When you use a word…

Missional…I can hear the groans. In church circles (does anyone else use that word?) the word missional is overused and ill-defined. That makes it practically useless. Yet, it seems church folks insist on using it.

It goes a step further. Often people use the word missional to communicate something important/distinct/etc. while actually complaining that the word they are using doesn’t mean anything – they do this without providing any clear definition of the word.

Missional is a good word. Please keep using it! At the same time, when you use the word missional, please define it so we know what you are talking about. That will help this poor, poor word gain some clarity – and traction – in the church.

Endangered denominations?

As the local church goes, so go the denominations and institutions that support her.

The local church can do without denominations. Denominations can’t do without the local church.

This reality calls for a radical shift in focus (or, perhaps, purpose) for denominations (and the institutions that support the church). We need to shift our focus from internal concerns rooted in fear (how do we survive?) to external concerns rooted in Jesus’ mission for the church (how do we help the church thrive?).

How are we supporting ministry on the ground, in the neighborhood, led by local church pastors and people?

After serving as a pastor in local churches for over 20 years, I’ve spent the last four years in denominational work. I believe we have a role to play. I also believe we need to shift the focus to the point of it all – Jesus at work in the world through the church by the Spirit.

It’s the local church…

It’s the economy, stupid!

James Carville

During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, campaign director James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Carville believed that the primary thing that mattered to voters was the economy. If you can’t see that, according to Carville, you’re stupid.

I work for a church denomination(MC USA). I’m often asked about the challenges of leading in a denomination at this moment. Churches are struggling. Budgets are shrinking. Struggles over the place of LGBTQ persons in the church remain. Seminary is expensive. Student debt is real. Churches don’t pay much, so how to you attract young leaders. And on and on.

If often think of the church version of Carville’s quip. If you are wondering how to lead in a denomination or church-supporting institution, I have one thing to say: It’s the local church…

If your denominational work and ministry doesn’t help the local church thrive, you’re doing it wrong or your doing the wrong things (or both).

Digital lives

We didn’t sign up for the digital lives we now lead. They were instead, to a large extent, crafted in boardrooms to serve the interests of a select group of technology investors.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, p 24


“It might be that instead of spending more time looking for a louder platform, you could profit from digging in and doing the hard work of figuring out the change you seek to make. If you’re unable to influence one person in a face to face meeting, all the tech in the world isn’t going to help you change a million people.” Seth Godin


This is true in the church, too! As a follower of Jesus in the world, what change do you seek to make? Can you influence one person in a face to face meeting towards that change? If not, a bigger platform, larger church, more followers, will not do it either.

Riot in a padded cell…

There were (are) riots in Baltimore.

In an press conference on April 28, the Mayor of Baltimore – Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – said,

It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure that [the police] were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. We worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate

Her statement about giving those who wished to destroy “space to do that as well” raised many eyebrows.

In my view, her statement was important – but not for the reason many think. Many were shocked by the notion that a containment strategy might actually include letting people destroy things. That, I actually get.What shocked me was that she admitted it.

Here’s the point: A riot that is sanctioned by the powers isn’t a riot. It is an impotent expression of social outrage, anger, and so on. It may be cathartic, but it will not change anything. It gives the appearance of substantive resistance, but in reality, the powers are just waiting near-by until the people tire of it all. Then they go right back to the way it was before.

What people know, that they don’t want to admit that they know, is that if riots really did start to change things substantially, the people would be crushed.

Put differently, a riot that is allowed to happen by the powers that be is like the violence that police allow inmates to exercise within a padded cell. Beat yourself up. Have at it. When you are good and tired, they will escort you to your regular cell.

Insurrection only happens when the measures used by those subjugated are actually able to challenge the powers that be. You will know it when that happens…