Where’s Grandpa?

A nice game of chess

A nice game of chess (Photo credit: Wouter de Koning)

Having lived in Western New York for almost 10 years now, I have heard many reasons for the economic decline of our region – and they all have some merit:

1. Taxation

2. Government policies that overburden the corporate and small business sectors (not to mention the average worker)

3. NAFTA (as well as the move to southern states by our businesses)

4. Increase of government to private sector ratio of workers

5. Salt on the roads instead of sand (or coal dust)

6. Cost of litigation and legislation

But I would like to add another one that most people don’t ever think about – retirees.

According to the US Census Bureau, the average age when people retire is 62, and they live for an average of 18 years in retirement.  If those same people plan on a $3000/month income from retirement for those 20 years, they would need approximately $500,000 in their nest egg (liable to wide fluctuations of course due to annualized rates of return, etc.).

Now imagine these people earning a living in WNY for 30+ years, building up this nest egg, then retiring to where else – sunny Florida.  Florida then becomes the recipient of this half a million dollar nest egg in the form of cost of living over the next 20 years.  WNY’s earned income becomes Florida’s revenue.

Is it any wonder that the economies of Southern states have been faring so much better than northern ones over the last 30 years?

Now imagine that nest egg being spiritual insight, wisdom and influence in a local congregation of believers.  Move down south to worship with hundreds of others in the same boat you are in, and the enjoyment and entertainment values are high – but ministry potential is low.  No one there needs what you have, and the needs they do have – you can’t supply.

It is diversity of gifts and life stages and situations that create a healthy, sustainable Body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (I Corinthians 12:17-20 NIV)

It’s hard to mentor the younger generations in a retirement community.

Reinvestment instead of Retirement

English: Photograph taken at the Washington Na...

English: Photograph taken at the Washington National Cathedral of the Moses window by Lawrence Saint This window depicts the three stages of the life of Moses, each of them being 40 years long. The first 40 years is depicted in the left panel, when Moses is a prince in Egypt. The next 40 years is depicted in the right panel, which is Moses before Pharaoh. The last 40 years depicts Moses with the 10 Commandments, representative of his time with the Israelites in the wilderness as a lawgiver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noah began his approximately 75 year process of building and supplying the ark at around 525 years old, Abraham left Haran for the Promised Land at around 75 years old, Moses started the 40 years of leading the nation of Israel at 80 and Joshua started conquering the Promised Land (a 50 year process) at approximately 60 years of age.

According to the US Census bureau, approximately 77% of our countries’ wealth is in the hands of those 50 years old and older.

Jeremiah and Timothy had to be encouraged to lead despite their youthfulness.

All of these things seem to point in the same direction…back to work.

I don’t mean that you have to continue at the same job until you drop, but if you are a Christian who is looking at the retirement years as a candy store of your favorite hobbies and interests…you might have missed the boat.

The life of a Christian is to be an investment in the Kingdom of God and in eternity itself, not a nest egg that we wontingly spend on ourselves.

This is the 4th Quarter of your life – it is win or lose time.  This is the time in the game that you pull out all the stops, not stop from all the pulling.

God is not finished with you yet.  In fact, the most significant days of ministry are in front of you.  You now have your greatest supply of time, talent, relationships and resources – use them for the Kingdom don’t blow them on yourself.

What is God calling you to do with your next 20 years?  You have raised your family, you have created an independent wealth in which for the first time in your life  you don’t have to do someone else’s work to support yourself.  It’s time for you to enter your own Promised Land… and to conquer it one step at a time as you follow your Lord and Savior.

Don’t retire, retreat or rest.  Our rest will come when we hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The Disarming Power of Honesty

Reading glasses

Reading glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15 NIV)

In the arms race of far too many conversations nowadays, where each is vying for their due homage from the other, there is a better way to communicate, build unity and move forward (either as an organization or as individuals in life).  This will be mind-alteringly brilliant, but hang on:

Fall in love with the Creator of the other.

A couple of simple observations:

1. God made them.

2. God didn’t screw up.

3. God made you.

4. God didn’t screw up on you either.

Within this simple matrix of beliefs, the capacity for appreciation of the other is possible without lessening your own self worth.  This person is neither my enemy nor my competitor, they are my unique equal.  Using this newfound respect, begin to look at them with the eyes of He who made them.  Begin imagining His purposes in doing so.  Call forth their magnificent potential.  Speak life-giving truth into their day.

This works well in all situations, including the escalating types, but it works best like a sucker punch – out of the blue of normalcy comes an insightful compliment, a poetically placed truth that inspires the other to be who God created them to be.  They are changed.  They exist in an elevated state for a while as the reality of another’s belief in them saturates their soul.

Nina is graceful.  Her carriage, her conversations, her soul.  It is as though she walks in a beauty pageant her every day.  She exudes and gives grace to those around her as though sowing seeds without awareness.

Scott is caring.  He loads his own back to lighten yours.  He walks lightly while carrying great weight that his family, friends and village would not notice his burden.  He is simple in these guestures without fanfare or bombast.  He smiles as he picks up some of your load, and his joy is increased.

In truly beginning to see others, you will see yourself more clearly.

Change someone’s world today.  Speak the truth in love.

That’ll Preach! The three components of a good sermon

ImageWe’ve all been there.  Trying to listen, wanting to learn, yearning for inspiration…but mind-numbingly bored as the preacher drones on.  We try to “screw our courage to the sticking place” and press on.  We pray for God to reveal to us what He wants us to hear despite the messenger.  We remind ourselves that God uses the “foolishness of preaching” to transform lives; but oh, to be somewhere else…anywhere else.

Sometimes we are the ones preaching these sermons.

A mentor/friend of mine once gave me the two best pieces of advice I ever received on the art of preaching.  Mike Hilson said, “You have to tell them what they need to know, and what they need to do about it.”  He also said to quit making up your own outlines, that God’s outlines in the text will always be better.  I concur.  I would also add one extra little piece: bridging Information and Application must be the Illustration.

Information:

The first rule of preaching is to preach no heresy!  No matter how well your sermon is crafted, or how artfully it is delivered; if it is heresy – you fail!  The content must be understood within its context (both textual and historical), and its content must  be the very words of God.

Application:

Information without application is mere vanity.  We have far too many informed spectators and too few obedient disciples.  Without application, sermons are nothing other than truth innocculations.  The people hear the truth, do nothing with it, and have built up their immunity to that truth.  They are worse for having heard.  Never leave them without some direction in which to walk with Jesus.

Illustration:

We preachers often preach on the parables of Jesus without realizing that we should be preaching like Jesus preached (not just what he preached).  His parables on agriculture, master/servant relationships and Samaritans were powerful because they resonated with the innate cultural understanding of his hearers…they connected.  This is the purpose and the power of the illustration.  Less than 1% of the American population are now farmers, slavery is not only abolished but abhorred and the term “samaritan” brings its corollary of good deeds to mind (not to mention hospitals and charitable organizations), not a hated ethnicity that we would rather cross the street to avoid than walk near.

St. Augustine said it well when he said to “Make the truth plain, pleasing and moving”.

Put as much effort into finding the illustration that fits the message as you spend understanding the content and deriving action steps.  The message will come alive – and so will your hearers!  After all, the goal is not only accuracy but also efficacy.  Build a powerful bridge between the Information and the Application and the result will be the inspiration of the body of Christ and the world through them.

Venison Stew – a Leadership Recipe

鹿シチュー venison stew

鹿シチュー venison stew (Photo credit: CookieM)

I was recently reading a wild game cookbook and came across a recipe for Venison Stew that perked up my leadership radar.  The recipe began with “procure a deer”.  Needless to say, this got me thinking about the process necessary to share a great meal with family and friends.

1. Prepare to hunt. (be of legal age and residency, take and pass required course(s), purchase necessary equipment and become proficient in scent-control, stand location, the art of silence and marksmanship.

2. Go hunting. Repeat as necessary until successful.

3. Field dress, hang (preferably for about 4-7 days in a 35-38 degree environment) and butcher said hart.

4. Roast appropriate cut of meat and de-glaze pot/pan/skillet.

This is quite a lengthy process, involving a multitude of skill sets, and not a little bit of luck, and we haven’t even started the stew yet.

The second phrase that caught my attention was, “allow to simmer for several hours”.  You can cook all the parts of a stew separately if you so desire, but at the end you will not have stew, but a hodgepodge of ingredients.  It is the comingling of ingredients over time with a gentle fire that creates a wonderful stew.

Ministry teams are much like a good stew.

Each team requires a multitude of gifts (administration, promotion, recruitment, set-up and tear down not to mention the frontline gifts for that particular ministry), a long-term commitment and a coming-together over time with a little bit of heat in order to be truly great.

Stews can have differing ingredients and still be delicious, ministry likewise, can take differing shapes and flavors, but they all require shared mission, a unique contribution from each part and time for mutual seasoning.

Canned ministry and canned stew simply cannot measure up to the real thing.  Stew on that for a while.

Passing the Ball…not the Buck

current logo 1996–present

current logo 1996–present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Red Auerbach, the legendary Boston celtics coach, said that if a player missed a pass from another player it was the passer’s fault because, as Auerbach put it, ‘if the passer was communicating properly, the receiver would get the message and be at the right place at the right time to catch the ball.'” (Keough, Donald R. “The Ten Commandments for Business Failure” p. 145)

In the art of pastoring, few things are as significant as communication.  This could be in the pulpit on a Sunday morning, in a hallway after the services, in your office in a counseling appointment or around town in random locations.  Communication can be a spoken reality or a non-verbal form.  It can be of light and momentary weight, or of eternal significance (or both!).  It is, however, always our responsibility.

Begin with this thought in mind: I have been called, gifted and ordained in order to communicate the truth of the gospel to the world.  This is not an equal relationship where if they don’t get it, it’s their fault as much as mine.

To carry the metaphor along, what they do with the truth of the gospel is up to them.  They can shoot the ball, pass the ball or dribble the ball to another location; but passing it to them is my responsibility.

In following St. Augustine’s dictum of making the truth plain, pleasing and moving we will be careful to heed Auerbach’s warning of making it catchable as well.

Getting a YouTube Education

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

No, I am not promoting YouTube as an accredited degree program rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of cute, kitten videos.

I am saying that YouTube has become one of my go-to resources for learning how to do just about anything.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a video has got to be worth 10,000.  I have learned how to clean out an EGR system on a 1996 Toyota Camry, butcher and debone a deer carcass, solve software glitches and replace the belt on my Maytag dryer (and many more random and useful things), all from watching it done on YouTube.

There are other online sources for similar resources (ehow.com, dailymotion.com, vimeo.com, etc.), but YouTube is the one I go to first (there’s a YouTube app on my phone after all).

Here’s what I like best about this type of learning:

1. It’s free (that is after you have paid for your internet and computer or phone and data package).

2. It’s fast – you don’t have to read through a manual.

3. It’s convenient – learn how to properly hill poatoes in your garden…while in your garden!

4. It’s private – no one else has to know that you didn’t know 🙂

5. It’s global – learning from other cultures has never been easier.

What have you learned to do by YouTubing it?