Author Archive

Fake Customer Service

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

super smileThe other day I went into my bank and had to walk between two rows of greeters to reach the teller window. Six people on staff to call out a welcome greeting, three on each side, all dressed up, shiny young professionals with huge smiles on their faces. I won’t reveal the name of the bank, however their greeting sounded like, “Welcome to Smells Cargo!” When I got into the line I was the eighth customer waiting. Two teller windows were open. Both of those tellers had a “personal banker” standing beside them to chat up the customers and offer them special banking packages which added considerably to the time it took for their transactions. One of the greeters broke away and offered each of us a bottle of water while we waited, apologizing for the wait and wishing us to have a great day.

That was ten employees and only two tellers working. That didn’t even count another five or six people sitting in cubicle offices staring at computers or papers, none with a customer. Something about this struck me as wrong, so I made a suggestion. I did it smiling and with a calm and pleasant tone of voice. I merely said, “Maybe it would be more helpful if a couple of you went in and opened more teller stations so we wouldn’t have to wait so long.” Everyone in the bank gasped and stared at me like I was a chupacabra with a half eaten goat hanging from my slavering jaws. A big question formed in my mind. Do most people come into a bank for fake smiles and free water or to conduct business efficiently and get on with their lives?

Does the friendly appearance of customer service replace the need to actually serve the customer? And what does this reveal to the church?

Over the last three decades the seeker friendly church has become a powerful force. From the smiling parking lot attendants to the simple to follow direction signs, to the uber-cheerful, hearty handshake door greeters, to free coffee and (sometimes free) donuts. From comfy seats to crazy good worship music. If you haven’t been to church since the 1960’s, you would be surprised. I love it and it has made an appealing change in the church.

But is it merely the appearance of friendliness or is it truly serving people with what they need? It’s a great start but don’t forget to open your heart and your life and take someone by the hand and walk them to Jesus.

Let The Good Things Run Wild!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Let thwild thingse good things run wild!

Have you ever had a boss tell you, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it?” How about, “Leave well enough alone?” “Don’t think outside the box.” “This is how we do things here.” There have been millions of pages written into employee manuals to assure that no one tries anything new or different. It is micromanagement disguised as company policy.

Why do so many leaders insist on control rather than innovation? Because they think they already know the single best way to do something. In the worst cases they want everyone to know that it was their idea. Control is birthed by fear. Great leaders recruit, mentor, and unleash those who are smarter and more creative than themselves to pump out bigger ideas and new levels.

As G. K. Chesterton once said, “The reason order and structure exist in the world is so that good things can run wild.” I only want the church to have systems so ministry can burst out all over the place. I want the really good Jesus stuff to go viral. Crazy, out-of-control acts of love and mercy bubbling up in a tidal wave of grace that splashes away all the boundaries. Over the top. Then we can come together on Sunday morning to celebrate the good and wild things that happen all week long.

Let the good things run wild!

Deep as the Oceans

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

OceanThe story is told of a brilliant, godly theologian who was asked if he could sum up his lifetime of scholarship in a single sentence.  His answer?  “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Sometimes we make things too complicated.  The simple answer is often the best answer.

There is a contemporary worship song which has captured hearts around the world for the past year or so.  It is titled: Oceans (Where feet may fail), and it comes from the Hillsong Church in Australia.  If your church only sings hymns more than a hundred years old or you have been living under a rock for a while, you can find a version of it with lyrics here:

This song has a lot going for it.  A great allegory of faith taken from Peter’s attempt to walk on the water, a haunting melody, and not least, the ethereal Celtic voice of singer Taya Smith combine to make it a keeper.  It is not the easiest song to sing in corporate worship but it sticks with you.

When I listen to this song, it is the simple refrain that strikes me to the heart.  “I am yours, and you are mine.”  Much like the theologian’s summary of the Bible, it says all that needs to be said.  The only catch to this phrase when it refers to faith is that it must be sequential.  I must give myself completely to God, then, and only then, He will become my God.  It is the same vow of commitment that a couple shares in a wedding ceremony.  I am now yours so that you will become mine.  You cannot take another heart until you have given them yours.  This is the essence of sacred covenant.  Once you have taken someone’s heart you do everything in your power to protect it.

I am yours, and you are mine.  This is as deep as the ocean.

Trick or Treat?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


Ha, ha, zombies and vampires.  You don’t live forever eating brains and sucking blood.

Halloween produces mixed reactions from Christians.  Is it something we can embrace and let the kids go out in costumes trick or treating, decorate our porches with Jack-o’-lanterns, spiders and witches, even have a big party?  Or do we see the devil and his minions in hyperactive mode and try to avoid it completely?  The real answer might surprise you as it surprised me.

The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, the night before All Hallows Day, also called All Saints Day.  If you remember the Lord’s Prayer there is that phrase “hallowed be thy name,” hallow being an old English word for holy.  In the New Testament the same word is translated as either holy or saint depending on the usage.  It doesn’t matter whether one subscribes to the Catholic view of Saints being a small group of uber-holy canonized people, or the broader (and more Biblical) definition that all Christians are saints because their sins are forgiven and forgotten.  This day is all about Holiness!

So why the shenanigans on the night before?  In preparation for the festivities of All Saints Day, many families would bake little cakes, and the poor and indigent would make the rounds for a giveaway cake.  Sounds like trick or treat right?  Even better, to celebrate eternal life and forgiven sin, many would dress up as evil creatures to MOCK the devil and laugh at his powerlessness.  Ha, ha, zombies and vampires.  You don’t live forever eating brains and sucking blood.  Unending life in the presence of God is reserved for believers.  This is not a night of horrors, it is a night to see the horrors evaporate in the face of Holy Laughter.  Trick or treat anyone?

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

A New Spin on the Vortex

Friday, September 19th, 2014

About a third of the way into thchapel-of-holy-crosse first century of the current era on earth, a beam of energy from another dimension struck this planet near the coordinates of 35 degrees North and 31 degrees East. This was no random form of energy such as explosive heat or light. This energy was impossibly sophisticated, with a number of specific capabilities. It was in the form of a highly organized vortex, spinning to an accurate focus, able to penetrate earth, stone and water without losing potency. The target of the energy was the dead body of man who lay in a shallow rock cave. As the energy struck him, it transformed the cells of his body from dead to healthy, from decayed to vigorous, re-formed the injured tissue around critical wounds and damaged organs, and finally, incredibly, triggered the spark of life into him.

The Creator of the energy, in His enthusiasm, perhaps extended more power than necessary and the power overflowed into other tombs in the area to the same effect. The focused core of energy continued to burrow into the earth after finishing its task, and to this day scattered remnants of its life giving force escape from fissures and crevices around the globe. These are the vortices of power found today.

There are many anecdotal stories of healing occurring at these sites. Perhaps the tightly spinning energy flows up through the body and re-wraps the helix of DNA that has eroded from disease and aging. Perhaps the power merely refreshes like a clean breeze coming into a stale room. Sedona, Arizona has many such locations, and visitors come from around the world to seek them out. Many find the vortices life changing and adopt this experience as the core of their spiritual beliefs. This is no better than the man who trips over a stone in his path and worships it as a god for bringing him to his knees. He remains oblivious to the great Creator who formed the mountains of which that stone is but a minuscule piece. The vortex of power is but a tiny echo of the most incredible and life changing event in history. The resurrection of Jesus.

Flat Jesus

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

A few years ago Flat Stanley traveled the world in envelopes mailed by thousands of elementary school students.  He would visit exotic locales and sometimes relativeFlat Stanleys of the senders.  Each recipient would take Flat Stanley with them and photograph him in various situations and add those photos into a journal. “Here’s a shot of Flat Stanley bungee jumping into Niagara Falls.”  “A selfie of Flat Stanley surfing at Waikiki Beach.”  “My Uncle Harold’s wedding where Flat Stanley was a hit as the ring-bearer.”

My fear is that Flat Stanley has become the new paradigm for the American Jesus.  Flat Stanley is a two-dimensional cardboard cutout, often crudely formed, that you can take with you anywhere or send anywhere else.  We love the two dimensional, crudely formed Jesus represented by a cross on a necklace, or a tattoo, or a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker.  He goes with us everywhere;  he is our little, holy, lucky, buddy.

I hate to break it to you, but the real Jesus is a wholly developed, three dimensional adult human being with a towering intellect, bursting with powerful emotions, devoted to those who love Him.  He is also the incomprehensible, multi-dimensional Almighty God.  Not someone you can keep in your pocket or send around the world in a manila envelope for a few cents postage.  And yet, by covenanting our souls with Him, He fills us with His Spirit like a jet full of rocket fuel. Look at the bigger, fuller Jesus and get ready to blast off!


Infinite Creativity

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Why did God decide to create things in so many shapes, random and regular, three dimensional in so many textures, and give us the ability to appreciate their millions of shades of colors? Why did we need taste buds that can distinguish an equal number of subtle distinctions and combinations of flavor? Why do we need ears that can differentiate between millions of sounds, tones, and rhythms? Imagine the incredible complexity of simply recognizing one person’s voice out of all the people we know. Why did God create gemstones that are so difficult to find, and even then don’t reveal their beauty until they are cut and polished, which is beyond comprehension that we would have thought of it, since they are the hardest substances in the world and therefore the most difficult to cut and polish.

God is the one who made all the things in the world. He wanted us to experience taste and smell and feel and beauty and melody, and through it all the harmony of Life and Love. Through our senses we are given a tiny hint of the infinite glory of our Maker.


Values and Hiring from the Outside

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Recently I was surprised to hear someone in a secular business setting use the words “brand evangelism.”  Leaders in many companies also speak of the marvelous effects of having corporate values in a non-faith based setting. They promote the use of an approved language (a limited set of words) which shows alignment with the values.  Jesus warned of people who followed the form of religion, and by inference the language of that religion, without having a true commitment to the beliefs.


Most businesses, organizations, and churches in America today hire most of their management in from the outside.  If your values are so life changing, why wouldn’t you want to promote from within your own organization?  If you are not promoting from within, then you are failing in your primary task of training and mentoring leaders.  If you are not developing your own people, all the “purpose and values talk” is just talk.


The key is not “talk” but relationships.

Community Means Belonging

Monday, July 8th, 2013

I hear a lot of talk about paradigm shifts and new paradigms, yet paradigm is just a fancy way of saying we are looking at something differently.  We have risen to a new plateau of understanding and can see things from a different perspective.  Our higher angle gives us a more complete and detailed view to give us a better picture. In “The Tangible Kingdom,” authors Hugh Halter and Matt Smay talk about the change in how churches are accessible to those on the outside.  Traditionally believing enabled belonging, but now belonging must enable believing.  We cannot expect a person to change their behavior to match our expectations and express belief before we love and accept them.  We must welcome them so they feel they belong and that will open the door to belief and better behavior.  This means showing acceptance to those who are very different than we are. This means not being annoyed or offended when someone acts the only way they know how.  Is this a new paradigm?  Not really.  It reminds me of a man named Jesus who was constantly accused of hanging out with sinners and befriending them.

The things that really matter

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I knew that the bride would arrive in a wheelchair, but I was not prepared for the wedding I would soon be allowed to perform.  The groom described his disability as low vision. 

“In bright sunlight, I can see about as well as you can through wax paper.  With most indoor lighting, I see little or nothing.”  A large, powerfully muscled man, he scooped his bride up out of the back seat of the limousine as though she weighed no more than a small child.  She had lost the use of her legs in a car accident which had damaged her spine ten years earlier. 

I wept openly when they added a little personal touch to their vows.  He leaned over her and gripped both her shoulders in his large strong hands.

“I promise to always be your legs.” 

She looked up at him with love fiercely burning in her eyes.

“I promise to always be your eyes.” 

Handicaps don’t really hurt us in the ways that are most important.  Whatever they didn’t have, they had each other.  Neither eyesight nor the ability to walk would have made them any richer.  They were complete people in all the ways that really matter.

The next time you’re having a bad hair day, walk through your home and think of the people you love.  Think of this couple and the things that really matter.