Category Archives: Other Authors


Perry Parson shared this story with me and I wanted to pass it along for Father’s Day!

My first sled was short with faded lettering and one broken board.  Mom bought it for my brother Lynn and me at the sale barn.  Lynn and I struggled all winter to have fun with that sled.  But the sled was so short that we couldn’t “belly-drive” it.  Instead each of us had to squeeze up while sitting on our rear and steer with our feet.

We must have complained about the short sled, because next Christmas we were given a brand new, five-foot-long sled.  It had new shiny varnish and a painted brand name that you could still read.  And it was long enough that I could lay down on it on my stomach and my feet would just barely hang over the end.

Lynn and I decided that we would try both of the sleds that very afternoon.  And instead of staying on some of the smaller hills on our farm, we pulled the sleds a mile down the road to get to the Vincennes road hill: a steep hill with a wicked turn halfway down that curved sharply to the left.

Lynn and I took turns with each sled the rest of the afternoon.  One of us would “belly-drive” the long sled while the other one would try to make it down the hill with “Shorty.”  That little sled would do fine until the curve.  And then, no matter how much I would lean to the left, it would never make the curve.  Having to sit up just raised the center of gravity too high.  I couldn’t make that curve and would just flop over.  But “Long-boy” was a different story.  A running belly flop start sent me flashing down the hill.  And dragging the left leg would pull me around the curve, flying down the road to the little town below.  By the time “Shorty” had dumped Lynn and he had picked himself up, “Long-boy” was already at the bottom and I was beginning the walk back up.

As the sun began to set, Lynn and I realized that we needed to head home soon.  But we each wanted to take “just one more ride.”  So we hit upon a plan.  We would use “Long-boy” as a two-man sled.  And being the older and larger of the two, it was decided that I would lay down first.  Then my brother took a running start and belly flopped onto my back.  As I gasped for my breath, we started out slowly, then picked up speed.  And struggling to hold on, Lynn grabbed on to me, pressing both my legs against the deck of the sled.  I struggled to get my left leg loose but I couldn’t get it free.  And so we did not make the turn.  Instead we shot straight across the road and plowed into the shallow drainage ditch along the roadside.  When we hit the frozen gravel piled along the edge of the road, “Long-boy” came to a sudden stop.  But Lynn and I did not.  In an instant I became the sled!  We continued sliding onward for another ten feet or so until we stopped.  I had snow inside my coat, under my shirt, and even behind my glasses, which somehow had stayed on my face.  I pushed Lynn off me and tried to clean my glasses.  We lay there laughing in the snow, enjoying the thrill of the ride, excitedly retelling to each other what had just happened.

As I sat up, I noticed that my heavy winter coat was open.  At first I thought it has been unzipped during the ride.  But instead, the coat was cut completely through.  And so was the shirt beneath.  Only the long Johns underneath the shirt were uncut.  Then we saw that we had slid through a trash pile someone had dumped along the roadside.  Digging through the snow, we found the jagged bottom of a broken mayonnaise jar.  If the coat had been thinner, or my layering of clothing less, it would have been my stomach that had been slit open.

We slowly walked home, pulling our sleds.  We were thankful for how fortunate we had been and wondered what would happen when Mom and Dad saw my clothes.  We were especially fearful of how our father would react.

Dad was a factory worker who dropped out of school in the 9th grade to help bring in money for his parents during the Great Depression.  And because of the Depression, he developed an attitude of  “pinching every penny until Abe Lincoln squealed.”  His lack of further education had also limited his wage earnings.  He worked long hours for every thing he brought home to his family, from new sleds to new winter coats.

As we came nearer to home, we were trying to decide what to tell Mom and Dad about our day, especially about the coat.  We thought that he would be angry and we were worried about what our punishment would be.  Should we lie?  Should we say the the Vincennes Gang attacked us (There was no gang of boys in a town of 30 people!) or some other far-fetched tale?  But my brother, who did not have a torn coat, said we should tell the truth.

We went inside the enclosed back porch, and dropped our snowy boots and coats on the floor.  Then we entered the back door into the warm kitchen.  Mom was at the oven, getting ready to serve the evening meal.  Dad was in the bathroom, at the front of the house, washing up for supper.  We hurriedly told Mom what had happened to the coat and finished just as Dad entered the room.

As I heard Mom retell our story, I braced for what I thought would come.  Dad looked at each of us, a frown on his face.  I thought he would explode!  Instead, he slowly said that coats could be replaced but his sons could not be.  I always knew that my father loved me, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how deeply.  He valued us much more than any earthly possession, knowing where the true treasures of life were.

After that day I would like to say that I always was careful not to cause my dad any problems, money or otherwise.  But being a self-centered, forgetful person, I can’t say that happened.

Our heavenly Father also loves us.  But His love is even greater than any earthly father.  He can see all the sin we have committed, all the sin we will commit, how often we will turn from Him, or hurt Him.  And yet He still sent His Son to die for us.  We need to remember this daily, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and consistently strive to do His will.

“‘ … for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ — Hebrews 13:5b.

Preparing for Easter

Dr. Scott Anderson, pastor of Grace Chapel Christian Union Church in Sante Fe, OH, is a very intentional preacher. Here he shares some valuable insight into how Spiritual Directors might help those under their care prepare their hearts and minds for Resurrection Sunday:

Preparing for Easter is most effective if pastors understand the value of preaching through the Life of Jesus beginning the first Sunday after Advent and carrying right through to Easter morning. The early church established this rhythm by observing such season markers as Advent, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Some of these church year designations are not typically observed in the Christian Union, yet they offer an excellent, time tested approach for preparing for Easter Sunday.

The Child in a manger is destined for the Cross; a truth we easily miss in the sentimentality of Christmas and new Easter clothes. With some planning, pastors can cover targeted areas of Jesus’ life on the dozen or so Sundays after Christmas. This deliberate approach of preaching Jesus’ life prevents Easter from just popping up on the calendar resulting in a scramble to come up with an Easter message. Being deliberate with Easter planning helps prevent people from missing the context of the crucifixion and resurrection. When we see and understand the continuity of the events of Christ’s life, we are fostering a deeper, stronger faith – faith in Jesus who occupied the manger, the cross and the now empty tomb.

The significant theological teachings along the road from Bethlehem’s manger to Jerusalem’s cross are deep and wide. Beginning with the Advent Scripture readings we have the privilege of following Jesus from the announcement of His birth to the manger and through the miracles, parables, sermons, and, finally, the trial, crucifixion and burial. Talking and preaching through the stages and events of Christ’s life prepares hearts for the glory and power of the resurrection.

The weeks of deliberately preparing for Easter become a Faith building season for the saints. A key component of having stronger more resilient faith is to have a deeper understanding of Christ, whom we are trusting. One’s faith is no better than its object. If we do not know the one we trust and believing in, our faith will be stunted. Preaching through the life of Christ offers the Christian an opportunity to grow stronger and bolder which brings glory to God and extends His Kingdom in this world. May God grant you insight as you plan for this Easter season. Amen.

Grieving is Tough Work

Have you ever been the victim of well-intentioned people who, in a time of grief, their hand on your shoulder and say, “Give it time, you’ll get over it.” I know they mean well and I understand that with the passage of time the moments of grief grow farther apart and, in some ways less intense, but how does one “get over” a thirty-four year marriage?

Lois died on September 11 and I am now doing the work of grieving. We were the closest of friends; she was my main advisor, and a trusted confidant. We were lovers and parents, teachers and leaders who shared values and priorities, pain and happiness, failure and success. We were partners who could talk for hours but be just as comfortable being quiet as long as we were together. In the 12,435 days which made up the years of our relationship there were only 67 days when we didn’t at least talk on the phone and those were times when I was in a foreign country where telephone service wasn’t available. Yes, I took the time to calculate the number. It’s part of the work of grieving for me.

How does one “get over” the absence of someone so close? I would be embarrassed to admit how many times the past few weeks I’ve had to stop myself from doing something ridiculous. I will share that numerous times I’ve ended a phone call and started to dial Lois’ phone to tell her about the “crazy call I just had!” Or, I’ve received an email and started up the steps to tell Lois who just sent a note. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up wondering why Lois isn’t in bed only to remember . . .

Working through all this is the tough work of grief. It’s not bad work and I’m not depressed or discouraged with the on-going task of grieving but I suspect that it would be easy to ignore the task and hope I “get over it.”

Losing a loved one does not mean the rest of us stop living. Nor does it mean we ignore that someone very significant has died. The tough work of grief drives us to God who guides and comforts us. Only God can begin to fill the void in our lives. Anything else we turn to fails to speak to the grief.

In the middle of sadness and loss there is ample evidence of God. That confirmation comes from the Bible in passages like Psalm 31 and Isaiah 51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. There are also books that help us in this tough work. I find two especially helpful: “Good Grief” by Granger E. Westburg published by Augsburg, and “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser published by Zondervan.

God calls us to acknowledge that He is in control of everything – even the death of a loved one. The sadness and loss we experience is part of the fabric of life. Embracing the tough work of grief is part of His plan and, ultimately, its satisfying work.

What about you? How are you coping with the tough work of grieving in your life? Maybe you’ve lost a job or had a marriage end in divorce or experienced the failure of a business. All of us will be touched in some way by sadness and loss because we live in a broken, fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Grief comes to us in many forms and working through that grief is one of life’s most rewarding challenges.

Jesus said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:23-25 The Message


God speaks: “I’m the One comforting you.  What are you afraid of—or who? Have you forgotten me, God, who made you, who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth? For I am God, your very own God, who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves; my name is God-of-the-Angel-Armies. I teach you how to talk, word by word, and personally watch over you, even while I’m unfurling the skies, and setting earth on solid foundations." From Isaiah 51, The Message.

Yesterday we buried the bones and skin in which Lois lived her earthly life. I think the hardest part was holding my grandchildren above the casket and explaining that their BaBa was not sleeping; she wouldn’t wake up; this was just the skin she wore on earth. The real BaBa is gone – but not forever. The oldest two struggled to understand. The young ones picked up candy and tried to put it in the casket with Lois – who knows how many pieces ended up in there!

Then, after the immediate family members had opportunity to see the body, the casket was closed. The two oldest boys, Brady and Broc, helped me and Peter, Tony, Jeremy, John, and Richard carry the casket to the coach and again from the coach to the graveside. There is something about the physical work of grieving – whether it is in travel, or cleaning, or carrying the casket, we all embrace the toil of grief.

We gathered around the grave and Frosty led us in a uncomplicated service of Scripture and prayer as we recognized that we were created from dust and to dust we return. But we rejoice in the reality that as Followers of Jesus we are not limited by physical bodies; we are first and foremost, spirit – made in God’s image – and “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2Cor 5:8)

Even as we shed tears of sorrow, Lois is in the eternal, everlasting, non-stop, 24-7 worship where all of creation bows before the Throne of the God of all that is and shouts and sings, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor, and glory, and power, forever and ever!” Amen!

Now we are preparing to gather for our own worship service. Oh, we know we cannot hope to duplicate what is going on in God’s throne room right now, but we’ll do our best. We will remember Lois but mostly we’ll remember the life of Christ in Lois. And we will worship God!

From Everlasting to Everlasting

All day today I’ve been coming back to Ps 90. The first couple of verses keep echoing in my mind. Even when I visited my Mom late this afternoon and prayed with her, I found myself praying using the phrases, “from everlasting to everlasting,” and “God, you’ve taken care of us from the beginning.”

As we plan the details of the Celebration of Life service on Saturday, I keep reminding myself – and anyone else within earshot – this is a worship service where we honor Lois by focusing on the life of Christ in Lois. This is about God who numbered Lois’ days on earth before the mountains were even born! We will worship the Lord who created the universe, the stars, the earth, and all of us! Just as life begins in the mind of God before conception ever occurs, life comes to an end only if and when God allows that to happen. If He has the hairs on our head numbered, then he knows the exact number of times our hearts will beat; the total times we will take a breath.

I woke up this morning full of anticipation: what will God do today? In what ways will He reveal Himself today? How will He allow me to lead our family into a greater appreciation of His presence, comfort, hope, and peace? Please don’t misunderstand this, I certainly didn’t want Lois to die but I also wouldn’t have missed this experience.

Lois and I had several conversations about the cyclical nature of our relationship with God. It seems when God allows difficult times, tough stuff, to come into our lives that those are times when we experience spiritual “growth spurts.” It’s so easy to miss these learning opportunities. I recall talking about this on our anniversary in August. Lois and I looked back on the 34 years we had together and speculated about times when things were tough and wondered if we missed some of what God was showing us or teaching us. We don’t pretend to have done everything right! Not even close! But we were convinced that God was in the middle and, not only that, but in front and behind us.

A dear friend called today and talked about how short Lois’s life was. I reminded her that it wasn’t as short as some but that in the grand scheme of things all life is short. Try this: blink your eyes twice. Which blink was the shortest? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? Those two blinks are like two lives – one short and the other long. But in God’s timeframe there is little difference. After all, if a thousand years is like a day or even a watch in the night, our lives are but a blink in God’s grand plan. And yet He cares about you and me. He comforts and shields and protects, from everlasting to everlasting.

Just a reminder: There will be a special Celebration of Life service at Northgate Alliance Church in Ottumwa, IA on Saturday, September 19 at 1:30 pm. The family will receive friends and visitors both prior to the service beginning at Noon and following the service. There will be a private graveside service to lay the body to rest on Friday afternoon. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to the Pekin Ministerial Association, 205 W 4th, Packwood, IA 52580 or Keokuk County Hospice, 420 N. Main St., Sigourney, IA 52591.



by Jerome Van Kuiken

“The Trinity is the cross upon which the mind is crucified.”  This warning from Russian Orthodox thinker Anthony Ugolnik highlights a basic problem Christians face.  I confess belief in the Trinity:  that God is both one and at the same time three.  But can I make any sense of this confession?  Can I explain my belief to others – as a pastor, to my congregation?  As a friend, to my  friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness?  As a father, to my daughter Hannah?

As a matter of fact, Hannah had the Trinity explained to her when she was only four years old – but not by me.  Driving home from church one Sunday, I was startled when a voice from the car seat behind me recited, “It’s a shamrock.  It’s a metaphor: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; one God, three persons.”  Astonished, I realized that Hannah had picked up these lines from the VeggieTales video Sumo of the Opera, which had a spot about St. Patrick!

This experience offers a solution to our problem of thinking and speaking about God.  Ugolnik is right: we can’t fully wrap our minds around the Trinity.  After all, we’re talking about God!  But metaphors, symbols and such give us ways to talk about the Trinity so that people get an inkling of what we’re saying.  In the spirit of St. Patrick, then, I offer here a sampler of word-pictures of the Trinity, meant to help those caught between a shamrock and a hard place.

Not Separate, But Equal. The logic behind the shamrock metaphor goes like this: just as one shamrock has three look-alike leaves, so the one God has three persons who are alike in character, power, and glory.  Roman Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson takes this idea a step further by comparing God with DNA.  The shape of DNA is a double helix: two strands of genetic material woven together to form the building block of all biological life.  Now imagine DNA with an extra strand, Johnson says – a triple helix that’s the greatest source of life ever!  That’s what God is like: three equal persons who together give life to everything.  Word-pictures like these fit well with Bible passages that describe Christians as being baptized in the one name shared equally by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19); equipped equally by the same Spirit, Lord, and God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6); and blessed equally by the One on the throne, his sevenfold Spirit, and Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:4, 5 NLT).

Different Can Be Good! But just because all three members of the Trinity are equal doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between them.  A favorite object lesson for children compares the Trinity to the yolk, white, and shell that make up an egg.  Longtime Methodist evangelist and educator Jon Tal Murphree uses the illustration of a musical chord composed of three different notes.  The Bible itself teaches that God the Father planned our salvation, Jesus Christ died to purchase it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to our lives (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:2).  We’re also told that the world comes from God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2), and by the power of the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30).

A number of metaphors from church tradition beautifully picture how the different persons in the Trinity and their various roles work in harmony for our good.  Do you like to talk?  Then maybe you can relate to this metaphor:  Psalm 33:6 reads, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (ESV).  The Hebrew word for “breath” in this verse is the same word translated “Spirit” elsewhere.  Also, John 1:1-3 speaks of Jesus as “the Word” by whom everything was created.  So in Psalm 33:6, you have the Speaker, the Word he speaks, and the Breath/Spirit by which he speaks – a biblical picture of the Trinity at work.

Do you ever talk to yourself?  Do you ever answer back?  If so, then you and your thoughts are having a conversation within your mind or spirit.  It’s as if you’re more than one person while you’re in dialog with yourself.  You can probably see where I’m going with this: in the Trinity there is God (the Father); there is his Spirit, who knows his thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:11); and there are his thoughts themselves, which the Bible identifies with Jesus, God’s Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-31; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30) or his Idea (John 1:1, Cotton Patch Version).

Do you enjoy nature?  Yet another metaphor envisions God the Father as the sun, which reigns over the earth from the heavens above with great power and such splendor that we can’t even look directly at it (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).  Christ is the sunlight that comes down from heaven to earth, making life and sight possible (John 1:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3).  The Holy Spirit is the invisible heat and energy given off by the sunlight.  All this may change what you think of when you sing, “You Are My Sunshine”!

Do you like working with your hands?  My favorite metaphor views Christ and the Spirit as the two arms and hands of the Heavenly Father.  The roots of this metaphor run back to Isaiah: In Isaiah 53:1, he calls Christ “the arm of the Lord.”  Later he pictures God as carrying the people of Israel out of Egypt (63:9), and links the Holy Spirit with God’s “glorious arm” (63:11, 12 ESV).  In the beginning, God’s two hands worked together to fashion the universe.  Now God’s two arms are opened wide, inviting prodigal children into the Trinity’s embrace.  Differences between the members of the Trinity only serve to unite them to each other and us to them.

Personal Matters.  The members of the Trinity are equal, different, and united as one God.  But they are also three persons.  The movie Bruce Almighty and the TV show Joan of Arcadia missed this point: they both portrayed God as only one person who plays different parts.  This incorrect understanding of God is called modalism, and if it were true, then there would be no interpersonal relationships within the Trinity.  But look what happens at Jesus’ baptism, for instance:  God the Father speaks, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and Jesus obeys, all at the same time (Matthew 3:13-17 and parallels). There by the Jordan River, we see all three persons of the Trinity acting in relationship to each other.

Modalism lies behind the illustration that the one God is three in the same way that I am one person who is a husband to my wife, a father to my daughter, and a pastor to my congregation.  The popular object lesson that compares the Trinity with water can run the risk of teaching modalism, too.  Just as H2O can be a liquid, solid, or gas, so the illustration goes, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But we don’t usually think of H2O as existing in all three states at once.  So as not to mislead people, the best way to use this object lesson is to have a glass of cold water with an ice cube in it and plastic wrap over the top to catch the water vapor.  That way, all three states are present at once, just as all three persons are present at once in the Trinity.

How can we illustrate the fact that the one God has, not just three parts, but three persons?  Grotesque images of a three-headed monster or Siamese triplets joined at the heart come to mind!  But Scripture gives us some better ways to picture God as three persons.  In Genesis 1:27, God creates human beings in his own image.  What is that image?  The very next lines say that God created them as male and female, then commissions them to have children (1:27, 28).  Genesis 2:24 follows up, telling us that husband and wife join together to become one flesh.  How does marriage “image” God?  It shows us how two persons can be united as one by their love for each other, a love so powerful that it takes the form of a third person – a child who is itself for nine months united as one with its mother.  Like every other metaphor, this one has its limits: each member of the Trinity has always existed, and God is not a sexual being. But as long as we respect the metaphor’s limits, it can help us see how three persons can be united as one God.

Another classic illustration based on family relationships draws on the story of Abraham.  Genesis 24 records how Abraham sends his most trusted servant to get a wife for his son Isaac.  The servant travels far and returns with the lovely Rebekah.  In the same way, God the Father sends his Spirit into the world to bring Jesus, the Son of God, the church as his bride.

This emphasis on God as three distinct persons has begun to influence popular culture.  The Matrix film trilogy included the characters Neo (a young man who fulfills prophecy by saving his people), Morpheus (a father-figure to Neo), and Trinity (a young woman who helps Neo and even brings him back from the dead).  Likewise, William Young’s bestselling novel, The Shack, allegorizes God the Father as a black woman and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman alongside of Jesus.  As with modalism, though, we have to be careful not to push things too far.  If modalism falls into the trap of claiming, “1 God = 1 person,” the opposite trap is to think, “3 persons = 3 Gods.”  This trap is tritheism, or “three god-ism.”  In Geoffrey Chaucer’s book The Canterbury Tales, one character tells a tale that shows the trouble with tritheism: Long ago and far away, two warriors fell in love with the same girl.  The warriors chose to settle the issue with a duel.  On the morning of the duel, the first warrior went to the temple of Venus, goddess of love, and prayed that she would give him victory so he could win the girl he loved.  The second warrior prayed to Mars, god of war, for help in defeating his rival.  The girl herself prayed at the temple of Diana, the virgin goddess, saying (more or less), “O Diana, you know I really don’t love either of these guys!  Please work things out so I can stay a virgin and devote myself to your temple.”  You see the problem: how can three different gods with three different specialties and agendas ever agree as to the outcome of the duel?  The result is divine gridlock!  The Trinity is not like that: the three persons together make up only one God with one plan, one will, and one moral character, who together share one life in such a radical way that each person of the Trinity doesn’t exist on his own, but only in relationship with the other two.

One Last Word About the Three.  Along with my other roles, I also teach theology at a Bible college.  Each year, I ask my students if they’ve ever heard a sermon on the Trinity.  Very few tell me that they have.  If belief in the one God as three persons is a vital part of our Christian faith, then why aren’t we proclaiming it more?  I suspect that part of the problem lies in our own uncertainty about how to understand and explain our belief.  It’s my hope that the metaphors I’ve shared will equip us all – pastors, teachers, parents, and the rest of us – to think and speak more clearly about the One who is, as the hymn says, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”


When asked about the role mega churches play in their denominations the top answer from evangelical leaders responding to the July Evangelical Leaders Survey was “None.”  That’s because many evangelical denominations have few if any very large churches.

Todd Bassett, former National Commander of the Salvation Army in the United States was very specific: “Of our 1329 churches, very few would have a congregation that exceeds 300 to 400.”  Kerry R. Ritts, of the Primitive Methodist Church, USA, explained that “We are a small denomination with no mega churches.”

Larger denominations like the Assemblies of God have a significant number of large congregations. Acknowledging that mega churches have “a very important role,” the Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood said that 191 of the denomination’s largest churches have 378,450 in Sunday attendance which is 21.4 percent of the total attendance of all the denomination’s churches.  That means that 1.5 percent of the churches have more than one-fifth of all the parishioners.

There was a mixed evaluation of America’s evangelical mega churches.  Compliments focused on mega church innovation, leadership, financial support of ministries, solid evangelical theology and especially “church planting” where large churches start new churches.  Criticisms included competition with smaller churches, self-reliance and lack of cooperation with other churches.

Speaking for the Worldwide Church of God, Joseph Tkach said that mega churches play no role in his denomination.  “We view them as a modern invention that does not follow the pattern of the early church. And of course, we do not view all of the mega churches as being the same. Some are exceptionally good and some are not.”

“The numbers show that mega churches are relatively few in America.  They make up less than one percent of the total number of congregations.  However, they have a disproportionate influence and visibility.  They are the leaders to which pastors and other church leaders look for how to do church,” according to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Bert Waggoner of The Vineyard USA summarized this disproportionate influence: “They help resource the movement with leaders and other creative resources. They make significant financial contributions. They provide venues for our larger meetings. They lead the movement in church planting. They give visibility and recognition to the movement. The quality of leadership in the mega churches raises the leadership quality in the movement.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals.  They include the CEOs of 60 denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.


From Randy Mitchell

Living in the Midwest, we get to experience God’s handy work as temperatures rise in the middle of summer and we literally feel the effects of God turning up the heat.

Have you ever considered the idea that God turns up the heat at different times and through certain circumstances in our own lives to get our attention?  I’m convinced that God is not apathetic toward us.  I believe that there is one thing that could never be said of God, and that He is indifferent.

God is neither apathetic nor indifferent toward you.  He would go any length to prove that to you.  Anyone that would offer His Son to pay for your sin is serious about wanting you to know that how much He cares about you and about the plans He has for your life.  The Bible provides us a record of events and situations where God turned up the heat as it were, as an attention getter to prove that He could be trusted in every circumstance, face the reality of their sinful behavior and move men from wandering through life without purpose to important roles of leadership.

I remember from my childhood watching my grandmother and my mother can vegetables from our garden and make homemade jelly.

Adding to the misery of homes without air conditioning would be the heat and steam coming from burners on the kitchen stove that were boiling the imperfections from grapes and raspberries that would later be the jelly I would enjoy on my biscuits or toast at breakfast in days to come.  The product was worth the process.  The heat of the moment produced a product that was beneficial to many people.  The same is true in real life situations.  The heat of the moment can be the process by which god choose to change us.  The change is not just for our benefit, but for other lives He desires to impact.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah spoke boldly to the people of his day to remind them that God is interested in the activities our lives and that He already knows and cares enough about it get our attention and get us looking to Him.

You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD.  Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: “See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Jeremiah 9:6-7 NIV

Randy Mitchell is Senior Pastor at Flack Memorial in Excelsior Springs, MO

Waterfall Leadership

by Dan Reiland

When they told us we could climb a 1,000 foot waterfall I had images of Niagara Falls in my mind and thought, “That’s not such a good idea.” Convinced otherwise by my family, it turned out to be one of the highlights of our vacation.

We were in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and signed up for the waterfall climb (Dunn’s River Falls) and beach party. It was way too much fun. In some of the most natural and beautiful Jamaican landscape (I would call it “friendly jungle”) we gathered up with about twenty others, paid our money, and got assigned our guides.

The falls were huge, with fast moving water over large boulders. But the naturally-terraced effect with pools of water to play a few times up the climb made it easy enough even for little kids. Well, mostly easy. There were a few scraped ankles and bruised toes, but hey, we need something to make it sound really cool.

The main guide, a tall and fit Jamaican with a great sense of humor stood before us and said “I am your leader, if you do what I tell you and follow me you will get soaking wet and have a great time.” We all stood there and just looked at him. He said, Hey Mon, this is Jamaica and you’re going to have fun… when I talk to you, you respond with a big and loud “Yeah Mon!!” So we did and there was something oddly fun about a bunch of out-of-shape Americans pretending to be Jamaicans that did make the whole thing more fun!!

He then instructed us that we were to hold hands and form this sort of long line of people connected by a rope – the rope being made of our hands and arms. It was counterintuitive at first, but it was only when we let go and picked our own rocks to climb on did we slip some and scrape a knee. OK, that I slipped and scrapped a knee. The kids seemed to do fine as the “big kids” dragged them up the rocks they couldn’t quite get themselves.

Only a preacher would come up with leadership thoughts as he made his way up this fun climb! So, are you ready Mon? Here’s where you say “Yeah Mon!”

Someone who has traveled only one step farther than you knows something valuable that you don’t yet know.
It’s difficult to put a price tag on experience, even when it’s only a few seconds beyond what you have accomplished. Every step mattered in our climb up the falls. A little to the left and you slip, a little to the right and you step in a deep hole. The leader went first and each person followed – one step at a time.

As a leader you don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to know the next step and take it successfully. If you do, others can safely follow. Trust is a big deal. They are counting on you to make the right choices.

If you are following, don’t expect your leader to know the entire plan – just the next step. The only reason our Jamaican guide knew every step so well is because he had completed this trip hundreds of times. This is the luxury of a leader repeating his journey. This is not the life of a church leader who, if they are truly making progress, is constantly navigating new waters.

It’s not the steepness of the climb it’s the speed of the water.
There were only a couple sections that were steep and long enough to make you quietly think… “Okay, here we go.” The surprising thing was that those sections weren’t really that big a deal. The real issue was the speed of the water. You would think that the water would run faster down the steeper sections, but the way it bounced off the boulders made it play unexpected tricks on you. I quickly learned that you can see the boulders but you can’t see the current.

Isn’t that the way it is in leadership? It’s what you can’t see that can trip you up, cause you to lose footing and stumble. It might be a turn in a relationship, a flip in the economy or change in current culture. You didn’t see it coming and boom. This is why I stay in touch with my mentors. They see things I don’t see and keep me from stepping in places I shouldn’t.

When you want to let go and climb on your own, it’s probably a mistake.
My first instinct was to let go of the person’s hand in front of me and try to grab onto the next rock to stabilize myself. Each time I did that, I lost my footing. There was a reason the guide lead us the way he did. Many leaders are entrepreneurs. They are visionaries and cut their own path. That’s good, but within limits. All good leaders must be willing to take a hand and be a good follower at some point. (And usually this is required at many points.)

It’s great when a leader steps out to find his or her own path, but there is something about the body of Christ and being a Christ-follower that puts boundaries on a leader’s climb. It’s interesting to note that it’s rarely at the lower levels of the climb that leaders get in trouble. It’s often after some success that leaders begin to call their own shots and then fall. Note to self. Keep holding on, first to the Father, then to others who have traveled before you and with you.

The person behind you is depending on you.
This one seems obvious, but when the water is cold and you’ve slipped a couple times, it’s easy to focus on getting yourself to the top – forgetting about the person behind you.

This happened a few times to our crew. I won’t say which one, but one of my kids said: “The person behind me was too slow, if I held on to them, I’d either stop the whole group or get pulled back down.” In the immediate moment that seemed true. But from the big picture it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It was in the letting go that everyone had to stop and wait. Holding on cost us all a few seconds, letting go cost minutes.

Each person was counting on the person in front of them to hold on and not let go. The guy in front of me let go only once, and I immediately lost confidence in him for the remainder of the trip. It wasn’t a big deal, this was a fun waterfall climb, but it made me think about situations that were serious and much was at stake. I want to count on the person in front of me.

So let me ask you. Can the person behind you count on you to hold on?

What looks difficult at the bottom will often seem much easier at the top.
When we all got to the top of the falls, the climb seemed infinitely easier than when we looked up from the bottom. In fact, from the bottom, you couldn’t see even half of what was to come. After getting to the top it seemed like a piece of cake. It was definitely fun, but there was no real passion to do it a second time.

Leadership depends on us raising up other leaders. To be a good leader of leaders, a good leadership mentor, you must be willing to go back to the starting point and help others make the climb. One of the things that made the Jamaican guides so good was they gave each group 100% of their enthusiasm. For them, it was up the waterfall one more time. For us, it was a once in a lifetime family memory. You do the math.

That’s what leaders do, add passion to the trip. We inspire even when we’ve been there and done that. And that’s good news, because we’re all counting on someone to do the same for us! Yeah, Mon!

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter, “The Pastor’s Coach,” available at This information cannot be used for resale in any manner. Copyright 2008, INJOY 3760 Peachtree Crest Dr, Ste A, Duluth, GA 30097


Our scriptural home base for the “Restoring Balance” series has been Isaiah 30:15, Only in returning to me and waiting on me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence will be your strength.

These words were God’s personal call to Israel to change their ways and adopt a posture of patient trust and rest in Him.  The words that follow this invitation to the people of God are a warning against stubbornly pursuing their own ways of handling their problems.  But you would have none of it. You said, “No, we will get our help from Egypt.”  God responds with the consequences of rejecting His way.  You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a distant mountaintop.

Present day followers of Jesus take heed.  It is not an option to make learning from and listening to Jesus our life’s priority.  It is not an option to build times of quietness and prayer into our daily schedules.  It is not an option to observe a weekly day of Sabbath.  And if we treat these spiritual essentials as such we will suffer the consequences.

That is just what is happening in the lives of many Christians.  They are frenzied, fatigued, and frustrated.  They are dissatisfied, depressed, and discouraged.  They are hurried, harassed, and hope- deprived.  They feel like that lonely flagpole on a distant mountaintop.

There is one solution to this situation.  Return to God and adjust life to His intended balance.  And that means setting aside daily times of quietness before God.  It means taking a weekly day of rest and renewal. It means making our relationship with God the one thing, the main thing.

Only in returning to me and waiting on me will you be saved.  Deliverance from the cultural taskmasters of stress and hurry and busyness and the emotional tormentors of anxiety, depression, and frustration will come if we choose to do it His way.  There are no other options.

Pastor Mike Polo