Me & #metoo

She looked sad. Vulnerable. While others departed worship, after the post-sermon handshakes and “Good message, Pastor” comments, she lingered. After a few moments, we were alone near the entry to the sanctuary.

Like others, she offered nice, neutral words about my sermon, and then she asked—

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This was my second or third Sunday at a new church. What I already suspected, and what was confirmed as my beard grayed and my accumulated sermons eventually numbered in the thousands, is that everyone in a new congregation appears similar during the initial Sunday encounters. As a new pastor, you can’t tell who will be supportive or critical. You don’t yet know the quiet person who shares healing responses when a committee fights over a divisive mission project. You don’t yet know why a woman often cries in the back pew, why a family is always late to worship, or why a man sneaks a single rose in a vase on the table in the narthex. You don’t know the gossips, peacemakers, hotheads, or dreamers. Continue reading →

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May Your Faith be Quick

A friend called and requested a letter of reference.

No, not for a job. My friend was asked to be a godparent for a niece’s baptism. And the clergyperson performing the baptism wanted “proof” that my out-of-town, unknown-to-the-minister friend was a Christian.

Here, of course, I might relish highlighting which Christian church this professional servant of God works for. Wouldn’t it be devilishly easy to make snarky comments about that denomination’s insecurity or lambaste the individual pastor’s arrogance? How tempting to ridicule a situation where my friend must find “references” to help demonstrate the sincerity of faith.

But I choose restraint. Continue reading →

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A New Way Instead of the No Way

Though years ago, I still recall when my routine and well-deserved afternoon nap was interrupted by a call from China. Maybe you get those all the time . . . not me!

My wife had joined other university colleagues for an educational adventure to the land of terra cotta warriors, Tiananmen Square, and cities like Shanghai with its population of a gazillion (officially now over 24,000,000). Before departing our little village of Fresno (with its paltry 500,000 residents), she promised to call—at least to try—while tramping along the Great Wall.

And so, the phone awoke me. Continue reading →

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