Saturday, December 30, 2006

Small Town Churches

So much of what is written about church growth is written or produced by pastors of churches in suburban or urban churches. A church that is in a metropolitan area has different factors to contend with than a church in a small town. I pastor in Bethany which is a village of less than 1300 souls. But every one of those souls is important to God. After five years here I don’t feel like I really understand all the factors that allow for or prevent growth in a small town church. Yet there are churches in small communities that are thriving and growing. One of my resolutions for 2007 and beyond is to learn from these churches and pastors. As much as I enjoy city life it seems to me that God has called us to small town ministry at least for the foreseeable future.

If I am to learn from thriving small town churches than I must identify them. I am ordained by the Assemblies of God. Many of the early churches in our fellowship began in small towns and villages. I and our church are part of the Illinois District. As of December 31st 2005 the Illinois District of the A/G had 296 churches. Of these according to my research approximately 76 are in towns with a population of less than 5000. That is slightly more than 25%. Of these I do not at this time have attendance for 12 which is 15%. 12 or %15 have an average of 20 or less on Sunday morning. 18 or 24% have attendance of 21-40. 12 or 15% have an attendance of 41-60. Seven or 9% have an attendance of between 61and 80. Another 9% have an attendance of between 81and 100. There are six reporting an average attendance of between 101 and 150 accounting for 8%. And two churches report more than 150 on Sunday morning with averages of 188 and 329 on Sunday morning this is 3%.

I am working on a questionerre to send out beginning with the church that report more than 80 on an average Sunday morning. As much as our cities are growing there are still people living in small towns and rural areas. Jesus came to seek them too. So I want to be more effective in reaching them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


We had a great weekend. Sunday at church we had guests which is nice because so many of our folks travel to be with family. We are one of the churches where attendance is down and not up usually on Christmas and often at Easter. Christmas Eve is when we open our gifts. It's just a family tradition. Everyone enjoyed their presents.

Christmas Day is for eating and the kids play with their new presents. I made from scratch macaroni and cheese. Well not from scratch because I didn't make the noodles. It turned out pretty good but I need to improve it a little next time. It was a good day especially because my grandma seemed to have a pretty good day with out any major symptoms. Thanksgiving was hard on her but she looked really good yesterday. Hope to share some pictures.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Web addictions

Do any of these addictions have you bound?

EGO-SURFING: When you frequently check your name and reputation on the Internet.

- BLOG STREAKING: "Revealing secrets or personal information online which for everybody's sake would be best kept private."

- CRACKBERRY: "The curse of the modern executive: not being able to stop checking your BlackBerry, even at your grandmother's funeral." (A BlackBerry is a popular handheld device that can be used for phoning, emailing and web-browsing).

- GOOGLE-STALKING: Defined as "snooping online on old friends, colleagues or first dates."

- CYBERCHONDRIA: "A headache and a particular rash at the same time? Extensive online research tells you it must be cancer."

- PHOTOLURKING: Flicking through a photo album of someone you've never met.

- WIKIPEDIHOLISM: Excess devotion to contributing to the online collaborative encyclopaedia,


Wikipedia. Wikipedia even has a page where you can test whether you're an addict.

- CHEESEPODDING: Downloading of a song "so cheesy that you could cover it in plastic wrap and sell it at the deli counter." Cheesepodders are especially vulnerable to soft-rock favourites from the 1970s.

If so you really need to seek help. Especially if you are a cheespodder.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Big Ten Hoops

After the Christmas party Rebekah and I were off to Bloomington, Indiana. On friday a friend asked if we wanted to use tickets he had for Indiana vs. Southern Illinois. I've gone to a couple of Indiana games with him before so I knew how much fun it would be. So we got my dad to watch the kids over night and off we went to Hoosier country. I had a lot of friends who went to SIU and it is only an hour and a half or so from Centralia where I went to high school. So I have followed SIU as a kind of second favorite team after the Illini. Plus one of their starters this season Matt Shaw is an alumni of CHS. Anyway the Salukis played poorly but we still had a lot of fun. We were able to watch the second half from seats that were located by the basline and in the second row. It was cool. So even though Indiana won it was still really enjoyable.

I'm not sure how my friend is an Indiana fan. He grew up near Chicago. But I am glad he shares his tickets sometimes.

Busy Busy

So I have been away from the computer. Saturday was spent finishing preparations for Sunday morning. The kids did a wonderful job in their play. I had my trepidations but I also knew that my kids had worked very hard. I was indeed proud of them. Thanks to Jane for putting together the program. She edited heavily to allow our small group and small budget to pull it off. It was I think the very best that our church could do! That's really all God is looking for I think. Kaitlyn actually had a speaking part and said her lines flawlessy which is a big deal. Noah sang and said his line. Elijah plugged away and remembered most of his lines and sang his part and even though I think he was very nervous did his absolute best. I was very proud of my kids and the other kids that participated impressed me as well. The message went well and we even had some visitors who came to see their children. They got the gospel.

Afterward was our church Christmas party. Our people are very generous to us as a family. And in the midwest tradition they all fixed awesome food. I limited myself to one helping because I am trying to get on board with the doctors instructions to shed some pounds. I wanted more! Anyway I was pleasently surprised by everything Sunday morning. It was a good time.

Friday, December 15, 2006


At the end of every year I try to listen especially intently to see what God is saying to me about the next year. What I am really feeling is that I am not living in a way that requires Him to move. I am not really doing anything God sized! What I mean is that in all we are doing it would much better if God shows up and moves in a powerful way but if He doesn't we will muddle through some way. And often we do feel the Holy Spirit or see His hand at work. But I have begun to play things safe.

I think most of us tend to do this especially as we get older. After all I have four kids to feed now. But God wants me to live life in a way that allows Him to do much more than I can imagine. This will require a change in our way of living. The key I think to living a God sized life is to do what we know He wants us to do and leave the consequences up to Him. It requires not more faith but mustard seed faith which I know that I already have and so do you.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?

A group of ministers believe that he wouldn't. I suspect they probably feel this way because a large portion of their congregation are union members and they don't want to jepordize their tithes. Actually I don't know that to be true but they don't know if Jesus would shop at Wal-mart or not either. Suggesting that they know where Jesus would shop or whether or not He would drive an SUV is ludicrous! I don't know and neither do you. For that matter I don't know if Jesus would have voted for George W Bush either.

Projecting our political views onto our Savior is not particularily wise. Jesus wasn't an American but I suspect He isn't necessarily anti-American either. I don't think Jesus would be a radical enviormentalist because most of them seem to worship the earth instead of Jesus but I don't think He would litter. As it's not my job to tell you how to vote, where to shop or what to drive. I am to build up the body of Christ until we can reach unity in the faith not in politics.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Flu Shot

I went to the Pulmonary Dr. yesterday for a check up. He says he is no longer concerned about the stuff on my lungs. There was no change. So I don't have to go back for six months. He made me get a flu shot. Of course what they do is inject a dead virus into your body. However I could develop body aches, a fever and headache. The nurse said that my body wouldn't really be sick, it would just think it was and so I would feel sick. Either way it doesn't sound fun. Fingers crossed that I don't come down with fake sickness.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On purpose

I have begun to think that alot of people live lives defined by what they haven't done or by what they don't do. I know I am guilty of that. Living life defined by what you can't do or won't do leads to a lot of regret. Life kind of happens to us. We are always justifying it by saying that we are waiting on God or something like that. Sometimes the fear is that we might make a mistake if we were more proactive. But I have made as many mistakes by not doing something as I have by doing. So my challenge to myself is to go out and be about my Father's business. The kingdom of God is about going, serving, preacing, loving, healing, praying, being active and forcefully advancing. These are all action words an phrases.

For myself I know I need to be someone defined by what I have done and what I am doing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Monday

The current media fascination is searching for lost people. I watched Fox News for 5 minutes this morning. There was a story about a kidnapped baby who police are searching for even though it appears that the parents are illegals and it may have been related to human smuggling. There was a story about two grandparents who have disappeared on the way to NY City from South Carolina. There is no trace of them. And then there are three hikers missing on Mt. Hood in Oregon. There are supposed to be experienced but they went out when bad weather was threatening. They have been gone two days.

I don't know how long the obsession with the lost will last. Maybe Greta what's-her-name will go to Mt. Hood and stay until they find the lost hikers? Probably we will see a rash of kidnapping stories and lost hikers and people caught in avalanches and then a celebrity will die. The focus will be on dead famous people. But for a while it will seem like there are more people wandering off or being kidnapped than usual.

Sometimes churches and christians get caught up with obsessions with the lost. For a time we are all about finding the lost and bringing them to Christ. But then something happens like our car won't start or someone sits in our pew or we didn't sing a hymn on Sunday and we forget about the lost and become obsessed with something else. Like the second coming or some other doctrine. But Jesus never got over His obsession with the lost. That's why He came, to seek and to save that which was lost. So I hope that I can stay focused on the lost.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I came across . It's hard to pick one of their products but this one provoles much thought.

I am so wierd!

At least that is the most common expression I hear from Kaitlyn when I spend time at home. Especially on my day off. I will probably hear that at least 25 times today. I think it may really be her way of saying that she enjoys my humor. (Wink! Wink!)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Watch out Dad

As most of y'all know, I grew up with an older brother a younger sister and my mom and dad. In the last year My mom has had surgery to put in a pace maker. My sister has been battling some wierd nerve disease that honestly I can't remember the name of. All I know is it really sucks for her. I had a fungus growing like crazy in my body. Now my brother Chris is in the hospital with internal bleeding. It seems possible that it is an ulcer but they don't know for sure. Tomorrow he gets scoped. So far my dad has been pretty healthy this year. I pray that continues. Yikes!

I am thankful that we are all still here and it makes me doubly appreciated of the great Thanksgiving we had.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Justifying my own existence

A church has been targeted by PETA for having a living nativity even though there aren't any live animals in their presentation. I guess groups like PETA have to justify their own existence. I'm not against groups like the humane society or the like but PETA allows seemed like wing nuts to me. Here's the most bizarre quote from the article: “Animals have been stolen and slaughtered, they’ve been raped, they’ve escaped from the nativity scenes and have been struck by cars and killed. Just really unfathomable things have happened to them."

Seriously? Animals at a church's live nativity have been what? Now not a lot surprises me but I am incredulous that animals have ever been raped during the church nativity scene. Anyway Merry Christmas and if your church has animals in its nativity scene if if they aren't alive expect a letter from the friendly rational people at PETA.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I spent a few hours in East St. Louis with Pastor Jay. I have been there before so it wasn't a surprise to me to see the devestation. The burnt out buildings and churches that look like a bomb fell on them seem to bear visible physical testimony to the unseen spiritual war that was waged against this city. Everywhere you look you see the results of the failure of the welfare state to cure the ills of poverty and racism. Satan has devestated this city. But even though many have written it off God hasn't.

I feel strongly in my spirit that Isaiah 61 applies to Jay and his team and what they are doing in the city of East St. Louis. 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Would you pray for Jay and his team at Urban Outreach East St. Louis. They are doing an important work. It is hard work and it can at times seem fruitless and frustrating. But God is at work. I was able to meet pastor Shameca today. She works at discipling women many of them are prostitutes. Pray for her and her family. Pray for pastor Ed and pastor Tommy and their families. They work hard for little. I believe God is at work reclaiming this ruined city.

Monday, December 04, 2006

East St. Louis

Going to E. St. Louis tomorrow to meet with Jay Covert. I will be bringing presents for their Christmas party. They give a lot of presents to kids who may not otherwiase get much of anything. Jay has had an interesting life and now leads East Louis Outreach. They have planted a church now in this community and are doing great things. He is a white guy with long hair ministering in an almost all black city. The devestation there is tremendous. Most of it is due to deep seated racial divisions. In short all the white folks moved out and property values fell. The city was mismanaged as well but there are deep wounds due to race.

Jay 's enthusiasm is contagious. He has received awards from the mayor and others. He believes that the city can bounce back and that thousands of folks written off by everyone else can be redeemed. I am looking forward to touring the ministry centers and spending some time hanging out with my friend.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It is 14 degrees. That's pretty cold. It definetly affects our attendance on Sunday. Some older folks cannot get out when it is this cold. At least we have power and heat and shelter.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Abby & Kaitlyn

So we lost power on Thursday for about 10 hours. But our cable internet just came back on about an hour ago. There are a lot of places west of here not too far with no power still because the ice brought down so many power lines. We drove up to Chicago, well not Chicago itself but really Elgin. We went through part of Aurora, (I thought hi, Scott Hodge as I drove through) and past Calvary Church in Naperville. We got back about 9:00 tonight.

We went to Abby's wedding. Abby was a bridesmaid in our wedding and someone we love very much. Abby spent the last two years up until a few weeks ago in South Africa training children's workers at Jackon's Ridge and running a baby shelter. The baby's were abandoned usually by parents who have HIV and many times the babies are HIV positive. Often after care and time the babies are tested again and come back negative all though not all. They take care of them until they find them forever families. Abby is one of my favorite people.

Abby married Jeff who is a pastor at Calvary Temple in Springfield. They will be doing children's ministry while the go through the process of being appionted full missionary status to go back to Africa. Since they will be living only an hour from us hopefully we will see more of them.

I felt a lot of mixed emotions when Abby's dad Larry, another cool person with a big heart (He works with people with disabilities through Special Touch camps), gave his oldest daughter away. One day that will be me giving away Kaitlyn. (It's late or I would upload a cool pic of her.)
I was flipping through the channels and saw Ben Folds on Austin City Limits. He sang a song her wrote about his daughter Gracie. Kaitlyn's middle name is Grace and we somtimes call her Gracie. The song made me smile and fit the mood I'm in tonight. If you are a dad you get that.

I feel blessed to be a dad. And I feel blessed that Kaitlyn is my daughter if though she may be the reason my hair is thinning. And I feel blessed to know great people like Abby! Got to go to bed. I have to preach and lead worship tomorrow.