Is Islam a danger?


Following last week’s attacks against Jews and journalists in France, Islam has received renewed scrutiny. Heads of state have been quick to denounce the acts of terror while simultaneously defending the faith of the attackers. In response to the carnage in Paris, French president Francios Hollande adamantly stated that, “those who carried out these attacks, the terrorists, the madmen, these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” His certainty is politically understandable but hardly convincing. Bill Maher, in his usual provocative manner, summed up the suspicion of many when he said, “when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.”

It has been widely reported that radical (i.e. hostile) Muslims are the minority; that most Muslims are peaceable, charitable individuals who make for good neighbors and good citizens. This is true, but that radical minority is nevertheless many. Indicators tell us that the radical segment consists of 16-25% of the worldwide Muslim population. Worse still, this segment is growing. Such percentages are alarming and raise questions about the content of this religion.

Well, is Islam inclined towards hostility? That depends on ones interpretive method. Fundamentalist Muslims read the command for jihad as literal mandates—they believe that the commands to wage war against the unbeliever are still binding. Not only do their sacred tests command such action, but the early history of Islam is characterized by military conquest and this gives the radicals reason to see themselves as the true disciples of Mohammed. Moderates read the same scriptures but dismiss the war passages, claiming that they were nullified by later revelations. This process, called abrogation, allows believers to use some texts to erase others. They believe that the time for war is long past. These differing interpretive methods result in two different expressions of the Muslim faith. One is peaceable and the other is not.

Both are dangerous.

When we consider the threat that Islam poses, we generally view its victims as those outside of their faith. But the greatest harm is inflicted on those within, and the danger they face exceeds the threat of physical harm. As Jesus said in Matt 10:28, “Do not fear those who can destroy the body”, the fate of the soul is far more urgent. Islam’s doctrine does not just set some of its believers against their neighbors; it sets all of them against Christ. Yes, Jesus is respected by Muslims as a prophet, but his divinity, his crucifixion, and his saving work are all denied. In brief, Muslims acknowledge Jesus but refuse to accept him as the Christ.

This distinction is no trifle. The apostle John doesn’t mince his words, “who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:22-23). Muslims, of every type, are seized by a lie that puts their souls in eternal jeopardy. The conflict between segments of Islam and the West pale in comparison to the conflict between all proponents of Islam and God himself.

As Christians we must not become so concerned with geopolitical troubles that we loose sight of spiritual ones. Rather than fixating on the threat that some Muslims pose, we must consider their precarious condition. Consider how Jesus responded to the threats against himself. There were those who sought to kill him and others who chose to dismiss him, but he loved them all. In the same way, let us love all Muslims. Let us be diligent in prayer, courageous in evangelism, and merciful in every circumstance. We can do this when we remember that they are in greater jeopardy than we.

A Christmas Letter from Eugene

lightstock_80104_small_user_1408323An annual delight of the Christmas season is receiving family updates from friends. Their letters share key accomplishments of family members and offer a snap shot of their life together. It’s a wonderful glimpse into their life. I like these letters.

This is not such a letter.

Oh, I could regale you with stories of triumph at Fellowship. I could list the many goals met and the rapid progress of our campus expansion. I could describe our progress in discipleship and our growing impact in Haiti. There is no lack to the good things I could share. And of course, in every instance I would give all praise to God. These are his accomplishments not ours.

But this letter is about another accomplishment; one that long precedes the founding of Fellowship.

It began with an angelic announcement and was then consummated by the Holy Spirit. God, in Jesus, was conceived. Mary contributed her flesh but God had introduced the life in her womb. By this incarnation, Jesus entered into the world he had created. In Jesus we have the mysterious union of the human and divine natures. Fully God and simultaneously fully man, Jesus is forever, uniquely both.

“The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.” Wayne Grudem.

This union is more than a Christmas novelty. It is the necessary condition for our deliverance. Jesus had to be man to offer himself as our substitute. His divinity was necessary to make his offer sufficient. It grows more complex than this but the impact gloriously simply to understand. Peter Leithart explains, You know the scene in the movie: The hero, finding that he can no longer resort to half-measures and fighting through intermediaries, decides he must take things into his own hands, and challenges the villain in hand-to-hand combat. That is incarnation.” By his incarnation, Jesus ventures into our woes and wins the day.

More than that—Jesus continues in his humanity. His body is changed, it is glorified now, but he retains his humanity. This offers us great peace because in Him we have an advocate at the throne of God who understands our experience. He has suffered as we have. He has bled red like us and endured the worst of death. Over all this sorrow he has triumphed and now He reigns in incarnate perfection. How beautifully this Victorian Christmas carol announces these truths:

“It is my sweetest comfort, Lord,

And will for ever be,

To muse upon the gracious truth

Of thy humanity.


Oh joy! there sitteth in our flesh,

Upon a throne of light,

One of a human mother born,

In perfect Godhead bright!


Though earth’s foundations should be moved,

Down to their lowest deep;

Though all the trembling universe

Into destruction sweep;


For ever God, for ever man,

My Jesus shall endure;

And fix’d on Him, my hope remains

Eternally secure.”

This, my friends, is the wonder of the manger. The incarnation is the joy of Christmas. God took on our humanity and has no intention of putting it off. May this glorious truth give you reason to praise Him this Christmas.

On behalf of the elders, staff, and myself, a very merry Christmas to you.


Guilty Thoughts

Man peeks through the blinds

This morning I received an excellent question and I decided to share both the question and my answer with the blogosphere. Please note, I said the question was excellent, I make no claims to the quality of the answer.

The question relates to a statement I made during a lecture that I gave on Christian sexuality. In addressing homosexuality, I said that we need to distinguish between same-sex attraction and homosexual acts. The latter is sin while the former is temptation.

“I am wondering about the verse that says that if a man lusts after a woman in his heart, he has already committed adultery. (Matthew 5:28)  Is having thoughts about sin also a sin?  If we deny the temptation to sin (and temptation is in the mind) then have we avoided sinning?”

In the passage cited above Jesus explains the kingdom ethic—the standards of moral purity that God expects of his people. They are quite demanding to say the least! In verse 28, Jesus states that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Is this sin a reference to temptation? Does this condemn anyone who has felt the tug of illicit attraction, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual?

No, and no.

We must not confuse temptation and sin. Temptation is the desire to taste forbidden fruit while sin is the act of eating it. There is no guilt in temptation. How could there be? Jesus experienced temptation but remained sinless. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).

How then do we understand the mental acts described in Matthew 5 as being sin? At what point did desire become transgression? The ESV helps up with its translation by describing the sin as ‘lustful intent’, emphasizing the involvement of the will. There is a choice involved and this person has chosen wrongly. The NET says it differently, but equally well, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28, NET).

The lusting that is being denounced is not some momentary attraction; it is an active nurturing of forbidden desire. This lustful intent begins with temptation but then drifts into sin when the imagination is freed to take sexual pleasure from the occasion.

To notice someone as being attractive is not sin, it’s merely being observant. To feel a stab of attraction is not sin either, but this is the moment of temptation, it’s very dangerous and escape measures need to kick in immediately. To allow that attraction to metastasize into some form of sexual gratification is the act of sin. Our responsibility to avoid sinful fantasizing is cleverly summarized by Martin Luther. The famous German Reformer said, “I cannot keep a bird from flying over my head. But I can certainly keep it from nesting in my hair”

Temptation is common to all humanity. We are all tempted. We are not, however, all tempted in the same way. Some are especially tempted by sexual opportunity and for some of those it will be homosexual opportunity. What happens next determines whether there is guilt involved. Paul advises us well, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18, ESV). When temptation stirs within us there is no place for bravado, it time to tuck our tail between our legs and make a hasty break for safety.

Clinging to Privilege


If a dispute is to be just, then no involved party can be allowed to have an unfair advantage. All parties entering the fray must do so with equal benefits, if not an unjust outcome is certain. This insistence on a level playing field is nothing new; back when dueling was a gentleman’s diversion the rules required that both men bear the same weapons. There’s no sport in fielding a spoon when your opponent is wielding a cleaver.

But modern sensibilities insist that fairness is only served when every advantage is scrutinized and addressed. The dueler with a height advantage, keener eyesight, or extensive training is most likely to win. He entered the fight with a distinct advantage. This, we are told, isn’t fair. What needs to happen is that these benefits must be blunted to equalize the field. Excellent combatants must be handicapped to ensure that they are no more able than their opponent.

It is no longer fashionable for angry men to use pointy swords to resolve their disputes, but no one is foolish enough to think we have arrived at peace. Whether it is about the content of curriculum, the norms governing sexuality, the role of the church in society, or any other one of countless issues, there is no end to conflict. Armed with words, legislation, education, and media, our society is overflowing with dueling parties, and these are the modern conflicts that the fairness doctrine seeks to moderate. Those considered to have an unfair advantage are told to voluntarily handicap themselves in order to equalize the contest. The advantaged must ‘check their privilege’ before weighing in on an issue.

Like the apostle Paul I am seeking to fight the good fight. My weapons are love and truth and my enemies are principalities and powers. I don’t count people as my enemies. However, my faith convictions do occasionally draw me into a confrontation with others. According to the fairness doctrine I must ‘check my privilege’ before I enter the fray because I am unusually advantaged. I am a white, heterosexual, Christian, college-educated, male. When it comes to privilege I have just about every advantage (I’m even 6.2”). I don’t dispute it. Nor do I apologize for these advantages or choose to discount them. I am not going to ‘check my privilege’. I will use every benefit available to me because it would be irrational, even wicked, to limit my effectiveness in seeking to do good.

Even more than I, the apostle Paul was endowed with amazing privileges. He was a Hebrew of impeccable lineage (Phil 3:5), a student of the most celebrated scholar (Acts 22:3), and a citizen of Rome by birth (Acts 22:26). In addition to these, he was converted by Christ himself (Acts 9:10). As we read through the book of Acts we discover that Paul used all his privilege to further his work. To suggest that he handicapped himself in some way is foolishness. If he had ‘checked his privilege’ it would have cramped the progress of the gospel. If Paul was to be obedient to his calling, he was obligated to make the most of every advantage.

I am an advocate of Amendment One here in the great State of Tennessee. In 2000, the state Supreme Court decided that the state constitution secured a fundamental right to abortion and all protections for the unborn were lost. The amendment seeks to empower the citizens, through elected representatives, to reenact those protections by limiting and regulating the abortion industry. The amendment will not outlaw abortion (how I wish it did), but it will save the lives of many children. For this reason, I am urging others to vote yes on 1.

Ought I muffle my voice because I am privileged? Should my support be dulled on account of my many advantages? No. I have, and will continue to use every podium at my disposal to protect the lives of the innocent. Because in the end, the question I must answer is not “did you check your privilege”, but rather “did you steward your privilege”. How will you answer when that question is posed to you?

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48b, ESV)

Wide Open

money in tight fistI recently had breakfast with a friend and during our time together the conversation drifted into the topic of tithing. While few would know it, this man is remarkably generous to the church. Listening to him talk about his experience was such an encouragement to me that I asked him to share his perspective with others. He agreed, and this is what he wrote.

“It’s more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35

My path to faithful giving has been a long one. Like most people, experiencing the passing of the basket (or plate) during a worship service was my introduction to the practice of giving. I remember, as a child, glancing into the basket and feeling a sense of awe that so much money was freely given away. As I grew older, I would occasionally throw in some loose pocket change or a bill or two just to avoid feelings of guilt. It wasn’t until I saw my mother write out a check for $400 that things began to resonate with me. Keep in mind, we were a lower middle class family and my parents were a case study in living the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. It was hard for me to understand why she would give such a large amount of money to the church when that money could have been used for better things—specifically me. As time passed however, I began to understand the importance of giving.

The act of tithing is clearly communicated to us through scripture and there are many useful resources that elaborate on this responsibility. My favorite Christian authors on the topic are the late Larry Burkett and Howard Dayton. Howard Dayton’s book, “Your Money Counts” is a wonderful resource for believers on how to handle money and possessions. Dayton points out that Jesus had a great deal to say about how we handle money and possessions. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with the handling of money. In Chapter 9 of his book, Dayton states, “we must give with the proper attitude, which is out of love.” He further notes that when a gift is actually given as though one were giving it to the Lord, it becomes an act of worship.

Ultimately, he writes, “ the giver benefits in four significant areas: First, giving increases our intimacy with Christ by directing our attention and hearts to Him. Second, it helps to develop our character and to be more unselfish like Christ. Third, we are making eternal investments into our Heavenly account. Finally, giving with the proper attitude results in a material increase flowing to the giver.

I still have thoughts about how much easier it might be for me to keep the money and invest it, or pay down our debt, or simply use it for my family’s enjoyment. But as I write out the check, enclose the envelope, write out the address, place the stamp, and walk it to the mailbox, I remember that Jesus can do much more with the money than we ever could. This is why my wife and I have decided to trust the Lord with our money.

The question then becomes, how much are we to give? The verses that I use as a beginning point for my giving are found in Malachi 3:8-10.

8“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.” “But you ask, ‘how are we robbing you?’” “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, “ says the Lord Almighty, “ and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Determining how much to give is a personal decision but I have found Dayton’s guidance very helpful. He cleverly points out that “giving”, as found in the New Testament, can be termed as “Paul’s Pod of P’s.” Giving should be personal, periodic, private, and premeditated. If we use these principles to guide our giving we will be a blessing to our families, our church, and the poor (Matt 25:34-45).

I pray these guidelines will help answer questions and ultimately lead you into a deeper relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May you be blessed in your giving to the Lord and to those around you.

A Tribute to Ed

tribute to Ed
I first met Ed Ligon in the summer of 2000. Fresh out of seminary, my wife and I were in Little Rock participating in a residency program with Fellowship Bible Church. This residency was the brainchild of Robert Lewis, who longed to see capable graduates flourish in the ministry. Too many faltered when faced with the leadership demands of the pastorate and he wanted to help some excel. Patterned after a medical residency the program was a year of being imbedded in the life of the church. Access to every aspect of church life was granted and I learned a decade of lessons in twelve months. It was a priceless experience that has paid huge dividends in my ministry career. I am a better pastor for what I received.

Back to Ed. This priceless experience did have some calculable costs. My lodging, food, medical care, etc. all had to be covered. Then there was office space, resources, travel expenses, etc. The residency would have remained a novel idea if there were not a sponsor to fund it. Ed and Judy Ligon gave the money. I think Ed’s wealth came from the sale of valves for oil pipelines, but I’m not sure, Ed spoke little of it. What Ed did speak about was the impact of the gospel through the local church. Ed’s passion is to see lost people come to know Jesus and be welcomed into the brotherhood of believers.

Ed’s zeal for the gospel is seen in his eyes. I guess his smile just requires more real estate than his mouth can provide. When Ed speaks of Jesus and the potential of gospel-centered churches he absolutely dazzles. To me, this is his defining feature. Some may think of Ed as a man of means, but I think of him as an energetic advocate for Christ.

Ed is unwell. In fact, it is unlikely that he will be with us much longer. Sooner than later he will go to see his savior. I am confident in Christ’s welcoming of this saint. I am equally sure that those remaining will say kind things, but I want to use this opportunity to speak to Ed before he enters eternity.

Thank you brother. Your generosity towards an unproven, young foreigner has forever marked my life. Not only has your investment been a grace to me, but you now share in the benefits of my ministry. There are many who have a more adequate pastor because of your sacrifice. We are all in your debt.

Rest easy my friend. You have given much and you are now about to receive the crown of righteousness.

ISIS and the Death of a Dream

Yesterday we learned that another American journalist was beheaded by ISIS. Stephen Sotloft, an American journalist, was killed in the same barbaric fashion as James Foley. I have not seen the videos showing their murder, and I hope not to. This grotesque display of brutality, which is intentionally broadcast to the watching world, does not warrant my viewing. It does, however, demand some reflection.

Quickly moving through flashes of outrage and contempt, my mind eventually settles on the question of motive. Why would anyone do something so horrendous to another human being? What could possibly explain such inhuman behavior?

Here in the West, the conventional answer to that question is ‘environment’. People do dreadful things to others because their circumstances are so deplorable that they have lost touch with their humanity. Disenfranchised, oppressed, and beleaguered, their situation has reduced them to beasts of violence. The solution then, is to address their circumstances and grant them greater opportunity. When marginalized people are granted upward mobility, there is a corresponding decline in barbarism.

Or so we are told.

The problem with this rationalization is the growing number of recruits that ISIS is drawing from western countries. The knife-wielding executioner of Foley and Sotloft comes from London! In fact, there are so many British-born wanting to enlist in ISIS, that Prime Minister Cameron is seeking legislation that will allow the government to seize the passports of England’s radicalized youth. These young men are ready to abandon first world opportunity to participate in the fight for a caliphate. Nasser Muthana, a star medical student from Cardiff, with amazing professional prospects in the UK, walked away from it all to be included in ISIS. Obviously ‘environment’ cannot explain his motivation.

A more satisfying answer is ‘belief’. People don’t act savagely because they are desperate but because they are persuaded. They believe that the action, while drastic, is legitimized by what it will ultimately accomplish. The members of ISIS are not seeking better living conditions; they are motivated by a vision of Islamic hegemony. It’s what they believe about the next life that informs their actions in this life. Believing that jihad pleases Allah and will secure future reward, they are willing to massacre the infidel. People are dying because there is a popular belief system that justifies their death.

Grappling with this reality is hard for westerners who have drunk deep from the well of postmodern subjectivity. We have been told that all ideas are valid and all are benign. Everybody’s opinions are deemed worthy and welcome. Undergirding this perspective is the assumption that our beliefs are immaterial to our experience. What we conclude to be true has no real impact on our neighbors and so we are free to indulge in whatever belief system appeals to us. Belief dwells safely in the realm of the mind and doesn’t spill into daily living.

But ISIS is killing this illusion; they are bringing death to this dream.

What we are seeing in the news is that belief determines action. This has always been so, but it is now translating into life and death. What people believe to be true has a radical impact on others, and these beliefs are not always benign. We need to take belief more seriously. For behind every action rests a truth claim. Before every choice is a core conviction. As we believe so we live.

An old idiom claims that those who are too heavenly minded are no earthly good. The opposite is actually true. Those who think of things above are most often the most impactful below. When Scripture and The Spirit inform our beliefs we are propelled into lives of purpose. Actions informed by God’s truth are always transformative.

ISIS is a geo-religious problem that requires an international response. Our inability to understand them is also a religious problem, but one that requires a personal response. Until we come to appreciate the power of belief we will be dismayed by horror. Until we come to inform our own belief we will be without conviction, purpose, or power.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)

Fear God. Honor the emperor.


This past weekend a friend asked me a great question. I answered him, but the question kept bouncing through my thoughts so I decided to compose a more satisfying answer and share it with you.

Are Christians subject to the rule of secular authorities? The simple answer is ‘yes’, Christians ought to willingly subject themselves to governing authorities.

The Scriptures repeatedly instruct us to submit to the rulers of the land. Paul puts it succinctly in his letter to the believers in Rome, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1, ESV). Secular powers are legitimate because they have a sacred source, they are established by God.

Peter gave the same instruction, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good….Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-14,17b, ESV). The apostles have made our duty clear; obeying the law of the land is the obligation of every believer.

But what about those apostolic criminal records?

Both Peter and Paul were formally charged with criminal behavior, both saw prison time, and both were executed as enemies of the state. These men were not always compliant citizens. ‘Agitators’, ‘instigators’, and ‘trouble-makers’ seem more apt descriptions. These two, and others with them, seemed quite willing to challenge established powers. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”” (Acts 17:6b–7, ESV)

Obviously, these law-abiding men did not view their submission to human institutions as something absolute. They were compliant to a point, but once that threshold was crossed they become defiant. We see this breaking point described in Acts 4 as Peter addresses the governing council of Jerusalem. He presents himself as deferential before these rulers but when they instruct him to be silent about Jesus he defies them, saying it is ‘impossible’ to obey their command. From this encounter we see that it is the duty of every Christian to obey earthly authorities unless they seek to interfere with obedience to God. This is when the Christian becomes defiant.

For American Christians this point has always been somewhat distant—the state has been very kind to our convictions and we have generally been able to fear God and honor the empire with little friction between the two. However, conflict may not always remain distant. There are some who view our long established religious freedom as too generous and wish to curtail it. This they can do. This they might do. But what then would we do?

We must begin by discerning whether obedience to the law really would interfere with our sincerely held beliefs. In the Hobby Lobby case, the owners concluded that paying for certain contraceptives would make them complicit in ending innocent life. Based on this conclusion they defied the law. While some disagree with their conclusion it is evident that they made an informed, prayerful decision. Like Daniel and his friends, who refused to eat choice meats for fear of defilement, the Hobby Lobby owners appealed for leniency, and like Daniel they received it.

But leniency wasn’t always available to Daniel. Like Peter and Paul he was ultimately given a death sentence for prioritizing his faith over his allegiance to the emperor. God delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, but Paul was not delivered from the blade and Polycarp was not delivered from the fire. A time might come when our allegiance to Christ costs us our lives. Will you show sufficient resolve? Until then, will you show sufficient support for the institutions and leaders that have been granted power?

Fear God. Honor the emperor. In that order.



Plain Speaking

“It’s not necessary for a pastor to divulge everything he believes to his church.”

I recently started tracking an online discussion that was started by a pastor I know by reputation only. Everything I know about him I like, but his recent action has left others and myself somewhat perplexed. He posted a provocative article online and then stepped back as a battle erupted in the comments section. Opposing positions were taken and the verbiage became terse (i.e. people got mad). The pastor finally reengaged only to ask that the dialogue cease. It did not. What did happen was that people started asking that the pastor clarify his position on the matter. His response seemed evasive and this led to people asking for clarity. In response to this appeal another respondent made the claim above. Apparently, from their perspective, a pastor is not required to explain all of his convictions to his the church.


‘Twaddle’ works too, and was a favorite of my deceased father, but it lacks the required stridency, so I’m going with ‘poppycock’.

Every congregation has the right to know what their pastor believes. He is, after all, instructing them on what they should believe. Don’t those under his direction have the right to know what he holds to be true? I say, yes. A clergyman who is purposefully ambiguous is not to be trusted. It’s true that some matters are incredibly complex and require complex explanations. A simple, concise answer is not always available.

Also, a pastor cannot be expected to have a defined position on every conceivable topic. It’s okay for him to say “I don’t know yet, but once I have an answer I will share it with you.” What is not good is when the man is intentionally vague so as to keep his beliefs hidden. When a straightforward explanation is avoided there is something worrisome lurking behind the curtain. Pastors need to be able and willing to give defined answers about what they believe.

This is not the same thing as a pastor being defined by a single issue. I’m not advocating for the sort who is preoccupied with his pet peeves and uses every opportunity to grind his axe in public. The words ‘bully’ and ‘pulpit’ ought never to be used together. Rather, I’m calling for the kind of honesty that is needed for trust to flourish. A healthy relationship between a pastor and his people is one where mutual affection grows out of honest transparency.

Nobody gets a perfect pastor (I know my congregation hasn’t), but nobody should remain under the guidance of an ambiguous one.

I’m a Fan!


It’s been some time since I added my voice to the blogosphere, but I’m fairly certain my silence did no lasting harm. Let’s blame my church’s capital campaign for my online absence. After all, campaigns make for easy targets. Just last week I was speaking with some peers and their comments joined the chorus of disdain that surrounds this topic. One said that their church had lost eight percent of its people through the course of a campaign and another forcefully insisted that they would never run such a campaign. What could I say? I’m a fan.

I always thought that asking for money would be a painful process, something to be endured, both uncomfortable and unavoidable. Since the opportunities before us require money I braced myself against the discomfort and asked people to give. Imagine my surprise when I found leading a capital campaign to be good fun!

Here are some reasons I am a fan of capital campaigns:

  1. They unite us around a common cause.
    Large churches like ours have lots of people doing many good, but different things. A campaign helps a church grow aligned as people fall in step with one another and move towards a shared objective. Most memories of church unity are attached to a past campaign.
  1. They force us to deal with idolatry.
    I suppose there are some people who don’t struggle with materialism—I just haven’t met them. Our passion for this world is most evident in the protective instincts that surround our money. A capital campaign makes us wrestle with the love of mammon and that’s always a good thing.
  1. They serve as an onramp for stewardship.
    Faithful giving to God’s church is a requirement for every true believer. Sadly, many don’t have the upbringing or the discipline to know this joy. They simply don’t give like they ought. A campaign gives these people the opportunity to start a pattern of obedience with their money.
  1. They foster faith.
    We often trust money to be our security so when we give it away we must look elsewhere for refuge. As Christians we are inclined to return to God. Sacrificial giving makes us more dependent on God. Every time we grow in faith, God is pleased and we are rewarded.
  1. They move us further faster.
    We all want to be invested in something successful—we want to see God’s work gain ground and people’s lives changed. Ministry requires resources. Money doesn’t guarantee impact, but a lack of resources will certainly bar it. When the body contributes together the shared sacrifice enables us to magnify our influence.

For these, and other reasons, I am a fan of capital campaigns. Like everything else they can be mishandled but rightly used, I think they have the potential to leave a church healthier and happier.