White Collars, iPads, and Ripped Jeans

Right now I’m experiencing an interesting convergence with my devotions and my day. I’m at my local coffeehouse and with one eye I’m reading my Bible and with another eye I’m watching a young priest sitting near me. He is about my age and he’s meeting with a group of people, undoubtedly from his congregation, much like I would do on any given day.

The following reflections are a work in progress. I’m only musing.

When I saw him walk in with his full priestly garb my first thought was how underdressed I am right now. Granted, this is my day off. Yes, I’ve showered, but I just threw on some clothes consisting of faded jeans with a huge rip in the knee, thrashed shoes with a tear in the fabric, an Athletic Booster t-shirt from West Salem High School, a black hoodie with some skater logo on it (all in an effort to look relevant to the kiddos), and a Nike baseball cap. I’m a walking billboard – my life is a product placement.

Then there is the priest – the man in black. He’s in pressed clothes, dress shoes, overcoat and even a classy top-hat (admittedly, I am a bit envious of that). In stark contrast, a bright white collar peeks out to confirm all questioning of this man indeed being a priest.

He and I serve in similar roles, but you wouldn’t know it.

More musings that are converging…

During this time I was reading my Bible on my trusty iPad. This digital device is absolutely amazing. I’m typing these thoughts on it right now. While reading my Bible off my iPad my gut started feeling weird, and I couldn’t really explain until right now why I wanted to have my actual paper Bible in my hands instead of the iPad. When I switched to reading from my tried and true NIV, leather bound copy of the Scriptures, I felt better. I felt like people around me would notice it and would say, “Oh, he’s reading a Bible.” I didn’t do this because of pride or be recognized. I did this because over the years many a conversation have been struck up by people saying, “I see you’re reading your Bible. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

This has become my…well…my white collar.

When I read the Bible from my iPad or iPhone I’ve only had people say, “Hey, that’s a pretty cool dealio. How much you pay for that and what kind of tricks can it do?”

Now, I’m not a legalist. I’m about as far from that description as could be imagined. I don’t think the words of Scripture are more holy on parchment then on a glossy screen. I don’t subscribe to the notion that a person is more righteous when wearing slacks and a button down shirt vs. jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve been around that block in my past and it’s not a good trip. It’s religion, and religion kills.

More musings that are converging…

Today my devotional reading is Ezekiel 44 and interestingly it’s about the priestly garments. Coincidence? I think not. The bulk of chapter 44 deals with what the priests and Levites are to wear in the temple (inner courts) and outside the temple (outer courts). Verse 19 says: “When they go out into the outer court where the people are, they are to take off the clothes they have been ministering in and are to leave them in the sacred rooms, and put on other clothes…” It goes on to address hair length, wine consumption, marriage and divorce with a culminating statement: “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”

As a student of the Bible I can say with a level of confidence that the Older Testament finds it’s fulfillment in the person of Jesus in the New Testament. The external requirements of the Older Testament points towards an internal work of the Spirit. For example, the law of circumcision is now a physical representation of the work of the Spirit in the HEART. In a nutshell, Jesus wants our willful surrender not our wardrobe. He’s not much concerned whether we read Scripture from paper or a computer. Jeans or slacks? Not major issues for Jesus.

But are they issues for me? Do I need to do certain things personally? Do I sense a desire to read from my paper Bible because it keeps my heart focused (it’s so easy to check Facebook or read email from my iPad)? Does it add a level of accountability for me to have people SEE me with a physical copy of the Scriptures? In other words, does the priest wear the white collar so that he’s reminded that he is INDEED A PRIEST? Are there disciplines that we think are FOR GOD, but actually are FOR US?


Testing 1 • 2 • 3

Testing 1, 2, 3. Testing 1, 2, 3.

I say these magical words nearly every weekend.

In an effort to set the audio levels of my wireless headset microphone, the sound tech and I go through a ritual affectionately called “Testing 1, 2, 3” in which I casually stand on the platform of our pre-service church auditorium and say repetitive comments while he/she attempts to make me sound better than I actually do. I keep asking that they put more bass into my voice so I don’t sound like I just entered adolescence (to no avail)!

The goal of our exchange is mult-faceted. First, we want to discover if the microphone is EVEN connected. Often, other ministries will use equipment and forget to plug the cable back in. Secondly, we want to set the levels appropriately. It’s always unfortunate when we forget to soundcheck and my first words are with a room full of people. Invariably this will include a deafening “Good Morning!” or worse yet, awkward silence because it’s not even on! So, setting the appropriate levels is important. Lastly, we are are on a hunt for what we call “sound system demons.” Every church PA system has them. If you’re a pastor/leader or a sound technician then you have faced those demons head on, with a mixture of both success and failure. These are those oddities that enter into a sound system without welcome. Call it feedback, call it poor wiring, call it a bad cable, call it whatever you want…it’s the “sound system demons” and they don’t need a “be healed,” they need a “COME OUT!” During a church service we want to do that which is helpful, NOT hurtful. Nothing quite messes with the presence of God like microphone screeching (ie: the witch from Wizard of Oz…I’m melting! I’m melting!).

Is it connected?
Is it appropriate?
Is it helpful?

Testing 1, 2, 3.

As a leader, I think it’s important to have a forum or outlet to test out ideas in order to discover if they truly connect and if the material is appropriate and helpful. Recently, I took a group of pastors and leaders through a 4-hour training course of ideas, objectives, and musings that I have been growing into over the years. My heart is to resource leaders with concepts that are being developed in my heart and life. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still wrestling. I’m a work in progress.

Testing 1, 2, 3.

Hopefully the material that I share will be radically different over the coming years, because of the way the Lord is birthing “new and living ways” within my soul. Hopefully it will morph in order to foster greater connection. Hopefully it will morph to be appropriate for various groups and needs. Hopefully it will morph because I want it to be helpful.

Testing 1, 2, 3.

What are you testing out? What ideas do you have that need to be given voice? Don’t wait for it all to become perfect and polished. Go for it. See if it connects. Tweak with it until the appropriate levels are discovered. Speak it out and see who is helped along the way.

The Young and the Released

I turned 39 years old this last week. It’s a weird feeling to be “almost 40.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m looking forward to it. I don’t mind growing older. Sure beats the alternative.

It’s weird because I so clearly remember being 18. Like it was yesterday, I remember graduating from high school, getting on my first airplane, going to LA, and starting Bible College because of the call of God on my life to preach the Gospel. Shortly thereafter I began to pastor my first youth group of middle school students. It wasn’t long until Denise and I were 19 and married. Our first baby came a year later. Talk about “kids having kids!”

Over the years, I was given more responsibility at a very young age. Pastoring, speaking, leading, ministering way over my head. My first senior pastorate was at the age of 27, then at 37 years old I was entrusted with a much larger church.

I reminisce for a reason.

As I was reading 2 Chronicles today in my devotions and was struck by the AGE of some of the kings of Judah. Look at chapters 33-36 with me;

• Manasseh was 12.
• Amon was 22.
• Josiah was 8.
• Jehoahaz was 23.
• Jehoiakim was 25.
• Jehoiachin was 18.
• Zedekiah as 21.

Pretty young, huh?

Yes, I know this was a family thing. They were simply the next in line to the throne. And yes, some of them where really stupid and ungodly. They led pretty poorly and it may have been attributed to their age. But…what can we glean from this history?

Give them a shot. Wayne Gretzky says that “we miss 100% of the shots not taken.” Are there young leaders around you that just need an opportunity to lead? We’ll never know what they can do unless we release them.

Give them support. Josiah was 8 years old when he became king. The biblical text lists a large “supporting cast” that assisted Josiah in the wholesale reformation of Israel. My youngest son is roughly the age of Josiah, and we don’t leave him home by himself, let alone allow him to rule the Kingdom. He needs our help, which is why he has parents and older siblings. Who are the younger leaders around you that need a supporting hand?

Give them space. If there is anything I’m discovering to be true of teens and pre-teens (I have three right now) it’s that they want their SPACE. I remember that feeling. It’s the adolescent drive for independence. It’s normal and it’s appropriate. Are there younger leaders around you that need some room to grow, explore, try and fail? If you love them…wait for it…let them go.

Give them spiritual leadership. There is a strong indictment found in the Chronicles of the Kings: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father had done.” This is an all too common assessment of both then and NOW. Young leaders need (and want) solid spiritual leadership in their lives. Don’t let them “figure it all out” on their own. Speak into that area of their lives. Guide them to “walk in the ways of the Lord, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”

Now, allow me to reminisce a bit further…

Currently our Foursquare movement is wrestling with the realities of an aging ministerial (average age of our pastors is approximately 56). Recently, I was in a series of denominational meetings where someone remarked that my involvement on a particular denominational team was representative of the “youth of our movement.” I appreciated the sentiment, but I politely had to interject: “Folks, I’m moving quickly towards 40 years old, and if I represent the “youth” of our movement then I think we just discovered a big part of our problem.”

Look around you. The young are all around you. Who needs a shot? Who needs support? Who needs some space? Who needs spiritual leadership?