The Pope agrees

“The church is a business.”

How many times have I heard that?!

Of course, when you’re dealing with hundreds of people, at times the church should embrace business-like modes of action.  But I’ve spent my ministry learning that church cannot be thought of as a business.

Business has a bottom line.  You could say that the church has one, too.  For a business, that bottom line is profit.  For the church, one could make the argument that the commission to make disciples is our bottom line.  But creating disciples is different than producing a profit.

Discipleship is ongoing and weird to measure.  The value of an American dollar?  I can look that up and give you a solid rate; I can also tell you if we’re making enough of them.  Spiritual EKGs don’t really work that way.  What were your first quarter spiritual earnings?  And is that really the way you want to think of your faith development?

A problem with bottom-line discipleship is that we can get side tracked convincing people they are disciples so that we can say we’ve made disciples.

Another problem with church-as-business has to do with the freedom to live abundantly.  Before I go any further, I’m not saying we don’t need structure and order.  We do.  Too much business-like structure, however, leads to a caging of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t believe me?  That’s probably because you’ve never attended a church meeting where the business mind trumps the spirit heart.  Good for you!

I have.  And I can’t stand it.  I always feel like we’re trying to tell the Holy Spirit what she’s allowed to do.
By the way, the Pope agrees with me.  Sure, I haven’t asked him, but if you read the following article you’ll wonder from whom he got his notes.

Pope Francis: Devil prefers a comfy, business-savvy church that overlooks truth

I wish every church leader would read this.  Maybe we could change business as usual.  Maybe I should forward it to them.

Stay blessed…john

Are you normal?

Do you consider yourself normal?

If you’re like most normal people, you’ll normally say you’re not. C’mon, it’s fun telling people you’re not normal, you little jokester.  Who wants to be normal? We want to be above normal, post normal or even para normal.

Actually, normal isn’t a bad thing–as long as the normal is a good normal and not a bad normal. Now I’ve spelled the word normal so much it looks wrong and I have to check what I’ve written so far to make sure I’ve spelled every occurrence correctly.

Again, it’s okay to be normal. Just ask Justin Bieber.

To answer the question that just formed in your mind, yes, that is the first time I’ve ever had to write that sentence before in my pastoral career, or even my personal life.

Explanation: The Biebster surprised a group of people listening to a young girl play guitar on a street corner, or something like that. Of course, once people in the crowd realized who he was, they went nuts….and out came the phones. Okay, the phones were probably already out, but now they were perpendicular to the sidewalk. Tweets, pics, snaps abound.

Justin’s response? In part he told them to, “put down your phone and be a normal person for a second.”

++Click here to watch the surprise of a lifetime for these young fans.++

If you only read that statement you might think he was being rude. I’ve watched the video; he was not.  Unless, of course, everyone is right and he’s just so cute at everything.  At this point I want to clarify that I know this was not a young man’s brave moment to express his deepest thoughts to the world about the world. He was interacting with a few fans.

I just want to deepen his advice to help us move along as a species.

The young fans with the phones in their hands were quite normal already. I didn’t bother looking up statistics for you because you already know that “everybody has a phone in their hand these days.” That’s not a verbatim quote from a church lady I know, but close enough.  For a little context, her phone flips.  Still, she’s right and you know it.

And before you dump all the phone-addict talk on our kids, I’d be willing to look for (just not right now) the data for some of you older-than-teenagers adults who are just as likely to be on your phones while the rest of us are trying to enjoy a Chicken McNugget. It’s normal now to seize every boring second of a doctor’s visit, oil change or a shopping excursion with a quick glance or two (dozen) at the phone. Sorry, Biebs, unfortunately, those young fans were perfectly normal.

It would have been better to ask them to do something else. We should all try to do something else.

When it comes to…the people around us….the world we are inhabiting…the glory around us…our sanity….maybe we shouldn’t be normal. Hey, young fans, put your phones away and be present at this memorable moment.

That’s it.  Be present.

You don’t even do anything with all those pictures and videos anyway.

Stop watching your babies graduate solely through the lens of a 4.7″ screen; be present to their expressions and to the joy no digital device can capture.  Normal says I should take out my phone to record this awesome scene of nature. Being present says I’ll just sit right here and experience it.  Normal will help you miss what is most beautiful and sacred about the world.  Being present will allow you to draw closer to the glory of God.  Sure, with a picture you might remember it, but you will not have experienced it.

Read. My. Typing-Lips: I did not see throw your phones away or take any more pictures.  I did not say phones are evil.  I did not say you’re addicted to your phone.  Okay, I might have hinted at that last one.

I’m not suggesting we get rid of our technology.  It’s just that maybe we would do well to make being present the new normal.

Stay blessed…john

The 1 thing you need

Besides prayer.

Besides trust in God.

Besides accountability.

Besides a commitment to growing in your faith.

Besides rest.

Besides listening skills.

Besides study & professional development.

Besides having support.

Besides all that, there’s only one thing you need to have as you pursue ministry: persistence.


 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Stay blessed…john