Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. –Exodus 20:8

It was one year ago today that the World Council of Churches met and made an audacious proposal to the rest of the world:

They suggested that we add an eighth day to the week.

Since it was their idea,  they decided to call the day “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”.

The scientists said “Sure, time is a human construction, and we can make it whatever we want.” So they eliminated January and February from the calendar, and did a few more tweaks here and there, and got us back to 365 days a year.

Non-churchgoers loved the idea of an extra long weekend every week. Business owners found that their productivity stayed strong as worker morale improved.  And as for  Christians, celebrating their “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”?

Attendance went down.

That’s right. Attendance figures just came out for the past year, and worship in American churches has dropped another tenth of a percent.

It would appear that with more time on the weekend people just did more stuff. More visiting with the grandkids. More time for yardwork. More camping trips or sleeping in.

A tired-looking president of the World Council of Churches issued a statement just moments ago:

“Well, fellow Christians, we tried. We cleared a whole extra day for you to keep the Sabbath, but you just keep doing other things! As of today I am resigning my position. I’m looking forward to a nice long break, and this weekend I plan to go visit my grandkids.”

Rumors of a proposed ninth day of the week movement has met with much criticism. As one Christian said, “Honestly? I think they could add five more Sabbaths every week and it still wouldn’t make a difference. Worship and rest is still a priority for people, but it’s just not the only priority, and not always on Sunday. I love to go to church, but I’ve got other things I want to do, too. So I do my best to balance it out.”

And so, the Eight Days A Week movement, as it has been called, was a success for everybody except the people who proposed it in the first place. Lately, there’s been talk about moving back to the old system. People miss Martin Luther King Jr Day and Valentine’s Day in particular.

As for my humble take on things, I think the church is going to be okay, and I think Christians are going to be okay, but not without some tough times along the way.  Our society has definitely steered away from notions of Holy rest and worship, things God says we clearly need.

I predict people will still gather for worship on the Sabbath, but maybe we need to focus our efforts towards teaching people how to be Holy…

on the other six days.

Or seven.

Whichever calendar you’re using.

Have a good week,





Hypocrite in Untraining


“I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites.”  –Psalm 26:4

“Yes, you do.”  –Mitch Todd

Is it true?  Are Christians hypocrites?

To find out, I followed someone home from church this week, just to see how hypocritical they actually were.

Here’s a summary of my findings:

  • On Sunday they were a model citizen, until they started shouting obscenities at the game on TV.
  • On Monday, they told their spouse about something from work, and made it sound like they were the hero, when they really weren’t.
  • On Tuesday, they turned the channel away from one of those “starving children” commercials, so they wouldn’t be convinced to give.
  • On Wednesday, they went well over the speed limit.
  • On Thursday, they didn’t tip a waitress, because she brought them the wrong drink.
  • On Friday, they visibly tensed up when someone who didn’t look like them brushed past them at the store.
  • On Saturday, they made a little too merry, and said a few things they probably shouldn’t have.

Nothing earth-shattering there, but everyone of those actions represents some type of hypocrisy.  As Christians, we’re not supposed to exaggerate, or turn a blind eye, or break the law, or treat others rudely, or act out of fear, or over-indulge, or speak carelessly. Right?

That (imaginary) church member should know better!

Every day we have an opportunity to represent Jesus Christ in this world, and every Sunday we declare our desire to do just that. And every week, in small ways and great big ways, we fall short.  We all do this.

Most of our shortcomings are the kinds of minor things anyone might do, but when Christians, who proclaim to live according to a higher authority do them, it’s a glaring misstep.  It’s hypocrisy at its finest.

Here’s the deal: Despite what many might think about our religion, we haven’t arrived at some perfect destination.  Rather, we’re on the journey of a lifetime.  A journey to become more and more like Christ.

Methodists call this sanctification.  To be made holy.  The journey has twists and turns, road-blocks, U-turns and slowdowns, but God willing, we grow in our faith.

We’re hypocrites in “untraining.”

It’s like a sign I made years ago. It said,

“Yes, I’m a Christian.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite.
Yes, I’m working on it.”

When others look at me, I want them to see a reflection of Christ.  But when I fail at that, I want them to see someone humble enough to admit it and try again.  Worship at its best instills in us that kind of humility.

On Sunday morning, when you come to church, don’t pretend to be something that you’re not.

Admit it–you’re a hypocrite!

But take a look around…

you’re in good company.

Have a great week,



NOTE:  As we continue prayers for Texas and the Houston area, I invite you to donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  This organization is among the first on the ground and the last to leave when disaster strikes.  Donate through them by visiting UMCOR.


Lumped In.

I hate being lumped in.

I just don’t like sharing that name “Christian” with some of the other folks who call themselves Christian.  We seem to have some different opinions on what that name means.

  • I watch people on some news channel claiming to speak for the entirety of Christianity, and I can’t help but think –“You ain’t speaking for me!”
  • I’ll hear about young people becoming atheists, and talking about all the bad things the church has done — money grubbing, hypocrisy, clergy with no boundary training, intolerance, etc., and I’ll think –“Hey, that’s not my Christianity!”
  • I’ll read articles about how the church in America has failed in so many ways, and I’ll think — “Look at all my church accomplished this week.  We’re trying! We’re really trying.”
  • I’ll see a report about some church making a decree or taking a stand that is, in my opinion, against everything Jesus would do, and I’ll think –“Why would I want to be associated with them?”

Now, if you’re a critical reader, you may have figured out that some of these criticisms, especially hypocrisy, DO apply to myself and most Christians. Sometimes a lot. No church is perfect, as an institution or as a movement.

We have so much work to do.

But that doesn’t change the fact that some churches do things that, (at least from my Christian perspective), are reprehensible. Not just irresponsible or misguided, but dangerous and damaging.

Things like claiming an earthquake or 9/11 was God punishing certain people.  Or treating women as subservient, second class citizens.  That kind of stuff drives me crazy.  Your criteria may be different.

I wonder. To keep us from being lumped in with Christians that give us fits, should we abandon the name all together?

Call me a Jesian, or a Christ-Follower, or part of the J-Crew (well probably not that last one), just don’t compare me to such-and-such Church as if we’re saying and doing the same thing.

I don’t know.  There are a great many other denominations that I see acting in integrity, mission, and purpose.  I want to be connected to them.

But there are some others out there I’d very much like to disassociate from.

Until we can all truly agree on what it means to follow Jesus as individuals, institutions, and movements, maybe we’re better off not being lumped into one category.

But who knows?  In 50 years believers may go by lots of different names.

I’m not planning to arm-wrestle somebody over who gets to use the name Christian…

That’s not the sort of thing we Jesusites would do.


Have a great week,


Ain’t nothin’ in this life is free, son.


Last week I was at the church, getting a diet-Pepsi out of the pop machine.

Standing next to me, fiddling with the snack machine, were two young guys, obviously at the church for Boy Scouts.

As I reached down to take my soda out of the dispenser, one of the kids playfully reached down and said, “Cool!  Free Pop!”

My response was to say, in an old man voice, “Ain’t nothin’ in this life is free, son.”  This elicited a laugh from the kids.

I chuckled and walked into the gym, opening my pop.  A second later, I hear heavy running footsteps behind me.

It was the two boys, and one of them held a Pepsi.

“It came out!” he exclaimed.  “After yours!”

I laughed and told him it was his to drink.

Now, what are the odds that, mere seconds after uttering “Ain’t nothin’ in this life is free”–the first time I’ve ever made that statement–this pop machine would choose to prove me wrong?

Maybe someone was trying to teach me a lesson?

Could be.  I’ll admit that I’ve attached a cost to most things this Christmas season.

Buying presents — $$.  Renting a car to get to Alabama — $$.  Boarding the dog — $$.

Even things like going to Christmas parties take a toll on my energy, introvert that I am.

Heck, between December 18th and the 25th I have to write and preach 4, count em, 4 sermons.  What are the chances I won’t have expended all my spiritual energy before I head off on vacation?

That’s all costly stuff.

Ain’t nothin’ in this life is free.

Except for Pepsi, apparently.

Pepsi, and, I know full well but sometimes forget, the Love of a Savior.


And because of that love…

I guess that mean’s that I’M free. Strange that it took a Pepsi to remind me of that.

Christmas may come with a cost in today’s world, but the gift of Jesus comes with no price tag, and no strings attached.

And when we accept it,

there’s nothing quite as refreshing.



Have one on me.


Have a great week,



The Walgreens Prayer


I pray a lot.

That is not a statement about my personal piety, but more about my function as a pastor.

It seems that I will be tasked with opening a meeting with prayer, or closing it.

Or both.

Some days I’ll pray 9 or 10 times for this gathering or that event.

And I don’t mind.  I kind of like it, actually.

Usually I’ll thank God for gathering us and being with us.  I’ll pray for our community.  I’ll ask God to guide us as we move from here.

That kind of stuff.

Recently, a certain phrase began creeping up in my prayers.  “May we be happy and healthy…”

“Keep us all in your Good Graces Lord, and may we be happy and healthy until we gather together again.”

That kind of thing.

That’s a nice sentiment, right?  One day I just started using it, wondering how those particular words had come to me.

Last week, I found out.

There it was, staring up at me from the prescription bag I held in my hands:


Good Lord.

Had I been praying the slogan of a pharmacy???

Was that even legal?

I’m convinced that the Walgreen’s slogan had seeped into my subconscious and made its way into my prayers.

My main questions was this:  Does Walgreens have a corner ON Happy & Healthy?

I mean, isn’t that what the church is offering, too?  We want people to be happy, to find joy in their lives, to know Christ in a life-changing way.  And we want people to be healthy, too.  To care for their bodies, minds, and spirits.

I guess it just surprised me that a pharmacy’s mission was so similar to our church’s.  But I soon realized that while Walgreens offers a certain level of happiness and health, it is the church that helps people dig deeper, developing their faith, discovering Christ, leading New Lives.

So, I’ve decided to allow myself to use that phrase whenever it pops into a prayer.  I’m not breaking a trademark (am I?) and I’m speaking to something real and deep in our Christian experience.

And if the store gets a little more business, well good on them.

We’re not in competition with Walgreens.

We just happen to be set up…

on the same corner.

Have a great week,



Bump, Set, Spike, Embrace


I’ve been really enjoying the Olympics.

There’s something truly gratifying about watching people excel at what they do.

Even sports that seem weird to me, like 2-person kayaking or Rugby 7 are fascinating to watch.  I didn’t know either sport existed!

I’ve watched a couple matches with the USA women’s indoor volleyball team now, and I think they have impressed me the most.

Each point contains so much activity I actually had to look up and confirm that it’s just 6 people on a side at any one time.  It seems like more!

Someone’s serving.  Someone’s digging the ball right before it hits the ground.  People are bumping, setting, spiking, faking, blocking.  All the while they’re calling out to each other, coordinating their efforts.

Here’s what I noticed, though.  After each point, win or lose, the women come to the center of their side of the court, throw their arms around each other, and say encouraging words.

It’s just part of the rhythm of the game, and it isn’t only the US team that does this.

Bump, Set, Spike, Embrace.  Bump, Set, Spike, Embrace.

During the point, everybody has their own job to do, working in tandem, coordinated towards a common purpose.

And in between each point they take a moment to come together, express their unity, and share mutual encouragement.

This is a great model for the church!

A group of disciples come together for a common purpose, but dozens of different tasks.

Everybody does their part.  Sometimes there are successes, sometimes there are failures.

But always, and regardless, the church comes together in regular intervals to embrace one another, to pray, to praise, and to encourage.

It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of discipline, and a lot of faith to be a church like that.

But let me tell ya, what we’re in it for…

is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Have a great week,





9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

So you’ve hung out door hangers, talked to your neighbors, and put ads in the paper.

If nothing seems to be working, try these 9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

*Note* It’s up to you to decide which of these has merit, which are kind of silly, and which are just crazy enough they might work.


Let’s get the most extreme idea out of the way early.  But hear me out, this might actually work.  A 40″ Smart TV costs around $260. Every guest who signs in the attendance book for the entire 4 week period is eligible to win the TV.  The winner would be announced on the 5th Sunday. So, for $260 you have enhanced the attendance of visitors, giving them 5 weeks to acclimate.  You may be saying this is flat our bribery (and I might too), but you could also call it “our special visitors gift.”  All the other visitors get a $10 gift card to Best Buy, and hopefully they will have put some money in the offering plate to offset the cost.   I told you this was an extreme list…


Keep in mind, setting up a Keurig and some discount coffee flavors will not bring people into your church.  However, if you’re serving the best coffee in town, even if people need to pay something for it, you could attract sleepy-heads who need their gourmet coffee fix.  Bonus Points:  Let them take their coffee into the sanctuary!


Our church has a couple “Holy Yoga” classes that include prayer, movement, silence, and intense spirituality.   Sounds like a worship service to me.  (There’s even an offering).   We also have a “Kingdom Seekers” class for grade school and mid-high students on Wednesday afternoons.  Part of the activity is a worship time.  Singing, praying, a message, and so forth for the kids.  I could make a strong argument that both of these constitute worship, thereby raising my average worship attendance by about 85 every week!  So far, the only real reason I could see to “count” those as worship would be to remind our church of the sacred times outside our 8:30 & 11:00 service.  Still, it’s in the back of my mind.


Christians at church.

Christians at church.

You know the old “your mom paid me to be your best friend” gig?  It actually works.  “pay” a minimal scholarship to a handful of kids to sing in the choir or the praise band, and soon their parents may come, or their friends.  If there’s a population segment missing from your worship, why not financially support someone who can help reach those people?

5. TWO WORDS:  BREAKFAST BUFFETes_bfastbuffet_11_712x342_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

$5 to eat, $3 if you’re worshiping afterwards.  Again, if it’s the best in town…


Pet owners are a different breed.  (get it?)  There is a spiritual bond pet owners have with their pets, so why not incorporate that with worship?  Have a special worship service in the fellowship hall that is pet friendly.  Sing a couple songs, say some prayers, and even a short message that respects that animal world.  If you’ve ever done a blessing of the animals, you know what the possibilities are.

7. GIVE TICKETS TO POLICE OFFICERSmlb-al-wild-card-oakland-athletics-kansas-city-royals-850x560

Turn the tables!  Invite the area’s police to worship, and lure them with two free tickets to the Royals (or whatever).  During worship, have them stand and thank them profusely.   The same idea could work with a BARBECUE FOR FIRE FIGHTERS

8. FREE HAIRCUT DAYdt.common.streams.StreamServer

If you have several hair stylists in your congregation, enlist them (paid or not) to offer free hair cuts before and after worship.  How about a slogan like “Look spiffy for church”?


You can stop worrying so much about numbers.  The truth is, Christianity in North American is on a downswing, so dropping in numbers is to be expected.  Instead, focus your attention on being vital — a congregation that is aggressively reaching out into the world with love and Good News.

Funny thing…the list above, silly as it is, is the kind of stuff a vital congregation would do.

Not to make numbers,

but to make disciples.

Have a great week,