I’m looking forward to watching this tonight with Renee.
How would you like to receive a free Christmas gift?
(prepare yourself for major disappointment, this is the lamest gimmick I ever lowered myself to to boost views at theBridge.)
If you haven’t already registered to receive an email every time a new post is published here at theBridge you can do so by giving yourself the Christmas gift that lets you know every time a new blog post is published. That’s right, a Christmas gift in your email box every time. It’s kind of like Christmas all year long. You can even set up a separate folder in you junk-mail folder and the notice is automatically dumped so you don’t even have to become annoyed by the frequency of posts.
All you have to do is click on that cool looking “follow” button down there on the lower right hand corner of the page. Go ahead, give it a try.
Doing so will make it seem easier to ‘un-like’ me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. That’s what happens every time I publish a post that deals with marriage, truth, or other serious matters in the church. The facts are not all in yet, but I do believe that my public figure profile page saw more people ‘un-liking’ me than ‘liking’ me in 2014. The good news is, that with a public figure profile I won’t ever know if you ‘un-liked’ me.
All the numbers guys are working really heard right now to get the end of the year numbers ready for us. I’ll have the year-in-review report soon and I’ll unveil all the statistical facts of theBridge traffic. It does actually appear to be a record setting year of views and traffic at theBridge, this is very exciting. So, if you hurry up and subscribe to theBridge, an email will arrive soon with all of the numerical data.
Questions that Demand an Answer:
Why Does God Allow Abuse?
This video features Josh McDowell. Listen to Josh McDowell tell his own story of how he was sexually abused as a boy. In this video, Josh McDowell also explores to rawness of the question, “why does God allow abuse?”
This question is asked often. It’s a question that demands an answer. I hope you’ll take the next ten minutes and listen to this biblical defense. I’ve prayed for you already. It is my prayer that the Spirit of God will minister to you as you consider this question. Maybe even the very question you’ve asked yourself in your similar situation. Maybe you have a close friend or family member who is in great pain because of abuse they have suffered, consider inviting them to watch this video. As you do, be sure to pray.
Click HERE to view this video addressing this important question.
“One measure of a good judge may be how many decisions has he authored with which he did not personally agree … that despite the fact that he might have preferred a different law, as a judge he follows the law as enacted and faithfully executes it… and can there be any doubt that Caleb will be such a judge?” (Judge Eric Melgren speaking of newly appointed justice to the Kansas Supreme Court, Justice Caleb Stegall.)
The first time I heard the name “Caleb Stegall” was while in a foreign country in need of someone to take up my defense. His name was on a small piece of paper that Nikki Lankford (now Nikki Black) passed from the women’s cell into the general population of the Haitian jail we were in waiting for news on our release. It was a message from Renee that stated a man named Caleb Stegall was now helping us and that he was a godly man.
The name, Caleb Stegall, had no personal meaning to me at the time. His name was initially just a name of another lawyer.
Today, when I read or hear of Caleb Stegall, I am immediately interested. In an unselfish, potentially career risky move, communication reached my brother-in-law’s wife, Marta, that Caleb Stegall was willing to help our family.
At the time, nearly five years ago, Caleb was a well respected lawyer in Topeka, Kansas.
I first met Caleb Stegall in the Kansas City International Airport, moments before he would first talk to the media about our return from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Last week, Caleb Stegall was sworn in as Justice Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Supreme Court.
For the glory of God, may the LORD raise up judges across the land like Justice Caleb Stegall.
Is Mormonism True?
This is an important question that must be answered and it must be answered carefully…
Here is a :30 minute video that addresses that question and gives a lovingly true answer.
Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho has more than 30 videos like this that address some of life’s hardest to answer questions.
In 1857, Horatius Bonar wrote this hymn
Thy Way, Not Mine, O LORD
Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy rest.
I dare not choose my lot;
I would not, if I might;
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So I shall walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.
Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me
My poverty or wealth.
The kingdom that I seek
Is Thine: so let the way
That leads to it be Thine,
Else I must surely stray.
Not mine, not mine the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Strength
My Wisdom, and my All.
This is my final review/critique of “Autopsy of a Deceased Church”.
I want to start with a qualifier: I appreciate the value this book has to offer the church at large. In this part (6) I will review/critique the final chapter and offer final overall thoughts. I have no intent to discredit or speak disparagingly of any one individual or entity only to request that greater care be given from the publishing world in what is published for pastors and churches.
Review of Chapter 14: My Church is Dying: Four Responses:
I still have a nearness of my dad dying last month. This nearness of self-pity and sorrow may still be too close for me to speak with profoundness.
I understand that no one wants to talk about death. It’s kind of awkward. One even kind of wonders if it’s okay to talk about it. But, I’m in agreement with Rainer on this matter, local churches do die and it is a good thing to take a close look (an autopsy) of that dead corpse to determine what led to the demise and was there anything that could have been done to save it.
Who would want to admit that their church is one of those churches that is dying? I wouldn’t.
Here Rainer offers four responses: Death with Dignity.
- Sell the property and give the funds to another church, perhaps a new church that has begun or will soon begin.
- Give the building to another church.
- If the church (building) is in a transitional neighborhood, turn over the leadership and property to those who actually reside in the neighborhood.
- Merge with another church, but let the other church have the ownership and leadership of your church.
I think I understand what Rainer is saying. Just as in the death of a person, a will is consulted for instruction for what to do with any assets. I think there are some healthy things Rainer is making here. While there is life still in the church, let your dying moments count for the Kingdom of Heaven and let the earthly assets of the church bless another church or ministry driven by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s it. That’s all I have to say about the book proper, I have more to say about some of the content or issues, but for the book, that is all. I do recommend it, with a caution to the reader; Always be a critical thinking reader.
Final review/critique of Autopsy of a Deceased Church, by Thom Rainer.
I appreciate that Thom Rainer offers a book that looks at some serious issue churches face.
These final three chapters seem to be written from a sincere desire to help churches be restored to good health. Let me offer my review/critique to his twelve responses to churches that may have symptoms of sickness.
Rainer divides his twelve responses into three categories of churches: churches that have symptoms of sickness (40%); very sick churches (40%); and dying churches (10%). It is Rainer’s opinion that there may only be 10% of churches that are healthy. If this is accurate, then there is reason for alarm.
Chapter 12: My Church Has Symptoms of Sickness: Four Responses
First, This may be the shortest chapter in the entire short book. The shortness of attention should not reflect the seriousness of the matter. Rainer supposes that there may be over 150,000 churches that fit this category. WOW.
Here is where I have to listen to the author with care. And I urge other pastors to do the same.
I would likely be the guys this chapter is talking about. I do realize that numbers tell a story. Often, Christian publishing houses produce statistics that, admittedly, are complicated to decrepit. And if pastors use the statistics, we are often chided for misusing them. This is a love/hate relationship I have with numbers. Do these statistics represent facts? Do these numbers represent health?
I can tell you from pastoring this church for over 13 years that there were days when we had to have two worship services on Sunday morning and our Wednesday night attendance was something to brag about. And unfortunately I did. But when I examine those days, I will actually argue that the church was less healthy. Not because of the numbers of people who where here, but because we were more driven by agendas and programs of men than the sufficiency of Christ and his word.
I don’t think Rainer is trying to make an argument that numbers reflect health; but I do think that a pastor reading this book, wanting to faithfully lead his church will read this book and interpret that attendance and numerical growth equals health. It may… but it doesn’t simply mean that.
Rainer does note that the kinds of programs and ministries may be showing the local church that she has become self-centered and a lack of ministry or programs for the community could show unhealthiness. But where do churches get the ideas for their programs they offer or ministries they do? Usually from a publishing house order form, a publishing house mailer, a publishing house sponsored conference with a product to sell.
I don’t mean to imply what my frankness may be saying.
Rainer’s four responses to these churches is helpful.
- Pray that God will open the eyes of the leadership and members for opportunities to reach into the community where the church is located.
- Take an honest audit of how church members spend their time being involved.
- Take an audit of how the church spends its money.
- Make specific plans to minister and to evangelize your community.
I believe these are four helpful responses. I intend to do hear and do.
Chapter 13: My Church is Very Sick: Four Responses
In his research, Rainer argues, and I agree, that rarely does a church move from being a church with symptoms of sickness to being very sick overnight. This process is likely very similar to the human body.
There are indicators that a church is becoming very sick and will eventually suffer greatly if the sickness is not dealt with.
Shockingly, Rainer estimates that there are over 150,000 churches. (here is some of that statistical data that pastors will begin to uses and somewhere down the road may be accused of misinterpreting the numbers.) 150,000 very sick churches? WOW! Should there be an alarm going off somewhere? That’s almost unbelievable. If this is true, then the condition of the church is worse that it appears.
I’m not happy with the reporting of information in this chapter at all.
(More information about numbers as the sign. I get it. It may be an indicator. But is it the standard? We know better. We have bibles, we see that our message is less desired today than ever before. There is a sickness, but is the sickness not our incurable desire to attract a large crowd?)
And yet, I appreciate his four responses:
- Admit and confess the dire situation.
- The church must pray for wisdom and strength to do whatever is necessary. (I argue that repentance is in order not simply changing something)
- The church must be willing to change radically. (as a result of repentance, turn from the spirit of this age and to the Spirit of God)
- That change must lead to action and an outward focus.
I get it. There is a serious problem, sickness. I couldn’t agree more at this point, but I disagree with the implications that the language used will communicate what I think Rainer knows to be true. I don’t know Thom Rainer personally. I have every reason to believe he is sincere in his desire for healthy churches.
Continued review/critique of Autopsy of a Deceased Church.
Chapter 8: Pastoral Tenure Decreases
Thom Rainer has written about the tenure of pastors for many years. He has studied, contemplated and written about this critical issue with integrity. I’ve read many things he has to say about this and agree with his assessments.
Rainer identifies stages and characteristics as he reports from the autopsy table.
- Year 1: Honeymoon – here, Rainer talks about the adjustments of both pastor and church in getting to know each other. I personally have never like the term ‘honeymoon’, but I understand what it communicates. Marriage is a life long commitment, until death. I don’t like the use of it because it cheapens language we use to describe marriage. I would prefer a term like ‘start-up’ or ‘adjustment’ stage. However, I agree with his assessment of that new day era. He does report that he season does not usually last long. Where the church was excited about ‘change’ they didn’t mean that kind of change.
- Years 2 and 3: Conflicts and Challenges – because no pastor is perfect and no church is perfect all parties discover imperfections quickly. It is in this stage that most problematic churches and pastors decide to part ways, either kindly or with great disruption.
- Years 4 and 5: Crossroads, Part 1 – Rainer calls this among the most critical days in the relationship of pastor and church. Both have to either agree to part ways or come to an agreed upon conclusion that both are satisfied to stay the course.
- Years 6-10: Fruit and Harvest – He concludes that his research is not complete but he argues that these are some of the best years in the relationship. Both can trust each other and love each other more deeply.
- Years 11 and beyond: Crossroads, Part 2 – Here again, Rainer admits that his research is incomplete in that he sees in this stage the pastor either goes through a ‘reinvigorated’ vision or becomes complacent.
Apparently most churches and pastors rarely get past stage 2 (2-3 years) and it is a cycle repeating itself again and again and again until the church finally dies.
Personal evaluation: I’m in that rare place of being in the last stage of his examination. I could see that his observation of the stages are fairly accurate. The timing was slightly different for me in some of the stages but as a whole, it seems to be a representation of my experience here. I don’t think my church is interested in coasting along. I don’t want to be blind and ignore to potential pitfalls of being in a place this long.
I pray for a day of wide spread revival. I also know that the effect of revival may be an outbreak of awakening. This chapter had a soberness to it for me in that I appear to be in a critical stage in the life of the church I pastor. I’ve weighed the report from the autopsy room and head the warning of the report with interest.
Chapter 9: The Church Rarely Prayed Together
I was glad to see this chapter here. Rainer did a good job on this matter. He posted some questions he’s asked churches before and offered responses that gave helpful evaluation of the condition.
“Did the church members pray together?” I’m sure most churches would answer this with a “yes, of course we prayed together.”
Probing deeper to answers like that must be made, and he did.
“Describe your prayer times.” This is where the discovery and revelation to the first question came.
His description of these prayer meetings are likely fairly common across the landscape of the church. A list was presented to those present and someone prayed for all those on the list and then they went home.
This may describe many prayer meetings, but his probing deeper was looking for meaningful prayer meetings. A meeting that is more ritual or routine can hardly be described as meaningful. Praying only for the sick grows weary.
Rainer is correct, “when the church is engaged in meaningful prayer, it becomes both the cause and the result of greater church health.
I still want better definition. The word ‘meaningful’ is subjective. Is prayer looked at by the church the same way the bible describes it. Would anyone in Twin Falls know where to send someone if they were asked where a church gathers for prayer?
The New Testament does give a good example of this and Rainer does refer to Acts 2:42 “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” This is not a book on prayer, so I go easy on him here.
“Prayer was serious stuff for a serious group of people. Prayer was the lifeblood of the early church.”
When a church stops praying with an urgency for the aid of the Holy Spirit to fall upon them, then the church is in dire trouble.
Oh, Lord, teach me to pray.
Chapter 10: The Church Had No Clear Purpose
Where it is true that purpose is critical. Purpose is a buzz word that can be misleading. I appreciate that Rainer wasn’t advocating that a church ought to discover her unique purpose or niche in the church market. The church must have a biblical purpose. A gospel partnership linked to the marching orders of that first church era. Not one encouraged to find herself or find her voice in the sea of others. Rainer did good to clarify the clear purpose a church must have must be a biblical purpose.
The church has no reason to define herself as anything other than the bride of Christ. And that is clearly shown to us in Scripture. Yes, I see that a church in Twin Falls, Idaho will look somewhat different than a church in New York City or Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. But the church must know her clear purpose or she’ll try to identify herself in some niche way that limits her global scope.
Chapter 11: The Church Obsessed Over the Facilities
Oh, this is touchy territory. Rainer was good to go here. The dreaded ‘memorial’ funds or ‘memorial’ furniture, flowers, trees, etc…
In this short chapter the reader gets a close look at the reality of the autopsy. It’s ugly here.
Church fights over stained glass windows, pews, draperies, paint color, carpet color, sound systems, and more. “Dying churches, more often than not, experience severe battles over facility obsession before her demise.
This exposes severe problems, doesn’t it. It exposes not a need for change, but repentance. Anytime a person or church puts focus on a material matter above spiritual matters and unity, she is in serious danger of dying soon. A focus on things and not repenting of this sin finds the church with one foot in the grave I suppose.
There must be hope. The good news is, that’s the next focus on the remaining fourth of the book. The book is only 102 pages long. Rainer devoted 82 of these short pages to the autopsy room. The word count of my review/critique may be more than the entire book.
As a whole I was pleased and thankful for his assessment. Where I took issue with a few matters of semantics, I agree largely with his autopsy report. I would recommend any church read it. I’m most curious for the final push, the conclusion; Is There Hope for the Dying Church? Twelve Responses.