with praise and entering His courts with thanksgiving, are actually nothing more than an ungrateful bunch of hypocrites.

Let’s take a minute, shall we, and just do a reality check. Now, being a good Christian pastor, I won’t ask you to raise your hands, but just consider with me the following items:

ØWhen we pray, are we praising and thanking God…or just asking for stuff and for blessings or healings or whatever? Are we thankful people?

ØWhen we are at church, are we in an attitude of gratefulness and worship…or are we looking for what someone else does wrong or does that annoys us? Or checking to see if the preacher makes a mistake? Are we thankful people?

ØWhen we meet with the other people in our town are we focusing on the positives and the good things, the things someone has done well and praising them for a good job…or are we sitting there like vultures just looking for a weakness so that we may attack? Are we thankful people?

ØDo we look around us in this country where we have the right to select our leaders, worship as we desire, and even are encouraged unwittingly by the government to have days of thanks and prayer and to praise God for a great land where we still live as One Nation Under God…  or do we deliberately badmouth and curse our leaders rather than pray for them? Are we thankful people?

The passage of Scripture I read a few minutes ago that says “THINK ON THESE THINGS” isn’t just a nice suggestion… It is Scripture. There is a life-giving, life-fulfilling dimension of following the principles of Scripture. If we were to look at all aspects of our lives through the glasses of this Scripture, we truly could give God thanks and praise in all of life… no matter what may come our way… Because we would see things as God sees them.

It all boils down to a pretty easy mind-picture for me:

Imagine with me that we are at the mall in some other community where no one knows us and we are walking into a bookstore. There’s the magazine section off to our left. We walk towards it and there are all kinds of magazines there, aren’t there?

I am waiting for my wife to shop for whatever it is she’s shopping for. I am bored stiff and so I have come to look through the magazines…. If I find one I really like, I may even pay money for it so that I can keep it.

What magazine to choose?  

 I see some of the titles: People, Us, Seventeen, Biblical Archaeology, Reader’s Digest, Billy Graham’s Decision magazine, Guideposts, US News & World Report, Teenbeat, Newsweek, Playboy, Penthouse… and the list goes on, because there are hundreds of magazines.

Now, do I begin picking up each and every magazine, reading it cover to cover?  NO! Because for me, some of those titles are AUTOMATICALLY ruled out, because they are advocate and support behaviors and actions that are contrary to what I believe.  I won’t even consider buying them and I won’t even considerlooking inside them. I do not want my mind filled with the images that are contained in their pages.

That’s EXACTLY what Paul’s saying here, my brothers and sisters.  Every single day of our life, in every waking moment, we will choose things for our mind to dwell on and to think about.  And Paul says we, as Christians, need to be keeping our minds on the things that are true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. The things that are worthwhile and worthy of praise.

To allow our minds to focus otherwise is a direct contradiction to what we as Christians are to do.

It would be just like you or I going into that bookstore and making poor choices in our magazine reading. 

That’s how we can easily become thankful again… by deliberately choosing what we’re going to focus on in our minds, in our thoughts. Rather than looking for negatives (which is SO easy), we’re going to start focusing on the things in our lives the way God does…by looking for the good in each situation, the lovely, the pure… by looking for the “thanksgiving” moment in each situation… the part of the situation that we can turn into a praise to God.

Yeah, we’ll still encounter people who annoy us and do things wrong…they may even do a job differently than we like.  And they may even do something in the church in a way that we think is ridiculous and so very inefficient. Oh well. Too bad.

God didn’t ask you or I to be his efficiency experts, we weren’t called to right all the other Christians in the world… let alone stand as their judge.

Rather, we were called to shine a light… so that everyone who sees us will want what we have.  If all we do is focus on the bad and focus on the faults of other people, then all the others will see in us is vinegar…. and instead of drawing others to our churches and to our God, we will see them staying away from us like the plague.

Paul hits this message pretty hard and pretty personal… because it’s a message that we seem intent on forgetting.  God is to be approached with praise and with the giving of thanks… and we are to approach our very lives with praise and the giving of thanks… and that’s pretty hard to do if we’re looking for the what’s wrong around us. 

Let’s approach this Thanksgiving time, and then the season of Christmas which so quickly follows, with the positive, affirming, praising, thankful approach.

And maybe we won’t need the government to remind us to give thanks.

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