The Blame Game, A Waste of Time

Well, my plans to blog daily last month never took off. Life interrupted. So I will return to blogging as I have time. That is probably a relief to those of you who don’t want to see a post from me every day.😉

I’ve read a lot of articles preporting to tell the Church why Millenials don’t attend church. A few of them have been written by Millenials and those are usually the most insightful. Many have been written by others who may not have as much insight in the issue, largely  X-Gen and Boomer pastors who just think they know why Millenials don’t attend Church and want to share their wisdom with the rest of us. How do they know? Well they just do, and it mostly involves either blaming Millenials and our 21st century culture or it they blame the Church for being out of touch and old school or out of touch in the ways we try to reach Millenials.

Well, this X-Gen pastor is going to put in his two cents and tell you that the blame game is a waste of time. Yes, there are issues with our own culture that cause people to be less willing to commit to the Church. Yes, the church often does not know what to do to reach out to Millenials and when we do we often don’t do it right (whatever right is.) But all of that misses the point that actually the changes in our society and culture are no one’s fault.

No group of Millenials got together and had an organized meeting to say, “Hey, lets be anti-organized religion.” In any generation there are tendencies but I have never met a Millenial, X-Gen, Boomer, etc. that exactly fit the description that all our marketing experts tell us they fit.

We are talking about individuals and individuals have their own life, views, opinions, and interests. Making everything about generations rather than individual people misses the point. The Church is not in the world to lead generations to faith in God through Jesus Christ. The Church is about the grace that is offered to individual people no matter who they are.

Also, no one in the Church had a meeting and said, “Let’s keep all the young people out of the Church.” No, the Church is also made up of individual people who are trying serve God, albeit imperfectly. They attend church to experience God in some way. They participate in the activities of the church because the church is meaningful to them in some way. There is not some organized effort to keep young people out of God’s house and it does nothing but make people feel bad to be told constantly that “those people don’t attend church, and it is all YOUR fault” as if we had the ushers escort them out of the building.

Maybe it is time we stop putting everyone in a box and stop pretending we know what all church people are like, what all Millenials are like, what all women are like, what all men are like, what all the church is like, what all (fill in the blank) and do what we can to understand the individual people that we all hope to get to know and that the Church hopes to minister to?

Generational mythology is as old (and older) than the musical “Bye Bye Birdie (1963)” in which they sang the song, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?” All those “kids” they sang about in that song are now the “older generation” and we are still singing the same old tune and still dividing each other up into camps so that we can misunderstand each other and then once we have misunderstood each other we can blame each other. Let’s just stop the blame game!

Tech Tuesday – Parallels

I’m a long time Mac user. Most of the time I prefer to work in the Apple environment. But many times I’m the only Mac user in the church I’m serving. That happens to be true in Sioux City as well. So when you are the only Mac user you often have to find ways to fit in with those poor lost souls who are running Windows.😉

One of the biggest problems is dealing with pieces of software that only have a Windows version. This problem is much smaller than it used to be with Mac OS versions of Microsoft Office available which saves to the same file formats as the PC does. But you still have to deal with the frustration that the two office suites are not the same. If a windows user sends a Mac user Publisher file often you cannot do a thing with them.

So, when you are in a mixed OS office what is the solution? Well one of the best solutions out there is to run a system emulator such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion. (Parallels is my personal favorite.)

Parallels allows you to run Windows 10 and Windows programs at the very same time you are running Mac OS X and Mac apps. You can run the Windows in a separate window, or you can run both at the same time in what is called “coherence mode.”

In coherence mode you run windows programs and apps right on top of the Mac desktop as if they are Mac OS X programs. So what can you do with this? Well, right now I am using the PC version of MS Office which allows me to use Publisher and all the PC centric software that Microsoft intentionally make more function for PCs than Macs.

Take a look at the screen shot from my Mac. (Mac users, try not to get queazy as you look at Microsoft Edge running right on my desktop.🙂  )

Screenshot 2016-08-23 14.29.04

By having Chrome, Windows Explorer, Edge, and Safari, etc. I am able to test our church website or my blog in multiple browsers to see how it looks.

If you need both Mac OS X and Windows, Parallels is a great solution!


Tech Tuesday

macbook-pro-with-bad-creditOn Tuesday’s I’m going to be sharing with you about some area of technology related to the Church.

I thought I’d start by sharing with software that I use in ministry and find useful in my daily work as a pastor. Some of these are iPhone or iPad applications and other are for Mac or Windows computing platforms.

While I’m a dedicated Mac user I have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription because MS Office has pretty much become the standard set of programs for word processing and spreadsheets. If you send someone a Word document they almost always can read it. Also, Microsoft does now have a pretty nice version of Word that I use regularly on my iPad Pro.

On my iPad or iPhone I also use the OliveTree Bible app. While a lot of the material that OliveTree sells is from a definite conservative/evangelical slant, they have Bible versions including NRSV and the new Common English Bible. They also have available the Wesley Study Bible notes that can be used with any of the translations. If you took Greek in seminary you can get the New Testament in Koine Greek as well.

For email on my iPad and iPhone I use the Microsoft Outlook app primarily because it works so very well with gmail and allows you to schedule emails to reappear at a given day or time to serve as a reminder to respond. You can have your email come back later in the day, tomorrow, next week or whenever you decide.

I use a mileage app called “Trip Cubby” to keep track of my business mileage. And I find Dropbox to be an invaluable resource for file sharing between devices and other individuals. It is the fastest syncing of the different cloud applications out there.

As far as web resources go, if you are a lectionary preacher, I’d check out and for many helpful links.


United Methodist Monday

John-Wesley-engravingThis will be the first of my weekly articles related to United Methodism. Generally this will not be about  UMC beliefs, history or how United Methodists do things (polity.)  As I did not grow up in the United Methodist Church, I love learning more about this part o God’s family.

If someone asked me why I am a United Methodist, the one word answer would be “grace!” Not Grace UMC, the church that I am blessed to be appointed to, though I love Grace and its members. What I mean is the Wesleyan/Methodist understanding of God’s grace.

When United Methodists talk about God’s grace they often talk about it in three ways or in three movements. “Prevenient Grace”, “Justifying Grace” and “Sanctifying Grace.” Today I’ll just share some ideas about Prevenient Grace.

I first heard about Prevenient Grace on March 8, 1996. How can I be that specific? Because I was attending a Walk to Emmaus as a pilgrim, my first ever Walk. The Walk to Emmaus is a renewal program of the Upper Room of the UMC. It is modeled off of the Cursillo Movement. The Walk to Emmaus has fifteen “talks” or presentations on the Christian life. Five of those presentation are about grace and are given by clergy. I was attending the Walk to find an avenue of spiritual renewal for my local church. More that, I found an avenue of spiritual renewal for me!

The first of these talks is on Prevenient Grace. As a young pastor in another faith tradition, I had never heard of Prevenient Grace. 

Prevenient Grace is God’s grace working in our lives before we respond or are even able to respond. For me, one of the best pictures of Prevenient Grace is found in infant baptism. When I baptize a baby or small child they, as yet, have not learned to respond to the love that is given them by family, parents and God the way they will be able to respond as the grow and learn. But God, like a parent, loves them just as much as God ever will even though they are not able to respond.

It is Prevenient Grace that carries us, nudges us and gently pushes us towards a relationship with God and accepting the love of God in our lives. 

Prevenient Grace reminds me that it is not what I do or have done that causes God to love me. It is not how well I respond to God or how obedient I am able to be that leads God to call me God’s child. God has always loved you and me. God has always wanted a loving relationship with us. God never stops seeking out that relationship no matter how far we drift away.

Once I heard about Prevenient Grace I was hooked. I did not know it yet, and it took a number of years for the transformation to be realized, but twenty years ago last March I took my first steps to becoming a United Methodist.

After the Walk to Emmaus I decided I had to look up and find the author who had come up with this powerful concept of grace that describes the Scriptures so well. Of course, I ran right into John Wesley. 

It took me some years to realize that the best way to be able to teach and display this concept in my own life was for me to become a United Methodist myself.

Fifteen years later I stood with others in front of the Bishop Trimble, of the Iowa Annual Conference, and answered the following question (among several others.)

“Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church, accept its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrine contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the Bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?”

And in response to God’s Prevenient Grace in all the years of my life from birth to now I was blessed to respond as a United Methodist. “I will, with the help of God!”

I am still hooked on God’s Prevenient Grace. I believe it is one of the most powerful messages of God’s love United Methodists get to share. God loves you, God has always loved you. You, even if you do not know it, are children of God and part of God’s family and God is just waiting for you to come home. God will never give up on you. God will never turn God’s back on you. God is always there for you!

Under the wings of God’s loving grace,




United Methodist Doctrine Old and Far Too New

In the United Methodist Church we are dealing with issues of differing views on human sexuality. But we are also dealing with other issues in our polity that effect how we make descisions. How have we decided what is doctrine in the UMC? Why are laws on sexuality adopted as recent as the 1970s (A very recent date in Church history) a doctrine?

The United Methodist Church’s standards for doctrine are the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren, the Standard Sermons of John Wesley and Welsey’s Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. Contrary to popular opinion, the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed are not stated doctrinal standards for the Church, although we can use them in worship. I use the Apostles’ Creed whenever I perform a baptism and it is one of my favorite simple affirmations of faith.

Within our standards we have and allow considerable diversity. The Methodists did not break with the Anglicans over doctrine as much as we broke with them over the need to promote scriptural holiness. It was more about spiritual emphasis and our pursuits of God’s grace than about doctrine. 

 United Methodists include their doctrinal standards in the Book of Discipline. Those doctrinal standards are found in a section of the Discipline that is not intended to be changed or amended without the General Conference and a super majority of all the voting members of Annual Conferences around the world. That is where the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith are found. And, course you’d think that the statement that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” would be found in the restricted section as well. Well, you’d be wrong
The statements related to homosexuality are found in parts of the Book of Discipline that are not necessarily doctrinal in nature. In some places it is primarily in a section about rules that related to the actions clergy can and cannot perform or who clergy can or cannot be. 

So here is the $1000 question! Why aren’t the statements about homosexuality in the Book of Discipline’s restricted section? That one is easy. They are views of the General Conference that were added after the creation of the United Methodist Church. AND (in my opinion) rules that couldn’t possibly pass the test of being placed in the restricted section when it comes to enough votes in General Conference and all the Annual Confernces around the world. 

In other words, something that is basically considered doctrine is not in the doctrinal standards because it is an add-on that was placed in the Discipline in a place where it could get past the General Conference without being placed in the restricted section. It is NEW doctrine. It is doctrine written since I was born (and I’m not all that old!). While the rest of our doctrinal standards are largely as old as Methodism itself. Are you bothered by the idea of NEW Christian doctrine? Well you ought to be.

So this brings up a question I’ve yet to get satisfactorily answered. Why is it allowable for the General Conference to circumvent the doctrinal standards of the Church by placing new doctrine outside the restrictive section? Why hasn’t the Judicial Council ruled that the General Conference should not be able to sneak new doctrine into the Discipline and thereby circumventing our Discipline by inserting doctrine outside this section of the Discipline? Does the ability of the GC to pass new doctrine by a simple majority and push it into a “rules” section of the Discipline enganger the ability of United Methodists to maintain our original doctrinal standards? Finally, should someone be mounting a challenge to the constitutionality of novel doctrines found in the Discipline never before found in Methodism before the 1970s because they have been slipped into other parts of the Discipline? (If this has not already been done?)

Here is what the Articles of Religion says about making doctrines not found or provable by scripture.

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” (Articles of Religion Article V – Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation)

My best interpretation of the scriptures based on years of study of the Bible and everything I can get my hands on about issues of sexuality are that homosexuality is NOT incompatible with Christian teaching. And it can not be proven to me in such a way that I can or will believe it as an article of faith or otherwise. Nor is such an article of faith found in the doctrinal standards we adopted as a Church when we become The United Methodist Church.

I think it is time to put away the parliamentary choices that allowed the UMC to create new doctrine that has pushed the Church into a 40+ year fight. How about we return to the unifying doctrine we held before 1972? It was good enough for the UMC then, it was good enough for the Methodists, the EUB and Wesley before. Why are we fighting to protect Newbie Doctrine?  Let us return to the Doctrinal Standards that we circumvented in order to adopt Church law that descriminates against and hurts other people!